Chicago Cubs: Paul Blackburn

Season review: Cubs prospects

September, 17, 2013
9/17/13
9:00
AM CT
By Sahadev Sharma
ESPNChicago.com
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Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, Albert AlmoraUSA TODAY Sports, Icon SMIThe Cubs have plenty of promising position player talent in the minors with Javier Baez, Jorge Soler and Albert Almora.
With four players arguably among the top 30 prospects in all of baseball, the future looks bright for the Chicago Cubs.

Of course, it was just a decade ago that names like Mark Prior, Angel Guzman and Juan Cruz littered top-100 lists. But as the saying goes, there's no such thing as a pitching prospect, so it's likely a good thing the current Cubs system is heavy in high-ceiling offensive talent. They don't possess an elite, Archie Bradley-like arm, but through bulk-drafting and some shrewd trades, the Cubs have put together a solid group of pitchers, many of whom project as solid mid-rotation candidates or slightly better.

The fact is, if the topic of the Cubs system is brought up in front of opposing talent evaluators, one will quite often find oneself in a long conversation. Long gone are the days of people wondering who, beyond one or two players, has any real future impact in the Cubs system. In fact, Brett Jackson, who not so long ago sat atop the Cubs' prospect rankings, would find himself among the back half of a Cubs top 10, even if he were still at his peak prospect value.

A few things to remember here: This is not a top-10 list or even a ranking of any sort. It's just a quick glimpse at some players who range from superstar potential to role player. Trying to judge a minor league player on his statistics is a highly imperfect way of analyzing prospects. Minor league stats never tell the whole story. That's why, as always, much of the information provided here is gathered from discussions with scouts and front office members from around the league.

Javier Baez

Position: SS Age: 20 Highest level in 2013: Double-A Tennessee

It's not often that broaching the topic of what a prospect could do at the major league level if everything goes right leads scouts to giggle with excitement, but that's what Baez's bat does to people. After struggling early at High-A Daytona, Baez quickly turned things around and forced a promotion by posting an .873 OPS with 17 home runs in 76 games in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League (FSL), then went on to terrorize opposing team's pitchers at Tennessee.

[+] EnlargeJavier Baez
AP Photo/Morry GashJavier Baez's power is impressive but his defense is still a work in progress.
Baez has easy 70 power (on the 20-80 scouting scale) and those who are bullish on him can squint and see a future 70 hit tool (though a 55-60 rating seems to be the industry consensus). Throw in his knack for coming up big late in close games and it's easy to see why the list is short of minor leaguers who have a higher ceiling with the bat.

In 54 games at Double-A, Baez's elite bat speed continued to wow scouts, while delivering numbers to do the same. With a .294/.346/.638 line and 20 home runs and 15 doubles, it's clear why many believe Baez will be ready to send fastballs over the ivy at Wrigley Field at some point in 2014.

That's not to say that Baez is without his warts. Baez struck out 147 times with only 40 walks and committed 44 errors at two levels this season. Baez is an aggressive player who believes he can hit any pitch when he's at the plate and make any play while on defense. The defensive issues have nothing to do with fundamentals, but reining in his at times out-of-control play would do a lot in helping him reduce the errors.

As far as his aggressiveness at the plate, Baez has definitely taken some strides in 2013. The slider breaking low and away from him was quite often a bugaboo, but he's learning to stay away from the offering, forcing pitchers to come back over the plate and often making them pay for that decision. Baez also had numerous games in August in which he'd see 25 or more pitches in only four or five at-bats. Not only does seeing so many pitches wear down the opposition with a rising pitch count, but it increases the likelihood that Baez will see a pitch more to his liking. When that happens, good things usually follow.

Early in his career, there were questions about Baez's makeup, but those have quickly faded away and proven to be a non-issue. When watching Baez play, effort is never a question. In fact it's his intensity that sometimes gets the best of him.

What we saw from Baez this season was a big step forward. He still has work to do before the questions subside, but Baez has passed the biggest test a player will face at the minor league level by having a monster season at Double-A. Now it's just a matter of time before he has the opportunity to show what he can do at the big-league level.

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Report: Cubs sign supplemental round pick

June, 15, 2012
6/15/12
6:16
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs have come to a deal with supplemental first-round pick Paul Blackburn, according to Baseball America.

The Northern California high-school product was the 56th overall selection in last week’s draft, a spot the Cubs received when Carlos Pena signed with the Tampa Bay Rays this winter.

The right-handed pitcher has a fastball that can reach the mid to low 90-mph range and projects to have three major league worthy pitches.

Blackburn’s deal was for $911,700, the full value for his spot in the draft.

The Cubs have also reportedly signed fourth-round pick Josh Conway, a right-hander from Coastal Carolina University (S.C.).

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Jake Arrieta
WINS ERA SO IP
10 2.53 167 156
OTHER LEADERS
BAS. Castro .292
HRA. Rizzo 32
RBIA. Rizzo 78
RA. Rizzo 89
OPSA. Rizzo .913
ERAT. Wood 5.03
SOJ. Arrieta 167