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big four almora baez bryant solerA handful of random Chicago Cubs prospect notes from the last couple days …

  • Cubs VP of Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod spoke with Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette on MLBN radio earlier this week, and, among his thoughts: (1) The Cubs aren’t going to push young guys above their head just to win a few more games at the big league level – the focus is on developing them into the best they can be long-term, and it’s very individualized; (2) McLeod suspects that the Javier Baez/Starlin Castro positional discussion is going to have to take place in the near future (but Baez remains the starting shortstop at AAA, Castro remains the shortstop in the bigs); (3) when Baez played a little second base in an exhibition game last year, McLeod said it looked like he’d played there his whole life; (4) when asked about Jorge Soler, McLeod focused on his approach at the plate, quality pitch recognition, and good understanding of the strike zone; (5) Albert Almora is a Gold Glove caliber center fielder, despite the lack of top end speed (McLeod mentioned Kirby Puckett and Jim Edmonds, who were fantastic center fielders without speed (was Puckett really that good?)); (6) Mike Olt looked great in workouts in January, but the real test will be live pitching; (7) McLeod offered some love for three of the college pitchers the Cubs took last year – Rob Zastryzny, Tyler Skulina, and Scott Frazier; and (8) if Arismendy Alcantara stays healthy and performs really well at AAA, he’s a guy that could potentially see a call-up at some point in the season. If you don’t have MLBN radio, you can check out a transcript of the interview over at The CCO.
  • To put it on its own line: McLeod said that the goal is for Arodys Vizcaino to face hitters this Spring, and to pitch him out of the pen (at least for now). McLeod said Vizcaino could be a very viable reliever at the back of the bullpen. (That may have always been his long-term role, so, whatever – if he becomes a great setup man or closer, you’re still thrilled about it. To be honest, I haven’t been considering him as a future starting pitching option since the second surgery in 2013.)
  • Jim Callis offered his top prospect trio in baseball, and the Cubs’ contingent (Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, and Albert Almora) couldn’t quite beat out the Twins’ group of Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, and Alex Meyer. The difference for Callis is Buxton being the top prospect in baseball, and Sano being the best power-hitting prospect in baseball. Throw in Meyer, who is a pitcher right there in the same range as Almora, in terms of rankings, and I can’t hate on the choice.
  • … but Jonathan Mayo performed the same exercise, and the Cubs’ trio DID take the top spot. Clearly Mayo is a superior intellectual talent to Callis. I kid. The takeaway here is only that the Cubs’ trio is near the top of baseball, probably for just about anyone doing rankings. For Mayo, Buxton/Sano take the slight edge over Baez/Bryant, but Almora makes up the difference by being a far superior prospect to Meyer. Mayo sees risks for Meyer that don’t exist for Almora, and he really seems to believe in Almora’s ability to be an impact player at the big league level.
  • I’m wondering how high the next three – Jorge Soler, Arismendy Alcantara, and C.J. Edwards – would rank in the top trios list. Well, Callis ranked his top 15 such trios, and Soler/Alcantara/Edwards weren’t on the list. But as I look at the groups in the 11 to 15 range, I’m thinking the Cubs probably could have snuck another set on the list. It doesn’t appear that Callis was considering second groups of three from the same organizations that were already ranked. Kinda cool to think about, though, right? Even if the Cubs lost their three top prospects, their next three would probably be good enough to make the top 12 or so prospect trios in baseball.
  • If that’s not enough random prospect grouping rankings for you, Callis also ranked the top pitching tandems among the many farm systems, and the Cubs actually made the top 15! C.J. Edwards and Pierce Johnson come in together at number 14. Pfft. No quality pitching in the system, my elbows …
  • On a less positive note, GSI reports that outfield prospect Jae-Hoon Ha – he of the fantastic defense, good age/level, but so-so bat – had left wrist surgery in the offseason, and is currently rehabbing in Arizona (which, well, that’s where he’d be anyway). He might not be back until June. If the report is accurate, the Cubs’ extra buildup of minor league deal outfielders makes even more sense, given that Ha was presumed to be a lock in the outfield at AAA this year. Now it looks like Matt Szczur (if he sticks around), Josh Vitters (if he doesn’t make the big league club), and … Brett Jackson? No one really knows what’s going to happen with him. There’s also John Andreoli and Rubi Silva, who could be ready for AAA. There are some unknowns at this point, so having a few extra minor league options isn’t a bad thing.
  • willis

    I’d love to see Vizcaino get some live action in the Spring. I’ll believe it when I see it but if he can get a few innings in and make it through, it would be fantastic.

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

    I don’t think an extra half season or so in Double A would hurt Andreoli at all. Silva… his OPS says move him up, his BB% says leave him in Tennessee. I’d rather see him in Iowa, I think.

    Szczur needs to be in Iowa. Vitters will hopefully be in Chicago. Jackson… let’s see what turns up in spring training. He’s got to make more contact to find steady playing time at the upper levels.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Silva’s participation at the rookie development camp and the space at AAA make me think he’ll get a job there unless all of Vitters, Szczur and Jackson look like legit future contributors who just need time/more time at AAA.

      • Eternal Pessimist

        I could see Jackson back to AA and, if he is awesome there, going straight to the MLB for his final chance this year. I would rather not block of the progression of someone who is ready for the next level of challenge for someone who has definitely stalled out.

  • cubnut

    Brett, what did you mean by “Now it looks like Matt Szczur (if he sticks around)”? Are you saying that the Cubs would consider cutting him loose to open up a 40 man spot? If the Reed Johnson (but faster) comparisons are true, I’d love that as a 5th outfielder type.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I wasn’t really saying much – only that the future plans for a lot of the guys who’ve been on the 40-man for a long time without contributing in the bigs will eventually be considered.

      • B_Scwared

        The last two years were very focused on switching out short-term assets for long-term assets. There aren’t many short-term assets left and other than Hammel we really didn’t bring any in. I think a big goal of this year is for the FO to really get a good feel for what is left on the 40-man roster before moving onto the next stage of the “build”.

        • CubFan Paul

          “aren’t many short-term assets left and other than Hammel”

          Samardzija, Schierholtz, Barney, Villanueva, Russell, Veras, and Ruggiano could all be sent packing in June/July

    • CubFan Paul

      I like John Andreoli over Szcur.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        Szczur has the higher ceiling, but Andreoli seems more polished.

        Both are more likely fourth outfielders (but useful ones) long term. I suspect Szczur would draw more interest as a trade chip, and given the flood of outfielders surging up the system, I suspect he’s nearing the place where he might have more value to someone else than he does to the Cubs.

        • CubFan Paul

          I always lean toward the polished prospects in the upper levels.

          Which is why I think most have Kris Bryant rated too low coming into the season.

          • Kyle

            Kris Bryant hasn’t played above A+.

            • JadeBos

              AFL MVP

              • CubFan Paul

                & he’ll start the year at AA.

  • Jason P

    We have quite the logjam of mediocre outfield prospects at the upper levels.

  • BD

    Puckett had 6 gold gloves, and I think back then it was a little less skewed towards offense.

    • miggy80

      I remember seeing the Twins and Cubs in an exhibition game in the Metrodome back in 1993. Sure I was only 12 but I distinctly remember me and my best friend turning to each other and saying “I didn’t think Kirby was THAT fast”. Dude was quick.

      • JadeBos

        Yeah Puckett was pretty fast when he was young and thin. 99 out of 116 in SB in the minors in 900 ABs. Also played on turf and had a trampoline for an OF wall.

        • miggy80

          The “baggie”. I wonder what it felt like jumping into that thing? I did see Tory Hunter make an amazing snag robbing Jim Thome of a homerun.

  • MightyBear

    Yes Brett, Puckett was that good.

  • http://obstructedview.net Myles

    You didn’t link the pitching duos, which is right here.

    http://jimcallis.mlblogs.com/2014/02/04/got-pitching/?relatedposts_exclude=81

  • Edwin

    Advanced fielding metrics don’t seem to think much of Pucket’s defense. Same with Edmonds. They weren’t bad, but they weren’t great either.

    • waittilthisyear

      this is tough for me to wrap my head around. i’ve often heard advanced metrics for defense are not as reliable as they are as pertaining to offensive contributions, and i hope this is a case of that. jim edmonds, as far as the eye test goes, was a fantastic center fielder. i saw him take away more hits, especially would-be bloopers, than anyone else i can recall off the top of my head

      • B_Scwared

        In these metrics, Did Edmonds’ love of trying to make every catch into a highlight reel one make it look like his range was more limited than it really was?

        • waittilthisyear

          ha im not the man to ask about metrics, but that is certainly a consideration

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Edmonds (and, to a lesser degree) Puckett were able to ham it up on a lot of catches because they both were great at reading where the ball was going to land. Neither was particularly fast, but both got great jumps and were able to run straight to where the ball was going to land.

          So, Edmonds made just about every catch at the end of his range look dramatic. His range was not all that great because of his lack of speed, however, particularly later in his career.

      • Edwin

        Could be. Defensive metrics aren’t perfect. Or it could be a good case why trusting your eyes isn’t always the best way to evaluate ballplayers.

        “Eye tests” can sometimes be biased. If a player is “known” to be a good defensive player, then fans will see what they want to see, and will see the player as a good defensive player.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Also, the eye test is always based on how pretty a guy looks at the end of his range. When people see an Edmonds or a Jeter “rob” a guy of a hit, what they actually are seeing is a diving or jumping catch that many other fielders catch while running or even standing.

          The people who do the UZR sighting data actually note where a fielder is before each pitch, and where that fielder is when he reaches a ball. Joe and Jane fan are watching the pitcher, then the batter, then the flight of the ball: and thus they don’t see that Edmonds is diving 20′ from where he started, only that he is diving. That is why the stats disagree with the eye test: the only part they have in common is the guy getting his glove on the ball.

          • Mike

            So, do scouts wait around for defensive metrics to be compiled when evaluating young talent or do they use the “eye test”?

            • Norm

              Scouts always use the eye test.
              Doc is talking about people, in general. Not people specifically trained to recognize these things. Fans, writers…

              • waittilthisyear

                fwiw, i’ve watched enough baseball to have a pretty good idea where the ball is going after it leaves the bat, ie i have a pretty good idea when a batted ball is going to drop or not (obviously a great majority of people can do this with a great majority of batted balls, im talking more specifically about those ones off the bat where, if you are rooting for the team in the field, you think “he can get there,” while if you are rooting for the team at the dish, you think “that one is dropping!”). with that as my “eye test,” jim edmonds got to a ton of baseballs where off the bat i thought “its getting down!”

                • FFP

                  How to watch a game is so hard for me to (re-)learn. I think there are three ways we first learn to watch. Those who grow up watching on TV/radio, those who grow up watching at the game, and those who grow up in the game. Re-tooling how I watch as an adult (I was largely a TV/radio kid when it came to baseball) is frustrating (and seems impossible with the modern close-up cameras and engineers in the truck trying to invent a narrative).

                  I am lucky I can compare my (poor) baseball eye with my (reasonable) football eye. At a football game I naturally follow line play instead of the ball, etc. But this was a gift was given growing up. Improving my baseball eye is one of the reasons I read here, and why I am grateful for thoughtful questions and the patient answers like the ones above.

  • ruby2626

    Is Sano really a better power prospect than Baez? Seems a bit concerning that Sano hit .330 is high A and then dropped to below .236 in AA while Baez after a slow start did even better in AA.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Sano’s AA “slump” was purely a BABiP fluke. He managed only 18 singles despite getting 37 XBH, 36 BB and 81 K’s in 276 PAs. His OPS was over 0.900: and with just a normal rate of grounders, flares, etc., getting through for singles, it would have been over 1.0.

    • Norm

      They don’t use stats to come to their conclusions.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Well, they do: but they don’t place much emphasis on BA. The K-rates, isoD and isoP are the bases that most of these guys now are using to evaluate position players.

  • cavemancubbie

    If Almora’s comparison is Pucket, comes true, Santa has delivered and a star is born wearing Cubbie Blue!

  • Jrock1

    I’m not worried about the pile up at SS. I have a feeling if Castro has a great first half, he will be traded for pitching prospects. Then we could see Baez come up if he’s playing well. The FO doesn’t seem to like Castro’s approach at the plate and it doesn’t fit into the “Cubs Way” mantra.

    • B_Scwared

      Jed had an interview a few months back where he talked about “winning” players. Unitl that interview I never really thought they would trade Castro, but it seemed like everything he said he wanted, is what Castro isn’t.

      • David

        2015 Rotation

        1. Free agent
        2. Wood
        3. Young TOR guy we get for Castro
        4. Young TOR guy we get for Shark
        5. Jackson
        6. Arrieta

        • Jrock1

          I don’t see them spending on a TOR in 2015. 2017 or 2018 maybe. We should close to the playoffs by then. That’s if the Cardinal, Reds and Pirates lose a little ground in the central which I don’t see happening. They might just wait on C.J. Edward to fill the spot.

          • David

            He’d be great for the younger TOR guys. We’ll have alot of payroll off the books in 2015. No Sori, no Shark, no Schierholz. I just want ONE!!!

            • ced landrum

              We have sunk to terrible lows if Shark and Schierholtz are the Cubs big money guys.

          • jammin502

            I have heard “talk” that C.J. Edwards will probably eventually end up in the bull pen / closer. I think the “experts” believe that his body / frame isn’t built for so many innings. It might not be a bad thing to see Vizcaino and Edwards at the back end of the bull pen in a year or two. If he could add about 30 lbs to his frame, I can definitely see comparisons of him to Doc Gooden.

            • CubFan Paul

              “If he could add about 30 lbs to his frame”

              He’s been doing that multiple offseasons in a row now with No success

              • Eternal Pessimist

                …but if we are all just patient he will hit puberty, and then…

          • Jon

            Folks will be out with pitchforks, if they won’t spend on a TOR arm by then.

            • Jrock1

              Next time there is a 25yr old TOR, I’m sure they will come in second place in the bidding. TOR will be a huge contract and I don’t see them spending that kind of money until the renovations are complete. At this spend, it could be as late as 2020.

  • Jon

    Now if you want to talk overrated, that is Kirby Puckett. He really has no business in the HOF

    • Greenroom

      Jon, I think you need to go back and look at his stats. If it wasn’t for his vision and health issues, he would of been something else.

      • Edwin

        But his vision and health issues did happen.

      • Jon

        -12 MLB Seasons
        -Of those seasons he had 3 elite (above 5 Win) seasons(86. 88 and 92)
        By advanced metrics he falls way short

        Even if you look at the “counting stats”
        He falls short of the 3000 club with 2300
        Only 207 career HR’s.

        He retired at the age of 36. It’s not like he retired in his early 30’s. How would have 3-4 years of mediocre stats added to his legacy.

        His #1 accomplishment is the 10X all star achievement, but you have to wonder what the voters were thinking in some of those years. Let’s be honest, he got in because he was a media favorite.

        • Brandon

          And now fans vote in their favorite players for the all star game reguardless of their stats.

        • ced landrum

          Is Jeter a hall of famer? If so then Puckett belongs. Ditto for Yount.

          • Jon

            I’d put Bernie Williams in the HOF before Puckett. It will be interesting to see what happens with JIm Edmonds in 2016, his numbers are significantly better than Pucketts.

            • Serious Cubs Fan

              IMO, Edmonds is not a HofF. Very good player in his prime, but not all worldly as a HofF in my book should be. Not sure about Bernie either

              • Jon

                Well I’m not sure any of them belong, but when you open the door by putting a guy in like Puckett, for things other than his merits, you open the door for this type of problem.

  • ThatCubsGuy

    Man…..Really hoping that Castro makes it a tough discussion

  • Cheese Chad

    My Diehard type comment for the day……Cubs should trade Jackson and Vitters to the Yankees for their 2018 and 2019 first round pick because they will be terrible and probably have a top 5 pick in the draft those two years.

    • Edwin

      Can’t trade those type of draft picks.

    • bbmoney

      That’s especially diehard like because it adds in the conspiracy theory that regular (non-competitive balance) MLB draft picks will be trade-able by then.

  • http://BN Sacko

    And on another note which I’m sure Brett will cover soon the wording to the contact section 6 6 Rooftops and Wrigley..bluntly Rooftops are screwed man..Wrigley allowed to improve by government approval!

  • Brandon

    Its year two for Edwin Jackson, if he gets off to a good start I could see the Cubs flipping him for prospects.

  • Serious Cubs Fan

    If Suk-Min-Yoon can stick as a #4 starter over three years, the $5.75 million price tag will be a steal of a deal for the Orioles

    http://www.camdenchat.com/2014/2/13/5407920/orioles-sign-korean-suk-min-yoon

  • Cubsin

    Yoon’s contract includes incentives, but I haven’t seen what they are.

  • Cubsin

    Brett or Luke, any chance Ha’s wrist problem was affecting his hitting, or was it a recent injury?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      It’s a recent injury, so far as I know. I doubt it would account for what we’ve seen thus far.

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