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We’re nearing the end of the preseason prospect rankings season (can you use season twice in a sentence like that?), but there’s yet another list to discuss.

MLB.com, courtesy of Ismail Soyugenc, offers its top 20 Chicago Cubs prospects, after previously revealing its top 100 overall prospects. The top 20 look like this:

1. Anthony Rizzo, 1B

2. Brett Jackson, OF

3. Javier Baez, SS

4. Matt Szczur, OF

5. Chris Carpenter, RP

6. Dillon Maples, SP

7. Trey McNutt, SP

8. Rafael Dolis, RP

9. Robert Whitenack, SP

10. Reggie Golden, OF

11. Junior Lake, SS

12. Josh Vitters, 3B

13. Ronald Torreyes, 2B

14. Ben Wells, SP

15. Dan Vogelbach, 1B

16. Jeimer Candelario, 3B

17. Gioskar Amaya, IF

18. Marco Hernandez, SS

19. Dave Sappelt, OF

20. Pin-Chieh Chen, OF

You could probably take issue with Rizzo being on top of Jackson (after all, they were switched in the top 100), but everyone considers them very close. Whitenack seems higher than on most lists (but I do like him), as does Carpenter. The order varies, but these tend to be most of the same 20 guys you see on other lists. Then again, with the depth of the Cubs’ system, you could make an argument that guys 21 through 30 could just as easily be 11 through 20.

Soyugenc also offers a writeup on the Cubs’ system, going over some common themes. Of particular note, he’s got a predicted hitter and pitcher of the year, with the former going to Baez, and the latter going to Wells.

On Baez:

Baez has as pure a swing as there is in the organization, and he’ll get a chance to prove it in his first full year in pro ball. He gets overaggressive at times, but he’s only 19, and his plus bat speed should enable him to hit for average and power. He won’t be rushed, which means he’ll definitely be in the Minors the full year, something that can’t be said for the Cubs’ other top position prospects.

On Wells:

If right-hander Ben Wells can make it to Wrigley one day, his repertoire should play well there, as he has a sinking mid-90s fastball that’s very difficult to lift. At 6-foot-2, and 220 pounds, Wells’ frame belies his being only 19. He’s got good command and knows how to pitch, and he could move fast in a system devoid of top-flight arms at the upper levels.

It all makes for an interesting read and discussion piece, particularly knowing that we’re approaching Spring – when we’ll actually get to see some of these kids in action.

  • Hrubes20

    If only the Red Sox would look at this list and thus consider Chris Carpenter to be the “substantial” compensation for Theo. I have no idea why people could put him so high in a list. He’s not top 20 for me. 100 mph fastball? Terrific. But it has little movement and he can’t throw strikes with it. A slider that is inconsistent? Not so great at all. A borderline average changeup? Yuck.

    Granted, I’m lower on minor league relievers than most. But I’m even lower on minor league relievers that 1. Can’t throw strikes; 2. Are already 26 years old; and 3. Already have significant injury histories.

  • Dougy D

    I would also be fine with them getting Crapenter. I don’t think he should be ranked so highly either. Maybe this is the Empire’s move to make it look like the Red Sox get a highly ranked prospect by giving them Crapenter.

    • http://aeonimaging.com Cubbie Blues

      It would still set a president for giving a high ranked prospect. The consequences would be drastic for years down the line for small clubs. Maybe we should actually want those consequences since we are a big market and could start stocking up on all the up and comers. Theo and company could start using the same logic as this off season. Get a lot of smart kids in the organization and see who sticks.

  • http://www.obstructedview.net/ mb21 (David Mick)

    I don’t understand how Rizzo could possibly be higher than Jackson. First, as you mentioned, he’s lower in the top 100 and rightfully so. Jackson plays a premium defensive position while Rizzo is at the other end of the spectrum. Jackson, if his defensive skills decline, could move to LF/RF. When they decline later on in his career he can move to 1st base and then DH. Rizzo, though, would move to DH. Each have similar career OPS’s in the minors. Rizzo is younger so give him the advantage at the plate. Not much of one, but some. Yet despite that, all of the projections have Jackson projected as the better hitter.

    If we get into a WAR projection the difference becomes huge. I recently took a look at this. If Jackson had a .325 wOBA (league average) Rizzo would need about a .350 wOBA just to have a similar WAR as Jackson. There’s no reason to think he’s that much better a hitter and in fact he may be worse.

    To me, this is an example of where scouts and prospect rankings go wrong. They’re comparing the two as if they play the same position. They’d never do this with pitchers. Imagine two 3.0 ERA pitchers. One of them is a starter and the other a reliever. Obviously the starter will be ranked much higher. They understand the difference between positions when it comes to pitching, but still don’t understand it when it comes to position players.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Agreed on the principle. What I wonder is whether the guy who came up with this list has a problem with Jackson’s K-rate, and thinks Rizzo is going to be a monster offensively.

      • http://www.obstructedview.net/ mb21 (David Mick)

        Jackson’s K-rate is troubling. I remember reading some research not long ago that showed that prospects who strikeout a lot fail more frequently. Then again, you could look at walk rate and you’d find that prospects who walk a lot fail less often so it can be looked at in multiple ways. I don’t think Jackson is going to have a batting average much over .260 unless he cuts down on the strikeouts. His BABIP would have to be unusually high for that to happen, but I also think we’ll see him with an OBP nearly 100 points higher than his average.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Yeah, I read a piece that listed a bunch of players (good, bad, average) by their minor league K-rates. Jackson’s put him on the high end of guys who were still able to become Major League regulars. Almost no stars (in fact, it might have been none) had a K-rate as high as Jackson’s. It was a Hardball Times piece, I think. Can’t remember exactly.

          • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

            Fangraphs had a similar article sometime last summer that I cannot find anymore. Basically it said anyone with a K rate above 20% and a BB rate below 10% would not be very likely to stick in the bigs. Even when you have a BB rate above 10% you need to be hitting a few more homers than your K rate (K rate of 20-25% needs 25-30 homers a year).
            It is this reason I am not high on Junior Lake at all. Low BB rate and a high K rate means that he will need to be hitting 30+ homers a year to be successful.

        • Stan

          So, for relative purposes only, you’re saying I can compare Brett Jackson’s future projections to a less-powerful Curtis Granderson?

      • JulioZuleta

        If I had to choose, I’d take Rizzo, but it’s close. I really think that people, whether they realize it or not, are putting too much stock into his struggles upon being called up. I know it was the PCL, but look at those numbers, and for a 22 year old who missed a whole year of development when he was sick. Jackson strikes out an awful lot. I like him a lot, but his tools are all good, none great, and I’m not sure if that will be enough to make up for what is likely to be a very high K-rate.

        • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

          I think Jackson’s AA line is about what you will see out of him 6 years out of 10 – .266/.370/.454 with the OBP probably 15-20 points lower. While he K’s at a terrible rate, he also walks at an insane 13%. That to me, suggests that he is overly patient at the plate and a dose of the Jaramillo School of Hitting might do him some good. Also, between AA and AAA he is on pace for 20 homers over 650 PA’s, not ideal considering his K rate but combined with the BB rate I think it helps mitigate it to some degree.

          He will most likely not make the Hall of Fame but an All-Star game or two (even factoring out the 1 player from every team rule) is not out of the question.

          • KCubsfan

            Jackson will make adjustment at the ML level and has at ever level he has been at. Vitters has not made adjustment really at any level. Jackson also brings soon much more to the table speed, golve and ability to get on base. Jackson averages about 67 BB in the minors per season he also averages 106 Ks per season. He will most likely be a .270/365/450 player with over a 115 Ks. Thats still a pretty good player. Lets look at Vitters going off what I did with Jackson Vitters is a .255/299/417 that a bench player.

  • Jay Anderson Jr

    Rizzo is more known and more celebrated in baseball circles than is Jackson. We know about him because we are Cubs fans, but most people don’t. Here in N.C., when talking baseball at the bars, most people have no idea who Jackson is, but some know who Rizzo is. Jackson, IMHO, is by far and away the better prospect and a sure bet to atleast be successful. Rizzo has more upside though. Meaning Jackson has the potential to be a star, but will certainly be a good player either way, Rizzo could potentially he the best 1B in baseball one day, but he could also be a bust and never get that swing to work. Advantage Jackson.

  • KCubsfan

    Move Vitters and Lake into the 19 and 20 and shift everyone else down and you haved my top 20 for the Cubs.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      You really don’t like them…

    • Jay Anderson Jr

      How can you not like Lakes potential. He still needs a true position, but his ceiling is pretty high. He may be better then Cespedes, for instance, one day. Vitters is good, just not great. while he never reach his expected star status, he will atleast be decent. Every organization needs guys like that.

      • DocWimsey

        One thing Cespedes did that nether Lake nor Vitters have done is work counts and take walks. Guys who work counts have much higher batting averages (and especially higher slugging) on batted balls than do guys who do not work counts. Now, whether Cespedes will continue to do this in miLB and MLB remains to be seen: but at least we know that he can.

        • Jay Anderson Jr

          Cespedes has had time to learn that, lake and Vitters will too. They are 21 and 22. cespedes is 47, he has had time to develop. LMAO.

          • DocWimsey

            This is not a skill that players learn: it is a basic tool. Cespedes stats show that he was working counts by age 18: His isoD was 0.08. That has been typical of his career, and that is common of baseball players.

      • KCubsfan

        Lake and Vitters have terrible approaches at the plate. Defensively they are not going to play where they are being evalulated right now, because they are terrible in those positions. Lake is getting bigger and losing foot speed and isnt a good enough base runner to make up that difference so, his speed will quickly be less of a factor. They are non factor in the big scheme of things.

      • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

        23% K rate vs. a 5.5% BB rate. He would be the Presidential candidate of the Strikeouts Are Too Damn Many party.

        While Vitters doesn’t walk much, he also doesn’t K much either, 15%. Additionally, his BB rate has been trending up.

        I don’t think either has much chance of having long MLB careers.

  • http://CubbiesCrib.com Luke

    Carpenter is way too high. I like the Whitenack rating. Not sure how Chen made the list while DeVoss didn’t… but then I have DeVoss in the low teens. I’m also surprised that Wells got on the list and not Rhee or Beeler.

    I like Wells, but not as much as everyone else seems to. I think he’s a major league starter in the making, but right now I’d take Liria or Wang over him.

    One guy who isn’t being talked about that we shouldn’t lose track of is Austin Reed. On the surface his Boise numbers were not good, but when factoring in his GO/AO and his ability to get the strikeout, I think he’s a breakout candidate. Hopefully he can sneak into Peoria’s opening day rotation, but that will be no small task.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Aaron Kurcz, too.

      • http://CubbiesCrib.com Luke

        I think Kurcz was in the Cubs Top 30 by BA last year, and he really didn’t do anything to fall off the list. It’s that whole depth thing again.

  • die hard

    Good selection to choose from for Sept call-ups…Selig—keep your hands off these guys when deciding comp!!!

    • Smitty

      I actually agree with Die Hard on something. Selig don’t be the Emperor by sending Lake for Compensation…be Anakin Skywalker looking for forgiveness from Luke by sending the ghost of Bobby Hill and some cash. Don’t set a precident that could cripple small markets in the future!

  • JulioZuleta

    Big omissions: Rhee and Castillo. I’m not a huge Castillo guy, but he was as high as 3 on some lists.

    • EQ76

      and Conception would probably need to be in there somewhere.

  • Alex

    Keith Law had the Cubs ranked 20th in his organizational rankings. Wow.. I thought the Cubs would have been at least in the top half of MLB.

    • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

      Law is terribly pessimistic on the Cubs system. I really avoid him at most costs.

  • JulioZuleta

    I’m officially pumped for the year, I’m passing Wrigley on the Red Line now, always gets my blood flowing. So many young guys on the Cubs and at the low levels, it’s gonna be a lot of fun. I think there are 10-15 guys not on this list that could nudge into the top ten next year

    • JulioZuleta

      In between the rooftop buildings i saw some machinery and yellow tape by the bleachers. Definitely doing some work.

      • die hard

        Condos for high roller season ticket holders

        • JulioZuleta

          ….Hate to burst your bubble, but it is the bleachers remodeling…

          • die hard

            well its for the high rollers and will probably be equivalent to a decent city condo as to amenities…ergo…

    • Sweetjamesjones

      I love that feeling. I get goosebumps. Ha.

  • steve

    Just remember folks

    Felix Pie
    Kevin Orie
    Tyler Colvin
    Ryan Harvey
    Ben Christianson
    Luis Montanez

    Their called “prospects” for a reason. If Rizzo ends up a bust I might just jump into the Chattahoochie.

    • Kyle

      It’s good to remember that not all prospects pan out.

      But we don’t have to just throw up our hands and say “well, all prospects are prospects and that’s that.”

      There’s a lot of ways we can measure how likely they are to succeed in the big leagues. Not all prospects are created equal.

      On that list, the only one whose lack of success surprises me is Pie. He really looked poised to grow into a legit MLBer, but at age 21/22ish he just stopped getting better. He stayed right at that same ability level for the rest of his career.

      Kevin Orie was a lot better than he was being given credit for at the time, and I blame a dumb Cubs organization for giving up on him. His terrible 1998 that derailed his career came with a .237 BABIP. A smart organization would have seen that for what it was: bad luck. If he had come up to the big leagues a decade later, when organizations were much smarter, he probably would have stuck in the bigs.

      Colvin and Harvey were tools-heavy athletes that the Cubs foolishly thought they could teach baseball skills to.

      Luis Montanez was a cheap draftee by the Cubs. They didn’t want to pay the top talent that year a big signing bonus and went with a cheaper sign but weaker talent. He was never a really highly regarded prospect, only briefly flirting with the top-100 lists. He fell into that vast wasteland of AAA infielders who can’t quite hit enough to play the corners and aren’t quite good enough defensively to justify their bat in the middle infield.

      If a guy has strong statistical success in the upper minors, he is pretty much a sure bet to be a productive major leaguer. As much as a produtive MLBer is, anyway. Anthony Rizzo may not be as good as we hope, but he’ll produce at least something in the big leagues unless he gets hurt.

      • Steve

        Wow Kyle, that was extremely insightful, and chocked (love that word) full of solid info that I was too lazy to even consider looking up. Thanks!
        I agree with you unreservedly.

      • Cedlandrum

        Luis Montanez wasn’t actually a reach. The draft was awful that year. Only 3 of the top 30 players ever became all stars. Plus he signed for 2.75 million. This years number 3 signed for 3.4 million. 11 years lots of inflation, but not a huge difference.

        One thing to note is that Luis was a high school all- american and that he was thought of as the best SS in the draft. He was then named top prospect in Rk ball that year. Then in pre 2001 top 100 he came in at 73 which wasn’t bad for a guy who was just 19.

        So to say he was signed on the cheap and was a reach is just not true.

        6 Cubs were on that list… Patterson was number 2

        • Kyle

          http://www.mymlbdraft.com/2011-mlb-draft-signings-and-bonuses/

          This year’s No. 3 signed for $4.45 million, and that was on a short-term 4-year MLB deal. (Meaning he took less money in order to get the MLB deal, which sets his salary floor high enough that he’ll be making more in his pre-arb years). And that was only the 7th most guaranteed money of the first round.

          I guess “signability” pick isn’t the best way of putting it. He certainly wasn’t the best player on the board, but he wasn’t a huge reach. I’m going off memory here, which can always be inaccurate, but I remember there were several players in that draft who got or commanded more money, and I was hoping the Cubs would take one of them. I know Matt Harrington was one of them.

          • Cedlandrum

            You are right about the money they got this year I don’t know what I was looking at. As for him not being the best player on the board, Matt Harrington was by some projected to be the number 1 pick, but he dropped all the way to 7th and then he still didn’t sign. He was drafted 5 times and didn’t sign any of them. So you know.

        • npnovak

          maybe scouting was especially bad that year? look at how many players drafted 4th round and on became all-stars

      • DocWimsey

        You are dead-on about Orie and how the Cubs mishandled him. He basically should have been a slightly watered-down right-handed Mark Grace: a 0.280/0.380/0.480 kind of guy. Of course, we all know that the Cubs did not value walks at that time and they made some foolish decisions based on tiny sample sizes.

        In a way, Orie was the anti-Colvin. One got off to a “hot” start, the other got off to a “cold” start. The “hot” start regressed to his actual playing ability whereas the “cold-start” was written off immediately and never got a real chance to regress to his actual playing ability.

        (Of course, memories of Gary Scott were fresh in the organization’s mind: that didn’t help, I’m sure….)

  • rbreeze

    Don’t forget about Corey Patterson!!!  Rizzo has to have something special if Hoyer took him from Boston and then back again from the Padres.  He’s only 21 and a couple of years off of a battle with cancer.  I hope that both Jackson and Rizzo are starters sometime during this coming season.

  • Edwin

    Soyugenc sounds a little optimistic about Wells, but mentioning how his sinker would play well in Wrigley got me thinking. Is there anything inparticular about Wrigley field which would lead the Cubs to favor certain player traits over others? For example, since left-handed hitters do well in Wrigley, should the Cubs make it a priority to have more left-handed pitching in the starting rotation to counter with? What types of players fit Wrigley the best? Obviously talent plays a huge part, as I’d rather have Roy Halladay than Ted Lilly any day, and maybe when adding in road games the difference washes out anyways. I’m just curious to know if there might be players that may be undervalued by the market, but which might fit better into Wrigley field.

  • steve

    Would it be too much to ask, as a Cub fan, for Rizzo AND Jackson to be successful?? TBA…

  • coby

    Where would you rank Gerardo Concepcion on this list?

  • John Durbin

    One thing that i just dont understand as fans is how we sit here and just rip our own prospects. I think different people are going to rank different people in certain ways. Based on past preformances and potential. I dont really care who ranks where or who thinks who is better. Lets step back and just congratulate the guys and see how they play. Lets remmeber we are CUBS fans… Dont knock a guy because you think his past isn’t that great. All of these guys are 100% better baseball players/athletes then we are (us guys sitting on the computer reading baseball blogs!!) …. It is a true testament for these guys just to get here…. If we want to rip Cardinals prospects SO BE IT… I actually encourage it… but when it comes to OUR prospects …. give them props and hope for a successful year. All of these guys know what they are weak on and I know they are all working in those areas..

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