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Cubs System Sonogram On Vacation, Part 4

Your intrepid reporter summarizes his baseball vacation, and makes some new prospect rankings.

Photos: Getty Images. Photo Illustration: Mike Bojanowski

Last Thursday, my dad and I enjoyed the fireworks show in Des Moines. It was a good one, with a really nice finale. the catch is, when you try to squeeze that many fans out of one venue at one time, travel and parking can be a nuisance. The next night, Clinton was having fireworks as well. Oddly, they started the game at the normal time (at 6:32, officially), and the game moved along briskly. Which meant, as the game was concluding, the sky was still bright. had the game gone extra innings, no delay would have been needed. however, it was still too bright for fireworks. We decided to skip the explosives, and head back  to the hotel.

Good call.

After a pit stop, and a quick trip into a WalMart (about the only thing opened on July 4 at 9:15 p.m.), we reached home around 9:45. As i usually do, the first thing I did was fire up my computer, followed shortly by loading my glass with some ice water. It's a really good thing we left, as the Ashford University Field fireworks had nothing on the fireworks on the computer. Within three minutes of my getting logged on, Ken Rosenthal was reporting the Cubs' big trade was official.

The trade specifics aren't entirely complete, as the Cubs have another player due in the swap. It will likely be a pitcher, with the names being bandied about being Tommy John surgery survivor Raul Alcantara or Dustin Driver, a 2013 prep pitching draftee who has yet to escape the Athletics compound.

I've thrown some blurbs here and other places about the trade. However, I wanted a place to tie up some of the loose ends, and look forward a bit. That's what this article is about.


Whether you like the rebuild premise or not, this move pretty much displays that the front office is doubling down on the idea. None of the players received from Oakland are going directly to Wrigley. Despite the fact that Tsuyoshi Wada, Dallas Beeler, and Kyle Hendricks are presumably better than the standard Cubs starting pitcher call-up from Triple-A, the last three months of play might see a bit of a dip in talent in the rotation. However, the rest of the 2014 big-league season is not the priority. The Cubs are a fifth-place team in a tough division, and were so before the trade. More talent will be leaving, but only if it is non-core pieces,and if it brings quality in return.

The talent being added, be it in the draft, internationally, or in trades, is improving the future of the team. The coaching seems to be improving the talent that is here. The whisper rumors are that the Cubs will ignore international spending limits next time around. With Manny Ramirez currently in the fold, and a 2013 class that is already looking impressive, one wonder what the international scouts will be able to do when they can spend with oblivion. and no serious competition from Boston or the Yankees.

The temptation will be to assume that the system is at high-ebb now. It probably is, with the Top-10 level talent, but don't rule out a nice string of years with the system in the top eight or so. With the influx of inexpensive talent, the holes to fill at the top level will be fewer. One hopes the added revenue will start being put to more talent at the top.

I want to briefly explain the what and why on my current Zygote 50 ratings. Instead of talking about the elusive "prospect-i-ness" of players, I slash it to the basics. What is the likelihood of a player getting a 3000 at-bat career, or for pitchers a 1000-inning career? With the new players incoming, sticking on either list is becoming a bit more difficult.

As I have a hard time seeing any circumstance by which Kris Bryant or Kyle Schwarber fail to get that many at bats, they remain my top two. I really have a hard time painting a scenario where either fail to reach 3000 at-bats without injury difficulties. Here are a few others, in my order, with what will keep them from hitting 3000 at-bats, which is a really good MLB career for any but the best prospect.

3. Addison Russell debuts here. I haven't seen him much yet, but he hits line drives. He's adjusting to new pitching by striking out too much over two games, but this is a new league for him. He doesn't know his team mates or his opponents very well. He and his roomie Jorge Soler know each other from their Mesa Solar Sox days, and they will be good for each other, I think.

4. Javy Baez still has too much swing and miss in his game.He may well have a better career than the three above him. He is more prospect-y than the others, but he has a wash-out rate built in with his highlights reel power. He will be able to play pretty much any infield position, and could probably play corner outfield as well. Defense won't be his problem. If his hitting tutor (Manny) can get him to slow things down mentally, he'll be fine.

5. Albert Almora is back to hitting again. It took him awhile to adjust to playing at yet another level where the pitchers are far older than he is, but he looks fine again. Almora's wash-out rate could come from his hitting generally. I don't think power will be that much of an issue. He should be fine defensively.  As long as he remembers to take outside pitches the other way, he should be fine.

6. Arismendy Alcantara slumps to sixth. I remember when utility guys used to be like Mick Kelleher. Alcantara will mostly play second and center, I would imagine. However, he should do so with a little more speed, defense, and triples than most Cubs fans are used to from their spare parts. Alcantara's question will be his hitting. I'm not really worried about him hitting enough, but if he doesn't take some walks to go with his extra-base power, that's where his whiff rate will come in.

7. Jorge Soler has had one problem so far: His health. This is as good of a place as any to note the following. As much as I enjoy listening to Cubs system announcers at any level, it's getting fun to listen to opposition radio at any full-season league level. Mostly, I do this with the Kane County games, where the announcers flat-out gush over Schwarber. And te pitching. Then they note Baez, Bryant, and the recent trade for Russell. While Cubs fans are often slow to see the results, especially when a Wada performance is wasted by the bullpen, good things are coming soon.

8. Billy McKinney debuts here. He's younger than Dan Vogelbach. He's more versatile. I'm not sure if he will hit enough, but he figures to be a nice lefty-hitting option to fill in against right-handed pitching. A recent comp I heard for McKinney was Mark Kotsay, whose early career would be a nice secondary piece in the Samardzija/Hammel trade. He was Oakland's second prospect, and I'm plugging him in as our eight-best hitting prospect. I'm good with that.

9. Dan Vogelbach is going to be traded, likely in this off-season. Tennessee only employs a designated hitter against AL-aligned foes, and Vogelbach is going to be a DH in the future, He should get in 3000 at-bats, though.

10. Willson Contreras is much improved at Daytona, and catching makes 3000 at-bats a bit easier. The gap from Vogelbach to Contreras is a rather large one in getting to 3000, and Contreras will have to hit to stay this high.

11. Jake Hannemann will have to continue to hit to stay this high, or climb higher. He has the other tools, though.

12. Gleyber Torres is playing SS most nights for the Mesa Cubs at 17. He might be in Kane County next year, getting ready to start the re-load of prospects rather quickly. As he is this young, there are a few things that could go wrong, but he has a few years, and the right attitude.

13. Eloy Jimenez is playing more in Mesa, which leads me to believe his defense is progressing. The question about Jimenez figures to be his hitting, but likely not his power.

14. Marco Hernandez might not hit enough to reach 3000 at-bats, but his glove should get him a look, somewhere. Though, likely, not with the Cubs.

15. Stephen Bruno has pushed his way into the top 15. I think he may be a piece outgoing in a trade, as I don't see him derailing any of the guys above him.

I should do one of these with the pitchers sometime as well. As usual, tell me where I'm wrong.