Results tagged ‘ Javier Baez ’
(Photo by David Durochik)
Tuesday afternoon began a baseball prospect frenzy at ESPN. Insider Keith Law started it off by unveiling his organizational rankings. Like most other prospect outlets, Law spoke highly of the Cubs, ranking their farm system fourth-best in baseball, trailing only Houston, Minnesota and Pittsburgh.
4. Chicago Cubs
The Cubs are absolutely loaded with bats, but they could use a few arms; either arm, not terribly picky, must throw at least 92 mph.
Their top four prospects are all impact position players, three because of how they’ll hit, one (Albert Almora) because of his defense/offense combination. With those prospects joining what they already have in the majors, they could have one of the NL’s best offenses by 2016.
On Wednesday, Law continued by naming his top 100 prospects, which included six Cubs farmhands. Be sure to click the link to check out the complete list, but below is some of what he had to say about the Cubs prospects.
7. Javier Baez, SS
Baez has the best bat speed of any hitter in the minors right now, and the ball explodes off his bat like he’s splitting atoms with contact. … He’s got 30-plus home run power, and showed at least some signs in the second half of 2012 that he could improve his plate discipline, working the count a little more effectively in some of his plate appearances. … Baez is agile enough to handle shortstop, and could even be average or a tick better there, but his arm will play anywhere on the diamond and he’s quick enough to handle second if the Cubs move him there. Wherever he plays, he’ll probably start his career as a low-walk guy, maybe a .270/.310/.450 type of hitter right out of the chute, but the progress he showed in 2013 may give us hope he can improve that OBP in time and become an MVP candidate.
2013 Rank: 31
15. Kris Bryant, 3B
Bryant has big-time power, especially to his pull side, with huge hip rotation after starting with a very wide base. He has no stride and a tendency to slightly overrotate; combined with just average bat speed, it creates some risk that his contact rates will drop as he faces better velocity in Double-A or higher. He’s a good athlete for his size and has a chance to remain at third base; if he has to move to the outfield, he’ll be above average to plus in right, with plenty of arm for any position on the field. At worst, he’ll be an impact power bat with good defense in right and adequate OBPs; his ceiling is a 30- to 35-homer bat with .350-plus OBPs and solid-average defense at third, the kind of bat you stick in the cleanup spot so you can build your lineup around him.2013 Rank: N/A
26. Jorge Soler, OF
Soler has outstanding hand speed and acceleration at the plate, with big-time power when he concentrates on staying back and letting his hips work to add leverage to his swing; he does have a tendency to cut across the ball rather than finishing toward the middle of the field, which reduces his power. His plan at the plate has been better than anticipated, and he’s going to be above-average to plus in right field. … I see explosive offensive potential, with easy plus power and enough feel for the zone to be a middle-of-the-order bat.2013 Rank: 42
28. Albert Almora, OF
Almora lacks the huge upside of the three Cubs position player prospects ahead of him on this list because his tools aren’t as explosive, but he makes up for that with incredible instincts and game awareness that make him a very high-probability prospect who looks like a lock to spend a decade in the big leagues in center field. He gets some of the best reads off the bat I’ve ever seen from an outfield prospect, so although he’s a below-average runner he still plays a plus center field. At the plate, Almora has a clean, controlled swing that produces a lot of hard contact, with hip rotation for future average to above-average power. He has great hand-eye coordination that allows him to square up a lot of pitches, but has to learn to rein himself in and wait for a pitch he can drive to make full use of his hit and power tools — and if that means taking a few more walks, well, both he and the Cubs could use that right about now.
2013 Rank: 33
67. C.J. Edwards, RHP
Edwards will sit 91-96 mph with little effort, getting natural cutting action on the pitch as well as some downhill plane, and he has a big, old-school curveball that’s a 55 or 60 on the 20-80 scale, and both pitches have missed bats in the minors. His changeup has made progress and was solid-average by year-end, giving him a three-pitch mix along with average control, similar in total package to Chris Archer at a similar stage of development. … He’s still on the skinny side for a potential 200-inning starter. He’s been healthy so far, and he has No. 2 starter upside if he can handle the workload associated with making 33 starts a year in the majors, a tremendous get for the Cubs for two months of Matt Garza’s time.
2013 Rank: Unranked
71. Arismendy Alcantara, 2B
Alcantara was a bit of a surprise pick for the 2013 Futures Game, given how many higher-profile prospects the Cubs have, but homered from the left side and impressed scouts with his range of tools. … He can run and is a legitimate switch-hitter with sneaky power thanks to very strong wrists. He’s a versatile athlete who could back up shortstop but probably shouldn’t play it every day; he could also likely handle center or third base if needed, and might be a candidate for a Tony Phillips-type super-utility role.
2013 Rank: Sleeper
Top pitching prospect C.J. Edwards should start 2014 at Double-A Tennessee. (Photo by Aldrin Capulong/Daytona Cubs)
For many Chicagoans, February means cold weather. At Vine Line, it’s all about the Cubs minor league prospectus. In the February issue, fans can check out player breakdowns for more than 45 of the organization’s top prospects, from teenagers like Eloy Jimenez to elite talents like Javier Baez. We’ll post some of frequent contributor Sahadev Sharma’s player profiles here on the blog in the coming weeks so you can keep track of all the names to know in the Cubs highly-ranked system.
When President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein introduced Jason McLeod as the Cubs’ VP of scouting and player development, Epstein referred to his new hire as a “secret weapon.” More than two years later, it’s easy to see why Epstein was so effusive in his praise.
Under McLeod’s watch, the scouting department hasn’t stopped working to revamp a system that’s jumped from the lower third of baseball to arguably one of the best in the game. Whether it’s through trades, international free agency or the draft, McLeod and his staff are grinding tirelessly to improve the Cubs farm system. This past season, he and former farm director Brandon Hyde oversaw one of the more fruitful years in recent memory in terms of player development, as prospects like Pierce Johnson, Javier Baez and Kyle Hendricks all took big steps forward.
Hyde will switch roles in 2014 to become new manager Rick Renteria’s bench coach, and Jaron Madison, formerly the director of amateur scouting, will take his place. Madison will oversee a minor league coaching staff that experienced minimal turnover after undergoing a major overhaul heading into the 2013 season. That continuity gives the Cubs confidence their recent player development success at the minor league level will continue, and there is certainly reason to believe the positive trend in scouting will carry into 2014 as well.
One of the most important steps in the process—and certainly one of the most exciting—could take place this season, as some of the team’s highly touted prospects may finally get a chance to shine at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs system has it all: elite-level talent, near-ready bats and arms, raw youth and some real pitching depth. It doesn’t have a consensus top-of-the-rotation arm, but due to some shrewd trades and bulk drafting, it’s stocked with pitchers to dream about over the next few seasons.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at many of the key names to know. Some could be arriving at Wrigley soon—others still may be years away—but the Cubs hope they will all earn their stripes at some point down the line.
Not long ago, the top of the Cubs system consisted of players who were lucky to break into the top 50 of most national prospect rankings. Those days are gone. Entering last season, it was all about the big three—Javier Baez, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler. After last June’s draft, Kris Bryant entered the conversation. Then the Cubs traded Matt Garza for a little-known righty, formerly of the South Carolina bush leagues, named C.J. Edwards, who simply lit up the Florida State League and vaulted himself among the game’s top prospects.
Having elite talent, or impact talent, as the front office often calls it, is a difference maker. The Cubs have done well in stockpiling high-ceiling players over the past few seasons and, in doing so, have increased their chances of producing a top-tier major leaguer in the near future.
There have been rumblings that both Baez and Bryant could reach the big leagues in 2014. While they both certainly have immense talent, forecasting All-Star-caliber production from the get-go may be a bit optimistic. But great expectations come with the territory, given the system the Cubs have assembled. All five of these players are aware of the pressure that comes with strong performance, yet they’re prepared to try to live up to it. As Almora once said about hype, “Bring it on.”
HIGHEST 2013 LEVEL: KANE COUNTY
2013 STATS: .329/.376/.466 (61 GAMES)
Watching Almora play, no one tool stands out as elite. However, it’s the complete package, including his tremendous makeup and infectious confidence, that really sets him apart.
“For a guy without an 80 tool (the top grade on the scouting scale), he’s a game changer,” McLeod said. “He won’t light up scouts with his power or speed, but he lights you up just by watching him play.”
Like Soler, Almora was felled by injuries in 2013. A wrist injury sidelined him early and a bone bruise in his groin ended his season prematurely in August. However, Almora returned to action in the Arizona Fall League, posting a very impressive .307/.342/.480 line and playing his usual stellar defense despite being the second-youngest player in the league.
HIGHEST 2013 LEVEL: TENNESSEE
2013 STATS: .282/.341/.578 (130 GAMES)
Baez’s game can be described in one word: aggressive. But his style of play is both helpful and detrimental. The Puerto Rico native believes he can hit any ball 500 feet and make every play on defense. This can result in wild swings at the plate and poor decisions in the field.
“I’ve never seen anything like him, to be honest,” McLeod said. “He’s a tough one to put into one box. On certain nights, he looks like the best player you’ve ever laid eyes on, and then you might walk in and he’s 0-for-4 with three punch-outs and looks awful doing it because the swing is so violent.”
But Baez passed what many feel is the toughest test for a developing player (outside of the big leagues, of course) by crushing Double-A pitching, hitting 20 of his 37 home runs in 54 games at that advanced level. He’ll always have high strikeout totals, even if he continues to improve, but a player who can hit the ball 430-plus feet to every part of the field is rare. As McLeod said, if he can take that final step and figure out when to be aggressive and when to tone it down at the plate or stick a ball in his pocket on defense, Baez can be as good as anybody.
HIGHEST 2013 LEVEL: DAYTONA
2013 STATS: .336/.390/688 (36 GAMES)
The Cubs selected Bryant second overall in last June’s draft, and it didn’t take him long to make an impact. The slugging third baseman followed up a historic college season by hitting at every level, then going on to play in the AFL, where he was named league MVP.
Bryant may end up in right field when all is said and done, but when it comes to hitting, he is a true student of the game. The 22-year-old will likely rack up some strikeouts, but he has a chance to become a consistent star—someone who hits .240 with 25 home runs in a bad year and .280 with 40-plus bombs and an impressive on-base percentage at his peak. Bryant prides himself on his knowledge of the game and is always studying video, working to improve his swing and refining his defense at the hot corner.
With his combination of talent, work ethic and movie-star good looks, Bryant’s face could someday be plastered all over billboards from Wrigleyville to Rockford.
HIGHEST 2013 LEVEL: DAYTONA
2013 STATS: 116.1 IP, 1.86 ERA, 115 K, 41 BB (24 STARTS)
Edwards has all the stuff to be a top-of-the-rotation arm—a downhill fastball with nasty cutting action, big curveball and solid change-up. The question with him is whether he has the durability to handle the load of 180-plus innings in the big leagues.
At 6-foot-2 and just over 160 pounds, the “String Bean Slinger” is lean and lanky—hardly the prototypical build of a workhorse ace. The focus this offseason has been his training program, as the Cubs are attempting to add some weight to his frame to prepare him for the rigors of a six-month season.
Edwards certainly has the necessary work ethic to get his body where it needs to be. Even if he can’t add much weight, he projects as an elite reliever who could help solidify the back end of the Cubs bullpen for years to come. Either way, Edwards will lead what looks to be a very impressive rotation in Tennessee next season.
HIGHEST 2013 LEVEL: DAYTONA
2013 STATS: .281/.343/.467 (55 GAMES)
After a stress fracture in his left tibia ended Soler’s 2013 season early, he was left with a combined 89 professional games in the Cubs organization over two seasons. His limited playing time has evaluators wondering where his true talent level lies. Looking to shake off the rust, Soler played in the Arizona Fall League. At times, he looked uninterested, often failing to run out ground balls. But according to McLeod, Soler had been given specific instructions not to run too hard on easy outs to protect his recently injured foot.
The goal in the AFL was for the Cuban prospect to continue honing his swing mechanics (something the Cubs have been working on since he was signed), see some pitches and get some reps in the outfield.
The bottom line: Soler has immense power, a tremendous work ethic and all the tools needed to catapult himself back among the elite prospects. The hope is a healthy spring will allow him to start the year at Tennessee and finally put together that strong, full season the Cubs have been hoping for since he signed.
Baseball Prospectus ranked Javier Baez the fourth-best prospect in the game. (Photo by Stephen Green)
Baseball Prospectus’ Jason Parks stoked Cubs fans’ excitement by unveiling his top 10 Cubs prospects on Thursday. On Monday, the website unveiled its top 101 prospects in the game, and the North Siders were well represented.
The team landed three prospects in the top 25 and seven total on the list. Four players, including 2013 first-round pick Kris Bryant, were newcomers from 2013’s edition. Below are the prospects and where they sit on the top 101.
4. Javier Baez, SS
2013 Ranking: 26
Highest Level: Double-A Tennessee
17. Kris Bryant, 3B
2013 Ranking: N/A
Highest Level: High-A Daytona
25. Albert Almora, CF
2013 Ranking: 18
Highest Level: Single-A Kane County
45. Jorge Soler, RF
2013 Ranking: 36
Highest Level: High-A Daytona
81. C.J. Edwards, RHP
2013 Ranking: N/A
Highest Level: High-A Daytona
83. Arismendy Alcantara, 2B
2013 Ranking: N/A
Highest Level: Double-A Tennessee
91. Pierce Johnson, RHP
2013 Ranking: N/A
Highest Level: Single-A Kane County
Cubs prospect Javier Baez ranked No. 7 on MLB.com’s top 100 prospect list. (Photo courtesy Tennessee Smokies)
The 2014 baseball season hasn’t yet started, but prospect season is in full swing. Just one day after Baseball Prospectus released its top 10 Cubs prospects, MLB.com has unveiled its top 100 prospects in the game. And the North Siders landed seven on the list, including five in the top 50.
The Cubs seven top 100 prospects tied them for second most with the Astros. Only the Red Sox system boasted more with nine.
The Cubs were the only team with three players in the top 20: No. 7 Javier Baez, No. 9 Kris Bryant and No. 18 Albert Almora. No. 42 C.J. Edwards, acquired last season from the Rangers, and No. 49 Jorge Soler rounded out the Cubs representatives in the top 50. The team also landed No. 89 Arismendy Alcantara and No. 100 Pierce Johnson on the list.
This is an important benchmark for the Cubs system because it provides a sense of how the team stacks up against the best in the game. Every team has a top 10 prospects, but that doesn’t mean any of those 10 rank highly compared to the game’s elite.
Of course, the big question on most Cubs fans’ minds is when these prospects will arrive in the big leagues?
“Ultimately, it comes down to them,” said Senior Vice President of Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod at last week’s Rookie Development Program. “They’re going to let us know when they’re ready. They have to go out and perform. … We’re not going to rush them up just to pat ourselves on the back and say, ‘Hey look, we drafted the right guy,’ or, ‘We traded for the right guy. We’re in this for the right reasons and for the long haul.”
In Vine Line‘s upcoming February issue, we’ll unveil our annual minor league prospectus, which breaks down the names to know in the Cubs farm system. Next week, we’ll release some of those breakdowns here on the blog.
(Photo courtesy of Daytona Cubs)
Inside baseball website Baseball Prospectus has spent the offseason cataloging each organization’s top 10 prospects. This morning, they finally released the Cubs cream of the crop. And if you needed another reason to trust in what the team is doing, this breakdown might just be it.
Prospect guru Jason Parks raved about the impact talent in the system, starting with the organization’s “Core Four” of Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler.
“Through the amateur draft, trades, and the international market, the Cubs have built one of the strongest systems in baseball, with high-impact talent that everybody knows and better depth than people might realize. The farm will rank no. 2 in the minors, just behind the Twins and just ahead of the Pirates,” said Parks in his parting thoughts.
The content is for subscribers only (and if you love baseball, it’s well worth the cost of a subscription). Here’s a brief summary of how Baseball Prospectus ranked the Cubs talent. We list each player’s strengths, but there’s much more good stuff in the article. They also list an estimated time of arrival in the big leagues, and nine of the 10 Cubs prospects are expected to arrive in 2014 or 2015.
1. SS Javier Baez
Strengths: Elite bat speed; elite hands; plus hand-eye coordination; can make hard contact to all fields; natural ability to barrel the ball; raw power is elite; game power could play to elite; arm is plus-plus; actions are easy plus in the field; baseball instincts; superstar profile.
2. 3B Kris Bryant
Strengths: Excellent size and present strength; good athlete; elite raw power; game power could play plus-plus or better; highly leveraged swing built for over-the-fence production; some bat-to-ball ability and hit tool utility; plus arm; glove should play to average; fringe run but good athlete and coordinated for size.
3. CF Albert Almora
Strengths: High level baseball skills and instincts; natural bat-to-ball ability; can make hard contact to all fields; hit tool projects to be plus (or better) tracks well and shows advanced approach; has above-average raw power; swing more gap-to-gap at present but over-the-fence power could show up as he matures; glove in center is easy plus; quick reactions and proper reads help range; arm is solid-average to plus; cocky/confident player.
4. RF Jorge Soler
Strengths: Elite raw power; extreme strength and leverage in swing; game power could play to plus-plus; shows some hit tool quality; could play above average; arm is well above average; glove plays; runs well; looks the part.
5. RHP C.J. Edwards
Strengths: Loose, easy delivery; near elite release; ball just explodes out of his hand; fastball very comfortable in the 92-95 range; can work higher; very good angle and arm-side life; easy release helps secondary arsenal play up; changeup projects as plus offering; very good deception and fade; curveball is bat-missing weapon at present; above-average shape and depth; pitchability; good makeup.
6. SS Arismendy Alcantara
Strengths: Plus athlete with good present strength; excellent hands; creates plus bat speed and above-average power; short, clean path to the ball; makes hard contact; easy plus run; multi-dimensional offensive threat; plus arm; above-average glove at second; five-tool talent.
7. RHP Pierce Johnson
Strengths: Prototypical starter’s body; long, lean, and athletic; very good arm strength; fastball is plus; low-90s velocity that routinely pops the mid-90s on the gun; breaking is easy plus and could end up even better if the command improves; low-80s hammer curve with serious snap; some feel for an average changeup that has some projection.
8. 1B Dan Vegelbach
Strengths: Big boy strength; big boy raw power; doesn’t sell out swing for game power; generates impressive bat speed with quick, strong stroke that is short to the ball/long through it; projects to hit for both average and power; makes pitchers work and doesn’t give away outs.
9. 3B Christian Villanueva
Strengths: Broad-shouldered with good present strength; hands are exceptional in the field; fluid actions; excellent backhand pickup; easy plus arm; can make every play in, side, or back; fast hands at the plate; shows bat speed and some power potential; very heady player with plus makeup.
10. 3B Jeimer Candelario
Strengths: Good present strength; fluid swing from both sides of the plate; shows excellent bat speed and quick path to the ball; very mature approach; tracks the ball well; has a plan at the plate; power could play above average; arm is strong; work ethic to refine with the glove.
BP also lists three prospects that are on the rise in the Cubs system (pitchers RHP Paul Blackburn and LHP Rob Zastryzny and catcher C Mark Malave) and three prospects that could potentially contribute to the Cubs this year (3B Mike Olt, RHP Arodys Vizcaino and RHP Neil Ramirez).
Cubs Minor League Player of the Year Javier Baez will be honored at Wrigley Field Saturday.
Prior to Saturday’s game, the Chicago Cubs will unveil the official logo to celebrate 100 years of Wrigley Field in 2014 and recognize the winning designer who participated in the “Wrigley Field Turns 100” logo contest earlier this season. The team received more than 1,200 submissions, and fans selected the winning design from four finalists on cubs.com.
Immediately following the logo unveiling, infielder Javier Baez and right-handed pitcher Kyle Hendricks will be recognized for being named the organization’s Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year. Baez and Hendricks received the honor last Friday, and both will be present at Wrigley Field for Saturday’s pregame ceremony.
Javier Baez was named Minor League Player of the Year after blasting 37 home runs between Daytona and Tennessee. (Photo by Aldrin Capulong/Daytona Cubs)
Cubs shortstop Javier Baez and right-handed starter Kyle Hendricks were named the organization’s Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year, respectively, Friday morning.
Baez may have raised his stock as much as anyone in baseball this season. On the year, the 20-year-old hit .282/.341/.578 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 37 homers, 24 doubles, four triples and 111 RBI in 130 games between High-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee. The ninth-overall pick in the 2011 draft led all of minor league baseball in RBI and extra-base hits (75), while his 37 homers were tied for the second-best mark in 2013. He became the first minor league player in 17 seasons to reach 30 doubles, 30 homers, 100 RBI and 20 stolen bases in a season since D.T. Cromer managed the feat in 1996.
Baez was named a midseason Florida State League All-Star after hitting .274 with 17 homers, 15 doubles and 57 RBI in 76 games with Daytona. On June 10, he became the first player since 1996 to hit four home runs in a game. He was promoted to Tennessee on July 6, where he hit .294 with 20 homers, 15 doubles and 54 RBI in 54 contests.
The infielder has a minor league career line of .286/.342/.562 with 54 homers, 49 doubles and 158 RBI in 215 games.
Hendricks made 27 starts between Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa this season, going 13-4 with a 2.00 ERA and 128 strikeouts in 166.1 innings. The 23-year-old walked just 34 batters, giving him a 3.76 K-to-BB ratio, and surrendered only five home runs while limiting opponents to a .229 average. His ERA was the seventh-best among full-season minor leaguers.
Hendricks opened the season with a 10-3 record and a 1.85 ERA in 21 starts for Tennessee, where he earned Southern League midseason All-Star honors. He recorded a 0.84 ERA in his last seven Double-A starts, prompting a promotion. In six starts with Iowa, Hendricks went 3-1 with a 2.48 ERA, walking 27 over 40 innings.
Hendricks was acquired from Texas for Ryan Dempster at the trade deadline in 2012. He has a 21-14 career record and a 2.42 ERA in 349.2 innings, and was originally selected in the eighth round of the 2011 draft.
Javier Baez was one of two members of the Cubs organization on Baseball America‘s 2013 Minor League All-Star team. (Photo by Stephen Green)
In the last few years, the Cubs farm system has gone from the bottom of the rankings to one of the best in baseball. Many of the top farmhands improved their stock with solid play this year, and three clubs—Double-A Tennessee, High-A Daytona and Short-Season Boise—reached the postseason in their respective leagues.
And it’s not just Cubs fans taking notice of the success within the organization. On Thursday, Baseball America unveiled its 2013 Minor League All-Star Team , and a pair of Cubs prospects, SS Javier Baez and RHP C.J. Edwards, made the first team. Triple-A Iowa right-handed starter Kyle Hendricks was named to the second team after finishing 2013 with a 13-4 record and a 2.00 ERA with 128 strikeouts over 166 innings. Below is what BA had to say about the Cubs All-Stars.
DH Javier Baez • Cubs
Double-A Tennessee (Southern)
Baez slammed 20 homers in 54 Double-A games to catch and tie George Springer for second place in the minors with 37 bombs. Baez stands all by himself, however, with minor league-leading totals for extra-base hits (75) and RBI (111). The 20-year-old stepped up his game with runners on base this season, hitting .325/.384/.654 with 19 homers in 231 at-bats at Tennessee and high Class-A Daytona. While Baez possesses the raw tools to play a big league shortstop, he needs to clean up his fundamentals and improve his efficiency after committing 44 errors in 123 games, a performance good for a .932 fielding average.
Javier Baez- .282/.341/.578, 130 G, 517 AB, 98 R, 146 H, 34 2B, 3 3B, 37 HR, 111 RBI, 20 SB
SP C.J. Edwards • Cubs
High Class-A Daytona (Florida State)
A 48th-round pick by the Rangers out of high school in Prosperity, S.C., two years ago, Edwards is the scouting and player development success story in the minors. He quickly refined his mechanics and added velocity during his 2012 debut before utterly dominating low Class-A competition for the first half of 2013. Edwards didn’t allow a home run in 18 starts for Hickory prior to his July 22 trade to the Cubs as part of the bounty for Matt Garza. He breezed through another six starts afterward, finishing with a minor league-best 12 strikeouts per nine innings and ranking fourth in the ERA race at 1.86. He then added 10 shutout, one-hit innings as Daytona won the Florida State League championship.
C.J. Edwards- 8-2, 1.86 ERA, 24 GS, 116 IP, 76 H, 1 HR, 41 BB, 155 K, .182 OBA
Cubs prospect Kris Bryant has emerged as a top 15 prospect in baseball, according to Keith Law. (Photo courtesy of the University of San Diego)
ESPN Insider Keith Law knows his way around the minor league ranks. Since the 2012 season ended, Law has been very complimentary of the Cubs system, going so far as to rank the Cubs the sixth-best farm system in baseball back in February. And based on his recent midseason Top 50 MLB prospect rankings (subscription required), that number is likely to improve.
Recent first-round draft pick Kris Bryant, 2012 Cuban signee Jorge Soler, 2012 first-round pick Albert Almora and 2011 first-round pick Javy Baez are all in Law’s top 27. While this is Bryant’s first appearance on Law’s list, the three others have all improved their rank. It’s also worth noting infielder Arismendy Alcantara was one of eight players in the honorable mention section. Here’s what Law had to say about the quartet.
15. Kris Bryant, OF | Chicago Cubs (age 21)
Current level: Short-season Class A (Boise)
Preseason ranking: Ineligible
Signed to the biggest bonus in this year’s draft (as predicted in this space), Bryant has huge raw power from the right side, a rare and valuable commodity in and of itself, and profiles as a middle-of-the-order bat whether he’s at third base or in right field. He’s yet to play a game as of this writing.
20. Jorge Soler, OF | Chicago Cubs (age 21)
Current level: High Class A (Daytona)
Preseason ranking: 42
Soler would have been in the Futures Game and likely in Double-A were it not for a stress fracture that has him on the shelf until at least early August and possibly until instructional league, although he could pick up some needed at-bats in the Arizona Fall League.
He remains a high-ceiling player, with a quick bat, easy power and running speed, but losing a half-season of reps doesn’t help.
25. Albert Almora, OF | Chicago Cubs (age 19)
Current level: Low Class A (Kane County)
Preseason ranking: 33
The irony of one of the game’s most prominent sabermetrically inclined front offices overseeing a farm system of guys who walk once a month deserves more attention than it’s gotten. I wonder if Bryant, who walked a ton in college this spring, will become an unrepentant hacker the moment he gets to Daytona.
Almora doesn’t walk much, but he has great feel for the bat, making a lot of hard contact, and plays plus defense in center.
27. Javier Baez, SS | Chicago Cubs (age 19)
Current level: Double-A (Tennessee)
Preseason ranking: 31
The player with the best bat speed in the minors should be higher on this list, in theory, but Baez operates under the strong belief — not entirely unfounded — that he can hit anything within a foot of the strike zone, which results in low walk rates and a tendency to give away at-bats when he doesn’t get a pitch he can crush right away.
He continues to play solid defense at shortstop and the power is insane, but it would be nice if someone in this farm system would walk more than twice a month.
Lefty Chris Rusin made his 2013 debut for the Cubs last night in Oakland. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
Left-handed pitcher Chris Rusin is having a good week. He has already been named a Pacific Coast League All-Star for Triple-A Iowa, and he made his 2013 debut with the Cubs last night in Oakland. Now he and Single-A Daytona infielder Javier Baez have been named the Cubs organization’s Minor League Pitcher and Player of the Month for June, respectively.
Rusin, 26, went 3-3 with a 2.86 ERA (14 ER/44.0 IP) in six June starts for Iowa, striking out 26 compared to just eight walks. He leads the PCL in innings pitched (110.0) and WHIP (1.10), and he ranks second among starting pitchers in fewest walks per 9.0 innings with a 1.89 mark.
On the season, Rusin is 7-7 with a complete-game shutout and a 3.27 ERA in 17 games (16 starts) with Iowa, recording 10 quality starts. He’s struck out 63 hitters compared to 22 walks, while surrendering just seven home runs in 110.0 innings. The 26-year-old made his big league debut with the Cubs last season, going 2-3 with a 6.37 ERA in seven starts. He was originally selected by the Cubs in the fourth round of the 2009 draft out of the University of Kentucky.
Baez, considered by many to be the top prospect in the Cubs system, batted .300 (27-for-90) with seven doubles, and a league-leading nine home runs and 28 RBI in 24 June contests. He drew nine walks, contributing to a .390 on-base percentage and recorded a .678 slugging mark. On June 10, he became just the second player in Florida State League history to hit four home runs in a single game. The performance netted him FSL Player of the Week honors.
In 73 games this season, the 20-year-old is hitting .272 (79-for-290) with 19 doubles, four triples, 17 home runs and 57 RBI. The FSL All-Star leads the league in runs scored (57), home runs and total bases (157), while ranking second in extra-base hits (40) and fourth in RBI. He was originally selected by the Cubs in the first round (ninth overall) of the 2011 draft.