Keith Law’s Top 14 Cubs Prospects for 2014 Has a Few Surprises

corey black daytonaKeith Law’s rankings week is winding down, after offering his farm system rankings and his top 100, Law is now offering individual team rankings (to ESPN Insiders, that is), and his Cubs top 14 is a very interesting collection.

Here’s the list:

1. Javier Baez
2. Kris Bryant
3. Jorge Soler
4. Albert Almora
5. C.J. Edwards
6. Arismendy Alcantara
7. Pierce Johnson
8. Jeimer Candelario
9. Corey Black
10. Arodys Vizcaino
11. Rob Zastryzny
12. Eloy Jimenez
13. Scott Frazier
14. Tyler Skulina

No big surprises in the top seven, and Candelario and Vizcaino have been right around the back-end of the top ten area. But Corey Black, the pitching prospect the Cubs received in the Alfonso Soriano deal (recently discussed by Luke here), is a surprise at number nine. Black has great stuff, but the knock on him is whether his size and his command will allow him to remain a starter. With this ranking, I’d say it’s fair to guess Law believes Black can stay in the rotation for a while yet.

Speaking of pitching, Law clearly likes what the Cubs did in the 2013 draft, as he’s got three of the pitchers the Cubs took – Zastryzny (second round), Frazier (sixth), and Skulina (fourth) – there at the back of the rankings ahead of a host of legacy arms and quality positional prospects. Chris Crawford’s list was similar in this respect, which is maybe unsurprising, given how into amateur scouting McDaniel and Law are.

A couple big surprises? No Dan Vogelbach or Christian Villanueva, even in the top 14. Law has consistently been down on Vogelbach for as long as I can remember him discussing the 1B/DH. But Vogelbach regularly shows up at the back end of the top 10 in virtually all other Cubs lists, so this is notable. As for Villanueva, maybe Law doesn’t like the bat.

It’s also surprising to see Jimenez in there, as Law has indicated in the past that it’s very tricky to rank guys who’ve yet to play any Stateside ball. That said, Jimenez was the top international prospect this year (though I get the sense that Ben Badler is at least as high on the number two guy, Venezuelan shortstop Gleyber Torres, whom the Cubs also signed – I’m getting off point), and he does come with some expectations. He’s just 17, though, so he’s got a long way to go before fulfilling the promise of Law’s ranking.

Law’s piece includes his overall thoughts on the system, and more detail on the ranked (and some un-ranked) players.

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

79 responses to “Keith Law’s Top 14 Cubs Prospects for 2014 Has a Few Surprises”

  1. Lou Brown

    While following the draft last year, I thought several of our 2-9 picks were some intriguing arms. Nice to see Law agree. Hopefully some more come in this years draft. But nice to see half of the top 14 are pitchers, we are not quite AS unbalanced pitching vs. hitting in the system now.

    1. When The Musics Over

      The imbalance remains for the most part. A bunch of #4/5 starters (#3 if everything breaks right) who will likely end up as bullpen pieces is a nice to have, but doesn’t solve the same issue this front office had when it took over in 2011: lack of high end pitching prospects.

      1. When The Musics Over

        Also, if anything, the imbalance is even a bit more pronounced than before due to very high end bats the Cubs have added in Almora, Soler and Bryant.

        But then again, like Parks at BP says, the only real concern should be adding the best possible talent.

        1. Javier Bryant

          Add the best talent possible and trade from the plethora of position players for pitching. We’ll probably trade Shark for pitching as well, maybe even Castro

  2. CubFan Paul

    Slots 9-14 is just lazy work.

    1. Jason P

      Please do explain.

    2. ssckelley

      I feel the exact opposite.

      1. hansman

        That 1-8 are lazy work?

        1. CubFan Paul

          Awesome Hans.

        2. ssckelley

          Actually, yeah, at 1-7 you can copy and paste from just about anybody else’s list. Not agreeing with everyone else on 8-14 and going against the grain is not being lazy IMO.

        3. Jim


    3. Chad

      Maybe it is more diligent work and everybody else is just being lazy and copying each other. I don’t know why it is lazy. Perhaps he has done his due diligence and this is who he likes in the system.

  3. Jason P

    I share Law’s sentiment on Villanueva I don’t see him as anything more than a bench player or second division regular who hits 15 HR’s per year with a .320 OBP.

    1. hansman

      That’s what Machado put up this year.

      1. jh03

        That’s only because Machado got hurt and couldn’t finish the year……… duh.

        1. hansman

          Damn him only getting 710 PA in…

          I see a severe injury risk there.

          1. jh03

            He’s obviously overrated.

    2. Danny Ballgame

      I disagree on that. From the reports that I have read, some consider him to have the best glove at 3B in the organization and I’d take him for a .750 OPS and a great glove any day. I think that this year at AAA will be very telling as to what kind of player he is and can be.

      1. Edwin

        I’m always cautious about “best glove in the org” type of labels. It’s tough enough to figure out defensive value when looking at MLB players where we have a lot more data, I’d think it would be even harder to project A and AA players and try to compare them to MLB players with much certainty.

        I’m more encouraged that when guy gets labled “plus glove” in the minors because it makes it less likely he’ll need to move across the diamond, so it puts a little less pressure on the bat.

        1. terencemann

          I think people are combining Villanueva’s best seasons and using that to come up with a prediction which is a really bad way to do it. He strikes out ~20% of the time, walks about 6% of the time and has decent power but is not a great contact hitter. When you put everything together, he doesn’t profile as a .750 OPS player at the major league level.

          To compare, Josh Vitters has hit for a higher average with more home runs. He has walked almost as much as Villanueva with less strikeouts….

  4. JadeBos

    Is a top 17 yr old international kid that far behind say an high school graduate? Is he just more of an unknown or is the state high school ball superior competition?

    1. Luke

      More of an unknown. It’s tough to get a solid read on international signees when you have few stats against known competition levels and little if any good video of the guy.

      1. CubFan Paul

        Unless you’re Keith Law

        1. Luke

          Jiminez was in the instructional league, I believe. It’s possible Law has seen him play. I haven’t read any of Law’s comments on him and can’t say one way or the other in this case.

          1. nkniacc13

            that and there aren’t many international fa that sign in july and are invited state side for camp

    2. ssckelley

      Good questions, for comparison I think one of the top high school prospects this year like Alex Jackson would be considered a top 10 prospect in the Cubs organization. So perhaps there is a little bit of the unknown going on with the international guys. A player like Jackson has had plenty of exposure over the years playing at high school all star events that attract a ton of scouts.

  5. ssckelley

    What blows my mind in seeing lists like this is the amount of new names on these lists that were recently acquire either by trade, draft, or international signing over the year before. At this time last year 1/2 of those names on Laws list were not in the Cubs organization and it was not because they graduated a bunch of prospects.

    Plus getting your #13 prospect in the 6th round of last Junes draft is amazing. Either your farm system was horrible to begin with or that is some damn good scouting and drafting.

    1. When The Musics Over

      Some of the change is just typical prospect churn. Lots of guys flame out and graduate, leaving open spots for new entrees. But yes, the Cubs have been able to make great strides in the farm system, though I’m not quite as impressed as others because they’ve focused such an immense proportion of their efforts (time and money) in this endeavor. In other words, significant improvement should be expected.

      1. ssckelley

        Still when you are drafting in the 6th round it is unusual to be getting a top 20 org prospect, even if your farm system does suck.

        1. On The Farm

          In today’s CBA it’s really impressive to have scouts that high on a guy from the 6th round.

          1. ssckelley

            True, under the old CBA you could pay some young high school stud way over slot in order to get him to sign. In Scott Frazier’s case he was a college junior and he signed for slot, he was actually drafted lower out of college than he did out of high school (Phillies took him in the 5th round in 2010). So he probably took less money to sign for the Cubs than what he was offered back in 2010.

      2. Edwin

        Agreed. It’s impressive what the Cubs have done, but it’s come at a pretty steep cost, and it’s probably 2-3 years from now before they actually start to see the benefit.

        1. ssckelley

          At what cost? Most of these new players the Cubs acquire were from the draft. The Cubs getting Edwards+ for Garza was a great deal. Perhaps you are talking about the $13 million that the Cubs are paying Soriano to play for the Yankees in return for Black. Jimenez really did not cost that much.

          I don’t mind the Cubs trading pieces away at the trade deadline when it is obvious the team is not going anywhere. I believe you were one arguing the other day that the Cubs were doing the same as the Astros, these types of deals are how the Cubs are different. They have signed players that they end up flipping for prospects if the season does not pan out. I doubt it takes another 2 or 3 years before we start seeing the difference on the field.

  6. Blackhawks1963

    We as Cub fans think a lot more of Dan Vogelbach then truthfully makes sense. I get Law’s perspective on him. Christian Villeneuva can probably be comped to Danny Valencia, which doesn’t make him a wow-factor prospect by any stretch. I like Villenueva, but he probably isn’t anything too exciting in reality.

    1. woody

      Don’t see where Villanueva fits into the future considering we have Baez, Bryant and Olt in the mix for that position. If it weren’t for Alcantara I would say we could put Baez at second and Bryant in the outfield and play Villanueva for his defense at third, but I belive that with Alcantara’s switch hitting and speed he trumps that scenario. I don’t want to see Baez play second base for the simple reason that with the pivot plays at second he has a higher risk of injury. IMO somebody has to get traded for some pitching prospects. So my prefered infield would be:

      Rizzo 1B
      Alcantara 2B
      Castro SS
      Baez 3B

  7. jkoehneke

    Keith Law’s opinion means the same to me as Mel Kiper’s …..nothing. Law thinks he’s Gods gft to the world.

    1. Edwin

      I know, right? It’s like every time I call him and want to hang out he’s like “who are you, stop calling me, I have a restraining order”. Total jerk.

      1. Boogens

        Good stuff!

  8. V23

    Where will Jimenez and Torres be this season?

    1. ssckelley

      I think Jimenez already in the states, so I would think Arizona would be a good place for him to start. Not sure about Torres.

  9. MichaelD

    Is it really that Law thinks highly of the Cubs pitchers or that he is down on the third tier Cubs hitters, so that when you make a Top 14 list you end up with a bunch of pitchers? Sickels has a couple of these pitchers at the back end of his Top 20 but behind a few a lot more hitters.

  10. Senor Cub

    “No Dan Vogelbach”

    I am really interested to see what the Cubs are going to do with him a year or so from now. He is not in the “plans” for the future of this team. At the same time, why did they pick him so high on the draft knowing they needed arms, was he really that impressive and they thought he should have been picked higher? He will be traded I am sure but that doesn’t answer my questions.

    1. DarthHater

      Vogelbach was drafted by the previous FO, not this one.

    2. baldtaxguy

      “He will be traded I am sure but that doesn’t answer my questions.”

      If the guy hits, I would not be too sure of that.

    3. woody

      I think the reason they picked him was because it was before the trade that bought Rizzo to town. There was some talk awhile back that Selig might try to push the DH through for the NL in his last year. Anyway since Vogs isn’t ready to hit the big show yet, combined with our lack of depth at 1st base, it would be silly to worry about that this year. Maybe if we end up trading Castro for prospects we could throw him in the deal for an AL team. If Olt works out then I expect to see a platoon at second with Valbuena, until Alcantara or Baez force the issue at AAA.

  11. VanceLawblawsLawBlog

    I’d love to see Jimenez and Torres tear up instructionals and make an appearance in Kane County before the summer is over. Maybe a bit optimistic, but I can dream can’t I???

  12. bobdawg78

    I hope Baez sticks at SS, and Castro has a bounce back year. Castro could then be traded at the deadline for some good pitching prospects, and Baez could take over at SS.

    1. hansman

      I love how everyone is obsessed about trading away a productive 24-year old SS.

      1. DarthHater

        When we have one of those to trade, call me and we can talk. :-P

      2. CubChymyst

        I personally hope it comes down to trading Castro. That means Baez can play SS and looks good in AAA, Bryant or Olt has the 3rd base on lock down, and Alcantara looks like a good 2B. A trade of Castro means a lot of good things happened for the Cubs infield prospects. However, Castro doesn’t get trade though until 2B and 3B are set and Baez looks like he can play shortstop long term.

        1. frank

          The problem is, before last season, few people would’ve thought of trading Castro–he led the league in hits, was an all star . . . So–do you give Baez 2 years at short before you determine that he can hold it long term? 3?

          1. CubChymyst

            You’d have to make a decision before hand. Your not going to play Baez at SS if you don’t think he can handle it long term. I don’t think Castro goes anywhere because not All of the prospects are going to work out. My guess is Baez ends up at 3rd with Alcantara at 2B, Castro stays SS, Bryant moves to the outfield some point towards the beginning of 2015.

        2. baldtaxguy

          “A trade of Castro means a lot of good things happened for the Cubs infield prospects.”

          Not necessarily. With an eye just to Baez, an offer too good to refuse could happen if Castro regains form at the break with that cost-controlled set of contract years.

      3. Voice of Reason

        I’m with you hansman. If Baez comes up and plays well then we need a second baseman. Either Castro or Baez could play there.

        Why do we want to trade Castro?

        And from a front office standpoint they would have to be overwhelmed to trade a 24 year old shortstop that is under control for years at a great price.

        1. CubChymyst

          I’d trade Castro for slight downgrade at 2nd or SS if it meant a large upgrade in the rotation. But like I said above, Castro gets traded only if a majority of our prospects work themselves out and Baez can play SS. If Baez can’t play SS Castro is not going anywhere.

          1. YourResidentJag

            If it means trading for Noah Syndergaard of the Mets, then sure.

      4. fortyonenorth

        I wonder where Castro would rank among prospects if he were a 24 year-old SS in AAA.

    2. brainiac

      cubs fans 2.0: we have no loyalty to any player. we root for nobody in particular at no stadium in particular for no specific goal in particular.

  13. bobdawg78

    That’s what I was meaning with the trading Castro part. I should have written more into it though. If Baez tears up AAA, and comes up looking good, I’d then like to see Castro traded. It would probably make more sense in the NEXT off season, or the NEXT trade deadline (2015). Sure Castro could slide over to 2nd, if Baez sticks at SS, but Castro has more value as a SS, and teams would pay a lot for Castro if he rebounds this year.

    I think 3rd will play out soon hopefully. Olt should get every chance in the world to hold it down, if not, we’ll see how Bryant does in the minors, plus we have Villanueva just about ready as well, if need be.

  14. blublud

    I not a part of the trade Castro crowd, but I was thinking. If Castro has a good first half, along with Olt and villanueva and Baez in AAA, then what the chances Castro is moved. Villanueva also sports in at 2nd very well, IMO, and the chance to fit Bryant in the IF late in season could be intriguing. I singled out trading Castro at that point because he would then have a ton of value and could net a young, TOR type. An IF of 1B Rizzo, 2B Villanueva, 3B Bryant and SS Baez would have the potential to be a monster, while still trading for a good young pitcher. I think Villanueva could almost as good at Barney at 2nd while providing a better bat.

    1. blublud

      I think if you keep Castro in the IF instead of Villanueva, it looks better, but the former with a young TOR pitcher looks even better.

      1. blublud

        Damn, never mind. Guess I should read above before posting.

  15. Blackhawks1963

    It would he ideal if Baez can be the shortstop if the future and Castro becomes trade material for frontline pitching.

  16. Signing Teenagers in the Dominican Republic and Other Bullets | Bleacher Nation | Chicago Cubs News, Rumors, and Commentary

    […] little more on Keith Law’s Cubs top 14 list from Jesse Rogers, who gets some feedback from Cubs VP of Scouting and Player Development Jason […]

  17. bobby

    What kind of prospect package would it take to land Price? Seems we have a logjam for certain positions which is a nice problem to have. It’s an opportunity in the making. All these guys cant be part of the future.

    Landing Price via trade and locking him and Samarzija up long term would be HUGE. Add Bailey FA next year and we have a sexy rotation.

    1. DocPeterWimsey

      It is not a logjam until you are playing guys badly out-of-position on the MLB team to get bats in the MLB lineup.

  18. woody

    No sense in giving up prime prospects for a guy who will be a FA in two years. Especially considering we aren’t going to be competative.

  19. nkniacc13

    I think that by July the Cubs may have to make a couple moves because of their farm system. Also remember that Cashman didnt want to trade Black in the Soriano deal but steinbrener wanted it done

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.