It has been one full month of minor league baseball, and plate appearance samples are starting to approach the threshold at which numbers carry meaning. The Cubs farm system has been a mixed bag so far, with Iowa playing terrible baseball, Tennessee playing great baseball, and the Daytona Cubs and Cougars hovering around .500. The top level prospects have had a very rough start to the year, while mid-range prospects like Arismendy Alcantara have been fantastic. Cubs fans may be dismayed at the struggles of the Javier Baez’s of the system, but overall there isn’t much reason to be panicking yet.
As a baseline Cubs top prospect list to base this discussion on, I’ll be using John Sickels’ Top 20 for 2013 list.
Javier Baez, SS, A+ – All of Baez’s weaknesses have been on full display so far this season. He may be tied for third in the FSL with 5 home runs, but he also has the third most strikeouts with 34 and is 93rd in the league in OBP. Baez has also been exceptionally bad in the field, though rough playing surfaces in the minors may have a lot to do with that. Most troublesome is that his plate discipline has actually gotten worse this season, and I have already discussed how troubling that is. Stock Down.
Albert Almora, OF, DL – Wrist injuries are very scary for any hitter, but hamate bone injuries have gotten much more treatable in recent years. Until he comes back and shows that he’s been affected by it there is no judgement to make. Stock Neutral
Jorge Soler, OF, A+ – Soler is hitting .267/.360/.453, a respectable line in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. However, Soler made more news than any Cubs prospect this spring, and for discouraging reasons. Grabbing a bat before approaching another dugout is extremely unnecessary, and when you combine that with his benching due to poor hustle, makeup concerns are now a factor for Soler. Stock Ever So Slightly Down
Dan Vogelbach, 1B/DH, A – Vogelbach got off to a bit of a slow start, and much of that was due to a swing-happy approach. He was still making some loud contact, but his lack of selectivity was really hurting his ability to drive balls. He’s made some adjustments, and is now hitting .301/.370/.466 with 5 home runs. Vogelbach is doing just fine for his first month of full season ball, but will need to start producing on a much higher level to still be regarded so highly. Stock Neutral
Arodys Vizcaino, RHP, DL – Still rehabbing his elbow. Stock Neutral
Brett Jackson, CF, AAA – BJax hasn’t shown any improvement with respect to his strikeout problem, and the new swing seems to has sapped much of his power. Certainly a very disappointing start to his season. Stock Down
Dillon Maples, RHP, EXST – AZ Phil reports that Maples has thrown 4 2/3 over 2 starts, striking out 8 and walking 3. Honestly, the fact that Maples is even on a mound throwing right now is good news. Stock Slightly Up
Christian Villanueva, 3B, AA – Villanueva has had a disappointing start to 2013, posting an OPS of just .596 so far. AA is usually a very difficult jump for hitters, so it would be prudent to wait another month or two and see if Villanueva adjusts before putting too much stock into the results. Still, the numbers are terrible and until those adjustments come, there is only one conclusion: Stock Down
Matt Szczur, CF, AA – Szczur has a .680 OPS so far in Tennessee, and depending on how you view him as a prospect, that is either encouraging or tough to swallow. Personally, I don’t think there is any power in his swing, and because of that I see the .680 OPS as rather nice for a guy who is contributing a ton with his glove. Few people see him more than a second-division starter anyway. Stock Neutral
Pierce Johnson, RHP, A – I’ve gotten to see Johnson a lot, and I’ve written a full scouting report on him here. I like what I have seen out of him so far, and he has stayed healthy so far. Stock Up
Gioskar Amaya, 2B, A – I’ve seen a bunch of Amaya so far, and I’m very mixed on him. His approach has been terrible and he simply isn’t hitting much. Stock Down
Duane Underwood, RHP, EXST – Again courtesy of AZ Phil, Underwood has thrown 5 innings and given up 3 earned runs, walking 3 and striking out 4. At extended spring training, results are not very important, so the struggles are not concerning as long as he is healthy and building arm strength. Stock Neutral
Josh Vitters, 3B, AAA – Vitters has been injured for much of the year, and has been bad at the plate when healthy. Stock Down
Junior Lake, UTIL, DL – Has been injured. Stock Neutral
Jeimer Candelario, 3B, A – I’ve gushed over Jeimer’s approach at the plate, but unfortunately he hasn’t produced much so far. But, given his age and improved defense, Candelario’s start has been ok. Stock Neutral
Juan Carlos Paniagua, RHP, ?? – Paniagua has been denied a work visa and cannot pitch in the states right now. Stock Neutral
Paul Blackburn, RHP, EXST – Is healthy and throwing in Arizona, has struggled with command. Stock Neutral
Marco Hernandez, SS, A – I don’t like one thing I’ve seen out of Hernandez outside of his speed. He’s been bad at the plate and looks uncomfortable in the field. Stock Down
Arismendy Alcantara, SS, AA – Alcantara came out of the gates very, very strong, but has an OPS of just .379 over his last ten games. His strong showing in the first half of April earned him a lot of love from Cubs fans, though. Stock Neutral
Barret Loux, RHP, AAA – The former 6th overall pick has pitched to a 5.74 ERA in 15 AAA innings. The PCL is notoriously hitter-friendly, but a 5.74 ERA is ugly. Stock Down
Kyle Hendricks, RHP, AA – Hendricks is off to a great start to his year, posting a 3.12 ERA with very solid peripherals (8.0 K/9 & 2.8 BB/9) through 26 innings over 5 starts. Stock Up
Trey McNutt, RHP, AA – McNutt has pitched poorly out of a relief role in Tennessee and has yet to correct the command problems that have plagued him in the past, which have been magnified due to an inability to strike batters out. Stock Down
Ryan McNeil, RHP, EXST – McNeil has thrown six innings of shutout ball over two games, striking out six and walking none. Will probably pitch in Boise later this summer. Stock Neutral
Starling Peralta, RHP, A+ – Peralta has had trouble in the FSL after being returned to the Cubs by the Diamondbacks. To me, the fact that he was even selected in the Rule 5 Draft is impressive and enough for me to say: Stock Slightly Up
Ronald Torreyes, 2B, AA – Torreyes got a late start on his 2013 season, but is hitting the ball very well in AA right now. He has even drastically improved his walk rate, which is up to 11% after he walked in only 6.7% of his plate appearances in 2012. Stock Up
Logan Watkins, UTIL, AAA – It has been a very odd start for Watkins, who is apparently taking a ton of pitches in Iowa, as evidenced by his very high walk and strikeout rates. Whatever he’s doing, it’s working – he’s hit to a .901 OPS so far. Stock Up
Ben Wells, RHP, A+ – Wells has pitched to a 3.31 ERA, but has only struck out 4.96 batters per nine innings, a very weak number. Strikeouts were never going to be part of his game, but he’ll obviously need to improve upon that mark. Stock Neutral
Tony Zych, RHP, AA – The supposed closer of the future is only striking out 4 batters per nine innings. That isn’t going to fly. Stock Down
How would you grade the starts of the Cubs top prospects? Tell us in the comments below!