FanGraphs Reveals its Top 15 Chicago Cubs Prospects for 2012

Photo via Born on Third

On heels of Baseball Prospectus’s Cubs top ten prospect list, FanGraphs has revealed a top 15 of its own. And, as was the case with BP, there are a few surprises.

First, the list:

1. Javier Baez, SS

2. Albert Almora, OF

3. Jorge Soler, OF

4. Dillon Maples, P

5. Dan Vogelbach, 1B

6. Arodys Vizcaino, P

7. Brett Jackson, OF

8. Matt Szczur, OF

9. Christian Villanueva, 3B

10. Josh Vitters, 3B

11. Marco Hernandez, SS

12. Jeimer Candelario, 3B

13. Junior Lake, SS

14. Duane Underwood, P

15. Trey Martin, OF

Immediately reactions: wow, that’s really high for Dillon Maples, considering how little he’s pitched in the year and a half since he was drafted. Juan Carlos Paniagua again just misses the cut, and falls behind Duane Underwood. Speaking of which, Underwood ahead of Pierce Johnson? That, too, is a surprise. Marco Hernandez continues to get the (justified) love, but none for Gioskar Amaya (who just missed the cut). Robert Whitenack and Tony Zych also just missed the cut, according to the author, Marc Hulet.

FanGraphs also included a pretty extensive writeup on each of the prospects in the top 15, which are worth a read.

For example, on Maples:

The 2011 amateur draft infused a ton of talent into the Cubs’ minor league system and Maples was one of the most promising players nabbed even though he wasn’t taken until the 14th round. He was considered a difficult sign due to his commitment to the University of North Carolina where he would have played both football and baseball. A $2.5 million contract got him to commit to baseball on a full-time basis.

A scout familiar with Maples said he’s a great athlete with a “NFL leg… who could have kicked 50 yards, easy.” As a pitcher, the scout said the North Carolina native is a “horse of a kid” with a plus fastball that can touch 95-97 mph with a plus 12-to-6 “wipeout” curveball. “It’s as good a breaking ball as I’ve seen… while scouting,” he added. “He has a chance to throw three plus pitches.” Maples benefited from having former big league hurler James Baldwin as his high school baseball coach and a father who also played pro ball as a former second-round pick.

The scout said Maples has the ceiling of a top-of-the-rotation starter. “He’s a very focus kid.”

And on Jeimer Candelario, who is quietly one of the most intriguing prospects in the system – he was very young for short-season A-ball:

As I mentioned above, I expected to be impressed by Candelario when I watched him play but came away more impressed with some of the prospects around him. My first impression came with him playing third base in the playoffs and will refer to his efforts as lackadaisical. He looked very nonchalant at times and didn’t have great throwing mechanics or foot work.

A baseball evaluator I spoke with about him said the prospect could face a position switch down the road, possibly to first base. He also suggested Candelario may add 10-15 pounds to his frame and “he may be a pretty big man when all is said and done.”

At the plate, Candelario showed noisy hands but had decent bat speed. His swing got whippy at times and didn’t stay on a level plane. He would benefit from keeping the bat head in the strike zone for a longer period of time. Although I was a little lukewarm after his effort in the games I saw, the baseball person reminded me that Candelario was one of the youngest guys in the NWL and sometimes guys “get caught between style and substance… (but) I like his upside.”

The evaluator added that Candelario has a chance to be an average to above-average hitter and just needs at-bats. He should move up to A-ball in 2013 to once again play on the left side of the infield with Marco Hernandez.

Additional Notes

Candelario is a physically imposing 18-year-old, but his athleticism and foot speed are lacking. At the moment he’s top heavy and as legs develop further he could out grow third base forcing a move to left or first base. Candelario, a switch hitter, deploys an upright stance and uses his legs to create a narrow base. From the right side of the plate his swing tends to get long and his balance is suspect but his natural hitting ability often shines through. Those problems persist from the left side of the plate but are compounded by his tendency to pull off the ball. (JD Sussman)

All of those write-ups are worth a read.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

44 responses to “FanGraphs Reveals its Top 15 Chicago Cubs Prospects for 2012”

  1. Luke D

    Trey Martin definitely doesn’t get enough love, being injured and all recently, but he could move up quickly through the system.

    Go Cubs.

  2. sclem21

    So Pierce Johnson ranks 7th for BP but cant crack top 15 for Fan Graphs. I obviously dont expect perfect congruence, what fun would that be? But, Im surprised at the difference on Piece.

    1. Kyle

      That’s pretty standard.

      Prospects are like a bell curve. By the time you get away from the extreme end, everything is pretty similar. The whole “top 10″ or “top 15″ paradigm kind of gives a false impression.

      In the Cubs’ system right now, we have 3 guys who are clearly in a tier above everyone else, one or two guys who might have the talent to break into that tier but are very unproven, and then about 20 guys who could defensibly be ranked in just about any order.

    2. DoubleDown

      How does Vizcaino rank #6 with just 60 innings pitched in the majors, 21 years old, and coming off of TJ surgery?(There is a failure rate of 15 to 20 percent)

      1. DoubleDown

        *17 innings*

      2. terencemann

        A lot of writers till see him as a late inning reliever rather than a starter due to some command issues.

        1. Kyle

          Not just writers. Most of baseball outside of the Cubs’ brass.

          And not just control issues. Severe durability question marks.

  3. Kyle

    I get the impression this list was thrown together by someone who didn’t spend a ton of time on it.

    1. Cedlandrum

      I disagree. There is nothing thrown together about this list. There is just as much good info on here as anywhere else. Explain why you think that please.

      1. Kyle

        One of my biggest complaints about prospect punditry is that the information is frequently outdated. Both players and systems are graded on reputation more than most recent results. That’s the nature of the beast, I guess, when you are spreading yourself thin among 30 different farm systems.

        Many of the quotes from scouts seem as if they’ve been in the can for awhile, waiting to be pulled out. I have no idea whether the scout said those things about Dillon Maples when he was drafted or yesterday, because they sound like they could come from either. Absolutely nothing was said about Maples’ last two seasons as a pro, which are kind of important to defending his unusually high ranking.

        He refers to being unsure if the Cubs see Vizcaino as a starter or reliever, which should have taken him 20 seconds of research to find out. He ultimately leans toward reliever, which I wish was correct, but is not.

        That kind of thing just irks me. Take the time to do your research and come up with recent, relevant information, because the kinds of people who read these are probably ahead of you.

        1. Cedlandrum

          Well I understand what you are saying with Maples. To be honest I was pretty surprised that he was 4. That is way to high to me. He has only thrown 10 innings in his pro career. With those being in the late summer I would suggest the scout has seen him pretty recently.

          As for the rest of the article most of the guys listed were guys that the author had either seen late in the fall or had talked to a scout who had seen them this year. Maples is just an exception because like Paniuaga there just isn’t much of a career to base much on. So it is all in projection.

  4. daveyrosello

    Everything I’ve heard and read on Panigua–which admittedly, is not a lot at this point–suggests he EASILY has the highest upside of any pitcher in the Cubs system other than Vizcaino. And given his maturity, he’s likely to be in Chicago sooner than all of the others as well. Maybe people just need to see him pitch some more, and next year he’ll get the love.

    I think my two favorite “under-the-radar” prospects in the Cubs system right now are Arismendy Alcantara and Gioskar Amaya. Would love to see one of them develop the bat enough to at least make it to the bigs as a utility player.

  5. Deez

    My takeaway is Vitters remains in the Top 10. I think he will adjust & be our 3B.

  6. lou brock lives

    No love for INF Bruno or INF Saunders. I know they are older because they went to college but the numbers are amazing & they did it all after this years draft. Keep your eyes on these two guys . When its all said & done they will both be in the majors while the others getting all the hype are still at Daytona trying to figure out how to hit a breaking ball.

    1. Cedlandrum

      I don’t think either are top 15.

    2. Carew

      Agreed, especially with Saunders. That guy just flat-out raked

  7. Noah

    I actually have to disagree with both BP and FG on the Vogelbach ranking. I love the potential of Vogelbach’s offense, but bat only guys who at very best could play an average 1B just can’t go that high for me solely having played in short season ball. If Vogelbach continues to rake in Peoria and Daytona this year? Completely changes the equation. But he’s just below guys who I feel a lot more certain will contribute as either starting pitchers, starting position players, or clear back of the bullpen guys for me.

    With that said, that wouldn’t drop Vogelbach THAT far for me. He’d probably be my number 7 behind, after the Top 3, Vizcaino, Villanueva (I think the defense will make him an average to above average starting 3B) and Jackson (again, defense and position will give him some value even if the bat doesn’t come around as hoped). But this is more an argument of floor versus ceiling.

    I also don’t get why Ben Wells isn’t getting any love. I know the elbow flared up this year, but he’s been very impressive and has pitched against older hitters both years.

    Aside from that, Maples is way too high for me, Pierce Johnson is definitely in my Top 10, and I’ve cooled on Marco Hernandez, as I don’t really think he’ll ever do enough offensively to be more than a back up MIF.

  8. MichCubFan

    Not huge on the 11-15 on the fangraphs list…i think i would take our 16-20 if i had a choice between the 2 groups.

  9. Hugo

    Only two pitchers in the top 13.

  10. North Side Irish

    Randy Wehofer ‏@RandyWehofer
    @Cubs prospect Junior Lake is 8-for-10 with 4 doubles in last 3 games in Dominican. BA jumped from .263 to .362, now 2nd in the lge. #cubs

    Now if we can just get the Cubs transferred to the Dominican League…

  11. cheryl

    Brett, At least you knew what to do. You have a lot of company in systems that have been hacked and there were a lot of people here who may have helped trace the culprit. Hope its the last of it and you don’t have to fool with it again.

  12. Fastball

    I think its a very good sign that BP and FG are picking different prospects from the organization. I demonstrates how much change has occurred in a very short time. I am not big on Szurzur (spelled wrong I know) being on the list. I just have the feeling on him that he is average at best and we have a lot of average to just above average kids in the system. I wouldn’t consider him to be a Top 20 guy. That’s just me. From a trade piece perspective it’s great that he is in the Top 15. He can be included in a trade for what we really need more of. I wouldn’t mind seeing Jed package up a few prospects to get a real nice catcher added into the system. They are just so hard to find historically.

  13. Fastball

    I would be happy with signing Liriano. But I sure as hell wouldn’t tell him he has a spot in our rotation. I hope that we get McCarthy and Marcum and about two or three more Liriano’s as well. I am convinced we need to stock pile those types of pitchers off the FA market. Some will work and some won’t. If we can define 8 or 9 starters that don’t include the parade of kids we saw this past year that would be great. Those kids were up way to early or should have never been up at all. Glad we got to seem them though. Most all of those kids need to learn how to pitch out of the BP if they ever want ML jobs. Talent just isn’t there. Not a fast ball in that bunch IMO.

  14. Fastball

    I guess I like Liriano more in concept than anything else. If we grab him cheap we can flip him when teams get desperate for LH starter next season. I don’t know if Bosio knows how to tie his own shoes. If they can put this guy together for just a month or two then get rid of him it could be a winning proposition. I don’t look at any of these guys like they are going to be world beaters. Except for McCarthy he could be a true No. 1 starter and a keeper for three or four years. McCarthy has the stuff to be an Ace. First thing I would do with him is have a sports medicine / equipment company develop a protective head gear for him to wear that is extremely comfortable and won’t bother him while he is pitching. My opinion on that is: Baseball as an industry should have had some company develop something like this for pitchers a long time ago. 60′ 6″ is dangerous if your a pitcher. The base coaches wear helmets and they are 90′ from home plate. This invention / device needs to be given to every kid starting in Little League all the way to the Majors. I never got hit but I had a few wizz by that if they would have hit me I would be dead right now. Hell I had a catcher who damned near took my head off a few times throwing to second base.

  15. jt

    I like Garza, Shark and Wood as the 2,3 and 4 starters. If they somehow get an ace I don’t much care what bunch of bums they get to fill the 5th spot. The more the better.
    But, they really need one very good pitcher.

    1. DoubleDown

      Believe it or not, I would like to see the dumbbell get another chance. Yes. Volstad.

      1. DarthHater

        Better move to Kansas City, then.

        1. DoubleDown

          Why?

        2. DoubleDown

          Never mind. I did not know Volstad had been pick up by the Royals until I saw your comment and researched it.

  16. Fastball

    that gets me to thinking. why didn’t we trade Volstadt to KC. We got hosed. I want a draft pick!

    1. DarthHater

      Volstad is gone. Isn’t that enough? Don’t be greedy.

      1. DoubleDown

        No, I think Fastball makes a good point. Why didn’t we get more for him?

        1. DarthHater

          Fine. You can have a compensation pick between the 39th and 40th rounds.

          1. DoubleDown

            Oh, alright. But had we got the 40th round pick, you never know.

        2. Tommy

          We didn’t get anything for him because he sucks.

          1. DoubleDown

            So wht is the FO interested in Liriano? He sucks too.

    2. DoubleDown

      That is a good point. How much was Volstad making? I think about 3.5 mil.

  17. SVAZCUB

    A lot of interesting info in the Fangraphs article, but the ratings are definitely a bit goofy–looks like they’re outsmarting themselves a bit, trying to be different with Maples at 4 and Amaya off the list. Let Maples show that he can walk less than a hitter an inning as a pro AND stay healthy before you rate him that high! Great stuff, but still a lot of question marks with him…and we know how dicey pitching prospects are already–even the ones without the question marks.

  18. Ramy16

    Any news that Liriano will accept a deal from the Cubs?