albert almora kane countyBaseball 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.

  • jh03

    I was going through all the lists on BP so far and the Cubs have somebody listed for every tool other than speed and hit tool. 5 different players are listed… that’s awesome. 5 different Cubs are listed (Baez multiple times), for top tools throughout the *entire* minor leagues… Just think about that, and put it into context. That’s #wet.

    • http://BleacherNation blewett

      We’ll have all the tools covered once we draft Trea Turner.

  • http://www.w2wn.net Cerambam

    Our hope is that Almora and Soler are in the position Baez and Bryant seem to be this year, no? I doubt they will rise much further than that within a year, right?

    • CubChymyst

      They really can’t rise much further than Baez, he is near the top of most lists. If the reach that level I think everyone will be ecstatic. But seriously, I could both Soler and Almora if they put together a full healthy year being higher than 25 on a majority of prospect lists next year.

      • http://www.w2wn.net Cerambam

        Well, I agree, but I meant development wise/distance to the majors. Basically, should we expect both Soler and Alcantara to be at or jus about at AAA while knocking on MLBs door in one year ?

        • Javier Bryant

          Alcantara might get called up at the end of the year

        • Noah_I

          I’m presuming you meant Soler and Almora. And yes, I think that would be a safe presumption if they stay healthy and produce. Soler could honestly be June or July call up to Triple A if he mashes in Tennessee, while Almora could get the call up to Tennessee mid-season and either be someone who goes to Iowa to start 2015 or be a likely very early call up to Iowa, though. Likely best case scenarios for the two players, though, are:

          For Soler: Mashes in Double A, June call up to Triple A, mashes in Triple A, plays with the Big League club when rosters expand (if I recall correctly, September expanded roster call ups don’t count towards service time, but maybe it’s just that it wouldn’t use up an option, I’m sure someone here can confirm which is true), then is up with the Big League club for good on Opening Day 2015 or once the Cubs accrue the additional year of service time in early May.

          For Almora: Mashes in High A, mid-June call up to Double A, mashes in Double A, returns to Arizona Fall League, mashes there. Starts 2015 in Iowa, mashes there, mid-season 2015 call up to the Big League club.

          Those are absolute best case scenarios, though.

    • NorthSideIrish

      That’s a good way to think about it. I think both Almora and Soler could start at Daytona but spend a majority of the season at AA. I could also see them start the year at AA, especially Soler. Either way, they will be ready to start 2015 in Iowa and hopefully get the call up later in the year.

      • Noah_I

        I thought it was already announced that Soler is starting the season in Double A?

        • NorthSideIrish

          I thought McLeod said that at the convention too…but I’ve also seen reports that they want to keep Soler and Almora together. I could see it going either way, so I hedged.

          • Kyle

            That report that they want to stay together, unless I missed another one, came from a commenter with no confirmed inside information.

            • NorthSideIrish

              I think it was Jesse Rogers…which is actually probably a worse source than a commenter.

      • Jon

        Soler is on a major league contract. It’s like a perishable item. Every year he is in the minors, is one less year year of contributions to the big league club on that deal. I would not be surprised to see him in September.

        • Noah_I

          Doesn’t Soler’s contract have one of those options, though, where he can opt out when he hits arbitration and just enter the arbitration system? Or am I think of Cespedes?

          • brickhouse

            Soler can opt out once he hits arbitration and choose arbitration over his specified salary

        • Kyle

          When his contract is up, if he’s got less than six full years of service time, he can’t be a free-agent regardless.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            I’m not sure if we know that for sure, yet. It’s still possible he’s got one of those deals that grants him free agency regardless of service time (a la Cespedes).

            • J. L.

              Beat me to it.

            • Kyle

              I’m like 70% sure it was confirmed he doesn’t.

            • Noah_I

              Soler’s contract is also a long one. I just checked Cots, it goes through 2020. There’s nothing there about ability to opt out or that he’ll become a free agent at the end of the contract, and Cots does include that info for Cespedes. I just remember reading somewhere that Soler can opt out and just go into the arbitration system when he’s eligible, which, let’s say he can enter arbitration in 2018, over the three years of arbitration Soler would make more than the $4 million per year he’s guaranteed between 2018 and 2020, if he’s as advertised in the Big Leagues.

              • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                Cot’s includes what has been definitively reported – that’s what I meant; the status of Soler at the end of his contract if he hasn’t reached 6 years of service time hasn’t, to my knowledge, been definitively reported yet.

          • J. L.

            Are you sure about that? How come Cespedes, for instance, decided to sign a four-year contract with the A’s? I was under the impression that he would be on the market after four years, and that’s why chose Oakland’s offer over other teams’.

            • Kyle

              Older international free agents have clauses inserted that says they get released at the end of their contract. We did that with Fukudome, for example.

              Soler, I’m pretty sure it’s been confirmed, has no such clause.

              • J. L.

                I see. I thought you were saying there was no such thing as that kind of clause.

  • Ballgame17

    Taijuan Walker shutdown for 7 days due to shoulder inflammation…yut yoh

    • Javier Bryant

      Seattle might come calling soon…or just sign Santana

      • Chad

        I doubt it. Was Walker destined for their rotation this year? And are the cubs going to be interested if Walker would be the best return the cubs could get in theory if he is injured?

        • itzscott

          Sounds like he’ll be boning up on “Throwing Towels…..The Mark Prior Story”

          • Brocktoon

            You have no idea what the towel drill is do you

          • Lows005

            Tom House and the “towel drill” get a “bum rap” because of Mark Pryor. The towel drill is nothing more than repeating your pitching motion with a small towel in your hand. This provides some resistance opposed to just throwing with an empty hand. I pitched in college and we did the towel drill. Since you can only throw so much, it was an outstanding way of honing mechanics and building proper muscle memory. It’s highly improbable that the ol’ towel drill did any damage to Pryor.

        • Norm

          Cubs aren’t getting Walker regardless of the injury.

        • Javier Bryant

          Yeah, I believe Walker was supposed to be in the rotation

    • D-Rock

      Mariner’s need pitching badly…

      • Noah_I

        The Mariners need a lot of things to actually be competitive this year. Largely, they need terrible things to happen to the A’s, Rangers and Angels.

        • Blackhawks1963

          With or without King Felix and Cano, the Mariners are probably staring at 90 losses. That team has a lot of holes. Key for them is the development of Zunino, Miller, Paxton…and the forward progress of Walker. Also the recovery of Hultzien.

          Banking on a broken down Corey Hart and a not very good Logan Morrison to resurrect the offense along with Cano is a lot to ask. They also have the second ugliest outfield situation next the Cubs.

      • NorthSideIrish

        Yeah…when Scott Baker is your #2 starter, I think you have to look at making additions.

        • Lows005

          …Who’s #2 is Scott Baker? Certainly not the Mariners if that’s who you’re referring to.

          • Lows005


          • NorthSideIrish

            If the season started today, Baker would start game 2. Iwakuma will start the season the DL and Walker is injured, so Baker is their #2 right now by default.

            • Lows005

              I really don’t believe it’s that cut and dry. It’s not worth an argument but Baker was signed to a minor league deal so he’s a NRI. They have James Paxton, Erasmo Ramirez, Blake Beavan, Matt Palmer, Mark Rogers, Anthony Fernandez, Randy Wolf!! and Brandon Maurer all competing for spots in the rotation. I will concede that Baker, if healthy, will likely be in that rotation somewhere but it’s not a given that he’s the, “game 2 starter”.

    • http://thenewenthusiast.com/ dw8

      I know the Cubs system gets dinged for being position player heavy, but this is an example of why I’m OK with the high ceiling players in the Cubs’ system being position guys.

      • Funn Dave

        Absolutley. Although at some point we do need to think about getting, you know, an actual, reliable pitching staff.

        • Javier Bryant

          Nah. We’ll just outscore the other team every game…

          • Eternal Pessimist

            That appears to be the strategy…while they may eventually trade away an extra hitting prospect for pitching I suspect they will wait until they fully load the field w/ hitters. Barring an overwhelming offer I don’t see them trading away the bats until they know what they have.

            • Blackhawks1963

              Trade Starlin Castro next winter for pitching assuming Baez can stick at shortstop. That would be my plan.

              • CubChymyst

                Or Baez could be traded.

  • Fastball

    I don’t put a lot of stock in those rankings for OF tools the way they reporting. How many great CFer’s had blazing speed. Blazing Speed does not an outfielder make in CF or RF or LF. I can venture to say the ones that do have blazing speed don’t have Plus arm strength. It’s a total package and you got potential great player who is on the above average in arm strength and speed. But its a lot more than that. It’s the read on the ball and the ability to make a 1st step in the right direction, it’s the athletic ability and skill to make a play on a ball whether its on the ground or in the air. Can a guy dive, leap, backhand to field a ball, can he come up throwing in the proper position with his feet and body. Do his throws stay straight all the way to the base or target. You can have a 90+ mph throwing arm from the outfield but if you have no idea where its going when you let go of the ball, what good is it. I could go on and on about measuring a talent from a position and defense. If someone wants make determinations on a kid based on The Showcase measurement method your going to miss out on a lot of really good baseball players. I look at Almora as more of a prototype CFer. If I could build one from scratch what would I build. I would build Almora. Almora is a Jim Edmonds type. If I was build a RFer I would use Andre Dawson before the bad knees as my prototype. Above avg speed, Athletic, can make all the plays at his position and has a cannon. You probaby got that prototype in Soler.

    • http://deepcenterfield.mlblogs.com/ Jason Powers

      Don’t disagree on most.

      RF – Growing up in the late 70s and early 80s, I loved Dave Parker. Great arm, killer bat, some speed in those early days. Andre Dawson (CF/RF), Ellis Valentine, Dwight Evans….

  • Cizzle

    Soler had 2 good throws today. Hard and LOW. Too often big arms have a tendency to let the ball sail. He didnt…today.
    Almora didnt get tested much today. It seemed like half the hits to the OF were out of play, the rest were easy or rockets through the infield.

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