Cubs duo headlines Baseball America’s top 2015 rookies
Expectations are high for prospect Kris Bryant. (Photo by Stephen Green)
If the Cubs have been synonymous with anything in previous years, it’s the organization’s willingness to stockpile droves of young talent, something baseball president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer made a priority wen they accepted their roles in the Cubs’ front office in late 2011. Though the last few seasons have been a waiting game, the arrivals of Arismendy Alcantara, Kyle Hendricks, Jorge Soler and Javier Baez in 2014 demonstrated that the young, high-upside talent is quickly nearing the major league level.
On Tuesday, Baseball America unveiled its top 20 rookies for the 2015 season, and Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler were No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. Most are assuming big things from the pair, who could be key pieces in the middle of the Cubs’ order as early as mid-April. Bryant took home virtually every minor league award available last season after slugging 43 home runs between Double- and Triple-A, while Soler flexed his muscles with five homers in 89 major league at-bats to wrap up 2014. Shortstop prospect Addison Russell was also in the top 20.
Here’s what Baseball America had to say about the Cubs trio:
1. Kris Bryant, 3b, Cubs (23)
2015 Outlook: A future fixture in the heart of the Cubs’ order, Bryant won’t require much minor league time in 2015. He could reach Chicago as early as mid-April—a la the Astros’ George Springer last year—once the Cubs can postpone his free agency until after his seventh (projected) big league season in 2021. Taking up left field, as the Cubs have tasked Bryant with in spring training, could help alleviate a logjam on the Chicago infield, where talented young players Javier Baez, Starlin Castro and the system’s No. 2 prospect Addison Russell all could warrant starting roles. Even if one of that trio falters, then infielders Arismendy Alcantara, Tommy La Stella and Mile Olt have demonstrated varying degrees of promise.
2. Jorge Soler, rf, Cubs (23)
2015 Outlook: Soler blasted 11 extra-base hits and hit .373 in the first 14 games of his big league career last summer, but pitchers adjusted and kept him in check at 7-for-38 (.184) the rest of the way. Look for Soler to make the necessary counter-adjustments this season and deliver on his promise as a slugger with enough feel for the strike zone to sustain a healthy average and on-base percentage.
18. Addison Russell, ss, Cubs (21)
2015 Outlook: Russell forms the third leg of the Cubs’ indomitable prospect trio, each of whom may be featured players in Chicago this summer. Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler are more assured of playing time—and thus they rank Nos. 1 and 2 on this list—but Russell is the youngest of the three and could represent the organization’s golden parachute in the event that sophomore Javier Baez continues to flail in the majors or that Bryant’s services are required on an outfield corner.