Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

baez almora solerKeith Law’s prospect week rounds into the homestretch with his individual team top ten lists. We already knew that the Cubs had Baez/Almora/Soler/Vizcaino/Candelario at the top, thanks to their having made Law’s top 110 prospects. The rest of his top ten looked like this:

1. Javier Baez, SS

2. Albert Almora, CF

3. Jorge Soler, RF

4. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP

5. Jeimer Candelario, 3B

6. Duane Underwood, RHP

7. Juan Carlos Paniagua, RHP

8. Pierce Johnson, RHP

9. Paul Blackburn, RHP

10. Arismendy Alcantara, SS

Alcantara showed up at the end of Baseball America’s top ten list, and at the end of Jonathan Mayo’s list, too (though that was 21 deep). Hopefully he comes back from the leg injury last year (a broken foot) and keeps his upward trend. Having another legit shortstop prospect in the system could prove a very valuable thing as the Cubs look to, perhaps, improve the big league club through trades next year.

Law is clearly high on the Cubs’ young pitching, with the Underwood-Paniagua-Johnson-Blackburn string there at the end. Each is new to the system, and each is about to play their first full professional season in the Cubs’ system. It will be interesting to see how they – and others like Dillon Maples, Ryan McNeil, Jose Arias, Tayler Scott, and on and on among the lowest levels – progress this year. Many of the Cubs’ young arms were discussed this week on the podcast with BP prospecting guru Jason Parks, by the way.

Law mentioned the absence of Dan Vogelbach on the list, and explained it essentially as a problem of position – Law doesn’t think Vogelbach has, or will ever have, one.

He also dug into each of the prospects on his top 100 list, and, since it’s premium content, I won’t share too much, but I did want to highlight part of his take on Vizcaino:

When healthy, Vizcaino has electric stuff, a top-of-the-rotation arsenal with a lightning-quick arm, needing work on command and refinement on his changeup a little further to reach that potential — and, of course, to stay healthy.

Before the surgery, Vizcaino would work at 92-96 as a starter and hit 98 when he worked in relief for Atlanta late in 2011. The pitch doesn’t sink but does have late life up in the zone. He has a hard curveball that works at near-slider velocity with hard two-plane break and good depth. The changeup has good arm speed, and improving it is a question of feel, something he’ll get with reps. His arm works well aside from a lack of extension out front, and he gets on top of the ball enough to get that depth on the breaking ball.

The Cubs will likely bring him back slowly this year, so if he appears in the majors at all in 2013, I’d speculate that it would be in relief, with a rotation spot by mid-2014 a more realistic goal.

It’s nice to hear that the rotation is still on the table for Vizcaino, from Law’s perspective. His value to the Cubs is obviously much higher as a starter than a reliever, so the hope is that he’ll have every opportunity to succeed in the rotation before falling back on a bullpen job. He could be outstanding in relief, though, so it’s not like that would be a total loss.

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