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As we have been expecting all along, Albert Almora has agreed to sign with the Cubs. The minute his name hits the dotted line he will be one of the Cubs’ very best prospects and will be competing with Jorge Soler for the title of best outfield prospect in the system.

With the addition of Almora, the Cubs suddenly have one of the best pools of high ceiling outfield prospects in the game. For Soler and Almora, the sky is the limit. Matthew Szczur increasingly looks like the lead off hitter and center fielder of the future as he learns to translate his prolific athletic abilities into baseball skills. Brett Jackson still has the ceiling of a solid major league outfielder, and Reggie Golden has one of the highest ceilings in the farm system.

That’s right, Reggie Golden. I have not talked about him much since his season ending knee injury, but he is not a player we should ignore. In terms of ceiling he is not far short of Almora and Soler, but the lack of polish and the string of injuries have made it easy to lose track of that. Think of Golden as the Junior Lake of the outfield: raw, toolsy, massively high ceiling, but a lot of work to do before those tools can translate into baseball success. [Brett: My biggest concern for Golden is that, given his build, it will be even harder for him to come back from the knee injury than it would be for a less-powerfully-built guy.]

Of course, all of these guys except for Jackson are deep in the system and are not likely to arrive before 2014. Some of them won’t make it all, but that is benefit of having depth. Odds are quite good that at least one of those five players will be starring for the Cubs in the not too distant future.

Scores From Yesterday

Iowa – The Iowa Cubs are enjoying their own All-Star break. They resume play on Thursday.
Tennessee – The Smokies withstood a late rally to pick up the 4-3 win.
Daytona – The Cubs scored three times in the first, but they could not hold on for the win. The final was 5-4.
Peoria – Peoria’s bullpen gave up three in the ninth, leading to a 4-3 loss.
Boise – Once again, the Hawks had their chances, but they could not push runs across the plate. They lost 10-4.
Arizona – The AZL Cubs had the day off on Monday.

Performances of the Day

  • [Tennessee] Dallas Beeler pitched seven very good innings and earned the win. He allowed just four hits, no walks, and struck out five.
  • [Tennessee] Logan Watkins finished this game 2 for 4 with a double (his tenth) and a triple (his eighth). Junior Lake was 1 for 4 with a double.
  • [Daytona] Frank Del Valle struck out three in two innings of no hit relief.
  • [Daytona] Arismendy Alcantara raised his batting average to .306 with a 4 for 5 game.
  • [Peoria] Javier Baez hit his sixth home run as part of his two hit game. Wes Darvill also homered and doubled in the loss.
  • [Boise] Bijan Rademacher had just one hit in this game, but the right fielder also threw out a runner at home.
  • [Boise] Trey Martin had his best game as a Hawk and finished 3 for 4.

Other Minor League Notes

  • Logan Watkins has made Cub fans aware of him over the past season with his very good second half in Daytona and his pretty good numbers in Tennessee. As good as his numbers look (and that .361 OBP looks quite good) there are still some areas where his game needs work. One place is particular might be his approach against left handed pitching. Against right handers (229 AB) Watkins has a nice looking line of .301/.392/.428 with seven triples and two home runs. Against lefties (77 AB) those numbers fall to .182/.264/.286 with one triple and two homers. Against RHP Watkins has just many walks as he does strikeouts, 35. Against lefties the ratio plummets to 6 BB / 25 K. I don’t think there is much question about his ability to hit right handed pitching. If he can improve his game against lefties, he could have a very bright future indeed.
  • Robert Whitenack had another rough game on Monday, but I still would not worry. Pitchers often take over a year to come back from elbow surgery. The Cubs will be patient with him.

Farm System Standings

AAAIowa Cubs : 38 – 53.
Pacific Coast League American Northern Division – Third Place: 18.0 Games Behind.

AATennessee Smokies : 9-10
Southern League North Division – Third Place : 1.5 Games Behind

High ADaytona Cubs : 9-10
Florida State League North Division – Third Place : 2.0 Games Behind

Low APeoria Chiefs : 6-12
Midwest League Eastern Division – Sixth Place : 5.0 Game Behind

Short-Season ABoise Hawks : 8 – 17
Northwest League East Division – Third Place : 7.0 Games Behind

Rookie LeagueAZL Cubs : 12 – 4
Arizona Rookie League East – First Place (tie) : 0.0 Games Behind

  • Steve

    I hate to be pessimistic, but when I read over these names, my eyes keep reading BOBBY HILL, PAT KLINE, BOBBY BROWNLIE, KEVIN ORIE…
    Wake me up when one of them makes it.

    • Jack Weiland

      Sorry, do you expect all prospects to make it? That’s delusional.

      You do realize of course that all established Major League players start off as prospects, and that by definition every player you watch is “one who made it.” Or do you think that these players just fall straight from outer space into ML clubhouses? As for Cubs making it … ever heard of Starlin Castro? Darwin Barney? Jeff Samardzija?

      Time to wake up, bud.

      • Ron Swanson

        Exactly. That’s why being deep within a position and within the farm system as a whole is so important. Expecting only a couple out this list of outfielders to be productive major leaguers is reasonable.

      • Steve

        No, I expect SOME to. Lets face it. This organization has produced crap for decades. I’m not really blaming, just noting.
        Where is our Fielder, Braun, CJ Wilson etc??
        We get Choi, Pie and Rich Hill instead.

        Bitter…yeah kinda/////

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      I really do not understand the mindset that assumes all prospects are doomed to abject failure because of Player X, Player Y, and Player Z.

      Baseball is a game of probabilities and of failure. At any time in any farm system of any team, anyone can make a list of failed prospects and use that list as a justification to dismiss all the prospects currently in that team’s farm system. That’s just the nature of baseball.

      But that in no way renders meaningless the efforts made by the current prospects, or any conversation about their potential, or any fan interest in them.

      • Jack Weiland

        I think honestly it’s a result of casual prospecting. MSM gives the impression too often that certain prospects are “can’t miss kids” which is of course absurd.

        More understanding of the nature of baseball and prospecting would go a long way to avoiding this kind of pessimism among casual prospecters. Being disappointed that a certain guy didn’t pan out is totally cool, and we all have guys we were sure we’re going to be HOFers. But holding that against future generations? Insanity. Everyone is their own person.

        • Edwin

          I think part of the problem is that the immeadiatley after every single draft, all you hear about is how your team’s first round pick compares to Jim Edmonds, or how he’ll be the next Gary Sheffield, or whoever. Everyone loves to talk about ceilings, but they don’t acknowledge how hard it is to ever reach that ceiling. It creates unrealisitic expectations. The success rate of 1st round picks in MLB draft is vastly different than the success rate of 1st round picks in other sports.

          • Jack Weiland

            YES. 100%. Neyer did a piece on this right after the draft, about how unrealistic MLB TVs comps were, and how it generates better ratings, but that it has to stop.

          • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

            THIS!!!
            Completely agree Edwin…it’s always about “ceiling” despite how rare it is for a prospect to actually hit that ceiling.

            • Kyle

              You guys are totally right, but there’s still a good reason to talk about ceilings, even if only a small fraction of guys hit them.

              The few prospects who do hit their ceilings are the ones who change the direction of your franchise. A Castro or Rizzo does more for your chances to win than a half-dozen Barneys or Clevengers.

              But yeah, people lose track that “ceiling” means “if this guy gets as much better as he can every single year with no setbacks,” which is very rare.

          • EvenBetterNewsV2.0

            Anybody trying to compare Baseball to other sports needs to stop. There is no sport remotely close to Baseball. Basketball and Football are two sports where every position is a specialized position. You don’t think of Tom Brady as a running back. You don’t think of Kevin Durant as a center. Football 1st rounders are more probable to be successful than Basketball in terms of drafting players due to you are picking a player for a specific spot. Basketball is a little less, because players can play a couple of positions, but your idea of said player is more set in stone. Baseball, you see all of the time where a catcher is converted to a pitcher, or an infielder has to move into the outfield. That players growth is determine by his ability to adapt. Baseball is the only sport where you have to teach stronger hand eye cordination for everyone. Baseball is not full of specialized players like every other player. Every player must field and bat. Impossible to compare to other sports in this sense imo in this sense.

      • BD

        I think most of that attitude comes from so many Cubs’ prospects not turning out to be the stars they were billed as. Who have been the best players on the Cubs the last 10-20 years? Lee, Ramirez, Soriano, Alou, Sosa, Sandberg, Dawson. None of them came up through the Cubs’ system.

        Kerry Wood did, and he never hit his ceiling. Prior’s career exploded before our eyes. Patterson, Pie, Choi – none of them were the player they were “said” to be. More often than not, the Cubs have not been turning out prospects- which is how you see fans with that mindset. And also a 103 year World Series drought.

        The different I see here is that a lot of these young guys we’re starting to talk about have been picked by Theo’s group, so it’s a different ball game now. But it will take a casual fan longer to see the proof that it’s working.

        • Beer Baron

          I also think so much of this in the past came when the Tribune owned the team. The newspaper had a personal interest in hyping the prospects, and back then there weren’t great websites that rated the prosects or blogs that refuted sketchy claims. So if a respected newspaper said Felix Pie is the next big thing, that became the fact to most of us – not to GMs and scouts, but the rest of us .

        • RoughRiider

          I agree with you to a certain extent. My take on it through the years is that something has been missing in the farm system in regards to training and holding players and coaches accountable. I find it hard to believe that a team can draft so many players and have so few become productive major league players. Even a blind squirrel ….

          Taking nothing away from “Theo’s group”, a lot of “these young guys we’re starting to talk” were here before this years draft and free agent signings.

      • MichCubFan

        Our old front office was terrible with the farm system. They did nothing to teach any semblance of hitting approach, they allowed their pitchers to walk to many batters, and they did not do them any favors as far as the timeline in which they called them up…among other things.

        I am so amped with this front office, knowing that while prospects can produce or fail, they are going to give them the best chance. I have much more faith in their ability to help youngsters develop.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          I think that you recognize the correct symptoms, but slightly misidentify the disease. Hendry’s team valued “stuff” from pitchers in terms of raw speed, sharp breaking pitches, etc. They did not value control, which they thought was something pitchers would learn. Although pitchers can improve upon control, to some extent it is a basic tool: and one of the reasons why the Cubs routinely lead the NL in walks allowed is that so many Cubs farm hands lacked that tool.

          You could pretty much rewrite this for the batters with taking walks: they did not value pitch recognition because they thought that players learned this. This is even less true than learning control. So, the Cubs routinely draw the fewest walks in the NL.

          And here we have a problem: if you are both among the league leaders in walks allowed AND among the league trailers in walks, then you are going to get badly outwalked. So far, the Cubs have -100 “net” walks. The next worst team has -50.

          We will see less of this in the future.

          • Kyle

            Of all the things Hendry prioritized, this is the one he got most right. Give me stuff all day long. Obviously, you want a *little* more regard for control than the Cubs had, but not much. I expect Epstein to follow in these footsteps.

            • DocPeterWimsey

              I’d prefer a bit more regard for control! Obviously, half of getting outwalked by the opposition is the batters: but Cubs pitchers have done their part.

              With Boston, the espoused philosophy was “throw a different strike from the one you just threw.” With improved scouting data the focuses on the weak parts of batters strike zones and a better eye toward control, I expect that this will improve in the Cubs system, too.

              • Kyle

                I’d be curious to see the win % for the team that out-Ks the other.

                • DocPeterWimsey

                  Through the end of June, the team who’s pitching staff with the most K’s wins 60% of the time.

                  THrough the same time period, the team that draws the most net walks wins 64% of the time. That might not sound like much, but with over 1100 games, that’s actually significant: there is 12X greater probability getting these numbers with separate winning %s than given the same (~62%) winning pct.

                  • DocPeterWimsey

                    Ach. We need the edit button back. What I should have written was: “The team who’s pitching staff has the most K’s wins 60% of the time.”

                    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                      (The loss of the edit button, and those other functions, wasn’t a choice, by the way – it was a software issue. Hopefully it’s fixed someday, but, for now, we’re without it.)

                    • DocPeterWimsey

                      Absolvo te.

                      :-)

          • Edwin

            To be fair, the Cubs pitchers were almost always at the top of the league in strikeouts. I don’t think pitching has been the Cubs problem. From 2002-2011 the Cubs xFIP- was 96. Second best in baseball over that time period. You can use other metrics like FIP, SIERA, ERA-, the Cubs were top of the league in almost all of them. The Cubs were 10th in pitching fWAR over that time period. They were also 10th in K/BB ratio.

            Jim Hendry had plenty of success finding pitching for the Cubs.

      • hansman1982

        Out of the big three you hope to get 1big leaguer and with their talent level he might even be a superstar.

  • Katie

    Luke, thank you for your reports. As always, very informative!

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Thanks!

      • MoneyBoy

        Ditto. Thanks, as always, Luke!!!

  • EvenBetterNewsV2.0

    If one of the Soler, Almora, and Jackson truly become a quality everyday outfielder we will be truly lucky. That said, my money will be on Almora. You can’t teach that work ethic and makeup.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      That’s where the importance of depth comes into play. The individual odds against Almora, Jackson, and Soler are steep, but the odds of at least one of three having a quality career are quite a bit better.

  • oswego chris

    Do you see a possibility of Baez going to Tennessee or would that go against the mantra of patience?…He seems pretty dominant at Peoria…

    • Jack Weiland

      Seems unlikely to me, at least this year. Also there’s no reason to rush the guy. He’s doing well, but he’s not putting up Man Against Boys type numbers right now.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Remember that Baez didn’t start in Peoria until the middle of the season. He may go to Daytona very late in the year for a few games, but that is the only promotion I expect him to see.

  • oswego chris

    Or Daytona I guess would be next….

    • Jack Weiland

      Seems unlikely to me, at least this year. Also there’s no reason to rush the guy. He’s doing well, but he’s not putting up Man Against Boys type numbers right now.

      (Meant to put this response here)

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Very slight chance he gets a cup of coffee at Daytona to end the year. Still far more likely he plays out the season at Peoria.

  • oswego chris

    if anyone is jaded about prospects it’s me(for those of you who have been on the board for awhile you may remember my All-Crype team…which included all of the Cubs failed prospects)

    but past failures have nothing to do with these guys…I have researched the history(really, I am working on something) of the Cubs draft and systems….and there have been a couple of times when they were really productive

    take the 80s’s- Joe Carter, Greg Maddux, Shawon Dunston, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark Grace, Jamie Moyer, Joe Girardi, Dave Martinez

    we always think that it’s just the Cubs system that sucks….there are many teams that go years and years without producing anything…so there were times when guys like Kevin Orie were the best we had, but he was just the tops of a really crappy system

    the system is on the uptick….take it from someone who has seen many a bust…you can be excited about these guys

    • Dave H

      Were most of those drafted by Dallas Green? The one thing he said was that he was going to repair the farm system also. Got a pretty good second baseman if memory serves also.

  • Beer Baron

    Had to chime in on the comment about how Golden may take longer to recover from his knee injury because he is a bigger guy. While 5’10″, 210 pounds is a pretty stocky baseball player, in the realm of all professional athletes its pretty average to small. Adrian Peterson had (more or less) the same injury, is considerably bigger, and is expected to be playing week 1 at a much more demanding sport. It is a shame that a player who really needs playing time lost an entire year of development, but I don’t think his size will impact his recovery at all (of course all athletes are different and recover differently, so this is a big generalization).

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I hope you’re right. I just picture him, with that powerful frame, and those big legs, and I see it being a tough recovery. Good point on Peterson (as an example – an extreme one, though).

      • Cedlandrum

        In some ways I think Brett is right, it is more about his build. His lower half is very large. Big powerful legs. Peterson and Golden have very different type builds.

  • Cubs Fan Dan

    Not to mention the position prospects in the infield: Baez, Alcantra, Lake, Vitters, Vogelbach, DeVoss and a few others. The offensive upside to this farm system is very strong accross the board. Now if the Cubs can just find some pitching!

    • Cedlandrum

      I’m having a hard time finding love for DeVoss this season. Had a lot of expectations and they are quickly fading. Good OBP skills, but his avg. and slugging aren’t great and his CS is way too many.

  • MikeW

    Said it on Twitter yesterday, but i’m not buying Golden at all with that first group. To me, he’s probably behind Dunston, Ha, and Easterling too until he shows something…anything.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      In terms of probability of making the majors, I’d have him well behind that group.

      In terms of raw ability and overall potential, he’s way up there.

      Like Junior Lake, if he does start to put things together one of these years, it will be after most fans have virtually forgotten about him. He’s got the complete package of potential tools, but it will take him a few years to harness them (if he ever does).

      • Cedlandrum

        Another two guys that I like are Trey Martin. He was taken 13th round last year and the resident AZ reporter phil felt he was as good a prospect as Dunston Jr. They have similar skill sets, but Martin is supposed to be a MLB defender already.

        The other guy is Rashad Crawford. He is super Raw, but is a switch hitter who is 6″3′ and 185. Apparently he can run and him, Martin and Dunston all have similar skill sets and games.

        Should be fun to see if anything shakes out between the three. All super young and all three could be busts, but will be fun to follow.

      • Dave H

        Hey Luke,

        How long do they usually give these guys before they just give up on them? Lake and Golden are very intriguing prospects. Just wonder how long of leash they get.

        • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

          At least 6 years (or when the time comes to decide weather to put a player on the 40 man roster)

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

            Pretty much. Sometimes a fringe guy will get dropped before then (Ben Klafczynski, for example), but usually the guys who just aren’t going to make decide to walk away on their own long before that point.

            For a high ceiling guy, even six years may not be long enough. The Bryan LaHair type guys are rare, but they do exist.

  • Bren

    It seems like the bloom is coming off the Brett Jackson prospect rose already

    • Cedlandrum

      Even though the SO totals are beyond crazy. There is still plenty to look at and say this kid has some things going for him. If he cuts down a bit on the SO he has a real shot. Look at his other numbers. He has 40 XBH and is 20-24 in steals. He is still walking a fair bit even though those numbers are down a touch.

      His prospect status will fall no doubt. But he has the second half to make adjustments and although you would like to see him in the bigs by next year, being in AAA at age 24 for a half season next year wouldn’t be the worse thing in the world, especially if DeJesus isn’t traded.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Also, I suspect that contact skills are easier to improve than pitch recognition skills. BJax has the latter. He could improve the former by somehow “quickening” (i.e., shortening) his swing. Of course, this would come at the cost of power and some walks.

        • Cedlandrum

          Good points.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          And based on some comments he made a few weeks ago, I think that’s what he’s going to start doing with two strikes.

  • Marmol Sucks

    Is there another team with a deeper OF in the minors than us? I love how we continue to stock pile talent in that area, because generally the best players on the team play OF and 1B. I mean at this point, we can just let Soriano play out his deal because in 2.5 years Soler or Almora will hopefully be ready. Right now I am having doubt about Brett Jackson, but Vitters was having similar issues before turning it around this year. At some point we are going to trade either Szcur or Jackson, because I don’t see us making Almora or Soler touchable.

    • Kyle

      Out of Szczur, Jackson, Almora and Soler, the Cubs will be very lucky to get 2 MLB starting outfielders. That’s not being down on them (maybe the first two a little), that’s just the nature of prospects.

  • Assman22

    Hoyer on Soler:

    Soler will begin working out at the team’s spring facility in Arizona before being placed at a minor-league affiliate. “Let’s get him into games first, but he’s 20 years old and we’re really impressed with how he looks,” general manage Jed Hoyer said, per ESPN.com. “One thing his agents did a very good job of, they put him in a lot of games down in the Dominican, just kind of showcase thing. They let him play in a lot of games and he performed, so we’re hopeful that’s a harbinger of good things, but it’s hard to tell until he gets into games.”

    The 6-3, 205-pound outfielder is considered a power-hitting prospect. “I think you’ll be really impressed when you see him physically: a huge, huge person, a very big man,” Hoyer said. “Right now, he moves really well. We’re going to start him out in right field. Could he end up moving at some point? He could because he is that big. But he has huge power and it’s hard to find power in today’s game and that’s a big part of why we’re willing to make that kind of commitment is that it is hard to find power. He’s just a huge guy with bat speed and has always generated a lot of power.” Fantasy owners are already excited about this kid’s outlook since his ownership is already at 4 percent, and he has yet to play a game in the U.S. Soler is a viable long-term Fantasy keeper because of his potential.

  • koyiehillsucks

    Will Batista in tennesse get moved up anytime soon, he has 10+ save and a 1.95 ERA not bad at all..

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      He might. He was already shuffled around once. When deals are made at the big league level, and guys come up to the bigs from AAA, that’s when it could happen.

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