Stock Up, Stock Down for Chicago Cubs' Top 10 Prospects for Week 11
The team has turned their attention to signing their recent draft picks this past week, including No. 4 overall pick Kyle Schwarber, who signed a $3.125 million bonus. That is about $1.5 million below the slot amount for that pick, giving the team plenty of wiggle room to lock up later picks above slot.
Once the prospects have signed and started their professional careers, a re-ranking of the team's top-10 prospects will be in order, but for now what follows is still based on preseason rankings.
So here's a look at the team's current top-10 prospects and how they performed at the minor league level over the past week. This series will be updated weekly, with a stock "up," "even" or "down" indication given to each prospect based upon the direction in which his performance is trending.
Prospects rankings according to Baseball America Prospect Handbook.
*No. 3 prospect SP C.J. Edwards (shoulder) spent last week on the disabled list. He will not be included here until he is active. He is 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 20.2 innings on the season at Double-A Tennessee.
*No. 5 prospect RF Jorge Soler (hamstring) spent last week on the disabled list. He will not be included here until he is active. He is hitting .333/.407/.625 with seven doubles and seven RBI in 24 at-bats at Double-A Tennessee.
*No. 6 prospect SP Pierce Johnson (calf) spent last week on the disabled list. He will not be included here until he is active. He is 1-1 with a 4.39 ERA, 22 strikeouts and 24 walks in 26.2 innings on the season at Double-A Tennessee.
No. 13 Prospect: Christian Villanueva, 3B, Triple-A Iowa
3-for-19, 1 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 1 R
Christian Villanueva kicked last week off with a bang, going 2-for-4 with two walks, a home run and five RBI on Monday. However, he was just 1-for-15 the rest of the week and is now just 5-for-38 (.132 BA) over the past two weeks.
The 22-year-old turned in a nice all-around campaign in 2013 with 41 doubles and 19 home runs, but he will need to pick up his production here in his first go-around for Triple-A Iowa if he hopes to get a shot at a late-season call-up.
62 G, .217/.288/.382, 18 2B, 6 HR, 26 RBI, 21 R
No. 12 Prospect: Paul Blackburn, SP, Single-A Kane County
1 GS, ND, 5.0 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K
After posting a 4.36 ERA and 1.94 WHIP in his previous three starts, Paul Blackburn looked sharp his last time out, allowing four hits and two runs in five innings.
Perhaps most importantly, he did not issue a walk for the first time since April 28, as the 20-year-old continues to refine his all-around game.
Blackburn worked just 66.2 innings in total in his first two pro seasons, so he's approaching uncharted territory here in his first year of full-season ball.
2014 Stats (*Midwest League All-Star*)
13 GS, 5-2, 64.2 IP, 2.78 ERA, 14 BB, 50 K
No. 11 Prospect: Kyle Hendricks, SP, Triple-A Iowa
2 GS, W, L, 14.0 IP, 9 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 12 K
Acquired from the Texas Rangers in the Ryan Dempster deal, Kyle Hendricks does not have much more room to improve as far as his development is concerned, but that's not to say he won't make an impact in the big leagues.
Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com said the following about Hendricks in his preseason prospect rankings:
Hendricks reached 95 mph with his fastball in college, but he now relies on finesse. While his four-seam fastball now operates at 88-92 mph and doesn't feature much life, it plays up because he can locate it wherever he wants. (His) best pitch is a changeup that grades as a plus offering at times. (He) has better command and a higher floor than most pitching prospects, though his ceiling is limited to a No. 4 starter because he lacks an effective breaking ball.
Hendricks went seven innings in both of his starts last week, turning in a quality start both times out and walking just two while striking out 12. He'll get a shot at the big leagues at some point here in 2014, likely post-trade deadline when there will likely be a rotation spot or two open.
13 GS, 7-5, 81.0 IP, 3.78 ERA, 21 BB, 76 K
No. 10 Prospect: Arodys Vizcaino, RP, Double-A Tennessee
3 G, L, 2.1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K
Arodys Vizcaino saw a streak of five-straight scoreless appearances snapped last Monday, when he allowed a walk-off solo home run to Miami Marlins prospect Alex Burg in the bottom of the 10th.
Aside from that hiccup, he's been terrific of late, allowing just two hits and one run in 7.2 innings over his last eight appearances while walking two and striking out seven.
Look for him to make it to Chicago at some point in 2014, though the Cubs are not going to do anything to rush him after he missed the last two seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery.
A+: 9 G, 0-0, 9.0 IP, 1 SV, 1.00 ERA, 4 BB, 10 K
AA: 14 G, 1-1, 13.2 IP, 1 SV, 2.63 ERA, 3 BB, 16 K
Note: Vizcaino was promoted to Double-A Tennessee on May 6.
No. 9 Prospect: Dan Vogelbach, 1B, High-A Daytona
Dan Vogelbach looked to finally be breaking out out of his season-long slump at the plate two weeks ago, but he limped into the Florida State League All-Star break with an 0-for-11 performance in four games last week.
He is well off his offensive pace from a year ago, when he posted an .824 OPS with 19 home runs and 76 RBI, but the 21-year-old still has some of the best raw power in the organization.
He'll likely spend the entire season with High-A Daytona, as the team has no reason to put him on the fast track. That being said, after showing some signs of a breakout out here in June, it wouldn't be at all surprising to see him have a big second half.
62 G, .262/.352/.398, 13 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 25 RBI, 30 R
No. 8 Prospect: Jeimer Candelario, 3B, High-A Daytona
Signed for $500,000 out of the Dominican Republic back in 2010, Jeimer Candelario has been moved aggressively through the Cubs organization so far in his pro career.
That is due in large part to his advanced approach at the plate, as the 20-year-old has a .355 career on-base percentage and 167/228 BB/K.
He posted a .742 OPS with 35 doubles and 11 home runs for Single-A Kane County last year, and while he has struggled so far this year, the tools are all still there for him to be an impact hitter once he matures.
60 G, .194/.278/.332, 10 2B, 2 3B, 5 HR, 26 RBI, 24 R
No. 7 Prospect: Arismendy Alcantara, 2B, Triple-A Iowa
10-for-30, 2 2B, 1 3B, 10 R, 2 SB
Arismendy Alcantara opened the season as the No. 76 prospect in baseball after a big 2013 season, and while he has been somewhat inconsistent at the plate, his overall numbers for Triple-A Iowa are solid.
The 22-year-old currently ranks among the Pacific Coast League leaders in doubles (11th), triples (first), runs (fifth), total bases (ninth) and steals (seventh), as he looks to be in a good position to earn an All-Star nod.
He should get a chance at some point in 2014 to show what he can do at the big league level, and when he does, he'll be auditioning for a shot at the everyday second base gig in 2015.
65 G, .276/.313/.512, 16 2B, 9 3B, 8 HR, 30 RBI, 45 R, 12 SB
No. 4 Prospect: Albert Almora, CF, High-A Daytona
1-for-9, 1 RBI, 1 R
It's been a rough month of June for Albert Almora, as he has hit just .150/.191/.159 with no extra-base hits in 44 at-bats.
The No. 6 pick in the 2012 draft, Almora was hailed as one of the most polished high school prospects in years and was expected to move quickly through the system as a result. His numbers were fantastic between injuries last year, but he has struggled to get things going at the plate here in 2014.
Given his makeup and vast potential, one rough month is no cause for panic. And in the long run, dealing with some tough times as a minor leaguer could actually help him down the line.
59 G, .245/.266/.325, 13 2B, 2 HR, 30 RBI, 28 R, 4 SB
No. 2 Prospect: Kris Bryant, 3B, Double-A Tennessee
8-for-23, 2 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 6 R
It has gotten to the point where Kris Bryant had eight hits last week, including two doubles and a home run in 23 at-bats, and actually saw his triple-slash numbers drop slightly across the board.
Voted as a starter in the Southern League All-Star Game, Bryant currently leads the league in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, hits, walks, home runs, RBI, runs and total bases.
Speaking with Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune, Cubs scouting director Jason McLeod helped put into context the impressive first half Bryant has turned in:
We always have said we want players to dominate a level. Certainly he has been doing that. I think we try to keep in context that a year ago at this time he wasn't even a signed player yet. We had just drafted him. He has had two very good months at Double A, but still, only two months. Obviously he has been really, really good and forcing us to take notice of his performance.
The question remains whether Bryant will spend any time in Triple-A or simply jump straight from Double-A once he's deemed ready, but as long as he keeps hitting, things will work themselves out.
2014 Stats (*Southern League All-Star*)
68 G, .355/.458/.702, 20 2B, 22 HR, 58 RBI, 61 R, 8 SB
No. 1 Prospect: Javier Baez, SS, Triple-A Iowa
5-for-28, 1 3B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 5 R
Following a disastrous April, during which he hit just .172 with 22 strikeouts in 58 at-bats, Javier Baez has slowly but surely started to turn things around at the plate.
All of his production last week came in two games. He went 3-for-5 with a triple, home run and two RBI on Monday, and he then went hitless over his next 19 at-bats before going 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBI on Sunday.
There is no reason to rush him to the majors, so he'll get all the time he needs in Triple-A to rebuild his confidence and regain his dominant form. That being said, a call-up at some point in 2014 is a very real possibility, especially if he catches fire at some point in the second half.
57 G, .223/.279/.431, 10 2B, 2 3B, 10 HR, 35 RBI, 30 R, 11 SB