Results tagged ‘ Addison Russell ’

ESPN’s Law says the Cubs have baseball’s top farm system

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Jorge Soler is one of the many reasons the Cubs have the top farm system in the game, according to ESPN’s Keith Law (Photo by Stephen Green)

ESPN insider Keith Law unveiled his midseason top five farm systems Tuesday, and, based off his prospect rankings from earlier this month, the baseball world shouldn’t be surprised to see the Cubs at the top of the list. The organization has three prospects in the top eight of Law’s individual rankings in Kris Bryant (No. 1), Addison Russell (No. 4) and Javier Baez (No. 8). And Cuban import Jorge Soler checks in at No. 38.

Along with that quartet, Albert Almora, C.J. Edwards and Pierce Johnson have all generated buzz and graced various prospect lists in the past year. But the farm system goes even deeper than that.

Here’s some of what Law had to say about the Cubs system:

I know Cubs fans have heard this before, but just wait ’til next year, because this club is going to get good in a hurry, at least on the run-scoring side of the ledger. The system already had the minors’ best collection of high-end bats, and it added several more during the past seven weeks, including the fourth-best prospect in the minors in shortstop Addison Russell, who came over with promising left fielder Billy McKinney in the Jeff Samardzija trade with the Athletics.

The Cubs also added catcher/left fielder Kyle Schwarber with the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft. It’s a pick I think was an overdraft in part due to doubts he will stick at either position, but he has raked so far in limited at-bats, mostly against younger competition. They used the savings on Schwarber’s bonus to grab several high-upside high school arms later in the draft, including right-hander Dylan Cease, whose elbow ligament injury might require Tommy John surgery but who was seen as a top-15 pick talent before his injury. Cease has a fastball that can touch 100 mph and at times a plus breaking ball.

Most of the successful arms in the system this year have been pitchers at low-Class A Kane County, particularly undersized Taiwanese right-hander Tseng Jen-Ho and 2012 draftee Paul Blackburn, which means the Cubs probably won’t get the starting pitching help they need from their system in the next year or two. Fortunately for them and their fans, they have the bats to trade to acquire pitching from outside the organization.

Rounding out Law’s top five were the Twins, Astros, Mets and Pirates.

ESPN’s Law names Bryant top MiLB prospect

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Kris Bryant is now seen by many as the top prospect in baseball. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

A year ago, Kris Bryant hadn’t even made his rookie ball debut. Fast forward to now, and the Cubs farmhand is viewed by many as the top prospect in the game. ESPN Insider Keith Law recently unveiled his midseason Top 50 MLB Prospects list, and he put the Triple-A third baseman squarely at the top. Joining Bryant on the list are three other Cubs prospects, including two more in the top eight overall. Below are excerpts from the list on the top Cubs prospects:

1. Kris Bryant, 3B | Chicago Cubs

Age: 22 | Current Level: AAA (Iowa)

Preseason Ranking: 15

While there are players in the minors who offer higher ceilings — notably the next two guys on this list — Bryant is so close to major-league ready that his value at this moment is at least as high as that of Buxton, who’s playing now but has been hurt most of the year, or Correa, who’s out at least until the Fall League. Bryant has power, he’s capable at third base, and his eye and approach continue to improve. Even if he’s just a .260-.270 hitter — probably a pessimistic forecast — he’ll still be a MVP-caliber bat who hits 30-40 homers and gets on base at a solid clip.

4. Addison Russell, SS | Chicago Cubs

Age: 20Current Level: AA (Tennessee)

Preseason Ranking: 3

Russell will be the best prospect to change hands this season, going from the Oakland Athletics, who took him with the 11th overall pick in 2012, to the Cubs in the deal that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the A’s. A torn hamstring robbed Russell of most of April and May, but he’s healthy now and hasn’t lost anything at the plate or in the field. He has outstanding hands and plenty of arm for shortstop, which makes up for slightly limited range. His footwork has improved over the last year, so I don’t really doubt that he can stay at the position. Those great hands also serve him well at the plate, helping him to accelerate his bat quickly and get good loft in his finish to create line-drive power. I see a high-average hitter with a strong OBP and 10-15 homers — maybe even a few more —  who plays above-average defense at shortstop.

8. Javier Baez, SS | Chicago Cubs

Age: 21 Current Level: AAA (Iowa)

Preseason Ranking: 7

Baez still has the minors’ best bat speed, with great wrist and forearm strength that translates into huge all-fields power, which you saw in his homer in the Futures Game off a hanging breaking ball. He’s still rough around the edges at short, agile enough to play but lacking the finesse or the focus to do so at a major league level. That same Futures Game performance also saw him lollygagging on a groundball to short and delivering a lazy throw when he needed to fire one over to first base. Makeup may be the biggest concern here. Otherwise, Baez has the raw ability to become a 35-40 homer guy at second or third base.

28. Jorge Soler, RF | Chicago Cubs

Age: 22Current Level: AA (Tennessee)

Preseason Ranking: 26

Soler is a monster if he can just stay on the field. He has electric bat speed, plus-plus raw power and the athleticism and arm to play an above-average or better right field. He’s gotten bigger and stronger since signing in 2012, and in the 15 games he’s managed to play in Double-A this year, he’s hit .400/.456/.880 with 14 extra-base hits in 57 at-bats (tiny sample size caveat applies), indicative of his crazy strength. While he’s been injured too often for me to rank him higher, he has the raw offensive ability to be a top 10 prospect if he gets the at-bats to work on his recognition of offspeed stuff.

 

Updated midseason prospect lists praise Cubs’ talent

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Triple-A Iowa’s Kris Bryant has become a top-five prospect. (Photo by Stephen Green)

For a while now, the Cubs system has been widely viewed as one of the best in baseball. After the recent Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel trade with Oakland, it might now be the best.

On Monday, Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus both published their updated midseason top 50 prospects lists, and Cubs farmhands were scattered throughout each, with a trio of minor leaguers in the top 10. Below is what the publications said about the Cubs’ prospects. And while Baseball Prospectus’ and Baseball America‘s lists do differ, the quantity and location the Cubs farmhands can only be seen as a huge positive for the organization and its fans.

3B Kris Bryant
Baseball Prospectus Rank: 3
Baseball America Rank: 2

Baseball Prospectus:
Placement on preseason 101:
#17

Current MiLB level/Affiliate: Triple-A Iowa

Developmental Update: Bryant continues to launch home runs, rack up strikeouts, rake at an eye-popping clip, and show a discerning eye at the plate. Through 371 plate appearances between Double A and Triple A, Bryant is slashing .357/.453/.717 and finds himself knocking on Wrigley’s door. He has proven himself without question to be the loudest bat in the minors and a potential impact mainstay in the middle of the Cubs order for the foreseeable future. –Nick Faleris

Baseball America:
Power has been just as advertised, while his defense has been better than expected.

SS Javier Baez
Baseball Prospectus Rank: 5
Baseball America Rank: 7

Baseball Prospectus:
Placement on preseason 101:
#4

Current MiLB level/Affiliate: Triple-A Iowa

Developmental Update: Baez has the best bat speed in the minors, and it’s not even close for me; a lethal weapon that could make him the premium power bat in the game. But his approach is below average, and he routinely puts himself in bad hitter’s counts and conditions. With more refinement, the ceiling is cathedral but the risk is still quite high despite the fact that the 21-year-old is more than holding his own at the Triple-A level. –Jason Parks

Baseball America:
Long-term potential is still as an elite regular, but he has to moderate his swing-from-the-heels approach.

SS Addison Russell
Baseball Prospectus Rank: 6
Baseball America Rank: 5

Baseball Prospectus:
Placement on preseason 101:
#7

Current MiLB level/Affiliate: Double-A Tennessee

Developmental Update: From a skill-set perspective, Addison Russell has the most well-rounded profile at the shortstop position in the minors, with above-average chops in the field (including double-plus hands), and impact potential with both the hit and power tools. Russell has lost half a season to injury, but could challenge for the top spot in the minors with a strong second half. The ultimate upside is a perennial all-star at a premium spot, and the future could start as early as 2015. –Jason Parks

Baseball America:
Missed half the year with a hamstring problem; remains an elite all-around shortstop prospect with his new team.

2B Arismendy Alcantara
Baseball Prospectus Rank: 18
Baseball America Rank: 33

Baseball Prospectus:
Placement on preseason 101:
#83

Current MiLB level/Affiliate: Triple-A Iowa

Developmental Update: I’ve always liked Alcantara, but I was too low on him coming into the season, despite a skill set that has three-way impact potential at the highest level (hit/glove/run). Now that the 22-year-old has taken his talents to Triple-A, and exceeded expectations at the plate and on base, the future first-division player has jumped the list and emerged as a top 20 prospect in the game. –Jason Parks

Baseball America:
Hard not to like an athletic middle infielder who can play short in a pinch and has power and speed.

OF Albert Almora
Baseball Prospectus Rank: 37
Baseball America Rank: NR

Baseball Prospectus:
Placement on preseason 101:
#25

Current MiLB level/Affiliate: High-A Daytona

Developmental Update: Almora’s had a rough start to his season. His lack of production in half a season at High-A as a 20-year-old shouldn’t obfuscate the tools he still has. Almora makes loud, consistent contact and plays a very good center field due to his ability to make early reads off the bat. The baseball IQ is high and it helps the other tools play up. He’s not the sexy name in the Cubs system, but don’t forget about him. –Mauricio Rubio

The recent 2014 draft class was off-limits for consideration on each list. But Baseball Prospectus noted a few prospects from the class, including the Cubs’ first-round pick in Kyle Schwarber.

Baseball Prospectus:
C/OF Kyle Schwarber
Where he fits:
Somewhere after Hunter Renfroe (44th)
Schwarber was the most advanced collegiate bat in the draft class, with an ability to hit for plus in-game power without sacrificing average. He puts together professional at bats, shows well against top competition, and has a general knack for finding his pitch and driving it. At present he’s being permitted to feast upon heavily overmatched Low-A arms, and likely won’t face his first real professional challenge until Double-A (or perhaps the Arizona Fall League if he finds a spot on the taxi squad). The BP Prospect Team loves catchers, so his ranking on the Top 101 might be largely dictated by the position at which the Cubs elect to stick him. If it looks like he is destined for first base, he won’t debut on the Top 101 as high as organization mate Kris Bryant (17th last winter), but he could fit comfortably in the Top 60 or so with a solid 2014 pro showing.

 

Cubs acquire INF Addison Russell, OF Billy McKinney, RHP Dan Straily and a PTBNL from the A’s for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel

Addison-Russell

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty)

The Chicago Cubs today acquired infielder Addison Russell, outfielder Billy McKinney, right-handed pitcher Dan Straily and a player to be named from the Oakland Athletics for right-handed pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.

Russell and McKinney were ranked as the top two players in Oakland’s farm system by Baseball America entering the 2014 season, while Russell was ranked the third-best prospect in baseball by ESPN.com, No. 11 by MLB.com and No. 14 overall by Baseball America.

“It’s not a secret that we now have an extremely talented, extremely deep group of potential impact position players age 20-22, who are moving very quickly through our system” said Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein. “And these are real prospects. Not all of them work out, but we like these players quite a bit, and they have a chance to play together for long time at Wrigley Field. When you put that together with a couple of 24-year-old All-Star-caliber performers like Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, we can’t help but be excited about the future.”

Russell was Oakland’s first-round pick in the 2012 Draft (11th overall out of high school), and McKinney was the club’s first-round pick in the 2013 Draft (24th overall out of high school). Straily began the 2013 campaign ranked second by MLB.com and sixth by Baseball America in the Athletics system (with the organization’s best slider and change-up) before going 10-8 with a 3.96 ERA (67 ER/152.1 IP) in 27 starts in the major leagues last season.

With the acquisition of Russell, a shortstop, the Cubs now have in their organization three of the top 14, six of the top 41, and eight players overall listed on Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects list entering the 2014 campaign.

The 20-year-old Russell entered 2014 as Oakland’s top prospect as ranked by Baseball America for the second year in a row. He was a 2012 Arizona League postseason All-Star, a 2013 Futures Game selection, the 2013 Single-A California League Rookie of the Year, a 2013 California League postseason All-Star and was named to the 2013 Arizona Fall League’s All Prospects Team, where he played for the Mesa Solar Sox and was a starter in the AFL All-Star Game.

The 6-foot, 195-pound Russell began his pro career by hitting .369 (80-for-217) with a 1.027 OPS in 55 games covering three levels in Oakland’s farm system before spending nearly all of 2013 at advanced Single-A Stockton. He was just one of 12 minor league players to reach double digits in doubles (29), triples (10) and home runs (17) last year en route to an .885 OPS with Stockton before a three-game promotion to Triple-A Sacramento at the end of the season.

Russell was with Oakland’s Double-A Midland affiliate at the time of the trade, where he hit .333 (16-for-48) with a .439 on-base percentage, a .500 slugging percentage and a .939 OPS in just 13 games this year due to a hamstring injury. He joined the Midland line-up in mid-June and finished his time there riding an eight-game hitting streak.

“We put a lot of work into understanding the [trade] landscape, and I’ll just say it was a no-brainer process,” Epstein said. “If we had a chance to get Addison Russell, that was the deal we had to make. We didn’t think twice about it. Certainly we made attempts to craft packages that gave us enough pitching to feel like it was worthwhile to part with a Jeff Samardzija or Jason Hammel or both in the same deal, and we felt this was by far the best deal for the Chicago Cubs.”

The 19-year-old McKinney last year played across two levels in Oakland’s system in his first pro campaign and combined to bat .326 (70-for-215) with nine doubles, three triples, three home runs, 26 RBI and a .387 on-base percentage in 55 games between the Rookie League Athletics and Single-A Vermont.

At the time of the trade, the left-handed hitting McKinney was batting .241 (70-for-290) with 12 doubles, two triples, 10 home runs and 33 RBI in 75 games for Single-A Stockton this season. He has appeared at all three outfield positions, predominantly in center field (67 games). He batted .292 (28-for-96) with 12 runs, five doubles, one triple, three home runs and 15 RBI in 24 games in June. All told, the 6-foot-1, 195-pounder has batted .277 (140-for-505) with 21 doubles, five triples, 13 home runs and 59 RBI in 130 career minor league games.

Straily, 25, has pitched parts of the last three years with Oakland, going 13-11 with a 4.11 ERA (105 ER/230.0 IP) in 41 starts. He made his big league debut on August 3, 2012, and made seven starts with Oakland that season, going 2-1 with a 3.89 ERA (17 ER/39.1 IP) before spending nearly the entire campaign in the majors in 2013. Straily has split the 2014 season between the big leagues (1-2, 4.93 ERA in seven starts) and Triple-A Sacramento (4-3, 4.71 ERA in 10 starts).

The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Straily was originally selected by Oakland in the 24th round of the 2009 Draft and was named the organization’s 2012 co-Minor League Pitcher of the Year after combining to go 9-7 with a 2.78 ERA (47 ER/152.0 IP) and an organization-best 190 strikeouts in 25 starts between Sacramento and Midland, where he was named to the Texas League All-Star team.

Samardzija, 29, went 31-42 with one save and a 3.97 ERA (294 ER/666.0 IP) in 206 games, including 83 starts, with the Cubs over the last seven seasons. He went 2-7 with a 2.83 ERA (34 ER/108.0 IP) in 17 starts with the club this season. He was originally selected by the Cubs in the fifth round of the 2006 Draft.

Hammel, 31, went 8-5 with a 2.98 ERA (36 ER/108.2 IP) in 17 starts with the Cubs this season. He is 57-64 with four saves and a 4.62 ERA (564 ER/1,098.0 IP) in 232 big league outings (175 starts).

“We certainly hope that this is the last year that we’ll be obvious sellers at the trade deadline,” Epstein said. “Nothing would make us happier than being in the position Oakland is in, which is to aggressively add to the big league team and enhance the team’s chances of making the postseason and winning the World Series. As we discussed it, we repeated to ourselves that this type of move, being sellers, is not what we want to do, so if we’re going to do it, we need to make it count. And we need to get a player back who significantly impacts the organization, helps change the landscape, helps make our future a heck of a lot better.”

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