1/29/2013 10:00 P.M. ET
Top 100 trio has Cubs' prospects looking up
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- The Cubs are excited about some of their young players in the Minor Leagues, and three of them are included in MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list.
Shortstop Javier Baez was ranked 16th in the top 100, released late Tuesday, while outfielders Albert Almora and Jorge Soler checked in at Nos. 39 and 42, respectively.
The annual ranking of baseball's biggest and brightest young talent is assembled by MLB.com's Draft and prospect expert Jonathan Mayo, who compiles input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, closeness to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams. The list, which is one of several prospect rankings on MLB.com's Prospect Watch, includes only players with rookie status in 2013.
Baez, 20, batted .333 with 12 home runs, 10 doubles and 33 RBIs in 57 games at Class A Peoria, then hit .188 when promoted to Class A Daytona. The Cubs' No. 1 pick in 2011, Baez earlier this month took part in the team's first rookie development camp, which is designed to prepare players the Cubs feel are close to the big leagues. The sessions included workouts, guest speakers and advice on everything from nutrition to Twitter.
"Javy's still so young," said Jason McLeod, the Cubs' director of scouting and player development. "He's only played really three months of a full season, and obviously, last year, he took the Midwest League by storm in a short time there and hit some bumps in Daytona. Being that he just turned 20 years old, obviously, he's a talented young man, and he's going to ultimately decide [his progression].
"He loves to work; he works extremely hard," McLeod said. "The plan for him this year is to get a full season under his belt."
The Cubs do have a talented shortstop in Starlin Castro. As of now, there are no plans to move Baez to another position, McLeod said.
"All of us who saw [Baez] play last year every day on the field felt the same way, like, 'Wow, this young man can really play short,'" McLeod said. "He plays the game really easy. He slows it down, anticipates, very good instincts. Right now, he's a shortstop until he shows he can't be. He's a very good shortstop, and I see no reason why he won't be playing there for a long time."
Almora, 18, the Cubs' top pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, played for the Arizona Rookie League team and also Class A Boise last season, and he combined to bat .321. Cubs manager Dale Sveum monitored the young outfielder and had a chance to talk to Almora at Wrigley Field.
Almora said Sveum told him, "You're ready here in the outfield; we just want to get you more mature at the plate."
Almora already has an impressive resume, having competed for Team USA since 2009. That year, he was ranked No. 1 in the world by USA Baseball.
"A big part of what we're working with is his consistency in his approach at the plate," McLeod said. "He's competed in his at-bats, but at the same time, he was very aggressive and getting himself out early in counts.
"He has good hand-eye coordination, so he makes a lot of contact," McLeod added. "We're talking to him, telling him, 'Look for that pitch to drive. You don't have to swing at the first pitch.' ... He wants to go up there and swing the bat and make things happen early. It's being patient, waiting for a pitch you can drive and being consistent with that approach."
Soler, who turns 21 on Feb. 25, played in the Rookie League and then Peoria last season, hitting a combined .299 with five home runs and 25 RBIs in 34 games. The Cuban outfielder signed a nine-year, $30 million contract with the Cubs last June.
He made Wrigley Field look small in September when he took batting practice with the Cubs, hitting five home runs, including two that cleared the left field bleachers.
"What a great, athletic body," Sveum said of Soler, whom he had seen before only on video. "Great hands -- the ball comes off his bat to the pull side pretty nice without a lot of effort. That's something to build on. When you have those kind of hands and that kind of hand speed, you can always work with that."
The Cubs are looking forward to working with all three.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.