3/18/2014 11:00 A.M. ET
How do Cubs' prospects fit Chicago's needs?
Loaded system needs more time to develop Major League-ready players
By Bernie Pleskoff / MLB.com
This series is designed to evaluate the role prospects play in each Major League organization, looking at the short- and long-term needs of each club and illustrating how prospects fit in both scenarios. Here's my look at the Cubs:
Cubs fans have to temper their enthusiasm for a bit longer, as the team with probably the deepest and richest group of prospects allows those highly touted players to finish their development. Rushing them will not be productive. The prospects are the Cubs' future.
Right-handed-hitting shortstop Javier Baez sports an impact bat with lightning-quick hands and power to spare. He has hit some of the longest home runs I've ever seen in the Arizona Fall League. While he still has a bit of a hitch in his swing, Baez is such a powerful force that he can overcome a mechanical flaw.
Baez's swing is aggressive and, at times, violent. He doesn't get cheated, but somehow it all works. Splitting last season between Class A Advanced Daytona and Double-A Tennessee, Baez hit 37 home runs, drove in 111 runs and stole 20 bases. He also made 44 errors. The 6-foot-tall Baez weighs 195 pounds and is solidly built.
One of the less-discussed Cubs' prospects is second baseman Arismendy Alcantara, an outstanding and complete player. Slight of build at 5-foot-10, 165 pounds, Alcantara gets outstanding energy from his frame. He's a switch-hitter with the ability to use the entire field with a short stroke. Alcantara makes excellent contact.
Arodys Vizcaino may be one of the pitchers in the mix if an additional reliever is needed, but he has a good enough arm to be a starter if the team decides to stretch him out. Vizcaino is still working his way back from Tommy John surgery in 2012. Prior to his surgery, he had a fantastic arm, and could bring his fastball as high as 98 mph. Vizcaino's early workouts seem to confirm that his arm is still electric, and he could be a force on the pitching staff.
Power-hitting Kris Bryant was among the best overall prospects I saw in the past Arizona Fall League, but he may not stick at third base. At 6-foot-5, 215 pounds, Bryant, 22, may be better suited for right field. He has the bat and arm for that position. There is time for that decision to be made. For now, though, Bryant is playing third base.
Bryant hits towering home runs; the ball makes that special sound coming off his bat. Last year, in his first full season, he played at three levels: Rookie League, Class A Short Season and Class A Advanced. Bryant hit a combined .336 with nine home runs and 32 RBIs over 146 plate appearances. Then he hit another six homers on his way to hitting .364 in the AFL. Bryant is a star in the making.
PROJECTED 2016 CUBS LINEUP
Albert Almora is an extremely exciting player to watch. As a center fielder, he has the tools to become a consistent All-Star. The right-handed-hitting Almora is just 19. He's 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds of quickness and agility. Almora has a combination of power and speed to go with his advanced understanding of the game. In his two seasons in the Minors, Almora has hit .326, and he has struck out only 43 times in 417 plate appearances.
Right fielder Jorge Soler figures prominently in the Cubs' future. When I saw him in the Arizona Fall League, he flashed moments of brilliance, but he scuffled at times. Soler is 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, but he looks heavier. A native of Cuba, the right-handed hitter has impact potential. Staying in good physical condition and keeping himself healthy will be key in his development.
At 6-foot-2 and only 155 pounds, right-handed pitcher C.J. Edwards could become a very important component of the future Cubs. He has a 93-95 mph fastball that he throws for strikes. The movement on Edwards' pitches from his tall, thin frame is explosive. He also throws an effective curveball and slider. But his fastball rules the day.
Right-hander Pierce Johnson is another pitcher that may help in the future. He has a sinking fastball, but it is his power curveball that misses bats and gets rave reviews. Johnson locates pitches well, uses the entire plate and has a high ceiling.
Left-handed-hitting Dan Vogelbach has a bright future as a first baseman -- if he can stay at the position. He has a powerful 6-foot, 250-pound body that he gets behind every pitch. For a big man, Vogelbach makes very good contact. He isn't a great defender, but his power bat will continue to be important.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.