Hank Sauer, my mother-in-law Gwen's favorite player as a kid.
All grades are EXTREMELY PRELIMINARY and subject to change. Don’t get too worried about exact rankings at this point, especially once you get out of the top 10. Grade C+/C guys are pretty interchangeable depending on what you are looking for.
1) Josh Vitters, 3B, Grade B+: Hopefully the home run power should start to come in 2009. Great contact hitting skills and still very young.
2) Jeff Samardzija, RHP, Grade B: I have no idea what to expect here. Could be great, could be horrible, track record very erratic.
3) Ryan Flaherty, SS, Grade B: Looks like a solid all-around player to me.
4) Andrew Cashner, RHP, Grade B-: High ceiling due to fastball and slider, command issues may slow progress.
5) Hak-Ju Lee, SS, Grade B-: Scouting reports look great, but want to see some numbers before ranking higher.
6) Jay Jackson, RHP, Grade B-: I LOVE this guy…good athlete, former philosophy major, throws hard, throws strikes, great pro debut. I think he is underrated by other sources.
7) Tyler Colvin, OF, Grade C+: Still worried about his plate discipline.
8) Welington Castillo, C, Grade C+: Good glove, hits well in flashes, maybe a Miguel Olivo type?
9) Dae-Eun Rhee, RHP, Grade C+: Would rank higher if not for Tommy John.
10) Aaron Shafer, RHP, Grade C+:
11) Starlin Castro, SS, Grade C+: Intriguing toolsy infielder had strong AZL debut. A sleeper.
13) Dan McDaniel, RHP, Grade C+: Lots of strikeouts and grounders at
14) Micah Hoffpauir, 1B, Grade C: Too old to rank higher but he has a major league bat. Where does he play?
15) Esmailin Caridad, RHP, Grade C: Low strikeout rate a concern, but I think he can do well in relief.
16) Don Veal, LHP, Grade C: Stock has fallen massively due to command and mechanical issues. Not protected for Rule 5, which tells you a lot.
17) Josh Kroeger, OF, Grade C: He finally learned some plate discipline and has done well in Triple-A. Getting old for a prospect.
18) Tony Thomas, 2B, Grade C: Strike zone judgment collapsed in Florida State League.
19) Chris Carpenter, RHP, Grade C: Command problems and poor health record reduce stock, but he throws very hard and has upside if he can stay away from doctors.
20) Mitch Atkins, RHP, Grade C: Possibly a fifth starter type if he can sharpen command more.
Others include Darwin Barney, Justin Bristow, Matt Cerda, Hung-Wen Chen, Dumas Garcia, Brandon Guyer, Josh Harrison, Dylan Johnston, Casey Lambert, Alex Maestri, Jovan Rosa, Drew Rundle, Marquez Smith, Logan Watkins, and Ty Wright. Most of these guys could rank anywhere from 14-20 depending on what you are looking for.
If there is someone else that you really think should be included, make your case. I always miss someone. Space is limited and some of the players above will probably get cut if I have to add someone else.
I really like Jay Jackson and I think he is going to surprise a lot of people. Colvin is a weird case, he actually played worse when he was trying to work the count, and better when he went back to hacking, as Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus has pointed out. I have some more thoughts about that in the book.
SYSTEM IN BRIEF
The Cubs system has thinned out, and there is no one with impact hitting potential at the higher levels. Guys like Vitters, Flaherty, and the AZL tools guys give hope that that could change in the future. Samardzija is completely unpredictable, he could be the second coming of Bobby Jenks or he could totally flame out. It wouldn’t’ surprise me if Cashner ended up the same way, alternating good and bad runs and leaving everyone scratching their heads.
Reports on these guys and over 1,000 others can be found in the 2009 Baseball Prospect Book. Pre-order for January 31st shipping now!
Next up: the Boston Red Sox, followed by the Cincinnati Reds.