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dan vogelbach cubs[The third installment of the top 40 Chicago Cubs prospects for 2013. In case you missed the first two installments, they are here and here.]

And now things really get interesting. We are ready for the second half of the Bleacher Nation Top 40 and some of the biggest names are on the horizon. Actually, forget the horizon. Some of the stars of the farm system are coming out to play in today’s Top 40, and after today we still have ten names to go.

The Cubs really do have a deep system, but already the uneven nature of that depth stands out. The pitchers on today’s list are all either relievers or come with a lot of risk or projection, and that situation will not get much better tomorrow. The Cubs have hitters up and down the organization, but the pitching largely projects as mid-rotation starters and bullpen arms. There is some depth in those departments, depth that will pay dividends when the Cubs are back in contention, but the lack of top tier pitching talent does create some challenges for the team as they work to get back into regular contention.

And that brings us to the other great benefit of having a deep farm system. The Cubs are going to be in a good position to deal out of their depth to shore up their weakness in pitching. Provided, that is, they can find some trading partners. Good young pitching is hard to find, and the teams that have it tend not to deal it.

If Cubs can find some pitching to trade for, though, I think they have the assets to make the deal thanks in large part to their volume of shortstop prospects. Between Baez, Lake, Alcantara, and Hernandez, the Cubs have an unusually large number of pretty good infielders that have at least a chance to stay at short. When really good pitching talent is traded, we often see pretty good young shortstops going in the other direction. The Cubs have the shortstops. Now all they need to do is find some pitching to flip them for.

Speaking of Alcantara, his spot on the Top 40 is coming up very soon now.

20. Paul Blackburn, RHP
Where to watch him: Boise
Wrigley Field ETA: 2016
Projects as: Either a mid rotation starter or a late inning reliever

Blackburn is another of the Cubs Army of Arms from the early rounds of the 2012 draft, and scouts are already speaking in glowing terms about his feel for his pitches and his understanding of how to attack hitters. Not a lot of 18 year olds who throw in the low to mid 90s have the discipline to pound the lower part of the strike zone and attack both sides of the plate, but that is exactly what Blackburn is doing. Somewhere along the line this guy had some very good coaching, and it shows. As exciting as it is to see a teenager this advanced, he still has a long way to go before he reaches Wrigley. Like most young pitchers, he still has some muscle to pack on, some off speed stuff to polish, and will need to develop the endurance to survive playing a professional sport for nine solid months a year. He’ll begin that stage of his development in either Boise or Kane County later this year.

19. Trey McNutt, RHP
Where to watch him: Iowa
Wrigley Field ETA: 2013
Projects as: Potential setup man

Once upon a time, McNutt was considered to have two plus pitches and was well on his way to No. 2 starter status. But he never could add a quality off speed pitch. And then he was slowed by blisters. And then a freakish injury (that did not affect his arm). And then he was sent to the bullpen. And finally he re-emerged in the latter part of the 2012 Tennessee season as a reliable weapon out of the bullpen. Right now that is how he projects, and that is how he is ranked. I expect he will see Chicago’s bullpen this September, if not before.

But let’s not write him off as a starter quite yet. It was not all that long ago that Cubs fans were generally down a struggling relief pitching prospect named Jeff Samardzija. McNutt was only 22 last season. His stock may be down right now but, like Samardzija, the raw materials are there for him to emerge as a very good pitcher. He’s in the bullpen for now; let’s check back in two or three years.

18. Arismendy Alcantara, SS
Where to watch him: Tennessee
Wrigley Field ETA: 2015
Projects as: League average middle infielder or utility guy

When a switch hitter with a good chance to stay at shortstop reaches High A at the age of 20 and posts an OPS of .786 while hitting a solid .302 and compiling career highs in both HR and SB despite having his season cut short by injury, you might expect him check in higher than 18th on a Top Propects list. And, indeed, if you look around the internet you will find plenty of places where Alcantara is ranked quite a few spots higher. I’m taking a more cautious approach on Alcantara for two reasons: first, he’s only had one good offensive season after a couple of more mediocre ones; second, I’m not quite convinced he is staying at shortstop. He has the tools to do so, but some scouts believe he’ll be better off on the right side of the infield. A year from now, depending on how things go in Tennessee, we could be talking about Alcantara about ten spots higher on this list.

17. Jae-Hoon Ha, OF
Where to watch him: Iowa
Wrigley Field ETA: 2013
Projects as: Defensive fourth outfielder

If not for Almora, Ha would likely be acclaimed as the best defensive outfielder in the Cubs organization. Even with Almora in the system I’m not sure that Ha still doesn’t take the title. Prior to the 2012 season that high end glove was about all Ha was known for. But then he went to Tennessee and posted a career high in OBP (.352), BB% (9.5%), and SB (11). Those are not the numbers of a future All-Star, but it isn’t hard to imagine the guy who put up that line as a 21 year old in Double A emerging as a decent starting centerfielder one of these days, especially given that he is still learning to steal bases and projects to add a little more power. I still think his most likely future is that of a fourth outfielder, if he can stay healthy. That is an important caveat with Ha because he plays hard all the time, even if it means running full speed into the fence in an effort to make the play. Fans are going to love him. Trainers perhaps not so much.

16. Tony Zych, RHP
Where to watch him: Iowa and Chicago
Wrigley Field ETA: 2013
Projects as: Set up man

Zych has the pitches and mentality to come out of the pen. The Cubs drafted him as a reliever out of college, and last season he shut down Double A hitters to the tune of 10.2 K/9. His walk rate was a little elevated, but I don’t think we need to worry about Zych evolving into another Marmol. Instead, look for his hard stuff and deceptive delivery to continue to wrack up the strikeouts at the back of the Iowa pen. If the Cubs need a right hander in Chicago sometime in the second half of this season, Zych should be in consideration to take that call.

15. Logan Watkins, 2B
Where to watch him: Iowa
Wrigley Field ETA: 2013
Projects as: A solid starting second baseman or above average utility player

When was the last time a Gold Glove winner had to fight for his starting job in spring training? That is what we could be watching twelve months from now. Logan Watkins is a pretty good defender in his own right, and he offers more power, more speed, more patience, and a lefty swing over the Cubs’ incumbent second baseman. On the other hand, Watkins can also handle center field, and even shortstop in a pinch. He would be valuable off the bench both in pinch hit roles and as a defensive replacement at a number of position. I expect Chicago fans to get their first look at Watkins in September, and I think he’ll be up to stay early next season.

14. Alberto Cabrera, RHP
Where to watch him: Iowa and Chicago
Wrigley Field ETA: 2013
Projects as: Mid rotation starter or quality setup man

Cabrera has one of the best fastballs in the organization, but he has tended to have trouble with his command. The Cubs worked hard on that last year; fans in Iowa will get front row seats to watch the results of those efforts. Cabrera, when he is at his best, has the sort of arsenal that we can imagine towards the front of the Cubs rotation. When he is off, he’s walking batters like Marmol before the All-Star break. That said, I love the idea of moving him back to the starting rotation. If the new coaching staff can help him harness his stuff, the Cubs have added a badly needed starting pitching prospect to a system depleted in that department. And if it doesn’t work they still have a nice bullpen arm with extra polish on his supporting pitches. Either way, the Cubs win.

13. Dan Vogelbach, 1B/DH
Where to watch him: Kane County
Wrigley Field ETA: 2015
Projects as: Potentially a very good hitter

Vogelbach is a fringe Top 100 prospect with a fan club the size of Siberia, and here I am burying him at No. 13. That’s an indicator of how deep this system is, not an indictment of Vogelbach. I like Vogelbach the hitter about as much as anyone, and I actually think he could one day be only slightly below average as a defensive first baseman. That’s about as optimistic an assessment as any analyst is willing to make.

But at the end of the day, Vogelbach will go exactly as far as his bat will take him. The early results (.410 OBP, .641 SLG in 2012) suggest that his bat will take him quite a long ways, but this guy is a hitter in search of a position. He will need to continue to hit, not just well enough to reach the majors, but so well that it overcomes the value he does not provide on defense. I love the ceiling, but the risk that comes from being a no-position player keeps him from moving into the Top 5 of this list. At least for now.

12. Robert Whitenack, RHP
Where to watch him: Tennessee
Wrigley Field ETA: 2013
Projects as: Number three starter

Whitenack was soaring up the farm system in 2011 when his flight was ended early by elbow surgery. 2012 marked his recovery year, and like many recovery years, it was a mixed bag. Now is the time to see what the post-surgery Whitenack looks like and if he can get back on the fast track to Chicago.

At his best, Whitenack used control and a devastating knuckle-curve to mow through hitters in Daytona and Tennessee. Some reports claim he has dropped the knuckle-curve, but that the slider he replaced it with may be even better. Whatever his arsenal, he looks likely to feature two plus pitches backed by a decent changeup. I still see him as a solid number three starter, but I am basing that in no small part on his pre-injury numbers. If he can get back to that form in the early part of 2013, he should become a very strong candidate for the 2014 rotation. Given the track record of pitchers with this surgery, I like his chances.

11. Jeimer Candelario, 3B
Where to watch him: Kane County
Wrigley Field ETA: 2015
Projects as: A good, offense-first style of corner infielder or left fielder

Of all the hitters in the Cubs’ low minors, including Almora and Baez, I think Candelario might be the safest bet to reach the majors. Candelario put himself on the prospect stage by drawing more walks than strikeouts as an 17 year old in the DSL. The Cubs then challenged with him a trip to Boise and made him one of the youngest players in the Northwest League. The switch hitter seemed to wear out in the later part of the season, but he still posted a quality season OPS of 0.741 and drew some fairly consistent praise from the regular scouts on that circuit. That performance should be enough to move him on to the Midwest League this year where I expect he will be the primary third baseman.

The upside on Candelario is that of a patient batter who can hit for both average and power from both sides of the plate. His bat alone makes him an asset; his glove will determine just how good of an asset he can be. Right now he is on the hot corner, and there are some reports that he could stay there long term. I think the jury is still out on that one, but if he can prove he can handle third this season, then he could start rapidly rising up a number of ranking lists.

  • Dylan

    It seems that a lot of guys you listed will be “arriving” to Wrigley Field this year. Is it just me, or are you overestimating our prospects?

    Or are they really THAT good?

    • Edwin

      It’s probably also the state of the current MLB club.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        And the place the Cubs are in with respect to the rebuild – gonna get a whole bunch of those upper level guys “trying out” on the big club at various points.

    • Patrick G

      That’s what I thought bout Whitenack. Didnt think he’d be a September callup

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Most of the ETA: 2013 are September callup candidates. If he’s on the 40 man and will finish the season in Tennessee or Iowa, I probably marked him down as a likely Sept. call up.

  • #1lahairfan

    Thanks Luke.

  • Edwin

    Great take on Vogelbach. He’s a great hitter so far, but with that being his only tool, the risk factor brings him down.

    I really like all of the write ups, and the scouting reports on each player. Thanks.

  • Patrick G

    I like Whitenack at 12. Hope he can return to his form before TJS. Make LI proud!

  • Edwin

    I’m impressed. Very fair take on everyone on the list.

  • Jed

    Yes! Gioskar Amaya is going to make the top 10…or not even the top 40. I really hope it’s the former.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      You have nothing to worry about.

    • Mick

      Ah, super excited to see where mini-Miguel Cabrera, aka Gioskar Amaya, lands! Luke, you just made MY top-10!

  • mak

    Not sure I agree with Whitenack at 13. If his ceiling is a 3, and that is in question because of TJS, dropping his best pitch, etc., then I’m not sure I can put him top 20. (Please note — I love the work you have done/are doing — just my 2 cents).

    • mak

      *12

    • hansman1982

      Luke’s “Project’s As” does NOT equal ceiling. It merely is an estimation of where Luke thinks the player will end up as high as.

      What’s the distinction? I believe Luke would allow for some room above that if EVERYTHING breaks the kid’s way.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        It’s also assuming the guy makes it to the bigs at all. Obviously if Luke were writing the likeliest outcome for everyone, you’d have to say 75% of the guys would bust – because that’s what happens.

        But that’s not what people really want to know.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          Exactly. My lowest risk guys are only low risk on the scale for all prospects. Most prospects don’t make it. That’s just how it goes.

          • SteveDillard

            Thanks for the rankings Luke. They are great!

            As far as the 75% bust rate – you have ranked 40 players, which mean 10 will pan out. Which 10 do you think that will be?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Hansman is has it right. That projection is a projection, not a ceiling.

      Keep in mind also that I rank on both Projection and Risk. In the case of Whitenack, his success in Double A pre-injury and the very high success rate of that surgery lead me to consider him a fairly low risk to hit that projection.

      If he can’t repeat his 2011 success in Double A by the end of the season, though, he’s going to be a lot lower on this list next year.

      • hansman1982

        Prospecting, to me, seems like drag racing. Before the race starts you can look at the specs of a car and figure out, roughly, how fast it will go down the quarter. This would be the draft day analysis.

        Rookie and A- ball is like calculating the 1/4 mile time based off reaction time.
        A and A+ uses 100 ft times.
        AA and AAA uses 1/8th mile time.

        Obviously the risk of projection decreases the further down the track you get but there is always the risk of blowing your engine or crashing violently before you cross the finish line.

  • ETS

    “Of all the hitters in the Cubs’ low minors, including Almora and Baez, I think Candelario might be the safest BEST to reach the majors.”

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      I think Brett just fixed that. Thanks, ETS.

      • ETS

        You know, I’m often criticized for my lack of attention to detail. Maybe the problem is I’m reading BN too often while working on other things…. ;)

      • Kukini

        Not to detract from an article full of excellent analysis, but while we’re fixing errors…

        From the last sentence of the article –
        “I think the jury is still out on that one, but if he can PROOF he can handle third this season, then he could start rapidly rising up a number of ranking lists.”

  • BluBlud

    There is not way our best hitting prospect should be ranked this low. Our prospect order is 1) Baez 2) Soler 3) Vizcaino 4) Vogelbach

    • Jacob

      Almora is above Vogelbach. It’s really not even debatable, at all.

    • Bigg J

      Yea gotta agree with Jacob, Almora is way better

    • Demarrer

      I’m sorry but there is no way I am putting Vogelbach that high. He hit well in the low minors, but its just the low minors. He also brings no value on defense or the bases.

      An infield of Rizzo, Baez, Castro, Candelario would be pretty good.

      • BluBlud

        The same low minors that almora hit against and his numbers smash Almora’s numbers. The Patience at the plate that we say our young guys need to develop, he already has it. The Power that we say our young guys will develop, he already has it. The hit stick we say some of our young guys will develop, he already has it. Everything that we are waiting on all of our other prospects to develop, he already has. Almora may one day be a better player, but right now, he is not. IMO, I don’t think he ever will be. I hope Theo doesn’t feel about him the way people on this site do, because if he does, he end up trading him for some utility player who we keep for a season and a half, while Vogs goes on to be a Hall of Famer. I think he has that kind of a hit stick.

        As for his defense, his glove is not below average at all, and his “questionable range” is way overblown. The kid can flat out play baseball.

        • mak

          Almora is a better prospect because of his all around game. I still don’t think Vogelbach projects as even a below-average first baseman. I haven’t read any reports to the contrary.

        • hansman1982

          http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=brown-003der

          Here is a guy that smashed the Northwest League. Didn’t provide as much pop as Vogelbach but did give a .968 OPS. Was even a highly touted prospect.

          Provided a whopping -1.2 WAR in the big leagues.

        • Edwin

          That’s the thing though. Vogelbach’s hitting is all he has, so if his hitting ever slows down, his value takes a huge hit. All of his prospect eggs are in the hit tool basket. If Almora’s hitting slows down as he progresses through the minors, he can fall back on plus defense in CF. If Almora’s defense slows down, he can move over to RF or LF. It’s about diversifying risk.

          • DB Kyle

            Meh, hitting is the most important thing. Hitting is what separates major leaguesr from busts the vast majority of the time.

            • hansman1982

              The ability to play the OF means, though, that even if Almora’s bat is only good enough to be a 90 OPS+ he still has a reasonable chance of being someone’s 5th OF.

            • Edwin

              Yes. In Vogelbach’s case hitting is even more important, since it’s the only way for him to make it.

          • DocPeterWimsey

            Almora’s strongest fielding talent, the ability to know very exactly where the ball is going to land immediately after it is hit, is not something that changes until a guy gets much older. This isn’t like pitching where the pitchers become better and “learn” (read: get scouting reports) to try to throw particular pitches that are most prone to fool a particular batter: the batters are making contact without shooting for some “blue zone” where a fielder misjudges a ball.

            Moreover, Almora has treated low-level pitching like it’s batting practice. That won’t continue: but most guys never experience that at a professional level.

        • DarthHater

          [img]http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8522/8537757440_6e6f217618_z.jpg[/img]

          • MightyBear

            LOL That one got me!

    • ETS

      HOW DO YOU HAVE VOG SO LOW?!?!?!?!

  • Bren

    Wow, can we just get a DH in the NL already?

  • Bigg J

    Are the Cubs looking to move Vogelbach when his stock gets high enough or they going to move him positions soon, as blocked by Rizzo?

    • BluBlud

      IMO, Vogelbach will be a better first baseman then Rizzo, but he still has a long way yet to go to prove it. If Vogs does become as good as I believe he can, I would trade Rizzo without a thought. I think Vogs has the ability to hit over .300 with 40 HR every year. Rizzo is more of a .280 guy with 30 HR. I love Rizzo, but if Vogs can maximize, you have to keep him.

      I say can and not will, because I think he has the skills to be the best offensive first baseman in baseball, but that doesn’t mean he will become that guy.

      • BluBlud

        And that Vogs average will come with a near .400 OBP.

      • bbmoney

        To clarify you’d trade Rizzo right now without hesitation? Or once you’re pretty sure about Vog’s say if he’s still tearing it up in AA in 2014?

        I think the chance Vog’s bust out is waaaaaaaaaaaaay too high right now to even consider trading Rizzo. I’m no prospect guru, never seen him play, just the odds of prospect who hasn’t played in A ball yet making it to the majors.

        • BluBlud

          No, once Vogs proves he is as good as I think he is, then I would trade Rizzo. That atleast 2+ years away. If Vogs ends being as good as I thinking he can be, I don’t think any one would disagree with trading Rizzo at that point. The problem is, no one thinks Vogs will be as good as I think he’ll be.

          • BluBlud

            Meaning when Vogs is ready to take the MLB job. I’m not trading Rizzo unless Vogs forces me too because he needs the starting MLB first base slot. Now if Florida offers Stanton or Tampa offers Price right now, bye bye Vogs.

            • bbmoney

              ok thanks.

            • JulioZuleta

              What have you seen from Vogelbach when you’ve seen him in person that makes you think he can be a Gold Glove caliber First Baseman (which is what he would be if he was better than Rizzo)? I’m assuming you have watched him several times given your strong opinion. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to see him play other than 10-15 games streamed by milb.com last year. What I have seen in the limited sample is consistent with what I have read, that he is a far below average 1B with “fall-down” range. Meaning that he literally can only get to balls that he can fall down and reach.
              The way you describe him, a 40+ HR .300+ BA Gold glove firstbaseman makes him sound like a lock to be an MVP for years.

              Just wondering what you have seen every scout has missed.

              • BluBlud

                When I say better firstbaseman, I mean all around. He’ll never be as good as Rizzo defensively. I never said that. His glove is actually pretty good or has the potential to be when he gets to the ball, and while his range is far from great, it better then fall down. I do think he has MVP type offensive potential, which is why I’ve stated before that while I still think Baez and Soler are better all arould players, Vogs will be a better hitter then Soler and possibly Baez, though I’m even higher on Baez, so I doubt it.

                • TWC

                  So you don’t have an answer for any of Julio’s “what/when have you *seen* him play” questions, right?

                  I’m assuming this is because you’ve never seen him play outside of, perhaps, a handful of highlights/clips, and are basing your opinion on your cherry-picked/rose-colored-glasses review of a handful of articles you’ve read.

                  How far off the mark am I, Jay?

                  • BluBlud

                    No, if I told you I have actually seen him play in high school before the Cubs drafted him, would that mean anything. Plus I have family in fort myers and just moved back from Florida to NC in 2011. I follow all local high school, middle school and little league sport because I officiate baseball, basketball and football. That would have been local for me at the time, though I’ve never called a high school baseball game though. But I have seen mostly highlights of him, which is most people on this site.

                    • bbmoney

                      oh…the way you emphactically stated those opinions I assumed you lived in Boise or something. Guess that’s what you get when you assume things.

                  • BluBlud

                    But, how many of these prospect have anyone seen play. Most of the guys who rank these prospects for a living have not even seen half of them play, and the ones they have seen play, they seen maybe once or twice. This thing is a popularity contest. If Vogs was drafted in the first round and put up the same exact numbers, he would be a top 20 prospect in all of baseball. I just like Almora. If he was drafted in the third round and put up the same number he put, he would be an after though. Once you are drafted, performance is all that matters.

                    • DarthHater

                      So it’s okay to make extreme assertions that go far beyond any basis in available facts, because everybody else at the sight is equally ill-informed?

                    • DarthHater

                      site, not sight (sigh) ;-)

                    • TWC

                      ::glares at Darth::

                    • DarthHater

                      ::force chokes TWC::

                    • hansman1982

                      Tommy, Tommy, Darth is your Sister!!!! Lo, lo, lo, la, la, la…

                    • CubFan Paul

                      “Most of the guys who rank these prospects for a living have not even seen half of them play, and the ones they have seen play, they seen maybe once or twice”

                      Most (ALL) of those “guys” have industry sources that you don’t. I thought the Campana love was over the top…

                      & a polished blue chipper like Almora never makes it to the 3rd round unless there’s makeup issues, but he’d still be a top prospect.

                    • Spriggs

                      All I can say is that anyone who has seen Vogelbach play several times or more — and gives the opinion that he is above average or even anything close to average in the field – is just plain delusional.

                      As much as I love his bat, plate approach, swing, etc. – his defense is absolutely way below average and his range is close to “fall down”.

                      Those are my opinions. And I have seen him play many, many games.

          • waittilthisyear

            cubs fans have a habit of overvaluing some of their prospects, as has been pointed out on this site several times. i would say i am somewhere in the middle between what the “experts” have to say and what you have to say about vbach. that being said, projecting a guy (i am aware you are talking ceiling, but i sense that you think he has a great chance at reaching said ceiling as well) to hit .300/40 hrs and be a hall-of-famer screams cubbie-blue tinged glasses

            • BluBlud

              No, I’m aware he may never reach those numbers, I just believe he could be that good. I believe the Cubs only have 2 prospects with MVP Ceilings, at least offensively, Baez and Vogelbach. I think Soler will be great, and has a better chance to reach his .280 30HR 20 SB ceiling then Vogelbach, but I think Vogs has the potential to be an absolute monster. Will he max out, probably not. But that potential may be worth waiting for.

              • waittilthisyear

                i agree with 100% is it makes no sense to rush to trade him solely because we think he is blocked. i think this guy is legit as well

      • BWA

        @blubud. I think we all hope Vogelbach keeps hitting like a monster and becomes that top of the system prospect/everyday player for the Cubs. I know if he does, your gonna pull the “I told you so” and say we never thought he was gonna be any good. I do think he’s gonna be a great major league hitter, Its just that he does have major bust potential as he has only seen low level pitching. Same goes for Almora, but as mentioned in other places Almora has more tools and more experience with high level ball. Also, Unless Rizzo falls flat, I think Vogs will be first to go in a blockbuster trade next offseason for an Ace starting pitcher. That is, assuming Vogs keeps hitting.

      • Kygavin

        There have been 3 players (Howard,Granderson,Bautista) in the last 5 years to hit more than 40 HR twice. But you expect Vog, who hasnt even reached AA, to do it every year? Ya not buying that especially when you consider the body/defense issues.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      When Vogelbach puts the Cubs in a position to worry about where to play him and Rizzo both, that is when they will worry about it. Doing so now would be fairly premature.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Hey Luke, how much veracity is there to to the claims that Vogelbach doesn’t catch up with high pitches on the inner third or outer third of the plate?

        Your report on Candelario is interesting. There was no way he was going to retain that absolutely sick (nearly 20%!) walk rate, but you have to have a really good batting eye in the first place to have luck take you that far up.

  • cubzforlife

    Great job Luke. I never really paid attention to all the minor league guys so your writing makes me the smartest guy at work. I’m surprised the grammer police haven’t pointed out proof in the Candelario last paragraph. Hey Brett, how’s the baby doing?

  • CubbiesOHCubbies

    I can’t help but notice that Stephen Bruno is absent from the first three installments. I didn’t think he was top 10 material, so am I to assume he didn’t make a top 40 list? Not to question your list Luke, I trust you know MUCH more about these guys than I will ever know. I just found his current omission as interesting. I suppose he MIGHT be still to come……

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Bruno did not make the Top 40. He was one of the last few out.

      He’s one to watch this season, though. He could start to climb pretty quick if he picks up where he left off.

      • DB Kyle

        That’s pretty understandable.

        You could probably go 50-deep on guys who are at least worth keeping an eye on, even with the restriction on no DSL guys.

        • mak

          Definitely. I think you could go 60 deep. Here are 10 other pitcher and hitters (in no particular order) that are worth watching this season (safe to assume they aren’t in top 10):

          P’s: Jose Arias, Yoannis Negrin, Dallas Beeler, Kyle Hendricks, P. J. Francescon, Kyler Burke, Carlos Martinez-Pumino, Josh Conway, Ryan McNeil, Gerardo Concepcion

          Hitters: Zeke Devoss, Dustin Geiger, Tim Saunders, Stephen Bruno, Garrett Schlecht,Trevor Gretzky, Shawon Dunston, Jeffrey Baez, Taiwan Easterling, Rock Shoulders

  • MightyBear

    Great work Luke. Can’t wait for the top ten. Although I have a good idea who is going to be on the list, I still can’t wait for the write ups and the ETA’s etc.

  • cubsin

    You have considerably more faith in Dillon Maples, and less faith in Dan Vogelbach and Jeimer Candelario, than I do.

  • ruby2626

    If Vogelbach turns into the hitter people on this board think he will then we’ll make room for both he and Rizzo. If Lance Berkman can play the OF no way Rizzo can’t. Wasn’t Todd Helton a LF earlier in his career. Lots of guys can play either position, he’s fast and athletic enough. It would really be great if Vogelbach skyrocketed this year on everyone’s prospect list. Isn’t he a Florida kid, perhaps he could be a key piece in a deal with Tampa for Price. At least in the AL he would be guaranteed having a position.

    • BluBlud

      If I was a 20-22 year old kid who coukd play first base and a team traded for me just so I coukd DH, I would be pissed at that team that traded for me. Baseball is not football. Baseball was designex for players to play offense and defense. The DH is possibly the most wasteful position in all of sports.

      • Edwin

        I think the DH is less about the offense/defense thing and more about the pitchers batting thing.

        Position players make it to MLB purely on some combination of hitting/defense/baserunning. Pitcher’s make it soley on their ability to pitch.

      • Edwin

        I guess they could always just go to 8 man lineup’s, and eliminate the pitcher/DH spot from the batting order. I’d be fine with that. That way I don’t have to watch pitcher’s bat, and all players would still need to be able to play at least some kind of defense.

      • TheDynastyStartsIn2016

        I can’t agree. Got to believe Vogs would be thrilled if that was the only way he saw the big leagues. And if scouting reports are correct, it may be.

  • Tobias

    I’m not sure if this has ever been addressed in regards to Vogs, but could he be converted to 3B? Vogs seems to have enough athleticism to play the position given that Castro has good range to his right.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Everything that I have read suggests that Vogelbach has almost no athleticism at all. He can hit a baseball, and that’s about it. His fielding is described as not being as bad as expected: and that’s not exactly praise! I’ve never read anything about his throwing arm, and you need a strong & quick one to play 3rd.

      • cub2014

        you need to check vogelbach’s 40 time in HS.
        as far as foot quickness i dont know that one.

    • Manntastic

      Vougs was getting work at 3rd a few weeks ago at Fitch. I don’t think a move to 3rd is out of the realm of possibility. It’s incredible how much better someone can move when they lose 60 lbs (or so I’ve heard, I’m working on it, shut up), he’s still a kid who has all the incentive in the world to get on a meal plan and inhance his defense.

      I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but I think it’s a little shortsighted to vanquish a 19-20 year old kid to DH only status. He looks a lot better physically this year, if that trend continues we could all be very pleasantly surprised in a couple years.

  • MikeW

    These relievers are far too high

  • The Raptor

    Vogelbach = Jake Fox

  • Edwin

    I assume Hayden Simpson is in the top ten then?

    Just joking.

  • Bilbo161

    Vogelbach will never be a man without a position if he hits the way some are predicting. Thanks to the DH in the AL for that. I dislike that rule. What I’ve heard of Daniel is that he is very hard working. The predictions that he will flop due to no position are just way premature and usually seem to come along with some emotional content to try to amp up the reviewers opinion. Can’t wait to see him continue to proove the naysayers wrong at KC this year.

    • Edwin

      I don’t think people are predicting him to flop because of “no position”, just pointing out that he has a slightly tougher path.

    • hansman1982

      If he can’t play 1st base adequately, that immediately cuts his chances of making the bigs in half.

      Regarding the DH, asking pitchers to hit is like asking hitters to pitch.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Or asking basketball players to do either!

      • BluBlud

        Well as much as I like Vogs, if he can’t play the field, he does’t deserve to be a major leaguer. As for the pitcher hitting, competitive balance is more important, so as long as both pitchers have to hit, then lets keep the pitchers hitting.

        • Cubbie Blues

          This just in. Jay says Vogs doesn’t belong in baseball. :P

        • hansman1982

          Well I think it’s bullcrap that Starlin Castro only has to do 2/3rds of the work that Matt Garza does. Castro should have to pitch at least an inning a game. There are 9 positions on the diamond, 9 innings. Coincidence? I think not.

          • BWA

            I hope this is a joke…

            • hansman1982

              It’s just as relevant as saying that since pitchers want to play baseball they must hit.

              Although the 2/3rds the work of Matt Garza is 100% accurate.

              In any given season, a 200 IP AL pitcher will impact more PA than any hitter in the bigs (and 2 of them if they spend a few games on the DL).

            • hansman1982

              The 9 positions, 9 innings thing…ya, that’s a joke.

            • DarthHater

              Everything hansman says is a joke. You new here?

        • Edwin

          That doesn’t make any sense. There would still be “competative balance” if neither pitcher had to hit.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          How is competitive balance relevant? The Yankees still have more money to spend than anybody regardless of whether their pitchers masquerade as batters or let professional batters do it for them.

      • DarthHater

        Or asking blog commenters to analyze baseball…

      • Bilbo161

        I know I wouldn’t want to bat against anything near major league velocity. But these guys have been doing it for over a hundred years. I don’t see why they have to be so specialized that they can’t bat. Just for the sake of the players union getting their biggest names a few extra years of service. In my opinion the game is too easy to manage in the AL because of it. Not sure there should even be a manager of the year for the AL. Justus opinion of course, but it matters to me.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          The DH rule was brought into play before the players union was powerful enough (or savvy enough) to push it through. The DH came about because owners linked the declining popularity of baseball after WWII to the decline in offense.

          At any rate, pitching and batting involve as different a set of athletic tools as do playing basketball and either pitching or batting. Even fielding has much more in common with batting than it does with pitching: both fielders and batters have to read balls off the bat quickly and footwork is very important to both. However, even the throwing of pitching is quite different from that of fielding: a lot of pitchers who have great control do not have particularly good fielding throws.

          For all intents and purposes, pitchers and batters are playing two different games: one is trying to throw a baseball in a very particular way at a very particular target, the other is trying to hit a moving object with a different velocity and motion than the prior moving object. So, it is small wonder that so few batters can pitch and so few pitchers can bat: anyone who can do both is essentially a two sport athlete.

          • BWA

            Exactly. I still don’t like the DH rule for strategy sake, but asking a pitcher to hit pro pitching is like asking a mediocre college player to hit pro pitching.

          • Internet Random

            Just because two positions require different skills doesn’t mean they’re not part of the same sport.

            Again, if you don’t believe me, try to have a baseball game with no one pitching and see how you make out.

          • DarthHater

            Football players (with very few exceptions) don’t play both offense and defense. Why should baseball players have to? Why not have nine guys who play the field and another nine guys who hit? I guarantee the additional level of specialization would lead to both a lot more hitting and better fielding.

      • MightyBear

        Or asking catchers to run. Oh wait….

      • Internet Random

        “Regarding the DH, asking pitchers to hit is like asking hitters to pitch.”

        This makes as much sense as saying that asking fielders to hit is like asking hitters to field.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Not really: there actually is a lot more overlap in the athletic tools required for fielding and batting than those required for pitching and batting or even pitching and fielding. In particular, the ability to read where a ball is going as soon as it leaves the bat/pitcher’s hand and exact & precise footwork are very important to both hitting and fielding. Neither of these is important to pitching. Meanwhile, the things that are important to pitching (being able to throw a baseball in a variety of different ways to a very small area) is not too important for fielding: the throwing style is completely different, and an the level of exactness for a pitch is complete overkill for a fielder.

          That said, nearly all starting position players are in MLB because of their bat. Before the DH, the guys who could not field at all were put at first or in LF. Conversely, some of the (if not most of the) best fielders in the game ride the bench, and a lot of guy who could produce Gold-Glove level fielding never make it to MLB. Almost nobody who could generate Silver Slugger hitting gets stuck in

          • DarthHater

            Gimme a break. You said it yourself. The purpose of the DH rule is to generate more offense. End of story. It has nothing to do with all this detailed pseudo-theorizing about the extent to which certain activities do or do not resemble other activities. That’s just a lot of blog blather.

          • Internet Random

            So a player shouldn’t have to participate in aspects of the game that someone else might be better at?

            Interesting. Campana could have a hell of a career designated running for someone like Prince Fielder.

            • DB Kyle

              The difference is that with all other baseball skills, there is an interesting tradeoff to be made. With pitchers, there is no tradeoff. Pitchers are selected for their pitching ability and nothing else. There is no such thing as an offensive pitcher or a fielding-heavy pitcher. With no tradeoff, you lose nothing by removing that skill from their requirements.

              • DarthHater

                “There is no such thing as an offensive pitcher”

                There’s some guy named George Ruth at the door who would like to speak with you…

                • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                  At least you didn’t have to reach too far back in the way-back machine for an example.

                  (I am kidding on both sides.)

                  • Internet Random

                    Good law is good law… even if it’s old.

              • MightyBear

                A couple of guys named Maddux and Kaat might argue that their fielding ability helped their pitching tremendously.

              • Internet Random

                This seems like you’re making some effort to communicate, but I’m not getting anything from this.

                • MightyBear

                  He said there is no such thing as a fielding heavy pitcher. Both Maddux and Kaat were great fielders after they released the ball. It helped both of them to be great pitchers.

                  • Internet Random

                    My reply was to DB Kyle. Your comment was clear from the first.

                  • Hansman1982

                    Yup, but you will never see the Darwin Barney of pitching on a staff. (As in that 5.00 ERA pitcher who is occasionally called a core piece by his front office)

                    • MightyBear

                      How is Barney a 5.00 ERA pitcher? If you want to compare Barney to a pitcher, use WAR. (Hooh, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing, say it again.)

                    • MightyBear

                      Barney is projected as a 2.5 WAR player this year, so is Jake Peavey. So when you think of Barney as a pitcher, think of Jake Peavey.

                    • Hansman1982

                      To emphasize how much I dislike WAR:

                      2012 Barney put up the same WAR as Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Mat Latos, Yu Darvish and Felix Hernandez.

                      Odds that you’d go to the playoffs with 5 Darwin Barney’s as easily as any of these 5? Ill take that bet from you.

                    • MightyBear

                      Their WAR is so low because they can’t hit or field. They should work on their hitting and defense.

                    • Hansman1982

                      So most of the #1 pitchers of today’s game aren’t as valuable as Darwin Barney because they can’t field.

                      Let me rephrase this:

                      Felix Hernandez = Darwin Barney because he might flub 5 plays a year more than an average pitcher while fielding one of the 1200 batters he pitches too.

                      Makes sense.

                    • BluBlud

                      Do you think that the fact that Barney plays every day and the guys you named can only go once a week in most cases and twice a week in some cases has anything to do with that WAR total. Barney is just as valuable because he plays every day. WAR is just a wins projection. How many wins above replacement can you provide. It doesn’t matter how many batters a pitcher faces during any given game, he can still only have an effect on that one game at a time. You can’t add a WAR total for the other 4 games that he has no effect on. I think it say a lot about Gonzalez, Zimmerman, Hamels, Lee, Latos, Darvish and Hernadez that they are able to provide the same amout of extra wins as Darwin Barney, even though they play 1/5 of the games he plays, minus Barney’s off days of course. I guess if Gio Pitched everyday, his WAR would be 22.5 right.

                    • Hansman1982

                      1 pitcher impacts more in 7 innings than every other position (except C) does in 5 games.

                      I used to think the same way as you before Verlander got his MVP but looking at PA impacted, pitchers blow position players out of the water.

                    • Hansman1982

                      To put it another way, when the SP has a bad day you’re talking about 5-6 runs. If Darwin has a bad day (or any positional player) it’s not likely he will be in on that many bad plays.

                  • DB Kyle

                    So would you argue that most of their value came from fielding? Because that’s what ‘fielding-heavy” should have clearly meant to you when I typed it. Not “great pitchers who could also field.”

            • Hansman1982

              So why are we not debating the merits of positional players pitching? If we demand that pitchers hit and field, why not demand that hitters pitch and field. Everyone should be able to do everything!

              • MightyBear

                Some position players do pitch. You will see it at least once this season.

                • Timothy Scarbrough

                  Joe Mather!!!!

                • Hansman1982

                  Which is about as often as you want to see most pitchers hit

  • Bilbo161

    Luke how come Bruno didn’t make your list?

  • AnonymousForToday

    I’m not usually one to quibble with lists like this, especially ones from bloggers who haven’t had the ability to go out and see most of these guys in person, but the continuing love affair with Robert Whitenack on this site is ridiculous.

    He’s thrown all of 60 innings of semi-impressive baseball in his life, over two seasons in high-A ball. You say you’re basing the chance of him being a good #3 on the pre-injury numbers? The 4.96 ERA in A ball? The multiple seasons where he couldn’t crack a 6 k/9 against A ball hitters? If his breaking stuff was as strong as you claim, he’d chew up A ball hitters (like almost all guys with one good out pitch can). Whitenack has shown the ability to strike people out for all of 23 innings in his minor league career. While a sinkerballer doesnt need to strike out everyone to be effective, that high-5 K/9 isn’t likely to improve, and is much more likely to settle in the high-4/low-5 region (around 13-14 k%), if not lower. Those guys are innings eaters on bad teams at the very best.

    And again, I don’t think you can just look at his season-and-a-half (100 IP) of good ERA’s and be all excited about them. He posted a highly unsustainable HR/9 over the latter half of 2010 and all of 2011, a very, very low H/9, and control that isn’t where you want to see it from such a low-K guy.

    I just don’t get the love for this guy, at all. He flashed brilliance for a very small sample in a pitchers league, anomalous from his production before and since, and everyone seems to think that was indicative of what he really is.

    • Noah

      I’m with you on Whitenack. I like both Blackburn, Underwood and Ben Wells a lot better.

    • another JP

      I’m with you on this one… Whitenack has bust written all over him. As poorly as Vitters did during his cup of coffee last year, he’s shown much more potential at higher levels than Whitenack has and is still young for a AAA player. And he’s ranked far lower?! But that’s why these lists are fun to see and discuss since every one of them can be disected in a number of ways. Can’t be too critical about Vogelbach’s ranking though… if he can still rake at AAA then let’s talk about his potential but know this– under no circumstances will he ever be able to supplant Rizzo at first. With the way our regime values defense, we’d be foolish to substitute an above average 1B for a guy with no range whatsoever.

      • Noah

        I’m not as high on Vogelbach as some (he’s probably in 7 or 8 range for me in the system), but I’m not sure he’d have to get to AAA to get excited. If he mashes for half a season in Kane County and then mashes for the back half of the season in Daytona, I think that would be reason to get excited. With that said, even if he destroys those leagues I see no way he’s any higher than the Cubs’ 5th best prospect unless someone else busts (he’ll be behind Baez, Almora, Soler and this year’s number 1 pick).

  • BWA

    SPOILER: I’m taking a stab at the top 10…

    1. Soler
    2. Almora
    3. Baez
    4. Vizcaino
    5. Johnson
    6. Jackson
    7. Paniagua
    8. Lake
    9. Maples
    10. Amaya

    Am I right????

    • Jed

      Here’s my guess

      10. Maples
      9. Amaya
      8. Lake
      7. Jackson
      6. Paniagua
      5. Johnson
      4. Vizcaino
      3. Soler
      2. Baez
      1. Almora

    • http://Bleachernation.com someday…2015?

      My top 10
      1.Baez
      2.Soler
      3.Almora
      4.Vizcaino
      5.Jackson
      6.Johnson
      7.Paniagua
      8.Lake
      9.Maples
      10.Vogelbach
      For Luke’s list, take out V and put in Amaya at 10 and that would be my guess on his top. By the way, great job on the list so far Luke, looking forward to tomorrow’s write ups on the top 10.

  • Cryinmybluecoolaid

    Thanks Luke, great list! Looking forward to the final 10. Hopefully you will be a guest on the Podcast next week to share more of your thoughts!!!

  • Mike

    I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m just glad we have two guys in our system worth you idiots arguing about!!!! So keep fighting for your favorite, and I will keep hoping they both are stars some day!!!

    • Bilbo161

      Mike, I like that comment. Even though I am one of the idiots. :-)

  • TheDynastyStartsIn2016

    Luke, not an indictment of your rankings, more an indictment of our system, but did you even look twice at any catchers? This position may be weaker than pitcher.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Beyond weak.

      • hansman1982

        at least we did just graduate the two top catching prospects of the system…

      • TheDynastyStartsIn2016

        No kidding. Well, if the ‘lefthander’ thing doesn’t work out, maybe Clark Taylor can become a catcher.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Without check my notes, I think I had two catchers on the 70+ names long list of candidates.

      Neither came close to the Top 40.

    • Behind enemy lines (south side cub fan)

      Put Vogelbach at C. Two birds, meet one stone.

      • TheDynastyStartsIn2016

        Junior. Lake.
        ?

  • Rebuilding

    Thanks for the great work Luke. I’m really enjoying the write-ups. I understand your methodology, but I have to agree with a few others that Vogelbach is way too low at #13. While it’s true that he will only go as far as his at will take him, that bat profiles as maybe one of the Top 10-20 in the entire minor leagues. I have seen and heard scouts put an 80 on his power potential (one site lists him as the #4 most likely to hit 50+ homers one day behind only Sano, Myers and Springer). Add to this an advanced approach at the plate (35:48 bb/k) and a plus hit tool (at least a 60, potential to hit 300, he’s not a swing and miss guy) and you are talking about the ceiling to be a Joey Votto type with more power. If that is the case then he could truly just fall down on defense. Yes, he is far away, but to me Vogs has a hit ceiling higher than anyone in the organization (he already seems to have the best pitch recognition outside of Candelerio) and one of the best in the minors. Also, I think the lack of athleticism may be overblown – the link below is an article I hadn’t seen which talks about him playing point guard in high school and his brother being a phenomenal quarterback. I just think by this time next year people will be scratching their heads as to why this guy was so low on this and other lists.

    http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20121116&content_id=40316198&vkey=news_chc&c_id=chc

    • BWA

      Prospects work there way up lists as they gain experience and continue producing at higher levels. Theres Nothing to scratch heads about if Vogs has an amazing year and is a top 5 prospect next year, just progression of the rankings.

      • Rebuilding

        Agreed. But all of these prospect lists combine potential with the probability of realizing that potential. I understand that producing at higher levels ups the 2nd part of that equation. But Vogelbach has two of the things you seemingly can’t teach – a batting eye and power so I would argue that his hitting floor is actually higher than someone like Almora who has shown neither. Now Almora has the advantage of being a plus defender so I can definitely see why he is ranked higher now. Honestly, if you had to place a bet right now who would you guess will post a higher career WAR: Vogs or Dillon Maples or Whitenack

        • Hansman1982

          Whitenack, but that’s only because he has performed at a higher level than either of the other two.

          • Rebuilding

            By that logic I guess you would rank Whitenack in front of Soler, Baez and Almora, as well. Fine if that’s your opinion, but I doubt anyone putting money on the table would bet on him as a likely reliever over any of the four guys (Vogs and those three) mentioned

  • ruby2626

    Let’s look at Vogelbach. Large, large man, great batting eye, enormous power, reasonably fast runner for his size, below average defense. I’m sorry I think I just described Prince Fielder, last I checked he was doing pretty good for himself.

    • DB Kyle

      Vogelbach is significantly less talented both as a hitter and athletically than Fielder.

  • BABIP (MichCubFan)

    The way I look at ranking Vogelbach is that he is a potential impact bat who is a relatively safe bet as far as players with his lack of experience go.

    I would rank him 5th because of the impact bat, my thinking being that it makes up for some of his defensive deficiencies.

    That being said, I agree with everything Luke had to say about him in the writeup. Its a good list, thanks for putting so much time into it…much more thorough than most other lists.

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