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John Sickels Announces His 2014 Top 21 Cubs Prospects


Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

John Sickels, the man who writes the annual baseball prospect book and former ESPN columnist, revealed his yearly top 21 Chicago Cubs prospect list over at SB Nation. Sickels goes into depth with each prospect in the article, including a team overview at the end. It`s a great read that I highly recommend.

John Sickels` grading system goes like this. “A” means very advanced. It means that the prospect has a fairly good chance of becoming a superstar. Great. The “B” rating stands for a player who likely won`t turn out to be an otherworldly player, but still has a good chance to be a productive regular in the bigs. Lastly, the “C” rating is the majority of prospects. Those are the types of prospects who have real upside, but have some flaws that could hold them back from reaching that potential (i.e, Olt and his injury issues).

Without further a due… the top 21 prospects entering 2014:

1.) Javier Baez: A

2.) Kris Bryant: A

3.) Albert Almora: A –

4.) Jorge Soler: B+

5.) C.J Edwards: B+

6.) Arismendy Alcantara: B

7.) Pierce Johnson: B

8.) Jeimer Candelario: B

9.) Dan Vogelbach: B

10.) Christian Villanueva: B-

11.) Arodys Vizcaino: C+

12.) Mike Olt: C+

13.) Neil Ramirez: C+

14.) Matt Szczur: C+

15.) Josh Vitters: C+

16.) Kyle Hendricks: C+ 

17.) Corey Black: C+

18.) Rob Zastryzny: C+

19.) Ivan Pineyro: C+

20.) Paul Blackburn: C+

21.) Kevin Encarnacion: C+

This group of prospects is very impressive, and you have players in the “A” category which is even more impressive, meaning as of this moment they look like legitimate stars. 7 players in the “B” group, also impressive as it looks like Theo and Jed have built up considerable depth. Then the “C” guys, which feature guys with big upside but many risks such as Mike Olt and Arodys Vizcaino. It is very possible for “C’ players to one day become a solid regular, according to Sickels, so having that many prospects with this upside is wonderful.

There are a few surprises here, not many but a few. Sickels doesn`t seem to be as high on 2012 supplemental 1st rounder Paul Blackburn as everyone else, placing him at just 20. On the other hand John surprisingly seems to like Corey Black and Ivan Pineyro, placing both higher than Blackburn. Cubs` top pitching prospect C.J Edwards being placed at #5 makes the Matt Garza trade shine in the eyes of scouts everywhere, and Jeimer Candelario also makes a statement on this list, sneaking all the way up to number 8.

Another thing that definitely stands out on this list is the number of guys who were acquired in trade by Theo and Jed. Ivan Pineyro from the Nats, Corey Black for Alfonso Soriano, Arodys Vizcaino from Atlanta, Kyle Hendricks and Christian Villanueva from Texas in 2012, and the trio of Neil Ramirez, Mike Olt, plus C.J Edwards also from Texas in 2013. All these eight, count ’em eight, guys acquired by the front office certainly speaks to the commitment by the team to improve this farm dramatically. Last year at this time, the Cubs only had 1 single “A” prospect (Baez), now, they have 3. They had 11 total “B” players last year, but were just B- prospects. This year Sickels handed out 7 “B” Cub prospects, and none were B minus. All a very solid B+ or B.

I`ll save the rest for you to check out in the article, so here`s just one player Sickels dug into, Pierce Johnson:

"Pirece Johnson, RHP, Grade B: 2012 supplemental first round pick from Missouri State lived up to expectations with solid A-ball campaign, using low-90s fastball, solid curve and changeup. Projects as a mid-rotation starter, assuming durability (which has been questioned in the past) holds up."

This list truly shows the Cubs have hope for the future, and what a fantastic job so far on the minor league front the front office has done in 2+ years. This is always a very fun topic to debate and discuss, so feel free to drop a comment on your thoughts about Sickels` rankings.