Yesterday, the popular site MLB Trade Rumors unveiled its 2013 All-Prospect All-Star Team. To the delight of Cubs fans, Chicago tied with the Minnesota Twins and Houston Astros organizations for the most players mentioned in the write-up.
Perhaps one of the more surprising choices was the selection of first baseman Dan Vogelbach as the best first baseman in the minor leagues. Author Marc Hulet offered this explanation for why he chose Vogelbach over the Astros’ Jonathan Singleton or the Angels’ C.J. Cron.
The Astros’ Jonathan Singleton missed the beginning of the year due to a suspension and then struggled with his consistency. The Angels’ C.J. Cron failed to consistently tap into his raw power. Vogelbach, just 20, performed well at two A-ball levels and showed the ability to hit for average and power while also getting on-base at a solid clip.
Vogelbach combined to hit .284 with 19 home runs and 76 RBIs between Class-A Kane County and Class-A Advanced Daytona this season, while slugging .449 over 131 games. More importantly, he maintained his production and his numbers remained virtually unchanged after his promotion.
According to Hulet, Cubs’ director of player development, Brandon Hyde, said the success enjoyed by Vogelbach was a result of hard work.
It was an impressive season with raw power to all fields. He has an advanced approach for his age, and he controls the strike zone.
Probably the least surprising selection of the three players mentioned is the choice of top prospect Javier Baez as the best shortstop in Minor League Baseball. Baez, a mere 20 years old, mashed 37 homers with 20 steals and a .920 OPS this season between Class-A Advanced Daytona and Class-AA Tennessee, where he led the Smokies to a playoff appearance.
His 111 RBIs did not go unnoticed by Cubs’ management, but perhaps the most promising improvement shown by Baez this year came in his plate discipline, according to Hyde.
He hit in the middle of the order on a prospect-laden team. He made huge strides defensively and with his plate discipline. He has a unique combination of raw power, speed and off-the-charts instincts, especially for a 20-year old in Double-A.
Baez beat out the entire crop of next-generation shortstops, including Xander Bogaerts of the Red Sox, Francisco Lindor of the Indians, Addison Russell of the Athletics and last year’s number one overall draft pick, Carlos Correa of the Astros.
Kris Bryant, the Cubs’ top pick in this year’s MLB June Draft, and the number two overall pick, was named as the runner-up to the Twins’ slugging third baseman Miguel Sano. Sano, who I had the opportunity to see in Class-A ball last year has an extremely powerful stroke, and can take any pitcher deep – in any situation.
He combined to hit .280 this season between Class-A Advanced and Class-AA, clubbing 35 home runs and driving in 103 runs. He slugged .610 and posted a .992 OPS in just 123 games. He did, however, strike out 142 times in those 123 games.
Bryant, on the other hand, could “give Sano a run for his money in a year’s time” – if both prospects are still in the minors, according to Hulet. In a small sample size of 36 games between Rookie Level, Low Class-A and Class-A Advanced, Bryant hit a red-hot .336 with nine home runs and 32 RBIs. He also put up a .688 slugging percentage to go along with his astounding 1.078 OPS.
What does all this mean? The work and diligence of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer is beginning to pay dividends, and some of the best talent in all of baseball exists in the Chicago Cubs organization.