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MiLB.com is putting together an All-Star roster for each organization in baseball, and their Cubs roster is a mix of top prospects and organizational guys who had good seasons. It’s very much worth your attention, and is a fun read if you’re looking for a take on some of the Cubs’ minor leaguers you don’t hear as much about.

In sum, the All-Stars shook out thusly: Dan Vogelbach (1B), Stephen Bruno (2B) (honorable mention for Logan Watkins), Josh Vitters (3B), Javier Baez (SS), Matt Szczur (OF), John Andreoli (OF), Greg Rohan (OF), Anthony Rizzo (UTL) (?), Nick Struck (RH SP), Eric Jokisch (LH SP), and Frank Batista (RP).

Moreover, the piece features Cubs Scouting and Player Development Chief Jason McLeod’s thoughts on each of the players. It’s a bounty of goodness. Among the highlights:

  • On Vogelbach: “In talking with [special assistant to the GM] Tim Wilken, they felt he could be an offensive force at a position where you need to be. He does a good job controlling the strike zone – you can envision him being the high OBP, high slugging guy. He can really hit; he can drive the ball out of the park. That’s a huge part of his game.” In other words, you better keep hitting, kid.
  • On Bruno: “You don’t expect a guy to win the batting title in the Northwest League. He had a strong year in the Atlantic Coast Conference, he had a tough park to hit in and in the summer league he led that league in hitting. He did have a track record, he played in a good conference, and we drafted him with the notion that he’ll go out and perform and be productive at the lower levels right away. I envision him being more of a second baseman, but he is versatile. His best position is probably second, but he played third at the University of Virginia and went in as a shortstop.” Guys with Bruno’s versatility who can actually hit a little bit certainly have a great deal of value. Given his age (22 in November) and college experience, his offense success was probably a little bit to be suspected. Hopefully he can work his way up the ladder next year with the same success.
  • On Watkins: “He really encompasses a lot of what we want our players to do – control the zone, get on base, hit for average, and he played very good defense. You wouldn’t look at him and say he’s a ‘plus’ this, but he’s good at a lot of different areas. He’s a very smart baserunner. I think he led the league in walks, he hit in the .280 range and he’s a steady average defender.” So, which is it? “Very good defense,” or “steady average defender”? For Watkins, that actually could make a huge difference in his future value/contributions in the bigs. If he’s not a plus defender at second base, I’m not sure you can count on him being much more than a mediocre utility type.
  • On Szczur: “Strong, athletic, reminds me a lot of a young Reed Johnson. He plays so hard. He’s got that football mentality – he’s going to leave it all out there, going hard on a ground ball, breaking up double plays. He can steal bases and there is strength in his swing. There are still some things he’s working on mechanically with his swing. He can really do a lot of things well, and he’s still pretty young in terms of games played in comparison to other guys.” When talent evaluators start talking about things other than baseball ability – things like “football mentality,” and “plays so hard” – red alarms go off in my head. Yes, those things are valuable … as long as they supplement the absurd amount of baseball ability required to be a successful Major Leaguer.
  • On Struck: “This guy is a bulldog on the hill. He doesn’t have the greatest stuff, doesn’t overpower guys, but he’s firm. He’s got two solid pitches and he’s a starter. He worked hard, took the ball every fifth day and would’ve pitched deeper into the games if there weren’t so many pitchers. More than anything, he just really competes. He’s not afraid of contact, and we rewarded him with our Minor League Pitcher of the Year [award] because he earned it.” Hmm. Sounds like a 5th starter ceiling to me. But, hey, before his arm turned on him, Randy Wells proved that you can have success in the bigs with two “good enough” pitches, if you combine them with impeccable control.

There’s a great deal more in the story, so you’ll want to check it out.

  • North Side Irish

    I feel like we heard a ton of good things about Watkins this season, but there still seem to be a lot of doubters. BA referred to him as a Utility player with no home defensively yesterday…I guess I just had higher expectations after this season.

  • http://rooftop-view.com Jack Nugent

    Brett, have to respectfully disagree with the notion that Watkins ends up a “mediocre utility type” if he isn’t a “plus defender.”

    I agree it’s a significant consideration for a player with his skill set, but Watkins does enough things well that he could quite possibly thrive as a starter without top-shelf defense.

    I’m admittedly sort of an OBP-whore, but Watkins was 4th in the Southern League in OBP this year (2nd in BB). AA is often where prospects separate themselves from suspects, and Watkins acquitted himself quite nicely at a totally league-appropriate age.

    • http://www.hookersorcake.com Jade

      My Mom was a OBP whore too. Always runners on the corners.

      • Caleb

        Lolz

  • MightyBear

    I like the write up about John Andreoli. 402 OBP and a lot of steals. He could be the lead off guy the Cubs have been looking for for a century. They haven’t had a good one since Kenny Lofton. I still think one of the biggest mistakes Hendry made was not re-signing Lofton after the 2003 season.

    • cubchymyst

      Andreoli write up was a nice surprise. Most of the talk of the Cubs future outfield being some combination of Alomar, Soler, Jackson, Szczur, and FA pick ups. Andreoli is someone else to keep an eye on next year to see how he progresses.

      • Frank

        How did we get one of the Alomars? (just messin’)

        • cubchymyst

          I keep messing that up whenever I try to type Almora, Need to watch that.

    • Alou and Vinegar

      Is Andreoli a better version of Campana?

  • http://rooftop-view.com Jack Nugent

    Also, it should be noted that Watkins has an impressive athletic pedigree; former standout High School QB who was recruited to play D-1 (I believe Kansas State? Don’t quote me).

    I understand how some observers could see Watkins ending up an Adrian Cardenas type player (impressive MiLB track record, fringe big leaguer nonetheless) but I’m hoping Watkins’ speed and athleticism separate him from Cardenas’ types who get on base in the minors, but are challenged in most every other respect.

    • Josh

      Watkins did play HS football and he was all-state. I don’t know who recruited him to play football, but he was committed to Wichita State to play baseball and they don’t have a football team.

      I would think that if he had a firm offer to play college football, he would have committed to somewhere like K-State where he could have played both.

  • http://ehanauer.com clark addison

    Watkins sounds like a LeMahieu or Flaherty. Let’s not let him get away too.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Ryan Flaherty had a 66 OPS+ this year. Let’s not lose sight of that.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        As a Rule 5 part time player vaulted from, essentially, Double A. He only had 190ish Iowa at bats before Baltimore dropped him on the major league roster. That should also be taken into account.

      • AB

        Josh Vitters 9 OPS+

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          That’s a humorous aside, but not really the same thing.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      He doesn’t have Flaherty’s power, but he has a better eye than both. He’s also much better defensively.

  • josh

    i hope they take their time with watkins and dont promote him to the majors too soon. we have barney and a lot of second base/short stop prospects who will move there because of castro/baez, so i dont think watkins becomes our 2b of the future unless he really shines in the bigs. some people estimate that he might come up next year, but i hope they wait until after the trade deadline at least because he has some things to work on and there isnt really a place for him unless barney is traded or hurt.

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

    Watkins is both “steady average” and “very good.”

    Think of Castro. Castro makes the “very good” type of ‘Wow!’ plays, but he sometimes lapses and flubs an easy one. There is no doubt that he is very good, but he sometimes isn’t steady.

    Watkins is. Watkins does the little things right (like Barney), but I think he has more range, more athleticism, and a better arm. He should be able to make plays on balls that Barney just can’t.

    Now he may not be as regularly reliable as Barney (few in the history of the game have been), but he is more than good enough defender to make Barney have to fight to defend his position. Particularly because Watkins is just a flat out better and more versatile hitter.

    But he’s still probably a year away.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      That’s not to say that Watkins has Castro’s ceiling defensively. He doesn’t.

      But he still is a very good defender with the ability to make the plays we expect from “very good” players.

  • The Dude Abides

    Hopefully one or two of these guys become MLB starters besides Rizzo of course. Besides Vitters what is the highest level any of these players are at out of curiousity?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Watkins, Jokisch, and Batista spent most of the season in Tennessee.

      Batista had a fair amount of Iowa experience, but not enough to consider him a Triple A guy yet I think.

  • DocPeterWimsey

    You don’t expect a guy to win the batting title in the Northwest League.

    Actually, unless it’s a coed league, I really do….

  • Kyle

    This is where a lot of the prospect defense creep comes from, in my opinion.

    Watkins is a very good defender for AA. He projects to hopefully be a steady average defender by MLB standards.

  • Fastball

    If Watkins is that good then he should make an excellent trade chip this off season. Maybe include him in a deal for Delgago or some other pitcher who can contribute. We need to cash in on what position players we do have stock in and build up a pitching staff and depth in AAA and AA where there is a gaping hole in the system.

  • Spriggs

    Would have loved to have heard Jason’s comments on Amaya.

  • http://bleachernation.com lou brock lives

    If I remember correctly didn’t Watkins have trouble hitting lefties ? I do not want a platoon 2B because it lends itself to poor team defense in the middle of the diamond.

    • Kyle

      .846 OPS vs. righties and .684 vs. lefties this season, which is in line with his whole career. His K rate spikes past 25% against lefties. He more or less cannot hit them.

  • Fastball

    I would like to see players like Lake get intensely coached up on defense and offense and then flipped for what we need. Most of these players will never sniff the bigs. So why let them die in our organization. Shine them up and trade them for what we need. So they might miss out on a few who could turn out. That’s part of the business. You build good trade partners when both sides make out on a trade. A’s and Diamondbacks for example.

  • Fastball

    Kyle, I agree…

    A few days ago I stated that about Watkins. He hasn’t proven anything beyond AA so if he has value now let’s make a deal and get what we need. We have a second baseman and we need pitching. I trade him all day if I can get value back in pitcing.

    • Kyle

      I don’t think you are going to get much for him. Every team has a half-dozen or so of these “well, maybe they can hit and field enough to stick in a starting middle infield spot” guys, they aren’t really all that valuable in trades. As mentioned earlier in the thread, we let two go in the Rule V draft last year.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Indeed, this is why I’ve always found Defensive WAR misleading. Most organizations have a few guys who do not hit well enough to start but who are fielding whizzes. Thus, the average starter probably should have a negative DWAR: that 4th OFer or utility IFer probably is the better fielder, after all.

        That said, I agree that the Cubs cannot spin Watkins for all that much: he certainly is not going to entice someone into giving up a highly touted pitcher, for example!

  • http://bleachernation.com lou brock lives

    Checking Watkins stats last year he only hit .220 vs. lefties. I think Alcantara who is younger, faster, & a switch hitter with a good average from both sides is a better candidate at 2b & leadoff if we wind up eventually moving Barney in a trade.

  • http://bleachernation.com lou brock lives

    2015 lineup should look something like this if prospects pan out.
    1- Alcantara 2B
    2- Almora CF
    3 – Rizzo 1B
    4- Soler – LF
    5 – Baez – 3B
    6 – Castro – SS
    7 – Jackson – RF
    8 – Castillo – C

    • Believe in 2015

      Great lineup but I think Amaya would be a valuable second baseman and lead off man for the Cubs.

    • Myles

      I will give you 10 dollars if that lineup ever happens, not even in that order

    • http://www.hookersorcake.com Jade

      Yeah and I’d go Soler in right and Jackson left. They say Jackson has a plus arm, but I saw some terrible throws from him this year.

  • Stevie B

    That line-up would be kinda like winning the lottery 9 times.

    • willis

      Exactly. Don’t count on it…ever.

    • King Jeff

      Rizzo, Castillo, and Castro area already MLB starters. So, I guess they’ve already won the lottery 3 times? I think it’s a pretty safe bet to think that at least one or two of the rest of that group becomes an MLB starter at some point as well.

      • Kyle

        I like Castillo, but it’s a bit premature to write him in with ink as a MLB starting catcher.

        There was an interesting report over at PSD that said the new regime is pretty uninspired with virtually all the prospects they inherited and we may see a ton of turnover this offseason.

        • King Jeff

          Fair point. I’m not really sold on Castillo either, but he is the starter for now.

  • ihop

    Next season we’ll be adding another super top prospect with our #2 pick. I say go for the best player available. That means either appel or meadows. Any thoughts?

    • North Side Irish

      Waaaay too early to worry about it. Much will change between now and then. If drafting today, I’d take Appel in a second. I’d take Manaea over Meadows and possibly Stanek too.

    • Kyle

      IMO, given the attrition rate, BPA at that level is almost never a pitcher unless they are a truly generational talent.

      It seems as though our front office is looking at our lack of pitching depth and the bunch of college pitchers at the top and is very, very interested in drafting a college pitcher.

      • Scotti

        BPA 100% of the time and never shy away from drafting pitchers. I would rather lose out on numerous 5-10 million dollar investments than a single 100-150 million dollar investment. When you draft pitchers there IS higher risk than signing free agent pitchers but that is offset by the age factor (paying for past performance/abuse) and the cost factor (paying 10-20 X’s the cost for a top free agent pitcher–especially with draft prices fixed and free agent prices still free). The vast majority of the time when your free agent pitcher gets injured (all too common) you lose the rest of his career. At least with Sorriano we had a decent 2012. So, again, draft pitchers and sign sluggers.

        • Eric

          Do you realize what you just said? A draft comes around once a year. And a chance to draft this high comes very seldom. I’d rather get my draft picks correct as many times as possible over wasting money. Money is something the Cubs have in abundance. One thing they don’t have, is the opportunity to strengthen the farm at this high a pick very often. So you pick the guy you absolutley feel will become a significant major league player. If they trust in their gut, that it’s Mannea or Stanek then draft a pitcher. Otherwise go for the best position player. I’m sure some guys will seperate themselves by spring.

          • Scotti

            Reading Is Fundemental… Best Player Available. What is so hard to comprehend? Really. Drafting the BPA means drafting a pitcher if he is the BPA. Shying away from pitchers in the draft based on the notion that pitchers get hurt ignores the fact that free agent pitchers get hurt and offer, historically, an even worse ROI. And, factually, even the Yankees don’t have enough cash to make up for making $150M mistakes year after year.

            • Kyle

              What on earth does “best player” mean if you aren’t accounting for the likelihood of the player reaching the majors and being productive?

            • Eric

              I read just fine. You’re the one who said you’d rather “miss” on a 5-10 million dollar player. That means you’d rather take the risk on a pitcher in the draft than in free agency. I simply say, 1st round picks are ever so precious. Far far more precious than 150 million dollars in free agent money. You should never ever say you’d rather “lose out” on numerous #1 picks. Accurate #1 picks that become amazing players is one of the best ways to build an incredibly strong core team and foundation of success. I am only picking a pitcher at #2 if I am absolutely sure this guy is an incredible talent. We will have to wait and see in that regard. But don’t so lightly throw away 1st round picks as if they are not super important. They are.

  • fortyonenorth

    What are the chances the Cubs get Buster Posey from the Giants? Just curious ;)

    • King Jeff

      I think Posey is about as untouchable as it gets.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        I think that was a grand slam joke.

  • ruby2626

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=bruno-001ste

    This is a link to Bruno’s stats, unfortunately doesn’t appear to have much power, speed or size. I looked at his ridiculously high OBP of over .440 but he only had 18 walks, something didn’t jive. Upon a closer look the guy had 20 hit by pitches, about every 12 times up. What’s he doing to tick these pitchers off, that is one high pct?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      I think he just crowded the plate against some pitchers who weren’t used to that. You see that time to time in the Northwest League. It tells me that Bruno is a smart player, but there is absolutely no way he’s atop any of my second base lists in the Cubs’ farm system. Not as a prospect, and not for the season. That particular award makes little sense to me.

  • terencemann

    On Szczur:

    He can steal bases and there is strength in his swing.

    I wonder if he said this to directly address the claims that Szczur is a “slap hitter”.

  • die hard

    Struck has good enough stuff to be given a spring training look

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