Myles’ Top Ten Prospects

In Commentary And Analysis by myles64 Comments

This will be short and sweet. You've got plenty of different places to find a more thorough treatment. I'll link here for the description of what the rankings mean.

1. Javier Baez – 70 (9.5F)
Baez is the clear top prospect according to every other scouting service. The comps are starting to get a little out of hand, with some people putting a "Miguel Cabrera" label on him. Sure, that's a nice ceiling, but the floor is still awfully low. He's talented enough to make the majors right now, but until he learns how to take a walk, I'm not going to be convinced he's a world-class player. That being said, the future is extremely bright, and I wouldn't bet against him.

2. Kris Bryant – 65 (8.5E)
Bryant is maybe a surer bet to stick around in the majors, but he doesn't have the insane high-end that Baez might carry. Bryant can probably play 3B passably, but the imminent glut at the hot corner will push him into RF where his glove and arm will play up. Bryant can be an asset in the field at right, and his bat is good for 30 bombs a game. He'll probably lead the league in strikeouts at some point in his career, but the contact (when he makes it) is extremely loud. People make the Ryan Braun comparison but that's lazy – Bryant is a better athlete with worse plate discipline. If he puts it together, though, they could have the same career arc.

3. Jorge Soler – 60 (8E)
Soler didn't have the year everyone was hoping. He was injured for most of the season, and he was just working off rust in the AFL. There are reports that the Cubs told him to be careful; in any case, he looked tentative out there by all accounts. I'm relatively unmoved by the poor season – Soler still profiles to be a weapon with the bat in either corner, with enough plate discipline to allow that bat to play anywhere in a lineup from 1-5. He might have the best chance of any of the non-Vogelbach prospects to have a .400 OBP, which is impressive. A strong 2014 will make everyone forget last season (in which he still had a 128 wRC+).

4. Dan Vogelbach – 60 (8E)
This ranking system doesn't really care about positional scarcity or anything like that. Instead, it measures each player with respect to their position. In that light, Vogelbach is as fearsome as any prospect the Cubs might have. It's rare that a player has the combination of plate discipline and bat speed that Vogelbach has, but he truly could hit .300/.400/.550 in the majors someday. I couldn't care less where his glove is, if that's the case. He might be a career DH, but I'm not yet convinced he can't field 1B to a level that allows him to stick there. He's probably 2 years away from breaking into the bigs, and we'll have a better idea of what Rizzo is at that point. I wouldn't count out Flowbro3 as the option in Chicago in 2016, though. Even in a "down" year, Vogelbach still crushed to the tune of .284/.375/.449, with 73 walks to 89 strikeouts. I'll be anxious to see if the HR return to 2012 levels.

5. Arismendy Alcantara – 60 (6.5B)
This is perhaps conservative for his ceiling and aggressive for his floor, but I don't think Arismendy really needs anymore seasoning. He's improved at every single level he's been at, adding some plate discipline to his swiss-army skillset in 2013. If he can walk around 8% of the time (11% last year), his speed on the basepaths make Alcantara a prototypical leadoff man, someone capable of stealing 30 bags and taking the extra base behind what should be a dynamic lineup in the future. This FO likes getting prospects a full year at AAA, and that might keep Alcantara down longer than he should be; he'll wait at a minimum until Super Two status is avoided. It wouldn't shock me if he came up in a month, though, and shunted Barney to the bench where he likely belongs. It also wouldn't surprise me if he played a lot of CF in spring training and AAA, ESPECIALLY if they keep him there all year.

6. Albert Almora – 55 (7D)
If Almora can be an average fielding centerfielder, he's maybe a 60. I just don't see it. There were no encouraging reports on Almora's ability to stick in center aside from prenatural instinct a la Johnny Damon; he's just not fast enough. If that's the case, he's a good fielding corner with a good center's bat. That's a nice piece, but not a great one. Almora's game is high-contact as well; he doesn't have power yet, though it should develop as he does. I'll admit I'm lower on Almora than I have any right to be, and he'll make me look foolish in short order, presumably. I just don't like hearing continued reports that he's a 4/5 speed that is supposed to get faster as he gets bigger.

7. Mike Olt – 55 (7D)
I'm not sure I understand the bad rap that Olt's had all year. Sure, his 2013 was a hellacious year and one that people would very much like to forget. My question to those people would be: what if Olt was instead just injured all year with a broken leg or something? Would he have went from "best 3B prospect in baseball" to "4th best 3B prospect in Cubs system"? Likely not. It's not inconceivable that this was all a hiccup from some bad eyes that everyone has said has cleared up. It's also not inconceivable that many of his struggles were hit-luck; last season he had a 13.1% walk rate and a 28% K rate, which are basically in-line with his career averages. The only real difference were BABIP (in the .250s) and HR (half of previous years). He's not any different physically, so I'm not afraid to say I'm very optimistic that he takes 3B and never lets go of it. That being said, the words on Olt were harsh from BP, from the setup to the swing to the inability to get around on major velo. Call me a dreamer, but I think Olt will be just fine.

8. Pierce Johnson – 55 (7D)
I think there's a sentiment among many Cubs fan to overvalue our sparse pitching prospects just because it doesn't look right to have 7 position players before you find your first pitching prospect. Pierce Johnson and C.J. Edwards are beneficiaries of this my mind; both have some really nice upside, but neither is the caliber prospect of an Almora or Soler. Johnson has a fastball that touches 95 at the best days, working in the low 90s, and a good curveball that might be great when he hits the majors. He's got a frame that can pitch 200 innings, but he doesn't have a 3rd pitch that plays yet. He needs to refine the changeup, and he'll have all year to work on it (and his spotty command) in Tennessee. If he can make that an average offering, Johnson will have a great chance to stick on the major league staff in 2015.

9. C.J. Edwards – 50 (7E)
Edwards has nearly everything that you'd want in a pitching prospect; a clean delivery with no wasted motion, a dynamite fastball that sits 93 and goes higher, late, hard movement, and an off-speed that misses bats. He's got 3 pitches that play at the major league level or close to it right now, and all signs point to a high-character guy. Why isn't he a better prospect? Well, he's 6'2" and weighs maybe 160 pounds. He's desperately tried to add weight, any weight, to put up the with the rigors of throwing 200 innings in a season. Throwing a baseball harder than any man has a right to is a very violent thing, and injuries are the provenance of most careers, but it seems more inevitable than usual that Edwards will combust on the mound, probably violently, and probably soon. The safe bet is to move him to the bullpen before that happens, where you don't have to worry so much about taxing his already slender body. For me, though, you give a guy with perfect mechanics a chance to start, give him as much rest as you can (I'd always skip him in the rotation if I had a chance), and you roll the dice on a guy who has No. 2-3 talent.

10. Paul Blackburn – 50 (7E)
Blackburn is absolutely a name to watch for next year. BP had him as No.1 on their "prospect on the rise," based on the potential of a plus-plus fastball. I've heard that the fastball (really a sinker) has really late movement and could be a 7 or even an 8 in the future. If that's the case, Blackburn's wipeout curve could be a devastating weapon. Blackburn probably needs another pitch to really be successful in the majors, but he's got probably 2 years to find one.

Just missing were Christian Villanueva (6C), Gioskar Amaya (7E), Jeimer Candelario (6D), Arodys Vizcaino (6D), and a bunch of other types like Hendricks/Szczur/Ramirez.

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Comments

  1. dmick89, Sweatpants Guru

    There were no encouraging reports on Almora’s ability to stick in center aside from prenatural instinct a la Johnny Damon

    This has stuck out to me every single time I’ve read about him too. He lacks the range and foot speed, but has quick instincts. I can understand that, but the prenatural instinct is something I don’t buy. I’m not saying he can’t stick in CF. The scouts sure seem to think he can, but I’d feel a lot more confident if he had some speed and/or range. Both would be nice.

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  2. WaLi

    Bryant can be an asset in the field at right, and his bat is good for 30 bombs a game

    I can’t believe he is ranked below Baez, because 30 bombs a game is impressive.
    /asshole

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  3. WaLi

    Bryant is maybe a surer bet to stick around in the majors, but he doesn’t have the insane high-end that Baez might carry.

    Do you think you have them ranked this way because Bryant’s talent is more of a known known due to his college experience while Baez’s is more of known unknown? I think as Baez gets more experience and is more of a known known his ceiling will come down and floor will rise. I would probably rank him a 9E, but that’s just me. He’s the only one ranked as an F on the list, and I don’t feel that is right. It doesn’t matter though, overall agree with the list and justifications. I love the rating system too. It would be neat to rank like the top 50 in baseball this way, or maybe just include a few comps.

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  4. Author
    Myles

    I have him as 9.5 F because he’s got a ceiling as “1st ballot HOF”, and a floor of “fringe major-leaguer-plus”. So 9.5 ceiling, 4.5 floor.

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  5. Andrew

    @ dmick89, Sweatpants Guru:

    I don’t see how this can be a knock on Almora. Regardless of how he plays CF, He will play it well. Nobody complained that Jim Edmonds wasn’t that fast because he knew how to get to the ball and catch it. Campana had all the speed in the world but wasn’t good in CF. Same with Pierre. The fact is that the ball is never in the air for that long so the more important thing is to get running in the right direction faster than it is to be fast once you get running.

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  6. Mucker

    @ Andrew:
    I agree with you Andrew. Same with Andruw Jones. He wasn’t fast but he was fast enough and his instincts were second to none. I’m not saying Almora is Jones, but I’m not going to say Almora can’t be a great CF because he’s not fast.

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  7. Mercurial Outfielder

    Player A, MiLB career line: .310/.384/.461 13% K-rate, 9% BB-rate

    Player B, MiLB career line: .326/.361/.465 11% K-rate, 5% BB-rate

    Which is Albert Almora and which is…Matt Murton?

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  8. GW

    meh, I tend to agree with dmick and myles. of course there are exceptions, but it certainly can’t make you feel very comfortable.

    as an analogy, there are plenty of pitchers who succeed without good stuff, but that’s not the way to bet.

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  9. Mercurial Outfielder

    Yep. I’m not saying Almora is Murton (and obviously there’s a vast gulf in terms of PA in these numbers), but I’m as worried about Almora’s hit tool and contact rate as some seem to be about his defense. But I’m also very pessimistic about prospects. I think the Cubs should consider themselves lucky if they get 2-3 MLB regulars out of this group. Very lucky if 1-2 are legit stars.

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  10. dmick89, Sweatpants Guru

    @ Andrew:
    After the fact, we know that Jim Edmonds was a very good defensive CF without the speed. However, nobody ever said, after the fact, that Jim Edmonds did not have good range. Speed allows you to cover a lot of ground. It’s not likely a fast player will have little range. Nobody ever said that Campana didn’t have plenty of range. The two go hand in hand, but lacking both (like Edmonds) doesn’t mean you can’t be a good CF. It just makes it much more unlikely. That’s what I’m saying. This “prenatural” shit is just another way for scouts to sound smart. I don’t buy it.

    I’m not saying that they’re wrong. I’m just saying that I’m having a hard time buying it. If Almora was going to be a great defensive CF, it’s probable he’d have both speed and range. It’s highly improbable he’d lack both.

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  11. dmick89, Sweatpants Guru

    Here’s the scouting report on Almora as I understand it: lacks range, lacks speed, lacks the typical power you expect from someone who, you know, is really valuable, but boy can he hit. Oh, and he’s shown an inability to get on base via the walk.

    Maybe, just maybe they’re right, but I’m betting 99 times out of 100 scouting reports similar to that end up looking pretty stupid.

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  12. jkl1805

    You have to be pretty happy with the player development from the minors last year.

    Looking at baseball prospectus and compared last year’s report to this years:

    Cubs top 5 last year:

    Almora – increased ovr pot, risk same, shortened ETA
    Baez – increased ovr pot, reduced risk, shortened ETA
    Soler – same ovr pot, reduced risk, same eta
    Vogelbach – same ovr pot, reduced risk, shortened ETA
    Vizcaino – hard to judge coming off TJ

    Even Pierce Johnson and Villanueva improved or stayed the same for this criteria.

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  13. Andrew

    @ Mercurial Outfielder:

    If Matt Murton played CF, I think he’d still be in the majors. There is no indication from any scout that Almora won’t play a good centerfield. Murton is just a weird case though where he actually was quite a good looking player his first two seasons. The comparison is also pretty premature because Murton was about 2 years older when he entered the minors, so his stats reflect someone being a little old for his level whereas Almora has been one of the younger players in each league hes played in.

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  14. Berselius, Cubs #12 prospect

    I’d definitely rank Almora #4 among the Cubs big 4 prospects, but I’m not really as down on him as this thread seems to suggest. I think his ceiling is no higher than a league avg CF, but feel much more confident that he’ll reach that 2 WAR than any of the other three.

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  15. Author
    Myles

    Seriously, if Matt Garza signs that deal, I have to wonder if Garza was a bad clubhouse guy or something. I know he’s got some real injury concerns, but the talent is there, no doubt.

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  16. Author
    Myles

    Mercurial Outfielder wrote:

    @ Myles:
    I think Garza had pretty much torched his bridges and pissed on the ashes with this FO by the time he left.

    That’s the whispers I’ve heard, but I’m not sure I’ve ever had concrete evidence to that effect. I do know he’s kind of a dickhead, but he also hates Al Yellon so how bad can he be?

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  17. Andrew

    dmick89, Sweatpants Guru wrote:

    Maybe, just maybe they’re right, but I’m betting 99 times out of 100 all scouting reports end up looking pretty stupid.

    FTFY

    99% of “true five-tool players” are terrible too. Lake is a 5-tool guy with tons of speed and so far has stunk at defense because he doesn’t know how to take good routes. Almora knows how to take great routes already, he doesn’t have much to learn which is why he can be counted on to be a good defensive CF.

    Also I honestly don’t have any subscriptions but everything I’ve read on Almora is he doesn’t have good speed but due to his routes to the ball he has excellent range. What scouting reports tell you otherwise?

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  18. dmick89, Sweatpants Guru

    Andrew wrote:

    Also I honestly don’t have any subscriptions but everything I’ve read on Almora is he doesn’t have good speed but due to his routes to the ball he has excellent range. What scouting reports tell you otherwise?

    This is from the article Myles linked in the last thread (BPro) and briefly mentioned in his discussion of Almora up top:

    his range is center will be limited by the lack of wheels; despite his quick reactions and almost preternatural feel for tracking balls

    For some reason Safari wants to auto-correct preternatural to prenatural for me when typing, but when copying and pasting it leaves it alone. Odd.

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  19. dmick89, Sweatpants Guru

    @ Berselius, Cubs #12 prospect:
    Jackson could only get a 1-year deal prior to 2012 and very good year turned that into a 5-year deal. Garza has been very good for awhile. I’d much rather have the Garza deal, but the Jackson deal doesn’t bother me. An overpay at the time and a mistake the front office even admitted, but not a bad contract.

    By the way, I’m sure the front office admitting they made a mistake by signing Jackson makes Jackson all warm and cuddly on the inside.

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  20. Andrew

    Rays signing Balfour. I can’t see the Rays shelling out big money for Balfour, which means I’ll probably be pissed that the cubs didnt get him.

    Garza is a real headscratcher though. I wonder if his medicals were bad because I don’t see why 10 teams wouldn’t give him a better contract than that.

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  21. Mercurial Outfielder

    @ WaLi:
    I had it on pretty good authority that he was not a favorite of the FO when he left. Apparently they felt he was having a bad effect on the younger players. He might well have been liked in the clubhouse, though. There isn’t just one way for a guy to be considered a bad fit for an org. A guy as brash and outspoken as Garza may not be the kind of guy you want around a team as young as the Cubs are/will be. Doesn’t mean he’s a bad guy, per se, just not a guy the org wants around developing players.

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  22. Andrew

    Balfour for 2 years, 12 million. I think i like the Veras contract better actually. both are projected for 0.3 WAR to steamer, I guess I overestimated how good Balfour was.

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  23. Andrew

    @ dmick89, Sweatpants Guru:

    At that price I mind only because it looks like a really good deal and the cubs should try to get really good deals whenever possible. There has to be something in the medicals I think because I can’t believe somebody wouldn’t beat that deal. Weren’t the extension offers like 5/75 from the cubs or something? I cant imagine they think he’s worth 23 million less because of clubhouse issues

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  24. Author
    Myles

    I also won the FA prediction contest. I was $65 million off total (6 on Cano, 13 on Ellsbury, 24 on Tanaka, and 22 on Choo). Every single one signed for more than I predicted. Next was Tommy, who was $73 million away (5 on Cano, 13 on Ellsbury, 40 on Tanaka, and 15 on Choo).

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  25. Author
    Myles

    Apparently Ervin Santana is asking for 4/$60. That’s probably a woof. In his “renaissance”, Santana was worth 1.1 WARP, though it was 3 in fWAR. He’s a boom-bust guy, which is easier for a bad team to handle than a good one, so it makes sense from that standpoint. He’s 31 and would be signed through his age-34 season on a 4-year deal. I’m not hopeful that he’d have surplus value at any point in this contract. If Garza is 4/$52, maybe Santana is 4/$60, though.

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  26. Andrew

    These numbers are all lower than I thought theyd be. I was expecting these guys to get paid closer to Anibal Sanchez’s contract than Edwin Jackson’s

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