Here are BP's and BA's take on the prospects the Cubs acquired over the last 2 days ranked by potential awesomeness.
Arodys Vizcaino (RHP) - 21 year old
Vizcaino possesses the raw stuff to justify the hype, but also the injury history to explain why the Yankees and Braves were willing to trade him. He had Tommy John surgery toward the end of spring training and could be ready to resume throwing in earnest during spring training 2013. When right, Vizcaino sits 94-97 mph out of the bullpen and leans on a big-breaking, low-80s curveball as an out-pitch. He won't need his fringy changeup much if the Cubs continue to deploy him as a reliever. Assuming he regains his velocity, Vizcaino has closer stuff, and only fastball command stands in the way of him becoming a great reliever instead of a merely good one.
Vizcaino entered the year as the no. 3 prospect in the Atlanta system and the no. 62 on the Top 101. He was expected to break camp with the Braves after an impressive late-season showing in 2011, but he suffered an elbow injury that has cost him the entire season; he should be ready to pitch sometime in early 2013. Despite being just six feet tall, Vizcaino has a lightening quick arm and sat at 96 mph in short stints while touching 98. His power curveball sits in the low-80s, features heavy late break, and gives him a second outpitch that he'll use at any point in the count. He has a rarely used below-average changeup, and the effort in his delivery creates some command issues. Originally developed as a starter, Vizcaino had a history of arm problems before the surgery and has never thrown more than 120 innings in a season. Now an undersized pitcher with an injury history and far from a pretty delivery, everything points to Vizcaino becoming a permanent reliever, but if his stuff comes all the way back, he's potentially closer-worthy.
Christian Villanueva (3B) - 21 year old
The Rangers are loaded at third base with Adrian Beltre in the majors and stud prospect Mike Olt in the minors, which made the well-regarded Villanueva expendable. Signed out of Mexico, he ranked No. 100 on our Top 100 Prospects list entering the season. Villanueva has a broad base of tools that include a solid bat, potential average power, fringe to average speed with good instincts on the bases and standout defense with soft hands and a strong arm at third base. He's just 21 and in high Class A, so he still needs time to develop. He'll have to tighten his strike zone, and some scouts question if he'll grow into enough power to be a big league regular at third base.
Signed out of Mexico in 2008, the 21-year-old Villanueva is one of those players whose greatest strength might be a lack of weaknesses. He has a good idea at the plate and a quick bat; he uses all fields and projects as a .280 hitter in the big leagues. He has gap power now, and scouts believe that will turn into solid average power down the road as he fills out, with 15-20 home run potential. He's a good athlete and an average runner, and an easy plus defender with a strong arm. He's a bit on the small side at 5-foot-11, which hurts his projection, but he looks like he should be a solid-average everyday third baseman if his development stays on track.
Jacob Brigham (RHP) - 24 year old
Brigham had tied for the Texas League lead with 116 strikeouts at the time of the trade, but he stood alone in first place with 19 home runs allowed thanks to a severe platoon split. Lefthanded batters get a good look at the ball because of Brigham's overhand arm slot, and they have batted .287/.369/.544 with 10 homers in 171 at-bats against him. He made up for that deficiency by fanning a quarter of the righthanded batters to oppose him with a solid fastball/curveball mix. Brigham topped out near 97 mph a couple years ago but sits more comfortably at 88-92 these days.
While hardly a top prospect, the Cubs got a surprisingly solid arm in return for Soto. A sixth-round pick in 2006 out of a Florida high school, Brigham has been slow to develop in a career that includes a 2008 Tommy John surgery. Repeating Double-A this year, Brigham has better peripherals than his 4.28 ERA suggests, giving up less than a hit per inning with 116 strikeouts and 46 walks in 124 innings. He has a solid fastball that ranges from 91-95 mph, but he can get loose with the pitch up in the zone and gives up too many home runs as a result. His primary secondary pitch is a low-80s slider that rates as average, and while he has a changeup, it's a below-average pitch. He projects as an innings-eating no. 4 or 5 starter or a solid middle reliever. He looks like a big leaguer, just not an impact one.
Kyle Hendricks (RHP) - 21 year old
Hendricks has had a fine season with Myrtle Beach, as detailed in a recent BA Prospects Blog post. He throws an upper-80s two-seam fastball, a four-seamer that bumps 92 mph and mid-80s cutter to go with a curveball, slider and changeup. None of the pitches grades as plus, but he has feel for his craft and for the strike zone. He ranked second in the Carolina League in ERA, WHIP and innings as well as third in strikeouts, while leading the league in walk ratio (1.0 per nine innings). At a listed 6-foot-2, 165 pounds, he has room to get bigger and stronger.
An eighth-round pick in 2011 out of Dartmouth, Hendricks has had a successful full-season debut, with a 2.82 ERA and a remarkable 112-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 130.2 innings for High-A Myrtle Beach. Based on those numbers, it's no surprise that some feel he has the best control in the system. That's also his best asset, as his below-average fastball sits at 86-90 mph with a bit of life, and his arsenal is no more than average across the board. He succeeds by throwing strikes and changing speeds, and it will be a challenge for him to find the same success at the upper levels while lacking an out pitch.
Jaye Chapman (RHP) - 25 year old
Chapman is the rare righthander whose changeup functions as his out-pitch, but it's so good—many scouts grade it as a 60 on the 20-to-80 scouting scale—that he could carve out a big league career in middle relief. He ranked fifth among International League relievers with 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings at the time of the trade. Chapman scrapes 90 mph with a fringe fastball and typically sits 87-89, doing a good job locating the ball down in the strike zone. His lack of velocity disallows him from working above the knees. Chapman works in on lefty batters with a fringy, low-80s slider, but they actually hit him hard in Triple-A this season (.298/.394/.457 in 94 at-bats) after managing just a .636 OPS at the same level last year. A member of Atlanta's 40-man roster, Chapman has two option years remaining after this season.
A 16th-round pick in 2005, Chapman is an undersized right-hander who is in his seventh minor league season while being developed solely as a reliever. He has an average fastball that sits at 89-92 mph and a fringy breaking ball, but he has a true plus changeup that he uses as an outpitch. Already 25 years old and lacking anything in the way of projection, his best chance is as an up-and-down reliever.
Rankings are a rather arbitrary thing anyway, so you can probably flop Vizcaino and Villanueva at the top and Chapman and Hendricks at the bottom and won't get into much of a quarrel. Regardless, the Cubs kept to the plan of trading short term assets into long term ones. So that's good. I hopefully never have to see Dempster's Harry Caray impression, that's also good. The bad is that they didn't seem to add any potential starting pitchers to the minor league void. Project 2015 carries on!!!
CB Bucknor not having a good day....
Jesse Rogers [email protected] Yeah, there was plenty of chatter before the game about home plate ump today. Knew he would be a factor.
Jake Arrieta gives up first inning run
For the first time in a year, 33 starts.
Old news, sorry if it's 3/44-
J-Hey being classy by repaying an old teammate:
With Paredes moving to 3B, how do you see playing time shaking out between him and Galindo? Do you think Galindo gets starts at 1B? Galindo is more of a prospect than Paniagua, right?
Phil, your knowledge of the Cubs Minor League system is unbelievable.
This kid would be a key piece in a trade for a pitcher, imo.
This might be old news but Hammel was on ESPN 1000 and said that he changed his diet and workout routine over the off season and tweaked his delivery so it'd be more repeatable so he'd have a better second half. So...some cause for optimism anyway.
CHILDERS: RHSP Dylan Cease and LHSP Bryan Hudson are probably the top two SP prospects in the organization right now.
LHSP Jose Paulino has electric stuff (91-94 MPH fastball with sinking action and a mid-80's slider), but he also has trouble commanding it.
RHP Jose Albertos (2015 IFA - Mexico - $1.5M bonus) just turned 17 in November, and his fastball already sits at 95-96. He also throws a curve and a change-up, and is fairly advanced for a kid his age.
AZBOBBOP: Most of 2016 draft picks will get assigned to either Eugene or AZL Cubs, but the Opening Day Eugune roster will probably be almost 100% from the Extended Spring Training squad roster (pending the arrival of draft picks).
I think I can probably tell you which pitchers and players at EXST are in contention for roster slots at Eugene and which are in contention for slots with the AZL Cubs - AS THINGS STAND RIGHT NOW - (listed alphabetically):
* bats or throws left
# bats both
Eloy Jimenez atop the leader board for minor-league home runs in the Cub system, with seven. Tied with Balaguert and Vogelbach, two 24-year-olds. Jimenez won't be 20 until late November. Leads the Midwest League in SLG and OPS. Maybe he'll get promoted to the Myrtle Beach squad that visits Woodbridge, VA, in June or Frederick, MD, in August.
Watched two Pelican games at Frederick the other week. Was most impressed by Stinnett and Happ. Happ may swing harder than Javier Baez, though more compactly. (Also got to see Brockmeyer hit a bomb.)
E-MAN: Jose Paniagua isn't a string-bean, but I wouldn't say he necessarily bulked-up during the 2015-16 off-season either, He led the DSL Cubs in HR and doubles in 2014, and he showed XBH power when he arrived in Mesa last year, leading the AZL Cubs in HR, doubles, and RBI in 2015. It's just that he has taken his HR power to a new level this year.
Paniagua displayed plus-HR power in Cactus League Minor League Spring Training games in March, and that got him a slot on the South Bend Opening Day roster. But he was sent to EXST after only six MWL games.
More on the Cub Way.
Martinez is one of my least favorite pitchers in baseball. I'd love to see a game like yesterday's against him.
Send Soler down!
Awesome thanks AZ
Great report, Phil! This organization has so many hitters to be excited about.