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big four almora baez bryant solerNothing drives home how deep this system is like trying to rank the prospects in it. After several hours of studying numbers, scouting reports, video, and combing through my calculated stats, I finally had narrowed down a list.

Unfortunately, that list still had sixty names on it.

Several hours later I had it down to forty five.  And, as is always the case, figuring out who should be the last five players removed was not easy.  Once you get that deep in the system the difference between the prospects grows quite small.

Assembling a list is just the start, though. The players on that list still needed to be ranked, and ranking prospects is a murky endeavor in the best of situations. Every year those of us who make a habit of this get better at adding more science and reducing the role of subjectivity, but we still have a long way to go. In many cases, including this one, ranking prospects remains more of an art than a science. If you called this entire article an exercise in guess work you would not be far wrong, but it is at least educated and semi-transparent guesswork.

I rank prospects for the Top 40 by considering two primary factors (each of which is made of a large number of objective and subjective bits that I will not enumerate here): Projection and Risk. Projection is not the same a ceiling, nor is it a prediction. Instead, projection looks at a probable outcome for a particular player assuming he reaches the majors. These are not the best case scenarios for a player, and they are not the most likely scenarios either, but they are fairly plausible ones given our current information.

To illustrate the difference, take the case of Vogelbach. If Vogelbach maximizes his tools and becomes the best player his tools suggest he can possibly become, he’d be roughly a league average defensive first baseman with a Hall of Fame bat. That would be his ceiling. His most likely scenario, on the other hand, would be that he fades as he moves up through the minors and never makes it to the major leagues (as is the case with most prospects). With projection I am typically placing a player somewhere in between those two extremes. In this case, based on scouting reports of his bat and a variety of statistical indicators, it is fairly reasonable to suggest to Vogelbach could make it to the major leagues and will hit for both power and a pretty decent average while he is there. And that’s effectively what I put down for his projection.

If we read projection as a plausible outcome for a player, risk could be read as the likelihood that a player will reach that projection. You could also interpret it as an indication in my confidence in the projection. These risk values are comparative, not absolute. A low risk guy still has at least some of the inherent risk that comes with any prospect, but he is more likely to hit his projection than a high risk guy. Risk, like projection, becomes easier to assess the higher a player gets in the system, and as a result the risk values fall in a general way as the player gets closer to the majors. For example, take a look at the risk on Hendricks. In this case, because he has already proven himself at Double A and Triple A and could probably have opened the season on the Cubs roster if the need arose, he is graded as a low risk. We pretty much know what he could be in the majors; he just needs a chance to go attempt to make that happen. He could fail in that attempt – he is a prospect, after all – but compared to other prospects in the system he is a low risk guy.

The final line for each player is ETA – when I expect that the player will reach the majors. Keep in mind that I am only talking about reaching the majors. A September call up counts (and is why both Bryant and Soler have an ETA of 2014). I am not saying that is the year in which the player reaches the majors for good, or claims a starting job, or makes an All-Star team, or anything of that nature. This also gets easier to estimate the higher up the farm system a player gets, and my confidence on the ETAs for players in A ball are fairly low as a result.

So now, without any further ado, let’s dive into the rankings. The names at the top should be very familiar to you.

1. Javier Baez, SS
Projection: One of the best hitting middle infielders in baseball
Risk: High. Strikeouts are a concern.
ETA: Soon.

2. Kris Bryant, 3B
Projection: An above average hitter with exception power who could star at third or in right.
Risk: Medium high. He is more disciplined than Baez, but he hasn’t been tested against Double A pitching yet.
ETA: Late 2014.

I’m not sure what else there is to say about Baez and Bryant. Both have ceilings that are sky high and both looks like fairly safe bets to at least reach the majors, but in both cases there are some red flags. Baez has an aggressive plate approach that amplifies the swing and miss inherent to his game and creates a not insignificant risk that his strikeouts will prevent him from fulfilling his apparent destiny as a league leading slugger. He will be working on refining that in Iowa, and I honestly think he can do it, but for now the risk remains. Bryant, according to most scouts, is a more disciplined and polished hitter than Baez and should not be too far behind Baez in reaching the majors – a few months, most likely. But even though the reports on Bryant are more encouraging, he too has some swing and miss to his game. That, combined with his lack of experience against the upper levels of the minors, keeps his risk elevated a little higher than some might expect.

I am very high on both these hitters and would not be at all surprised to see them anchoring the lineup in Wrigley by the end of the year. I actually like Bryant more as a hitter, but Baez wins the top slot by the thinnest of margins due to his extra defensive versatility.

3. Jorge Soler, OF
Projection: Powerful, bat first outfielder with a strong arm.
Risk: Medium high. There are no red flags on his stat sheet, but he has yet to take on Double A.
ETA: Late 2014.

4. C.J. Edwards, RHP
Projection: No 2 or No 3 starter
Risk: Medium. If he doesn’t make it as a starter, he should he a quality high leverage reliever.
ETA: 2015

5. Albert Almora, OF
Projection: Gold glove candidate outfielder who hits for average.
Risk: High. Injury has slowed him, and he has a long way to go to reach Wrigley.
ETA: Late 2015

I suspect some torches and pitchforks have come out by now. Soler takes the No 3 slot because he has more power than Almora, and has already shown a disciplined plate approach that should allow him to move quickly once he can stay healthy. Almora, while he shows signs of being a gifted hitter who could develop at least average power, right now is a guy whose value relies very heavily on his ability to get on base. He did a nice job of that last year, but he did so in Low A and with a pedestrian walk rate. I love the reports of the bat, but for now Soler’s extra power and higher level success gives him the edge between the two.

In the case of Edwards, I still buy into this guy as a starting pitcher. Until he shows he can’t handle the workload of a starting pitcher I am content to leave him in that category, and a starting pitcher who shut down High A is a valuable guy to have. Ranking him over Almora is not a shot at Almora, but an indication of how highly I think of Edwards.

6. Arismendy Alcantara, 2B
Projection: Potential leadoff hitter with 15 HR / 35 SB potential.
Risk: Medium. He’s nearly ready, but needs to prove himself against Triple A first.
ETA: 2014

7. Pierce Johnson, RHP
Projection: High quality mid-rotation starter.
Risk: High. There are still some concerns that his delivery may lead to arm problems.
ETA: 2015.

8. Jeimer Candelario, 3B
Projection: Above average hitter at third or first.
Risk: High. There are some questions about his glove, but the bat looks very good for his age.
ETA: 2016

9. Kyle Hendricks, RHP
Projection: Good back of the rotation starter. Maybe a No 3 guy if his control holds up in the majors.
Risk: Low. He could step into a starting job in Chicago at any time.
ETA: Very soon.

I might be a little high with Hendricks, but he slips into the top ten by virtue of being effectively major league ready right now. He might be the best control pitcher to come out of the Cubs farm system in a generation, and I am really looking forward to watching how he handles the majors.

10. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP
Projection: Shut-down reliever.
Risk: Low as a reliever. If the Cubs move him back to the rotation, jump this to Medium high.
ETA: Soon.

I’m not concerned at all by Vizcaino starting the year in Daytona. That just makes sense to me. I suspect he’ll be in Wrigley sometime in the middle of the summer.

11. Mike Olt, 3B
Projection: Slick fielding third baseman with above average power.
Risk: Medium low. He’s reached the majors. Now, can he hit there?
ETA: Now!

Had he opened the season in Iowa that Risk would read Medium. I hope Olt can hit, but I’m not buying in completely just yet. I really like what he can do with the glove, though.

12. Dan Vogelbach, 1B
Projection: He’ll hit. I’m not sure where he’ll play, but he’ll likely hit for both power and average wherever it is.
Risk: High. I’m not worried about the bat, but in a NL system he needs to stay on the field to stay in the lineup, and his defense at first needs a lot of work.
ETA: Late 2015.

13. Corey Black, RHP
Projection: Mid rotation starter.
Risk: Medium high. He has the stuff be a power pitcher in the rotation, but still needs to prove it against Double A. Some scouts still think he is a reliever.
ETA: 2015

This is likely as high as you will see Black ranked because of size-based fears he can’t stay in the rotation. His raw stuff is some of the most electric in the farm system, though, and seems that when he came to the Cubs he began to attack hitters more as opposed to working the edges for the perfect pitch. That is a trend I like and hope to see continue.

14. Rob Zastryzny, LHP
Projection: Mid-rotation starter.
Risk: Medium. He already pairs quality pitches with good command.
ETA: Late 2015

In the case of Zastryzny, this is probably a cautious ranking. If he does well in Daytona to start the season I suspect he will move up to Tennessee as soon as the Cubs can make an opening, and in that scenario he will likely move up this listing as well. Of the Cubs 2013 class of pitchers, I think he definitely has the best chance to carve out a spot in a major league rotation for himself.

15. Christian Villanueva, 3B
Projection: Excellent defender at third who will at least hold his own with the bat.
Risk: Medium low. The glove is ready now, and the bat showed pretty well in Double A.
ETA: Late 2014.

16. Josh Vitters, OF
Projection: Average starting outfielder.
Risk: Low. His bat should produce enough for the outfield if his glove can let him stay there.
ETA: Mid-2014.

I know the torches and pitchforks are out now. A large and very vocal contingent of Cub fans can’t understand why Vitters hasn’t been cut yet, but I still see a guy who has hit very well in Triple A in his age 22 and 23 seasons (when healthy). He needs to show he is healthy and get some repetition in the outfield, but I think he can at worst claim a platoon role in Wrigley sometime in the middle of the season. Based on what he has done in Iowa, I would not be at all surprised if he takes the everyday left field job and produces an OPS in the high .700s vicinity.

17. Paul Blackburn, RHP
Projection: Starting pitcher with front of the rotation potential.
Risk: Very high. He’s young and he’s a pitcher. That’s a near automatic very high risk.
ETA: 2016?

18. Ivan Pineyro, RHP
Projection: Back of the rotation starter.
Risk: Medium. If the improvement he showed after being traded to the Cubs holds up, he’ll be just fine.
ETA: 2015

I’m basing Pineyro’s risk on the assumption that the numbers he posted post-trade for the Cubs are for real. If he can sustain that kind of performance he is in very good shape. If those figures prove to be sample size aberrations, though, he reverts back to being a higher risk guy. Blackburn, on the other hand, has a ceiling nearly as high as his risk. He is one of the best young arms in the system, but those young arms all come with a ton of risk attached.

19. John Andreoli, OF
Projection: Fourth outfielder, but one you can dream on as a leadoff guy.
Risk: Medium low.
ETA: Late 2014 or 2015

I may be a little high on Andreoli, but as the Cubs become more starved for OBP in the majors I look more fondly on guys in the minors who can get on base consistently. Regardless of where he does play I think he’ll be a fan favorite.

20. Neil Ramirez, RHP
Projection: Middle of the rotation starter or high quality reliever
Risk: Medium low. Walk rates are a bit of a concern.
ETA: 2014

21. Dallas Beeler, RHP
Projection: Back of the rotation starter who could eat up a lot of innings.
Risk: Medium. He has lower strikeout rates than some other pitching prospects, but can be effective despite that.
ETA: Late 2014

Ramirez and Beeler are both hard to project. Depending on who you believe, these guys could be mid-rotation starters, fairly forgettable middle relievers, or career Triple A players. Ramirez needs to corral the walks if he is going to make it in the majors, but his ceiling is sometimes listed as high as a No 2 starter. Beeler, on the other hand, reminds me in some ways of Randy Wells. That may not sound like the most positive of comparisons, but remember that Wells had two pretty good years for the Cubs before his career began to fade.

22. Rubi Silva, OF
Projection: Quality fourth outfielder who should deal some damage from the plate.
Risk: Medium high. His ultra-low walk rate in Tennessee is concerning, but the rest of the numbers look fine.
ETA: 2015

Silva came practically out of nowhere to put up some very solid numbers for Tennessee, even allowing for his somewhat older age. If he drew walks at a normal rate and if it hadn’t been for Baez, he would have been the story of the summer for the Smokies.

23. Dillon Maples, RHP
Projection: He has the stuff to be a front of the rotation starter, but it is tough to say how close to that he will come.
Risk: Very high. A reworked delivery led to control issues last summer that set him back quite a bit.
ETA: 2017

Maples had a surprisingly disappointing season, but one that came with a fair bit of positiveness behind the scenes. The Cubs reworked his mechanics, something that led to control issues as he worked through the kinks, but the result should allow him to maximize his two plus pitches and hopefully reduce his injury risk. He is injured again now (broken rib, out eight weeks), and the main thing is just that he gets back on the mound and stays there for awhile.

24. Eric Jokisch, LHP
Projection: Back of the rotation starter.
Risk: Low. He could step up to Chicago as soon as an opening appears.
ETA: Sometime in 2014.

I’m high on Jokisch, so it sort of surprised me that he wound up this low on the list.

25. Jacob Hannemann, OF
Projection: Some compare him to Ellsbury, but I’m thinking a high average, good defensive outfielder is more likely.
Risk: Good question. Hannemann is a special case.
ETA: Another good question.

By normal metrics Hannemann is already a little old for the low minors, but normal metrics don’t apply in this case. Instead of going straight to college out of high school, Hannemann literally left baseball for two years to perform a mission trip. By calendar years he is old for his league, but by experience he really isn’t, and he has only been playing for a single season post mission trip to boot. It will take time and plate appearances for him to knock of the remainder of the rust and start to catch up to his age. The Cubs will be patient, I think, but when he starts to rise some think he could move up in a hurry. Don’t be surprised if he in the discussion for a top ten slot on this list by the end of the year.

26. Corbin Hoffner, RHP
Projection: Back of the rotation starter or set up guy.
Risk: High. He had plenty of success in short season ball, particularly in the strikeout department, and that bodes well.
ETA: 2016

27. Duane Underwood, RHP
Projection: He has the stuff to evolve into a No 2 or No 3 starter in time.
Risk: Very high. This ranking is all about projection, and there is a ton of development to be done before that projection hits reality.
ETA: 2017

Hoffner put up some of the best numbers in the low minors for the Cubs last season, but he has flown somewhat under the radar. Underwood, on the other hand, has been squarely on the radar since he was drafted. He has a ceiling that is very high, but he falls down to this ranking due to his also very high risk.

28. Matt Szczur, OF
Projection: High quality fourth outfield.
Risk: Medium low. Every year he focuses on baseball he makes improvements, and he’s already pretty good.
ETA: Late 2014. He could be up anytime the Cubs need an OF this summer.

I don’t think Szczur is likely to have more than doubles power in the majors, but he has the ability to drive the ball into the gaps and the speed to take advantage when he does so. The safest prediction is for him to take a Reed Johnson like role on the bench, but every year scouts and analysts watch him and come away saying that he looks like he has a future as a good major league center fielder.

29. Tyler Skulina, RHP
Projection: His hard fastball could work at the back of a bullpen or, with enough supporting stuff, at the front of a rotation.
Risk: Medium high. He’s far from the majors and has quite a bit of work to do.
ETA: Late 2015. As a collegiate pitcher, he could move a little faster than this.

30. Zac Rosscup, LHP
Projection: Potential set up man. He’s very effective against right handed hitters, so I don’t see him becoming just a lefty specialist.
Risk: Low. He could join the Cubs at any time.
ETA: 2014.

Just because of who else was in that trade, Rosscup was overlooked by many when Tampa sent him to Chicago along with Garza, and his arm surgery did not help his status any. Since coming back as a pure reliever, though, this guy has emerged as a very nice prospect. Rosscup had an impressive FIP of 1.02 against lefties in the minors last season, but his FIP against righties as an also good 2.54. It is very possible that Rosscup is next the series of high quality, home grown, Cubs lefty relievers that includes Sean Marshall and James Russell.

31. Shawon Dunston, OF
Projection: Very fast center fielder who should be a weapon on the basepaths.
Risk: Medium high. He’s young and raw, but he did walk more than he struck out last year. I love it when prospects do that.
ETA: 2016

This is a cautious ranking. If Dunston repeats his short season performance from last season with Kane County this summer, he will move up these rankings dramatically. That’s actually a fairly reasonable scenario. Because so many players who sign out of college go to the short season league, the talent at that level is about even (and for some teams even a little higher) than what we often see in Low A.

Over a full season we could see a 40 steal campaign paired with an OPS around .800 out of Dunston. That’s not bad at all.

32. Dustin Geiger, 1B
Projection: Starting first baseman.
Risk: Medium. His numbers were right about what I’d expect for his level.
ETA: 2015

33. Stephen Bruno, INF
Projection: Hard to say. He destroyed Daytona over a short stretch last season, but I’m not sure how much stock to put in that.
Risk: Medium. The Cubs jumped him to Double A, and that is a nice vote of confidence.
ETA: 2015, maybe. If all goes well, it could even be late this season.

Geiger and Bruno put up some good numbers in High A last season, and both are rewarded with a trip to Tennessee. This was expected for Geiger, and I expect he’ll hit 20 or so home runs for the Smokies. In the case of Bruno, though, it comes as something of a surprise given that Bruno had so little time in High A before his season ended last spring. One of the key stories to watch as the season unfolds is how Bruno handles Double A. If he find it as easy as he did High A, the Cubs could have another infield prospect surging up the charts.

34. Kevin Encarnacion, OF
Projection: Starting outfielder, and possibly a very good one.
Risk: High. He breezed through Boise last season (1.111 OPS versus right handed pitching), but higher levels probably won’t be that easy for him.
ETA: 2016

The main thing for Encarnacion is to get healthy, and then get back on the diamond after his car accident over the winter. At last report he was recovering in Arizona, but I don’t think we can expect him to get right back into baseball action as if nothing had happened. If he can recover fully by mid-summer, his progress in a full season league could be another story well worth following.

35. Gioskar Amaya, 2B
Projection: Starting second baseman.
Risk: Very high. He held his own in the Midwest League, but his numbers were down across the board.
ETA: 2016

36. James Pugliese, RHP
Projection: Starting pitcher.
Risk: High. Even though he dominated short season ball, he’s still a young pitcher and those come with risk.
ETA: 2017

37. Zeke DeVoss, OF
Projection: Tough question. He walks and steals a lot, but does not hit much. Fringey fifth outfielder is probably safest projection here.
Risk: Medium. His walk rate with Daytona was phenomenal (15.2%) and that bodes well for his ability to move up the system.
ETA: Late 2015. As the outfield picture grows more crowded, he may have a hard time finding a chance to prove himself.

38. Matt Loosen, RHP
Projection: Back of the rotation starter or middle reliever.
Risk: Very high. When he doesn’t have his control, he doesn’t look like a guy with a major league future.
ETA: Late 2015.

Loosen tossed a no hitter for Daytona, then went back to Tennessee some weeks later and looked pretty good. If you catch him on the right day he looks like a mid-rotation starter, but the consistency has not been there. He is creeping up in age, though, so if he doesn’t break out soon he could be passed over as the army of arms just behind him start to move up.

39. Marco Hernandez, SS
Projection: Good defensive shortstop or utility infielder.
Risk: Very high. He has done a lot with the bat the past two seasons.
ETA: 2016

40. Bijan Rademacher, OF
Projection: Quality left handed bat to stash in the outfield or on the bench.
Risk: Medium. So far the number have been good, including in the BB% and K% departments.
ETA: 2016

The Unranked

I typically don’t rank players who have not yet played in the United States. While there are stats and scouting reports on those players, the stats in particular are often suspect due to the uncertain and often uneven quality of the competition faced by those players. A lot of my work is based on stats, so rather than try to interpret those numbers I generally just don’t rank players until I have Stateside stats.

This year that means there are four players left off this list who otherwise might have been on it. Eloy Jiminez (OF) and Gleyber Torres (SS) are the stars of the 2013 international free agent class, and both are getting a great deal of respect among scouts and analysts who have seen them play. Both are solid candidates to appear somewhere in the top twenty here.

Jen-Ho Tseng might be one of the three best pitching prospects in the Cubs system. He impressed a panel of scouts, including representatives from Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus, during spring training with his velocity and the movement on his pitches and shot up the rankings in the aftermath. It will be interesting to see how he handles the Midwest League this spring.

And they we have the second best name in the minors, Greyfer Eregua. A right handed pitcher, Eregua put up one of the best pitching lines I have ever seen come out of the Caribbean leagues last summer. When a guy has a WHIP of 0.854 and a K/BB ratio of 14.00, he gets my attention. He would likely have slotted in the lower ranks of the list.

And that’s the list. No doubt you disagree with some of it, but I hope you enjoyed it. Keep an eye on the Bleacher Nation Sunday feature “This Week In The Minors” after the draft for a mid-season (and much shorter) reranking of the Bleacher Nation Top 40.

  • http://obstructedview.net Myles

    Gioskar Amaya is going to make your placement of him look awfully foolish this year. Other than that, solid list.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      I had him a lot higher last year. A lot higher.

      And I’m still fairly high on him despite his somewhat lackluster year.

      • Spriggs

        I remain very high on him too, but I think where you have him is a pretty good call. He was indeed somewhat lackluster last year. I expect more this year from him.

  • Darth Ivy

    When do we get the “BN Top Commenters Ranking”?

    • Funn Dave

      1. Funn Dave
      2. Everyone else

  • lnfihDeL

    Idealy, i’d like most of these players on the MLB club when their ready, some as starters, some as platoon man, and some as backups.

    The future is bright.

  • joejoe234

    The list looks pretty solid to me. The one thing that I think I would change would be to flip Soler and Almora. Other than that though it looks great. Love how deep our farm system is getting. I still have opening day tickets for sale, unfortunately I can’t go. They are press box view, I attached a picture on the message board. If you are interested I’m selling them under face value because I want someone from BN to enjoy them. If you’re interested check out the message board.

  • Hee Seop Chode

    That’s a lot of 2014 call ups. This will be the first Cubs team since 2009 adding tallent in the second half of the season, which is awesome.

    • Hee Seop Chode

      *adding tallent to the MLB roster

  • Funn Dave

    Pumped to give this a real read-through when I get home.

  • DallasCubs

    Good analysis and thanks for the insight. Well done.

    I’m intrigued to learn your background as some of the rankings are puzzling based on the at-bats I saw in Spring Training. Almora is uber polished at the plate and I would have a hard time ranking him below Soler, especially when it comes to risk. Based on what I have seen and read, Almora is essentially a lock to play GG caliber defense and hit for average in MLB, with his upside being something much greater than that as an All-Star level player for many years. Just my opinion, but his approach is much more refined than Soler’s.

    Also, curious on the Late 2014 ETA for Soler? Is this because he is technically already on an MLB contract so Cubs won’t worry at all about Super Two arbirtration clock? Just curious, as I see the Cubs really taking their time with Soler given the holes in his swing.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Soler is already on the 40 man roster, so if he handles Double A there is no reason to not give him a September call up.

      As I said in the intro, ETA is simply when I expect him to arrive at all. I am not predicting that Soler will not return to the minors in 2015, for example.

      • Soda Popinski

        I was also really surprised to see Soler ETA at 2014. It made me have to think about what year this is.
        …yes, this season.

        • Soda Popinski

          And happy to read that BTW

    • Brocktoon

      Soler’s contract can be ripped up whenever he wants. The only way it would affect his being called up is that they don’t have to worry about burning options, as they already will have every year he doesn’t break camp with the big league team.

  • Jason P

    I’m 100% behind your Andreoli ranking. I think he’s going to surprise some people with his combination of hitting/patience that could lead to some .340+ OBP campaigns in the majors.

    • KHRSS

      I agree. Andreoli has played well and gotten on base at all levels, something the cubs desperately need.

    • ced landrum

      Yeah I can’t get behind him behind ranking him in top 20. Im not sure i would have him in my top 40 even.

      • ced landrum

        Apparently I was in a hurry. I meant to say I can’t get behind him being ranked in the top 20

  • Jon
    • Jon

      Sounds like they can’t afford the renovations.

      • Kyle

        Like a year or two I joked that they were trying to provoke the rooftops into a fight so they’d have an excuse to delay the renovations they can’t really pay for.

        I meant it as a joke, but in the last year there’s been more and more stuff that at least fits with that as a theory.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        Sounds like business people considering taking advantage of huge appreciation on an investment. Take a little off the table, lock in gains. Pretty standard if you’re not trying to further a narrative.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          In other words, whether they sold Ameritrade stock or a (non-controlling) chunk of the Cubs to finance the deal, what’s the difference?

          • Jon

            Selling even a non-controlling portion would require approval from MLB, which is a process in itself. It’s just curious, this being introduced so late into the game.

      • lnfihDeL

        Ehhhh, I wouldn’t go that far. After all, baseball is a business and higher revenue is higher revenue.

        • Jon

          It’s also another liability on the balance sheet

          • gocatsgo2003

            Sale of an ownership stake (i.e. equity) would do exactly zero to move liabilities.

  • PejaO42

    Ehhh 4:37 is late enough to call it a day at the office and read this bad boy. Thanks Luke!

  • Rebuilding

    Nice list, Luke. I know you will take some crap for Soler/Almora, but I think your reasoning is sound and I appreciate you stepping out on a limb.

  • GoCubsGo

    Nice list! Soon just became the most exciting word in sports.

  • Spriggs

    Luke,
    Do you hold out any hope for Paniagua?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Yes. He could be a positive story this year, but at this point I think he has a lot to prove. He did not miss this list by much.

  • ssckelley

    It is hard to not get excited looking at this list, and there were so many more names you could have easily put in the top 40. The Cubs are solid up and down the minors this year and I will be looking forward to your daily minor league report (I assume you will still be doing them).

    About the only thing that jumps out at me is how high you have Vitters ranked and no mention of Watkins. The lack of a catcher is noticeable, but understandable, Remillard is someone we need to keep an eye on. Erick Leal is an arm that might have made my top 40 list and I still think Loux has a chance (if he can ever get healthy).

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Watkins and Leal were in the last five cut from the list.

      And the Daily will be back (starting tomorrow) on the same schedule as last season.

  • another JP

    Great job again Luke… I enjoy reading your take on Cubs prospects. It was nice to see you have Edwards and Hendricks rated as high as you did since I believe both will really help the Cubs when they reach Chicago.

    The one guy I’m most excited about is Bruno. I think he’s a top 15 talent and will pick up where he left off before he was injured last season.

  • Spriggs

    Great job Luke. I love the Dunston piece.

  • Kyle

    re: Andreoli
    I’ve seen *way* too many of these guys come and go. Older college player, no power, draws a ton of walks in the low minors to prop up OBP.

    The OBP disappears in the majors and they hit 210/290/290 in the bigs, if they ever get there. I call it Bobby Hill Syndrome.

    • Crockett

      Exactly.

      • KHRSS

        That was funny but Andreoli did pretty good when he got to Tennessee last year. Hopefully he can keep it up this year.

        • Kyle

          He hit .289/358/398 at AA last year. It’s not terrible, but I’m not going to call that “pretty good” either. The OBP plummets at AA, then plummets again at AAA and it’s gone by MLB.

    • ssckelley

      First of all AA is not low minors and Andreoli did fairly well last season after his call up to Tennessee. Secondly you seen *way* too many of these guys come and go well how about the players that DO make it? Dustin Pedroia, Matt Carpenter, and Jon Jay were all college bats that did not have a lot of power in the minors but a good OBP. A player like Bobby Hill comes up today I am sure he has a longer career now than Bobby Hill did 10 years ago.

      I get the odds are stacked against him, but so are the odds on many of those players listed in the top 40. But that does not mean one of them won’t be that one to beat the odds and have a nice MLB career.

      • Crockett

        So, I’ve been away from the board for a long time and am unsure what type of poster you are, but comparing Andreoli to those three…is a joke.

        Please go compare minor league stats (look at SLG, specifically) and realize that Andreoli is a full tier or two behind those other fellas offensively.

        He’s a 5th outfielder.

        • ssckelley

          I love people that come on here and label a 23 year old prospect like he is garbage. The comparison is a good one, those 3 players hit a few home runs than Andreoli has but none of them were considered big power guys. Besides the OBP is what I am debating Kyle on, not his power numbers. Andreoli obviously is a speed guy not a power guy.

          His ceiling is an everyday center fielder and if you cannot see that then you need to learn how to evaluate prospects a little better.

          BTW, your comparison to little Campana, who had no arm, is awesome!

          • Crockett

            That is not his ceiling. His CEILING is a 4th OF.

            His reality is most likely a 5th OF or aan AAAA guy.

            That doesn’t mean he’s “garbage”. It just means Luke fell in love with a prospect and is somehow overlooking his enormous flaws. Your mistake was comparing him to players who are DRASTICALLY better than he is.

            • ssckelley

              Show me a scout report that says his ceiling is a 4th outfielder. Perhaps you don’t even know what a ceiling is.

              • Crockett

                Show me one…from a legitimate national guy…that even mentions Andreoli as a guy? I looked around earlier and couldn’t find one. That, suffice it to say, eliminates your thought of an average MLB centerfielder as a ceiling.

                • mjhurdle

                  “That, suffice it to say, eliminates your thought of an average MLB centerfielder as a ceiling.”

                  well, i guess if random internet posters lack of internet search skills somehow related to the a players, then that would suffice.

                  but seeing as how it doesn’t, i guess we will just have to say it is still up in the air.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

              You do realize that despite those “enormous flaws” I’m allegedly overlooking, I still rate him very similarly to you. You say fifth OF, I say fourth OF… that’s not exactly a massive difference.

              Don’t read too much into the “but one you can dream on as a lead off guy” comment. People around here very, very obviously dreamed on Campana as a lead off guy, and I think when Andreoli gets to the majors he will get a similar reaction.

              • ssckelley

                His ceiling is a 4th outfielder?

                • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

                  Projection, not ceiling.

                  In this case the two are somewhat close together because I suspect Andreoli’s game is going to translate fairly well to the majors. I don’t think he’ll be a particularly stand out fourth outfielder, not a Reed Johnson type, for example, but will be a guy who lends positive value to the team at the plate with his OBP and steals while playing above average defense in center and well above average defense in the corner outfield slots. A good candidate for a double switch in the later innings on an NL team, for example.

                  I have some concerns about his arm in right (haven’t seen him make that throw too many times), but not enough to knock him much for it.

                  • mjhurdle

                    Sounds like a ceiling of Jon Jay, with more speed and slightly less power.

                    • Crockett

                      Considerably less power, actually. Based on minor league numbers.

                    • mjhurdle

                      i would maybe hedge to less power, but i don’t see the ‘considerably less’ part in his numbers, unless you only look at the high water marks for Jay, and not the years he slugged less than Andreoli.
                      Even in the bigs, Jay’s slugging has dropped every year to the .370 from last year.
                      Jay is a 5-8 HR, .400 SLG a year guy.
                      IF, and it is a big if, Andreoli puts it all together, he could be a 2-5 HT a year, .370-.390 SLG type player

                      jay has more power, but not a significant amount, at least not imo.
                      And all of that assumes that Andreoli is able to translate his numbers successfully to the bigs.

                  • Crockett

                    I think we just disagree on his game playing well in the Bigs.

                    And his arm is what I would call average. It reminds a lot of DeJesus’. It plays down in RF but is probably adequate in CF and LF.

                  • ssckelley

                    It doesn’t help that he plays a corner outfield position, a place you expect more power. For some reason I assumed he was a center fielder.

      • Kyle

        Minor league SO

        Pedroia 145
        Carpenter 151
        Jay 134
        Andreoli 089

        One of these things does not belong.

        • Kyle

          *Minor league ISO

          • Crockett

            For curiosity’s sake, what was Campana’s minor league ISO?

            • Kyle

              In the .060s, IIRC. Andreoli definitely has a bit more power than Campana.

              • Crockett

                But Andreoli is much closer to Campana than the others. #notshocked

        • ssckelley

          Nice job moving the goal post.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      And, for the record, I would have no objections to having a Bobby Hill type on the Cubs right now. A major league career OBP of .343 would not be a bad thing in the batting order, even if it didn’t come with any power.

      • Jon

        I wouldn’t mind Bobby Hill either as long as we could trade him for a future all star Thirdbaseman

      • Kyle

        Adjust for era

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          Honest question – does OBP need to be adjusted post steroid era? And if so, which way? Pitchers were juicing too.

          I haven’t dug up any studies on this yet, so I’m really not sure what correction I’d want to make.

          • Kyle

            League average OBP 2004: 335
            League average OBP 2013: 318

            We’re in a seriously pitching-strong era. Average velocity is at an all-time high.

            • DocPeterWimsey

              The biggest part of the drop is in BA rather than isoD: BA has gone from 0.266 in 2004 to 0.253 in 2013; isoD has gone from 0.069 to 0.064.

              I think that BA on grounders has dropped quite a bit over the last decade: it was was about 0.255 when people first were working out xFIP, and it’s down to 0.240 or so now. (That’s from memory: it might be off.) That suggests that shifts and positioning, as well as increased GB:FB ratios, is having an effect.

          • Brocktoon

            Really?? Offense is down across the board.

    • ced landrum

      Yeah except Bobby Hill was a really good player/prospect who had a back injury that derailed his career. Andreoli is just a nice player.

  • Crockett

    I am very bearish on Andreoli. He’s Tony Campana.

    To have him ranked above Neil Ramirez? Come on, Luke.

    We’ve disagreed in the past and this easily the biggest miscalculation you’ve made.

    • Serious Cubs Fan

      Andreoli is not Campana. Better hit tool and better approach. Campana’s speed and bases stealing instincts were much better then Andreoli’s. (Not a shot on an Andreoli), Campana is the best base stealer in the league, maybe only behind Billy Hamilton now.

      • Kyle

        Career minor league BA/K%

        Andreoli: 293/17.8%
        Campana: 299/16.8%

        Where’s the better hit tool?

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          You’re comparing the career numbers of a guy through his age 27 season to a guy through his age 23 season.

          And they are very similar despite the fact that Andreoli was in Double A at roughly the same age Campana was in Low A and that Campana’s numbers are padded by three seasons in the hitter friendly PCL.

          The gap is not huge and I would not argue that Andreoli has a superb hit tool, but in person, on tape, and on the stat sheet I like Andreoli’s hit a little more than Campana’s.

          • Kyle

            So wait, you think that Campana having faced the upper minors a lot while Andreoli has put up most of his PAs in the low minors means that Campana’s stats are the ones that are padded?

        • Serious Cubs Fan

          I agree with Luke. I was contending that Andreoli has a good hit tool, just better then Campana’s. Its not that hard to be much better then Campana I realize. Similar but different players

          • Crockett

            Well, I wasn’t saying Andreoli IS Campana either…just that’s the comp that most closely fits. He’s a lot more Campana than he is the guys kelley listed.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      I freely admit that I’m probably a little high on Andreoli, but I do have object to the Campana comparison. Andreoli is better in the field, is a better hitter, and hits for more power than Campana did, and isn’t far short of him in the speed department.

      I can understand the case for moving Ramirez higher (and as I noted, some see him as a future No 2 guy, a valuation that would kick him up into the top 10 somewhere), but I look at his Triple A BB/9 (4.0) and HR/9 (1.1) and see a guy who is more likely ticketed for the middle of the bullpen than the front of the rotation. If he can cut back on the walks and do a better job keeping the ball in the ballpark this year, his ranking will jump up a lot.

      • Crockett

        I would caution your “more power” usage strongly. Andreoli’s power is a 25 at best and while Campana’s is a 20, youre treading on thin ice here.

        I’ve seen Andreoli in person 8-10 times and I saw a good career minor leaguer. He’s not Adam Eaton or even Denard Span.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          I am absolutely not predicting that Andreoli is some sort of a future slugger here, but I do see his power as being a clear step above Campana’s (which, to be honest, isn’t saying much).

          If you disagree, nothing wrong with that.

          • Crockett

            But…Neil Ramirez??!!?!?!?!?

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

              “I look at his Triple A BB/9 (4.0) and HR/9 (1.1) and see a guy who is more likely ticketed for the middle of the bullpen than the front of the rotation.”

              I like his stuff, but guys who give up a lot of walks and a lot of home runs don’t tend to have a lot of major league success. I think he could be a good case to be the next Derek Johnson Improvement Project, but I’m not going to rank him on that assumption.

              If he can cut back on the walks and home runs, he’ll jump up this list.

    • Jason P

      At similar ages, Campana’s wRC+ in A+ and AA was 91, and 112. Andreoli’s was 130 and 122.

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    I thought that after the good spring he had that Jokisch might have been a little higher. But I agree that Soler gets to Wrigley before Almora. Alcantara is the guy I have my eye on. I just wonder where he will fit in when all of the infield drama shakes out. Thanks Luke you do good work!

  • E

    I’m higher on Dunston, but I’ll admit I’m a sucker for Lake-esque players with raw tools.

  • lnfihDeL

    If they play well this year (not too well) I see Olt, Lake, Barney Schierholtz, Bonifacio all on the trade block.

  • Serious Cubs Fan

    I have never seen Jacob Hannemann play. What does his speed tool grade at? Good instinct? I’ve heard he has speed but I want to know what type a speed on a 20-80 scale. I’ve heard Almora is semi slow and graded at a 50. My guess is Hannemann is at 60-65. Baseball America rated him the Cubs best athlete in the system. He was quick enough to play cornerback at BYU

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      I believe I have seen a credible report that had Hannemann at a 65, but I can’t find the link right now and freely admit that my memory could be way off on that.

      He is fast, though, and I’m looking forward to seeing how his speed and athleticism translate into baseball this year.

  • JulioZuleta

    Nice job Luke. There’s always some quibbling that could be done, mostly based on one’s personal tendencies for prospect rankings (I’m very “ceiling-focused”). I think I might have added a couple of the pitcher’s from last year’s draft, but with so little (if any) pro experience for some of those guys, I get why you left them off. I really hope some of the 2012 draft arms take a step forward this year. Other than Blackburn, I think it was a fairly disappointing year in 2013 for that group.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      A list that weights ceiling more highly would look rather different. I do put more emphasis on risk than a lot of other folks do.

  • Serious Cubs Fan

    Luke: Bummer not to see Ryan McNeil on the list. Guy has a #2 ceiling, IMO. Definitely has a huge risk and is hardly played due to injury but I’d still put him in my top 40.

    Correct me if I’m wrong but you tend to emphasize a players floor more then most, who tend to rank with ceilings (myself included)

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      I tend to emphasis risk more than floor. I love the ceiling on McNeil and really hope he can come back, but I see him as risky enough to knock off the list.

      Although, to be fair, you could slot him just about anywhere under 25 or so and I probably won’t argue. Once you get past a certain point the prospect get so close together that there are many perfectly defensible rankings.

  • JulioZuleta

    Biggest omission for me would be Carlos Penalver, but again, I’m a ceiling guy and I tend to get overly excited by players at the lower levels. Probably would have added Trey Martin too. Probably Zych and Paniagua too,. Maybe Jae Hoon Ha too…I think he might end up being a little better than Szczur. Nothing too glaring though.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      All very good candidates.

  • Alan Griffin

    Thanks for the prospect porn, Luke. As a relative newcomer to the minor league system, I appreciate the info. I was pleasantly surprised to see so many pitchers on the list. Not many TOR candidates, but quantity has a quality all its own and, as with all prospects, some will flame out while others will light it up. Really excited to see who’s on the latter list going forward. Thanks again!

  • Serious Cubs Fan

    I really can’t wait to see Stephen Bruno play again. One of the most intriguing middle infielders in the cubs system, IMO. I really want to believe the hit tool is good, but I want to see it at AA before I’m full believer

  • MightyBear

    Great job Luke. Thanks again. Can’t wait for the daily reports.

  • Jon

    Kris Bryant HR!

    • Jon

      Off Mat Latos too!

    • Kyle

      Awesome, but dang it. Baez and Bryant were coming up at the same time and I chose Baez. Got to watch him BB, at least.

  • another JP

    Bryant HR, Alcantara 2B, Baez BB, Rusin not real good so far….

    • willis

      Wonderful start for the bats, but Rusin is so, so bad. I wish they’d just cut ties with him. There’s a glut of pitching (or soon will be) at AAA and he’s just taking starts from someone who actually could be worth a shit some day.

      • Kyle

        Not right now he’s not. Maybe in a year. But for now he’s stealing starts from no one.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          Agreed. Right now he’s staying ready in case the Cubs suddenly have need of a guy to fill in for a few starts in Chicago. Every team needs guys like that.

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