ESPN tabs Cubs' Kris Bryant as baseball's top prospect

ESPN tabs Cubs' Kris Bryant as baseball's top prospect
July 17, 2014, 9:45 am
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Tony Andracki

Is Kris Bryant the top prospect in baseball?

According to ESPN's Keith Law, the answer is yes.

[RELATED - Cubs Prospect Watch: Bryant, Baez, Russell updated rankings]

In his midseason prospect rankings, Law put Bryant atop the list, a jump of 14 spots from the preseason rankings.

Addison Russell, the 20-year-old shorstop that came over from the Oakland A's in the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel deal, is fourth on Law's rankings (down one spot from No. 3 preseason). Javier Baez is eighth on Law's list (was No. 7 preseason) while Jorge Soler came in at 28th, down two spots from No. 26 preseason.

Notably absent from the Top 50 list is Albert Almora and Arismendy Alcantara may have found his way off the rankings with his pre-All-Star break call-up to Chicago.

[MORE - Cubs getting in position to make a huge splash]

Here's what Law says about each of the Cubs prospects for those who don't have ESPN Insider access:

Bryant

While there are players in the minors who offer higher ceilings -- notably the next two guys on this list -- Bryant is so close to major-league ready that his value at this moment is at least as high as that of Buxton, who's playing now but has been hurt most of the year, or Correa, who's out at least until the Fall League. Bryant has power, he's capable at third base, and his eye and approach continue to improve. Even if he's just a .260-.270 hitter -- probably a pessimistic forecast -- he'll still be a MVP-caliber bat who hits 30-40 homers and gets on base at a solid clip.

Russell

Russell will be the best prospect to change hands this season, going from the Oakland Athletics, who took him with the 11th overall pick in 2012, to the Cubs in the deal that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the A's. A torn hamstring robbed Russell of most of April and May, but he's healthy now and hasn't lost anything at the plate or in the field. He has outstanding hands and plenty of arm for shortstop, which makes up for slightly limited range. His footwork has improved over the last year, so I don't really doubt that he can stay at the position. Those great hands also serve him well at the plate, helping him to accelerate his bat quickly and get good loft in his finish to create line-drive power. I see a high-average hitter with a strong OBP and 10-15 homers -- maybe even a few more -- who plays above-average defense at shortstop.

Baez

Baez still has the minors' best bat speed, with great wrist and forearm strength that translates into huge all-fields power, which you saw in his homer in the Futures Game off a hanging breaking ball. He's still rough around the edges at short, agile enough to play but lacking the finesse or the focus to do so at a major league level. That same Futures Game performance also saw him lollygagging on a groundball to short and delivering a lazy throw when he needed to fire one over to first base. Makeup may be the biggest concern here. Otherwise, Baez has the raw ability to become a 35-40 homer guy at second or third base.

Soler

Soler is a monster if he can just stay on the field. He has electric bat speed, plus-plus raw power and the athleticism and arm to play an above-average or better right field. He's gotten bigger and stronger since signing in 2012, and in the 15 games he's managed to play in Double-A this year, he's hit .400/.456/.880 with 14 extra-base hits in 57 at-bats (tiny sample size caveat applies), indicative of his crazy strength. While he's been injured too often for me to rank him higher, he has the raw offensive ability to be a top 10 prospect if he gets the at-bats to work on his recognition of offspeed stuff.