For a Change of Pace, How About a Top 14 Cubs Prospect List?

javier baez aflAs a group of the Cubs’ top prospects work out at Northwestern as part of the Rookie Development Program, it seems appropriate to once again gaze longingly upon a list reveling in the awesomeness of top Cubs prospects.

Today’s list comes from Chris Crawford at MLB Draft Insider (he also does draft work for ESPN). Crawford offers a scouting report on each of the listed prospects, and ranks the top 14 thusly:

1. Javier Baez
2. Kris Bryant
3. Jorge Soler
4. Albert Almora
5. CJ Edwards
6. Arismendy Alcantara
7. Pierce Johnson
8. Arodys Vizcaino
9. Jeimer Candelario
10. Eloy Jimenez
11. Rob Zastryzny
12. Dan Vogelbach
13. Scott Frazier
14. Neil Ramirez

Some things jump out, particularly in light of Kiley McDaniel’s recent ranking. First, there’s Jorge Soler cracking the top three, over Albert Almora (whom McDaniel had at number one in the system), which further supports the idea that, well, the Big Four are awesome. Mix and match ‘em how you like, they’re just good, good prospects.

The next five all make sense, given the lists we’ve seen yet this year (and our own general sense of prospect-dom), but there’s a huge surprise in the 10 spot. That would be recently signed 16-year-old Dominican outfielder Eloy Jimenez, who was as close a consensus number one international prospect as there was this year. Crawford acknowledges that this is an aggressive ranking, and he hasn’t seen Jimenez personally (few have), but the reports he’s received have been glowing.

Zastryzny, the Cubs’ second rounder this year, is a pretty reasonable inclusion just outside the top ten, because he’s a legit pitching prospect. Overshadowed in the 2013 draft by Kris Bryant (because obviously), Zastryzny was the top pitcher selected by the Cubs, one of several nice college arms (including Frazier, who pops up a couple spots after Zastryzny). You could probably also argue for Tyler Skulina in this range, another 2013 college draftee.

I’ve been very pleased to see that, generally, Neil Ramirez consistently shows up on these lists in the mid-teens after a rebound season in 2013. Formerly a top ten Rangers prospect, Ramirez was the fourth piece in last Summer’s Matt Garza trade, and could see action in the big leagues this year. Crawford says Ramirez still has the potential to be a three in the big leagues, if he control takes a serious step forward. You’ll gladly take that type of review for a mid-teens prospect who has already seen time at AAA.

Give Crawford’s piece a read for more scouting reports, including grades.

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

99 responses to “For a Change of Pace, How About a Top 14 Cubs Prospect List?”

  1. Serious Cubs Fan

    Interesting: Crawford rankings definitely take more in account guys ceilings rather then their floors. Hence Eloy Jimenez at #10

  2. Ben G

    Excellent, if you have not bought his scouting reports for the upcoming draft he is selling them for $1.99. He emails you a digital copy and it is an awesome read. I find it exciting to see Jimenez ranked so aggressively. I sure hope either him or Torres pans out so that the huge over-sign in last years IFA does not turn out to be a huge mistake. It is also fascinating to take into account how different scouts view these prospects. For example, Jason Parks is not high on Jimenez and called him a showcase talent meaning that he knows how to show out more in the showcases than actually play baseball.
    Thanks for alerting me to his piece and I appreciate your analysis as always!

  3. NorthSideIrish

    I was glad to see names like Jiminez, Zastryzny, and Frazier on the list. I would rather read write ups on them as opposed to another report on Ha or Szczur being 4th OFers.

    I was surprised by some of the write ups, such as Bryant ending up at 1B because he’s not a good athlete..had seen many people suggesting he could handle RF pretty well. Also surprised to see him refer to Almora as a CF only in the short/medium term.

  4. Blackhawks1963

    The system is unbelievably loaded. Kudos TheoJedJason for the work.

  5. kongfan80

    Hello, long time watcher first time poster. Shouldn’t floors not matter in these rankings unless their floor lands them in the major leagues. Otherwise it is just varying degrees of organizational filler.

  6. woody

    Crawford puts the ETA for Baez at 2015 and Bryant for 2014. And Almora and Soler for 2016. If those estimates are realistic then that puts 2015 in the toilet as well. If we have two wait two full seasons for Almora and Soler to arrive then I am for signing someone to a two year contract. I think that if Soler and Almora can master AA quickly and get a half a season in AAA then they may be ready for 2015. I’m sure that is being optomistic, but who is to say that they don’t tear it up like Baez did last year. My big fear is that the FO may keep Baez down for service related reasons and super two status. To think of a full season with the lineup we have now makes me feel ill.

    1. Luke

      I’m not sure I buy projecting Bryant in the majors two seasons ahead of Soler.

      Both topped out last year at High A, both are polished bats, both have quite a bit of experience against high levels of competition, and both were not exactly challenged (when healthy) in Daytona.

      Even the reports from the scouts don’t make me think Soler is taking two more years. Several analysts have said he looks very good right now.

      If Bryant is a 2014 guy, and a consensus seems to be drifting slowly in that direction, I’m not sure there is strong argument for kicking Soler back to 2016.

      1. BWA

        I’d also argue that if Baez isn’t up in 2014 he is having major issues with his strikeouts and probably isn’t as highly rated next offseason. Hopefully that isn’t the case,
        I just don’t see any world where Baez is productive and doesn’t get the call this year.

  7. Ballgame17

    Some new inclusions is always encouraging. There’s so many prospects with MLB potential that it’s certain there’s a few more flying under the radar in our farm system. Brett, I think you said it best “Mix and match ‘em how you like, they’re just good, good prospects”. When you see the Big 4 constantly showing up in different slots, I think it’s fair to say they all have potential to be high-impact players. Once this flow of prospects starting with Bryant/Baez reach the majors, then the flow of players should be steady for years to come. We’re getting closer to meaningful Sept. games at Wrigley…

  8. Ballgame17

    Baez will be starting SS at AAA-Iowa to begin the season. I’m beyond curious to see how Castro/Baez situation plays out. Most likely, something will need to happen in regards to a position change by All-Star Break..

    1. hansman

      Probably the same way the Orioles handled the Manny Machado situation in 2012. The better SS plays SS and the other guy plays somewhere else.

      1. DarthHater

        Seems almost unavoidably logical.

        1. hansman

          Eh, conspiracy theories and trade scenarios that GET CASTRO OFF THE CUBZ NOW!!!!!111!!!! are much more fun.

          1. DarthHater

            I said stuff like that a couple years ago, and you guys yelled at me so much that I stopped. :-D

            1. Fishin Phil

              You mean that really worked? We should do that more often. :)

              1. DarthHater

                Well, I drank the koolaid to get y’all off my back. But once you’re kool-aided, it’s kind of a one-time deal. :-P

        2. DocPeterWimsey

          The problem is that people get fixated on the premise “A SS cannot play any position but SS.” That leads to logical but unsound statements (tacit or explicit) such as “Hardy and Machado both play SS and neither can play another position; only one guy can play SS at one time; ergo, Hardy and Machado cannot both play at the same time.”

          However the “neither can play another position” statement is never more false than for a SS. (Never mind whether a guy’s bat profiles at another position.) Most 2Bmen and 3Bmen were SS, as were a lot of OFers. Take that out, and then the conclusion is logically fallacious: we’ve never stated that the guys must play SS or not play at all.

          1. hansman

            So how does that tie into the concept that pitchers should be forced to hit?

  9. Voice of Reason

    Castro should be at second base right now. Less demanding of a position from a defensive stand point.

    1. itzscott

      …and I think Castro should be picking his nose in RF where it won’t hurt the team as much as when he does it at ss.

      1. DarthHater

        Having Castro’s bat taking up a RF batting order slot would hurt the team tremendously.

        1. itzscott

          …and who’s holding that RF batting slot down now that’s so much better than Castro’s bat (other than last year)?

          1. Voice of Reason

            itzscott:

            It’s more than just who is in right field if you put Baez there. It’s how the rest of the line up is effected.

            By putting Baez in right, you’re sitting Schierholtz and keeping Castro at short and probably playing Barney or some other stiff at second.

            By putting Baez at short, you keep Schierholtz’s defense and stick (better bat than Barney or some other stiff at second) in right field and Castro at second. Plus, you keep Baez at short and a shortstop with his type of power doesn’t come along every day!

          2. DarthHater

            Castro’s career best batting numbers still wouldn’t justify committing a corner outfield slot to him. Sure, in any given season, if Castro’s hitting at his peak and you don’t have a better bat to stick in the OF, then maybe you go for it. But for purposes of team planning, you should be looking for a bigger stick than Castro’s in the corner OF positions. More value in trading him to a team that wants him as a ss or 2B.

            1. blublud

              Darth, while I agree, Castro numbers are lacking for a corner OF spot, does it really matter if Castro is in RF if the alternative is Baez or Bryant in RF if they all are going to be in the lineup no matter what? In this case, yes, because Castro is better at SS than Baez. But I’m talking more in general.

  10. woody

    That’s if they want to start his service clock ticking. I’m unsure of just when they can bring him up without losing a year of control. Also there seems to be a lot of differing opinions about Baez’s future as a short stop. Many of the reports I have read project Baez at third base. I kind of have a hunch the reason they are keeping Baez at short is to keep the heat on Castro. And with Alcantara coming on strong I don’t see Baez playing second base for an extended period of time. This is a scenario that plays over and over in my mind. And that is the third base question. Long term will it be Olt, Baez or Bryant?

  11. Ballgame17

    haha, thanks Hansman and Darth…obviously, the better player will stay at SS, but I’m curious to see who that is. If Olt is slightly above average, then the logical move is Baez or Castro to 2B. I’m just going to assume it’s Baez to 2B.

  12. Stu

    If Castro can improve from last year, they might flip him at the deadline. Good reason to keep Baez at SS. Castro’s approach and OBP doesn’t really fit the organizational philosophy.

    The key to seeing how things shake out is Olt at 3B. If he rebounds from the vision problems, they can then move Bryant to the OF and solve the need for a legit right-handed OF bat.

    1. woody

      I could see trading Castro for an outfielder with some upside that hits left handed.

  13. David

    2019 can’t come soon enough.

    1. Fishin Phil

      Leave a phone number, we’ll call you when it is time to hop on the bandwagon.

      1. cubsnivy56

        LOL! Classic!

  14. CubsFaninMS

    In my opinion, naming something a “top prospects list” is similar to creating a “best players on the team list”. Along with statistical analyses (BA, OPS, HRs, RBIs, ERA, ERA+), developing a prospect list such as this one introduces ADDITIONAL elements for confusion/debate: upside, downside, and level in the minor leagues. What some of these prospect lists should include is a formulaic method of including all of these additional factors into a numeric assessment. Once that is done, you can more accurately assess which players should be the highest rated. For example, if Rob Zastryzyny has an equally successful season as Kyle Hendricks did as compared to his “peers” in his league, then Kyle Hendricks would have the edge in assessing their potential in the “Performance” category. Upside and downside, although very difficult to quantify, would be based almost exclusively on the scouting reports. There will never be a completely accurate approach for predicting human capability and success. I’ll leave that to the Guillermo del Torro’s of the world. But you can make the prospect rankings more tangible utilizing this method. I conduct quantitative risk analyses for a living so… this is my geek moment. I’ll bow out now.

  15. smackafilieyo

    Clayton Kershaw – 7 years $215 MILLION!!! Wow

    1. mjhurdle

      with an opt-out in 5 years.

      crazy good deal for Kershaw

      1. Edwin

        Pretty good deal for the Dodgers too.

        1. ChiMike702

          How so? They were negotiating against themselves.

  16. ssckelley

    The surprise for me is seeing last June’s 6th round draft pick Scott Frazier mentioned in a top 20 list let alone #13 ahead of Neil Ramirez.

    1. Xruben31

      Why is it suprising? He’s a pretty talented and advanced arm.

  17. terencemann

    Some of the most trusted names in prospects have essentially decided to pass on Eloy Jimenez this year due to the insignificant amount of information that they know about him at this point. It just seems bizarre for someone to rate him that highly with this little information. It’s just things like that that make me not care for a lot of the random prospect lists that get published and make me stick to the usual sources.

    1. cubfanincardinalland

      He and Torres both played in the Arizona instructional league in the fall, and impressed big time. Playing against 20 and 21 year olds, they looked good in front of a lot of scouts. I heard many liked the ss Torres maybe even a little better, was hitting rockets into the gaps and a slick fielder.

    2. Luke

      I’m in the camp that will be passing on him. I don’t rank guys until I have useful numbers from a US league (although I did break that rule last year for Paniagua).

      1. BWA

        And see how well that worked out for you ;)

      2. CubsFaninMS

        I agree. I think a decent comparison would be a company hiring a student who graduated summa cum laude and immediately expects him/her to be one of the “highly rated” employees in the company. Hold your horses. Experience level should certainly be factored into these rankings. Some of the analysts do it effectively, others do not. Although seeing Frazier, Zastryzny, and Jimenez on a “Top” list gives us Cubs fans the warm and fuzzies, it is much too soon to project them as top prospects as compared to the more proven ones. Then again, when you can’t HELP but base these list partly on projections, the system is hopelessly subjective and difficult to quantify. That being said, you can’t help but enjoy reading these lists as a Cubs fan, although us well-read fans know to temper our enthusiasm until we see more tangible success.

  18. LEO L

    Where does Olt fit in these rankings?

    1. DarthHater

      Below 14.

      1. hansman

        10296214514_c880b9e07d_n.jpg

        1. DarthHater

          hey!

    2. Luke

      He doesn’t.

      If he proves he can hit at a high enough level to stay in the majors (ie: not striking out over 30% of the time in Triple A like he did last year), he’s a Top 15 guy.

      If he can’t reign in the strikeouts, he’s a not rankable on most boards.

      And, unfortunately, no one will know how much of his K% issues last year were the eyes until he starts getting some regular at bats with healthy eyes. I hope he’s back to being a good defensive, high OBP, power bat at third, but I wouldn’t rank him as such on that hope.

      1. CubsFaninMS

        Good point. I must admit though… Mike Olt is much easier to root for than Ian Stewart.

        1. college_of_coaches

          Agreed. FWIW, I’m rooting for him.

  19. Jorbert Solmora

    I think this team is actually going to be very fun to watch by September: Castillo, Rizzo, Alcantara, Castro, Baez, Lake, Sweeney, Bryant.

  20. Ballgame17

    +1….bullpen should be above average and if Tanaka can somehow be signed, that’s a pretty decent rotation. If Bryant/Baez come up by June, then I agree….could be a lot of fun.

  21. FortyFour

    What type of player do the Cubs draft with the 4th pick overall and will that pick move into the top 7 of Cubs’ prospects before the end of the year?

    1. bbmoney

      The BPA regardless of position. Probably yes, especially if a couple of the current top 7 lose prospect status (we can hope).

    2. Luke

      Too early to start talking draft names.

      I suspect he’ll be a Top 10, but Top 7 stands to get a little crowded. Could be tight.

    3. Kyle

      Assuming no graduations by then, a No. 4 overall pick should be No. 6 at a minimum, and probably as high as No. 3 or 4.

      1. BWA

        Hopefully the number 4 won’t be higher than any of the big four or Edwards because that means the big four and Edwards are all having good years.

  22. FortyFour

    Hopefully it will be a pitcher who happens to be the best player available but regardless it will great if the Cubs land another prospect that is rated in the top 100 in baseball.

  23. Cubsin

    I was very surprised to see our sixth-round pick in 2013 (Scott Frazier) ranked above more established (high-floor) prospects like Hendricks and Szczur **and** high-ceiling prospects like Maples and Hannemann.

    1. Luke

      A lot of scouts aren’t sure what to do with Hannemann. A bunch of team wanted him in the third round, the Cubs grabbed him, analysts like the pick, irresponsible talking heads trotted out the Jacoby Ellsbury comparison, and he got hurt.

      In a nutshell, that’s Hannemann’s season. He is going to be very tough to rank.

  24. Luke

    From the article:

    “Candelario — like Alcantara — has been brought along slowly, and is also a switch-hitter who has shown improvement over the past two years.”

    Um… what?

    Candelario was vaulted from the DSL to Boise, and then sent to the Midwest League at 19. Slow isn’t a common description of that calendar.

    1. MoneyBoy

      I thought that looked off, Luke. I thought I remembered him at Boise in ’12. Did he open in MWL or did he begin in Boise?

      1. Luke

        He spent all of ’13 with Kane County.

    2. davidc

      He also said Candelario has a fair bit of swing and miss in his game, which isn’t really the case.

  25. woody

    Crawford says thay Vogelbach has a below average hit tool. Are you freaking kidding me? I don’t know about that guy. Everything I have read about him praises his hit tool and say he can hit to all fields. Just what makes this guy an expert?

    1. Kyle

      I didn’t read it, but it’s possible for Vogelbach to have an impressive hit tool for a HS draftee in A-ball, but still be currently below average by MLB standards.

      1. Luke

        He does seem to be quite a bit more negative on Vogelbach’s hit tool than the majority of other analysts. Most of them single that out as a particular point of praise – or total lack of concern at least – but this one calls it out as an issue.

        Not saying he is wrong, but it is a marked contrast.

      2. SenorGato

        I tend to lean this way on Vogelbach. A polished swing relative to other HS draftees and a very friendly SS league has gotten it a little overrated. Honestly, he is probably the most overrated guy in the system. Probably fringe, tops, at 1B with the power yet to show.

        1. Rebuilding

          It’s probably more his 57/76 BB/K ratio and 19 HRs as a 19/20 year old in A/A+ ball. If anything he’s way underrated because of his looks and position

          1. Scotti

            Underrated for sure. His hit tool is legitimate. He can get fooled and still hang back and hit a line to left. That’s what you look for in hit tool. And this from the article as well:

            “The main reason Vogelbach doesn’t sit in my top ten though, is that he’s a 20 runner…”

            Vogelbach ran a 7.15 second 60 for Perfect Game. Baez was 6.90 and he says he’s fast (50-55) but somehow Vogelbach is a 20?

            He also said Almora was an avg to slow runner when he’s avg for a CF (6.78) and LOADS faster than Baez.

            Crawford gets a 20 for effort. PG’s numbers are all free.

            1. Bill

              In the games I saw, Vogelbach didn’t look that slow. He’s not fast but I thought he moved pretty well, especially for a bigger guy. The guy who looked slow to me was Candelario.

              1. Scotti

                Rizzo’s best PG was, IIRC, 7.40. Welington Castillo is even slower than Rizzo (Castillo is legitimately one of the slowest guys in the league–a 20/25 type guy). Vogelbach is average for a 1B–around 35/40.

                Another thing about Vogelbach is that he is working out a ton. He is likely still 240-ish but his fat percentage has dropped considerably (he is adding muscle as he works out). He looks much more fit that he was his draft year. And he does yoga nearly every day (balance and flexibility).

                The truth about scouting is that scouts will see a guy and never see him run, make a tough play or throw hard in a game. That’s a typical game (FWIW, Vogelbach throws like a girl). That leaves them with pre-formed opinions, guesses or asking what other scouts have seen him do. Seems like Crawford is just recycling things he’s read others say a while back. Saying Vogelbach is a 20 runner–when he’s proven otherwise–is just lazy.

          2. SenorGato

            I dont find anything special in those numbers.

            1. SenorGato

              I mean seriously…we are talking a DH prospect here.

            2. SenorGato

              Also I was praising Vogelbachs work ethic and makeup for a long time. Not something Im missing< its just not that easy.

  26. JeffR

    Does Solar’s contract work the same as other minor leaguers? Or is he a free agent after his 9 year contract regardless of when he hits the majors?

    1. Kyle

      Depends on whether the Cubs gave him a release clause or not.

      Some older IFAs have clauses that says the team must release them after their contract is up. Fukudome had one, for example. Cespedes too.

      If Soler doesn’t have one of those, he’d need six full years of service time to be an FA, and if he didn’t have it when he contract was up, he’d be arbitration eligible.

  27. Tommy

    Nice to see Eloy Jimenez on this list, but I’m always curious how they can rank these guys. I can’t imagine they’re seeing them play, so are they going off of stats and reputation alone when they rank these kids from the DR leagues or are these writers really getting time to get out there and do some real scouting?

    On a side note, I am excited about all the talent the Cubs snagged from the International pool last year, and feel that was a brilliant coup! If I remember correctly, Brett wrote a while back that the Yankees plan to copy the move this year (correct me if I’m wrong on that). So the Yankees are stealing an idea from the Cubs FO – nice. Just one more indication that our FO is pretty darn smart.

    The best part in all of this is that MLB most likely will adjust the way they do the international pool in the future, so we took advantage of it in one of the few years that it will be able to be done. Am I looking at this right, or am I missing something in all of this?

    1. MichiganGoat

      Isn’t there “poisoned pill” that happens this year if a team does what the Cubs did last year? I know it was talked about on here as why the Cubs went way over slot. I think it had to do with draft picks being lost or major financial penalties. I’ll look for the information.

      1. MichiganGoat
        1. Tommy

          Thanks for the link, Goat. Looks like the Cubs were absolutely brilliant in what they did now! I’m curious to see what the FO haters have to say about that move?

  28. SenorGato

    Every time I read a Baez scouting report the thought “second f’ing base!” At least the Cubs have also thought about it. He could be a great one there.

    1. SenorGato

      I like the two 2013 draft arms he picked. Fraizer has a big, healthy, but inconsistent arm and was one of my favorite Cub picks. Rob Z has a nice LHSP prospect scouting report but it walks a fine rope. I like both compared to the non-Edwards/Johnson pitchers but reeeeeeaaaally hoping Tyler Beede is there at 4.

      1. blewett

        Then you should be very happy. Because if Beede is not there, that means one of Carlos Rodon, Jeff Hoffman, or Tyler Kolek WILL be!

        1. SenorGato

          Except maybe Kolek i find those guys less intriguing than early hype. Beede is the guy for me in this draft.

  29. thrilho

    If we’re calling Crawford’s credibility into question, one part I liked was where he said Alcantara has “more power coming from his natural right side.” He had 14 HRs in 360 ABs rom the left side compared to 1 HR in 128 ABs from the right side.

  30. bbmoney

    Fangraphs has a cubs top 10 out for those of you so inclined.

    I’m sure Brett’s all over it already.

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