Cubs Prospects on the Rise, June edition

In Commentary And Analysis, Minor Leagues, News And Rumors by dmick8915 Comments

Myles already posted the Cubs prospects who have fallen so now it's time to look at the ones who have risen. We'll also have an updated Cubs top prospects list for you.

3. Pierce Johnson – The 22 year old supplemental first round pick from 2012 is probably a little too old for his level, but he's been dominating. He only logged 11 innings after the draft last year, but started the year in Kane County. He's made the most of it and will be due for a promotion soon.

In 62.2 innings, Johnson has 25.7% of the batters he's faced and walked only 7.1%. He's also kept the ball in the ballpark as he's only given up 4 home runs.

He has given up more hits than you'd like. To be precise, he's given up 63 of them and that's a higher number than you'd like for someone advanced for his level. Despite the impressive control, he's allowed more than 1.3 baserunners per inning due to the number of hits allowed.

There's plenty of reason to be optimistic regarding Johnson, but also reason to be concerned. The large number of hits allowed could be the result of a leaky infield, but I'd have to check out the other pitchers before we could even go there.

While Dave and I did not think that Johnson had the highest ceiling among the pitching prospects in the Cubs organization, we did rate him higher than the others. This was because we thought he had a higher floor and because he was older, would move much more quickly. I can't speak for Dave, but Johnson has moved up simply because some others have dropped.

Dillon Maples has performed poorly when he's healthy, which isn't often. Arodys Vizcaino is injured. The others on our list have yet to make an appearance. So these guys have either stayed where they were or dropped while Johnson's defense independent statistics have been quite good. We'll need to see how he performs at the next level, which we should get a glimpse of this year.

2. Kyle Hendricks – The 23 year old right hander was drafted twice. In 2008 he was taken by the Angels in the 39th round. He went to Dartmouth instead and it paid off. Three years later he was drafted by the Rangers in the 8th round.

He was a reliever his first year with the Rangers, but was so good they moved him to the bullpen and he's continued to be impressive. The Cubs acquired Hendricks, along with Christian Villanueva, for Ryan Dempster last July. He had a rocky start with the Cubs, but has been excellent so far this year.

In 71.1 innings, he's struckout 21.3% of the batters and walked only 5.6%. He has a 2.57 FIP and a more impressive 2.14 ERA. Hendricks throws a ton of strikes and hasn't been hit particularly hard. He's allowed 61 hits this year and only 2 home runs.

He hasn't been known as a top prospect or anything, but he's continued to put up impressive numbers since turning pro. He's not long for AA and should see significant AAA action this season.

1. Arismendy Alcantara – One of the youngest minor leaguers in the system relative to the league's median age, Alcantara has not disappointed. He hasn't just been as good as previously. He's been quite a bit better.

He's currently batting .289/.364/.478 with a .381 wOBA. His wRC+ is 141. While his BABIP is .341, that's right in line with his career average. His walk rate sat below 5% in his first two seasons and climbed to 5.3% a year ago. This year it's nearly double that at 9.8%. He has the best ISO in his career at .189 in large part due to the 9 home runs he's hit in 265 plate appearances.

That's a lot compared to before. Alcantara had hit 9 over the previous two seasons totaling 749 plate appearances. He's hit as many or more doubles than he has in any season in less the playing time too. His speed has not suffered with the addition of the power. He's stolen 16 bases compared to 25 last year. He's on pace to top that figure. He's become an excellent base-stealer.

He was successful 25 of 29 times last year and 16 of 18 so far this year. Since 2012 he's been successful 87.2% of the time.

He's done all this while playing shortstop. I don't see Alcantara pushing Starlin Castro to another position, but if Alcantara continues to play well, we could see him moved to 2nd base and Darwin Barney moved to the bench.

If Alcantara keeps hitting like he has been, he'll probably be due for a promotion around July.

Honorable mention: Christian Villanueva and Javier Baez. Baez hasn't moved up since he was the top prospect and a top 20-30 prospect in baseball. He really  has nowhere to go but down. He's being mentioned here because last month he was listed as the player who had fallen the most. He's had a monstrous month since then. I still have the same reservations about him that I did a month ago. He has shown more patience, but he still has a very low walk rate. He's also struckout less so there's been some regression to the mean in both areas. Both are a little higher than you'd like, but no player is perfect.

Christian Villanueva has quietly put together another quality season on offense in AA. His rate stats aren't pretty. You could even look at them and dismiss him, but it's good enough to be quite a bit better than the average hitter (119 wRC+). He's also hit for more power since coming over in the trade last summer. His ISO this year is .175. Vaillanueva has consistently been between 19% and 26% better than the league average hitter. I don't think he really has the tools for that to translate well to MLB, but if you factor in his well above average defense, he's still a nice prospect.

We'll have an updated top prospects list tomorrow afternoon.

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  1. Pezcore

    He’s done all this while playing shortstop. I don’t see Alcantara pushing Starlin Castro to another position, but if Alcantara continues to play well, we could see him moved to 2nd base and Darwin Barney moved to the bench.

    If Alcantara keeps hitting like he has been, he’ll probably be due for a promotion around July.

    If Castro keeps hitting this way, should we really deter the development of another good defensive shortstop to justify Castro’s increasingly expensive contract? Darwin was moved from short so Castro could stay at the position. And IIRC he was a better Shortstop than Second Basemen defensively.

    Long term we should try to see if he’ll stick at Shortstop.

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  2. Berselius

    @ dmick89:

    Ah, I was just guessing based on where I thought he was development-wise. I remembered after writing that comment that he couldn’t be in Daytona as the position is already occupied there…

    He and Baez probably get promoted on the same day.

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