Chicago Cubs Top 20 Minor League Prospects, Part II

Dan Vogelbach - Courtesy of Kane County Cougars

The second of our four-part series looks at prospects #6-10 in the Cubs system after the trade deadline.

Just a reminder that players need to have fewer than 130 at bats or 50 innings pitched to qualify for this list. The list is all my own.

All the stats on this list were accurate through Saturday's games. If you want the up-to-date stats, clicking on the player's name will take you to their MiLB.com page.

6. Mike Olt. 3B Iowa Cubs. R:R. 24 years old.

The Good: Olt is a patient hitter with a solid approach at the plate. He likes to go deep in counts and if he guesses right or the pitcher makes a mistake, he has plus power that can drive the ball out of the park. If not, he's more than willing to take a walk. Defensively, he's got soft hands, a strong arm and enough range at third to be plus there.

The Bad: Is 2013 over yet? Last season when the Cubs were trading Ryan Dempster to Texas, Mike Olt was untouchable. This year, the Rangers had to throw in three or four more players with Olt to get Matt Garza. His 2013 season has been dreadful. His average is low and his power has dropped. It's only been ten games since he arrived in Iowa, but he's been hopeless at the plate. Yes, it's a small sample size, but he's shown nothing to the I-Cubs so far.

There are explanations for his poor 2013 season. He suffered a concussion playing winter ball and he had vision problems early in the season. But as we know from other players, problems from concussions can linger for several seasons.

The Future: There comes a point in every prospect's life where you stop caring about skills and potential and only look at their performance, and Olt is past that point. The Cubs third base position is wide open at the moment and Olt has shown no signs that he's capable of seizing it at this time. That doesn't mean he might not come April next season. Olt is already 24. If he doesn't establish himself in the majors next season, then he's going to be pushed out of the way by other prospects. We can give him a pass this year because of the injury issues, but next year he's got to produce and quickly. I'm sure the Cubs would love it if he were to win the starting 3B job in Chicago out of spring training, but that seems unlikely at this point.

7. Pierce Johnson. RHP. Daytona Cubs. 22 years old.

The Good: Johnson was the Cubs first round (supplemental) pick in 2012 out of Missouri State. Despite only pitching 11 innings (plus a few playoff innings for Boise) last season as a professional, he's quickly established himself as the top pitching prospect in the Cubs organization. He has a fastball that sits around 93 and a hammer curve that he can throw for a strike. He also has a cutter and a changeup that give him the full starter's repertoire. This season between Kane County and Daytona, Johnson has a 3.04 ERA over 100 innings. He shown a strong command of the plate with 102 strikeouts as opposed to only 34 walks. Johnson keeps the ball in the park, too, as he's only allowed one home run over 31 innings at Daytona. The Cubs love his makeup and drive and he's been compared to Almora in that respect.

The Bad: This isn't exactly bad, but Johnson profiles out as more of a #3 pitcher than a #1 or a #2, which is a little disappointing for the top pitching prospect in the organization. That's not Johnson's fault, however. He does have some injury issues in his past, which was why he fell to the Cubs with the 43rd pick in 2012. On talent alone, he likely would have gone somewhere in the mid-20s.

The Future: I wouldn't be surprised if Johnson got shut down in the next week or two as he's already over 100 innings and he does have those arm issues in his past. But next year he should be in the Smokies rotation where we can all watch him on milb.tv. I hate to say he's a 2015 guy again, but he likely is. If the Cubs are in a playoff race next season, he's pitching well and they need an emergency starter, I can see him in the majors in 2014. But otherwise, he'll spend next year in Tennessee and Iowa and look to break into the rotation in 2015.

8. Dan Vogelbach 1B. Kane County Cougars. L:R. 20 years old.

The Good: Vogelbach can flat-out hit. A left-handed pull hitter, he can hit for average and power as well as draw a walk. His raw power, at least, is plus-plus. For the Cougars this season, he's hitting .288 with a .366 OBP and 16 home runs. He had his best month in July, hitting .330 with an OBP over .400, so he's been getting better as the season goes on. Additionally, his outgoing and gregarious personality makes him a natural leader in the clubhouse. His work ethic and makeup are unquestioned. He's slow, of course, but he's a smart baserunner who knows what he can and can't do.

The Bad: We've been over this many times before on this site, but Vogelbach just isn't an athlete, and that's the polite way to put it. Defensively, he's going to be a liability wherever you put him. He can catch the ball if it's hit right at him, but his footwork and mobility at first base are poor and it's unlikely he'll ever be more than a poor first baseman. Maybe he'll hit enough that you can live with that, but that means he's going to have to hit like something close to Prince Fielder, and I haven't heard anyone think he's that good a hitter.

The Future: Someone around here compared him to Billy Butler, and that might be Vogelbach's ceiling, although even Butler is more athletic than Vogelbach. Next season, the Florida native will likely get a chance to play in front of the home crowds in Daytona, although a quick promotion to Tennessee wouldn't surprise me. After that, Vogelbach is more likely to be trade bait than anything. It's not out of the question the Cubs deal him this off-season, but they'd hate to lose him and his influence on a minor league clubhouse.

9. C.J. Edwards RHP Daytona Cubs. 21 years old.

The Good: Edwards was having a breakout season for the Rangers low-A franchise in Hickory, tossing 93 innings over 18 starts with a 1.83 ERA. He struck out an amazing 122 batters while walking 34. He made a big impression at Daytona when he struck out the first seven batters he faced in the Florida State League.

Edwards's fastball sits at 94-95 with good movement and he can hit 98 with it when he has to. His curve is a solid and projects out to be a plus pitch. Edwards has the tools to be a #2 starter in the majors.

The Bad: It's kind of an ironic contrast putting Edwards right after Vogelbach. Edwards calls himself the "String Bean Slinger," and at 6'2", 155 pounds, that's more than justified. I'm worried that someone with as thin a frame as Edwards is going to have trouble withstanding the rigors of throwing 180 innings a year as a starter. Also, while his changeup has potential, it's not major league quality yet and it's going to have to be for him to be a starter. While it wouldn't be bad if he ended up as a closer, it would be a disappointment compared to being a frontline starter.

The Future: Edwards may also face being shut down soon as he's tossed 98 innings already. Since he's only had one start at High-A so far, he's likely to start next season at Daytona. His ceiling is a #2 starter, but there are a lot of red flags on the way there and his major league career is likely to be something less than that.

10. Junior Lake. OF. Chicago Cubs. R:R. 23 years old.

The Good: Lake has all the tools to be a superior player wherever he plays. He combines power and speed with a raw 80 arm, although he's going to have to improve his accuracy to get a usable 80 grade there. You've all seen him play in the majors, so I'm not going to recap his season except to say it got to a late start because of an injury. He didn't play before June 6. Lake is a superior athlete (no worries about his body!) who can turn on a pitch and drive it to all fields.

The Bad: I'm glad to see the Cubs move him to the outfield, because four years of listening to him play shortstop have been excruciating. As you've no doubt seen, he has the ability to be an excellent defensive outfielder, but the instincts just aren't there. He doesn't get the good reads on the ball that he might have gotten if he'd have had more than six games in the outfield over seven seasons in the minors.

While Lake is off to a great start in the majors, I wonder what's going to happen when the league starts to adjust to him. He's got a ton of swing and miss in his game and historically he hasn't walked much although he's gotten a bit better the past year or so. In the minors, he would chase breaking balls out of the zone with some regularity. I wonder if and when he starts to struggle, whether he might revert to bad habits.

The Future: You're seeing the future right now and I don't have to explain it to you. He'll drop off this list sometime next week when he gets his 130th plate appearance.

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