Each year, Baseball America ranks the top prospects in each minor league, which proves to be a unique way to consider the relative value of Chicago Cubs prospects. Outside of the top 100 lists we see from a few services, and a handful of overall organizational rankings, we don’t really get a chance to know how the Cubs stack up against other organizations. It’s hard to know how good that 10th-ranked prospect in the system actually is – is he ranked 10th in the system because he’s really good, and the Cubs’ system is good, or is he ranked 10th because he’s just OK and the system is really weak?

BA has released its first league ranking of the year, and it’s a bright spot for the Cubs. The Arizona League – a rookie league featuring young international signees and recent draftees, typically – is prospect heavy, so doing well on its top 20 list is a good sign. And, indeed, the Cubs did do well, placing three youngsters, including two in the top four.

Albert Almora comes in at number 2, Jorge Soler comes in at number 4, and Dan Vogelbach comes in at number 14. None of the three finished the year in the AZL, with Almora and Vogelbach being promoted to Boise, and Soler heading up to Peoria. Each did rake while in Arizona, though, and the Cubs might have placed even more on the list – Juan Paniagua? Pierce Johnson? Paul Blackburn? – if they’d had enough innings to qualify. The list as a whole was pitching light, featuring just five pitchers, and only one in the top 14.

Thirteen MLB teams are affiliated with a team in the AZL, so on a top 20 list, if evenly distributed, you’d expect each team to see 1.5 of their players on the list. Again: the Cubs did well.

Perhaps the most encouraging part of the rankings is the fact that BA calls the AZL the deepest in prospects that it’s been in 25 years. It’s nice to see the Cubs not only filling up such a deep list, but appearing at the tip top with Almora and Soler.

The next BA list of relevance to the Cubs is the Northwest League (where the Boise Hawks play), which comes out in a few days.

  • TWC

    Gee, looks like the Rangers did pretty damn well on that list, too. Yikes.

    • TWC

      Now that I really look at it, three teams (Cubs [3], A’s [4] and the Rangers [5]) account for 12 of the top 20 spots. Ain’t nothing evenly distributed about that. Jeez.

  • ETS

    if prospects were distributed randomly, the cubs would have an 11.79% chance of having 3 in the top twenty (assuming a 1/14 chance of your prospect being in the top 20, an equal number of prospects per team and independence among selections). Fairly impressive.

    I doubt these 3 can show up on Boise’s list now?

    • Chris

      I bet Vogelbach shows up on the Boise list.

  • AB

    In a chat the guy from BA said Underwood touched 97

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Whoa. That’s awesome (and believable). He just needs lots and lots of polish. Throwing 97 is one thing. Repeating and locating it consistently is another. He’s got time, obviously.

    • Kyle

      Of course, all velocity is good velocity, but “touching X” always sounds a lot better than “working consistenty at (X-5)”. These reports are designed to get us jazzed up a bit.

      If he’s touching 97, he’s probably working around 92 consistently. With a pitcher that young and new to pro ball, he might add a few MPH due to growth and consistency of delivery, or attrition might wear down his arm and he loses a few MPH by AAA. Which is why, as always, TINSTAAPP.

  • Stevie B

    I’d like to go on record as saying the following:

    Dan Volgelbach will end up being an elite power hitter.

    I’m not a professional scout, but I did stay at a Red Roof Inn last night.

    • Southern Cub

      I’m not even close to being a scout, and I’ve read a few scouts take on Volgelbach saying he’s not an “elite” player. I understand he’s a 1B only player who may battle weight issues for his career. However, can a scout say/or not say that a player can be an elite hitter, I mean look at Adam Dunn, not an “elite” player so to speak, but he’s definitely done well for himself as a hitter.

      • donnie kessinger

        Hey, what about that fat guy, Fielder I think… signed a contract last spring.

        • Kyle

          Vogelbach is considered a significantly worse athlete than Fielder. Think about *that*.

          • bails17

            Kyle…Fielder was a pretty good athlete coming out of HS. He actuall ran a 6.9 60 at one Perfect Games showcases. Just sayin.

            • Kyle

              I get that. Fielder is a remarkable athlete for his size. But that’s the curve he’s being graded on.

              Fielder is considered an amazing athlete for his size, and while young and relatively slim (compared to now), he ran about the average time for an MLB player.

              It is still very possible that Vogelbach’s size and lack of athleticism plays him out of the league unless the bat really does develop elite power.

      • Drew7

        “However, can a scout say/or not say that a player can be an elite hitter,(?)”

        Yes – that is why they assign hit/power grades to prospects.

        Saying Vogelbach isn’t going to be an elite player is probably correct. Being a 1B-only guy without speed, he will have to hit a TON to ever be considered an *elite player*. With him not even hitting full-season ball yet, he’s got a long way to go.

  • Rizzo 44

    Hey Brett will you do a report on who you think the Cubs will go after this fall/winter as trades and FA’s. I would like to see your opinion and then see what everyone else has to say.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Yes. There will probably be lots of them throughout the offseason.

  • donnie kessinger

    I am thinking a stop gap at third base, a veteran back-up catcher (maybe) , and… pitching, lots and lots of pitching. Now, as far as names ….

  • http://bleachernation.com Ramy16

    I was reading where the Blue Jays are not going to sign Kelly Johnson or Yunel Escobar, I wonder if Theo and Co would kick the tires on any of them? I think Escobar could play 3rd? If not I would like to see Junior Lake get a heavy look this spring to play 3rd.. The kid has a lot of upside!

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Lake needs a lot of work yet. He could (and probably should) move on up to Triple A, but I do not expect to see him in Chicago for anything other than a cup of coffee for some time yet.

      • fortyonenorth

        Luke – I’ve seen a lot of comments on Lake and they all seem to echo what you are saying. Can you elaborate on his shortcomings and give us your thoughts on whether they can be overcome?

        • Chris

          Lake flashes athletic ability, but he kind of looks like an athlete from another sport learning to play baseball. Clearly there’s something there, but it just looks raw. His positioning on ground balls, the way he looks when he’s swinging and missing, they just don’t look right.

          • Cyranojoe

            Yeah, Luke and others have reported that Lake has got great athleticism, but isn’t supremely skilled at baseball yet. There’s a goodly amount of fear that the innate talent and the learned skill may never come together, which is why many scouts, evaluators, and fans want Junior to stay in the minors in order to develop those skills! You come to the majors when it’s developmentally smart, and not before or the player may blow his confidence/etc.

    • daveyrosello

      Um, Josh Donaldson getting it done for Oakland. At 3B. Sigh.

      • Cubbie Blues

        and he needs to for another week to help with my fantasy championship hopes.

      • AB

        stupid Rich Harden and his 2008 second-half ERA+ of 258

      • Chris

        Can’t bemoan that trade too much. It wasn’t Harden’s fault they collapsed that season. Now it was his fault that they sucked the following season. Donaldson is probably just a backup at the end of the day, but he could certainly be a contributor to 3B next season if he was still with the Cubs.

      • Joepoe123

        My uncle used to be really good friends with him and was invited by him to go see him play in his rookie debut..

      • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

        Getting it done???
        .292 OBP

  • cubsin

    Bruno, Amaya, Candelario and Marco Hernandez should be locks for the NWL Top 20. Vogelbach, Almora and Wilson Contreras might also make it.

  • MightyBear

    Where does Paniagua start next year? He’s 22 and been pitching in the DR for a couple of years. I can’t believe he would start in Boise. Daytona? Tennessee? A little help please. Thanks.

    • Ogyu

      The dude has 36 innings of Dominican summer league ball and 4 innings of Arizona rookie league ball under his belt. I see him starting in Boise or Kane County, but no higher.

    • Chris

      I would guess that with his age they’ll probably keep him in extended spring training initially and then send him to Kane County when he’s in the proper shape, but before the short season leagues start. They did that with Baez this year. The one inning he threw in the NWL finals was kind of impressive. Obviously a small sample size, but I would guess Theo/Jed will want to fast track him as much as his talent will allow.

    • RoughRiider

      Paniagua is in the Instructional League now and may pitch in some winter league for awhile. If he shows something this fall he will almost certainly start in Low A and could start the year in Daytona.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      If he is at the level he was expected to be at when he signed, Daytona would not surprise me.

      • Cedlandrum

        Yep I think Luke is right, he will start in Daytona which will be good because it is warmer.

  • william

    brett and luke with the cubs having rizzo and vogalbach being only a 1b and boston not having a long term 1b solution is there a chance the cubs could swing a deal for bogaerts and maybe a pitcher for vogalbach just a thought i had want to know ur takes on it

    • Chris

      I doubt Bogaerts would be available for anything the Cubs would be willing to put together, at this stage. Boston will have a ton of money to kick the tires on free agents, so I don’t think they’ll be worrying about acquiring a 1B prospect from SS-A ball to develop as a long-term solution to the opening they have. Plus I would doubt Theo is going to trade away any pitching at this stage, unless it’s someone who projects as just a reliever.

    • bbmoney

      I don’t think Boston would even entertain that offer. Vogelbach could end up being a really good hitter, but he’s a few years away and is no where close to a sure thing. Bogaerts is coming off a great year, he reached AA this year (for 23 games…but still) and has a chance to stick (outside chance) at SS.

      Vogelbach is intriguing and has shown he can rake at boise and in AZL. But hasn’t even played in low A yet and 1b really have to crush the ball to have anywhere near the value of a guy that might play SS and be a good offensive player. Plus there’s no rush to trade Vogelbomb yet, plenty of time to figure out what we’ve got and then make a decision from there.

    • Noah

      Let me put it this way… the Cubs would probably not even be able to get Xander Bogaerts in a straight up trade for Matt Garza at this point, even if Garza had not gotten hurt. There are a maximum of three players on the whole team the Cubs could get Bogaerts for in my opinion: (1) Castro; (2) Rizzo; (3) Samardzija.

      I wouldn’t even trade Bogaerts straight up for Baez, Almora or Soler. Bogaerts is ahead of where they are offensively, and his chance of sticking at short isn’t much worse than Baez’s.

  • Mike

    No one in their right mind would trade Bogaerts for Vogelbach

    • Ogyu

      Maybe he means Jair Bogaerts, rather than Xander… 😀

    • Stevie B

      (Jim Hendry walks into room) “So you wanna trade Vogelbach for Bogaerts huh??”

    • fortyonenorth

      Robin Zander?

      • Ogyu

        Perhaps Vogelbach for Humphrey Bogaerts

        • Rob Sperring

          Or Huber Humphrey

      • Cizzle

        Remember…After the fire, after all the rain…I will be the Flame.

  • Kyle

    I can’t decide if “14th best prospect in the Arizona League” is an honor or an insult.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Well, 13 teams with rosters well over 40 apiece. I think the math on that is pretty easy.

  • North Side Irish

    John Sickels posted a short article on Christian Villanueva today…his numbers weren’t quite as good as I remembered, but his defense sounds really promising. Probably a few years off but he could add to the crowd of possible 3B options.


    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      He might be second on the list, behind Baez. Third base in the Cubs system is going to be tough to rank this winter.

  • Cheryl

    Luke, What type of a program would Vogelbach be on at the instructional league and will it give any indication of where he’ll be next year?

    • Cubbie Blues

      Jenny Craig program?

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