Its been a mixed bag for the Cubs minor league system to start the 2014 campaign but that can be expected. Some players get off to a hot start while others struggle for a variety of reasons—both over-hyped by the small sample size. A player's development is a little more complex than putting up numbers in parks you hope to never play in again.
Here's a look at the Northsiders Report pre-season Top 50 prospects:
1. Javier Baez, SS, Iowa—Its been a struggle for the 21-year-old as he tries to live up to expectations coming off a spectacular '13 season, leading the minors with 111 RBI to go along with 37 homers. After impressing for the second straight spring and breaking car windows during BP, Baez is off to a slow start in Iowa—something that happened last year at Daytona and Tennessee. After Sunday's game, Baez was hitting 151/.248/.280 in 93 at-bats. He missed 10 games with an ankle injury that landed him on the DL.
2. Kris Bryant, 3B, Tennessee—Another level, another group of pitchers that have a hard time getting the Cubs # 1 pick out. The third baseman leads the Southern League with 10 homers and is hitting .331/.437/.624 with 29 RBI in 36 games. Fans are clamoring for a promotion to AAA but Bryant needs to play every day at third base and with Villanueva at Iowa, there's not need to move Bryant.
3. Jorge Soler, OF, Tennessee—In his first AA at-bat on opening night, Soler doubled but hurt his hamstring and was placed on the DL. After rehabbing at extended spring training, Soler returned to action on May 8, going 2-2 with a double, two RBI and two walks. I'm really impressed with Soler's pitch recognition and patience at the plate.
4. Albert Almora, OF, Daytona—A 4-for-28 stretch has dropped Almora's batting average down to .243 as he looks to log a full season free of injuries. He's already made several defensive highlights and posted a seven-game hitting streak. His slash line of .243/.271/.333 is nothing to write home about but its way to early to sound any alarms for the 20-year-old.
5.C.J. Edwards, P, Tennessee—The right-hander made four starts before being shutdown after experiencing shoulder fatigue after a bullpen session. The String Bean Slinger fanned 20 in 20.2 innings and sported a 1.06 WHIP. He's expected to miss up to two months and may not return to the Smokies until July.
6. Kyle Hendricks, P, Iowa—The right-hander has had mixed results in his seven starts at AAA, after battling for a spot in Chicago's rotation in spring training. Hendricks is still struggling to get left-handers out on a consistent basis, one of the top priorities to making the jump to the majors. He has improved his strikeouts numbers (9.2 K/9) and is 3-3 with a 3.64 ERA in 42 innings.
7. Arismendy Alcantara, 2B, Iowa—A solid start for the 22-year-old as he's still learning the finer points of playing second base. In 33 games, Alcantara is hitting .271/.289/.465 with two homers and 16 RBI, hitting second in the lineup. After posting a career-high walk rate of 10.9% and a 21.9% K rate, Alcantara isn't having the same success this year—3.1% BB and 26% K rate. One stat that jumps off the page, he's hitting .484 ahead in the count and .167 when behind.
8. Pierce Johnson, P, Tennessee—A hamstring injury in spring training pushed Johnson's throwing schedule back and didn't make his first start until April 22. In four games, the right-hander is 1-1 with a 4.05 ERA. Uncharacteristically, the 23-year-old has walked 16 in his first 20 innings but SL hitters are only batting .197 against him.
9. Mike Olt, 3B, Chicago—The batting average may not be impressive but the 25-year-old is making the most of his base knocks as he leads NL rookies with 7 HR. He made the big league club out of spring training and still continues to adjust to life in the majors. Heading into Monday's game, Olt has appeared in 31 games and is hitting .176/.253/.435.
10. Armando Rivero, P, Tennessee—Rivero continues to make his case for a promotion to Wrigley Field as the 26-year-old has been dominating in AA. In 12 games, the right-hander sports a 13.75 K/9 in 17 innings. He's only surrendered eight hits and six walks while earning seven saves.
11. Christian Villanueva, 3B, Iowa—After a slow start, Villanueva's bat seems to be heating up as his seven--game hitting streak ended Sunday but still sports a slash line of .227/.295/.355 in 31 games. While only one ball has left the park, Villanueva, who led the SL in double last year (41), has 11 two-baggers.
12. Arodys Vizcaino, P, Tennessee—After starting the year in Class A Daytona to take advantage of the warmer climate, Vizcaino was recently promoted to Tennessee. Clocked in the upper 90s at Daytona, Vizcaino appeared in nine games for the D-Cubs with 10 K and a 1.00 ERA in 9 IP. He pitched two scoreless innings since arriving in AA. He should make his Cubs debut' sometime this summer if he stays healthy.
13. Daniel Vogelbach, 1B, Daytona—Another prospect who's off to a slow start as a slimmer version is only hitting .239/.317/.319 with two homers and 12 RBI. Hard to tell if the weight loss has hurt his power numbers but he only has five extra base hits.
14. Gioskar Amaya, 2B, Daytona—Despite a stint on the DL with a shoulder injury, Amaya got off to a great start but has cooled off a bit, hitting .328/.403/.358 while playing a solid second base.
15. Jeimer Candelario, 3B, Daytona—Looking to see how Candelario responds after a start he would probably want to forget. The 20-year-old is hitting .173/.295/.327 and does have a walk-off homer. Its hans't been much better on defense as he's been charged with nine errors in 99 chances.
16. Paul Blackburn, P, Kane County—Hampered by command issues last year, Blackburn has only issued seven free passes in 36.1 innings, walking no more than two in any start of his seven starts. The 20-year-old is 3-1 with a 2.97 ERA and a BAA of .226. He's done a good job of keeping the ball down and staying out of the big inning.
17. Corey Black, P, Tennessee—The 22-year-old has been hit-or-miss this season with his command but SL hitters are not having much success squaring up the right-hander with a .156 BAA in 31 innings. He's walked 21 with 30 K and is 2-3 with a 4.06 ERA.
18. Rob Zastryzny, P, Daytona—The left-hander hasn't missed many bats in his first six starts, going 1-3 with a 8.33 ERA, a.365 BAA, and a fat .438 BABIP. He allowed 22 extra base hits in 27 innings, and left his last start after getting hit with a liner just below the elbow on his pitching arm.
19. Eloy Jimenez, OF, Extended Spring Training—It looks like the top international prospect of last year's class may stick around for the Arizona Rookie League based on number of outfielders for Boise and Mesa. Currently playing at extended spring training, the 17-year-old doesn't seem overmatched based on box scores from Arizona Phil at the Cubs Reporter.
20. Ivan Pineyro, P, Tennessee—The right-hander doesn't have a win in seven starts but armed with a great change-up has held SL hitters to a .266 BAA and sports a 3.60 ERA. The 22-year-old has 29 K in 35 IP with 17 BB.
21. Neil Ramirez, P, Chicago—After six games at Iowa (11 K in 7 IP), Ramirez was promoted to Chicago and has pitched well out of the pen for the Cubs. In six games, he has 10 K in 5.2 frames with a 1.93 ERA.
22. Alberto Cabrera, P, Iowa—Cabrera lost his spot on the 40-man roster as he ran out of options and cleared waivers, retuning to Iowa. He only surrendered two earned runs over his first eight games but gave up five runs without recording an out in his last outing, including a pair of homers.
23. John Andreoli, OF, Tennessee—The 23-year-old hasn't missed a beat from his '13 season and is currently in the midst of reaching base 30 straight games. He's swiped 17 bases in 18 attempts and has a slash line of .296/.427/.365.
24. Matt Szczur, OF, Iowa—Hitting leadoff of the I-Cubs, Szczur been solid on defense in center and is getting accustomed to AAA pitching. In 27 games he's hitting .237/.304/.312.
25. Zac Rosscup, P, Chicago—The left-hander already has a path from Iowa to Chicago, just recently being promoted for the third time. Rosscup has appeared in four games for Chicago, allowing one hit and two walks with five punchouts. He threw nine innings at Iowa, fanning 12 with a .156 BAA.
26. Dillon Maples, P, Extended Spring Training—A broken rib has sidelined Maples '14 season. According got one source, Maples could join Kane County sometime in July.
27. Gleyber Torres, SS, Extended Spring Training—The 17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop was considered one of the top international prospects last year as the Cubs ignored the cap limitations and inked as many of the top prospects they could land. Torres has also been playing quite a bit at extended spring training and is a candidate for the Arizona Rookie League.
28. Jae-Hoon Ha, OF, Tennessee—Ha started the season on the disabled list as he recovered from off-season wrist surgery., He was assigned to Iowa but then transferred to Tennessee. In 24 games, the 23-year-old is hitting .202/.240/.258.
29. Rubi Silva, OF, Tennessee—After a career year in '13 for the Smokies, Silva got off to a very slow start in his return to AA but he's learned to take a walk. After 18 walks in 468 at-bats last year, Silva already has 10 free passes in 114 trips to plate. He's hitting .444 in his last 10 games with 13 RBI.
30. Yasiel Balaguert, OF, Kane County—The 21-year-old leads the first-place Cougars with 23 RBI and 49 total bases, despite only hitting one homer. The right-fielder cooled off after a good start and is hitting .272/.310/.360.
31. Dallas Beeler, P, Iowa—After missing the first month of the season with an elbow strain, the right-hander was solid in his AAA debut, allowing one run over six innings. Not the same success his second time out, yielding 10 hits and 10 runs in three innings.
32. Logan Watkins, IF/OF. Iowa—The 24-year-old is making the most of his playing time as he serves plays the infield and outfield for Iowa. He's hitting .293/.389/.378 with 19 runs and five stolen bases.
33. Josh Vitters, OF, Iowa—Roller coaster season so far for Vitters as he shown some power (6 HR) but has yet to show any consistency. He's hitting .216/.281/.423 in 33 games.
34. Brett Jackson, OF, Iowa—He was on the DL with a right oblique strain from April 13 to May 2, so Jackson's playing time has been limited. The 24-year-old is hitting .158/.226/.316 in 57 at-bats with 2 HR.
35. Juan Paniagua, P, Kane County—The only starter for Kane County that's really struggled as the 24-year-old tries to get on track. He's 0-1 with a 4.44 ERA, has issued 15 BB in 24.1 innings, and allowed three homers. He threw four shutout innings in a relief appearance with five strikeouts in May 8 at Burlington, his best outing.
36. Duane Underwood, P, Kane County—Joining the team after the first two weeks, Underwood has made five starts, logging 21.2 innings with 18 K and 9 BB. The '12 second pick has gone five innings in three of his starts.
37. Jen-Ho Tseng, P, Kane County— You have to be impressed with not only Tseng's numbers but his maturity on the mound. The 19-year-old is 3-0 with a 2.81 ERA. He's averaging 9 K/9 and has only allowed five three passes, three coming in one start.
38. Zeke DeVoss, OF, Daytona—DeVoss really struggled at AA (.120/.241/.227 in 23 games) and was sent back to Daytona where he will work on becoming a full-time right-handed hitter, dumping the switch-hitting gig.
39. Kevin Encarnacion, OF, Extended Spring Training—The outfielder suffered burns in an automobile accident during the off-season and has yet to play in an extended spring training game.
40. Carlos Penalver, SS, Kane County—The slick fielding shortstop is hitting.242/.303/.303 in 34 games. He was over .300 for part of April but is just 9 for his last 44 in his first full season.
41. Tyler Skulina, P, Kane County—Last year's 4th round pick has made six starts and holds a 1-0 mark with a 3.30 ERA. In 30 innings, Skulina has fanned 20 with 12 strikeouts and has 1.20 WHIP and a .214 BAA.
42. Trey Masek, P, Extended Spring Training—According to one source, Masek had a shoulder issue that has delayed the start of his 2014 season. Once healthy, he will either go to Kane County or head to Boise in June.
43. Erick Leal, P, Extended Spring Training—Looks like Leal will be on his way to Boise in June as part of the starting rotation. He's been logging innings at extended spring training and could make an appearance in the MWL based on promotions.
44. Ben Wells, P, Daytona—Command has been an issue with Wells as he returned to Daytona after leading the D-Cubs in innings last year. After starting the season on DL, Wells is 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA and has 15 walks in 13.1 innings.
45. Dustin Geiger, 1B, Tennessee—After hitting five homers early in the '14 campaign, Geiger has been in a slump and enters Monday's game with a slash line of .220/.304/.371 in 36 games with 36 strikeouts.
46. Daury Torrez, P, Kane County—The 20-year-old made the jump from the Arizona Rookie League to the Midwest League and he's been solid. At 4-1 with a 3.38 ERA, Torrez is second on the team in IP (34.2) and has a 1.10 WHIP.
47. Corbin Hoffner, P, Extended Spring Training—Coming off a big year at Boise in '13, Hoffner stayed behind in Mesa while Josh Davis and Michael Wagner have gotten the call to Kane County since the season began. The 20-year-old will likely head to Boise in June but should end up in Kane County before the end of summer.
48. Chadd Krist, C, Daytona—After a slow start, Krist is starting to pick it up with the bat, hitting .316/.409/.393 in his last 10 games for the D-Cubs. He's been solid behind the plate and is batting .303 with runners on and .313 with RISP.
49. Rock Shoulders, 1B/OF, Daytona—Not a great start for the Florida native as he's hitting. 226/.320/.349 with two homers and 14 RBI. Shoulders is seeing more time in the OF in '14.
50. Stephen Bruno, 2B, Tennessee—After missing most of 2013 with Tommy John surgery, Bruno started the season in AA, essentially skipping A ball. The 23-year-old is hitting .304/.403/.504 after batting .227 the first month, and has been on a hitting terror in May.
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