Minor League notations in descending order<o:p></o:p>
*AAA/AA signifies triple A, and Double A respectively… duh<o:p></o:p>
*A+ signifies high A ball<o:p></o:p>
*A- signifies low A ball<o:p></o:p>
*A signifies a prospect played at both high, and low A ball throughout the course of the season<o:p></o:p>
*a signifies short-season A ball<o:p></o:p>
*R signifies rookie league
*MLL signifies minor league level last season
Chicago Cubs Top 15 Prospects
1. 3B Age: 19 MLL: A-
With the graduation of Sean Gallagher, Eric Patterson, and Josh Donaldson, I believe the Cubs system is becoming pretty bare. Vitters tops the list despite some big holes in his game right now. Vitters has not shown much power yet – especially since he was praised with 25 HR power when he was drafted - and walks far too little to be effective in the middle of the order. His strikeout rate is acceptable for his age, but does need some improvement. He does however, hit for a good average, and has the tools to become an adequate at third base, although a move to left field is possible., and the departure of several other prospects:
2. Jose Ceda RHRP Age: 21 MLL: AA/A+
Ceda is a big closer, with a big fastball, which he throws in the mid-to-high 90s. He also throws a plus slider. Ceda has problems with command, and walks a lot of batters. Still, Ceda has plenty of time to work on his mechanics, and should be viewed as a future closer.
3. Tyler Colvin OF Age: 23 MLL: AA
Colvin took a pretty big step back in 2008, hitting just .256BA/.312OBP/.736OPS. He has not improved his plate patience – K:BB rate of 2:1 – and although he has hit with some power – 14 HRs in 2008 – he has yet to show he can hit 20 or more, like was once touted. Colvin has a good arm, and above average speed, but does not have incredible range in center, and may have to move to a corner where his value would diminish significantly.
4.RHSP/RHRP Age: 23 MLL: AAA/AA
Samardzija has played better, and better at each level, topping out in the major leagues this season, as a reliever – although next season he will probably start in AAA to continue working as a starter. He throws four pitches, and right now throws a plus slider, his other two secondary pitches (Split-finger fastball, and changeup) are still behind his slider, and fastball, which he throws in the mid 90s. If he ends up as a starter Samardzija should be a solid #3, or he could be a good reliever at the back end of the bullpen.
5. Andrew Cashner RHRP Age: 22 MLL: A
His last year of college Cashner threw his [plus] fastball up to 98 mph – a huge increase from his 92 mph the year before. He also possesses a possible plus slider, but has problems controlling both it, and his fastball at times. Cashner should become a great late innings reliever, and possibly a future closer if he tightens up his command.
6. Donald Veal LHSP Age: 24 MLL: AA
Another thing I do not like about Cubs prospects is that many of their top prospects took steps back in 2008, Donald Veal among them. Veal’s season was not all bad, but not reassuring for a team lacking in their farm. In 2008 Veal pitched 145 innings to the tune of a 4.52 ERA, and 123 Ks. Veal throws his fastball in the low-to-mid 90s, and also throws a heavy breaking curveball, and average changeup. He has problems with his command. Veal still remains relatively high on my list, because of his mid-top of the rotation potential.
7. Ryan Flaherty SS Age: 22 MLL: A-
Flaherty had a good 2008 season, in about half a season of at-bats. Flaherty hit .297, with a .369 OBP, and .880 OPS. He also hit 8 HRs in 219 at-bats, and stole 4 bases. Flaherty ended up with a K-to-BB ratio of 2:1 – but, you will see, that is actually ahead of the curve for the hitters on this list. Right now Flaherty is the Cubs’ shortstop of the future, but may have to shift to third base, because of his size.
8. Kevin Hart RHRP Age: 26 MLL: AAA/AA
It is at this point where you interrupt me and say, “Hmm, another right handed pitching prospect. I suppose he is a reliever too.” Yes, Hart is yet another reliever, and maybe you can start to see why I am not high on Cubs prospects as a whole, they do not have many projectable starting pitchers. But, back to Hart, Hart came out of nowhere in 2007 – developing a cut-fastball contributed to his success. In 2008 Hart pitched 60 and two thirds innings, striking out 66 batters, and holding opponents to a .188 BA.
9. James Adduci OF Age: 23 MLL: A+
Adduci is the first outperforming OFer to make it into the top ten (Bryan Peterson, Mike Taylor, Leonard Davis, insert name here). He hit .290BA/.380OBP/.745OPS in 2008, while stealing 26 bases. He also has a solid 96:63 K to BB ratio.
10. Wellington Castillo C Age: 21 MLL: AAA/AA/A
Castillo has some hitting skills. He hit for a BA of .287, and OBP of .337, in 2008, while only striking out 74 times. On the flip side, however, Castillo also only walked 18 times - a K:BB ratio of nearly 4-to-1! Castillo best tools are behind the plate, he is well above average defensively, and has a plus arm.
11. Ty Wright OF Age: 23 MLL: A+
Wright was taken in the 7<sup>th</sup> round of the 2007 draft. He has played his way onto this list – much like Adduci. In 2008 Wright hit .300/.370/.781, while hitting 8 homeruns. Wright struck out less than Adduci, 74, but also did not incur has many walks either, 41. Keep an eye on both Wright and Adduci moving forward.
12. Jake Fox 1B Age: 26 MLL: AAA/AA
Could Jake Fox be the future replacement for Derek Lee at first? Ok, so, no. He is 26, and does not play great defense. Fox may never be an everyday player, but he could be one of the best slugging bench players in baseball next year. In 2008 Fox hit a respectable .364 OBP, and hit 31 HRs, his 104 strikeouts will not impress many people, but they also will not hinder him in the major leagues, especially since his playing time will be limited.
13. Tony Thomas 2B Age: 22 MLL: A+
Thomas is another Cubs prospect stepping back in 2008. Thomas hit only .266 in 2008, with a .320 OBP, worse yet, he managed a K:BB ratio of over 3-to-1. Thomas has some power, but not enough to make him a more intriguing prospect; he is also below average defensively. Thomas could end up like , with less power, or he could amount to nothing if he does not improve on his plate patience, and hitting ability.
14. Jovan Rosa 1B Age: 21 MLL: A-
Rosa hit for an average of .293 in 2008, to go with a .353 OBP, he hit 7 HRs, but also ended up with a K:BB ratio of 3-to-1.
15. Mitch Atkins RHSP Age: 23 MLL: AAA/AA
Atkins has a relatively low ceiling, he could be a fifth starter, but he would not make the Cubs’ rotation, which makes him a solid middle reliever, which every team needs. Atkins put up solid numbers in 2008 winning 17 games, pitching 164 innings, and accumulating a 4.00 ERA. Atkins only struck out 132 batters in that time, but did limit opposing batters to a .248 BA. Atkins’ best pitch is a high 80s-low 90s sinker, and despite this pitch he allowed batters to hit 25 homeruns off of him last season, his secondary pitches are all slightly below average.
Strengths: Relievers, relievers, and relievers. One of the best bullpens in baseball already will only get better Kevin Hart is ready now, and Ceda, and Cashner should not be far behind him. If Samardzija can become a valid starting pitching prospect they will have two top starters in their farm as well. The Cubs also have a pair of high ceiling hitters in Vitters, and Colvin that should continue to improve, and make this list a lot more impressive.
Weaknesses: Overall depth is a big problem. There are also no guaranteed stars on this team (like a Jason Hewyard, or ) guys like Vitters, Colvin, and Veal are still mostly projection, rather than execution. The Cubs also only have three legitimate hitting prospects, the aforementioned Vitters, and Colvin, and Ryan Flaherty. After them it is slim picking, especially if Adduci, and Wright fall back off the map.
On Deck: The Reds