Tuesday, March 8, 2011


josh%20vitters God Shows His Wrath in the Minors, Too: Josh Vitters Breaks His Finger


  1. Brett Jackson-OF 22 yrs old: Legitimate "5-Tool" prospect with good patience at the plate. The one issue with Jackson is he doesn't stand out in any of the 5 categories. He will likely be promoted to MLB in 2011. Here's his player page: http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=jackso003bre
  2. Trey McNutt-RHP 21 yrs old: McNutt came out of nowhere when the Cubs selected him in the 32nd round of the 2009 draft. Prior to the draft, he was throwing in the low 90's, but with Cubs scouts in attendance, he was throwing mid-to-high 90's. He will likely go down in infamy as the pitcher the Cubs wouldn't part with in the Garza deal (they instead dealt the more talented...at least in my opinion...Chris Archer). McNutt throws a "heavy" fastball, but doesn't have much movement. He is rumored to be throwing in the low 90's, but the Cubs will likely try to promote him to MLB sometime in 2011 to justify the inclusion of Archer instead of McNutt in the Garza trade. Here's his player page: http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=mcnutt001ken
  3. Josh Vitters-3B 21 yrs old: Vitters has one of the brightest futures of any position player to come up through the Cubs system in recent memory. He makes consistent contact, rarely strikes out, and has legitimate power. There are 2 glaring weaknesses in his game though....health and defense. Furthermore, it always takes him about half a seasons to adjust to different levels upon promotion. The Cubs have also done him a disservice by aggressively promoting him before he can experience sustained success at any level. Here's his player page: http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=vitter002jos
  4. Jay Jackson-RHP 23 yrs old: Prior to the start of the 2010 season, Jackson was probably the highest ranked pitcher the Cubs had in the system, displaying excellent poise and above average command. However, at the end of the 2009 season, he dealt with some character issues that resulted in him being demoted to Daytona near the end of the season. He got things straightened out, but his 2010 season did not go as well as expected. Jackson features a low-90's fastball with good command, and can reach mid-90's on occasion. He will likely be brought up at some point in 2011 in a relief role. Here's his player page:  http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=jackso001jay
  5. Christopher Carpenter-RHP 25 yrs old: 2011 is a make or break season for Carpenter. The Cubs have tried him as both a starter and reliever, and he's a rare case of a guy pitching about the same in both roles. He does, however, pitch with much higher velocity as a reliever, running it up to 100 mph in the Arizona Fall League this past year. If he's starting, he normally sits in the 93-94 mph range. Carpenter is also very rare in that he's considered a power pitcher, yet keeps the ball on the ground. In 298 IP in professional baseball, he's only given up 15 home runs, which is way above average for a starting pitcher. The question with Carpenter has always been health, which is why he dropped from a potential 1st round pick to a 3rd round pick in the 2008 draft. Given durability concerns, and his 100 mph fastball out of the pen, I believe his future is as a reliever. Here's his player page: http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=carpen002chr
  6. DJ LeMahieu-IF 22 yrs old: DJ was a 2nd round selection for the Cubs in 2009, and has quietly risen to the top of their prospect charts. One of the major reasons for his quiet ascent is the fact that he lacks power. However, this past offseason, he attended "Camp Colvin", a program designed to build up muscle strength and baseball instincts that led to Tyler Colvin breaking camp with the big league team last year. LeMahieu, like Colvin did a year ago, packed on 25 lbs of muscle, and is now driving the ball with more authority. I am very high on this kid, as he makes EXCELLENT contact, rarely strikes out, and comes from a winning college program at LSU. Here's LeMahieu's line from last year: .314 avg, .346 OBP, .386 SLG, 174 hits, 24 doubles, 5 triples, 2 hr, 73 RBI, 15 SB, 29 walks, 61 K's. In his first Spring Training AB this year, he blasted a game winning home run over the LF fence. The fact that he hit it to LF is a tremendous development for a guy better known for hitting balls to the opposite field. I imagine he will end up as the Cubs 2B or utility man (a la DeRosa) by the end of the 2011 season at the latest. If he hits anywhere near what he did last year when he starts this year in AA, we might see a Castro-like leap to the big leagues for him even earlier, and in that case, we'd likely see DeWitt traded or optioned to Iowa. Here's his player page: http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=lemahi001dj-
  7. Reggie Golden-OF 19 yrs old: Some might question the inclusion of a 19 yr old with just 4 games of pro ball experience under his belt, however, this 2010 2nd round pick, has some of the best raw power of anyone in the Cubs system. There is footage of him blasting the ball out of Wrigley Field during Area Code games in high school, and he displayed his power stroke further during the Fall Instructs League. The question with Golden will always be: Can he make enough contact to reach the big leagues. 2011 will be a huge year for this kid, and it hasn't gotten off to the best start to begin with. Rumor has it he showed up to the minor league Spring Training complex overweight by over 20 lbs, which means he'll likely be held back at Extended Spring Training until he loses the weight, further stunting his growth. I imagine he'll be a long-term project coming out of high school, and will likely reach MLB by 2014 at the earliest. Here's his player page: http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=golden001reg
  8. Hayden Simpson-RHP 21 yrs old:  *I struggle with this one, because he hasn't thrown a single inning in pro ball yet, but I've watched tape of him, and he looks good. He did not make his debut at all last year due to a bout with mononucleosis. The scouts said he looked like a Roy Oswalt type of pitcher in college. I doubt he'll even come close to that type of career, and this looks like yet another bad 1st round draft choice by the Cubs brass, as Simpson was rumored to have 3rd Round talent. I guess we'll see what happens this year. The only reason I am putting him up this high is because after McNutt, Jackson, and Carpenter, the Cubs lack a high ceiling type of starting pitcher. *there is no player page yet for him
  9. Marquez Smith-3B 26 yrs old: The fact that I'm including a soon-to-be 26 year old in the top prospects list really speaks volumes to the lack of positional player depth in the Cubs system. However, in a lot of ways, Marquez Smith's minor league career has resembled another that got away and will likely haunt the Cubs for years to come. The other guy's name? Casey McGehee. If you'll recall how dumb Hendry was in the offseason prior to the 2009 season, the Cubs were just eliminated from the postseason, and due to poor roster management, Hendry released McGehee without a true back-up to Aramis Ramirez even close to the MLB level. McGehee would go onto hit .301 avg, .360 OBP, .499 SLG, 16 hr, 66 RBI his first season, then .285/.337/.464 with 23 hr, 104 RBI last year. McGehee was 26 yrs old when he got his chance. The only thing that separates the 2 players is McGehee's versatility. He could play all IF positions except for SS. Smith really only has experience at 3B with a few games at 2B mixed in. Ironically, though, Smith has better minor league stats than McGehee. Here's the comparison...McGehee-6 seasons .279/.332/.409, 54 hr, 380 RBI vs Smith-4 seasons .283/.358/.481, 60 hr, 246 RBI. The other thing that sticks out to me is that neither player strikes out much, which means they are making contact even if they're getting out. This fact usually bodes well in projecting future success. If Aramis Ramirez leaves via free agency at the end of the year, or gets injured, I fully expect Smith to be the first in line to get the job at 3B. Here's his player page: http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=smith-017mar
  10. Matt Szczur-OF 21 yrs old: Matt was drafted in the 5th round of the 2010 draft. He didn't play in many games, because he was a star running back/wide receiver/special teams player at Villanova, and expected to be drafted in the first 3 rounds of the NFL draft. He impressed the Cubs enough with a .347/.415/.465 line in the minors last year that they gave him over $1 million in January to give up football entirely, and he accepted. There isn't much data to review from last year, but supposedly he has good raw power, excellent speed, and makes good contact with the ball. Here's his player page: http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=szczur001mat
  11. Welington Castillo-C 24 yrs old: What do I say here? A .260/.315/.411 line with 39 hr, 179 RBI is NOT a good stat line for 5 minor league seasons. However, the most games he's ever played is 98 in 2007 at Peoria (low-A) where he had a very respectable line of .271/.334/.423 with 11 hr, 44 RBI. Last year, in just 69 games in AAA, he had a .255/.317/.498 line with 13 hr, 59 RBI. But his best attribute is his defense, where he's gunned down 40% of base stealers in his minor league career. I see him as a less patient (offensively), but superior defensively version of Geovanny Soto. Both deserve the opportunity to start at the MLB level, so one of them has to go. If the Cubs continue having competitive and budgetary concerns at the MLB level, I could definitely see them trading Soto at some point during the next 2 seasons. If the Cubs can wake up, and do the right thing for the team (and for the prospects) and release Koyie Hill, I could actually see either Castillo, or the recently signed Max Ramirez as back-ups. But Hendry has an unjustified affinity for Koyie Hill that few GM's around the league would ever have with such an awful player. Here's his player page: http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=castil001wel
  12. Rafael Dolis-RHP 23 yrs old: Dolis is a flame-thrower that was added to the 40-man roster in 2009, after a strong showing in Instructs where he was throwing 100 mph, and the Cubs feared losing him in the Rule 5 Draft. At this point, the Cubs aren't sure if he projects better as a starter or reliever. He's always struggled with control, so It'll be interesting to see where he ends up. If you look at his stats last year in Daytona (high-A), he did a really good job, and received a promotion to AA. Like Carpenter, he rarely gives up home runs, which is a very good thing in relation to projections. Here's his player page: http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=dolis-001raf
  13. Austin Kirk-LHP 21 yrs old: The Cubs drafted him in the 3rd round of the 2009 draft out of high school. He projects as a starter, and given the lack of left-handed starting pitching in the system, it'd appear that he would be on the fast-track to the big leagues. However, the Cubs made a highly suspect and perplexing move last year with him when they promoted him from Rookie Ball (Boise) to Peoria and moved him from the rotation to the pen upon his promotion. Kirk throws in the high 80's and low 90's, and might be able to add a few mph on his fastball as he matures. Like most Cubs prospects, 2011 is a huge year for him in determining his career path. Here's his player page: http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=kirk--001aus
  14. Ben Wells-RHP 18 yrs old: The Cubs drafted him in the 7th round of the 2010 draft. Reports said he only hit 90 mph with his fastball, while others say he hit 95 mph+. It'll be interesting to see which reports were correct, as he's only seen action in the Instructs League in the fall. There have also been comparisons in body type, etc. to a young Roger Clemens. The Cubs would be thrilled to get a player like that in the 7th round, but for now, we'll see how he does in Rookie Ball (Boise) this season, which is his likely destination. *there is no player stats yet
  15. Alberto Cabrera-RHP 22 yrs old: The ONLY reason I am listing Cabrera this high is because I tend to rank players based on likelihood of reaching the big leagues. Cabrera isn't very impressive at all based on his stats. He's a lot like Dolis, in that the Cubs feared losing him in the Rule 5 Draft, so they added him to the 40-man roster this year. He has touched 98 mph with his fastball, so I surmise that was a major factor in his inclusion on the 40-man. I believe his future is in relief, and if the Cubs recognize this, he will likely make an appearance in Chicago this season. Here's his player page: http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=cabrer001alb
  16. Ryan Flaherty-IF 24 yrs old (will be 25 in July): Many have compared Flaherty to a left-handed hitting version of Mark DeRosa, and I believe that is a very accurate assessment. He can play all IF positions, and corner OF. Plus, he has above average power. The problem with Flaherty, quite obviously, is age. The Cubs started him at AA last year, but he struggled big time, and was demoted to high-A where he did well. I would classify 2011 as a make or break season for this 2008 supplemental first round pick. He needs to replicate his 2009 season where he hit 20 hr, 81 RBI. Flaherty makes good contact, and I love his walks-to-strikeout ratio. Here's his player page: http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=flaher001rya
  17. Jeffry Antigua-LHP 21 yrs old: I actually remember when both Antigua and Larry Suarez were signed out of Latin America in 2006 when they were 16 yrs old. The Cubs were extremely high on both of them. Suarez drew comparisons to a young Carlos Zambrano and hit the mid-to-upper 90's, while Antigua had good command and pitched in the low 90's. Antigua will need to impress this year to be protected from the Rule 5 (where he will likely be selected if he has another strong season). **side note: any player signed 19 yrs and older, and has been in the organization 4 years, or any player signed at 18 yrs and younger, and has been in the organization 5 years, are eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft. Famous selections in the Rule 5 include: Roberto Clemente, Dan Uggla, Johan Santana, Joakim Soria, Josh Hamilton, George Bell, and Jose Bautista** Here's Antigua's player page: http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=antigu001jef 
  18. Chris Rusin-LHP 24 yrs old: Rusin's stats have been very good since his selection in the 4th round of the 2009 draft. He isn't flashy, but he's a lefty starter that rarely gives up a home run, and has advanced at a steady rate, culminating in a promotion to AA last season where he actually did better than his high-A stats. He will not blow any hitters away, and isn't outstanding in any particular category, but he has a knack for keeping runs off the board, so I fully expect him to reach AAA this year, and perhaps earn a promotion if he continues his success and Cubs starters have injury/effectiveness issues. Here's his player page: http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=rusin-001chr
  19. Brooks Raley-LHP 23 yrs old: Raley was also selected in the 2009 draft in the 6th round. Like Rusin, he doesn't stand out in any particular category, but he keeps runs off the board. However, unlike Rusin, he pitches to more contact, and his velocity is typically in the high 80's vs low 90's for Rusin. If pitching doesn't work out for Raley, he could always return to the OF where he was a two-way star in college. It's unlikely that would happen, but it's always an option. Here's his player page: http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=raley-001bro
  20. Jae-Hoon Ha-OF 20 yrs old: Ha is a great example of the Cubs successful scouting efforts in Korea. His first season in Rookie Ball (Boise) was not impressive at all. However, after spending time in Extended Spring Training at the outset of the 2010 season, he came on strong at Peoria (low-A), and emerged with a .317/.334/.468 line with 7 hr, 46 RBI in just 77 games. That's an above average line for anyone, but extremely rare for someone that was just 19 years old at the time. He has a bright future, especially if he can cut back on his strikeouts (10 walks vs 45 K's  in 293 ABs). I expect the Cubs will move him along slowly, as they're likely expecting both he and Reggie Golden to compete for starting roles in the near future. Here's his player page: http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=ha----001jae
  21. Aaron Kurcz-RHP 20 yrs old: I am actually higher on Kurcz than is suggested by his ranking on my list. The problem is, I don't feel the Cubs are that high on him, or they would've promoted him to Peoria last year, as he completely dominated Rookie Ball hitters at Boise. Last summer I was extremely excited when the Cubs took him, as I had the opportunity to coach one of his teammates (they attended the same school as Bryce Harper). I was told that scouts were drooling over his potential, as he reportedly hit 100 mph when they were in attendance. However, he lasted until the 10th round, as he was seen only as a reliever. I have not read any reports of him touching 100 mph as a pro, so I assume that my player was exaggerating, though I have heard he touched 97 mph in Boise at times. If he starts in Daytona, that means the Cubs are very high on him. If he starts in Peoria, then he'll have a tough climb ahead of him. Here's his player page: http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=kurcz-001aar
  22. Robinson Lopez-RHP 20 yrs old: He was acquired in the Derrek Lee trade from the Braves. He supposedly hits mid-90's with his fastball, and while he was predominantly a starter, his future is likely as a reliever. I've watched scouting videos of him, and he does NOT impress me much. He has major control issues, and it's also worth noting that while the Braves normally have great prospects in their system, they RARELY make the mistake of trading solid players. But the reason I've included him on the list is his age. Given proper coaching, he might have a good future. Here's his player page: http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=lopez-006rob 
  23. Brett Wallach-RHP 22 yrs old: He was acquired in the Ted Lilly/Ryan Theriot deal with the Dodgers. I am not high on him at all, and I believe the Cubs got absolutely hosed on the trade, as Lilly was worth far more than the Cubs received. (the Cubs received Wallach, Blake DeWitt, and Kyle Smit in that trade). Wallach doesn't do anything particularly well, but like Lopez, I'm including him based on age and potentail, as he could increase his low-90's fastball as he matures. Here's his player page: http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=wallac003bre
  24. Michael Burgess-OF 22 yrs old: The Cubs acquired Burgess, along with 2 minor league pitchers in the Gorzelanny trade with Washington. Burgess, like so many prospects on this list is in a make or break year. He must be protected in this year's Rule 5 Draft, and it's time to see if his potential is ever realized. He is the left-handed version of Reggie Golden. Both have similar body types, were selected in the draft straight out of high school, and have prodigious power with little plate discipline. If he can improve his plate discipline this year, he has a very good shot at making his MLB debut, possibly as early as this season. The major reason I feel this way, is the Cubs lack OF depth, and are especially deficient in run producers at the minor league level. Burgess fits that mold perfectly. Here's his player page: http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=burges002mic
  25. Junior Lake-IF 21 yrs old: This will be Lake's 5th season in the organization, meaning he'll need to be protected in the Rule 5 Draft. If Lake didn't come on strong last season where he hit something like 7 home runs in August, he might not even make this list. The Cubs have always been high on him, as he has the strongest infield arm in the system, but he lacks plate discipline entirely, and supposedly isn't very coachable. If he adds some muscle, and continues the success he had at the end of last season, he might develop into a Top 10 prospect, but I just don't see it right now. He has good size and can play all infield positions, so it'll be interesting to see if a team takes a chance on him in the Rule 5 if he isn't added to the Cubs 40-man roster. Here's his player page: http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=lake--001jun
  26. Matt Cerda-IF 21 yrs old: Cerda was drafted out of high school, and is a very small guy. (5'9", 165 lbs), but has versatility, having played C, 2B, and 3B. However, he isn't above average in a single category, except for plate discipline (consider his 2010 stats: 68 walks vs 68 K's...a TREMENDOUS number). But he's a lot like DJ LeMahieu, where he doesn't quite have the power necessary to be an everyday player. In fact, his stats project more for a SS than a 2B or 3B, meaning he's likely destined for a utility role if he even makes it at all. He did have 5 hr, 80 RBI last year, which is VERY similar to LeMahieu's numbers. Here's his player page: http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=cerda-001mat
  27. Justin Bour-1B 22 yrs old (23 in May): If he wasn't going to be 23 yrs old this year, I'd have him ranked higher. He supposedly has above average power, though he only had 12 home runs last year (though he did have 31 doubles). Given the fact the Cubs lack 1B depth in the minors, they will need to see Bour do very well, and reach at least AA this year, or they will need to start targeting 1B prospects in trades and/or consider moving Colvin to 1B in the near future. Here's his player page: http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=bour--001jus
  28. Marwin Gonzalez-IF 22 yrs old: The Cubs took a risk by not protecting him in this year's Rule 5 Draft, but no team selected him. The reason they took a risk, is he really came on strong in the Winter League play, otherwise, his stats thus far in his career are less than impressive. The only reason I'm including him on this list is based on his Winter League stats and the fact that he's a versatile switch-hitting utility player. Here's his player page: http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=gonzal009mar
  29. Steve Clevenger-C/IF 25 yrs old: Clevenger is an intriguing prospect, and if he was in AAA last year, I would have listed him higher. However, just like Aaron Kurcz, it appears the Cubs aren't even close to being high on him. For the life of me, I cannot understand why the Cubs won't promote this guy to at least back-up catcher as he's clearly earned it. Here's his career minor league line: .305/.365/.406. He's also played catcher, 1B, and 3B, making him even more valuable. He doesn't hit for any power whatsoever, but gets his fair share of doubles, and despite being a utility/sub player nearly his whole career, he drives in an above average amount of runs. He's also a lot like Cerda, in that he rarely strikes out, and his ratio if very good.  I have no faith in Cubs management to recognize his potential, and I hope he gets a chance with another organization, as he's earned it. Here's his player page: http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=cleven001ste
  30. Pierre LePage-IF 22 yrs old: LePage was drafted in 2010, and impressed immediately with a .331/.367/.453 line and 20 doubles, 4 triples, 1 hr, 38 RBI in just 65 games. Given his age, he'll need to really turn it on in 2011, or he won't have a prayer of making it to the big leagues with the Cubs given his small stature at 5'8" 168 lbs (though I've heard reports he's actually 5'6"). If you want to gauge what the Cubs really think of him, pay close attention to where he starts the season. If he starts at Daytona, they like him a lot. If he starts lower than that, he'll have a tough battle ahead of him. Here's his player page: http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=lepage001pie


Overall, the strength of the Cubs system has improved dramatically over the last 3 years, which coincides with the Cubs hiring Tim Wilken, the architect of many solid Blue Jays drafts. However, the major complaint I have with Wilken's draft strategy is that he tends to target nothing but "high floor" players, which means they do not have the projected potential of "high ceiling" guys, but they're safer picks, because they'll be at least average players. He will also occasionally target those "high ceiling" players like McNutt and Simpson that essentially come out of nowhere after adding 5+mph on their fastballs late in the college season prior to the draft. But, in general, he tends to pick the high floor players. 

A quick look at the Cubs system would show you only about 3 potential stars with Vitters, McNutt, and Golden the only ones I'd project as having "star potential". All 3 of them would be considered "high ceiling" guys, where they could potentially become stars, or completely flame out (again, this is in contrast to "high floor" where they're not likely to flame out, but also not likely to stand out either). Hendry traded away 2 high ceiling players in Chris Archer and Hak-Ju Lee, so the 2011 draft this year will be especially intriguing as they will likely target more high ceiling guys to fill out the system. 

Several scouting services have said that the Cubs project to have the most future MLB players in their system than any other organization, and I absolutely believe this. The problem is, the 3 guys I just mentioned are likely the only ones that have a chance to become stars. 

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