Winter is the time for lists, rankings, predictions and projections. So far, for the Cubs, winter 2016 has been almost entirely about the MLB team. Just yesterday, for example, Brett was inclined to ask if the Cubs rotation really was the best in baseball?
But it wasn’t always that way. In the past, February has historically been about prospects and the minors. Top overall players, top prospects by position, top systems, etc… It was life for fans of a last place team in the middle of winter. In that spirit, let’s take a break from the MLB lists, rankings and projections, and focus on some prospect notes from the Cubs world …
- Over at BP Wrigleyville, Rian Watt takes a look at the ascent of Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez, with quotes from Cubs’ Assistant Director of Player Development & International Scouting Alex Suarez. Both players, Watt is told, are still filling into their already big frames and have been improving at the plate and in the field. According to Suarez, the biggest improvement for both has been at the plate. Both have increased their bat speed and have seen results in the way the ball comes off their bats.
- According to Suarez, Jimenez’s biggest strength is his power. His frequency of hard contact is increasing as he better learns the strike zone and his body. Torres’ biggest strength, according to Suarez, is his hand eye coordination and advanced understanding of the strike zone. You’re going to want to give this article a read, as there is plenty of interesting bits throughout, including the likely starting levels of each player.
- Luke wrote about Jimenez earlier today, if you missed it.
- Over at FanGraphs, Chris Mitchell updated his KATOH’s Top 100 list by making several changes to improve the overall accuracy of the model. Aside from the nitty and gritty math stuff, the biggest changes were extending the WAR window through age-28 for players older than 22, and relying on multiple previous seasons of statistics. Below, are the updated rankings of the Cubs players, with their former ranking in parenthesis, based on how much WAR they will produce during their first six MLB seasons:
- Gleyber Torres, 11 (Prev: 44)
- Albert Almora, 46 (Prev: 8)
- Wilson Contreras, 72 (Prev: 20)
- Falling off the (former) list entirely is Billy McKinney (previously 12 overall) and Jeimer Candelario (previously 43 overall). So, overall, the changes downgraded the Cubs quite a bit. Torres and Almora effectively switched positions while Contreras fell precipitously and McKinney and Candelario fell off entirely. Still, it’s important to remember that this is merely a statistics-based projection/ranking system, so it’s only one data point to include in the overall picture.
- At CSN Chicago, Tony Andracki writes about Dan Vogelbach’s journey to MLB and how the designated hitter conversation greatly impacts that ascent. For what it’s worth, Vogelbach says he isn’t worried about the designated hitter (or being blocked by Anthony Rizzo), and is instead working on being the best overall player he can be (by emulating Anthony Rizzo, for what it’s worth).
- To me, this isn’t as big of an issue as people make it out to be, quite yet. Vogelbach might ultimately be blocked at the Major League level by Anthony Rizzo at first base (or the absence of a DH), but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Vogelbach might start the year back at out AA Tennessee, and from there might spend plenty of time at Iowa, working on his power stroke, before he breaches the Major League Cubs. He was excellent in AA last year, with a .403 OBP and just plain ridiculous 18.2% walk rate, but his power (.425 SLG and .154 ISO) has not yet shown up in full. These things have a tendency to work themselves out. So let’s all be patient and see what happens in 2016.
- Love for Cubs pitching prospects:
— Jim Callis (@jimcallisMLB) February 1, 2016
- And not so much love for Ian Happ’s chances of sticking at second base:
— Jonathan Mayo (@JonathanMayo) February 1, 2016
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.