Cubs Looking To Add Arms

For all the strengths that the 2016 Chicago Cubs have, and they have quite a few, they do seem to have one spot that could be improved. Defensively, the Cubs are good and offensively, the Cubs are great. Their pitching, however, might need some work.

Statistically, the Cubs have the best starting rotation in the MLB, but the very back end of the staff might need another arm. Lefty reliever Clayton Richard has a 6.00 ERA as of June 15th.

Richard has been a problem in the Cubs bullpen and been playing poorly this year. It wasn’t too long ago he had an ERA of 8.00. Virtually no one expected Richard to be a stud, but he has been very disappointing.

Richard is only 32 years old. It is possible he could bounce back and become a somewhat effective reliever, but would it be enough for Richard to help the Cubs go on a deep postseason run?

At this point in time, not many people expect Richard to contribute a great deal to the Cubs bullpen going forward. The Cubs have a number of other relievers, Hector Rondon, Travis Wood, Trevor Cahill, and Pedro Strop who are performing well, but the Cubs could add another arm.

According to Brian Marron of Bleacher Report, Chicago Cubs scout Jason Parks was at Yankee Stadium recently looking at three big time Yankees relievers. Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, and Andrew Miller, the pitchers in question, are the top three arms in the Yankees bullpen.

Multiple sources have reported that the Cubs have started looking for relievers and linked the Cubs to the Yankees as a potential trade partner.

The Cubs have interest in acquiring a reliever, there is little doubt about that, but how much are they willing to give up in order to get one. The Cubs have a number of young players that other teams would want, but the question remains, are the Cubs willing to give up their talent? It was rumored in the offseason that the Cubs were willing to trade Jorge Soler, and according to Joe Giglio of NJ.com that is still the case.

However, another young outfielder, Albert Almora could come into play here. Almora was brought up to the Cubs’ roster this week after Soler landed on the disabled list. Almora is one of the top prospects in the Cubs deep farm system. He could be an attractive piece for teams looking for an outfielder and the Cubs could have the flexibility to move him after acquiring Chris Coghlan this past week.

Whether the Yankees will actually want to trade their big arms is unknown. The Yankees are currently in fourth place in the American League East, but could make up ground in the coming weeks. If the Yankees still aren’t where they want to be later in the summer, the team might become sellers in order to build a better roster in the future.

At this point an Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, or Dellin Betances trade is mere speculation. The Yankees do have a number of talented players and might think their roster is good enough as is. The trade deadline isn’t until august, so there is no rush for anything to get done at this point.

Prediction

The Yankees will trade Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs. The Yankees have a tough schedule in starting in late June. The Yankees will play the Rangers, Red Sox, Giants, Indians, White Sox, Orioles before the end of July. The team will be out of playoff contention and the Cubs will have enough ammunition in their farm system to get a deal done.

Miller has performed slightly better than Chapman so far this season, making him more difficult to acquire than Chapman. Chapman is also in the last year of his deal. This gives the Cubs the option to rent him for a few months or sign him to a long term deal.

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Chicago Cubs Pull Out of Recent Slump

 

The Chicago Cubs have won three straight games as of May 27th. The Cubs beat their NL Central rivals the St. Louis Cardinals in the last two games of that series and won the series opener of against the Philadelphia Phillies on the 27th.

In their series opening win against the Phillies, the Cubs rested Anthony Rizzo and put Kris Bryant in his spot at first base. It was an unusual sight, as Bryant usually plays third base. This is the first time all season that Anthony Rizzo has not played a game for the Cubs.

The Cubs were also beneficiaries of well-timed home runs. Jorge Soler hit a 461-foot bomb that bounced off the Cubs Video Board in left field during the 4th inning. David Ross also hit a home run in the fourth inning. The home run hit by Ross was his 100th career homer.

Also helping the Cubs in their last few games was the return of outfielder Jason Heyward. He was injured during the series against the San Francisco Giants. He was only out for a few days and managed to return in time to play the Cardinals, his former team.

Prior to their current win streak, the Cubs had lost eight of their last twelve games. In that stretch, the Cubs lost games to teams that rank in the bottom half of the league. The Cubs dropped two games to the San Diego Padres and two games to the Milwaukee Brewers.

Despite that rough patch, the Cubs are still listed first in the weekly ESPN power rankings. The Cubs also still have the best record in the MLB. Every team has its slumps and the Cubs seem to have pulled out of theirs.

Going Forward

After their series with the Phillies, the Cubs will start the month of June at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers are 25-24 as of May 27th. After that, the Cubs will host the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 3rd before traveling on Philadelphia to play the Phillies again on June 6th.

The Cubs a very favorable stretch of games coming up in the next week and a half. The Dodgers are their most difficult opponents and the Cubs will play at home until June 6th.  The Cubs should be able to take most of their games in that stretch.

Starting June 13th, however, the competition heats up. The Cubs travel to Washington D.C. to play the Nationals and then come home to play the Pittsburg Pirates on June 17th and the St. Louis Cardinals on June 20th.

The Cubs have a 4.5 game lead over the Pirates after their series opening win against the Phillies on May 27th. Prior to their slump, the Cubs had an even bigger lead in the NL Central. Depending on how the Cubs do over the next few series, the division could have a new leader by the time the Pirates and Cubs meet.

The Pirates are no joke and despite the recent dominance the Cubs have had over them, it is still early in the season. Anyone could come out on top of the division. No one expects the Cubs to tank, not with all the talent they have on their roster, but it is still possible.

 

 

 

The Youth Movement Taking Baseball By Storm

In the midst of a division race Friday night Bryce Harper hit his 30th home run of the season for the Washington Nationals, becoming one of seven players in the major leagues with 30 this year. Harper is only 22 and has not reached his ceiling yet, and is quickly already becoming one of the best players in baseball and a legitimate MVP candidate.

Joined by Bryce Harper at the top is 24 year old Mike Trout, who has hit 33 home runs this year. Trout has been off the chart for the Los Angeles Angels and is likely on his way to winning his second consecutive Most Valuable Player award. The Trout vs Harper debate will be around for years to come, but there are many other young superstars in the game that should be getting fans’ attention during this exciting season.

Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies is only 24 years old, but leads the National League with 86 runs batted in and has hitting 29 home runs on the season. The 24 year old third baseman might not even be the best young player at that position, with 23 year old Manny Machado also having a prolific year and Kris Bryant learning the ropes for the Chicago Cubs.

The 2015 season has been taken over by young players led by Trout, Harper, Machado and Arenado and baseball is seeing a movement that will make the game more exciting for years to come. In the national league 24 years olds Shelby Miller, Gerritt Cole and Michael Wacha have all put up great years and all have ERAs under 3 for the season. Wacha’s teammate for the Cardinals, Carlos Martinez, is only 23 years old and has a 2.59 ERA on the season for the St. Louis ball club.

Over in the American League Sonny Gray has dominated hitters and is leading the league in ERA at 2.06. At 25 years old he has a good shot at winning his first CY Young award for the Oakland Athletics. Gray has been overpowering and leads the league in ERA, WHIP and BAA.

In Houston we are seeing the emergence of a 20 year old shortstop that might already be the best at his position in baseball. Carlos Correa has been on fire since being called up by Houston this year and has 14 home runs in 227 at bats, good for a .537 Slugging percentage on the year. Correa has been a catalyst for the Houston ball club and is a big reason why the Astros are winning the AL West.

In Minnesota 22 year old slugging third baseman Miguel Sano has hit seven home runs and ten doubles in 125 at bats and is hitting .280 for the season. He is joined by 21 year old center fielder Byron Buxton, who when healthy, is one of the most exciting players in baseball and is a top prospect.

Giancarlo Stanton has not played since June 26, but is still tied for fourth in the National League with 27 home runs on the year. Stanton at 25 years old has more power than any player in the big leagues, and is joined by Jose Fernandez as two of the most exciting players in the game.

Over in Chicago the Cubs have a team stocked with young talent headed by 23 year olds Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler. At the age of 23 Bryant is already tenth in the majors in walks and has been as good as advertised. However as good as Bryant has been, he is not even the best young player on his team with the way that Kyle Schwarber has been swinging the bat since being called up.

Schwarber is a 22 year old catcher that is hitting .313 with 8 home runs in 112 at bats for the Cubs. He has been phenomenal and with Schwarber, Bryant, Soler and 21 year old Addison Russell the Cubs have their own young all-star roster.

In Los Angeles 23 year old Joc Pederson has had an impressive rookie campaign, hitting 23 long balls on the year for the first place Dodgers. Pederson is joined by 24 year old Yasiel Puig, who has had a down year, but still has managed to hit 10 home runs and when he is in the zone is one of the most dangerous hitters.

All around baseball young players are stepping up and making an impact for teams and the tide is changing in the major leagues. A game that was once dominated by veterans is being pushed aside as the exciting young superstars get their chance at glory and with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper at the helm, baseball is in great shape for years to come.

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Cubs Prospects That Will Lead Team To A WS Title

Indy Star

It’s an exciting time to be a Chicago Cubs fan as for the first time in awhile, the Cubs seem to be contenders for awhile.

After a busy past couple of off-seasons to lure over international talent , major league stars and even a new manager , GM Theo Epstein has developed a strong roster for the Cubs major league and minor league rosters. The Chicago Tribune, USA Today and Sports Illustrated along with other sports media outlets have expressed the potential success of the Cubs this year with stars like 1B Anthony Rizzo, newcomer ace LHP Jon Lester and young phenoms OF Jorge Soler and 3B Krix Bryant leading the way, but the future is even brighter than the present.

The Cubs have some impressive young players that will probably make their major league debuts within the next couple of seasons, and one can agree that it’s because of these players that the Chicago Cubs will finally win their first World Series since 1908:

3B Kris Bryant: #1 Cubs Prospect, Top 100 Prospects (#2) 

After an incredible 2014 Minor League campaign, Cubs top prospect Kris Bryant will make an impact for the 2015 Chicago Cubs at the Major League level all season long. (photo from: MiLB.com)

At this time, almost all baseball fans know who Kris Bryant is. He had a monster spring training and a monster season last year in the minor leagues. Last year, Bryant led the minor leagues in home runs (43), extra base hits (78), total bases (325), slugging percentage (.661) and OPS (1.098) while reaching the Triple-A level in his first pro season according to MiLB.com .

Drafted as the #2 overall pick in the 2013 draft, Bryant will be manning third base for awhile if all goes well in Chicago. He’s the early season favorite to win the NL Rookie Of The Year and he debuted in the majors batting fourth in the lineup. He’ll probably be batting in the middle of the lineup for the Cubs for a long time and he’s expected to be a 30 HR hitter for years to come.

With Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant manning the corners of the infield and the number three and four hole, they easily will become the best 1B and 3B pair in the major leagues once Bryant fully develops.

On April 17, 2015 the Cubs called up 3B Kris Bryant to the Major League level according to USA Today .

SS Addison Russell: #2 Cubs Prospect, Top 100 Prospects (#5)

Prospect SS Addison Russell recently was called up to the Major Leagues. He will join 3B Kris Bryant as the farm system starts to take over the Cubs Major League roster. (photo from: Bleacher Report)

Russell is a young all around shortstop who will contend for playing time at shortstop against SS Starlin Castro and SS Javier Baez. According to MiLB.com, Russell has been compared to Hall of Famer Barry Larkn and former AL-MVP Miguel Tejada because of his all around ability as a shortstop. Scouts also believe that Russell is a better defender than both Castro and Baez so he seems to have the defensive advantage.

Drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 2012 draft as the #11 overall pick, Russell was one of two first round picks a part of the trade that sent Jeff Samardzija to the Oakland Athletics on July 5, 2014 according to MiLB.com . The deal gave the Cubs, who already had the best position player farm system, another piece to develop to make a run at a future World Series title.

His mature ability at the plate has been a big part of his early success as he knows how to hit and take some pitches for a walk. In his first three pro seasons, Russell has batted .300 with an OBP of .379 and a SLG of .522 in the Athletics and Cubs farm system. This is a hitter that can be seen batting anywhere in the lineup because he does have some power and he can hit for average. He has average speed so I can see the Cubs batting him second or in the bottom portion of the lineup. However, once Russell meets his full potential, he’ll overcome Castro and Baez as the everyday starter at shortstop because of his fielding ability.

On April 20, 2015 the Chicago Cubs promoted SS Addison Russel to the Major Leagues according to CBS Sports.

RHP C.J. Edwards: Cubs #3 Prospect. Top 100 Prospects (#46)

Cubs pitching prospect C.J. Edwards is regarded as the team’s top pitching prospect, but he missed all of 2014 due to a right shoulder strain. (photo from Cubs.MLB.com)

There’s a pitcher in the Cubs farm system that seems oddly familiar to the description of a famous retired New York Yankee.

C.J. Edwards is his name and he is currently ranked third in the Cubs farm system according to MiLB.com . He was discovered by a scout for the Texas Rangers named Chris Kemp. The Cubs would draft Edwards in the 48th round of the 2011 draft, and eventually trade him to Chicago as a part of the July 23, 2013 trade that sent Matt Garza to the Rangers according to ESPN .

He is described as a pitcher who throws a low 90’s heater that can top out at 97 mph. However, his fastball has a natural cutting ability. An example of his dominance in his 237 innings and three pro seasons is that hitters have only hit 2 home runs off of his fastball. He also has “an extremely skinny frame that may not be suited to taking the ball every fifth day.” Perhaps he can be reliever?

Let’s reevaluate: a skinny pitcher who will likely be reliever, and he has a cutting fastball that tops out at 97 mph. Sounds similar to future Hall of Famer New York Yankee closer Mariano Rivera!

Unlike Rivera, Edwards throws a curveball and does not have excellent control. He will likely develop into a a very good pitcher, but let’s be honest, he’s unlikely to end up as good as Rivera.

For now, the Cubs seem pretty content with Hector Rondon as the team’s closer. In 2014 he had a WHIP nearly at 1.00, an ERA nearly at 2.00 and he saved almost 30 games after taking over the closer role in the middle of the season. We may see C.J. Edwards become a set-up man for Rondon in the near future. In order for this to happen, he first needs to bounce back in 2015 after missing most of 2014 due to a right shoulder strain.

C/OF Kyle Schwarber: Cubs #4 Prospect, Top 100 Prospects (#48)

Cubs C/OF prospect Kyle Schwarber proved to be a force to be reckoned with at the plate last year at the Single-A level, and should see some Major League at bats by 2016. (photo from: USA Today)

According to MiLB.com Scouts considered him the best all around hitter in the 2014 draft because of his strength and bat speed from the left side of the plate and his impressive plate discipline.

He was drafted as the #4 overall pick in the 2014 draft and batted .344 with an OBP of .428 and a SLG of .634 at the Single-A level for Chicago last year. He is known for making hard contact consistently and he is believed to have the tools to be a .280 30 home run hitter according to scouts.

Schwarber will mix in well in the middle of the lineup with Rizzo and Bryant. With Rizzo’s ability, Bryant’s potential and Schwarber’s potential, Chicago has a scary 3, 4, 5 hitter combination in the making.

He’s expected to make his major league debut in 2016 so we probably will not see this second year pro in 2015 make an impact for the Cubs, but someday he’ll be a solid hitter in the MLB.

Other Top Prospects 

OF Albert Almora: A solid fielder and impressive line drive hitter with an aggressive approach at the plate.

SS Gleyber Torres: A young 18 year old Venezuelan with a swift, short stroke and a great arm that will help him play anywhere in the infield

RHP Duane Underwood: A young front line starter in the making known for his ability to make batters swing and miss against his 92-95 mph heater and secondary breaking pitches.

OF Billy McKinney: The other first round pick acquired by the Cubs in the Samardzija trade who has a sweet left handed swing batting .283 in hist first two seasons in the pros.

Although SS Javier Baez and OF Jorge Soler are not considered prospects anymore, they are still under the age of 25 like 1B Anthony Rizzo who is actually 25. Combining those players with the stars of tomorrow in the Cubs farm system should have Cubs fan feeling eager for the future if all the prospects develop into the stars they are predicted to become.

 

 

 

Soler’s Big Game Signals Cubs’ Offensive Growth

(Photo Courtesy of CBS Chicago)

Two homeruns and four RBI against the Reds

Chicago Cubs’ right fielder Jorge Soler was able to jump start his 2015 production in a huge game for him on Monday night against Mike Leake and the Cincinnati Reds.  With Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo being the most noteworthy offensive players on the Cubs to start the 2015 season, Jorge Soler’s performance establishes that the Cubs have more than just two offensive threats on their team early on.  While the team waits for the upcoming debut of rookie phenom Kris Bryant, Cubs fans have wondered where the offensive production would come from on nights where Castro and Rizzo did not register extra base hits.  Jorge Soler’s performance against the Reds where he had three hits in five at bats, including two homeruns was a big answer to the questions about the Cubs’ offense .  Role player Chris Coghlan has also done a nice job for the team early on this season, but the expectations of star level production for this team is placed largely on a group of young position players for the Cubs this season.  A further look at what the Cubs’ offense has been able to produce so far on the young season, along with expectations for Kris Bryant, will help to determine if this Cubs’ offense has enough to announce their arrive to Major League Baseball this season.

Three position players on the roster working to meet high expectations

The Cubs have enough quality role players to field a good offensive team this season, but none of their three best hitters on the team currently occupy the leadoff spot in the lineup.  Monday’s lineup featured Anthony Rizzo batting second, with Jorge Soler batting third and Starlin Castro batting fifth behind Chris Coghlan in the lineup.  While Dexter Fowler is one of the Cubs’ better hitters, the three players with the highest expectations were all batting behind him in the lineup.  Having Fowler as a legitimate leadoff man with a .365 career on base percentage, allows the Cubs to put the middle of a competitive batting lineup in place behind their best role player in the leadoff spot in their lineup .  Anthony Rizzo, Jorge Soler and Starlin Castro are all expected to hit for power this season as members of the middle of the Cubs’ order.  Having these type of hitters in the middle of their lineup should produce the extra base hit totals needed to drive in a significant number of runs.  So far this season through six games played the Cubs have produced 25 runs to put them just over four runs per game.  With Kris Bryant soon to join the middle of the Cubs’ order as their cleanup hitter, this offense could be in position to continue what they have started in the early going of the 2015 season.

A rookie batting cleanup for the Cubs

Having a rookie hitter batting cleanup may not be the ideal situation for the Cubs in 2015 as they look to contend for a playoff berth throughout the season.  Kris Bryant is not the typical rookie hitter however, and at age 23 he has displayed the maturity necessary to take over this significant role for the Cubs.  Of course the Cubs could change their lineup to feature Jorge Soler or Anthony Rizzo in the cleanup spot early on after Bryant’s promotion to the MLB level, but Jorge Soler is the same age as Kris Bryant with only a couple more months of MLB experience.  Either way, Bryant’s presence in the Cubs’ lineup helps to complete the middle of their order with the bats necessary to produce a sufficient run total this season.  Since Bryant has the most power on the Cubs’ 40 man roster, with the possible exception of Anthony Rizzo, it makes sense for him to earn the role of being the team’s cleanup hitter after his promotion.  With Bryant likely to spend most of the 2015 season at the MLB level, it is not unreasonable to expect him to produce 30 or more homeruns as the Cubs’ cleanup hitter throughout the rest of this season.

Have the Cubs arrived offensively?

The Cubs have arrived offensively this season, even though they are not guaranteed to be great against some of the fantastic pitching staffs in the National League Central this season.  With Bryant being one of the better right handed power hitters in the game of baseball right now, the Cubs now have the bats necessary to drive in a significant amount of runs this season.  Being able to push quality role players such as Miguel Montero and Chris Coghlan, into the sixth and seventh spots in the lineup, allows the Cubs to have the lineup depth in place that is necessary for meeting their ultimate offensive goals.  The power hitters on the Cubs are going to experience some struggles this season because of their tendency to strike out at a significant rate.  Some games may be rough as the power hitters for Chicago experience growing pains, but it appears that they ultimately have the talent it takes to get the job done offensively throughout the run producing spots in the lineup.

The Next Best Thing: Bryant, Buxton & Pederson

Kris Bryant. The best thing since Chicago pizza?

(Photo: CBSSports.com)

“It’s the best thing since ______.”

We’ve all repeated that statement at some point, but use a different word to finish the sentence when pledging allegiance to a product or idea we truly love.

Bread slicer circa 1920s/Photo: liveauctioneers.com

Nothing will ever compare to the invention of electricity, but sliced bread was a rookie in the 1920s and takes credit for being the initial subject of the sentence. Crude devices turned the trick.

In the 1960s it was the shirt pocket. Both sliced bread and shirt pockets could be considered hall of fame innovations, but they fall short of reaching the heights of electricity. Bread sometimes needs to get toasted and wrinkly shirts with a pocket eventually need to be ironed. Electricity makes it happen, although a tip of the cap to the toaster and iron.

None of this has to do with baseball, but there’s ways of modifying the expression to pertain to baseball.

Mike Trout’s the best thing since the iPhone.

Clayton Kershaw’s the best thing since the car pool lane.

You get the idea, even if you don’t commute in SoCal during rush hour, while trying to avoid breaking the law by interacting with your mobile device. Let’s add a word to the beginning of this statement to advance the story.

The search for the next  best thing since… is what can keep baseball fans interested in the future of their team especially after the new season smell wears off and their team starts to stink. Even fans of the really good teams can seek the next best thing when there’s a position on the ball diamond that might be lacking. The next best thing in baseball is often called a prospect.

A cornucopia of websites ranks the Top 100 prospects. The month of March is always a good time to review the list for the 1st or 20th time. No two lists or opinions are the same. Baseball America, MLB.com and BaseballProspectus.com provide a variance to these rankings. I need to build parameters so I’m going to work strictly from the list of the Top 20 prospects for 2015 featured on baseballamerica.com . This allows for a limited sample size of three teams who have the benefit of featuring more than one player in their Top 20.

It should be noted, MLB.com ranks the Red Sox farm system second between the Cubs and Twins. I’ll tackle Yoan Moncada and company once the Cuban puts together some stateside at bats.

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Los Angeles Dodgers are expected to contend for a World Championship this season. Giants’ fans are probably like, “yeah whatever”, but that just helps make the NL West division a fun storyline to follow when also throwing the revamped San Diego Padres into the equation. The math that involves the D’Backs and Rockies isn’t as exciting to discuss right now.

The Dodgers have three top 10 prospects according to Baseball America. One is probably here to stay, one is most likely a year away, and the other is 18! Depending who you read the rankings of these players get flipped.

23-year-old projected starting center fielder Joc Pederson (8th by B.A.) is raking in the Cactus League. At the time of this typing the left-handed hitting Pederson is 17-41 with 4 doubles and 3 home runs. It yields a slash line of .415/.455/.732 and makes for a not gonna play that much as a 4th outfielder, possibly will get traded Andre Ethier. Pederson did get a small taste of the bigs last year, although his power/speed combo yielded only 4 singles in 28 at bats with 11 strikeouts and 9 walks. A better indication of his talent was becoming the Pacific Coast League MVP after posting the league’s first 30 HR/30 SB season in 80 years.

The Dodgers probably won’t turn the page to 21-year-old shortstop Corey Seager (5th by B.A.) until 2016, as not 21-year-old Jimmy Rollins was traded for to play shortstop this season. Corey, the brother of Mariners’ third base thumper Kyle Seager is 4-14 this spring with 7 strikeouts and 7 walks. There’s no rush at the moment to have Seager in the majors, but I heard Dodgers’ hitting coach Mark McGwire speak on local radio last week. He said all kinds of nice things about the Seager bloodlines. It sounds like Corey is on the right track after winning the California League MVP in 2014 and getting a promotion to the Southern League.

Lastly, there’s 18-year-old left-handed pitcher Julio Urias (10th by B.A.) who was a non-roster invitee to Dodgers’ camp. He’s pitched a couple innings this spring for the Dodgers. Urias dominated at High-A Rancho Cucamonga in 2014 as a 17-year old! He will continue his development in the minors this season. His best strikeout pitch according to David Hood of True Blue LA is probably the curveball with a developing change-up and a fastball that reaches the mid-90s which he controls well for his age.

Chicago Cubs

Baseball America gives the #1 prospect honor to 23-year-old third baseman Kris Bryant. Baseball in America is already becoming aware of Bryant outside the city of Chicago and the towns he terrorized with his power in Double-A (22 HR) and Triple-A (21 HR) last season. He’s up to 8 home runs in the Cactus League with an insane 2.072 OPS over 25 at bats which is impressive even for dry heat/wind blowing out Arizona. King Felix is a home run victim too. It’s the Cubs, so there is still the threat the best thing since Ron Santo and Aramis Ramirez at third base could be abducted by aliens.

If Bryant remains on planet earth, it’s still no sure thing that he starts the year as the Cubs’ opening night third basemen against the Cardinals on April 5th. Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com has noted that Bryant will get some work in the outfield before the end of spring. Joe Maddon explained to Rogers “I think he understands the ability to play more than one position well, how that benefits you now and the future. Plus, his tools play in both spots.”

The alternative is Bryant keeping warm in Triple-A for a few weeks, which ultimately can delay those arbitration and free agent dollars based on service time figures. Agent Scott Boras does not approve this message. We’ll let the Cubs’ player personnel people decide what’s best so they can deal with the angry mob of Cubs’ fans and fantasy baseball gurus who would like Bryant to announce his presence with authority from day one.

21-year-old shortstop Addison Russell (3rd by B.A.) shouldn’t technically get full credit as a Cubs’ prospect. Russell was selected by the Oakland Athletics in the 1st round of the 2012 draft. The A’s traded Russell to the Cubs in an early July 2014 deal for the pennant run rentals of pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. The Shark is now a White Sox and Hammel is a Cub again.

Russell is 9 for 22 this spring with a home run vs Felix Hernandez and a couple walks. The Cubs have Starlin Castro at shortstop and former minor league shortstop Javier Baez trying to figure out major league pitching at second base. Despite the logjam, Russell projects as a good enough defender with an offensive attack that labels him as the shortstop of the future. Because of Russell, it’s now commonplace for Castro’s name to be mentioned in trade talks by Cubs’ fans, if not the Cubs’ front office.

23-year-old right-fielder Jorge Soler (12th by B.A.) was 26 for 89 last season with 5 home runs for a .292/.330/.573 slash line. Soler’s the Cubs’ starting right fielder and clean up hitter. He hasn’t started beating his chest and blowing kisses to the fans in the bleachers, but could become just as beloved as the previous guy who did that stuff if he gets that good and the Cubs get those bleachers finished. Soler has a couple home runs and a dozen hits this spring over 34 at bats.

The final top-20 prospect the Cubs lay claim to is catcher Kyle Schwarber (19th by B.A). MLB.com has him rated 50th. Schwarber had a grand slam earlier this spring and the 22-year-old crushed every level of Single-A ball last season after being a first round pick in 2014. Schwarber should return to High-A Myrtle Beach to start 2015 and will attempt to progress through the system as a hit first, catcher second, maybe outfielder prospect.

Minnesota Twins

The third and final team with multiple prospects in the Baseball America top-20 is the Minnesota Twins. It was a bumpy or non-existent ride for their next best things in 2014.

HandyManny

The many tools than Manny Garcia.    Photo: handymanny-games.com

21-year-old center-fielder Byron Buxton (2nd by B.A.) is a 5-tool talent, but is not to be confused with Handy Manny who does him three tools better if you count Stretch the tape measure, Flicker the flashlight, and Dusty the handsaw as tools. Buxton hammered A-ball in 2013 with a .944 OPS, but his wrist tool was a problem in 2014 and limited him to 31 games.

A left wrist sprain occurred when diving for a ball last March. He aggravated the wrist injury again in May while at High-A Fort Myers. He got promoted to Double-A New Britain in August, struck out in all three at bats and was then carted off the field following an outfield collision (concussion). In October, he played in the Arizona Fall League, but suffered a fractured left middle finger that required surgery. He’s running out of leagues to get injured in and hopefully doesn’t have to give the middle finger to 2015. Buxton is 1 for 8 with a couple walks this spring.

Third baseman Miguel Sano is one of those 80 power guys like Rangers’ top prospect Joey Gallo. You can’t get higher than 80 on the scouting scale. The 22-year-old Sano missed all of 2014 after undergoing Tommy John Surgery. Sano is an abbreviated 2 for 10 this spring with 3 walks, but both hits landed on the other side of the fence. His last collection of stats was in 2013 when he clubbed 35 home runs spanning High-A and Double-A.

Buxton and Sano both have work to do in minor league camp and are slated for Double-A duty at Chattanooga. They could make an appearance with the Twins in late 2015, but why jinx them? It’s more realistic to anticipate them competing for full time jobs on the 2016 Twins.

There are certainly other young players to discuss who could become electric, but will any of the current top prospects become the best thing since the invention of the light bulb? Probably not. “Clap off!”

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