To put it simply, the Chicago Cubs boast one of the best-if not THE best–farm systems in baseball. And let’s be honest, with Theo taking over and the team playing like…well…the Cubs, the farm system should look the way it does if the brain trust is doing their job. It’s a system with great upside. It’s a system with depth. And it’s a system with impact talent that should be taking center stage within the next couple of years. There’s lots to be excited about if you’re a Cubs fan; there’s hope on the horizon for the North Side.
1. Javier Baez/SS
Outside of one Byron Buxton, there may not be another prospect with as much upside as Baez. With elite bat speed, quick hands, and a natural ability for barreling the ball, Baez has shown tremendous power at every stop of the minor leagues and could be a 30+ HR hitter at maturity. Additionally, while not possessing great speed, he does have at least average speed and could chip in 15+ steals as well. Perhaps his lone weakness though is his propensity to load up and swing for the fences a little too much. However, in 54 games at AA he hit .294 which has given scouts hope going forward that he’ll learn to curb his appetite to try and launch everything into orbit. Also, he has all the necessary tools to stay a short stop at the next level, but with Starlin Castro manning that position for the next several years and a body that many feel will outgrow the position, a move to the hot corner will probably be in order. All told, he profiles as an all star talent that can put up huge power numbers and a decent amount of steals–all from the left side of the infield. You’ll take that, even if he only ends up being a .260 hitter.
ETA: Late 2014
2. Kris Bryant/3B
The 2nd overall pick in last year’s draft has enormous raw power and he showcased said power last season as he hit 30 xbh’s including 15 HR’s in 56 games–making it to High A in his first year of pro ball. Most scouts agree he profiles better in right field, but there’s no doubt that his fantasy value is higher the longer he retains his third base eligibility. He’ll likely remain there as long as possible due to the defensive value of third base over right field, but the closer he gets to the majors the more reps he’ll probably see in the outfield. But regardless of where he plays, power is at a premium around the league so if you can land a guy who has a chance at 30+ bombs/year you’ll take it. His power should help him to hit his way into the Cubs lineup at some point in 2014.
ETA: Late 2014
3. Arismendy Alcantara/SS
In any other system Alcantara might get more attention, but in a loaded Cubs one he takes a back seat. But don’t let that distract you from an enticing set of tools–especially from a fantasy perspective. With the potential for at least above average tools across the board, he could very well end up an up-the-middle talent who hits 15-20 HR’s and steals 30+ bases. Scouts also agree he should be able to handle the short stop position at the major league level, but feel he can be a plus defender if he moves to 2nd. He only muddy’s up an already murky infield situation for the “Lovable Losers”, but his offensive upside could push one of the current occupants to curb if he continues to impress. He should start the year at AAA Iowa and should reach the Bigs at some point this year.
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ETA: Mid 2014
4. Dan Vogelbach/1B
“Dan hit ball. Dan hit ball hard. Dan hit ball far.” –Dan Vogelbach…probably. Every once in a while the good Lord decides to reach down, touch someone, and say “you’re gonna be really good at something”. That “something” for Dan Vogelbach is hitting baseballs. But unfortunately for him, on a baseball diamond, that’s about all he’s going to be good at. With a body that’s already out of control and not much defense to speak of, he’s likely headed to a DH only profile which means a trade to an American League team will be in his future. But guess what, Dan? Fantasy owners couldn’t care less about your defense. With a near elite power grade and a hit tool that also projects to be plus, we could be looking at the next Prince Fielder-type (yes, that comp is partially due to the similarity in size); someone who can challenge for 35+ HR’s/year, drive in a ton of runs, and hit for good averages as well. Expect him to spend most–if not all–of the 2014 season at AA.
5. Jorge Soler/OF
A broken leg and some inconsistencies at the plate led to a relatively disappointing year for the young phenom from Cuba. Soler possess big time raw power (seeing a theme here with the top of this list?), but unless he learns to be less aggressive at the plate he may never fully unleash his power potential. He’s also very athletic, especially for his size, and should lend a hand with the potential for double digit steals as well. The key for Soler in 2014 will be first to stay healthy. If he can, he should reach AA where his aggressive approach will be tested against higher quality arms. If he passes that test we should see him sometime in 2015. He fits the classic power hitting right fielder profile who can have impact potential in the power department while aiding somewhat in steals.
ETA: Mid 2015
6. CJ Edwards/RHP
Perhaps the only thing missing in this stellar system is the lack of impact arms. Edwards certainly has the arsenal on paper to be a top of the rotation arm (potential for 3 plus pitches), but questions abound about his lack of size and command/control that he’s likely to be pushed to the bullpen. However, if that’s the case he could very well end up a lights out closer if given the job. For now, just hope and pray he can defy all odds and remain in the rotation, but if not he can still end up being a valuable fantasy commodity.
7. Albert Almora/OF
If this were the real life version of this list, Almora would’ve landed 3rd behind Baez and Bryant. Unfortunately for him however, it’s not and he ended up 7th. That’s what being a better actual baseball player gets you. None of this is a knock on him as prospect, he’s just unlikely to be a real impact fantasy player in any one category with the exception of maybe average. If his power takes a step forward in 2014 then we could potentially be looking at a 2nd OF type, but that’s about his ceiling. What he does bring to the table is a player who can stick in CF (for those in leagues that designate each OF position) that likely helps out with good batting averages.
8. Pierce Johnson/RHP
Johnson may lack the sex appeal that accompanies Edwards, but Johnson has a much better chance to stick in the rotation. At 6’3″/170, his frame is much more suitable for a starter’s workload, and his arsenal, while not flashy, should help him to settle into a mid rotation role. His below average command will likely keep him from anything higher than that, but there’s still something to be said for a guy who can miss some bats and keep his ERA’s respectable. He won’t set the world on fire, but he could be a decent piece to the back end of your rotation. He’ll likely spend all of 2014 at AA.
9. Arodys Vizcaino/RHP
Elbow injures have severely derailed the career of the once highly-touted pitcher, but despite the setbacks the upside is still exists. Sure, he probably won’t ever pitch in the rotation again, but as a late-innings guy he could be deadly. As long as he’s fully recovered, his mid to upper 90′s fastball and plus curveball should be enough to excel at the back end of a bullpen–something the Cubbies have needed very badly these past few years. A good spring training should set him up for some extra action in the minors, but he should make his way to Wrigley at some point during the year–assuming he stays healthy. Don’t be surprised if he ends up getting some save opportunities.
ETA: Mid 2014
10. Mike Olt/3B
Yes, that Mike Olt. You remember, the same guy who was in everyone’s top 5 fantasy prospects last year. My how the mighty have fallen. To say he had a disappointing 2013 is putting it mildly, but with a change of scenery and a strong work ethic, perhaps he can recover some of his former glory. He’ll probably always have some swing and miss to his game, but if he can rediscover his swing there’s still top 10 3B upside in my opinion. And, he still has his defensive chops, so if he can hold his own in AAA it’s likely he could see duties at the hot corner in the majors before too long. Definitely one to keep an eye on early in 2014
ETA: Mid 2014
As always, it’s important to remember that these types of lists are based on the Dynasty fantasy values of these players. If I were making the real life list, obviously it would look much different. In most cases I opted for upside, but things such as closeness to the majors and high floors also had to be considered. The Cubs system is staked to the gills–especially for fantasy, and several of these players could be contributing for the Cubs and for fantasy teams in a very short time. Buckle up.