Cubs

Baseball America releases Cubs' Top 10 prospects

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Baseball America releases Cubs' Top 10 prospects

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.

ESPN to broadcast two of Cubs first four games in 2020

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AP

ESPN to broadcast two of Cubs first four games in 2020

It won't be long before baseball fans get their first look at the Cubs under new manager David Ross.

ESPN announced Thursday they will broadcast two of the Cubs' first four games in 2020: March 29 against the Brewers in Milwaukee (Sunday Night Baseball) and March 30 against the Pirates (3 p.m. first pitch). The latter game is the Cubs' 2020 home opener.

Ross worked as a color analyst for ESPN from 2017-19 before the Cubs hired him as manager in October. So, not only will his club be in the national spotlight early in the season, but his former co-workers will be the ones analyzing him as his managerial career kicks off.

The Cubs open the season on March 26 against the Brewers.

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Willson Contreras’ trade value just spiked, thanks to White Sox signing Yasmani Grandal

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USA TODAY

Willson Contreras’ trade value just spiked, thanks to White Sox signing Yasmani Grandal

This is the best thing the White Sox have done for the Cubs in years.

The White Sox made a big splash in free agency Thursday, signing catcher Yasmani Grandal to a four-year, $73 million contract. Grandal joins the South Siders from the Brewers, where he played an integral role in Milwaukee making a second-straight postseason appearance in 2019.

Grandal led qualified catchers in on-base percentage (.380) last season, also posting career highs in home runs (28) and RBIs (77). He’s also an excellent pitch framer, tying for fourth in RszC (runs saved by catcher framing) among all catchers with 9.

Milwaukee’s payroll reached a franchise-high $122.5 million in 2019 and their farm system (No. 29 in MLB, per Baseball America) is lacking. How they replace Grandal’s production is a major question mark, which in turn is a win for the Cubs this offseason.

But besides plucking him from the NL Central, the White Sox signing Grandal early in the offseason helps the Cubs, who have important decisions of their own to make.

Although Cubs president Theo Epstein said to take any trade rumors with a “mouthful of salt,” multiple teams believe catcher Willson Contreras is available for trade. The Cubs need to retool their roster and replenish a farm system that has been depleted in recent seasons from numerous “win now” trades.

The Cubs and White Sox made the notorious José Quintana trade in July 2017, but it’s unlikely the two would have matched up for a Contreras trade. The Cubs need young assets; trading away young assets is the last thing the White Sox want to do as their championship window opens.

So, Grandal landed with a team that was unlikely to be involved in any potential Contreras trade talks. Grandal was the best free agent catcher; Contreras is the best catcher that can be had in a trade.

Other teams interested in Grandal — such as the Reds — can no longer turn to him in free agency. The Rays have made addressing the catcher spot this winter a priority, but they have one of MLB’s lowest payrolls each season. Signing Grandal wasn’t going to happen, but Tampa Bay has the farm system (No. 2 in baseball, per MLB.com) to make a big trade.

Contreras is the best catcher available — for the right price, obviously — so the ball is in the Cubs' court. They don’t get better by dealing their two-time All-Star backstop, but Contreras’ trade value is high. With Grandal off the market, it just got even higher.

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