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Now that “signing day” has come and passed, reshaping the Chicago Cubs’ farm system, it’s worth putting together our first Cubs prospect rankings. Sean Carey, with whom I’ve written many prospecting articles here, suggested the idea, and, given how well Sean knows Cubs prospects, I was all too happy to take him up on it.

Together, we came up with a consensus Top 10 Chicago Cubs Prospect List (“consensus” being the two of us). Feel free to dissect and criticize as you feel appropriate, but remember, anything with which you disagree was totally Sean.

1. CF Brett Jackson - 23 y/o (AA/AAA) .278/.379/.494

The Cubs’ consensus preseason number one Cubs prospect has done nothing but reinforce his status as not only the top prospect in the Cubs’ system, but a top prospect in all of baseball. And he’s done it despite two extended slumps and a hand injury this year.

2. SP Trey McNutt - 22 y/o (AA) 4.55 ERA, 58/31 K/BB (85 IP), 1.635 WHIP

McNutt has struggled with injuries this year as well; first, it was a blister issue, and then an on-field collision caused some chest maladies. Unlike Jackson, though, the injuries have had noticeably negative influence on his production. Most services will probably drop McNutt significantly after this season, but we felt, for now, it would be unwarranted.

3. 3B Javier Baez - 18 y/o (not currently placed)

It’s a tough call to put an 18-year-old with exactly zero plate appearances as a professional in the top five. However, with scouting reports touting a quick, powerful swing, and potential for 30 HR type power, it’s hard not to hype Baez up. Although he’s played mostly shortstop in high school, he is a player that is known for his defensive versatility. Given his larger frame and strong throwing arm, he is projected to make a permanent move to third base.

4. 3B Josh Vitters - 21 y/o (AA) .284/.321/.441

There are certainly parts of Josh Vitters’ game that we all worry about; namely, his defense and low on-base ability. Still, a 21-year-old holding his own at AA is something to be commended, and his potential is through the roof. He may not be a top three talent in the Cubs system anymore, but he’s still in our top 5.

5. CF Matt Szczur - 22 y/o (A/A+) .293/.339/.425 (23 SB / 5 CS)

In his first full season in professional baseball, Szczur has turned heads. He’s struggled since a promotion to Daytona, but his overall line is still impressive, and his defense and speed are legendary. The Cubs paid Szczur $1.5 million not to play football, so obviously they’re big fans.

6. SP Dillon Maples – 19 y/o (not currently placed)

Maples projects as a top of the rotation starter with a great fastball and had, by many accounts, the best slider in the draft. The Cubs paid him $2.5 million (almost as much as Baez) to sign, so they clearly believe he’s a top prospect.

7. 1B Dan Vogelbach – 18 y/o (AZL) .357/.400/.714 (3 games)

Three players in our top ten are teenage draftees. Some may find that telling of the top end talent in the Cubs system. We feel it speaks to the awesomeness of the Cubs’ 2011 draft thanks to the blank check Tom Ricketts handed Scouting Director Tim Wilken. Vogelbach is the type pure power hitter the Cubs system has lacked for quite some time. Reports indicate that the $1.6 million bonus the Cubs gave Vogelbach was an easy decision after he lost a dramatic amount of weight from his previously-portly 5’11 280lb+ body. He projects as a first baseman.

8. SP Robert Whitenack - 22 y/o (recovering from surgery after 11 starts this year at A+ and AA) 1.93 ERA, 47/14 K/BB, 0.94 WHIP

Whitenack’s experience is a microcosm of the Cubs minor league season this year. He was grabbing headlines and pitching a dominant season before being removed in the second inning of a start, and promptly undergoing Tommy John surgery. Eff. At only 22 years old, though, there’s plenty of time for him to bounce back. Whitenack projects as a mid rotation starter, which is something the Cubs don’t have much of at this time. Indeed, had he not gone under the knife, there’s a good chance we would have seen him with the big club already.

9. 2B/3B DJ LeMahieu - 23 y/o (AA/AAA) .319/.351/.420

LeMahieu, a big kid without much power, headed to Camp Colvin last off season to try and put some bulk on his frame. It’s had decent results, as his power numbers have improved. He is struggling currently at AAA, but has been on an uphill trajectory to the tune of an OPS over .800 in his last 12 games.

10. C Welington Castillo - 24 y/o (AAA) .287/.359/.522

Castillo, continuing with the theme (seriously, Lord, why?), has dealt with injuries this year. He’s endured, though, and has produced an extremely attractive line on the year (albeit while mostly hitting in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League). Some have used Castillo’s presence to suggest trading current Cubs catcher Geovany Soto for young pitching.

Just missed: UTL Ryan Flaherty (about which Sean has written more here), SP Nick Struck, SS Marco Hernandez, SS Gioskar Amaya, P Larry Suarez, P Aaron Kurcz, SP Chris Rusin, OF Jae Hoon Ha, RP Jeff Beliveau, and about a dozen others.

  • Fishin Phil

    I’m really excited about this year’s draft!
    Thank you Tom Ricketts for the open checkbook.
    Thank you Tim Wilkens for go after the tough signs.
    Thank you Jim Hendry for helping get the kids signed and delivered.

  • CubFan Paul

    the awesomeness of the Cubs’ 2011 draft thanks to the blank check Tom Ricketts handed Scouting Director Tim Wilken.

    ..then wth happened last year? Ricketts “said” he was committed to the farm but gave Wilken a $2 Dollar bill in 2010, hence the 1st horrible pick in Hayden Simpson

    this list would be way awesome-er if “spending wasnt stagnant” (as Hendry put it to deflect blame)

    the new GM absolutely has to find a way to get a couple pitching prospects into the Cubs Top 10/20

    • Sean C

      I think we’ve seen a pattern in the way Rickett’s operates as the owner of this club in the last two and a half years . He takes his time to gather as much information as he can before making any type of move that will create waves. I would say this includes the decision on how to allocate money on amatuer talent. Yes, the Cubs missed out on last year’s draft compared to the 2011 draft, but I’m confident in the man’s methods at this point.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I honestly believe Ricketts was unsure about what he wanted to do at that time (also, most experts thought this year’s draft had better depth than last year’s), but also, keep in mind that this year’s payroll is down about $10 million from last year. So that money probably went into the draft and international signings.

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  • EQ

    No ZEKE on the list??

    • CubFan Paul

      yea, zeke & his speed need a honorable mention ..maybe lose McNutt & place zeke at 10 ..maybe next year, if healthy McNutt will put up decent numbers and not a 1.6whip and a rodrigo lopez type era..

      i wonder if Tampa wanted McNutt &we pushed Archer on them instead and if so thats probably why we gave up 5 players instead of 4 for Garza ..Fail

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Zeke is definitely in the “dozens of others” group. He’s got great speed and discipline, but, as I’ve noted before, he’s a 21 year old, polished college hitter facing teenage pitchers. He really should be hitting as well as he is.

      And probably with a little more power…

  • JulioZuleta

    I would normally never put a DSL guy very high, just bc there is so many levels for them to pass without flaming out, but Jaimer Calendario’s line is 337/443/921. 50/42 BB/K rate. and by the way, he doesn’t turn 18 until November. He is putting up Starlin-esque numbers.
    Just sayin, keep an eye on him. Jeffery Baez too

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      He’s absolutely in the “other couple dozen” group. Candelario, specifically, was a kid I almost included. Probably should have.

  • Jim

    Brett, do you see a change in position for Vitters? I hear that he is not doing well at 3B and some say he may be moved to 1B, which I think would be a waste and with the 3 kids drafted this season sets up for a logjam down the road. I’m sure LF would be easy but I think RF would be a place he could handle. If he has the arm to handle 3B he certainly would be able to make the throws from RF.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Very few scouts think he can last at 3B. Problem is, his bat needs to come a long way to justify a move to 1B or the OF. He’s definitely got the arm for RF. He’s still young, so I think yes, he’ll probably end up at 1B or in the OF long-term, with the Cubs or otherwise.

  • philoe beddoe

    Upon further review of LaHair….he has had a very curious career…he has actually had great production for the last three seasons….so maybe he figured it out at 25-26 as opposed to 28-29…he belted 3 HRS with a cup of coffee with Seattle in 2008….scouts, etc just must be banking on the PCL inflation…I thought the talk of bringing him up was a bit of a joke, but looking at his numbers closely…something doesn’t add up….he should have gotten a shot somewhere….or maybe he is just a 4A player

  • Robbo

    No Rodrigo Lopez or Ramon Ortiz on the list of top prospects? Sure, they aren’t that good now, but give these guys some time to develop. That’s why the Cubs keep trotting them out there isn’t it?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      The Cubs always ruin their youngsters…

  • MichiganGoat

    The fact that three of our top ten just graduated high school and the others have been injured and mediocre at best is worrisome. Hopefully next year we will see some real talent emerge, but after Jackson there is nobody thatbis ready to contribute. I hope we go as deep as we have this year in the 2012 draft then come 2015 we will have an amazing farm system.

    For all things Cubs, Beer, and Michigan [url="http://www.twitter.com/MichiganGoat"]Follow MichiganGoat on Twitter[/url]

  • MichiganGoat

    Let’s try this again

    For all things Cubs, Beer, and Michigan Follow MichiganGoat on Twitter

    Brett if I’m over plugging myself here go ahead and delete

    • http://twitter.com/thomaswconroy TWC

      I keep hitting the delete button but nothing happens!

      • MichiganGoat

        Ha, follow me and regain some of you lost street cred!

        For things Cubs, Beer, Michigan, and Random Musings – Follow MichiganGoat on Twitter

        • http://twitter.com/thomaswconroy TWC

          I think I might be better off if I stopped following you.

    • http://www.frenchrocks.net Ian Afterbirth
      • http://twitter.com/thomaswconroy TWC

        So when’s the California tour?

        • http://www.frenchrocks.net Ian Afterbirth

          We’ll play Cali next Summer if we can stay at your house.

          • TWC

            My house is too small for your circus act. You can all crash in my shed though.

      • hardtop

        Two things, while we’re off topic:
        1. Your avatar and user name are more gruesome than your sound, which is a relief. i was afraid it’d be some Marilyn Manson bullshit.
        2. Anyone who covers Lou Reed is alright in my book… good cover too: I personally like the pianos and strings on transformer, but you made it your own without fucking it up… and that happens rarely.

        • http://www.frenchrocks.net Ian Afterbirth

          Wow – thanks!
          No my avatar is just a Halloween costume from last year.
          I hate MM as much as the next person with any sort of brain.

          • MichiganGoat

            So you ever get to MI?

            • Caleb

              What’s in michigan? Just drink shitty beer by yourself in an ice cooler and you’ll pretty much have the gist of it.

              • MichiganGoat

                It’s on like Donkey Kong, hammock boy!

              • http://www.frenchrocks.net Ian Afterbirth

                They have good paella in Grand Rapids…

                • MichiganGoat

                  Remember the restaurant’s name, I’m in GR

                  • http://www.frenchrocks.net Ian Afterbirth

                    Well it was 20 years ago to be honest, but it was the one thing I remember about GR.

                • TWC

                  Going to Grand Rapids for the paella is like going to Mexico for the pizza.

                  • MichiganGoat

                    Or like going to TWC for lessons on “How Not to be Sarcastic”

                  • http://www.frenchrocks.net Ian Afterbirth

                    I didn’t go there for the paella mind you.
                    My old band played a show there and we were taken out to a “fancy” place for dinner by the local music industry reps.

                    • TWC

                      You guys play the Orbit Room? That’s in GR, right MG? My old band went through there a few times.

                    • http://www.frenchrocks.net Ian Afterbirth

                      That sounds familiar.

            • http://www.frenchrocks.net Ian Afterbirth

              I haven’t been to Michigan in a while but have been over the years many many times. Since I made the move to VT from NYC 5 years ago I haven’t gone anywhere but that will change soon – and yes French (or my new band “Let’s Destroy Things” will be touring, perhaps next Summer).
              Maybe we can catch a Cubs game if they play the Tigers!

  • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

    Pretty good list. This has been as bad a year for prospect injuries as I can remember in awhile, but there were still a lot of guys who stepped out into the spotlight this year. The Cubs have a ton of depth, just not too many potential stars.

  • David

    Baez goes 1 for 4 with a stolen base in his AZL debut today.

    • JulioZuleta

      so he’s hitting .521 less than he hit last year at this point

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