Time for another review of our pre-season top 20. I have taken the liberty to note when I booted a guy and replaced him with somebody I like more because well…I can.
1. Brett Jackson OF Iowa- We talked a lot about Jackson since last month because there was a lot of struggling going on. He finished May with a line of .255/.316/.510 with 4 HR's and 5 SB's. He struck out in 37 % of his AB's and was really scuffling but in the last 10 days has turned things around to the tune of a 1.261 OPS. Jackson is one of those guys who is going to struggle as there is some swing and miss to his game but hopefully his patience will provide some value when he is not seeing the ball well. One last gripe is his walk rate is down to 11 % vs 15 % in a similar sized sample from last years stint in AAA but that could just be that when he was as cold as he was pitchers weren't afraid to come right at him.
2. Anthony Rizzo 1B Iowa - Anthony Rizzo is good at minor league sports. After hitting for a 1.013 OPS in April he decided to start trying and posted a 1.160 OPS in May. We could go on about the numbers because even for the PCL they are video game like but whats really exciting is when McLeod talks about how Rizzo has improved his swing mechanics because we have said all year its not about the #'s its about improving his swing-thats the last step for this kid and it sounds like he is doing it. It's pretty awesome to imagine the Cubs having a true masher in the lineup and I think we will see this guy up sometime in June.
3. Javier Baez SS Peoria- After his launch pad HR on Saturday Baez decided to outdo himself as a PH yesterday and hit one estimated 450 +. KG is already saying he could have a 70 power tool ranking which is amazing. Apparently he also made two incredible plays in the field. Everyone who has seen Baez play from Harry P to Goldstein to the Kane County play by play guy have been raving about his ability to its a good way for Baez to start his career. Even when he violates the unwritten rules.
4. Matt Szczur OF Daytona- Szczur was godawful in April but turned it around in May hitting .293/.368/.413. He also swiped 6 bags. So up to this point he has flashed all his skills but really lacked power which he may never have that much of. FSL is a pitchers league so at this point I'm happy with there Szczur is at. I think we will see him in AA before the year is out. I'm still pretty high on this guy and think he will be in the big leagues within 2 years.
5. Trey McNutt SP Tennessee- I think it's time for the bullpen test. McNutt's ERA is about the only good thing he has right now as his peripheral stats are terrible. He has struck out 24 in 40 IP while walking 18. Whatever magic McNutt was rocking back in 2010 has worn off. But he still is throwing mid 90's with that huge breaking ball so you would think we could make a decent RP out of him.
6. Dillon Maples SP EXST- Our other top SP prospect still hasn't thrown a pitch. He hurt his elbow in the spring and hopes to be on the mound by late July.
7. Dan Vogelbach 1B EXST- Vogelbach hasn't had a great showing in EXST but posted recently on Twitter about making some good adjustments. He will likely head to Boise in two weeks but there's a chance he could stay in AZL the entire year.
8. Junior Lake SS Tennessee- After an amazing return in early May that had yours truly talking about a TRANSFORMATION! Lake has returned to his old self hitting .227/.227/.341 in his last 10. Really since that first week when he was taking walks left and right he has gone back to his free swinging ways. So Lake is still a mixed bag of good potential with flashes of results but most of the time is defined by a frustrating lack of production.
9. Wellington Castillo C MLB- On the DL with a knee injury.
10. Dae Eun Rhee SP Tennessee- Another SP prospect who is on the verge of flaming out. The Cubs hoped Rhee would break out this year but so far he is performing like a 5th starter….in AA. Too many walks, too many hits allowed and not enough strikeouts.
11. Josh Vitters 3B Iowa- Vitters has been stealing powers from the amulet worn by Rizzo because he has been about as hot as you can get in the last two weeks. He has 5 HR's in his last 10 games and is walking at a 6 % rate vs 4 % last year. His overall line isn't anything special but he is still just 22. Vitters is just a weird prospect, he never really got worse as he moved up but he never established an improved line of production but maybe we are finally seeing the potential come through. Scouts have always loved his swing and it would be a tremendous get for the organization to have him emerge this season and come take the job at 3B next year.
12. Jeimer Candelario IF EXST- We will probably see him in Boise shortly.
13. Marco Hernandez SS EXST- Hernandez got an aggressive promotion after a breakout year in the AZL but was not ready for A ball and posted a .210/.249/.299 line. He was sent back to EXST after Baez got his job and will probably be the SS for Boise.
14. Adrian Cardenas IF MLB- Currently rocking the bench in the bigs.
15. Rafael Dolis RP Iowa- After being moved in the closer role despite better options already on the team Dolis showed he still isn't quite ready for the show and was sent back to Iowa to work on his command.
16. Zach Cates-Eh fuck Zach Cates lets replace him with PJ Francescon SP Daytona- As you can see above our SP prospects have either hurt themselves in their elbows or by their performances so far this year so its been refreshing to see a guy shine. Francescon just dominated Peoria before getting promoted to Daytona. Since then he has started 3 games 1 being good and two being bad. Pray to Mojo that he keeps up the good ones because this system is like Gotham-crying out for a hero.
17. Ben Wells SP Peoria- Ben Wells! My personal favorite SP prospect is doing well for himself in Peoria so far. He has decreased his walk rate to 1.9 and raised his K rate to 7.8. He has a 2.55 GO/AO ratio and has not allowed a HR so far this year. Basically he has a huge sinker and its working and his secondary pitches are improving and he is awesome and one day you will wear a Cubs jersey with his name on it.
18. Dave Sappelt-Scratch him for Yasiel Balaguert OF Peoria- One of the Cubans we signed in the past few years Balaguert tore up EXST and got promoted to Peoria just a week or so ago. AZ Phil seemed to think he might be something so lets just take a wait and see approach.
19. Ronald Torreyes IF Daytona- After dropping off the face of the earth for most of the season Torreyes has hopefully got over his slump as he has posted a .371/.436/.543 line in the last 10 games. He has crushed every level leading up to this one so maybe it was just an adjustment to his new home after the Marshall trade.
20. Reggie Golden OF – Out for the year with a torn ACL
So to recap hitters doing good, pitchers not so much. It's not a great system but it does have bright spots and after today will have even more high end talent. I still think the Cubs get Almora and I also think he will be joined by Soler before the month is out.