June 19, 2014
Keeping Tabs on the Cubs' Top Prospects
Before the season started, the spring had created clever illusions about Baez, as Cubs fans and fantasy owners alike salivated at the possibility that each preseason laser beam to the outfield seats would draw him closer to major-league playing time in 2014. A deep slump to start the year popped those illusions, as those same fans and fantasy owners were left holding their heads in their hands and looking for a consolation that could only come after the high-risk proposition in Baez started solving the puzzle that is pitch sequencing.
For Bryant, the adoration would come later; the burn is slow and the embers are still burning hot, as Bryant absolutely crushed Double-A pitching. There was hopeful speculation that Bryant could also earn a promotion to the big club with his stellar play at Tennessee but those dreams are coming to a halt, as the Cubs have made it clear that they would like to see their prospects dominate a level before earning a promotion.
Let’s take a look at a five prominent hitters in the Cubs system and see where their short- and long-term fantasy values are.
Kris Bryant .355/.458/.702 (Triple-A Iowa)
Like most Cubs’ prospects Bryant’s real value lies in the long term. The strikeout rates are a concern but Bryant did improve in that regard down the stretch. Over the last 30 days Bryant dropped his strikeout percentage down to 22.6 percent in 115 plate appearances. Bryant has the power and he’s got an idea of what he wants to do at the plate. Bryant will likely be a four-category contributor when it clicks. There’s debate on the average and he won’t steal bases, but I think Bryant can hit for average well enough (in the .280-plus range at his peak) to be a positive in the category.
Javier Baez .219/.274/.434 (Triple-A Iowa)
Baez is still a risk long term. His strikeout rate has jumped to an uncomfortable 34 percent. The high whiff rate is indicative of an immature approach and a thought process that has yet to evolve past “see ball, hit ball.” Baez has a long way to go in terms of understanding sequencing and adjusting to what pitchers are trying to set him up for. I do not think he understands what “his pitch” is at present. The thing with Baez is that his bat speed and preternatural hand eye coordination still allows for some eye popping stretches; he’s slugging close to .600 over his last 110 plate appearances. For me, Baez is still a top prospect despite his ugly struggles early in the year, but his ETA is further back than previously anticipated. This is a fantasy-related article, but when reading about Baez, the key words you’ll want to look for are “approach,” “spin,” and “plan”—with the golden phrase being “Baez has refined his approach, is recognizing what he can and can’t do with spin, and has a plan at the plate.”
It’s hard to see that coming together right now, but I still think he can get there.
Arismendy Alcantara .276/.315/.508 (Triple-A Iowa)
Albert Almora .241/.262/.318 (High-A Daytona)