Mar 7, 2013; Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs shortstopJavier Baez
(70) doubles during the ninth inning against the Chicago White Sox at HoHoKam Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
MLB.com issued its updated Top 100 prospect list this week, and five Chicago Cubs’ prospects are on it.
Chicago does not have a prospect in the top ten, but hold the 11th, 25th, 30th, 40th and 63rd-best prospects in the game today.
Shortstop Javier Baez ranks highest in the organization, as the 11th best prospect in all of baseball, ranking as the fourth-best shortstop – trailing Francisco Lindor, Xander Bogaerts and Carlos Correa, last year’s #1 overall pick. Baez has demonstrated the ability to hit consistently, and has shown steady power, as well, including a four-home run game earlier this season. Despite an injury early in the year that cost him a shot at starting 2013 on a full-season roster, the 20-year old has hit .266 with 25 home runs and 72 RBIs between Daytona and West Tennessee. His on-base percentage has remained steady around .324 for most of the season, and is slugging .550.
Baez is a household name for Cubs fans, but there is no doubt, he is a step behind the top three prospects, at least in terms of defense. Having seen Francisco Lindor play last year as a broadcaster for the Quad Cities River Bandits, the former Class-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, I can say that this kid is the real deal. He is one of those prospects who is big-league ready in terms of defense, despite being just 19 years old. He will make Indians fans reminisce about the days of Omar Vizquel and Roberto Alomar once he breaks onto the big league scene, thanks to these rare skills he possesses.
I’ve only seen Correa play once, but he has a short, albeit powerful stroke, and has made Houston Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow look like a genius for having taken him with the top overall pick last June. Luhnow signed Correa for less than what was expected for any of the other top prospects, and allocated that money to other draft picks. Now, Houston has seven prospects on the Top 100 list – indicating a promising future for the faithful Astros fans down in Houston.
Baez has an Alex Rodriguez-type build, and there have been rumors that he could eventually move to the corner infield, or even the corner outfield in the future. However, his power stroke is clear, and he could turn into one of the most powerful shortstops in the game by 2016.
The hype behind Albert Almora has been limited by the attention focused on Baez, but don’t discount him because he flies under the radar a bit. That being said, at Single-A Kane County, he has hit .333 over the course of 52 games. He lacks the power of Baez, with only three home runs at this point in the season, but is proving himself as a solid contact hitter. Baseball America ranked Almora as the best outfield defender in the Cubs organization prior to this season.
Jorge Soler comes in as the 30th-best prospect in all of baseball, and the top Cubs outfield prospect. According to Baseball America, he has the best outfield arm. Soler has proven to be no slouch at the dish, collecting a .281 average over the course of the season with Daytona. He, like Almora and Baez, are projected to be in the Cubs’ starting lineup by 2016.
Third base, which as been an irregular position since the late, great Ron Santo departed the position decades ago, is an area where the Cubs are loaded with talent at this point in time. Both Mike Olt, who was acquired in the Matt Garza trade this week, and the number two overall pick Kris Bryant, appear in the Top 100 list.
Olt, who has not been the same player since suffering a concussion late last season, is looking to regain some of his former luster in Chicago, and is still highly touted by Cubs management. Struggling offensively, the 24-year old is hitting just .217 this season. However, he has shown he still has a power stroke, with 12 home runs and 34 runs batted in. With reported vision issues in play, he has struck out 98 times in just 70 games. In Chicago, this is known as Brett Jackson Syndrome. Or at least, it should be.
There is no doubt that the Cubs’ farm system is much more comprehensive than it was prior to the Theo Epstein era, but only time will tell if touted prospects like Olt can rebound, and reach their full potential as Chicago chases the ever-ellusive World Series title.