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Chicago Cubs Top 20 Prospects for 2010

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Top 20 Chicago Cubs Prospects for 2010

All grades are EXTREMELY PRELIMINARY and subject to change. Don't get too worried about exact rankings at this point, especially once you get beyond the Top 10. Grade C+/C guys are pretty interchangeable depending on what you want to emphasize. Complete reports on these and over 1,000 other players will be in the 2010 Baseball Prospect Book, now available for pre-order, shipping on February 2nd! 

1) Starlin Castro, SS, Grade B+: He needs a consolidation season and may struggle if rushed, but overall I like the balance of offensive and defensive potential he brings. He's been overhyped in the prospect press to some extent, but I like him.

2) Josh Vitters, 3B, Grade B+: Borderline B. A very tough player to grade. I really hate the low walk rate, but the strikeout rate is also low and he's still very young at age 20. I'll cut him some slack as a result.

3) Brett Jackson, OF, Grade B: Awesome tools stand out, but I'm still concerned about his contact rate and how that will work at higher levels.

4) Jay Jackson, RHP, Grade B: A personal favorite, athletic pitcher with very good stuff, will need another year in the high minors.

5) Andrew Cashner, RHP, Grade B: Most scouts prefer him to Jackson. I love his stuff, but I still think he's better-suited to relief than starting,

6) Hak-Ju Lee, SS, Grade B: Fast, gets on base, should hit for average. His glove is good enough that the Cubs have mentioned moving Castro to second base, which tells you something about Lee since Castro has a potentially great glove.

7) Chris Carpenter, RHP, Grade B-: Like Cashner and Jackson, a college pitcher with very good/great stuff. Command can wobble and injury history still concerns me enough to preclude higher grade, but he could be a big surprise to people not paying attention.

8) Kyler "Killer" Burke, OF, Grade B-: Why doesn't this guy get more attention? He's younger than Brett Jackson, has good tools of his own, and raked in the Midwest League. He was repeating the level but is still young.

9) Ryan Flaherty, INF, Grade B-: He's a solid hitter, but I don't think he'll be a star. Might get lost in the shuffle amidst the flashier infield gloves in this system. Trade bait?

10) D.J. LeMahieu, INF, Grade C+: Similar to Flaherty: should be a solid player but might get lost in the shuffle. Less power than Flaherty but more of a pure hitter type.

11) Brooks Raley, LHP, Grade C+: Athletic two-way guy out of Texas A&M, I like this type of player a lot. If his velocity picks up a bit now that he's a full-time pitcher, he could move fast.

12) Logan Watkins, 2B, Grade C+: Ranked seventh on the Baseball America list. I like Watkins, but want to see how his bat plays out at higher levels. Big-time athleticism, speed with some on-base ability.

13) Esmailin Caridad, RHP, Grade C+: Pitched great in major league bullpen action, and there's a decent chance that will continue.

14) Blake Parker, RHP, Grade C+: Overlooked pitcher, has a good arm, gets grounders, nothing left to prove after good Triple-A season. If he can sharpen his command a bit more, could be a surprise major league contributor in '10.

15) John Gaub, LHP, Grade C+: Another guy who could help in the bullpen in 2010. Command is an issue but great K/IP ratios and low hittability stand out.

16) Matt Spencer, OF-1B, Grade C+: Power bat from the left side acquired in trade with Oakland. Has some Garrett Jonesish surprise contributor potential.

17) Dae-Eun Rhee, RHP, Grade C+: Could rank as high as 12th depending on how you want to handle grades on guys coming back from Tommy John. If he recovers fully he should be in the top ten next year.

18) Casey Coleman, RHP, Grade C+: His component numbers in Double-A aren't great, mediocre strikeout rate, but he eats innings and there is something I like about him instinctively. Possible fourth starter.

19) Tyler Colvin, OF, Grade C: He made some progress last year but looks more like a fourth outfielder/extra bat than a future starter to me.

20) Jeff Beliveau, LHP, Grade C: Tremendous K/IP ratio at Peoria, and he cut his walk rate in half compared to college ball in '08. If he continues that trend, could breakthrough in '10.

OTHERS: (Grade C): James Adduci, OF; Jeff Antigua, LHP; Chris Archer, RHP; Darwin Barney, SS; Justin Bristow, RHP; David Cales, RHP; Welington Castillo, C; Rafael Dolis, RHP; Brandon Guyer, OF; Chris Huseby, RHP; Austin Kirk, LHP; Scott Maine, LHP; Trey McNutt, RHP; Mike Parisi, RHP; Chris Rusin, LHP; James Russell, LHP; Ryan Searle, RHP; Tony Thomas, 2B.

Space limits are forcing me to cut back now...I've been doing 40 players per team but I'm going to have to cut that back to 38 or 37, which means some players I've already written up for other teams are going to have to get cut.

The Cubs system has more depth than is commonly realized, particularly up the middle. Castro took a huge leap forward this year. He'll need some consolidation time, and I hope they are wise enough to give it to him, but at worst he should be a good major league regular and he could end up as a star. Brett Jackson also has star potential, but I still have some concerns about his strike zone judgment and want to see him at higher levels before completely buying into the maximum projections. Josh Vitters is a weird case; I posted his full comment in the Cubs player list thread on the blog. I don't want to be a fundamentalist about his low walk rate, but 12 walks for an entire season is pretty ridiculous. It helps that he doesn't strike out much, and because of his age I'm willing to be patient, no pun intended, for awhile longer. Guys like Lee, Flaherty, Watkins, and LeMahieu give them plenty of options up the middle to go along with Castro. Kyler Burke is the big sleeper in this system and I'm not sure why he doesn't get more attention.

The pitching staff has intriguing depth in live arms. Jackson, Cashner, and Carpenter all bring plus stuff to the mound and all could help in the second half of 2010 or in 2011. There are several guys who can help in the bullpen soon: Caridad, Parker, and Gaub are all ready or close to ready, and there are other live arms beyond them. Beliveau and Chris Archer showed live arms at Peoria last year and both could take huge steps forward if their command makes more progress. I highlighted Beliveau on the Top 20 list because he's a lefty and has received less attention, but you could slot Archer in there if you like.

The Cubs have spent a lot of money in Asia but don't have much to show for it on this list yet. That may change once we get some performance data in 2010. They could use some additional power bats. New acquisition Matt Spencer can help in that department. I didn't write about Peoria first baseman Rebel Ridling for space reasons as he turns 24 in May, but there is a chance he could be a useful bat.

Randy Wells never got much press as a prospect and he won 12 games last year. Keep that in mind the next time you are tempted to think that prospecting is anything approaching a science.