Rather than making remarks about Iowa and Mesa who started their seasons with the top prospects in the organization and now lack in that category, this edition of the Minor League Report will entail some announcements and an outline of how I project some of our top prospects to move through the system in 2013.
Announcements - Just wanted to inform my readers that the Minor League Report will continue in some form throughout the off-season and pre-season, with only a small break in coverage in February between the conclusion of the Caribbean Series and beginning of Spring Training. The Off-season League Report will be held between October and February, including the Cubs prospects in the Arizona Fall League, Australian Baseball League, Caribbean Series, Dominican Republic Professional Baseball League, Roberto Clemente Baseball League (Puerto Rico), and Venezuelan Professional Baseball League. This will be followed by a two-week hiatus (maybe including a report on who gets invited to Spring Training), and then a series of Spring Training and possibly World Baseball Classic Prospect Reports.
Javier Baez - Baez will likely finish 2012 at Advanced-A Daytona, at which level I expect he will start the 2013 season at age 20 (Daytona’s PDC with the Cubs expires this year). Though the Cubs don’t want to rush prospects, I see a promotion to Tennessee (PDC through 2014) to finish the year around early August imminent, barring injuries or major struggles (in this report, I will be using neither the best-case or the worst-case, but the safe choice in these projections).
Jorge Soler - Soler is dominating Low-A pitching in Peoria (PDC also expiring). Because of how well he has managed pitching at the level, and because Soler must be in the MLB for good by 2015 or he runs out of minor league options, I expect the Cubs to semi-aggressively start him in Advanced-A, wherever that team may be, next year to start the season. A call-up to Tennessee is imminent as the Cubs wouldn’t want to be left with just one year to get him through both AA and AAA, but rather opting to ease him into AA next year.
Albert Almora - The Cubs have shown that they aren’t afraid to rush players through the lower part of the minors, with Baez (albeit after a long extended spring training stint) having played just six games in Short-season A Boise (PDC also expiring), Soler skipping it completely, and Almora having only played a handful of games in Mesa. That said, I expect Almora to start the year in Low-A, with a call-up to Advanced-A in July or August. Almora was deemed to closest high school prospect to reaching the majors before the draft.
Arodys Vizcaino - I expect Vizcaino to get a long look in Spring Training, but ultimately be optioned to AAA (Iowa’s PDC also expires) since he will likely be pretty rusty after not having pitched in a live game in a year. He could be called up around the trade deadline, though with nobody obviously blocking him, it won’t be something that will affect his call-up.
Brett Jackson - I expect Brett Jackson to fight for a roster spot going into Spring Training, and ultimately grabbing one. However, I expect him to still have plenty of struggles as he attempts to establish himself in the major leagues.
Matthew Szczur - Szczur will likely begin 2013 in Tennessee, with a AAA call-up later along the road, around the same time as several other players will be moving through the system. With Iowa’s playoff chances next year as slim as they are, a September call-up is well within reach.
Josh Vitters - Vitters will likely fight for a roster spot in 2013, and barring a free agent or trade acquisition to man third base, will likely get the job over the likes of Ian Stewart and Luis Valbuena. I expect that after the adjustment process he goes through routinely being out of the way from this season’s call-up, his bat will start to produce and he will be auditioning for the future, as he could try to spell Javier Baez to second base over Darwin Barney or possibly be moved to an outfield spot, spelling Jackson and Szczur when Almora and Soler debut, however the most likely scenario is that he puts up decent but replaceable numbers and is only part of the short-term future.
Christian Villanueva - Villanueva will likely spend most of the season with Tennessee before a late promotion to AAA after having spent all of 2012 in AA between Myrtle Beach and Tennessee. As for his future in the organization, he will likely never play a major role on the major league team, but could spell Josh Vitters on an interim basis before he himself is spelled by Javier Baez.
Daniel Vogelbach - Vogelbach will spend most of the season with Peoria, with a promotion to Advanced-A possible, but only if he dominates Low-A ball in a similar fashion to what he is currently doing in Short-season A for Boise.