Baseball America has gotten around to summing up the past season in the minors. For each league, they ranked the top 20 prospects in terms of major league longevity and impact. Here's a recap of all things Cubs I could find for your reading enjoyment in these dark days.
Arizona League (AZL Cubs RL):
#1 Mark Pawelek
Chat Wrap with Allan Simpson
No discussion on any Cubs players but there's a note that Pawelek was the only first rounder in the entire league.
Northwest League (Boise Hawks SS A):
#2 Donald Veal
#20 Mark Reed
Chat Wrap with Will Kimmey
Q:†Russ from NY asks:
Fastest to the Majors: [Shane] Lindsay (Rockies) or [Donald]Veal?
Will Kimmey: I'll take Lindsay. He's a bit more consistent already, he dominated more and the Rockies have a greater need for starters than do the Cubs organizationally. But I'd take Veal as a major leaguer simply because Coors keeps chewing up and spitting out arms like nobody's business. My point here is don't add Lindsay to the roster of your super-deep fantasy league, if that's part of the rationale behind this question.
Q:†Navin from Los Angeles asks:
Were there any other Hawks close to making the list, such as Darin Downs or Jesus Yepez?
Will Kimmey: Downs, a lefthander with an upper-80s fastball and solid curveball, came the closest in his second year in the league. That combination tends to lend to more chances for southpaws than other arms.
Q:†evan from Cincinnati (OH) asks:
I was a bit suprised to see Mark Reed playing caboose in a league where coming up with 20 prospects must have been a bit of a stretch. How comparable is his bat to older brother Jeremy's and do you think Mark can stick behind the plate? Is his ranking based more on performance (decidedly mediocre) or on a perceived lack of tools?
Will Kimmey: Maybe that's a track record ranking. He's a solid defender and a lefthanded hitter, two traits that will get most catchers a long look. Reed did struggle at the plate during his second summer as a pro and has to learn to go the other way more. That his brother Jeremy always hit, props him up some but also gives reason to believe that he will eventually hit enough.
Q:†Bryan from Boise,ID asks:
If Mark Pawelek had qualified for the list would he have been the top prospect in the NWL?
Will Kimmey: Probably, but he pitched just three more innings in this league than did Mark Prior, who would have rated ahead of him.
Q:†Bryan from Chicago asks:
Does David Gregg have much of a big league future or is he an all speed, can't hit type of guy -- AKA Dwaine Bacon?
Moderator: Gregg was one of the few hitters who bunted for hits in the SEC, a college league all about the long ball. Gregg's defense in center and great speed are nice assets, but in the current state of baseball, you better hit to play. His early offensive success suprised me some, but he ultimately regressed to about his appropriate average.
Midwest League (Peoria Chiefs Lo-A)
#7 Ryan Harvey
#15 Sean Gallagher
#16 Eric Patterson
Chat Wrap with Jim Callis:
Q:†Jon from Lexington, KY asks:
Where does Grant Johnson factor into the prospect rankings in the Midwest League? I know his stats aren't exactly eye popping, but where does he rank with the rest of the Cubs pitching prospects?
A:†Jim Callis: He was in the discussion. Johnson took a while to get back on the mound because of shoulder and hamstring issues, and he looked rusty most of the times. His plus fastball-slider combination was rarely on display. He'd be at the top of the second tier of Cubs pitching prospects.
Q:†Joe from Newport News, VA asks:
Should the Cubs have started Eric Patterson at Daytona this season? Since they started him at Peoria, should they have promoted him in-season? If so, when?
Jim Callis: I'm all for letting a guy get off to a good start and Patterson didn't play last summer, so I could see assigning him to the MWL to start his pro career. But he proved he could dominate the league by midseason, and should have moved on at that point. Some managers thought he could have handled Double-A.
Q:†Al from Port Chester, NY asks:
It seems that although Ryan Harvey was given a very respectable #7 overall ranking in the league, it sounds as though you aren't too optimistic about his chances to hit at higher levels. If you had to make a predicition, would you say he: A) never reaches the Majors B) will reach the Majors but won't be an impact player C) will be an impact player in the Majors? Thanks for taking my question!
Jim Callis: Harvey was a tough guy to rank. He has the tools to become the best player in the league, but every scout I talked to brought up a different flaw in his swing or approach. I'll take B. I think he'll reach the majors and be a regular, but can't bank on him being a star.
Q:†Keith from Nebraska asks:
Who would you rather have at this point, Ryan Harvey or Chris Lubanski[Royals]?
Jim Callis: Ryan Harvey. He has more upside and I don't think he's significantly more risky than Lubanski, who went right ahead of him in the 2003 draft.
†Q:†Greg Tabeek from Florida asks:
Just need to ask a question about why you guys continue to bash Sean Gallagher. Your paper goes out of its way to harp on this kid. Yes you guys did have him mentioned a couple of times on the Hot Prospect sheet but only cause he was pitching lights out. Lets get the facts straight 19yr old 12th rd was supposed to start season in extended but due to injuries gets shot a Low A. Pitches lights out 1st half and starts MWL All-star game. Gets selected for midseason and Post Season All-star teams. Led MWL in wins and was top ten in every other stat. Promoted to Daytona Beach and pitches lights out. For this kid to do what he did in his 1st season as a 19yr old, nobody expected this. As for projectibility thats a bunch of crap. I saw a pitcher listed in your Top 20 MWL Prospects who you guys are infatuated with who had a not so good season and continued when promoted and had to skip starts. Seans heart and determination to succeed are all that he needs. Oh by the way Oneri Flieta(cubs player director) called sean yesterday to congratulate him on being selected Cubs Minor league Pitcher of the Year.
Jim Callis: No one is bashing Gallagher, Greg. He had a very good year, especially considering his age and draft status. But we're not ranking who achieved or overachieved the most. We're ranking who the best long-term major leaguers will be. Making the Top 20 in a 14-team league at age 19, wow, I'd look at that as a pretty nice compliment. The reason Gallagher didn't rank higher is that scouts aren't convinced his stuff is any better than average. His fastball is fringe average, and while some guys liked his curveball, others said it was an average and loopy pitch that overmatched MWL hitters because he could locate it.
Florida State League (Daytona Cubs Hi A):
#15 Scott Moore
#18 Brian Dopirak
Chat Wrap with J.J. Cooper:
Q:†Erick D. from Statesboro asks:
Where was Chris Walker in the rankings. He had really good numbers this year( 285 avg 6 hr 57 rbi 97 runs and 60 sb)not bad for a converted switch hitter. Walker was a midseason and post-season all-star and seems to get better year after year.
JJ Cooper: Managers liked Walker, but as a 25-year-old in high Class A he needs to dominate the league like he did to keep moving up. If he was 20, he would have been in the middle of the consideration for the top 20, but you have to allow for the fact that he was two to four years older than most of the guys on the top 20. That doesn't mean that Walker doens't have a shot at the majors, and he actually seems to fit the profile as a guy who could be a fourth outfielder, but he'll have to prove it at every level because of his age.
Q:†Outshined_One from northsidebaseball.com asks:
Thanks for the chat JJ! Next season, will the Cubs move Dopirak up to AA or keep him in Daytona?
JJ Cooper: My guess is that it will depend somewhat on spring training, but it wouldn't surprise me to see him start out in FSL, with the potential to move up quickly if he shows his 2005 struggles are behind him.
Q:†R. Allen from Little Rock, AR asks:
I didn't notice any backstops on the list. Would Jake Fox make it in the top 5 Catchers out of the FSL? And is he the Cubs best prospect at the position?
JJ Cooper: No catcher really came close to making the list, although the ones who got the most mentions were Danillo Sanchez, Miguel Perez, Robinzon Diaz and Lou Palmisano. As a backstop, Perez was major league ready according to several managers , but his bat is a big question. If I had to rank them, I'd take Palmisano first, as he has the best combo of defense with hitting ability.
Q:†ryan from indianola Iowa asks:
As a former Cubs system minor league third base prospect I am very curious about Scott Moore! Why didn't he get a higher ranking? What are his faults and do you think a position-switch to right field would help?
JJ Cooper: Guys in the league don't think he should move off of third, as most guys think he can handle the position. Moore wore down as the season went along, but he showed a strong arm and decent range to handle the hot corner. A year ago, Moore seemed to be ready to lose his prospect status, so a 15 ranking is actually the sign of a very strong bounce back season. There are some concerns anytime a guy repeats a league, but in Moore's case, managers and scouts were impressed with his approach, his strong arm and his developing power.
Q:†Brian Dopirak's Clone from Chicago asks:
Hi, is my time up? Am I falling into the "what happened" prospects? Please, shed some light!
JJ Cooper: Dopirak definitely can say he's now learned that baseball is a humbling game. He still has the power potential to be an impact big leaguer, but he needs to show he can make adjustments when pitchers figure things out. As you move up through the minors, the same approach that worked at lower levels won't always work. In Dopirak's case, pitchers found that he would chase the outside pitch off the zone. It's a correctable fault, but one that Dopirak struggled to fix this season.
Q:†Rick Smith from Port St. Lucie, FL asks:
How is Dopirak on the list? He hit .235 this season? Not to mention that he lacks tools, he plays first base, lacks athleticism, and his swing is simply drop and drive. A guy from our team hits just under .300 leads the league in homeruns, and plays four positions, yet he isn't a prospect? How does that work?
JJ Cooper: I assume you're comparing [Andy]Wilson [Mets] to Dopirak. While Wilson shows plus power, Dopirak has better raw power with plus bat speed. And he's a 21-year-old, not 24. One bad year does not erase Dopirak's potential to be a 40 home run guy, which is why he makes the list.
Southern League (West Tenn. Diamond Jaxx AA):
#8 Felix Pie
#12 Matt Murton
#15 Rich Hill
#17 Ricky Nolasco
#18 Renyel Pinto
Chat Wrap with Aaron Fitt:
Q:†Bob from Arkansas asks:
Looking at the Top 10 from 5 years ago, there are some #1 starters, solid major leaguers, an undecided (Rauch), and a disappointment (Patterson). Five years from now, who from this top 10 list is most likely not to reach their potentional?
Aaron Fitt: Interesting question. I'm going with Pie - his tools are certainly there, but he remains rather raw. I'm just not convinced it's all going to come together for him. He's got a chance to be special, but will he work hard enough to make that happen?
Q:†Navin from Los Angeles asks:
It's a list like this that makes you appreciate how loaded the SL really is. How far from making the top 20 were West Tennessee RHP Carlos Marmol and 1BOF Brandon Sing?
Aaron Fitt: Neither was really close, only because of the amazing quality of this league. Sing might have made the top 40, if we went that far... He's a pure power hitter who can really crush the ball, but his swing is too long
Q:†Chris from Chicago asks:
Higher ceiling: Ricky Nolasco or Renyel Pinto? Who gets to the majors first?
Aaron Fitt: Pinto probably has a higher ceiling, being a lefthander with slightly better pure stuff. But Nolasco looks like the better bet to reach his ceiling (a No. 3 starter, in my mind), and should be an impact big leaguer first.
Q:†J.P. from IL asks:
I honestly don't understand your attitude towards Nolasco. He put up phenominal numbers this year, yet was mysteriously missing for nearly all of your weekly Hot Sheets and gets ranked at #17 here. You had nothing negative to say about him in your own scouting report, so what gives?!
Aaron Fitt: Being ranked No. 17 in this talent-crammed league is hardly a slap in the face - it's quite an impressive accomplishment, especially for a guy repeating the league. I am a believer in Ricky Nolasco - he'll be an impact big leaguer. But probably not an all-star, like many of the players in front of him on this list could be.
Q:†Tim from Chicago asks:
I'm having a hard time buying into the Felix Pie mystique. He strikes out at a higher rate than Corey Patterson, and he gets caught stealing 40% of the time. Tell me why he's not going to be another position player who becomes a huge disappointment for the Cubs.
Aaron Fitt: That very well could happen - I don't fully buy into the Pie mystique, either. But he has so much natural talent and such a high upside that you cannot ignore him on a list of top prospects. And he is a very exciting, high-energy player. He could figure it out - don't forget that even though he's been on the prospect landscape a few years, he's still just 20 years old.
Q:†Dan from Mass. asks:
Is Matt Murton going to be the starting Left Fielder for the Cubs next season?
Aaron Fitt: I think he should be. The Cubs need to give this guy a chance to hold down that job, because he's about ready for it.
Pacific Coast League (Iowa AAA):
#14 Rich Hill
#16 Ronny Cedeno
Chat Wrap with Jim Callis:
Q:†Steve from Des Moines asks:
Hi Jim! How close was Jermaine Van Buren to making this list? Were there any other Iowa Cubs worth mentioning? Thanks for your time!
Jim Callis: In general, it's tough for a guy who projects as setup man to make a Top 20, especially in a 16-team league. But people did think Van Buren had a chance to be a good setup man in the majors, thanks to his slider and low-90s fastball. He also throws a curveball and changeup and is fearless. Rich Hill and Ronny Cedeno made the Top 20, and the I-Cubs didn't have anyone else who was very close.
Q:†James from Guthrie OK asks:
Hi How much more does Ben Johnson, Ronny Cedeno, Josh Barfield, and Jeff Mathis have to prove before their big league teams give them an everyday chance? Correct me if I am wrong but I think Johnson is now in San Diego's line up for the post season.
Jim Callis: Johnson didn't start San Diego's opener, so I don't think he has everyday status yet. Let's go through these guys . . . Johnson may get the opportunity in 2006. He just needs the Padres to create an opening in the outfield, but they have some corner outfielders who had down seasons or could play first base, so that could happen. Cedeno really should start for the Cubs next year, though who knows what Dusty Baker will do there. I'd play him at shortstop over Neifi Perez, and there's also talk he could wind up at second. Barfield is blocked by Mark Loretta but finished strong and is ready for a big league chance, so it will be interesting where they try to fit him. Maybe one of those two goes to third base. Mathis is blocked by the Molina brothers for now.
Q:†Phil McHugh from Frederick, MD asks:
Do you see Rich Hill or Ronny Cedeno having much of an impact in the major leagues? It seems to me Cedeno didn't do much of anything until this year, and I wonder if he can be even a solid starter, let alone an all-star. Hill does have a great curve, but I don't see him ever having an ERA under 4.50 at the major league level. Am I wrong? I hope so.
Jim Callis: I think they both have the chance to be regulars, Hill as a starter and Cedeno as an everyday guy in the lineup. Cedeno was rushed too quickly by the Cubs and it led to two awful years with the bat, but he finally starter to recover in 2004. He might not be an all-star, but he can hit for average with some pop and play very good defense. Hill always had great stuff and very little command or control. The light switched on for him this year (at least it did in the minors), and if he can maintain his newfound control he could be pretty good.
Q:†Steve from Des Moines asks:
Do you see Bobby Brownlie still having any type of major league career, and if so in what capacity?
Jim Callis: It's looking more and more like Brownlie might have to be a big league reliever. His curveball is good but not as great as it was in college, and his fastball is down in the 88-89 mph range now. His stuff just isn't what it was at Rutgers.
Q:†John from Des Moines asks:
What about Matt Murton? Would he have made the cut had he qualified?
Jim Callis: Murton had only nine games at Iowa. But assuming he performed like he did in Double-A and the majors, he would have fit in the 10-12 range.
Q: Jay from Madison asks:
Who would you rather have for next year. Felix or Prior. Who do you think will have the better career?
Jim Callis: Oh man . . . give me Prior for 2006 but give me King Felix for his career. But like any big league club, I'd be happy with either one of them.
Also check out all the 2005 Cubs minor league player stats on one page
at BA, including GB/FB ratio numbers for pitchers. Now if they would only get to publishing the ever-elusive lefty/righty splits.