Chicago Cubs: Jackson, Baez, Rizzo, Vogelbach Named Top Prospects by Position

Jim WeihofenCorrespondent IJanuary 24, 2012

MESA, AZ - FEBRUARY 22:  Brett Jackson #59 of the Chicago Cubs poses for a portrait during media photo day at Finch Park on February 22, 2011 in Mesa, Arizona.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo released his top-10 prospect list by position. Making the cuts at their positions for the Chicago Cubs were Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Dan Vogelbach and Brett Jackson.

Rizzo was the highest ranked amongst the first basemen, with Mayo listing him as the No. 1 first-base prospect in baseball. Rizzo was acquired on Jan. 6, along with minor-league starter Zach Cates, in exchange for Andrew Cashner and minor-league outfielder Kyung Min-Na.

Rizzo, 22, is in his third organization—all of which have seen Jed Hoyer in a major front-office role. Rizzo struggled in his call-up in 2010, but his potential is anything but lost. His athleticism, quality defense and left-handed power still have lots of intrigue.

Much like his new teammate, Tony Campana, Rizzo has survived lymphoma (though the two had different varieties of the disease). His push to survive is an inspiration, and his potential to be the best first baseman the Cubs have developed since Mark Grace is intriguing to Cub fans worldwide.

Also checking in on Mayo's list was 2011 second-round draftee Dan Vogelbach, who ranked 10th on Mayo's list of first basemen.

Vogelbach was thought to be a potential supplemental first-round pick in 2011. However, he fell to the second round, where the Cubs grabbed him and paid him a well-over-slot bonus, reportedly of $1.6 million.

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In many ways, Vogelbach is very much like Prince Fielder. Both are portly first basemen who throw right-handed, hit left-handed and have enough power to send a hanging changeup into another zip code. Reports are that Vogelbach has shed some weight for his first pro season.

A high-school draftee, Vogelbach is still multiple seasons away from the big leagues. While Rizzo easily has the title of First Baseman of the Future for the Cubs, there are a lot worse fallback options than Vogelbach. At the least, either one could net a massive trade return after a couple seasons of further development.

The third Cub to make Mayo's list is outfielder Brett Jackson, who ranked fifth on Mayo's list of outfielders. The 23-year-old outfielder moved up a slot from his No. 6 ranking heading into 2011.

The 2009 first-round draft pick did vastly better after being called up to AAA Iowa from AA Tennessee in 2011. Jackson is seen as a complete—if imperfect—player. His strikeout rate may raise issues, but his ability to hit for contact and power intrigue at the plate. Add in his above-average speed, range and arm, and Jackson looks to be a solid MLB player—though likely not a superstar.

While many clamored for Jackson's call-up in Sept. 2011, acting GM Randy Bush had no interest in doing this. The Cubs were well out of the playoff picture, and it was in Jackson's best long-term interest to continue to develop as a player rather than be rushed. New GM Jed Hoyer and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein seem to share this view.

2011 first rounder Javier Baez came in eighth for the list of top shortstops. Baez signed at the last minute in 2011, garnering a $2.65 million signing bonus. Considered a very complete prep player, Baez will look to make a name for himself in the Cubs system in 2012, along with Vogelbach.

Some scouts project Baez's big frame and bat to shift him over to third base in the long run. However, much of the same comparisons have been made with Junior Lake, and Josh Vitters is still in the system, so something will have to give. Vitters has worked at first base and in the corner outfield spots recently.

Most likely, though, is a highly exciting infield around 2015 or so of Baez, Lake, Castro, and Rizzo, with Jackson, Matt Sczcur, and hopefully a polished Vitters in the outfield.

While there are still many holes to be filled, the Cubs' farm system does at least offer a few shimmers of hope of a brighter future.

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