Results tagged ‘ Minor-League Prospectus ’

Hot Off the Presses: The 2014 Minor League Prospectus

001_VL1402_Cover_JM_newstand

We always have mixed feelings about the February issue. The annual minor league prospectus probably takes more work, and more combined man-hours, than any other issue. To compile our comprehensive breakdown of the Cubs farm system, we pore through each of the organization’s minor league affiliates, from Iowa to Kane County to the Caribbean.

That’s a lot of players in a lot of different locations. To get our information, we read prospect reports, watch fall and winter league games, and talk to people in the know. By the time this issue goes to the printer, the whole Vine Line staff needs a nap.

But it’s also one of the most rewarding magazines we publish, because it gives us a clearer picture of what to expect in the Cubs’ future. And since President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, General Manager Jed Hoyer and Senior Vice President of Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod took over more than two years ago, the Cubs have been all about what’s on the horizon.

The team has enjoyed top 10 picks in each of the last three drafts, has been among the most aggressive in baseball on the international free agent market, and has made shrewd trades to add young, high-ceiling talent. The process may be taking more time than many fans and even upper management hoped it would, but the efforts are paying off—and the evidence could soon become evident at Wrigley Field.

Baseball America’s 2013 organizational rankings, released shortly after the season ended, had the Cubs system tied for fifth-best in baseball. And prospect experts such as MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo and Baseball Prospectus’ Jason Parks rave about Albert Almora, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, C.J. Edwards, Pierce Johnson, Jorge Soler and others.

This month, frequent contributor Sahadev Sharma sat down with McLeod to review the organization’s top players and talk about the system as a whole. Though it’s the big names that rightfully grab the headlines, the Cubs farm now has enviable depth, especially in position players. A few years ago, for example, the team struggled to find a serviceable third baseman. In addition to Luis Valbuena and Donnie Murphy, they now have Kris Bryant, Mike Olt, Christian Villanueva, Arismendy Alcantara, Josh Vitters, Jeimer Candelario and others who could all effectively man the position.

We break down the Cubs talent into five categories: The Elite, Close to the Big Leagues, International Impact, Pitching Depth and Ready to Break Out. This is your primer on everyone, from seasoned talent that could make the jump to the major leagues this year to 17-year-old international prospects whose professional careers are just getting started.

For those who can’t wait to see the organization’s top young players, this may be the perfect year to head out to Mesa, Ariz., for Spring Training, because the team is opening Cubs Park, a state-of-the-art training facility that rivals the best in the game. In this issue, we take a look at the new facility and what it means for the organization’s player development team.

Spring Training will also offer fans their first opportunity to hear the team’s new radio voice, analyst Ron Coomer, a former Cubs infielder who has spent the last nine years broadcasting for the Twins. The 47-year-old Chicago native grew up rooting for the North Siders, so he understands the team’s unique history and what it means to be a part of its rich broadcasting tradition.

“Probably the only place I would go to leave Minnesota would be the Chicago Cubs,” Coomer said. “My situation with family and everything [in Minnesota] is phenomenal. But it’s the Cubs job. It’s been a dream of mine since before I knew I could hit a baseball.”

Finally, in our monthly Wrigley 100 feature, we chronicle the ballpark’s beginnings. This dates back to when the stadium seated only 14,000 people in a single deck; back to when it was called Weeghman Park; back to when it was known as the home of the Federal League’s Chi-Feds, not the Cubs. It’s an interesting tale not many people know, and it set the foundation for the last century of events at the Friendly Confines.

Cubs past, present and future. That’s our mission, and we cover all the bases this month. Subscribe to Vine Line at cubs.com/vineline and follow us on Twitter at @cubsvineline.

MLB.com’s top 100 prospects includes seven Cubs

Baez,-Javy

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.

Prospectus Preview: Close to the Bigs, Robert Whitenack

WHITENACK-R-2012-RW

(Photo by Rodger Wood)

Other Prospectus Previews:

2012 Draft / Pierce Johnson

Down the Pipeline / Jeimer Candelario

Close to the Majors / Nick Struck

2012 International / Jorge Soler

2012 Trades and Claims / Barret Loux


Though much of the Cubs team is already set heading into Spring Training, a solid showing in Mesa might just give some players a chance to squeeze onto the Opening Day roster.

Robert Whitenack, who was was selected in the 2009 draft by the Cubs, will get his second consecutive invitation to major league training camp in 2013. With an already crowded rotation, it’s likely the 6-foot-5 right-hander will get some seasoning in Double-A Tennessee to start the year. However, Whitenack was one of 12 Cubs prospects in attendance for last month’s Rookie Development Program, a series of practices and seminars designed to help players who should be ready for the bigs in the near future.

Whitenack is just one of more than 60 players covered in Vine Line’s annual Minor League Prospectus. The issue is on newsstands now, with single issues are available by calling 800-618-8377. It’s an exhaustive rundown, perfect for Spring Training and beyond.

P | Robert Whitenack
Ht./Wt.: 6-5/185
B/T: R/R
Born: 11/20/88 in North Massapequa, N.Y.
Acquired: 2009 Draft (8)
Tools: Fastball, Curveball
2012 STATS (High-A): 5.96 ERA, 51.1 IP, 70 H, 27 BB, 31 K

Command and control are often the last things to come back after Tommy John surgery, and Whitenack’s feel just wasn’t there in 2012. His 2011 campaign—in which he had a 1.93 ERA and reached Double-A—won over many Cubs talent evaluators. The front office is hoping he steps up and surprises this year. Before the injury, Whitenack had a power sinker with a big hammer curve and a good change-up. He’s been added to the 40-man roster, so if he can regain his command, he could eat up innings at the back of the big league rotation.


Other players featured in this section: Infielders Junior Lake, Logan Watkins and Josh Vitters; outfielders Brett Jackson and Matt Szczur; and pitchers Alberto Cabrera, Trey McNutt, Brooks Raley, Nick Struck and Tony Zych.

Plus, tidbits on LHP Frank Del Valle, IF Justin Bour, OF Jae-Hoon Ha, LHP Austin Kirk, LHP Chris Rusin, RHP Marcus Hatley, RHP Dallas Beeler and RHP Matt Loosen.

Prospectus Preview: 2012 Draft, Pierce Johnson

12-Johnson03

Other Prospectus Previews: 

• Down the Pipeline / Jeimer Candelario

Close to the Majors / Nick Struck

2012 International / Jorge Soler

2012 Trades and Claims / Barret Loux


One year after the Cubs stocked up by paying a premium for impact talent, the game changed. New leaguewide spending restrictions implemented prior to the 2012 draft now mean the only option is to out-scout and out-draft other teams.

“We’re very fortunate here in that I think we have such great evaluators,” said Jason McLeod, Cubs senior vice president of scouting and player development. “We just changed some processes of how we were acquiring information.”

New scouting responsibilities included video capture for biomechanical analysis and deeper background work. Albert Almora became “the guy” early in the year, with the team sold on his innate two-way abilities and passion for the game.

But after that sixth-overall pick, the Cubs went all-in on arms with their next seven selections. It’s a haul that falls to new pitching coordinator Derek Johnson, who tutored his share of first-round picks—including Cy Young winner David Price—as Vanderbilt’s pitching coach.

“It’s the area where we feel, if we’re going to be a good organization and get to where we want to go, has to be a point of emphasis,” McLeod said.

Pierce Johnson is one of the high-ceiling pitchers the Cubs selected last June. He is also one of more than 60 players covered in Vine Line’s annual Minor League Prospectus. The issue hits newsstands in February, with single issues available by calling 800-618-8377. Get up to speed on the Cubs’ 2012 draft class and the rest of the minor leagues for Spring Training and beyond.

P | PIERCE JOHNSON
Ht./Wt.: 6-3/170
B/T: R/R
Born: 5/10/91 in Arvada, Colo.
Acquired: 2012 Draft (1s)
Tools: Velocity, Fastball, Curveball
2012 STATS (R): 0.00 ERA, 3.0 IP, 4 H, 0 BB, 2 K; (SS): 4.50 ERA, 8.0 IP, 10 H, 3 BB, 12 K

Johnson, the first pitcher chosen by the Cubs in the June draft, fell to the 43rd pick only because of a minor elbow strain he suffered last spring. His power arsenal includes a low-90s fastball and a power curveball that may have been the draft’s best. He pitches with competitiveness and from a good, high angle, and has the stuff to miss bats as he climbs through the minors. His frame is tall but very lean, so the focus will be on adding strength and weight while he develops his change-up. This season, the goal is to log innings and show his potential as a future mid-rotation horse.


Other players featured in this section: Infielder Stephen Bruno, outfielder Albert Almora, and pitchers Paul Blackburn and Duane Underwood.

Plus, tidbits on IF Tim Saunders, RHP Ryan McNeil, RHP Josh Conway and LHP Michael Heesch.

Sean Ahmed

Prospectus Preview: 2012 International, Jorge Soler

SOLER-J-091512-SG-22

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Other Prospectus Previews: 

• Down the Pipeline / Jeimer Candelario

Close to the Majors / Nick Struck

2012 Trades/Claims / Barret Loux


Jorge Soler has the unique ability to leave baseball people gushing and speechless at the same time—like how McLeod wrapped up a report on the Cuban with, “Yeah, he’s awesome.” Soler “drips with tools,” similar to first-rounders Albert Almora and Javier Baez. There are several potential pitfalls, but Soler’s assimilation on and off the field has been promising so far.

Both Soler and Gerardo Concepcion were signed in the flurry of get-’em-while-you-can moves before international spending caps hit on July 2. Frandy De La Rosa and Juan Carlos Paniagua were the team’s two big gets afterward, inked for roughly three quarters of the Cubs’ $2.9 million pool. But most international signings are of toolsy 16- and 17-year-olds who won’t head stateside for years—if ever.

In the background, the Cubs are investing heavily in their Latin American infrastructure. Work continues on a new Dominican facility, which will provide more fields, workout space and classrooms. They’ve also returned to Venezuela, in lieu of a second Dominican squad. Both moves should signal to prospects how seriously the Cubs take player development.

Soler is just one of more than 60 players covered in Vine Line’s annual Minor League Prospectus, which hits newsstands in February, with single issues available by calling 800-618-8377. It’s an exhaustive rundown, perfect for Spring Training and beyond.

OF | JORGE SOLER
Ht./Wt.: 6-3/205
B/T: R/R
Born: 2/25/92 in Havana, Cuba
Acquired: 2012 NDFA
Tools: Power, Arm, Speed
2012 STATS (R): .241/.328/.389 (14 G); (LoA): .338/.398/.513 (20)

Baseball people don’t often throw around 80s—as in “elite” on the 20-80 scouting scale—so it shouldn’t be taken lightly when McLeod slaps that grade on Soler’s raw power. Think Giancarlo Stanton in the tape-measure home run department. Soler pairs that with an impressive approach at the plate, which allowed him to excel at low Class-A Peoria. Soler profiles perfectly for right field, where he runs well and has a plus arm. It’s still early, so Cubs brass will hold their breath and hope the skills he’s shown hold up as he faces tougher pitching. Soler will be just 21 this season, but the Cubs aren’t going to be conservative with him—he’ll move as he proves he’s ready.

*Slash line includes AVG/OBP/SLG


Other players featured in this section: Infielder Frandy De La Rosa, outfielder Yasiel Balaguert, and pitchers Juan Carlos Paniagua and Gerardo Concepcion

Sean Ahmed

Prospectus Preview: 2012 Trades/Claims, Barret Loux

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(Photo by Alex Yocum-Beeman/Frisco RoughRiders)

Other Prospectus Previews: 

• Down the Pipeline / Jeimer Candelario

Close to the Majors / Nick Struck


Are you a pitcher? Do you have an electric arm or good peripheral statistics? Do you have a top-round pedigree but were pushed off the 40-man roster while you rehab from Tommy John or shoulder surgery?

Congrats, you’ve probably been scouted—or already acquired—by the Cubs.

It’s a joke the front office makes about itself, as the first year-plus of the Epstein/Hoyer/McLeod Era has proved the Cubs will acquire arms any way they can. Arodys Vizcaino and Hector Rondon could turn out to be steals if they end up as starters, though they’d also have plenty of utility as back-end relievers. Meanwhile, Barret Loux and Carlos Gutierrez are former first-rounders who have undergone shoulder surgeries. Of course, this list doesn’t include veterans like Scott Baker, who the Cubs hope will be a starting rotation bargain in his comeback from elbow reconstruction.

Loux is just one of more than 60 players covered in Vine Line’s annual Minor League Prospectus, which hits newsstands in February, with single issues available by calling 800-618-8377. It’s a perfect guide for Spring Training and beyond.

P | BARRET LOUX
Ht./Wt.: 6-5/215
B/T: R/R
Born: 4/6/89 in Houston, Texas
Acquired: 2012 Trade (TEX for G. Soto)
Tools: Pitchability, Slider
2012 STATS (AA): 3.47 ERA, 127.0 IP, 120 H, 41 BB, 100 K

From sixth-overall pick to unsigned free agent, it’s hard to imagine a more chaotic summer than Loux’s in 2010. The Diamondbacks declined to sign the Texas A&M ace after a physical uncovered a torn labrum. He’s since had two successful seasons with the Rangers, including a 2012 campaign that earned him Double-A Texas League Player of the Year honors. He is a four-pitch guy with an 89-93 mph fastball and a slider that is probably his best out pitch. He’s likely more of an innings-eating depth guy, as his stuff rates average across the board.


Other players featured in this section: Infielder Christian Villanueva; Pitchers Arodys Vizcaino, Hunter Cervenka and Hector Rondon.

Plus, tidbits on RHP Marcelo Carreño, RHP Carlos Gutierrez, RHP Kyle Hendricks and RHP Jaye Chapman.

Sean Ahmed

Prospectus Preview: Close to the Majors, Nick Struck

Struck,-Nick-4

Other Prospectus Previews: Down the Pipeline/Jeimer Candelario

Who wants it? That’s the question being asked in the system’s upper levels, where opportunity knocks.

It was just one year ago that Triple-A hosted the system’s most exciting lineup—featuring Anthony Rizzo, Welington Castillo, Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters. The first two already have established themselves as big league starters, while Jackson and Vitters both got crash courses in what they need to do to stick. Lump in toolsy Junior Lake, and there’s still a trio of capable prospects who should make a push for Chicago this year.

But for all the promise at the plate, it’s the dearth of ready impact arms that has received the most focus. That’s why the front office recently debated whether to try Alberto Cabrera as a starter again, after a career year in relief. The development team saw the makings of a good secondary arsenal, and he’d be a power starter (something every organization covets) if it’s there. Whether it’s Robert Whitenack, Matt Loosen or some of the other intriguing arms in the system, everybody wants to know who will break out and answer the call.

At last weekend’s Cubs Convention, Assistant General Manager Randy Bush identified Nick Struck as a pitcher Chicago fans should keep an eye on. Struck is just one of more than 60 players covered in Vine Line’s annual Minor League Prospectus. The issue will hit newsstands in February, with single issues are available by calling 800-618-8377. It’s an exhaustive rundown, perfect for Spring Training and beyond.

P | NICK STRUCK
Ht./Wt.: 5-11/185
B/T: R/R
Born: 10/7/89 in Damascus, Ore.
Acquired: 2009 Draft (39)
Tools: Pitchability, Fastball
2012 STATS (Double-A): 3.18 ERA, 155.2 IP, 140 H, 44 BB, 123 K

Struck, the Cubs’ 2012 Minor League Pitcher of the Year, doesn’t have big stuff but pitches like he does, to paraphrase McLeod’s end-of-season report. Struck’s ultra-competitive approach helped him put together a phenomenal 155-inning year at Tennessee. He stands only 5-foot-11 but is big, strong and durable. His fastball touches 92 mph with heavy movement, and he’s not afraid of contact. He also mixes in a change-up and slider. A former 39th-round pick, Struck provides starting depth, though his best role may be as a swingman who can spot start or eat a couple of innings at a time from the bullpen.


Other players featured in this section: Infielders Junior Lake, Logan Watkins and Josh Vitters; outfielders Brett Jackson and Matt Szczur; and pitchers Alberto Cabrera, Trey McNutt, Brooks Raley, Rob Whitenack and Tony Zych.

Plus, tidbits on LHP Frank Del Valle, IF Justin Bour, OF Jae-Hoon Ha, LHP Austin Kirk, LHP Chris Rusin, RHP Marcus Hatley, RHP Dallas Beeler and RHP Matt Loosen.

Sean Ahmed

Prospectus Preview: Down the Pipeline, Jeimer Candelario

Jeimer-Candelario-makes-throw

(Photo courtesy Boise Hawks)

The Cubs front office—and Midwest fans of the team—already are planning to wear out their odometers on day trips this spring. Located about an hour west of Wrigley Field, the Class-A Kane County Cougars will feature a host of legit prospects, many of whom starred for the ultra-exciting Boise Hawks last summer.

One player expected to start there is Jeimer Candelario, just one of more than 60 players covered in Vine Line’s annual Minor League Prospectus. The issue will hit newsstands in February, and single issues are available by calling 800-618-8377. It’s an exhaustive rundown, perfect for Spring Training and beyond. And if you’re heading to the Cubs Convention this weekend, make sure to stop by the Down on the Farm panel Sunday at 9 a.m., hosted by broadcaster Dave Otto and Vine Line Managing Editor Gary Cohen.

IF | JEIMER CANDELARIO
Ht./Wt.: 6-1/180
B/T: S/R
Born: 11/24/93 in New York, N.Y.
Acquired: 2010 Non-Drafted Free Agent
Tools: HIT, POW
2012 STATS (Short-Season): .281 AVG/.345 OBP/.396 SLG (71 G)

Barely the age of the typical high school draft pick, the 18-year-old Candelario held his own against college-age competition in the Northwest League. He’s a big-framed, stocky kid who can really swing the stick, and he has a chance to be a special hitter. If you’re willing to spare the expectations, he’s a bit like Pablo Sandoval in that he’s a switch-hitter who hits for average, has man strength and will try to stick at third base. But Candelario’s defense needs work, as he battled inconsistency in the field for the Boise Hawks. Most promising may be his surprisingly advanced plate approach. He plays the game under control and with a real rhythm to his work in batting practice. He’s one to keep an eye on in his first year of full-season ball. 


Other players featured in this section: Infielders Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara, Gioskar Amaya, Marco Hernandez and Dan Vogelbach; catcher Wilson Contreras; outfielder Trey Martin; and pitchers Dillon Maples and Ben Wells.

Plus, tidbits on IF Ronald Torreyes, RHP Jose Rosario, RHP Austin Reed, IF Carlos Penalver, RHP Tayler Scott, RHP Michael Jensen, OF Jeffrey Baez, IF Zeke DeVoss and OF Pin-Chieh Chen.

Sean Ahmed

Farm Report: Tennessee’s Jackson makes it two

With a 2-1 Smokies win over the Montgomery Biscuits on Tuesday, outfielder Brett Jackson continued to prove why he is one of the Cubs’ top prospects. Both of the Smokies’ runs came from solo homers by the 2009 first-round pick.

The 6-foot-2 Jackson struck the first time in the top of the third, tying the game at 1-1 on a two-out home run to right-center off of Shane Dyer. But both teams were unable to come through with any more timely hits, and the game went into extras.

In the top of the 10th, Jackson hit his second off of Zach Quate, and Jeff Stevens shut out the Biscuits in the bottom of the frame to close the win.

While he hasn’t yet made his major league debut, Jackson is on track to make an appearance in the Wrigley outfield, perhaps by the time rosters expand in September. Here’s what our annual Minor League Prospectus had to say about Jackson, who also was featured on the cover:

“Most observers predict it won’t be long before Jackson patrols centerfield at Wrigley. His plus speed allowed him to steal 30 bags between high A and Double A, and he showed above-average power with 12 homers, 66 RBIs and 32 doubles. His strikeout numbers (126) are offset by a keen eye (73 walks). Though Jackson bowed out of the Arizona Fall League due to a staph infection, he should be fine by spring training.”

Brett Jackson career stats:

Yr Age Tm Lev G PA R 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG
09 20 3 Teams A-A–Rk 53 249 50 6 3 8 36 13 2 31 56 .318 .418 .488
09 20 Cubs Rk 3 15 6 0 1 0 4 0 0 3 4 .455 .533 .636
09 20 Boise A- 24 106 14 1 1 1 15 2 1 17 20 .330 .443 .398
09 20 Peoria A 26 128 30 5 1 7 17 11 1 11 32 .295 .383 .545
10 21 2 Teams A+-AA 128 580 103 32 14 12 66 30 11 73 126 .297 .395 .493
10 21 Daytona A+ 67 312 56 19 8 6 38 12 7 43 63 .316 .420 .517
10 21 Tennessee AA 61 268 47 13 6 6 28 18 4 30 63 .276 .366 .465
11 22 Tennessee AA 62 271 43 10 3 10 32 14 6 42 69 .265 .383 .471
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/7/2011.

Farm Report: Peoria’s Kirk tosses no-hitter

Players and fans of the Peoria Chiefs, the Chicago Cubs’ Class A affiliate, had more to celebrate on the Fourth of July than the country’s birthday—left-hander Austin Kirk pitched the eighth no-hitter in Chiefs franchise history in a 2-0 win over the Clinton LumberKings.

The 21-year-old struck out 10 and walked only two on his way to the first complete-game no-no for the Chiefs since 1988.

Here’s what our Minor League Prospectus, issued every February in Vine Line, had to say about Kirk in 2010:

“Polite to a fault, scouts love Kirk’s makeup but love his upside even more. His heavy fastball sits in the 88-91 range, and he pairs it with an above-average change-up. His curve also has potential. Kirk has a strong, durable frame with good strength in his legs and core. His fastball is explosive, and he locates it well at the bottom of the zone.”

Besides making an impact on the mound, Kirk already proved to be a winning personality off the field—even before the Cubs selected him in the third round of the 2009 draft. That same summer, when Kirk’s high school baseball team, the Owasso (Okla.) Rams, was making a run for the 6A state championship, Kirk and several teammates visited Odis McCormick, a longtime fan that had become too sick to attend games. Kirk and his teammates presented McCormick with one of Kirk’s old jerseys and a ball signed by the whole team. (more…)

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