Cubs Minor League Daily: Power Surge

Kris BryantDan Vogelbach and Kris Bryant arrived in Daytona yesterday, were immediately inserted into the lineup, and both homered during the Cubs’ doubleheader. That is exactly the kind of fast start we were hoping for. They will now remain in Daytona for the rest of season and serve as two of the biggest pieces of a suddenly powerful lineup.

And that lineup is not all Daytona has going for them. The pitching staff, lead by Pierce Johnson and C.J. Edwards, is arguably the best (in terms of prospects) in the organization. It is entirely possible that the Cubs are now the favorites to win the Florida State League title.

Scores From Yesterday

While I am on vacation the scores will be presented as a single link. Box scores and recaps are just an extra click away from this page.

Observations From Tennessee

  • Brett Jackson‘s swing looks improved compared to what I have seen in the past, but there is still room to polish it up some more. I noticed in particular that his head seems to drop some right as his bat is entering the hitting zone; that drop is pronounced enough that I would not be surprised if he is losing sight of the ball right around the plate. I don’t know how big of an impact something like would have on his production – if that is in fact the case at all – but it does look like a mechanic that could be improved upon.
  • Dayan Diaz has some good, mid-nineties velocity, and when he is pitching well he is able to use that velocity to great effect low in the strike zone. So long as his stuff was down he was generating a lot of swings and misses from the Chattanooga lineup. When he lost the bottom of the zone and started leaving his pitches up, on the other hand, he began to get smacked around. All in all I liked what I saw. When he is pounding the bottom of the strike zone he could be a tough guy to hit.
  • Javier Baez continued to demonstrate that there are no real concerns about his abilities as a shortstop. There were some miscues between Baez and his double play partner Arismendy Alcantara, but nothing that greater familiarity will not solve. Baez looked quite disciplined at the plate, and I think the league is starting to notice. His walk late in the game was of the intentional variety.
  • Matt Szczur is a good, maybe a very good, defensive center fielder. At one time there were questions in some corners about how well his glove would play in center, but those questions should now be dead. Szczur can handle center just fine, and should look even better in the corners. The only question with this guy is whether his bat will make him a fourth outfielder or a second tier regular in center. I think he will be playing in the majors under either scenario.
  • Today is the day I start driving home. This has been a wonderful trip made all the more so by the great Smokies fans and Bleacher Nation readers I met at the games. My wife and I are already planning to come back next year; hopefully we can see even more of you at the ballpark then.

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

64 responses to “Cubs Minor League Daily: Power Surge”

  1. Rebuilding

    Hey Luke – Thanks for the first hand report. I wish I could get down to Tennessee a little more often. I am curious what you mean by: “continued to demonstrate that there are no real concerns about his abilities as a shortstop.” Is that based on something you read from McLeod/Epstein/Hoyer or based on what you saw?

  2. ssckelley

    Since he is already on the 40 man roster I think Szczur could get a look next month after the rosters expand.

  3. Justin

    Good stuff Luke. Any idea on what the chances are that Bryant sticks at 3rd base? I think him being an everyday 3rd baseman takes his value to whole other level, as opposed to rightfield. I mean Bryant has to be better than Pedro Alvarez over there at 3rd base right?

    1. ssckelley

      Sorry, not Luke but I think Bryant will be left at third until he proves that he cannot handle the position. He may reach the majors as a third baseman. But some of the scouting reports I have read suggest that he may eventually move to the outfield due to his size. In the Cubs system he could get moved because of how strong they are at third base. Third base is a premium position, go look at the free agent market the past couple of years and this off season it has been bad. The Cubs could have as many as 4 third baseman in the BA positional top 20 going into next season. This is the best shape I have ever seen the Cubs at third.

      1. On The Farm

        I realize this is a long way off, but assuming that Bryant and Baez hit their offensive ceilings, would you rather have Bryant at 3B and Baez at 2B, or Baez at 3B and Bryant in OF (Also assuming Castro is our SS, and Soler is non-factor)

        1. Billy

          It depends on Alcantara. If he can keep playing like he is now I would rather have Baez or Bryant in a corner outfield spot, if he doesn’t pan out I would rather have both of them in the infield

        2. hansman1982

          Both in the infield, that would give us premium power at two of the hardest spots to find that at in baseball.

        3. ssckelley

          I am not convinced that Baez will be moved off shortstop position and the Cubs could be moving towards some decisions on what to do with Castro and Baez. With as many quality 3rd base prospects the Cubs have they would add to the congestion by moving either Castro or Baez there. If either get moved it might be to second where there is less congestion. If Alcantara forces the issue in his development then the Cubs need to start looking at trades, and they might anyway with Castro.

          Exciting stuff and fun to debate/speculate.

          1. On The Farm

            If that is the case you could also consider moving Castro to CF if they really like what he becomes in the next few years.

            So much room for activities!

            1. ssckelley

              I had thought about that as well but then I wonder what the future is for Lake as centerfield is where he gives the Cubs the best value for his offensive capabilities and arm. But honestly whoever the Cubs get for centerfield will just be keeping the position warm for whenever Almora is ready. Defensively Almora might be the best center fielder since Curt Flood and if he keeps proving he can hit we will be in for a treat.

          2. Kyle

            Yeah. The bottom line is *if* some of our interesting high-minors guys force the issue and become MLB players, the infield may begin to get awfully crowded.

          3. JB88

            It is very hard to see the Cubs moving Castro off SS. IMO, if all of the prospects work out (and by all, I’m talking about Baez, Soler, Almora, Bryant, and I’ll throw Alcantara into the mix), then the most likely players to be moved are Baez and Bryant, with Baez moving to 3B and Bryant to LF. Even so, that is hugely optimistic that all of these players emerge as possible starters at the ML-level. More likely, one or more of those prospects will flame out and/or be traded before they end up on the team.

            I still think Baez is most likely to be moved, but that is mainly because I think Soler’s contract situation might make him difficult to trade.

      2. Justin

        Cool, yeah the Cubs seem set at 3rd for sure. Although, I really hope Bryant sticks there. If he does, it would just add to his value. I also hope Baez sticks at shortstop. I have been a Castro apologist for awhile, but I am getting to the point where i can’t stand to watch him this yr. it’s just been an awful yr for him.. If the Cubs can get top shelf young pitching back for Castro I hope he’s gone and Baez sticks at shortstop.

  4. On The Farm

    Does anyone know how long you would have to be on the Daytona roster to qualify for their playoffs? I know Vogelbach and Bryant are in the clear, but I was just curious as to when the cutoff is in case Almora gets healthy, how much time does he have (assuming the FO is planning on sending him to the next level)

    1. Wester
      1. Wester

        Interesting that Theo expects him to be ready for AFL. I thought there was a cutoff for injured players?

  5. JeffR

    Is Szcur just a bad base runner? I hear about how fast he is and how many bases he should steal but it seems he gets caught way more than he should.

    1. hogie

      It is probably a matter of getting a better baseball IQ. Same goes for his defense. Baseball has been his primary sport only since he was drafted. I know a lot of people aren’t real high on him, but I think it is mostly just his contract status that gives him a bad rep. He is already running out of time to develop.

      1. Scotti

        He isn’t running out of time. He’s on pace even with being on the 40. BTW, he actually played FB after being drafted for a season so, you are right, he hasn’t had the amount of reps that others have had.

    2. Scotti

      Jeff, Szczur’s speed was overblown by Baseball America (in short, they didn’t know that the NFL RB that Szczur’s college coach compared him to was actually slow for the position). Szczur doesn’t (and never did) have plus, plus speed. That said, he does have plus speed, plus defense, takes walks, doesn’t K, and actually has a healthy 75% (ish, I haven’t checked in a few days) career SB %. And, FWIW, his power is leagues ahead of the Pierre level that The KLaw said he has. He’d be a 5-10 HR guy on a full season. Likely Law saw his two-strike approach in a game and thought that was all he has…

      1. JB88

        Which is just another reason that, when it comes to Law, it is best if you take him with a grain of salt.

      2. Jon

        I love how Cub fans still ride Law’s ass over the Juan Pierre comp for Szczur, yet Juan Pierre has produced 23 career WAR over time. Szczur would be lucky if he accomplished that. Maybe a poor comp in terms of profile, but not a huge insult.

        1. Cubbie Blues

          “I love how Cub fans still ride Law’s ass over the Juan Pierre comp for Szczur”
          “Maybe a poor comp in terms of profile”

          So, you can see why some don’t like the comp, since it is a very good comp.

          1. Jon

            If I remember correctly, when Law made the comp people thought it was an insult to Szczur that’s why they soooooo mad.

            1. Jon

              Here is what Law said a while back about Szczur that got the fanboys all riled up:

              “Let’s ignore for the moment that Szczur has been terrible in high-A. He has one of the shortest, slappiest swings I’ve seen on a “prospect” – no leverage, no rotation, just flicks the bat at the ball and meets it out front. Until that changes, I don’t see him hitting for any meaningful power in pro ball, and it’s not like he’s got great plate discipline. He’ll be lucky to have Pierre’s career”

              Noting about that is wrong. He would be lucky to have Pierre’s career, and I don’t think he will.

              1. Jon

                Outside of PD, which has gotten better maybe.

              2. Scotti

                Let this fanboy deconstruct KLaw’s assessment:

                “Let’s ignore for the moment that Szczur has been terrible in high-A.”

                Szczur hit 10 HR that year. 5 in Daytona. His “terrible in high-A” wound up being .282/.357/.408/.765 in 121 games (his “terrible” year was a mid to late season call up). Even in the 43 game season that KLaw referenced, Szczur had a 150 ISO.

                “He has one of the shortest, slappiest swings I’ve seen on a “prospect” – no leverage, no rotation, just flicks the bat at the ball and meets it out front.”

                As I said before, Szczur has a contact swing and a regular swing. KLaw obviously hadn’t seen anywhere near enough of Szczur to make an informed observation but that never stops him.

                “Until that changes, I don’t see him hitting for any meaningful power in pro ball…”

                Forgetting that “meaningful” is a dodge, no one ever, ever projected Szczur to have average MLB power. But Szczur – Pierre is not a good comp.

                “…and it’s not like he’s got great plate discipline.”

                KLaw equates “plate discipline” with walks. That is NOT what plate discipline is (fortunately the FO doesn’t make that mistake). Szczur’s career walk rate of 8.8% is rather impressive given that he isn’t a power guy. Yes, Szczur improved his walk rate. This just proves that trying to determine a guy’s walk rate after one complete season is silly (note to KLaw).

                “He’ll be lucky to have Pierre’s career”

                Pierre has played 15 seasons. He’s a career .295 hitter. He has four 200+ hit seasons. He’s got 2,200+ hits (11th active). He’s got 94 triples. 1,074 Runs scored. He’s 18th all-time in SB. And he’s the toughest active player in MLB to strike out.

                The two players are very different on many levels (defense, throwing, power, walks) but the VAST majority of single A players would be lucky to have anything remotely like that. Even for KLaw that’s a really, really, really stupid thing to say.

                “Noting about that is wrong.”

                Nothing about that was right.

                “He would be lucky to have Pierre’s career, and I don’t think he will.”

                Damn straight he’d be lucky to have a career like that. Szczur, Almora, Alcantara, and many others, would be lucky to have a career like that. I doubt ANY of them will, but I’d be jazzed if one of them came close.

          2. Cubbie Blues

            I meant to say isn’t a very good comp.

        2. JB88

          I “ride Law’s ass” because his predictions when it comes to position players tend to be wholy and consistently bad. It has nothing to do with Szczur specifically.

          1. Noah

            Law was the first of the major prospect gurus to end up being down on Brett Jackson. I think you can look at all the prospect guys and point to people they were wrong about.

          2. Scotti

            I agree. He has a tough job (pretending to know 900, or so, prospects) but others carry it off far better than he does and without the vitriol. The funny thing about Szczur/The KLaw is that KLaw had a perfect opportunity to correctly state that everyone was wrong on a certain part of Szczur’s game (he was never plus, plus speed) but KLaw’s “scouting ability” failed him.

        3. Bill

          Matt Szczur does not have Jaun Pierre’s speed or baserunning instincts. No way Szczur has a +60 SB season. He’s has 40 SB potential from his raw speed but he has terrible baserunning instincts. He is terrible a picking up pitchers pick off moves. I have Smokies season to tickets so I’ve seen him quite a bit

          1. Scotti

            Bill, no one here has made the claim that Szczur has Pierre’s speed. Quite the contrary. As to instincts… Well, this year has been tough for him on the bases but I wouldn’t put too much on one skill in one partial season.

            1. Bill

              Scotti, then everyone should stop throwing around the Jaun Pierre comps. What was Pierre’s main asset? His stolen base threat. Szczur does not have the same speed or ability to steel a base. He gets terrible jumps, and if this is against AA catcher throwing him out. I hope he learns to get better jumps but that is more an instinctual thing. You can definitely learn better fundamental that help but for the most part it’s more instinctual. I know I sound far fetched but I played college ball and I’m telling you for the most part the great base stealers have that natural instinct

      3. Norm

        Szczur has a .088 ISO in AA this year. Good for the bottom 15 in the league.
        I mean, are we really upset that KLaw says Szczur has no power?

        1. TWC

          Oh, but look out… someone will be by soon to tell you (in about 2500 words) how wrong you are about Szczur.

          1. Scotti

            Heaven forbid someone has a differing opinion that is well researched. We don’t need any of that here. What we need are posters who throw out snarky post after snarky post. Now THAT really engenders quality conversation…

            1. Kyle

              I’m on it.

              1. Scotti

                Every new page view makes Brett “Ace” Taylor some cash so it’s all good. Snarking on dudes and dudettes who are looking for deeper discussion is lame, though… It isn’t the snarking that elevates the discussion here passed cubs.com…

                1. TWC

                  If I were really snarky, I’d point out to you that the word is “past”.

                  1. Scotti

                    Yeah, grammar Nazis add so much to cubs.com as well. We need more of those here.

                2. Geo

                  If you are thirsty and dry look up to the sky it’s beginning to rain

                  1. Scotti

                    Um, yeah…

            2. Geo

              Yu invented Snarky. There, how that for engender.

              1. Scotti

                Yu “Snarky” Darvish? Reminds me of the good old days of guys like “Moose” Skowron.

        2. Scotti

          Norm, Pierre’s MiLB CAREER ISO is 62 with a low of 50 (!!) (his MLB career is 66, in line with his MiLB #’s). Szczur’s career ISO is 114 and just last year it was 123 (the year before, it was 130).

          Pierre has 1 career MiLB HR (1 for every 1,311 AB). Szczur has 17 HR (1 every 84 AB). Szczur hits HR 15 X more frequently than Pierre did. No one should ever confuse Szczur with a power hitter but baseball is more than power hitters. There is no legitimate Pierre comp and that doesn’t even include their arms and defense.

  6. mdavis

    Pierce Johnson is just cruising. AA to start next year?

    1. On The Farm

      Yeah, after this month and playoffs I think Johnson has learned all he needs to learn from A+.

    2. ssckelley

      Absolutely, it would take a set back for Johnson to start any lower than AA next year.

  7. abe

    Luke,

    The cubs DSL league is dominating (42-18). Do the Cubs have alot of good prospects down there?

    1. ssckelley

      Sorry, not Luke but right now the Cubs are the talk of the Dominican as they just built a state of the art academy and have made a huge splash in the International market. In the upcoming years we will see the benefits up and down the Cubs organization. In the Dominican the kids don’t dream of being the next Payton Manning or Lebron James, it is either soccer or baseball and the money is in baseball.

  8. dash

    OK, we need a new pic of Bryant in a Cubs uni!

  9. David

    I mentioned when Alcantara moved 2nd and Baez moved up to AA, playing with Alcantara. I think the FO is “pairing” these guys up for the long haul. Alcantara may be ready to get to the show earlier than Baez, but I see them being the best of buds, develop an awesome chemistry and being brought up together/ same day. Would love to see it. Castro for a starting pitcher soon.

    1. On The Farm

      I think they moved Alacantra to 2B because they needed to. While its possible they could be double play partners in the MLB, I highly doubt the FO pairing these two together signals the end of Castro’s time with the Cubs.

      1. David

        My point was, I think it will signal the end for Castro & Baez as the shortstop. Just can’t see him in center….. Center is a key/ up the middle position.

  10. Chris S.

    I can’t stand the Castro trade talks. You guys are ridiculous! Castro is a two time all-star and he is what, only 24??? The kid never slumped in his life. He’s finally in a slump and what does everyone say, he needs to be traded!!! My god, the kid is still hitting .250 at SS playing much better defense of late. I expect him to finish the season around .260 which means he will have a much better second half. It bothers the heck out of me that we have a SS, at 24, two-time all star, and is proven and everyone wants to jump on the band wagon and trade him. I love Baez, and all the prospects, but their still prospects!

    1. Kyle

      Those are all reasons we should be able to get something really good for him in a trade.

    2. Cubbie Blues

      Um, besides your post the word trade was only mentioned once and it was in reference to the glut and start looking and might anyway.

    3. Scotti

      He’s only 23. And, yeah, a bird in the hand is better than two eggs in the bush…

  11. Chris S.

    Trade only mentioned once? Chicago has been talking about it for months….

    1. Cubbie Blues

      Yes, in this thread, it had only be mentioned once. You came in with guns blazing and one person hem-hawed around the possible idea. Also, there is a reply button that makes it much easier to follow a conversation.

  12. Joepoe321

    If u were to rank the cubs prospects by Only potential what would there top 10 be?

    1. someday...2015?

      Going by potential…
      1. Baez
      2. Bryant
      3. Soler
      4. Almora
      5. Vizcaino
      6. Johnson
      7. Edwards
      8. Paniagua
      9. Alcantara
      10. Olt

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