Baseball Prospectus Top 10 Cubs Prospects for 2013

Baseball Prospectus released their list of the top 10 prospects in the Cubs’ system. Last year’s first round draft pick, Albert Almora, topped BP’s ranking with Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, Arodys Vizcaino and Dan Vogelbach rounding out the top five.

Six of this year’s top 10 were either drafted, acquired by trade or signed by the new regime and only four of the 10 made Baseball Prospectus’ list of the top 20 prospects in the Cubs’ system a year ago. Jason Parks indicated that Albert Almora, Javier Baez and Jorge Soler are among the top 50 prospects in baseball.

As for the system as a whole, Jason Parks said, “the Cubs system might appear to be top heavy, with a partisan lean toward high-ceiling bats. But the deeper you dig, the more raw talent you discover on the mound, an even though it’s immature and a sizeable journey away from legitimacy, the talent is there to develop high-ceiling arms to math high-ceiling bats.”

Baseball Prospectus’ Top 10 Cubs Prospects for 2013

1. Albert Almora, OF (NA)
2. Javier Baez, SS (2)
3. Jorge Soler, OF (NA)
4. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP (NA)
5. Dan Vogelbach, 1B (12)
6. Brett Jackson, OF (1)
7. Pierce Johnson, RHP (NA)
8. Duane Underwood, RHP (NA)
9.Christian Villanueva, 3B (NA)
10. Dillon Maples, RHP (4)
(2012 BP Ranking in Parenthesis)

Prospects on the Rise
Juan Carlos Paniagua, RHP (NA)
Marco Hernandez, SS/2B (9)
Jeimer Candelario, 3B (7)

Factors on the Farm
The Cubs have three players in the system that Baseball Prospectus thinks could contribute at the big league level in 2013.

Tony Zych and Trey McNutt could find themselves pitching out of the Cubs’ pen next season and possibly in late inning roles. Junior Lake is a “polarizing prospect” according to BP and he could make his big league debut next season.

Top Talents in the Cubs’ System 25 and Under
(Born 04/07/87 or later)

1. Starlin Castro, SS
2. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
3. Albert Almora, OF
4. Javier Baez, SS
5. Jorge Soler, OF
6. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP
7. Dan Vogelbach, 1B
8. Brett Jackson, OF
9. Pierce Johnson, RHP
10. Duane Underwood, RHP

With a majority of BP’s rundown being by subscription only, here are a few of the highlights of the top prospects in the organization.

1. Albert Almora, OF
Age/DOB – 18 / April 16, 1994
The Tools – Shows all five, plus projections on hit/power
Strengths – Almora has a well-rounded collection of tools and an outstanding feel for the game that allows his tools to play above grade on the 2-8 scouting scales. Arm: 5; Run: 5; Glove: 6; Future hit: 6. Almora has excellent bat speed and gets into the zone quickly and efficiently with above-average power potential
Weaknesses – Almora does not have plus raw speed and lacks elite tools and his aggressive approach has not been tested, small professional sample.
Overall Future Potential – (6), First-Division Starter
Risk – Moderate risk and more polished that the average teenager. Almora shows advanced feel and instincts for the game with a high floor and respectable ceiling.
ETA – 2016

2. Javier Baez, SS
Age/DOB – 19 / December 1, 1992
The Tools – Hit tool could be elite; easy plus-plus raw power and a 7 arm
Strengths – Baez’s bat speed is off the charts and his hands are incredible on both sides of the ball. Baez has the ability to make very loud contact and his hit tool could develop into monster status. Baez’s raw power grades at least a 7, arm is a 7, run is a 5 and his actions at shortstop are fluid and easy.
Weaknesses – Baez has a wild approach at the plate and swings with violent intensity. Baez will chase and his pitch recognition has been questioned. Baez needs to slow the game down.
Overall Future Potential – (7), All-Star level player
Risk – Extreme risk. Baez plays the game with a reckless approach and needs to mature to reach his potential. Baez could be very special or very frustrating.
ETA – 2015

3. Jorge Soler, OF
Age/DOB – 20 / February 25, 1992
The Tools – Big raw power; plus arm
Strengths – Soler’s raw power grades out as a 7. Soler has easy bat speed and makes loud contact off the barrel to all fields. Soler has a solid approach at the plate and works counts. Soler features a plus arm and runs very well for a right fielder.
Weaknesses – There are questions about the future utility of the hit tool bases on a few mechanical hitches that could limit his ability to stay inside quality stuff.
Overall Future Potential – (6), First-Division player
Risk – High risk, Soler shows some now skills and a mature approach but he has not been tested enough and it is still early in the assimilation process.
ETA – 2015

4. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP
Age/DOB – 21 / November 13, 1990
The Tools – Plus-plus fastball; plus curve
Strengths – Vizcaino throws easy cheese with an explosive arm. His fastball sits in the 92-95 mph range as a starter and can touch the high 90s. Vizcaino features a hard curve with a tight rotation and two-plane movement.
Weaknesses – When Vizcaino slips under the ball, the lack of plane hurts him. Vizcaino has more control than command and lives loose in the zone. His delivery features some effort.
Overall Future Potential – (7), Late-Inning Reliever
Risk – Extreme risk, Vizcaino has an injury history and is likely to end up in bullpen.
ETA – Made Major League debut in 2011

5. Dan Vogelbach, 1B
Age/DOB – 21 / December 17, 1992
The Tools – Enormous raw power; plus potential hit tool; big makeup
Strengths – Vogelbach features raw 80, light-tower power. Vogelbach generates tremendous bat speed with fast hands and fluid hip explosion. Vogelbach’s stroke is shorter than most power hitters and is quick and easy to the ball, which naturally explodes off the bat. Vogelbach makes loud contact to all fields.
Weaknesses – Bad body and lacks defensive value. Vogelbach profiles as a bat-only first baseman or DH. Vogelbach has limited range, poor speed and is a below-average defender at first base.
Overall Future Potential – (6), First-Division player
Risk – High risk due to a bat-only profile. Vogelbach’s plus makeup and natural hitting ability gives him a chance.
ETA – 2016

6. Brett Jackson, OF
Age/DOB – 24 / August 2, 1988
The Tools – Can show all five tools, four tool grade at average-to-plus
Strengths – Jackson is an average defender in centerfield and can play all three outfield spots. Jackson has above-average raw power and on-base skills. Jackson has shown a feel for the game and has a big work ethic.
Weaknesses – Jackson lacks a loud tool and his hit tool is fringe-average at best. Jackson’s game features too much swing and miss
Overall Future Potential – (5); Major League regular
Risk – Moderate risk; Jackson has already reached the Major League level. Jackson works had and has a good chance to carve out a big league career
ETA – Made Major League debut in 2012

7. Pierce Johnson, RHP
Age/DOB – 21 / May 10, 1991
The Tools – Plus fastball; plus potential curveball
Strengths – Johnson has good size (6-foot-3, 170 pounds) and wiry strength. Johnson’s fastball sits in the 90-93 mph range but he can throw it a little harder when he needs to. Johnson’s curveball is a hard breaker in the 81-84 mph range with late break. Johnson also throws a cut fastball and a changeup plus he has the ability to miss bats.
Weaknesses – Johnson has not been able to stay healthy and his delivery requires some effort.
Overall Future Potential – (5-6); No. 3 Starter at the Major League level
Risk – High risk due to injury history
ETA – 2015

8. Duane Underwood, RHP
Age/DOB – 18 / July 20, 1994
The Tools – Easy plus velocity in fastball; plus potential curveball
Strengths – Underwood has huge arm strength with an electric fastball that has the potential to be special. Underwood will work in the plus velocity range with some sink and the ball explodes from the release.
Weaknesses – Underwood’s delivery is athletic but inconsistent and his control is below-average at present.
Overall Future Potential – (6-7); No. 2 Starter at the Major League level
Risk – Extreme; Underwood is only 18 years old and there is a wide gap between present and future
ETA – 2017

9. Christian Villanueva, 3B
Age/DOB – 21 / June 19, 1991
The Tools – 7 glove; 6 arm; 5 power potential; big makeup
Strengths – Villanueva has a plus, to plus-plus, defensive profile and features an ultra-slick glove, strong arm and solid range with excellent feel for the position. He has fast hands at the plate and can square velocity and stay inside pitches. Has shown the ability to hit for power. Villanueva has a mature approach at the plate and plays with intelligence.
Weaknesses – Villanueva lacks the typical offensive profile for third base. He has shown impressive bat speed but his hit tool is average at best and is likely limited to 10-15 home runs.
Overall Future Potential – (5); Solid-average regular at Major League level
Risk – Moderate risk; Villanueva is a mature player with a mature skill set
ETA – 2014

10. Dillon Maples, RHP
Age/DOB – 20 / May 9, 1992
The Tools – Big arm strength; plus fastball/curveball potential
Strengths – Maples has a plus-plus fastball potential and can work the pitch in the 92-96 mph range. Maples’ curveball is a power breaker thrown as hard as 82-84 mph with 12/6 movement
Weaknesses – Maples’ delivery is not fluid or repeatable and he doesn’t make it look easy. Maples’ command is well below-average, his fastball velocity is inconsistent and his changeup is still underdeveloped
Overall Future Potential – (6); No. 2 or 3 starter at the Major League level
Risk – Extreme risk due to injury history and mechanical red flags
ETA – 2017

This is the first of several looks this off-season at the Cubs’ system. The organization as a whole made positive steps forward last year, especially in the lower levels.

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