If you’ve followed the Chicago Cubs even remotely for the past calendar year, you’ve probably heard about how the rebuilding is about the development of the prospects and young players. Now I understand that not everyone has the time to follow and keep up
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the minor leagues, so I decided to post this writeup of the top 20 Cubs prospects and where they should play in 2013.
NOTE: I am no professional scout. This post is subject to how these players perform in Spring Training and how the brass feels they should be challenged. These are preliminary estimations of where they will play. It may not look the same come late April.
For context reasons, the minor leagues are divided into seven levels. Here’s what they are from lowest to highest, along with the Cubs affiliate in parenthesis:
1) Summer leagues (DSL, VSL, etc)
2) Rookie league (Mesa, Arizona Cubs)
3) Low-A (Boise Hawks)
4) A-ball (Kane County Cougars)
5) High-A (Daytona Cubs)
6) AA (Tennessee Smokies)
7) AAA (Iowa Cubs)
Onto the prospects! I’ll be using MLB.com’s prospect rankings, found here. Numbers 20 through 16 will be ranked today, with five more being covered weekly, so stay tuned!
20) Barret Loux, RHP, 23: The first thing you’re going to hear about Barret is that his professional baseball career has been all but linear. At 18 he was drafted by the Tigers in the 27th round, but refused to sign. At 21 he rose all the way up to the first round and was drafted by Arizona, only to have his contract deemed invalid for failing a physical due to injuries. He then signed in Texas and showed all that first round talent. The Cubs acquired him for Jake Brigham, whom was the return in the Geovany Soto trade with the Rangers but he turned out to be damaged goods.
Now 23, Loux has made it past High-A and AA without any problems. He’s been healthy, logging in 236 innings in the past two seasons, and he’s succeeding – averaging 8.7 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched while limiting the walks to just under three per 9 IP.
Nothing about his repertoire is overwhelming, really. Loux throws a fastball that sits in the low-90s, while mixing in a change-up, a slider, and a curve. The reason for his success, however, has been his ability to use those pitches effectively. I’ve seen reports projecting the 6-foot-5 righty to be as high as a number three starter, with a floor of an innings-eating fifth starter. Either way, that’s a pretty solid prospect.
Expect Loux to compete for one of the spots on the Iowa Cubs rotation in AAA. If injuries plague the MLB team, he could be one of the closest starters to be called up.
19) Marcelo Carreno, RHP, 21: Carreno is another guy that when the Cubs acquired him I couldn’t help but think that it was a steal. After Jeff Baker was traded to Detroit last August, Carreno was the player to be named later.
The 21 year old righty isn’t the biggest pitcher at 6’1” 170 lbs, but what he lacks in size he makes up in control. The strikeouts in 2012 came at a rate of 7.7 per 9 IP, just under his career average of 7.9, while the walks was a microscopic 1.8 per 9 IP. The guy throws strikes.
The downside I see to it is that Carreno was 21 in A-ball, so he’s more mature than the hitters he’s facing. That attacking-the-plate approach isn’t going to fare very well when he faces more advanced hitters. The fact that he doesn’t throw very hard suggests that he could suffer an increase in homerun rate.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Venezuelan native start the season as high as AA Tennessee if he learns to use the strikezone to his advantage. For now I have him slotted to start at High-A Daytona.
18) Gioskar Amaya, IF, 19: Amaya was part of that 2012 Boise Hawks team. Many of the system’s best prospects played for the Hawks at some point last season and Amaya is very deserving to be in that company.
Amaya’s bat (.298/.381/.496) played more like a corner outfielder’s, rather than a second baseman’s in 2012. Combine that with his 10.4 BB% and I can’t stress enough how excited I am for this guy.
Amaya has taken the two lowest levels of the system and absolutely demolished them. The next step will be A-ball Kane County. Keep an eye on this kid.
17) Jeimer Candelario, 3B, 19: Jeimer was a rather unknown prospect to Cubs fans. That is until Baseball-America released their top 10 Cubs prospect this month and ranked Candelario 8th, 9 spots ahead of his MLB.com placement.
Unlike Amaya, Candelario never played in the Arizona League. Jeimer has two professional seasons under his belt, and his first in the Dominican Summer League was good enough to earn him a promotion to Boise in 2012 completely skipping the AZL.
Candelario has adequate size for the position at 6’1″ 185 and although he needs some work at 3B BA expects him to be able to stick at the position. Ben Badler of Baseball-America says that had he not moved from his home in New York, Candelario would’ve been a first round draft pick out of high school. He should man the Hot Corner for the Kane County Cougars (A) in 2013.
16) Paul Blackburn, RHP, 19: The first round of the 2012 draft was highlighted by top prospect Albert Almora for the Cubs, but there were two other exciting picks from the supplemental round. Blackburn was one of them, 56th overall.
Blackburn only managed to pitch 20.2 innings in Arizona this past season but there are good reports on him out there. Keith Law views him as a back-of-the-rotation starter, while John Sickels of Minor League Ball points out his strong makeup. Both view him as a polished starter and like his athleticism combined with good size (6’2” 185). He’s young and has room to grow so his velocity of 93 MPH can also increase.
I like Blackburn a lot and want him to get as much experience as a starter as possible. Expect to see Blackburn start in Boise (A-).