The Cubs' farm system has gone through a complete remodel since Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer took over in October 2011 and their stamp on the Cubs' top prospects was on full display in Baseball America's latest rankings.
BA's Top 10 prospects, released this morning, are as follows:
1. Javier Baez, SS
2. Albert Almora, OF
3. Jorge Soler, OF
4. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP
5. Brett Jackson, OF
6. Pierce Johnson, RHP
7. Dan Vogelbach, 1B
8. Jeimer Candelario, 3B
9. Kyuji Fujikawa, RHP
10. Arismendy Alcantara, SS
First off, the Top 5 are hardly a surprise, as almost every set of prospect rankings lists those guys in a similar order. Some may be a bit more wary of Jackson given his uptick in strikeouts over 2012, but he still is good enough in the other categories to warrant a place in the Top 5.
Five of the 10 players are new additions under this regime, with Almora and Johnson as draft picks, Soler and Fujikawa as international signings and Vizcaino coming over in the Paul Maholm trade.
It's interesting to see Fujikawa on the list, as the 32-year-old Japanese reliever is not exactly what one pictures as a prospect. I always think it's weird to consider international players "rookies" and "prospects," but I guess they technically are, so it makes sense to include a guy like Fujikawa on this list. He has dominated in Japan over the last six seasons, sporting a sparkling 1.36 ERA and 0.86 WHIP with 202 saves and 12.4 K9 in 345 games.
Candelario and Alcantara are two of the more unknown prospects on the list, as neither has gotten much national acclaim to date.
Candelario, a 20-year-old infielder, was actually born in New York, but moved to the Dominican Republic and signed with the Cubs in 2010 for 500,000. Baseball America said he could have been a first round pick in 2012's draft had he stayed in America.
The 6-foot-1, 180 pound switch-hitter has spent most of his time at third base in the lower levels of the Cubs' system the past two years and boasts a career batting line of .307.393.435 in 615 plate appearances with 30 doubles, 11 homers, 100 RBI and 84 runs. His 76:97 walk:strikeout ratio is very encouraging for a young hitter and he could start the season in Kane County after spending all of '12 with the Boise Hawks.
Alcantara is a bit older -- he can legally buy a drink, having turned 21 this past October -- and also signed with the Cubs out of the Dominican Republic. The 5-foot-10, 160-pound infielder is also a switch-hitter and has spent time at all three infield positions, with 47 games at second, 51 at third and 194 at shortstop.
Alcantara made a whopping 35 errors last season and has 133 in 294 career games, but has shown improvement with the bat, hitting .302.339.447 with 25 steals in 359 plate appearances for High-A Daytona.
Vogelbach, the Cubs' second-round pick in the 2011 Draft, is another intriguing prospect. The 20-year-old first baseman can really hit, slugging .641 this past season at two levels, including 17 homers and 21 doubles in just 283 plate appearances. His 1.051 OPS shows the potential is there, and some have even likened him to Prince Fielder, as Vogelbach is also a big-bodied slugger (listed at 6-foot, 250 pounds).
Baseball America's article is jam-packed with other good nuggets, including a Projected 2016 lineup that features Starlin Castro at second base and Baez at shortstop. Be sure to check out the complete post.