Ranking the Top 10 Prospects in the Chicago Cubs' Farm System

Mike Rosenbaum@GoldenSombreroMLB Prospects Lead WriterNovember 30, 2012

Ranking the Top 10 Prospects in the Chicago Cubs' Farm System

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    While the Chicago Cubs’ current on-field product may be lacking and lead to a few more seasons in the cellar of the NL Central, there is hope around the corner. Both Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have already made it clear that they plan to build around Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro and Jeff Samardzija and have quietly added numerous pieces over the last year through trades and the draft.

    Their farm system is stacked with high-ceiling bats at premium positions; however, almost all of them, except for Brett Jackson, are still several years away from contributing at the big-league level. Additionally, because a majority of their top talent is housed in the low minors, the 2013 season will be a telling year for the overall development of their system. And while it may seem as though they lack impact pitching prospects, that could quickly change over the course of the next year.

    Here’s a look at the Chicago Cubs’ top 10 prospects headed into the 2013 season.

10. 3B Jeimer Candelario

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    Position: 3B

    DOB: 11/24/1993 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 180

    Bats/Throws: S/R

    Drafted/Signed: Sept. 2010 (Dominican Republic)

    ETA: 2015

    2012 Stats: .281/.345/.396, 20 XBH (6 HR), 55/26 K/BB (71 G, Short-Season Boise)

    Scouting Notes: Nineteen-year-old is physically mature at 6’1”, 180 pounds with room for additional strength; defense at the hot corner is solid-average with above-average arm strength serving as his strongest attribute; may be forced to shift across the infield to first base if he gets too bulky and loses a step.

    Impressive switch hitter with the potential for an above-average hit tool; plus bat speed lends to his power potential and is a present extra-base machine; approach is noticeably advanced relative to his age and should allow both his hit and power tool to develop favorably; good pitch recognition that should continue to improve; full-season debut in 2013 will be a solid test for the teenager.

    2013 Opening Day Level: Low-A Kane County

9. RHP Dillon Maples

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 5/9/1992 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 195

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 14th round, 2011 (Pinecrest HS, N.C.)

    ETA: 2015

    2012 Stats: 10.1 IP, 4.35 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 5.2 H/9, 10.5 K/9, 8.7 BB/9 (6 G; 4 GS RK Arizona League)

    Scouting Notes: Love his frame and projectability at 6’2”, 195 pounds, but can’t stand his mechanics; epitome of high-risk, high-reward; everything looks forced and strenuous, and he struggles to repeat it; will need considerable tweaking at lower levels before receiving a challenging assignment; has already fallen behind developmental curve at 20 years old; athletic right-hander should allow him to make adjustments.

    Fastball is a present plus pitch that can scrape 96 mph, but velocity has been up and down in his limited time on the mound; throws a heavy ball on downward plane from a high arm angle; command of the pitch is too inconsistent and needs to improve sooner rather than later; curveball is a hammer with impressive shape and plus potential; has a changeup that’s presently fringe-average at best. 

    2013 Opening Day Level: Short-Season Boise

8. 3B Christian Villanueva

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    Position: 3B

    DOB: 6/19/1991

    Height/Weight: 5’11”, 160

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: Aug., 2008 [Rangers] (Mexico)

    ETA: 2014

    2012 Stats: .285/.356/.421, 30 XBH (10 HR), 9 SB, 83/24 K/BB (100 G, High-A Myrtle Beach); .250/.337/.452, 9 XBH (4 HR), 5 SB, 24/10 K/BB (25 G, High-A Daytona)

    Scouting Notes: Headlined the prospect package acquired from the Rangers for Ryan Dempster at the trade deadline; at 5’11”, 160 pounds, Villanueva lacks the prototypical physique for the position; offers plus defense at the hot corner thanks to an excellent glove, plus arm and above-average range; always seems to take instinctual first step and plays the position with loads of confidence.

    Right-handed hitter with above-average-to-plus raw bat speed that generates a surprising amount of pop; barrels the ball with consistency, with most of his true power to the pull-side; present gap power could result in slightly above-average power as big leaguer; hit tool needs some work and may prevent him quick ascent to majors; employs a consistent approach at the plate that should aid him upon reaching Double-A next season; possesses sneaky speed that should continue to result in double-digit stolen base totals.

    2013 Opening Day Level: Double-A Tennessee

7. OF Brett Jackson

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 8/2/1988 (Age: 24)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 210

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted/Signed: First round, 2009 (California)

    ETA: 2013

    2012 Stats: .256/.338/.479, 49 XBH (15 HR), 27 SB, 158/47 K/BB (106 G, Triple-A Iowa); .175/.303/.342, 11 XBH (4 HR), 59/22 K/BB (44 G, MLB)

    Scouting Notes: Excellent athlete at 6’2”, 210 capable of play all three outfield positions, though his peak value will be as a centerfielder; borderline plus speed gives lends to his impressive range, which is also aided by his aggressive routes; arm is solid-average and a clean fit in center; gritty player who does everything with 100-percent effort.

    In my opinion, his hit tool is worrisome and lacks projection; continues to be a big-time swing-and-miss guy who fails to make consistent contact; holes in long, lofty swing were exploited during big-league call-up last Sept. as he fanned in 41.5-percent of his at-bats; combination of above-average power and speed gives him 20-20 potential; adept to working deep counts and making pitchers show their entire arsenal early in games; the upside is certainly there, but he’ll never come close to reaching it with current hit tool.

    2013 Opening Day Level: MLB or Triple-A Iowa

6. RHP Pierce Johnson

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 5/10/1991 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 170

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: First round, 2012 (Missouri State)

    ETA: 2015

    2012 Stats: 3 IP, 0.00 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 6.0 K/9, 0.0 BB/9 (2 GS, RK Arizona League); 8 IP, 4.50 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, 13.5 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 (4 GS, Short-Season Boise)

    Scouting Notes: 21-year-old has highly projectable frame at 6’3”, 170 pounds; injury concerns will linger until he proves otherwise; borderline high-effort delivery may need to be adjusted, albeit slightly; has a feel for entire arsenal, though it will need refinement as he develops.

    Fastball is only present plus pitch in the low-90s, though he can reach back for a few extra ticks as needed; throws the pitch on solid downward plane with some late life, sinking and to the arm-side; curveball is best secondary offering and he throws it hard in the low-80s without sacrificing shape or bite; will cut his fastball when needed which, in turn, aids the effectiveness of fastball-curve combo; has a changeup but it’s a present raw offering; should be able to gain a feel for it with more experience; if he’s able to stay healthy, the right-hander’s pure stuff and pitchability may allow him to move quickly.

    2013 Opening Day Level: High-A Daytona

5. 1B Dan Vogelbach

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    Position: 1B

    DOB: 12/17/1992 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 6’0", 250

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2011 (Bishop Verot HS, Fla.)

    ETA: 2014

    2012 Stats: .324/.391/.686, 21 XBH (7 HR), 14/12 K/BB (24 G, RK Arizona League); .322/.423/.608, 20 XBH (10 HR), 34/23 K/BB (37 G, Short-Season Boise)

    Scouting Notes: Absolutely jaw-dropping, plus-plus raw power; compact swing allows him to track the ball deep and effortless drive the ball to all fields; potential for above-average-to-plus hit tool; advanced feel for the strike zone relative to his age and experience; direct bat path and with a strong top hand; plus makeup and work ethic; fierce on-field competitor; will have to continue to rake, as his bat will dictate his development and ascent to big leagues.

    Epitome of a bad-body-guy at 6’0", 250 pounds; will need to work hard to retain playable weight; little-to-no speed, as expected given size; inconsistent defender at first base with minimal range, but has already shown desire to put in the work to avoid permanent DH-only relegation.

    2013 Opening Day Level: Low-A Kane County

4. RHP Arodys Vizcaino

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 11/13/1990 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’0", 190

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: July, 2007 [Yankees] (Dominican Republic)

    ETA: 2013

    2012 Stats: DNP – Tommy John surgery

    Scouting Notes: Right-hander missed entire 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in the spring; dealt to the Cubs at the 2012 trade deadline; despite undersized frame at 6’0", 190 pounds, possesses premium pure stuff ideal for big-league bullpen; injury history likely rules out future as starter.

    Fastball has easy plus velocity that explodes out of his hand and will scrape the upper-90s; pitch features late arm-side life and jumps on hitters; curve is a second plus pitch with tight spin and late, downer bite; command is advanced given electric nature of arsenal; changeup is fringy offering but not vital to his success as a late-inning arm.  

    2013 Opening Day Level: Triple-A Iowa or MLB

3. OF Jorge Soler

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 2/25/1992 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 205

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: June, 2012 (Cuba)

    ETA: 2015

    2012 Stats: .241/.328/.389, 4 XBH, 8 SB, 13/6 K/BB (14 G, RK Arizona League); .338/.398/.513, 8 XBH, 4 SB, 6/6 K/BB (20 G, Low-A Boise)

    Scouting Notes: Incredibly physical player at 6’3”, 205 pounds, but requires little projection; ball absolutely jumps off his right-handed bat thanks to dynamic bat speed and plus-plus raw power; comfortable driving the ball with authority to all fields; approach was more developed than expected in pro debut; comfortable hitting when behind in the count; advanced pitch recognition relative to stateside experience; swing can be a bit rushed and choppy at times and will need to iron out kinks as he develops; premium velocity may exploit weaknesses at higher levels.

    Above-average runner who moves well despite size; range will be at least average and more than enough to stick at the position; plus arm is second-strongest attribute and ideal for right field; adjusted quickly in stateside debut this past season and may prove to be more advanced than anyone expected.

    2013 Opening Day Level: High-A Daytona

2. OF Albert Almora

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 4/16/1994 (Age: 18)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 170

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: First round, 2012 (Mater Academy, Fla.)

    ETA: 2015

    2012 Stats: .347/.363/.480, 7 XBH, 5 SB, 8/2 K/BB (18 G, Rk Arizona League); .292/.292/.446, 8 XBH (15 G, Short-Season Boise)

    Scouting Notes: Premium athlete who showcases all five tools as well as a mature work ethic and advanced baseball skills; 6’1”, 170-pound frame leaves room for projection; above-average bat speed results in consistent, hard contact to all fields; quiet and efficient swing with little wasted movement; power will develop as he matures and should be above-average by the time he reaches the major leagues; all-around offensive skill set highly advanced for his age; 20-20 offensive upside with above-average hit tool.

    Slightly above-average runner who demonstrates excellent instincts in center field through his reads, jumps and positioning; average arm that’s best suited for center field; above-average defensive outfielder with the natural ability and baseball IQ to stick in center; may not take him long to reach the major leagues relative to other class of 2012 draftees.

    2013 Opening Day Level: Low-A Kane County

1. SS Javier Baez

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    Position: SS

    DOB: 12/01/1992

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 205

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011 (Arlington Country Day HS, Fla.)

    ETA: 2015

    2012 Stats: .333/.383/.596, 27 XBH (12 HR), 20 SB, 48/9 K/BB (57 G, Low-A Peoria); .188/.244/.400, 8 XBH, 21/5 K/BB (23 G, High-A Daytona)

    Scouting Notes: Right-handed hitter the potential to above-average-to-plus hit tool; raw power is an easy plus; premium, plus-plus bat speed yields loud contact to all fields; extremely strong wrists and top hand; unleashes a max-effort swing every time; lacks a feel for the strike zone and will chase too many pitches; will need to improve pitch recognition, especially with breaking balls; has to be able to manipulate more counts in his favor.

    He’s a shortstop at the moment, but adding too much strength to his mature, 6’1”, 205-pound frame may prompt a move to third base; above-average athlete with smooth, natural defensive actions; speed may lose a grade as he develops physically; easy plus arm perfect for left side of the infield; high-intensity player who needs to employ a more cognizant on-field mindset. 

    2013 Opening Day Level: High-A Daytona


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