Gauging the Farm Depth: Outfield

jorge soler peoria chiefs cubs[The fourth installment in a series on the Chicago Cubs' farm system. Luke covered first base and catcher here, shortstop and third base here, and second base here.]

Let’s start by recapping the farm system so far. Catcher is definitely the problem area in the organization, but the Cubs appear to be in good shape around the infield. They are particularly strong straight up the middle, and that trend continues into the outfield.

The Cubs have a lot of outfield prospects, but not lot of slugging corner outfielder types. Most of the talent in the outfield is the very athletic center fielder type of player, who does his damage more with speed than power.

Most is not all, though, and one of the exceptions happens to be one of the best slugging outfield prospects in the game of baseball. Ladies and Gentlemen, start your terrible puns. Jorge Soler has the kind of last name that will have broadcasters sitting up at 3 AM trying to find that perfect one liner, and a good enough bat to make sure that those broadcasters use every wince inducing paronomasia they can imagine.

Reggie Golden, a potential five tool guy plagued by injuries, is no slouch in the slugging department himself. If he can stay healthy all season for Kane County, I can easily imagine him launching 25-30 long balls. Rock Shoulders has an easier path through the system as a left fielder than a first baseman, and his game will certainly be built on power.

The bulk of the outfield depth look like potential center fielders, though, and the headliner of that list is Albert Almora. Even though he’s young, Almora is already said to be fairly polished for his age. His defense is probably his best tool, but he should more than hold his own at the plate. (Once he returns from having the hamate bone in his wrist removed, that is.)

At the other end of the farm system, don’t give up on Brett Jackson. This guy has everything you want in a starting center fielder except the ability to make consistent contact. If his new swing can bring his K% back to something palatable during his time with Iowa, the Cubs might find that they have a nice starting outfielder for quite some time.

But Jackson isn’t the only outfield prospect with major league potential who will be in Iowa this season. Jae-Hoon Ha, quite possibly the best defensive center fielder in the organization, should open the season in Triple A, and converted football player Matt Szczur will likely reach Iowa around mid season. Szczur still has the potential to emerge as a starting center fielder with lead off hitter potential, but it will take a break out season to keep those hopes alive. Ha projects as a fourth outfielder with an excellent glove, but don’t be surprised if he posts better than expected offensive numbers in Iowa this year.

And then we have the stolen base gang. It would take a foot race to decide if Shawon Dunston Jr. is faster than Szczur, but he should have little trouble swiping bags in A ball this year regardless. I’m not sure he can steal at a faster rate than John Andreoli, though. Andreoli nearly had a 60 steal season for Daytona in 2012, and with fewer rain outs in Tennessee, I like his chances to break that plateau in 2013. Daytona fans should still get to see plenty of speed, though, thanks to Pin-Chieh Chen, Taiwan Easterling, and probably Evan Crawford in his injury recovery season.

Kane County fans will get a good look at Trey Martin, the talented but raw outfield prospect who is starting to sneak his way onto some top prospect lists. We are a long way from knowing what the Cubs have in this guy, but he is definitely one to watch.

And no article of this type would be complete without mentioning that both Junior Lake and Josh Vitters should see some time in the outfield with Iowa this year. Lake has the higher ceiling of the two, but either could hit enough in the majors to hold down a regular job in left field.

Bijan Rademacher and Rashad Crawford have both made some noise recently; either could be a breakout candidate this season. And at the very lowest levels of the farm system we find players like Jeffrey Baez and Ricardo Marcano. Baez should be in Arizona or Boise this year; Marcano is still a year or so away.

This is not as deep or as talented a group as we have seen on the infield, but it is by no means a weakness. The elite talent is there in Soler and Almora, but after those two and Jackson we find more fringey type players than potential impact guys until we reach the recent draft classes in the lower levels of the system.

There is depth here, though, and when we add in the possibility of another high ceiling outfielder with this year’s Number Two pick in the draft, I think this department is going to evolve into a real area of strength for the Cubs over the next year or two.

Luke Blaize is the Minor League Editor at Bleacher Nation. He can be found on Twitter as ltblaize.

17 responses to “Gauging the Farm Depth: Outfield”

  1. Edwin

    Don’t sell Reggie Golden short, he’s an incredible slouch!

  2. Edwin

    The Trey Martin link is leading me to Trey Martin, Expos pitching prospect from 1995. He’s 36, and a long shot to make it as a Cubs OF, I suspect.

  3. Edwin

    Luke,

    Do you have any info on Ben Carhart? Looks like he put up some decent numbers in Rookie ball last season, although he was 22.

  4. mudge

    par·o·no·ma·sia [par-uh-noh-mey-zhuh, -zhee-uh, -zee-uh]
    1.
    the use of a word in different senses or the use of words similar in sound to achieve a specific effect, as humor or a dual meaning; punning.
    2.
    a pun.

  5. daveyrosello

    Andreoli is Tony Campana with not-quite the blinding speed, but he has some actual OBP skills. As a result, he MIGHT have a future as a big-league 4th/5th OF type. Hard to get too excited about that upside, but still, it’s something.

    Reggie Golden has lots of power, sure–so did Ryan Harvey. He’ll need to show more contact skills than he has shown in his (admittedly small sample) pro ball experience to-date to get any kind of chubby over his future.

    Jae Hoon Ha OTOH, I like him. I could see him as a Cubs 4th OF guy, no problem.

    And Shawon Dunston Jr., he sure seems awfully raw for the son of a big leaguer. I don’t know what to make of him to be honest.

  6. Marc N.

    Dunston Jr. still intrigues me because he would only be a college sophomore this year and not draft eligible until next year barring an earlier birth date (or something). He’s fast, athletic, and has projection with good bloodlines, so he’ll be interesting until he’s not. He’s probably the guy who’s upside most intrigues me after the big two.

    Lake might actually do alright in RF or LF, but I think he’s going to be someone they try to use in a trade either way. I do think he might get a cup of coffee this year.

    Pick your favorite of the potential fringe starters/4ths/5ths in there with Ha and friends. If Golden develops his power and plate discipline (mostly power) well enough he can earn a living for a decade being a power OF bat off the bench in the mold of Scott Hairston.

    An interesting name is Jeffrey Baez, another 18 year old IFA being brought Merca. Said to be built like a linebacker and play baseball like a football player, and has showed some interesting skills in the DSL. I believe he hurt his wrist early on last year or something, but might not be remember correctly.

    Soler has a massive ceiling and floor this year. He could be the best offensive prospect in baseball next year, he could be a bust from the start, or he sits somewhere in the wide gap in between. Almora has a slightly lower ceiling but there is not a player in the system I want to see play more.

    1. Marc N.

      *and low floor

    2. Marc N.

      *main three – forgot Jackson.