Baez and Bryant Top Baseball America’s List of Cubs Prospects for 2014

Baseball America released their list of the Cubs top 10 prospects for 2014 on Monday. Javier Baez topped the Cubs’ ranking with Kris Bryant just behind him at number two on BA’s list. C.J. Edwards is the best pitching prospect in the organization according to Baseball America, while Albert Almora and Jorge Soler rounded out the top five.

What is considered a stacked system made several leaps forward last season in both player development and talent acquisition. The general thought is that the Cubs have a top five system in the game, especially with the way pitchers such as Kyle Hendricks and Pierce Johnson progressed and the additions of C.J. Edwards, Corey Black, Neil Ramirez and Ivan Pineyro.

Baseball America’s Top 10 Cubs Prospects for 2014

2013 Baseball America Ranking in Parenthesis – (NA – not available, NR – not ranked)

  1. Javier Baez, SS (1)
  2. Kris Bryant, 3B (NA)
  3. C.J. Edwards, RHP (NA)
  4. Albert Almora, OF (2)
  5. Jorge Soler, RF (3)
  6. Pierce Johnson, RHP (6)
  7. Arismendy Alcantara, 2B/SS (10)
  8. Jeimer Candelario, 3B (8)
  9. Dan Vogelbach, 1B (7)
  10. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP (4)

Best Tools in the Cubs System

  • Albert Almora – Best Hitter for Average
  • Javier Baez – Best Power Hitter
  • Jeimer Candelario – Best Strike-Zone Discipline
  • Jacob Hannemann – Fastest Baserunner
  • Jacob Hannemann – Best Athlete
  • C.J. Edwards – Best Fastball
  • C.J. Edwards – Best Curveball
  • Pierce Johnson – Best Slider
  • Kyle Hendricks – Best Changeup
  • Kyle Hendricks – Best Control
  • Will Remillard – Best Defensive Catcher
  • Christian Villanueva – Best Defensive Infielder
  • Kris Bryant – Best Infield Arm
  • Albert Almora – Best Defensive Outfielder
  • Jorge Soler – Best Outfield Arm

Top 15 Players in the Cubs System 25 and Under

  1. Javier Baez, SS
  2. Kris Bryant, 3B
  3. Starlin Castro, SS
  4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  5. C.J. Edwards, RHP
  6. Albert Almora, OF
  7. Jorge Soler, OF
  8. Pierce Johnson, RHP
  9. Arismendy Alcantara, 2B/SS
  10. Jeimer Candelario, 3B
  11. Dan Vogelbach, 1B
  12. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP
  13. Junior Lake, OF
  14. Justin Grimm, RHP
  15. Kyle Hendricks, RHP

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 top 10 players in the Cubs’ system.

1. Javier Baez, SS

Javier Baez has special bat speed that produces top-of-the-scale power. Baez is aggressive at the plate with tremendous plate coverage and no true holes in his swing. Baez needs to work on pitch recognition and his leg kick allows him to drift at times. Baez hits the ball so hard he doesn’t have to square it up to hit the ball out of the park. Baez showed improvement at the plate when he was promoted to Double-A. Defensively, he has the tools to play short with a 70-arm, but he has a tendency to play too fast which costs him errors on routine plays.

The Future: Baez has the power to make Wrigley look small. If Baez can mature defensively he could force the Cubs to move Starlin Castro to second or third but it is more likely that Baez will move to second or third which could shift Kris Bryant to the outfield and create a logjam with Arismendy Alcantara. Baez profiles as an All-Star caliber, 30 home run infielder.

2. Kris Bryant, 3B

Kris Bryant is tall, lean and athletic with All-Star tools. Bryant’s adjustment in the box last year made a difference. Bryant spread out in the box which lowered his head and eliminated his pre-swing movement. Bryant has the potential to hit 40 home runs and hit for average. Defensively, Bryant has the ability to stick at third with an excellent arm and solid infield actions. But his 6-foot-5 frame lends scouts to think he will end up in right field.

The Future: Bryant seems to be on a fast track to Wrigley Field.

3. C.J. Edwards, RHP

C.J. Edwards misses barrels and bats and combines great stuff with tremendous work ethic and makeup. His frame brings up long-term durability questions. Edwards can locate a 93-95 mph fastball with excellent riding life. Edwards throws a curveball which gives him a second plus pitch and his hard slider has been given plus grades. Edwards also has a changeup that he uses sparingly. Edwards needs to add strength to pitch later into games.

The Future: Edwards appears ticketed for Double-A Tennessee and if he can hold up physically, he has front of the rotation potential.

4. Albert Almora, OF

Albert Almora has good tools and maximizes them with tremendous baseball instincts. Almora projects as an above-average or better hitter with average or better power and uses the entire field. Almora is an average runner but has premium range in centerfield thanks to his breaks and reads. Almora possesses a plus, accurate arm.

The Future: Almora should move up quickly according to BA and settle in as a talented glue guy in a lineup.

5. Jorge Soler, RF

As Baseball America put it, Jorge Soler looks like a right fielder. Soler’s swing, strength and sound plate approach give him top-shelf hitting ability and power. Soler has been graded with 80 raw power and a 70 arm. Soler is average defensively in right.

The Future: A healthy, motivated Soler has special offensive potential.

6. Pierce Johnson, RHP

Pierce Johnson quietly had a very good season. Johnson has a pitcher’s frame and attacks hitters with two-plus pitches. Johnson’s fastball sites in the 90-94 mph range and can touch 96 mph. Johnson throws a power curve in the low 80s and has a good feel for when to use it. Johnson’s changeup improved last year and he can throw it to lefties and righties.

The Future: Johnson and Edwards will begin the year at Double-A Tennessee, and according to BA it will be interesting to see which one makes it to the Cubs first.

7. Arismendy Alcantara, 2B/SS

Arismendy Alcantara has a plus arm at short but is a true weapon at second base. Alcantara’s hands fit better at second base where he has above average potential. Alcantara is a plus runner with first-step quickness and is an adept basestealer. Alcantara made a lot of improvement at the plate and his changed approach led to more walks. Alcantara has a short, compact swing and ranked second in the Southern League in doubles and extra basehits with 55.

The Future: Alcantara might be the most versatile of the Cubs’ infield options. He would fit as a super-utility player and has played centerfield.

8. Jeimer Candelario, 3B

Jeimer Candelario has one of the most polished swings in the Cubs’ system. The switch-hitter stays balanced in the box and has a line drive swing. Candelario projects as an above-average power with average to above hitting ability. Defensively he has enough arm strength for third but he might grow out of the position.

The Future: With added arm strength and work, Candelario could stick at third but if he doesn’t, Candelario will be limited to first base. Candelario should start 2014 with the D-Cubs.

9. Dan Vogelbach, 1B

Dan Vogelbach can hit. Vogelbach trusts his approach, works counts and has the strength to punish pitches he’s looking for. Vogelbach is consistent and does not give up at bats. Defense remains a problem for Vogelbach. BA graded his defense at first as a 20 with minimal range.

The Future: If Vogelbach can keep his weight under control, he can hit enough to overcome his defensive shortcomings, but he would be ideal as a DH.

10. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP

Arodys Vizcaino has not thrown a pitch in a professional game since he was acquired from the Braves in the Paul Maholm deal in July of 2012. Vizcaino had Tommy John surgery in March of 2012 and suffered a setback last May when he had surgery to remove debris from his elbow. No one is sure how Vizcaino will pitch when he is able to take the mound again.

The Future: If Vizcaino can get healthy and stay healthy, the general feeling is that he would fit at the back end of a big league bullpen.

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