(Photo courtesy of Daytona Cubs)
Inside baseball website Baseball Prospectus has spent the offseason cataloging each organization’s top 10 prospects. This morning, they finally released the Cubs cream of the crop. And if you needed another reason to trust in what the team is doing, this breakdown might just be it.
Prospect guru Jason Parks raved about the impact talent in the system, starting with the organization’s “Core Four” of Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler.
“Through the amateur draft, trades, and the international market, the Cubs have built one of the strongest systems in baseball, with high-impact talent that everybody knows and better depth than people might realize. The farm will rank no. 2 in the minors, just behind the Twins and just ahead of the Pirates,” said Parks in his parting thoughts.
The content is for subscribers only (and if you love baseball, it’s well worth the cost of a subscription). Here’s a brief summary of how Baseball Prospectus ranked the Cubs talent. We list each player’s strengths, but there’s much more good stuff in the article. They also list an estimated time of arrival in the big leagues, and nine of the 10 Cubs prospects are expected to arrive in 2014 or 2015.
1. SS Javier Baez
Strengths: Elite bat speed; elite hands; plus hand-eye coordination; can make hard contact to all fields; natural ability to barrel the ball; raw power is elite; game power could play to elite; arm is plus-plus; actions are easy plus in the field; baseball instincts; superstar profile.
2. 3B Kris Bryant
Strengths: Excellent size and present strength; good athlete; elite raw power; game power could play plus-plus or better; highly leveraged swing built for over-the-fence production; some bat-to-ball ability and hit tool utility; plus arm; glove should play to average; fringe run but good athlete and coordinated for size.
3. CF Albert Almora
Strengths: High level baseball skills and instincts; natural bat-to-ball ability; can make hard contact to all fields; hit tool projects to be plus (or better) tracks well and shows advanced approach; has above-average raw power; swing more gap-to-gap at present but over-the-fence power could show up as he matures; glove in center is easy plus; quick reactions and proper reads help range; arm is solid-average to plus; cocky/confident player.
4. RF Jorge Soler
Strengths: Elite raw power; extreme strength and leverage in swing; game power could play to plus-plus; shows some hit tool quality; could play above average; arm is well above average; glove plays; runs well; looks the part.
5. RHP C.J. Edwards
Strengths: Loose, easy delivery; near elite release; ball just explodes out of his hand; fastball very comfortable in the 92-95 range; can work higher; very good angle and arm-side life; easy release helps secondary arsenal play up; changeup projects as plus offering; very good deception and fade; curveball is bat-missing weapon at present; above-average shape and depth; pitchability; good makeup.
6. SS Arismendy Alcantara
Strengths: Plus athlete with good present strength; excellent hands; creates plus bat speed and above-average power; short, clean path to the ball; makes hard contact; easy plus run; multi-dimensional offensive threat; plus arm; above-average glove at second; five-tool talent.
7. RHP Pierce Johnson
Strengths: Prototypical starter’s body; long, lean, and athletic; very good arm strength; fastball is plus; low-90s velocity that routinely pops the mid-90s on the gun; breaking is easy plus and could end up even better if the command improves; low-80s hammer curve with serious snap; some feel for an average changeup that has some projection.
8. 1B Dan Vegelbach
Strengths: Big boy strength; big boy raw power; doesn’t sell out swing for game power; generates impressive bat speed with quick, strong stroke that is short to the ball/long through it; projects to hit for both average and power; makes pitchers work and doesn’t give away outs.
9. 3B Christian Villanueva
Strengths: Broad-shouldered with good present strength; hands are exceptional in the field; fluid actions; excellent backhand pickup; easy plus arm; can make every play in, side, or back; fast hands at the plate; shows bat speed and some power potential; very heady player with plus makeup.
10. 3B Jeimer Candelario
Strengths: Good present strength; fluid swing from both sides of the plate; shows excellent bat speed and quick path to the ball; very mature approach; tracks the ball well; has a plan at the plate; power could play above average; arm is strong; work ethic to refine with the glove.
BP also lists three prospects that are on the rise in the Cubs system (pitchers RHP Paul Blackburn and LHP Rob Zastryzny and catcher C Mark Malave) and three prospects that could potentially contribute to the Cubs this year (3B Mike Olt, RHP Arodys Vizcaino and RHP Neil Ramirez).
The following can be found in the January issue of Vine Line.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
The Cubs front office made one under-the-radar move this winter that’s no less important than signing a big free agent. With Brandon Hyde moving to the dugout to serve as bench coach for new manager Rick Renteria, the Cubs shifted scouting director Jaron Madison to the vacated farm director spot.
That makes the 38-year-old Madison the guardian of the team’s future, a role he admits comes with a great deal of pressure as the Cubs move forward with their plan to build a sustainable winner from within. But that pressure, he said, is one reason he left the Padres a year ago in a lateral move to the Cubs.
“San Diego is a great organization, but working for an organization with the history and tradition of the Cubs is a bigger challenge,” Madison said. “I know how much more it would mean to the city when we win. Chicago sports fans are some of the best sports fans in the world.”
In Madison, the Cubs have a farm director with a strong track record. Since beginning his career in scouting and player development in 2002 with the Padres, he has worked for two other teams, the Cardinals and the Pirates, that have cultivated winning big league teams from within.
The common thread among all three organizations, Madison said, is the constant, open communication that extends from the big league front office all the way down to the low minor league levels. For the farm system to produce, everyone needs to be pulling in the same direction.
And few people are more capable of keeping everyone together than Madison.
“He’s very intelligent and has a great presence,” said Hyde, whose relationship with Madison extends back to the late ’90s, when they played together at Long Beach State. “I think a key to him being a great leader is he’s a great listener.”
That was an obvious asset for him as a scout, a job that relies on relationship building with young players and their parents and coaches. But while Madison said his new job is completely different, he’ll still need to flex those relationship-building muscles.
“Everyone has to have complete buy-in, and to get there everyone needs to know what’s going on at all times,” he said. “There can’t be any whispering going on behind closed doors.”
Madison will spend the summer doing the same thing he did after the draft last year—traveling in a constant loop among Cubs affiliates to talk, listen and observe. Hyde said he thinks Madison will love it.
“The relationships you build with the staff members, the constant interaction with the coaches, rovers and instructors, and the process of getting your organization to be successful make it a fun job,” Hyde said.
But both Hyde and Madison understand the job is not about having fun. Not with a nation of Cubs fans anxious for a return to winning baseball.
“I read the blogs,” Madison said. “I know how much the fans want it.”
Madison, of course, is in firm agreement with the rest of the Cubs brain trust, preaching patience with the process and avoiding any firm deadlines on when the organization will turn the corner.
“I’m really excited about the guys we have in our organization,” he said. “I see a core of strong players we can build on and rely on for the foreseeable future, and I think the payoff will be a lot sooner than people may think.”
(Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
The Cubs signed outfielder Chris Coghlan to a minor league deal Wednesday afternoon with an invitation to Spring Training.
The 28-year-old was named the 2009 National League Rookie of the Year with the Marlins after hitting .321/.390/.460 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with nine homers in 565 plate appearances. He has struggled to put up similar numbers since, however, posting a .256/.318/.354 line in 70 games in 2013.
Coghlan will battle for an outfield spot with a group that already includes former Miami teammate Justin Ruggiano, Nate Schierholtz, Junior Lake, Ryan Sweeney and a slew of minor leaguers.
The Cubs claimed right-handed pitcher Brett Marshall off waivers from the Yankees Monday afternoon.
The 23-year-old saw his first major league action last season, making three relief appearances and posting a 4.50 ERA over 12 innings. Marshall spent most of 2013 in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he went 7-10 with a 5.13 ERA in 25 starts. He struck out a career high 120 batters in 138.2 innings and walked 68.
The Yankees originally drafted the Highlands, Texas, native in the sixth round of the 2008 draft. He has a career 36-32 record with a 4.07 ERA in 115 minor league games.
Despite a weekend’s worth of games in the Caribbean, only a few Cubs participated in the action. Jonathan Mota had the most notable three-day stretch in Puerto Rico. Here are some notes from the weekend’s action around the Caribbean.
Jonathan Mota, 2B/3B – Mota had a big Saturday, going 2-for-4 with a homer and a triple in a 3-1 loss. Batting third on Sunday, he drove in Ponce’s only run of the game again with a single. He finished 1-for-4.
Greg Rohan, 3B – Rohan finished 0-for-3 Saturday with a walk.
Rubi Silva, LF – Silva was hitless in three at-bats both Saturday and Sunday.
Eduardo Figueroa, RHP – Eduardo Figueroa pitched to one batter for La Guaira and retired him in the top of the ninth Saturday.
Luis Valbuena, 2B – Valbuena had a single Sunday for Lara but went 0-for-3 Saturday with a walk.
The Cubs announced their minor league coaching staffs for the 2014 season on Wednesday. Managers from Short-Season A Boise through Triple-A Iowa all remained the same, along with the hitting coaches at all levels. However, many of the managers will have new pitching coaches to work with this year. The staff is as follows. Bold designates new personnel at the position:
Manager: Marty Pevey
Pitching Coach: Bruce Walton
Hitting Coach: Brian Harper
Pevey begins his second season at Triple-A Iowa and his sixth in the Cubs organization. He was previously the catching coordinator for three seasons (2010-12). He was also the manager at Single-A Peoria in 2009. He has 30 years of professional experience, including 13 as a player, and was named the 2009 Midwest League co-Manager of the Year. Walton spent 2010-12 as the Blue Jays’ pitching coach and was previously their bullpen coach dating back to 2002. Harper returns for his second season after managing at Double-A Tennessee in 2011 and Single-A Daytona in 2012.
Manager: Buddy Bailey
Pitching Coach: Storm Davis
Hitting Coach/Assistant: Desi Wilson/Leo Perez
Bailey is back for his fourth season as Tennessee’s manager (third-straight). This marks his 26th season as a manager and his ninth in the Cubs organization. He previously spent three years as the manager of High-A Daytona. Davis spent 2013 with High-A Daytona as the pitching coach. It’s his second season in the organization, following a 13-year major league career. Wilson returns for his second year with Tennessee and sixth with the organization. He held the same position with Daytona in 2012.
Manager: Dave Keller
Pitching Coach: Ron Villone
Hitting Coach: Mariano Duncan
Keller is back for his second year with Daytona, after leading the D-Cubs to the Florida State League title last season. This will mark his 11th season with the organization. He spent 2012 as the hitting coach in Iowa and 2011 as an assistant on the major league staff. In his third season with the club, Villone jumps up from Single-A Kane County. He also had a 15-year major league career. Duncan returns for his second season after two campaigns with Double-A Tennessee (2011-12) as the hitting coach.
Single-A Kane County
Manager: Mark Johnson
Pitching Coach: David Rosario
Hitting Coach: Tom Beyers
Johnson returns for his second season with Kane County after serving as Short-Season Boise’s manager from 2011-12. He played professionally for 17 years, including time with the White Sox, Athletics, Brewers and Cardinals. Rosario has been the pitching coach at Boise for the three seasons, and this is his 10th overall campaign with the organization. Beyers has been with the Cubs for 14 seasons and returns for his second season with the Cougars.
Manager: Gary Van Tol
Pitching Coach: Brian Lawrence
Hitting Coach: Bill Buckner
Van Tol helped Boise secure a playoff spot in his first season in charge of the club and brings 21 years of coaching experience. He coached at Gonzaga (1991-93, 2006-08) and the University of Portland (2003-05). He was also the manager of Centralia Community College in Washington (1994) and Treasure Valley Community College (1997-2001). Lawrence spent last year in the Padres’ organization as a Single-A pitching coach. Prior to that, he had a six-year major league career with the Padres. Buckner returns for his third season with the club. He enjoyed a 22-year career as a player.
Rookie League Mesa
Manager: Jimmy Gonzalez
Pitching Coach: Anderson Tavares
Hitting Coach: Ricardo Medina
After serving as hitting coach last season, Gonzalez now steps in as manager. The former catcher played 14 minor league seasons after becoming a first-round pick in 1991. Tavarez is back for his second season in Mesa after spending six seasons as the pitching coach in the Dominican. Medina has been a coach, manager or scout with the Cubs since 1999.
Rookie League Dominican
Manager: Juan Cabreja
Pitching Coach: Leo Hernandez
Hitting Coach/Assistant: Oscar Bernard/Yudith Ozorio
Cabreja was the Latin America assistant field coordinator last year and managed the Dominican club in 2012. Hernandez will act as pitching coach in his 19th season with the Cubs, while Bernard will be the Dominican hitting coach for the second straight year.
Rookie League Venezuelan
Manager: Pedro Gonzalez
Pitching Coach: Angel Guzman
Hitting Coach: Franklin Blanco
Gonzalez begins his first season with the Venezuelan club, while Guzman, who spent four years with the Cubs from 2006-09, will serve as pitching coach. Blanco begins his eighth season with the organization.
Smokies pitcher Eduardo Figueroa returned to action in Venezuela, infield prospect Jonathan Mota contributed to his team in Puerto Rico, and Frank Batista picked up the win in Dominican play. Here are some notes from yesterday’s action around the Caribbean.
Frank Batista, RHP – Batista picked up the win, pitching 1.2 scoreless innings of relief for Cibaenas. He struck out one in his first victory of the winter.
Walter Ibarra, SS – Ibarra was hitless in four at-bats, striking out three times for Mazatlan.
Jonathan Mota, 3B – Mota blasted his first homer of the winter, driving in a pair. He finished 1-for-3 with a walk and a run scored in the Ponce loss.
Rubi Silva, CF – Silva went 1-for-4 with a single and a run scored Wednesday.
Greg Rohan, DH – Rohan finished 1-for-4 with a single for Ponce.
Eduardo Figueroa, RHP – Figueroa returned to action for the first time since Oct. 17, pitching a scoreless eighth inning, striking out one and allowing no hits for La Guaira.
Despite a full slate of games in the Dominican and Mexico, the Cubs didn’t have any representation in those leagues Tuesday. But a trio of farmhands got into the game for Ponce in Puerto Rico, and Luis Valbuena had a hit for his side in Venezuela. Here are some notes from Tuesday’s action around the Caribbean.
Jonathan Mota, 3B – Mota had a pair of singles and finished 2-for-4 in the Ponce win.
Greg Rohan, DH – Rohan was hitless in four at-bats Tuesday.
Rubi Silva, LF/CF – Silva went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts for Ponce.
Luis Valbuena, 2B – Valbuena recorded a single and a run scored, going 1-for-5 for Lara Tuesday.
All Caribbean leagues had the day off Monday, but plenty of games were played over the weekend. Luis Valbuena had three good games, and Jonathan Mota made his plate appearances count as well. Here are some notes from action around the Caribbean this weekend.
Frank Batista, RHP – Despite giving up no earned runs and allowing only one hit in two innings, Batista walked one batter, and he eventually came around to tie the game Saturday. It was the right-hander’s second blown save of the winter. He struck out three.
Alberto Cabrera, RHP – Cabrera had a rough outing Friday, going 0.1 innings, giving up two earned runs, walking one and striking out one.
Walter Ibarra, SS – Ibarra finished 1-for-4 Friday with a single for Mazatlan, and went 0-for-3 with a walk Saturday. On Sunday, he recorded a hit and scored a run.
Jonathan Mota, 3B/SS – Mota finished 2-for-4 Friday with a double and a run scored in the Ponce loss. He added another double and another run on Sunday.
Greg Rohan, 1B/DH – As DH on Sunday, Rohan went 1-for-2 with a single. He was hitless in four plate appearances Friday for Ponce.
Rubi Silva, LF – Silva recorded a single on Sunday, going 1-for-3. He didn’t get a hit Friday’s game however, finishing 0-for-4.
Yoanner Negrin, RHSP – In 5.1 innings, Negrin gave up two earned runs on seven hits and a walk, striking out three in the no-decision for Caracas.
Luis Valbuena, 2B – Valbuena had a double and two walks Friday, and he went 1-for-3 with two walks, an RBI and a run scored for Lara Saturday. He had his third double of the weekend Sunday and scored a run in the loss.
Carlos Pimentel, who continues to have a great winter, picked up another win in Dominican action Thursday night. Here are some other notes from Thursday’s action around the Caribbean leagues.
Frank Batista, RHP – Batista picked up his first save of the winter. He walked the first batter he faced, but retired the next to close out the Aguilas win.
Carlos Pimentel, RHSP – Pimentel (5-0) continued his strong winter effort, giving up three hits over six innings and surrendering just one earned run. He fanned three batters and walked one for Escogido.
Walter Ibarra, SS – Ibarra went 0-for-2 with a walk in Mazatlan’s loss Thursday.
Jonathan Mota, 3B – Mota went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts for Ponce.
Greg Rohan, DH – Rohan had a single, finishing 1-for-4 for Ponce.
Rubi Silva, LF – Silva went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts Thursday for Ponce. He’s still hitting .302, despite his shaky day.
Luis Valbuena, 2B – Valbuena finished 0-for-3 with a walk for Lara.