Three Cubs Make the Top 20 AFL Prospects Lists According to and Baseball America

kris bryant’s dynamic duo of Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo teamed up to rank the top 20 prospects in the Arizona Fall League this year, and each of the Chicago Cubs’ big three prospects in attendance made the list. The makeup of the list came not only from long-term value, but also AFL-specific performance. That undoubtedly hurt at least one of the Cubs’ prospects.

Kris Bryant landed at number two on the list, behind only the top prospect in all of baseball, Byron Buxton (Twins). Bryant was just ahead of the A’s stud teenage shortstop Addison Russell and Blue Jays top pitching prospect Aaron Sanchez. The team expects Bryant in the bigs “soon,” though he still needs to show some he can handle third base.

Albert Almora comes in at number 10 and Jorge Soler is just behind at number 13. A quoted scout said that Soler’s body is exactly what you want to see and he’s got the power to match, but the “day-to-day focus isn’t there.” Was that a product of his leg injury? He reportedly wasn’t running at full speed this Fall. Or is there a legitimate focus issue? He was benched by his manager at Daytona for what could have been described as a focus/effort issue, so there’s at least a little precedent there. Hopefully it’s not a lingering concern. Soler is still undoubtedly adjusting to his new life in professional baseball, but that can be a credible excuse for only so much longer.

Baseball America also ranked AFL prospects, and, again, all three of Bryant, Almora, and Soler made the cut. Bryant comes in at number three to BA (behind Buxton and Russell), while Almora is 11th and Soler is 20th. Soler’s ranking is rather low, though he did seem to be dealing with lingering leg issues throughout the league, and was plagued early on by serious contact problems. Both are the product of his midseason leg stress fracture, and the ensuing rust.

The AFL was particularly prospect-heavy this year, and these rankings provide additional data points for where we might see these guys ranked in overall top 100 lists, which will be coming soon. Javier Baez and Kris Bryant are each legitimate threats to crack the top ten on most lists, and Albert Almora should be in the top 20. Soler is a little harder to guess, because scouts still love his physical ability. If he’s out side the top 35 on any list, I’d be surprised. I’m guessing that C.J. Edwards will have a wide range of rankings, because of his obvious ability paired with the questions about his future role.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

120 responses to “Three Cubs Make the Top 20 AFL Prospects Lists According to and Baseball America”

  1. Sandberg

    I’m looking forward to getting a glimpse of Baez on the big league squad. He should come in to AAA relaxed and ready.

    1. Hebner The Gravedigger

      I am actually looking forward to visiting in-laws in Des Moines next summer! Alcantara & Baez make the trip less painful!

  2. Sacko

    we could sign at least 2 starting pitchers and a decent RH OF for the money it would take to get Tanaka. Why would he sign with us anyway?

    1. Blublud

      Because if we win the bid, he doesn’t have a choice.

    2. cubz23

      Same as everyone else in the world, “MONEY”. He could not accept so yes he does have a choice.

  3. Cizzle

    Also, there was only one other player from the NL Central (StL) that made the top 20.

  4. Fastball

    All I want for Xmas is for the Cubs to just cut the chase and play Alcantera at 2b, Olt at 3b, Baez in CF, Bryant in RF with Lake in CF and a decent LF bat. If they lose 90 games I will at least enjoy the hell out of watching the Cubbies next year.

    1. On The Farm

      You must be the same guy that enjoyed the hell out of watching Vitters and Jackson strike out in the majors!

    2. ari gold

      You want both Baez and Lake in CF? Which one plays left center and which one at right center?

    3. Cyranojoe

      Development takes time. I don’t want anybody rushed. I want them pushed at the right pace. Sometimes throwing somebody into the deep end will work for that person — but usually it doesn’t.

    4. arta

      when did they go to 4 OF’s?

  5. Professor Snarks

    Short sample size, this I know, but I watched Soler in two games in spring training last year. The word that came to mind was passive. Since then I have read two anonymous scouts refer to him as lazy, and now this report from Callis. I’m not jumping ship on him, but at some point he needs to put the excuses behind him and start producing. SSS, he was hurt, adjusting to a new culture, whatever, the guy has hit about 1 home run per 30 at bats. That is not good for a ‘plus’ power guy.

    1. Napercal

      Lots of 22 year olds lack focus. Unless he’s just an all around bad guy, it can be corrected with good coaching and by surrounding him with good professionals. That’s why at some point very soon the Cubs are going to have to sign some major leaguers through free agency. Guys like Granderson, if they came here for three years would provide leadership that is sorely lacking on the Cubs. He could also take pressure off of the young guys too. I’m not suggesting that the Cubs sign someone for 5, 6, 7 years. Just that they get a few veterans on the team for the next 2 – 3 years to set a good example for the young guys.

      1. DocPeterWimsey

        And, of course, this assumes that “focus” means anything or that we can see it any better than we can see “attitude.” Color me skeptical…..

        1. MichiganGoat

          He just lacks sCRAP, that’s something you can teach right?

          1. Professor Snarks

            Even though it can’t be measured, I’m sure effort plays a role in a players performance. (I have been wrong before).

            1. YourResidentJag

              I agree. No one questions the way that Bryce Harper plays…at least not to my knowledge.

    2. Rebuilding

      Arguably Soler always had the most bust potential of the Big 4. So much less was known about him and a lot of buzz centered around his body type and not necessarily his baseball skills. Contrast that to Bryant, Almora and Baez who all had a pedigree – whether college player of the year or high school superstars. I haven’t given up on Soler by any means and still like the signing, but this last year hasn’t been a good one (injury or not)

      1. YourResidentJag

        So, do you think then that this season should ultimately focus on the Cubs getting the highest draft pick possible before certain percentages of the farm start to come to the bigs like at the end of 2015?

        1. Rebuilding

          With the way this team looks and very few possible difference makers out there then I agree with Theo and Jed – why lose 85 instead of 95. I would trade anything that can net a decent return if they think that player may not be here in 2016. The only exception is that I would go balls out for Tanaka

          1. YourResidentJag

            I agree. I think every team, other than the Padres, will show improvement however slight relative to their last place finishes from last year. Since the Cubs probably will not be players for big FAs, and it’s looking more likely that they won’t get second or third tier FA like Murphy or Josh Johnson, you have to do so.

      2. Jon

        Not to mention Soler’s makeup. He’s kinda a bad seed. Dogs it on the field and has temper issues.

  6. CubFan Paul

    Just on MLB readiness alone, I’d rank Bryant over Buxton and Russell easy

    1. SenorGato

      I would easily take Bryant over Russell, and could/should be persuaded to take Bryant over Buxton at some point next year. Very optimistic about this one they call Kris Bryant.

      1. Professor Snarks

        There are a bunch of Buxton Kool-Aid drinkers out there, but when things settle you may be right. Bryant, by mid-season, will be the top prospect in baseball.
        i’m not saying Buxton is bad, but come on, some guys are putting an 80 grade on him. That means he’s near perfect. One guy even compared him to Willie Mays. NOPE. Not yet, anyway.

        1. Norm

          I’d love to see who put an 80 overall grade on him….I’m guessing you mis-read and they were talking 80 on a tool, like speed…but not 80 overall.

          1. Professor Snarks

            Hi Norm,
            i may have overstated that a bit. Jason Parks, in his review of the Twins farm system, put an 80 grade on what he calls Buxton’s OFP (Overall Future Potential). Maybe I’m picking nits, but that’s not exactly calling him an 80. Sorry.

            This is Jason Park’s response in the comment section from yesterday’s BP article:
            “I think this is a the first time I’ve ever had the balls to throw an 8 on the OFP. I’m often quite hesitant to go THAT high on any one tool or player, but the scale only works when 8s actually exist. Somebody has to be an 8. Might as well be Buxton.”

            Oh, another thing he said, Minnesota has the best farm system in baseball.

            1. Kyle

              An 80 OFP is pretty insane, but that’s what everyone in baseball seems to think of Buxton.

              1. Blublud

                Buxton is the truth. This guy could be better than Trout. I know he has to prove it, but that seem to be the consensus.

                1. jon

                  What nonsense. Trout was already producing at an elite level in the minors at the age of 19. Let Buxton do something at the big league level before making such proclamations.

                  1. jon

                    *majors not minors.

                  2. FullCountTommy

                    Parks said a scout told him that Buxton’s floor is Torii Hunter…And when he asked his ceiling, the scout said “I don’t know…Willie Mays??” That’s how high some people around the league are on him

                    1. MightyBear

                      I also remember when Vince Coleman said Felix Pie was going to be the Michael Jordan of baseball.

                    2. FullCountTommy

                      So not very good at baseball???? I kid, I’m not saying I agree, that’s just what people in the industry (with much more knowledge than you or I) are saying about him

                  3. bbmoney

                    Nah, Trout was 20 when he started producing at an elite level. He was merely average at 19. He turned 22 back in August.

                    What a late bloomer.

                    1. jon

                      I stand corrected, so since Buxton turns 20 next month, he essentially has to put up a 10 win season in 2014(provided he’s called up) to keep pace with Trout.

                    2. MightyBear


                    3. jon

                      I forgot to add, I don’t expect Buxton to be better than Trout, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he is.

                  4. Funn Dave

                    Well it wouldn’t make much sense to rate his overall future potential if he’d already played in the Bigs, would it?

                  5. King Jeff

                    Trout was hitting 220 in the majors at age 19. That’s not elite.

                    1. DocPeterWimsey

                      Actually, doing almost *ANY*thing in the majors by age 19 is elite.

                2. Norm

                  Yeah, don’t think anyone is saying Buxton will be better than Trout and his 10 wins per year.

                  1. jon

                    “Buxton is the truth. This guy could be better than Trout”

                    1. bbmoney

                      read “could” and “will”

                      There is a difference.

                    2. Norm

                      Yeah Jon, I was replying to Blubud.

                  2. Norm

                    bbmoney, you left out part of the quote:

                    “I know he has to prove it, but that seem to be the consensus.”

                    It is most certainly NOT the consensus.

            2. Norm

              That makes sense.

    2. Norm

      I’d rank Russell higher.

    3. Kyle

      I think I’d trade any two of our current prospects for Buxton, including Baez/Bryant.

      1. Norm

        I think I may agree.

      2. MightyBear

        No way.

      3. When the Music's Over

        Ok, you have my attention. Please expound….**

        **Ignore Soler.

        1. Kyle

          Buxton’s just that good. His scouting profile is at the absolute top of the charts with no real question marks, and his contact abilities and batting eye are both unquestioned.

          1. When the Music's Over

            I can definitely understand arguments taking him over a combo of Bryant and Almora or Baez and Almora, but not sure I can agree with arguments over Bryant and Baez. They would have to be pretty convincing.

      4. Professor Snarks

        Can’t agree with you unless you believe any of the Cubs prospects won’t make it. At least not now. The Cubs have way too many needs to trade 2 potential stars for 1 potential superstar. It comes down to value. Will Bryant and Baez combine for a better WAR than Buxton? Ii think they will Will Bryant/Almora? Will Baez/Almora? Possibly.

        Now, if we were 1 superstar away from becoming a dynasty, well then…YES.

        1. Kyle

          I don’t think we need to talk in binary terms of “won’t make it” or “will make it”

          I like the average expected return from Buxton over the average expected return of any two Cubs prospects combined, although Baez/Bryant is close enough that I’d have to mull it over.

          I’m expecting Buxton to come in somewhere on a continuum from McCutchen to Trout.

          1. Professor Snarks

            I don’t think the ‘will/won’t make it’ argument can be ignored, but it may be overstated. The truer argument should be ‘what is the realistic’ role a player projects to have. In Park’s last chat, he put an OFP on Baez @7, Bryant@High 6, Soler and Almora each @6. If that is the role the Cubs believe they will achieve, don’t see them trading for 1 8-role player.

            Obviously, If you have Buxton being more valuable than any 2-man conbination, you make the trade. IMO, i’d prefer 2 ’6′s’ over 1 ’8′.

            For me, right now, I’ll take 2 over the better 1.

            1. Kyle

              “What is realistic” isn’t really the best way to handle it either.

              All possible scenarios should add to the evaluation, discounted for their likelihood.

              I would trade two 7s for an 8 every time.

              1. Edwin

                go fish.

              2. Professor Snarks

                Being ‘realistic’ is the only way for teams to judge talent. I would be very disappointed in the Cubs if they haven’t placed a value on their prospects, determined by both what they see as a realistic performance, and what could be perceived by others. (In this day and age, there shouldn’t be much difference between the 2).

                I wouldn’t trade two ’7′s’ for an ’8′, ever. You would. We differ.

                Hypothetical question: 1 year only, health not a concern, what would you rather have on your team?
                Option A: Mike Trout (8)
                Option B: Miguel Cabrera (7) AND Andrew McCutchen (7).

                1. Kyle

                  For an unknown year going forward? Trout.

                  1. When the Music's Over

                    If you’re looking at overall positive impact to a team from those two options, whether in one year or a whole career, I think you choosing Trout is more about reaction/enjoyment value than actual value.

                    This is all of course ignoring how variables change when budgets are taken into account.

                  2. hansman

                    If we are picking a random year to be determined later, sure. Trout is the youngest.

                    If we are talking about trading for next year, give me Cabrera and McCutchen over Trout every day.

                  3. Norm

                    If Cabrera gives you 7.5 WAR and Cutch gives you 8.0, that’s 15.5 WAR.
                    With Trout only, you get 10.

                    Not to speak for Kyle, but what I think he’s getting at is that you’ll be able to add a 2nd player to Trout with someone better than a 5.5 WAR. to make the two more valuable.

                    1. On The Farm

                      “ that you’ll be able to add a 2nd player to Trout with someone better than a 5.5 WAR. to make the two more valuable.”

                      That doesn’t seem very easy at all. Give me the duo over Trout.

                    2. Kyle

                      If it’s after the fact and you pick two players you know had very high WARs, then you would take the two.

                      But projecting going forward, I’ll generally take the one.

                    3. Eternal pessemist

                      Although the example also includes Trout’s 10 WAR. Do we expect all minor league “8′s” to eventually put up 10 WAR…I doubt it.

                  4. jt

                    too bad you are not GM’ing for the Pirates.

                    1. MightyBear

                      Kyle 2+2 Forum?

                    2. MightyBear

                      Hit the wrong reply.

                  5. Professor Snarks

                    Dear Kyle,

                    I regret to inform you, that if I ever buy a Major League baseball team, you will no longer be under consideration for the position of General Manager.


                    1. Kyle


                      As I’ve indicated in the past, I have responsibilities that would preclude me from taking a job in baseball. I can only assume that is why I haven’t been offered one for real yet.


                    2. DarthHater

                      “I have responsibilities that would preclude me from taking a job in baseball.”

                      Yea, Kyle’s a professional gambler.

                    3. Kyle

                      Nah, but I *did* earn the Crushing Fist of Logic logo from someone on a poker forum where I used to hang out for my endless reserves of explanation for people who didn’t understand why they sucked at it.

                      I was just thinking yesterday how much I missed being able to play online. Nothing serious, just deposit $25 on Pokerstars and playing the penny tables forever.

                    4. MightyBear


                      Kyle has a special needs kid he stays at home with.

                    5. MightyBear

                      I miss playing online too.

              3. MightyBear

                No Way

                1. MightyBear

                  No way to Kyle of two 7′s for one 8.

                  1. Kyle

                    If it was our 8 and somebody came along offering two 7s, I doubt there’d be much disagreement that we shouldn’t take it.

                    1. MightyBear

                      I’d trade our 8 for two 7′s in a heartbeat. If we had Buxton and we could get Baez AND Bryant, I wouldn’t think twice.

                    2. Jason P

                      If the scale is the same for 7′s and 6′s, I’d trade Baez right now for 2 Almora’s.

                    3. Kyle

                      Would you guys trade Baez for d’Arnaud and Syndergaard, just eyeing for some other team with two prospects in that range on BA’s mid-season lists.

                    4. YourResidentJag


              4. Edwin

                Could someone explain the 1-8 thing? I’m kind of lost on it.

                1. Kyle

                  Old scouting scale. 2-8, there’s no 1.

                  Roughly speaking:
                  8 – HOFer
                  7 – Regular All-Star
                  6 – Good starter for contending team, sometimes All-Star
                  5 – Average player
                  4 – Fringe starter/good reserve
                  3 – Deep bench/AAA
                  2 – Organizational fodder

                  1. Jason P

                    That’s why I think the Mike Trout for Miguel Cabrera and Andrew McCutchen example from above doesn’t work. Cabrera most likely will end up in the hall of fame, and McCutchen may as well, but it’s too early to tell.

                    1. On The Farm

                      Okay how about would you rather have McCutchen or Tulo (not counting injuries) and Chase Headley?

                  2. anonymous-ly

                    Kyle, sounds like there needs to be a 5A and 5B. There’s a lot of room for error between 6 and 4.

                  3. Edwin

                    I see. I mostly agree with you Kyle. If a prospect like a Trout, Harper, or Strasburg is considered an 8, then I’d trade two 7′s for an 8.

                  4. anonymous-ly

                    Based on those scouting scales I would have to say;

                    Rizzo is a 5
                    Castro 6 (although more like a 5 last year)
                    Barney 4, maybe 3
                    Villaneuva 3
                    Nate Shierholtz 4
                    Junior Lake 4
                    Sweeney 4
                    Castillo 6

                    Samrardzia 6 (giving him benefit of the doubt)
                    T Wood 6
                    Edwin Jackson 5
                    Arrieta 5

                    Pedro Strop 6 (as reliever only)
                    James Russell 6
                    Blake Parker 5
                    Villaneuva 5

                    1. Napercal

                      Why so down on Lake? Given his age and production last year, I’d say 5 with potential to be a 6.

                    2. Jason P

                      Castro was a fringe 3 last year.

                    3. anonymous-ly

                      Napercal, have to agree with you Lake’s potential, but based on last year he was a 4 to me. I’m not down on Lake as much as others and believe he has the potential to be a 6, but he is the type of player that needs to prove it.

                      Castro gets a pass from me because he already has proven he can be an all-star and hopefully rebounds this year.

                      I would have given Samardzia a 5.5 if there was one available, but together with stuff and potential, I would still have to go with a six.

                      The big 5, my ratings are
                      Bryant 6 potential to be a 7
                      Baez 6 potential to be a 7
                      Almora 5 potential to be a 6
                      Soler 5 potential to be a 6 or 4
                      Edwards 6 potential to be a 7

      5. ClevelandCubsFan

        Neat thought but no. I’d rather have my eggs in 2 baskets than 1. Where eggs = WAR. Too many prospects busts over the years have convinced me there is no such thing as a sure thing. And I’d rather have my odds spread out. You are always one freak accident away from entirely different player.

      6. Blublud

        Kyle, I didn’t feel this way a couple months ago, but I might agree with you. It be hard trading Bryant and Baez, but I would probably do it. Now if it was Bryant/Almora or Baez/Almora, you got a done deal.

  7. SenorGato

    It’s not weird that I would take Almora over most of those ranked above him, right?

    I do have to say that the two catchers impressed me, as did Aaron Sanchez.

    1. Professor Snarks

      Responding to your first point: That puts you right up there with Jason Parks and Cubs Den on your Almora love.

      To your second point: I wonder if Alfaro’s name ever came up during the Garza talks? He could be special.

      1. On The Farm

        If posters on this website were bringing up Alfaro’s name, I bet it was mentioned at least once between Texas and Chicago.

  8. BD

    How about by next September Olt is hitting enough to keep 3B to himself, and Bryant “has” to play LF? That might be the best possible outcome right now.

    1. Nate

      RF I think with that arm but this would be ideal since Olt is the better defender

  9. sm57co

    I’m with the Almora fans. He seems to be the 180 of Soler – all focus + gold glove outfield potential. Is it scary that we sunk 30 million into Jorge and he’s having trouble adjusting to his new life in professional baseball? With that kind of a contract, how patient should the Cub be with him?

    1. anonymous-ly

      Still too early, but potentially we ended up signing the only impact Cuban or Asian IFA that may well end up being a bust. Does that mean that we are potentially down from the Big Four to the Big Three already?

      1. Jason P

        There’s a long, long way to go before we can begin talking about Soler as a bust. That conversation won’t start until he fails to post an .800 OPS at any one level, which he hasn’t yet.

  10. MightyBear

    Has anyone heard if the Cubs added Alcantara to the 40 man or any others? A lot of teams seem to be adding guys but I haven’t heard anything from the Cubbies. I know they have until midnight but there has been a lot of teams adding already.

    1. Kyle

      The fact that the Cubs haven’t yet makes me wonder if there’s some small, tiny chance of a trade.

      Deadline isn’t until 11 p.m. central time, though, and they do love to wait until the last minute.

      1. North Side Irish

        JJ Cooper from BA Tweeted earlier today that the Cubs were still awaiting a decision on Paniagua’s status. This may be the hold up in announcing their moves.

  11. MightyBear

    Here’s a cool pic of Mr. Cub getting his medal


    1. MichiganGoat

      Very cool

    2. DarthHater


    3. JL

      Nice paper weight

  12. Lou Brock

    Another possible Rule V claim for Cubs is LHP from the Tigers system Blaine Hardy. Had a 1.03 WHIP and a 1.67 ERA in AA & AAA in 2013 . He is a 26 year old with a plus fastball and slider.

    1. Fishin Phil

      Sounds too good, what is wrong with him? He’s not real skinny or anything is he??

      1. Lou Brock

        Hardy is 6’2″ and 220 lbs.

      2. Lou Brock

        Read a scouting report on him on a game he threw a one hitter vs. Braves AAA team and it said he has good control of his fastball, but his curve and change are his best offerings.

    2. Edwin

      Seems like he’s mostly been a RP prospect.

      Here’s a report from a Tiger’s blog:

    3. Edwin

      Another (more optimistic) review on Hardy:

      Sounds almost like a poor man’s Kyle Hendricks.

  13. North Side Irish

    Patrick Mooney ‏@CSNMooney now
    Cubs adding INF Arismendy Alcantara and RHP Dallas Beeler to 40-man roster.

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