Friday, August 8, 2014

Which Cubs Prospect Is Most Likely To Be a Bust?

The Cubs are currently loaded with hitting prospects as most agree that they have the best farm system in baseball. Still, every Cubs fan seems to be cautiously optimistic about the future. Since these guys have not performed at the big league level, some of them are bound to fail. The odds definitely say that some will not work out, but which ones are going to fail? That is the question that I am going to try to answer by looking at the Cubs top hitting prospects and determining who has the largest, and by process of ranking, smallest, chance to fail.

8. Arismendy Alcantara - He has consistently done well in the minors, and he is already holding his own at the major league level. There are going to be some growing pains, but I feel very confident saying that he will be a valuable major leaguer while under team control.

7. Addison Russell - His chance of being a bust seems to be almost entirely tied to his chances of injuries. But considering he came back from a serious hamstring injury and has annihilated the ball in Double-A since being traded to the Cubs, that seems to quell those concerns. He gets extremely positive reviews for his defense, and it seems likely that he will be the shortstop of the future. According to everything that I have seen and heard, it seems very likely that Russell will be an incredibly valuable major leaguer.

6. Jorge Soler - This may seem low on the potential to bust, but I see very little chance in him not becoming a good outfielder. Like Russell, his only real concern is injuries, and he has slightly more concern with that, but when he is healthy, he hits. He has always put up good numbers, and since he's come back from injury, he's put up scary numbers. Soler and Yasiel Puig got signed in the same year, and everybody thought Soler was the better signing. Now, that looks a tad silly right now, but Soler has the potential to be as good as Puig, so I don't think the Cubs are too disappointed about signing him.

5. Billy McKinney - He is not only 20 years old and more than holding his own in High-A. Everything that he has showed so far has shown that he can be an above average regular. Still, he doesn't have much of a track record since he is so young. He has the potential to turn into a better player since he is so young for his current league, but that lack of track record also means that he could end up never making a positive contribution at the big league level.

4. Javier Baez - The fact that he swings at a lot of pitches is worrisome, but the one thing that quells my fear is that he has made adjustments at every level. He struggles early on, but then he makes those necessary tweaks and starts to crush the ball. The strikeouts are still a concern, but the more he proves himself, the more I start to believe he could become an infield playing Vladimir Guerrero. That's the absolute ceiling, but there are few players that can claim to have that sort of potential.

3. Kris Bryant - I love Kris Bryant, because he is totally my type. Big power, strikeout concerns, and questionable defense (my type for pitching is velocity and strikeouts). Try to get me to stop singing the praises of Chris Carter; you can't. Still, this is the line where I start having real concern about bust potential. Let's just throw out some minor league lines of comparable players to see what type of player we can expect Kris Bryant to become.

Bryant - .341/.446/.685 with 36 home runs, 68 walks, and 129 strikeouts while 3.3 years younger than his competition.
Player A - .321/.381/.667 with 43 home runs, 48 walks, and 134 strikeouts while 3 years younger than his competition.
Player B - .317/.387/.670 with 40 home runs, 57 walks, and 169 strikeouts while 2.7 years younger than his competition.

Those players are all pretty similar. Bryant has the advantage in age and walks, but he is on pace to strike out closer to Player B than Player A. Still, there has been some change in strikeout rate overall, so we can give him at least comparable contact rates to either guy. Player A is Brandon Wood, Player B is Dallas McPherson. Don't mind me; I'm going to be vomiting in the corner over the next few hours. Kris Bryant is a potential monster, but he has some flaws in his game. If he struggles at making contact in the minors, it is only going to get tougher at the major league level. Wood and McPherson were two guys who completely fell apart at that level, but despite all that, Kris Bryant is already close to my heart, so despite all this logic, thre is no way I would bet against him (Full disclosure though: I'd still be a little intrigued if the Cubs signed Brandon Wood today. His current line with the Sugar Land Skeeters is .098/.156/.159.).

2. Kyle Schwarber - There is just so very little to go on with Schwarber that he has an incredibly high bust potential. He crushed the ball at his first two stops but is struggling at the High-A level, which is probably an appropriate level for a college player. There is no consensus on whether he can stay behind the plate, and it's too early to really tell how good of a hitter he will become. I just can't imagine anyone being very confident that he will turn into a quality major leaguer. That doesn't mean that he won't; it's just that there is not enough evidence to go on to make a strong bet either way on Schwarber.

1. Albert Almora - This is a pretty obvious number one choice as this is the one hitting prospect who has not set the world on fire this year. He was just okay at High-A, and he has really struggled since moving up to Double-A. I am not a huge fan of walks as the be all, end all for prospects, but it is a preferable thing for a potential leadoff hitter to excel in. He is only 20 years old and in Double-A, so it is not time to throw in the towel. This could be a bump in the road, or it could be a sign of things to come. I am hoping for the former, but like with all of these prospects, only time will tell.

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