Javier Baez had one of the best performances in Florida State League history on Monday, becoming just the second player to ever hit four home runs in a game in a league history. The first was Ryan Harvey of the Daytona Cubs in 2006. Keep your expectations grounded, though, because the chances that most of these guys will fail is still high, though it’d be nice if they all panned out.
In this minor league report, a run-down of the Cubs Top 13 prospects from the recent post-draft WSD rankings will be conducted instead of the normal by-team report.
#1 SS Javier Baez – The young shortstop’s hot streak goes back a bit further than the huge four-homer performance today. After hitting just .262 in April and .258 in May, Baez is hitting .500 in June. His five homers in June match his season high for a month, and he is posting an OPS of 1.725 over the stretch. Baez is just twelve hits and two doubles away from setting his new monthly high in both categories, and it is only June 10th. In just ten days, Baez has brought his season batting average up from just .260 to .291, to go along with a now-respectable .339 on-base percentage, though it is just six points higher than the batting average he posted for the Peoria Chiefs last season. The four homers on Monday brought Baez’ total up to thirteen, good for third in the FSL behind Miguel Sano and Nick Ramirez.
#2 OF Jorge Soler – Baez’s teammate and fellow top prospect, the Cuban international signing is still the best prospect acquired under Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. Soler is currently heading in the opposite direction of Baez, hitting just .200 thus far in June and only two extra-base hits in the month. The .545 June OPS isn’t sexy, but will improve significantly before month’s end as it is significantly more likely than not that Soler is simply going through a slump and the sample size is nowhere near large enough to worry about. Soler is currently batting .278 with a .813 OPS and eight homers in 2013.
#3 3B Kris Bryant – The Cubs’ first round draft pick, Bryant put up monster numbers in college. In his 2013 season with San Diego, Bryant hit thirty-one homers in the sixty-two game season, walked sixty-six times and put up an OPS of 1.314. When adjusted to the strength of schedule and ballpark, Bryant’s numbers inflate a 1.325 OPS and a 0.825 slugging percentage with a .500 on-base percentage, according to CollegeSplits.com. Bryant has yet to actually sign with the Cubs, but when he does, he will likely report to short-season A Boise or full-season A Kane County.
#4 OF Albert Almora – The Cubs’ first-rounder in 2012, Almora has stayed hot after returning from his spring injury and is batting .423 through his first seventeen games of the season in Kane County. With an OPS of 1.018, Almora has hit seven doubles and a home run in the handful of games that he has played. Currently riding a nine-game hitting streak, Almora may never post eye-popping numbers at the major league level, but he does not need to to be successful given his defensive prowess and baseball intelligence.
#5 RHP Pierce Johnson – Almora’s teammate and the first pitcher on this list, the 2012 supplemental first round pick, June hasn’t been Johnson’s best month this season. After an up-and-down April and a stellar May, Johnson has a 6.52 ERA in two June starts, dragging his season mark all the way up to 3.45. Johnson allowed five runs in four and two-thirds innings on June 10th, responsible for most of the ugliness in his June stat-line. In the young pitcher’s other start of the month, he allowed just two runs over five innings of work. Johnson has failed to complete seven innings in each of his last ten starts.
#6 1B Dan Vogelbach – The power-hitting Vogelbach’s season has gotten worse each successive month this season at first glance, but the youngster has already hit eleven home runs, and actually has posted a season-high .989 OPS in June despite a .206 batting average, due in large part to his four home runs of the month. Vogelbach has actually yet to hit a single in June, with his seven hits before four homers and three doubles.
#7 SS Arismendy Alcantara – The Tennessee shortstop interrupts the parade of Kane County stars. In nine June games, Alcantara has a .357 batting average, a .486 on-base percentage, a .571 slugging percentage and a 1.057 OPS. The shortstop is one of several Cubs prospects who could soon see promotions with the shuffling that coincides with the beginning of the short-season leagues, despite the presence of Junior Lake at Iowa.
#8 3B Jeimer Candelario – Candelario is just another of several Cubs prospects going on hot streaks this month. The Kane County third baseman has a .405 batting average, a .463 OBP, .595 slugging percentage, and a 1.058 OPS, and has twice as many home runs in the month than he had previously hit all season. Another encouraging sign is that Candelario has walked four times and struck out just five times already this month, a very nice ratio.
#9 RHP Arodys Vizcaino – There is very little to say right now of Vizcaino, who has yet to throw a pitch in the Cubs organization after the trade deadline trade that acquired Vizcaino along with fellow pitching prospect Jaye Chapman in exchange for Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson. Vizcaino is still a tremendous talent, but the longer than expected recovery time from his Tommy John Surgery led to his fall from fourth to ninth on this prospects list.
#10 LHP Rob Zastryzny – Zastryzny was the second player selected by the Cubs in the 2013 draft, taken out of the University of Missouri. The left-hander went 2-9 in his last season of college ball, and has yet to sign with the Cubs. Though the win-loss record may not look great, it is also one of the worst measures to judge a pitcher by, given that it has just as much to do with the offense as it does with the pitcher. He put up a 3.38 ERA, but a 4.51 FIP, though his adjusted total suggest that he would have put up about a 3.18 ERA in a more neutral setting. Striking out eighty-two in ninety and two-thirds innings, Zastryzny walked just twenty-four batters. He didn’t exactly dominate college hitters, though that is probably how the Cubs were able to get him in the second round in the first place.
#11 DH Rock Shoulders – Shoulders isn’t too hot right now, hitting just .212 in June. There is nothing to salvage from his OPS either, because unlike Vogelbach who has a huge OPS with a low batting average this month, Shoulders only has a .598 OPS in June. With just two extra-base hits, both doubles, on the month, the only encouraging sign from Shoulders in June is that he has drawn six walks.
#12 RHP Dillon Maples – Another Kane County player, and the second part of a 1-2 punch with Johnson in the rotation, Maples has been anything but good this season. With a 7.99 ERA this year, his June ERA of just 5.14 is his best month of the season thus far. Patience will be necessary with a prospect that had pitched just ten and one-third professional innings before this season after being drafted in 2011.
#13 OF Matt Szczur – Coming into the 2012 season ranked just three spots behind Javier Baez on Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects List, the future looked bright for Matt Szczur. Just a year later, and he wasn’t even on the WSD Top 13 Prospects List. He has made his return; however, at a much lower rank. In June, Szczur has been another hot prospect on the list, hitting .306 with a .419 OBP and a .835 OPS. Another encouraging sign is his six walks to just seven strikeouts in 2013.