I kept meaning to get a Cubs post up at some point, but I never was able to finish a post to my satisfaction. With John about to get his post up, and with the two big lists out for the Cubs this year, I thought I'd throw something up there. I'll try to keep it as short as I can, but since I know I have a tendency to go on at times, what I'll do is post my list first, and then post a lengthier explanation after the jump (which, admittedly, makes the post longer).
BA's list - Jackson, Baez, Szczur, McNutt, Maples, Castillo, Dolis, Lake, Vitters, Vogelbach
BP's list - Jackson, Baez, Castillo, Maples, Szczur, Vitters, Candelario, McNutt, Hernandez, Lake, Dolis, Vogelbach, Ha, Carpenter, Zych, Flaherty, LeMahieu, DeVoss, Golden, Gonzalez
Both were done pre-moves. Great thing about BP's Cubs list is that the entire thing was free. KG indicated that Torreyes would be 11th for him in a tweet, I believe.
I'd also encourage everyone to read the great Q&A that Jim Callis did for Tim Stuart over at NSBB. A great job getting those responses, particularly for those that don't have a BA subscription and wanted more insight that the chats often give.
There's a lot more folks more knowledgeable with (Marc Hulet, for fangraphs, challenges the Brett Jackson as the top prospect notion), but for the sake of brevity, it's best to keep it to these two lists. As always, this is just my take, and while I'll defend my order, I'm also aware of my limited knowledge. The quick thought on this year's Cubs list - not hard to rank (only a few deserved B level grades), but fairly hard to order because of a large clump of guys in that C+ group. My list, and then a lengthier write-up after the jump. I tried my best to avoid my own biases for and against players, but obviously, not always easy.
Toonsterwu's Cubs Top 30 Prospects
1. Brett Jackson, B+.
2. Javier Baez, B+.
3. Marco Hernandez, B.
4. Matt Szczur, B-.
5. Kenneth "Trey" McNutt, B-.
6. Dae-Eun Rhee, B-.
7. Dillon Maples, B-.
8. Welington Castillo, B-.
9. Ben Wells, C+.
10.Josh Vitters, C+.
11.Jae-Hoon Ha, C+.
12.Reggie Golden, C+.
13.Dallas Beeler, C+.
14.Robert Whitenack, C+.*
15.Dan Vogelbach, C+.
16.Jeimer Candelario, C+.
17.Rafael Dolis, C+.
18.Junior Lake, C+.
19.Jeffrey Beliveau, C+.
20.Ronald Torreyes, C+.
21.Nick Struck, C+.
22.Chris Carpenter, C+.
23.Jeffry Antigua, C+.
24.Gioskar Amaya, C.
25.Dave Sappelt, C.
26.Alberto Cabrera, C.
27.Ezekiel DeVoss, C.
28.Jose Rosario, C.
29.Luis Liria, C.
30.Tony Zych, C.
I'll try to shorten the longer write-up as much as possible. Admittedly, I am still fiddling with that list on occasion (fully acknowledge that I could wake up tomorrow and decide to flip the order on some C+/C guys - I do feel comfortable with my top 8, though), along with the 31 and on section that I do for fun. Add in time obligations, and a full rebuild by a new regime, and I kept pushing things off along with waiting to see what other additions would be coming into the system.
- The system isn't good, but it's still deep (and most analysts have acknowledged the high number of potential major leaguers in the system). I think that pushes it out of the bottom 3-5 slots, but to each their own on what they value. Would agree that, as to how teams judge systems, this is a bottom third system as of now.
- Despite that, there might be more excitement from the fan-base (that follows the minors) than the system last year, which was ranked as high as 8th (pre-Garza) and was generally thought of as a top 20 system. Why?
o Epstein and Co. - I won't delve too deeply into thoughts on this, since it doesn't completely deal with the minors, but their arrival brought the promise of increased front office spending and a more advanced approach to baseball, without diminishing the value of "old-time" scouts. I haven't had a problem with a total rebuild for 3-4 years running now, so I'm fine with their approach. Haven't had a real big issue with any of their moves so far (the only one would be exposing/losing Flaherty/Gonzalez when it was clear that the 40 man (with plenty of spaces available) would need some upper level positional depth and versatility, and turning around to sign guys like Reed Johnson/Jeff Bianchi, but not that big an issue, and I liked both guys lost). As it relates to the system, the two immediate hopes I had were that they would bring a new offensive philosophy to the developmental aspects and enhancing the video scouting efforts. I believe the system has good coaches in it, but better top-down guidance was needed.
o Results of Ricketts and spending. Ricketts first two years will end up being the final two years of free-spending in the draft, and reportedly, that change is part of why the full rebuild path was chosen. In the 2010/2011 drafts, though, the Cubs increased their spending in the draft more than they had in recent pasts (particularly 2011), and in the process, took some gambles on upside that the system had lacked. Whether or not the right guys were picked, only time will tell, but it added some desperately needed ceiling and potential, along with addressing the offensive power shortage that the system had. All this occurred without impacting their foreign operations, where they are still quite active in Asia, and are building a new Academy in the Dominican Republic. They even made a couple big ticket signings (Malave/Enrique Acosta) in Latin America that they typically hadn't done before (they tend to spread it out, partly to fill out two DSL squads, but more because they feel they can identify talent there. Hey, they found Castro on the cheap.) There was an identifiable talent gap entering 2011 in the A ball ranks that, combined with the lack of upside in the system, worried many fans, despite several years of positive system growth. The hope is that some of these kids will fill in and change things around.
Anyhow, I won't bore much longer. The system has a high number of intriguing upside, power arms in the low levels (mainly likely to be assigned to Peoria or start in XST for 2012, although you never know what happens in spring). It's a bit thin on quality lefty starting pitching, although Willengton Cruz may be a guy who has the frame to be more than a soft-tossing lefty (and he can hit 92/93 right now). The middle infield depth in the upper levels is thin, but there's a batch of promising middle infielders in the lower levels (Hernandez/Amaya/Penalver) that may get unfairly compared to guys that have moved up/on (Castro/Lake/Lee). The upper levels are fairly thin overall, with arguably only one guy with some impact starting pitching potential in McNutt, and he comes with some big question marks. There have been a lot of losses of positional guys in the upper levels, so it'll be interesting how the regime fills the roster.
I'll try and add a sleepers/breakouts/other post below for the fun of it. Chopping down the write-ups as I go through this.
Prospect, Current Age, Grade. Stats from firstinning, fangraphs, or MiLB.
1. Brett Jackson, 23, B+.
Stats: AA: (297 PA's, 246 AB's) .256/.373/.443, 15.2 %BB/24.9% K, 14/20 SB, 10 HR.
AAA: (215 PA's, 185 AB's) .297/.388/.551, 13%BB/29.8% K, 6/7 SB, 10 HR.
It was a streaky season for Brett. He got off to a hot start in Tennessee in April, before a finger injury knocked him out in mid-May. He struggled on his return, before stringing together some solid outings in early July, before getting bumped to AAA on 7/14. After pressing early (reported in the media), he took off in August, posting a .351/.417/.605 line.
There was some disappointment with his season, and I admit, I hoped for better, but one thing somewhat lost in the discussion is that he is clearly a better prospect than before. There's less concern about his power potential, and he has improved his reads/routes defensively. He might move off CF at some point, but as of now, if that happens early, it seems more liable to be due to a better defensive CF emerging.
Offensively, he is who he is, a guy with a decent knowledge of the zone and able to handle the bat well for situational ball, but also an aggressive swinger with a hitch in his swing that will cause him to always strike out a fair amount. I still wonder if a good hitting coach, over time, can remove that hitch, and slightly lessen the K's. I understand the concerns on the K's, but this is a close to ready CF who should be capable to good defensively in CF, offers potential 20 HR power, takes his fair share of walks, and runs the bases well. It's hard for me to not give him a B+. If you want to argue low B+, okay, I can agree. He isn't on the 40, but he will likely get a chance to play CF in Wrigley at some point in 2012.
2. Javier Baez, 19, B+.
I waffled on this one for awhile. There really hasn't been much to add post-draft, as he didn't play enough to really change perceptions. He's still getting work at short, but I still expect him to move to another spot sooner than later. I was a bit concerned pre-draft about his aggressiveness, but I was fine with the pick. At the end of the day, the reports about his power showings with wood led me to go with the pure offensive upside nod here. I can understand B and B-, particularly with some positional and approach uncertainty. I don't know if he'll start 2012 in Peoria, but if he isn't there at some point, I think there might be a level of disappointment. I just can't rank Baez ahead of someone who has good upside and is close to ready like Brett, even if Baez has better upside.
3. Marco Hernandez, 19, B.
Stats: Rookie (233 PA, 210 AB), .333/.375/.486. 6.9%BB/12.4% K.
This was another tough decision, but after asking around on those that saw him some this year, I'm going with my gut on the ranking and the spot here. Arizona Rookie League numbers should always be taken with a grain of salt, so read what you want into those numbers. He had a great year, beginning with a strong run in XST.
The scouting reports suggest that he has the soft hands and plus range to play short. There was a noted Cubs follower who suggested questionable arm strength, but after asking around, as of now, I tend to think that opinion is that his arm strength isn't an issue. He has good speed, possibly plus speed (although base-running instincts are still developing - 9/16 SB's), and there aren't many expectations that he will lose that physically (barring bad weight). If there are questions, it relates to what type of offensive potential he has. There's a good hit tool, a decent-solid approach (although admittedly, we have to see how he deals with tougher pitching). He has good bat speed, and as KG noted, a solid line drive approach that can drive it into the gaps at times. The question is, how much power will he develop? KG doesn't think much, but in a chat, Bill Mitchell of BA suggested 15 HR potential. The feeling I get is that he'll mature physically, even if he doesn't gain much to the frame, and that should lead to some power development, particularly as he improves his recognition. 15 was probably an aggressive comment/number.
I initially had him in the back end of the top 10, but moved him up in the end. It's a raw, toolsy kid with high shortstop potential. I can understand those that argue for a lower grade. I like what I've heard, I like the reports on upside about him, and I think this is a fair grade. This isn't to say I think he will definitely be that good, but the combination of information out there about him pushes me this way. With no real shortstop a level ahead (Boise) last year to block him, he should have a chance to see Peoria at some point in 2012, where we will get a clearer picture if this is more Jiovanni Mier, or someone to watch.
4. Matt Szczur, 22, B-.
Stats: A: (298 PA's, 274 AB's) .314/.366/.431, 7%BB/9.4% K, 17/22 SB, 5 HR.
A+: (182 PA's, 173 AB's) .260/.283/.410, 2.7%BB/11% K, 7/7 SB, 5 HR.
The Cubs gave him 1.5 million reasons to give up football in January, and it was an up and down 2011 campaign for him (that included time off to attend graduation). A lot of Cubs fans, including myself, had some issue with Keith Law's comparisons to Juan Pierre (largely because he showed more power at the same stage and has more projection), but Law is fair in some of his critiques about his approach.
Szczur shows occasional power, but more often than not, he still slaps the ball around to take advantage of his speed (GB rates were roughly around 50% in Peoria and Daytona). A lot more of those balls were gobbled up in Daytona, but the bigger issue is that his walk rate took a nose dive in Daytona (and the K/BB numbers were trending in the wrong direction each month in Peoria).
There's a lot to like about Szczur. He doesn't have elite speed, but he has good to plus speed, with the range to run down balls in CF (although he has to improve on his reads/recognition). He's a good baserunner, showing solid instincts. He has solid contact ability and there is some projection/power potential. At the end of the day, it's fairly simple. He has to improve his discipline/approach, and enhance his power potential to have a shot to be a regular in the bigs. By most accounts, he took major strides in developing baseball skills this past year, and considering how raw he is to full-time baseball, the hope is that it will continue, but I can understand apprehension about it. I also can see some folks suggesting a B, as the potential is there. He could start 2012 in AA, although I don't think giving him another go in A+ would be the worst idea.
* I like him, but can't help but wonder if he is more Ryan Sweeney.
5. Kenneth "Trey" McNutt, 22, B-.
Stats: AA, 5-6 4.55 ERA (3.91 FIP), 23 G, 22 GS, 95 IP, 6.16 K/9, 3.69 BB/9, 0.47 HR/9.
McNutt was a big breakout guy last year, but he ended up having an up and down 2011 season. Part of that was due to injuries. He had a blister injury early April, and it was a recurring issue for much of the year. Then had had a rib injury in early June. He had a fairly solid start to the year, but in June/July, he really struggled with his consistency (BB rate was high). It's been suggested that this was due to the rib injury. He got work in AFL, but he was reportedly inconsistent there, flashing good stuff but poor mechanics and command.
I wanted to be aggressive with McNutt. I thought he was a bit over-hyped last year, but I think there is a lot of reason to believe that a lot of his issues this year had to do with his injuries. At his best, the plus fastball/plus breaking ball is still there, and there were some positive reports on his change at times, but he never put it together for a stretch. Given a full off-season to heal, I think he could bounce back. That said, I understand the apprehension about his status, and some concern that the mechanics may not be attributed to injury, so I went B- here, which I think is fair. He likely gets the start in AA for 2012, and as the top rotation possibility in the system (prospect wise, Cashner could be in the minors), he'll likely get every chance to stay there.
6. Dae-Eun Rhee, 22, B-.
Stats: A+, 8-7, 4.02 ERA (3.58 FIP), 127.2 IP, 8.25 K/9, 3.03 BB/9, 0.7 HR/9.
I know I'm probably an outlier here on Rhee, but color me bullish. After exciting everyone in 2009, he went under the knife for TJ. 2010 was his first full-season back, but the reports were that he wasn't allowed to throw his good changeup (or splitter). The expectations for 2011 were fairly lukewarm, and he got off to an inconsistent start. That said, he got stronger as the season progressed, and the stuff picked up.
Early in the season, I had him more touching 91/92, but the velocity got better as the season progressed. There were numerous reports late in the year that he was touching mid-90's (to be clear, he was still largely in the low 90's). The biggest thing is that he had his out-pitch back, and the changeup/splitter was a plus, nasty pitch. There were also signs of improvement with the slider. Rhee finished the year strong, posting a 9+ K rate and a mid-2 BB rate in July/August before a couple strong post-season starts.
One of my biggest concerns with Rhee had always been whether or not he could stick as a starter. He's not a big guy, and doesn't project to gain much. Late in the year, he was consistently working deep into games. He gets ground balls and has a nasty out-pitch. If the slider improves, he has number 3 starter potential. I know one of the issues is that he repeated A+, but keep in mind, he never really "passed" Low A, where the Cubs piggyback heavily, and thus, combined with the restrictions on what he could throw last year and not having logged a heavy workload before, along with it being his first year back from TJ, the repeating aspect just doesn't bother me much. He should start the 2012 season as a part of a good Tennessee rotation.
7. Dillon Maples, 19, B-.
Like Baez, not much that can be added post-draft. It's a ceiling nod to slot him here, due to his fastball/curveball, but I have a hard time going higher on grade or rank due to the arm action/mechanical concerns. He was a bit inconsistent in fall instruct work reportedly, but that isn't that big an issue. I can see some people going higher here. Due to a clear concern, I wouldn't have a big issue if they chose to slow his development, although I would like to see him in Peoria this year.
8. Welington Castillo, 24, B-.
Stats: AAA, (251 PA, 227 AB) .286/.351/.524, 8% B/22.7% K. 15 HR.
For the longest time, I thought he was a bit under-appreciated in the catching world (although I did like Chirinos better than him last year). Here was a strong-armed kid with good defensive potential and power in the bat. Well, looks like he's getting some love now. He's cleaned up some of his work behind the plate, but still needs to improve. He has a passable approach at the plate, but expectations on his offense should be limited to occasional power. For a comp, the guy I tend to think of is Bengie Molina. He'll get a shot to start 2012 with the Cubs, as Geovany's backup, and may be the starting catcher at some point.
9. Ben Wells, 19, C+.
Stats: Shortseason, 4-4, 4.66 ERA, (3.51 FIP) 77.1 IP, 6.17 K/9, 2.21 BB/9, 0.47 HR/9.
Here's another guy that I'm probably more bullish on than most. I love his potential, but fully recognize that, as of now, he profiles more as an innings eating mid-rotations tarter. That said, he's young (younger than Maples), with a big frame, and I've heard some positive comments on the development of his breaking ball. At his best, Wells has a nasty power sinker that hits mid-90's. He has to learn how to command it better, though. He can rear back and zip a hard 4-seamer, but the sinker is that good, generating 63% GB and leading to an overall 3.16 GO/AO rate.
For Wells to be more than what he currently projects as, he has to improve the change and curve. The change showed well at times. I understand concerns on those pitches, so I won't grade him higher than a C+, although my gut instinct is to take him ahead of a couple guys above him, but I am bullish enough to give him top placement on the C+ list. He'll likely be the headline act of a talented Peoria rotation to start 2012.
10.Josh Vitters, 22, C+.
Stats: (488 PA, 449 AB) .283/.322/.448. 4.5% BB/11.1% K. 14 HR.
Josh Vitters is who he is. He's made marginal improvements in his approach, but at the end of the day, he still will chase after pitches he should lay off. He's a streaky player who, when on (as he was in June) looks really good, but will also get himself out quite a bit. I know some Cubs fans point ot the low BABIP that he carried, but doesn't that have to be partly attributed to him chasing some borderline pitches? All that said, he's still awfully young, and didn't have a bad season. He improved some at 3rd, but the best thing for him may be that Flaherty/LeMahieu were dealt, leaving little competition for the 3rd base job at Iowa, so he may stay there a bit longer. He may be better off at another spot, but at the end of the day, the issue is whether or not he can make anymore improvement in trying to find a balance between discipline and instinct. The upside and youth gets him the 10th slot. He should start 2012 in Iowa.
11.Jae-Hoon Ha, 21, C+.
Stats: A+ (312 PA, 294 AB), .276/.311/.422, 3.8% BB/12.5 % K, 8 HR.
AA (244 PA, 226 AB), .283/.320/.403, 4.5 % BB/11.5% K, 3 HR.
He was an 2008 under-the-radar (due to Lee) toolsy 225K signee who was briefly considered at catcher, but didn't handle it well, so was moved to the OF. He had a decent-solid 2010 in Peoria, showing a blend of power and athleticism, but also showcasing some concerns, namely, an aggressive approach. He makes good contact and doesn't strike out a lot. In 2011, he started off red-hot in Daytona, with an April line of .370/.385/.598. Then, he cooled down, but due to injuries, got a bump to AA in mid-May. He was actually decent in the half month there (.267/.320/.444), but was sent back to Daytona on the last day of May. He proceeded to struggle badly, but after a few decent games in July, found himself back in AA, where he finished the year with a decent August.
I'm admittedly not the biggest fan. I get worried about the approach, and I'm not sure he'll have enough productive power. That said, I ended up ranking him higher than my gut feeling. 2012 will be his age 21 season in AA. He's dang young, very toolsy, shows power potential. Furthermore, he was arguably the best defensive CF in the Cubs system this year (well, the best that mattered). That's a tantalizing package, and I'm curious enough to see if, combined with a new organizational philosophy, he can find a balance between instinct and discipline. He should start 2012 in AA. Whether or not that is in CF or a corner role will depend largely on what happens with Szczur. Ha has some potential as a corner OF, whereas Szczur in a corner role has questionable value.
12.Reggie Golden, 20, C+.
Stats: Shortseason (265 PA, 231 AB) .242/.332/.420. 10.6% BB/25.7% K. 7 HR, 22 XBH.
Reggie Golden started 2011 in a bad way. Reports in spring suggested he was out of shape. For now, I'm willing to chalk it up to youth, and not recognizing what he needs to do to be a pro, but it is something to watch. He had a decent year in short-season, occasionally showing the power that got him attention in the prep ranks. He showed a better eyte at the plate than I expected, but the high K rate is awfully troubling. He is raw overall, so I'm willing to give it some benefit of the doubt for now. There's solid ability defensively as a RF. The impact power potential (arguably, the one exciting corner OF prospect in the system), combined with his youth and how raw he was coming into the pros, leads me to giving him an upside nod here. He should start 2012 in Peoria.
13.Dallas Beeler, 22, C+.
Stats: A: 1-1, 1.66 ERA, (2.44 FIP) 43.1 IP, 7.27 K/9, 1.25 BB/9, 0.21 HR/9.
AA: 1-5, 4.53 ERA (4.21 FIP), 51.2 IP, 5.75 K/9, 1.22BB/9. 1.22 HR/9.
Beeler was a 41st round overslot by the Cubs in 2010 who had come off TJ to get limited work. He looked strong in his limited outings in 2010, which got a lot of the fan bases attention. He had a solid 2011, where he was pushed up to AA for a couple months, due to injuries, when he clearly wasn't ready for it. He still needs to polish up the secondary stuff (curve/change, neither really shows plus ability from what I understand, but both can be solid pitches), but the big righty has a plus sinker that sits in the low 90's and generated roughly 60% GB rates in A/AA. You can make the case that Beeler should go ahead of Wells as he's a similar, more polished guy, but I like Wells upside. Beeler should start in A+, and could even be in AA, depending on how things go in the spring.
14.Robert Whitenack, 23, C+.*
Stats: A+, 3-0, 1.17 ERA (1.29 FIP), 23 IP, 9.78 K/9, 0.39 BB/9, 0 HR/9.
AA, 4-0, 2.39 ERA (3.49 FIP), 37.2 IP, 5.26 K/9, 3.11 BB/9, 0.24HR/9.
Whitenack was the Cubs breakout guy ... early in 2011. He was a somewhat hyped pick who had a pedestrian 2010 season that led him to being off the radar for many fans, but pre-2011, there were reports that his velocity had spiked, and it showed. He was showing a power sinker that hit 93/94, and a had solid breaking ball, decent-solid changeup. In A+ and AA, he was getting around a 60% GB rate. There were reports that the Cubs had thoughts of calling him up for rotation duty. Then ... he went under for TJ. Surgery is surgery, even if the concerns on TJ aren't as big as before, and when you factor in that the velocity spike happened only this year, it leads to enough questions that it's hard to place him higher, and one could argue for him lower. This seemed fair to me, based on ho
w hot he was to start 2011.
15.Dan Vogelbach, 19, C+.
Like Baez/Maples, not much that can be added. The immense power potential could lead to one arguing for him higher, but I have enough questions from the pre-draft stuff that I decided against it.
16.Jeimer Candelario, 18, C+.
Candelario was a hyped kid in DSL, where he was one of their top offensive performers there. He showed an excellent approach and power potential. There are some (KG notably) that went quite high on him. I'd love it if he could stay at 3rd, but with questions on his defensive position, and the fact that his power is still heavy projection, it was hard to rank him higher as of now, but he is one of the more exciting bats in the lower levels.
17.Rafael Dolis, 23 (almost 24) C+.
The big righty has impressive stuff, with mid-90's heat that has good life on it, and a nasty slider. He even showed a usable change-up before. He's able to get guys to pound the ball into the ground. This is potential late inning, closing stuff, but he just hasn't shown the ability to really dominate and get guys to whiff. Callis suggested that it was partly due to the Cubs wanting him to work on locating his pitches. At some point, though, you just have to let him let it rip and see what you can get. He's been on the 40 man, and was called up late, so he could be in the bigs in 2012 at some point, but I expect him to start in AAA. I see folks ranking him quite high this off-season, which befuddles me. Even in a down system year, his inconsistencies so far don't suggest elite closing potential yet. That said, I tend to not rank pen prospects that high.
18.Junior Lake, 21 (will turn 22 prior to season) C+.
Junior Lake is one of the most enticing talents in the system. He has an excellent body and frame, good strong wrists, and decent speed. There's very good power potential and a big time arm. The problem is, I just don't trust the approach to develop into a regular role. I've seen him chase some awful pitches before, and just don't feel it. He's also still inconsistent defensively, although he's improved a fair amount (still expected to move off short if he makes it up). On upside, you could make a case for him significantly higher, and I can understand those that lean that way, but I'm hesitant to do so.
19.Jeffrey Beliveau, almost 24, C+.
Again, I personally have a tough time ranking pen arms high, particularly if they don't profile as closer. That doesn't mean that Beliveau isn't good. He was the Cubs minor league pitcher of the year and showed far better command this year. With the plus curve, he can just dominate out of the pen, and he has enough life on the fastball to keep guys honest. He was put on the 40 man, and with Marshall traded, will have every chance to compete with James Russell and Scott Maine for pen lefty duties.
20.Ronald Torreyes, 19, C+.
The recently acquired Torreyes certainly adds some much needed quality to the upper levels of the Cubs MI depth charts. I understand the case for him higher than this - good defensive ability, some speed, and a good hit tool, and maybe this is a case where my biases get in the way (as the under-sized middle infielders who rely on their hit tools tend to have me wanting them to continue proving it). It's definitely possible that my bias is putting me to rank him lower, but I'd note, I'm giving him a C+, the same grade as my number 9 guy.
21.Jeffry Antigua, 21, C+.
Stats: A, 1-2, 8.56 ERA (6.27 FIP), 1 SV, 13.2 IP, 7.90 K/9, 3.95 BB/9,1.98 HR/9.
A+, 2-2, 2.92 ERA (3.31 FIP), 83.1 IP (8 GS), 8.75 K/9, 1.94 BB/9,0.97 HR/9.
Antigua had a solid 2010 season in Peoria that had many labeling him as a sleeper prospect. Then, he had an odd start to 2011. He got sent back to Peoria, where he failed to grab a rotation/piggyback spot, and was viewed as more of a pen arm. He struggled (although the K/BB rates were similar to 2010), and was sent back to XST for some work. Then ... he was jumped to Daytona in June, where after spending some time in the pen (with good numbers), he got a rotation look in mid-July, and he finished with 10 strong outings. He had excellent peripheral numbers in Daytona.
It was an odd season. His ceiling isn't huge - I had some reports where he was touching 92/93, but he's still more a high 80's/low 90's guy with a solid 3 pitch arsenal. The inconsistent season, and limited upside, makes it tough for me to push him higher as of now. I expect him to start 2012 as part of a good AA rotation, but after how he started 2011, I guess I shouldn't expect anything.
22.Nick Struck, 22, C+.
Stats: A+: 6-2, 3.42 ERA (2.98 FIP) 50 IP, 8.46 K/9, 2.88 BB/9, 0.36 HR/9.
AA: 1-1, 2.31 ERA (2.31 FIP), 35 IP, 6.69 K/9,1.54 BB/9, 0 HR/9.
AAA: 2-4, 62.1 IP, 5.20 ERA (3.60 FIP), 5.49 K/9, 3.18 BB/9, 0.29 HR/9.
Here's a kid I've always been partial to since he came into the system as a big 2009 overslot. An athletic, tough kid who attacks batters, Struck showed improved velo, occasionally hitting mid-90's (to be clear, sits more mid-90's). He has a sinker in the arsenal, along with a change-up and a slider/curve. After a strong start in A+, the Cubs kept pushing him up, much to my shock, resulting in 62.1 innings in AAA, where he was largely competitive, considering the situation.
The numbers are good, the approach is good, and he's shown improved velo from his prep days. I like the kid a lot, and want to place him higher. What pushes him down for me? The arm action bothers me, and his secondary pitches are still raw right now. He still projects more as a 4/5 starter type of guy. He should start 2012 in AAA, and could even see the bigs at some point late.
23.Chris Carpenter, 27, C+.
I'm just not a big fan of ranking pen arms high. I was a big fan of Carpenter as a starter, and I still like him more than most Cubs fans probably think. He has closer potential, with the ability to run a triple digit fastball in there. He can still get the groundballs with his 2-seamer, and there's a hard slider and a changeup in the bag. That said, he just doesn't get enough whiffs as of now, and when you couple in the immense control problems this past year, I have a hard time going higher than this. Should be in the Cubs pen to start 2012, but I guess a bad spring could push him to Iowa.
24.Gioskar Amaya, 19, C.
One of three exciting middle infield prospects in the extremely low levels for the Cubs last year, Amaya played all over the infield. He isn't expected to stay at short, and probably won't have the power for third, so his best hope is to develop into a strong 2nd baseman. The tools are certainly there defensively, as the reports laud his instincts defensively. He has good speed, but some suggest that he may slow down a bit as he physically matures. Offensively, as of now, good contact ability, some line drive/gap power potential, and good bat speed. How much power he develops may determine if he's a utility guy or a potential regular. He could see some time in Peoria, but I am expecting an XST/Boise path as of now.
25.Dave Sappelt, 25, C.
I'm not a big believer that he's a regular, but he's an upper level guy that's ready and has shown enough in the minors that he could perhaps be a 2nd division starter. The "readiness" nod.
26.Alberto Cabrera, 23, C.
This might be a surprise nod, and there were certainly plenty of options to turn to down here. I even pondered a + for him. He still has a good low-mid 90's fastball that has solid life on it, and a good slider. He just doesn't show good starter potential. I wonder about a move to the pen, where he can just let it rip. Just keep him in the back of the mind.
27.Ezekiel DeVoss, 21, C.
There were several light-hitting MI/CF options (along with a couple corner guys) that I considered on the back end of the top 30, but as the reviews for DeVoss were so good, he got the nod, and I wanted to get 3 arms to finish off the top 30. The 3rd rounder from Miami shows good discipline at the plate and has good speed. He plays 2nd and CF, and I'm not sure what direction the Cubs go after acquiring Torreyes (as I had expected DeVoss to potentially be the 2nd baseman in Daytona, where I expect Torreyes to be). The question is whether or not he will develop enough power to keep pitchers honest. The kid thinks he has it in him - only time will tell.
28.Jose Rosario, 21, C.
Here's a raw kid who is far, far away. But, in a system with a bevy of young, raw arms in the lower levels, he might have the best fastball, a pitch that can hit the upper 90's but also has good enough life that he can get guys to pound it into the ground. There's also a hard slider that flashed above average potential at times. He was in Boise last year, and I hope he is part of the piggyback rotation in Peoria.
29.Luis Liria, almost 22, C.
As noted before, there are several young, raw, Latin American arms with intriguing upsides in the lower levels. I could've picked a couple guys that are viewed as having higher upsides (Starling Peralta or Amaury Paulino come to mind) or went with the lefty premium (Willengton Cruz, who might have more projection), but I went with my gut and went Liria here. He had a decent run in Peoria, and should start there in 2012 as a part of the piggyback core. At his best, he shows a fastball that touches mid-90's, a hard breaking ball, and a changeup. At times in the past, the changeup flashed better than the breaking ball, but the reports this year suggest that the breaking ball showed better. Both seem to have above average potential, and the fastball has some late life to it.
30.Tony Zych, 21, C.
Zych seems to get rated fairly well, and I honestly like Aaron Kurcz and Kevin Rhoderick more relative to what Zych is now. It's quite simple for me - show me that the slider is better than below average. If it is, sure, I can see why folks have him higher.
Anyhow, just my quick/long take. Couple final thoughts for now -
- It's a fairly young system as of now. There were some years in the past where I seemed to be putting in a lot more mid-20's guys in my top 30.
- There's still Theo Comp, and I expect some more moves before the season (namely, that Garza thing, but perhaps Byrd as well). Thought about holding off on posting this, but with most of the major lists up, thought I'd throw something up. By mid-season, I'm expecting some more additions if veterans get off to good starts, enough to get the Cubs good trade returns.
- In my last run through with Flaherty and Gonzalez, Ryan was in my top 20, with Marwin in the top 30. I'm not expecting either back - both are in situations where their teams should be able to find a way to keep them. Gut instinct on Ryan's bat is that it can still play well enough as a starter on a 2nd division squad if he can find a defensive home. Marwin is a young, toolsy kid that some felt had some more power potential, so it's worth watching if that develops.