Sometime last summer, on a random discussion topic, a BCB reader began mocking a few of us who prefer to monitor a hard-fought win or a tight loss by Boise than a blowout loss by the parent club. Or, at least that's how I remember it happening. One thing led to another, and the minor league players in the pipeline drew the moniker "Zygotes". It stuck, I love it, and I'm sticking with it.
Creating prospect lists is an amusing concept. It's kind of like winning the Heisman Trophy -- it makes for nice bragging rights, but nobody's quite sure what really constitutes the qualifications for winning. Obviously, a very solid chunk of being a prospect is 'ceiling value', or how well he will do if everything breaks right. It rarely does, but after a big year, the ceiling gets raised. I thought the ceiling was if everything went right. (Writer rolls his eyes.)
Nonetheless, they serve as nice discussion for minor league broadcasts, as all teams have a Top-20 or Top-30 list to promote. Actually, quite a few such lists. They vary in their predictive value, based on research time and across-the-spectrum knowledge. As a fan of the Cubs pipeline, I somewhat feared putting one together, as I don't want to appear dismissive of players toward the bottom of my lists. I respect the people who, regardless of their role in the system (player, coach, scout, executive, salesperson, usher, etc.), who wake up every day to improve the Cubs franchise.
So here's my Top 50 Cubs Prospect list. This is a preliminary list, as no matter how many times I check this stat or that, I'll undoubtedly miss something, one way or another. Either I'll include someone who isn't eligible, or omit someone who is. There's nothing better than the BCB readership to tell me when I screw up. (And when I do, I have no problem being told so.) Mine has parameters for getting in, and specifics to get ranked. It's awfully straightforward. Here are the criteria:
20 hitters, rated on their likelihood to get to 3000 major-league at-bats.
20 starting pitchers, rated on their likelihood to reach 1000 major-league innings pitched.
10 relievers (or, more specifially, pitchers not on the starter list), rated on their likelihood to reach 300 major-league innings pitched.
Pitchers must be below 30 innings and hitters below 50 at bats in the major leagues. Those who reach those limits will be removed from the list mid-season when they hit those plateaus.
Now that you know the rules, let's play the game. This is a preliminary list. My final list will be ready in early-April, and will be edited for graduations, performance, and trades. Brett Jackson, Josh Vitters, and certain others are no longer eligible.
1, Javier Baez, SS. I've seen him play. His wrist speed is frightening. When he matures, and gets better on routine plays, 3000 at-bats should not be a problem.
2. Jorge Soler, RF. There isn't much difference between the top two. Baez' defensive priority position gives him a very slight edge. I'm glad to have seen them both play for Peoria.
3. Albert Almora, CF. I think I will leave these three in this order for a stretch. Though as convinced I am of the order, there is almost no difference from a 'power rating' perspective.
4. Logan Watkins, 2B. When I came up with this idea, Darwin Barney was in the minors. I figured he would get at-bats regardless of his offense. He has, and is now considered a 'core piece', or so it sounds. Watkins should get 3000 at-bats, though not necessarily as a Cub.
5. Christian Villanueva, 3B. He seems like the type who will hit and field enough to get his requisite at-bats. He will plunge if he stays around in a trade for a better third-base prospect.
6. Dan Vogelbach, 1B. It's a long way from Low-A Ball to 3000 major-league at-bats, but this guy has staggering power. I think we might have 30 teams with the DH by the time he gets to the majors, which would help his chances.
7. Jeimer Candelario, 3B. Started well, but seemed to wear down in Boise. That said, he skipped a level to get to the Northwest League.
8. Ronald Torreyes, 2B. Was very young for High-A Ball in 2012, and mashed the ball for two months. If there is a blockbuster trade in the next 14 months, Torreyes (or Watkins) makes sense if the trading partner needs a second baseman.
9. Wilson Contreras, C. The system is very weak on catching options. Contreras is as good as it gets.
10. Steven Bruno, UT. He led the Northwest League in batting, was fourth in slugging, and did it as a supersub. Now, for his next trick (best said in a Bullwinkle voice), he's going to take up catching.
11. Matt Szczur, OF. I don't think his bat will play well enough to start with a solid team. He might get traded to a team where 400 at-bats per year is possible. Or he might play a decade. Or, maybe he'll hit better than I project.
12. Junior Lake, SS. I have no idea what to expect here. None. If he figures out what he needs to, someone will get a very talented player in Lake. Really, no idea.
13 Gioskar Amaya, 2B. I need to see another year to jump him to No. 7 or No. 8, which is where most people will have him.
14. Arismendy Alcantara, SS. I've hit the point where it looks like his options are doubtful to get anywhere near 3000 AB. Alcantara is a shortstop, which helps.
15. Marco Hernandez, SS. I saw him play for Peoria. He was just starting to hit when Javier Baez was sprung from Mesa. Hernandez had no place to go but behind Baez in line. He would get more respect in a system where he was among the top four shortstops in the system. But Baez, Watkins, Lake, and Alcantara trump him.
16. Reggie Golden, RF. Most of his 2012 was lost due to injury. Now, there are more outfielders than this with more built-in cachet, particularly Soler and Almora. I'm good with Golden here.
17. Dustin Geiger, 3B. Homered when I saw him play in Quad City, well up the berm, at least a 380-foot shot, possibly might have gone 400. Hit 17 homers in an injury-shortened campaign. He will have Villanueva in front of him, and Candelario behind him. He will need to keep the power and upgrade the defense a bit, probably.
18. Jae-Hoon Ha, RF. I'm guessing if he reaches 3000 at-bats, well over half will be elsewhere. He has glove enough for RF. Represented well in last summer's Futures Game, where he homered.
19. Zeke DeVoss, 2B. Very good at working counts, though he needs to hit and field better.
20. John Andreoli, OF. He had an OPS of .778 in Daytona, so he figures to see Tennessee this season. He has very good speed, so he's as good of a guess for any at age 20.
Others of note: Rubi Silva, Shawon Dunston Jr., Rafael Lopez, Tim Saunders, Carlos Penalver, Jesse Hodges, Ben Carhart
1. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP. Vizcaino logged 17 and change innings for Atlanta in 2011 before he underwent Tommy John surgery. I expect extreme patience with him in 2013.
2. Pierce Johnson, RHP. He had some work in short-season ball, but figures to be in Kane County in April. He should have a solid three-pitch mix in three years, and could get to Daytona by September.
3. Barrett Loux, RHP. Came to Chicago when Jacob Brigham went back to Texas.
4. Robert Whitenack, RHP. His 2011 was really good until an injury shelved him for most of a year. His 2012 could have been better.
5. Kyle Hendricks, RHP. Came over in the Ryan Dempster trade, and made a few appearances before getting shut down. He has very good control, but could miss a few more bats.
6. Michael Jensen, RHP. Three-pitch mix heading to Daytona.
7. Tayler Scott, RHP. I'd heard it alleged his mom sent him to baseball camp, as she didn't know the difference between the sports. He Tweeted to me that that was not the case.
8. Juan Paniaugua, RH. Since he hasn't pitched much in the US, he takes a two-stroke penalty. If he humiliates the Midwest League, he gets them returned, no questions asked.
9. Jose Arias, RHP. This is the 2012 Boise Hawks section. You earn your keep on full-season effort.
10. Josh Conway, RHP. From the TJS school, 2014 will be his first year pitching as a pro. He could vault with a solid season.
11. Chris Rusin, LHP. He is eligible until he retires one more big league hitter. Then he is pulled off the list. Rules are rules.
12. Jose Rosario, RHP. Pitched well until an arm injury ended his season for Peoria in 2012.
13. Nick Struck, RHP. Was very good in Tennessee in 2012. Wasn't as good in the Arizona Fall League.
14. Dillon Maples, RHP. Why so low? I finally watched some video. I hope his delivery has improved.
15. Eric Jokisch, LHP. Sported a WHIP under 1.2 in Tennessee.
16. Paul Blackburn, RHP
17. Duane Underwood, RHP
18. Dae-Eun Rhee, RHP
19. Dallas Beeler, RHP
20. Ryan McNeil, RHP
1. Tony Zych, RP
2. Trey McNutt, RHP
3. Kyuji Fujikawa, RHP
4. Jaye Chapman, RHP. Was limited to 12 innings pitched for Chicago, so he fits on the list.
5. Frank Batista, RHP. Closer in Tennessee in 2012. 1.12 WHIP.
6. Yao-Lin Wang, RHP. He has closed. He has also started.
7. Austin Kirk, LHP. Possible lefty specialist.
8. Lendy Castillo, RHP
9. Ben Wells, RHP
10. Marcelo Carreno, RHP. Acquired as the PTBNL in the Jeff Baker deal.
Other pitchers: Andrew McKirahan LHP, Sheldon McDonald LHP, Felix Pena RHP, Frank del Valle LHP, Matt Loosen RHP, P.J. Francescon RHP, Eduardo Orozco LHP, Zach Cates RHP, Justin Amlung RHP, Ethan Elias RHP.
I should be ready for the (insert player here) trade. Thanks for your comments in advance.