Minor Notes: An Update on Cubs Minor Leaguers of note

Thanks to the mid-season promotions of Anthony Rizzo, Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters, the Chicago Cubs’ future is now right in front of our eyes – or at least part of it. But while the young trio work to get their feet wet, there are still a number of important minor leaguers putting in work day in and day out at all levels of the Cubs’ farm system.

This piece focuses on them; here you will find a quick update on how some of the Cubs’ more notable prospects are doing down on the farm.

Daniel Vogelbach

Remember this guy? He was drafted in the second round of the 2011 amateur draft. At the time he was compared to a young Prince Fielder because of his heft and power. While that’s a pretty wild comparison, it’s not been too far off thus far.

In 2011, at the age of 18, Vogelbach put up a stat line of .292 AVG/.370 OBP/.542 SLG with 1 HR and 2 doubles in 27 plate appearances in the Arizona Rookie League. This year he has continued to put up impressive numbers in the Arizona Rookie League, batting .324/.391/.686 with 7 HR, 12 doubles and 12 walks in 115 plate appearances before getting called up to Low-A Boise.

So far in Boise all he’s done is hit .362/.423/.596 with 2 HR, 5 doubles and 5 walks in only 52 plate appearances. A couple more months of production like this and he’s going to land himself squarely on a list of must-see prospects. Unfortunately for the Cubs, there is a blocking issue on the big league team as Vogelbach fancies himself a first baseman.

And while he’s certainly low enough in the minor league system to switch positions and still be capable of becoming adequate at a new spot on the diamond, his weight will probably prohibit him from doing so. Though he’s got decent speed for a big guy (already two triples this year), I’m not sure a switch to the outfield would be very beneficial.
Still, he’s a big, young talent and the Cubs have plenty of time to figure out exactly what to do with him.

Jorge Soler

The watch is on early for this one, but then again that tends to happen when you get a nine-year contract before you’ve played a single game on American soil. So far, Soler has been impressive. His numbers aren’t stellar, but they’re also not bad by any stretch. Currently residing in the Arizona Rookie League, Soler has put up a line of .262/.326/.452 with 2 HR and 2 doubles in only 46 plate appearances.

What is particularly of note here, though, is that he’s already stolen 6 bases without being caught a single time. With a total of 11 hits and 4 walks so far on this very young season, he’s only even reached base 15 times – yet he’s stolen 6 bases.

As a matter of fact, if you want to take that a little bit further, you also have to take into account his 2 home runs, as there would be no chance to attempt an extra base.

So, with that taken into account, Soler has reached base a total of 13 times and stolen six bases – that’s nearly a 50 percent rate. And that doesn’t even take into account times in which he might have had a runner blocking his path.

On the negative side of the spectrum, though, he has already struck out nine times, or about one in every five at bats. That’s certainly something he’ll want to work on.

Albert Almora

Almora was the Cubs’ first pick (sixth overall) in this year’s amateur draft, and he’s now had a few games to try his luck on the field. So far, so good for the 18-year-old, though his success has been the most limited of this group.

His slash numbers, .286/.318/.452 with 1 HR and 4 doubles in 44 plate appearances, are pretty much dead on pace with Soler’s, though Soler has the advantage of a few more walks to bump up his OBP.

Admittedly, looking at Almora’s numbers, there’s nothing that absolutely jumps out at me in the same way that Soler’s steals do. Almora has stolen 2 bases, has only struck out 4 times and taken only 1 walk. Then again, it’s incredibly early and hard to judge someone on such a small number of plate appearances – which goes for Soler as well.

Timothy Saunders

Anybody know who this man is? Probably not. He’s a 22-year-old right-handed shortstop/third baseman who the Cubs drafted in the 32nd round of this year’s amateur draft. And while all the attention in the Cubs’ 2012 draft went to Almora, this young man has quietly put together one hell of a fast start.

After getting drafted, Saunders took his roster spot in the Arizona Rookie League and promptly put up a monstrous stat line of .493/.532/.690 with 3 HR and 5 doubles in 79 plate appearances, taking 5 walks along the way.

He was quickly promoted to High-A Daytona, skipping the Low-A Boise level all together, where he continued to bash the ball. In 47 plate appearances in Daytona, he batted .310/.362/.381 with 3 more doubles and 4 more walks.

From there, he was moved to Single-A Peoria, where he has now played in one game. In that game, by the way, he went 1-for-4 with a double and a run scored. Unfortunately, he also struck out twice, but wow – talk about a quick dash through the minor leagues.

To this point in the season, he’s batting .419/.462/.573 between the three levels of minor leagues he’s encountered. It’s obviously early, but given a few more months of rapid success, Saunders’ name might start popping up on some minor league radars right next to Vogelbach’s.

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