Results tagged ‘ Javier Baez ’
Here’s why we love the Cubs Convention. It essentially marks the beginning of the end of the offseason. When the season ends in October, there’s not much to look forward to for the rest of the calendar year except the temperature plummeting and the Bears narrowly missing the NFL playoffs yet again. But once the new year hits, it’s less than a month until the Cubs Convention, which is less than a month from Spring Training, which is about a month from April 1—Opening Day.
The Convention is the ﬁrst time all interested parties—players, coaches, front ofﬁce personnel and fans—are back in the same location. It’s also a great opportunity to meet some of the young players who are expected to comprise the bright future of the franchise. The 2013 Convention introduced us to future stars such as inﬁelder Javier Baez (recently named the Cubs’ top prospect by Baseball America’s Jim Callis), pitcher Robert Whitenack, and minor league player and pitcher of the year Logan Watkins and Nick Struck.
This month, in a February tradition, we unveil our latest Minor League Prospectus, a detailed look at the top prospects at all levels of the Cubs system. We sat down with Senior Vice President of Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod to get scouting reports on athletes throughout the organization. He also provided tremendous insight into the front ofﬁce’s mindset and how they have been trying to build the team through the draft, trades and player development.
“From a player perspective, I think we’ve added more potential for impact,” McLeod said. “I think the organization had some depth to it. With the acquisitions that have been made, with the focus on the draft and some of the things we’ve been able to do with the trades, we’ve been trying to get back more what we would term as impact talent, whether it be arms, or athletes, or power.”
We’ve broken down the names you need to know into ﬁve categories: 2012 draft, 2012 trades and claims, international players, approaching the majors and down the pipeline. We’re not ranking the prospects—plenty of other publications do that—we’re giving you information, straight from the front ofﬁce, about what to expect from the farm system this year and down the road.
With pitchers and catchers reporting this month, we also talked to the newest member of the Cubs’ starting ﬁve, the well-traveled Edwin Jackson. After pitching for seven teams in his 10-year big league career, the 29-year-old ﬁreballer has ﬁnally settled down with a four-year, $52 million contract on the North Side. Jackson, who has pitched on three postseason teams and won a World Series title in St. Louis in 2011, is ready to bring his experience and winning mentality to Wrigley Field.
Finally, the ﬁrst pitch of the Cactus League season is scheduled for Feb. 22. We go around the horn with the new-look 2013 Cubs in our Spring Training preview.
To read these stories and more, pick up the January issue of Vine Line, on sale soon at select Chicago-area retailers. Or subscribe to Vine Line today.
We’ll be heading down to Mesa, Ariz., later this month to cover the early days of Cubs camp, so make sure you check out the blog and our Twitter feed, @cubsvineline, for daily updates and videos on the Cubs’ 2013 squad.
MLB.com ranked Albert Almora baseball’s No. 9 outfield prospect and the 39th best prospect overall.
(Photo by Jason Wise)
As January winds down, baseball publications everywhere are unveiling their lists of the game’s top prospects.
MLB.com got things rolling this week as they released draft expert Jonathan Mayo’s top 10 prospects by position and wrapped things up last night with a list of their top 100 prospects in the game. The Cubs were well represented on many of the lists and had three players in the top 50—Javier Baez (16), Albert Almora (39) and Jorge Soler (42). First baseman Dan Vogelbach was also named the eighth-best first-base prospect in baseball. Below is a breakdown of each of the mentioned prospects with MLB.com’s analysis, followed by a brief recap of the player’s 2012 season.
Positional Rank: 3
Overall Rank: 16
ETA to big leagues: 2014
Taken No. 9 overall in the 2011 Draft, just one spot after [No. 2 shortstop Francisco] Lindor, Baez might be the more dynamic pure hitter of the two, even if Lindor is the better defender. Baez’s plus bat speed will allow him to hit for average and power, both of which have already been on display, and he will improve as he refines his approach. He’s not without defensive skills, with a strong arm and good hands, and more folks are thinking he can stay at shortstop than did when he was coming out of the Florida high school ranks. Even if Baez has to slide to third base, his bat will profile just fine there.
Baez opened the season by showing all of his offensive tools in Low-A Peoria, hitting .333/.383/.596 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 12 home runs, 10 doubles, 20 stolen bases and 33 RBI in 213 at-bats before an inevitable promotion to Daytona. Baez openly admitted to struggling to adjust to the unfamiliar pitching. In 80 at-bats, he hit just .188/.244/.400 with four home runs. However, the shortstop will improve with time. He was one of only 10 players issued a future rating of 7, meaning he could develop into a perennial All-Star.
Positional Rank: 9
Overall Rank: 39
ETA to big leagues: 2015
While [No. 5 outfielder Byron] Buxton might have had the most tools of any high school outfielder in the 2012 Draft, Almora wasn’t far behind. Taken No. 6 overall, the Florida high school standout is a veteran of USA Baseball and the international stage several times over. He has the offensive skills to be an above-average hitter, and he can drive the ball to all fields. He’s shown glimpses of power, but he should grow into that as he matures. His instincts and work ethic are off the charts, which should allow all of his tools to play up as he progresses.
Everyone has been hyping Almora’s instincts in the outfield, but he also fared pretty well in limited action at the plate in 2012. He manhandled Arizona League pitching, hitting .347/.363/.480 in 18 games, racking up five doubles and driving in 13. He then got bumped up to a young but exciting Short-Season Boise squad, and his numbers didn’t slip much while playing for the league runners-up. Almora’s stat line read .292/.292/.446 in 15 games. Expect him to break camp with either Low-A Kane County or High-A Daytona to start 2013.
Positional Rank: NA
Overall Rank: 42
ETA to big leagues: 2015
Three Cuban outfielders signed big contracts with Major League organizations in 2012. The first was Yoenis Cespedes, who finished second in American League Rookie of the Year voting. Soler signed with the Cubs shortly before Yasiel Puig did with the Dodgers and it will be interesting to watch the trio develop over time. While Soler is young, he has a very good approach at the plate with good discipline. His plus bat speed gives him the ability to drive the ball to all fields and he has significant raw power. A solid runner, Soler has an above-average arm, giving him both the offensive and defensive profile for a prototypical right fielder.
Closely following Almora in the ranking was friend and former Arizona League roommate Jorge Soler. After the 20-year-old Cuban finalized a deal with the Cubs in June, he was shipped to Arizona, where he had to handle the assimilation to the United States as well as face new pitchers. Though he went 13-for-54 (.241/.328/.389) in 14 games in Mesa, his numbers shot up after a promotion to Peoria. There, Soler hit .338/.398/.513 and struck out just six times in 80 at-bats—solid numbers for a guy known for his power tool.
Positional Rank: 8
Overall Rank: N/A
ETA to big leagues: 2014
When Vogelbach was an amateur, he created a good amount of buzz with his left-handed power bat. Vogelbach has not disappointed as a pro after the Cubs took him in the second round in 2011. He has as much raw pop as anyone in the Minors at this position and can hit the ball out to all fields. Vogelbach has an advanced approach that has allowed him to get on base and hit for average. He was very out of shape in high school, but has worked hard to slim down since signing, something he will have to continue to do as his bat propels him up the organizational ladder.
Hyped as prospect with massive power, Vogelbach also showed off his hitting ability in his first minor league season. In 24 rookie league games, the massive first baseman hit .324/.391/.686 with seven homers and 31 RBI in 102 at-bats. His numbers didn’t drop even after a jump to Boise for the second half of 2012. He posted a .322 average and a 1.031 OPS with 10 homers and 31 RBI in 143 at-bats.
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.
Former Cubs reliever and MLB Network analyst Dan Plesac (center) joined Brian Kenny and Tom Verducci for on-site reporting from the Winter Meetings.
NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Here are more Dale Sveum dispatches from the sprawling Gaylord Opryland Resort, where the halls have been buzzing on this last full day of the Winter Meetings.
• Sveum made it clear the bullpen is getting attention in the Cubs front office. The team already re-signed Shawn Camp, their lone free agent, and may look to add more.
“Upgrading the ‘pen is something we wanted to do. … Whatever happens from here on out—we’re talking to a lot of people, and hopefully things work out. But [Carlos] Marmol is our closer, and we’ve got to get better at the back end. We signed Shawn Camp back, James Russell, so that’s a start. But we have to get better in that seventh, eighth inning.”
Sveum wouldn’t directly comment on Japanese pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa, though the Cubs’ pursuit of the reliever attracted plenty of Japanese reporters to the manager’s press conference. Fujikawa, a free agent who saved 220 games over 12 years with the Hanshin Tigers, clearly intrigues Sveum.
“I think he can fill any kind of role. He’s got that kind of stuff. Those numbers and that ability to do things with three, four different pitches just doesn’t come around very often. So he can set up, he can close, do anything he wants with the baseball. He’s got four quality pitches and can add and subtract with his fastball. Yeah, I mean, he can pitch in the seventh, pitch in the eighth, pitch in the ninth, he can get left-handers out—so he can pitch in any kind of situation.”
• Sveum spent about a week in Arizona to see Cubs prospects, including highly regarded shortstop Javier Baez, who just turned 20 last week. Many have compared Baez’s bat speed to Gary Sheffield’s.
“Incredible bad speed. Didn’t get to see any results, but the bat speed was pretty good. I didn’t go to his best games. But he had a heck of a minor league season—the combination of the home runs and everything. He was a bigger kid than I thought when I saw him in person. I saw him without a shirt on one day, and I was like, wow, he’s a pretty big kid. But a lot of tremendous, tremendous tools at that age. That kind of bat speed just doesn’t come around at 19 years old.”
Though the Arizona Fall League is mostly about improving on an individual basis and competing against some of baseball’s elite, young talent, it’s also nice to win a few games. Unfortunately for Cubs prospects on the Mesa Solar Sox’s roster, wins came few and far between during the AFL season.
Mesa dropped its season finale 8-3 to Phoenix Thursday afternoon, giving the Solar Sox a league-worst 10-20 record.
Matt Szczur went 0-for-4 in the leadoff spot, with an RBI groundout in the third inning. Logan Watkins finished 0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored.
Nick Struck pitched the fourth and fifth innings, surrendering only one hit, a solo home run, and striking out a batter.
Despite missing the last two weeks of the season, Javier Baez finished in a tie for third in home runs (4) and finished sixth in RBI (16). Szczur finished tied for fourth with nine stolen bases, just one less than base-stealing phenom Billy Hamilton (Reds). He also drew 14 walks, good for a tie for seventh in the league. And despite playing in just nine games, Watkins’ on-base percentage was .375, thanks in part to his eight walks.
On the rubber, Tony Zych fared the best of any Cubs pitcher. His 3.86 ERA in 14.0 innings would have been even lower had he not surrendered two earned runs in his final outing. While he struck out only four batters during the season, he walked only two.
Kevin Rhoderick was also solid in the hitter-friendly league. He posted a 4.82 ERA in 9.1 innings and managed to strike out 14 batters—sixth on the team—despite pitching fewer innings than all but two Mesa pitchers.
How the Solar Sox fared during the Arizona Fall League:
Mesa loaded up its lineup with Cubs prospects Monday night as the Solar Sox rallied in the seventh and earned a 5-4 win over Scottsdale.
Five Cubs farmhands got into the action. None of them fared better than the organization’s minor league pitcher of the year Nick Struck, who pitched a scoreless sixth and seventh inning, allowing no hits, striking out two and walking just one batter. His efforts earned him his first win of the season.
Trailing 3-1 in the bottom of the seventh, the Cubs’ Rubi Silva ripped a one-out triple to center. Matt Szczur walked two batters later and Logan Watkins, making his fall league debut after replacing the injured Javier Baez, walked to load the bases. Silva scored when L.J. Hoes (Orioles) drew a walk, and Szczur scored to tie the game on Jonathan Singleton’s (Astros) free pass. Jonathan Schoop (Orioles) then drove in Watkins and Hoes with a two-out single to give Mesa the lead.
Silva finished the game 1-for-4 with a triple; Watkins was 0-for-2 with a pair of walks; and Szczur was 0-for-3 with a walk.
Starting pitcher Dae-Eun Rhee allowed two earned runs, giving up three hits and two walks in four innings for Mesa. He allowed just two hits in the first three innings before getting into trouble in the fourth. Rhee also struck out two batters.
Mesa hosts Surprise Tuesday, with first pitch scheduled for 12:35 local time.
How the Cubs have fared:
Despite Matt Szczur’s offensive display, a four-run sixth inning was the difference as Peoria pulled away from Mesa, handing the Solar Sox a 7-3 loss Thursday afternoon. On the plus side, the Cubs center field prospect had his most productive day at the dish this fall.
In the bottom of the third inning, Szczur hit his first home run of the AFL season on a line drive to left field off Reds righty Tim Crabbe. In the bottom of the fifth, with runners on first and third, he ripped a line drive into center field to score Astros prospect Bobby Borchering. He recorded another single in the seventh, finishing the day 3-for-5 with a homer, two RBI and a run scored.
Cubs righty Tony Zych got the ball in the ninth, surrendering one run on two hits and a walk.
Mesa heads to Peoria on Friday, with first pitch scheduled for 12:35 local time.
Injury Report: Jed Hoyer told ESPN yesterday that top prospect Javier Baez will officially be out for the rest of the fall with a nondisplaced fracture at the tip of his left thumb.
How the Cubs have fared:
The Arizona Fall League Rising Stars Game rosters were announced Wednesday, and a pair of Cubs prospects made the East Division All-Star team. Former University of Louisville product Tony Zych was selected for his relief efforts this season. The righty is 1-0 with a save and boasts a 2.25 ERA in eight fall innings, allowing just two earned runs. Javier Baez, who was leading the league in homers and RBI, also made the All-Star team, but a thumb injury sustained over the weekend ended his fall campaign early.
On the field Wednesday, the Solar Sox scored in the bottom of the ninth to force a 2-2 tie with Salt River. Dodgers prospect Rafael Ynoa scored Astros farmhand Jiovanni Mier from second on a bloop single to tie the game.
Cubs outfielder Matt Szczur returned to action and went 1-for-5 with a single in the fifth inning. Nick Struck pitched two scoreless frames, scattering two hits and a walk.
Mesa hosts Peoria Thursday with first pitch scheduled for 12:35 local time.
How the Cubs have fared:
The Solar Sox lost a 7-2 decision to Surprise on Monday, dropping their record to 4-13, and got more bad news off the field.
The Cubs’ top prospect, Javier Baez, went to see a specialist to look at a possible fracture in his left thumb, an injury that will likely end his fall campaign. Mesa will now have to find a way to replace the league leader in home runs and RBI. According to the Chicago Tribune, the Cubs believe the 19-year-old broke the tip of his thumb while celebrating on Saturday. The injury is not expected to impact Baez’s readiness for Spring Training in 2013.
On the field Monday, the Cubs struggled. Starter Dae-Eun Rhee allowed three earned runs on two hits and three walks over three innings. He did strike out a pair.
Rubi Silva led off for Mesa, and recorded a hit and a walk in five at-bats, but he struck out in his other three appearances.
Mesa heads to Phoenix on Tuesday, with first pitch scheduled for 12:35 local time.
How the Cubs have fared:
Mesa finally snapped its long losing streak Friday, taking down Scottsdale 8-4 in comeback fashion, but lost again Saturday to bring their record to 4-12.
Trailing 4-1 on Friday, Mesa scored seven runs after the fifth inning and cruised to the win.
Javier Baez started the comeback in the sixth with a two-run single, scoring Aaron Westlake and Jonathan Schoop. With the next batter—Cubs utilityman Rubi Silva—at the plate, Gorman Erickson stole home while Baez swiped second. Silva would later walk. Baez was 1-for-5. Silva finished 1-for-3 with a single and the aforementioned walk.
Matt Szczur entered the game in the bottom of the seventh and popped out to the shortstop in the eighth in his only at-bat of the day.
Cubs pitchers held down the fort late in the game. Kevin Rhoderick pitched a scoreless eighth, striking out two, and Tony Zych allowed one hit and no runs in the ninth.
Though the Solar Sox dropped their Saturday game to Salt River 12-6—and were down 4-0 before they even got an at-bat—there were a few impressive Cubs performances.
In the bottom of the third, Matt Szczur ripped a triple to right. He was driven in two batters later on a Nick Castellanos sacrifice fly. In his next at-bat in the fifth, Szczur singled to right. Bobby Borchering hit a homer to score the pair a batter later. Szczur walked in the eighth but was caught stealing second to end the inning.
Baez was 0-for-2 with a pair of strikeouts before being replaced in the sixth inning by Silva, who went 0-for-3.
Nick Struck pitched the sixth inning for Mesa, allowing one run on one hit and two walks.
Mesa heads to Surprise Monday with first pitch scheduled for 12:35 local time. Cubs prospect Dae-Eun Rhee will start for the Solar Sox.
How the Cubs have fared: