Baseball America’s Top 31 Cubs Prospects for 2014

Baseball America’s 2014 Prospect Handbook arrived Wednesday with the Twins’ Miguel Sano on the cover and more positive news about the Cubs’ farm system.

Like Baseball Prospectus (No. 2) and Keith Law (No. 4), Baseball America ranked the Cubs’ organization in the top five in baseball. The Cubs system came in at No. 4 in BA’s Prospect Handbook, nine spots up from No. 13 a year ago. The Pirates, Red Sox, Twins, Cubs, Astros, Padres, Cardinals, Royals, Rangers and Mets make up Baseball America’s top 10.

Baseball America had this to say about the Cubs’ organization, “After building a very healthy farm system in Boston, Theo Epstein and company are doing the same in Chicago. It’s a very top-heavy system that drops off in talent quickly, but championship teams are built on star power.”

Baseball America’s list of the top players in the Cubs’ organization has a slightly-different look from a year ago. There are several additions as well as players that slipped out of the top 31 due to various reasons. Of the top 31 players in the Cubs’ system according to Baseball America, 24 are homegrown talent and the other seven were acquired in trades over the last two years.

Baseball America released its top 10 list for the Cubs’ system in November. Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, C.J. Edwards, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler comprised the top five and each of the players found their ways on the individual lists of Baseball America’s editors.

Here’s how the Cubs’ young players fared on the individual top 50 lists:

  • John Manuel – Javier Baez (5), Kris Bryant (6), C.J. Edwards (23), Albert Almora (46)
  • Matt Eddy – Javier Baez (7), Kris Bryant (11), C.J. Edwards (39)
  • J.J. Cooper – Javier Baez (4), Kris Bryant (5), C.J. Edwards (27), Albert Almora (32), Jorge Soler (39)
  • Ben Badler – Javier Baez (5), Jorge Soler (22), Kris Bryant (23), Albert Almora (31), C.J. Edwards (46)

The Cubs’ system has shown improvement over the past two years and the front office has really built on the last draft Tim Wilken was in charge of in 2011. There are multiple players in the Cubs’ system that project as impact talent at the Major League level. The player development staff must keep those players on the right path through the system and up to the big leagues.

Cubs Top 31 Prospects for 2014

2013 Ranking in Parenthesis – NR – Not Ranked, NA – Not Available

BA Grade and Risk Factor in Parenthesis – Click Here for an explanation of Baseball America’s grade and scale and risk factor

  1. Javier Baez, SS (1, 70, Medium)
  2. Kris Bryant, 3B (NA, 70, Medium)
  3. C.J. Edwards, RHP (NA, 65, High)
  4. Albert Almora, OF (2, 60, Medium)
  5. Jorge Soler, OF (3, 65, Extreme)
  6. Pierce Johnson, RHP (6, 55, High)
  7. Arismendy Alcantara, 2B/SS (10, 55, High)
  8. Jeimer Candelario, 3B (8, 50, High)
  9. Dan Vogelbach, 1B (7, 50, High)
  10. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP (4, 55, Extreme)
  11. Kyle Hendricks, RHP (NR, 45, Low)
  12. Paul Blackburn, RHP (16, 50, High)
  13. Christian Villanueva, 3B (12, 45, Medium)
  14. Mike Olt, 3B (NA, 55, Extreme)
  15. Corey Black, RHP (NA, 50, High)
  16. Eloy Jimenez, OF (NA, 55, Extreme)
  17. Jacob Hannemann, OF (NA, 55, Extreme)
  18. Dillon Maples, RHP (18, 55, Extreme)
  19. Tyler Skulina, RHP (NA, 50, High)
  20. Rob Zastryzny, LHP (NA, 50, High)
  21. Ivan Pineyro, RHP (NA, 45, Medium)
  22. Kyuji Fujikawa, RHP (9, 45, Medium)
  23. Gleyber Torres, SS (NA, 55, Extreme)
  24. Dallas Beeler, RHP (NR, 45, High)
  25. Armando Rivero, RHP (NA, 45, High)
  26. Matt Szczur, OF (14, 45, High)
  27. Zach Cates, RHP (NR, 45, High)
  28. Ben Wells, RHP (NR, 45, High)
  29. Rubi Silva, OF (NR, 50, Extreme)
  30. Danny Lockhart, 2B (NR, 45, High)
  31. Dustin Geiger, 1B (NR, 45, High)
Baseball America’s Grade Scale and Risk Factors

BA Grade Scale

  • 75-80: Franchise players and No. 1 starters
  • 65-70: No. 2 starters and perennial all-stars
  • 55-60: First-division regulars and No. 3 starters and elite closers
  • 45-50: Most players reside here. The high end (50s with lower risk) are second-division regulars with higher peaks, eighth-inning relievers and fourth starters on playoff teams. The lower end are platoon/utility players, back-end starters and relievers.
  • 35-40: Players with fifth-starter or utility/backup catcher upside, or relief specialists. It will be rare for a 35 to make the book.

Risk Factors

  • Safe: Has shown realistic ceiling in big leagues.
  • Low: Likely to reach realistic ceiling, certain big league careeer barring injury.
  • Medium: Still some work to do to turn tools into major league-caliber skills.
  • High: Most draft picks in their first seasons, players with plenty of projection left.
  • Extreme: Teenagers in Rookie ball or players with significant injury histories.

As has been the case for the last three years, Baseball America provides scouting grades (20-80) for each organization’s top prospect. Baseball America graded Javier Baez with 60 batting, 75 power, 55 speed, 45 defense and 70 arm.

Kyle Hendricks could end up being the Cubs top rookie for the upcoming season as he should have an opportunity to crack the rotation. Corey Black could be the breakout prospect while Stephen Bruno is the sleeper in the Cubs’ system according to Baseball America.

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
  2. Kris Bryant
  3. Starlin Castro
  4. Anthony Rizzo
  5. C.J. Edwards
  6. Albert Almora
  7. Jorge Soler
  8. Pierce Johnson
  9. Arismendy Alcantara
  10. Jeimer Candelario
  11. Dan Vogelbach
  12. Arodys Vizcaino
  13. Junior Lake
  14. Justin Grimm
  15. Kyle Hendricks
Cubs 2014 Prospect Rankings

Coming in March: The CCO’s Top 20 Cubs Prospects

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO and @TheCCO_Minors

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  • GaryLeeT

    I almost feel bad for the Rangers. The Cubs have fleeced them a couple of times now.

    • cubtex

      Look at the numbers they gave both Hendricks and Villanueva. Both 45.The real fleecing was getting CJ Edwards included in the Garza deal.

      • GaryLeeT

        The rankings are an external view, while the team’s view could be different. But I agree, I mostly had getting Edwards in mind, when I thought of them taking advantage of the Rangers.

        • cubtex

          Most scouts don’t consider Hendricks even a prospect. He doesn’t have any plus pitches. I compare him to Casey Coleman. Odds are Villanueva will never start for a mlb team.

          • daverj

            I think Hendricks has the upside of decent a #5 starter while Coleman’s upside was more of a middle reliever. Hendricks has had significantly more success than Coleman in the minors and that counts for something.

          • cubtex

            I agree that Hendricks will get a cup of coffee in the majors. He might even get a year as a #5 starter… but how many pitchers have long careers with stuff like his?

          • John_CC

            Really? You must know a lot of scouts and talk to a lot of different guys to claim “Most” scouts.

            Hedricks: 45-50: Most players reside here. The high end (50s with lower risk) are second-division regulars with higher peaks, eighth-inning relievers and fourth starters on playoff teams.

            Low: Likely to reach realistic ceiling, certain big league careeer barring injury.

            You have an interesting interpretation.

          • cubtex

            Of course most prospects or players rank there because most prospects don’t make it. Look at what number the 31st ranked player is. Hendricks is not much of a prospect. Sorry if that bursted your bubble.

          • John_CC

            “Likely to reach realistic ceiling, CERTAIN big league career barring injury”

            I never said he was going to be a star…that was someone else.

            “…fourth starter on playoff team.”

            Maybe we have different definitions of what a prospect is, to me a kid that has a very high percentage of making the starting the rotation of the big league squad within the next two seasons is a prospect.

            That is all.

            You make it sound like he doesn’t have a chance. The professional scouts say he has a good chance.

            Guess who I am going to take more stock in?

          • cubtex
          • cubtex

            It would be easy to look at the ERA and FIP that he has posted in his
            career and get really excited about Hendricks. Go ahead and get excited,
            but temper your expectations. It’s hard to work at the MLB level when
            your fastball often sits in the 80s. We don’t see a lot of guys throwing
            80 mph fastballs because they usually aren’t very good. They tend to
            get hit hard at the MLB level.

            Can he be the 1% exception?

          • Tony_Hall

            Kyle Hendricks

            “Well I throw mostly a two-seam fastball, so my two-seam sits at like 89-91. If I’m trying to blow one by a guy I can go upstairs near eye level and throw a four-seam and max out at a 93-94. Right now it would be nice to get that up obviously but it’s a lot harder then it sounds. “

          • Tony_Hall
          • cubtex

            hahaha. and that is from today? no interest.

          • Tony_Hall

            Yes it is. You really should read it.

          • cubtex

            what could he possibly say that would add anything different to what he is? Is he going to tell me his FIP in the minors?

          • Tony_Hall

            Just take 5 minutes and read it.

            I really hope this guy gets more than a cup of coffee and can be successful in the majors. A pitcher who knows how to pitch, versus just throw hard, gets to the majors and they have to teach him how to pitch.

          • cubtex

            Tony. Seriously. How many guys with his stuff have long mlb careers? It is great to pull for him because he was an afterthought out of Dartmouth and not a high draft pick but mlb hitters are good….real good. I think he will get a couple of chances(like Casey Coleman) but he is not really a pitching prospect to get excited about or plan to have for several years in your rotation.

          • Tony_Hall

            I think there are a lot of guys like him in the majors that fill up the back of rotations. I don’t believe anyone is saying even mid rotation. But the command is the part that makes me think he can have a major league career. A well placed fastball, especially a 2 seam fastball is still the best pitch, and he has a very good change.

            I am not penciling him in for a future Cy Young winner, but definitely am rooting for him to have a major league career.

          • John_CC

            Now I am really confused.

          • cubtex

            yes I know :)

          • cubtex

            Maybe you missed this. I posted this weeks ago. Can they be wrong? Yes. Is it likely? No. Description. Prospect but not. This is from Jim Callis from BA

            Stats >> stuff. Prospect but not @Cubs Top 10. @CAStolzenbach: How was Kyle Hendricks not on the list of the top 100 prospects?

          • Tony_Hall

            He is better than Coleman.

      • daverj

        Like you, I like the Garza deal, but I’ll hold off on using the word fleecing until/unless we get a productive major leaguer out of the trade.

  • Zonk

    Most notable names missing, IMO:
    –Neil Ramirez (they must not like his control)
    –Josh Vitters
    –B-Jax
    –Gioskar Amaya (former top prospect)

    Jacob Henneman is surprisingly high to me on that top 31 list

  • Zonk

    Question: Did BA release their top 100 prospects in the game? Just curious how many Cubs made the list. Based on this, probably 7 or 8, with Jemeir on the fence (my guess is the top 7)

  • redlarczykg

    It’s strange to see B-Jax still rated as #13 on the Cubs MLB-pipeline. And Josh Vitters after 7 years in the organization becomes and another faded hope.
    It must be a tough life being a phenom. .

  • cubtex

    Dear Theo. Please read. Surgery is still surgery and there are no guarantees!

    FanGraphs: Tommy John Surgery: Major Surgery http://bit.ly/1eXWLgI

    • Tony_Hall

      No kidding. But there is nothing wrong with buying these lottery tickets as Tommy John surgery has a much higher success rate today.

  • cubtex

    Fujikkawa at 22? lol Somebody better tell BA that he is 33 not 23.

  • cubtex

    Interesting in who they labeled “Extreme” Risk. Soler, Olt, Vizcaino,

    • paulcatanese

      Not really, I have felt that all along, especially with Soler and Olt. don’t feel they have a chance at all to contribute. I think Soler was an afterthought from missing on Cespedes and a few other Dominion players. Olt has a ton to do before he becomes a force ( I don’t think he will).

      • cubtex

        Soler has all the physical tools but he has many flaws in his game. Olt it is the vision problems and contact rate and Vizcaino is the fragile arm.

        • paulcatanese

          Soler reminds me of Puig ( although 1/4 the talent of Puig) who is not the type of player I would pay money to see on the field (Puig), just don’t care for the ego trips. Soler may have the better attitude, I would hope.

          • cubtex

            I hope Soler plays as hard as Puig. Like him or not..you can’t ever say that Puig dogs it.

          • paulcatanese

            No, he doesn’t. just don’t care for him, maybe when he becomes a team player I will.

      • mutantbeast

        Viz has been hurt. Soler really hasnt yet had a full season. Olt has the eye issues. Vogelbomb is all bat, no D. This year should tell much about all 4 of them.

    • John_CC

      I was wondering how you were going to find negatives in this report.

      Now the third professional, prospect evaluation team puts the Cubs in the top 5 (BP, Law, BA) and you immediately skim it and start nit-picking.

      If this is the #4 ranked farm in baseball by these guys, and we could look at the rest of the top 10 – where your Yankees aren’t even close to – lists it only take rudimentary deductive skills assume that every system has more risks than sure bets?

      You are incredible.

      • cubtex

        Yes I am incredible. Thank you. And again…I am not a Yankee fan. I am a “not tanking” fan and a fan of winning.

        Let’s look at the Cubs system. Top heavy with a big dropoff(I would say significant but I got called out on that word. lol)
        How did they get top heavy? Baez top pick after a losing season. Almora see above. Bryant see above. Soler- International 30 mil FA. CJ Edwards- Trading your best pitcher for a prospect and not looking for a major league ready player in return. Difficult plan?

        It’s great to have top prospects like Baez,Bryant, Almora. Happy the farm system is improved. Not happy with this crap Team Theo is putting on the field for 3 years.

        • daverj

          I disagree with you on the drop-off. I think there is a lot of depth in the system. What is missing is potential #1 and #2 starters. Edwards and Johnson are our best guys and they likely top out at #3s.

          • cubtex

            That is BA’s description about the drop off.

            It’s a very top-heavy system that drops off in talent quickly, but championship teams are built on star power.”

          • daverj

            I know that was BA’s description but I disagree with that assessment. Beyond the 3 clearly A level guys in Baez, Bryant and Almora, there many B level prospects in the system and a ton of high C level guys. Do the Cubs have the depth of a system like the Red Sox? … No … But the Cubs system is deeper than most of the others.

          • Tony_Hall

            It is top heavy because the top players are so good. There is a lot of depth in this system and all you have to do is look at teams like the White Sox and Yankees to see the difference.

          • cubtex

            I really like and think Baez and Bryant will be very good but I don’t see any of our guys ranked above a 70.

          • Tony_Hall

            You take a scouting number and act like it is gospel yet dont’ talk WAR or xFIP’s.

          • cubtex

            I think Baez and Bryant are BY FAR the best prospects in the system. They will both be starters and potential all stars. Almora will probably be a solid mlb starter who doesn’t “wow” you but will be productive. The rest to me all have question marks.

          • Tony_Hall

            They all have question marks. Even most major league players have question marks.

            I think Alcantara is going to make it as well.

          • cubtex

            I hope Alcantara gets called up this year.

          • Tony_Hall

            Not many teams can call up 4 players in Baez, Bryant, Almora and Alcantara and fill half of the lineup. But I really think all 4 will make it, to go with Rizzo,Castro and Castillo. That means we only need 1 other prospect or current player (Lake? Olt?) to be able to fill the last position. And there is no reason to believe that all of them won’t be in the lineup by next year’s Opening Day.

          • cubtex

            Almora? Little early. I don’t see that.

          • Tony_Hall

            Yeah, probably more end of 2015 for him. But you got my point. This should be the last year of dealing with a lineup like we will have this year. Not saying they are all going to take off and be great right away, but I would rather watch these guys play than what we will watch this year and have watched the last few years.

          • cubtex

            Amen. But let me ask you this. You ripped JH for starting Castro’s clock early but you are all for starting these guys clocks early. What gives?

          • Tony_Hall

            What?? JH had to wait just 2 weeks to save a year with Castro. That is an incredibly stupid decision. For some of these guys they are using the 1st of half of this year to delay their clock, versus bringing them up to start this year. You can’t tell me that Baez isn’t farther ahead than Castro was the year he was first called up? Alcantara should be called up later this year. Bryant could also be called up in September. If they want to wait until June 2015 to buy an extra year, I am totally fine with it.

            When I am not for it, is if the team has a real chance to make the playoffs and that player (Mike Trout is a great example) would have made the difference. To save a GM’s job, not so much.

          • cubtex

            Hendry was trying to win. If the team is terrible this year(which is very likely) and attendance is hurting, they will call up some prospects so they can help attendance and save Theo’s and Hoyer’s jobs. It won’t be about trying to win.

          • Tony_Hall

            He was trying to save his job. He might have thought that would make the difference, but it was obvious the team wasn’t going anywhere.

            I mean they finished 75-87 in 5th place.

          • cubtex

            we went over this. BTW. Castro had 1098 minor league PA when he was called up. To compare Baez..He is at 916 going into this year. If Baez gets called up in June they will be pretty close to spot on minor league PA.

          • Tony_Hall

            Exactly. Having Baez start the year on the 25 man roster would not be smart, just like the Castro move wasn’t. Baez is the type of player that you extend fairly early in their career. Having FA and arbitration one year farther away gives the team more leverage in the negotiations.

          • cubtex

            Castro did not start the year on the 25 man roster.

          • Tony_Hall

            I know, he was called up on May 7th, 2010. They should have waited until June to be safe. It is about delaying FA 1 year, (don’t start on the 25 man roster) then avoiding Super 2 (waiting until around June is usually safe).

          • cubtex

            no reason to call Baez up till then. they aren’t trying to win.

          • Tony_Hall

            Exactly. Even if a team is “trying” to win, it still needs to be thought about as far as if the next gain (hopefully gain) is worth the cost in starting the clock and going to Super 2 status.

          • cubtex

            you wouldn’t want your gm to bring up a player who could help the team win the division because it would start their clock early? I am sure Theo would do it if the circumstances were different. All teams would(at least I would hope they would)

          • Tony_Hall

            Did you read what I wrote?

            You have to weigh the net gain versus the cost? What if you don’t expect a net gain, but you like that player better then the vet you currently are using? If there is no net gain, then wait until Super 2 passes. Take the Angels, they should have went with Trout from Day 1. They were the best team in baseball from the day he was called up. That move cost them the playoffs and that is unacceptable. And it serves them right that they haven’t made the playoffs since.

          • cubtex

            In regards to Trout. He was called up in 2011 and hit .220 in a small sample size. Never played above AA. Started 2012 in AAA(as he should have) and called him up quickly due to an injury(if my memory serves me correctly)

          • BillyFinT

            I found this interesting. You are “trying to win” an argument that you did not need to win.

            If the Cubs will be Playoff-contending, then there will be a reason to call up. If not, and you said it multiple times already.

            By the way, got my two emails? I’m looking forward to you and Steve coming back!

          • Tony_Hall

            No, I haven’t, I don’t check my Yahoo email very often in the off-season. I will check.

          • John_CC

            lol. Is there an echo in here? in here?

          • cubtex

            didn’t the Nats do that with Bryce Harper?

          • Tony_Hall

            Theo and Jed’s jobs are not in any danger. If they call someone up, it will be because the player is ready. And just so you understand, it isn’t all about minor league stats that say they are ready.

        • John_CC

          Red Herring.

  • 07GreyDigger

    Although I feel bad for BJax and Vitters, I think it speaks to how BAD this farm system was and how few former names are on it.

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  • CubbyDenCritic

    There will be lots of movement on that list after the Samardzija trade is done. Especially between 7 thru 15.

  • CubbyDenCritic

    Like to see a “Catcher” listed on that top 31 list

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