Top-tier talent and depth give Cubs top farm system, according to MLB.com

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Not only is prospect Kyle Schwarber one of baseball’s best prospects, he’s also viewed as possessing the organization’s best hit tool. (Photo by Stephen Green)

MLB.com’s Prospect Watch unveiled its version of the top 100 minor leaguers and top farm systems in the game on Friday. It should come as little surprise that the Cubs had the top crop of minor leaguers, including six in the top 100: Kris Bryant (No. 2), Addison Russell (No. 5), Jorge Soler (No. 23), C.J. Edwards (No. 48), Kyle Schwarber (No. 50) and Albert Almora (No. 58).

The organization’s top 30 prospects were also unveiled on Friday. Just looking at the list should give fans an idea of the depth in the system. Plenty of solid players continue to add their names to the cue, only adding excitement for what’s coming down the line on the major league side.

Third baseman Kris Bryant is the most devastating power-hitting prospect in the game, and outfielder Jorge Soler (who homered off Mat Latos in his first big league at-bat) isn’t far behind. Neither is catcher/outfielder Kyle Schwarber. Addison Russell is a rare five-tool shortstop, and Gleyber Torres might be another. Outfielders Albert Almora and Billy McKinney could be the tablesetters for all those run producers.

Given the Cubs’ enviable depth in the farm system, fans have grown accustomed to seeing lists of this nature. But MLB.com takes their list one step further by breaking down players by best tools, a unique way to better understand individual strengths.

Best tools
Players are graded on a 20-80 scouting scale for future tools — 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average.

Hit: Kyle Schwarber (60)
Power: Kris Bryant (80)
Run: Jacob Hannemann (65)
Arm: Jorge Soler (65)
Defense: Albert Almora (65)
Fastball: Duane Underwood (65)
Curveball: C.J. Edwards (60)
Slider: Jake Stinnett (60)
Changeup: Jen-Ho Tseng (55)
Control: Eric Jokisch (55)

Cubscast Mesa: Lighter Side, The best thing I did this offseason

Making it through an entire baseball season can take a toll on both mind and body. By the time the grind is over, the players and coaches need a break. This spring, we sat down with Cubs personnel to find out the best thing they did with their offseason time.

We’ll be posting videos and stories from Sloan Park all spring, so make sure you’re watching the blog and our Twitter account, @cubsvineline.

Check out the other videos from our Spring Training series:

Cubscast Mesa: Spring sit-down with manager Joe Maddon
Cubscast Mesa: The Lighter Side, If I weren’t a ballplayer …
Cubscast Mesa: Checking in with the 2015 Cubs coaching staff
Cubscast Mesa: The Lighter Side, If I could have one talent or superpower
Cubscast Mesa: The Cubs are setting a positive tone in camp
Cubscast Mesa: The Lighter Side, What the Cubs are watching on TV
Cubscast Mesa: The next wave of Cubs talent

Cubs announce Futures Game vs. Rangers at Sloan Park in Mesa

Sloan-ParkThe Chicago Cubs today announced details for a 2015 Futures Game featuring the Cubs vs. Texas Rangers on Monday, March 30, at Sloan Park in Mesa, Arizona. The best prospects and young players from each organization will showcase their talents when they take the field at 7 p.m. MST, after the Cubs host the San Francisco Giants at 1:05 p.m. MST.

Fans looking to catch the action can purchase general admission tickets in the reserved seating bowl for $6 at the Sloan Park Ticket Office or online at www.sloanpark.com.

A portion of the net proceeds from the game will benefit the Cubs Charities Diamond Project, which expands opportunities for children to play baseball in the Mesa community. Over the last four years, working with the Mesa Hohokam Foundation, Cubs Charities has raised funds to support youth sports, including the Mesa Little League.

The Diamond Project, one of Cubs Charities’ signature programs, was launched in 2014 and aims to provide funds to nonprofit, neighborhood-based organizations to support capital improvement projects and improve the quality, safety and accessibility of local baseball fields. In addition, the program is intended to build an infrastructure through partnerships and resident involvement that will sustain these open spaces for the community.

The Rangers will donate their portion of the game’s proceeds to the Dane McDonald Safe at Home Foundation, an Arizona nonprofit started by AZL Rangers’ Hitting Coach Donzell McDonald in honor of his son, also the nephew of Cubs Mental Skills Program Coordinator Darnell McDonald.

Gates will open an hour before the start of the game. Parking in the general lots, located east of the ballpark, is complimentary. Fans with questions can contact mesa@cubs.com. For more information about Cubs Spring Training, please visit www.sloanpark.com.

Cubs Spring Training Lineup: 3/20/15

Almora_Cubs_139Cubs outfielder and third-ranked prospect (MLB.com) Albert Almora is hitting .353 on the spring. (Photo by Stephen Green)

Cubs vs. White Sox – Camelback Ranch
First Pitch: 3:05 CST
Cubs Starter: Travis Wood, LHP
White Sox Starter: Hector Noesi, RHP
Broadcast: Listen live at MLB.com, MLB Network

Lineup
1. Tommy La Stella, 3B
2. Arismendy Alcantara, 2B
3. Ryan Sweeney, RF
4. Junior Lake, LF
5. Mike Baxter, 1B
6. Albert Almora, CF
7. David Ross, C
8. Jonathan Herrera, SS
9. Travis Wood, P

Cubs reduce Spring Training roster

The Cubs optioned right-handed pitcher C.J. Edwards to Triple-A Iowa on Thursday, reducing their spring roster to 52 players. He pitched three scoreless innings this spring with the major league side, giving up two hits, striking out two and walking none.

Chicago’s spring roster of 52 players consists of 27 pitchers (six nonroster invitees), five catchers (two nonroster invitees), 10 infielders (four nonroster invitees) and 10 outfielders (three nonroster invitees).

Cubs Spring Training Lineup: 3/18/15

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Cubs starter Jake Arrieta will make his third start of the spring and get his first at-bats. (Photo by Stephen Green)

Cubs vs. Dodgers – Camelback Ranch
First Pitch: 3:05 CST
Cubs Starter: Jake Arrieta, RHP
Dodgers Starter: Brandon McCarthy, RHP
Broadcast: Listen live at MLB.com, MLB Network (delay)

Lineup
1. Chris Coghlan, LF
2. Arismendy Alcantara, 3B
3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
4. Jorge Soler, RF
5. Matt Szczur, CF
6. Tommy La Stella, 2B
7. David Ross, C
8. Addison Russell, SS
9. Jake Arrieta, P

Cubs duo headlines Baseball America’s top 2015 rookies

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Expectations are high for prospect Kris Bryant. (Photo by Stephen Green)

If the Cubs have been synonymous with anything in previous years, it’s the organization’s willingness to stockpile droves of young talent, something baseball president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer made a priority wen they accepted their roles in the Cubs’ front office in late 2011. Though the last few seasons have been a waiting game, the arrivals of Arismendy Alcantara, Kyle Hendricks, Jorge Soler and Javier Baez in 2014 demonstrated that the young, high-upside talent is quickly nearing the major league level.

On Tuesday, Baseball America unveiled its top 20 rookies for the 2015 season, and Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler were No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. Most are assuming big things from the pair, who could be key pieces in the middle of the Cubs’ order as early as mid-April. Bryant took home virtually every minor league award available last season after slugging 43 home runs between Double- and Triple-A, while Soler flexed his muscles with five homers in 89 major league at-bats to wrap up 2014. Shortstop prospect Addison Russell was also in the top 20.

Here’s what Baseball America had to say about the Cubs trio:

1. Kris Bryant, 3b, Cubs (23)

2015 Outlook: A future fixture in the heart of the Cubs’ order, Bryant won’t require much minor league time in 2015. He could reach Chicago as early as mid-April—a la the Astros’ George Springer last year—once the Cubs can postpone his free agency until after his seventh (projected) big league season in 2021. Taking up left field, as the Cubs have tasked Bryant with in spring training, could help alleviate a logjam on the Chicago infield, where talented young players Javier Baez, Starlin Castro and the system’s No. 2 prospect Addison Russell all could warrant starting roles. Even if one of that trio falters, then infielders Arismendy Alcantara, Tommy La Stella and Mile Olt have demonstrated varying degrees of promise.

2. Jorge Soler, rf, Cubs (23)

2015 Outlook: Soler blasted 11 extra-base hits and hit .373 in the first 14 games of his big league career last summer, but pitchers adjusted and kept him in check at 7-for-38 (.184) the rest of the way. Look for Soler to make the necessary counter-adjustments this season and deliver on his promise as a slugger with enough feel for the strike zone to sustain a healthy average and on-base percentage.

18. Addison Russell, ss, Cubs (21)

2015 Outlook: Russell forms the third leg of the Cubs’ indomitable prospect trio, each of whom may be featured players in Chicago this summer. Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler are more assured of playing time—and thus they rank Nos. 1 and 2 on this list—but Russell is the youngest of the three and could represent the organization’s golden parachute in the event that sophomore Javier Baez continues to flail in the majors or that Bryant’s services are required on an outfield corner.

 

Cubscast Mesa: The next wave of Cubs talent

The Cubs enviable stockpile of young talent is no secret around the game. People started rumbling about the organization’s burgeoning system a few years ago. Now groups like ESPN, Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus all agree the Cubs have the top farm in baseball.

During Spring Training, Vine Line sat down with the Cubs next wave of talent—including Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell—to ask what they’ve gotten out of being in big league camp and what their goals are for the coming season.

We’ll be posting videos and stories from Sloan Park all spring, so make sure you’re watching the blog and our Twitter account, @cubsvineline.

Check out the other videos from our Spring Training series:

Cubscast Mesa: Spring sit-down with manager Joe Maddon
Cubscast Mesa: The Lighter Side, If I weren’t a ballplayer …
Cubscast Mesa: Checking in with the 2015 Cubs coaching staff
Cubscast Mesa: The Lighter Side, If I could have one talent or superpower
Cubscast Mesa: The Cubs are setting a positive tone in camp
Cubscast Mesa: The Lighter Side, What the Cubs are watching on TV

Fitz & The Tantrums to perform at Wrigley Field

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Rock group O.A.R. performed during last year’s Extra Innings Show. Fitz & The Tantrums will rock the stage from the Wrigley Field outfield this year. (Photo by Stephen Green)

This season at Wrigley Field, “Weekends Start Here” as the Cubs and Budweiser team up to present new Budweiser Bleacher Fridays on select dates throughout the 2015 season. Budweiser Bleacher Fridays will feature pre- or postgame entertainment, exclusive giveaway items, special food and beverages and more.

This year’s schedule is headlined by a postgame Extra Innings Show featuring Fitz & The Tantrums, a modern pop combo known for their chart-topping hits including “Fool’s Gold,” “Out Of My League” and “The Walker.” The band will perform from the field shortly after the Cubs host the White Sox on July 10 at Wrigley Field. The show is open to all game attendees and Budweiser Bleacher guests will receive an Extra Innings Concert koozie.

Other Budweiser Bleacher Friday themes include a Beach Bash (May 29); Country Day (June 12); Red, White and Brew (July 3); a ’90s Day (Aug. 21); and a Singles and Doubles Day (Sept. 18).

Tickets to each Budweiser Bleacher Friday game are available through the Budweiser Bleacher Fridays page at cubs.com. Details about each event follow, with future information to be released leading up to each pertaining homestand.

Budweiser Bleacher Fridays:

Beach Bash, May 29 vs. Kansas City Royals, 3:05 p.m. CDT
Budweiser Bleacher Fridays kick off in true summer style with a Beach Bash on May 29 vs. the Kansas City Royals. Each guest in the Budweiser Bleachers will receive a pair of summer sunglasses for the game, while enjoying special entertainment, music, concessions and a beach-themed postgame party in Wrigleyville.

Country Day, June 12 vs. Cincinnati Reds, 3:05 p.m. CDT
The Cubs will go country on June 12 vs. the Cincinnati Reds. Budweiser Bleacher guests will receive a country cap, while country music hits will play between innings throughout the game. Budweiser Bleacher guests should arrive hungry for some homestyle cooking and leave room for fun at a postgame party in Wrigleyville.

Red, White and Brew, July 3 vs. Miami Marlins, 1:20 p.m. CDT
Fans can show their patriotism while catching a game during Red, White and Brew vs. the Miami Marlins. Budweiser Bleacher guests can soak up the sun in their new patriotic Cubs tank while enjoying lively summer hits and patriotic music along with classic American fare.

Extra Innings Show, July 10 vs. Chicago White Sox, 3:05 p.m. CDT
Pop band Fitz & The Tantrums will headline an Extra Innings Show on the field following the Cubs vs. White Sox rivalry opener on July 10. The show is open to all game attendees, and Budweiser Bleacher guests will receive an Extra Innings Concert koozie. Members of the band will throw the game’s ceremonial first pitch and lead the seventh-inning stretch.

’90s Day, Aug. 21 vs. Atlanta Braves, 3:05 p.m. CDT
The ’90s are coming back for at least one afternoon, as the Cubs host ’90s Day on Aug. 21 vs. the Atlanta Braves. Budweiser Bleacher guests will receive a re-issue neon Cubs hat in its popular pink color. The game will feature sounds of the decade with popular ’90s music playing between innings.

Singles and Doubles Day, Sept. 18 vs. St. Louis Cardinals, 1:20 p.m. CDT
The final Budweiser Bleacher Friday will help turn singles into doubles as Cubs fans mingle in the Budweiser Bleachers on Sept. 18 vs. the St. Louis Cardinals. Each guest will receive a three-quarter-length-sleeve top and the afternoon will include fun social media interaction and creative food pairings.

Cubs Spring Training Lineup: 3/17/15

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Outfielder Matt Szczur has three home runs this spring. (Photo by Stephen Green)

Cubs vs. Royals – Sloan Park
First Pitch: 3:05 CST
Cubs Starter: Jason Hammel, RHP
Royals Starter: Danny Duffy, LHP
Broadcast: Listen live at MLB.com

Lineup
1. Dexter Fowler, CF
2. Chris Denorfia, DH
3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
4. Starlin Castro, SS
5. Miguel Montero, C
6. Junior Lake, RF
7. Javier Baez, 2B
8. Mike Olt, 3B
9. Matt Szczur, LF

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