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Chicago Cubs Top 20 PRE-SEASON 2015 prospects in review

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Kris Bryant and Addison Russell go for the ball
Kris Bryant and Addison Russell go for the ball
Jon Durr/Getty Images

Today we continue our summer reviews of the pre-season Top 20 Prospects lists with the Chicago Cubs.

This is a review of the pre-season list.
It is not a new list.

These are the pre-season grades.

This list was originally published December 7, 2014

1) Kris Bryant, 3B, Grade A: 99 games for the Cubs, hitting .247/.357/.433 with 14 homers, 57 walks, 131 strikeouts in 360 at-bats. Very much as expected; with time I think we will see the whiffs come down some and the average go up.
2) Addison Russell, 2B-SS, Grade A:
91 games for the Cubs, hitting .235/.299/.359 with seven homers, 27 walks, 98 strikeouts in 315 at-bats. Could use more in the OBP department but that will come in time.
3) Jorge Soler, OF, Grade A:
77 games for the Cubs, hitting .269/.326/.387 with five homers, 24 walks, 99 strikeouts in 297 at-bats. Another guy with contact issues, power has been disappointing but he’s been hot lately and I retain confidence in his future.
4) Kyle Schwarber, C-OF, Grade A-/B+:
Damn: .323/.430/.591 in the high minors between Iowa and Tennessee, .345/.427/.631 in 84 major league at-bats..Although I don’t think he hits .345 in a full season, he’s not that much over his head. Power, average, OBP, he’ll provide it all.
5) Carl Edwards, Jr, RHP, Grade B+:
Formerly known as C.J., converted to bullpen and performing very well, 2.81 with 71/38 K/BB in 51 innings between AA and AAA. Needs to lower walk rate but the stuff looks great.

6) Albert Almora, OF, Grade B+/B:
Hitting .253/.305/.373 with five homers, 23 walks, 34 strikeouts in 300 at-bats in Double-A. Age 21 now, still draws praise for overall feel for the game and defense, but bat has not developed as hoped. Without more hitting zip he’s destined to be a fourth outfielder.
7) Pierce Johnson, RHP, Grade B:
Pitching well in Double-A, 1.65 ERA in 55 innings, 42/22 K/BB, 43 hits. Didn’t get started until June but has lived up to expectations, still has mid-rotation projection.
8) Billy McKinney, OF, Grade B:
Outstanding in High-A (.340/.432/.544) but just decent in Double-A (.276/.337/.397) which is just fine for a 20-year-old. Remains a scout favorite due to instincts, work ethic.
9) Duane Underwood, RHP, Grade B-:
Fine spring in High-A (2.66 in 64 innings, 42/20 K/BB, 46 hits), secondary pitches improving to go with fastball, but hurt his elbow in late June and has been on DL since.
10) Jen-Ho Tseng, RHP, Grade B-:
18 starts in High-A, 3.41 ERA with 95 innings, 60/27 K/BB, 90 hits. A reasonably good season at age 20, but would like to see more whiffs.

11) Gleyber Torres, SS, Grade B-:
Hitting .307/.367/.403 with 21 doubles, 20 steals, 37 walks, 88 strikeouts in 387 at-bats at age 18 in Low-A. Stock rising, Midwest League sources are very enthusiastic about both his tools and skills.
12) Carson Sands, LHP, Grade B-:
4.06 ERA in 38 innings in short-season A-ball, 24/12 K/BB, 46 hits. Nothing especially good nor especially bad about the stats, scouting reports continue to emphasize three-pitch mid-rotation potential. Fourth-round pick in 2014.
13) Dan Vogelbach, 1B, Grade B-:
Hitting .284/.410/.431 with five homers, 45 walks, 54 strikeouts in 204 at-bats in Double-A, on DL since early July with oblique injury. Bat is still quite intriguing but where does he fit?
14) Eloy Jimenez, OF, Grade C+:
Hitting .272/.316/.384 with eight walks, 28 strikeouts in 125 at-bats in short-season A-ball. Reports haven’t changed much: good/great tools, performance spotty, still young at 18.
15) Victor Caratini, C, Grade C+:
Hitting .239/.332/.338 with three homers, 43 walks, 62 strikeouts in 314 at-bats in High-A. Playing well defensively, controlling zone but lack of power disappointing.

16) Corey Black, RHP, Grade C+:
4.11 ERA with 91/37 K/BB in 77 innings in Double-A, 55 hits. Impressive K/IP and H/IP marks back up reports on consistently plus stuff. Moved to bullpen in June but was actually more effective as a starter. Not sure what his role will be.
17) Armando Rivero, RHP, Grade C+:
3.43 ERA with 41/26 K/BB in 42 innings, 36 hits out of Iowa bullpen. Command issues but overall holding his own, should get big league trial soon, nothing left to prove really at age 27.
18) Jake Stinnett, RHP, Grade C+:
Disappointing season in Low-A, 4.78 ERA in 85 innings, 61/43 K/BB, 91 hits. Impressive ground ball ratios but has to sharpen his command.
19) Mark Zagunis, C-OF, Grade C+
: Hitting .275/.408/.415 with 71 walks, 72 strikeouts in 364 at-bats in High-A. Full-time outfielder at this point, strong on-base skills but power?
20) Jeferson Mejia, RHP, Grade C+:
Traded to Arizona Diamondbacks, 5.98 ERA with 45/52 K/BB in 65 innings between Low-A and short-season A. Good stuff but command has been terribly disappointing.

Huge leap forward with the rebuilding project this year: the big league club is 60-48, and keep in mind that Bryant, Soler, and Russell haven’t yet reached their full potential. Kyle Schwarber has been a revelation and has fully justified Chicago’s decision to draft him in 2014. Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara are regrouping in Triple-A and could still be valuable players. Jeimer Candelario, McKinney, Vogelbach, and Almora are a second wave not far behind. Catcher Willson Contreras is hitting .342/.418/.496 in Double-A at age 23 and should not be overlooked. Same goes for second baseman Chesny Young, hitting .325/.385/.391 in A-ball.

The 2015 draft continued to emphasize hitters at the top with Ian Happ and Donnie Dewees both advanced college bats. Mid-round picks switched the emphasis to pitching, which is still the weak spot in the system.

I like both Johnson and Underwood but both have to prove they can handle a workload. Short-season arms Dylan Cease and Justin Steele have excellent potential and could take steps forward in A-ball next year. Strike-throwing RHPs Jeremy Null and Ryan Williams could be useful contributors.

Overall, a great time to be a Cubs fan.