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[Ed. – Bleacher Nation’s Minor League Editor Luke Blaize joins the team with an early take on some of the Cubs’ notable prospects … and their trade value.]

Prospects are a great commodity for a team to have, and not just for what they might do as a member of that team’s roster in the future. A good general manager knows that sometimes a prospect has more value in a trade than he ever will on the field. It isn’t always dependent on talent, either. For example, if Anthony Rizzo breaks out this season and solidifies himself as the Cubs’ long term answer at first base, then Dan Vogelbach is probably more valuable to teams lacking first base prospects than he is to the Cubs. If that happened, I would expect Vogelbach to be made available in trade down the road.

We saw an example of this thinking in the Matt Garza trade. The Cubs had a good young shortstop in the Majors, so Hak-Ju Lee was tradeable. They had two catchers with Major League potential who were both going to be in Triple A, so one of them (Robinson Chirinos) was tradeable. Both players were dealt to Tampa (along with a few others) for Garza.

It also makes sense to trade prospects when a particular position at a particular level is becoming very crowded. To use the Garza trade as an example again, trading Lee allowed the Cubs to free up some badly needed middle infield at bats at Double A. To give you an idea how crowded the Tennessee Smokies were at second and short last season, consider that D.J. LeMahieu now has a chance to be the Rockies starting second baseman, Ryan Flaherty was taken in the Rule 5 draft and has a great chance to stick with the Orioles, and Marwin Gonzalez was taken in the Rule 5 draft and has a great chance to stick with the Astros. The Smokies were loaded, and someone had to be traded to clear some at bats. That someone was Hak-Ju Lee, and the rest is history.

So, with all of that established, what players in the Cubs farm system are the most likely to be traded in the next twelve months? Here are the four names I think top the list.

Junior Lake

Scouts love five tool players, and Lake is one of the most toolsy. He also does not have an obvious position with the Cubs. Offensive oriented shortstop prospects are among the most valuable a team can have, and thanks to his AFL performance Lake’s value has never been higher. In this case, that value might be better used in a trade than as a part of the Cubs future. I expect to hear Lake’s name quite a bit in July.

Scott Maine

Hard throwing, left handed relievers are always valuable to any team, the Cubs included. In fact, as we saw in the Marshall trade, sometimes they can be valued so highly that a team can get a very nice haul in exchange for them. Maine, although he is no Marshall, is as ready for the Majors as a pitcher can be, but he will have a tough time cracking the Cubs’ bullpen. James Russell is locked in as one lefty, and Jeff Beliveau and John Gaub join Maine as young lefties looking for a break. One of those three could easily be moved, and I think Maine is the most likely. Like Lake, I expect to hear Maine mentioned as part of several potential packages in July.

Alberto Cabrera

Cabrera is one of those pitchers who is younger than a lot of fans seem to realize. He has struggled in Triple A, but alongside those struggles have been flashes of success. At this stage he is probably a bullpen arm. Unfortunately for Cabrera, the Cubs are crowded with bullpen arms who look more promising. Cabrera won’t be a big part of any trade, but I do think there are a number of teams who would be happy to have a 23 year old, hard-throwing right handed pitcher to develop in Triple A for a year or two.

Welington Castillo / Steve Clevenger

I really should throw Geovanny Soto in here as well, but he isn’t a prospect. If Soto is extended, I think Clevenger will eventually be his backup and Castillo will be traded. If Soto is traded, I think Castillo will be the starting catcher in Chicago and the Cubs will look to pair him with a veteran backup. That would lead to Clevenger being traded. Of the two prospects, Castillo looks more like a potential starting catcher while Clevenger is almost the ideal guy to have on the bench. Personally, I have no problem with the Cubs having two young catchers on the roster, but it is not something you see very often. And, with the depth the Cubs have at catcher in the farm system, keeping one and dealing the other just makes sense.

This list will change as the players break out or regress and as the needs of the Cubs and of other teams evolve over the course of the season. I will probably revisit this topic as we get closer to July and the rumors start to fly. Feel free to nominate future names for the Most Likely To Be Traded List here, on the Message Boards, or send them to me on Twitter @ltblaize.

  • Mick

    From espn.com, “Jacob Turner, the club’s top prospect and perhaps the favorite to win the job, struggled Wednesday, walking four batters and allowing two hits in 1 1/3 innings. He did not strike out a batter. Andrew Oliver also struggled some with his control, issuing three bases on balls, but went three otherwise perfect innings and fanned three.”

    I love it, this is exactly what I predicted. The Tigers would’ve been wise to trade for Garza before Spring Training because Turner’s value was at an all-time high. The second the Tigers let him face ML batters and he struggled his value decreased. The same goes for Oliver, another Tigers’ prospect with high trade value. This gives the Cubs’ the leverage to now ask for multiple prospects in addition to Turner. Hello Castellanos!

    • BetterNews V2.0

      You are looking into the first outing of spring training way too much. He is very young. How many kids under 23 have you seen be world beaters at the Major League level? The Tigers are killing his trade value if they are dangling him as trade bait every outing he makes, because the control a team will get with him is lowering every outing. He will be expensive in a hurry at this rate.

    • JasonB

      Wow – we’re pulling a lot from the first ST outing from a 22 year old pitcher. If Theo listened to this advice 5 years ago, he probably should have traded Jon Lester for a bunch of used bats.

  • dick

    I am out in Mesa, and watched the farmhands take batting practice at Fitch Park. I saw most of the promising kids. Baez looked very good, hitting ropes. Rebel Ridling was very impressive. I never realized he is as big as he is. I saw Vogelbach at the cage, although he had already finished hitting. I was stunned to see how well conditioned he looked. I doubt if he over 230 right now.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Good stuff.

      The more first hand reports we get, the better off we are.

    • CubFan Paul

      Wow @230lbs.

  • http://www.survivingthalia.com Mike Taylor

    I think we’re stuck with Ian Stewart struggling for at least two months. I think that wrist injury is worse than advertised. Hopefully, Vitters can find some consistency in that time frame and produce when he gets some ML at bats. Our lineup is going to be VERY left handed the next few years with Stewart, LaHair, Rizzo, Jackson, DeJesus, Campana, Cardenas, so I can see how Clevenger could be traded.

    Both Lake and Baez will be moved to 3B and I think you have to give both of them another year before any real trade talk. I think if Vitters does produce, yes, he’ll eventually see time in LF, but only when Lake/Baez is ready to come up and if LaHair’s time with the club has passed.

    Luke does make some good points about the Garza trade, but I think including Brandon Guyer was too much. He could be classified as one of those “AAAA” guys (only 28 ML at bats and currently struggling in ST), but he can steal bases like nobody’s business and hit. One of the Cubs’ lingering issues has been no bona fide lead off hitter and I would rather have seen him start in RF this year than signing David DeJesus (on the wrong side of 30). When he gets older, he’s going have some pop in that bat, too. An outfield of Jackson, Szczur, Guyer in 2014-15 would have been nice to see. Szczur would take the reigns at the lead off slot as Guyer developed into a more complete hitter.

  • Derek

    What about the cubs useing Junior Lake as our second baseman? I like Darwin but id love Castro to Lake to Rizzo.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Lake’s a possibility at second, but I don’t think its likely.

      And keep in mind that the Cubs aren’t lacking for second base prospects, either.  Zeke DeVoss, Logan Watkins, Ronald Torreyes, and Gioskar Amaya are all pretty good quality prospects in their own right.  I don’t think any of them have quite the upside of Lake, but I don’t think any of them have quite his basement either.

      Personally, I like the idea of DeVoss or Watkins taking over at second and batting lead off in a couple of years.

      • Jeremy

        Luke, wouldn’t moving Lake to second basically negate his best tool, his arm?

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          Exactly.

  • MichiganGoat

    Excellent job Luke this post and all the comments = plethora of information and knowledge. I can now speak to others about Cub prospects. Welcome glad you call this home.

  • Big Daddy

    Trade Soto. Play the kids. I have a good feeling about Lake breaking out this year. He could be good trade bait.

  • T Wags

    I saw this coming the day Brett posted the minor league writer gig. I’ve enjoyed reading your work on Cubbies Crib for awhile now Luke and I’m glad you’re here now! Great stuff!

  • Derek

    Lakes arm is great but we have Baez who will end up at 3rd. You have to try Lake at 2nd unless Castro is willing to give up short and go to second. I think Lake is going to be great eventually.

    • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

      You don’t think about Baez quite yet. You put Lake in the best spot possible, with his arm, it’s 3rd.
      Way too many ‘if’s’ to worry about Baez pushing Lake off of 3rd in 3-5 years.

  • ty

    John Siskel Whom I know has put the label on Lake that he needs to learn to play the game. A bit of misinformation that can be very hurtful since I have seen him play about two hundred games and practice with excellent coaches since he came up. I remember him as so thin his pants could hardly stay up. He is still so young and was slower to progress than his best bud Castro but Starlin is an anamoly that baseball does not see very often. Five tool potential for Lake-let the baby boy grow up and enjoy. He knows the game John and I saw him play in fall league just as you did and that label is mis-leading.

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