Results tagged ‘ Kris Bryant ’

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 name 3B Bryant, RHP Blackburn MiLB Player, Pitcher of the Month

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

Cubs prospect Kris Bryant’s offensive production in the last month has caught the eyes of everybody around baseball. Meanwhile right-handed starter Paul Blackburn has been nearly as solid on the mound. For their recent efforts, Bryant and Blackburn have been named the Cubs Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Month for May.

The 22-year-old Bryant led the Double-A Southern League in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging (.407/.492/.806), home runs (12), doubles (7), RBI (34), walks (17) and runs (30) in May. He had multiple hits in 14 of his 29 games, including two four-hit contests and four three-hit contests. He reached safely in 25 games and recorded at least one hit in all but seven games. He was also named the Southern League’s Hitter of the Week twice.

A native of Las Vegas, the 6-foot-5 third baseman leads the league this season with a .353 average, a .460 on-base percentage, a .700 slugging percentage, a 1.160 OPS, 50 runs, 73 hits, 19 home runs, 51 RBI and 145 total bases, while his 36 walks rank second. Yesterday, he was named to the 2014 Southern League All-Star Game.

The 20-year-old Blackburn had a pretty solid May as well. The 2012 compensation pick went 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA in 28.2 innings over five May starts. He fanned 26 batters versus just five walks and held opponents to one or no runs in four of five outings. The righty gave up just one home run and posted a .250 opponents’ batting average for the month.

Blackburn was selected by the Cubs in the sandwich round (56th overall) of the 2012 draft out of Heritage High School in Brentwood, California. The 6-foot-2 right-hander is 5-1 with a 2.33 ERA, 43 strikeouts and just 10 walks in 10 starts this season.  He has held his opponents to a .234 batting average, including a .159 clip with runners in scoring position, while posting a 1.06 WHIP.

Bryant named Southern League Hitter of the Week

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

If you polled Southern League pitchers, it’s likely most would agree with Cubs fans that Tennessee Smokies slugger Kris Bryant is due for a call-up to Triple-A. I’m sure they’re looking for any way to get him out of the league.

The 22-year-old Cubs prospect, who continues to put up ridiculous numbers in his first Double-A season, was named Southern League Hitter of the Week for his efforts from May 26 to June 1. It’s the second time the 2013 first-round pick has earned the award this season.

The third baseman recorded a .478/.625/1.217 (AVG/OBP/SLG) slash line over the seven-day span with five homers, two doubles, seven RBI, seven runs scored and nine walks.

Through his first 55 games with the Smokies, Bryant leads the Southern League in nine different offensive categories: batting average (.348), home runs (18), RBI (49), runs scored (48), hits (70), on-base percentage (.452), slugging percentage (.692), total bases (139) and extra-base hits.

Prior to the 2014 season, Bryant, last year’s number two overall pick out of the University of San Diego, was named the eighth-best prospect in the game by Baseball America and the second-best Cubs farmhand behind only Iowa Cubs shortstop Javier Baez.

This is the third award handed out to a member of the Smokies, as Bryant claimed the accolade from May 5-11 and right-hander Corey Black was named Pitcher of the Week for April 21-27.

Bryant, Baez land on Keith Law’s updated Top 25 prospects list

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With the First-Year MLB Player Draft looming next week (June 5-7), ESPN Insider Keith Law updated the Top 25 players from his preseason Top 100 prospect rankings Friday. Despite the fact that three players from the initial group have moved on to the big leagues, there were no huge changes. The Cubs landed two players on the list, with third-baseman Kris Bryant—and his 16 home runs—moving up seven spots since the preseason, and Javier Baez falling two spots after a sluggish start.

Here’s what Law had to say about the Cubs prospects. The whole article is definitely worth a read, but you must have an ESPN Insider account to access it.

8. Kris Bryant | 3B | Chicago Cubs (age 22)
Current level: Double-A (Tennessee)
Preseason ranking: 15

Aside from a high strikeout rate (more than 25 percent of his plate appearances), Bryant’s season so far is unimpeachable, as he’s walking, hitting for average, hitting for huge power and improving the second time around the league. We’ll have to see what happens to that contact rate when he gets to Triple-A, though.

9. Javier Baez | SS | Chicago Cubs (age 21)
Current level: Triple-A (Iowa)
Preseason ranking: 7

Speaking of Cubs who don’t make enough contact in Triple-A, here’s Baez, owner of the fastest bat in the minors, striking out in a third of his plate appearances so far this year for Iowa.

When he does square the ball up, he hits it hard, but he’s got work to do to make more contact, especially cutting down on his aggressiveness with two strikes, before he’s ready to come up and take over any position in Chicago.

From the Pages of Vine Line: The Cubs’ recent draft trends

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Kris Bryant visits Wrigley Field shortly after the Cubs made him their top pick in 2013. (Photo by Stephen Green)

Major league scouting directors tend to be vague when asked about their draft strategies leading up to the big day in June. They generally offer some variation on the same theme.

“It is the simple answer of picking the best guy available,” said Jason McLeod, the Cubs’ senior vice president of player development and amateur scouting. “We’ve made no bones about trying to get as much pitching as we can. But in the last two drafts, we’ve taken position players with our first picks, because we felt Albert [Almora] and Kris [Bryant] were the most impactful guys for us at those draft positions.”

The 2014 MLB First-Year Player Draft will take place next week, from June 5-7. Though McLeod and his staff have consistently gone after the best available players with their top picks—regardless of need—they have shown a few common tendencies that might inform their decisions this year.

Since 2011, the year before the current front office took over, the Cubs have trended toward college selections. That year, 40 percent of the players the team picked came out of college. Last year, 55 percent of draftees played college ball. Meanwhile, the percentage of high school players drafted has decreased from 42 percent in 2011 to 27.5 percent in 2013.

Second, right-handed pitchers have dominated the draft board. Nearly 40 percent of the players selected by the Cubs in each of the last three drafts were righties. Under the Epstein/Hoyer regime, the Cubs have picked 38 right-handed arms, 20 of them from college and seven from junior college.

But the Cubs’ right-hander-heavy drafts may be less a function of preference than of consistent depth at the position. And this year is no exception. According to Baseball America, there are 19 right-handed pitchers among the top 50 draft-eligible players for 2014.

McLeod also added that pitchers in general are easier to project.

“You walk into a ballpark and see someone with fairly clean mechanics who’s throwing 90-94, and you’re pretty comfortable recommending him,” McLeod said. “Hitters, especially high school hitters, take more investment. You have to see them on multiple occasions and in the right circumstances before you can say that, yes, you think this guy will hit at the next level.”

Of course, drafting players is only half the battle. Signing them takes just as much work. A year ago, the Cubs signed just 60 percent of their draft picks. The prior season, the team had better luck, inking 81 percent of players selected.

The good news is the organization has gotten better at signing premium talent. In 2011, 17 of the club’s first 20 picks signed, followed by 18 of 20 in 2012 and 19 of 20 last year. Plus, the Cubs signed every one of their top 10 draftees in 2013—a crop that includes hot prospects Bryant, Tyler Skulina and Jacob Hannemann.

The team has also shown a knack for getting quick returns on draft investments. Seven of the organization’s top 20 prospects, according to MLB.com, were selected in 2012 or 2013.

“The last few drafts have had a few no-doubt guys,” McLeod said in late April. “This year, the draft is deep, but we’re still waiting on players to step to the forefront. We’re pretty wide open in terms of who we’re looking at for that top pick.”

History and the current talent pool may suggest the Cubs will take a right-hander with their top pick. But the only certainty is McLeod’s assertion that the front office will select the best players available when they are on the clock.

—Chris Gigley

Cubs Minor League Recap: 5/28/14

The Cubs minor league affiliates had a rough day yesterday, going 1-3 overall. But the Kane County squad extended its winning streak to four games, and Kris Bryant continued to mash at Double-A Tennessee. Here are the highlights from yesterday’s minor league action:

Iowa Cubs (27-22)
1st Place (+0.5)

GM 1: Memphis scored a run in the bottom of the seventh inning to beat Iowa, 1-0.

  • CF Arismendy Alcantara (.282) went 1-for-3 to extend his hitting streak to four games.
  • RHP Dallas Beeler was dealt the loss despite tossing his second-career complete game. He owns a1.35 ERA (2 ER/13.1 IP) over his last two starts.

GM 2: The second game of Iowa’s doubleheader at Memphis was suspended in the sixth inning due to rain. The game will resume today with Iowa trailing, 2-1.

Tennessee Smokies (26-26)
2nd Place (-9.5)

Huntsville recorded its third-straight, walk-off win over Tennessee with a 2-1 victory in 11 innings.

  • 3B Kris Bryant (.349) reached base five times, going a perfect 4-for-4 with a run, a walk, a double (14) and his league-leading 15th homer of the campaign. He’s hitting .412 (40-for-97) with 27 runs, six doubles, 10 home runs and 32 RBI in 26 May games.
  • RHP Arodys Vizcaino (3.24) struck out two hitters in a scoreless eighth inning of work.
  • LHP Hunter Cervenka (1.42) lowered his May ERA to 1.35 (1 ER/6.2 IP) with 2.0 scoreless frames.

Daytona Cubs (20-30)
5th Place (-16.0)

Visiting Palm Beach recorded 16 hits in a 7-2 victory over Daytona.

  • C Willson Contreras (.267) posted his sixth multihit game in his last seven, going 2-for-4 with two RBI (11). He has raised his average 76 points over the last seven games (.191 AVG on May 19).
  • 2B Gioskar Amaya (.308) went 2-for-4 with his sixth double of the campaign.
  • RHP Stephen Perakslis (5.47) tossed 2.0 scoreless innings of relief.

Kane County Cougars (36-17)
1st Place (+7.5)

Kane County won its fourth-straight game, beating host Clinton, 7-1.

  • 2B Daniel Lockhart (.251) went 3-for-5 with two runs scored and his 10th double of the year.
  • CF Trey Martin (.208) posted his second-straight multihit game, going 3-for-4 with a run, a double (5) and one RBI (17).
  • 1B Jacob Rogers (.246), LF Shawon Dunston (.262) and DH Ben Carhart (.284) each had two hits.
  • RHP Zak Hermans (1-0, 3.12) struck out four hitters in 3.1 scoreless innings of relief to earn the win.

 

Opposing front offices see stars in Cubs prospects

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

At the end of each spring, baseball analyst Peter Gammons polls front office members from around baseball on a variety of questions. On Wednesday, Gammons unveiled the answer to his first: “Were there any young players you watched and said, ‘This guy has a chance to be a star?’”

A trio of Cubs—Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Albert Almora—made the list. Here’s what Gammons had to say about the talented threesome.

4. Kris Bryant, 3B-OF, Chicago Cubs. The Troy Glaus comps may be pretty accurate.

5. Javier Baez, 2B-SS, Chicago Cubs. The position is to be named later, the batspeed astounding. I just wish I’d seen the back fields home run hitting contest against Mike Olt. They can hit for miles and miles and miles and miles…

7. Albert Almora, CF, Chicago Cubs. The very smart people in that organization think he is the players’ player, with instincts and aptitude and makeup.

Bryant has just a pair of hits in 20 plate appearances in major league camp, though both left the park for home runs. Baez has put his power on display this preseason, hitting .298 with a .681 slugging percentage and tallying five homers and three doubles in 47 at-bats. Almora has six hits in 14 plate appearances, and the way he mans the outfield has been applauded all spring.

Now Playing: Cubscast Mesa, The lighter side of the Cubs, Part Five

Playing professional baseball is a dream job, but it’s not the most likely career choice. So what would your favorite players be doing if their big league dreams hadn’t come true? We talked to Cubs personnel about some other possible career choices.

We’ll be posting videos and stories from Cubs Park throughout the spring, so watch the blog and our Twitter account, @cubsvineline.

Check out the other videos from our Spring Training series:

Cubscast Mesa: Positive Energy in Cubs Camp
Cubscast Mesa: Inside Cubs Park
Cubscast Mesa with Rick Renteria and the 2014 coaching staff
Cubscast Mesa with the top prospects
Cubscast Mesa: Meet the new guys
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part One
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part Two
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part Three
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part Four

Cubs trim spring roster to 54 players

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Slugger and 2013 first-round draft pick Kris Bryant has been assigned to minor league camp. (Photo by Stephen Green)

The Chicago Cubs have assigned 12 players to minor league camp, reducing their spring roster from 66 to 54 players.

Infielders Arismendy Alcantara and Logan Watkins, outfielder Matt Szczur and right-handed pitcher Dallas Beeler have been optioned to Triple-A Iowa. Outfielder Jorge Soler has been optioned to Double-A Tennessee.

Six nonroster invitees have been assigned to minor league camp: right-handed pitchers Marcus Hatley and Carlos Pimentel, left-handed pitcher Eric Jokisch, infielders Kris Bryant and Jeudy Valdez, and outfielder Albert Almora.

Additionally, outfielder Aaron Cunningham has been granted his release.

Chicago’s spring roster now consists of 27 pitchers (seven nonroster invitees), five catchers (three nonroster invitees), 11 infielders (four nonroster invitees) and 11 outfielders (five nonroster invitees).

Now Playing: Cubscast Mesa, The Lighter Side of the Cubs, Part Four

Professional baseball players live an odd life. They work late hours, face enormous pressures and spend half their year on the road—which means they have a lot of down time before they have to be at the park.

In Part Four of our Lighter Side video series, we ask Kris Bryant, Carlos Villanueva, Edwin Jackson and others about their favorite movies.

We’ll be posting videos and stories from Cubs Park throughout the spring, so watch the blog and our Twitter account, @cubsvineline.

Check out the other videos from our Spring Training series:

Cubscast Mesa, Inside Cubs Park
Cubscast Mesa with Rick Renteria and the 2014 coaching staff
Cubscast Mesa with the top prospects
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part One
Cubscast Mesa: Meet the new guys
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part Two
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part Three

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