As the Chicago Cubs continue to trade away key players from their major league roster, the team looks to rebuild the franchise through the minor leagues. Since the big league club is on hiatus for the All-Star break, let’s go down to the farm to check in on some of the organization’s best young prospects.
Iowa Cubs (Triple-A, Pacific Coast League, 48-50)
2009 First-round draft pick Brett Jackson has batted only .223 with six homers and 23 RBIs while being nagged by injuries. Jackson has been on the disabled list with a strained right calf since June 22 after having previously been sidelined by turf toe. The 24-year-old outfielder had not progressed well since being named to the 2010 All-Star Futures Game. Since being called up to Iowa in 2011, his batting average has gone down from .297 in 2011, to .256 last season, to his lowest average as a professional this year at .223. Jackson struggled after being called up to Chicago last August, hitting only .175 in 44 games. Jackson should not be counted to be a part of the Cubs’ long-term future.
The Iowa Cubs’ lone representative in tonight’s Triple-A All-Star Game is pitcher Chris Rusin. The left-hander is 8-7 with a 3.35 ERA in 18 starts for Iowa. Rusin started for the big league Cubs July 2 in Oakland but lasted only 3 1/3 after giving up three runs, all earned. The Cubs sent him back down to Iowa afterwards.
Tennessee Smokies (Double-A, Southern League, 16-8 in 2nd half)
Arismendy Alcantara was the only Cubs prospect to participate in the All-Star Futures Game last Sunday but he made his presence known. The 21-year-old started at second for the World Team and homered in the fourth inning in a 4-2 loss to the US Team. Alcantara is batting .280 with a career-high 13 home runs and 22 steals this season for Tennessee. Alcantara prefers to play shortstop but he has been moved over to second after the call-up of Javier Baez.
Baez has batted .267 and hit 20 homers with 62 RBIs this season split between Daytona and Tennessee. The 2011 first-round pick has been one of the most highly-touted prospects for the Cubs and his recent promotion to Double-A came after leading the Florida State League in home runs at the time. Expect Baez to be a name you will hear much about leading up to Opening Day next year.
Daytona Cubs (High-A, Florida State League, 15-8 in 2nd half)
No article about top Cubs prospects would be complete without mentioning Jorge Soler. The Cubs won a bidding war for Soler after he defected from Cuba, signing him to a nine-year $30 million contract in June 2012. The 21-year-old outfielder was batting .281 with eight homers and 35 RBIs this year at Daytona before he suffered a stress fracture of his left tibia in late June. This ruled him out of the Futures Game he had just been selected to play in as well as the majority of the remainder of the season. Cubs President Theo Epstein has not ruled out a return later this year, however. The Cubs’ most valuable prospect’s development will still be setback by his injury unfortunately.
RHP Pierce Johnson was recently promoted to Daytona from Kane County and his performance on the mound has only improved. Johnson went 5-5 with a 3.10 ERA with Kane County and has gone 2-1 with a 2.86 ERA in only four starts for Daytona.
Kane County Cougars (Single-A, Midwest League, 5-18 in 2nd half)
Albert Almora, the Cubs’ 2012 first-round pick, is having a tremendous year at the plate, batting .333 with 13 doubles and 20 RBIs. The 19-year-old outfielder could be called up to Daytona by the end of the season.
Look for recently signed 2013 first-round pick Kris Bryant to join the Class A-short season Boise Hawks within the next several weeks.