Here is part 2 of my 3 part series examining the Cubs system. Part 1 was the Honorable Mention portion. Here is the link to Part 1:
I had planned on having all 3 parts done before now but things have been busy. Part 3 will be a look at the potential prospects we could land with our top 4 picks in the June draft. Hopefully I will have that post ready within a week after this posting.
Rankins - I'm often asked how I arrive at my rankings. I'm not a scout nor do I claim to be but what I do is compile information from sites like Baseball America, minorleagueball.com, Baseball Prospectus, Project Prospects, fangraphs.com as well as articles, chats, and talking to others who have seen some of these guys play. I take all the stuff I read and attempt to make an informed opinion about prospects.
I'll touch on the 2 rankings that will be the most controversial and will differ from conventional lists. Maples at 13 is 5-8 slots lower then any other list that I have seen and I'll explain why (also see my write up). His FB/CB combo is great but he comes with an awfullot of questions to answer concerning delivery, mechanics, and command. Now I know many H.S. pitchers come with many of these same concerns but I'm wanting to see some pro data and that he will be able to throw strikes. I was not encouraged by his small sample size in instructs and that could be chalked up to rust but the problems I read about all fit with the questions that need to be answered before I'm comfortable ranking him higher. His arm/raw talent is top 5 I agree but let's see how he does in his debut.
Junior Lake made BA top 10 @ #8 and I have him at 17. There is no doubting the tools but the PD actually regressed in 2011 even though he repeated High A for half the year. Some will point to his AFL showing of .296/.352/.548 triple slash line but the AFL rarely sees many top pitching prospects and this year was said to be even worse then normal so it's got to be taken with a grain of salt. I like Lake but unless he can cut down on his K's, draw a few more walks, and improve his pitch recognition, I not only don't see a ML regular but hard to even see a UTL.
On a whole don't get to tied up in exact slots. In the 21-30 slots you can make a case for most of the HM guys slotting in the the back end of the top 30. This is just my list but you should look at the guys profiled on the whole and see how deep the organization is. Saying guys like Maples, Lake and McNutt could easily have a case to be much higher and I can agree. Feeling guys like Candelario and Rhee should be ranked lower is a prudent statement also. It's just a list and nobody will agree totally on how me or anyone else ranks guys.
System Overview - Strengths - In just 2 short years the organization as added much needed power prospects. Rizzo, Vogelbach, Golden, and the emergence of BJax power give us the type of bats the system used to lack, Also signings of guys like Acosta and Candelario as well as others gives the system more potential impact bats. The system, especially the lower minors, is flush withup the middle talent. Our CF prospects might be the best depth in baseball starting with BJax and extending to Szczur, Easterling, Dunston Jr., Chen, Trey Martin, and Jeffrey Baez. The Cubs also show a good number of power arms for the bullpen. We target arms with above average GB tilt. The system has a ton of intriguing players in the low minors.
Weakness - The system is devoid of LHP that profiles as much more then middle relief if even that. The system also lacks PD on a whole. Our biggest weakness is true starting pitching. Now we have some interesting arms but most come with questions concerning their ability to start long term at the ML level. Even the 3 top SP pitchers I rank (Rhee/McNutt/Maples) come with some questions about their ability to start long term.
OF. Jorge Soler - Cuba - IFand I mean IF we actually signed Soler (who we have been heavily linked to) he would come in 4th on this list. Now as we see with Cespedes going to the A's it's a crap shoot as to where these IFA's will actually go no matter what is being reported.
Scouting Report - I have read that scouts say he has GiancarloStanton (formerly Mike Stanton, Miami Marlins) power. That is a true 80 on the scouting 20-80 scale if what is being reported is accurate. He's 19 and won't be ML ready for at least 2 years, probably more like 3 starting probably at low A if/when he signs. 6'3 205 with a muscular thick build. Has above average speed currently (6.55 60 yard dash) but will slow down as he gets older.
Plus bat speed and I touched on the power potential. Has a discerning eye and recognizes breaking pitches well for a player of his age. Scouts are split on how well he will hit for average. Currently a CF but will move to RF with maturity and has a excellent arm. 1 of the best bats Cuba has produced in the last 20 years.
1. CF. Brett Jackson - 23 - AAA/ML - 4 above average tools. K% will probably hold down his AVG but high walk total should help negate that. He works counts and is patient something the Cubs lineup has lacked in years past. Could hit anywhere from 1-5 in the batting order giving our lineup badly needed flexibility. Best case scenario is 260-280 20/20.
2. 1B. Anthony Rizzo - 22 - AAA/MJ- Much need 1B with plus power. He also has he potential to hit for decent AVG as well as drawing a healthy amount of walks. Needs to make adjustments with his swing as it can get long and was exploited in his initail ML trial. He will strike out a lot as Jackson also does but they both should fill 2 HUGE needs for the Cubs line up: Left handed bats with power as well as the ability to work counts and run up pitch counts.
3. SS. Javier Baez - 19 - Low A - Highest upside in the system. Has amazing bat speed, above average power, and the potential to hit for high average. Will move off SS to 3B but his plus arm and SS petigree should make it very realistic.Will need to tone down aggressiveness and answer maturity questions. Has drawn Gary Sheffield and Hanley Ramirez comps.
4. CF. Matt Szczur- 22 - High A - Plus-plus speed with a knack for barreling the ball. Potential plus defender. Showed some pop in 2011 hitting 10 HR in 447 AB. Hardnosed athlete who is lauded for his makeup. Scouts are somewhat split on him ranging from Mike Trout-lite to 4th OF. If everything comes together I could see a Jacoby Ellsburytype player maybe even with some of the power Ells showed in 2011.
5. RHP. Dae-Eun Rhee - 23 - AA - Stuff finally rebounded after TJS in 2008. FB was 88-92 before adding 2mph late in the year. I think after seeing the uptick in stuff as well as his dominating August and playoff performance that he is primed for a breakout. Also offers the systems best CU, featuring bothsink and fade. Has a solid CB. Profiles as a #3 with some potential to be a #2 considering his stuff and pitch-ability.
6. C. Wellington Castillo - 25 - ML - I'll be honest I have never been a fan but I can't deny the results over the past 2 years in AAA (28HR in 466 ABs in AAA). Defense has made strides and offers a plus arm. Will probably never hit for much AVG also he does not draw many walks and strikes out a lot. Best case scenario is a player similar to Rod Barajas. At least profiles as a decent back up maybe more.
7. 3B. Josh Vitters - 22 - AAA - The knock is his PD and rightfully so but still has a K% in PAs of 15.6. Drew a career high 22 BB this past year. Remember he will be just 22 and in AAA this year. His work ethic is good and has worked hard to improve his PD and D. Can hit for AVG and power has improved each year. He's neither as bad as ppl have made him out to be or as good as his initial SR. I think he has a good chance of being a league average 3B hitting 280ish with 15-18 HR. Has made strides defensively.
8. 1B. Dan Vogelbach- 19 - SS-A/Low A - I was not enamored with this pick in June but he has grown on me. True plus-plus power all the more impressive because its to all fields. Excellent PD and above average hit tool. I like what I saw in his small sample size in AZL and instructs. Advanced enough to start in Peoria.
9. RHP. Trey McNutt - 22 - AA - Had a disappointing 2011 plagued by injurys. Callis reported he had a 70 FB/CB after the 2010 season. More realistically he has a 55 to 60 FB/CB combo with his FB being a bit straight and leaving it up some. Lot's of questions here. Mike Newman said with his high effort delivery he profiled better as a reliever. While 2012 is not a make or break year it will go a long way to giving us better feel for his upside and whether or not he can continue to start.
10. 3B/1B. Jeimer Candelario - 18 - AZL- Outstanding bat speed from both sides of the plate profiling as a plus hitter. Candelario is a gifted offensive player who excelled in the DSL. While I normally don't put much stock in DSL stats his numbers actually fit his scouting reports coming into the season. Has excellent PD for a player is age and should hit for at least average power. 297/361/459 4/5 BB/SO in instructs. Not bad for a 17 year old kid in his stateside debut. I'm much higher on the "Candyman" then most but I feel he's so advanced he could start at Boise with the potential to finish the year in Peoria.
11. RHP. Dallas Beeler - 23 - AA - 2009 TJS allowed him to drop for an absolute steal in the 41st rd. in 2010 draft. 89-93 mph FB that has run and induces a good number of ground balls. Has a hard CB that has potential as well as nice CU with sink. Athletic with the potential for above average control (just 13 BB in 95 IP). Jumped from Low A to AA in 2011.
12. 2B/CF. Zeke DeVoss - 21 - High A - Has the tools to be a classic leadoff hitter with his plus-plus speed and on base skills. Draft-eligible sophomore could have possibly gone in the 1st round this year if he had returned to school. More BB (33) then SO (32) in his pro debut. Lacks power and if he can't stick at 2B can move back to natural CF.
13. SS. Marco Hernandez - 19 - Low A - Pofiles to stick at SS with solid range and above average arm. Handles the bat well, plus speed, and gap power.
14. RHP. Dillon Maples - 19 - AZL - This is will be by far my most controversial ranking as he is in most ppl 5-8 range. Maples has a great arm featuring a 92-97 mph heavy FB and a hard plus CB which he commands better then his FB. Had a top 50 grade grade for the 2011 draft but fell to the 14th rd. and signed for 2.5 million because of a strong UNC commitment. While I like Maples I am cautious because of command issues, high effort delivery, short arm action, and stiff front leg finish.
15. 2B. Ronald Torreyes - 19 - High A - Advanced approach and was just 18 in the MWL last year hitting .356. Shows just 35 power. Has the tools to be an average ML 2B. Hit tool is plus and has a knack for putting the sweet spot of the bat on the ball. Best case scenario is Placido Palonco type player.
16. RF. Reggie Golden - 20 - Low A - Impressive bat speed that produces well above average power potential. Swings and misses a lot but has improved PD and pitch recognition. 29.4% K rate will need to improve against better pitching in the MWLin 2012. Has a strong arm that will play in RF but his above average speed is slowing down and will continue with his physical maturity. Has drawn Kevin Mitchell comps.
17. SS. Junior Lake - 22 - AA - Has among the best tools in the system but PD is also among the worst. 70-75 arm and 1 of the best in the minors. Above average power and speed is average to slightly above average and better underway but has shown he is improving and learning how to steal bases as evident by his 38 SB (6CS) in 2011 compared to 13 SB (9 CS) in 2010. Repeated high A in 2011 but PD actually regressed (8.8 BB% 25.1 K% in 2010 to 2.9 BB% 24.5 K% in 2011 @ high A). Will move off SS but has arm for 3B or RF.
18. RHP. Ben Wells - 19 - Low A - Groundball specialist who posted an incredible 3.8 GO/AO ratio last year. Heavy FB that sat 87-90 early then saw an uptick to 90-94 by the end of the season. His SL flashes plus and his CU can be solid giving him a nice 3 pitch mix. Soft body but is athletic and repeats delivery well. Has plus mound presence. Could really breakout in 2012. Best case scenario is a Derek Lowe type and maybe a little more.
19. RHP. Rafael Dolis- 24 - AAA - Another guy with heavy GB tilt. Has some of the best stuff in system showing a FB that can touch triple digits ranging from 93-100 that is very heavy. An inconsistent SL sitting mid-80s that looks plus at times. With this stuff he should miss more bats. 5.9 K/9 @ AA is not gonna cut it as a late inning power reliever. To be fair he was working on throwing more strikes so he sacrificed power for control. Needs to show me he can miss more bats.
20. OF. Jae-Hoon Ha - 21 - AA - Most probably would like to see him rank higher but he is a 'tweener/4th OF type rather then ML regular. There is still enough to like. Deceptive power, decent speed, and cannon arm. Not enough power for RF but not enough range for CF. Needs to improve his base-running getting caught 26 times in 53 attempts in minor league career.
21. RHP. Tony Zych - 21 - High A - Has the stuff to close but may be better suited to be a set up guy. FB sits 94-97 and has hit 99. Also has a mid-80s SL that needs to be refined and flattensout at times but has above average potential. Athletic but with a funky delivery that adds deception.
22. 2B/SS/OF. Logan Watkins - 22 - AA - Had a nice bounce back year after a disappointing 2010. A guy I really like who could be a valuable UTL guy. Athletic, plus speed, adept bunter and selective at the plate. Gap power. He's played all over the diamond and reminds me of a Marco Scutero type guy. Could maybe even develop into an everyday player at some point.
23. RHP. Jose Rosario - 21 - Low A - Rosario has been coming along slowly and his FB really took off this past year. After sitting 90-93 in 2010 it jumped to 93-97 and exploded on hitters. Quoting BA "One scout said they saw him throw 5 consecutive 97 mph heaters in a game last year." His secondary pitches have some potential but right now the FB is really it. SLhas above average potential sitting in the mid-80s but lacks bite. CU is below average. Unless he can take a step forward with his secondary pitches may be distended for the bullpen.
24. IF. Gioskar Amaya- 19 - SS-A - Played 2B, 3B, and SS showing natural instincts but lacks the range and arm to stick at SS. Line drive swing with gap power, strong hands, and above average swing. Might profile more as UTL player but could be an everyday 2B. had an impressive stateside debut in the AZL with a .377/.417/.510 triple slash line. Has impressive intangibles.
25. 3B. Dustin Gieger - 20 - SS-A - Just turned 20 this past December. Excelled @AZLbut struggled late with an aggressive promotion to Peoria. I'm higher on him then most. Has nice power potential and shows the ability to be an above average defensive 3B. Looked very good in instructs posting 333 AVG 458 SLG. Needs to work on PD. it's not awful but needs to draw more walks and cut his K% some. A sleeper and if he makes some strides this year he may be primed for a 2013 breakout.
26. LHP. Jeff Beliveau - 25 - AAA - Had a very successful 2011. 88-91 mph FBthat gets swings and misses and weak contact because "it looks like it's coming out of his sleeve." Has a decent CU and solid CB that features some depth. His control has improved and is now above average. 355 SO in 271 career IP and a .205 BAA. Gets RH and LH out equally. His stuff does not scream plus but hard to argue with the results. Ultimate upside is a set up man or more realistically a 7th inning guy.
27. RHP. Zach Cates - 23 - High A - Initially was on the Honorable Mention list but after a combination of more research and the fact Chris Carpenter (originally 16th before the trade to the Red Sox for Theo Epstien) dropped off I decided to put Cates here. Very intriguing arm that has only been pitching fulltime since 2010 @ Northeast Texas CC after giving up catching. Went in the 3rd round in 2010 and signed for a well above slot $765,000. The raw numbers of 4-10 4.73 in 2011 don't inspire confidence he did have some nice peripherals of 8.5 K/9, .244 BAA, and just 4 HRA in 118 IP. Not to bad for a guy who has limited pitching experience. Needs to improve command after posting 4 BB/9. GB tilt is average to slightly above average.
(Note: The SR I'm working off here is over a year old) - FBsits 91-93 and touched 96 in instructs after the 2010 season. Shows a fading Vulcan CU with promise. CB was below average but had potential to be solid average. Clean arm action but needs work on delivery.
Did not make S.D. Padres BA top 30 for 2012. John Sickles after the trade had him 16th on the Cubs top 20. Will continue to get the chance to start but may profile eventually as a late inning power arm.
28. OF. Shawn Dunston JR. - 19 - AZL (maybe SS-A Boise) - Very raw and I think AZL is where he should start. Numbers were not good in instructs but he was working on ironing out some flaws in his swing. The speed is evident (6.55/60 yard dash) and has the potential to be a plus defender in CF witha strong arm, though he does not have his fathers cannon arm, but hell who does. Cubs think he has a solid hit tool with some power potential. The Cubs were much higher on him then most.
29. RHP. Taylor Scott - 19 - AZL - Athletic and projectable. FB sits 90-93 mph and a promising CB. Does not have a CU currently. Raw but lots of projection. I like the kid and think he could open some eyes. Looked really good in instructs.
30. LHP Gerardo Conception - 19 - AZL- Got a $7 million ML contract. "Slender 6-foot-2 withlong arms, sloped shoulders and an athletic, wiry build that could have some projection remaining. He has advanced feel for pitching for his age and has shown the ability to pitch withhis fastball to both sides of the plate, though he doesn't have the stuff to miss many bats. At times his fastball ranges from 88-92 mph, though some scouts have said they've seen him dip to 86-90 mph at times." Mid-70s loopy CB and splitter that is a work in progress.
I've questioned why the Cubs gave him 7 mil. and a ML contract as well as many others have also. Ben Badler tweeted he thought this was an awful lot of money for a guy who profiles as a #5/LOOGY type guy and I agree. The fact that he barely touches 90 does not concern me as much as he does not have a potential plus secondary offering. I said in his signing post here on the BCB that "pitchers who profile as soft tossing lefties are a dime a dozen especially 1 that does not have even a decent secondary offering." Someone then promptly posted 3 links to lefties who had great careers, 1 being Tom Glavine who has a HOFcaliber resume. It's not that a guy with this profile cannot be a good ML player it's just in the 35 years I have been alive I can link you to about 500 Zach Dukes of the world and probably 1,000 more who never made it to the ML.
I don't doubt Theo/Jed/our scouts know more then me but nothing I've read or seen has me very encouraged. I'm very much hoping Conception proves me and all the other conventional knowledge wrong. Kevin Goldstien of Baseball Prospectus said Conception would rank as out 6th best prospect. I respect KG but have a hard time thinking this guy is even a top 20 prospect. Recent IFA's like Micheal Ynoa, Yorman Rodriguez, Miguel Sano got 3-4 million each and these guys showed immense raw tools.