Stock Up, Stock Down for Chicago Cubs Top 10 Prospects for Week 17
The focus of Chicago Cubs fans 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 saw a pair of those top prospects take the next step in their development. On Tuesday, the team promoted Jorge Soler to Triple-A and Albert Almora to Double-A, as the two outfielders remain a big piece of the future puzzle.
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 over the past week.
No. 10 Prospect: 1B Dan Vogelbach, High-A Daytona
11-for-27, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 7 R
After a slow start to the season, Dan Vogelbach has hit .299/.391/.497 with eight home runs and 39 RBI in 50 games since the start of June.
He's currently riding a modest eight-game hitting streak that includes three multi-hit games, and at the very least he may be positioning himself for a late-season call-up to Double-A Tennessee.
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.
100 G, .279/.363/.442, 22 2B, 1 3B, 12 HR, 58 RBI, 51 R
No. 9 Prospect: SP Jen-Ho Tseng, Single-A Kane County
1 GS, W, 5.2 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K
Jen-Ho Tseng has been perhaps the fastest-rising prospect in the Cubs' system this season.
The 19-year-old Taiwanese right-hander was signed to a $1.625 million bonus as part of a big international prospect class last year, and in his first pro season this year, he has quickly emerged as one of the team's top pitching prospects.
He has the feel of projectability and a feel for his fastball/curveball/changeup repertoire to move quickly through the system, and he could wind up being a solid middle-of-the-rotation arm for the Cubs long-term.
14 G, 13 GS, 6-0, 2.68 ERA, 62 H, 11 BB, 68 K, 74.0 IP
No. 8 Prospect: RP Arodys Vizcaino, Triple-A Iowa
2 G, 2.2 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K
After blazing through High-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee, Arodys Vizcaino ran into some trouble when he arrived at 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 has three straight scoreless appearances since, as he seems to be settling in.
Considering he already has a spot on the 40-man roster, if he can continue to string together scoreless appearances, he should be in a good position to receive a call-up when rosters expand. With the closer spot still wide open in Chicago long-term, he could be auditioning for that role in 2015.
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: 10 G, 0-0, 10.0 IP, 0 SV, 9.90 ERA, 5 BB, 9 K
No. 7 Prospect: C/OF Kyle Schwarber, High-A Daytona
4-for-22, 3 RBI, 3 R
It took Kyle Schwarber a grand total of 28 pro games to advance from Low-A Kane County to High-A Daytona. He was pegged as a fast-riser when the Cubs took him with the No. 4 pick in this past June's draft, and he has certainly lived up to that billing.
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 was splitting time between catching and the outfield in his previous two stops, but he has primarily been in the outfield for High-A Daytona. He's played seven games in LF, three at DH and two behind the plate.
Regardless of where he ends up defensively long-term, it's his bat that will carry him to the majors, and it could make him one of the first players from his draft class to arrive in the big leagues.
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: 12 G, .262/.385/.333, 0 2B, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 7 R
No. 6 Prospect: RF Jorge Soler, Triple-A Iowa
Last Week (Triple-A only)
4-for-13, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R
Jorge Soler missed over two months with a hamstring injury at the beginning of this season, but he has been on an absolute tear since returning.
He hit .463/.538/1.00 with six home runs and 15 RBI in 15 games after returning to the Double-A lineup, and that was enough to earn him a promotion to Triple-A Iowa last Tuesday.
Soler was signed to a big nine-year, $30 million contract as one of the first moves made by the new front-office team, and if he continues raking at the plate he may position himself for a September call-up. He is already on the 40-man roster, so that makes a call-up slightly more likely for him than the team's other top prospects.
AZL: 7 G, .391/.500/.652, 3 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 6 R
Double-A: 22 G, .415/.494/.862, 9 2B, 6 HR, 22 RBI, 13 R
Triple-A: 5 G, .308/.438/.615, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R
No. 5 Prospect: CF Albert Almora, Double-A Tennessee
Last Week (Double-A only)
1-for-18, 1 R
After a relatively disappointing start to the season, Albert Almora caught fire at the plate for High-A Daytona, hitting .391/.413/.644 with 12 extra-base hits and 16 RBI in his last 20 games at the level before being called up to Double-A Tennessee on Tuesday.
He's off to a slow start with just one hit in his first four games with his new team, but it's important to remember that he's still just 20 years old and has been aggressively promoted since being taken with the No. 6 pick in the 2012 draft.
Almora remains the center fielder of the future in Chicago, and there's a chance he could take over the job full-time by the 2016 season.
High-A: 89 G, .283/.306/.406, 20 2B, 2 3B, 7 HR, 50 RBI, 55 R, 6 SB
Double-A: 4 G, .056/.105/.056, 0 2B, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 1 R
No. 4 Prospect: SP C.J. Edwards, Arizona Rookie League
1 GS, ND, 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K
C.J. Edwards was one of the breakout pitching prospects of 2013, going 8-2 with a 1.86 ERA and 155 strikeouts in 116.1 innings while splitting the season between the Rangers and Cubs organizations.
The team bumped the 22-year-old up to the Double-A level to start the season, and he was impressive through his first four starts before a shoulder injury landed him on the disabled list.
The right-hander returned this past week, making his first start since April 20 in a rehab outing for the team's Arizona Rookie League affiliate, and he threw two scoreless innings.
"This has taught me patience," Edwards told Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. "My parents and girlfriend kept telling me to stay patient, bigger things are coming. Don't worry. It's a minor setback for a major comeback.''
Double-A: 4 GS, 1-0, 2.61 ERA, 14 H, 8 BB, 20 K, 20.2 IP
AZL: 1 GS, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 H, 1 BB, 2 K, 2.0 IP
No. 3 Prospect: SS Addison Russell, Double-A Tennessee
8-for-28, 1 2B, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 7 R
After getting off to a relatively slow start in the Cubs organization, Addison Russell has quickly shown why he is one of the most highly regarded prospects in baseball and the centerpiece of the Jeff Samardzija blockbuster trade.
The 20-year-old hit a .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 finally seems to be hitting his stride at the plate. In his last 10 games, Russell is hitting .333/.381/.821 with six home runs and 13 RBI.
There was some hope in Oakland that he could step in as the everyday 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): 18 G, .271/.311/.557, 2 2B, 6 HR, 14 RBI, 11 R, 1 SB
No. 2 Prospect: SS/2B Javier Baez, Triple-A Iowa
10-for-31, 3 2B, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 7 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 has looked every bit the part of a future superstar since the middle of June, putting him right back on track to make a serious impact in the near future.
In his last 41 games, he's hitting .312/.374/.597 with 14 doubles, 10 home runs and 40 RBI, while improving his plate discipline to the tune of a 16/42 BB/K ratio.
Defensively, he has spent 11 of the last 13 games playing second base rather than shortstop, and that could be where he winds up when he arrives in Chicago. That would mean Arismendy Alcantara shifting to center field for the time being, though Baez could still end up playing third base long-term.
2014 Stats (Futures Game Selection)
97 G, .258/.318/.493, 24 2B, 2 3B, 19 HR, 73 RBI, 57 R, 16 SB
No. 1 Prospect: 3B Kris Bryant, Triple-A Iowa
6-for-27, 2 2B, 3 RBI, 5 R, 1 SB
For the first time since he was taken with the No. 2 pick in last year's draft, Kris Bryant is going through something of an extended slump at the plate.
He's now gone 11 games without a home run, hitting .194/.326/.278 with 11 strikeouts in 36 at-bats over that span.
That being said, he is still having a season that is nothing short of phenomenal, and there is every reason to believe he'll be an everyday player in the middle of the team's lineup next season.
There is still some swing-and-miss to his game with 120 strikeouts in 380 at-bats, and his defense at third base is still a work in progress, but his bat is as good as it gets at the minor league level right now.
Double-A: 68 G, .355/.458/.702, 20 2B, 22 HR, 58 RBI, 61 R, 8 SB
Triple-A: 37 G, .303/.391/.629, 10 2B, 11 HR, 29 RBI, 25 R, 4 SB