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.
The time has come to wrap up my previews for position players and, unfortunately for me, I saved the most boring preview for last. My questions for left field will be, “Will Nate Schierholtz do enough to force me to learn the correct spelling of his last name?” and “Will Scott Hairston do enough to make me forget his older brother Jerry and his replacement level offense and defense?” My projections for these two players are:
Preparing for this, I looked over every offensive statistic I could, trying to bring something positive out of the numbers. After all of my analysis, my conclusion is: Scott Hairston is going to hit a few home runs for the Cubs this year, strike out often, and walk very little. Nate Schierholtz will do about the same as Hairston, minus the homeruns.
Last season, neither of these guys had very good range in the outfield. Schierholtz earned a -4.5 UZR/150, while Hairston earned himself a -4.9 UZR/150. However, Schierholtz does have a much stronger arm than Hairston. Overall, this Cub fan will cringe each time the ball is hit to right field this season, hoping that base runners didn’t advance unnecessarily because the fielder couldn’t get to the ball.
In the end, Scott Hairston and Nate Schierholtz will do something for the Cubs and their fans this year that no statistic can measure. They will be the ugly girls in the outfield that make Jorge Soler and Albert Almora look like prom queens as rookies.
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.