So….. Kris Bryant is pretty darn good. Everyone knows this. But, just how good has his season been this year and should he be promoted to Triple-A Iowa?
First let’s take a look at his season numbers: Bryant leads the Southern League in 8 offensive categories. Yes, freaking 8 categories! He is also in the Top 3 of three more categories. He has done everything for the Smokies this year. He is hitting for average and leading the Southern League to the tune of .349. Bryant is hitting for power. He leads the league in both HR and SLG%, with 15 and a .667 mark, leading the league by 5 HR’s and 130 points in slugging. Bryant is also getting on base. Once again he leads the league in OBP and is 3rd in Walks. His .452 OBP leads the Southern League by .18 and his 30 BB are only 2 behind the leader. Since he his on base so much he is leading the league with 44 runs, which is 9 ahead of the man in 2nd. With both his Slugging and OBP prowess he is leading the league with a whopping 1.117 OPS. 2nd place, is teammate Rafael Lopez with a .942 OPS! To go along with his Slugging Bryant leads the league with 124 total bases and is tied for 3rd with 14 Doubles. Oh, and Kris Bryant is striking out, he is 3rd in the league with 60 whiffs. Put this all together and you see a player who is clearly at a different level than his Double-A counterparts. So what is he still doing in Double-A Tennessee and why is he not in Triple-A Iowa?
Christian Villanueva is currently the starting Third Baseman in Iowa. Although he is off to a slow start, he is far more superior defensive player than Bryant. Villanueva has a line of .230/.289/.382 in Iowa. He had a slow start in April and seems to be turning a corner here in May with a line of .260/.309/.420 with 5 doubles and 3 HR. Villanueva is also a legit 3rd Base prospect who hit .261/.317/.469 in Double-A Tennessee last year. And is ranked as the Cubs #13 Prospect by Baseball America. Villanueva was acquired from the Rangers along with Kyle Hendricks for Ryan Dempster in 2012.
As you can see it is not just as simple as calling Kris Bryant up to Triple-A what do you do with Villanueva? Do you send him down to repeat Double-A, which he showed he could handle last year? Or do you move Kris Bryant to the outfield and leave Villanueva at 3rd? Or do you let Bryant continue to mash Double-A pitching and call him straight up to the Big League’s?
To answer the first question, I think it would send a bad message to Villanueva by sending him down now when he starting to turn the corner and is starting to hit better in Triple-A. He’s already proved he can handle Double-A. Now I don’t know what his mental makeup is but he could regress if he is sent down.
Another possibility is moving Bryant to the outfield, where most scouts believe he will eventually settle. So why not speed up his development and let him learn to play Right Field. This might seem like a logical option, but Kris Bryant wants to play third base and the Front Office has shown they will let a player stick at a position until proving they can’t handle it.
Finally, does Kris Bryant even need to play in Triple-A? The Front Office has been pretty adamant that they believe a full season at each level is important to the progression of prospects. Javier Baez has gotten at least 200 ABs at each level before being promoted. Brett Jackson, Josh Vitters, Antony Rizzo, and Junior Lake all fit this mode as well. But unlike all these guys Kris Bryant is an advanced college bat, with a good approach at the plate. So are there exceptions to the rules the FO has put in place?
Time will tell on the approach the Cubs will take with Bryant, and a lot of it will shake out after the Draft which is next week. With all the promotions and demotions throughout the organization as the draft concludes, short season leagues start, and players start getting traded. Until then we can continue to enjoy Kris Bryant crushing baseball and dream of what the future may hold.
Yasiel Balaguert isn’t the first position player prospect that comes to your mind when discussing Cubs Prospects. With the likes of Bryant, Baez, Almora, and Soler in the organization most other position prospects are just afterthoughts. But Balaguert has demanded attention by tearing the cover off the ball early in the season for Kane County. He has a .328/.418/.770 slash line during his 1st stint in a full season league. But who exactly is Yasiel Balaguert? Signed out of Cuba in 2011 the 21 year old is a stocky right handed hitter who stands at 6’2, 215. Balaguert projects as a corner outfielder because of his below average speed and plus arm. He made is professional debut in 2012 where he spent time with both the AZL Cubs and Peoria Chiefs. Balaguert broke out as a prospect last year with the Boise Hawks where he led the Northwest League in RBI (48) ranked 2nd in extra base hits with 24, and 3rd in slugging (.433). After the season he was honored by Baseball America as the #9 Prospect in the Northwest League where they described him as, “one of the NWL’s premium power sources.” He uses the whole field which allows him to rack up RBI and extra base hits. Although he is a good power hitter and uses the whole field he still chased pitches out of the zone which led to his 29% strikeout rate last year.
Yasiel Balaguert has built on the momentum he gained last year, carrying it over to this year with Kane County, where he ranks 2nd in the MWL with 14 RBI. He has been the Cougars most productive and consistent hitter early in the season leading the team in Hits, Batting Average, RBI, OBP, SLG, and OPS. Although it is still early it looks as if he has refined his approach by lowering his strikeout rate to 16% on the season. This is a very important season for Balaguert as a prospect because scouts will be looking at how he can hold up for a full season since this is his 1st stint in a full season league.
In my eyes Balaguert has turned into one of the more intriguing prospects to track during the season. The potential is there to become a valuable hitter with gap power and could push his way to Daytona by the end of the season. I will continue to keep an eye on Balaguert and track his progress throughout the year.
Daytona Cubs Lose Again 1-0
The Daytona Cubs unbelievably lose a 3rd straight Felix Pena start 1-0. You have to feel bad for Pena who has given up a total of 3 runs in 20 IP this year and yet is 0-3. Can we just kill the Win!? Pena’s final line for tonight: 8 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, all 3 hits were singles and none in the same inning. The D-Cubs are now 2-9 on the season and are struggling at the plate and are now 0-13 and 1 RBI with the bases loaded this season. The D-Cubs left 10 runners on base while compiling 6 hits. Tim Saunders collected 3 of those hits including 1 2B, and now has 3 straight multi-hit game. Dan Vogelbach also had a multi-hit game going 2-4. Chadd Krist had the lone other hit for the D-Cubs after a 1-3 with a BB.
Smokies Blow Game in 9th: 6-4
The Tennessee Smokies blew a 4-3 lead in the 9th inning and fell to the Jackson Generals 6-4. The Smokies are now 5-6 on the season after the blown save by Tony Zych. Zych was the victim of bad luck in the 9th when Jae-Hoon Ha misjudged and fly ball and then stumbled allowing the ball to get by him for a RBI triple. This came after a failed double play attempt by the Smokies infield. In Zych’s 1.2 IP he gave up 5 H, 3 ER and is now 0-2 on the year with 2 Blown Saves.
CJ Edwards was solid in his start although he didn’t have full command of his Fastball. Edwards relied on his devastating Curveball for most of the game, and when he needed to make a pitch that is what he threw. (multiple times in 3-2 counts). Edwards only allowed 1 hard hit ball all game and it was a HR off the bat of Jack Marder. Edwards gave up 2 runs in the 3rd due to an infield single, two stolen bases and a bloop hit to left field. His final line read: 5 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 7 K. Austin Kirk made his season debut with the Smokies after getting called up from Daytona and gave up 2 hits in his 2.1 innings of work.
Dustin Geiger showed off his power again tonight hitting his 4th HR of the season in the 2nd inning and also just missing out on another HR in the 9th with a ground-rule-double. It is really nice seeing Geiger hit this well so far early in the season especially in the upper level of the minors. As a right handed 1B prospect he is going to have to rake to continue his ascent to Chicago. Catcher Rafael Lopez had a very good game at the plate going 2-3 with a solo HR and a RBI single in the 7th. Kris Bryant also just missed out on a HR in the game with a hard hit ball than went off the RF wall to drive in Silva in the 7th.
Kane County Wins 7-5:
The Kane County Cougars score 6 early runs and hang on to a 7-5 win over the Fort Wayne TinCaps. The Cougars are on 4-3 on the season after the win. Don’t let the box score fool you, Tyler Skulina was on cruise control for most of the game for the Cougars en route to his 1st win of the season. Through 5 IP he gave up 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB and 5 K. However in the 6th inning he gave up a lead-off double, but looked like he was going to get out of the inning after recording 2 consecutive outs. 3 straight hits later Skulina was out of the game giving up 3 more runs and still responsible for runners on 1st and 2nd. When all was said and done Skulina’s final line was 5.2 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 6 K and that friends is why you can’t trust Minor League Box Scores. Justin Amlung hurled 2.1 IP giving up 1 hit, a walk, and a K. Tyler Bremer was credited with the save in his 1 inning of work giving up 2 hits and striking out 1.
Kane County’s offense was very good today collecting 9 hits and walking 5 times. Danny Lockhart led the way at the lead-off spot going 2-5 with 2 runs score. Carlos Penalver followed him in the order by going 2-5 with a double and 3 runs scored and his 3rd SB of the season. Yasiel Balaguert was the beneficiary of the table setters and drove in 3 runs on his 1-5 day and now has 7 RBI in 7 games. Trey Martin was 1-3 with a RBI and a walk.
Smokies Shutout 0-1:
The only run of the game came in the 9th inning off the bat of Chattanooga’s SS, Ozzie Martinez. Tony Zych relieved Dae-Eun Rhee with runners on 1st and 3rd and gave up the single Martinez. The Tennessee Smokies are now 2-5 on the young season and only managed 4 hits in the game. However the Smokies had plenty of chances to get a run across as they walked 7 times and left 9 runners on base. Stephen Bruno was the only Smokies player with an extra base hit as he went 1-3, with a walk. Zeke DeVoss was 1-4 with 2 Ks and his 1st SB of the season. John Andreoli and Dustin Geiger each had a hit, while Andreoli stole his 3rd base of the season.
Jake Arrieta made his 2nd rehab start and had a very solid 3 2/3 IP. Arrieta gave up 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K while throwing 66 pitches, 40 for strikes. Through 2 rehab starts his stats are: 6.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, and 7 K. Dae-Eun Rhee was very solid in his relief appearance but was still saddled with his 1st loss of the season. He was responsible for runners on 1st and 3rd when Tony Zych gave up the single to Martinez. Rhee’s line: 4.2 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K.
Baez Powers Iowa to a 5-1 Win:
Javier Baez hit the go ahead 2 run HR in the 6th inning and the Iowa Cubs never looked back en route to their 3rd win of the year (3-4). Baez was 1-4 at the plate with a K. Chris Valaika tacked on anther run in the 6th with a RBI single, he also added on an insurance run in the 8th with another RBI single. For the day he was 2-4 with 2 RBI. Matt Szczur was 2-4 with a run scored out of the lead-off spot. Arismendy Alcantara also added a 2 hit game for the I-Cubs with a run scored.
Kyle Hendricks was much better in his 2nd start of the season and picked up his 1st win of the season going: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K. Neil Ramirez came in for the 8th inning and gave up 1 hit while striking out 1 in his inning of work. Blake Parker finished out the game in the 9th with a scoreless inning giving up 1 hit and striking out 2.
Kane County Outlasts Fort Wayne in 12: 4-3
The Kane County Cougars scored the first and last run of the game and improved to 3-2 on the season after a 4-3 win over the Fort Wayne TinCaps in 12 innings. Kane County took advantage of 5 Fort Wayne errors 3 of which occurred in the bottom of the 12th. Carlos Penalver led off the inning by reaching on an error by 3rd baseman Dustin Peterson. Penalver then reached 3rd after a throwing error allowed Jake Hannemann to reach base on a sac bunt attempt. After Danny Lockhart was intentionally walked Penalver scored on a wild throw to the plate that Ben Carhart hit to the SS. Jen-Ho Tseng made his professional debut and the 19 year old threw fairly well going: 5 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 5 K. Kane County’s bullpen was great in this game giving up only 2 hits in 7 IP. Gerardo Concepcion gave up a hit and struck out 3 in 3 IP. Tyler Bremer hurled 2 scoreless innings walking 1 and striking out 2. Zack Godley picked up the Win in relief with 2 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 K.
2013 3rd Rd draft pick: Jake Hannemann led the Cougars offensively going 2-5 with a run and RBI while stealing his 4th bag of the season. The rest of the Cougars offense only managed 4 hits, Ben Carhart played 3B tonight and was 0-4 with a Run and 2 walks. Trey Martin was 1-5 with a run scored and stole his 2nd base of the season.
Iowa Cubs Fall To Nashville: 1-4
The Iowa Cubs drop to 2-4 on the young season after a 1-4 loss to the Nashville Sounds. Chris Rusin was much better in his 2nd start with the I-Cubs but was still saddled with the loss. Rusin went: 6 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K and is now 0-2 on the season. Alberto Cabrera threw 2 innings of relief giving up 3 H, 1 ER, 1 K. Marcos Mateo hurled 1 inning of relief with a strikeout. The I-Cubs only managed 4 hits offensively. Eli Whiteside drove in the lone Cubs run with a RBI single in the 5th for his only hit of the game. Christian Villanueva continued his strong start in AAA with a 1-3 night and scored on the Whiteside single. Villanueva is now hitting .313 on the year in 16 ABs, with a HR and 3 RBI. Both Matt Szczur and Javier Baez were 0-4 with 2 Ks. The Iowa Cubs will be back in action tomorrow at 12:05 CST for the 3rd game of their 4 game series with Nashville.
Daytona Cubs Lose Opener: 1-0
The Daytona Cubs lost in a good old fashioned pitchers duel. Brevard County ran out 5 of the Brewers top 30 prospects to the field. The game only took 1:59 and saw a total of 9 hits. Felix Pena faced off against the Brewers #16 prospect, Tyler Wagner. Pena threw 6 innings giving up: 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K. Zach Cates pitched 1 inning while striking out 2. Arodys Vizcaino made his Cubs debut and threw a scoreless inning giving up 1 hit. Arodys was sitting at 93 and topped out at 97 mph on his fastball and is starting the year in Daytona to take advantage of the warmer weather in Florida. Gioskar Amaya lead the D-Cubs offensively going 2-2 with a walk and a SB. Jeimer Candleario, Dan Vogelbach and Marco Hernandez each added a hit.
The first thing I’m going to say about this list is… “Wow, that was difficult.” The Cubs minor league system has a lot of depth, it was hard to pick just 30 prospects without saying, “Dang, why didn’t I put him in, or how did I overlook this guy.” But after a little tinkering (which I could do for weeks) I am really happy with my final list. Keep in mind this is just the appetizer, where I show the overview of my Top 30 prospects. Throughout the rest of the week I will get to the meat and potatoes portion of my Top 30 Cubs Prospects list where I highlight and give as much detail as I can about each of the prospects in a 3 part series. So without further adieu here is my list:
- Javier Baez
- Kris Bryant
- Albert Almora
- Jorge Soler
- CJ Edwards
- Arismendy Alcantara
- Pierce Johnson
- Dan Vogelbach
- Christian Villanueva
- Jeimer Candelario
- Arodys Vizcaino
- Rob Zastryzny
- Mike Olt
- Paul Blackburn
- Duane Underwood
- Matt Szczur
- Kyle Hendricks
- Jacob Hanneman
- Neil Ramirez
- Marco Hernandez
- Gioskar Amaya
- Dillon Maples
- Brett Jackson
- Ivan Pineyro
- Alberto Cabrera
- Corey Black
- Josh Vitters
- Juan Carlos Paniagua
- Eloy Jimenez
- Gleyber Torres
There you have it: My Top 30 Cubs Prospects, tell me what you think! Also remember to stay tuned as I highlight each player starting with #30-#21 which will be posted tomorrow.
I already previewed the pitchers representing the Cubs organization in the Arizona Fall League, you can find that post here: http://chicagocubsprospects.mlblogs.com/2013/10/06/arizona-fall-league-preview-pitchers
Even with Javier Baez scratched from the roster, their is an exciting list of players on the Mesa Solar Sox roster.
Kris Bryant: The number 2 overall pick in this years draft Kris Bryant is just one of the Cubs top prospects on the Mesa Solar Sox roster. Bryant has great power potential and an above average hitting tool. He is a prototypical middle of the order hitter. He is a solid defensive player at third base, but most scouts see him being moved to right field. It should be interesting to see if he plays the outfield during the AFL. The 21-year old out of the University of San Diego was the College Player of the Year, and is one of the top prospects in all of baseball. Bryant had a very impressive pro debut hitting .336 between the AZL Cubs (6 ABs) Boise Hawks, and Daytona Cubs. He blasted 9 HRs in 36 games, driving in 32 runs, with a .390 OBP. He slugged .688 with a 1.078 OPS. I expect Bryant to start next year at Double-A, and could possibly push for a September call-up as soon as next year.
Wes Darvill: Darvill was a late addition to the Mesa Solar Sox roster, taking the place of Javier Baez. He was a 5th round pick in 2009, but is still a pretty young prospect, having just turned 22 in September. Darvill can play all over the infield and will provide versatility for the Solar Sox. Darvill isn’t on the prospect radar, but if he continues to develop, he could become a utility player on a big league bench. Darvill hit .267 between Low-A Kane County, and High-A Daytona. The LH hitter has very little power only having 3 HRs in his career. He had 11 SBs, and a .339 OBP.
Albert Almora: Another one of the “Big Four” Almora was the #6 overall pick in 2012. Almora battled injuries throughout the 2013 season and he is on the Solar Sox roster to get more ABs for the time he missed due to his injuries. He has the highest floor of any of the Cubs prospects. Almora is projected to play Gold Glove defense in center field, and many scouts say he could play above average defense right now in the Majors. Almora is a very instinctual player and has a plus hit tool. He doesn’t have any off the radar tools but is solid across the board. In 61 games with the Low-A Kane County Cougars Almora hit .329 with 3 HR, and 23 RBI. Almora also collected a .376 OBP, .466 Slugging, and an .842 OPS.
Jorge Soler: Soler is another player who missed much of the 2013 season due to injury. Soler was signed in 2012 after defecting from Cuba and is one of the top prospects in all of baseball. He has above average power potential, and is a prototypical right fielder with his plus arm strength. Soler was selected to participate in the Futures Game but did not compete due to his injury. I was pleasantly surprised with his contact rate this season and his approach at the plate. I would expect Soler to start the year in Double-A with a possible call-up in September next year. Soler hit .288 in only 55 games for the Daytona Cubs. He added 8 HR and 35 RBI, while posting a .343 OBP. In 210 ABs Soler only struck out 38 times.
Well, a lot has changed since the Arizona Fall League Rosters were announced on August 27th. Javier Baez is no longer on the roster because of both physical and mental exhaustion after a long season in which he hit .282, 37 HR, 111 RBI in 130 games. Baez played in last years Arizona Fall League, so he didn’t have much of an off-season last year. Arodys Vizcaino was also replaced on the roster, so the Cubs staff can keep a closer look on his rehabilitation from Tommy John Surgery in the Instructional League. Replacing Baez and Vizcaino are IF Wes Darvill and P Lendy Castillo.
For a recap of the Roster and Overview of the League take a look at my prior blog post: http://chicagocubsprospects.mlblogs.com/2013/08/27/arizona-fall-league-rosters-announced/
With the AFL Opening Day on Tuesday, I’m going to preview each player representing the Cubs on the Mesa Solar Sox roster. I’ll begin with the Pitchers:
Dallas Beeler: A 41st round draft pick in 2010 is on the roster to give the Cubs a last look to see if he should be added to the 40 man roster. Beeler will be Rule V Draft eligible for the first time this off-season. The 24-year old RH Pitcher has spent the last 2 season with the Double-A, Tennessee Smokies. Due to an injury this year he was limited to only 54.2 IP, in 9 starts. He ended with a 4-2 record with a 3.13 ERA. Beeler struck out 35 batters while walking 19, hitters hit .214 off of him. Beeler has an injury history and in 2010 he had Tommy John Surgery. After the 2011 season he was ranked as the Cubs #12 prospect according to Baseball America and also had the best control in the organization. In 2012 his stock declined after posting a 2-6 record with a 4.24 ERA. He also gave up 166 hits in 136 innings. Beeler is a big guy who stands at 6’5 and weighs in at 205, and could help the Cubs out of the bullpen in the future.
Lendy Castillo: Was selected in the Rule V Draft in 2011 from the Philadelphia Phillies. This was only his 4th year pitching as he is a converted infielder after 3 seasons in the Phillies organization. Castillo had a rough major league season in which he posted a 7.88 ERA, giving up 24 hits, in 16 IP. He struck out 13 batters and walked 12 out of the bullpen. This year the lanky RH pitcher split time between the Low-A Kane County Cougars and Single-A Advanced Daytona Cubs. The 24-year old was 4-5 with a 5.87 ERA in 84.1 IP, giving up 99 H, 76 Ks, 39 BBs. Castillo started 5 games this year for Kane County but he projects more as a reliever in the future. He is still young especially considering he has only pitched for 4 years, the AFL will give the Cubs a good look and Castillo along with helping him develop as a pitcher against some top prospects in the league.
Matt Loosen: A 23rd round draft pick in 2010 was the FSL pitcher of the week twice this year after throwing a no hitter for the Daytona Cubs. Loosen is eligible for the Rule V Draft and the AFL stands as a testing ground to see if he deserves protection on the 40 man roster. Loosen who is 24 and stands at 6’2 205, is a RH pitcher who had a strange season in 2013. Loosen dominated the FSL to the tune of a 5-2 record and a 1.83 ERA. Loosen has 2 Complete Game Shutouts in his 9 starts and struck out 56 batters in 54 IP and only allowing 17 walks. Loosen had trouble though in Double-A with the Tennessee Smokies where he was 3-3 with a 6.14 ERA. He struck out 60 batters in 66 IP, but showed control issues by walking 48 batters. His line between the 2 teams was: 8-5, 4.28 ERA, 120 IP, 95 H, 116 K, 65 BB. Baseball America projects him as having a #4 starter ceiling. I am looking forward to see how his stuff plays in the AFL after having success in the FSL and struggling in the Southern League.
Armando Rivero: The Cubs Signed Rivero to a $3.1 M signing bonus earlier this year after he defected from Cuba. The 25 year old made it all the way to Double-A Tennessee this year. The AFL will serve as more time for Rivero to develop because he only threw 30.1 innings this year. Rivero split time between the Kane County Cougars, Daytona Cubs, and Tennessee Smokies this year. He made 20 appearances out of the bullpen and posted a 4.15 ERA. He struck out 45 batters in those 30 IP while walking 12! Rivero projects to help out the bullpen in 2014 and his $3.1 M signing bonus shows what the Cubs think of him, that is a lot of money for an international prospect. Since he was signed as a 25 year old he wasn’t subject to the international spending limits.
Today is about as exciting as it can get for a team who is in last place in their division. Today the Arizona Fall League rosters were announced and the Cubs are sending some very intriguing names to say the least. The “Big Four” Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant, and Albert Almora (taxi squad) will be representing the Mesa Solar Sox.
But what is the Arizona Fall League? This will be the 21st season of Arizona Fall League action. The AFL is an off-season league in which clubs are able to take a closer and longer look at their top prospects and rule 5 eligible players. Each team is allowed to select 6 players to participate in the AFL. These players are mostly Triple A or Double A level players. There are a total of six teams in the AFL and the Cubs are represented by the Mesa Solar Sox. In addition to the Cubs the Mesa Solar Sox are comprised of prospects from the: Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics, and Washington Nationals.
For thorough rules and overview of the Arizona Fall League check out Arizona Phil’s blog: http://www.thecubreporter.com/arizona-fall-league
The players placed on the Mesa Solar Sox along with the “Big Four” are: Pitchers- Dallas Beeler, Matt Loosen, Arodys Vizcaino, and Armando Rivero. I should also note that Albert Almora is on the Taxi Squad which means he can only play on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but he can be activated to the 35 man roster if he replaces an injured player.
Opening day for the AFL is October 8, with the Rising Stars game being played at the end of the 4th week, while the Championship Game will be on November 16th.
With the Mesa Solar Sox roster stacked with some of the Cubs biggest prospects I am looking forward to following the league and giving updates here on my blog and on twitter. I will have a much more in depth rundown and analysis of the players on the roster here in the next couple days so stay posted.