Chicago Cubs Top 20 PRE-SEASON Prospects in Review

Chicago Cubs Top 20 PRE-SEASON Prospects in Review

This list was originally published November 29, 2008. This is a REVIEW of the OLD LIST. It is NOT a new list. Grades are from last November. I won't do new grades or lists until I start writing the 2010 book.

1) Josh Vitters, 3B, Grade B+: Hit .316/.351/.535 in the Midwest League, but just .244/.262/.341 in the Florida State League. He's very young, main red flag here is extremely low walk rate, just nine all season. Strikeouts aren't bad with 57 in 392 at-bats, but he's somewhat overmatched right now. Doesn't turn 20 until next week, very young still.

2) Jeff Samardzija, RHP, Grade B: 3.52 ERA with 56/22 K/BB in 72 innings for Triple-A Iowa, 7.81 ERA with 17/12 K/BB in 28 innings in the majors. I have given up on trying to predict this guy. I've always felt they were rushing him too quickly.

3) Ryan Flaherty, SS, Grade B: Hitting .270/.334/.473 for Low-A Peoria, with 19 homers, 40 walks, 83 strikeouts. Hitting .305/.362/.512 in the second half.

4) Andrew Cashner, RHP, Grade B-: 1.50 ERA with 34/15 K/BB in 42 innings in the Florida State League, 2.92 ERA with 31/17 K/BB in 37 innings in the Double-A Southern League. Kept on short leash (20 starts but just 79 innings) as he converts to rotation from previous bullpen role. Good stuff, command still wobbly at times but a high ceiling.

5) Hak-Ju Lee, SS, Grade B-: Hitting .314/.385/.417 with 21 steals in the Northwest League. Doing well so far, looks like a very intriguing player.

6) Jay Jackson, RHP, Grade B-:  3.70 ERA with 77/39 K/BB in 83 Double-A innings. Demoted to the Florida State League for disciplinary reasons, 0.36 ERA so far with 24/3 K/BB in 25 innings and just 15 hits allowed. Way too good for that level. A very fine prospect if his head is on straight.

7) Tyler Colvin, OF, Grade C+: Hitting .291/.323/.494 for Double-A Tennessee. Walk rate is still very low (12 in 237 at-bats). Production up slightly as he repeats the level.

8) Welington Castillo, C, Grade C+: Hitting .213/.259/.365 with 11 homers in 83 games for Tennessee. Walk rate is very low (13 in 295 plate appearances).

9) Dae-Eun Rhee, RHP, Grade C+: Made first appearance in the Arizona Rookie League on August 15th, recovering from Tommy John.

10) Aaron Shafer, RHP, Grade C+: 5.27 ERA with 65/28 K/BB in 97 innings in the Midwest League, 113 hits. Throws strikes but right now it looks like his stuff just isn't good enough.

11) Starlin Castro, SS, Grade C+: Hit .302/.340/.391 with 22 steals in the Florida State League, promoted to Double-A and has struggled so far (.222/.314/.244 in 13 games). Just 19 years old, raw but very promising given age/experience level.

12) Junior Lake, SS, Grade C+: Hitting .246/.279/.374 with 17 walks, 122 strikeouts in 398 at-bats in the Midwest League. Like Castro, very young and toolsy, but plate discipline is horrendous and has prevented him from thriving as Castro has done this  year.

13) Dan McDaniel, RHP, Grade C+: 4.78 ERA with 75/41 K/BB in 85 innings for Daytona, 93 hits allowed. Not a lot going on here except for a 1.48 GO/AO ratio. Needs better control.

14) Micah Hoffpauir, 1B, Grade C: hit .233/.280/.422 in 81 major league games, 180 at-bats. Now back at Iowa, hitting .250/.300/.472 in nine games. He's old at age 29 and not a real prospect obviously, but worse players have had careers.

15) Esmailin Caridad, RHP, Grade C: 4.15 ERA with 105/45 K/BB in 126 innings for Iowa, pitched in six major league innings allowing three runs with a 6/1 K/BB. Older guy at 25 and short, but looks like he could be a useful pitcher.

16) Don Veal, LHP, Grade C: Went to Pirates in Rule 5 draft after this list was published. Has walked 16 in 10 major league innings, currently on rehab assignment in the minors.

17) Josh Kroeger, OF, Grade C: Signed with White Sox as minor league free agent after this list was published, hitting .269/.316/.430 with 20 steals in Triple-A. Worse players have had careers.

18) Tony Thomas, 2B, Grade C: Hitting .258/.344/.396 with 10 homers, 11 steals but 13 caught stealing in Double-A. Not a lot of difference between this year and last year, though walk rate is slightly higher.

19) Chris Carpenter, RHP, Grade C: Excellent in A-ball, has been so-so in four Double-A starts, combined numbers are 2.58 ERA with a 106/47 K/BB in 115 innings, 83 hits on the season. Has always had the stuff and has stayed healthy this year. Moving up the charts quickly.

20) Mitch Atkins, RHP, Grade C: 6.88 ERA with 104/44 K/BB in 124 innings in Triple-A, 141 hits. Throws strikes but stuff is short.

The Cubs had a lot of guys I didn't know what to do with on the list last fall, with a mixture of old guys with Triple-A success and young guys who were very low in the system. The outcome reflects this compromise. Even Baseball America had the 28-year-old Hoffpauir at 12 on their list.

I don't know why I didn't have Jake Fox in the book. I was certainly aware of him and had written about him before. I had given him a C+ and a fairly positive review of his power potential in 2008. Not putting him in the '09 book looks like a stupid moron mistake and I don't remember my thought process or lack thereof. This is his age 27 career breakout, but it's fun for Cubs fans to watch and nice to see a product of the system doing well, especially one that scouts have panned in the past.

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