Cubs all over top half of Baseball Prospectus’ top prospects list

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(Photo by Jason Wise)

By now Cubs fans should know roughly where the organization’s top prospects stand when it comes to pitting them against the league’s best. Baseball stats website Baseball Prospectus unveiled its top 101 prospects Monday, which had a slight difference than its rival publication’s lists. The big four—Albert Almora, Javier Baez, Jorge Soler and Arodys Vizcaino—were all members of the list.

The surprise is that BP put Almora two spots ahead of Baez. While that shouldn’t at all come as a knock to the outfielder’s abilities, ESPN and Baseball America both had Baez largely ahead of the organization’s 2012 first round pick.

Almora came in at No. 18 overall, while Baez was 20th. Soler, the Cuban-born outfielder was ranked 36th, and power arm Vizcaino came in at No. 54.

Baseball Prospectus brought out its Cubs organizational rankings in November and predicted—amongst other things—the tools the player brings to the table, his fantasy future as well as where they feel the prospect will be in 2013. Below is the excerpt for each player.

Albert Almora
Position: OF
Overall Rank: 18
Major League ETA: 2016

The Tools: Shows all five; plus projections on hit/power

Fantasy Future: .290/.350/.450 from premium defensive position, with 10-15 home run pop, plenty of doubles, and a chance to steal 15-20 bases at a high success rate.

The Year Ahead: Almora will most likely jump to full-season ball, where he will play the majority of the year as a 19-year-old. The highly praised hit tool will be tested by more advanced pitching, and the aggressive approach will need to refine to avoid exploitation. With now skills and advanced feel, Almora should continue to progress up the prospect ranks, and has a chance to emerge as a top tier player in the minors if the solid-average skill-set plays up beyond its projection.

Javier Baez
Position: SS
Overall Rank: 20
Major League ETA: 2015

The Tools: Hit tool could be elite; easy plus-plus raw power; 7 arm

Fantasy Future: If everything clicks, Baez could hit for both a high average and high power (30-plus HR) from a position on the left side of the infield. He could be a monster.

The Year Ahead: Baez will most likely return to the Florida State League, where his aggressive approach led to weak contact and missed bats in his limited run in 2012. Pitchers at that level are equipped to expand the zone and sequence their arsenal, and Baez is a very see-ball, hit-ball type of hitter, so he will need to gain maturity with his approach to hitting; develop a plan at the plate. The raw talent could make him one of the best prospects in the minors, as he has the type of loud tools that impact games. But his overall approach is loose and hyperactive, and will need to find a balance between intensity and field intelligence to move forward.

Jorge Soler
Position: OF
Overall Rank: 36
Major League ETA: 2015

The Tools: Big raw power; plus arm

Fantasy Future: Could develop into a prototypical first-division right fielder; the hit tool might only play at average, but secondary skills should allow for some on-base ability and game power (25-20 HR). Shows good speed for his size and good game awareness, so he could also swipe 10-15 bases a season.

The Year Ahead: Soler was said to be ready for full-season ball out of the chute, and those reports proved to be accurate. The soon-to-be 21-year-old Cuban has plenty of bat speed and power characteristics in the swing (loft, back spin, etc.), but the present utility of the hit tool will be tested against better pitching, and the correctable hitches in the swing mechanics will need to be ironed out; Soler would often struggle to keep his hands inside and his early extension would leave him open to quality stuff on the inner half. If the hit tool is stronger than we are giving it credit for, the offensive upside will be very impressive, as Soler will profile as a middle-of-the-order force at the major-league level.

Arodys Vizcaino
Position: RHP
Overall Rank: 54
Major League ETA: 2011

The Tools: Plus-plus fastball; plus curve

Fantasy Future: Could be frontline setup arm in bullpen; closer for some teams; will miss bats in any role.

The Year Ahead: The return from Tommy John can be slow, and the command/control components are usually the last to arrive. If the raw stuff remains post-surgery, the Cubs can be patient with the fireballer until the control returns, leaving Vizcaino in Triple-A until he is ready to take the next step at the major-league level. While his role in 2013 will most likely be in a rotation, Vizcaino’s long-term role will most likely come in high-leverage situations out of the ‘pen, where his plus-plus heat and power curve have a chance to make him one of the better setup men in the game.

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