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Cubs System Sonogram: The Zygote 50 Returns

With the season underway, it's time to update my Cubs system rankings.


For those of you new to the Zygote 50, it is my cheeky evaluation of players in the Cubs system. Divided into hitters and pitchers, the hitters are valued on their likelihood to have 3000 career major-league at-bats. Pitchers are evaluated on their likelihood to reach 1000 innings. Relievers are pitchers highly unlikely to reach 1000 innings; instead, relief rankings are based on their likelihood to notch 300 career big-league innings.

Hitters (Eligibility level is less than 50 major-league at-bats)

1. Jorge Soler (High-A Daytona) RF

I buy his glove more than I buy Javier Baez' glove, and Soler seems more willing to make adjustments so far. Very close between the two.

2. Javier Baez (High-A Daytona) SS

Baez has the skill to hit upper-level pitching. He hasn't shown the consistency on either side of the ball yet I would prefer. He is, still, very young.

3. Albert Almora (Mesa) CF

I'm due to see Kane County twice in about ten days. I hope to see him when I go.

4. Logan Watkins (Triple-A Iowa) Utility

Yes, Watkins is a second baseman. I'm calling him a utility guy, as it plays to why he outranks more prospecty types of players.Watkins can fill in at SS, CF, and probably 3B as needed. He's a smart player with solid defensive skills. If he hits, or draws walks, as he has in the minors, he'll get 3000 at-bats in the majors.

5. Dan Vogelbach (Low-A Kane County) 1B

A bit of a dropoff here. Not in ability, but in confidence to reach that 3K mark. Vogelbach is having professional at-bats, and still profiles as a DH. He's fanning a bit more than I'd expected, but there's no cause for alarm.

6. Christian Villanueva (Double-A Tennessee) 3B

I'm buying his glove more than his bat. I'll go with Scott Brosius as a comp.

7. Arismendy Alcantara (Double-A Tennessee) SS

I see little shot of Alcantara getting 3000 at bats in Chicago. He should get traded, probably this off-season. There are too many middle infielders with more luster in the system.

8. Jeimer Candelario (Low-A Kane County) 3B

His defense and power still need to develop, and that will happen through repetitions and maturation. The numbers really aren't important here.

9. Matt Szczur (Double-A Tennessee) OF

When the purge begins, Szczur will get a call to Triple-A Iowa. He still has things to work on in Tennessee, but they could be worked on in Iowa just as well.

10. Junior Lake (Triple-A Iowa) ????

I have no idea where to slot Lake. I doubt anyone does. He has a high ceiling, but a very remote chance of reaching it.

11. Willson Contreras (Low-A Kane County) C

Contreras benefits from nothing much being above him at his position. He will start the next two years, with plenty of time to work on all aspects of his game. In that sense, the anti-Alcantara.

12. Ronald Torreyes (Double-A Tennessee) 2B

He's young for his level, and may be a trade candidate if the parent club deals with someone interested in a young second baseman. I'm not trying to trade Torreyes, but some of these middle infielders will be redundant at some point.

13. Rock Shoulders (Low-A Kane County) 1B

While numbers aren't usually that important in minor league ball, Shoulders has battered himself into the equation. He won't supplant Anthony Rizzo, but if he keeps crushing the ball, someone will invest in him.

14. Jae-Hoon Ha (Double-A Tennessee) OF

His inability to stay healthy is hurting his chances. His offense and defense aren't the problems.

15. Rubi Silva (Double-A Tennessee) OF

If for no other reason, I put him here to stifle people who insist on immediate results from youngsters. He wasn't supposed to be able to hit. Or have any power. He's in Double-A doing well enough now to justify his investment.

16. Stephen Bruno (High-A Daytona) Utility

Bruno continues to hit, when healthy. He still has no real position, though.

17. Marco Hernandez (Low-A Kane County) SS

Hernandez is still young, but at some point, he has to start hitting or fielding to pass some of his competition.

18. Gioskar Amaya (Low-A Kane County 2B)

The numbers aren't there yet, but the Midwest League tends to favor pitchers.

19. Trey Martin (Low-A Kane County) OF

Presently injured, he is still a very solid defensive center fielder.

20. Carlos Penalver (Mesa) SS

As good a defensive shortstop as there is in the system, Penalver figures to start in short season ball with the Boise Hawks.

Starting Pitchers (Maximum limit 30 major-league innings)

1. Arodys Vizcaino (Mesa)

I see Vizcaino as a reliever, but I put him here. Appel or Gray would bump him down a peg.

2. Pierce Johnson (Kane County)

Really not much competition with him for this spot. Johnson is a mild underperformer so far this year.

3. Juan Carlos Paniagua (???)

When a guy who can't get into the country is your third best pitching prospect, that isn't a positive.

4. Dillon Maples (Kane County)

Not only has Maples made the big jump to full season ball, his control has been acceptable. That has historically been his bugaboo.

5. Hector Rondon (Chicago)

Rondon is the best of the Cubs' recent forays into the Rule 5 draft. If he were to be released, he'd land somewhere in the majors.

6. Kyle Hendricks (Tennessee)

A strike-thrower, he will be in line for a shot with the big club in the next few years. As a college draftee, he will be safe from Rule 5 status until December 2014.

7. Tayler Scott (Kane County)

The South African-born right-hander is doing well in Kane County this season. He largely pitches to contact, but has given up only one homer as a pro.

8. Paul Blackburn (Mesa)

As with any pitcher I haven't seen, I have little confidence on this selection. Blackburn has upside.

9. Duane Underwood (Mesa)

Another 'the devil you don't know over the devil you do know' type of choice, I'm not sure what Underwood will provide.

10. Chris Rusin (Iowa)

Rusin is not only Iowa's best pitcher so far, he's also one out from being booted out of the group. He could be a reliever if need be.

11. Alberto Cabrera (Tennessee)

Cabrera has the velocity to be dangerous. He needs to tune up his command.

12. Josh Conway (Mesa)

Conway is rehabbing his second major health problem with the Cubs, and he was drafted less than a year ago. I'd like to see him have a chance to pitch in a pro game that charges admission.

13. Ryan McNeil (Mesa)

McNeil is officially rehabbing an injury, but his draft status places him about here.

14. Eric Jokisch (Tennessee)

The Northwestern lefty's strikeout numbers are up this year, but his other numbers are a bit down.

15. Dallas Beeler (Tennessee)

Beeler is doing a bit better than last season for the Smokies, but probably would be a reliever with the parent club.

16. Ben Wells (Daytona)

With Wells, it is a matter of figuring it out or not. He hasn't yet, but if he does, he could vault past a few on the list.

17. Jose Rosario (Kane County)

Back from a ten-month or so injury; I still haven't heard exactly what it was. Nonetheless, he has enough velocity to belong around here.

18. Mike Heesch (Kane County)

Heesch is another case of 'don't mind the numbers'. His forte is ball movement. When he gets it, he retires hitters. If not, his numbers suffer.

19. Felix Pena (Kane County)

Now injured, Pena has a WHIP under one in the Midwest League this season.

20. James Pugliese (Mesa)

Pugliese is angling for the ace role in Boise this year, after struggling there a bit last season.

Relief pitchers (The 10 most likely to get 300 innings outside of the above 20.)

1. Kyuji Fujikawa (Chicago)

For Fujikawa to get in 300 innings, it would probably take four seasons in MLB. We'll see.

2. Zach Rosscup (Tennessee)

Rosscup is my choice to be the next in the Sean Marshall/James Russell line. He's not a closer, but records outs. He's one more piece of the Matt Garza deal.

3. Tony Zych (Tennessee)

Zych can be dominant. He can also be very hittable. If he can figure things out in Tennessee, he can claim a bullpen role in Chicago next season.

4. Frank Batista (Tennessee)

If it seems like most of the Smokies bullpen is in this category, you're observant. In reality, these should be the types of guy in the upper levels of bullpens.

5. Yeiper Castillo (Daytona)

Castillo is striking out a batter per inning in High-A ball.

6. Austin Kirk (Daytona)

Kirk is struggling in a replay in Daytona as a starter. A trip to the pen may be facilitated by the June draft.

7. Frank del Valle (Daytona)

Del Valle is entrenched as a reliever in Daytona this year. His strikeout numbers are very impressive.

8. Nathan Dorris (Kane County)

Dorris has been the Cougars' best reliever.

9. Trey McNutt (Tennessee)

How much of a Cubbie occurrence would it be for McNutt to figure it out after being traded or released?

10. Eddie Orozco (Kane County)

Orozco keeps getting the ball out of the pen in Geneva. His numbers are bruised, but his opportunity remains.