Baseball America’s Top 10 Cubs Prospects for 2013

Baseball America released their list of the top prospects in the Cubs’ system for the upcoming season on Monday. To no surprise, Javier Baez topped BA’s ranking with Albert Almora and Jorge Soler rounding out the top three. Last year’s top prospect in the Cubs’ system, Brett Jackson, slipped to fifth while Arodys Vizcaino was ranked as the top pitcher in the organization.

The biggest surprise was Kyuji Fujikawa being ranked ninth by Jim Callis. Callis has predicted that Fujikawa could be one of the best rookies in baseball during the upcoming season but it was unclear on how high Callis was on Fujikawa until the list came out on Monday.

Only three players (Baez, Jackson and Vogelbach) remain in Baseball America’s top 10 list for the second consecutive year and half of the players were not in the organization prior to last season.

Here’s how Baseball America thinks the Cubs’ system stacks up …

Baseball America’s Top 10 Cubs Prospects for 2013

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

  1. Javier Baez, SS (2)
  2. Albert Almora, OF (NA)
  3. Jorge Soler, OF (NA)
  4. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP (NA)
  5. Brett Jackson, OF (1)
  6. Pierce Johnson, RHP (NA)
  7. Dan Vogelbach, 1B (10)
  8. Jeimer Candelario, 3B (20)
  9. Kyuji Fujikawa, RHP (NA)
  10. Arismendy Alcantara, SS (NR)

Best Tools in the Cubs System

  • Albert Almora – Best Hitter for Average
  • Dan Vogelbach – Best Power Hitter
  • Logan Watkins – Best Strike Zone Discipline
  • Matt Szczur – Fastest Baserunner
  • Matt Szczur – Best Athlete
  • Arodys Vizcaino – Best Fastball
  • Arodys Vizcaino – Best Curveball
  • Alberto Cabrera – Best Slider
  • Brooks Raley – Best Changeup
  • Kyle Hendricks – Best Control
  • Chadd Krist – Best Defensive Catcher
  • Javier Baez – Best Defensive Infielder
  • Junior Lake – Best Infield Arm
  • Albert Almora – Best Defensive Outfielder
  • Jorge Soler – Best Outfield Arm

Scouting Reports on the Cubs Top 10 Prospects

The Scouting information provided by Baseball America is by subscription only. Here are a few of the highlights, and low-lights, for each of the Cubs top 10 prospects.

1. Javier Baez, SS

Javier Baez has “electric bat speed” that has been compared to that of Gary Sheffield. Baez’s offensive ceiling is “ridiculous” according to BA but he must learn out to take pitches and tone down his swing. Baez could develop as a well-above average hitter for both average and power. Baez surprised many last year with his defense. Baez has smooth actions and range at shortstop according to Baseball America and despite the fact he could outgrow the position, scouts BA spoke with think there is a chance he could stick at shortstop for a while.

The Future: Baseball America thinks he could be a better shortstop than Starlin Castro. Baez’s defensive tools are better, he has more power and his hitting ability is similar to Castro. BA thinks Baez will end up at the Double-A level in 2013 and maybe by Opening Day.

2. Albert Almora, OF

Albert Almora makes line drive contact with ease due to his bat speed, loose swing and hand-eye coordination. Almora will need to work on his patience but projects as a player that could hit 20 home runs. Defensively, he has “incredible instincts” and “gets outstanding jumps” as well as taking precise routes to the ball. Almora possesses a strong, accurate arm.


The Future: BA said that Almora profiles as a Gold Glove caliber centerfielder that could end up hitting third in a lineup.

3. Jorge Soler, OF

The ball explodes off Jorge Soler’s bat according to Baseball America and his above-average power can make a park look small. Defensively, Jorge Soler has an above-average arm and makes accurate throws, once he improves on his routes, he will be an asset in the field.

The Future: Baseball America labeled Soler as a “prototypical right fielder” and has a ceiling similar to Javier Baez.

4. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP

Arodys Vizcaino was one of the best pitching prospects in the game before he got hurt. Vizcaino threw a mid-90s fastball that topped out at 97 mph and according to BA it might have been his second best pitch. The question with Vizcaino moving forward, is where will he end up pitching once he is healthy? The Cubs see he has a top of the rotation starter while some think he will end up as a closer.

The Future: The Cubs will be very careful with Vizcaino in 2013 and he will see time at the big league level but the goal is to have him fully recovered from Tommy John surgery by the 2014 season.

5. Brett Jackson, OF

Brett Jackson’s problems may be mechanical according to BA and he has developed a bad habit of “drifting toward the plate” and “blocking off his hands.” Even if Brett Jackson cannot hit for average, he does enough (plus-power and speed, draws walks) to help a team.

The Future: BA thinks Jackson might have tried to do too much last year and if he can make “some adjustments” he could end up as a 20-20 player.

6. Pierce Johnson, RHP

Pierce Johnson is more about power than finesse and consistently throws his fastball in the 92-94 range and can hit 96 mph with what was described as a “lively fastball.” Johnson also throws a mid-80s cutter, is working on a changeup and possesses a “hammer curveball.”

The Future: Johnson has a chance to pitch in the “front-half” of a big league rotation.

7. Dan Vogelbach, 1B

Dan Vogelbach can hit a baseball. Vogelbach has “more usable power than Baez or Soler, which is saying a lot.” Vogelbach not only has plenty of bat speed and strength but has an advanced approach at the plate and feel for hitting. Vogelbach uses the entire field with an effortless swing and takes walks. The problem is that Vogelbach can only hit. He is adequate at first base and is a liability on the bases according to BA.

The Future: Vogelbach and Soler should put on shows in batting practice at Kane County and his offensive upside if similar to Billy Butler and Prince Fielder.

8. Jeimer Candelario, 3B

Jeimer Candelario has shown a fluid swing and feel for hitting from both sides at the plate at just 19 years old. He has a projectable frame and bat speed to develop 20-homer power. As for his defense, he has soft hand and a strong arm at third base but there are questions if he will be able to play third at the highest levels.

The Future: Candelario will stay at third for now according to Baseball America and with Anthony Rizzo and Dan Vogelbach in the system it is doubtful he would move across the diamond.

9. Kyuji Fujikawa, RHP

Kyuji Fujikawa throws harder than most Japanese pitchers (91-94 mph fastball) and is mid-80s splitter is his out pitch. Fujikawa commands and controls his pitches well and based on his track record, he has no problem dealing with pressure.

The Future: Fujikawa’s role with the Cubs will not be determined until Spring Training and it is unlikely he will be asked to close games while Carlos Marmol is on the roster.

10. Arismendy Alcantara, SS

Arismendy Alcantara can hit for average and provide solid power, for a middle infielder, from both sides of the plate. He has plus-speed and has the quickness, range and arm strength to make the plays at shortstop. Alcantara losses focus at times and might be better off at second base according to BA.

The Future: Scouts have compared him to Jimmy Rollins but Rollins was further advanced at the same age. Baseball America thinks the will advance to Double-A during the upcoming season.

__________________________________________________________________________

The Cubs system made positive steps forward in 2012 but the upcoming season will be a big one for the entire organization.

Cubs Prospect Rankings for 2013

The CCO’s ranking of the top prospects in the Cubs system will be published in the coming weeks.

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO and @TheCCO_Minors

  • Tony_Hall

    Jim Callis seems to be pretty high on Baez and his staying a SS for a long time. Our other Top 10 SS is Alcantara who he compares to Rollins, but also says “he loses focus at times and makes too many off-target throws leading to 30 errors in 71 games at short last year. The game may just be too fast for him there, so he might be better off at 2B.”

    We could have an all SS infield soon, with Alcantara at 2B (or any of the other already converted SS like Watkins), Castro at SS, and Baez at 3B. I like that idea as the most athletic guys stay at SS until at least the minors and it will create a very fun infield to watch.

    • paulcatanese

      It dosent surprise me one bit with the Cubs interest in signing shortstops. They are the most talented defensive players out there. Easily moved to other positions with the glove, so if they have the bat to go along with it, they are solid players to bring in. I have said that all along. Only exception, first base, hard to beat a slick fielder thats left handed over there, unless the are a Derek Lee or a Gil Hodges. I say sign all the shortstops they can.

      • mutantbeast

        Or centerfielders, most of whom can be moved to a corner position, particularly if they develop power.

  • Tony_Hall

    One point on Brett Jackson that I found interesting (in the full article) was that Callis is predicting that BJAX will start the year as the Cubs CF, unless he tanks in spring training. It makes me wonder if the Cubs front office has pushed that he will start the year in Iowa, as one a motivating factor and two to put less pressure on him in spring training. This way if he is the starting CF, he will have “won” the job in spring training, versus if they say they are counting on him to be the CF and then still struggles with his new swing, that it would feel like a demotion.

  • Tony_Hall

    I know that not all of the players will make it, but this will be fun to watch as these players make it to Wrigley.

    C – Castillo

    1B – Rizzo

    2B – Alcantara

    SS – Castro

    3B – Baez

    LF – BJAX

    CF – Almora

    RF – Soler

    Quite the lineup and who bats where????

    1. Almora

    2. Castro

    3. Baez

    4. Rizzo

    5. Soler

    6. BJAX

    7. Castillo

    8. Alcantara

    A little right handed with only 3 lefties against RH pitchers

    And yet this lineup doesn’t have Vogelbach in it.

    • John_CC

      Pretty exciting to have 3 guys that all project to be impact bats in Baez, Soler, and Almora. Castro could be hitting in the second half of the lineup in a couple years…or for another team.

      • Tony_Hall

        I actually think 6th, even in this lineup, as I would want my 2B batting 2nd and Alcantara or Watkins both could handle that spot.

        • Ray Ray

          May I ask why it is important to you that the 2nd baseman hits 2nd?

          • Tony_Hall

            Most likely the 2B is not a 3-6 hitter very often. With most teams catchers and SS batting 7th or 8th, I would like my 2B to be a classic 2 hole hitter, as also most of the time, they are not a lead-off hitter. My leadoff hitter I would like to be my CF.

            Call it the Ryne Sandberg fan in me, but that is what I look for in 2B, Now sometimes unique players change what you think or look for in a position.

            My general lineup thoughts
            1 CF
            2 2B
            3-6 – 1B/3B/LF/RF
            7 C
            8 SS

            Now a player like Castro comes along and can fill 1,2 or even a power spot 3-6, changes your lineup thoughts, just like a good hitting catcher.

            Castro is why I feel we can get away with Barney’s bat right now, as offensively, they have swapped roles so to speak.

            Of course their is not one set way to do this, and each team is unique.

          • John_CC

            I understand what you are saying but it seems to be based on “the old days” prototypes of hitters. Just off the top of my head it’s not hard to find players – the good ones – that don’t fit the mold.

            Cano
            Utley
            Kinsler
            Uggla
            Rollins
            Jeter
            Hanely
            Tulo
            A-Rod (when he was SS)
            Mauer
            Posey
            VMart
            Napoli

            And I’m sure if we actually pulled some lists there would be more.

            I don’t think you can build a team by picking your positon players based on where they will hit in the lineup.

          • Tony_Hall

            And one thing all of these players had in common, was they were part of top lineups. When you can get a power bat from up the middle positions, which I believe are now going back to being defensive minded positions versus PED induced power positions, it makes you have a special lineup.

            The 2B you list (Cano, Utley, Kinsler, Uggla) are still just an exception not the rule and they all batted 2nd at some point, until their lineups needed them in the 3-6 spots, Kinsler batted lead-off quite a bit.

            The SS (Rolllins, Jeter, Hanley, Tulo, and young AROID) all batted higher in the lineup as good on base players in their younger days, and Jeter has been a 1 or 2 guy most of his career. Once again only a handful of them that are the exception.

            Teams with power hitting catchers that demand a middle of the order spot are rare, as they wear down and need days off as a catcher, that is hard to depend on that player to fill a middle of the order spot, yet Mauer, Posey, Vmart and Napoli all have done it. Mauer is good example and actually all the players have gotten hurt and have missed time and Napoli is having a hard time finalizing his contract due to injury. If I am the Giants, I am decreasing Posey’s catching time every year, to keep his elite bat in the lineup.

            But overall, especially with the decrease in power and OBP as baseball has enacted tougher rules and testing on peds, your up the middle positions are going back to defense and OBP type positions. The ones that don’t have the OBP end up batting 7th or 8th, the ones that get on base better end up batting 1st or 2nd. Your corners now more than ever, need to be your power. You can’t expect big power from your up the middle players any more, so you need these guys in the corner OF and IF to provide it and bat 3-6.

            There will always be examples of players that provide exceptions, but when putting together a team and lineup, you better hope the exception is having a better bat up the middle than the other way around.

          • John_CC

            I hear ya. Just saying that if you want the best lineup – which I think we do – then pigeon-holing hitters into the lineup makes less sense.

            Also, I don’t think anyone short of A-Rod on my list has been linked to or is suspicious of PED use.

    • mutantbeast

      Tony-Ive seen Vogelbach in Az-I nickname him Vogel BOOM. This kid has unmistakeable power, the kind you don’t teach. Even if the NL needs to adopt the DH, find a place for him. This kid is a 40HR player waiting to happen.

      • Brp921

        I really like him.

      • John_CC

        He’s bound for the AL.

      • Tony_Hall

        I haven’t seen him in person yet, but from all the scouting reports I have seen, he is a 1B, at most. He can’t just be put in LF and be even decent. 1B he will be below average at defensively.

        I have now fully changed any view I have had on the DH….I am all for it!!

  • mutantbeast

    Maybe I need to go outside the Kane Co park during BP when Vogelboom and Solar Power are at bat….. Maybe some nice keepsakes.

  • Tom U

    Sorry, but this is the first chance I’ve had to comment on this story.

    Overall, I think it is a very fair assessment. While we may disagree on a few points, both Callis and I are generally on the same page.

    The one thing I would disagree with is that even though you can technically call him a rookie, I would not have included Fujikawa.

  • binyo

    I’d like to vote for /Austin Kirk to follow his progress and Eric

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