A 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.