Stock Up, Stock Down for Chicago Cubs Top-10 Prospects for Week 14

The rich got richer last week, as what is already a loaded farm system for the Chicago Cubs got even better with the additions of Addison Russell and Billy McKinney in a trade that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Oakland Athletics.

This prospect list was re-ordered last week, with top pick Kyle Schwarber and 19-year-old right-hander Jen-Ho Tseng joining the top 10, and Jeimer Candelario and Pierce Johnson falling out.

Things shake up once again, as Russell slides in right behind Kris Bryant and Javier Baez as the team's No. 3 prospect.

So here's an updated look at the team's current top-10 prospects and how they performed at the minor league level over the past week. This series will be updated weekly, with a stock "up," "even" or "down" indication given to each prospect based upon the direction in which his performance is trending.

 

*No. 5 prospect SP C.J. Edwards (shoulder) spent last week on the disabled list. He will not be included here until he is active. He is 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 20.2 innings on the season at Double-A Tennessee.

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MLB Power Rankings: An Updated Look at Where All 30 Teams Stand

It was an exciting week around MLB, with a blockbuster trade between the Chicago Cubs and Oakland Athletics on Friday and All-Star rosters announced Sunday.

Over the past few weeks, it seems the contenders have started to separate themselves from the pack a bit, as the line between buyer and seller from now to the trade deadline has become a bit more clear for a number of clubs.

The moves that are made over the next couple of weeks will go a long way in determining who is playing in October, and they will certainly have an impact on these rankings.

When putting together the rankings on a weekly basis, the following factors are considered:

  • Previous week's record
  • Quality of opponents
  • Key injuries/trades
  • Recent performance beyond the last week

There is still a lot to be sorted out between now and October, and all of the close races should make for a busy trade season and exciting stretch run.

All of that said, here is an updated look at where all 30 MLB teams currently stand. Be sure to check back here every Monday morning for the most recent edition of our MLB power rankings.

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2014 MLB All Star Roster: Biggest Snubs and Surprises

The rosters have officially been announced for the 2014 MLB All-Star Game, and that means it's time for the annual arguments over who really deserves to be an All-Star and which guys were the biggest snubs.

Oakland Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson was far and away the biggest snub in either league last year, and while there may be no clear-cut No. 1 snub this time around, the field of deserving guys left off of their respective rosters may be bigger.

A higher number of deserving NL players found themselves left out of the Midsummer Classic this year than AL, but with talent stacked in both leagues there were certainly more snubs than surprise selections.

With that being said, here is a quick look at the biggest snubs in both leagues, as well as the biggest surprises among players who did find their way onto the rosters.

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Re-Grading the Impact Deals of MLB’s 2013 July Trade Season

The month of July is here, and with it comes the start of another MLB trade season, as contenders look to shore up their rosters for the stretch run and also-rans look to add young talent for the future.

Last year's trade deadline was relatively quiet compared to years past, but it still saw a handful of impact players on the move before the July 31 non-waiver deadline.

A year later, we have a much clearer idea of who got the better end of each trade, so it's time to revisit each of those deals and regrade both sides.

Taking into account things like the progression of prospects included in each deal, whether or not the players acquired by contenders helped their teams reach the playoffs and who benefits most long-term from the deal, the grades for each trade were adjusted compared to last July's grades.

Keep in mind, guys like Alex Rios (CWS-TEX), Marlon Byrd (NYM-PIT), John Axford (MIL-STL), Justin Morneau (MIN-PIT) and Michael Young (PHI-LAD) were not traded until August, so their deals will not be included here.

 

*Note: Quotes and grades for the "What I Said Then" section taken from a live tracker I wrote last July.

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MLB Position-by-Position Player Power Rankings, July Edition

Position-by-position MLB power rankings will once again be a staple this year, and as we have just passed the midway point of the season and turned the calendar over to July, it's time for another update.

My preseason rankings came out March 7, with subsequent updates coming on April 17 and June 3, all leading up to these July positional rankings.

What follows is a look at the 10 (or 15, in the case of outfielders) best players at each position based on the numbers they have accumulated up to this point.

I have taken into account players' all-around offensive abilities, their defensive contributions and what they have meant to the success of their respective teams.

Also included in my statistics is each player's Baseball-Reference WAR, or rWAR. While WAR is a useful stat in gauging a player's value, it is not the be-all, end-all stat that some view it as. As such, do not expect this to simply be a list of the top 10 in WAR at each position.

So with that, here is a look at the top players at each position here in July. There has been a good deal of shuffling once again and several new players join the ranks this month as well, so this is a much different-looking list than a month ago.

 

*Unless otherwise noted, all stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference and cover games through Thursday, July 3.

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MLB International Free Agency 2014: Preview, Predictions and Prospects to Watch

Wednesday officially marks the start of the 2014 MLB international signing period, and while the process has become far more regulated with the addition of signing bonus pool restrictions, it remains perhaps the biggest crapshoot in all of professional sports.

After all, most of these prospects are still just 16-year-old kids who have seen limited scouting exposure playing in Latin America, and teams will soon be shelling out seven-figure bonuses banking on them living up to their potential.

There is undoubtedly some risk, but these days, teams almost have to get involved on the international market, with so many star-caliber players coming out of the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and, on a smaller scale, Colombia, Mexico, Taiwan and South Korea.

So as teams look to find the next superstar international free agent, here is everything you need to know about the signing process, the top available prospects and the leading suitors to land each top prospect.

 

*Prospect rankings reflect a prospect's average ranking position in the top 30 international prospect lists from Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com and Ben Badler of Baseball America.

*Top suitor predictions also taken from those two sources, as many prospects already have verbal agreements in place prior to the signing period opening.

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Identifying Suitors for Top 10 International Prospect Targets

The 2014 international signing period officially opens on July 2, and while the frenzy of international free agency has been quelled a bit by the new bonus pool system, there is still plenty of competition for the best high-ceiling talent Latin America has to offer.

For as big of a crapshoot as the MLB amateur draft has proven to be over the years, shelling out seven-figure deals to 16-year-old kids with little scouting exposure is infinitely riskier.

That being said, it's a chance teams almost have to take these days. If you're not playing the international market, you're missing out on a chance at finding the next Miguel Cabrera or Pedro Martinez who could one day turn into a superstar in the majors.

It will be years before we really find out whether these players were worth the money they'll receive in the weeks to come, but here is a look at the top 10 international prospect targets and the teams expected to procure their services.

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Stock Up, Stock Down for Chicago Cubs’ Top 10 Prospects for Week 13

After taking a week off from the prospect stock watch, we're back this week, complete with updated rankings following the first half of the season and the MLB draft.

Up until this point, the rankings were based on the Baseball America Prospect Handbook's preseason rankings. But with the Chicago Cubs' top draft pick, Kyle Schwarber, signed and already tearing up minor league pitching, now seemed like a good time to update.

Schwarber is not the only newcomer to the top 10, though, as Taiwanese right-hander Jen-Ho Tseng also climbs the rankings with a terrific start to his pro career.

Heading in the other direction, right-hander Pierce Johnson falls out of the top 10 for the time being, as he has struggled with command issues this season and was recently demoted to Single-A Kane County.

Also falling out of the rankings is third base prospect Jeimer Candelario, who still has a bright future ahead of him at just 20 years old, but he also earned a demotion after hitting just .193/.275/.326 in 218 at-bats for High-A Daytona.

So here's an updated look at the team's current top 10 prospects and how they performed at the minor league level over the past week. This series will be updated weekly, with a stock "up," "even" or "down" indication given to each prospect based upon the direction in which his performance is trending.

 

*No. 4 prospect SP C.J. Edwards (shoulder) spent last week on the disabled list. He will not be included here until he is active. He is 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 20.2 innings on the season at Double-A Tennessee.

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MLB Power Rankings: Where All 30 Teams Stand at the End of June

We have officially passed the midway point of the 2014 MLB season, as all but a handful of teams have already played their 81st game of the year.

It's been an interesting year so far, with no clearly dominant team outside of the Oakland Athletics and Milwaukee Brewers, but some squads are starting to put things together for a potential second-half run.

The Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates have both been playing much better baseball of late, while the Toronto Blue Jays and San Francisco Giants have dropped off significantly in the month of June.

When putting together these rankings on a weekly basis, the following factors are considered:

  • Previous week's record
  • Quality of opponents
  • Key injuries/trades
  • Recent performance beyond the last week

There is still a lot to be sorted out between now and October, and all of the close races should make for a busy trade season and exciting stretch run.

All that said, here is an updated look at where all 30 MLB teams currently stand. Be sure to check back here every Monday morning for the most recent edition of our MLB power rankings.

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The Truth Behind MLB’s 10 Biggest Surprises of 2014’s 1st Half

The first half of the 2014 MLB season is in the books, and as with any season, there has been no shortage of surprises on both an individual and team level around the league.

From the impressive debut performances of Masahiro Tanaka and Jose Abreu as they made their way to a new league, to the Oakland Athletics' dominance from a run-differential standpoint, to the contention of teams such as the Seattle Mariners and Milwaukee Brewers, surprises abound.

So here is a look at the 10 biggest surprises of the 2014 first half and whether they will continue for the remainder of the season and beyond.

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Why We May Finally Be Witnessing a Changing of the Guard in AL Central

With three straight division titles, resulting in a pair of ALCS trips sandwiched around an AL pennant, the Detroit Tigers have been the class of the American League Central division for some time now.

Entering the 2014 season, expectations were high for the team once again, and rightfully so with a roster as talented as any in the league, even after some offseason retooling.

They remain atop the standings here at the midway point of the season, but it appears as though the rest of the division has started to close the gap.

Could we finally be witnessing a changing of the guard in what has been a Detroit-dominated division for the past three years?

At this point last season, the Tigers had an identical 42-32 record and the exact same four-game lead in the division, albeit over the Cleveland Indians. When all was said and done, they wound up winning the AL Central title by just one game, as the Indians used a late-season push to reach the playoffs themselves as a wild-card team.

So what's different this time around that could signify the end of the Tigers' divisional dominance? It starts with a look at their roster.

Last season, their starting rotation was very much in the conversation as being the best in all of baseball. They led the AL with a 3.44 starter's ERA, and the foursome of Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez and Doug Fister was as good as any in baseball.

Fast forward to this year, and though the team sits a respectable fifth in the AL in starter's ERA at 3.81, they have not been nearly as dominant as a group.

Fister was moved to the Washington Nationals in the offseason, but his absence has not been the issue, with Drew Smyly stepping into the rotation and posting a 3.53 ERA and 1.36 WHIP in 12 starts. Those are respectable numbers, to be sure.

The reigning AL ERA leader Anibal Sanchez has been brilliant once again, pitching to a 2.64 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in his first 13 starts. The trouble starts with the vaunted duo of Scherzer and Verlander.

After winning AL Cy Young honors last year, Scherzer has seen his ERA (2.90 to 3.71), WHIP (0.970 to 1.256) and BAA (.198 to .251) all jump considerably. Is he still a plus arm? Sure, but he has not been one of the best pitchers in the game this year.

Then there is Verlander, who is set to make $140 million over the next five seasons. After an up-and-down 2013 season, he capped things off with a terrific postseason and looked poised for a bounce-back year when he threw 20 scoreless innings during spring training.

Instead, he has a 4.82 ERA and 1.51 WHIP with just nine quality starts in 16 games. He looked sharp his last time out, allowing five hits and two runs (one earned) in seven innings, but he is no longer a guy who can carry a rotation.

B/R's MLB Lead Writer Jason Catania wrote an article a few days ago breaking down whether or not Verlander's days as an MLB ace are over, and it's worth a look if you have not read it yet. It would appear that the transition from overpowering hitters in his prime to being a savvy veteran pitcher has not gone as smoothly as hoped for the former AL MVP.

Offensively, the Tigers are a very different team this year following the Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler trade during the offseason. With Fielder out for the season and Kinsler playing to a 3.4 WAR (eighth in AL) there is no question the Tigers won that deal. And with Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez both putting up terrific numbers on top of Kinsler's production, the team has a dangerous offense once again.

However, Martinez is set to hit free agency at the end of the season along with veteran outfielder Torii Hunter. The following offseason, it is a trio of key pieces in Rick Porcello, Austin Jackson and Alex Avila that could be headed to free agency.

What the team does with those guys will certainly hinge on the future of the aforementioned Max Scherzer, who turned down a huge six-year, $144 million extension offer this past winter and could still very well be headed elsewhere when the season is over.

Even with his numbers dropping off from where they were last year, he still figures to easily top $100 million as the top arm on the market, and he could very well receive a contact that exceeds the amount money he turned down in the offseason.

The Tigers have some solid young arms in the system, with Robbie Ray getting his feet wet already this year and the future looking incredibly bright for guys like Jake Thompson and Jonathon Crawford. Losing Scherzer would be a huge blow, though, and it could set the franchise back.

Finally, there is the bullpen, a group that is tied with the worst ERA in baseball at 4.75 and has converted just 21 of 29 save chances. Veteran closer Joe Nathan has been shaky at best in a roller coaster of a season so far, and outside of the Joba Chamberlain-Al Alburquerque duo, the team has really had no one they can truly rely on.

For what it's worth, GM Dave Dombrowski says the team is not looking for a closer, according to Tony Paul of the Detroit News.

"Well, we do not need a closer at this point, so we would not look for that. We may need a little bit of help in the bullpen, maybe middle relief," said Dombrowski. "But we’re not looking for that closer, and that gives you a very comfortable feeling."

The Tigers could certainly be active at the trade deadline, but it's this coming offseason that will shape the future of the franchise. That being said, the rest of the AL Central pack has closed the gap, regardless, and things don't figure to get any easier moving forward.

The Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox remain at the bottom of the division, but both represent franchises on the rise, as each possesses good young talent with room to add on to rosters that have already begun to undergo the rebuilding process.

The Cleveland Indians have seemingly taken a step back from where they were at last year, but they have enough talent to be right back in the thick of things with a few minor additions. Big decisions lie ahead for them as well, though, with key pieces in Justin Masterson and Asdrubal Cabrera set to hit free agency this winter.

The real team to watch in 2014 and beyond is the Kansas City Royals, who recently overtook the Tigers for first place in the AL Central on the heels of a 10-game winning streak. Granted, they have lost six of seven since, but if anyone is going to challenge the Tigers for the division title in 2014, it will be them.

It's been a slow rebuilding process for a team that has not seen playoff baseball since they won the 1985 World Series, but the Royals have finally begun to see the fruits of their labor. After a strong finish to the 2013 season left them still contending for a wild-card spot into September, manager Ned Yost feels the team is better prepared for a second-half push this time around.

"I feel like the experience that they had last year, when they went through it last year, I don't think that they knew that they could get out of it," Yost told Dick Kaegel of MLB.com. "This year they've been through it before, and they know they can get out of it. There's a lot more confidence this time now than there was this time last year."

Workhorse starter James Shields is a free agent at the end of the season, and Billy Butler has an option year in 2015 before he hits free agency as well. But for their most part, the Royals' good, young core figures to be around for a while.

Budding stars Salvador Perez and Eric Hosmer are leading the offensive charge this season alongside Alex Gordon, but it is the pitching staff that has been the team's biggest strength by far in 2014.

The loss of Ervin Santana in free agency initially looked like a major blow, but the signing of Jason Vargas has gone a long way in offsetting his departure.

Flame-throwing rookie Yordano Ventura has shown flashes of ace potential and done a nice job holding down his rotation spot, but it's the move of Danny Duffy from the bullpen to the No. 5 starter spot that has really solidified things.

Behind them is a bullpen that led the AL with a 2.55 ERA last year and looks strong once again with the one-two punch of Wade Davis and Greg Holland having All-Star-caliber seasons.

Pitching wins championships, and as long as they can stay healthy and continue hitting at a league-average level, the Royals won't be going away any time soon.

The Detroit Tigers are still the most talented team in the AL Central, and they may very well go on to win their fourth straight division title this season. That being said, however, it would appear that their hold on division supremacy is tenuous at best looking to the future, and this season may very well represent a changing of the guard.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Updating the Top 100 MLB Players at 2014’s Midseason

We have reached what can be considered roughly the midway point of the 2014 MLB season, and that means it's time for an updated look at the top 100 players in the game.

When putting this list together in the preseason and at the one-quarter mark, the rankings were established using a mixture of past performance, current performance and future expectations. 

Now that there is a big enough sample size to get an idea of who everyone really is here in 2014, this time around, the rankings will simply be a reflection of 2014 performance.

Guys like reigning AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, recent 500-home run club member Albert Pujols and living legend Derek Jeter? Nowhere to be found on the following list.

It's not about reputation, it's about production in 2014. Nothing else.

 

*Unless otherwise noted, all stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference and cover games through Monday, June 23. All injury and contract information via MLBDepthCharts team pages.

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