The prospect accolades continue to roll in for the Chicago Cubs, as well as former Smokies players, with Keith Law revealing his top 100 prospects list for the 2015 season. Three Smokies were recognized, including Kris Bryant as the top overall player, while Addison Russell (No. 4) and Jorge Soler (No. 14) were also among the top 14 prospects in the game in Law’s eyes. The full article, which requires an ESPN Insider subscription, can be viewed here.
After collecting nearly every known prospect award after the 2014 campaign, Bryant seems close to Big League ready, and will try to win the Cubs’ third base job in Spring Training, though the thought among many is that he will begin the year with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs for some final grooming before making his debut at some point in late April or May.
Bryant’s spectacular season last year began with the Smokies, exceeding all expectations by hitting .355 with 22 homers and 58 RBI in 68 games for Tennessee. He would be named a starter for the 2014 Southern League All-Star Game in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and win the circuit’s Home Run Derby before being promoted to Iowa, where he finished the season.
One of the top shortstop prospects in the game, Russell was acquired by the Chicago Cubs organization in a July 4 trade this past season from the Oakland Athletics in a deal that sent former Smokies right-hander Jeff Samardzija to the A’s. The 21-year-old was very impressive in his stint with Tennessee, compiling a .294 average (57-194) with 12 homers and 36 RBI, with those 12 longballs tying him for second on the club behind only Bryant.
Like Bryant, Soler also began the year with the Smokies, though the Cuban outfielder was only with the team in abbreviated stints due to hamstring injuries. In his 22 contests for Tennessee, however, the 22-year-old hammered Southern League pitching, tallying a .415 clip (27-65) with six homers and 22 RBI. He would go on to be promoted to the I-Cubs in July, before making his Major League debut with the Cubs the next month, memorably homering in his very first Big League at bat off then-Cincinnati Reds hurler Mat Latos. Soler will have a very good shot at winning the right field position for the Cubs in Spring Training this season, and is considered by many as a strong candidate for the National League Rookie of the Year Award for 2015.
One more Cubs prospect made Law’s 2015 rankings in catcher Kyle Schwarber, who could very well begin this year with the Smokies. The fourth overall selection in the 2014 MLB Draft out of Indiana University by the Cubs mashed at three different Minor League levels after signing, including a 44-game stint with the High-A Daytona Cubs in which he posted a .302 average (48-159) with ten roundtrippers and 28 RBI. Schwarber was rated the 90th-best prospect in baseball by Law.
More prospect rankings will drop on Friday night with the unveiling of MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospect Rankings on MLB Network at 9:00 p.m. ET. All four aforementioned players should be present in that list as well, with a strong possibility that Bryant is at the top.