Welcome to the special comparison edition of the top prospects update! I’ll try to compare each player to a current MLB player who they could one day mirror if most everything goes right. Keep that last part in mind: if everything goes right.
Most prospect writers don’t like throwing out comps because it causes people to jump to conclusions and assume the prospects will become that player. So please, keep in mind that these are the ceilings of the players, and a lot could go wrong before they get to the major leagues or after they get there. Also, comparisons aren’t perfect, but they give an idea of where to start.
Last thing, also very important: these could be wrong. Very wrong, in fact. I don’t have access to scouting summaries for several emerging players, so I’m taking a bit of a shot in the dark with some of these players. To better emphasize how close I believe these prospects are to the player I’ve compared them to, I’ll designate my confidence with a color scheme. Green indicates close comparison, blue indicates some moderate differences, and red indicates at least one major difference.
This list includes players involved in deadline deals. Players that came over in trade deadline deals are marked as bold on the list.
1. Albert Almora, CF
2. Javier Baez, SS/3B
3. Jorge Soler, RF
4. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP
5. Jeimer Candelario, 3B
6. Josh Vitters, 3B/OF
7. Arismendy Alcantara, SS
8. Brett Jackson, CF
9. Junior Lake, SS/3B
10. Christian Villanueva, 3B
11. Daniel Vogelbach, 1B
12. Jae-Hoon Ha, CF
13. Dillon Maples, RHP
14. Gioskar Amaya, 2B
15. Matt Szczur, CF
16. Pierce Johnson, RHP
17. Paul Blackburn, RHP
18. Duane Underwood, RHP
Albert Almora Arizona Rookie League CF Adam Jones
Almora has a good amount of pop in his bat and should be able to hit for pretty good average, but he has the chance to be better than Jones. His approach at the plate is already very good and his reads in center field are advanced for a player just out of high school, meaning he could have a better on-base percentage while also being a plus defender. Almora hit a home run in his professional debut.
Javier Baez Class A Peoria SS/3B Aramis Ramirez
Ramirez isn’t a perfect comparison for Baez, but he’s similar in most areas. Baez probably has more power and has a slim chance to hit for a better average as well, but Ramirez put together a couple .300/30 HR seasons. Baez should also have a much better glove and swipe more bags than Ramirez. Unfortunately, Baez has a lot of Ramirez’s swing-happy approach. He has walked only 7 times (while getting hit by a pitch 9 times), so he needs to improve in that department before he can become a star, but Baez has time.
Jorge Soler Arizona Rookie League RF Giancarlo Stanton
Soler has some monster tools, including an arm perfect for right field and huge power, just like Stanton. It’s unclear if Soler will hit for average or how frequently he’ll get on base, but Stanton’s line of about .260 or so with a decent on-base should be more than do-able. He has a long way to go, but has already homered twice in four games.
Arodys Vizcaino Triple A Iowa (On DL) RHP Andrew Cashner
Vizcaino, who came over in the Paul Maholm/Reed Johnson trade, reminds me a lot of former Cub Andrew Cashner. He doesn’t quite have the stuff Cashner does, but not many do. Vizcaino throws mid-90s heat with a hard curveball (that sounds a bit like a slurve) and fringy change-up. He has everything you would want for a top of the rotation pitcher, but he is undersized and has durability concerns that could eventually send him to the bullpen, where he could certainly be a closer. It all comes down to health though, just like Cashner.
Jeimer Candelario Short Season A Boise 3B Pablo Sandoval
Sandoval is a surprisingly appropriate comp for Candelario. They are both hefty switch hitters who like to swing the bat and can hit for average and power. Both can play third base, but may eventually end up at first. There’s plenty to like with Candelario, but he’s a long way off.
Josh Vitters Triple A Iowa 3B/OF Martin Prado
Vitters is a tough guy to find a comparison for, but Prado is about as close as they come. Prado plays outfield and third, albeit better than Vitters probably will, while hitting for a good average and a modest on-base percentage. Vitters should hit for more power than Prado and won’t add anything on the bases. It’s unclear where Vitters will play when he gets called up, but given the hole at third base, he’ll get an opportunity to earn the job there. He may need to start next season in Triple A to work on his glove, but he could be a solution at third.
Arismendy Alcantara High A Daytona Daytona (On DL) SS Alcides Escobar
Alcantara isn’t an elite defensive shortstop like Escobar, but the rest of the package might be close. Alcantara should stick at short, can hit for a bit of power, and is speedy enough to be a 30 steal guy. He may never have a great on-base, but he should hit for a solid average. As long as he sticks at short, which he should, he’ll be a valuable major league player.
Brett Jackson Triple A Iowa CF Chris Young
Jackson is another guy who is tough to compare, but Young is close enough to work. Young has superior power and speed compared to Jackson (think 15HR, 30 SB), but his low batting average and propensity to strike out mirror the Cubs’ center fielder (although he may strike out even more). Neither will ever hit .300 (or .280) or get close, but make up for it a bit by walking a good amount. Their power and speed combo in center field is enough to give them value.
Junior Lake Double A Tennessee SS/3B Jhonny Peralta
Lake, like Peralta, has a chance to grow into a bulky shortstop like Peralta, but is probably better suited at third (Peralta’s only at short because the Tigers put him there. He’s not a SS). Lake’s arm is far superior to Peralta’s, but their offense is similar: great at shortstop, but not quite good enough for third. Lake has room to improve his offensive game and is playing at an appropriate level for his age, but still has a way to go. A September call-up in 2013 would only be possible if he has another year where he makes significant strides.
Christian Villanueva High A Daytona 3B Martin Prado
Villanueva was acquired in the Ryan Dempster trade by the Cubs, and he is another guy who fits the Martin Prado mold. He should hit for a solid average with a modest amount of pop that could reach 20 home runs in a career year. His approach needs work, but he’ll be fine at third. Villanueva should stick at the hot corner and has some speed. He is another addition to the future third basemen club for the Cubs.
Daniel Vogelbach Short Season A Boise 1B Mike Napoli
Vogelbach is one of the two players on this list to get a mid-season promotion (unless you count Anthony Rizzo), and was more than deserving after hitting .324/.391/.686 in 102 Rookie League at bats. It’s hard to find a comparison to Vogelbach, a big-bodied kid who already looks like Adam Dunn (Dunn didn’t gain weight until later in his career). I wanted to play it safe with him though, and picked Napoli, who is a solid hitter with power. Vogelbach will never see time behind the plate like Napoli, but if he keeps hitting like he is (and drops some weight), he’ll get more and more favorable comparisons in the future.
Jae-Hoon Ha Double A Tennessee (On DL) CF Peter Bourjos
Ha compares well to Bourjos, who is an elite defender in center who can hit a bit. Ha probably won’t be winning any gold gloves in center field, but should be a plus defender there while hitting fairly well and with a touch of power. Ha isn’t a base stealer like Bourjos, but there’s enough there for a solid every-day center fielder.
Note: Ha suffered a concussion after running into a wall on a foul ball in right field. There’s no timetable as to when he will return.
Dillon Maples Arizona Rookie League RHP Jeff Samardzijia
I have trouble comparing pitchers, but this seems pretty close. Maples isn’t quite the physical specimen that Samardzijia is, but he does share some of his traits. Both pitchers have good off-speed offerings and can throw mid-90s heat (in Maples case, this is projected), but don’t have a great change-up. Comparing him to Samardzijia is probably a bit of a stretch, but Maples could be a mid-rotation starter.
Note: Maples finally made his professional debut in the Arizona Rookie League. He pitched one inning, walking two and striking out one. He somehow gave up an earned run.
Gioskar Amaya Short Season A Boise 2B Chone Figgins
Amaya is a speedy 19-year-old who can hit and has a touch of power. He’s not a big bag swiper yet, but he has time to develop that skill set. Figgins was an excellent second baseman in his time with the Angels who could also hit at the top of the lineup. Amaya has a long way to go before that dream becomes a reality, but he’s hitting in Boise so the dream is still alive.
Matt Szczur Double A Tennessee CF Dexter Fowler
Szczur finally gets to prove himself in Double A, an appropriate level for his age, after Jae-Hoon Ha’s injury. He should mold his game around Dexter Fowler, a speedy outfielder who doesn’t steal bases (hopefully he won’t copy that) and can play a good center field. Fowler draws walks well and provides a modest amount of pop (something that seems to have disappeared from Szczur’s game as his plate discipline has vastly improved). I still have no idea what to expect from Szczur in the batting average category, but it shouldn’t be bad. This next month will be an interesting test for the 23-year-old.