Cubs Minor League Daily: Future Leadoff?

albert almora explosionThe Cubs have a farm system full of potential middle of the order bats. Baez, Soler, Bryant, and Vogelbach all project nicely anywhere from the three to the six slot in most lineups. Leadoff hitters, on the other hand, are a little less certain.

Matt Szczur is certainly one candidate, but I’m still not certain he isn’t a good fourth outfielder when it is all said and done. Albert Almora would be a frequently mentioned candidate, and while I admit his name belongs in the hat at times I think he looks more like a two or seven guy (depending on how he develops) than a leadoff hitter. Zeke DeVoss and John Andreoli both deserve a mention, but in both cases there are concerns about their ability to hold down full time jobs at the major league level.

The best candidate of them all, I think, is Arismendy Alcantara. The switch-hitting second baseman has faded a little in the later part of the season (not surprising given he blew past his career high in games played three weeks ago), but he still boasts an OBP of .344 and a walk rate in excess of 10%. His strikeout rate is a touch higher than I’d prefer in a leadoff hitter, but that in turn is offset by his 13 home runs and 27 steals.

We will, of course, need to see him repeat numbers similar to those in Triple A next year before we can pencil his name into any major league lineup with anything other than very light pencil. I like his chances, though, and I like the idea of him hitting ahead of the likes of Castro, Baez, and Rizzo for the Cubs in the not so very distant future.

Scores From The Weekend

Iowa -
Friday – The Cubs were shut down after scoring in the first and ultimately lost 5-2.
Saturday – Despite seven hits Iowa was shut out 3-0.
Sunday – The Cubs stayed alive for sixteen long innings, but in the end they lost 4-3.

Tennessee -
Friday – A ninth inning rally set up this 8-6 win.
Saturday – On Saturday, though, the Smokies lost the finale against Chattanooga 6-4.
Sunday – Another ninth inning rally, this time on the road against a very good Birmingham team, resulted in this 5-2 Smokies win.

Daytona -
Friday – An efficient offense led the Cubs to a 5-1 win.
Saturday – The offense went cold in this 10-2 loss.
Sunday – But the Cubs bounced back with a big seventh inning in this 5-3 win.

Kane County -
Friday – Three errors and little offense dropped Kane County with a 5-1 loss.
Saturday – The bats found just enough to win this one 7-6.
Sunday – A ninth inning rally did not go far enough as the Cougars lost again, 4-2.

Boise -
Friday – Boise overcame a pair of errors to win this one 6-2.
Saturday – This game was just ugly. The Hawks were blown out 11-0.
Sunday – Boise’s pitching stumbled again in this 10-2 loss.

Arizona -
Friday – The AZL Cubs shut down the Padres with a 6-0 win.
Saturday – Saturday marked a rare road win for Rookie League team. The final was 9-7.
Sunday – This was a scheduled off day.

Performances of Note

  • [Iowa] Kyle Hendricks pitched quite well in Iowa’s marathon loss. The starter threw 7 innings, allowed 3 runs on 7 hits, and struck out 7.
  • [Iowa] Jae-Hoon Ha is looking comfortable at the plate for Iowa. He started slow, but each month has seen his numbers improve. For August his line reads .323/.371/.508 with 2 home runs, 5 walks, and 8 strikeouts in about 80 trips to the plate.
  • [Tennessee] We might need to start paying closer attention to Tennessee catcher Rafael Lopez. I raised an eyebrow when he was selected to the Southern League mid-season All-Star team, but I have no arguments with his second half performance at all. Through 24 games and 97 PAs he is hitting .329/.433/.488 with 3 home runs, 15 walks, and just 9 strike outs. This left handed hitter could be Castillo’s backup in a season or two.
  • [Daytona] With two outs in the seventh inning of Sunday’s game Dan Vogelbach and Kris Bryant launched back to back homers. It was Vogelbach’s second and Bryant’s third. Let’s hope we see that a few hundred more times in their Cubs’ careers.
  • [Daytona] Corey Black can strike folks out, no doubt about that. He fanned 8 in 5 innings on Friday, but he also gave up 8 hits in the process.
  • [Daytona] Pitching 4 innings in a piggyback arrangement with Scott Baker on Sunday, Pierce Johnson struck out 6 while allowing 2 runs on 3 hits and 3 walks.
  • [Kane County] Felix Pena and Tayler Scott both put together pretty decent starts this weekend. Both took the loss, but both pitched well enough to win. Neither are among the best pitching prospects in the system, but both are in the mix a tier or two down.
  • [Boise] Carlos Penalver is one of the hottest players in the farm system right now. His numbers over his last ten games are fairly ridiculous (.429/.487/.629), as is his August OPS of 1.015.
  • [Arizona] There was quite a bit of quality pitching in the desert this weekend. Erick Leal struck out 6 more in his 5 innings of work, Trevor Graham threw 3 flawless innings, and Carlos Rodriguez nearly matched him with three scoreless innings of his own.

Other News

  • The super-utility player’s super-utility player was the focus of a nice article on the Smokes Radio Network website. Jonathan Mota can play pretty much anywhere and do so well. He isn’t flashy at the plate, but he is consistent. Already in his mid-20s, this minor league veteran is not going to make any top prospect lists for the Cubs, but he might just be one of the easiest guys to root for in the farm system. One of these days I think he’ll get the call to Chicago on an injury fill in assignment.
  • Since rejoining Daytona for the push to the post-season, Anthony Giansanti is hitting .296/.400/.420 with 13 walks and 14 strikeouts.

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

92 responses to “Cubs Minor League Daily: Future Leadoff?”

  1. JM

    I had thought of AA, especially since ESPN kept comparing him with Rollins.

  2. Honey nut Sorianos

    Isn’t Alcantara a rule 5 this coming year?

    1. cubchymyst

      Yes, he will be added to the 40 man this offseason.

    2. JM

      I think so. That is likely why most think the Cubs will put him on the 40 man roster.

  3. On The Farm

    Rough weekend for Iowa getting swept, I was hoping for some playoff baseball out of them, but that certainly didnt help. I love that Hendricks still has his K-pitch working since he has been promoted. I am a sucker for control/movement guys.

    Also in some other news I saw Xander Boegarts (Red Sox) was getting the call to the show today. Assuming he sticks with the club from now through September, that makes the SS prospects that much easier to rank next season. I am assuming it will be Lindor, Correa/Baez (could be interchangeable probably), and then Russell.

    1. Chad

      Didn’t they just trade for a SS, Iglesias? DId he get injured or just wanting to improve on the offensive side?

      1. On The Farm

        They traded Iglesias to Detroit in the Peavy deal. They have the younger Drew and Middlebrooks currently holding down the left side of their INF. I am not sure why Xander is getting the call, since they just called up Middlebrooks after the Iglesias-Peavy trade.

        1. Chad

          Ah that’s right. I knew they had a deal with a SS, thought it was the other way. Thanks for the clarity.

      2. abe

        he was traded to Detroit.

  4. Adam

    Hey Luke,
    What’s the deal with Shawon Dunston? I feel like he is in and out of the Boise lineup so much. And he missed about a month but I never saw his status change from active.

    1. Ben

      Dunston is active now and has had a good game all ready. But, Luke, everytime I have seen Dunston I think future leadoff man. Is he progressing on schedule and do you have a scouting report on him?

  5. ssckelley

    Luke, thanks for the bullet on Lopez. His hitting is slowly getting him some notice, he hits a lot of doubles, a few home runs, and has a great walk rate. My question is how does he look defensively? He has 10 errors so far this year and has only thrown out 29% basestealers.

    1. CubsFaninMS

      He launched one into the restaurant/lounge area in right field when he played the Mississippi Braves here in Pearl a few months ago. I was impressed. It was not a cheap shot.

  6. BlameHendry

    Almora batting 7th?? There’s no way, he’s a way better hitter than that. Just because he doesn’t have Baez HR power doesn’t mean he can’t be very productive. I say if he doesn’t bat 2nd he’s a good candidate for batting 5th unless the line-up is totally stacked…

    1. On The Farm

      Well I think he is assuming Baez, Bryant, and Vogelbach all make it in the lineup so something like Alacantra, Castro (assuming he returns to a .300/.340 average), Baez, Bryant, Rizzo, Vogelbach. If that is the case then yeah Almora would hit 7th. I would much rather have Rizzo and Vogelbach hit 5-6 than have Almora in those spots.

      1. JB88

        As much as I love the idea of Vogelbach in the lineup, that is only happening if: (a) the Cubs trade Rizzo (not likely) or the NL adopts the DH. In either case, it probably isn’t happening before 2016, at the earliest.

        1. On The Farm

          I think the NL will adpot the DH for competitive balance purposes, and that could concievably happen by 2015, if not Vogelbach coming up in 2016 isn’t that crazy. Most likely plan for Vogelbach in my mind is 2014 – Spends half a season in Daytona, gets called up to AA. 2015 – Spends half a season in AA, gets called up to AAA half way through (maybe gets a cup of coffee in September). 2016 – Much like Rizzo he stays in AAA until June to avoid Super 2 status. Either way Vogelbach would have to absolutley kill the ball to get here by 2014, and still probably wont be there by then (40 man implications). So 2015 at the earliest, 2016 as the most likely, either way the NL could(should) have the DH.

        2. hansman1982

          The NL will adopt the DH as part of an agreement to ease the amateur spending restrictions and it will go into effect with the IFA Draft.

      2. CubsFaninMS

        If Almora progresses and turns into the Major Leaguer we all hope, I would much prefer him in the second spot than Castro… even on Castro’s good year. Castro is a great #7 hitter on a stacked team. He’s not proven to be a run producer or table-setter in his career as of yet.

    2. JB88

      Given the progress that Baez and Bryant are making, I think it is really easy to envision a lineup with Bryant batting third, Rizzo batting fourth, and Baez batting fifth. Even assuming that Almora makes it, he probably slots in best at the 2 hole, and, while his OBP leaves a lot to be desired at this point, his hit tool probably fits best in the 2 hole or 7 hole.

      1. Brett

        Let’s keep in mind: in a good lineup, hitting 7th doesn’t mean you’re a bum.

        1. Jp3

          I was thinking samesies, it’s a classy problem when a good hitter is hitting 7th.

        2. macpete22

          I remember a couple years ago Len Kasper said that Castro would probably bat 7th or 8th in a good lineup

          1. ssckelley

            Or even a crappy one, Castro has been hitting 7th the past few games.

          2. hansman1982

            Dale said that last year

      2. JB88

        Agree. And in a good hitting, non-DH lineup, you still want a high contact rate out of your 7th batter because that might be the last chance you have to plate a run, if there is an opportunity to pitch around the 8th batter and face the pitcher.

  7. Norm

    eh, debating the 2016 lineup is pointless.

    1. ssckelley

      Right, we have way more important things to discuss…like who is batting 7th tonight.

      1. Jp3

        Somebody that sucks

  8. cub1

    “His strikeout rate is a touch higher than I’d prefer in a leadoff hitter”

    Who cares if your leadoff hitter strikes out a lot? You pay him to get on base. If he is batting leadoff there is a lot less need to make productive outs because he will be in fewer situations with men on and less than two outs.

    1. hansman1982

      “a lot less need to make productive outs ”

      Unless you are a pitcher, or someone who grounds into a crap ton of double plays, there is never a need to make a productive out.

      1. MichiganGoat

        Not to mention the only time your guaranteed that you leadoff hitter will bat with no outs and nobody on base is on the first AB and then the last thing you want is your leadoff hitter just striking out. You hope your leadoff hitter at least has the best chance of getting on base by a really putting the ball in play or walking.

      2. MichiganGoat

        And he has the best chance of having the most PA you don’t want any of those wasted on a K.

      3. arkema15

        there are some needs to make productive outs..especially in the non-DH, small ball NL…runner on third less than two outs.. a grounder to the right side usually plates him…same situation except with a sac fly..runner on second no outs grounder to the right side gets him to third for a potential sac fly..rather have those outs than a strikeout

        1. Drew7

          “…runner on third less than two outs (In a late-and-close game).. a grounder to the right side usually plates him…same situation except with a sac fly (in a late-and-close game)..runner on second no outs grounder to the right side gets him to third for a potential sac fly..rather have those outs than a strikeout (in a late-and-close game)”


          1. arkema15

            if the baserunner gets a good jump like a manager teaches..those happen in any inning..maybe not the runner advancing to third from second on a groundout because he is already in scoring position at 2nd..but there is no excuse not to advance on a grounder to 2nd or 1st if you get a good secondary lead and read the ball off the bat (unless they have a hose, which the right side of the infield usually doesnt)…unless you’re a really conservative manager but the cubs can’t afford to be conservative with their awfuly BA with RISP

        2. hansman1982

          I think it’s better to make a productive out than a non-productive out; however, you rarely want to give away outs from guys who have the ability to get XBH’s.

          1. DocPeter Wimsey

            “Productive outs” are bad, non-productive outs are really bad. The notion of a “good out” is really an oxymoronic one. Even the sacrifice bunt that moves the game winning run into scoring position is considerably worse than a non-out.

            1. hansman1982

              I wish I could say “that goes without saying” but some folks do have the “SAC ALL OF THE BATTERS!” mentallity.

            2. Patrick W.

              Well, I think there are a few different categories. Intentional and unintentional productive outs (sacrifice bunt vs. something like a foul out where the runner is able to tag up) and Intentional and unintentional non-productive out (unsuccessful sacrifices vs. something like a GIDP). Outs are all bad, but I would rank them thus in their badness:

              Bad: intentional productive outs
              Worse: unintentional productive outs
              More worse: unintentional non-productive outs
              More worstest: intentional non-productive outs

              There is no denying that some outs aren’t as bad as others, is there?

  9. Kramden

    I’m thinking Jacob Hanneman as lead off man at some point.

  10. On The Farm

    Sad news out of the Gretzky camp…. Looks like Trevor’s sister, is off the market. To some schmuck pro golfer Dustin Johnson.

    1. miggy80

      Schmuck is right. I saw some where that her dad cut her off and then she ended up in his pocket.

    2. Ben

      The last few years she would show up at Fitch facility to watch play–sometimes with Dad–Classy modestly dressed Arizona lady. We always did our best not to stare but even Mr. Cool, Arizona Phil, would turn sideways. Just one of the rewards for baking in this 112 degree sun every day.

  11. cub1

    the point is I’ll take a leadoff guy that gets on at a 40% clip but strikes out at a 20% clip anyday over a leadoff guy that gets on at a 35% clip but only strikes out 10% of the time…this may be the result of taking a gamble in a 3-2 count by watching that borderline pitch knowing that a higher percentage of those will be walks than the percentage he can bloop into singles…in contrast there is definite value to making more of your outs “productive” if you have men on with less than two outs to move or score a runner, that is where strike outs kill you…if nobody is on it just makes you feel better that you didn’t strike out but instead hit a weak groundball to 2b

  12. Blublud

    AA is definitely a leadoff candidate. But what about Baez. I know he is a typical middle of the order guy, but if Rizzo and Bryant both are still in the lineup, Baez would slot nicely into the 1 whole. He could be a poor man’s Ricky Henderson with a lower OBP and more power.

    1. Norm

      uh…what? Ricky Henderson and Javy Baez?

      1. Blublud

        Uh yeah. They both have power, they both have speed. Baez won’t steal anything close to 100 bases but he could steal close to 40. He could also be a guy close to 40 homers. If he can get on base at a .350 clip, which I think he eventually will, then Ricky Henderson is not a bad comp. A 30/30 guy hitting leadoff is not a bad thing.

        1. Drew7

          Baez’s best attribute, by far, is his power. Power is best utilized behind guys that get on base.

          So, in your scenario, you would hurt one power guy (Baez) by hitting him in the spot that sees the most PA’s with nobody on, while also hurting your other power guys (Bryant, Rizzo) by hitting them behind a guy that doesn’t get on base.

        2. Norm

          Baez will be lucky to walk half as often as Ricky, while striking out twice as much. Ricky really didn’t have THAT much power (4 seasons over 18 hr’s). And Baez will not be a stolen base threat for long.

          Sammy Sosa is probably a closer comp.

          1. On The Farm

            Maybe he was referring to Jeffrey Baez?

          2. arkema15

   way javier gets to 40 sb..but i can see him being a 30HR-20SB guy with .280/.330 maybe .340 if pitchers give him IBB to inflate OBP

        3. hansman1982

          Ricky Henderson is a terrible comp for Baez. Henderson had a career OBP of .400, Baez might do .350 in a career year.

          Baez’s best comp might be Chris Davis. Would you want Chris Davis batting behind .500 OPS pitchers?

          1. Internet Random

            “Ricky Henderson is a terrible comp for Baez.”

            What about Rollie Fingers?

            1. hansman1982

              Eh, not sure if he has the stache for it. Maybe a poor-man’s Fingers.

          2. arkema15

            as we’re stating baez comparisions…i think A-Ram will be a close comparision too -15 to 20 off aramis’s obp however

    2. On The Farm

      I don’t like it. I realize Baez would only have to “lead off” once in the game, but the second time he comes up to bat it would mean that the guys who bat ahead of him (the 7-8-9 guys) would have to be on base in order to utilize his power. I would hate to waste a majority of Baez’s HRs on solo shots because the guys at the bottom of our order aren’t the best at getting on base. I would prefer someone with a high OBP hitting ahead of him. I wouldn’t mind him batting second, but definitely not lead off. Just my take

      1. Blublud

        Ok, lets say the NL gets the DH, and you have Rizzo, Bryant, Vogs and Soler(unlikely they all make it, i know) hitting 3-6, where else is better to take advantage of his skills.

        1. hansman1982

          Assuming they all reach their ceilings?


          1. On The Farm

            That would be my ideal (you know if everyone makes it to the MLB) with Almora batting ahead of that group.

            1. Blublud

              Almora is not a big league hitter that you will want at the top of the order. I only put him at 2 because we said ceiling. Realistically, he would be a 7 or 8 guy. I don’t see this guy doing much better then .270/.320 in the bigs with GG defense. You don’t really want that guy at the top of you order.

              1. hansman1982

                Wow, for some reason you are as down on Almora as I am on Baez without the massive red flags.

                Almora is very likely to hit .300 or better each year with a .050 IsoD and a .150 IsoP.

              2. On The Farm

                .320 is a pretty average OBP. I would be just fine with Almora providing average to above-average OBP hitting ahead of Baez. I like what the numbers have been showing for Almora (he seems to have been taking more walks since his first month). I think he would be a fine top of the order bat someday. I still feel Baez’s bat at the lead off position would be a waste, while it was fun to say if everyone reaches their ceiling, we all know that they won’t. The reality is if everyone reached their ceiling it really wouln’t matter (to a degree) where anyone batted in this lineup.

          2. Blublud

            If they all reach their ceilings, then a lineup of


            Would be pretty lethal.

            1. ssckelley

              Rizzo and Castro might bat 7th and 8th in that lineup.

            2. hansman1982

              I sure wouldn’t waste Baez behind the P spot 3-4 times a game.

          3. hansman1982


        2. On The Farm

          Well there have been some studies that argue you should put your best hitter second. While among that group Baez might not end up the best, he could still be a pretty good #2, especially if you have someone with a high OBP in front of him. If not I would have to assume he would be better than Vogelbach and Soler (he already has a better power grade than these two) so you could bat him anywhere 3-5, and let Vogelbach go 6, Soler 7 if that is indeed the case.

    3. Drew7

      Sorry, BB – not really with you on that one.

  13. arkema15

    I wouldn’t mind this lineup..
    Alcantara – 2B
    Almora – CF
    Baez – 3B
    Bryant – LF
    Rizzo – 1B
    Soler – RF
    Castro – SS
    Castillo – C
    (assuming no NL-DH and everyone reaches MLB)

  14. Joepoe321

    Of the too 4 prospects what are the odds that any of them reach their ceiling? I mean like how many of the 4 are likely to be solid major leaguers and how many are likely to bust?

    1. Kyle

      Their absolute ceiling? 50/50 that one of the four does.

    2. arkema15

      not a good change all four reach max potential… but I bet they all should reach the mlb at some point in the coming years, especially with good performance after their recent promotions (Baez, and Vogs and Bryant having good SSS)

  15. cubchymyst

    I am going to throw Soler name out there as a potential lead off hitter down the road. He has shown a decent walk rate, not to high of a K rate and a good average.

  16. TK

    Most of these guys being discussed are at least 2 – 3 years away, maybe more, from not just breaking into MLB, but adjusting to MLB to the degree to which they could handle being a lead off hitter. For the more near future, I see our best in-house candidates to bat first as Jae Hoon Ha or Matt Szczur. Yes, they may at first glance appear to be quite far from MLB also, but if you look at their maturity and their progress in MiLB, they have demonstrated the ability to learn and adjust and advance. I don’t think it’s a stretch at all for either or both to play in Chicago next year. I don’t think we’ve seen nearly enough out of any of these other top prospects to even consider them in any serious conversation about leading off in the next 3 yrs or so. I think Ha and Szczur are currently the best nearest options.

  17. Bilbo161

    I think Alcantara is our best near term number two. Number 1 only in a stacked lineup. With his power as a two he’s perfect to start the game behind a high OBP guy like Andreoli. Then again, at number one he would be perfect batting after the pitcher should there be guys on base. How about:


    Of course if there is no DH then Vogelbach is out with a pitcher in the 9 hole. Almora could be two with Alcantara leading off. Many other possibilities though.

    1. arkema15

      would love that order…top 3 in the NL with HR for sure with that lineup

  18. arkema15

    I hope the NL gets the DH to see Rizzo and Vogs in the same lineup but then again I’ll miss Travis Wood hitting bombs for his own run support..loved watching his grand slam against the Sox or his go ahead solo against the Giants

  19. marc

    I love our top prospects but expecting them to bat in the top five of our batting order before late 2016/2017 might be a little lofty. I think you can look at a team like the royals where it took a few years for their younger guys to really catch on at the big league level. I think we keep signing guys like dejesus, shierholtz, navarro, etc until our homegrown prove themselves hitting out of the 6-7 hole. If we run out 4 guys under the age of 26, it might not be pretty. How much of rizzo’s troubles this year can be attributed to no protection in the lineup? It seems he is getting almost once every game.

  20. cubsin

    If all of those guys reach their full potential, they could bat in alphabetical order and score plenty of runs. Now let’s get some more pitching.

  21. RD

    I really think Soler would be a pretty great fit in the 2 slot. He has good power (not to the extent of Baez and Bryant), he has a great apporach, hits the ball to all fields, sees a lot of pitches, has a high OBP, and has pretty good speed for a big man, and he is a good baserunner. Of course all of this coming from reports and minor league stats, but Alcantara 1 and Soler 2 would be pretty deadly…

    1. arkema15

      and at 6-4 215…thats an intimidating leadoff

      1. arkema15

        read your post wrong…intimidating #2**

        1. RD

          Yeah facing a speciman like that in the first inning is probably something no pitcher would like to do.

  22. hansman1982

    Well shoot, Baez has addressed most of my concerns thus far. In his last 103 PA:

    .301/.379/.563 with a 25% K rate and a 12% BB rate. On pace for 35-40 HR in a season while having a good BB rate. With a +10% BB rate and 35+ HR a year, you can live with a 25%+ K rate.

    Going back just 50 PA (smallest “acceptable” sample size for looking at BB/K rates) are some ridiculous numbers. .360/.408/.660 – 10% BB rate, 20% K rate – (650 PA season) 40 HR, 80 2B

    Thanks for working so hard to prove me wrong, kid. I knew my harsh words would motivate you!

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