Cubs Prospect List-Mania 2009

For the third year running, I go through the various prospect lists. I've also started compiling them at Wiklifield.

Five-Star Prospects
1. Josh Vitters, 3B

Four-Star Prospects
2. Jeff Samardzjia,RHP

3. Jose Ceda, RHP

Three-Star Prospects
4. Hak-Ju Lee, SS
5. Andrew Cashner, RHP
6. Tyler Colvin, OF
7. Dae-Eun Rhee, RHP
8. Ryan Flaherty, SS
Two-Star Prospects
9. Welington Castilo, C

10. Donald Veal, LHP

11. Micah Hoffpauir, 1B

Just Missing: Matt Cerda, INF; Jay Jackson, RHP; Logan Watkins, INF

Sleeper: Kyler Burke

What They Say: The Cubs are a very tough team to rank. That said, the top three prospects on my initial snapshot never moved, and you see them exactly where they started. Everything after that is a bit of a mess however, as one could jumble up the players ranked fourth through eleventh in any order and make some kind of reasonable argument for all.

  1. Josh Vitters
  2. Jeff Samardzija
  3. Andrew Cashner
  4. Dae-Eun Rhee
  5. Welington Castillo
  6. Kevin Hart
  7. Starlin Castro
  8. Ryan Flaherty
  9. Jay Jackson
  10. Hak-Ju Lee

Best Hitter for Average - Josh Vitters
Best Power Hitter - Josh Vitters
Best Strike-Zone Discipline - Sam Fuld
Fastest Baserunner - Tony Campana
Best Athlete - Brandon Guyer
Best Fastball - Jeff Samardzija
Best Curveball - Casey Lambert
Best Slider - Andrew Cashner
Best Changeup - Dae-Eun Rhee
Best Control - Esmailin Caridad
Best Defensive Catcher - Luis Flores
Best Defensive Infielder - Darwin Barney
Best Infield Arm - Junior Lake
Best Defensive Outfielder - Sam Fuld
Best Outfield Arm - Kyler Burke

What They Say: Promotions and trades have contributed to thinning out the system, and so have a series of uninspiring drafts. Chicago hasn't gotten long-term production out of a first-round pick since Kerry Wood in 1995.
Soto, an 11th-round pick in 2001, was the first position player the Cubs have signed and developed into an all-star since they drafted Joe Girardi in 1986.

  1. Josh Vitters (B+)
  2. Jeff Samardzija (B)
  3. Ryan Flaherty (B)
  4. Andrew Cashner (B-)
  5. Hak-Ju Lee (B-)
  6. Jay Jackson (B-)
  7. Tyler Colvin (C+)
  8. Welington Castillo (C+)
  9. Dae-Eun Rhee (C+)
  10. Aaron Shafer (C+)
  11. Starlin Castro (C+)
  12. Junior Lake (C+)
  13. Dan McDaniel (C+)
  14. Micah Hoffpauir (C)
  15. Esmailin Caridad (C)
  16. Donald Veal (C)
  17. Josh Kroeger (C)
  18. Tony Thomas (C)
  19. Chris Carpenter (C)
  20. Mitch Atkins (C)

Others include Darwin Barney, Justin
Bristow, Matt Cerda, Hung-Wen Chen, Dumas Garcia, Brandon Guyer, Josh
Harrison, Dylan Johnston, Casey Lambert, Alex Maestri, Jovan Rosa, Drew
Rundle, Marquez Smith, Logan Watkins, and Ty Wright. Most of these guys
could rank anywhere from 14-20 depending on what you are looking for.

What They Say:  The Cubs system
has thinned out, and there is no one with impact hitting potential at
the higher levels. Guys like Vitters, Flaherty, and the AZL tools guys
give hope that that could change in the future. Samardzija is
completely unpredictable, he could be the second coming of Bobby Jenks
or he could totally flame out. It wouldn’t’ surprise me if Cashner
ended up the same way, alternating good and bad runs and leaving
everyone scratching their heads.

1-10 | 2- 20

  1. Josh Vitters
  2. Jeff Samardzija
  3. Andrew Cashner
  4. Welington Castillo
  5. Jay Jackson
  6. Ryan Flaherty
  7. Mitch Atkins
  8. Tyler Colvin
  9. Kevin Hart
  10. Micah Hoffpauir
  11. Esmailin Caridad
  12. Brandon Guyer
  13. Marcos Mateo
  14. Jovan Rosa
  15. James Russell
  16. Dan McDaniel
  17. Chris Carpenter
  18. Aaron Shafer
  19. Ryan Acosta
  20. Matt Cerda

What They Say:
The numbers above can be downplayed because of
how dominant Cashner was in the Florida State League postseason with
Class High-A Daytona. He was described by one scout as “lights out,”
tossing six scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts and retiring all but
four batters faced. His fastball was clocked at 98 mph on several
occasions with a top-out speed of 99 mph, and he featured a hard
curveball that Cubs Scouting Director Tim Wilken said was registered at
87 mph. A changeup is in the works to give Cashner a third pitch, but
the Cubs have said they’re going to let Cashner dictate his own future
as either a starter or reliever.


Arizona Phil's Top 15

1. Jeff Samardzija

2. Josh Vitters

3a. Jose Ceda

3b. Andrew Cashner

4. Welington Castillo

5. Ryan Flaherty

6. Kevin Hart

7. Tyler Colvin

8. Jay Jackson

9. Micah Hoffpauir

10. Esmailin Caridad

11. Mitch Atkins

12. Donald Veal

13. Jovan Rosa

14. Brandon Guyer

15. Dan McDaniel

And finally Rob G's Top 15...

I get to bend the rules though, and instead of sticking to the standard Rookie of the Year qualifications that most folks use as a cutoff, I use a more vague, "hasn't really gotten his shot in the majors yet" qualification. I'll keep my descriptions short though to lessen the risk that I say something as dumb as I did about Carlos Marmol two years ago. I tend to put more emphasis on Double A and Triple A numbers which is dilemma since are better prospects seem to be in the lower ranks.

  1. Jeff Samardzija - Two fastballs with movement that can go 95+. You have to have faith he'll develop his change and/or slider considering how little time he's actually been dedicated to pitching.
  2. Josh Vitters - I guess I'm believing the hype. K:BB rate is a bit troubling.
  3. Andrew Cashner - Can throw 99mph, you say? You get a lot of chances to fail when you can throw that hard.
  4. Micah Hoffpauir - Loosely reminds me of Brant Brown coming up with the Cubs, just in that both were blocked at their position and were never truly considered top prospects in the system. Hoffpauir has shown more power than Brown in his later years, and being a serviceable back-up/fill-in is a better than a lot of prospects end up.
  5. Jay Jackson - I'm a sucker for a 5.53 K:BB ratio.
  6. Ryan Flaherty - Time to talk like a scout, could be a left-handed Mark DeRosa.
  7. Kevin Hart - Nothing too special, but he'll find a home in someone's bullpen one day. Had another nice run in Iowa last year after being demoted.
  8. Hak-Ju Lee - Compared favorably to Derek Jeter's toolset,  good enough for me.
  9. Jeff Stevens - He might not dominate the majors, but a 3.24 K:BB ratio and a .72 HR/9 rate in the minors is promising.
  10. John Gaub - 100 K's in 64 innings? Are you kidding me?
  11. Welington Castillo- Nothing too exciting in his minor league numbers, but he's been young for his leagues and you hope the bat catches up to the defense.
  12. Marcos Mateo- says he can top 95 with a good hard slider, that'll give you plenty opportunities.
  13. Justin Berg- mid 90's sinkers are tough to come by and the Cubs wouldn't have put him on the 40-man if they didn't have some faith in him.
  14. Mitch Atkins - a nice three year run now although the numbers aren't overwhelming. He did add a cutter last year which could explain the jump in prospect status along with being just 23 years old.
  15. Tyler Colvin - the numbers suffered for the most part last year, but did put up a .983 OPS in August and nearly tripled his previous year's walk total while striking out at about the same rate.


These are my favorite write ups. So many promising players...hope for the future...the possibility of a new organizational direction. Most of these guys will never come close to reaching their projections, but it really makes me feel good to think of some of these guys being on the team instead of overpriced free agents

Caution - the rest of this is based on nothing and will never come true, nor is it a statement of belief (based on the left handed Derosa comment)
Vitters could be our 2005 DLee
Berg could be our Brandon Webb-Lite
Cashner could be our Joba Chamberlain
Lee could be a real SS developed by the team!
So exciting

Is Mitch Atkins really that unimpressive? I must be missing the boat here. I saw him pitch a few times when he was in Peoria, and he looked like he was a pitcher who was starting to "get it" as far as throwing strikes, changing speeds..etc.

The guy went 17-7 between AA and AAA. He struck out 132, walked 50. His ERA jumped to 4.47 in AAA...but isn't that expected a bit in the PCL?

He's behind Justin Berg? Berg may have that power sinker, but walking 59 and striking out 59 last season, with a WHIP of 1.51 worries me just a bit...not to mention his 5.16 ERA.

Hopefully Vitters will get a shot at Peoria this season, at age 19.

Definitely his future is in the Pen though. The game I went to where he started, he was throwing something like 85% fastballs.
94mph 4-seamers up in the zone. 90-92 mph 2-seamers that bounced in the dirt as much as they went over the plate. He had a
Sloppy little breaking pitch that didn’t look like it moved much. But he couldn’t throw it for a strike anyway, and nobody really offered
At it.

Control issues aside, he does have an MLB arm. But only 2 useable pitches means he is bullpen depth.

Does it really matter the difference between 13 and 14?


Player A AA-AAA: 17-7..4.00 ERA.. 132K, 50 BB, 1.250 WHIP
Player B AA-AAA: 4-9, 5.16 ERA, 59K..59 BB..1.51 WHIP

Why would A be ranked behind B, and why so far down the list?

I haven't heard anything about Atkins having anything more than average stuff...sorry. Granted, he's shown more control at this point, but so did Mark Holliman for awhile.  While Berg has had all kinds of control issues, he has one plus pitch at least that is hard to find in a pitcher. But arguing between #13 and 14 on a relatively weak system isn't a big deal in my opinion.

I was going to leave them both off at one point to be honest and go with Sam Fuld and Caridad and move Colvin up, so that's how strongly I feel about them.

I'll also add that I'm sure guys guys like Matt Cerda, Starlin Castro and Junior Lake are probably better than some of the guys here right now, but besides what AZ Phil says, I don't know much about them and the numbers don't mean much to me until you get to at least Peoria and preferably Tennessee.

But the numbers in Iowa and Tennessee don't matter much then?

I guess I'd like to see at least some credit given to a pitcher having success at AA and AAA rather than a guy who looks great..throws real hard...and just stinks.

Yeah Holliman's 22-27 record with a 4.13 ERA is exactly like Atkins' 44-27 with a 3.83 ERA

I don't mean to sound snarky here Rob..I'm just tired of seeing the Earl Cunningham's...Corey Patterson's....Mark Pawalek's of the world get all hyped to no end, and then see a guy who is getting results at A...AA...AAA...but because he isn't throwing 95+..or throw a splitter..or something...he's seen as a non-prospect.

I'd like to see some baseball players, not just athletes.

Yeah Holliman's 22-27 record with a 4.13 ERA is exactly like Atkins' 44-27 with a 3.83 ERA

I can't fathom why you'd bring up win-loss record for a minor league pitcher. They mean little enough in the majors and absolutely nothing in the minors. ERA is okay, but generally it's strikeout, walk and home run rates as the leading indicators of future success. And before 2008, Holliman's numbers weren't all too different than what Atkins looks like. Nonetheless, it was a tenous comparision at best, just pointing out another guy with non-dominating stuff that started to flame out as he went up the ranks.

I wasn't expecting anyone to share my ideas about Berg and he'll probably flame out in Triple A, but as I said, you just don't hear too much about guys with mid 90's sinkers. If I was giving letter grades like Sickels, they'd both be C's with probably a 40/60 split that they'll do anything positive in the majors. 

The list of tools guys that have figured out eventually versus the list of guys with good minor league numbers that scout aren't as high on that go on to major league careers is about the same I'm guessing. Not to harp on Geovany Soto, but if you looked at his numbers he was a nobody until 2008 that a lot of people couldn't figure out why he was on the 40-man roster for all those years.


and seriously, how did Cunningham/Patterson/Pawelek get in there with Justin Berg?

it's not like Berg was ever much of a prospect or a first round talent. It's not like there's a big hype machine surrounding him or there ever was. The dude was acquired for Matt Lawton.

I was making a point about players with tools versus players who can actually play the game. I apologize for using 1st round selections as examples.

I think it's great that Berg has a plus pitch. I would like to see some results is all. Berg is a year older than Atkins, and in 469 innings in the minors, he's got a 4.81 ERA, walked 222, stuck out 294.

Again...I'm just saying results are not necesarily a bad thing.

I'm just saying results are not necesarily a bad thing.

of course not, you have to weight both the results and the tools.

If you just want numbers, go find Jason Dubois and Scott McLain and Hee-Seop Choi and let me know how they're doing.

I will go to my grave still saying I'd have rather seen Dubois in LF in 2005 rather than Todd Hollandsworth and his worthless bag of deteriorating skills.


well so would have I, but it's still not just about minor league numbers and not just about scouting reports. It's a healthy mix of the two.

McClain had a career high 38 PA's last year and put up a 121 OPS+
Choi as we went over a few weeks back has a career 106 OPS+
Dubois had a 93 OPS+ on the strength of .472 slugging when the Cubs traded him.

Our starting shorstop has a career OPS+ of 88

Why don't you ask how Jack Cust and Nelson Cruz are doing?

All of those guys (when healthy) can hit MLB pitching.

the diffence between 2007 atkins and 2008 atkins is not anything you can find in a stat or a spreadsheet.

you talk to a human or watch the guy and discover he's got better control over his splitter fastball.

this makes him an entirely different beast to scout...things like this happen a lot, especially in the minors...soto, for instance, getting his batting eye honed.

a pair of eyes is all anyone needed to know jason dubois was practically doomed besides an occasional homer because of his strong/wild minor league #s needed.

I heard it was improvement on his cutter more than anything which he didn't start throwing until the end of 2007

“I’ve always been able to throw strikes, and recently I’ve been able to
throw all my pitches for strikes pretty much and being able to mix up
pitches and keep hitters off balance,” Atkins said. “Having a good
strikeout pitch is probably the biggest thing, which usually is my

Atkins developed a fourth pitch this summer and that two-seam fastball is what got his ticket punched to Iowa.

“I’ve been working on a cutter,” Atkins said. “I started throwing it
last year when I got up here. I didn’t have a good feel for it last
year. This year it came around, and I can throw it pretty much anytime
I want to.

“My curveball is usually 75 (mph), my cutter is 82, my fastball is 90 and my changeup is probably around 78.” 

apparently he's also a pretty decent hitter

never saw a good picture of him btw, gonna have to rely on the baseball player status with the ladies...

Yikes Rob!!...Whew...that's not a good

cutter is a's a fastball grip.

it's also abused/misused as the phrase "nickle curve" vs. "changeup"

everybody calls their pitches something else, but a cutter generally acts more like a slider with late horizontal break...splitters have late vertical break.

of course I have no idea how Atkins grips his cutter (and I'm guessing neither do you), but they usually aren't the same grip

nonetheless, I'm going from the horse's mouth on this one and Atkins calls it a cutter.

that's the thing, though...many people have a "cutter" that is a "splitter"...the phrases are tainted.

as far as grip goes, they're identical for the most part.

to add confusion...what many call a "split finger fastball" is not what more than a chunk of people call a "splitter" (including me). the fact he's throwing it at 82mph leads me to believe it's not a 2-seam fastball/splitter (i group both 2-seam fastballs together...some call 1 of these fastballs a split-finger and the other a 2-seamer...they're both the same grip, but a different plane of the ball is "on top" by a 1/4 turn).

you gotta know who you're talking with and decode what they're actually doing...yeah.

the consensus 2-seamer has your fingers on the seam, a split-fingered has your fingers wider apart and a much later horizontal drop to the pitch.

that's the general idea, but pitchers have different names for the same pitch, so it's no use arguing about it.

Atkins calls it a cutter, it's a cutter...end o' story.  :)

i need to throw a * on that comment...

it really comes down to what HE calls the cutter...because being a trained professional is no automatic given that he knows the "proper vernacular" (mostly because it changes coach/to/coach and organization/to/org).

either way the grip is identical to the people who throw the phrases around (top and bottom grip) and both have similar bat-breaking break to them.

I want to clarify by saying I am not high on Berg either, but until Smardijza was promoted to AAA this year, his minor league numbers looked a helluva lot like Berg and now most people consider him our second best prospect.

minors to majors production isn't linear...and it doesn't help when people create stats that "predict" what a player should do independent of HOW they get their numbers.

if people were promoted solely on accomplishments soto might still be in AAA and samninja would probably be starting in far as recent stuff goes.`

True, it is not linear.

However I'm willing to also go out on a limb and say that the job market is flooded with guys who threw 95 mph+, and couldn't command their pitches, and guys who were speed burners who could hit the ball 420 feet, but couldn't make consistent contact or manage the stike zone.

I heartily apologize for singling out Justin Berg, and for wondering why a guy who has had success in A, AA, and AAA is such a lowly prospect, while guys who haven't sone squat, but have plus pitches..can throw 95 mph....look like Jeter...are considerable prospects.

I promise the market is not flooded with guys that throw mid 90's sinkers. Mid 90's 4-seam fastballs..sure.

Ok....if a guy who throws a mid-90's+ super sinker can't get the ball over the plate with more consistency, and keep his ERA out ot the 4.80-5.20 range, it won't matter how hard he throws it.

Ok....if a guy who throws a mid-90's+ super sinker can't get the ball
over the plate with more consistency, and keep his ERA out ot the
4.80-5.20 range, it won't matter how hard he throws it.

sparkling analysis, I really hadn't thought of that at all...

Also Rob...In order for the Bears to win, they have to outscore their opponents...

I heard the Cubs were 87-0 last year when they were leading after 9 innings...pretty amazing. :)

Let's hope they can match that even with Wood gone.

the win total might be tough, but I think they can match the winning percentage.

"A shot at Peoria"--did you mean Daytona? There's no place between Boise and Peoria.

I'm afraid I don't understand your post.

I hope that Vitters, at age 19, will get to play at Peoria, the first stop in full season baseball. I hope this, rather than move him to Hi-A Daytona this soon.

I was not hoping to see him play somewhere between Boise and Peoria.

Ok, I misunderstood, the word "shot" sounded like a reach, whereas Peoria would be a normal promotion.

I guess you were referring to Fleita mentioning (to Bruce Levine) that he'd like to see Vitters get off to a good start this year someplace warm like Daytona.

I just got the John Sickles prospect book in the mail. According to him, the Cubs have 37 players worthy of write-up. All guys being Grade C or above.

And you aren't currently retyping all 37 write-ups into a word document to paste into a comment why? No hustle, no heart.

I have some hope for these prospects because they are mostly Post-Jim Hendry Drafts/Signings and more on the Tim Wilken side. My only concern is the Oneri Fleita Player Development aspect, that along with Hendry, counted on Corey Patterson, Felix Pie, Matt Murton, Ronney Cedeno, Rich Hill, and others to contribute to the ML roster when they could have and should have been dealt when their value was highest.

I know some of you will say, what about Soto, Theriot, Fontenot, Marmol yada yada, but those guys werent highly regarded by Hendry/Fleita or they wouldnt have traded for Jason Kendall/Rob Bowen and told Theriot he's a utility player (even though he is), and not invite Fontenot to ST in 2007. Lets hope some of these new guys can off set the back loaded contracts that Hendry signed the last few years in 2010-2014.

Many holes to fill in 2011..




Nice lists by AZ Phil and Rob G.

With the Cubs lacking pop in center and defensive depth at shortstop, I can't help thinking that a few guys who are mostly not on the lists might be called up ahead of these other guys.

In center, Colvin/Robnett.
At short, Barney/Sellers (better gloves than Theriot/Miles).

Thanks for the info guys

Perhaps I'm only speaking for myself here, but for those of us that have little to no exposure to the guys in the farm system these sort of reports are really valuable

Yeah, I second that! Thanks, guys!
Does minor league camp start at the same time as Major league camp, or does it not really form until people start getting cut from Major League Camp?

I also send big thanks to you guys. This site is one stop shopping for the best Cubs information and discussion. The minor league info is very helpful, I recently moved to Austin, TX and the I-Cubs opening series is here against the Round Rock Express.

I'll fourth this. I would know very little about most of these guys if not for the reports on here by AZ Phil and occasionally Mike W. I, sadly, don't have time to go do all this research myself, and certainly can't eye-witness the players in Arizona and Iowa. Thanks, TCR.

Baseball America isn't out yet, but BP Top 100 and Top 300 are... are from the magazine I got in the mail...

#28 rob that picture looks half way decent compared to last years
picture of i do believe of s.gallagher now that was a bad one.
hopefully he has a new one this year not just a new cap.

Now how is a pitch allowed to be called a splitter and not be a split-fingered pitch? One less thing I know, I guess.

"split-fingered has your fingers wider apart and a much later horizontal drop to the pitch"

There's horizontal drop, too? Is that like what some people (including me) would call break? Because to me drop is a vertical thing. Yet come to think of it, break seems to be used as it can be either vertical or horizontal. Is there a term that exclusively refers to a pitch's break along the X/horizontal axis without drop (beyond the natural)? (I will not accept LaTroy as a valid answer.)

Two common terms for the horizontal movement of a pitch are "cut" and "tail". These are primarily used for fastballs, though. Thrown by a righthander, a pitch is said to cut if it moves toward his left after he releases it, and said to tail if it moves toward his right.

I think "horizontal drop" was just a typo, though I guess I should let Rob account for it. Splitters usually have significant drop, which is a word almost always used to downward vertical movement. I also agree with Rob's definition of the split-fingered fastball, though it is often hard to distinguish from the nasty changeups lots of guys throw now--and plenty of pitchers are throwing hybrid split-changes. Essentially, they're all about the same pitch though. Slower than the fastball, with a sudden drop about the time they reach the plate--"like the bottom falls out" as so many commentators say.

bah, I meant vertical...

I suck.

I meant to post this a while ago, but just haven't gotten around to finding my old account info (SJS_Kenosha)...

I played summer ball with John Gaab up in South St. Paul. The kid can throw, surprisingly lefty AND righty (and at 80+ w/ the right hand too). On a personal level, he's a turd, but if he can help this team somehow (preferrably as trade bait) all the better.

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  • soler + hammel for mike trout is pretty much a sure thing. *nods*

    crunch 3 hours 17 min ago view
  • Not an inspired outing by Rondon. Seemingly got ahead of every hitter but had no swing and miss pitch today, slider had no bite.

    Somebody give Soler some smelling salts - yeesh

    Eric S 3 hours 18 min ago view
  • that runner scores on a single...

    The E-Man 3 hours 30 min ago view
  • So where do you think Soler will be traded to this off season?

    jacos 3 hours 31 min ago view
  • And right on cue he throws to third with no chance to get runner on 2nd so the batter takes 2nd easily. How long has he been playing baseball??

    The E-Man 3 hours 31 min ago view
  • Man you cannot put Soler out there late in games for Playoffs. Yuch...

    The E-Man 3 hours 39 min ago view
  • Such is the life of a fatted calf...

    JoePepitone 3 hours 52 min ago view
  • fowler with a triple in the 4th...he's a HR away from a "natural" cycle

    crunch 4 hours 25 min ago view
  • ...and contreras takes one off the hand and he's in obvious pain. sigh.

    he's staying in the game, though he's wringing his hand out during breaks in the action. aside from that he seems to have no issue giving signs or tossing back to the pitcher.

    ...and he's batting in the cubs half of the following inning. sweet.

    crunch 4 hours 29 min ago view
  • his collapse started on august 21st this it's a slight improvement.

    but wow, what a collapse since then...only 2 out of 7 can be considered good/decent.

    crunch 4 hours 41 min ago view
  • I'm really going to enjoy watching Hammel watch the playoffs.

    Jackstraw 5 hours 15 sec ago view
  • The always combustible Jason Hammel

    jacos 5 hours 20 min ago view
  • Hammel :(

    Charlie 5 hours 22 min ago view
  • That was fun.

    Charlie 8 hours 21 min ago view
  • "home field advantage through the playoffs?"

    Except for the away games.

    VirginiaPhil 8 hours 34 min ago view
  • Eh, I read it as tongue-planted-firmly-in-cheek. VEB seems to have good heads on their shoulders.

    Brick 9 hours 42 min ago view