Cubs Top 50 Prospect Countdown

Northsiders Report’s Top 50 Cubs Prospects for 2015.

Here’s the Top 50 list with links to player pages as well as the profile story on each of the 50 prospects. The player pages are free and include bios on each player as well as pictures. Here’s the story explaining how the Top 50 list was compiled. A prospect will be added every day right up to the start of the minor league season.

#1 Kris Bryant, 3B— He won’t be on this list much longer as the second overall pick in 2013 will make his MLB debut in 2015, most likely at third base. Everyone’s 2014 Minor League Player of the Year, Bryant led the minor in homers, total bases and extra base hits and finished his first full pro season between AA Tennessee and AAA Iowa. Profile Story

#2 Addison Russell, SS—On a trade announced on July 4, the Cubs acquired the Oakland shortstop as part of the deal for Jeff Samardzija. While Kris Bryant garbs most of the Cubs prospects headlines, when its all said and done, Russell may end being the best of the bunch. He’ll start the year at AAA Iowa but at some point this season the Cubs could be tempted to bring the talented shortstop to the big leagues. Profile Story

#3 Kyle Schwarber, C—Cubs surprised the baseball world by selecting the University of Indiana catcher with the fourth pick of the June draft. Cubs scouts and front office may have been right as the left-handed hitting backstop batted .344/.428/.634 with 18 HR and 53 RBI in 72 pro games at three levels. While some in the baseball industry question Schwarber’s ability to be a big league catcher, the 22-year-old along with the Cubs organization think otherwise. Profile Story

#4 Albert Almora, OF—After a stellar amateur career, Almora turned down a scholarship to the University of Miami after the Cubs made him the sixth overall pick in the 2012 draft. After injuries cut his ’13 season short, the 20-year old started the year in Daytona and finished up his first full season in AA at Tennessee. Profile Story

#5 Pierce Johnson, P—The first-round pick of the supplemental draft in 2012, the right-hander got off to a late start to the 2014 season and then landed on the DL with another injury. Throwing over 100 innings, the 23-year-old finished strong and was named the Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Month for August. Profile Story

#6 C.J. Edwards, P—After acquiring the skinny right-hander in a deal that involved Matt Garza, Edwards broke into the prospect spotlight at Daytona, displaying a 95 mph fastball and a wicked curve. Ranked as one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball heading into last season, the South Carolina native developed a shoulder strain in April and only logged 50 innings during the year. Placed on the Cubs 40-man roster during the off-season, Edwards could be in line for a September call-up if he stays healthy and continues to throw strikes. Profile Story

#7 Billy McKinney, OF—Drafted by the A’s in the first round in 2013 out of Plano West High School in Texas, the Cubs acquired the left-handed hitting outfielder as part of the July trade that involved Jeff Samardzija. Drafted for his hit tool, McKinney has shown the ability to play all three outfield positions and the 20-year-old should start the year at AA Tennessee. Profile Story

#8 Jen-Ho Tseng, P—Making his pro debut in the Midwest League, the right-hander was named the Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year after going 6-1 with a 2.40 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP in 105 innings for Kane County. Signed out of Taiwan as part of the Cubs big international haul in 2013, Tseng showed maturity beyond his years and could be pitching in Wrigley in the near future. Profile Story

#9 Gleyber Torres, SS—One of the Cubs big international acquisitions during the summer of 2012, Torres signed with the Cubs for 41.7 million and spent his first pro season stateside, playing most of the year in the Arizona Rookie League before a late season promotion to Boise. Touted for his bat, the 18-year-old is expected to start the year at South Bend when the Cubs break camp. Profile Story

#10 Armando Rivero, P—Not often you can call a 27-year-old a prospect but after the season Rivero had in ’14 out of the bullpen in the minors, he can’t be overlooked. A fastball in the 90s and a wicked slider, the right-hander will start year in the bullpen at Iowa and should make his MLB debut sometime during the 2015 season. He led all Cubs’ minor league pitchers with 13.8 K/9. Profile Story

#11 Duane Underwood, P—The Cubs second round pick in 2012, the right-handed fireballer turned pro instead of heading to the University of Georgia. After a rough start to his career, Underwood got himself in better shape and it paid off with a breakout season in 2014 at Kane County. Armed with a fastball in the upper 90s, the 20-year-old may soon be at the top of the Cubs prospect list. Profile Story

#12 Paul Blackburn, P—The Cubs first-round pick in the compensation round in 2012 and the first pitcher drafted by the new front office, Blackburn continued his progression up the Cubs system with his first-full season at Kane County. One of the key cogs in the Cougars six-man rotation, Blackburn was a Midwest League All-Star and was named Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Month for May. Profile Story

#13 Eloy Jimenez, OF—The top rated player in the 2013 international class, the Cubs inked the young Dominican to a $2.8 million signing bonus. Wanted for his power, athleticism and strong arm, Jimenez spent his first pro season in the Arizona Rookie League and could be on his way to South Bend in 2015. Profile Story

#14 Daniel Vogelbach, 1B—A second-round pick in 2012, the Fort Myers native turned pro instead of heading to the University of Florida and has made the slow trek up the Cubs system. Starting his fifth year, the 22-year-old posses a rare combination of power and plate discipline as his bat is hit best tool. Vogelbach should start the year in AA and could make some noise in the Southern League with his approach and work ethic. Profile Story

#15 Victor Caratini, C— The Cubs gave up utility man Emilio Bonifacio and left-handed reliever James Russell to acquire the 21-year-old switch-hitting catcher who also plays third. Prized by the Cubs during the 2013 draft, they kept their eye on the backstop and when the opportunity presented itself, made the deal to acquire Caratini. A South Atlantic League all-star before the trade, the Puerto Rican native could be on a fast-track to Wrigley with his versatility. Profile Story

#16 Rob Zastryzny, P—The Cubs second-round pick out of the University of Missouri, the left-hander essentially skipped a level and spent 2014 in Daytona, throwing over 100 innings in the Florida State League. One of the Cubs top left-handed starters in the minors, Zastryzny made 23 starts and was one of five Cubs minor leaguers with over 100 punchouts. He should make the jump to AA in ’15 and don’t be surprised if his has a big year in Tennessee. Profile Story

#17 Daury Torrez, P—Spending two years in the Dominican Summer League after signing in 2012, the right-hander has been impressive since coming stateside. Torrez displayed pinpoint control in the Arizona Rookie League in ’13 and helped lead Kane County to the best record in the minors, making 23 starts and posting a 2.74 ERA in 131 innings. He capped off the season with a pair of solid outings in the playoffs as Kane County won all seven post-season games. Profile Story

#18 Corey Black, P— Acquired from the Yankees in the Alfonso Soriano deal in July of 2013, Corey Black has fanned over 100 hitters the past two seasons and has some of the best stuff in the Cubs organization. The right-hander ran into control problems in 2014 and looks to get back on track to the big leagues. Profile Story

#19 Jake Stinnett, P—Selected in the second round out of the University of Maryland, the Cubs may have gotten a steal in right-hander who only pitched full-time two years for the Terps. The 22-year-old sports a fastball in the low 90s and a good slider, and is likely headed to South Bend for his first full pro season. Profile Story

#20 Jacob Hannemann, OF—A two-sport star at Brigham Young University, Hannemann got a late start to his baseball career after spending two years on a mission and concentrating on football in college. The Cubs third-round pick in 2013 spent ’14 between Kane County and Daytona, and led all Cubs minor leaguers with 37 steals. Profile Story

#21 Christian Villanueva, 3B—On the doorstep with a chance make his MLB debut in 2014, the 23-year-old Mexican ended up back in Tennessee after starting the year in AAA Iowa, Acquired with Kyle Hendricks from Texas in July of 2012 for Ryan Dempster, Villanueva’s best tool is his glove but he does show game power. He’ll get another chance to prove he can hit AAA pitching to start 2015. Profile Story

#22 Juan Paniagua, P—Signed in 2012 after having previous contracts with the Diamondbacks and Yankees nixed by MLB due to fraudulent paperwork, the right-hander had trouble getting into the U.S. in 2013 but showed some of his talent in 2014 as he was named Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Month for June. He was part of Kane County’s six-man rotation and ended up the year in Daytona. Profile Story

#23 Jeimer Candelario, 3B—2015 wasn’t the type of season Candelario envisioned but the lessons learned last summer may have a huge impact on his progression as a ballplayer. Starting the year in High A Daytona, the 20-year-old Dominican hit .193 over 62 games and was sent back to Kane County. The switch-hitting third baseman batted .250/.300/.426 in 63 games in the MWL and was part of Cougars championship run. Profile Story

#24 Jonathan Martinez, P—Acquired in July from the Dodgers for Darwin Barney, the 20-year-old right-hander only made five starts after the trade but went 4-0 with a 2.31 ERA in 23.1 innings for Kane County. The Venezuelan native could start year in Myrtle Beach but rotation spots in A ball will be at a premium. Profile Story

#25 Gioskar Amaya, 2B—In his fifth pro season, the 22-year-old Venezuelan got a key hit to lead the North Squad to a win in the Florida State League all-star game and was then tabbed the league’s best second baseman at season’s end. Amaya hit .276/.379/369 in 112 games and batted .385 in the D-Cubs playoff run. Despite the all-star performance last year, Amaya has reported to spring training as a catcher and a position switch may be in the works. Profile Story

#26 Carson Sands, P—A prep standout at North Florida Christian High School and Team USA member, Sands was the first high school pitcher selected by the Cubs last June and signed a $1.1 million bonus instead of heading to Florida State. The left-hander went 3-1 with a 1.89 ERA in his debut season in the Arizona Rookie League, working 19 innings in nine appearances. Profile Story

#27 Carlos Penalver, SS— Carlos Penalver may be the best kept secret in the Cubs organization. With Stalin Castro, Jaiver Baez and Addison Russell grabbing all the headlines at short, the 20-year-old Venezuelan may have the best glove of them all. Penalver started 128 games for pro baseball’s top team and helped Kane County to the MWL title, hitting over .300 in the playoffs. Profile Story

#28 Stephen Bruno, 2B—A 7th round pick out of the University of Virginia in 2012, Bruno won the Northwest League batting title in his first season but his second year was cut short by Tommy John surgery. The New Jersey native played in 105 games in AA in what amounted to his first full season, hitting .275/.346/.393 and spending most of the year at second. He should start the year in Iowa but may need to start in Tennessee depending on who makes the Cubs opening day roster. Profile Story

#29 Mark Zagunis, C—The Cubs third-round pick last June out of Virginia Tech, Zagunis ended his first pro season with a Midwest League championship celebration, hitting .429 during Kane County’s playoff sweep. The catcher/outfielder not only posted an OBP of .429 in 55 games over three levels, he also hit for the cycle and swiped 16 bases. Look for the 22-year-old in South Bend to start his first full season and should end the year in Myrtle Beach. Profile Story

#30 Justin Steele, P—A prep star at George County High School in Lucedale, Mississippi, Steele was the Cubs fifth-round pick last June. After accepting a reported $1.1 million bonus, the left-handed shined in his nine Arizona Rookie League appearances in Mesa, recording 25 strikeouts in 18.2 innings and a 1.23 WHIP. Steele is likely to follow the template of other high school arms drafted by the Cubs and after extended spring training, head to the Northwest League and the Cubs new affiliate, Everett. Profile Story

#31 Dylan Cease, P—The Cubs paid their 2014 6th round pick $1.5 million, one of the highest ever for a sixth round pick since the new rules went in place three years ago. The Milton high school right-hander is expected to make his debut in 2015 after Tommy John surgery last July. Profile Story

#32 Willson Contreras, C—Signed out of Venezuela for $850,000 back in 2008, Contreras made the switch from third to catcher and has spent the past three seasons learning a new position. While he’s still a work in progress, the 22-year-old led all Cub minor league backstops with 613 innings and after a good playoff series for Daytona, capped off the year slugging five homers in limited action in the Venezuelan Winter League. Profile Story

#33 John Andreoli, OF—A 17th round pick out of the University of Connecticut in 2011, Andreoli was off to an all-star season in the Southern League but a wrist injury, that eventually needed surgery, sidelined his season. Able to play all three outfield positions and one of the organization’s top base stealers, the 24-year-old looks to get back on track in 2015 and become part of the Cubs future outfield. Profile Story

#34 Tyler Skulina, P—Combining on a no-hitter highlighted the right-hander’s first full season as he was part of Kane County’s vaunted six-man rotation. A fourth-round pick in ‘13 after helping lead Kent State to the College World Series as a sophomore, Skulina was promoted to Daytona in August but struggled as he reached the 100 inning plateau. Profile Story

#35 Ivan Pineyro, P—A prospect on the rise heading into the 2014 season, an arm injury put Pineyro on the sidelines for most of the year but he came back for five starts at AA Tennessee and pitched in the Arizona Fall League as well as the Dominican Winter League. The 23-year-old should return to Smokies Park and if he can stay healthy, re-establish himself as a legitimate pitching prospect. Profile Story

#36 Bijan Rademacher, OF—A power surge and an impressive performance in the Arizona Fall League highlighted Bijan Rademacher’s 2014 season. A Florida State League All-Star, the 23-year-old hit .281/.363/.448 in 111 games for Daytona and smacked a career-high 10 homers.Profile story

#37 Will Remillard, C—A 19th round pick in 2013, the New York native made his pro debut last season and was not only named Cubs Minor League Player of the Month for April, he also earned MWL all-star honors. One of the better defensive catchers in the Cubs system, Remillard hit .286/.372/.381 but only played in 49 games due to injuries. Profile Story

#38 Josh Conway, P—Considered one of the top college arms before Tommy John surgery ended his junior season, the Cubs nabbed the right-hander from Costal Carolina in the fourth round in 2012. After missing two seasons, the 23-year-old made his pro debut and was impressive at Boise, despite being on a pitch count. In 36.1 innings, Conway fanned 24 and was tough on NWL hitters with a 0.93 WHIP. He should start year in South Bend as part of the rotation.Profile story

#39 Wladimir Galindo, 3B—Considered one of the top prospects in the July 2 2013 signing period, the Cubs added to their international haul, signing the slugging infielder after he turned 16 that fall. He displayed that power in his first pro season, leading the Venezuelan Summer League with seven homers and finished with a slash of .278/.356/.462. Profile story

#40 Yohan Matos, C—Part of the Cubs 2013 International signing haul, Matos was impressive in his debut season, hitting .289/.378/.469 with 6 HR and 39 RBI in 53 games in the Dominican Summer League. The 18-year-old made his stateside debut at fall instructs and should spend 2015 in Mesa. Profile story

#41 Shawon Dunston, OF—The Cubs 11th round pick in 2012 took a big step forward in 2014, taking advantage of his opportunity at Kane County, and finished the year as the starting left fielder as well as the Cougars leadoff hitter. Dunston showed improvement both on defense and with the bat, and should be part of the Myrtle Beach outfield in April. Profile story

#42 Trevor Clifton, RHP—The right-hander from Tennessee was the only prep arm the Cubs drafted and signed in 2013. He spent last year at Boise making 13 starts and tossing 61 innings. Clifton will be facing MWL hitters for South Bend in April as he’s expected to be part of the starting rotation. At 6-foot-4 and great movement on three pitches, Clifton has a future as a big league starter but is a few years away and must learn to command his offerings.Profile story

#43 Yasiel Balaguert, OF—Signed by the Cubs out of Cuba in 2011 for a reported $450,000, Balaguert was one of the Cubs top RBI men in the minors last season as well as a fixture in right field on Kane County’s championship team. He should start his fourth season at Myrtle Beach and produce runs in the middle of the order. Profile story

#44 Chesny Young, 2B—A .400 hitter at Mercer University as a sophomore, Young impressed with the bat in his first pro season and was part of Kane County’s championship team. The Cubs 14th round pick last year spent most of the year at second but has shown the ability to play third and short. Young could make a quick rise through the Cubs system if his bat continues to shine. Profile story

#45 Erick Leal, RHP—Rated as one of the top prospects in the Northwest League, the right-hander led Boise in wins (6) and innings pitched (62.2). Acquired from Arizona as part of the Tony Campana trade in 2013, Leal stands 6-foot-3 and continues to add velocity on his fastball. He should be part of the South Bend rotation and could get the ball on opening night. Profile story

#46 Jeffrey Baez, OF—It hasn’t been a quick rise through the minors for the Venezuelan native, who singed in 2010. Two years in the Dominican and another season in Mesa, Baez made the most of his opportunity in 2014, earning all-star honors in the Northwest League and a promotion to Kane County. He showed good power, slugging 13 homers between the two levels, and drew respect in his right arm with several impressive throws. Baez should start the year in South Bend and is one of the few Cubs outfield prospects with plus power. Profile story

#47 Rashad Crawford, OF—The former Georgia 4A Player of the Year, Crawford turned pro after the Cubs took the Mundy’s Mill prep star in the 11th round. After struggling in his first two pro seasons, Crawford had a breakout season in 2014, that included a spot in the Northwest League All-Star game and a 19-game hitting streak. Crawford should be in South Bend when the seasons starts and continue his push towards the majors. Profile story

#48 Charcer Burks, OF—A two-sport start in high school and a 9th round pick out of the Houston area in ’13, Burks may not stay a secret much longer if he continues to progress. A potential leadoff hitter with speed and the ability to play centerfield has the Cubs organization excited about the youngster who turns 20 in March. Look for Burks on the South Bend roster and don’t be surprised if he ends the season in Myrtle Beach. Profile story

#49 Erling Moreno, RHP—Signed in the summer of 2013 as part of the Cubs international haul, the 18-year-old had his first pro season cut short with an arm injury that resulted in Tommy John surgery. Extended spring training and a summer in the Arizona Rookie League are in Moreno’s plans as he returns from the injury. Profile story

#50 Cael Brockmeyer, C—The Cubs 16th round pick out of Cal-State Bakersfield in ’13, Brockmeyer stayed under the radar in 2014 despite a breakout season in Kane County. After spending the first month on the DL (roster issue), the 23-year-old made the most of the opportunity when inserted into the lineup, hitting .297/.366/.461 in 77 games. He also showed pull power with eight homers and was behind the plate for all seven of Kane County’s playoff games—all wins. Profile story

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