Stock Up, Stock Down for Chicago Cubs Top 10 Prospects for Week 15
The Chicago Cubs prospect rankings were shaken up last week when the team acquired Addison Russell, Billy McKinney and Dan Straily from the Oakland Athletics in a trade that saw Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel depart.
With that move, a strong case can be made that the Cubs now have the best farm system in all of baseball, though they are still thin on impact pitching prospects.
Regardless, the future has never looked brighter in Chicago, and for second baseman Arismendy Alcantara, one of the team's top prospects, the future appears to be now.
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
6-for-29, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 3 R
Daniel Vogelbach posted an .824 OPS with 23 doubles and 19 home runs last season, so this year has been something of a let down so far.
That being said, it's important to remember that he's still just 21 years old and has some of the best raw power in all of minor league baseball. There's no rush to get him to the majors, as he's blocked by Anthony Rizzo, so he'll get all the time he needs to develop.
87 G, .271/.363/.420, 21 2B, 1 3B, 8 HR, 44 RBI, 42 R
No. 10 Prospect: SP Jen-Ho Tseng, Single-A Kane County
1 GS, W, 7.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 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.
He turned in his best start of the season Sunday, pitching seven innings for the first time in his career and allowing just three hits and one run while fanning seven. There's a good chance he gets a call-up to High-A Daytona at some point, though the team won't want to rush the teenager.
12 G, 11 GS, 4-0, 2.74 ERA, 55 H, 8 BB, 61 K, 61.1 IP
No. 9 Prospect: RP Arodys Vizcaino, Triple-A Iowa
2 G, 3.0 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 0 BB, 4 K
Arodys Vizcaino absolutely dominated for High-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee earlier this season, but he has struggled mightily through seven appearances at the Triple-A level.
He's now allowed three earned runs in each of his last three appearances, and his rapid ascent to the Chicago bullpen appears as though it will be put on hold for the time being.
The Cubs indicated in the past that they won't rush him after he missed the past two seasons recovering from arm surgery, and they will no doubt want him to work through whatever issues he's dealing with before even considering calling him up.
Still, a September debut in Chicago seems likely.
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: 7 G, 0-0, 6.1 IP, 0 SV, 15.63 ERA, 3 BB, 6 K
No. 8 Prospect: 2B Arismendy Alcantara, MLB Chicago Cubs
Triple-A: 1-for-6, 1 2B, 1 4
MLB: 9-for-23, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 6 R, 1 SB
With Darwin Barney on paternity leave for two games, the Cubs called up prospect Arismendy Alcantara, intending to send him back down after Barney returned.
After an 0-for-4 debut, he ripped off a 4-for-5 game Thursday that included a double, a triple, three RBI and two runs scored. That was enough to force the Cubs' hand, and he had two more multi-hit performances over the weekend.
"I just try to do my job,” Alcantara told Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago. "If they want me to stay here, I will. But it’s not my decision. I just try to enjoy the game. I try to get better every day to reach the next step."
As long as he keeps hitting, the Cubs have no reason to send him down, and this will be his final appearance on this prospect watch list unless he is returned to the minors.
2014 Stats (Pacific Coast League All-Star)
Triple-A: 89 G, .307/.353/.537, 25 2B, 11 3B, 10 HR, 41 RBI, 62 R, 21 SB
MLB: 5 G, .391/.400/.739, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 6 R, 1 SB
No. 7 Prospect: C/OF Kyle Schwarber, Single-A Kane County
11-for-26, 3 2B, 4 RBI, 5 R
It was another big week for Kyle Schwarber, as he has more than held his own after a quick promotion to full-season ball in his pro debut.
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.
He's been splitting time between the outfield and catcher, and there is still a chance he sticks behind the plate long term. Regardless of where he winds up playing, he could be one of the first hitters from this draft class to reach the majors.
Low-A: 5 G, .600/.625/1.350, 1 2B, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 7 R
Single-A: 22 G, .380/.467/.633, 8 2B, 4 HR, 15 RBI, 17 R
No. 6 Prospect: RF Jorge Soler, Double-A Tennessee
10-for-18, 2 2B, 4 HR, 8 RBI, 4 R
Jorge Soler returned to Double-A Tennessee two weeks ago after missing over two months with a hamstring injury and then making a brief five-game stop in the Arizona rookie league. It's fair to say he's trying his best to make up for lost time.
The Cuban slugger capped off a strong week with a monster day at the plate Sunday, going 3-for-5 with two home runs and five RBI to help the Smokies to a 14-8 victory.
The first blast came off of Justin Nicolino, ranked as the Miami Marlins No. 3 prospect and the No. 63 prospect in all of baseball, according to Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com.
"He's a man amongst boys on given days," manager Buddy Bailey told Robert Emrich of MiLB.com. "Considering the time he missed last year in Daytona and missed this year, what he's done in 14 games this year is really impressive."
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 to the rest of the top prospects quickly now that he's healthy.
Double-A: 8 G, .345/.406/.690, 7 2B, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 5 R
AZL: 14 G, .426/.491/.936, 9 2B, 5 HR, 17 RBI, 9 R
No. 4 Prospect: CF Albert Almora, High-A Daytona
6-for-28, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 5 R
It was another mediocre week in what has been a mediocre season for Albert Almora, but the 20-year-old still has a bright future ahead of him as the team's center fielder of the future.
The team has promoted him aggressively to this point, jumping him to the High-A level after he played just 61 games for Single-A Kane County last year.
He's gone on hot streaks here and there but has yet to really put things together for Daytona to this point. That being said, he has the baseball IQ and the intangibles to continue grinding and put himself in position to be in Double-A next year before the season is over.
81 G, .267/.292/.370, 17 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 42 RBI, 44 R, 6 SB
No. 3 Prospect: SS Addison Russell, Double-A Tennessee
5-for-19, 1 RBI, 1 SB
Team President Theo Epstein talked to Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com about Addison Russell being too good to pass up in the Jeff Samardzija trade.
"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," Epstein said. "There was no pitching package available that made us think twice on passing on this opportunity."
Many have questioned why the Cubs didn't go after pitching when they dealt Samardzija, but there is no such thing as too many good high-ceiling shortstop prospects. Those guys have the athleticism to play elsewhere if needed and are among the more tradeable commodities in baseball.
Russell has gotten off to a slow start in the Cubs organization, but you need look no further than his .269/.369/.495 line last season, which included 29 doubles, 10 triples, 17 home runs and 21 stolen bases in his age-19 season.
The consensus is that he will be a better defensive shortstop long term than Javier Baez or Starlin Castro, so it will be interesting to see how everything plays out from a positional standpoint.
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): 6 G, .208/.208/.208, 0 2B, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 R, 1 SB
No. 2 Prospect: SS Javier Baez, Triple-A Iowa
5-for-22, 2 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 1 R
Over the first 56 games of the season, Javier Baez hit a paltry .217/.275/.415 with 10 doubles, nine home runs and 33 RBI while posting a 15/80 BB/K ratio.
However, he's finally starting to look like the slugger everyone expected him to be of late.
In his last 28 games, he's hitting .286/.361/.514 with nine doubles, five home runs and 22 RBI. The most impressive number of all in that span may be his 13/30 BB/K ratio, as he finally appears to be reining in his free-swinging approach.
Baez made the most of his time on the national stage in the Futures Game on Sunday, crushing the first pitch he saw from Washington Nationals prospect Lucas Giolito for a two-run opposite-field home run. He finished the game 1-for-2, striking out in his only other at-bat.
2014 Stats (Futures Game Selection)
84 G, .240/.305/.449, 19 2B, 2 3B, 14 HR, 55 RBI, 47 R, 15 SB
No. 1 Prospect: 3B Kris Bryant, Triple-A Iowa
3-for-17, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R
Compared to the previous few weeks, last week was a quiet one for Kris Bryant, though he still managed to club his 31st home run of the season. That ties him with Texas Rangers prospect Joey Gallo for the minor league lead.
There is still a very real possibility that Bryant doesn't make his big league debut until next season, but all signs point to him having every chance to win an everyday job in 2015, whether it's at third base or in the outfield.
He joined Javier Baez in representing the Cubs at the Futures Game, though he didn't enjoy the same success at the plate. He finished the game 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a walk. He did show some nice range and a strong arm fielding a hard hit ball in the hole defensively.
Double-A: 68 G, .355/.458/.702, 20 2B, 22 HR, 58 RBI, 61 R, 8 SB
Triple-A: 19 G, .322/.404/.701, 6 2B, 9 HR, 23 RBI, 16 R, 3 SB