Four Cubs named to MLB.com’s top-prospect lists
MLB.com ranked Albert Almora baseball’s No. 9 outfield prospect and the 39th best prospect overall.
(Photo by Jason Wise)
As January winds down, baseball publications everywhere are unveiling their lists of the game’s top prospects.
MLB.com got things rolling this week as they released draft expert Jonathan Mayo’s top 10 prospects by position and wrapped things up last night with a list of their top 100 prospects in the game. The Cubs were well represented on many of the lists and had three players in the top 50—Javier Baez (16), Albert Almora (39) and Jorge Soler (42). First baseman Dan Vogelbach was also named the eighth-best first-base prospect in baseball. Below is a breakdown of each of the mentioned prospects with MLB.com’s analysis, followed by a brief recap of the player’s 2012 season.
Positional Rank: 3
Overall Rank: 16
ETA to big leagues: 2014
Taken No. 9 overall in the 2011 Draft, just one spot after [No. 2 shortstop Francisco] Lindor, Baez might be the more dynamic pure hitter of the two, even if Lindor is the better defender. Baez’s plus bat speed will allow him to hit for average and power, both of which have already been on display, and he will improve as he refines his approach. He’s not without defensive skills, with a strong arm and good hands, and more folks are thinking he can stay at shortstop than did when he was coming out of the Florida high school ranks. Even if Baez has to slide to third base, his bat will profile just fine there.
Baez opened the season by showing all of his offensive tools in Low-A Peoria, hitting .333/.383/.596 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 12 home runs, 10 doubles, 20 stolen bases and 33 RBI in 213 at-bats before an inevitable promotion to Daytona. Baez openly admitted to struggling to adjust to the unfamiliar pitching. In 80 at-bats, he hit just .188/.244/.400 with four home runs. However, the shortstop will improve with time. He was one of only 10 players issued a future rating of 7, meaning he could develop into a perennial All-Star.
Positional Rank: 9
Overall Rank: 39
ETA to big leagues: 2015
While [No. 5 outfielder Byron] Buxton might have had the most tools of any high school outfielder in the 2012 Draft, Almora wasn’t far behind. Taken No. 6 overall, the Florida high school standout is a veteran of USA Baseball and the international stage several times over. He has the offensive skills to be an above-average hitter, and he can drive the ball to all fields. He’s shown glimpses of power, but he should grow into that as he matures. His instincts and work ethic are off the charts, which should allow all of his tools to play up as he progresses.
Everyone has been hyping Almora’s instincts in the outfield, but he also fared pretty well in limited action at the plate in 2012. He manhandled Arizona League pitching, hitting .347/.363/.480 in 18 games, racking up five doubles and driving in 13. He then got bumped up to a young but exciting Short-Season Boise squad, and his numbers didn’t slip much while playing for the league runners-up. Almora’s stat line read .292/.292/.446 in 15 games. Expect him to break camp with either Low-A Kane County or High-A Daytona to start 2013.
Positional Rank: NA
Overall Rank: 42
ETA to big leagues: 2015
Three Cuban outfielders signed big contracts with Major League organizations in 2012. The first was Yoenis Cespedes, who finished second in American League Rookie of the Year voting. Soler signed with the Cubs shortly before Yasiel Puig did with the Dodgers and it will be interesting to watch the trio develop over time. While Soler is young, he has a very good approach at the plate with good discipline. His plus bat speed gives him the ability to drive the ball to all fields and he has significant raw power. A solid runner, Soler has an above-average arm, giving him both the offensive and defensive profile for a prototypical right fielder.
Closely following Almora in the ranking was friend and former Arizona League roommate Jorge Soler. After the 20-year-old Cuban finalized a deal with the Cubs in June, he was shipped to Arizona, where he had to handle the assimilation to the United States as well as face new pitchers. Though he went 13-for-54 (.241/.328/.389) in 14 games in Mesa, his numbers shot up after a promotion to Peoria. There, Soler hit .338/.398/.513 and struck out just six times in 80 at-bats—solid numbers for a guy known for his power tool.
Positional Rank: 8
Overall Rank: N/A
ETA to big leagues: 2014
When Vogelbach was an amateur, he created a good amount of buzz with his left-handed power bat. Vogelbach has not disappointed as a pro after the Cubs took him in the second round in 2011. He has as much raw pop as anyone in the Minors at this position and can hit the ball out to all fields. Vogelbach has an advanced approach that has allowed him to get on base and hit for average. He was very out of shape in high school, but has worked hard to slim down since signing, something he will have to continue to do as his bat propels him up the organizational ladder.
Hyped as prospect with massive power, Vogelbach also showed off his hitting ability in his first minor league season. In 24 rookie league games, the massive first baseman hit .324/.391/.686 with seven homers and 31 RBI in 102 at-bats. His numbers didn’t drop even after a jump to Boise for the second half of 2012. He posted a .322 average and a 1.031 OPS with 10 homers and 31 RBI in 143 at-bats.