Baseball America released its list Monday of the top prospects in the Cubs’ organization.
To no surprise, Kris Bryant, Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year and the player on the cover on the 2015 Prospect Handbook, topped the list. Addison Russell, Jorge Soler, Kyle Schwarber and C.J. Edwards complete the top five of one of the two best minor league systems in the game.
John Manuel put together the list and ranked the top 30 players in the Cubs’ organization for the 2015 Prospect Handbook. Based on the information Manuel gathered while doing research on the young players in the system, Manuel recently reported the Cubs have 30 legitimate prospects in the organization.
Billy McKinney, Albert Almora, Gleyber Torres, Pierce Johnson and Duane Underwood round out the list of the Cubs top 10 minor league players.
The Cubs list contains seven position players and three pitchers with SS Gleyber Torres and RHP Duane Underwood vaulting into the top 10.
Three of the top young players in the system, Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara and Kyle Hendricks, are not eligible to be included on prospect lists. Baez, Alcantara and Hendricks exceeded rookie limits last season. Jorge Soler played in only 24 games and had 89 at bats (97 plate appearances) and did not lose his rookie status (less than 130 at bats and 45 days on an active roster during the 25-man limit period).
Baseball America provided scouting grades for Kris Bryant and it’s not very often an 80, on the 20-80 scouting scale is given to a player. Baseball America graded out Kris Bryant as follows: Batting: 60; Power: 80; Speed: 50; Defense: 50; Arm: 60.
As Ben Badler pointed out Sunday, it’s possible the Cubs have four top prospects in the same system. In other words, Addison Russell, Jorge Soler and Kyle Schwarber would likely be the top prospect in any other organization in baseball.
Baseball America’s Top 10 Cubs Prospects for 2015
2014 Baseball America Ranking in Parenthesis (NA – Not Available, NR – Not Ranked)
- Kris Bryant, 3B (2)
- Addison Russell, SS (NA)
- Jorge Soler, OF (5)
- Kyle Schwarber, C/OF (NA)
- C.J. Edwards, RHP (3)
- Billy McKinney, OF (NA)
- Albert Almora, OF (4)
- Gleyber Torres, SS (23)
- Pierce Johnson, RHP (6)
- Duane Underwood, RHP (NR)
Best Tools in the Cubs System
- Kyle Schwarber – Best Hitter for Average
- Kris Bryant – Best Power Hitter
- Mark Zagunis – Best Strike-Zone Discipline
- Jacob Hannemann – Fastest Runner
- Matt Szczur – Best Athlete
- Duane Underwood – Best Fastball
- C.J. Edwards – Best Curveball
- Jake Stinnett – Best Slider
- Jen-Ho Tseng – Best Changeup
- Jen-Ho Tseng – Best Control
- Victor Caratini – Best Defensive Catcher
- Carlos Penalver – Best Defensive Infielder
- Kris Bryant – Best Infield Arm
- Albert Almora – Best Defensive Outfielder
- Jorge Soler – Best Outfield Arm
2018 Projected Lineup
Baseball America provides projected lineups for each team in the Prospect Handbook. Here’s how the Cubs may lineup in 2018:
- Kyle Schwarber – Catcher
- Anthony Rizzo – First Base
- Starlin Castro – Second Base
- Javier Baez – Third Base
- Addison Russell – Shortstop
- Kris Bryant – Left Field
- Billy McKinney – Centerfield
- Jorge Soler – Right Field
- Jon Lester – No. 1 Starter
- Jake Arrieta – No. 2 Starter
- C.J. Edwards – No. 3 Starter
- Kyle Hendricks – No. 4 Starter
- Duane Underwood – No. 5 Starter
- Corey Black – Closer
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. Kris Bryant, 3B
Kris Bryant’s approach at the plate and pitch recognition, even with the holes in his swing that most tall hitters have, make “him an above-average hitter with lethal all-fields power.” Bryant is a hard worker, soaks up information and earns the respect of teammates and coaches. Bryant is athletic with average defense at third in which he’s improved on, especially with balls hit to him. Stronger to the left than right and has an “easy plus arm.” Runs every ball out, speed would translate to the outfield. Bryant could stay at third but could move to the outfield with Starlin Castro, Javier Baez and Addison Russell filling the spots in the infield.
Baseball America thinks Kris Bryant will make his big league debut in 2015 “as soon as the Cubs deem it financially feasible.”
2. Addison Russell, SS
Addison Russell “combines above-average athleticism with extremely quick hands and impressive strength to produce both plus hitting ability and power.” Nearly impossible to beat with a fastball, stays back on off-speed. Has the athleticism and improved enough to stay at shortstop. An above average arm with a “slight hitch in his throwing motion” and most scouts “believe he can be an average defender.”
Addison Russell is ticketed for Triple-A Iowa to begin the 2015 season.
3. Jorge Soler, OF
Jorge Soler has “vicious bat speed, top-of-the-scale raw power and an impressive feel for hitting.” Soler hits line drives to all fields, is coachable, has quality at bats and “isn’t fazed by hitting with two strikes.” Average runner with “an easy plus-arm.” Soler has struggled with concentration, consistency and staying healthy during his pro career.
Jorge Soler is expected to be in right field for the Cubs on Opening Night. And if he stays healthy, Baseball America thinks he has “the ability to be an All-Star right fielder soon.”
4. Kyle Schwarber, C/OF
Kyle Schwarber has a bat and an approach that should translate to the big leagues, defensive is where the question marks come. Schwarber “has thick, strong legs and swings from the ground up, incorporating his powerful lower half to develop plus power with a short, furious stroke.” Can hit the ball out to all fields and has a .300 batting, 30-home run ceiling. Schwarber has “the tools to be a capable left fielder,” as a catcher he was “rudimentary as an amateur.”
The Cubs have moved him behind the plate. And team officials John Manuel spoke to give him a “50-50 shot to stay” as a catcher. The Cubs plan for him to begin the season at either High-A Myrtle Beach or Double-A Tennessee. Starting with the Smokies in 2015 would say a lot about his development as a catcher.
5. C.J. Edwards, RHP
C.J. Edwards has the stuff, the concern is his durability. Edwards features “three above-average to plus pitches with excellent body control leading to an easy, rhythmic delivery and strike-throwing ability” when he’s on. Hard to square up due to “late cutting action on his fastball” which was in the 90-93 mph range in August and in the Arizona Fall League. Curveball sits in the upper-70s with more snap than in 2013.
The Cubs think Edwards learned how to prepare for a full-season after missing time last year. Baseball America sees Edwards starting the season at Double-A Tennessee.
6. Billy McKinney, OF
Billy McKinney is polished hitter with a good approach at the plate. McKinney is quiet in the box with a “balanced setup and good hands.” Generally a smooth swing, not afraid to hit with two strikes and uses the entire field. Plus pitch recognition and situational hitting. Could end up providing average to above average home run production. The 20-year old is an average runner, arm limits to left or centerfield.
Billy McKinney should begin 2015 with Double-A Tennessee.
7. Albert Almora, OF
Albert Almora had problems with “being pitched backwards” a majority of last season and “struggled to adjust.” Almora has first round tools, line-drive bat, bat speed to catch up with fastballs and average raw power. Defense is big league ready with excellent range “despite fringe-average speed.” Has a strong, accurate arm.
Albert Almora is in line to be in the same outfield with Billy McKinney on Opening Day with the Smokies at Double-A Tennessee.
8. Gleyber Torres, SS
Gleyber Torres “is not the typical teen and draws comparisons” to Albert Almora “for his baseball savvy and instincts.” Above-average arm and hands of a shortstop, makes routine plays look routine. Range may be a better fit at second base than shortstop. Advanced approach at the plate, willing to take walks and “has a chance to be an above-average hitter with fringe-average power down the line.”
Gleyber Torres should be at shortstop on Opening Day for Low-A South Bend and is a “couple of years away from the Cubs’ upper-levels middle-infield glut and could be trade bait sooner rather than later.”
9. Pierce Johnson, RHP
Pierce Johnson has the stuff to be a No. 2 or No. 3 starter in the big leagues. Johnson’s fastball sits in the 90-94 mph range and he has touched 96 mph on the gun with “late life up in the zone.” Johnson struggles with his command and locating down in the strike zone. Features a “hard late-breaking curveball with depth and slurvy shape in the low-80s and a short, cutter-like slider.” Learned how to use “a fringy changeup.”
Baseball America compared Johnson’s career path to Jake Arrieta and with a good spring could begin the year with Triple-A Iowa.
10. Duane Underwood, RHP
Duane Underwood started growing up last year and it reflected in his on-the-field performance. Underwood got in shape “and his preparation started to match his ability.” The weight loss helped him repeat his delivery “and locate his plus fastball.” Highest average velocity on his fastball (94-96 mph) than any other starter in the system. Curve “flashes plus” with “depth and late action.”
Duane Underwood has “the system’s most electric stuff” and could move quickly if he continues to progress the way he did last year. Underwood should begin 2015 with High-A Myrtle Beach.
2015 Cubs Prospect Rankings
- FanGraphs Ranks the Top 31 Prospects in Cubs System
- Baseball Prospectus: 2015 Top 10 Cubs Prospects
- Minor League Ball’s Top Cubs Prospects for 2015