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starlin-castro-batFor whatever reason, Keith Law has the reputation of hating everything about the Chicago Cubs’ young players. Kevin Goldstein had that reputation, too. And other prospecting types have that reputation, too. Hmm. I suspect that perhaps rather than having a particular bias, the Cubs simply haven’t historically had a great set of young players – and we, as fans, tend to pump up the players the Cubs do have a bit more than they might actually merit.

But maybe that will be changing soon.

Law recently wrote his annual Top 25 MLB Players Under 25 piece, which looks at the best players already in MLB (with exhausted rookie eligibility) under the age of 25, and ranks them. According to Law, “This is a ranking of how I would order these players if I were starting a franchise and would have them for the next several years, not just 2013.”

Since that’s precisely what the Cubs are trying to do in accumulating a “young core,” it’s good to see that they had two entries on the list: Starlin Castro at number eight, and Anthony Rizzo at number 18. Castro came in behind only Trout, Harper, Heyward, Stanton, Strasburg, Kershaw, and Machado, so it’s a pretty impressive compliment. Rizzo was the highest-ranked first baseman on the list.

The article is of the premium variety, so I won’t share too much, but here’s some of what Law had to say about the present and future of Castro:

Current: Castro’s bat speed and hand-eye coordination have produced very impressive results for a player who has yet to turn 23, walks about twice a month and is only an average runner …. He’s also improved himself to the point where he’s playable at shortstop and might be forced off the position by another player, rather than forcing himself off of it through poor play.

Future: If Castro barely improves from here, he’s still a valuable big leaguer because he can handle short and is likely to hit at least .300 with plenty of doubles power. I think he’ll grow into 20-homer power in time, and while his walk rates are pretty low, he’s not hopeless at the plate, giving me some reason to think he could add 15-20 walks a year in time.

The “current” sounds like a fair description, and the “future” sounds awfully exciting. If Castro hit .300 with 20 homers and added those additional 20 walks, he could be putting up a .300/.360/.470 line … while playing average or above average shortstop. That’s the kind of performance that would make him one of the most valuable players in all of baseball. Hopefully he takes that step forward as soon as this year.

As for Rizzo, Law is equally enthused:

Current: …. The changes [to Rizzo's swing] largely worked: Rizzo cut his strikeout rate dramatically versus his 2011 tenure with the Padres, even making more contact against southpaws.

He’s a terrific defensive first baseman and has earned high marks for his makeup from all three of the organizations that have employed him.

Future: A full season for Rizzo in 2013 should see him hit close to 25 homers with an average in the high .200s along with that great defense at first. He’s only moderately patient, although that might improve as he becomes more of a power threat. The biggest question is whether he can avoid becoming a platoon player: He raked against lefties in Triple-A last year but had just a .599 OPS against them in the majors, albeit with a .221 BABIP. Given his age and the speed with which he has made adjustments, I like his odds of figuring out southpaws.

Assuming Law is correct about Rizzo’s future against lefties, it sounds like he could be a centerpiece of the lineup for the better part of a decade (while playing Gold Glove defense at first). Together with Castro, that’s absolutely the start of a quality offensive core. Add just two more quality bats, or one elite bat, and you could easily have an above-average offense.

  • BD

    Hey, whaddya know? I’m a big fan of those two as well! I am really excited to see what they do this year.

  • Seth

    I’d like to think Shark would have been on this list had he been younger. Technically he’s young in pitching years having been only focused entirely on pitching since he graduated college.

    • Tim

      What position did shark play before he pitched?

      • Patrick G

        Wide Receiver

        • Tim

          I know that.. What position in baseball

          • Tim

            I’m not questioning that I know he doesn’t have a lot of miles on his arm. I looked it up, he was an all state center fielder at valparaiso high school

          • Big Joe

            He was an outfielder in high school. He grew up in Valparasio, Indiana, about an hour west of me.

            • bails17

              Big Joe…you must be in South Bend! However, he did pitch quite a bit in HS. I don’t think he was overused or anything like that.

              • Big Joe

                Actually, I live in Elkhart. It’s about 15 minutes from South Bend. I don’t believe he was overused, either.

                • Jim

                  Man, you must fly if you think Elkhart is 15 minutes from SBI. :)

                  • Big Joe

                    From the toll road, I can be at Notre Dame in 15 minutes. Elkhart, to the US 31 North exit is 20 miles or so. Driving 65 mph or so, and there you go. 15 minutes. Now, to be in “downtown” South Bend, I’d give it 20 minutes, or so.

                    • bails17

                      Yeah…on the south side too. You can be there in about 15. I live in Middlebury…so not far at all.

            • Goldcoast cub

              He also pitched in high school. He threw hard, and that was about it. I played with and against him throughout high school and going off my memory alone I was not too happy when the cubs drafted him. I definitely stand corrected. Even when he debuted with the cubs as a reliever it was clear he made huge strides at ND.

              • Big Joe

                Small world, bails. I am a Northridge grad.

                • Joepoe32

                  Northridge high school in Illinois?

                  • Joepoe32

                    Big joe did you graduate from Northridge prep school in niles Illinois?

                • Kygavin

                  Dont wanna just jump in your guys convo but Im a Concord grad so im from the area as well

                  • Big Joe

                    I’m a Northridge grad. Good to see some folks from my area here.
                    @joepoe: No. Middlebury, Indiana.

                    • Matthew Emigh

                      Sorry about that must have been rough growing up in Amish country GO WAWASEE!!!!

                    • Kygavin

                      NLC getting repped quite a bit here haha

      • Seth

        He pitched in college, but not year round like a lot of other college pitchers who focus entirely on baseball. I was just saying in terms of baseball years he’s not as old as his age makes him seem.

    • Behind enemy lines (south side cub fan)

      I’m curious how smardja’s late start plays into his ‘prime’ years and longevity. Is it fair to push those back, too, given less wear on his arm — or is it more about age than wear? (Accepting of course that all players are different — just thinking ballpark here.)

      • Seth

        Are there similar players like him to compare to? It’d be interesting to get into.

  • JR

    Brett anyway you could post the complete top 25 players from this list? Would love to see it. Thanks

    • Jeff R

      Brett provided the link to the article in the piece.

      • hansman1982

        Not all of us are ESPN Insider members.

    • JBarnes

      #1-Trout
      #2-Harper
      #3-Heyward
      #4-Stanton
      #5-Strasburg
      #6-Kershaw
      #7-Machado
      #8-Castro
      #9-Bumgarner
      #10-Andrus
      #11-Lawrie
      #12-Salvador Perez
      #13-Chapman
      #14-Matt Moore
      #15-Jarrod Parker
      #16-Chris Sale
      #17-Matt Harvey
      #18-Rizzo
      #19-Freddie Freeman
      #20-Grandal
      #21-Andrelton Simmons
      #22-Middlebrooks
      #23-Kimbrel
      #24-Hosmer
      #25-Chris Tillman

      Other considerations: Ackley, Belt, Cahill, Duffy, Neftali Feliz, Starling Marte, Jesus Montero, Moustakas, Jacob Turner.

      • MightyBear

        Boy Braves have 4 on this list. That’s impressive.

      • Richard Nose

        Rizzo over Freeman and Hosmer…wow that’s beautiful. Salvador Perez still arouses me.

  • Sinnycal

    “He’s a terrific defensive first baseman and has earned high marks for his makeup from all three of the organizations that have employed him.”

    i.e. the same front office two and a half times.

  • Patrick G

    Now, Law is right about everyone ahead of Castro, but I kind of have to question Machado ahead of him. I know he is supposed to be a great talent, but has he proved enough to be ahead of Castro only playing half a season?

    • Jim

      I agree. I think the Orioles would be elated if Machado was anything close to Castro. Maybe he will be better, but Castro is already doing it and I expect him to add more power over the next few years.

    • fortyonenorth

      I’m surprised Machado has exhausted his rookie eligibility. Didn’t he just get the call up in late August or September?

      • King Jeff

        A player shall be considered a rookie unless, during a previous season or seasons, he has (a) exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues; or (b) accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the period of 25-player limit (excluding time in the military service and time on the disabled list)

        Machado has used up his rookie eligibility on both accounts.

        • fortyonenorth

          Thanks Jeff.

    • Joepoe321

      Agreed Castro has more experience and has proved more so far…machado is overrated

      • DarthHater

        Machado has only 200 major-league plate appearances and a .317 wOBA.

        Castro has over 1900 major-league plate appearances, a .330 career wOBA and his lowest wOBA for a full season is .323. Castro also plays a more valuable position.

        Ranking Machado above Castro based on anything they have done to this point is just plain stupid.

  • http://bleachernation frank hutch

    Absolutely not there’s 25 guys that would have been ahead of him at least

  • http://bleachernation frank hutch

    Shark that is

  • GDB

    2 out of 25 ain’t bad. I was hoping this offseason would see us trade for a 3rd player who could fit into these kind of lists. Sure would be nice to have a player with similar skillset to Rizzo over at thirdbase.

    • ETS

      Gyorko?

      • DarthHater

        Shhh! That’s the secret password!!

      • GDB

        Last year I probably would have wanted Moose-tacos (Moustakas) but the shine seems to have gone off him a bit.

        Gyorko will be fine!

        • CubFan Paul

          I would still take moustakas now & give him all of 2013 to figure it out.

          • GDB

            Interesting to see what Cubs fans who are impatient with Vitters would make of Moustakas. In 900 big league PA, Moustakas has a .205/.301/.395 line. Darwin Barney-esque.

            For comparisons sake:
            Moustakas at AAA in 2011 (age 22) hit .287/.347/.498
            Vitters at AAA in 2012 (age 22) hit .304/.356/.513

            I’m not saying Vitters=Moustakas, but i’m less convinvcd that Moustakas is going to break out than I was a year ago.

            • ETS

              Royals aren’t PCL, are they?

              • MikeW

                absolutely they are. Omaha.

                • ETS

                  Oh duh… yeah, that’s a very interesting comparison.

      • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Kyle

        Gyorko isnt a bad prospect, but he doesn’t belong in a conversation like this.

  • ETS

    Is there anyone here who would put heyward ahead of stanton? I’m scratching my head on that one.

    • Patrick G

      Surprised Kershaw and Strasburg are behind Heyward too

      • ETS

        I wasn’t AS surprised. While both are amazing, if the premise of the article is “who do you want to build a team around” then I understand putting pitchers lower. It’s hard to say you’re building around a guy that only contributes every 5th game and has a much higher % chance of spending time on the DL.

        • Patrick G

          That is true. I guess I based it off of talent right now and not the whole “building the team around them” concept.

    • blublud

      I think Heyward is as good as Harper. They are basicly the same player. So if harper is there at 2, Heyward can’t be any lower. They are just as good as each other.

      Only reason I can call Harper better, and its obviously good reason, is that his numbers and Heyward numbers are eerily similar, but Harper is 3 years younger.

      Heyward .269/.335/.479/.814 30 Doubles 27HR 21SB 8CS
      Harper .270/.340/.477/.817 26 Doubles 22HR 18SB 6CB

      you give harper the 54 additional at-bats to match Heyward’s total, and you would basicly have twins name Harper and Heyward.

      • blublud

        Also, defense may have played a part in the decision.

        • ETS

          Well, and Harper is 3 years younger than Heyward. That’s HUGE at that age.

          • JR

            What Harper did at 19 in the majors isn’t nothing short of greatness. He was better than Griffey Jr. at that age. I would be shocked if in 3 years Harper isn’t blowing what Heyward did out of the water.

            • ETS

              And still will be echelons behind trout? ;)

              • JR

                Yeah Trout’s year was just insane. I love Harper’s power potential though, and if he becomes an annual 40 plus homer guy (which he has every chance to become) he could narrow the gap some.

      • ETS

        Heyward 6’5″ 240#
        Calvin Johnson 6’5″ 239#

        Jorge Soler 6’3″ 205# :D

    • ETS

      Back to my original thought though, basically Stanton/Heyward are similar ages and Stanton’s numbers are better. The only argument I could see for Heyward is if you think he can keep stealing 20 bags/year as his power increases, but I don’t foresee that. I do foresee Stanton being a perennial 45hr/yr guy though.

    • Southern Cub

      I just don’t thing Heyward is all that impressive period. Nice young man and nice ball player, but not a “franchise” starter.

  • North Side Irish

    I never though Law and Goldstein were biased against Cubs prospects, but I always felt like they chose the most delusional questions to answer. There was just no way those were the best questions they were getting about Cubs prospects.

    Law has also written good things in the past few months about Baez, Solar, Almora and Paniagua, so I think it’s more of a case where the Cubs have finally given him prospects worth saying something good about.

  • http://bleachernation Ferris

    Dont put alot of stock in those lists,no one knows when they will find a mike piazza late in the draft who was considered by most to be a non prospect,and no way hayward over stanton but still, I get position players over pitchers, but today with the cost of pitching that may change.There are very few cant miss pitchers..the cubs had three at once,and that didnt last for us.

  • SirCub

    I wonder how the Cubs rank compared to other teams? The Nats obviously have two way up there, but who else?

    I suspect the Rangers will have both Olt and Profar once they’re eligible, and I’m sure Andrus is on there.

    The D-backs probably have Upton and Cahill. Possibly Goldschmidt.
    Cubs seem to be sitting pretty good, though.

  • preacherman86

    Nice compliments on both accounts. Personally I think a .300, 20 homer, above average defense, and .360 obp from a shortstop would rate above Jayson Heyward’s prospective line, and his performance up till now. Would also like to see him rated above Manny Machado at this point, though I suppose Machado’s power ceiling is higher and they rate him at ss. I could easily see Machado as a 3b however, and that might decrease his value on defensive positioning alone. Similar to Baez in that respect.

  • Jon

    If Baez, like Castro, can improve his walk rate, can he
    Be that elite bat? And which is more likely Castro move Baez off
    Short or Baez move Castro

  • Big Joe

    Just maybe. Maybe. The big guys have been traditionally down on the Cubs young players, because they team has drafted poorly, and as a result, has had some bad players? I agree, the fan base tends to overrate each prospect…hoping that he’ll be “the guy that ends the drought in Chicago”. That being the case (the loooooong World Series drought), I give the fan base a pass. I want a title, and have been guilty of the same line of thinking. I do NOT give the FO a pass. The draft has not been pretty for this team in a long time. The past year has given hope, yes.

    • JASON

      The Cubs draft bad? You mean Hayden Simpson was a bad first round pick back in 2010? I’m thinking he’s a way better prospect then Zack Lee, Noah Syndergaard, Taijun Walker, Nick Castellanos or Mike Olt……..who were all drafted after him.

      • ETS

        I think the cubs did draft bad in general, but don’t like using Hayden Simpson as a comparison. The pick was controversial but I think had more to do with signing bonus and who they thought they could get to sign than actual talent. Complete opposite of the 2011 draft which appears to have been pretty good by all accounts.

        • JASON

          That’s said if you worry about money on your first round pick. Many had him as a 6th or 7th round selection. I guess I was upset back then but now seeing the talent that was selected after him……just bitter.

          • ETS

            I’m with ya. I can’t understand the money argument either. So you pick an interesting D2 pitcher because you’re worried about money but you spend exorbitantly on your 2011 draft?

            • JASON

              I wonder if that was the Rickets were influenced by someone with a baseball IQ after the 2010 draft!

              • Crazyhorse

                Drafting and maintaining a 25 man roster is King .When a team has back to back top 10 picks some can argue that drafting the right players should be a easy task.

                • JASON

                  Well let’s hope so. They’ve had a top ten pick three years in a row with this coming draft. Baez seems like a solid pick clearly. Almora, kind of scares me a bit but it’s still way to early to judge him. I’m interested to see how he pans out after a full year at Kane county assuming he starts off there. Very interested to see where they go with the number 2 pick this year.

  • Marc

    I too am extremely high on Castro. High enough to say that he should have gotten at least #7 on that list.

    • Marcel91

      He still has a few years left til he’s 25. Could crack the top 5. Still wondering why Machado ranks ahead of Castro….You’d hope he even comes come to what Castro is right now.

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