Cubs ship out top prospects Bryant, Soler, Almora, Alcantara
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter March 12, 2014 11:33PM
Four of the Cubs’ top seven prospects (as ranked by Baseball America) were cut from big-league camp Wednesday in the first round of spring cuts. How they fared (with overall Baseball America prospect rank in parentheses):
2. 3B Kris Bryant (8) Only official spring hits were 2 HRs
4. CF Albert Almora (36) 5-for-9, including 1B vs. Rex Brothers
5. OF Jorge Soler (41) Struggled but 2-3 w/3B, BB last 4 PAs
7. 2B Arismendy Alcantara (100) Hitless in first big-league camp
Notes: Stats through Tuesday; Logan Watkins, Matt Szczur, Jeudy Valdez, Carlos Pimentel and Eric Jokisch also were cut.
Updated: March 13, 2014 12:22AM
MESA, Ariz. — The show is over. Elvis has left the building — not to mention Albert Almora, Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler.
The Cubs turned out the brightest lights shining in camp when they included the three big-shot prospects among 10 players sent out Wednesday, the first day of major-league camp cuts.
“All players are always a little disappointed,” manager Rick Renteria said, “but they know there’s a purpose and a reason for everything we do.”
Almora and Bryant, the Cubs’ top draft picks the last two years, were in their first big-league camps; both were reassigned to minor-league camp. Soler, the $30 million Cuban free agent, was optioned from his second camp to Class AA Tennessee. The three are ranked among the Cubs’ top five prospects by Baseball America.
The Cubs’ seventh-ranked prospect, second baseman Arismendy Alcantara, also was optioned out of camp, to Class AAA Iowa.
The minor-league spring schedule starts Thursday.
“Obviously, we’re glad they’re Cubbies,” Renteria said of the highly ranked players sent out. “They’ve shown their ability to be professionals here, in terms of how they carried themselves, how they worked, some of the performances they had during the course of the spring.
“But now it’s time for them to get down there, start getting some more at-bats, start getting ready for the regular season for themselves and continue to develop and improve their skill sets.”
Meanwhile, it’s back to reality for the Cubs and their fans, who will watch a team that’s expected to have a fifth consecutive losing season.
Even the one remaining prospect in camp from the organization’s top nine — No. 1 prospect Javy Baez — is scheduled for an eventual Opening Day assignment as the Class AAA shortstop in Iowa.
Until then, the first-year manager and his staff plan to get an extended look at the slugging shortstop expected to make his big-league debut at some point this season — but presumably without his natural position available.
The Cubs have been adamant that moving Starlin Castro from short is “off the table,” as general manager Jed Hoyer put it last month.
“We want to still be able to see [Baez] work and play in different positions,” said Renteria, who plans to have Baez make his spring debut at second base Monday or Tuesday.
“And then we’ll go from there to maybe working him at third. It’s a work in progress.”
Baez said he hasn’t played second or third since high school. But he’s been taking infield at second base in early practices and says he’s comfortable enough to play either spot during a game.
Also among the cuts were infielder Logan Watkins and outfielder Matt Szczur, both of whom were optioned to Class AAA Iowa. Reassigned to minor-league camp were infielder Jeudy Valdez, left-hander Eric Jokisch and right-hander Carlos Pimentel.
Outfielder Aaron Cunningham, a minor-league free agent signed over the winter, was released.