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)
- Javier Baez, SS (2)
- Albert Almora, OF (NA)
- Jorge Soler, OF (NA)
- Arodys Vizcaino, RHP (NA)
- Brett Jackson, OF (1)
- Pierce Johnson, RHP (NA)
- Dan Vogelbach, 1B (10)
- Jeimer Candelario, 3B (20)
- Kyuji Fujikawa, RHP (NA)
- 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
- Baseball Prospectus’ Top 10 Cubs Prospects for 2013
- FanGraphs’ Top 15 Cubs Prospects for 2013
- Minor League Ball’s Top Cubs Prospects for 2013
The CCO’s ranking of the top prospects in the Cubs system will be published in the coming weeks.