Re-Ranking Chicago Cubs' Top 10 Prospects After the Trade Deadline
This trade deadline, the Cubs added to an already loaded system of young talent. Even though they've yet to add any elite pitching prospects to the system, the team continues to claim it can build the pitching staff through trades and free agency.
They better hope that plan works because almost every one of their top prospects is a hitter. It's a good bet that most of those players will eventually see time in the major leagues while a few will be shipped away for pitching. Here is what the team's top-10 prospect list looked like at the beginning of the 2014 season according to Baseball America.
1. SS Javier Baez
2. 3B Kris Bryant
3. RHP C.J. Edwards
4. OF Albert Almora
5. OF Jorge Soler
6. RHP Pierce Johnson
7. 2B Arismendy Alcantara
8. 3B Jeimer Candelario
9. 1B Dan Vogelbach
10. RHP Arodys Vizcaino
10. C Victor Caratini
Caratini is the newest prospect to join the Cubs organization and provides catching depth within the minor leagues. Catcher was the one position the Cubs wanted to address in the minor leagues. They traded for Caratini who was the Braves' second-round pick in 2013 and No. 8 overall prospect.
As a 20-year old playing in his first season at Class-A, Caratini is hitting a respectable .279 with five homers and 42 RBI. The team expects him to eventually grow into an impressive power hitter. Now the Cubs don't have to feel tied to current backstop Welington Castillo if he doesn't perform to their standards.
9. Outfielder Billy McKinney
McKinney is somewhat forgotten since he was the other player included in the Cubs' Jeff Samardzija trade, which also landed them highly touted prospect Addison Russell. However, his power upside is impressive and shouldn't be overlooked.
He's not incredibly big at 6'1" and 195 pounds, but the outfielder generates unbelievable torque with his lower body and keeps his hands through the hitting zone longer than the average player. That is illustrated beautifully on this home run he hammered earlier this season, featured in the video above.
McKinney is further away from the majors than some other prospects since he's just 19 years old, but his ability to hit for power makes him an intriguing player within the organization.
8. RHP Arodys Vizcaino
A look at the numbers:
|2014 (A+, AA, AAA)||1||1||4.15||34.2||37|
Vizcaino was acquired by the Cubs from the Braves in their Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson trade in 2012. Before undergoing Tommy John surgery prior to the trade, Vizcaino had pitched for the Braves as a 20-year-old. He's the best power arm the Cubs have in their system and appears to have all the makings of a future closer.
According to FanGraphs, these are Vizcaino's average velocities on his repertoire of pitches.
|4-Seam FB||2-Seam FB||Slider||CB||CH|
|95.8 mph||86.5 mph||81.7 mph||81.6 mph||84.6 mph|
The Cubs' front office has made it clear it wants to stockpile power arms for the future bullpen. Based on the numbers, Vizcaino appears to be it. This season was about getting the reliever healthy so he can be a big part of the bullpen in 2015.
7. C/OF Kyle Schwarber
Indiana University product Kyle Schwarber has been extremely impressive in the minor leagues since being taken fourth overall in the 2014 MLB Amateur Draft. In fact, his impressive play has already earned him two promotions. His overall and power numbers are comparable to another first-round pick of the Cubs.
After the Cubs took 3B Kris Bryant with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 draft, he powered his way through minor league baseball. However, he took much longer to sign his rookie contract than Schwarber did, so the former Indiana catcher is ahead of the curve. Here's a look at how Schwarber's stats so far stack up with Bryant's numbers from his first professional season.
|Kris Bryant (RK, A-, A+)||128||14||9||32||.336||.688||35|
|Kyle Schwarber (A-, A, A+)||159||10||10||36||.352||.616||31|
Schwarber's stats in his first professional season are strikingly similar to Bryant's from a season ago. The Cubs front office can only hope he takes as big a step in his second season as Bryant has this season.
6. 2B Arismendy Alcantara
Even though he's already made his major league debut, Alcantara hasn't played enough to not be counted as a prospect still. If anything, the fact he's shown the ability to be successful at the major league level makes him an even more intriguing prospect than he already was.
His numbers have gone up every season since he's been able to stay healthy, and he finally earned a call-up this year. At first, he wasn't a highly touted prospect, but ever since he had a breakout year in 2013, he's been on the Cubs radar.
This is how Alcantara's career track has gone to this point. Notice how his numbers have steadily increased every season and that he's played at a single level every season.
Keep in mind Alcantara was on pace to surpass last season's numbers before he was called up. He certainly has Cubs fans excited for the future, where he appears likely to play somewhere in the outfield. He's already made an impact at the big league level, like in the video above where he scored the game-winning run in his first weekend in the big leagues.
5. Outfielder Jorge Soler
Now that Soler has shown what he can do when he's healthy, he's easily back in the club's top-five prospects list. Ever since signing a nine-year, $30 million deal with the club out of Cuba, Soler has been relatively disappointing. Even though it was clear the full package of talent was there, he couldn't stay on the field long enough to prove consistency.
Soler has been absolutely on fire since returning from injury and earned a promotion to Triple-A Iowa. He's hitting .387 split between Double-A and Triple-A with nine homers and 32 RBI. This seems like it may be enough to earn him a promotion to the big league squad by September or Opening Day 2015.
4. Outfielder Albert Almora
Like Soler, Almora has gotten red hot since finally getting healthy. He's actually been healthy all season, which is a first during his professional career, but his hot streak coincides with Soler's. He recently earned a promotion to Double-A and has struggled in limited action there, but his progress is encouraging.
He's billed as a great natural-born leader and is likely to lead off for the Cubs eventually. While his batting average has taken a dip this season, his on-base percentage was a solid .376 last season. Even though he won't be the most talented player once he arrives in Chicago, he should be able to provide leadership akin to Jonathan Toews of the Blackhawks across town.
3. SS Addison Russell
The cornerstone of the blockbuster Jeff Samardzija trade on the Fourth of July, Russell is the best prospect to change teams this year. As if the Cubs needed the added infield talent, Russell projects as a shortstop at the next level more so than Baez. Since he projects to shortstop, Baez could be moved to 2B, 3B or OF, but it's anybody's guess where all the prospects will end up at this point.
Split between High-A and Double-A this season in just 40 games, Russell is hitting .298 with seven home runs and 24 RBI and five steals. He won't be an elite power hitter, but he could grow into his power and hit 20-25 home runs a year eventually while swiping 20 bases.
Making the lineup even deeper, Russell is a welcome addition to the nucleus the Cubs hope can deliver their first World Series championship in over a century.
2. SS Javier Baez
Formerly the team's top prospect, Baez hasn't necessarily done much to move down in the rankings as much as another player has passed him up with his own performance. While he did struggle early in the season, he's worked his way back up to a .259 batting average with 21 homers and 78 RBI with 16 steals.
Those are impressive power numbers and just part of the reason he's one of the top prospects in all of baseball. He showed the entire country exactly how powerful his swing can be as he sent an opposite-field home run into the right field bleachers.
1. 3B Kris Bryant
Bryant has easily been the most impressive player in all of minor league baseball this season. Split between Double-A and Triple-A, Bryant has been absolutely out of his mind at the plate. He's been impressive enough to climb atop Keith Law's midseason prospect rankings (subscription required).
To put things in perspective, here are Bryant's 2014 overall stats. They're some of the most impressive minor league baseball has seen in quite some time.
Clearly, Bryant strikes out his fair share, but if he hits .338 in the major leagues, nobody will care. Cubs fans will be able to find out how he will fare in the big leagues starting in 2015, barring a major setback.