I've only written up guys I have seen play, at the very least on video (such as the youngsters in Boise), but most of these reviews come from seeing them in person in addition to video. There are a handful of guys that are of interest to people that I have not seen play that figure to rate as top 20 guys, but I have no input on them: CF Albert Almora, RF Jorge Soler, 2B Ronald Torreyes, SP Dillon Maples, 1B Dan Vogelbach, any pitching draft picks this year. Don't pay too much attention to the numerical rankings, Baez is far and away first, and then 2-6 would form a second grouping to me, but within that grouping they are pretty much interchangeable, and the same goes with 7-11 and 12-15.
Javier Baez is as sure as any prospect comes. I'm not saying he is bound for the HOF or even guaranteeing that he will be an all star. But he will not bust like a Felix Pie and fail to contribute any meaningful value in the majors. Baez will get there and stay for quite some time. At worst, he is a Corey Patterson type, that bounces around the league but still manages a long career. I do not throw the words elite around that much. In the Cubs organization, I see only three elite level traits: Castro's bat control, Campana's speed, and Baez's bat speed.
1. SS Javier Baez - Bat speed is better than all but a handful of MLB players. Has a lot of moving parts to his swing, with a leg kick and a bat waggle, which may lead to slumps when timing is off. Aggressive in all facets of the game. Shows good athleticism (solid range at SS and speed on the bases). I don't think he is going to fill out as quickly as some are saying and it is quite possible in my mind he can stay at SS for at least 3-5 years. Even if he eventually moves, the bat and athleticism are more than adequate for 3B or RF. This guy will play in the majors barring injury. Only question is how good can he be.
Ceiling: 300/340 35 HR/25 SB with average defense at SS or above average at 3B or COF
My projection: All Star 3B. 290/330 35 HR/20SB
2. 3B/1B/DH Jeimer Candelerio - Advanced hitter with few moving parts in his swing including a very quiet bottom half. Not as patient as his DSL league stats hinted. Already lacks athleticism as an 18 year old. No chance he stays at 3B. I doubt he could play the OF, will be limited to 1B/DH, which will place a very high burden on his bat. Reminds me of Brett Wallace. Has the same poor body type. Wallace was also an advanced hitter at a young age that eventually had to move across the diamond from third to first. I also have concerns regarding Candelerio being able to handle velocity in on his hands because he doesn't clear his hips very well so he could get tied up once he faces more advanced pitching (Wallace also has the same issue). He very well could be a 4A player in the future, but the bat has enough promise that right now I see him with Billy Butler type upside as a 1B/DH.
Ceiling 310/350 20 HR with average defense at 1B
My projection: Trade bait, gets his chance with an AL team
3. 3B Josh Vitters - The hit tool has always been there. His ability to make contact and lack of plate discipline have led to a lot of soft contact on pitches out of the strike zone, keeping his power production down in recent seasons. Seems to be turning a corner this year though. His patience and walk rates are still below average, but are bordering on acceptable if it enables him to drive the ball more often like he has begun to this year. There isn't a lot of loft to his swing so his power translates into more doubles than HRs. He has always been strong against lefties so at the very least, he figures to find a place off the bench as a platoon option at 3B/1B/LF. His defense at 3B has reportedly made strides, but the chances of him being anything better than an average 3B are slim.
Ceiling: 300/330 40 2B/20 HR with fringe average defense at 3B
My projection: Part time starter at 3B until Baez is ready. A much better version of Jeff Baker off the bench after that. 275/310 10 HRs in part time / platoon role.
4. RP Alberto Cabrera - Mid to upper 90s sinking FB. His slider and command have been very inconsistent in the past. His walk rate has dropped considerably this season with full time move to the bullpen, so if he can keep that up and develop his slider he projects as a future closer. If one or both of those issues linger, he still projects to have value as a middle reliever or setup man.
Ceiling: Figures out the slider, becomes front line closer
My projection: LIR, potential replacement for Marmol
5. CF Brett Jackson - We all know the problem. Contact. Jackson works deep counts, takes his fair share of walks, but strikes out a ton. Gets some Drew Stubbs comps, but Stubbs has better speed and power and is a superior defender. Jackson's BA and OBP have declined with each step up in competition and I expect that trend to continue when he reaches the majors. Given his low contact rates, his value is going to be tied very closely to his BABIP. During season's where he is unlucky, his BA could be around .220 or below which would mean he would not be very valuable even with a better than average walk rate. I've brought up Mark Bellhorn in the past and I still think it applies. Bellhorn had a few very useful seasons when he was able to keep his BA around .250 or better, but he also had a couple of very bad seasons where his BA was dreadful. Jackson's fate could be similar. His walk rate, defense and left handed power figure to keep him in the majors as at least a 4th or 5th outfielder if he can't grab a starting CF gig.
Ceiling: 260/350 20 HR/20 SB and above average defense in CF or COF
My projection: Mixed results as starting CF for a couple of seasons, but eventually ends up as 4th OF
6. 2B Gioskar Amaya - I don't have a great sense for his defensive upside, but he appears to have enough athleticism to handle 2B. And his bat will definitely play there. Great swing, focuses on driving the ball from gap to gap, but can turn on a mistake to knock it out of the park. If he fills out and loses the range for 2B, tough to say if can develop enough power to profile at the hot corner, although he could be a Polanco or Mueller type player there. If I had to bet on any Boise player to make the majors, it would be Amaya.
Ceiling: 300/350 12 HR/10 SB
My projection: Starting 2B if he can cut it defensively.
7. CF Matt Szczur - Features a short, line drive generating swing, that should help him keep his contact rates and BA up. His improved walk rate is very encouraging because he will never develop more than 10 HR power, so his value will be derived from his OBP and defense. If he can keep improving his plate discipline Szczur can be a starting caliber CF. A solid athlete he projects to be an above average or better defender. Possesses good, but not blazing speed, that he is turning into good results on the basepaths so far. His lack of power will prevent him from being used in the COF spots, so that will limit his opportunities.
Ceiling: 290/360 5 HR/40 SB with good defense in CF
My projection: Fringe starting CF/5th OF for another team
8. CF Jae-Hoon Ha - Plus defender in CF. Above average speed, and gets good reads off the bat, to allow him to cover a lot of ground in the outfield. Can play all three OF positions thanks to a RFs arm. Offense is behind his defense at this point, but he does possess decent upside at the plate as well. An aggressive hitter, he has improved his plate discipline, but like most Cubs farmhands can still use further development. He's been young for every league and I believe that has held his bat back a little. As he continues to develop I can see him doing enough with the bat against LHP to work his way into a platoon in CF or even RF.
Ceiling: 280/330 10 HR/15 SB with very good defense in CF
My projection: 5th OF, maybe platoon starter in CF
9. SP Robert Whitenack - Returning from TJS. Prior to injury he possessed very good command of a low 90s sinker and above average slider. Has struggled since his return, but command is usually the last aspect to return after the surgery, and Whitenack relies on command, so his results this year will mean absolutely nothing to me. He was on the fast track until he went down last summer. I figure he probably spends most of the rest of the year in Daytona. He can then begin next season back at Tennessee and pick up where he left off. He may not have great swing and miss stuff, but he gives few free passes and keeps the ball in the ballpark, which prevents big innings, and limits his pitch count.
Ceiling: 4th starter that can go deep into games
My projection: 4/5th starter. Prospect most likely to grab a full time rotation spot in the next couple of seasons.
10. RP Tony Zych - I've only seen him once, but going by that and his scouting reports, he seems to have the stuff and command of a LIR. Probably the best closer prospect behind Cabrera in the upper levels.
11. 2B Logan Watkins - If only he could hit the first month of the season. Watkins has struggled out of the gates the past few years, only to get red hot by midseason. He plays an above average 2B, and can play a passable SS and CF, which improves his chances of making a NL roster even if he can't secure a starting job. Doesn't have much pop in his bat, but he can hit for a good average, and features a good eye at the plate. A solid base stealer, he has a chance to be a top of the order option down the road.
Ceiling: 270/340 5 HR/30 SB and above average defense at 2B
My projection: Utility player and part time starter at 2B
12. SP Ben Wells - TJS cut short a promising start to the season. Wells was using his power sinker to great effect. He probably returns to Peoria in the second half next year.
13. SS Marco Hernandez - Smooth athlete with above average range, he projects as a MLB caliber defensive SS. A switch hitter, the bat has some upside, but he is an aggressive hitter that doesn't take many walks, and doesn't project to more than 10-12 HR power. Unless his patience improves significantly, it's hard to project him as a starter because his swing is a little long and he is too pull happy, so I don't see him hitting over 300 at higher levels in order to keep his OBP up to an acceptable level.
Ceiling: 270/310 10 HR and above average defense at SS
My projection: Utility infielder, but not high enough upside offensively to push Castro or Baez off SS.
14. UT Junior Lake - Sorry, I don't see it. He is an impressive athlete, but he is still raw, and he has made few strides at the plate or in the field. Even the one aspect that improved last year, his bump in SBs, has disappeared this season. The only major league ready part of his game is his cannon for an arm. His athleticism will get him a look in the majors, but with serious improvements to his game both offensively and defensively, I can't see him ever securing a full time job. Maybe he can become a super utility like Jose Hernandez, maybe it isn't too late to convert him to the mound.
Ceiling: 260/320 15 HR/30 SB and average defense at 3B
My projection: Not much. Gets looks in majors, and teases with talent, but never secures full time job
15. SS Arismendy Alcantara - Rangy shortstop, has had huge issues making throw to 1B, resulting in a really high error total. Issues like that are usually mechanical and can be overcome. If he can't, perhaps a move to 2B may lighten the burden on the throws, and Alcantara would have great range at second. Small, but strong for his size, he possesses the ability to drive the ball into the gap for extra bases. An aggressive hitter, beginning to show signs of improved plate discipline, he is having an excellent offensive season for Daytona. I found him to be a very intriguing athlete at Peoria last year as he surprised me with the strength he possessed for such a small guy, but because of his size and poor plate discipline I wasn't sure if he could ever have the type of breakout year he is having. Glad I was wrong.
Ceiling: 270/330 10 HR/30 SB and good defense at SS
My projection: Hard to predict much until he works out the throwing issues. His offense profiles much better at SS, so he needs to resolve that issue.
Middle Relievers or 5th Starters
RP Trey McNutt - Never been a big proponent of his. Really struggles to repeat his delivery and it results in inconsistent command and stuff. At his best can be a LIR, but more likely settles into lower leverage situations.
RP Jeffrey Beliveau
RP Kevin Rhoderick
RP Nick Struck
RP Dae-Eun Rhee
RP Marcus Hatley
RP Frank Batista
RP Jay Jackson
SP Michael Jensen - A good FB/CB combo. His curve is the best in the org that I've seen. Needs more consistent command. Intriguing enough that I can see him as a potential starting option down the road.
SP Jose Rosario - Good command of a 2 seam fastball. Lacks an out offspeed pitch. He gets by with controlling 3 pitches down in the zone, limiting free passes and keeping the ball in the ball park. If he can improve his change or breaking ball, he becomes far mor interesting.
SP Austin Kirk
SP Brooks Raley
SP Chris Rusin
CF Trey Martin - I'm very intrigued. Impresses me every time I see him. Good range in CF. Good bat speed.
3B Dustin Geiger - Developing power. Worth tracking if he can remain at 3B, bat won't play at 1B.
SP Kyler Burke
RP Matt Spencer
UT Rubi Silva
SP Tayler Scott
SP James Pugliese
SP Zach Cates
RF Reggie Golden
CF Shawon Dunston Jr.
2B Zeke DeVoss
CF Pin-Chieh Chen