Stock Up, Stock Down for Chicago Cubs Top 10 Prospects for Week 16
The focus of Chicago Cubs fans here in 2014 continues to be as much on cities like Knoxville, Tennessee, and Des Moines, Iowa, as it is on the city of Chicago.
That's where the team's Double-A and Triple-A affiliates reside and where a number of the team's promising young prospects are currently playing on the path to the big leagues.
This past week was certainly a memorable one for the team's top prospects.
Albert Almora hit for the cycle on Monday, and then all three of the team's top three prospects in Addison Russell, Javier Baez and Kris Bryant homered on Thursday.
That said, 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 over the past week.
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.
Last week's No. 8 prospect 2B Arismendy Alcantara appears to be in the big leagues to stay, so he's been removed from this list. Everyone slid up a spot behind him, and there is a new prospect on this week's list as a result.
No. 11 Prospect: OF Billy McKinney, High-A Daytona
8-for-28, 2 2B, 5 RBI, 3 R
The second prospect acquired in the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel trade, Billy McKinney may not have the ceiling of Addison Russell, but he's a highly regarded young player in his own right.
The No. 24 pick in the 2013 draft out of high school, McKinney hit .326/.387/.437 with 15 extra-base hits in 215 at-bats after signing last year. That was enough for him to open the season as the No. 2 prospect in the A's system, according to Baseball America.
The outfield situation figures to be a crowded one in Chicago moving forward, but the 19-year-old is still a ways from making a big league impact, and problems like having too many talented, young outfielders have a way of working themselves out.
High-A (OAK): 75 G, .241/.330/.400, 12 2B, 2 3B, 10 HR, 33 RBI, 42 R
High-A (CHC): 14 G, .275/.377/.373, 2 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 13 RBI, 7 R
No. 10 Prospect: 1B Dan Vogelbach, High-A Daytona
7-for-28, 1 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 2 R
After a strong month of June in which he hit .319/.429/.553, Dan Vogelbach has been struggling once again, hitting just .227/.325/.318 here in July.
The biggest red flag for him this season has been his inability to hit left-handed pitching, as he has managed a line of just .188/.289/.232 with zero home runs and four RBI in 112 at-bats against southpaws.
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.
93 G, .269/.359/.418, 22 2B, 1 3B, 9 HR, 49 RBI, 44 R
No. 9 Prospect: SP Jen-Ho Tseng, Single-A Kane County
1 GS, W, 6.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K
After allowing just one run and three hits in seven innings of work in his previous start, Jen-Ho Tseng was even better his last time out, allowing just one hit over six scoreless innings.
The 19-year-old has now allowed just five hits and one run in 18 innings over his last three starts, walking two and striking out 13 over that span, as he has quickly become one of the better pitchers at the Single-A level.
That recent run of success could have him positioned for a promotion to High-A Daytona in the very near future. There is no question he has been the Cubs' breakout prospect of the year so far, after opening the season well outside their top 10 prospects, regardless of what publication you follow.
13 G, 12 GS, 5-0, 2.50 ERA, 56 H, 9 BB, 64 K, 68.1 IP
No. 8 Prospect: RP Arodys Vizcaino, Triple-A Iowa
1 G, 1 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
After blazing through High-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee earlier this year, Arodys Vizcaino has run into some problems for Triple-A Iowa.
The hard-throwing right-hander allowed three earned runs in three straight appearances heading into the Triple-A All-Star break, but he did rebound to throw a scoreless innings on Sunday in what was his first appearance in 10 days.
The break may have been the best thing for him, as it allowed him to hit the reset button on what has been a busy season of shuffling through the minors. If he can string together a few strong appearances, a second-half call-up still remains 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: 8 G, 0-0, 7.1 IP, 0 SV, 13.50 ERA, 3 BB, 8 K
No. 7 Prospect: C/OF Kyle Schwarber, High-A Daytona
Last Week (High-A only)
7-for-20, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 4 R
The term "fast-rising" is an appropriate one to describe prospect Kyle Schwarber, as he is just 33 games into his professional career, but he has already advanced through two minor league levels to High-A Daytona.
He was promoted to Daytona last Monday and has gotten off to a hot start there as well. He hit his first home run on Friday and has recorded three two-hit games in his first five with his new team.
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.
"I love catching," Schwarber told Jesse Rogers of ESPN. "If they want me to do something else, [that's fine]. Right now it sounds like I'm going to get a lot of reps at catcher."
Regardless of where he winds up playing defensively, expect him to keep rocketing through the system if he continues to hit like he has to this point.
Low-A: 5 G, .600/.625/1.350, 1 2B, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 7 R
Single-A: 23 G, .361/.448/.602, 8 2B, 4 HR, 15 RBI, 17 R
High-A: 5 G, .350/.458/.500, 0 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 4 R
No. 6 Prospect: RF Jorge Soler, Double-A Tennessee
3-for-11, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 3 R
Something of a forgotten man after missing over two months with a hamstring injury, Jorge Soler has quickly shown why he still belongs in the conversation of the Cubs' top prospects.
A certain level of expectations came along with the nine-year, $30 million deal he signed following his defection from Cuba, but injuries have kept him off of what likely would have been fast track to the majors.
He's been absolutely raking since returning to the Tennessee lineup, hitting .400/.529/.920 with four home runs and 11 RBI over his last 10 games. He may very well find himself in Triple-A before the season is over, with an eye on debuting in 2015.
AZL: 7 G, .391/.500/.652, 3 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 6 R
Double-A: 20 G, .397/.493/.862, 9 2B, 6 HR, 21 RBI, 12 R
No. 5 Prospect: CF Albert Almora, High-A Daytona
13-for-29, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 9 R
After a relatively disappointing start to the season, Albert Almora has caught fire for High-A Daytona of late, hitting .392/.422/.633 with 11 extra-base hits and 13 RBI in his last 18 games.
The highlight of his season so far came this past Monday, when he went 5-for-7 and hit for the cycle in the team's 13-inning win over Jupiter. He capped things off with a two-run triple in the 13th, sparking a five-run inning that proved to be the difference.
Almora talked to Ashley Marshall of MiLB.com about accomplishing the feat after the game.
To be honest, it was a little bit of luck and a little bit of concentration. It hasn't sunk in yet. It's not every day you hit for the cycle. I feel blessed and I'll take it all in tomorrow.
Hitting coach Mariano Duncan told me to hit a triple. I just wanted to get a base hit, but he said all you need is the triple for the cycle. I didn't know, with all the emotions of the game.
Even when he was struggling, Almora was still viewed as the team's center fielder of the future with an ETA of some point in 2016. His recent run of success only solidifies his standing and could push that ETA up in the long run.
87 G, .281/.306/.398, 20 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, 47 RBI, 53 R, 6 SB
No. 3 Prospect: SS Addison Russell, Double-A Tennessee
6-for-18, 1 2B, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 4 R
After getting off to a relatively slow start in the Cubs organization, Addison Russell turned in a big week at the plate last week, as fans are starting to see the kind of upside that had the organization so excited to acquire.
The 20-year-old hit .269/.369/.495 line last season, with 29 doubles, 10 triples, 17 home runs and 21 stolen bases playing at the High-A level.
Injuries limited him early on this season, but now that he's healthy he is producing at a high level once again, and he hasn't missed a beat with the move to Double-A.
There was some hope in Oakland that he could step in as the every-day shortstop next year once Jed Lowrie departed in free agency. His arrival in Chicago may not come quite that soon, but a 2015 debut remains a very real possibility.
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): 11 G, .262/.295/.500, 1 2B, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 4 R, 1 SB
No. 2 Prospect: SS/2B Javier Baez, Triple-A Iowa
8-for-18, 2 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 3 R, 1 SB
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, something has clicked for him over the past month or so, and he is once again flashing the tremendous offensive potential that has him pegged a future superstar.
In his last 32 games, he's hitting .309/.374/.569 with 11 doubles, seven home runs and 28 RBI. Improved plate discipline has been a big reason for the turnaround, as he has a 13/32 BB/K ratio over that span.
Currently riding a 14-game hitting streak, it's worth noting that Baez has played second base in three of the last four games, after his first 81 starts all came at shortstop.
A second-half call-up as a second baseman, with Arismendy Alcantara shifting to center field, may very well be in the works.
2014 Stats (Futures Game Selection)
88 G, .252/.313/.473, 21 2B, 2 3B, 16 HR, 61 RBI, 50 R, 16 SB
No. 1 Prospect: 3B Kris Bryant, Triple-A Iowa
6-for-18, 2 2B, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 4 R
Slugger Kris Bryant picked up right where he left off coming out of the Triple-A All-Star break, as he homered in each of the first two games of the second half, bringing his minor league-leading total to 33 long balls on the year.
At this point it's really a matter of when the Cubs what to bring him up, because he does not have much left to prove at the minor league level.
There is still some swing-and-miss to his game with 113 strikeouts in 353 at-bats, and his defense at third base is still a work in progress, but his bat would play in the middle of a major league lineup right now.
He very well may not make his big league debut until next season, but all signs point to him having every chance to win an every-day job in 2015, whether it's at third base or in the outfield.
Double-A: 68 G, .355/.458/.702, 20 2B, 22 HR, 58 RBI, 61 R, 8 SB
Triple-A: 28 G, .324/.398/.714, 8 2B, 11 HR, 26 RBI, 20 R, 3 SB