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As Jason Parks noted in his prospect rankings primer, this year’s rankings are the product of a collaborative process. Before each system’s prospect list is finalized, members of the BP prospect team trade emails about the players involved, enriching the rankings with their own opinions and perspectives. We’ll be publishing excerpts from the best of those discussions throughout the offseason, generally the day after the prospect lists in question appear. Some exchanges have been edited for language or trimmed to stay on topic.

Link to Chicago Cubs prospect rankings

Nick Faleris: I'd like to piss everyone off by going on the record with, "I would have [Albert] Almora over [Javier] Baez.”

Jason Parks: That’s bold. I have Almora as a high 5/low 6 type (future); Baez with 7 potential. But now talent/risk makes Almora a more attractive '13 prospect. It's very debatable. I could lean either way. It's risk vs. safety. I tend to prefer ceiling.

NF: I am a ceiling guy, too, but still have Baez as a 3B and Almora as a CF long term. Safety up the middle that also comes with above-average first division upside in a kid that could be at Double-A by the time he turns 20 in 2014 takes it for me. I also like that Almora's is a more controlled aggression on the field.

JP: Sure. That's a good argument. Baez is a lunatic with a weapon. He could be a star or he could flame out because of the wild approach. Almora's positional value and game maturity make him very appealing.

Mark Anderson: I think there's a legit case to be made for [Jorge] Soler at the top of this list. It's not a case I'm actively prepared to make, as I believe Baez is the top prospect in this system, but I would be willing to consider Soler as the #2 guy in a toss-up discussion with Almora. I think any order is defensible for these three….but I prefer Baez, Soler, Almora, based on the middle-of-the-order threats that the Baez/Soler ceilings offer.

NF: I have to qualify my position on Soler with the fact I have not seen him in person, whereas I have seen a lot of Almora and Baez over the last two years. I love the upside in Soler's bat and from what I have heard regarding his physical tools in the outfield, believe others when they say he can be molded into a solid defender. So how do we try to project out the offense? Overall package? Soler is more physical than Baez but can't quite match Baez's bat speed, right? Both are unrefined in approach and like to get after it. More leverage on Soler's side; potential for more impactful force at contact for Baez? Does it matter that Soler is coming over from Cuba and will be dealing with adjustments in lifestyle/culture in addition to pro ball? Maybe, though I'm not sure how to quantify it. I would say my general tendency would be to side with Baez due to bat speed, potential for a little more defensive value, and 10 months in the age department (according to the paperwork), but can't honestly say I have a strong opinion. As you have all noted, 1-3 can really be argued any number of ways. Gun to my head, based on current knowledge, I like Almora/Baez/Soler

JP: Quality points. Soler has more unknowns in the developmental plan, and that alone is reason to be cautious. He's a talent, and the bat has enormous potential, but I've yet to talk to a source that can't live without Soler. The profile is a first-division RF, with good (but not special) athletic ability, middle-of-order power, etc…

Baez has the highest ceiling of all three, in my opinion, with crazy great hands and bat speed. He's a total read-and-react player, but he's not in control now on either side of the ball, and despite the easy 7 power (maybe 8), he doesn't put himself in good hitting conditions. He's a major wildcard. He could be a 7 role player, with GG-level chops at 3B and big, big power. Or he could flame out with a shitty approach. He's either number one or number two on the list, for me. 

Almora is the safer choice, but its not like he doesn't have legit tools. Not sure if the profile in CF looks in three-five years, and I'm not sure the bat is all that sexy in a corner, so I don't think he's a slam-dunk first-division guy at the highest level. Maybe. He has a lot more now-talent, and a much lower risk factor than the other two. I can see the case for him being the better prospect, but having a lower ceiling than Baez/Soler.

Jason Collette: I agree with your thoughts; coin flip says Baez over Soler this time.

JP: I have six scout sources and I spoke with [redacted] today about some of the movements on the player development side. This system has a chance to emerge as a top tier force if some of the high-ceiling arms pop; the bats already have impact potential. Lots of love for [Dan] Vogelbach. Lots of love for Duane Underwood. Split decision on Baez/Almora. More passion for Baez, but the higher floor of Almora was mentioned often.

MA: I like the overall list… I'm partial to the high-impact potential of Baez, over Almora, but I'm not going to pitch a fit either way. One of my own internal biases has trouble dealing with Vogelbach. The body is so, so bad and there is an incredible amount of pressure on that bat maximizing every iota of its potential. That’s a scary situation for a prospect.

JP: I agree. Vogelbach will probably always be a DH on the field, so the value  (and the pressure) will rest entirely on the bat. The body is never going to win any awards. But the raw power is very, very big, and the hit tool [itself] received more love than I expected. He's pretty quick to the  ball, and squares with authority. He has a mature approach, and the pitch recognition skills are present. He is going to have to crush at each  level; proving it as he goes along. But if the hit tool is plus (or  better), and the big raw can play at 6 (or better), that's a very legit  hitter. I was very much on the fence coming into this list, but after a week talking to amateur scouts about his offensive potential, I'm sold that the kid is going to rake. Does that make him a #5 prospect in this system? I'm not sure. I have [Brett] Jackson as a low-5 type. If Vogelbach hits,  he could be a beast. But Jackson has better all-around value given the speed/defense tools. Tough call.   

Nick: Any background with Vogel-Buick?

NF: I have no issue being aggressive with a Vogelbach ranking. If I had a farm system and someone told me, "Pick one—Jackson or Vogelbach," I'm going with Daniel.  He is one of those rare young hitters that exhibits a true feel for the craft, and obviously he also has top-tier power. Most impressive (to me) is that he gets to that power pretty easily—doesn't need to "gear up" for it. Obviously, that's important since he'll have negative value on the bases and in the field. Also, have never heard anyone with first-hand experience with Vogelbach give anything other than a glowing report from a makeup standpoint. He, Henry Owens and Lindor were great "team" guys on that 2010 FTB Mizuno/Cardinals Scout squad.

Chris Mellen: With a straight DH prospect or one with a very iffy defensive future, I think you have to consider the overall trend in regards to the position over the last handful of seasons.  Only Billy Butler logged more than 500 PAs (591) this year as a DH.  In 2007, there were six players that broke that threshold as a comparison.  Teams are using the position to rotate players or give defensive days off, which is putting more of an emphasis on most of the DH types to at least be able to play a little bit of defense to stick on the roster. 

That's fills about a year's quota of stats research for me.  In the case of Vogelbach, he is going to have to be a beast year in and year out to carve out a career if he can't at least stand out there and not butcher things for 50-ish games a year in the field for an AL team.

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jonkk1
11/08
Great stuff and an awesome addition. Thanks!
donwinningham
11/08
Love this, more please.
bornyank1
11/08
More is on the way.
batts40
11/08
Very cool addition. Thanks for this.
captnamerca
11/08
Nice look behind the scenes. This really adds a lot to the discussion. Thanks. Now about those stars....KIDDING!
AndrewBokermann
11/08
I absolutely love lists, like an American sports fan, but I think I actually liked this more than the list and think I also learned more. MUCH THANKS
NickFaleris
11/08
Thanks for the comments, all. The process has been a great experience for all involved (so far as I can tell...). Looking forward to many more hours of debate/discussion with the BP Prospect Team and with the readers.
cmellen
11/08
I second Nick's comments.
Hawktrap
11/08
Big fan of this
shankweather
11/08
Vogelbach is such a tease. Obviously he has no future at Wrigley because of Rizzo, and I'm afraid his trade value might be limited because of his lack of defense. But I just know he's going to be someone's Pronk one day.
sam19041
11/08
Good format and good content. One issue you guys didn't seem to cover: the Cubs' (abysmal) track record in developing prospects. Shouldn't that also be part of these discussions?
jmoultz
11/08
I think this was valid pre Theo regime, but it no longer is after the housecleaning that's been taking place since Theo was hired. The org has been shaken up from top to bottom while it's lazy to say there's nowhere to go but up, it's the truth.
DeathSpeculum
11/08
this is outstanding. chris mellen quickly rising up my list of favourite BP writers.
ostrowj1
11/08
My years of watching news (ESPN and non-sports) have taught me that nobody has a debate as polite as this one. "Quality points", "I agree", "I am an upside guy myself, but".... Where are the yelling, cursing, and accusations of lying?
sahmed
11/08
YOU ARE 110 PERCENT WRONG ABOUT WHATEVER IT IS YOU ARE TRYING TO SAY.
19braves77
11/08
Is Javier Baez that big of a baby as am reading about the Cubs moving him to 3rd ? I heard he has had outburst this year in Arizona on the field and inside the dugout when told to field the position.
bcshults
11/09
did he move off ss in the AFL? i don't think that's the plan during the regular season
DeathSpeculum
11/08
jason et al, can you confirm or deny whether nick removed his shoe, slammed it down on the table and screamed "we will crush you," at any point in the conversation?
NickFaleris
11/08
Can't say a Khrushchev comp is what I was expecting...
DeathSpeculum
11/08
whatever pinko. :)
mmontice
11/08
"Only Billy Butler logged more than 500 PAs (591) this year as a DH." While true, if not for injury, David Ortiz would have fit that bill. Doesn't mean you're not right, but Ortiz is another true DH. Also, not saying Vogelbach can become Ortiz. Just pointing out that he's a true DH.
NickFaleris
11/08
I think Chris's point is well taken. The redeeming factor here is work ethic and make-up, each of which Vogelbach has in spades. That's not to say he is guaranteed to improve, but I am confident he will put in the work. To me, that matters in that there is a wide enough gap of time between "now" and the MLB-readiness of his bat that it isn't a foregone conclusion Vogelbach will not be a passable first baseman by the time he's ready for the show (assuming continued development w/o setbacks).
bcshults
11/09
for the sake of argument, let's say Rizzo continues to solidify his value as an all-around above average 1st baseman and Vogelbach looks like the second coming of Papi and Fielder's gene-doped loved child. what will provide greater value: trading an unproven DH type with incredible power and a great approach and keeping Rizzo or trading a proven major league first baseman and tolerating the bad glove? this question is one of the many reasons i love baseball
zeeekz
11/08
Subject matter is great, but what really makes this piece shine is the format. Good interaction and debate in a positive sense of the contributers building on and honing the others' points. Good value for those of us who are subscribers. Thanks.
captnamerca
11/08
Regarding the body issue, having never seen a full picture of the kid, I can't tell if he's a fat mess or just a big-boned country boy. What is meant by bad body?
DeathSpeculum
11/08
bad body = unfuckable.
jparks77
11/08
I can't wait until we are 25 teams deep, full of hate and contempt for each other, and the debates read like political adverts. Chris Mellen is clearly pandering to the beautiful toolsy people of the world. Chris Mellen hates people who are fat. Chris Mellen is going to raise your taxes*. *Paid for by the people who support Nick Faleris.
myshkin
11/08
Which one of you is Roseanne Barr in this scenario?
cmellen
11/08
I wouldn't raise anyone's taxes. I do love toolsy prospects though. That isn't a secret.
ddriver80
11/08
Round tables are always much more fun then the lists for me personally. This was pretty damn awesome.
Camwulf
11/08
Building from ddriver80... this could be a fun listen if you were to record your debate/conversation regarding prospects.
jparks77
11/08
The problem is that these debates aren't conversations. They are email blasts that fire away when the time is convenient for the parties involved. We might go several hours ( or even days) before responding to a specific topic. Our schedules are too dysfunctional to make it work any other way, unfortunately.
juice133
11/09
It's not just our schedules that are dysfunctional, Jason...
bcshults
11/09
still, my compliments--interesting read
ddriver80
11/08
One segment from Up and In that was always great as well was just all the discussion and Parks and Goldstein would just talk about the prospects, this is even better though, as it allows our imagination run wild about tone and what words were actually said.
ofMontreal
11/08
Reminds me of post draft discussions of Mike Olt and how everyone(w KLaw also on hand) was thinking the Rangers just scored a coup on gut feeling alone. Then were proved right.
Hudsonbelinsky
11/09
A roundtable discussion is much more difficult to facilitate and you often have people responding to the thing that's said last, rather than each individual remark. This also allows each of us to formulate ideas over a period of time and to take the feedback from each other and bring it to our sources or to do some research like you can see with Chris's comment about DH ABs and PAs. It's also a lot cleaner and more organized.
kringent
11/08
I loved this piece, look forward to more of this type of exchange of ideas and opinions. It's interesting, though - I would have guessed from reading the back and forth that Baez would have ended up 1st. Maybe that's a reading comprehension fail on my part. Is it possible to say how exactly this dialogue affects the outcome? After everyone has their say, how is the final order decided? It's probably less important than the discussion itself, but it spurred my curiosity.
rawagman
11/09
The talk on Vogelbach makes me think of a cross between Billy Butler and Prince Fielder in terms of offensive ceiling. His mug shot from the top ten prospect article has me more in mind of Moneyball-era Jonah Hill.
Shankly
11/09
Enough said!
brucegilsen
11/18
Actually, speaking of Moneyball, I was thinking Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Not as Art Howe, but in other roles. I think the resemblance is uncanny.
brucegilsen
12/08
I meant as Dan Vogelbach. The resemblance is uncanny.