vogelbach amayaLast I week I checked in on the early season results from the Cubs’ ten best prospects. One of the nice things about the Cubs’ farm system, though, is that there are plenty of prospects to talk about beyond those at the top of the list. Today we survey a few highlights from the rest of the system. I won’t be running down the entirety of the Top 40, but nor will I limit myself to just those guys. You should not read these selections as any kind of a new top prospects list, either. That may come later, but today we’re just sampling the highlights across the breadth and depth of the system.

A system, I might add, that has been playing quite well lately. Three of the four teams are no worse than .500, and the fourth is Iowa. One day, Iowa fans, one day you will have a good team to watch. Really. It’s been awhile, but help is on the way. Eventually. That Smokies roster can’t stay in Tennessee forever.

Iowa Cubs : 15-24

Even though Iowa has by far the worst record in the farm system, they are not the farthest out of first. Their 6.5 game gap is closer than the deficit faced by Kane County. Nor is Iowa in last place. The Milwuakee affiliated Nashville Sounds are so horrifyingly bad that the owner of the Marlins is probably their biggest fan. It takes an amazingly bad team to trail the Cubs’ .385 winning percentage by a full four games, and that is exactly what Nashville is doing.

Tennessee Smokies : 22-19

This is more like it. The Smokies have shrugged of their earlier struggles and back to playing some very good baseball. This latest hot streak has pushed them right back over .500 and left them comfortably in second place in the division. They have some work to do to catch Birmingham, but it is good to see Tennessee trending in the right direction.

Daytona Cubs : 20-20

The Cubs are holding at the .500 mark, but they are also riding another three game winning streak. They still have a better road record (12-8) than home record (8-12), and that is exactly the reverse of what we normally see. Hopefully that means this team is due for a long winning streak at home. Such streak, if it shows up, could propel the Cubs into first. They are currently just 3.5 out.

Kane County Cougars : 20-20

The Cougars are tied for fifth in the division, but they are just three games out of second. With Johnson and Maples leading what is suddenly becoming a very good looking rotation, the Cougars also look like they are in great position to make a run. It is a long way to first, though. There is a lot of talent on this team, and when that offense is hot they are hard to beat, but 7.5 games is a tough gap to close when Minnesota has dropped a loaded team of their own in the league.

Spring Check Up, Part Two

Dan Vogelbach – 1B. Kane County.

Vogelbach is only slugging .423 this season, but other than that he his having a nice season. The walk rate is a solid 10.1%, the strike out rate is a very healthy 13.6%, and even though he hasn’t shown as much consistent power I thought he would so far, he does have five home runs. And make no mistake, that power will show up. Hitting the ball very hard is not likely to ever be one of Vogelbach’s problems.

Taking care of business on defense, on the other hand, is going to be a problem. Vogelbach projects to be adequate at best with the glove, and that means he will give up some total value on defense that he will have to make back with his bat. To reach Wrigley he not only has to hit well enough to become a major league first baseman (and that alone is a tall order), he has to hit well enough to offset the value he will not bring on defense. ┬áThat is a lot of hitting, even for someone with a bat that projects as well as Vogelbach’s.

Marco Hernandez – SS. Kane County.

In many ways, Hernandez is the exact opposite of Vogelbach. The glove will likely be Hernandez’s calling card as he moves up the system, not the bat. Even so, this switch hitter needs to hit enough to keep himself in the lineup. So far this season he has done exactly that. He isn’t setting the league on fire by any means, but he has started to play fairly well lately after a slow start. The walk rate (2.5%) is concerningly low, but for the time being we can make allowances for a slow start.

Arismendy Alcantara – SS/2B. Tennessee.

Alcantara is definitely not off to a slow start. He already has 4 HR and 13 SB and is on pace for career highs in both categories while facing the best pitching of his life. That’s good. He has also jumped his walk rate to 7.6%. That’s better. And while his line may only read .245/.310/.364 for now, that comes with a BABIP that is well below his career norm. It is likely that Alcantara has actually been better than he looks on paper.

The Smokies have been playing him at second base from time to time, and that is an intriguing slot for this switch hitter. Even if his BA and OBP ultimately resemble those of Darwin Barney in the majors, Alcantara will bring power and speed that Barney just doesn’t have. If the Cubs don’t make a move, the battle for second base could be red hot by the end of next spring.

Logan Watkins – 2B. Iowa.

And we have to keep Logan Watkins in that conversation as well. Watkins has slumped to a worrisome batting average of .229, but thanks to his phenomenal 17.9% walk rate his OBP remains a very solid .377. Combine that with some surprising left handed power, and Watkins is still a productive part of the lineup even while in the middle of a slump. His glove work is quite good as well.

The best news, though, is that the Cubs have been moving Watkins around the diamond. While his best position remains second, he has also seen time at short and in center. Watkins can handle all three. A patient, high OBP left handed hitter with a little power, good speed, and a solid glove who can play all over the diamond is probably on a lot of big league managers’ Christmas lists. Sveum must be on the Nice List; Watkins should be on his bench (if not starting at second) next season.

Zach Rosscup – LHP. Tennessee.

Anyone want a 14.46 K/9 and a 1.11 FIP coming out of the bullpen? Thanks to injuries Rosscup has flown under the radar in the Cubs organization since he arrived as part of the Garza trade, but he has now emerged as quite possibly the best reliever in Tennessee. Given that the Tennessee pen features Tony Zych, Trey McNutt, Frank Batista, and Brian Schlitter (among others), that is a remarkable emergence. I doubt the Cubs will rush Rosscup, but I doubt they take their time either. I think this southpaw will get a taste of Iowa by season’s end.

Kyle Hendricks – RHP. Tennessee.

Another recent trade guy having a breakout season for the Smokies, Kyle Hendricks is going to force his way onto a lot of organizational top prospect lists if he keeps this up. I can quibble with his 7.05 K/9, but that’s about it. He keeps the ball in the ball park, avoids walks well, gets ground balls, and has put up an ERA of 2.82. That’s enough to put him squarely on our radar.

John Andreoli – OF. Daytona.

And we’ll wrap this up with Andreoli. This speedy outfielder stole 55 bases for Daytona last season, but, thanks in no small part to the logjam of outfielders in Iowa, he is still sitting in Daytona to open 2013. His .402 OBP is exactly where he left off last season, but he’s raised his SLG notably (to .403) at the cost of a bump in K%. He has also been hitting more in the middle of the order this season, and as a result is on pace to set career highs in both R and RBI.

To be honest, Andreoli is simply in a holding pattern. As soon as the Cubs find room to move outfielders like Jae-Hoon Ha and Matt Szczur to Iowa, Andreoli and Jorge Soler are likely to make the trip to eastern Tennessee. That move (especially in the case of Andreoli) could come anytime in the next six weeks or so. When he gets to Tennessee we’ll start to learn just what sort of a future he might have.

  • Blublud

    This is the one thing that pisses me off about the FO. I have no idea why they love these old, never will suceed in the majors, AAAA players. They are wasting roster spots in Iowa on Bugosevic, McDonald, Lillibridge, Mayoset and others, when there are young, legit prospects who needs those spots. Cut Bugesevic (he’ll never hit in the majors like he is in the minors) and McDonald, get Ha and Szczur to Iowa and get Andreoli and Soler to Tennessee. I could make the same argument about a couple infielders. Get this done Theo.

    • Dynastyin2017

      I agree players like McDonald, Maysonet, and Wright shouldn’t stop promotions, but they do have value. If you had a run of Major League injuries or trades, it’s good to have older guys to bring up. Call them sacrificial lambs (goats?). That way you don’t expose a Ha or Szczur to major league hitting too soon.
      If it were up to me, I would use the minor league all-star break to reshuffle the organization. Let the guys who deserve it make their all-star game, then move them. 4 more weeks is not gonna hurt anyone’s development.

      • On the Farm

        The only problem with that theory is the MLB roster has Burbon and Sweeney on the bench who could fill in and give the same production as those guys at AAA. Then at AAA you still have Sappelt and Jackson who could get called up. Even if we trade DeJesus and Soriano we should have plenty of bodies to fill their spots. We have a glut of mediocre OFs

        • Dynastyin2017

          All I said was those players have some value. The majority of teams have a lot of AAAA talent on their AAA teams. I also said they shouldn’t stop anyone from being promoted.

      • Blublud

        I agree, they do have value. But with Sweeney, Borbon and Hairston a part of a 6 OFer group, and Sappelt and Jackson still in Iowa, we are 8 deep in MLB ready OFers. We don’t need Bugosevic and McDonald. Those spots could be put to better use.

    • Kramden

      Blublud…. Pretty much my thoughts too, but like all the rest, I’m sure they’ll work it out and guys like Bogusevic, McDonald, Maysonet, Lillibridge, etc won’t be allowed to hold true prospects like Soler, Ha, Sczur, etc back.

    • Kyle

      I like the front office’s slow, methodical approach to promoting prospects. I think it has a lot to do with their success in developing prospects into valuable MLB players.

      • Blublud

        I am on the complete opposite side. I think a prospect should be pushed. I think a prospect should be pushed hard until he is either on the big squad or promoted completely out of baseball.

        • MIkeL

          A big reason why prospects fail is because they are rushed. A lot of starlin’s issues on defense and that he hasn’t really developed plate discipline is because he was rushed up in 2010 (it is not THE reason, however).

          • Blublud

            I never said a prospect should rushed, I said pushed. There is a difference. Rushed means were going to promote just because we need to. Pushing a prospect is challenging a prospect. For instance, Andreoli should have been in Tennessee last year, and difinitely shouldn’t have been back at Daytona this year. We should be talking about his next promotion to Iowa or Chicago at this point. You have to challenge good athletes. I think there is danger in keeping a prospect back. He is so much better then the competition, that his flaws can’t be worked on. Now if he was promoted accordingly and reached Tennessee last year, he would already be months into working on his newly expose flaws, as I’m sure there will be. As it stands now, he is possibly 6-8 months, counting the offseason, behind where he should be. Also, he is possibly 6-8 more months into a bad habit that now may be harder break at the next level, because he has been doing it that much longer.

            • Eternal Pessimist

              You are calling it pushed, but moving a prospect to the bigs before they are ready is rushed (while they are also being pushed) and I would expect leads to bigger setbacks in their development. It also may start the free agent clocks ticking sooner than the club would like. I prefer their current approach to development.

        • Kyle

          Starlin Castro and Corey Patterson like this post.

        • David

          This has to be a joke post.

          • Blublud

            Why would this be a joke. These are children we are dealing with here.

  • corey costello

    I don’t like getting rid of Barney. It’s much easier saving 10 runs then it is hitting 10 home runs. Defense wins championships, and if we have 7 people that can hit, 2 that can’t isn’t really gonna hurt us much.

    • Drew7

      “Defense wins Championships”

      Just because it gives you the warm-and-fuzzies when you say it doesn’t make it the slightest bit true.

      • JoyceDaddy

        Did you happen to catch game 6 of the NLCS in 2003 when Alex Gonzalez coughed up a routine double play ball? Yeah, me neither.

        • Drew7

          Right, because one exception disproves the rule.

          • Crockett

            Don’t bother, Drew. These people probably think Jack Morris pitched to contact with leads and like Hawk Harrelson’s view on RBIs.

    • Jim

      I think we need to wait out the 2013 season to see how Barney ends up. I think we can all agree that his glove is incredible. I’d expect to see some competition there next Spring with Watkins. But whomever wins the spot, the other will be just as valuable in a Utility role.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Indeed, we have had multiple playoff teams (including pennant and WS winners) in the last few years who were *not* good fielding teams! At any rate, when you look at the differences between XFIP expectations and what teams actually allow, the effects of good fielding are much, much less than the effects of good slugging. If they were not, then we’d rave about the 2010 playoff Mariners….

    • Kevin B

      But both Logan Watkins and Arismendy Alcantara have a good glove as well. They also bring OF that Barney does not have. So why do we have to have a defense only person as a starting 2nd baseman? Those others can play defense too, they can save runs also. In the NL we only have 8 offensive spots since we have no DH. You want two (25%) of our lineup to not be able to hit? And you think that wins championships?

      No, Championships are won by teams that play defense and can score runs.

      • Kyle

        I’m not convinced either one of them is going to be better offensively than Barney. Both have that ceiling, sure, but it’s a long way from ceiling to big-league performance.

        • http://Noclue SenorGato

          Neither guys ceiling is through the roof to boot. Not a fan of moving Barney unless someone major emerges. Baez is still the most likely to force him out for me, and that isn’t happening this year. I’m fine with trading Barney, but the net gain for the roster has to be garaunteed. Much rather move Watkins or Alcantara in a deal for a major leaguer than Barney for a major leaguer. Trading him means they are hoping/thinking Watkins is as good as Barney without knowing for sure either way until Alcantara becomes Pedroia. Bad bad idea…Barney is a better bridge to a top talent at 2B than any one else in the organization.

          I don’t get where the urge to move this guy so quickly even comes from. This is a team that fields David DeJesus’/Nate Schierholtz’s bats in the corner outfield and more talk about replacing the GG middle infielder who “only” brings an average bat. The bats improved in the Isos too, the past two years and he’s hitting his prime offensive years while not costing FA money.

          This organization had trouble even producing guys like Barney last decade. Right now he is a step in the right direction and still perfectly easy to deal in a mid-2014 or even 2015.

          • Jp3

            Anyone know why Soler was pulled today in the Daytona game? Promotion possibly? Could be nothing I guess

  • Dynastyin2017

    Luke mentioned Rosscup, but a few other under-the-radar types look like they may become decent pieces. Watch out for Hunter Cervenka and Nathan Dorris. They could be cheap bullpen arms in the future. Both are lefties with high K/9 avg.

  • On the Farm

    “With Johnson and Maples leading what is suddenly becoming a very good looking rotation”

    Had the fortune to catch Johnson’s outing last night and he did not disappoint. He threw 6 innings of shutout baseball and had 9 strikeouts in the outing. He came out of the gate firing some bullets (91-92 MPH) and struck out last year’s #2 pick Buxton. In the fourth inning he got into a jam and the bases were loaded, but he worked his magic (Flyout, K, Groundout) to get three straight outs to keep the shutout bid. He came out in the 5th inning and hit 94 MPH with his fastball, the fastest I had seen him throw all game. Then for his final inning of work he picked up two more Ks in the sixth and one of them was on a beautiful 78 MPH change up. Kudos to Amlung and Antiguia as they came out of the pen to hold on and save Johnson’s shutout bid and it was the first time all season that the Kernels had been shutout.

    Daytona better make some room because I think Johnson is going to be ready for the FSL real soon.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks for the eyes-on, OTF.

    • Marc N.

      Great to hear for Johnson. I have him tabbed as reliever but said before the season he would have success as a SP this year that still would not convince me. I like that his hardest fastball came later in the start rather than earlier, but that doesn’t mean much.

    • ssckelley

      I was at this game last night as well and was equally impressed with Johnson. His fastball consistently touched 90-92 but what was I was really impressed with how he mixed all his pitches and kept the hitters off balance.

      On another note I was amazed at how short Vogs is, is he really 6 foot? He had a couple of awful looking slides, 1 where he almost got picked off at 2nd and another at home plate where he got called out on a close play.

      No one is talking about Rock Shoulders yet, I think he is the best kept secret at Kane County. He looked good at first base last night and knocked one out over the centerfield wall.

  • jay

    Unless the DH is adopted by the NL, Vogelbach with never see the majors in a Cubs uniform.

    • Jim

      I think many thought the same thing of Keith Moreland, but with his bat they found him a spot to play.

    • King Jeff

      7 errors already this year. That seems very high for a first baseman.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Eh, just get FB pitchers who K a lot of guys….

  • jt

    Szczur had a good start to the season, cooled off and now has been real hot over the past 10 games. But he is again lacking power.
    To my mind he has proven he can hit singles at the AA level. I’d almost would like to see his stats go down has he works to put a bit of “pow” in his swing.

    • Blublud

      Homeruns and power at the plate are very important, but its not everything. The Marlins won a world series with Jaun Pierre leading off. Slap hitters with speed can be very useful is they know how to use it to their advantage. There is a reason Billy Hamilton is ranked as high as he is despite a sub .400 career slugging percentage. But then again, I guess everybody can’t steal 165 bases in one year.

    • Kyle

      I don’t think there’s much ceiling there, but his K/BB ratio at AA is making me think he could fill a hole at the MLB level. One of those “he’d be a fourth outfielder on a good team, but he can start in CF in a pinch and put up 1-2 WAR” guys.

  • Marc N.

    An update on quite possibly a legend in the making:

    .241/.349/.362 with 14 doubles, 1 HR, 24 BBs, 28 Ks, and 21 RS in 166 PAs from the organization’s only relevant switch hitting talent.

    • Dynastyin2017

      Who’s this?

      • Dynastyin2017


      • http://Noclue SenorGato

        Candelario indeed. I believe he hit two more doubles today.

        I forgot about Alcantara as a switch hitter. That and I like Candelario more.

        • http://Noclue SenorGato

          One double. Oh well, still positive.

    • Dynastyin2017

      BTW, wouldn’t you consider Alcantara relevant?

    • ssckelley

      His lack of power has surprised me so far, but I like his patience at the plate. He already has 100 walks in 781 plate appearances. Keep in mind he will not be 20 until the day before Thanksgiving.

      • http://Noclue SenorGato

        Yeah I am really counting on those doubles turning into soomething as he gets older. Pretty confident in him as a prospect but some outright success would make this alot easier.

  • gocatsgo2003

    Let me preface this by saying that I am not an avid follower of minor league baseball and mostly interested in the minor leagues for the development of individual players for eventual promotion to the Bigs, but…

    How much stock is put into or should be put into win/loss records of minor league teams? It just seems like many of the players are more focused on their individual development and working on specific elements of their game rather than winning minor league games. Obviously it is better to see teams win than lose, but I just can’t find myself getting too wrapped up in game outcomes for minor league teams, especially those at the lower levels.

    • Kyle

      No focus whatsoever.

      • ssckelley

        I disagree, playing winning baseball needs to be taught in the minors as well. Knocking in the game winning run in a pressure situation or striking out a hitter with the bases loaded keeping the other team from scoring is just as important as their stats.

        • Kyle

          If you have some special ability to strike out batters when you really want to, you should use it all the time and not just with the bases loaded.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            True. Though sometimes pitching to contact in certain situations with certain batters in service of pitch economy is a legit thing.

            • Kyle

              It kind of is, but it mostly isn’t.

              The problem with pitching to contact is that about 30% of your balls in play will go for hits, which extends your pitch count by just as much as the strikeouts. It roughly events out.

    • Dynastyin2017

      You are correct in your assessment. Minor League W-L records are not as important as player development. That being said, I’m sure some argument can be made that minor league teams with more high level prospects will have better records.

    • hawkcub

      You always want to win but it is far down the list in what is important in the farm teams. Really not a ton of pressure to win. Think about this many of the fans going to these games don’t even know the record of the team if they go to a game. It’s just a release from the day to day grind. Yeah there is always that core that are die hards but not like in the Majors. In the lower levels I’d put the people who even know the record of the team they are watching at 50%. That’s being extremely generous even.