Chicago Cubs Prospect Bullets: McNutt, Jackson, Simpson, Vitters, Whitenack, Szczur

How about a bullets post on some of the top prospects in the Chicago Cubs’ system? If the big league team isn’t keeping you excited (and it’s not), at least there are some reasons to be excited when looking around the farm.

  • Top pitching prospect Trey McNutt has shaken off some early blister issues and is putting together another dominant season. He’s got a 2.34 ERA and a 1.183 WHIP in 32.2 innings. He’s only struck out 22, which is quite a ways off from his career K/9 number, but the Ks have been increasing as his blister problem subsides. Cubs catcher Geovany Soto recently got a look at McNutt while rehabbing in Tennessee and said, “[McNutt] was throwing the ball really good, hitting his spots really good. I have a feeling he’s pretty close, he’s gonna be [in the big leagues] soon.”
  • Top positional prospect Brett Jackson finally returned to action yesterday at AA after missing almost three weeks with a jacked-up pinky, which is a relief. He went 0-4 with three Ks, though, so that part kind of sucked.
  • The Cubs’ number one pick last year, pitcher Hayden Simpson, has had a tough start to his professional career. He missed all post-Draft baseball last year with mono, and he hasn’t looked particularly good this year for A-ball Peoria, with reports that his velocity is five or more MPH short of the alleged mid-90s he sported when the Cubs drafted him. More concerning? Farm director Oneri Fleita has ordered that radar guns be removed from the ballparks when Simpson starts.
  • Another former first round pick, AA Tennessee infielder Josh Vitters has had a poor 2011 season (OPS is just .713), but seems to have been snakebitten by some bad BABIP luck. He’s not striking out, which is a good start. And Fleita is optimistic. “[Vitters is] another guy at times who has gotten himself out [on pitches]out of the strike zone. He gets himself out. But the series I saw at Chattanooga, he made them throw him strikes. He hit the ball to right field. When he does that, he’s a tough out.” He’s still just 21, folks.
  • Pitching prospect Robert Whitenack, who came out of nowhere to tear up High A and AA early this season (reportedly, he’s added a few MPH to his fastball and some crispness to his breaking stuff), was placed on the disabled list with the dreaded “strained elbow.” He hasn’t been sent to Chicago for more evaluation, though, so it may not be as serious as it sounds.
  • Matt Szczur, whom the Cubs paid big bucks to sign away from a professional football career in the offseason, is starting to pick up a lot of buzz in scouting communities. A fast, athletic outfielder, Szczur has a .343/.409/.460 line at Peoria with 13 steals against just one caught stealing.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

36 responses to “Chicago Cubs Prospect Bullets: McNutt, Jackson, Simpson, Vitters, Whitenack, Szczur”

  1. Michigan Goat

    So can someone explain why McNutt has not been called up

    1. VanSlaw

      Top pitching prospect Trey McNutt has shaken off some early blister issues and is putting together another dominant season. He’s got a 2.34 ERA and a 1.183 WHIP in 32.2 innings. He’s only struck out 22, which is quite a ways off from his career K/9 number, but the Ks have been increasing as his blister problem subsides.

      Try starting with the clues in Ace’s post.

      1. Michigan Goat

        I saw the clues… HTML needs a scarsm code.

  2. VanSlaw

    Eh, “early blister issues” and “He’s only struck out 22, which is quite a ways off from his career K/9 number” are supposed to be in bold. Stupid fleeting HTML codes.

  3. Hogie

    Looking at our top prospects and the way we have been drafting in recent years, the dynamic of this team is about to drastically change. There are a lot of young athletic types that should provide speed and defense. A few of the legit prospects have some pop, but mostly are light hitters with wheels. I sense a small ball aproach on the horizon that hasn’t been in Chicago for years! If we can finally start producing a significant chunk of our position players, and a few pitchers from within, the team should have money to spend on great pitchers and a slugger or two. While what is on the field now isn’t impressing anybody, at the risk of sounding like I have a belly full of the koolaid, I am starting to get excited about the future of this team…as long as Jimmy isn’t the one running it.

    1. Michigan Goat

      This is all the more reason to fire Jimbo now before he starts to trade away prospects for mid-level players and veterans so we can finish the year on a winning note and say to Ricketts “see I can but a winning team together”… Only to repeat this all again next year.

      1. Hogie

        Agreed. I think getting rid of Jim would be handled best if he was replaced by someone within the system already. I don’t know if it would be best to have someone with little knowledge of our system to take over. Hey, isn’t there a hall of famer with his number strung up on a flag pole who spends a lot of time working with the minors and is already an advisor in the front offices?

        1. Michigan Goat

          I think he has stated or its been reported that he is waiting until his kids are older, and the concern with using someone from within is that they were probably hired by Jimbo. Maybe as an interim if he is fired before the season is over, but I’d like to see Ricketts make this his GM, his team, by hiring someone that has nothing to do with Hendry. I hope he is looking at the consistantly winning clubs and take an assistant away from them or possible take a winning GM from a small market town. I would love a GM who was developed/experienced with developing from within and now have the pocketbook the Cubs can provide.

        2. jstraw

          How about the WS-ring wearing MLB manager in the booth?

          Please freaking hire Brenly, already.

          1. Jeff

            I second the motion. Brenly would be a great fit, he wouldn’t take the no hustle crap from the veterans and he can handle a pitching staff while grooming young talent.

            The only caveat is that Brenly’s son is a pretty good catching prospect and he doesn’t want to create any controversy for his kid’s career. I think it was one of the reasons he was so skeptical of the job this offseason.

          2. Michigan Goat

            Are you talking about Brenley as GM or manager.

        3. Sam

          Greg Maddux should be the next GM

  4. Raymond Robert Koenig

    Yes, there is! “Jiminy” Ricketts should ask him if he’d be interested in the job.

    1. Michigan Goat

      I like the nickname… Would he be better suited as our pitching coach? My concern is if he has the experience and knowledge to be a GM, not to mention if he fails we will have tarnish or image of him.

  5. Serio

    What about Royals third baseman Wilson Betemit for third next year???

  6. Tyler

    I still don’t understand why the cubs passed on Zack Cox when he was a college third baseman when clearly Vitters hasnt really proven himself yet. I know he is still 21 but you kind of have to be concerned.

  7. Ramy16

    Which makes me wanna say once again..there’s nobody to replace close..vitters sucks..point made

    1. TWC

      You’re right, Aramis Ramirez is probably the best 3B to ever play the game.

    2. Raymond Robert Koenig

      14.6 million dollars. 2 HRs. Bad defense. Enough said.

  8. Tyler

    If the cubs had Cox they could try vitters at first because the only kind of prospect at first is Bour where he is in A ball lighting it up.

  9. Ramy16

    Ya think the cubs could trade up to get rendon?

    1. Jeff

      Can’t trade picks in baseball.

    2. Bric

      Knowing Hendry (who controls all the decisions over Wilken and Fleita, like the Nazi that he is), the Cubs will almost certanly waste yet another top pick. This time on Bubba Starling. Apparently the three veteran free agents he already has clogging the outfield (Fuk, Sori, and Byrd) and four waiting in the wings rookies (Jackson, Colvin, Montanez, and Camapana) along with a couple he traded for (Burgess, Spencer, etc.) aren’t enough for him. WE NEED MORE OUFIELDERS!
      We have so many F’ing young outfielders as it is that he can trade away Sam Fuld and yet he continues to spend 5 mil plus a piece on free agents when even a casual fan knows that good pitching wins rings and young outfielders sell tickets to Pirates and Orioles fans. Anyway, Starling appears to be the pick. Unless Hendry gets fired in the next two weeks.

      1. jstraw

        Wow. Just…wow.

        1. Bric

          I can only imagine your short worded response is in shocked agreement to Hendry’s latest outfield acquisition: failed 1st rounder Micheal Burgess (batting a crisp .194 and striking out every 3rd at bat at high A Daytona) for Gorz, who’s solidified the Nats’ rotation while providing a much needed lefty just to shake things up. But you know, you can’t have too many young outfielders. Just look at all the teams with winning records right now. Who needs pitching?…The Cubs.

      2. Jeff

        I agree on the too many outfielders point, but if Starling is the special bat that people are making him out to be, the number of outfielders in the system shouldn’t matter. The other guys they are looking at are pitchers though. The draft is supposed to be deep in pitchers so it might be best to take the gamble on Starling early. Besides, who wouldn’t want to see a future Cubs lineup of Starlin and Starling, it’s a match made in baseball name heaven.

      3. TC

        If this were football, I would agree. But it’s not. Unlike in football, basketball, and, to a lesser extent, the NHL, draft picks generally take 2-3 years to develop into major league players (and thats if you get lucky and pick one who actually does develop.) In other sports, you can draft for need because you know what your needs will be when the kid is ready (i.e., right away). We have dont have a very good idea of what the Cubs’ needs will be in two to three years. Yea, it looks like we might have a surplus of outfielders going by the ones you named, but Fukudome and Byrd will (oh sweet Jesus I hope this is the truth) be gone in the next 2-3 years. Montanez is 29 (!). Colvin has yet to completely prove that he can hit at the Major League level. Campana is the definition of a 5th outfielder, not your mainstay CF for years to come. And (cover your ears, no one likes talk like this) Jackson could be a bust. It happens. See: Brandon Wood, Patterson, Pie, Juan Cruz, etc. Also, Starling being a high schooler it will probably take him 3-4 years to make it to the bigs, making it even less likely that we will still have a surplus of outfielders at that point.

        You can’t look at a farm system and some marginal, unproven major leguers and say “WOW! We have, like, 7 superstar outfielders! It would be ludicrous to take a guy consistently rated as one of the best in the draft!” If Bubba Starling is as good as scouts project him to be, its not going to matter who’s in the outfield in front of him. And, if there is, you trade some of them. A surplus of talent is a GOOD THING, as long as its not Jim Hendry overseeing it

        1. Bric

          These are all valid points. And I have nothing against Bubba Starling except one thing- Jim Hendry. I’ve come to believe that anybody Hendry says is the right player is, in fact, the wrong one.
          Cases in point: Ryan Harvey, Felix Pie, Mark Pawalek, Josh Vitters, Lou Montanez, Ben Christensen, Brian Dopriak, Ryan Theriot, Jeff Samardjia, Mike Fontenot, Hayden Simpson, Grant Johnson (etc.) but you get the point about his drafting record.
          The real point is how can anybody justify drafting more position players when all he’s ever shown to do is block them by high priced free agents anyway. Then he’ll go and trade away the most promising prospects to “replentish the system” and replace them with more free agents only to go back and do it all over again. The man or plan makes no sense. I’m sure he’s already drooling over offering Pujols a big fat contract next year because in his mind he’s always only “one or two players away”. Total incompetence.

  10. Spencer

    This is good stuff, Ace. This would be a cool weekly or bi-weekly entry.