Perhaps it is because I like Jason Parks’ style (and Kevin Goldstein’s before him), but the Baseball Prospectus top prospect lists have aways been among my favorite. They offer a list, bits on prospects just outside the list, deep dives on each of the mentioned players, and a good sense that they’ve been scouting these guys – and speaking extensively with other people in the business – for a long time to develop their opinions.
If that sounds like a sales pitch for subscribing to BP (to see the full ranking stuff, you have to pay for a subscription), I guess it is, but I’m not trying to sell you. (BP doesn’t even know I’m saying these swell things.) I just thought I’d give them a little extra love in this space for the great work.
Ok, enough of that. On to what you want: the BP Cubs top prospect list as we head into 2014.
1. Javier Baez
2. Kris Bryant
3. Albert Almora
4. Jorge Soler
5. C.J. Edwards
6. Arismendy Alcantara
7. Pierce Johnson
8. Dan Vogelbach
9. Christian Villanueva
10. Jeimer Candelario
No huge surprises in the list, or in the ensuing praise for, in particular, the top four. The Javier Baez write-up is particularly shwing-worthy, with words like “elite,” “highest offensive ceiling in the minors,” and “Miguel Cabrera.”
As we’ve seen, there’s a touch of consensus building about the top 8-ish guys (there was always strong consensus on the top five, at least, and probably top seven), and Jeimer Candelario has been a popular guy to be right in that 8 to 10 range. Christian Villanueva is making his first top 10 appearance, but, if you’ve been following along around here, that’s not a huge surprise. Jason McLeod doled out heavy praise for Villanueva this weekend, and it sounds like BP is hearing the same things.
Choosing one of the top ten to share some of BP’s thoughts … how about Alcantara?
Alcantara would receive more attention in a weaker system, as the 22-year-old infielder has impact tools and could develop into a first-division talent at the major-league level. From the left side, Alcantara is an offensive threat, with bat speed and game power, but he struggles from his weaker right side, as the plane is flatter and the contact not nearly as hard. The speed is a weapon on base and in the field, and with more refinement should give him another above-average tool. A heavy dose of Triple-A secondary stuff will help the five-tool talent refine at the plate, and with any luck, Alcantara could get a major-league taste in 2014. While I’m not a big fan of comps, especially if they are forced, the industry suggested Jose Reyes-lite fits Alcantara very well.
That’s the number six prospect in the system.
The three prospects listed by BP as “on the rise” are pitchers Paul Blackburn (2012 supplemental first rounder), Rob Zastryzny (2013 second rounder (with a 70 grade Twitter account)), and catcher Mark Malave (a 2011 bonus baby who has moved around the diamond). You’ll have to subscribe to BP to see the write-ups on each of the three (they make you smile), but here’s a taste on Blackburn:
The fastball has the potential to develop into a true plus-plus offering, but the command was well below average at times and the secondary arsenal was inconsistent. But several sources really liked what they saw from the 20-year-old, and a step forward in fastball command could allow the plus potential curve to miss more bats. The ceiling could go as high as a no. 2/3 starter, and at this time next season, we should be talking about Blackburn as a no-brainer top 10 prospect in the system. Based on ceiling, he has a legit case for inclusion on this year’s list.
The three prospects listed by BP as potentially contributing to the Cubs this year should be no surprise: Mike Olt, Arodys Vizcaino, and Neil Ramirez. On the latter two, BP very much likes their potential to be excellent future contributors in the bullpen.
When ranking the overall young talent in the Cubs’ organization, it’s worth noting that Starlin Castro still ranks ahead of Kris Bryant, but behind Javier Baez. Anthony Rizzo slots in after Bryant, but before Albert Almora. The huge surprise on the young talent list? Junior Lake shows up at number 10, ahead of the Vogelbach/Villanueva/Candelario trio. Wow. Are folks in the game starting to believe that Lake can put together his incredible athleticism and tools at the big league level? I have never been particularly optimistic about Lake’s future, but that ranking right there makes me wonder.
All in all, it’s a great read that makes you feel very good about the Cubs’ future (at least as far as internal player development is concerned). Dare I suggest that there’s a great deal of #sparkle here?
BP also makes sure to remind folks at the end that, while we’ve all heard about the impact talent in the system, the Cubs also have a ton of depth. And, hey, that’ll only improve after another year of sell trades and high drafting. Not that you wanted to hear that part right now. Sorry.