Tier 1 - Ace/Perennial All-Star position player -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
SS Javier Baez - Don't think it is any secret that I am probably Baez's biggest backer around here. To me he is the most untouchable of our prospects for one simple reason: he has the instincts and the athleticism to play any position we need him to down the road, and his bat will profile at any of them. My only concern with Baez coming into the year was all the moving parts in his swing, but in particular the fact that his head moved too much, which would lead him to be very streaky as a hitter. While he has been streaky, I did read an article earlier this year where his coaches specifically mentioned they were working with him to keep his head more stable. Glad he has been promoted to AA so now I can watch his progress again.
Ceiling: 300/350 35 HR/15 SB with average defense at SS or above average at 3B or COF
My projection: 280/330 35 HR - All Star SS/3B
CF Albert Almora - Possesses great instincts and first step reading the ball of the bat, enabling him to cover a lot of ground in CF despite average speed. At the plate he reminds me of Starlin Castro. He has a plus bat control and an aggressive approach. He can adjust to offspeed pitches well and makes consistent solid contact with plus plate coverage. Liek Castro and Vitters before him he will struggle to take many walks because he swings and misses so little. But a potnetial .300 hitter and plus defense in CF means he could be a perrenial All-Star.
Ceiling: 310/350 15 HR with Gold Glove defense in CF
My projection: 300/340 15 HR with plus defense in CF
3B Kris Bryant - Looking forward to seeing him. Hopefully he gets some time in Kane County later this year.
My projection: N/A
Tier 2 - #2 Starter/Above avg regular, occasional All-Star -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
RF Jorge Soler - Most people have him as the safer of the two between him and Baez. I am completely in the other camp. I cannot be more sure of Baez, while Soler's swing leaves lingering doubts in my mind. It's a little long, and isn't as fluid as Baez or Almora, or even a bigger guy like Vogelbach. He is just a little mechanical at the plate. I'm not expecting him to fail, but I don't see him as being able to hit for a high average in the majors.
Ceiling: 270/370 35 HR with average defense in RF or above average in LF
My projection: 250/340 30 HR
Tier 3 - Mid Rotation/Average regular/LIR -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2B Arismendy Alcantara - Alcantara struggled a couple of years ago in Peoria, on what was a terrible team with virtually no true prospects after Szczur moved up midseason. But Alcantara did consistently impress me with the way the ball jump off his bat despite his small stature. Still, I didn't think much of him beyond a potential utility guy because I never expected any of that gap power to translate into HR power and he was also an ultra aggressive hacker at the plate so he didn't get on base enough to use his plus speed. Last year his plate approach improved as the year went on, before an injury cut short his development. This year, the approach has improved even more, and now some of that unexpected strength is beginning to develop into over the fence power. While he has possessed the tools to stay as SS, he never looked comfortable at the position, and so the move to 2B should be beneficial. The biggest key for Alcantara in my opinion is stay healthy. His small stature and injury history may mean he will be a guy that needs to spelled throughout the season and may not be a 150+ game starter. He has shown some issues from the right side of the plate, so perhaps a future platoon situation down the road may suit him best and keep him fresh throughout a long season.
Ceiling: 290/370 15 HR/35 SB top of the order spark plug
My projection: 260/350 10 HR/30 SB leadoff hitter of the future
SP Aroldys Vizcaino - Not the biggest guy and he has struggled staying healthy. His build has always led to doubts as to whether he can hold up as a starter, but prior to TJS there was little doubt regarding his stuff. He already got a taste of MLB with the Braves and he showed me a plus FB and breaking ball.
Ceiling: #3 starter with #2 starter stuff. But will never be an innings eater to profile as a true TOR starter. But could have a Rich Harden type impact as a starter. As a fallback, he profiles very well as a potential closer.
My projection: He'll get a shot at starting next year, but will also work out of bullpen to keep his innings down. How he fairs in each role may determine his ultimate role going forward.
SP Pierce Johnson - I've only seen him once and I didn't get much of a chance to focus on him so I have to rely on other's projections that he has mid rotation upside, but that seems to mesh well with my limited initial impressions.
Ceiling: #3 starter
My projection: N/A
3B Jeimer Candelerio - One of the youngest players in the MWL. He possess soft hands at the hot corner, but I had my doubts as to whether the switch hitter could stay at 3B long term because he would outgrow the position and fail to maintain the lateral agility necessary. He has quelled my doubts for the time being as he looks quicker this season and if he can maintain this level of fitness going forward he could stick. At the plate, he has one of the best eye's in the system. His raw power is average and he doesn't have much loft to his swing from either side so HRs will never be a big part of his game. His swing can get a little long and I worry he will get tied up inside (especially from the left side) at higher levels, but he has the potential to hit for a solid average/power and get on base enough to be a decent starting 3B in the big leagues.
Ceiling: 280/370 20 HR with average defense at 3B
My projection: It would be nice to get a switch hitter into the middle of the order, but 3B is crowded in the Cubs system and I'm not sure he profiles well anywhere else as I doubt he has the power for 1B or the range to play LF. He is at least 3 years away so he could potentially be a valuable trade chip if Bryant or one of the other options pans out.
SP Alberto Cabrera - Long been a big arm with inconsistent off speed offerings and spotty command/control, I thought he was ready to breakthrough as a LIR this year after he made strides with his control (though not his command) after he moved full time to the bullpen, but the team decided to give him one more chance to pull everything together and make it as a starter this year. Cabrera has responded extremely well. The secondary offerings seem more consistent this year and his control as held steady. His command still concerns me and I think that may still hold him back in the majors, but he has put himself in line to earn a rotation spot next season, or at the very least become a key part of the bullpen.
Ceiling: #3 starter if he can harness his command.
My projection: I still lean more towards a relief role as I worry he will never be consistent enough to profile as a mid rotation pitcher, but he is earning a chance for a rotation spot next year. Out of options next year, he is basically guaranteed to a spot on the opening day roster.
1B Dan Vogelbach - Vogelbach has shown a great attitude and willingness to do whatever it takes to remake his body and become an adequate 1B. His progress is really staggering. However, he is still too big, and doesn't possess the quickness or hands to adequately handle the position. While I have decided to not completely write off his chances the way I did last year, the chances are still very low. Not only does he still have a way to go to get to where he needs to be, maintaining that level of fitness and commitment is a difficult over a long period of time, especially as he ages. And no, he has no chance in left field or any other position. While he has surprising speed for a guy his size, it takes a while to get up to that speed, and it is still below average speed. At the plate, the guy has great instincts and a smooth swing. His approach is surprisingly diverse. He is capable and willing to hit to all fields and cut down on his swing. He does not rely solely on his prodigous raw power.
Ceiling: 290/370 30 HR with fringy defense at 1B
My projection: I think he makes the majors, left handed power with a good approach is always in demand, but it probably ends up being in the AL.
SP Paul Blackburn
My projection: N/A
SP Rob Zastryzny
My projection: N/A
Tier 4 - Back End Rotation/Semi Regular or Platoon/Middle RP -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
SP Kyle Hendricks - He's making a believer out of me. The stuff isn't great, but the command is. It might take him a couple of years to breakthrough as he adjusts to the skill of MLB hitters, but I think eventually he figures it out.
2B Gioskar Amaya - He hasn't had a great first half, but it hasn't shaken my faith in him. I still like the gap to gap approach at the plate and willingness to turn on a mistake and drive it. Can handle 2B/3B/LF. The bat definitely profiles best at 2B and I think he has starter potential there, but he could also be a solid utility player.
UT Junior Lake - The athleticism is still top notch, and the rough edges have begun to smooth over the last couple of years. The plate discipline has improved, but he still swings and misses too much and hasn't found a home defensively. He'll get multiple opportunities to make good, maybe not all with one team though. He should get an opportunity to break into a super sub role next season. He could be a valuable NL bench piece.
UT Logan Watkins - He'll begin challenging Barney at 2B next year, but ultimately both of them are just keeping the seat warm for a year while Alcantara finishes his development. Watkins ultimately will settle into a bench role and he is well suited for the task. He can play an above average 2B and CF, and can get by at SS on a short term basis. He gets on base, but struggles against lefties so he probably is limited to a platoon role if he ever does work his way into being a regular.
CF Matt Szczur - I'm coming around a little, but I still think his chance of becoming a full time starter are small. The newly developed plate discipline is a great sign, but I think he will struggle more with MLB pitchers he won't be afraid to throw him a strike. I still fear he is a right handed Julio Borbon, but he does make a little better contact and show better plate discipline so he may be able to get on base enough to tap into his speed which really his only plus skill.
OF Jae-Hoon Ha - Szczur may have a little higher ceiling, but I think Ha is a very safe bet as a 5th OF. He's always been a solid contact hitter, and he has greatly improved his plate discipline since the new regime took over. He plays all three spots well and he might be able to hit lefties enough to work his way into a CF platoon. He'll replace Hairston/Sappelt at some point next year.
3B Christian Villanueva - Love the defense. But not the bat. He'll get to the majors with some team, and his defense will buy him some time to figure out the offensive side, but I don't see much upside. Seems like a second division starter at best and his lake of athleticism means he doesn't profile well defensivley anywhere else on the diamond so his usefulness off the bench will be limited, especially in the NL.
3B Josh Vitters - I haven't closed the book on him yet. He may get squeezed out of this org, but he is still young enough and has hit lefties enough throughout the minors that he can still find a platoon role. Might be better off in the AL where his lack of defensive versatility is less of an issue on the bench.
OF Brett Jackson - Pretty much a lost year so far, in what seemed an important one. The team doesn't figure to be in enough of a roster crunch this offseason that he will be forced out, but his time is running out to prove he can make enough contact to tap into his athletic upside. Very similar to Lake, but Jackson's arrow is currently pointing down and Lake's is pointing up, and that is important because the two of them may be fighting for the same OF bench spot next year, with Ha and Szczur coming up fast behind.
RP Zach Rosscup - Sneaky fastball. The Garza trade not done bearing fruit yet. By the end of 2014 he should be a part of set up mix at Wrigley.
RP Tony Zych - He doesn't get as much swing and miss and soft contact as I thought he would, but he still profiles as a setup option.
SS Marco Hernandez - A slick defender. He has some gap power at the plate but struggles when he gets pull happy. A switch hitting true SS will get plenty of time and opportunity. Another in a long line of Cubs prospects that need to improve their plate discipline to meet their full potential.
1B Dustin Geiger - Some positive and some negatives regarding Geigers development this year. He has filled out his frame and improved his strength to the point where his bat is beginning to reach its full potential. However, that added mass robbed him of athleticism and Geiger is no longer able to handle 3B. So that means the burden is now completely on the bat, and as a right handed hitting 1B, that is a tough hill to climb. Could be a Gabby Sanchez type though.
RP Armando Rivera - N/A
Tier 5 - Raw Potential
SP Duane Underwood
SP Juan Paniagua
CF Jacob Hanneman
SS Carlos Penalver
RF Reggie Golden
CF Kevin Encarnacion
C Willson Contreras
SP Tayler Scott
SP Dillon Maples
SP James Pugliese
CF Darien Martin
SP Trey Lang
SP Daury Torrez
SP Erick Leal
SP Carlos Rodriguez
SP Alexander Santana
CF Jeffrey Baez
SS Francisco Sanchez
3B Mark Malave
SP Tyler Skulina
RP Trey Masek
RP Scott Frazier
SP Trevor Clifton
SS Frandy De La Rosa, 3B Luis Acosta, OF Robert Caro, CF Jenner Emeterio, SP Jose Paulino, SP Hector Perez SS Bryant Flete, OF Ricardo Marcano, 3B Roney Alcala, SP Greyfer Eregua, SP Jesus Castillo
Recent International Signings:
SS Gleyber Torres, OF Eloy Jiminez, SP Jefferson Mejia, SP Erling Moreno, C Johan Matos
Tier 6 - Spot Starter/25th Man/Long Reliever or Specialist -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
RP Chris Rusin, RP Brooks Raley, RP Eric Jokisch, RP Austin Kirk, RP Marcus Hatley, RP Michael Heesch, RP Jose Rosario, RP Starling Peralta, RP Trey McNutt, RP Rafael Dolis, RP Hunter Cervenka, RP Austin Reed, RP Yao-Lin Wang, RP Kyler Burke
SP Ben Wells, SP Dallas Beeler, SP Michael Jensen, SP Barret Loux, SP Zach Cates
1B Rock Shoulders
UT Stephen Bruno, UT Rubi Silva, UT Tim Saunders, UT Wes Darvill, UT Zeke DeVoss
OF John Andreoli, OF Oliver Zapata, OF Yasiel Balaguert, OF Shawon Dunston Jr., OF Bijan Rademacher
C Rafael Lopez, C Chadd Krist, C Carlos Escobar