Rethinking Prospect Rankings: Who Is Hot?

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With almost two months of the season in the books, it might be time to rethink the top prospects in the system. If one were to judge just based on performance for this year only, many of the Cubs top ten prospects coming into the season would not be in the top ten including Javy Baez, Dan Vogelbach, and Albert Almora.

Who is Hot?

1. Unless you have been living in a cave the past month, you might have heard of this kid named Kris Bryant! Yeah, he has been dominant to say the least. Bryant’s steady performance is enlightening considering the free fall of Javy Baez. Bryant still has to work on not striking out as much and hitting change ups, but when you are hitting over 300 with 11 homets, 36 RBIs, and an OPS over 1000, a lot can be forgiven.
2A. Paul Blackburn
Last night Blackburn had one of his best outing going six innings as usual but he struck out 8. He has been pretty consistent this year as he builds up that arm strength. I, for one, would like him to stay at Kane County to continue what he has started this year. His 2.69 ERA is only going to get better as it gets warmer.
2B: Arodys Vizcaino
On the road to recovery after missing two full seasons, Vizcaino has been consistently dominant at Single A Daytona and now AA Tennessee. I suspect he will be going to Iowa in the middle of June when it warms up there before going to Wrigley in July. Honestly, he belongs in Wrigley at the back end of the bullpen. They key is to keep him healthy and ultimately strengthen the arm. In a combined 13 appearances, he has a 0.69 ERA and an unreal 11.8 K/9 rate (15.8 just at Tennessee).
3. Stephen Bruno
He can just flat out hit. Despite missing a year and getting off to a slow start this year, he has found his stroke and is punishing the ball at Tennessee. When you put Kris Bryant hitting behind you it helps, but still Bruno had a reputation as a quality hitter long before Bryant was behind him. He is currently at .306 and climbing.
4. Felix Pena – P – Daytona
Pena is the minor league equivalent of Samardjiza. He gets quality start after quality start but gets little run support. His sub 1.5 ERA is just dazzling but there is really nowhere for him to go in the system for a couple months.
5. Bijan Radenacher
Bijan has been the steadiest hitter after Bryant. He got off to a torrid start and has stayed hot hitting around .350. What has been most surprising is that Bijan already eclipsed his home run total from last year.

Jen-Ho Tseng gets some instruction during his side session from Coach Rosario – Photo by Todd Johnson

6. Jen-Ho Tseng
For me, the biggest pitching surprise this year has been Tseng. At only 19, he is mature beyond his years and seems to have a great sinking change up. He is still developing his curve but I think he could be a fast riser after his first full season. In six starts he has a 2.81 ERA and K/9 of 9.0. He still seems to get into trouble in the first inning and then settles down. If he could get through the first without giving up a run, he could be dominant very quickly.

7. Will Remillard
Remillard has been the biggest surprise this season for me. He is an RBI machine and he has the potential for power. As a catcher, he has a nice arm and seems to be doing great with the Cougar pitchers.
8. Jorge Soler – when healthy
The “when healthy” part is key. After missing a month, Soler returned to Tennessee and squared up the ball and was a doubles machine for the time he was back. It is evident that Jorge can just plain rake at the plate. The key will be keeping him healthy.
9. Justin Amlung, Jose Arias, James Pugliese, and Gerardo Concepcion
I thought Amlung would be in Daytona to start the year. I got that wrong but he has done a great job at Kane County in long relief. Along with James Pugliese, Gerardo Concepcion, and Jose Arias, they have been outstanding bridges in innings 6-8 for the bullpen.
10. Kyle Hendricks
Hendricks doesn’t make a lot of waves. He is not flashy but he does go out, do his job , and continually make adjustments to his approach. After Thursday night’s gem, his ERA is almost 3.00 and he has clearly earmarked himself as a callup this summer along with teammate Tsuyoshi Wada (who at 33 is not a prospect).

Don’t panic about Baez, Almora, Vogelbach, or even Pierce Johnson not being on the hot list, there are still plenty of games left this season. Just be pleased the Cubs have a lot of depth in the system now.


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