I write for both ChiCitySports.com and WorldSeriesDreaming.com. I do various articles at CCS and Minor League Coverage at WSD. This was originally posted at WSD, here.
First a quick recap of moves that went down the past two days:
- LHP Paul Maholm (Chicago) + OF Reed Johnson (Chicago) + Cash to Atlanta for RHP Arodys Vizcaino (Unassigned) + RHP Jaye Chapman (AAA Gwinnett)
- C Geovany Soto (Chicago) + Cash to Texas for RHP Jacob Brigham (AA Frisco) + PTNBL (or Cash)
- RHP Ryan Dempster (Chicago) (+Cash?) to Texas for 3B Christian Villanueva (A+ Myrtle Beach) and RHP Kyle Hendricks (A+ Myrtle Beach)
Coming into the season, Villanueva ranked #9 in the deep Rangers farm system, and #100 in all of baseball by Baseball America. Hendricks and Brigham both did not rank. Vizcaino ranked #2 (one spot ahead of Randall Delgado) in the Braves farm system, and #40 in all of baseball. Chapman did not rank.
The return at the deadline may be less than anticipated as the Cubs failed to trade Matt Garza, but we can be all but assured of one major trade bringing in some new top prospects occurring over the winter, as if he had been traded now, the only player the Cubs could get a strong return for in the offseason would have been Starlin Castro (highly unlikely to be traded).
Major changes have occurred since WSD last published a top prospects list before the draft, as #1 Anthony Rizzo has graduated, many new faces have entered the organization, and #2 Brett Jackson has fallen off while #3 Javier Baez has established himself as one of baseball’s elite prospects.
#1 – Shortstop – Javier Baez – From Toa Baja, Puerto Rico – Age 19 – Peoria Chiefs of A Midwest League
Javier Baez was the Cubs first-round draft in 2011, and came into the season as Baseball America’s 61st best prospect, ranking just three spots ahead of fellow prospect Matthew Szczur. Since then and a stint in Extended Spring Training, Baez has emerged as the 25th best prospect in baseball on BA’s mid-season rankings, and continues to rise in stock as he dominates A-level Midwest League pitching. A move the second or third base may be necessary eventually, but that’s alright with the Cubs, who happen to have another young shortstop phenom already in the majors.
2012 Stats: Peoria (A MWL): .332/.385/.597 line for .982 OPS with 9 2B, 5 3B, 11 HR, and 19 SB in 53 games.
#2 – Outfield – Jorge Soler – From La Habana, Cuba – Age 20 – AZL Cubs of R Arizona League
The saga of Jorge Soler was even more lengthy and had even more spikes than that of Ryan Dempster. Originally in the shadows of Yoenis Cespedes (for whom the Cubs were the runners-up for, as was the case for Yu Darvish), Soler reportedly agreed to a deal with the Cubs in February, which turned into accusations of the Cubs illegally making an agreement with a player not cleared to sign. The Cubs eventually did get their man, and he has begun play with the Cubs entry in the Rookie-level Arizona League.
2012 Stats: AZL Cubs (R AZL): .296/.345/.556 line for .900 OPS with 1 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, and 2 SB in 7 games.
#3 – Outfield – Albert Almora – From Hialeah, Florida – Age 18 – AZL Cubs of R Arizona League
The Cubs first-round draft pick in 2012 was deemed the closest High School prospect to reaching the majors, and debuted just a few days after Soler in the Arizona League. The Cubs reportedly would have selected Almora even if they had the first overall pick. Almora is a good all-around prospect with a relatively high floor.
2012 Stats: AZL Cubs (R AZL): .190/.190/.429 for .619 OPS with 2 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, and 1 SB in 5 games.
#4 – Right-handed Pitcher – Arodys Vizcaino – From Yaguate, Dominican Republic – Age 21 – Unassigned
Arodys Vizcaino was ranked as the 40th best prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America before the 2012 season. Unfortunately, Vizcaino had to undergo Tommy John Surgery in Spring Training, and will not pitch again until 2013. The Cubs seemingly felt that with medical advancement in Tommy John Surgeries, that the risk was minimal, and picked him up in a deal for Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson, making up for the loss of Randall Delgado, ranked just below him in the Braves organization before the season, in the vetoed Ryan Dempster trade.
2012 Stats: None to Post, you can check out his older stats by clicking on the link on his name at the top of the page.
#5 – Outfielder – Brett Jackson – From Berkeley, California – Age 23 – AAA Iowa Cubs
Brett Jackson was the Cubs first-round draft pick in 2009, and has progressed through the minors well enough, ranked as the 32nd best prospect in baseball heading into the season, but nowhere to be seen on the mid-season Top 50 list. Jackson was another hot topic in the midst of the trade deadline, with initial rumors suggesting he had been traded to a mystery team with Reed Johnson after being pulled from the Iowa Cubs game. Eventually, Johnson was of course dealt in a package to the Atlanta Braves, but with Maholm rather than Jackson and call-up rumors circulated. Those too turned out to be false as Jackson was right back in the Iowa lineup the next morning.
2012 Stats: Iowa Cubs (AAA PCL): .253/.335/.478 for .813 OPS with 20 2B, 11 3B, 15 HR, and 24 SB in 101 games.
#6 – Outfielder – Matthew Szczur – From Cape May, New Jersey – Age 23 – AA Tennessee Smokies
Matthew Szczur was the Cubs fifth-round pick in 2010, but was only taken that low because teams doubted his signability, as he was contemplating a career in the National Football League. Eventually, the Cubs had to release Szczur and renegotiate a contract to keep him away from the NFL, making him eligible for the Rule V draft, hence he was added to the 40-man roster despite only having reached the AA level within the past week. Szczur got off to a slow start in Daytona, but rebounded strongly and Jae-Hoon Ha‘s injury suffered in Jacksonville opened up a spot for him in Tennessee.
2012 Stats: Tennessee Smokies (AA SL): .267/.313/.333 for .646 OPS with 1 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, and 0 SB in 4 games.
2012 Stats: Daytona Cubs (A+ FSL): .295/.394/.407 for .801 OPS with 19 2B, 4 3B, 2 HR, and 38 SB in 78 games.
#7 – Third Baseman – Josh Vitters – From Anaheim, California – Age 22 – AAA Iowa Cubs
Josh Vitters was the Cubs first-round pick (3rd overall) in 2007, taken out of High School. Vitters fell down the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects List every year from 2008-2010 before not even making the cut in 2011. Many had given up on Vitters simply because he had been in the farm system for so long, despite being rushed under the Hendry regime, but Vitters has produced big time in the Pacific Coast League as a 22 year old, and may be poised to take over the Cubs third base job in 2013, despite a hefty amount of errors (he’d probably take much of the error spotlight away from Starlin Castro).
2012 Stats: Iowa Cubs (AAA PCL): .298/.350/.500 for .850 OPS with 31 2B, 2 3B, 15 HR, and 4 SB in 105 games.
#8 – Third Baseman – Christian Villanueva – From Guadalajara, Mexico – Age 21 – A+ Myrtle Beach Pelicans
Christian Villanueva was the main piece of the Ryan Dempster trade. The combination of Villanueva and Hendricks leaves a lot to be desired, especially after the Randall Delgado non-trade, but at this point, it is hard to be mad at Dempster. Assuming Vizcaino can rebound from Tommy John Surgery, the return for the Maholm and Johnson package was greater than the potential Dempster return to the same team. Had Dempster gone to Atlanta, the Cubs would not have been able to acquire Vizcaino. Delgado would have been a safer return, but with a significantly lower ceiling. Villanueva came into the season as the 100th best prospect in baseball according to Baseball America, but has not overly impressed in the Advanced-A Carolina League, and Goldstein wasn’t sure if he was better than Vitters at this point.
2012 Stats: Myrtle Beach Pelicans (A+ CARL): .285/.356/.421 for .777 OPS with 19 2B, 1 3B, 10 HR, and 9 SB in 100 games.
#9 – First Baseman – Daniel Vogelbach – From North Fort Myers, Florida – Age 19 – SS-A Boise Hawks
Daniel Vogelbach was the Cubs second-round pick in 2011, but he has more value as a designated hitter than as a first baseman, making him a future trade chip rather than someone with a legitimate chance of playing everyday with the Cubs, especially when one considers the fact that he will likely be blocked by Anthony Rizzo.
2012 Stats: Boise Hawks (SS-A NWL): .364/.417/.500 for .917 OPS with 3 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, and 0 SB in 6 games.
2012 Stats: AZL Cubs (R AZL): .324/.391/.686 for 1.078 OPS with 12 2B, 2 3B, 7 HR, and 1 SB in 24 games.
#10 – Third Baseman – Jeimer Candelario – From New York, New York – Age 18 – SS-A Boise Hawks
2012 Stats: Boise Hawks (SS-A NWL): .283/.352/.409 for .761 OPS with 5 2B, 0 3B, 5 HR, and 1 SB in 42 games.
Candelario was born in the United States, but is of Dominican heritage and lived there for most of his life, making him eligible to sign at a younger age and partake in the Dominican Summer League, where he emerged as an interesting prospect and caught the eye of many analysts. Currently, he is probably behind Baez, Vitters, and Villanueva in the Cubs third base plans.
#11 – Right-handed Pitcher – Pierce Johnson – From Arvada, Colorado – Age 21 – Unassigned
Pierce Johnson was a supplemental first-round pick in 2012, and has the potential to be a good starter at the major league level, and has a relatively high floor.
2012 Stats: None, yet to start professional career.
#12 – Right-handed Pitcher – Dillon Maples – From West End, North Carolina – Age 20 – R AZL Cubs
Maples is an interesting prospect, taken in the 14th round of the 2011 draft, despite being a 2nd round talent, as teams feared that they would not be able to sign him. The Cubs were the first to take the bait, and succeeded in signing him. With Johnson, he is one of just two Cubs prospects besides Vizcaino that made this list.
2012 Stats: AZL Cubs (R AZL): 9.00 ERA in 1 game and 1.0 IP with 1 R, 1 K, 2 BB, and 0 H.
#13 – Shortstop – Junior Lake – From San Pedro, Dominican Republic – Age 22 – AA Tennessee Smokies
Some are higher on him, other’s aren’t. His most likely role at the major league level is as a backup infielder. Being in AA, he is closer to the majors than many of the other picks immediately ahead of him.
2012 Stats: Tennessee Smokies (AA SL): .295/.346/.441 for .787 OPS with 17 2B, 2 3B, 7 HR, and 14 SB in 70 games.