Results tagged ‘ Arodys Vizcaino ’

Checking in on the Cubs top 10 prospects

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Kris Bryant is ripping the cover off the ball in Double-A. (Photo by Stephen Green)

We’re more than two months into the minor league season, so it seemed like a good time to check in on some of the organization’s top prospects. While a few have struggled this year, others are exceeding expectations and could be in line for a promotion in the near future. Here is an update on how MLB.com’s top 10 Cubs minor leaguers have fared thus far in 2014.

1. Javier Baez, SS
Triple-A Iowa

Baez entered 2014 as possibly the most talked about prospect in baseball. And a stellar Spring Training left people wondering when the club’s top prospect would make his way to Wrigley Field. But his free-swinging approach looks to have caught up with the 2011 first-round pick at the moment, as nearly 35 percent of his plate appearances have resulted in strikeouts.

There’s no denying his power though, as he still has nine homers and 10 doubles. His .225/.285/.430 (AVG/OBP/SLG) will need to improve, but as he gets better adjusted to Triple-A pitching—the closest replica to what major league arms have to offer—the closer he gets to being a regular on the North Side. Mind you, Baez started last season slowly too, and he has shown signs of breaking out lately. Plus, he doesn’t even turn 22 years old until the offseason.

2. Kris Bryant, 3B
Double-A Tennessee

Frankly, there isn’t a whole lot more Bryant can prove in the Southern League at this point. The 2013 first-round pick has destroyed everything Double-A pitchers have to offer, and the stats show he is the best hitter in the league—and maybe in all the minors. He currently is the SL leader in all three slash line categories (.359/.461/.717), home runs (22), RBI (56), hits (85), total bases (170), walks (40) and OPS (1.178).

It’s unclear what the Cubs have in store for Bryant as we reach the halfway point of the season. He could see a position change to the corner outfield, where many believe he’ll see the most time once he reaches the majors. But a promotion of some kind is likely in the works in the near future.

3. Albert Almora, CF
High-A Daytona

Almora’s season has been up and down, as he’d surely like to improve his .250/.273/.332 line. The defensive standout has been as advertised this year, committing just one error in 152 chances. Though he doesn’t have the power of the first two guys on the list, the 2012 first-round pick benefits from not striking out nearly as much (12.4 K%).

Almora’s batting average on balls in play is down 85 points from last season, and it’s well below his career average. This suggests he might be having some poor luck as well. He has still managed to drive in 29 runs this year, already more than his injury-plagued 2013, which means that his hits have been somewhat timely.

4. C.J. Edwards, RHP
Double-A Tennessee

The mid-June report on Edwards could only be summed up as incomplete, as the thin right-hander hasn’t pitched since April 20, following inflammation in his right shoulder. In four starts and 20.2 innings pitched, Edwards has a 2.61 ERA and an 8.7 K/9 total.

Edwards shot up most prospect charts late last season. He dominated at Daytona after coming over in a trade for Matt Garza from Texas.

5. Jorge Soler, OF
Double-A Tennessee

Soler has been unable to remain healthy in 2014. He began the season dealing with a stress fracture in his leg and is currently rehabbing his right hamstring. In seven games this year, the Cuban-born outfielder has hit .333 in 27 plate appearances.

Soler’s got the build of a future middle-of-the-order bat, and the Cubs hope he can get back onto the field quickly and remain there. For Soler, it’s all about reps.

6. Arismendy Alcantara, IF
Triple-A Iowa

Alcantara is making a nice case for a call-up to the major league level. The middle infielder recently made his first start in the outfield—a likely destination in the bigs—and is hitting .273/.309/.515 with eight homers, 30 RBI and 10 stolen bases.

His ability to play multiple positions definitely bodes well for the future, but he needs to cut down on his 25 percent strikeout rate. He definitely has top-the-order potential.

7. Pierce Johnson, RHP
Double-A Tennessee

The 2012 supplemental first-round draft pick enjoyed a ton of success in 2013 as one of the key members of the High-A Daytona Cubs FSL championship team. The 2014 season has been a bit of a struggle for Johnson, as calf injuries have kept him off the field since mid-May. He currently has a 4.39 ERA and a 1-1 record in six appearances (five starts).

Johnson’s 7.43 K/9 rate is still solid for a starter.

8. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP
Double-A Tennessee

Vizcaino was the prize of the Paul Maholm haul in a 2012 deal with the Braves. When he joined the Cubs, he was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, but he had a setback that caused him to miss all of 2013. The right-hander returned this season and after a solid start in High-A Daytona, was promoted to Tennessee. He’s pitched only 11.2 innings in the Southern League, but has been impressive for his new club, posting a 3.09 ERA and a 10.0 K/9 rate. He’s also cut his walk rate in half from his time in Daytona.

Vizcaino still needs to play more regularly, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him coming out of the Cubs bullpen sometime later this season.

9. Jeimer Candelario, 3B
High-A Daytona

Candelario is still a raw prospect with the Cubs, as his .194 average in High-A indicates. But he’s on the younger end of prospects in the FSL, and his ability to draw walks (9.9 BB/9) is just what the organization is looking for. He’s getting a lot of experience in a league notorious for its pitching, which will be nothing but good for the young Candelario.

10. Dan Vogelbach, 1B
High-A Daytona

Vogelbach has had a decent season at Daytona this year, despite a slight drop in his power numbers through the first half. For a middle-order bat, he’s managed to cut down on an already-impressive strikeout rate, while maintaining his walk rate. His five homers are down from last year, but he has 25 RBI and his .267/.352/.406 line is right on par with his career numbers. The 2011 pick managed to drop some weight heading into the season, which will bode well for his long-term prospects.

Cubs agree to terms with 19 players

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Welington Castillo was one of 19 players to agree to a deal with the Cubs Monday afternoon. (Image by Stephen Green)

The Cubs have come to terms with 19 players on their 40-man roster with zero-to-three years of major league service time. The terms of the contracts were not disclosed.

The players who have reached agreements include right-handed pitchers Jake Arrieta, Dallas Beeler, Alberto Cabrera, Justin Grimm, Blake Parker, Neil Ramirez, Hector Rondon and Arodys Vizcaino; left-handed pitchers Zac Rosscup and Chris Rusin; catcher Welington Castillo; infielders Arismendy Alcantara, Mike Olt, Christian Villanueva and Logan Watkins; and outfielders Brett Jackson, Junior Lake, Matt Szczur and Josh Vitters.

Cubs sign 21 pre-arbitration players

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

The Cubs agreed to terms with all 21 pre-arbitration eligible players currently on the organization’s 40-man roster Monday. Terms were not disclosed.

Right-handed pitchers Michael Bowden, Alberto Cabrera, Rafael Dolis, Trey McNutt, Hector Rondon, Arodys Vizcaino and Robert Whitenack; and lefties Brooks Raley, Chris Rusin and Travis Wood were all signed to new deals.

Catchers Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger; infielders Darwin Barney, Junior Lake, Anthony Rizzo, Christian Villanueva, Josh Vitters and Logan Watkins; and outfielders Brett Jackson, Dave Sappelt and Matt Szczur also earned updated contracts.

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.

Cubs scattered throughout BA’s Top 100 prospects

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Cubs minor leaguers Albert Almora and Jorge Soler were both ranked on Baseball America‘s top 100 prospects list.
(Photo by Stephen Green)

February is the month when most baseball prospect lists are unveiled and displayed for all to see. On Tuesday afternoon, Baseball America released its Top 100 Prospects list—and gave Cubs fans another reason for optimism.

Slugging shortstop Javier Baez, currently in major league camp with the Cubs, heads the quartet of North Siders on the list, coming in at No. 16. The 2011 first-round pick played his first full season in 2012, hitting .294/.346/.543 (AVG/OBP/SLG) at two Single-A levels and mashing 16 home runs. He is the third-highest shortstop prospect on the list. Baseball America is the first major publication to put Baez ahead of Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor, a fellow shortstop picked one spot ahead of Baez in the 2011 draft. The publication also rated Baez the most exciting player in the Midwest League last season.

Last year’s first-round pick Albert Almora was ranked No. 33, one spot ahead of 2012 signee Jorge Soler. Almora joined an exciting Short-Season Boise squad late into the year and hit .292 in 65 plate appearances. The 18-year-old former Team USA player is heralded for his feel for the game, especially at such a young age.

Despite still assimilating himself to American culture after coming over from Cuba, Soler managed to crush Single-A pitching last year, hitting .338/.398/.513 in 80 at-bats in 2012. Known for his power at the plate and strong arm in the outfield, the massive 21-year-old projects to be a right fielder. Soler is currently working out with the major league squad in Mesa, Ariz., and is on the 40-man roster.

Arodys Vizcaino, who came over in the Paul Maholm trade with Atlanta last summer, rounds out the Cubs representatives at No. 83. This year marks the fourth straight time the right-hander has been ranked on Baseball America’s list. BA voted Vizcaino the organization’s best fastball and curveball after 2012, despite the fact that he missed the season recovering from Tommy John surgery. Though he will be eased back slowly, expect to see the power arm playing at Wrigley Field sooner rather than later.

The Cubs had four players on the list last year: Brett Jackson (32), Anthony Rizzo (47), Baez (61) and Matt Szczur (64).

Spring Training Preview: In the Bullpen

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

Baseball is finally back. Pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training this past weekend, and Cubs fans everywhere got a little more excited with the realization that the baseball season is almost here.

To get us back into gear, the February issue of Vine Line previewed the squad heading into Mesa, Ariz. We broke the team down into five categories—starting pitching, relief pitching, infielders, outfielders and catchers—to give fans a clearer picture of what to expect when the Cubs break camp and head to Chicago.

Below is a look at the bullpen. The February issue is on newsstands now, with single issues available by calling 800-618-8377. Or visit the Vine Line page on Cubs.com to subscribe to the magazine.


After a brutal start to the season and a demotion from the closer’s role, Carlos Marmol seemed to be back near peak form by the end of 2012. In 29.2 innings after the All-Star break, Marmol converted 12 of 13 saves, posted a 1.52 ERA and struck out 39 batters. However, there is speculation he may be traded before the season starts, which would open the door for new Cubs reliever Kyuji Fujikawa, 32, to assume closing duties. The Japanese import, who has closed in Japan, has a variety of pitches but relies mostly on his low-90s fastball and splitter.

Besides Marmol and Fujikawa, James Russell and Shawn Camp are the only bullpen arms who had strong 2012 seasons. However, relievers are the most inconsistent commodities in baseball, and one can never assume that previous success guarantees the same in the future.

There are several names that could step up in the bullpen. Arodys Vizcaino, acquired from the Braves last season, is recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Though the Cubs hope he can be a starter in the long run, he could also help as a reliever this season. Jaye Chapman, who showed his change-up could be a devastating out pitch, was impressive in limited duty toward the end of 2012. Players like Alberto Cabrera, Tony Zych (a 2011 draft pick who drew positive reviews in the Arizona Fall League) and former top prospect Trey McNutt could each surprise and end up as important cogs in the late innings.

Plus, with the Cubs’ surplus of starters, pitchers like Scott Feldman, Carlos Villanueva or Travis Wood could end up spending significant time in the ’pen.

ESPN unveils top 10 Cubs prospects

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ESPN Insider’s Keith Law named Paul Blackburn the Cubs’ No. 9 prospect. (Photo courtesy of Heritage High School)

All week long, ESPN Insider’s Keith Law has been releasing his 2013 prospect rankings. His lists came to a conclusion Thursday, when he unveiled his top 10 prospects by team in the National League.

The Cubs’ farm system—ranked No. 5 in baseball, according to Law—was likely rewarded for a group of high-ceiling prospects at the top of the list. In his team breakdown, Law praised the club’s use of trades, international spending and the draft.

They’ve turned around substantially after trading Paul Maholm, spending lavishly on international free agents (when permitted) and drafting well in 2012, although most of what I like about this system is a good two years away. … They’re another good trade deadline and draft class away from the point where you can begin to see a turnaround in the majors.

Law believes Arodys Vizcaino (No. 64 prospect overall), who is still rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, could be a nice addition to the bullpen in 2013, but he doesn’t see anyone else contributing this season. Still, many of the other prospects on the list could jump into his Top 100 prospects in time.

Aside from Jeimer Candelario, whom I discussed yesterday on the list of guys who just missed, I could see any of these guys jumping into the top 100: Juan Carlos Paniagua, who sits in the mid-90s with a plus slider but has very little pro experience after two years of suspensions; Duane Underwood, drafted at 17 and flashing velocity up to 96 with a very athletic body and quick arm; or Arismendy Alcantara, a plus runner and thrower who might end up at third but shows pop from both sides of the plate.

Below are Law’s top 10 prospects in the Cubs system:

1. Javier Baez, SS
2. Albert Almora, CF
3. Jorge Soler, RF
4. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP
5. Jeimer Candelario, 3B
6. Duane Underwood, RHP
7. Juan Carlos Paniagua, RHP
8. Pierce Johnson, RHP
9. Paul Blackburn, RHP
10. Arismendy Alcantara, SS

Four Cubs in ESPN’s top 100 prospects list

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ESPN Insider Keith Law named Javier Baez his No. 31 prospect in baseball.
(Photo by Rodger Wood)

It’s easy to dismiss an individual’s prospect rankings. After all, it’s just one person’s opinion, which can easily be perceived as someone arbitrarily putting numbers next to a name.

But ESPN Insider Keith Law has a pretty good track record dating back to 2008, when he started compiling this list for ESPN. After all, his top five preseason prospects in 2012 were Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Matt Moore, Manny Machado and Shelby Miller. Trout and Harper won Rookie of the Year awards in their respective divisions, Moore started 31 games for a 90-win team, and Machado and Miller were both call-ups that helped their teams reach the playoffs.

So whether you’re a fan of prospect rankings in general or not, it has to be reassuring for any Cubs supporter to see four members of the organization on Law’s Top 100 prospects of 2013. On the list are the usual Cubs suspects, Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler and Arodys Vizcaino. In addition to those four, infielder Jeimer Candelario also received consideration in the 10 prospects who just missed category.

Below is Law’s analysis on each of the Cubs prospects:

Javier Baez
Prospect Rank: 31
2012 Ranking: 95
Position: SS
Age: 20

Baez might have the best bat speed in the minors, and he certainly has the angriest swing, often reminiscent of John Belushi’s samurai character from “Saturday Night Live.” (Of course, when Baez was born, Belushi had been dead for a decade, so perhaps I need a more contemporary reference.)

His hands are explosive, and the bat speed is so good that he’s already got plus-plus raw power and can drive the ball out to the opposite field like he’s tying his shoes. He’s also one of the least patient hitters in the minors, approaching each pitch in fourth gear, swinging and missing because he doesn’t shorten up or otherwise adjust his swing to the situation. In the field, he’s quieted doubts about his ability to stay at shortstop; he has the agility and instincts for it, as well as a plus arm, so the only major issue is whether he eventually outgrows the position.

He’s one of the highest-beta prospects on this list — he could be a 30-homer shortstop, or he could stall out in Double-A because pitchers exploit him and he can’t adjust. I’m willing, for now, to bet on the former.

Albert Almora
Prospect Rank: 33
2012 Ranking: NA
Position: OF
Age: 18

The joke in scouting circles last spring was that Cubs President Theo Epstein didn’t just want to draft Almora, he wanted to adopt him. Almora is a natural center fielder who has outstanding instincts, especially when reading the ball off the bat, so even though he’s an average runner he plays with plus range and has an above-average arm.

Almora starts his swing with a high leg kick but gets his foot down in time, with a very steady, controlled swing that has plenty of hip rotation for power without sacrificing his ability to square up the ball for solid contact. He has excellent hand-eye coordination and doesn’t swing and miss much, even with the wood bat. His lack of patience in his pro debut (two walks in 145 plate appearances) was something of a surprise, although he might have just wanted to fit in with all of the Cubs’ other hitting prospects.

His ceiling is as a high-average hitter with plus defense in center and 20 home runs, although he’s going to have to show he can take a pitch now and then to get there.

Jorge Soler
Prospect Rank: 42
2012 Ranking: NA
Position: OF
Age: 20

Soler signed before the new CBA rules on enriching owners at the expense of impoverished Latin American kids went into effect, signing with the Cubs for a $6 million bonus and $24 million in salary over nine years, although he can opt out of the deal if he becomes eligible for salary arbitration.

He’s a wiry, athletic outfielder with explosive hands at the plate, starting them high and deep but getting them moving so quickly that he has no trouble catching up to good velocity. He doesn’t look like a typical power hitter, but he’s got the quick-twitch muscles to be able to rotate the bat through the zone and drive the ball out to left-center like an older or more physical player would. On defense, he might be playable in center for now but the Cubs have him in right, which would be his long-term position regardless.

Soler only played 34 games last summer after signing, but it’s a point in his favor that he struck out just 19 times even though he hadn’t faced live pitching on a regular basis in nearly two years. At just 21 this year, he should be able to get to Double-A with the upside of an above-average regular in right who should peak in the 25-30 home run range.

Arodys Vizcaino
Prospect Rank: 64
2012 Ranking: 14
Position: RHP
Age: 22

Vizcaino entered 2012 with a partial ligament tear in his right elbow, and in March he underwent surgery to repair it, ending his season before it began, although he did find himself part of a midyear trade from the Braves to the Cubs in exchange for Paul Maholm.

When healthy, Vizcaino has electric stuff, a top-of-the-rotation arsenal with a lightning-quick arm, needing work on command and refinement on his changeup a little further to reach that potential — and, of course, to stay healthy.

Before the surgery, Vizcaino would work at 92-96 as a starter and hit 98 when he worked in relief for Atlanta late in 2011. The pitch doesn’t sink but does have late life up in the zone. He has a hard curveball that works at near-slider velocity with hard two-plane break and good depth. The changeup has good arm speed, and improving it is a question of feel, something he’ll get with reps. His arm works well aside from a lack of extension out front, and he gets on top of the ball enough to get that depth on the breaking ball.

The Cubs will likely bring him back slowly this year, so if he appears in the majors at all in 2013, I’d speculate that it would be in relief, with a rotation spot by mid-2014 a more realistic goal.

Jeimer Candelario
Prospect Rank: Just Missed
2012 Ranking: NA
Position: 3B
Age: 19

He’s an offensive third baseman with great rhythm at the plate and a smooth swing, showing just enough to make you think he can stay at third base. I’d just like to see the offensive skill set translate into a little more performance before buying in all the way, because the defense will never be a plus. If you squint, you might see a Pablo Sandoval future here.

Baseball America unveils top Cubs prospects

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Outfield prospect Albert Almora ranks No. 2 on Baseball America’s Top 10 Cubs prospects. (Photo by Jason Wise)

Every year, Baseball America breaks down each major league organization’s top 10 prospects. Earlier this week, Jim Callis unveiled his list for the Cubs.

The Cubs organization has undergone a dramatic overhaul since Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer took over in October 2011, and this prospect list is a perfect example. Five of the top 10 players are new to the list—and the organization—this year.

The top portion of the rankings offers few surprises, with infielder Javier Baez, outfielders Albert Almora and Jorge Soler, and pitcher Arodys Vizcaino at No. 1 through 4. Baez was the team’s 2011 first-round pick, and Almora was the top pick in 2012. Soler was signed as a non-drafted free agent this summer, while Vizcaino was acquired from the Braves in a deal for Paul Maholm. All four are expected to be major contributors to the future of the organization, and Vizcaino, on his way back from Tommy John surgery, should be a member of the Cubs’ big league squad in 2013.

Outfielder Brett Jackson, who got his first taste of the big leagues this past season, was ranked No. 5. Despite showing flashes of good play in 2012, he struggled in his major league debut, hitting just .175 and striking out 59 times in 120 at-bats. But his stellar play in the outfield and work ethic keep him at the top of most Cubs prospect lists.

Right-handed pitcher Pierce Johnson, slugging first baseman Dan Vogelbach and infielder Jeimer Candelario were ranked sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively.

The 32-year-old Japanese import Kyuji Fujikawa comes in at No. 9. Though he has no major league experience, the longtime NPB pitcher will break camp with the major league club out of Spring Training and likely inhabit a late-innings role. Infielder Arismendy Alcantara rounds out the list.

For more information on the prospects, a list of players with the best particular tools and a projected 2016 lineup, click the link above.

Hot Off the Presses: Vine Line’s Year in Review

The end of 2012 marks the culmination of many firsts. It was baseball president Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer’s first year at the Cubs’ helm. It was Dale Sveum’s first full season as a major league manager. It was Anthony Rizzo’s first year in a Cubs uniform and Jeff Samardzija’s first real experience in the rotation. It was also the first time since 1966 the team lost 100 games in a single season.

In other words, I think everybody is looking forward to saying goodbye to 2012 and popping the proverbial cork on a new year of Cubs baseball.

Although a 61-101 record isn’t what anyone involved with the Cubs was hoping for, everybody knew there was work to be done at the outset of the season. As we look back at the year, there were certainly stretches of good play, breakout performances, walk-off wins and plenty to feel positive about. But no one—from fans to players to the front office—is happy with where the team is right now.

“I don’t think a celebration is in order,” said Epstein on his one-year anniversary with the Cubs. “I have a lot more gray hair now than I had a year ago. My wife reminds me of that all the time. But I do feel really energized by a lot of the things that are going on here.”

In the December issue of Vine Line, the Daily Herald’s Bruce Miles examines how the Cubs fared this year and what they did to strengthen their future prospects. It’s impossible to judge the 2012 calendar year by looking solely at the major league level. When Epstein, Hoyer and company came to Chicago, they talked of the need to restock the minor league system to provide a steady stream of homegrown talent to the big league club. And that’s exactly what the Cubs are doing. Respected hardball website Baseball Prospectus recently released a list of the top 10 prospects in the Cubs organization, and six of the 10 players were acquired or drafted in 2012.

It all started with the 2012 first-year player draft, where the Cubs picked up outfielder Albert Almora (No. 1 on Baseball Prospectus’ list) and right-handed pitchers Pierce Johnson (No. 7) and Duane Underwood (No. 8). But it also included free agent signings like outfielder Jorge Soler (No. 3) and making full use of the trade deadline to fill organizational holes with players like right-hander Arodys Vizcaino (No. 4) and third baseman Christian Villanueva (No. 9).

To say goodbye to 2012, Vine Line and Chicago Cubs photographer Stephen Green also look back at the best photos from the past season. Green, in his 30th year with the team, was there for every moment, from Bill Murray’s Opening Day hijinks to Bryan LaHair’s walk-off single to cap off the year.

We also have a preview of the Cubs Convention, a Q&A with outfielder Dave Sappelt and much more. For these stories, subscribe to Vine Line or pick up an issue at select Chicago-area retailers. We’ve also launched a Vine Line Twitter account at @cubsvineline to keep you posted on Cubs happenings up to the minute.

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