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Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America
2012 (14) | 2011 (16) | 2010 (14) | 2009 (27) | 2008 (18)

2012 Affiliate Records
MLB: [61-101] NL Central
AAA: [53-87] Pacific Coast League – Iowa
AA: [72-68] Southern League – Tennessee
A+: [59-74] Florida State League – Daytona
A: [63-75] Midwest League – Peoria (Kane County beginning 2013)
A(ss):  [37-39] Northwest League — Boise

Arizona Fall League PlayersMesa Solar Sox
Dae-Eun Rhee (RHP); Kevin Rhoderick (RHP); Nick Struck (RHP); Tony Zych (RHP); Logan Watkins (2B); Rubi Silva (OF); Matt Szczur (OF)

Graduated Prospects
Anthony Rizzo (1B); Steve Clevenger (C); Welington Castillo (C)

The Run Down
Since Theo and his gang arrived, it’s been evident that the Cubs are on a better track.  They traded for Anthony Rizzo, they signed Jorge Soler, they drafted well (it seems that way, at least), and they’ve added much-needed depth to their farm system via deals with Atlanta and Texas.  In just one year’s time, it’s quite impressive how improved this system is.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt when 2011 draftees, Javier Baez and Dan Vogelbach, break out with huge statistical years.  Still, the bottom-up impact that the Epstein-Hoyer regime has had on this organization cannot be denied.  If it’s lacking anywhere, it’s in the starting pitching department — there simply aren’t many high-profile arms coming up.  But the Cubs have ample dough to work around that shortcoming with signings at the big league level.  It might be a few more years until they’re contenders in the NL Central, but it’s clear that that they’re headed in that direction.  Oh, and there’s quite a bit of fantasy impact in the names below too.

Top Ten Prospects
1.  Javier Baez, SS:
  In 57 games at Low-A Peoria, Baez posted a .979 OPS, along with 12 homers and 20 steals.  He was quite clearly the most advanced hitter in the Midwest League at that point, so the Cubs bumped him to High-A Daytona, where regression took hold.  During his 23-game stint in the Florida State League, Baez hit .188/.244/.400, leading some baseball folks to question his approach.  For me, though, the poor stretch is nothing more than a minor blip — lots of guys struggle out of the gate at a new level; lots of guys struggle down the stretch of their first full season.  He might ultimately end up at third, and as he fills out physically, the stolen bases will dwindle, but Baez will hit, and he’ll hit for plenty of power.  The 20-year-old will likely return to High-A to begin 2013, but expect to see him in the upper levels at some point this year.  ETA:  2015

2.  Albert Almora, OF:  The 5-tool 18-year-old went 6th overall to the Cubs last June.  Scouts raved about the polish he showed in a brief but impressive pro debut (.321/.331/.464 in 33 games between instructional and short-season ball).  Almora will move up to Low-A in 2013, making his full-season debut with Kane County, the Cubs new Midwest League affiliate.  ETA:  2016

3.  Jorge Soler, OF:  I wrote a brief scouting report on Soler shortly after he was signed by the Cubs.  You can read that here.  Enormous power potential is the main attraction.  The soon-to-be 21-year-old will likely join Almora at Low-A this April.  I imagine Kane County — just 45 minutes or so outside Chicago — will draw very well with that duo in the outfield.  ETA:  2015

4.  Dan Vogelbach, 1B:  Vogelbach is a bad-bodied (read:  tubby) 1B with big time potential at the plate.  In 283 PA between instructional and short season ball, he hit .322/.423/.608 with 41 XBH (17 HR).  He’s a prospect in the mold of Matt Adams.  There’s a Prince Fielder-type ceiling, but there’s little room for error, as he won’t be able to play anywhere but first.  Vogelbach will likely join the aforementioned dudes in Kane County for his full-season debut.  ETA:  2015

5.  Brett Jackson, OF:  Grey went over his Brett Jackson fantasy back in November.  He writes, “I could see a June call-up and a line of 25/9/30/.230/15 in 300 ABs.  Definitely worth a NL-Only and keeper league flyer, but in most mixed leagues, we’ll wait until June to grab him off waivers.”  Seems on point to me, but do keep an eye on the Cubs CF battle this spring.  ETA:  2013

6.  Matt Szczur, OF:  Szczur hit .295/.394/.407 with 34 stolen bases in 352 PA at High-A before a rough 34-game stint at Double-A.  The tools are real, but some scouts wonder if he’ll be able to put it all together, despite his outstanding makeup.  If he can, he’ll end up as a gap-power guy with plus-plus speed.  ETA:  2014

7.  Arodys Vizcaino, RHP: Vizcaino missed all of 2012 to Tommy John.  The Cubs will allow him to return to full-strength before summoning him to the bigs, but once he’s up, he’ll serve as a quality late innings guy, and could find himself in the closer role if Chicago can swing a deal for Marmol in-season.  ETA:  2013

8.  Pierce Johnson, RHP:  Johnson was the 43rd overall pick last June out of Missouri State.  An injury-riddled history is cause for concern, but the 21-year-old brings good size and a nice fastball-curve combo has gives him mid-rotation potential.  If he can stay healthy, he’ll climb the ladder quickly.  ETA:  2015

9.  Dillon Maples, RHP:  Along with size and athleticism, Maples brings a deadly fastball-curveball combo.  Like Johnson, though, Maples is an injury risk.  Also, the 20-year-old is yet to pitch above the instructional level.  2013 will be an important year for Maples as he tries to stay healthy and reach full-season ball.  ETA:  2016

10.  Kyuji Fujikawa, RHP:  He’s 32.  Had to get that outta the way early, because he’s thirty-friggin-two, for chrissake.  Brett Jackson is the next oldest guy on this list at 24, which is basically ancient for prospect purposes.  Still, Fujikawa put up some exciting numbers in Japan (1.36 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 12.4 K/9), and he’s primed to serve as the Cubs’ set up guy to begin the season.  He could come in handy in fantasy leagues if the K-rate is healthy, or if he happens to fall into some save situations.  ETA:  2013

From Around The Web

  1. Good stuff, thanks. Hey, in a keeper league would you trade Gerrit Cole for Javier Baez? Context is I’m currently in cellar and trying to rebuild for long-term. I have Cole but thinking I should build around young power bats but is Baez upside as high as Cole’s? Thanks!

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      Very close call, but I like your long-term strategy & Baez is a top-5 hitting prospect. Cole is closer & arguably safer, but I say go Baez for rebuilding in a dynasty format.

  2. Thanks, amigo; I was about to decline and hold onto Cole so please recognize that you have the power to change one’s perception. What are you, a drug?

    And while I have you on the line, which of these infield prospects do you prefer for the long haul and/or upside:

    Nick Franklin, Trevor Story, or Eddie Rosario?

    Please ignore if I’m asking too much.

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      If only that worked for me with women, too…

      Story for upside & long haul, then Franklin & Rosario is a distant third. And always feel free to keep the questions coming!

  3. Roger Lodge says:
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    I had pretty mixed feelings about this Almora kid when they first drafted him. Can you blame me after the mixed results on Vitters, the last big high school draft pick I can remember… though closing the book on Vitter’s career is a bit premature right now as well. However, Albert looks like the real deal. I’d like to see him suppress the power in an Ichiroesque kinda way and become the lead off hitter we need. Also, could it be that Theo is the one, Morpheus?

    • UncleLarryWalker says:
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      @Roger Lodge: I’d love to see Vitters put it all together, we could really use some new blood at 3rd. I’m a lifelong cubs fan, and I’ve never been so optimistic about at team that should lose 90-100 games. They are young, and have almost NO payroll beyond this year. Things could get real exciting.

      • Scott Evans

        Scott Evans says:
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        There’s certainly reason to be excited. Realistically, 2015 is a good target year for the Cubbies to return to prominence in the central, but I could see them surprising folks in 2014.

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      Plenty of time for things to go wrong, but I’m excited about Almora. He certainly could wind up at the top of the order, but he’s also got a skill set that could turn him into a Carlos Gonzales, 20-20 type outfielder. That’s obviously best case scenario… And it was always my thought that Castro would work well at the top of the order. His OBP has dwindled since 2010, but I still think that’s where he’d fit best, especially as the lineup gets more crowded with some of these prospects.

      And Theo is as savvy as any baseball exec there is. If anyone can bring the Cubs to the WS, it’s him. I wonder if Ricketts consulted the Oracle before his hire?

  4. Sean says:
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    Cubs still see Vizcaino as a starter, not a reliever.

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      Their plan is to stretch him out as a starter, yes. That’ll allow for the quickest recovery, but his skill set is tailored for late innings. I have little faith that he’ll have the durability to cut it as a starter long-term.

  5. TheNewGuy says:
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    Hey Scott thought id share out my keeper questions between you and Grey (been getting bombarded before our upcoming prospect draft. With this one I need a catcher and like the idea of V-Mart keepable for as little as $4:

    I get V-Mart ($1) and 1st round prospect pick

    for

    Craig ($3) or Butler ($7) or Medlen ($6) and 2nd round prosp pick

    Would give me two 1st round picks at 8 and 10 (not ideal but Id still get a couple gooduns), but is it worth giving up one of my nice keepers? (Id lean towards losing Medlen, not quite sure what his level really is).

    Also for use in the prospect draft what prospect rankings site do you like the most?

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      Where would the 2nd round pick fall? If you’re only moving up a couple slots, not sure this deal is worth it for ya… Really tough to measure Medlen’s value at this moment, and I’m not sure I’d do it for Craig or Butler.

      And when’s your prospect draft? I’m working on my top 25 fantasy prospects for 2013 — that’ll run on Weds. But if you’re drafting sooner, or if you need a broader scope, I like John Sickels (minorleagueball.com, free) & the boys over at baseballprospectus.com ($). But it’s always a good idea to draw from as many sources as possible, so don’t ignore fangraphs, mlb.com, baseball america, etc.

      • TheNewGuy says:
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        @Scott Evans:

        It’s in a couple of weeks I think man.

        My 2nd round pick would be 20th overall so pretty shabby- we use a straight draft system introduced this year….yeah very snazzy lol. So it would be a fair upgrade from 20th to 8th.

        If you dont know how to value Medlen is it an ok idea to offload him then? Let the other guy decide how many years to offer him etc. :)

        • Scott Evans

          Scott Evans says:
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          Yeah, I’d say moving up 12 slots justifies the deal, then. I also like the thought of letting some other guy worry about how to handle Medlen. And don’t get me wrong here, I like Medlen, but when it comes to these keeper situations, he’s especially hard to gauge.

          • TheNewGuy says:
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            @Scott Evans:
            Great. Just what I thought, yeah Medlen is really hard to value it terms of what length contract to give him.

            One last thing I better check before I give the go ahead. Do you like V-Mart ($1) more than Yadi ($3) also? Hes actually given me a choice (rare generous owner!), im scared off by Yadis big career year so outve nowhere. V-Marts been solid every year when healthy, whod you like most?

            • Scott Evans

              Scott Evans says:
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              I’d be more concerned with VMart coming off of injury than I would with Yadi coming off a career year. Yadi’s the safer, better choice in my eyes.

              • TheNewGuy says:
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                @Scott Evans:

                Did it for Yadi, never realised how awesome he was last year. Actually shipped Craig instead of Medlen, I wanna see what he can do in his followup year.

                Thanks for the ranking sites too, looking forward to seeing yours!

              • TheNewGuy says:
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                @Scott Evans:

                And outta these signing options which do you like the best:

                Renewable year ($9), 1 year ($6), 2 years ($9), 3 years ($12).

                Im thinking 2 years should be worth it, amazing year from Yadi reckon he can repeat?

                • Scott Evans

                  Scott Evans says:
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                  I would’ve dealt Medlen instead of The Wrench, but I see where you’re coming from in wanting to see what Medlen can offer this year.

                  2 years for Yadi seems like the best option. And you may remember that I’m an unapologetic Cardinals fan, and as such, yes I think he can repeat last year’s production. The guy gets better every year it seems, but he’ll turn 31 in July, so you gotta wonder if he starts to fall off in the next years. But I think you’re safe with Yadi for 2 years at $9.

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