2011 Cubs Top 15 Prospects

Here are my “2011 Cubs Top 15 Prospects.”


This is just my opinion based mostly on my own observations of the players, and I'm sure many of you have your own idea of who should be where. All things being equal, I probably tend to give more props to players at the higher levels of the minor leagues because I believe it means something to actually prove yourself by performance on the field against better and/or more-advanced competition, and I also sometimes consider a player to still be a prospect after others have written him off. However, I do consider talented players from further down the pipeline as well.


I use the same criteria Baseball America uses to rate their Top Ten prospects (maximum 50 MLB IP or 130 MLB AB, but not concerned with MLB service time), so Andrew Cashner, Starlin Castro, Tyler Colvin, and Casey Coleman are no longer eligible for consideration.


As was the case last year, the Cubs have more position-player prospects than pitchers among my Top 15, although my Top Two and three of my Top Six are pitchers.


2010 CUBS TOP 15 PROSPECTS:


1. Chris Archer, RHP (2006 5th Round by Cleveland Indians - Clayton HS - Clayton, NC) - age 22 - 6‘3 185


COMMENT: A 5th round pick of the Cleveland Indians out of a North Carolina HS in 2006, Archer opted to turn pro ($161K bonus) instead of playing college baseball at NC State. He was one of three pitchers acquired by the Cubs from the Tribe for IF-OF Mark DeRosa in January 2009, and was considered a high risk/high reward type of prospect at the time. Archer was actually a raw talent from the gitgo, with three mediocre seasons in the Indians farm system 2006-08. He had major control issues even before he was acquired by the Cubs, leading the South Atlantic League in walks with 84 in 2008. He repeated Lo-A (at Peoria) in 2009 and continued to struggle with walks, issuing 66 free passes in 108 IP. Archer was then assigned to the Cubs AZ Instructional League squad post-2009 to work on improving his command & control, and he definitely benefited from the instruction, as the young Carolinian was named the Cubs 2010 Minor League Pitcher of the Year after going 15-3 with a 2.34 ERA and 1.17 WHIP and a Cubs minor league leading 149 K in 142.1 IP combined at Daytona and Tennessee. While he still issues too many walks (66 in 2010), he did improve his BB/IP rate significantly this past season (all the way down to 3.24 in 15 games at A+ Daytona, before going up to a 5.01 BB/IP rate in 13 GS after a promotion to AA Tennessee). The 6’3 185 Archer throws a mid-90’s fastball, a wipe-out slider, and a decent change-up, and projects as a top of the rotation starter at the big league level IF he can keep his walks and pitch count under control. He was supposed to pitch for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League post-2010, but plans were changed when he was named to the Team USA squad that has been playing in the Pan American Games Qualifying Tournament in Puerto Rico. Archer is a lock to get added to the Cubs MLB 40-man roster by the 11/20 roster-filing deadline, and he will likely be the 2011 Opening Day starter at Tennessee after experiencing his first big league Spring Training.


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2. Trey McNutt, RHP (2009 32nd Round - Shelton State CC) - age 21 - 6‘4 205


COMMENT: McNutt was signed by the Cubs out of an Alabama JC in 2009, getting an “over-slot” bonus of $115K (“7th Round money“) to go pro. Over the course of one month of the 2009 season and one full season (2010), McNutt has gone 13-2 with a 2.19 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP, allowing just 107 hits and 52/160 BB/K in 144 IP, rocketing through the Cubs system all the way to AA Tennessee by the end of his first full season in pro ball at the ripe old age of 21. He finished 2nd among the Cubs minor league pitchers in strikeouts in 2010 with 132, behind only Minor League Pitcher of the Year Chris Archer. The 6’4 205 McNutt features a fastball that tops out at 98, a hard-breaking slider, and a change-up. He will likely begin the 2011 season back at AA Tennessee, and he projects as a top of the rotation starter or closer at the MLB level.


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3. Brett Jackson, OF (2009 1st Round – Cal) – age 22 - 6‘2 210


COMMENT: Jackson hit the ground running after signing with the Cubs in July 2009, hitting 318/418/488 with 8 HR in just 53 games and 249 PA at three stops (Mesa, Boise, and Peoria). Jackson was on fire at Peoria (7 HR in 26 games) when he developed tendonitis in his wrist that shut him down for a month, causing him to miss the Midwest League playoffs. He didn’t show any ill effects in 2010, however, getting an NRI with the big club to Spring Training, before hitting 297/395/493 with 32 doubles, 14 triples, and 12 HR, with 73/126 BB/K in 580 PA, and 30/11 SB/CS (combined) at Daytona and Tennessee. He just recently joined the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League after playing for Team USA in the Pan American Games Qualifying Tournament in Puerto Rico. Jackson has a funky swing that involves a big leg kick, but he makes up for it with plus-bat speed. He is a hyper-aggressive defender and an outstanding ball-hawk--a “natural” CF, but with (at best) an average arm. He has above-average speed and is an aggressive base-runner who likes to take chances. He has HR power, hits LHP and RHP about equally-well, and is fairly patient at the plate (104 BB in 829 career PA 2009-10), although he does strike out a lot (182 K in 181 minor league games). Right now he projects as a top of the order hitter (probably a lead-off man), although that could certainly change depending on the roster and lineup construction when he arrives in Chicago. Jackson will almost certainly get another NRI to big league camp in 2011, and then will probably begin the season back at AA Tennessee. Like Starlin Castro in 2010, B. Jackson could get called up to Chicago from AA at any time next season, although at present there does not appear to be a spot for him on the Cubs 25-man roster. He does not have to be added to an MLB 40-man roster until after the 2012 season.


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4. Brandon Guyer, OF (2007 5th Round – Virginia) – age 24 - 6‘1 220


COMMENT: After spending the first two months of the 2008 season rehabbing from elbow surgery at Fitch Park, Guyer was assigned to Peoria where he hit 269/331/498 with 14 HR and 19/63 BB/K in 88 games. A strong AZ Instructional League season post-2008 earned him a “challenge” promotion to AA Tennessee to start the 2009 season, but he struggled there (190/236/291 in 57 games and 205 PA) and was demoted to Daytona, where caught-fire and hit 347/407/453, with 34/67 BB/K in 73 games and 305 PA. He was assigned to Tennessee out of Minor League Camp in 2010, and hit 344/398/588 with 39 doubles, six triples, and 12 HR in 410 PA, with 30/3 SB/CS, earning him the Cubs Minor League Player of the Year Award. He is presently playing winter ball with Aragua in the Venezuelan Winter League, where he is hitting 357/449/476. Guyer is built like an NFL running back, and plays a “no fear” crash & burn outfield defense in the tradition of Eric Byrnes and Reed Johnson, laying his body on the line to make a play. He has above-average speed and is an aggressive base-runner and a good base-stealer. He played 3B in HS, but was moved to LF when he arrived at the University of Virginia, mainly because Ryan Zimmerman was already firmly ensconced at 3B for the Cavaliers, but also to take greater advantage of his speed & athleticism. Guyer saw action at all three OF positions for Tennessee in 2010, although it would not surprise me if the Cubs move him around the field a bit more next season at AAA Iowa, maybe getting him some PT at 3B and 1B. Guyer (like Archer) is a lock to get added to the Cubs 40-man roster by the 11/20 roster-filing deadline. Prior to 2010 I would have said that Guyer‘s future would probably be as an MLB “4th OF“ (and given the Cubs roster construction, that might still be the case), but I now believe he can be an everyday MLB outfielder, possibly as the eventual roster replacement for Marlon Byrd.


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5. Josh Vitters, 3B (2007 1st Round - Cypress, HS - Cypress, CA) - age 21 - 6‘2 200


COMMENT: Vitters was the Cubs #1 draft pick in 2007 (3rd overall pick), and the Cubs signed him just prior to the 8/15 deadline (Vitters had signed an NCAA NLI to attend Arizona State). He was sick the latter part of his senior year in high school, and reported to Fitch Park in August 2007 weak and out of shape. He didn't look much better in the 2007 AZ Instructional League, and then he had a sore hand in Spring Training 2008 that delayed the start of his season. But once he got healthy, Vitters showed what he could do with the bat. He hit 328/365/498 in 61 games at Boise, and was named the Northwest League's #1 prospect by Baseball America. He began the 2009 season at Peoria, where he hit 316/351/535 while going on a mid-May HR binge (he hit 15 HR in 70 games at Peoria). That got him a promotion to Daytona, where he struggled (hitting 238/260/344 in 50 games). He went to the Arizona Fall League (AFL) post-2009 and hit 360/385/460, and then he got an NRI to Spring Training with the big club this past February. He returned to Daytona on Opening Day 2010, hitting 291/350/445 before receiving a mid-season promotion to AA Tennessee, where he struggled, hitting just 223/292/383. However, he hit 303/395/636 over his final ten games at Tennessee before suffering a season-ending injury (broken hand after getting hit by a pitch) on July 25th. He returned to action (three games) with the Cubs AZ Instructional League team in October, and then joined the Mesa Solar Sox (AFL), where he is presently hitting 242/278/394 while playing both 3B and 1B. Vitters is an aggressive hitter, walking only 49 times in 1178 career minor league PA, although he hasn’t struck out all that much for a power-hitting prospect, either (192 K spread over four seasons). Only 21 years old, Vitters is just an average runner, but he has outstanding bat speed and plus-power and should develop into a 25+ HR guy. He has the actions of a third-baseman and he looks like a third-baseman, but he needs to spend as much time working on his defensive play at 3B as he does working on his hitting (nobody enjoys BP more than he does). It’s possible that Vitters could eventually end up at 1B (he played 1B for the first time in his career at Instructs, and now is playing both 1B and 3B in the AFL), and if it wasn’t that Alfonso Soriano is signed through 2014, I would think that the Cubs might seriously consider moving Vitters to LF. Vitters will probably get another NRI to Spring Training next February, and then will begin the 2011 season back at Tennessee, playing mostly 3B (and probably some 1B, too), while hitting 3rd in the Smokies batting order.


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6. Jay Jackson, RHP (2008 9th Round - Furman) - age 23 - 6‘1 195


COMMENT: Jackson is an advanced pitcher who throws four or five different pitches for strikes, with a 94 MPH fastball and a curve being his two main "out" pitches (he also throws a slider and a change-up). He projects as a middle-of-the rotation starter at the MLB level. Jackson was drafted by the Cubs in 2008, and was promoted all the way up to Daytona (Florida State League) in August of that season, starting a game in the ’08 FSL playoffs. He began the 2009 season at AA Tennessee, before getting a disciplinary demotion back to Daytona in July. He didn’t pout or sulk, though, and got a September bump up to AAA Iowa. Combined at three stops, the 6’1 195 Jackson went 8-7 with a 2.98 ERA, and a 1.22 WHIP, allowing 109 hits (11 HR) in 127 IP, with a 46/127 BB/K (he was second among Cubs minor leaguers in strikeouts). Jackson spent the 2010 season at Iowa where he went 11-8 with a 4.63 ERA and 1.28 WHIP, allowing 153 hits (20 HR) and 48/119 BB/K in 157.1 IP in what was just his second full-season in pro ball. The 6’1 right-hander was 4th among Cubs minor league pitchers in strikeouts (trailing only Archer, McNutt, and Alberto Cabrera) in 2010. He was moved to the bullpen for a while early in the season before finally settling in as an I-Cubs rotation starter in May. He really struggled in the second-half of the season, though, putting up a 6.20 ERA and 1.57 WHIP with a .293 Opponents BA and nine HR allowed in 61 IP post-ASB. Jackson was a #1 starter (“Friday Night Starter”) in college at Furman, but he also played CF when he wasn't pitching. He is an excellent all-around athlete (he was also an outstanding basketball player in HS), and being able to hit (255/283/431 with four doubles, a triple, and a HR in 57 minor league PA) and field should help him win a few more games than the average pitcher. With his basketball background, cool self-confidence, and the ability to hit (with power), he almost reminds me a bit of Bob Gibson. Jackson should get an NRI to Spring Training in 2011, and then depending on the needs of the big club and how he is throwing at AAA, he could get called up to Chicago at any time in 2011, but he most-likely will spend most or all of the season in the starting rotation at AAA.


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7. Welington Castillo, C (2004 NDFA - Dominican Republic) - age 23 - 5‘10 210+


COMMENT: Castillo’s defense has mostly been more projection than performance so far. He has a strong arm, but too often he is careless and foolish with his throws and inconsistent with his receiving, resulting in a ton of errors and passed balls over the years. However, he cut his passed balls in half and improved his receiving at AA Tennessee in 2009, and held his own defensively at AAA Iowa this past season, too (although his receiving skills still need further upgrade), throwing out 39% of opposing base-stealers in 2010 (career 40% CS). He struggled at the plate pre-All Star Break at Tennessee in 2009 after hitting 287/337/383 at Daytona and Tennessee (combined) in 2008, but then he caught-fire post-ASB at Tennessee in ‘09, hitting 319/357/519 while clubbing 11 HR. He was assigned to the Mesa Solar Sox (Arizona Fall League) post-2009 (he hit 357/438/571 in the AFL), and then hit 255/317/498 with 17 doubles and 13 HR in just 272 PA (69 games) at AAA Iowa in 2010, before getting a September call-up to Chicago. Since he is only 23 years old and still somewhat raw, he could start the 2011 season back at AAA, but if he can build on his 2010 season at the plate and continue to improve his defense, he could be up with the Cubs to stay by the end of next season.


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8. Hak-Ju Lee, SS (2007 NDFA – South Korea) - age 19 - 6‘2 170


COMMENT: Lee got a $700K+ bonus (equivalent to “2nd round money”) from the Cubs in 2007, when he was considered the best HS player in South Korea. Named the #1 prospect in the Northwest League (NWL) post-2009 by Baseball America after hitting 330/399/420 at Boise, Lee followed that by hitting 282/364/351 with 22 doubles in 551 PA at Peoria in 2010 and 294/368/383 in AZ Instructional League play post-2010. He is one of the fastest players in the Cubs organization and can out-run a throw to 1st base if an infielder doesn’t play a ground ball aggressively. He also is a big-time base-stealer who led the NWL in stolen bases in 2009 (25 SB in just 61 games), before heisting 32 more at Peoria in 2010. A “natural” shortstop with plus-range and a decent arm (he had TJS post-2008), Lee is still raw defensively (61 errors in 183 career minor league games), but he has shown improvement as of late (he did not commit an error in 11 AZ Instructional League games post-2010, while making several outstanding plays in the field). Lee was a scrawny 17-year old when he first arrived at Fitch Park for Instructs post-2008, but he has put on some muscle over the past couple of seasons and now hits the ball with more authority. A left-handed hitter, Lee’s stroke is somewhat similar to Ichiro’s. He waits until the last second and then sprays the ball all over the field while cheating out of the box toward 1st base with most every swing. As he continues to mature physically he could develop some incidental HR power. He will likely spend the 2010 season at Daytona, playing SS and hitting lead-off. If he continues to progress, Lee could eventually force Starlin Castro to move to 2B.


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9. Chris Carpenter, RHP (2008 3rd Round – Kent State) - age 24 - 6‘4 220


COMMENT: A 6’4 220 RHP, Carpenter had TJS in college, and began his pro career somewhat unimpressively in 2008, going 4-2 with a 4.64 ERA while allowing 34 hits (although only two HR) and 23/25 BB/K in 33 IP (combined) at Mesa (AZL Cubs) and Boise. However, he had a solid AZ Instructional League post-2008 and opened the 2009 season at Peoria, where he went 4-3 with a 2.44 ERA and 1.20 WHIP, with only 55 hits allowed and a 33/60 BB/Kin 73.2 IP. He then got a mid-season promotion to Daytona, going 2-1 with a 1.44 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP in five starts. That got him another promotion, this time to AA Tennessee, where he was 0-3 with a 4.78 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in seven starts. Overall, he fanned 118 hitters, putting him 4th among Cubs minor league pitchers in strikeouts in ’09. He had a sore arm at Minor League Camp 2010 and was left at Extended Spring Training at the start of the season, before getting moved-up to AA Tennessee at the end of April. He was promoted to AAA Iowa in August, and went a combined 8-6 with a 3.41 ERA and 1.44 WHIP, allowing eight HR with 57/112 BB/K in 134.2 IP (combined) between AA and AAA He was assigned to the Mesa Solar Sox in the AFL post-2010, and has been used exclusively out of the bullpen for the Solar Sox so far. Carpenter features a 92-94 MPH fastball, a curve, and a change-up. He probably will get an NRI to Spring Training in 2011, and he will almost certainly begin the 2011 regular season back at Iowa. Whether the recent move to the bullpen is temporary or permanent is still TBD.


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10. Ryan Flaherty, IF-OF (2008 Supplemental 1st Round - Vanderbilt) - age 24 - 6‘5 220


COMMENT: Selected with the compensation draft pick the Cubs got for losing FA catcher Jason Kendall to MIL after the 2007 season, Flaherty played SS at Vanderbilt, 2B with Team USA, SS at Boise in 2008, SS, 2B, and 3B at Peoria in 2009, 3B and 2B at Daytona and Tennessee in 2010, and 1B-2B-3B-LF for the Mesa Solar Sox in the AFL post-2010. So his future is probably as an offensive-first multi-positional IF-OF. He hit 276/344/470 with 20 HR in 131 games at Peoria in 2009 (309/372/498 post-ASB), and then hit 271/339/418 with 36 doubles, 10 HR and 72 RBI, and 51/86 BB/K in 559 PA combined between Daytona and Tennessee in 2010. He is presently hitting 310/429/379 for the Solar Sox (AFL). At 6’5 220, Flaherty does have HR power, and if he can learn to play a passable corner-OF, he could morph into a left-handed hitting version of Mark DeRosa. While he mashes right-handed pitching, he struggles big-time against lefties, and so he could end-up as a LH platoon guy if and when he reaches the big leagues. Son of a college baseball coach, Flaherty is a savvy and mature player who understands how to play the game the right way. I would expect Flaherty to begin the 2011 season at Tennessee and play various positions (1B-2B-3B-LF) for the Smokies.


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11. Jae-Hoon Ha, OF (2008 NDFA - South Korea) - age 20 - 6‘1 185


COMMENT: Ha was a catcher in HS, but was moved to the outfield after he signed with the Cubs in 2008 ($225K bonus). Then the Cubs moved him back to catcher at Instructs post-2009 and the experiment continued at Minor League Camp and Extended Spring Training (EXST) 2010, but it just didn’t work. Ha was moved back to OF and was promoted to Peoria at mid-season 2010 after hitting 350/376/575 at EXST. Moving from behind the plate to the outfield was like getting out of jail for Ha, as the Korean teenager hit 317/334/468 for the Chiefs while playing a stellar RF. He has a plus-arm and plus-bat speed with HR power, he has above-average speed and is a good base stealer, and (like Brett Jackson and Brandon Guyer) he plays an athletic outfield with absolutely no fear. He was moved to CF at Instructs post-2010 and made several outstanding catches as he displayed the range and defensive skills necessary to man the position. One area of concern with Ha is a tendency to double-clutch throws from the outfield (he had the same problem as a catcher), and the other is that he is a “hacker“ (a hyper-aggressive hitter who rarely walks). Ha will probably play CF at Daytona in 2011 and hit somewhere in the middle of the D-Cubs order.


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12. Aaron Kurcz, RHP (2010 10th Round - College of Southern Nevada) - age 20 - 6‘0 175


COMMENT: Kurcz started his college career at the Air Force Academy, but resigned and transferred to the College of Southern Nevada back in his hometown (Las Vegas) for his sophomore season, where he was a teammate of 2010 overall #1 draft pick Bryce Harper on a CSN team that advanced to the JUCO World Series. Kurcz combines a 94 MPH fastball with a killer slider, and projects as an MLB closer or 8th inning set-up guy. He has been virtually unhittable so far in pro ball, racking up a 1.98 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and .156 Opp BA with 11/48 BB/K in 27.1 IP (combined) at AZL Cubs and Boise during the regular season, and then a 0.77 ERA, 0.43 WHIP, and .079 Opp BA with 2/20 BB/K in 11.2 IP in the AZ Instructional League post-2010. He could very well be the closer at Daytona in 2011, and if he continues to progress the way he has so far he could advance very quickly through the system.


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13. D. J. LeMahieu, INF (2008 2nd Round – LSU) - age 22 - 6‘4 200


COMMENT: LeMahieu spent two seasons as the starting shortstop at LSU, including the 2009 season when the Tigers won the CWS. He was selected by the Cubs as a draft-eligible sophomore in 2009, and hit 323/376/384 in 41 games (combined) at AZL Cubs and Peoria, and then was the best hitter at AZ Instructs post-2009. He spent the 2010 season at Daytona (Florida State League), where he hit 314/346/386 with 73 RBI and 15 SB in 135 FSL games, before receiving a late-season promotion to AA Tennessee just in time for the Southern League playoffs. Even though he has an opposite-field stroke, LeMahieu is a strong kid and can really put the hammer on the ball, ripping line drives back through the middle and into the right-centerfield alley. He hits right-handed pitchers OK, but he really crushes lefties. He’s also a good base-runner with above-average speed for a big guy (6’4 185). LeMahieu is a natural shortstop who was moved to 2B at Daytona in 2010, and he could end up at 3B if he can (at least occasionally) alter his natural opposite-field line-drive stroke into more of a pull-power elevated-approach. He will likely begin the 2011 season at Tennessee, playing 2B, SS, and 3B, while the Cubs wait to see if he can develop some HR power. If he can‘t, his ceiling will probably be as an MLB utility infielder.


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14. Reggie Golden, OF (2010 2nd Round - Wetumpka HS - Wetumpka, AL) - age 19 - 5‘10 225


COMMENT: Golden gave up a chance to play college ball at the University of Alabama when he signed with the Cubs in July ($720K bonus), and then he missed most of the AZL season rehabbing a hamstring pull and a sore hand. He attended Instructs post-2010 where he finally got a chance at some regular playing time (hitting 263/364/500 with two HR and three doubles in 14 games), at least up until the last week when he suffered what appeared to be a right oblique strain. The stocky Golden is as strong as a bull and has as much power as any player in the organization (and he has HR power to all fields), he is a patient/choosy hitter who isn’t afraid to take a walk, and he has a plus-arm that plays in RF. However, he is a poor defensive outfielder, he has (at best) average speed, and he is an erratic base-runner who relies too much on instinct. Golden oozes self-confidence that borders on cockiness, and I’m not sure how coachable he is or will be, but if he can somehow smooth out the rough edges (outfield play and base-running), he should develop into a big-time middle-of-the-order run producer with 30+ HR power potential. If he can stay healthy through Minor League Camp, he has a reasonable chance of starting the 2011 season at Peoria.


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15. Darwin Barney, SS (2007 3rd Round – Oregon State) - age 24 - 5‘10 180


COMMENT: Although other shortstops in the Cubs organization may be more highly-regarded, Darwin Barney is no slouch. Playing college ball at two-time CWS champion Oregon State, Barney rocketed through the Cubs system after getting drafted out of OSU in 2007, jumping up to Daytona in 2008 where he hit 262/325/357 with 22 doubles in 123 games, and then playing in the Arizona Fall League (and holding his own) post-2008. Barney hit 293/339/369 with 24 doubles in 513 PA (combined) at Tennessee and Iowa in 2009, and then 299/333/378 with 24 doubles in 510 PA at Iowa in 2010, before getting an August call-up to Chicago after Ryan Theriot was traded to the Dodgers. While he may not have the “ceiling” of a Starlin Castro or a Hak-Ju Lee, Barney is nevertheless a legitimate MLB prospect. He is a polished player, a solid hitter with above-average speed (33/10 SB/CS in 423 career minor league games), he can make all the plays at shortstop, and he showed that he can play 2B and 3B as well. Barney will likely be the Cubs #1 utility middle-infielder in 2011, but he could be a starting shortstop on some MLB clubs, so he could be used as trade bait at some point. Barney looks a bit like Derek Jeter and has some of Jeter’s mannerisms in the field, although (obviously) he certainly isn’t as talented as the Yankee shortstop.


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JUST MISSED THE CUT:
16. Alberto Cabrera, RHP (2005 NDFA - Dominican Republic) - age 22 - 6‘4 210
17. Marquez Smith, 3B (2007 8th Round - Clemson) - age 25 - 5‘10 200
18. Chris Rusin, LHP (2009 4th Round - U. of Kentuicky) - age 24 - 6‘2 190
19. Robinson Chirinos, C (2000 NDFA - Venezuela) - age 26 - 6‘1 195
20. Junior Lake, SS (2007 NDFA - Dominican Republic) - age 20 - 6‘2 200


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LAST YEAR’S TOP 15 PROSPECTS (PLUS FIVE):
1. Andrew Cashner, RHP (no longer qualifies)
2. Jay Jackson, RHP
3. Starlin Castro, SS (no longer qualifies)
4. Josh Vitters, 3B
5. Welington Castillo, C
6. D. J. LeMahieu, INF
7. Brett Jackson, OF
8. Hak-Ju Lee, SS
9. Chris Carpenter, RHP
10. Kyler Burke, RF
11. Ryan Flaherty, INF
12. Sam Fuld, OF (no longer qualifies)
13. Tyler Colvin, OF (no longer qualifies)
14. Darwin Barney, SS
15. Brandon Guyer, OF
16. Rebel Ridling, 1B
17. Logan Watkins, 2B
18. Chris Archer, RHP
19. Marquez Smith, 3B
20. Casey Coleman, RHP (no longer qualifies)

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Comments

jay jackson #6...that's cold...

hehe. at least we have off-season top-10/15/20 lists as cubs fans.

great list, phil. great primer and rundown on the players, too.

Awesome writeup.

Thanks Az Phil. This report is like high grade narcotics to us Cubs junkies.

I think this was posted previously but Vitters will be doing the "Camp Colvin" program with strength and conditioning coach (Tim Buss) after the AFL.

http://chicago.cubs.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?...

I appreciate the awesome run-down, AZ Phil.

Been looking forward to your list---can't help wondering about Flaherty, however. Help, anyone!!!! What web site gives me AZ Fall League box scores?

Thanks PHIL. This is fantastic.

So, you have tabbed three players that play the same position: Lee, Barney, and LeMahieu.

Will each of these players be given a chance to land with the big club now that Quade has been hired? Is the club cemented to Castro at SS, or with 29-ish errors at the position will one of the above get a legit shot in 2011 forcing Castro to 2B as you suggest?

From other discussions about Lee, do you feel he still needs the most seasoning as you have in the past? Will LeMahieu get more of an edge due to the Hendry-LSU connection (and whaddya know - our former LSU little guy is in the World Series)? I suppose it would appear as you also suggest, that one of these players will/could end up going into a trade - perhaps for a set-up guy?

Submitted by The E-Man on Mon, 10/25/2010 - 8:35am.
Thanks PHIL. This is fantastic.

So, you have tabbed three players that play the same position: Lee, Barney, and LeMahieu.

Will each of these players be given a chance to land with the big club now that Quade has been hired? Is the club cemented to Castro at SS, or with 29-ish errors at the position will one of the above get a legit shot in 2011 forcing Castro to 2B as you suggest?

From other discussions about Lee, do you feel he still needs the most seasoning as you have in the past? Will LeMahieu get more of an edge due to the Hendry-LSU connection (and whaddya know - our former LSU little guy is in the World Series)? I suppose it would appear as you also suggest, that one of these players will/could end up going into a trade - perhaps for a set-up guy?

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E-MAN: I think Starlin Castro is the Cubs SS for the near future. Darwin Barney is a good SS and probably could be an everyday player on certain MLB clubs that have a hole at SS, but that's not the Cubs. As long as Barney is with the Cubs, he'll almost certainly be the #1 back-up middle infielder. But I suspect Barney will end up getting traded at some point (possibly in the near future) to a team looking for a young shortstop, in exchange for a bullpen arm.

Hak-Ju Lee showed a lot of improvement defensively at Instructs (no errors in 11 games, plus he also made several nice plays in the field, especially when turning the DP with 2B buddy Logan Watkins), and if he progresses along and continues to improve, he very likely would play SS once he reaches the big leagues (possibly in 2012 or 2013), and then Castro would likely be moved to 2B at that time. By that time Castro might have filled out a bit more and developed some HR power, and the move from SS to 2B will just seem to be the natural move for him. HJ Lee is very fast (good base-stealer) and could be either a lead-off hitter or #8 hitter in the big leagues, depending on how he progreses with the bat, but he is never going to hit for power. Lee will be the everyday SS and lead-off hitter at Daytona in 2011, but there is a possibnility (although it's not likely) that Lee could jump to AA.

D. J. LeMahieu looks most-comfortable at SS, but if he were to remain there you'd have yourself an offensive-first SS who might not have the range necessary to play the position everyday at the MLB level. He'd have to hit a LOT to make a club overlook his lack of range. For LeMahieu to make it to the big leages as an everyday player, he will probably either have to learn to play 2B better than he has so far, or develop the HR power required of a 3B (and I do believe he is strong enough to do that, he just needs to alter his stroke). Otherwise, LeMahieu would seem to fit the bill as an MLB utility infielder (2B-SS-3B). He should press Barney for that job in 2012.

In fact the Cubs should (at the very least) be able to fill most or all of their MLB back-up jobs (catcher, middle-infielder, 4th OF, etc) in-house (and for the MLB minimum $$$) for the next few years. There should be no need for the Cubs to sign any expensive back-up position players.

BTW, Junior Lake (who I list at #20) is another player who showed some improvement (at Daytona) in 2010. Lake came to Fitch Park with Starlin Castro in 2008 and was on a par with Castro that first season. In fact, Lake actually appeared to be the better prospect at that time. But Castro took advantage of Instructs post-2008 to improve his all-around game and then kept improving, while Lake did not so much. (Lake's just not very coachable). But Lake has moved right along, moving up to Peoria in 2009 and to Daytona in 2010. He just hasn't jumped any levels like Castro did.

But Lake is still only 20 years old, and he should be the #1 shortstop at Tennessee in 2011. He is still a raw player (makes a lot of careless errors and tries to do too much with the bat), but he showed signs of improvement both at the plate and in the field last year at Daytona, and he has the natural talent required to play in the big leagues (albeit probably as an athletic back-up super-sub IF-OF) if he can continue to improve over the next couple of years. Lake has a strong arm, excellent range, and the potential to hit 20+ HR. He just has not been able to refine his game enough to move up the pipeline as fast as Castro did, and maybe he never will.

BTW, I do think the Cubs will sign a shortstop with MLB experience to a minor league contract during the off-season to give Barney some competition for the #1 back-up middle infielder gig in ST, with the loser being the starting SS at Iowa in 2011. Then Junior Lake will probably be the #1 SS at Tennessee, HJ Lee at Daytona, and Arismendy Alcantara at Peoria. And Wes Darvill and Marco Hernandez will probably be the shortstops at EXST.

I just can't really get behind Junior Lake as a shortstop. I'm not sure if it's his physique or his motions but in the very little I've gotten to see him play, he looks more like a 3rd basemen.

Submitted by The Real Neal on Mon, 10/25/2010 - 11:44am.
I just can't really get behind Junior Lake as a shortstop. I'm not sure if it's his physique or his motions but in the very little I've gotten to see him play, he looks more like a 3rd basemen.

============================================

REAL NEAL: I agree. Junior Lake looked better at 3B even going back to his first year at Fitch Park (2008). But the Cubs played him heavily at SS at Daytona in 2010 (with just a handful of games at 3B), and I suspect he will be the primary SS at Tennessee in 2011, unless Hak-Ju Lee (unexpectedly) wins the job at Minor League Camp. If that happens, then Lake would likely go back to Daytona again, although he would be the primary SS there.

Ultimately, if Lake does progress enough to make it the big leagues, it will probably be as an IF-OF supersub, sort of like a Bill Hall-type (offensive-first, power & speed combo, but with a low OBP).

BTW, one player who I had in the 16-20 group up until the last minute was OF Evan Crawford.

A 2009 9th round pick by the Giants out of Indiana U. and acquired from SF in August for Mike Fontenot, the 22-year old Crawford was probably the MVP at Instructs, hitting 385/400/461 with four doubles & three triples in 40 PA (10 games), with 4/1 SB/CS, while playing a steady & quality CF the days Jae-Hoon Ha wasn't out there.

Crawford reminds me a lot of Doug Glanville, and is probably the fastest player in the Cubs organization. But the only reason I did not put him at #20 was because he (like Jae-Hoon Ha) is a "hacker" (zero walks at Instructs), and a guy who profiles as a lead-off hitter MUST be willing to look at pitches and take walks (I don't see that as much of a negative for Ha because of his HR power and the likelihood that he will hit in the #6-7 slot if he reaches the big leagues).

But in every other way Crawford projects as an MLB 4th OF, and he should be the CF at Tennessee in 2011.

Great stuff, Phil. Thanks as always. Where do you anticipate Matt Szczur being at this time next year? He had quite an impressive, but brief showing this summer. Given that he seems to be playing very little for Villanova football this season, maybe that will help convince him to play baseball?

Actually, I wouldn't be too sure, unless he is injured this year (as a Big Ten guy, I do not follow 'Nova sports closely):

"Villanova captured its first national championship in football when the Wildcats defeated previously unbeaten Montana, 23-21, on Dec. 18, 2009 in Chattanooga, Tenn. Matt Szczur led the Villanova charge with a career-high 159 yards rushing and 270 all-purpose yards."

Going into this year, I wasn't too sure. But Szczur HAS been injured for more than half of the season, and noone knows when he is coming back...

Submitted by Jace on Mon, 10/25/2010 - 11:28am.
Great stuff, Phil. Thanks as always. Where do you anticipate Matt Szczur being at this time next year? He had quite an impressive, but brief showing this summer. Given that he seems to be playing very little for Villanova football this season, maybe that will help convince him to play baseball?

=======================================

JACE: Matt Szczur gets $500K if he does not go the NFL Combine in February and commits to playing pro baseball with the Cubs. So I guess it will depend on how much he likes football.

If he does choose baseball over football, I would expect Szczur to be at Peoria in 2011--probably for the entire season, hitting lead-off and playing CF. (He is VERY fast, but still a bit raw). If that happens, the most likely scenario (as things stand now) would be an outfield of Morelli-Szczur-Golden LF-CF-RF at Peoria on Opening Day 2011, with Richard Jones/Ryan Cuneo the 1B/DH combo, Pierre LePage at 2B, Arismendy Alcantara at SS, Brandon May at 3B, and Micah Gibbs the catcher, and with Chad Noble the back-up catcher, Elliot Soto the utility INF, and either Anthony Giansanti, Cody Shields, or Chris Huseby the 4th OF...

Szczur, CF
Alcantara, SS
LePage, 2B
Jones, DH
May, 3B
Golden, RF
Cuneo, 1B
Morelli, LF
Gibbs, C

Something like that.

Szcur injured his ankle in a game gainst Penn a month ago and is out.

http://wusa9.com/sports/story.aspx?storyid=11...

Szcur has been mentioned as a possible NFL draft pick, although I haven't seen any talk of him being drafted higher than the 4th or 5th round.

"Jamie Moyer has agreed to pitch this offseason for the Escogido Lions of the Dominican Winter League."

go guy go.

...also j.farrell is in as TOR manager, d.duncan 2yr STL pitching coach, and m.mcgwire continues his earned exile from baseball after embarrassing it by getting another year as batting coach for STL (that'll teach him not to cheat).

...and don baylor ARZ hitting coach...

His wife must be a real prize.

AZ Phil, great column! Couple questions:

1. Why was BRETT JACKSON played later in the season in LF at Tennessee? They aren't going to move him there, are they? Much more valuable if he can play ML CF.

2. Our systems seems stronger than in past years. True?

Deep in middle infielders and power arms

1- tony campana...speed/CF-LF bench fodder, though

Submitted by Q-Ball on Mon, 10/25/2010 - 2:48pm.
AZ Phil, great column! Couple questions:

1. Why was BRETT JACKSON played later in the season in LF at Tennessee? They aren't going to move him there, are they? Much more valuable if he can play ML CF.

2. Our systems seems stronger than in past years. True?

Deep in middle infielders and power arms

==============================================

Q-BALL: Brett Jackson played exclusively in CF when he was at Daytona, but then he was used in all three OF positions about equally once he made it to Tennessee. Part of that was because Tony Campana was the CF and Brandon Guyer needed to play some there, too, but I suspect it was mainly to give B. Jackson experience at all three OF positions in case he is used as a 4th OF when he initially arrives in Chicago (like Tyler Colvin was used in 2010). But Jackson's best position is CF.

The Cubs minor league system has a lot of depth right now. They could actually get away with not signing any minor league free-agents during the off-season and still have four fairly strong & deep full-season squads.

AZ Phil- A couple questions.

1. I saw the above comment where you talked a little about the minor league short stop situation. Do you see Flaherty infiltrating the rankings somewhere? I know its almost certainly a foregone conclusion that he will be a utility player once he reaches the big leagues but I feel like his value goes up if he can play SS as well.
2. Staying on the SS topic, is Hak-Ju Lee a strong enough player that he could benefit from a jump to AA, or rather, could he hold his own at Tennessee at such a young age? After seeing him play this past year, he seems like someone whose bat is going to play wherever he goes since his best skills, speed and ability to put the bat on the ball, truly could play at any level. Granted, the walks need to go up and k's down but if his defensive decision making is better, but he is really an exciting player.
3. Is Alcantara ahead of Elliot Soto on the organization depth chart? I feel like Soto is just an organization player that will just provide a little depth and could end up providing a bit of professionalism and helping someone like Arismendy along. Clarification on the comment of Darvill and Hernandez as EXST SS. Who goes to Boise when its time or is that very dependent on production? Hernandez seems like that same slap hitter that you described Lee as so maybe his game is the same as yours so maybe he could move quickly? Though I admit I'm not familiar with his skill set.
4. Another question has to do with your comment about Crawford being the CF at Tennessee next season. Does that mean you see Brett Jackson being moved off of CF or you see him being the CF at Iowa?

Thanks as always.

Submitted by W Flag on Mon, 10/25/2010 - 3:17pm.
AZ Phil- A couple questions.

1. I saw the above comment where you talked a little about the minor league short stop situation. Do you see Flaherty infiltrating the rankings somewhere? I know its almost certainly a foregone conclusion that he will be a utility player once he reaches the big leagues but I feel like his value goes up if he can play SS as well.

2. Staying on the SS topic, is Hak-Ju Lee a strong enough player that he could benefit from a jump to AA, or rather, could he hold his own at Tennessee at such a young age? After seeing him play this past year, he seems like someone whose bat is going to play wherever he goes since his best skills, speed and ability to put the bat on the ball, truly could play at any level. Granted, the walks need to go up and k's down but if his defensive decision making is better, but he is really an exciting player.

3. Is Alcantara ahead of Elliot Soto on the organization depth chart? I feel like Soto is just an organization player that will just provide a little depth and could end up providing a bit of professionalism and helping someone like Arismendy along.

Clarification on the comment of Darvill and Hernandez as EXST SS. Who goes to Boise when its time or is that very dependent on production? Hernandez seems like that same slap hitter that you described Lee as so maybe his game is the same as yours so maybe he could move quickly? Though I admit I'm not familiar with his skill set.

4. Another question has to do with your comment about Crawford being the CF at Tennessee next season. Does that mean you see Brett Jackson being moved off of CF or you see him being the CF at Iowa?

Thanks as always.

============================================

W FLAG:

1. Ryan Flaherty was a big dude when the Cubs drafted him, but now he's even bigger and is starting to resemble Adam Dunn. (OK, he still has a ways to go, but he's headed in that direction...). But Flaherty has very likely "outgrown" SS, and he might be about to outgrow 2B, too! If I had to guess, I would say Flaherty will soon morph into a LH platoon corner IF-OF (1B-3B-LF-RF). I would expect him to be an "everyday" type player at Tennessee in 2011, but without any one single position, instead moving around from position-to-position one game to the next, playing 1B-2B-3B-LF-RF at various times, but especially corner OF because that's where he needs to get some game experience. He's already played LF (and 2B-3B-1B) in the AFL, so he is on his way to the future.

2. I think it's possible that HJ Lee could get jumped to Tennessee. He will almost certainly be initially assigned to the AA (Tennessee) squad in Minor League Camp (players are routinely assigned one slot higher than where they are expected to play when they first report to Minor League Camp, but then most get moved down prior to Opening Day) and then it will be up to him to prove to Oneri Fleita and Dave Bialas that he belongs there, like Starlin Castro did in 2009 when he jumped from the AZL Cubs to Daytona.

3a. Exactly. Arismendy Alcantara is a legitimate prospect, while Elliot Soto is more of a college vet who can provide mentor-leadership to the younger players and (as you said) professionalism. As for how they will be used, I suspect Alcantara will play SS but also occasionally 2B and 3B, and then Soto will play SS when Alcantara has the day off or when he is playing 2B or 3B. Soto is a VERY good defensive SS (he reminds me of ex-Cubs minor league SS Carlos Rojas, who was Harry Houdini in the field but Helen Keller at the plate). There is a possibility that Soto could make the Daytona Opening Day roster as the back-up middle-infielder, because there is a hole there. Actually, Jonathan Mota would be a perfect fit as the utility infielder and #3 catcher at Daytona, because he has seven seasons of minor league experience and could help mentor the young Latin players, but that's only if he opts to re-sign with the Cubs (he is eligible to be a Rule 55 minor league FA).

3b. Wes Darvill will probably go to Boise in 2011, although there is certainly a reasonable possibility that he could make the Peoria Opening Day roster, especially if Elliot Soto is needed at Daytona, or if Darvill clearly outplays Alcantara in Minor Leaguer League Camp. Marco Hernandez will very likely be the #1 SS at AZL Cubs. Darvill won't go back there again.

4. I don't think Brett Jackson will open the season at Iowa, mainly because Wright-Campana-Guyer-Adduci are already there and all four are older than Jackson and there just isn't room for a 5th OF (plus Matt Camp and Matt Spencer can play OF, too). But it really doesn't matter that much, because B-Jax can (like Starlin Castro) get promoted to Chicago just as easily from AA as he can from AAA. The main difference between AA and AAA is age and experience, not talent. If anything there is probably more talent in AA than there is in AAA. Besides being a place to stash experienced players you might need as injury replacements during the season, AAA is really more of a "finishing school" for "late-bloomers" who need more time to develop and refine their game (with Geovany Soto and Casey McGehee being a couple of prime examples).

Trammell gone to AZ (per DBacks mlb.com site)

The D-backs are expected to complete their coaching staff by hiring Alan Trammell, Don Baylor and Charles Nagy, according to an industry source. Trammell, who will be named bench coach, served in a similar capacity for four years for the Cubs. He will replace Bo Porter, who was dismissed at the end of the season.

http://arizona.diamondbacks.mlb.com/news/arti...

replace one should-be Hall of Famer with a Hall of Famer sounds awesome to me...

pining to be the most hated woman in New York.

Perhaps the Rangers' greatest sales pitch simply was having Kristen sit in the visiting family section at Yankee Stadium during the playoffs. She says there were ugly taunts. Obscenities. Cups of beer thrown. Even fans spitting from the section above.

"The fans did not do good things in my heart," Kristen says.

"When people are staring at you, and saying horrible things, it's hard not to take it personal."

also she's from Little Rock and says she loves being so close to home.

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/al/ra...

also she's from Little Rock and says she loves being so close to home.

Great, maybe the Cards will sign him.

wow...according to rotowurld/ESPN the A's are going to pick up mark ellis's 6m option.

somewhere out there kelly johnson is raising a golf putter in celebration and anticipating his coming payday/contract.

Pretty good article from a Grand Rapids paper focusing on Quade's career-at-a-crossroads moment when he accepted a three-rung demotion to manage a low-A team for the A's.

little sandberg news from ESPN quoting everyone's favorite mouthpiece..."a source"

http://sports.espn.go.com/chicago/mlb/news/st...

"CHICAGO -- Ryne Sandberg will not be part of Chicago Cubs manager Mike Quade's staff, according to a source familiar with the situation."

Source = anyone who's heard of baseball and isn't a dipshit?

There's a few people here at your friendly neighborhood TCR that have been proponents of such a move. I agree that it's poorly thought through.

Two words: Gary Varsho

Good work Mr. Phil!

It seemed like Junior Lake really moved ahead as a prospect this year. Is it possible that we see him move past Barney and Hak Le on the lists this year?

DR AARON B: Because of his power/speed/arm combo, Junior Lake has the highest ceiling of any Cubs shortstop (including Starlin Castro), but he has had difficulty learning to accept coaching & instruction. He was apparently kind of a street kid in the Dominican Republic, and I'm not sure if he even attended school. He seemed to turn a corner at Daytona mid-season 2010, so it will be interesting to see if he can continue to progress at Tennessee in 2011.

Thanks as always for the great writeup AZP.

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