Obstructed View’s Top 20 Cubs Prospects

1. Brett Jackson OF AAA

The Math —  The 23 year old, 2009 1st round pick has a slash line .261/.339/.494. Astronomical strikeout rate (33.8%), but he still has a 114 wRC+.

The Good — Despite the K's Jackson has still been a productive player. He gets a ton of XHB's with his speed and has plenty of pop from CF. He steals bases very well. Plays a prime position and is one correction away from being a potential superstar.

The Bad — Strikes out like the love child of Adam Dunn & Mark Reynolds. His contact problem only seems to be getting worse. Walk rate is down as well.

Prediciton — Will finish the year in Iowa and maybe get a cup of coffee in Sept. Will win a starting job in 2013. Don't see a productive future for him unless he can get that K rate back to at least 25-30%. Likely hits in the .240/.320/.450 range. Maybe a couple 20/20 seasons. 

2. Javier Baez SS A

The Math — 19 years old. 2011 1st Round Pick. Slash line .303/.375/.484. wRC+ 160. He already has 13 stolen bases and has been caught just once.

The Good – Everything so far. He is even more impressive when you watch him play. Great swing and works the count to his favor. High energy player.

The Bad — Doesn't walk as much as you would like. A little swing a miss to his game. Too early to see any major flaws.

Prediction — Who the hell knows with a younger player, but considering an entire industry has sprung up to provide this very guesswork let me say that the only thing keeping Baez out of the top spot is that I tend to skew towards guys who have done well at the upper levels of the minors vs potential and projection. That said, Baez seems to possess all the tools necessary to become a big leaguer. I think we see him in Daytona next year or maybe in AA if he really takes off. Scouts believe he'll be moved to 3rd base, but he has more than enough bat to play there.

3. Jorge Soler OF AZL

The Math –– 20 years old. 2012 Int'l Free Agent. Huge contract.

The Good — Scouts love him. He looks like a ballplayer

The Bad — Nobody has seen him play yet. Its all projection.

Prediction — MB and I talked about not putting guys like Pierce Johnson or Almora on the list even though by virtue of having a heartbeat Johnson would be a top 5 arm in our system but I couldn't resist with Soler. I was a major bandwagon supporter for this guy and I like the fact that the scouts that BA & KG talk to both thought this guy was a top 10 pick. So lets just be conservative and say he will hit HR's the way Billy Hamilton steals bases.

4. Matt Szczur OF A+

The Math — 22 years old. 5th round in the 2010 draft. Large signing bonus. Improved walk rate leading to an OBP 100 points higher than his .273 average. Batting line is .273/.373/.383, which is good for a 126 wRC+. He's stolen 28 bases already this year and was voted the Midwest League's best defensive outfielder in 2011.

The Good — You have to love the fact that we are seeing an increase in walks as the level of competition increases. Especially considering this is his 2nd full year as a pro player. When you take a raw athlete like Szczur was out of college what you hope to see are adjustments as they focus and learn more about baseball and so far we have. Very good at stealing bases and plays an athletic CF.

The Bad — Not a lot of power so far. Have seen reports that talk about how he uses his athletic ability to get to balls in CF vs running the correct route. 

Prediction — Both of us are pretty high on this guy right now. I could see him being the leadoff hitter going into the 2014 season.

5. Josh Vitters 3B AAA

The Math — 22 years old. Drafted in the 1st round of the 2007 draft. Batting .302/.356/.509 with a wRC+ of 115. He's improved his walk rate to 6.7% while his strikeout rate remains what it's been the last 2 years. His .207 ISO is his best since it was .219 in 2009 (hadn't topped .180 since).

The Good — His production never dropped off a cliff as he advanced. He has been young at every level so far. Blossoming at the right time. Scouts have always raved about his swing.

The Bad — Never shown this kind of production before. Defense still a question mark at 3B and will never hit enough to be a force at 1B. Walk rate is still low. While he's young he's been in the minor leagues since 2007. Age is important, but so is service time. On the plus side, he's never stalled at any level. 

Prediction — Call me (dylanj) a Vitters believer. I think we have found a guy who will give us league average or better production at the league minimum for the next several years. Vitters wasn't a reach at 3, scouts always loved him (said he was the best high school bat in the country) and I think he will prove them right starting in 2013 when he locks down the starting 3B job.

6. Jeimer Candelario 3B A-

The Math – 18 years old. 2010 International Free Agent. Born in the US, but moved to Dominican Republic. Baseball America says if he'd stayed in the US he'd have been drafted in the 1st round in the draft last month. Instead, the Cubs got him for $500,000, which is a bargain compared to what a team would have spent in the draft. All he's done so far is crush professional pitching. He's batting .337/.379/.517, which is good for a wRC+ of 174.

The Good — Everything so far. He's killed it at every level. One of the youngest players for his team at every level as well.

The Bad — Only been at two levels. Has a stiff body and won't stay at 3B so will need to keep hitting to keep value in LF or 1B. 

Prediction — This guy has as much potential as anybody in our system. He has what you want to find which is great stats to verify the love scouts show him. He is also doing it at a young age. He's too far away to make any MLB debut prediction but like Baez he has the tools needed to be an impact player.

7. Junior Lake SS AA

The Math — 22 years old. International Draft. He's hitting .286/.335/.404 (104 wRC+). He walked a lot early in the season and flashed a lot of power, but has since reverted to the guy who doesn't walk much and doesn't hit for much power. Still 22 and already in AA though.

The Good — At times has flashed about every tool you can. Incredible physical makeup. Strongest arm in the Cubs system IF or OF.

The Bad — Has never put together a complete season. Doesn't walk enough. Still a poor SS. 

Prediction — Really hard to say. I think the Cubs give him another year as a position player to make it or flame out before moving him the mound. He has a absolute cannon for an arm.

8. Dan Vogelbach 1B AZL

The Math — 19 year old drafted in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft. All he's doing is hitting .331/.391/.629 (156 wRC+). Not even 100 plate appearances in his career so far so it's difficult to know how good he really is, but the guy can hit.

The Good — Scouts loved the bat coming out of the draft. Has hit so far. Lost some of the weight he had as a HS player.

The Bad — He's still a fat, questionable defensive 1B playing in the NL. Which means he needs to hit like a motherfucker to ever matter. 

Prediction — He hits well enough next year that he becomes a trade chip to an AL team and the Cubs move him.

9. Gioskar Amaya SS A-

The Math –He posted a .377/.417/.510 line last year in the AZL (136 wRC+), but that was in large part because of .458 BABIP. He's been at Boise this season (minus one game at AAA) and has seen his BABIP dip nearly 100 points, but he's increased his walk rate slightly and has about the same strikeout rate. Despite the much lower BABIP, Amaya is hitting .306/.359/.482. That's good for a .399 wOBA and a wRC+ (151) even better than last year. Not a slugger, but has an ISO of .176. 

The Good — Hits the ball very well. Has produced everywhere he has been so far.

The Bad — Not a lot of power there. Needs to improve the walk rate. 

Prediction — Peoria next year. 

10. Ben Wells SP A (disabled list)

The Math — 19 year old drafted in the 7th round of the 2010 draft. Only 2.2 BB/9 in his first taste of pro ball last season and a nice 3.51 FIP. This season he'd increased his strikeout rate and also decreased his BB/9 below 2. He was having a fantastic season. He only had 3 starts this year last 5 innings or longer (longest was 5.2 innings). 

The Good — All his advanced stats are trending in the right direction even as he moves up in the system. Adding velocity to his pitches. Really heavy sinker could play well in Wrigley if he ever gets there.

The Bad — His elbow has exploded. Don't know if we will get the same guy back.

Prediction — We won't really know what we have here until 2014.Keep your fingers crossed.

11. Welington Castillo C AAA

The Math — 25 year old international free agent. He's been on the Cubs 40-man roster since 2010 and is more than likely out of options after this season. Batting .247/.395/.393 this year in AAA. Last year in AAA he accrued a lot of his value through power (.238 ISO), but this year it's been his ability to get on base (.153 ISO). He's been in AAA for parts of seasons going back to 2008. 

The Good — Has done about all you can in the minors by being a productive guy year in and year out. Had at taste of MLB action.

The Bad — May not be better than Clevenger. Probably not an everyday catcher. 

Prediciton — Should form a good tandem with Clevenger once Soto leaves. Expect to see him up full time starting next season.

12. Marco Hernandez SS A-

The Math — 19 year old international free agent. His .861 OPS in rookie ball last season (and his position) is why he's here. He's slumped this season. In 2008 the Cubs rookie team had Starlin Castro and Junior Lake split time and both made the league's top 20 prospects for Baseball America. In 2011 they had a couple other shortstops splitting time who made the same list in Gioskar Amaya and Marco Hernandez. He has potential, but hasn't hit well after the promotion this year.

The Good — Best true SS in our system. Still young for his level.

The Bad — Has been pretty much awful this year. 

Prediction — Will probably head back to Peoria once Baez gets promoted. 

13. PJ Francescon SP A+

The Math 23 year old drafted in the 40th round of the 2011 draft. He had an excellent pro debut last year striking out over 27% of the batters and walking under 5%. Strikeout rate has dropped to 15.8% in High A and the walk rate remains solid at just over 6%. He allowed only 4.7 hits per 9 in Peoria this year, but it's jumped to 9.2 in Daytona. He's a little old for Daytona, but was a late round pick who completed 4 years of college. 

The Good — Dominated Peoria earlier this year. Stuff seems to be improving. 

The Bad — Hasn't been nearly as good in Daytona so far. Small sample size but a 5.94 K/9 isn't going to cut it. 

Prediction — Will continue to be the best healthy starter we have by default until some of 2012 guys get their feet wet. Will probably start the year in Daytona next season.

14. Alberto Cabrera RP AAA

The Math — The 23 year old international free agent was a starter last season and not a very good one. He was converted to the bullpen this year and there's really only two things you need to know: he's thrown only 45.1 innings between AA and AAA and his K-BB% is .25. He has struckout 30.9% of the batters he faced this season and walked (plus hit by pitches) 5.9%. This is AA/AAA, but to give you an idea how good this is, the best reliever in history (Mariano Rivera) had his best season in 1996 and his K-BB% was .226. I'm not comparing him to Mo. That would be silly. I'm just providing a reference point for those unfamiliar with a good K-BB%. 

The Good — Has been totally filthy since moving the bullpen. Video game numbers. Keith Law described his fastball as one of the best he's seen from any prospect period. 97 mph with plus plus sink.

The Bad — It's only been about 50 IP so we don't have  big track record here. Law also said he lacked a true secondary pitch.

Prediction — We will see him in the pen this year. 

15. Ronald Torreyes 2B A+

The Math — 19 year old international free agent was the high upside player the Cubs received in the Sean Marshall trade. His only bad stint up to this season was 68 PA in 2010. He then tore that league up last year and had a 144 wRC+. He got off to a slow start this year, but has started hitting of late (season wRC+ of 91). He's young for Daytona too. His 4.6% walk rate in A ball last year has jumped to 7.6% this year in the more difficult league. His strikeout rate is just 6.6% and he's been a victim of BABIP this season (.240). 

The Good — Has really hit at every level despite being young. Walk rate improved this year. 

The Bad — It seems that his bat fell of a cliff this year but his BABIP is .240. Its always been over .350 before this season. 

Prediction — I'm still a big believer in this guy's bat. Before this season his career #'s were damn similar to Starlin Castro's. He's a long way from the majors but I think he is the best 2B prospect we have. I hope he gets a crack at AA next season but wouldn't be surprised if they make him repeat the level.

16. Michael Burgess OF AA

The Math –– The 23 year old was drafted in the 1st round by the Washington Nationals in 2007. The Cubs acquired him for Tom Gorzelanny. Burgess has been an above average hitter his entire career and this year in AA is no different. His .368 wOBA is good for a 126 wRC+. He got an 87 PA taste of AA in 2010 with the Nationals and struckout in 30% of his plate appearances. This year it's down to 15.9% and he walks in over 9% his plate appearances. He has the organization's strongest arm in the outfield and while his power is down a bit this year, Jim Bowden once called it "thunderous". 

The Good —  Been productive at every level. Cut down the K's. Always had a decent walk rate.

The Bad — Repeating AA. Old for the level. Might be an org type player. 

Prediction — Burgess is a hard guy to evaluate. On the numbers alone he seems pretty legit but the fact that nobody like BA or BP talks about this guy might mean scouts see something we don't. He needs to head on up to Iowa. 

17. Arismendy Alcantara SS A+

The Math — 20 year old international free agent is hitting .306/.341/.453 in a league with a .701 OPS. His wOBA and wRC+ is .367 and 128. Alcantara joins Javier Baez, Junior Lake, Gioskar Amaya and Marco Hernandez on our list of shortstops. The Cubs are rich in talent up the middle. Arguments could be made for Alcantara being higher on this list. 

The Good — Terrific offense for the Florida State League at a premium position.  Excellent basestealer. 

The Bad — I've never heard anyone say his defense was even average. Scouts don't seem to be that excited by him.

Prediction — He gets bumped up to AA next season. 

18. Logan Watkins 2B AA

The Math — 22 year old drafted in the 21st round of the 2008 draft is from the home state (KS) of the two people writing this post. With the exception of 2010, Watkins numbers have been above average everywhere he's played. He has a solid walk rate of 11.4% and a decent strikeout rate (16.8%). He doesn't hit for a lot of power (career .378 slugging), but he does have above average speed. He's stolen 72 bases in his career and already has 16 this year (5 shy of the most he's had in his career in a season). He wasn't a great base-stealer early in his career, but the last 2 seasons he's stolen 37 bases and only been caught 9 times. After hitting all of 1 home run in his first 3 seasons he's muscled up and combined to hit 9 over the last 2. 

The Good — Plays multiple positions. Does a little bit of everything offensively. 

The Bad — Doesn't excel at anything. May not hit enough to make the bigs.

Prediction — Watkins could turn out to be a nice utility player. We will see him in Iowa in 2013. 

19. Zach Rosscup RP AA

The Math –– The 24 year old was drafted by the Rays in the 28th round of the 2009 draft. He's 24 already and hasn't even thrown 150 innings in his career, but the results have been there. Prior to this season he had FIPs of 2.38, 2.85, 1.83 and 3.50 at his various stops. He hasn't allowed a run this season, but has only thrown 9 innings. 

The Good – Was pretty good as a starter in Daytona last year and got hurt. Just recently made his debut working out of the pen so far this year and has been filthy. Has pitched well every at every level he has been at.

The Bad — Old for his level. Has trouble staying healthy. 

Prediction — If he can stay healthy and pitch like he has he will be the greatest pitcher of all time. This has a 0.00001% chance of happening. Let's just hope he can stay healthy for now.

20. Trey McNutt SP AA

The Math — The 23 year old was drafted in the 32nd round of the 2009 draft. He quickly took to pro ball and dominated the low minors (through High A). A big warning sign sounded in his brief 15.2 inning stint at AA as his strikeout rate plummeted from over 10 to just 7.5. Despite that, his career numbers were awesome to that point and he was ranked as the 48th prospect in baseball entering 2011. Since then he's remained at AA and has seen his strikeout rate drop 3 years in a row while his walk rate has gone the wrong direction too. 

The Good — Still has good stuff as I've heard the fastball is still in the mid 90's with a big breaking ball. This should translate well to the bullpen.

The Bad — Just totally fell off this year. At best we are looking a pen arm. 

Prediction — Becomes a serviceable relief pitcher. In Chicago by next year. Could pitch in the upper 90s out of the pen.


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