FanGraphs Top 15 Cubs Prospects for 2013

The off-season look at the Cubs’ farm system continues with FanGraphs ranking of the top 15 prospects in the Cubs’ system.

For the second year in a row, FanGraphs ranked Javier Baez as the best prospect in the Cubs’ system followed by newcomers Albert Almora and Jorge Soler. Dillon Maples received the nod as the top pitching prospect in the Cubs’ system and Dan Vogelbach rounded out the top five.

FanGraphs’ list is similar to the one released by Baseball Prospectus last week with a couple of small exceptions and additions.

FanGraphs Top 15 Cubs Prospects for 2013

1. Javier Baez, SS (1)
2. Albert Almora, OF (NA)
3. Jorge Soler, OF (NA)
4. Dillon Maples, RHP (4)
5. Dan Vogelbach, 1B (6)
6. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP (NA)
7. Brett Jackson, OF (2)
8. Matt Szczur, OF (3)
9. Christian Villanueva, 3B (NA)
10. Josh Vitters, 3B (12)
11. Marco Hernandez, SS (NR)
12. Jeimer Candelario, 3B (NR)
13. Junior Lake, SS (NR)
14. Duane Underwood, RHP (NA)
15. Trey Martin, OF (NR)

2012 FanGraphs Ranking in Parenthesis – (NA – not available, NR – not ranked)

Tony Zych (13), Juan Carlos Paniagua (NA), Gioskar Amaya (NR) and Robert Whitenack (NR) just missed the cut and Justin Marra is one of the sleepers in the Cubs’ system.

FanGraphs indicated they were pretty comfortable ranking the top five prospects in the Cubs’ system and “then things started to get murky.” Ten of the 15 players that made FanGraphs’ ranking were in the Cubs’ system prior to last season.

Here are a few of the highlights from FanGraphs’ report of the top 15 Cubs Prospects:

1. Javier Baez, SS
Javier Baez has tremendous bat speed and his two-strike approach allows him to hit with power to centerfield and right field. FanGraphs placed a future 60/70 grade on his hit tool and a 70 grade on his power. Baez needs to show a little more control at times. Baez tends to swing from his heals but does change his approach with two strikes.

As for his makeup, FanGraphs talked to a scout that down played concerns over his makeup and said that Baez is a hard worker, a fierce competitor and is confident.

Baez’s defense has improved and he possesses good hands, a strong arm and great instincts.

Projected 2013 Level: High-A/Double-A

2. Albert Almora, OF
Prior to being drafted last June, Almora had a reputation for being an exceptional baserunner and defender. Almora has been as advertised so far. Almora has excellent instincts in the field and on the bases.

Albert Almora has a good approach at the plate, makes contact but his aggressive approach does not result in many walks. FanGraphs thinks he has an All-Star ceiling and will probably reach Cubs late-2015 or 2016.

Projected 2013 Level: Single-A

3. Jorge Soler, OF
Jorge Soler is a “prototypical right fielder who can really throw” and “generates immense bat speed from his natural strength, explosive hip turn and relatively simple load and stride.” Soler has a future power grade of 70 and a raw power grade of 80. Soler is expected to hit for average and has pretty good contact skills but has struggled with breaking stuff.

Projected 2013 Level: Single-A/High-A

4. Dillon Maples, RHP
Dillon Maples throws a plus fastball that can touch 95-97 mph with a plus 12-to-6 wipeout curveball. Maples has a chance to throw three plus pitches and benefited from being coached in high school by James Baldwin. Maples has the ceiling of a top of the rotation starter.

Projected 2013 Level: Single-A

5. Dan Vogelbach, 1B
The Legend of Dan Vogelbach has reached FanGraphs. Vogelbach is a sharp, instinctive hitter that makes good contact. FanGraphs described Vogelbach’s swing as “pretty” and said he has an impressive bat with a scary body.

Dan Vogelbach is limited in the field but “is a great team player with outstanding leadership qualities who likes to prove people wrong.”

Projected 2013 Level: Single-A

6. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP
Arodys Vizcaino projects has a big league pitcher but there are mixed opinions on whether he will end up as a starter or in the backend of a bullpen … and FanGraphs is not sure either.

Vizcaino was hitting 96 mph with movement on his fastball and threw an impressive changeup to lefties prior to Tommy John surgery.

Projected 2013 Level: Double-A/MLB

7. Brett Jackson, OF
Brett Jackson has the tools to end up as a big league regular. Jackson has power, speed and plays good defense. Jackson works counts and has shown pop but he must cut down on his strikeout rate. Jackson does not project to hit for a high average but his willingness to walk will help his on-base numbers

Projected 2013 Level: Triple-A/MLB

8. Matt Szczur, OF
Many question what the future holds for Matt Szczur … and FanGraphs can be added to the list. Szczur has plus-plus speed, average defensive skills and gap power. FanGraphs spoke to a scout who thinks Szczur will make it to the big leagues as a fourth outfielder and the same scout also said he expects Szczur to become an everyday player.

Projected 2013 Level: Double-A/Triple-A

9. Christian Villanueva, 3B
Christian Villanueva’s defense at third is outstanding. He has excellent range, good hands and a strong arm. Due to his lack of power for a third baseman, FanGraphs thinks a position change could be in his future, possibility second base.

FanGraphs thinks Christian Villanueva could be ready for the majors in late 2013, more than likely 2014.

Projected 2013 Level: Double-A

10. Josh Vitters, 3B
Josh Vitters has not performed up to his third pick selection in the 2007 draft over the first six years of his pro career. Vitters does not have much power and FanGraphs questioned, like many, if he has the ability to stick at third base. Vitters had a good year in the PCL last season but struggled mightily when he was called up.

Projected 2013 Level: Triple-A/MLB

11. Marco Hernandez, SS
Marco Hernandez is steady but not flashy in the field. Hernandez has future gap power potential and a chance to remain as a middle infielder.

Projected 2013 Level: Single-A

12. Jeimer Candelario, 3B
FanGraphs did not come away impressed with Jeimer Candelario’s defense when they saw him play. FanGraphs described his defense as lackadaisical and he “looked nonchalant at times.”

Jeimer Candelario has decent bat speed and noisy hands but his swing got “whippy at times”. Candelario is only 18 years old and has time to “be an average to above-average hitter.”

Projected 2013 Level: Single-A

13. Junior Lake, SS
Junior Lake has the tools and is a high-ceiling player. Lake can look very good for a period of time then disappear for just as long. Lake is aggressive at the plate and does not work the count. When he makes contact, the ball jumps off his bat. Lake has one of the best arms in all of baseball and he figures to move to third base or right field (note: the Cubs see Lake as a future third baseman, not a shortstop based on recent interviews with Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod).

Lake’s tools are among the best in the Cubs’ system but are still raw.

Projected 2013 Level: Triple-A/MLB

14. Duane Underwood, RHP
FanGraphs pointed out that Duane Underwood narrowly beat out Juan Carlos Paniagua for the next best pitching prospect in the Cubs’ system. Underwood needs to work on his consistency. Underwood has an impressive pitcher’s frame and is projectable. Underwood can touch the mid-90s with his fastball and features both a curveball and a changeup.

Projected 2013 Level: Low Single-A

15. Trey Martin, OF
Trey Martin is starting to appear on radars around the game according to FanGraphs. Martin has impressed scouts and “has a really good upside.” Martin is a legitimate centerfield prospect and showed outstanding range in left field. FanGraphs thinks it Martin can fill out his frame he could become a legitimate power threat.

Trey Martin was hit in the face during the Fall Instructional League and suffered a broken cheekbone but he did not suffer any damage to his eye and is expected to be ready when Spring Training begins.

Projected 2013 Level: Single-A

FanGraphs Top 15 Prospects: Chicago Cubs

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