Baseball Prospectus has been identifying some of the top tools in the minor leagues among the best prospects in the game, and, given that the Chicago Cubs have many of those top prospects, we’ve seen many top or near-top tools associated with the organization. (Power, Makeup, Infield Defense.)
Up today is BP’s take on the best outfield defensive tools, both the arm and overall defense. On the arm side, Jorge Soler is mentioned, but he’s not granted the “top tool.” Apparently arm is the subject of a great deal of debate, with six prospects mentioned in the category, and Indians outfielder Tyler Naquin getting the top spot. On Soler, BP says, “Cubs right field prospect Jorge Soler was also plagued by inconsistency on this throws in 2013, but his raw arm strength stands with that of every player on this list, and he has the potential to top the list in the future.” We’d heard about Soler’s cannon before, but you never know if that’s just a product of a guy being in the organization you follow, or if he’s legitimately got one of the best arms out there. In Soler’s case, I guess it’s the latter. Neat.
As for the overall outfield defense, just three names are mentioned: Kevin Kiermaier (top tool), Jackie Bradley, and Albert Almora. We’ve all heard the praise for Almora’s defense, but there it is in black and white: top three outfield defense in the minors. Although that’s the praise, the take is a bit cautious from BP: “Though Almora has plus defensive projections, he rates a solid step behind the likes of Kiermaier and Bradley, simply because his speed may prevent him from sustaining a plus profile in center field. A fringe-average runner, Almora has exceptional reads and routes that allow him to make plays in center, but there are lingering questions about whether he can maintain his current defensive ratings as he matures and settles into a big-league role.”
Neither Almora nor Soler has a ton of minor league experience at this point, thanks to injury issues last year, so we’ll see if the praise holds up, or improves, in 2014. It’s a big year for both players, who could be knocking on the door as soon as next year.