There was so much to say about Cubs prospects this morning that it required its own set of Bullets.
- In case you somehow missed it, Javier Baez homered four times last night for Daytona, which is awesome. His line before the homer-filled night was a very solid .279/.328/.509. After? All the way up to .291/.339/.570. That’s a crazy leap for June – but you’d expect a crazy leap after a crazy game. Perhaps even better, his K rate keeps falling, and it’s down to 23.6%. Still not where you’d like it to be, but it’s now definitely in a manageable range.
- Baez’s home run binge was even the top play of the night on SportsCenter. Good thing he wasn’t playing opposite a Turkish minor league basketball game, otherwise some completely standard, run-of-the-mill dunk would have been the top play (and the next five).
- Sabr has a list of the four homer games in baseball history, and the only other time it happened in the Florida State League was in 2006, by former Cubs prospect Ryan Harvey. A former first round pick, himself, Harvey always had huge power but flamed out, in part, because of an inability to consistently make contact. By the time he hit all those homers in Daytona, though, his prospect status had already dimmed considerably. And, in case you need me to say it out loud: no, simply because there are superficial parallels between the prospects doesn’t mean anything. Baez will rise and fall on his own accord.
- Before Baez turned it up last night, BP’s Jason Parks tweeted something that should make your prospecting spine tingle: “The Cubs could have four prospects ranked in the top 20 in the game when the Baseball Prospectus mid-season top 50 is released.” Parks is referring to The Big Four of Baez, Jorge Soler, Albert Almora, and recent-draftee (assuming he signs) Kris Bryant. I suspect that, when the rankings shake out, not all four will fit in the top 20 – because that’s insanely hard to do when you just think about the numbers – but it’s clear that all four will be extremely well-ranked. The funny thing is I’m not sure I could even figure out how to rank the four amongst each other, let alone within the top 20/30/40 in baseball. I could make a very good argument for ranking each one of them as the best of the four. Nice problem to have, as they say.
- Speaking of Almora, Baseball America’s Ben Badler takes a short look at the center fielder, who has a chance to have a “special” hit tool. In the same piece, J.J. Cooper takes a much longer look at Dan Vogelbach, who appears to have impressed.
- Jason Parks also took a look at Almora recently, and writes that his fears about Almora’s hamate bone injury seem to be allayed. In part, Parks says, “At the time of the injury, I was concerned about the severity and possible lingering effects, especially at the plate, where the strength and flexibility can be slow to return. But Almora has done nothing but rake when he’s been on the field, with 29 hits in only 67 at-bats. Out of sight out of mind in this business, which is unfortunate because Almora is not only the top prospect in the Cubs organization but a top 20 talent in the entire minors. This is a baseball player, one who shows five-tool potential to go along with instincts for the game.” Parks adds that Almora could be a candidate for an “aggressive development plan,” given his unique set of skills. Almora is just 19, but, as has been said since he was drafted, he’s the kind of player you could see in the big leagues at 21-years-old.
- Steady pitching prospect Kyle Hendricks was the Southern League’s Pitcher of the Week after a couple great starts last week. Although it’s not a lock, he’ll be a candidate to see some late-season action at AAA Iowa if he keeps pitching well at AA (though some of his peripherals suggest his ERA should probably be in the 3.00 to 3.50 range rather than the low-2s, where it’s been sitting this year).
- Dale Sveum doesn’t see any of the Cubs’ top positional prospects making their big league debut this year. “I don’t see any of them [making their debuts this year],” Sveum said, per Cubs.com. “That’s not what we’re trying to do. They’re here to develop and stay at their level and produce. We’re still not getting huge production, so they have to develop before they get here. You just don’t call people up because they’re supposed to be prospects. There’s still a way they have to produce and put numbers up and be consistent …. Those are our best prospects, whether it’s Baez or Soler or Almora. We’re still talking about a couple years away. We’re not talking about next year or any time this year. Those are the guys you have to have hit, otherwise, you’re back to the drawing board.” The only guy you’d even say had a chance for a September call-up this year is Jorge Soler, and that’s strictly because he’s already on the 40-man roster. No one expects that to actually happen, though. More likely, we’ll see Soler promoted to AA in the second half, and possibly Baez as well. Almora might see High-A before this season ends, but that’s not a lock. From there, each becomes a possibility for a call-up at some point in 2014, and I’d even go so far as to say a midseason 2014 call-up for Soler is a strong possibility. Baez and Almora look more like 2015 guys to me, but this is all so very speculative. Let’s just watch them keep developing.