Results tagged ‘ Baseball Prospectus ’

From the Pages of Vine Line: Christian Villanueva prospect profile

Villanueva-Scott-Jontes_Daytona-Cubs

(Photo by Scott Jontes, Daytona Cubs)

For hundreds of professional baseball players, the season doesn’t end when the Wrigley Field ivy turns red.

In the Sonoran desert, nearly 2,000 miles southwest of Chicago, Cubs third baseman Christian Villanueva is manning the infield for the Yaquis de Obregon of the Mexican Pacific League. Villanueva, who was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, was acquired from the Rangers in July as the main return for Ryan Dempster and finished the 2012 season at High-A Daytona. Baseball Prospectus recently named the 21-year-old the Cubs’ No. 9 prospect in a front-loaded system they believe now easily ranks in the top half of baseball.

“Villa’s a great kid,” said Jason Parks, who heads prospect coverage for BP. “The Rangers were absolutely heartbroken to see that kid go. This wasn’t, ‘Let’s look at a list because Texas is calling.’ The Cubs scouted Villa. They knew what they were getting.”

What they got was a player who commands the hot corner at a young age, and has the offensive potential and makeup of a future big leaguer—even though he’s not expected to be a prototypical power-hitting third baseman.

“The kid can really, really play third base. I think he has—some people are afraid to say it, but I’ll say it—a seven [out of eight], plus-plus glove,” said Parks, specifically noting Villanueva’s quick reactions and strong, accurate arm.

Villanueva, who was recently added to the Cubs 40-man roster, has struggled at the plate in Mexico. In 51 at-bats, he’s hit only .176 with two home runs and 25 strikeouts. But he posted solid numbers between Myrtle Beach of the Carolina League and Daytona in 2012, hitting .279/.353/.427 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 14 home runs.

The extra experience Villanueva is getting this winter may be particularly valuable as he prepares to make the large leap to Double-A. He’s already shown he can square up velocity inside, but in the high minors, he’ll be tested by advanced pitchers with quality offspeed stuff.

That’s what Cubs farm director Brandon Hyde says Villanueva is seeing right now in Mexico.

It’s a real advantage, from a player development standpoint, to be playing more competitive games,” Hyde said. “A lot of those teams—like the one Jae-Hoon Ha is on [in Venezuela]—they’re looking to win.”

Villanueva’s Obregon team has been at the center of many of the league’s—and the Caribbean’s—best games in recent years. After a 26-year title drought, the Yaquis have won three league championships in five years and the 2011 Caribbean Series crown. The team’s stadium can hold up to 13,000 fans—more than almost any minor league venue—and tends to play to raucous crowds.

Parks said Villanueva has the mature demeanor to thrive in that kind of environment. He gets along socially with teammates across cultures and has proved a quiet leader whose work ethic rubs off on teammates.

It also seems to leave an impression on talent evaluators. Parks last saw Villanueva in October, when Obregon played several exhibitions in the Arizona instructional league. Because the jerseys bore no names, one MLB team scout approached Parks to ask who the third baseman was. Parks told the scout it was Villanueva.

“And he goes, ‘Oh, that makes sense. That kid’s good,’” Parks said. “[And I said] ‘Yeah, he’s good. He’s a major leaguer.’”

—Sean Ahmed

1000 Words: Top prospect Albert Almora

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Baseball Prospectus unveiled its Top 10 Cubs prospects Wednesday, and 2012 first-round draft pick Albert Almora (above with GM Jed Hoyer and SVP of scouting and player development Jason McLeod) was named the organization’s best. After participating in the rookie level Arizona League, Almora spent time with Short-Season A Boise, where he hit .292 in 65 plate appearances. Baseball Prospectus’ Jason Parks said the 18-year-old outfielder is a five-tool player with “mature baseball skills and polish beyond his years.”

Future Watch: Arizona Fall League preview, Part II

Former third-overall pick Josh Vitters hit two first-pitch home runs in the Arizona Fall League opener yesterday. With that, Baseball Prospectus’ prospect guru Kevin Goldstein continues with his second of three Cubs prospects to watch in the AFL. Subscribe to Vine Line today to receive Goldstein’s monthly update and for more coverage from top to bottom of the Cubs organization.

Josh Vitters, IF

The Cubs had high hopes for Vitters when he was the No. 3 overall pick of the 2007 draft, but his development has gone slower than expected, mostly due to an inability to lay off pitches outside the zone. While his 22 walks in 2011 aren’t much, they still represented a career high, and there was progress in his overall offensive game as well. while he no longer looks like a future star, a strong 2012 showing could at least get him back on the map.

And today, in his daily Minor League Update for Baseball Prospectus, Goldstein wrote, “The progress is incremental, but it is in the right direction, and the swing is still awfully pretty.”

Future Watch: Arizona Fall League preview, Part I

With the Arizona Fall League beginning today, Baseball Prospectus’ prospect guru Kevin Goldstein contributes updates on three Cubs prospects to watch for in the AFL. Subscribe to Vine Line today to receive Goldstein’s monthly update and for more coverage from top to bottom of the Cubs organization.

While the major league season ends in October, it never stops for prospect watchers. The Arizona Fall League will be well into its season by the time the World Series has ended, with the Latin American Winter Leagues in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela starting afterward and taking us into next year’s spring training.

The Arizona Fall League is the most prospect laden, as players make a final push to hit the big leagues or make a 40-man roster, and the Cubs are lined up to send seven prospects to the Mesa Solar Sox, who begin play today. Here’s one prospect worth keeping an eye on:

Trey McNutt, RHP

McNutt entered the year as one of, if not the, top arms in the system, but he struggled to keep his ERA under five at Double-A during an injury-plagued year. With a pro body and two plus power pitches, his time in the desert will be dedicated to finishing on the right track in hopes of a bounce-back 2012 season.

Take your day off at Wrigley Field: Movie Night is Saturday

Last warning before they’re all gone: A few tickets remain for Saturday night’s Groupon Presents Ferris Bueller at Wrigley Field. Get your bleacher seats for just $10.

And if you missed it earlier this summer, Larry Granillo at Baseball Prospectus did some investigative work to figure out the game that Ferris watched at the Friendly Confines:

The movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” was released on June 11, 1986. The ballgame then must have been filmed either real early in the 1986 season or sometime during 1985. Looking at game logs from those seasons, we see that there was no game in 1986 in which Lee Smith (#46) faced the Braves at Wrigley Field. There were four such games in ’85, though Smith left the Braves hitless in one of those. Of the remaining three games, it isn’t hard to find the game we’re looking for.

Ferris Bueller and his pals were at the June 5, 1985, tilt between the Cubs and the Braves. The foul ball that Ferris caught was hit by Atlanta rightfielder Claudell Washington (#15) in the top of the 11th inning. The game was tied at two (not scoreless, like the pizza guy claimed) and backup second-baseman Paul Zuvella (#18) was being held on first by Leon Durham (#10) after a leadoff single (the fourth hit of the game, and Atlanta’s first hit since the fifth).

For two top minor-leaguers, Double A championship now, Team USA next

JACKSON B PHOTO DAY 2010 378.jpgAt 374-316 overall, the Cubs minor-league system pulled in its most wins since 1995 and had MLB’s second-best winning percentage (.542), behind only the Cardinals.

On top of that, the Double-A Tennessee Smokies won their opening round playoff series and take on the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx (a Marlins affiliate) in the Southern League championship series starting tomorrow. Two players leading the Smokies also will be leading Team USA in the upcoming COPABE Pan American Games Qualifying Tournament, scheduled for Oct. 1-10 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Outfielder Brett Jackson (right) and right-handed pitcher Chris Archer both have made big strides in 2010. In Vine Line, we’ve covered both Archer’s critical development of his command as well as Jackson’s athleticism and upbeat attitude.

Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein also contributed the following two prospect updates to our September Scorecard EXTRA, which you can pick up at Wrigley Field during the season’s final homestand next week:

“While the significant playing time handed to top prospects Starlin Castro and Andrew Cashner signal the Cubs’ youth movement in the big leagues, there’s more coming. The Cubs have had an excellent year down on the farm, with a pair of players reaching Double A, and making a run to reach the big leagues in 2011.

(more…)

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