Baseball Prospectus Names its Top 20 Cubs Prospects for 2012

In a Thanksgiving treat for Chicago Cubs fans, Baseball Prospectus released its Top 20 Cubs prospects list for free to everyone, including a scouting report on the top 11 prospects.

The prospects ranked thusly:

Five-Star Prospects

1. Brett Jackson, OF

Four-Star Prospects

2. Javier Baez, SS

Three-Star Prospects

3. Welington Castillo, C

4. Dillon Maples, RHP

5. Matt Szczur, OF

6. Josh Vitters, 3B

7. Jeimer Candelario, 3B

8. Trey McNutt, RHP

9. Marco Hernandez, SS

Two-Star Prospects

10. Junior Lake, SS/3B

11. Rafael Dolis, RHP

Sub-Two-Star Prospects

12. Dan Vogelbach, 1B

13. Jae-Hoon Ha, OF

14. Chris Carpenter, RHP

15. Tony Zych, RHP

16. Ryan Flaherty, IF/OF

17. D.J. LeMahieu, IF

18. Zeke DeVoss, OF

19. Reggie Golden, OF

20. Marwin Gonzalez, IF

It’s hard to quibble with too many of the rankings – you could make a case that Castillo is a touch high, Golden a touch low, and a number of pitchers surprisingly excluded (Chris Rusin, Ben Wells, Nick Struck, Aaron Kurcz, Larry Suarez, among many, many others). In a system like the Cubs’, where there are a clear top handful of prospects, and then 30 after them who could be ranked in almost any order, you’re picking nits if you say Jae-Hoon Ha should be two spots higher, or Rafael Dolis two spots lower.

Indeed, that is part of Kevin Goldstein’s overall take on the system, who notes that “it’s not a bad system by any measurement, but it has far more depth than star power.”

The article is highly recommended for the scouting reports on each of the top 11 players, but here are some of the more notable bits from the scouting reports on some of the younger guys you might not know as well:

2. Javier Baez, SS

DOB: 12/1/92

Height/Weight: 6-0/180

Bats/Throws: R/R

2011 Stats: .333/.333/.500 at Rookie (3 G), .167/.167/.167 at Low A (2 G)

Tools Profile: He has outstanding offensive potential, but he’s not a pure athlete

Year in Review: Baez, who was considered to be the best pure high school hitter in the draft, went ninth overall and earned a $2.625 million bonus.

The Good: Baez can flat-out rake. He has blinding bat speed, excellent hand-eye coordination, and projects for average to plus power as he learns how to drive balls. He has solid defensive fundamentals for his age, and his arm is more than enough for the left side of the infield.

The Bad: Baez is not the kind of athlete one normally sees at shortstop. He’s an average runner at best and not especially quick, leaving most to believe he’ll move to third base early in his development. Some describe his play as “out of control,” and he’ll need to develop a big-league approach at the plate. One scout noted that he rarely took pitches—even bad ones—in high school.

Perfect World Projection: He’s an excellent hitter, but chances are good he’ll end up at a less prominent position.

Path to the Big Leagues: Baez will make his full-season debut at Low-A Peoria.

ETA: 2015

4. Dillon Maples, RHP

DOB: 5/9/92

Height/Weight: 6-2/195

Bats/Throws: R/R

2011 Stats: N/A

Tools Profile: This teenage righty has athleticism and upside.

Year in Review: Maples was seen by many as an impossible sign due to his college commitment, but the Cubs shocked the industry by giving $2.5 million to their 14th-round pick.

The Good: Maples’ upside as a starter is unmatched in the system. He already pitches in the low- to mid-90s with natural movement, and scouts think there could be more in him with some professional instruction. His power breaking ball was one of the best among prep arms in the draft. If he attended college, this very athletic pitcher would have also played football.

The Bad: Maples barely has a changeup; he simply never needed the pitch as an amateur. His delivery isn’t exactly pretty, but the arm works and he throws strikes. More than anything, he just needs innings and the experience to learn how to make adjustments.

Perfect World Projection: He could be an above-average big-league starter.

Path to the Big Leagues: This spring, Maples will try to convince management that he’s ready for a full-season assignment.

ETA: 2015

7. Jeimer Candelario, 3B

DOB: 11/24/93

Height/Weight: 6-1/180

Bats/Throws: S/R

2011 Stats: .337/.443/.478 in Dominican Summer League (72 G)

Tools Profile: Candelario has a fantastic combination of pure hitting ability and offensive polish.

Year in Review: This Dominican signee was among the most impressive players in the Dominican Summer League in terms of both numbers and scouting reports.

The Good: Candelario has significant offensive potential. He earns raves for his highly-polished approach, and is a switch-hitter with power potential to all fields and a knack for consistent hard contact. He’s a solid runner with the tools to become an average first baseman.

The Bad: Candelario’s swing works much better from the left side; his power is reduced greatly with his contact-based swing against lefties. He’s still messy defensively, and there are worries that he could be forced to first base or left field should he fill out and slow down.

Perfect World Projection: He could be a middle-of-the-order run producer.

Path to the Big Leagues: Candelario will likely spend the spring adjusting to playing in the United States, then play in a short-season league. His upside is tremendous, but he’s eons away.

ETA: 2016

9. Marco Hernandez, SS

DOB: 9/6/92

Height/Weight: 6-0/170

Bats/Throws: L/R

2011 Stats: .333/.375/.486 at Rookie (51 G)

Tools Profile: He’s a legitimate shortstop with some hitting ability.

Year in Review: This Dominican teenager put up big numbers in his stateside debut.

The Good: Hernandez is a true shortstop with above-average speed, quick reactions, range to both sides, and a strong arm. He’s a switch-hitter with a line-drive swing from both sides, and has shown the occasional ability to drive one into the gap.

The Bad: Hernandez does not have a projectable frame, so he’ll never develop much in the way of power. He needs to improve his on-base skills to avoid being relegated to the end of a lineup. Hernandez needs to slow the game down defensively, as he’s prone to errors on routine ground balls when he rushes the play.

Perfect World Projection: He’s an everyday shortstop, and there aren’t 30 of those in the big leagues.

Path to the Big Leagues: Hernandez will compete for a full-season gig this spring, but he’ll likely play for short-season Boise in 2012.

ETA: 2015

Again, the whole thing is worth a read if you’re even a little into the prospect game, but it’s interesting, at a minimum, to hear specifically about some of the younger guys about whom we usually hear generally. These kids are among the reasons the Cubs’ system is incredibly bottom-heavy.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

48 responses to “Baseball Prospectus Names its Top 20 Cubs Prospects for 2012”

  1. Matt

    The thing that’s interesting about Castillo is that Goldstein wasn’t terribly high on him earlier in the year. He said that the surprisingly high ranking came after talking to a broad cross-section of scouts, which he does for all of the teams’ rankings. If Castillo can step in, it’d be nice to get a decent piece or two for Soto and save a little $ , at the same time.

  2. Oswego Chris

    Great read, unfortunately probably a bit too realistic for most of us Cub fans.  I think (and Brett has alluded to this in the past) one of the mistakes of the Hendry regime was rushing players.  Castillo sounds to me like the only hitter ready to compete in the big leagues.  All those people penciling in Brett Jackson in CF need to slow down.  I understand the whole “let the kids play” idea, but the flip side to that is if they can’t play you, lose them as a “prospect/potential trading chip”…what kind of MLB talent could the Cubs have gotten trading Felix Pie five years ago? 

    I think you need to let these hitters develop in the minors longerruntil they are just busting out….

    sounds to me that McNutt is a closer…

     

    1. Cheryl

      On some of these players that were drafted in July it would seem almost too soon for a read on any of them. Next July, when the next draft comes around, shouldn’t there be a more realistic assessment of them?

      1. Luke

        Depends on the player. With some of them we know what we’re getting. Vogelbach, for instance, is a patient and powerful bat. That’s about we can ever expect from Vogelbach, so its not too hard to assess him.

        On a guy like Maples, though, it is probably too soon to say much more than “good pitching prospect.” Even though Maples gets the press, he may not wind up being the best pitching prospect the Cubs signed (Jenson is awfully good himself). It’ll take a year or more before the Cubs know what they have.

        Really, like in most aspects of the prospect evaluation game, you have to take it player by player. There aren’t all that many hard and fast rules we can stick to. Almost everything depends.

      2. BetterNews

        You have to hit the ground running as they say!

    2. BetterNews

      Oswego—See my reply to Brett, Holds the same to you.

  3. Cliffy

    Jemier Candelairo sounds like he is someone to keep close tabs on. He plays 3B, is it possible that he becomes the next Aramis Ramirez with out the negative baggage.

    1. Luke

      I hate writing about Candelario. I always promise myself I won’t hype this kid to the moon and back, and wind up sending him into orbit past Mars.

      That said, the degree of patience and amount of power he showed as a 17 year old is crazy. On paper, his understanding of the strike zone and his plate discipline are years ahead of were we would expect. We’ll see what happens when he starts facing tougher pitching, but if I had to compare him to any current Cub today, it would Castro. And the comparison would be in favor of Candelario. I don’t say that lightly.

      He is too far out just yet to get a solid read on his major league potential, but I’d not be surprised if he winds up similar to Ramirez, although I think he’ll have patience and a higher OBP.

      Candelario is one of the leading names to watch in 2012. The groundwork is there for a meteoric rise. Keeps your eye on him.

      1. Kyle

        He’s promising, but I think you’ve oversold him here. You can’t really tell a lot about a kid’s plate discipline from the DSL. The pitchers there can be so wild that a guy can sometimes draw a huge walk rate just by not swinging at wild pitches. Gaudy walk totals are not uncommon down there, and they frequently don’t translate to the States.

        I’m excited about the scouting reports on him and the fact that the Cubs may consider him ready to come to the states after his age 17 season. But I think a lot of Cubs fans have had their heads turned by the DSL slash line, and that just doesn’t mean anything at this point. The further you get from the majors, the less important stats are, and that’s eight steps down.

  4. Cliffy

    The Red Sox get a taste of their own medicine. (Being unrealistic) The Blue Jays wanted Clay Bucholtz in order to let John Farrell manage the Sox.

  5. Cliffy
  6. bacboris

    Hey, does anyone know when they are releasing the full text of the 2011-2015 cba agreement?

    I read on a couple of other sites about some interesting cap possibilities provided by not signing a first round pick; and over some blurred lines as to when the pool limitations begin for international signings. Maybe its just the lawyer in me, but I’m real interested to find out how much wiggle room Theo has for some maneuvering here.

    1. Cliffy

      Here’s your PDF file link for CBA agreement.

      http://mlbplayers.mlb.com/mlb/downloads/2011_CBA.pdf

      1. bacboris

        Cliffy,

        I appreciate it but this is the summary. Its also the best Ive been able to find which makes me think they haven’t released the full text agreement. I guess I’ll just have to keep an eye out.

        1. Cliffy

          I will keep my eye open for it. I spend most of the day on the net researching things.

          1. Sweetjamesjones

            Cliffy, im sure you have almost tracked down the cure for cancer as well.

            Is there nothing this man cant do? :)

          2. Luke

            I don’t think the legal language has been pushed through the lawyers yet. The deal has been agreed to, it just hasn’t been minced into incomprehensible legaleze. Once that is done the union will probably release a copy.

  7. funkster

    Goldstein CAN say nice things about Cubs’ prospects?!

  8. Cliffy

    Scouts and scouting are more crucial under new CBA, means we are in better shape than before. The Cubs may add even more staff in this area. They can’t afford to make the mistakes they’ve made in the past in this area.

    See link for story
    http://extreme.mobile.msn.com/sports/exclusives/article/1107840

  9. KB

    Brett or anyone who can answer this: why is it that the kids who need the MOST experience at playing baseball games, are relegated to “short-season” teams? What do they do when the rest of their peers are playing baseball? How can it be a negative for a strong, athletic 19 year old kid to play hundreds of ball games in a given year?

    1. Cliffy

      As an avid ex-golfer who played almost daily. Sometimes all I was doing was ingraining my mistakes into muscle memory. That may be the thinking in teaching baseball as well. Time off brings you back fresher and more receptive to being taught.

    2. Luke

      A lot of guys in short season leagues play there in the year they are drafted. That would be the ideal case.

      A lot more play there because they come into spring training out of shape. Reggie Golden, for instance, was said to be too out of shape in March to join a full season league, so he stayed in extended spring training until Boise began. I’m not sure how true that is, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all. That sort of thing happens quite a bit. High school players often seem to underestimate the degree of condition necessary to play a full season of baseball.

      And then there are guys who just need work on one skill or another. By staying in extended spring training, they can work primarily on their footwork as a third baseman, for instance, or adding another pitch to their arsenal.

      But in the Cubs system, one of the biggest reasons is that there are just too many prospects that the Cubs need to be playing. The Cubs really are that deep at the lower levels. Take Peoria last season, for example. Arismendy Alcantara, Elliot Soto, and Pierre LePage could all wind up with major league careers. None of them profile as stars, but all have the potential to play regularly or in a prime bench role in the majors. And they all played middle infield. The Chiefs had a hard time finding at bats for all three; there is no way they could have taken on another one (even though they tried to get Rubi Silva some time at second). That meant that somebody who probably could have started the year in Peoria had to stay in extended spring training and head to Boise instead.

  10. Cliffy

    QT @DivorceNews: Yu Darvish: Divorce could keep Darvish from being posted? – http://t.co/WPz7JseF http://t.co/w1KiF2Vx

  11. die hard

    What do experts know? Like handicapping horses, just guessing.

    Would last years team have done better under different mgr? How can we know if team is changed substantially? So to make sure it was all Quade’s fault , dont make many changes. This will also allow prospects one more year of minor league instruction which will hopefully be better under new regime.

    Cubs will be lean and mean in 2013.

    1. BetterNews

      I see a good 2012! Maybe we make the playoffs, maybe we don’t, but I see a much better record here BIGTIME. As far as being al Quades fault, nope! Scapegoat.

  12. JasonB

    Fangraphs came out with their top 15 today

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/top-15-prospects-chicago-cubs/

    No Candelerio, which was a touch surprising.  Seems to be the same general sentiment as BP – tough to rank because there is so much depth but not a lot of star potential.

    1. Luke

      A lot of scouts consider Candelario too young to rank. Jim Callis left him off his list for Baseball America for that reason.

      Once he’s put in a year in the US, I think we’ll see him appearing more frequently.

      They ranked Wells aggressively, but I think they are way too high on both Ha and Kirk, especially Kirk.

      1. JasonB

        Fair enough on Candelario – seems like he would have made a good ‘sleeper’ candidate then.

        I agree on Ha – just don’t see a skill set that makes him a starting OF in the bigs.  Not enough offense to play a corner, not enough defense to play CF.  To me, he’s meh…

        1. Luke

          I think he’s got the defense for center. He doesn’t have quite the speed of Szczur, but I think he could hold the position down.

          He strikes me as a very similar guy to Jackson, just not quite as good. Then again, he’s put together two pretty solid years now. He may be better than I think.

          I doubt it, but he may be.