2/12/2014 10:00 A.M. ET
Pipeline Perspectives: Cubs have top prospect trio
Baez, Bryant and difference-maker Almora have edge on talented group of Twins
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
There's a good amount of subjectivity regarding baseball prospects. With the evaluation of talent being in the eye of the beholder, finding consensus is often difficult. Even Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLBPipeline.com don't always see eye to eye. They discuss their viewpoints regularly in a feature called Pipeline Perspectives. Submit a topic for them to debate.
If two is company, is three a crowd? We don't think so.
After back-to-back weeks of debating prospect duos in our Perspectives pieces, we've decided to broaden our horizons by examining three. This week's topic: Which organization has the best trio of prospects in baseball?
Jim Callis takes the easy way out by selecting the Twins' grouping of Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and Alex Meyer. And let's be honest here. There's a reason we're not debating the top two prospects, or top two hitting prospects. Buxton is the No. 1 prospect and Sano is No. 4 on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list.. There isn't much of a contest there.
The first two of my trio, Javier Baez and Kris Bryant, are nothing to sneeze at, but they'd lose that argument. Now, if you wanted to have a debate about the top two power- and run-producing prospects in the game, I think I'd have a good shot. Baez, No. 7 on the Top 100 Prospects list, and Bryant, ranked No. 9, should be major middle-of-the-order guys in the not-too-distant future. The fact they might arrive at Wrigley Field around the same time should excite Cubs fans.
It doesn't really matter what positions they play, does it? Right now, the Cubs potentially could form a powerful left side of the infield with Baez at shortstop and Bryant at third base. But there are some positional questions regarding them. Can Baez stick at short? Is Bryant too big to play third? The good news is their bats will play anywhere. Jim and I agree on this note: Put Baez at third and Bryant in right field to get both in the lineup. Combined, that's about 75 home runs and more than 200 RBIs annually coming to Chicago soon.
This discussion really gets interesting when we expand to three. I'm not taking anything away from Meyer, the third Twins player. Trust me, I'm a fan of the big right-hander. But the strength of my argument really comes from who the third of the Cubs future stars is, the third of their seven players on the Top 100 Prospects list.
Albert Almora comes in at No. 18 overall, a full 10 spots ahead of Meyer. Using my favorite equalizer, Prospect Points (100 points for the No. 1 prospect, 99 for No. 2, etc.), the Twins and Cubs trios are nearly equal, with Buxton, Sano and Meyer eking out a 270-269 victory. Almora nearly makes up the difference.
Almora is more than his place in the Top 100, just like he might be much more than the numbers he puts up as a big leaguer. He's the type of player whose whole is greater than the sum of his parts. But we're not talking about a scrappy utility guy here. Yes, he doesn't have the speed of Buxton or the power of Sano, but he does everything well. His instincts and his makeup -- he gets at least an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale for that -- make all of it play up.
He's going to be an up-the-middle player, the kind of everyday center fielder winning teams seem to have. While there's still some small risk with Meyer in terms of his long-term role, there's little doubt to me that Almora will be an outstanding regular at a coveted position.
To me, Almora is the difference-maker in this discussion. He'll give the Cubs three offensive weapons, all of whom have the chance to be impact players. And that's very tough to beat.