Stock Up, Stock Down for Chicago Cubs Top-10 Prospects for Week 14
The rich got richer last week, as what is already a loaded farm system for the Chicago Cubs got even better with the additions of Addison Russell and Billy McKinney in a trade that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Oakland Athletics.
This prospect list was re-ordered last week, with top pick Kyle Schwarber and 19-year-old right-hander Jen-Ho Tseng joining the top 10, and Jeimer Candelario and Pierce Johnson falling out.
Things shake up once again, as Russell slides in right behind Kris Bryant and Javier Baez as the team's No. 3 prospect.
So here's an updated 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.
*No. 5 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. 11 Prospect: 1B Dan Vogelbach, High-A Daytona
2-for-9, 1 2B, 2 RBI
Slowly but surely, slugger Dan Vogelbach has turned things on at the plate, after hitting just .262/.352/.398 with five home runs in the first half of the Florida State League season.
He is still a ways away, and he will likely spend the entire season at the High-A level. Long-term he could wind up being a trade chip, but regardless of his future role his tremendous raw power makes him a valuable piece of the farm system.
79 G, .277/.368/.439, 20 2B, 1 3B, 8 HR, 41 RBI, 39 R
No. 10 Prospect: SP Jen-Ho Tseng, Single-A Kane County
1 G, 5.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K
Ranked as the No. 19 prospect in the organization to start the season, according to Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com, Jen-Ho Tseng has been the fastest riser of any Cubs prospect this season.
The 19-year-old Taiwan native was signed last July for a $1.625 million bonus after pitching for Taiwan in the 2013 World Baseball Classic as a high schooler. He debuted this season at the Low-A level, and his stock has been soaring.
His only appearance last week came in relief, but he was terrific, allowing just one hit and one walk over five scoreless innings. He could be in line for a midseason promotion to Double-A, though the team won't want to rush the youngster, either.
11 G, 10 GS, 3-0, 2.93 ERA, 52 H, 8 BB, 54 K, 55.1 IP
No. 9 Prospect: RP Arodys Vizcaino, Triple-A Iowa
2 G, 1.0 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 K
After tearing through High-A and Double-A pitching with little resistance, things have not gone as smoothly for Arodys Vizcaino at the Triple-A level.
All of the damage has come in two outings, as he allowed four hits and two runs in 0.1 innings in his first appearance and two hits and three runs without getting an out in his last appearance.
The Cubs indicated in the past that they won't rush him after he missed the past two seasons recovering from arm surgery, and this hiccup in Triple-A only furthers that stance. That being said, there's still a very good chance he makes his Cubs debut at some point in 2014.
High-A: 9 G, 0-0, 9.0 IP, 1 SV, 1.00 ERA, 4 BB, 10 K
Double-A: 14 G, 1-1, 13.2 IP, 1 SV, 2.63 ERA, 3 BB, 16 K
Triple-A: 5 G, 0-0, 3.1 IP, 0 SV, 13.50 ERA, 3 BB, 2 K
No. 8 Prospect: 2B Arismendy Alcantara, Triple-A Iowa
11-for-31, 2 2B, 1 3B, 2 RBI, 4 R, 3 SB
With right-hander Kyle Hendricks reportedly getting the call-up to fill one of the vacated rotations spots, according to Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com, the next Cubs prospect to arrive in Chicago may very well be Arismendy Alcantara.
"He's certainly making himself noticed," farm director Jason McLeod told Rogers. "He's making the front office and the major league coaching staff take notice of what he's doing. Guys are talking about him. He's taking another step in his development because of the kind of at-bats he's having. His entire game has picked up."
After hitting .345/.395/.549 with 14 extra-base hits during the month of June, he is off to a hot start here in July as well, going 10-for-27 over his first seven games.
His mix of power and speed could make him one of the more dynamic offensive second basemen in the league once he arrives, and that could be in the very near future.
2014 Stats (*Pacific Coast League All-Star*)
87 G, .310/.352/.541, 24 2B, 11 3B, 10 HR, 41 RBI, 61 R, 21 SB
No. 7 Prospect: C Kyle Schwarber, Single-A Kane County
5-for-19, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 R
This year's top pick Kyle Schwarber has wasted little time showing he belongs in the conversation as a potential core piece of the Cubs' future, earning a promotion to full-season ball after just five games for Low-A Boise.
It didn't take long for this year's top draft pick to earn a promotion, as Kyle Schwarber played just five games for Low-A Boise before being bumped up to full-season ball at Single-A Kane County.
The No. 4 pick in the draft earlier this month, Schwarber hit .358/.464/.659 with 14 home runs and 48 RBI for Indiana University this spring, and it's his advanced bat that made him such a high selection.
There are still questions about whether or not he'll stick behind the plate, but that's where he's been to start his pro career, and his bat will play regardless of where he winds up defensively.
Low-A: 5 G, .600/.625/1.350, 1 2B, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 7 R
Single-A: 15 G, .358/.460/.679, 5 2B, 4 HR, 11 RBI, 12 R
No. 6 Prospect: RF Jorge Soler, Double-A Tennessee
Last Week (at Double-A only)
2-for-5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R
Back with Double-A Tennessee after missing over two months with a hamstring injury and then making a brief five-game stop in the Arizona rookie league, Jorge Soler is looking to make up for lost time.
His first game back was certainly a good start, as he went 2-for-5 with a home run. Now he needs to prove he can stay on the field after missing significant time last season as well.
The tremendous potential that earned Soler a nine-year, $30 million deal after he defected from Cuba is still there, and he could catch up quickly now that he's healthy.
Double-A: 8 G, .345/.406/.690, 7 2B, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 5 R
AZL: 7 G, .391/.500/.652, 3 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 6 R
No. 4 Prospect: CF Albert Almora, High-A Daytona
7-for-12, 2 2B, 1 3B, 2 R
It's been a subpar season for Albert Almora so far, at least relative to expectations, but the 20-year-old has put together back-to-back strong weeks, as he may finally be figuring things out at the High-A level.
He's hitting .442/.478/.628 with five extra-base hits in his last 10 games, and considering he made the jump to High-A after just 61 games for Single-A Kane County last year, the early struggles were not all that surprising.
He remains the team's center fielder of the future, and while he is a step or two behind Kris Bryant and Javier Baez as far as his development is concerned, there is still a chance he's in Chicago by 2016.
74 G, .272/.297/.364, 17 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 37 RBI, 39 R, 6 SB
No. 3 Prospect: SS Addison Russell, Double-A Tennessee
Last Week (Double-A Tennessee only)
0-for-5, 2 K
The Cubs' decision to trade Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Oakland Athletics for a package built around their top prospect Addison Russell was a terrific deal, as they were unlikely to get a better return than Russell from anywhere else.
Team president Theo Epstein talked to Jesse Rogers of ESPN about Russell being too good to pass up:
We would have been very open to getting quality pitching back in this deal but there was no pitcher available who's even close to the caliber of player we feel Addison Russell is. There was no pitching package available that made us think twice on passing on this opportunity.
Ranked as the No. 14 prospect in all of baseball entering the season by Baseball America, Russell was the No. 11 pick in the 2012 draft.
He hit .269/.369/.495 with 29 doubles, 10 triples, 17 home runs and 21 stolen bases playing mostly at the High-A level last year, and the 20-year-old has more than held his own against Double-A pitching this year.
With Starlin Castro and Javier Baez already in the mix at shortstop, one may wonder why the Cubs acquired another shortstop, but it's a good problem to have and one that will work itself out. There is always a market for high-ceiling shortstop talent.
High-A (OAK): 5 G, .188/.278/.188, 0 2B, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 R, 1 SB
Double-A (OAK): 13 G, .333/.439/.500, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 3 R, 3 SB
Double-A (CHC): 1 G, .000/.000/.000, 0 2B, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 R, 0 SB
No. 2 Prospect: SS Javier Baez, Triple-A Iowa
7-for-26, 3 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 9 R, 1 SB
Following a disastrous April, during which he hit just .172 with 22 strikeouts in 58 at-bats, Javier Baez has started to turn things around over the past several weeks.
The month of June was his best of the season by far, as he hit .275/.345/.471 with six doubles, four home runs and 21 RBI. Over his last 10 games, he's batting .281/.429/.594 with four doubles and two home runs.
Obviously things have not gone as hoped for what was the team's top prospect entering the year, but the offensive ceiling to be a superstar at the next level is still there. Long-term, the adversity he has dealt with this season could actually make him a better big leaguer.
2014 Stats (*Futures Game Selection*)
79 G, .241/.310/.448, 17 2B, 2 3B, 13 HR, 50 RBI, 46 R, 15 SB
No. 1 Prospect: 3B Kris Bryant, Triple-A Iowa
12-for-29, 3 2B, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 7 R, 3 SB
While we talk about adversity with Javier Baez, third baseman Kris Bryant just continues to rake, as he has not missed a beat since being promoted to the Triple-A level.
He launched his 30th home run of the season on Sunday, needing just 318 at-bats to get there. His cumulative line for the year is now .355/.451/.720 and he has 26 doubles and 11 stolen bases to go along with the home runs.
There's still a strong possibility that he does not see Chicago until next season, but he will have every chance to crack the Opening Day roster next spring, whether it's as a third baseman or an outfielder.
Double-A: 68 G, .355/.458/.702, 20 2B, 22 HR, 58 RBI, 61 R, 8 SB
Triple-A: 19 G, .357/.423/.786, 6 2B, 8 HR, 22 RBI, 15 R, 3 SB