In our continuing series detailing the top talent in the Chicago Cubs’ organization, we now turn our attention to the team’s #3, #4 prospects – pitcher C.J. Edwards and outfielder Albert Almora – both of whom are regarded around the league as some of the top young talent on the rise today.
#3 Prospect – C.J. Edwards – Starting Pitcher
Edwards is no ordinary pitcher. He was named MiLB.com’s Starting Pitcher of the Year this season, and rightfully so.
The 22-year-old right-hander, who was acquired in the trade that sent Matt Garza to Texas, went 8-2 with a 1.86 ERA in 116.1 innings of work this year between the Rangers’ and Cubs’ farm systems. He spent the year splitting time between Low-A and High-A ball, never missing a beat.
In those 116-plus innings of work, Edwards racked up 155 strikeouts and allowed just one home run in the entire season. His ability to keep the ball in the ballpark is what separated him from other prospects. He didn’t just keep the ball in the park, he simply missed bats – with great regularity. He allowed just 5.9 H/9 while averaging 3.78 K/BB – both marks indicate how dominant he was this season.
He isn’t just a fastball or just a breaking ball-pitcher. According to Baseball America, he has the best fastball and the best curveball among all Chicago pitching prospects.
As we look ahead to 2014, Edwards won’t be a big league factor. He will likely begin the season with Double-A Tennessee, and the organization will go from there. He could, however, be a factor around the All-Star Break in 2015, especially if he continues his string of strong performances.
#4 Prospect – Albert Almora – Outfielder
At just 19-years-old, it’s hard to comprehend just how good Almora has been for the Cubs so far in his very young career. Taken with the sixth-overall pick in 2012, he has not failed to disappoint since that day.
Last year, playing with Class-A Kane County, Almora played in 61 games after experiencing an injury early in the year, hitting .329/.376/.466 for the Cougars in 249 at-bats. He lacks the power that turns heads around players like Javier Baez, but his ability to get on base has not gone unnoticed. He was named the organization’s best hitter for average as well as the best defensive outfielder with the Cubs.
Moving forward, Almora projects as a big league starting outfielder, but likely will begin next season with either Class-A Advanced Daytona or Double-A Tennessee. The front office has become notorious for giving prospects plenty of time to mature and develop in the minors before making the call to bring them up. That being said, by the time 2016 rolls around, it appears that – barring any setbacks – Almora will be manning one of the outfield positions in the Friendly Confines.