The Cubs’ major league team may be struggling mightily, but what about prospects in the minors? Here is a quick analysis of the Cubs’ top prospects so far, as ranked by Baseball America, around the country.
First, Javier Baez and Jorge Soler are both playing for the A+ Daytona Cubs. Baez has 12 strikeouts and only 2 walks in 10 games. Baez is slugging 0.429 with 2 singles, 3 doubles, 2 triples and a home run. From what I have read, Baez is trying to crush the ball every at bat and it is causing him to strike out often. So, I would say Baez needs to learn some plate discipline before he gets moved up.
Jorge Soler, on the other hand, has only 4 strikeouts and 4 walks, with 10 singles. He seemed to be doing well before he lost his mind and went after an opposing player with a bat, earning a five-game suspension. Theo Epstein said the Cubs are working with Soler to help him channel his emotions more appropriately. Hopefully, they work with someone other than the sports psychologist that could never help out Carlos Zambrano.
Baseball America’s fifth-rated Cubs prospect is Brett Jackson, who is currently playing for the AAA Iowa Cubs. Going into this season, the concern for Jackson was his strikeouts. After appearing in 10 games this season, Jackson has struck out 13 times with only 9 hits in 43 plate appearances. I am about to the point where I’m not going to call Jackson a prospect anymore, unless he can somehow gain some plate discipline.
Rounding out the Baseball America top 5 Cubs prospects are Albert Almora and Arodys Vizcaino, both currently on the disabled list. The Cubs look for Almora to be back in late May, playing with the Midwest League Kane County Cougars. Vizcaino, on the other hand, may return after the All-Star Break after rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. He will probably be in the bullpen, whenever he does return.
Overall, I’m optimistic about Soler and Baez. I’m thinking that the season is young and they will make the proper adjustments. When it comes to Brett Jackson, however, I’m thinking what you see is what you get. Unfortunately for the Cubs, that isn’t much. The name that I didn’t mention at all was former prospect Josh Vitters, who only played in 1 game for Iowa before being placed on the disabled list with a sore back. I feel 90% confident that Cub fans will forget the name Josh Vitters when it comes to third base prospects and start thinking about Jeimer Candelario and Arismendy Alcantara.
Although the Cubs roster may look different than in years past, the story is still the same. In two games, the Cubs are 0-13 with runners in scoring position. They have left a total of 10 men on base. Tonight, the Cubs had the bases loaded with only 1 out and failed to get a run across. The probability of scoring a run in that situation is 67%. Eventually, one would think the odds would be in the Cubs’ favor.
A few points from tonight’s game:
1.) Edwin Jackson looked pretty good in his Cubs debut. He struck out 5 and induced 8 groundouts, telling me he was keeping the ball down.
2.) Anthony Rizzo was able to stay in the game after getting hit by a pitch, which looked much worse at first glance.
As I did the projections for the Cubs starting rotation, I realized I had a lot of questions and uncertainty about performance. Will Jeff Samardzija continue the progress he made last year? Will Matt Garza or Scott Baker stay healthy enough to be of value to the Cubs either in their rotation or the trade market? What will the rotation look like by the end of the year? I tried researching as much as I could before I came to any conclusions. Here are my projections:
First, Jeff Samardzija pitched better in the second half of the season last year than he did in the first. He had a lower WHIP, lower BB/9, and higher K/9. Since the Cubs were looking hideous by that point in the season last year, I had completely missed this. I’m hoping this was more Samardzija progressing and less the warmer temperatures during that part of the season. I’m projecting him to continue to progress and solidify his spot as a front-end starter.
When I began thinking about this post, I figured Matt Garza was a total wild card. I had no idea what the Cubs would get out of him this year coming back from his elbow injury. Then, Garza strained his lat muscle and will start the season on the disabled list. This is a big disappointment for the Cubs, as Garza was likely to be traded sometime this season. Although I still believe that will happen, his value has definitely been diminished.
Unlike Matt Garza, Scott Baker was already expected to start the season slowly after not pitching at all since 2011. He had problems with his flexor tendon and then eventually needed Tommy John surgery with the Twins. I believe he’ll start the season on the DL and Scott Feldman will pitch about 110 innings. If all goes well, Baker will pitch well also and yield the Cubs some more prospects in a midseason trade.
The projection for Edwin Jackson was easy for me because he is such a consistent pitcher. In the past five years, he’s pitched between 183-209 innings, and his WHIP has been between 1.22 and 1.51. I see him being the most reliable starter for the Cubs this year with little change from his normal statistics.
Overall, Cub fans must remember that Samardzija may be the only pitcher in the Cubs rotation when they are contenders. Two or three of the starters could possibly be on another team by the end of the year. It’s possible one of the young pitchers will seize an opportunity to surprise everyone as a starter and be this year’s Samardzija. But, don’t hold your breath.
I could go to McDonald’s, order a cheeseburger, and wait for it to turn into a rib eye steak. The same goes for Alfonso Soriano waiting for the Cubs to be a contender. It is not going to happen during his time in Chicago, no matter how long he waits. Because of this, I see Soriano waiving his no-trade clause, going to New York, and Brett Jackson getting significant playing time.
If I had my way, the Yankees would be working something out as I write this to bring Alfonso Soriano to New York. The Cubs have really tried moving Soriano and he really likes Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. In my opinion, a thirty-seven year old baseball player would jump at an opportunity to play for one more championship.
I’m going to go way out on a limb on this one and assume that Soriano is gone before the beginning of the season. I’m going even further out on that limb and saying that Brett Jackson and his new swing get a majority of the playing time in left with Scott Hairston and Dave Sappelt getting the remainder. ZiPS is projecting that Brett Jackson is going to play in 147 games this year. That sounds like a lot to me, but if Jackson can produce, why not play him there?
This projection is my least confident one of the year. I’m going to assume that, with his revamped swing, Jackson’s production increases 25% and his strikeouts decrease 15%.
The future of the Cubs outfield lies in Jorge Soler, Albert Almora, and Matt Szczur. It would be nice to see Brett Jackson to make a case for a spot in the outfield as well. For that to happen, this new swing needs to be a great fix for Jackson’s strikeout rate. Since the Cubs’ season won’t be filled with lots of team wins, consistency from Brett Jackson could be considered the biggest win of the year.