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jorge soler cubsThere was no Arizona Fall League action again yesterday, but, with the league being underway, there is a fair bit of prospecting goodness to discuss …

  • Ben Lindbergh has been writing a Scouting School series for Grantland while he’s out in Arizona, and you should just read the whole damn series. It’s good. For my purposes here, I’ll highlight just two small sections. First, while checking out Instructional League, Lindbergh confesses to falling for his first in-person prospect crush, and it is none other than the Cubs’ Gioskar Amaya. As a second baseman for Kane County, Amaya, 20, was something of a disappointment this year after lighting up our collective prospect radars last year at Boise. Amaya’s numbers were up and down over the course of the year (he finished with an unimpressive .252/.329/.369 line), but at least his K rate plummeted as the season went on. There is talk of the Cubs trying Amaya out at catcher this offseason (something Lindbergh’s review would support – he saw a second baseman with a good arm and an incredibly quick transfer), where his offensive upside would play even better. Lindbergh asked two scouts if he was right to have fallen for Amaya, and both responded positively.
  • The other bit from Lindbergh I’d like to share is a write-up of Albert Almora, who raked in his first two AFL games – his first action since early August. Lindbergh’s reaction to what he saw, even after trying to divorce himself from everything he knew about Almora, was that this was a special player. You get a full scouting report, too, which similarly confirms many things we already think to be true about Almora.
  • Keith Law was also out in Arizona checking out the Fall League, and had pleasant things to say about a number of prospects out there. His piece is worth checking out for bits on a large number of non-Cubs prospects, but his praise for the Cubs out there is obviously the most intriguing piece ’round these parts: “Albert Almora, Kris Bryant, and Jorge Soler all look great right now, with Soler visibly bigger and stronger than he was when I saw him in the Arizona Rookie League last year. I missed Almora’s four-hit performance Wednesday, but saw him get two hits Thursday, including a hard-hit triple to the left-center gap off Blue Jays reliever John Stilson (who hit 96 mph, but was getting squared up left and right). Bryant homered twice after a three-hit performance on Opening Day, squaring up 97 like it was 87 and showing huge, raw power in BP. Soler looked the most improved of the three, but that’s also a function of how advanced the other guys were coming into the fall.” Whether meaningful or not, Law mentioned the Cubs trio first in his long write-up.
  • John Arguello over at Cubs Den wonders whether there are parallels between Kris Bryant and Dustin Pedroia – despite their obvious differences. Pedroia was a High-A/AFL guy in his first year after being drafted out of college, and then a AA/AAA guy in his first full professional season. He reached the bigs the next year, and has been a Boston mainstay ever since. Does that time line work for Bryant, as well? I do think it’s likely Bryant starts out at AA in 2014, and I think he probably doesn’t quite reach the bigs next year, even if it’s possible. If so, then he’s probably on a Pedroia-like track, with an early-mid-2015 debut. Unless he looks ready to contribute in the second half next year, I don’t think we’ll see him up as a development exercise – that is to say, I don’t see a September call-up as making much sense (for 40-man and service time reasons). That’s not to say that he’s not going to look great for the rest of the offseason, then Spring Training, and then tear up the upper minors for a half year in 2014 before the Cubs have no choice but to call him up. It could happen. Polished college hitters can move very quickly through a farm system.
  • King Jeff

    “Bryant homered twice after a three-hit performance on Opening Day, squaring up 97 like it was 87″
    It sounds so nice when he hits the ball. Not as loud as Baez, but close.

  • hansman

    “You get a full scouting report, too, which similarly confirms many things we already think to be true about Almora. ”

    Unless your name is Blublud.

  • Nick Nesler

    Great work Brett. And as a fan of yours and of Johns work I’m glad to see the appreciation you guys have for each others work. I see him reference your articles as well and it’s nice to see people reporting on the same things coexist and be professional.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks, Nick. Good work is good work.

      • MoneyBoy

        As you probably know, Brett, I read both of you nearly every day!!!!!

  • Craig

    Why does the Arizona Fall League not play games all weekend? What good does it do to have them sit all weekend

    • Spriggs

      They only take Sunday off. This Saturday was an exception for a promotional hitting contest.

  • Jon

    I found this great scouting report piece on Almora, thought I would share

    http://tinyurl.com/lx3zrn8

    • ssckelley

      Damn you…lol

    • LWeb23

      Always be weary of the usage of tinyurl…..

      • DarthHater

        I’m weary of everything Jon posts. ;-)

  • mjhurdle

    lol, well played sir.

  • Toby

    I got to see Bryant and Soler play in Surprise last week and fans are justified in their excitement of the two. Bryant crushed a ball toward deep center for a homerun that had to have gone 430 while Soler hit the ball very hard and went 2 for 4. Dallas Beeler had so-so stuff, but picked off two baserunners in the first inning and has above average stuff.

  • JayPaul

    …and I was thinking that if Almora keeps tearing through the AFL, he might be the one forcing hjs timeline to speed up. By all accounts his defense is ML ready, if his bat continues to show that it is this advanced, he may be ready for AA himself.

    • Professor Snarks

      I doubt they let Almora skip Hi-A, but i could see him following Baez’s 2013 plan. A few months in Daytona, and finish the year in Tennessee.

      • JayPaul

        I would ultimately have to agree. I’m just thinking from a strict talent perspective, i don’t believe Almora will be significantly challenged at High-A and maybe worthy of a AA roster spot.

    • http://www.shadowsofwrigley.com TC

      I think that would be a really aggressive timeline for him, just given how much time he missed last season with injuries. And although I love his bat, there’s certainly some improvements to be made, and the Daytona coaching staff has been lauded for the great work they’ve done with guys like Alcantara and Baez.

      • JayPaul

        Cmpletely agree, I guess IF he continues his success in the AFL at this rate, i wouldn’t have expected it. Especially factoring in the nagging injuries and lost time.

        Regarding the Big 4 in general, i do think the sooner they can be bunched together the better, obviously only if they are ready.

        It’s been a long time since i’ve seen a group of Cubs top prospects continuosly exceed expectations i’ve had. It seems they all have just taken turns checking off the next box on their list. I’m starting to get excited :)

  • http://www.shadowsofwrigley.com TC

    I know it’s not from the AFL, but if anyone wants a look at Almora’s swing, I’ve put some video on YouTube. Lots of hard line drives

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63eh_5mJbNo

    • http://www.shadowsofwrigley.com TC

      Whoops, forgot to put the “shameless self-promotion” tag on this. Sorry Brett!

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        Banned!

  • AA Correspondent

    Do you see Christian Villanueva heading to AAA to start the season. I think his performance in AA last season warrants strong consideration, but I have to ask….what about Mike Olt?? I’m wondering if 3B could be “backing up a bit….If the Cubs truly want to give Olt a long look; perhaps he is a everyday guy in Iowa and that forces Villanueva to repeat AA (for half a season) and maybe Bryant starts of in Daytona for a few months.

    I believe Villanueva can and will continue to develop (his track record shows he is advancing and doing well at each stop on the journey). I think he is a legit 3b prospect and he could play defensively in the show right now. His power is decent, and he is a doubles machine. He is not a prototypical slugging third baseman, but I think he is legit.

    Again, I am excited to see Bryant at the AA level, but I already wonder if perhaps he is a long term outfielder……

    Anyway….these are good problems to have, and i am looking forward to seeing how this situation settles out.

    Brandon

    I saw Bryant in the FSL Championships and am excited about him possibly starting 2014 in Tennessee……

    • JayPaul

      My 1st reaction is that a lot depends on Olt making the Cubs out of spring training and that there is nobody in the system that will slow Bryant’s progression. If Villanueva gets the promotion i think Olt may move around bit to get at-bats if he’s in Iowa still. Villanueva is on the 40 man so even with the low OBP, i think the defense and slugging move him up. It is possible he has to play second fiddle at Tenn til Bryant moves on though.

    • Blackhawks1963

      Mike Olt was a lottery ticket received in the Matt Garza trade. The centerpiece of the deal was CJ Edwards. Olt is a large uncertainty at this point. Can he get over the concussion, vision and suckage problems of the past year plus? Its an understatement to say the 2014 season is make or break for him. I’m not holding out much hope that he ever contributes much to the Cubs.

      • cub2014

        In regards to the 3B prospect back-up situation:

        1. Mike Olt will get every chance to make the
        Cubs out of spring training. Supposedly he
        can play everywhere but SS in the infield. If
        he doesnt produce runs as you would expect
        from 3B. So either super utility or traded or
        back to AAA.
        2. Javier Baez will start AAA at SS but probably
        gets called up to CHI as a thirdbaseman but
        can also play 2B.
        3. Christian Villanueva will start out at AAA as
        3B but he is very capable of being an everyday
        second baseman and his bat would profile very
        well at 2B.
        4. Bryant will start at AA as thirdbaseman.

        If you throw in Watkins and Alcantera you have
        5 guys vying for 2 positions. If 2 of these guys
        are MLB starter quality, then Bryant your 6th
        option will probably become a rightfielder. So
        its nice to be loaded in those 2 positions.

        Remember historically its likely Barney will
        hit closer to his career numbers, so he will
        be a trade chip in june/july, this will open up
        a spot for Baez.

        • Die hard

          So basically Cubs need to trade for s 3B ?

          • cub2014

            die hard, you make me laugh

          • cub2014

            I think the cubs are going to have an issue
            with lack of lefties (thats why I am for getting
            some left handed OBP guys) from there
            young talent. If you look at the 4 youngsters
            at the MLB only 1 is a lefty. Then of their
            top 10 hitting prospects only 2 are lefthanded
            hitters and of the 3 two play 1B. So it’s an
            issue i am sure the FO will be addressing.

      • CubFan Paul

        “Mike Olt was a lottery ticket received in the Matt Garza trade. The centerpiece of the deal was CJ Edwards”

        That’s the exact opposite of what Theo&Co think.

        I expect positive news about Olt’s eyes during the Convention.

        • Kyle

          I really hope that’s not the opposite of what they think, because it’s completely true and I want them to be smart enough to see that. Fortunately, I believe they are.

        • baldtaxguy

          Centerpiece was CJ Edwards.

          • CubFan Paul

            160lb relievers aren’t centerpieces, they’re lottery tickets stat guy.

            • ssckelley

              You are way off base on this one. If Olt was the centerpiece then the Garza deal would have been done well before it happened. The Cubs held out for Edwards and damn near walked away from the deal because the Rangers were balking at giving him up. Olt was the gravy on the deal “lottery ticket” the Cubs were hoping he could correct his vision/hitting issues. Olt would have been the centerpiece of the deal had it taken place in 2012, before Garza got hurt.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              I don’t really understand the desire to find the one centerpiece of the Garza trade. I couldn’t name him the day of the trade, and I still can’t today. It was for four solid pieces.

        • Chad

          How exactly is it that you are right and everyone else is wrong? I would guess it is much more likely that you are wrong after reading a sample of your posting.

    • jt

      Villanueva had 34BB and 117K in 542 PA’s. That would be about 10 too many K’s and 10 too few BB’s.
      Perhaps if the young man can change those numbers a bit he gets talked up a bit more.
      I, for one, follow his stats closely thinking he may be the sleeper.

    • cms0101

      I believe Hoyer has commented that Villanueva would be in Iowa next year already. Not sure what that means for Olt, but maybe they will both be there if he’s not ready to contribute in the bigs. I look for Vitters to be in Chicago as an OF. Plus he can probably relieve Rizzo against tough lefties.

  • http://ehanauer.com clark addison

    Olt’s eye problems haven’t cleared up. I’m thinking the glass is half empty here and we’ll never see him at Wrigley Field.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett
      • http://It'searly Mike F

        It bares consideration that we aren’t neurologists, so we don’t really know what this is until someone knows what the medical people say. I agree with Blackhawk on this, until he proves otherwise he was a flyer and not the core of the deal. It interesting to consider he’s at the hot corner and he doesn’t have issues seeing the ball on defense. I would assume that has something to do with loss of peripheral vision it’s use in hitting from being hit in the left temple. It would also being interesting to know if it is his left tear duct, I assume that is drop tear duck. I’m sure they have sophisticated testing to see both his brain and test his actual hand eye stuff. I know in football they do. I don’t think you pencil in Olt for anything until he goes out and proves he can do the job day and day out for 3 or 4 months at any level.

  • Cubbies4Life

    So, how many of these guys do you think I might see at AAA in Des Moines next season?

    • Professor Snarks

      With any luck, you’ll see Baez, Bryant, Soler , P. Johnson and C.J. Edwards. The two pitchers will only spend the last month there.

      • JayPaul

        I think yo can add a handful of other high prospects to this list as well. Alcantara, Szczur, Rivero and a slew of other bullpen arms and a slew of others possibly. Rohan probably gives way to the next in line as well. Shouldn’t see an over abundance of 4-A guys, at least not for very long. Should be the most prospect laden season Iowa has seen in a long time.

    • ssckelley

      I would not be surprised to see Bryant or Soler at Iowa towards the end of next season. Obviously it all comes down to how much the get challenged in AA. Seeing Almora at Iowa next season is a bit of a stretch.

    • On The Farm

      Obviously Baez will be there. Most likely Alcantara (2B) will open the season there, and a couple other good, but on the next tier of prospects. Villanueva (3B) had a great season and should be the 3B there (Bryant opening in AA should guarantee Villanueva opens in Iowa), Szczur (CF) should be promoted as well. The Iowa rotation should feature Jokisch and Hendricks. There is a good chance if Bryant continues to be a beast he should see a midseason promotion. Soler has a chance to make AAA by the end of the season, but lets see how he can do with a full season of wear and tear (see Alcantara 2013). Then there will be a shot that Johnson will make it to Iowa by the end. A couple other long shots pitching wise would be Corey Black (profiled as a future RP) and Ivan Pineyro (Harriston trade). I think based on how young Edwards is there is a chance he could open in Daytona again so him making the Iowa roster by season end seems like it will be a long shot.

      • willis

        Definitely going to get to see a lot of good talent coming through this year. The 3B question is a good one. I think Olt will be given every opportunity to win the 3B job with the cubs this season, and if he doesn’t, then you have an interesting issue. For my money, Villanueva>Olt as a prospect. So if Olt flops in Spring Training, I still give the nod to Villanueva at 3rd, Baez, SS, Alcantara at 2B and Vitters/Olt at 1B, with Olt playing some 3B from time to time.

        The other thing is holding one of Alcantara/Villanueva in AA, with the other playing 2B in Iowa with Olt manning 3B every day.

        • Chad

          Olt’s glove is not the issue. It’s his at bats. I think it is more important to get him at bats whether it is 1b, 3b or OF. If Villanueva is a real possibility as a prospect you have to give him every chance to succeed. Olt can get some time in at 3B just to keep him fresh at 3B in case his bat ever does come around and he is more ready that Villanueva or any other 3B prospect, but he just needs the ABs, especially if he flops out of ST.

          • Professor Snarks

            If Olt’s eye problems aren’t fixed, putting him at 1st base could kill him.

  • Spriggs

    Awesome article on the scouting school. That also explains the busload of scouts I saw at the first AFL game this year! Now I feel better about falling for Amaya myself in AZ League and the Instructs in 2011.

  • Jono

    For some reason, I’m waiting to hear the names “Almora” and “Ellsbury” in the same sentence.

    • On The Farm

      As in: “The signing of Jacoby Ellsbury will unfortunately block the promotion of Albert Almora.”?

      • Jono

        more of a comparison between the two. Ellsbury is one of my favorite players in baseball, so I’m definitely not being purely logical here

        • JB88

          The significant difference in speed alone between the two makes me think this is not a very good comparison.

        • On The Farm

          I would like to see Almora’s body of work at Daytona before I compare him to Ellsbury. Right now Almora has a low walk rate, and I would like to see him work on that as he faces a higher level of competition. Looking at his line, as well as seeing him in person, he just didn’t seem like a guy who was challenged in the MWL and could hit just about anything pitchers would hurl at the plate.

          • Jono

            “Almora’s … Ellsbury”

            I’ll take it!

        • hansman1982

          I think Ellsbury and Almora, outside of the SB numbers, might be very good comps. Both are low BB, low K, medium power, excellent D center fielders.

          Ellsbury is, certainly, a better comp for Almora than Barney.

  • Cubbies4Life

    Thanks for the info, guys.

  • Blackhawks1963

    Almora has the best potential of all the “name” prospects in the system to have the best and longest big league career. He’s the biggest “certainty” I think. Saying this is no critique in any way, shape or form of Baez, Bryant and Soler.

    • Professor Snarks

      What you are saying is you believe Almora has the highest floor. If everything works out, what do you think is the ceiling of all 4 of the premium prospects? I bet you’ll find out that Almora probably has the lowest ceiling.

      • Chad

        Highest ceiling and lowest floor don’t have to go hand in hand. Almora may be the most likely to have longevity at the ML level, but Baez may have to best opportunity to be a star or massive bust. who knows.

      • On The Farm

        I didn’t see where blackhawks made the argument Almora has the best ceiling of the group. Taking a quick look at Baez and Bryant (SSS applies here) they have large K%s, meaning they have a higher probability to flame out at the MLB level. Soler hasn’t played a full season of professional baseball. So saying Almora has the highest floor means that of the big four, Almora has the best chance at reaching the majors, and because of his tendency to get on-base, and play really good defense at a premium position (as opposed to Baez and Bryant who may move off SS and 3B respectively), the best chance at having a longer career in the majors.

        I understand Baez was working to correct his K% in AA towards the end of the season, and Bryant doesn’t have an adequate sample size to judge him, but I bet you would find many beat writers, and scouts that would agree Almora has the best chance of the big four of actually making it to the majors, and having a better chance at lasting longer than the other three.

        • Kyle

          I don’t know if I’d agree with that. K% matters, but so does the fact that Baez has crushed in AA and Almora has hit pretty well two levels lower.

          • On The Farm

            There have been plenty of people that have crushed AA and not been successful at the MLB level. And I wasn’t even trying to make the point that I think Baez will flame out, I was just trying to point that there are quite a few people in baseball that think Almora is the safest bet, and none of that has anything to do with Baez’s potential.

            • Kyle

              And I’m saying I’m not sure I can agree with those people. It seems like another one of those cases where conventional wisdom lags behind the ever-changing nature of prospects.

              The list of people who have crushed AA at their first exposure at an appropriate (or in Baez’s case young) age who didn’t become at least somewhat useful major leaguers is pretty thin.

              • bbmoney

                I don’t know who I agree with. But I know I’m really excited that Baez crushed so much this year that Kyle is taking the position he has the higher floor.

                Because unless I’m mistaken, and let me know if I am, Kyle was often the one cautioning about Baez’s bust potential (which was entirely appropriate).

                • hansman1982

                  I think I was cautioning (and still am cautioning) about Baez’s bust potential.

                  He’s either going to succeed spectacularly with an ungodly K rate ala-Stanton or bust spectacularly ala-Brett Jackson.

                  • Kyle

                    See, I think that’s too easy an assumption. By the same token, his power makes him a Pedro Alvarez type at a bare minimum. He could easily be something between superstar or bust.

                    • cub2014

                      I see Bryant and Almora as solid
                      to all star type pros. Then Baez
                      could be perennial allstar or a
                      mild bust .240 with 20+hrs. The
                      real bust potential of the big 4
                      is Soler his numbers have been
                      pedestrian so far (granted he
                      hasnt played much yet).

                    • DocPeterWimsey

                      I could see a Chris Davis “two true outcome” player in Baez (although Davis walks more than Baez ever will).

                    • hansman1982

                      Interesting response from a guy who has chided others for seeking the middle ground in the past.

                      There in lies the problem. Noone has ever had the BB/K profile that Baez has to go along with the power.

                      Right now, Baez’s walk rate makes Alvarez look like Ted Williams and Alvarez has a 13% BB rate in the minors.

                      The thing that still scares the crap out of me about Baez is that K rate. Is it truly his approach or is his approach being scape-goated for a more serious lack of batting eye AND lack of contact ability.

                      He can crush it when he gets ahold of it but will he be able to consistently get ahold of the ball once MLB pitching gets a book out on him?

                      I’ll go out on a limb and say that Baez is going to have a beast year next year. He’ll get the callup in mid-June (mid-May if the Cubs are contending) and he will post an amazing OPS for a month and a half. I will be flamed and heckled and next offseason everyone will be on board the hype train. Except for me, I’ll be pointing out that he had a 31% K rate in his rookie season and his numbers trailed off towards the end of the year and his K rate kept trickling up.

                      Then in 2015 he’s gonna fall flat on his face to start the season.

                    • Kyle

                      Baez is better overall, but if you want a minor league guy with extreme Ks and medium BBs, here’s a helluva name for you: Glenallen Hill.

                      Derrek Lee had a minor-league K-rate of 23.7% with BBs under 10%. Wily Mo Pena had a moderately successful career with a huge K rate and low BBs in the minors.

                    • hansman1982

                      The had similar K rates through age 20 (23.7 vs. 23.9); however Lee pwnd Baez in BB rate (9.6 vs. 5.8) and Lee’s worst year was better than Baez’s best year.

                      I just don’t think Baez has a clue what the strike zone is and has never needed to. Add in a bad approach and what appears to be an issue making contact I think Doc is right, he will become a two-outcome player.

                    • Kyle

                      I think “not a clue” is a bit harsh for a guy who just put up an 8% BB rate in a tough pitcher’s league while being the youngest hitter there.

                    • hansman1982

                      He’s still a full percentage point below average BB rate for the league in his best year ever (by nearly double).

                    • bbmoney

                      As I mention below he’s also the youngest hitter in the league. Derek lee for instance was 23 in AA. If Baez did this at 23 it’d be completely different.

                    • bbmoney

                      Strike that Derek lee comment stupid multiple players with the same name

              • On The Farm

                Now I understand your meaning. I would be willing to agree to disagree with you here. I don’t want to claim to be an expert. I never had the good fortune to see Baez when he was in town, but I have seen a lot of great MLB players who were really good Midwest League players come through. To me Baez is one of those guys that I am not going to fully make up my opinion about him until he reaches the MLB level. Almora just seems to be a safe bet at the present. Maybe it is the old school thinking since I factor in the eye test, but Baez still makes me cautious for some reason.

      • http://www.shadowsofwrigley.com T C

        Though that’s true, be careful when saying that so you don’t present his ceiling as anything less than all-star level. He’s got the hit tool to hit .300 consistently with a load of doubles and 10-15 HR while playing near-elite CF defense. I know he hasn’t walked much yet, but I have seen him a bunch and his feel for the zone is quite strong. I could easily see him posting a .300/.370/.460 season or two in the bigs

        • CubChymyst

          0.800+ OPS from a centerfielder who could possibly play gold glove defense would be a dream come true.

      • JayPaul

        See….and for me this is pecisely what excites me about Almora. I feel he is currently showing his ceiling may be higher than he gets credit.

    • CubsFaninMS

      I see Almora’s bat as comparable to a Dustin Pedroia type.

      • bbmoney

        I actually like that comp. It’s a comp for Almora’s ceiling in my opinion, but yeah. Line drive hitter who doesn’t strike out much and can give you 15-20 Hrs. If he can walk as much as Pedroia, which we haven’t seen in the minors yet, it’d be huge.

    • http://deleted SenorGato

      The most certain of the prospects to be anything is Bryant. I find myself increasingly loving that pick.

      • http://deleted SenorGato

        Actually, Bryant and Baez. I have some weird glitch that makes me underrate Baez’s season. Still probably lean Bryant anyway.

  • Die hard

    The issue with Bryant is not hitting–he is projected as LF but wants to play 3B—see him play some 1B next year too so can platoon with Rizzo and see Rizzo play some LF so can do likewise — Rizzo doesn’t deserve to expect to be penciled in every game like he’s Mark Grace given he’s a streaky hitter– these are issues that needed to be addressed first

    • Blackhawks1963

      Facepalm.

      One, Rizzo is coming off his sophmore season where struggles are often associated with young power hitters, especially those with non-existent lineup protection helping them thru the growing pains.

      Two, Rizzo hit 40 doubles and 20 plus HRs during his “bad” season.

      Three, Rizzo is an elite defensive 1st baseman and will never ever in a million years sniff the outfield.

      • On The Farm

        Agreed with this statement “Rizzo is an elite defensive 1st baseman”. Couple that with the fact that Olt’s issue is not his glove, therefore he is not an OF who wants to play 3B.

        Now you could make the argument for Bryant being an OF wanting to play 3B, but I don’t think anyone has ever doubted Olt’s ability to play 3rd.

        • Scotti

          Olt’s vision problems definitely affected his fielding. His fielding percentage for 2013 at 3B was .919. His fielding percentage for 2012 at 3B was .950 (2011 was .954). He was never below .942 in any season prior.

          Re. Rizzo and the OF: Rizzo is slower than molasses and isn’t going to the OF. He, literally, is significantly slower than Vogelbach (who timed a very respectable 7.15 seconds in the 60 at Perfect Game to Rizzo’s best of 7.40–Rizzo’s worst was 8.03 and also bested by Vogelbach).

          For comparison, many here think that Baez is fast and his time was 6.90. Kris Bryant clocked a 7.00. Almora, whom many here believe to be slow, was timed at 6.78. All of these are apple-to-apple, high school comparisons (Perfect Game only does h.s.).

          Re. Rizzo being an “elite” defensive 1B. IMO, no. Maybe some day, but not today. Even if he gets some recognition (GG, what have you), he is too inconsistent and he doesn’t make enough of the “blow your mind” defensive plays that an elite defender–even at 1B–does. I agree that he is likely the best defender for his position in the NL. IMO, he deserves talk of the GG and I hope he gets it. But being a legitimate GG’er and an “elite” defender are two different categories in my book.

          Re. Bryant and 3B: I actually think he could stick there legitimately. The video I’ve seen of him defensively shows that he compensates for the height issue with keeping a wide, level stance and staying low. Scott Rolen was just an inch shorter and he had a hell of a career at 3B. Bryant obviously has the glove and arm to stick at 3B and he comes across, to me anyway, as having the requisite quickness.

          • Cubswin2015

            Scotti I agree with you on most things you said but the only disagreement I have is saying that Olt’s vision problems “definitely” affected his defense. If you’ve played baseball (don’t know if you have or not just saying in general) you know that a lot of players will take their poor performances at the plate and take them to the field. If you are striking out a bunch or struggling at the plate a lot of times it’s almost hard not to think about that previous at bat (and what you could have done differently) you just had as your jogging to third. Not saying this is for sure what happened or anything like that but this could definitely have played a factor, or as you said his eyes really have affected his defense. Only time will tell it seems.

            • Scotti

              Cubswin, I have played and I get what you are saying, but I was referring to the eye/vision/concussion problems that affected Olt’s performance at bat. While the Cubs have glossed over it (Hoyer made some comments about his glove still being special), there is no way that he has that type of vision issue and it doesn’t affect his fielding. In fact, Olt said that he didn’t go to the Rangers with it until he had problems seeing balls that were thrown to him in practice. Try taking those balls off a bat (and doubling the speed and bouncing them) and there’s simply no way that he’s the same defender WITH vision problems as without.

  • Walter Sobchak

    I’d like to see Darwin Barney in Des Moines next year

  • jt

    Since Brett brought up PD, consider that in his first 166 PA’s over 2006 and ’07 Pedroia had an OPS of about 0.540. Until mid May, 2007 Boston fans were calling for Alex Cora to be the full time 2B.

    • On The Farm

      Cubs fans have put up with Barney all season, and a championship drought longer than 100 years. I am sure we would give one of our top prospects longer than mid-May before we are calling for a replacement.

      • jt

        Reading your posts leads me to believe you wouldn’t. And I’m sure many of those whom I actually read wouldn’t. But I’m not sure about some others?
        It seems many are calling for accelerated promotions. Strategically placed cation signs don’t seem to do much harm.

        • On The Farm

          The ‘Reading some of my posts’ comment kind of confuses me. I regularly defended Rizzo (and to an extent Castro) this season, and if anything on this current post I have said I would like to see a larger sample size (i.e. Almora’s walk rates, or Baez in the MLB) before I make a conclusion on a player. Which would imply I have patience with our players. Moving on.

          I will put it this way, say Kris Bryant gets called up and and struggles for April and May, you can bet my entire year’s salary that I won’t be calling for Valbuena, Villanueva, or Olt to start over Bryant because honestly it looks like we are all in with our big four. If we aren’t going to trade them for proven MLB talent (which I don’t think we should, I like our toys better than other team’s) the only thing we can do is wait for them to make it to the majors and figure it out.

          • jt

            You are correct, my post was confusing. My bad…
            meant: I did not think you wouldn’t be calling for an early replacement of either PD nor Bryant.
            dang fingers… they should be typing what I meant, not what I say.

            • On The Farm

              Gotcha. The good news is that I believe our FO is smart enough not to listen to the irrational Cub fans :)

  • Cubs WS Champs 2017

    I hope the Cubs don’t call up Bryant, Baez, Almora, or Soler till around August 2015. Don’t start arb. Clocks and avoid “Super 2″ status. We want to have these guys locked down for as many affordable years in their prime as possible. *Knock on wood they all pan out and stay healthy*

    • bbmoney

      I hope at least 2 of those players are up well before than. Because service time or not, if Baez and Bryant aren’t up by then something has gone wrong. Horribly wrong.

      • Cubs WS Champs 2017

        From a pure Cubs Fan perspective of course I want them to get called up for excitement purposes but from a FO perspective I think they’d personally love for them to take their time in the minors. Work out those bumps and bruises and save those arb. clocks.

        Baez: IMO he’ll get called up probably in Aug. or sept. next season. Not because he’s fully ready but just because they’d like to take a look at what he can do against MLB pitchers.
        What I think they should: Start him AA, work on his plate patients and pitch recognition and work on his fielding which has been suspect at best. Mid season, give him the call up to AAA. Then make sure he gets 500 ABs in Iowa. That give him a time table of mid 2015 season to give him the call up in Iowa.

        • On The Farm

          Considering how he obliterated AA pitching, I am not sure what he has left to work on as far as pitch recognition, and plate patience. After all he did post his best BB% in his AA stint this season.

          • Cubs WS Champs 2017

            Yeah: Baez did crush AA pitch but he also posted a 28% K rate (pretty ugly). Also a .338 BABIP at AA, which suggests some luck.

            You can’t debate he squared up AA pitching pretty well, but they also got him to swing and miss at very high rate.

            • bbmoney

              the 28% k rate is of course a concern. The .338 BABIP really isn’t that surprising for a guy in the minors with good speed that by all accounts hits a lot of balls really hard.

              What tempers my concern about the K rate is the totally acceptable 8% walk rate in AA along with the fact that he was the youngest qualified hitter in the league and lead the league in slugging and OPS and finished 3rd in the league in HRs 2 behind the leaders who both had 260+ more PA’s than he did.

              All in all if Baez isn’t up well before August 2015 something went horribly wrong. Catastrophic injury……..terrible regression. Which is possible, but not fun to think about.

              • Scotti

                FWIW, Baez isn’t fast. Almora is considered average speed for up-the-middle types and he ran a 6.78 60 to Baez’s 6.90 (again, Vogelbach was 7.15). Baez steals bases because he’s aggressive and has good timing and acceleration.

                On Baez’s K’s… On the day he was drafted Tim Wilken said that many scouts discounted Baez because of the BIG swing but that Baez actually has two swings (the big one and a quieter swing that isn’t quite a contact swing). IMO, it was the quieter swing that we were seeing shortly before his promotion and in the middle of his AA stint. The later part of his AA experience (where the K’s jumped back in) seemed, to me at least, to be Baez chasing the minor league HR title (the quieter swing is more a doubles type swing).

                • jt

                  “Baez isn’t fast.”
                  –Scotti
                  I believe that baseball is a 30 to 40 yard game. 3 OF’ers covering 100 ft each in either direction covers a lot of ground. Even the first to third basepath sprint is broken down by the turn. Fast sprinters extend their stride a bit after 15 to 20 yards more so than guys who are just considered “quick”. So, I translate a quick 30 yards quick to bb fast.

                  • Scotti

                    In general I agree that “quick” is a valuable asset in baseball (as it is in all sports), but Baez and his big swing doesn’t get down the line quick or fast. His speed, no matter how you factor it, isn’t a plus factor for his BABIP.

                    Re. 60 times:

                    They are still a valuable scouting tool and have been for some time. When the times were done by stopwatch they were even more valuable (40 times were greatly skewed by human error and the 60 ameliorated that to some extent).

                    • bbmoney

                      FWIW my point still stands.

                    • jt

                      Re. 60 times:

                      They are still a valuable scouting tool and have been for some time.
                      –Scotti
                      Haven’t ever considered this.
                      something to ponder
                      thanks

            • C. Steadman

              well the high K rate and 20 homers in 53 games is the reasoning for the higher BABIP, not luck…and the K rate is an issue but why cant he work on it in AAA since he did hit 20HR in 53 games to go with a .299/.352/.650

            • Kyle

              A .338 BABIP in the minors is practically below average.

              • hansman1982

                Pulling crap out of your ass now, nice.

                .338 puts him 16th out of the 108 players with 200 PA or more.

                It’d put him 3rd if he a qualifying number of PA.

                • Jason P

                  He also hits the ball harder than pretty much anyone else in the minors. .338 might be slightly high, but it isn’t that high. Even if it was a more normal .315 his numbers would still look awfully good.

                • BWA

                  Just curious, where do you guys find all of these crazy stats? Are they somewhere on baseball reference or fangraphs?

            • MichiganGoat

              The K rate will always be a concern and it rarely gets better when a player reaches the majors. I’m still not on the Baez wagon but have high hopes for Bryant.

      • JB88

        Agree, but for a different reason. If the “Big Four” (for lack of a more creative term) are going to be the foundation for sustained play off runs, they are going to need a bit of seasoning and also can’t be introduced all at once. I’m a proponent of Baez and Bryant coming up next year (if both are raking) and Almora and Soler the following year. That way you aren’t trying to integrate 4 rookies on the team at one time. I’d also be okay if it ended up being Baez in 2014, Soler and Bryant in 2015, and Almora in 2016. Basically, though, I really, really don’t think it would be a good idea or in the best long-term interests of these players for all of them to transition into starting positions at the same time.

    • On The Farm

      Except there is the school of thought if we want to start building our team to be competitive in 2016, we need to bring our prospects up with enough time to adjust to the league before then. We don’t want a bunch of rookies who have spent the last 1-1.5 years in AAA if they are ready for the next step in their development. Its not worth the extra few million you save in salary to what you can gain in revenue (a better team) and experience.

      • Cubs WS Champs 2017

        With Bryant and Almora being Boras clients I think you could greatly debate that point. If they turn out to be good MLB players that extra year or 2 of control in their prime will prove to be very helpful.

        In Baez’s case. If he turns out to be .280/.340/30HR SS I think that extra year or 2 of control would be well worth that being a marginal playoff contender in 2016.

        Soler’s: Contract is very odd and i don’t know enough details about it to really comment on what they should do in his situation.

        I’m of the school of though that we could poetential be a wildcard contender depending on how our prospects develop and what FA signing we make. Also depending on if we trade for guys in David Price or Giancarlo Stanton in the next year or two. Cargo I’m not a fan of trading for because I hacve some durabillity questions, and his conrtact is heaviily backloaded. Might not be worth the prospects it would take to acquire him.

    • jt

      I hope that Bryant and Baez are banging down the doors and forcing July or August call-ups.
      I don’t really expect that to happen but I’d be real happy if it did.

      • On The Farm

        I disagree with what Brett said in the article. I am becoming a huge fan of Bryant and I really think he could make a play for being on the MLB team in 2014. Heck, wasn’t it Jesse Rodgers that suggested he start the season in the show? From all indications he looks like the real deal.

        • jt

          Some very good players have just shot up the system to The Bigs. To my mind each has earned their promotions by their play on the field.
          If these guys continue to put up video game numbers then open the doors and let them move up.
          The competition is getting stiffer though and hidden flaws may appear.
          Again, I think they will tell the FO by their play on the field.

        • The Logos

          I was hoping for that, also; though I put zero stock into anything Jesse Rogers says.

    • Voice of Reason

      Bryant will emerge as the best of the four.

      That kid is going to be very special no matter where he plays in the field.

  • Blackhawks1963

    My “ideal” scenario down the road?
    3rd – Bryant
    SS – Baez
    2nd – Alcantara
    w/ Starlin Castro playing for another organization

    Will this scenario happen? Odds are very long. One, somebody will not pan out. Two, Castro will likely remain a Cub unless he somehow transmogrifies into a MVP candidate in 2014 and therefore develops sky high trade value.

    It’s fair to assume that either Bryant or Baez moves to left field, unless Alcantara doesn’t pan out at 2nd base and Baez or Castro moves to 2nd base, with the other being the shortstop.

    What Mike Olt you ask? Well, assuming he overcomes his multiple woes I see him as nothing more than a temporary Cub who fills in at 3rd base until Bryant or Baez takes over the position.

    • ari gold

      If Castro is an MVP candidate in 2014, why on earth would we trade him? You hang onto MVP type SS’s with a team friendly deal. You don’t trade them.

  • SenorGato

    Wow just the other day I did a Bryant-Verlander parallel.

    • http://deleted SenorGato

      TThose include:

      Both were #2 overall picks out of less heralded colleges
      Both were said to be raw for college guys (command and control for Verlander, swing and miss for Bryant)
      Both received more than the #1 pick in garauntees
      Both lined up to see play most of their first full pro season in AA
      both a very athletic 6’5″
      Both with an elite and rare trait – fastball for Verlander and game power for Bryant

      • http://deleted SenorGato

        Two years after drafting Verlander the Tigers saw their first WS in whateveramountoftimeitwas. IIRC he was ROY in 2006 after a cup of coffee in 2005.

  • Brains

    I hope they’re all stars, but history tells us that only 1 will be, and only 1 more will stick in the bigs. Then what? Two young players, no veterans, no sluggers, no middle of the lineup protection, no money to hire anyone, no players to trade for someone else’s salary dump. Nothing. Just a jumbotron and the ability to order awful $28 salmon spinach salads in the bleachers. You’re still going to get rained on yuppies…

    • mjhurdle

      spinach salads are the bees knees.

    • Jason P

      Except that’s not what history tells us. Let’s look at the 2008 BA top 30 list:
      Jay Bruce
      Evan Longoria
      Joba Chamberlin
      Clay Buckholtz
      Colby Rasmus
      Cameron Maybin
      Clayton Kershaw
      Franklin Morales
      David Price
      Travis Snyder
      Matt Wieters
      Jacoby Ellsbury
      Andrew McCutchen
      Jake McGee
      Brandon Wood
      Wade Davis
      Mike Moustakas
      Elvis Andrus
      Fernando Martinez
      Rick Porcello
      Carlos Gonzalez
      Matt LaPorta
      Nick Adenhart
      Jordan Schafer
      Gio Gonzalez
      Chris Marrero
      Jason Heyward
      Adam Miller
      Kosuke Fukudome

      13 of the 30 now fall into the range “good starter to star” — about half.
      4 of the 30 are average starters (for pitchers, back of the rotation guys or late inning bullpen arm)
      6 of the 30 didn’t live up to their potential, but are now useful bench pieces or average bullpen arms.
      And only 7 of the 30 are not useful major leaguers in any capacity

      So basically, we should expect 2 of the big 4 to be “good starters or stars”, 1 to be either an average starter or useful bench piece, and only 1 to not contribute in any way whatsoever (If we get lucky, all 4 contributing in some fashion is not at all out of the question). That’s not even taking into account the fact that we have group of 5 players (Olt, Edwards, Johnson, Vogelbach, Vizcaino) who have pretty good chances to develop into very useful players themselves as well as a glut of C-level or better talent behind them, maybe up to an additional 25 guys, who are legit MLB prospects as well.

      Beyond that, there are always free agents available to patch the holes. And depending how certain players bounce back, up to 3 of our 8 position players and 3 of our five rotation arms (4 of 5 if we land Tanaka) may already to be set.

      The scenario you described is nothing more than anti-rebuild mumbo jumbo and blind pessimism at that.

      • Brains

        It’s pessimistic for sure but your information (and you) basically just agreed with me. One all star, one starter, and two that wont amount to much.

        And I agree completely that we need to patch a whole lot of holes with free agents. Once we’re willing to spend like a team that plans to contend with the likes of the Reds and Cards, we’ll compete with the Reds and the Cards. The difference between your post and many others is a willingness to not think “cheaply” because owners told you to.

        • YourResidentJag

          I’m pessimistic, too. I still believe that Almora and Bryant will have a MAJOR impact on any MLB roster.

        • Jason P

          You said originally 1 star, 1 guy who will stick into the bigs (read: fringe starter/bench guy) and 2 who don’t even make it. The stats show it’s much more likely 2 become stars/good starters, 1 becomes a fringe starter and only 1 completely bombs. That’s a huge difference.

        • ssckelley

          I would also like to point out that you are not even considering the rest of the top prospects. I know the percentages drop when you get outside the top 30 but there is still a good chance a couple of the others in the top 100 could make it.

          Plus there are more waves of prospects coming through the system that might get themselves ranked, along with the #4 pick in next years draft. They are setting the farm system up to continuously produce top talent, something us Cub fans are not used to seeing. We are used to 2002 where we get a top farm system, graduate them, and then go back to over spending in the free agent market. The Cubs should be a top 5 farm system for a long time.

          • Brains

            I hope this is true, but you all have to stop living in fantasy land. How often are major league teams stocked with the minor league players they drafted? Tampa, usually. Boston had a good run. Washington. Pittsburgh, yes. But not many teams, and it only works out that way once in a while. More needs to be done than sitting there and crossing fingers, in the way of free agent signings. Stop panicking about the owners pockets, they’re rich, you’re not. Plus you’re lame and the owners don’t respect you. They can afford a few bucks.

            • ssckelley

              The entire central division, and if they don’t end up on the Cubs MLB roster they might on someone else’s via trade.

              I am not saying to not spend money. I just argue that this farm system can lead to sustained success.

            • Jason P

              Alright, let’s say you’re the GM of the Cubs is offseason. List out all the moves you would make that would make us good next year and good for the next decade. I’ll listen. The problem is you won’t be able to do it because the “solve all our problems through free agency” line of thought fails to see that there aren’t 10 Mike Trouts out there on the market waiting to be signed. It has been proven over and over signing free agents with no established core in place doesn’t work. It never has, and it never will. And until you lay out a credible alternative to the draft and develop strategy, in detail, your complaints won’t have any sort of credibility.

              • DarthHater

                1. Hire Die hard as manager

                2. Sit back and relax . . .

                :-P

              • YourResidentJag

                Although I’m still waiting for that top prospect for top prospect trade.

              • ssckelley

                First call I would make is to Eric Chavez agent to see what he is looking for in a 1 year deal. We have young 3rd baseman coming up that could use a good mentor. My next call would be to Corey Harts agent, we need a right handed slugger to compliment all the left handed bats we have in the outfielder. I want a starting pitcher, either another Feldman/Maholm type or inquire on Price.

                But my moves kinda support your point, other than inquiring on Price none of them are long term deals. The free agent list is full of guys either already in their prime or past it and I agree with the FO in that you do not over pay for past performance.

    • CubsFaninMS

      I believe I have spotted a whinoceros.

  • Die hard

    Before Castro wins MVP he needs to win comeback of the year

    • Brains

      Castro will have 200 hits again, once he has lineup protection. Rizzo is about where he’ll be, though we’ll see slight increases in average and RBI’s. On a good team he’s a contributor. On a bad team he’s trade fodder.

      • Pat

        Until he learns to take some walks, lineup protection is meaningless in Castro’s case. The concept of lineup protection is getting better pitches because the pitcher doesn’t want to walk the guy considering the people behind him. If someone isn’t going to walk anyways, why would anyone worry about throwing them strikes?

        • Brains

          A very good point.

  • daveyrosello

    I’m not sure why some are so befuddled regarding the prospect locations for spring 2014, I think the assignments are pretty obvious from my perspective. Olt plays at 1B in Iowa, it gives him the chance to try and get his bat back, without blocking Villanueva at 3B (who many/most of us are higher on at this point anyway). No way does Olt even sniff Chicago next spring.

    At Iowa, it’s Olt, Alcantara, Baez and Villanueva around the horn, with Sczcur, Ha and Andreoli in the OF.

    Bryant and Vogelbach begin the year in Tennessee, V-bomb will almost surely stay there the entire season. If Bryant continues to kill it, he’ll skip AAA and move straight to the bigs. Plenty of precedent for tippy-top prospects to skip AAA (e.g., Castro, Harper, Gordon et al.)

    Almora and Soler begin the season in Daytona, with possible promotions to AA mid-season if they perform well. Candelario, Amaya and DeVoss also begin the year in Daytona, but each will likely stay there the entire season.

    Finally, as for “blocking” at some positions: Almora is two years behind Alcantara in development. If the Cubs move Baez to 2B, Alcantara has the athleticism to play in CF. So, not blocked. Alternatively, if Baez goes to 3B, Bryant goes to the OF. So the only two prospects with legitimate blocking concerns are Villanueva and Olt, and frankly, neither of those two is going to stand in the way of Baez, Bryant or Alcantara. My opinion.

    • Eternal Pessimist

      “If Bryant continues to kill it, he’ll skip AAA and move straight to the bigs. Plenty of precedent for tippy-top prospects to skip AAA”

      Bryant only skips AAA to the bigs if he is killing it and the Cubs are in the hunt in the 2nd half of 2014 (and the position he might replace – 3rd or LF – are sucking bad).

      If Baez is raking all year starting in AAA, the Cubs will bring him up late 2014 (even if they aren’t in the playoff race) to start working on his big-league game, but also to avoid looking like jags for keeping a guy in the minors who is more than ready for the MLB.

    • AA Correspondent

      Where is Justin Bour in your analysis?? I think he is an everyday guy in AAA and a good call up guy if something should happen to Rizzo at the MLB level.

      I beilieve Dustin Geiger opens up as the AA first baseman and Vogs stays in Daytona all year. He is still very young and probably needs an entire year at High A. I think Bour and Geiger are at AAA and AA in 2014 with Vogelbach at High A.

      It will be interesting to see what happens with some of these rosters, because quite frankly, there are simply not enough spots/at bats to satisfy everyone.

      Also, I’d like to offer my opinion that we not give up on Logan Watkins as a possible long term solution at 2B. Alcantara has tools, but work ethic and the ability to grind have me pausing for reflection. Logan Watkins does everything you want a 2B man to do…..he has a little pop; can steal a base; works his tail off and plays soid defense. I believe his call up to the show, although it did not result in a lot of playing time, will make him even hungrier in 2014. I loved watching Alcantara in AA last season. But at this point, I still think Logan Watkins is a big leaguer and it would not surprise me to see him be in the Big Leagues for someone for many years.

      I can’t wait for Spring Training (and the MLB Playoffs are not even over yet) to see how these roster decisions play out. The Cubs have some definate bright spots coming and should have the trade chips to land anyoen in a trade, should they decide to go that route.

      • ssckelley

        Justin Bour needs to pass through the Rule 5 draft unless the Cubs decide to protect him. Last year the power was there but his average dropped considerably. Hopefully he makes to Iowa next season, I would rather see him than another season of Brad Nelson. Rohan is another guy I wonder if the Cubs bring back next season. He hit well in 2012 but missed almost all of last season due to injuries, he is also Rule 5 eligible.

  • daveyrosello

    Whoops, should have added above: to the extent anyone still considers them prospects, Vitters would be in Iowa sharing time with Ha and Andreoli at a corner spot. Jackson will be back in Tennessee, but it looks he’s a definite past-tense guy at this point. Even in the unlikely event either of these two gets it together to some degree, their window with the Cubs has passed. Almora and Soler will be just one level behind Jackson in Daytona, Szczur is ahead of him in Iowa, and Bryant might well end up in the OF.

    • ari gold

      I really don’t think Soler starts in high A. I think he starts in Tennessee. He was moving closer to getting a promotion when he got injured, and now he is making up some at bats in the AZL.

  • Soda Popinski

    Does anyone know what’s up with the Solar Sox game? It says it started at 18:35 MST but it doesn’t show that it’s started on milb.com.

    • ssckelley

      It starts in about 5 minutes. Arizona is 2 hours behind us, not sure why they list it as MST.

      • Soda Popinski

        Thanks.

  • Die hard

    So who is going to start opening day? Shark or Jackson? After this 1,2 big drop

    • Steve

      Don’t you think Wood deserves the Opening Day start???

  • Soda Popinski

    Solar Sox up 4-0. Bryant 0-2 (reached on 2 errors) and Soler 0-2 (2 ks). Almora and Darvill are not playing.

  • mjhurdle

    BOOM!!! Cardinals lose!!! HAPPY NIGHT!!!

    • MichiganGoat

      Yeah LaRussa is a horrible manager and Edmonds didn’t give 100%

      ***ducks***

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