Getting to Know Your Obscure Cubs

Getting to Know Your Obscure Cubs: Starlin Castro

As the top prospect on a lot of Cubs' prospect lists this offseason, Starlin Castro isn't all that obscure. But my idea for this little series of articles was to focus on some of the less obvious names that could impact the team in 2010 beyond the usual suspects. And it might not be right out of spring training, but somewhere potentially down the winding road. And even though Castro has been hyped up quite a bit lately, there aren't many of us that have gotten to see him on a regular basis, so let's dive a little deeper into the almost 20-year old phenom. Of course, I haven't seen him play myself besides a few video clips, but that won't stop me from pretending I KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT EVERYTHING, for it's not the Internet if you can't pass yourself off as a faux expert.

Castro was signed in 2006 out of the Dominican Republic at age 16 and played in the Dominican Summer League the following year with good results (299/371/371). At age 18, he found his way to Arizona and improved to 311/364/464 in the AZL and started to place on some of the prospect lists. The Cubs under scouting director Tim Wilken have obviously stressed the middle of the diamond and with Castro, Hak-Ju Lee, Darwin Barney, Logan Watkins, Junior Lake and Ryan Flaherty, they could afford a few risks with their promotions. Castro was the benefactor thanks to his coachability and got the bump to Hi-A Daytona to start off 2009. He managed it well and as a 19-year old earned a mid-season All-Star selection in the Florida State League and then a promotion to Double A Tennessee. He finished the year at 299/342/392 between the two levels, all before his 20th birthday. The Cubs then rewarded him with a nod to the Arizona Fall League where he put up a  376/398/475 slash line in the friendly hitting environmet and played in the "Rising Stars" game. This was enough to earn him a non-roster invite to the big league club and talk that he'll push Ryan Theriot out of a job.

The Cubs prospect hype machine has been at full throttle with Castro since last year and I've heard comparisions from Shawon Dunston to Edgar Renteria to Derek Jeter. Arizona Phil's comparision may have been my favorite:

Castro has been everything the Cubs hoped Ronny Cedeno would be, but never was.

Well if he can manage to not overslide second base to end a game on a walk, I can only envision great things.

Getting to Know Your Obscure Cubs: Jeff Gray

In my quest to fill out some pages at Wiklifield, I thought I'd take a deeper look at some lesser known guys in the organization that could make an impact.

Jeff Gray

The center piece as far as the Cubs were concerned when they moved Aaron Miles and Jake Fox to the A's in December(the Cubs also received Ronny Morla and Matt Spencer). The 28-year old right-hander was drafted in 2004 by the Oakland A's in the 32nd round and saw a brief 4-inning cup of coffee in 2008 despite struggling in the minors with a 4.32 ERA.  After the season, he reworked some issues with his mechanics in the AFL and enjoyed a more successful 2009 with a 1.54 ERA in Triple A over 41 innings with 16 saves and then a solid 3.76 ERA over 26.1 IP with the A's after being called up on four occasions. His strikeout rate dropped significantly in 2009, although he still maintained a fantastic K:BB ratio(4.75 in the majors, 3.76 in the minors) and keeps the ball in the park with a remarkable 0.36 HR/9 rate over his minor league career.

He claims to throw five pitches - a four-seamer, sinker, slider, changeup and curveball - but says his sinker and slider are his bread-and-butter pitches.

He'll compete for one or two bullpen spots that will be open to competition this spring. Jim Hendry compared him to Angel Guzman when the Cubs acquired him in December. I assume that was a comparision to their pitching style and not injury histories as Gray seems to have stayed healthy so far through his career. If he doesn't make the club out of spring training, he does have one minor league option left.

After the jump, the bulk of his Wiklified entry.

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  • Reports this morning that Marlins' pitching ace Jose Fernandez died in a boating accident - just horrible news.

    Eric S 2 hours 33 min ago view
  • Check out John Arguello at Cubs Den for great analysis & photos from Cubs AZ Instructs

    link

    Arizona Phil 14 hours 47 min ago view
  • soler + hammel for mike trout is pretty much a sure thing. *nods*

    crunch 20 hours 5 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 20 hours 6 min ago view
  • And...now that runner scores on a single...

    The E-Man 20 hours 18 min ago view
  • So where do you think Soler will be traded to this off season?

    jacos 20 hours 19 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 20 hours 19 min ago view
  • Man you cannot put Soler out there late in games for Playoffs. Yuch...

    The E-Man 20 hours 27 min ago view
  • Such is the life of a fatted calf...

    JoePepitone 20 hours 40 min ago view
  • fowler with a triple in the 4th...he's a HR away from a "natural" cycle

    crunch 21 hours 13 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 21 hours 17 min ago view
  • his collapse started on august 21st this season...so it's a slight improvement.

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

    crunch 21 hours 29 min ago view
  • I'm really going to enjoy watching Hammel watch the playoffs.

    Jackstraw 21 hours 48 min ago view
  • The always combustible Jason Hammel

    jacos 22 hours 8 min ago view
  • Hammel :(

    Charlie 22 hours 9 min ago view
  • That was fun.

    Charlie 1 day 1 hour ago view