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.
As I was preparing my preview for third base this year, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. Had you asked me three years ago who the Cubs third baseman would be in 2013, I would have said Josh Vitters without hesitation. In 2009, I saw Vitters play for the Peoria Chiefs and he seemed to be physically worth the third overall pick in the 2007 draft. Today however, I feel that Vitters is the next guy in a long line of “what-could-have-been” Cubs prospects. In light of this, I’m thinking Cub fans will see a majority of Ian Stewart with a mix of Luis Valbuena and Josh Vitters.
First, I am projecting Ian Stewart to play 90 games this year. Stewart’s wrist injury from last year will also trigger a weaker swing, causing the balls that used to be hits to become groundouts and easy line drives. I ran a linear projection for Stewart, but decreased his runs, hits, homeruns, RBIs, and average by 5% due to his wrist.
Next, there is Luis Valbuena who I feel is going to play in 50 games. Due to the infield prospects making their way to the big leagues, don’t be shocked if he is traded some time during this season. After watching him last year, I ran a linear projection for him, assuming he would perform at the same level.
Then, there is the aforementioned Vitters. His production has to go up from last year, so here are the numbers I am projecting. I didn’t use a linear projection for Vitters, I’m just guessing here.
The Cubs can’t carry three third basemen on the team, so someone will have to go. Luis Valbuena is out of options, so it can’t be him. Today, February 22, the Cubs announced that Ian Stewart strained his quad running the bases. If this injury lingers throughout Spring training, the Cubs may let Stewart and his $2 million walk. In the end, the best thing for the Cubs would be if Josh Vitters finally lives up to the third overall pick in the 2007 draft.