Minor League Ball’s Top Cubs Prospects for 2014

John Sickels released his list of the top prospects in the Cubs’ organization on Wednesday. Javier Baez and Kris Bryant topped Sickels’ ranking of the best players in what he labeled a “dramatically improved system.”

The Cubs’ front office has made improvements to the organization in a short amount of time. The Cubs have a rather deep system that remains light in the pitching department. Sickels thinks the Cubs have four potential All Stars in Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler while players like Jeimer Candelario, Dan Vogelbach, Mike Olt and Arismendy Alcantara have the potential to be big league regulars.

On the pitching side, Sickels likes the additions of C.J. Edwards, Neil Ramirez, Corey Black and Ivan Pineyro and he is high on the 2013 draft class that included Rob Zastryzny and “promising arms” like Tyler Skulina, Scott Frazier, Trey Masek, David Garner, Zack Godley and Sam Wilson.

John Sickels provided interesting comps to Javier Baez and Kris Bryant. Sickels acknowledged the comp to Gary Sheffield for Baez’s bat speed is accurate but he thinks Baez “can be a Giancarlo Stanton-type hitter.” Sickels comps for Bryant were a cross between Ryan Braun and Troy Glaus. Bryant “should be a devastating power hitter” and has “a higher floor” than Baez according to John Sickels.

John Sickels assigns letter grades to all of the players in his rankings. Sickels sees an ‘A’ prospect as an elite talent that has a “reasonable chance to become stars or superstars.” A ‘B’ prospect has a “good chance to enjoy a successful career” and some could “develop into stars.” A ‘C’ grade “are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for.”

Minor League Ball’s Top 21 Cubs Prospects for 2014

2013 Minor League Ball’s Ranking in Parenthesis (NA – not available, NR – not ranked)

Key – Player, Position, Minor League Ball Grade, 2013 Ranking

  1. Javier Baez, SS – A (1)
  2. Kris Bryant, 3B – A (NA)
  3. Albert Almora, OF – A- (2)
  4. Jorge Soler, OF – B+ (3)
  5. C.J. Edwards, RHP – B+ (NA)
  6. Arismendy Alcantara, INF – B (19)
  7. Pierce Johnson, RHP – B (10)
  8. Jeimer Candelario, 3B – B (15)
  9. Dan Vogelbach, 1B – B (4)
  10. Christian Villanueva, 3B – B- (8)
  11. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP – C+ (5)
  12. Mike Olt, 3B – C+ (NA)
  13. Neil Ramirez, RHP – C+ (NA)
  14. Matt Szczur, OF – C+ (9)
  15. Josh Vitters, OF – C+ (13)
  16. Kyle Hendricks, RHP – C+ (NR)
  17. Corey Black, RHP – C+ (NA)
  18. Rob Zastryzny, LHP – C+ (NA)
  19. Ivan Pineyro, RHP – C+ (NA)
  20. Paul Blackburn, RHP – C+ (17)
  21. Kevin Encarnacion, OF – C+ (NR)

Other Top Prospects

  • Gioskar Amaya, 2B
  • Yasiel Balaguert, OF
  • Dallas Beeler, RHP
  • Shawon Dunston Jr., OF
  • Jacob Hannemann, OF
  • Brett Jackson, OF
  • Eloy Jimenez, OF
  • Eric Jokisch, LHP
  • Dillon Maples, RHP
  • Brett Marshall, RHP
  • Jefferson Mejia, RHP
  • Armando Rivero, RHP
  • Gleyber Torres, SS
  • Jen-Ho Tseng, RHP
  • Logan Watkins, INF
  • Ben Wells, RHP

John Sickels indicated the Cubs have about 15 other prospects that could be mentioned. He also pointed out due to limited playing time players like Eloy Jimenez, Jefferson Mejia and Gleyber Torres “are hard to get a valid feeling for” but each player has a “very high ceiling.”

All in all it was a very good year for the Cubs’ farm system. Now it is up to the front office to make sure the players stay on track and keep improving on their way through the minor leagues.

Baseball America released their ranking of the Cubs’ system in November, along with the best tools in the organization. Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook is due out at the end of the month. And Baseball Prospectus’ list of the Cubs’ system is due to publish in the very near future.

The CCO will release our ranking of the top players in the Cubs’ farm system during Spring Training.

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO and @TheCCO_Minors

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  • Tony_Hall

    2 and a half years ago this was a system with no real future stars. Now, 3 players graded as A and 7 that are B’s. Compare that to the year before Theo took over.


    7 B’s (2014 rank)
    1. Brett Jackson (others – Iowa)
    2. Trey McNutt (NR – Tenn.)
    3. Chris Carpenter (Tokyo)
    4. Jay Jackson (Miami AAA)
    5. Hayden Simpson (cut – Frontier)
    6. Reggie Golden (NR – Kane Country)
    7. Josh Vitters (15th – Iowa)

    Now the list of those not mentioned (that means still would get at least a C grade) is 15 more. That makes 52 players C or better, compared to 36 on the 2011 list. More quantity, more quality,

    • GaryLeeT

      in their position players.

      I see you finished your last sentence with a comma so I finished it for you

      • Tony_Hall

        LOL. I fixed my period.

        Actually pitchers amount to 9 of the top 20. They don’t have any A ranked pitchers, but that isn’t a ranking Sickels gives out very easily.

        • GaryLeeT

          How did they come up with a C+ for Vizcaino? The guy hasn’t pitched in like what ? 3 years?

          • Tony_Hall

            In the article explains the grades.

            “Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Some end up as role players or bench guys. Many don’t make it at all.”

          • Tony_Hall

            Injuries have knocked him down to a C+ prospect. Last year he was a B-, with injury concerns.

            He is a high ceiling arm, with a low floor.

        • GaryLeeT

          So a B+ for Edwards, who is just coming out of A ball, is about as high a grade as they give out, for someone that far down in the system?

          • Tony_Hall

            I would say yes, except for a guy like Appel type pitcher. Not all lists are out yet and it is not easy to get a snapshot of grades by position. I believe at the end he does a Top 100 type ranking to see this easier.

            B+ is high praise for Edwards and shows that you don’t have to be a top draft pick to be considered a top prospect.

          • DWalker

            Wasn’t Sickels pretty low on Edwards? I recall one of these guys was very hesitant to rate him very highly. If that was Sickels and hes moved him to a B+ already, that is saying a lot.

          • Tony_Hall

            Since Edwards just added to the Cubs system last year, I don’t know what he was rated in the past. If you are thinking of past Cubs prospects list, it must be someone else.

          • DWalker

            What I am thinking of is some twitter conversations a couple of months ago.where one of these guys was asked where edwards would fall, and he replied he wasn’t sure and hated to rate him too highly because of his frame.

          • Tony_Hall

            I am sure that you did see that on twitter, he is tall and skinny.

            Here is last years report by Sickels.

            “17) C.J. Edwards, RHP, Grade C+: Very high upside arm came out of nowhere to dominate short-season ball, thanks to mechanical refinement and sudden step forward with secondary pitches. Not bad for a previously obscure 48th round pick.”

            He moved up as he had another dominating season.

    • cubtex

      I forgot about Reggie Golden. I remember when he was drafted he was projected to be a 1st round pick but slid to the Cubs in the 2nd round. He’s had a tough go of it.
      Of course building the farm system also meant losing on the major league side and trading mlb players for prospects.

      • Tony_Hall

        Golden is all athletic ability in the rawest form. I saw him in Beloit when he first signed and he is definitely impressive athlete. Not sure if that will turn into an impressive baseball player though.

        You do get what they are doing, don’t you!

  • Dorasaga

    Neil, the links to Sickels you provided in this article didn’t go to his blog. Here’s it:

    Quite a loaded farm with big bats.

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      I do not know what happened. Thank you for catching, corrected.

  • cubtex

    CJ Edwards…..6’2 and 155 pounds. Wow! I can’t even imagine that. Somebody needs to load up the pasta on that kid.

    • 07GreyDigger

      Works for Chris Sale! (mostly).

  • 07GreyDigger

    I’m beating the drum again, but although our system is low on pitching and we have an abundance of position guys, don’t get attached to them, that’s what trades are for…

    • cubtex

      I hope so but it is hard to aquire young TOR arms(minor league or major) without also giving up pitching in return.

  • CubbyDenCritic

    Nine out of the top twenty came through trades or was drafted since a year ago…….

    Have a feeling that next year, both Sosa & McGwire will not get the 5% of the HOF vote…….but hang on to their Rookie cards, because about 25 years from now, they will get in by the Veterans Committee……I say this because the way our society is going, weed, cocaine & heroin will all be legal by 2040….so why not forgive the steroid era users !…………..how could anyone not let in the top MLB pitcher of all time into the HOF…..

    Latest Tanaka Update…….
    – Tanaka arrived in USA
    – Tanaka is in L.A.
    – Tanaka went through Customs
    – Tanaka can’t find his luggage
    – Tanaka bought coffee at Airport Starbucks
    – Tanaka got his luggage
    – Tanaka was picked up by a limo
    – Tanaka checked into a Hyatt
    more later…….

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