Top Unprotected Cubs Prospects (IMO) - There is some speculation by people (fans really, but one of them is a really knowledgeable fan so I think that's got some people chatting about it) that some of the Cubs unprotected guys may be potential compensation pieces for the Red Sox/Padres (that is, those organizations may not want these guys on their 40, so if they pass through Rule 5, then a deal could happen).
Well, since today was protection day, I thought it might be a good idea to have a thread about this. I haven't found a list of top unprotected guys yet (but I haven't looked that hard), as everything is focused on who was protected. I don't think there's a need to post the protected guys. Everyone can go to mlbtr to look at it. Granted, the number of truly intriguing guys for Rule 5 have diminished. I'll post the my take on the Cubs top unprotected guys, with my pros and cons as to why the decision was made/why they might get picked, after the jump. I'm hopeful that people will post lists for their teams, as there's no point for me to have a thread on unprotected Cubs players.
(name, age, level finished 2011)
* Dae-Eun Rhee, 22, A+ - This one surprised/bothered me and yet I could understand it somewhat. At year's end, he was hitting mid-90's (still sat more 92/93) with a plus change and decent slider. Furthermore, he was working 6 or more late in the year. Callis recently said in the Cubs prospect chat that Rhee was borderline top 10 (I have him 6th) with a chance to be a number 3 starter. The talent's there, and as a lot of sources have noted, the stuff was really strong late in the year (9.35 K/9, 2.65 BB/9 in July/August). On the flip side, he can hit mid-90's as a starter, but can he sit mid-90's out of the pen? If he can't, then you've got a long man with an injury history, and you'd have to really love his starter potential to use up a spot this year. I could see a small market team rolling the dice.
* Jeffry Antigua, 21, A+ - Lefty had an odd season, but finished strong. On the plus side, he's got 3 solid pitches, good stamina, and fastball is more consistently in the low 90's. On the flip side, it's debatable if he has a plus pitch, and a team may not want to put a guy like that in their pen for a year right now. I have him in the mid-teens for Cubs prospects.
* Jay Jackson, 24, AAA - Former top prospect has fallen hard (BA had him outside of the top 30, same for me). Still can get the velo up there, but slider is inconsistent. I do wonder if he might benefit from a pen move (and focusing on one secondary pitch), so could be an intriguing gamble for a team.
* Marcus Hatley, 23, AA/Kyler Burke, 23, Shortseason/Blake Parker, 26, AAA - Hatley was sent to AFL, so could see a team taking a gamble. Has big time power stuff, but is raw (fb in the mid-90's, power slider). Missed a year with injuries. Kyler Burke moved to pitching this year and the stuff looks good, with a nice 3 pitch arsenal. Some Cubs fans have speculated that he could get a rotation look next year. Power stuff, but raw. Parker finished strong, and has a live fastball with a good slider. Stuff isn't good enough to expect more than a middle relief role, IMO.
* Marwin Gonzalez, 22, AAA - Versatile middle infielder plays a solid short, is young, toolsy, and some still expect some pop out of the bat. That said, he's not a plus glove and the bat is still a huge work in progress.
* Ryan Flaherty, 25, AAA - Versatile player can spot at 6 positions. Has legitimate, big time power, and a decent approach at the plate. That said, contact ability is questionable, hasn't settled in at a corner spot (more because he's moved around so much), and is getting older. Bad run in AAA. Possible super-util, but Cubs have Baker, and a couple guys who could fill a similar role.
To be honest, if Gonzalez/Hatley/Burke/Parker/Jackson/Antigua get picked and stick for the entire year, I think, as a Cubs fan, I tip my cap, wish them the best, and move on. The Cubs left a ton of spots open on the 40 (6) and they'll need some upper level positional backups/role guys, and I'm not sure they'll find better than Flaherty through Rule 5 or FA, but that's me.