Bonus Cubs Prospects: Nos. 21-25
In the second of my series of identifying prospects who just missed making one of MLBPipeline.com’s Top 20 Prospects lists that I recently updated, the Cubs are today’s spotlighted organization. Chicago has the best collection of hitting prospects I can ever remember, and its farm system currently is the best in the game.
You can check out all 30 recently revamped team Top 20s in Prospect Watch. The Cubs Top 20, which features three of baseball’s top seven prospects in third baseman Kris Bryant and shortstops Javier Baez and Addison Russell, can be found here.
21. Christian Villanueva, 3b. Part of the Ryan Dempster trade with the Rangers in 2012, Villaneuva is having a so-so season and is hopelessly blocked by Bryant & Co. He’s still a quality defender with average power, though he’ll need to tone down his approach at the plate.
22. Jacob Hannemann, of. He took three years off from baseball to go on a Mormon mission and play football at Brigham Young, then returned last spring and earned a $1 million bonus as a third-round pick. While Hannemann is old for Class A at 23, he’s a premium athlete with well above-average speed and good raw power.
23. Carson Sands, lhp. As they did in the previous two Drafts, the Cubs took a hitter with an early first-round pick (catcher/outfielder Kyle Schwarber) and then stocked up on pitching in 2014. They paid Sands $1.1 million in the fourth round, buying into his lively 90-94 mph fastball, solid curveball and feel for pitching.
24. Jake Stinnett, rhp. The best college senior available in the 2014 Draft, he went 45th overall (second round) and signed for $1 million after pitching Maryland to the NCAA super-regionals. A former two-way player who saw time at third base earlier in his Terrapins career, Stinnett has a hard sinker that hits 97 mph and flashes a plus slider.
25. Dylan Cease, rhp. With a fastball capable of reaching 97 mph, he was one of the hardest throwers in the 2014 high school class and a possible first-rounder. Cease hurt his elbow in March and needed Tommy John surgery, though that didn’t stop Chicago from signing him for $1.5 million as a sixth-rounder.
Newcomer To Watch: Justin Steele, lhp. The last three guys above were all pitchers who got seven-figure bonuses in the 2014 Draft, and here’s another. Signed for $1 milion in the fifth round, Steele is a southpaw who reaches 95 mph with his fastball and is making rapid progress with his curveball.