2014 Chicago Cubs Top 20 Prospects

Another baseball season is around the corner as Chicago Cubs pitchers and catchers will report to the new facilities is Mesa, Arizona this week. While the expectations at the major league level are still very low, a big part of the Cubs future continues to develop in the minor league levels. This year will be a big year to gauge where the Cubs will be in their rebuilding process. If there big time prospects continue to play well and stay healthy, they will be in the majors quicker.

Here is my list for the Cubs top 20 prospects for the 2014 season:

    1. SS Javier Baez


There is no debate that Javier Baez is the top prospect in the Cubs system. Baez put together a monster 2013 season where hit 37 home runs and drove in 111 runs between High-A Daytona and AA Tennessee. The one question surrounding Baez is what position he will play. Baez has struggled defensively at shortstop and Starlin Castro holds that spot for the Cubs. Baez will try some different spots in spring training but will begin the season at short for AAA Iowa. No matter where on the field he plays, Baez will certainly be a difference maker in the lineup. Everyone knows Baez has the potential to be an All-Star but some scouts even say that Baez could have a hall of fame career. Fortunately for Cub fans, they won’t have to wait much longer as many expect Baez to be called up to majors sometime this summer.ETA: 2014

2. 3B Kris Bryant


The Cubs selected Bryant second overall in the 2013 draft and did not disappoint in his first stint in professional baseball. Bryant spent some time as Low-A Boise but finished the season in High-A Daytona where he helped the Cubs win a championship. In 16 games at Daytona, Bryant hit .333 with 5 home runs. Although many would like to see Bryant at Wrigley this year, he will start the season at AA Tennessee and probably finish the season in Iowa. Like Baez, position is a question for Bryant. Working on defense at third will be a big point of emphasis in 2014. Between Baez and Bryant, the Cubs have two middle of the order bats that have 30-40 HR potential. ETA: 2015

3. OF Albert Almora


Almora was slowed by injuries in 2013 but when he was healthy, he was great at Full-A Kane County. In 68 games, Almora hit .329 with 24 extra base hits. He then went on to have a very good run at the Arizona Fall League along side fellow Cubs Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler. Of all the Cubs prospects, Almora has the best all around game. He doesn’t have one tool that stands out but five tools that he does very well. Almora’s power hasn’t fully developed yet but with his great approach and ability to make contact, scouts believe power come in time. Because his all around game is so good, Almora may be on the fast track for the Cubs. He will most likely start the season at Daytona. ETA: 2015

4. OF Jorge Soler


2013 was a disappointing season for Soler who dealt with some injuries and behavior issues. He was suspended for charging an opposing dugout with a bat and then benched for lack of hustle. However, I think the past season taught Soler a lot about what he has to do to be a major league player in the United States and how to deal with adversity. Hopefully that was his learning curve and is prepared for a big season in 2014. In the 55 games that he did play in, Soler posted a .343 OBP and showed some flashes of his power. The Cubs haven’t said where Soler will start the season but it will either be Daytona or Tennessee. His play in spring training may be the deciding factor. ETA: 2015

5. P C.J. Edwards


Edwards was the center piece of the Matt Garza deal with the Rangers last year and Edwards has climbed prospect charts all around baseball. Some question his durability because he weighs just 155 pounds but Edwards said a few weeks ago at the Cubs rookie camp that he is trying to beef up. But Edwards’s numbers in 2013 were about the best of any pitcher in the minors. In 18 starts before coming over to the Cubs, Edwards posted a 1.83 ERA and didn’t allow a single home run. When the Cubs acquired him in July, they sent him to Daytona where he continued to dominate posting an ERA under two. Edwards has a fastball that is almost impossible to hit and follows that up with a good curveball. He still needs to polish his change-up but the Cubs have a potential front-line starter in Edwards. ETA: 2015

6. 2B Arismendy Alcantara


Alcantara was one of the big breakout players for the Cubs in 2013 as he finally put together all of his skill set. A switch hitter but Alcantara is much better from the left side of the plate. He had good numbers all across the board as hit hit for some power, had a high OBP, and stole over 30 bases and earned himself a spot in the futures game in New York where he hit a home run. After Baez, Alcantara will most likely be the next prospect to get a shot at the big leagues. He will start the season in Iowa. ETA: 2014

7. P Pierce Johnson


The first pitcher drafted by Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, Johnson had a very solid 2013 campaign starting in Kane County and finishing in Daytona. Johnson fell to Cubs in the supplemental round in 2012 because of some injury concern but bounced back well last year. He started 23 games between the two leagues and threw 118.1 innings with an ERA of 2.74. Johnson throws three good pitches with his curveball being his out pitch. If can continue to stay healthy, Johnson could be a solid middle of the rotation starter. ETA: 2015

8.  OF Eloy Jimenez 


Going out on a limb here and putting Jimenez high on my rankings. The Cubs spent big in the international free agency last year and Jimenez was the prize of that group. He received $2.8 million signing bonus as a 16 -year old and the Cubs will put him in the Arizona rookie league later this summer at just 17 years old. A lot of his skills, including power, are still raw but the potential is definitely there. Coming to the States at 17 years old, Jimenez has plenty of time to work on his game and could rise up the prospect charts quickly. Away from the Cubs big name prospects, Jimenez will be a guy to keep an eye on this summer. ETA: 2018

9. 1B Dan Vogelbach


Consistency has been a big part of Vogelbach’s two full years in the minor league. The knock on Vogelbach has been and always will be his size but he has worked hard on his conditioning. Despite that, Vogelbach will never be more than a below average first baseman and probably better suited to be a designated hitter. But his approach and power are undeniable and definitely has a lot of value. In 2013, Vogelbach had an OBP of .375 as he draw 73 walks while hitting 19 home runs. With Anthony Rizzo being the Cubs first baseman of the future, Vogelbach probably won’t be in the Cubs system for very long. However, the Cubs will be better suited to hold onto Vogelbach and let him develop more and gain more value. He could net the Cubs a nice piece down the road. ETA: 2016

10. 3B Mike Olt


Lets just say Olt had a terrible 2013 season. After a massive 2012 season, Olt was considered one of the top third base prospects and was an untouchable player in the Texas Rangers system. But after suffering a concussion before the 2013 season, Olt dealt with vision problems all year and finished the season with dismal .201 average. The Cubs received Olt as part of the package for Matt Garza. But 2014 is a new season and hopefully Olt regains his form at the plate. He was at Cubs rookie camp and said his vision problems are corrected. He will compete to be the Cubs third base man in the spring. Olt has a lot of power but will not hit for a high average. With that being said, he does fit the Cubs mold with a very good approach at the plate and takes a lot of walks. If he has a solid spring, Olt will be at third for the Cubs. ETA: 2014

11. 3B Jeimer Candelario


2013 was Candelario’s first full season in professional baseball and he put together and pretty solid season at Kane County. Another switch hitter, Candelario has a good plate approach but still a lot of raw skills. He has a very good arm which should keep him at third but a position switch won’t be out of the question. He is still very young and has a lot to develop but the potential is there. Another bat in a loaded system at the plate for the Cubs. Candelario will start the season at Daytona. ETA: 2016

12. P Arodys Vizcaino 


Vizcaino spent all of the 2013 season continuing his rehab from Tommy John surgery. It is now clear that Vizcaino will be best suited for late inning reliever in the Cubs bullpen. If he can stay healthy, Vizcaino has an electric fastball that could help him become a closer down the road. The Cubs added a couple arms to the pen this offseason so Vizcaino will start the season in Iowa and has the chance to come up later in the season when some pitchers are traded at the deadline. ETA: 2014

13. 3B Christian Villanueva 


Villanueva had a solid season at Tennessee last year. He got off to very rough tostart the season but recovered very well. It’s always good for a player to go through a slump in the minors like Villanueva did. The Cubs are loaded at third base so his chances to make it with the Cubs could be tough. It all depends on how the prospects above him turn out. Like Vogelbach, Villanueva could be a valuable asset to have to trade down the road. He will be at Iowa to start the season. ETA: 2015

14. P Paul Blackburn 


The Cubs drafted Blackburn out of high school in 2012 so the Cubs started him at Boise for the 2013 season. Blackburn has very solid pitches across the board and is one of those guys that just knows how to pitch due to his command. He had a nice season in 2013 and will should be at Kane County to start 2014. ETA: 2017

15. SS Gleyber Torres


Right behind Jimnez, Torres was the Cubs other big international signing in 2013. Torres also has a lot of raw talent but may be better at the plate than Jimenez. He will  be playing in the Arizona rookie league this summer. Putting two 17 year olds in the rookie league shows how highly the Cubs think of these two players. If they continue to develop, they have the chance to be highly rated prospects at a very young age. ETA: 2019

16. P Neil Ramirez


Ramirez was the third piece of the package the Cubs got for Garza. He put up some great numbers in 2011 but came back down in 2012. Injuries are a bit of a concern here but Ramirez could be a nice middle rotation starter for the Cubs. He uses four pitches but needs to focus on his command in 2014. Will start the season in either Tennessee or Iowa. ETA: 2015

17. P Kyle Hendricks 


Hendricks was one of the best pitchers in the Cubs farm system in 2013. He posted a line of 2.00 ERA, 13-4, 128/34 K/BB in 166 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. Hendricks is another guy that knows how to pitch. He won’t over power hitters but has great command of his pitches. Will begin 2014 in Iowa but can pitch his way onto the Cubs this year. ETA: 2014

18. OF Matt Szczur 


Arguably the best athlete in the Cubs system, speed is Szczur best tool. I think Szczur has a chance to be an everyday leadoff hitter in the majors. He covers ground very good in the outfield as well. You can’t teach speed and that will help get him to the major league level. He has hit consistently at every level and the Cubs may give him a shot at Wrigley this summer. ETA: 2014

19. P Rob Zastryzny


The lefty from Mizzouri was the Cubs second round pick in the 2013 draft. Zastryzny had a good start to his professional career has he posted a 2.25ERA in 11 games between Boise and Kane County. He has a plus fastball and a good change up that has to potential to be a plus pitch for him. He will need to work on his command this year. ETA: 2016

20. 2B Gioskar Amaya


Another solid middle infielder in the Cubs system. Amaya hit well at every level before having a bit of a down year at the plate in 2013. Still a very young player with not much experience, Amaya has the potential to develop into a good prospect. Plays a very good second base ad has above average speed. ETA: 2018


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