This time of year, and all the way through January, various places will be ranking prospects throughout baseball for the 2012 season. Baseball America has started things off, and has released its early look at the top 10 prospects in the Chicago Cubs’ system for 2012:

1. Brett Jackson, of

2. Javier Baez, ss

3. Matt Szczur, of

4. Trey McNutt, rhp

5. Dillon Maples, rhp

6. Wellington Castillo, c

7. Rafael Dolis, rhp

8. Junior Lake, ss

9. Josh Vitters, 3b/1b

10. Dan Vogelbach, 1b

About the system, BA had this to say:

Owner Tom Ricketts actually dismissed him four weeks before the move was announced, but Hendry stayed on to conclude negotiations with the most expensive draft class in franchise history. Chicago handed out seven-figure bonuses to shortstop Javier Baez (first round), first baseman Dan Vogelbach (second), outfielder Shawon Dunston Jr. (11th) and righthander Dillon Maples (14th) while spending a total of $12 million. By comparison, it paid $8.7 million in bonuses in the previous two drafts combined.

The Cubs also have been aggressive seeking talent in Latin America and Asia, and Ricketts’ commitment to player development attracted interest throughout the industry. Theo Epstein mentioned it as a major factor in why he decided to leave the Red Sox, where he won two World Series in nine years as GM, to become Chicago’s president of baseball operations in October.

The write-up goes on from there to discusses all of the Cubs’ latest moves … in their front office. That should tell you just about all you need to know about what BA thinks of the direction of the Cubs’ farm system – that is to say, it’s on the way up, thanks to the new blood at the executive level, if not at the minor league level.

Ultimately, it’s hard to pick a fight too aggressively with BA’s top ten. As astutely pointed out BN user Kyle yesterday, the Cubs’ system right now has a pretty clear group at the top (Jackson, McNutt, Baez, Szczur), and then a whole bunch of kids would could plausibly be ranked anywhere from number five to number 25. It’s interesting that BA skewed heavy on 2011 draft picks (Baez, Maples, Vogelbach), and higher-level prospects. Dolis is the only guy I can say with confidence wouldn’t be in my top ten, but the rest could all be in there – indeed, our post-draft rankings this year look very similar (Jackson-McNutt-Baez-Vitters-Szczur-Maples-Vogelbach-Whitenack-LeMahieu-Castillo).

Among the names that could have been considered for the top 10, in no particular order (and even this will be an exercise in futility, because, what the Cubs lack in impact talent at the top, they make up for in depth): Marco Hernandez, Gioskar Amaya, Nick Struck, Dallas Beeler, Jae Hoon Ha, Chris Rusin, Ben Wells, Reggie Golden, Aaron Kurcz, Dae-Eun Rhee, Kevin Rhoderick, Jeff Beliveau, Chris Carpenter, Rob Whitenack (recovering from TJS), Jeimer Candelario, Larry Suarez, and any number of picks from this year’s draft. I could go on and on, and I’m sure I’ve missed a bunch of names. I think you get the point on the state of the Cubs’ system right now.

  • Go Cubs

    I think that Jeimer Candelario will be on their next year if he can repeat what he did this season, he hasn’t even turned 18 yet and by looking at his numbers it looks like he could turn into a power hitter and also it looks like he has good plate discipline by walking 50 times to striking out 42 times, he could be the sleeper in the Cubs farm system for next year.

    • Edwin

      I haven’t heard much about him. Who is he?

      • Tyler

        He is on one of the Cubs DSL teams.

      • Kyle

        He turns 18 this month and put up big numbers in the Dominican Summer League (337/443/478). If, and this is a *huge* if, he can maintain that kind of walk rate when he comes across to the States this upcoming season, he becomes a major prospect. He doesn’t have much power yet, but that’s normal for his age.

        He’s a lottery ticket. He showed a ton of promise this year, but he has to continue to show that promise and improve every year for the next five years. A lot of guys have seasons like his in the Dominican and then wash out by A-ball, but a few go on to stardom.

        • JulioZuleta

          He is producing almost the same numbers at the same age as Starlin Castro. He would absolutley be in my top 10. Something like Jackson Baez Lake Szczur Mcnutt Vitters Candelario Rhee Vogelbach Hernandez Maples
          (ok so 11 guys) works for me. I tend to judge from a “who could be a superstar?” point of view. I saw on another post that Callis said the Cubs 1-25 wouldnt be top 10 in baseball, but their 26-50 would easily be in the top 5, meaning that we have incredible depth and low level talent, but not a whole lot at the top. After all, 5 of my top 11 have never even played true A ball yet.

          • Kyle

            His numbers are a ton better at 17 than Starlin Castro’s were. But that doesn’t mean a ton, because Starlin Castro wasn’t that great at that age. He had a lot of scouted talent, but his numbers didn’t shoot up until he hit 20.

            Personally, I think prospects who are close to the majors are far more valuable than lottery-ticket 17-year-olds, although you do of course like to have a lot of both.

            • JulioZuleta

              Ehh when Starlin was 18 he came to America and hit .311 with a .364 OBP in Arizona. I would expect about the same next year for Candelario.

  • Tyler

    I dont know why dolis is in their because it lookes like he will only be a reliever for the Cubs

    • Luke

      He’s in there because he throws two plus pitches and has only been pitching for three or four years. I’d prefer he start, but he looked pretty good as the closer for the Smokies last season so they may keep him in that role moving forward.

  • Kyle

    I’m really starting to sour on McNutt. His AFL season isn’t looking any better than his AA season did.

    I wouldn’t have put Baez, Szczur or Maples that high, but that’s just classic BA: They absolutely adore raw, high-ceiling prospects.

    I’m trying to figure out where on earth they came up with Carlos Marmol as a comp for a minor-league reliever who struck out just 48 batters in 72 innings while repeating AA last season. I don’t know if Dolis would have made my top 20, let alone top 7.

    The Junior Lake hype is heating up lately, but I’m in “wait and see” mode. AA is the proving ground, the big leap for these raw talents. If Lake can do it at AA this season, I’m sold on him.

    Love me some Vogelbach, happy to see him crack the top 10, though I’m not sure it’s warranted yet.

    It’s just a matter of taste, but I suspect BA just doesn’t care as much for the medium-ceiling, polished guys in the Cubs system compared to the shiny 18-year-olds.

    • Luke

      Not sure I’d put Szczur in the “raw” category. He arguably has more plate discipline and a better approach in the field than Jackson, and Jackson is generally considered ready for the majors. Szczur still needs a couple years of seasoning, but I think he’s easily one of the more polished prospects in the system.

      • ced landrum

        Couldn’t disagree more.  He may strike out less and he definitely has better speed then Jackson, but Jackson has a pretty good approach and is a very fine centerfielder.  Szczur has more raw talent in center, but I am not sure he is better yet.

      • Kyle

        He hasn’t done a thing above low-A. That’s what I mean by raw. He’s going to have to prove himself at 2 or 3 more levels just to catch up to Jackson.

    • JulioZuleta

      Yeah, if we can get solid return, I’m all for trading McNutt this offseason. I just think his high hit, low K/9 ratio is getting very troublesome. I know sinkerballers struggle in the low miniors due to bad defense, but I’m getting a little discouraged. If either he or Lake goes to the Bo Sox, I’d much rather it be mcNutt.

      • Luke

        I’ll agree with that, but I’d rather keep both. I’m not ready to write off McNutt just yet. We’ll see how his breaking pitch plays in Iowa. I suspect he’s going rebound nicely, but we’ll see.

        If the Cubs do move him, I’d hope it be for a long term puzzle piece. There is still a lot of value there.

  • CubFan Paul

    i’d like to know how much Vogelbach *really* weighs nows. people are all over the map with his weight ..& after watching high lights from last year I’m not sure he lost the weight people said he did because all i see/saw was Man Boobs that needs a bra

    that being said, i’ll buy Prince Fielder a box full of BioFit bras from Victoria Secret if Theo&Co. sign him

    • Luke

      I think he worked out for scouts before the draft, so I’m sure his listed weight going into the draft would be correct. Since then he has been working out in Arizona, so I doubt he’s ballooned up any there.

      As for how much he lost, the number we can’t be sure of would be his high school junior year listed weight, and if anything I’m guessing that one would have been officially listed too low. If anything, I’d think he lost more than is officially reported.

      Regardless, he’s a big, strong guy who will probably just get stronger as he muscles up some more. I just hope he can play some defense.

  • Edwin

    I’m interested to see how Rob Whitenack does this upcoming season. Probably because since he didn’t really play last season, he wasn’t given a chance to disappoint anyone.

  • Ron

    Does this effect the compensation talks with the Red Sox?

    • Brett

      You mean whom they might want? If so, I doubt it – each team’s scouts know what players like they, regardless of prospect rankings (or, at least, that is to say, by now, the Red Sox know).

  • ron

    Yes, sort of, the Red Sox know who they want (that could explain the Lake leaks, Junior that is). But since Selig doesn’t want to set a precedent for sending top [ick as compensation, J. Lake went from a midlevel to a top ten. I should have been more specific.

    Even more specific, Oneri and Wilken were real high on Lake (presumably) the Red Sox want him. Theo comes over talks to everyone and he is too. The Cubs drag their feet until this comes out so they can keep him because Selig might not send a top 10.

    Like what i think will happen, K. Wood talks to Theo, “yes I will be a Cub” Theo says great can we wait to sign you until after the Rule 5 draft. Wood says cool, I am not going anywhere. By delaying things, stuff may work out in their favor. (ie protect someone they want to keep)

    • Brett

      All excellent points, Ron. Very insightful.

  • Andrew Moore

    Tyler Colvin didn’t crack the top 10?

    • jt

      I might be mistaken but I believe he’s spent too much time with the big league team to be considered a “prospect”

      • Andrew Moore

        Is he considered a bust then?

      • JulioZuleta

        Yeah, way too much time. You have to have rookie status which I believe is less than 150 ABs or 50 IP.

        • Luke

          I think BA restricted it further this year, to less than 30 major league games (though now that I think about it, that could catch Castillo). They apparently weren’t a fan of the Braves closer winning Rookie of the Year in what should probably be considered his second season, and I think they cut back on their qualifications as a result.

  • JAndersonjr81

    Where Is Corey Patterson, Felix Pie, Angel Guzman, Jaun Cruz and Heep Sop Choi rated. I didn’t see their names. I’m assuming they are still in the minors, cause they never showed up at the MLB level.

    • Luke

      I get that you’re doing the troll / sarcasm thing, but I have to object to lumping Choi in with Patterson and Pie. Choi had a good season going until his concussion resulting from the collision with Wood, and it seemed to me that he was never the same guy after that concussion. I can’t quite put a guy whose career may have been altered by a injury that was the result of playing hard in the same class with Patterson and Pie, who I think can both be said to not have worked hard enough. In my book, Choi gets lumped into ‘derailed by injuries’ category, along with Prior.

      • JulioZuleta

        Same with Guzman.

        • Edwin

          Where is Guzman these days? He was one of those prospects that even though I knew he wasn’t that good, I still always rooted for him. He actually had a good season as a reliever for the Cubs, but then got hurt. I thought he was trying to make his way back this year.

          • Luke

            He spent this year starting yet another injury come back in the Cubs low minors.

            At one time, I think he had better stuff than Zambrano. When people talked about the future of the Cubs rotation, they would talk about the one-two combo of Kerry Wood and Angel Guzman.

            But as you said, the guy just couldn’t stay healthy. If he can ever put three healthy years together, he’ll be a very good middle reliever. At this stage I think his arm may be too fragile to expect much more than that.

            • Brett

              He’s currently a minor league free agent. Pitched well at High A as a reliever in very limited time last year.

      • JAndersonjr81

        Was definitely being sarcastic. Though I agree about Choi, None of those guys ever excited me. Jackson and Lake really excite me. And I’m really excited about Vogalbach. I think our system is very underrated.

      • Kyle

        Patterson gave us two above-average years in CF. He never became what people hoped, but he wasn’t a total bust.

    • Rancelot

      You do realize that EVERY team has their own list of guys that did not reach the expectations of the organization. Media pimping of players is the main offender of setting expections (unrealistic in most cases) on players thus influencing the fanbase. This is not a Cubs exclusive!

      And one step further to your second observation, I can’t tell if you are joking or not but every name you listed is either still playing or has played in the majors.

  • Toosh

    Cruz has over 600 IPs in the Majors and Patterson over 4000 ABs.

  • Ashley

    Little suprised to see Lake that low and I thought Vitters might be closer to middle but all in all no real surprises. I don’t however know much about Dan Vogelbach, I have never really heard of him or if I have I can’t seem to remember it. Any info on him Brett?

    Also expect to see Wellington in the bigs next season, I will be shocked if he is not the back up next year or potential starter if Soto is traded away. Please no more Koyie Hill!!

    • Luke

      Vogelbach (1B) was taken in the second round of the 2011 draft out of a high school in Florida. He’s a big kid with monstrous power and plate discipline and patience you don’t often see in guys that young. Basically, he’s cut from the same mold as Prince Fielder. Not saying he’ll ever be quite that good, but that’s the type of player.

    • JulioZuleta

      Vogelbach was drafted this year, he is a pleasantly plump first baseman after LOSING 30 pounds to get his weight to 250 before the draft. Has a good approach at the plate and absolutely enormous power. He hit a 508 foot HR at a homerun derby in high school. Runs well for a fatty and supposedly plays decent defense for his size/age.

      • CubFan Paul

        “Runs well for a fatty” = Zombie Bait!

  • JAndersonjr81

    Who is the last Cubs prospect to have a great career. Honestly, Maddux is who comes to my mind.

    • JAndersonjr81

      Not counting Wood. He would have been great minus the injuries.

      • Edwin

        I would also throw Prior in with Wood, if we are counting the “could have beens”.

        Zambrano has had a very Productive career. His last 2 or 3 years have been a sharper decline than most anticipated, but he was pretty good early. from 2003-2006 he was one of the more productive pitchers in the game. I’d say he’s been the best Cubs pitcher since Maddux.

    • Luke

      Would you count Joe Girardi?

      Rafael Palmeiro came out of the Cubs sytem, but was traded.

      Grace was pretty darn good. I suppose you’d have to define great before we knew if he counted.

      There have been several pitchers who came from the Cubs system who have gone on to have very long and productive careers. Not sure that any recent ones would be in the great category, but I bet you could assemble a five man rotation that beats (on average) either of the rotations in the World Series this year just from former Cub prospects.

      If you’re looking for a true best of the best kind of guy, I think you have to go back to Ernie Banks and Billy Williams.

    • hansman1982

      are you talking about above-average career or HoF career (Maddux)?

      Comparing someone like Maddux to any prospect is doing that prospect a GREAT disservice.

      Above Average (including potential if they keep it up): Soto, Marmol, Marshall, Wood, Zambrano, Castro

      Even Patterson has had a decent career, not above average but decent.

  • Internet Random

    Anybody else looking forward to breaking out the “Thank You, Trey” T-shirts again?

  • http://Bleachernation Ramy16

    You Guys forgot Marwin Gonzalez??

    • Luke

      Gonzalez is a perfect example of the Cubs depth. He is a solid prospect who will probably have a long major league career. As a backup infielder, defensive replacement type of guy. He’s a Miguel Cairo with less speed, I think. Or a switch hitting version of Ryan Theriot or Darwin Barney. Great pieces to have on your bench and every team needs one, but not the kind of guy who should be making a Top 10 prospects list.

      The Cubs are so loaded with that kind of player it is a little scary.

  • DRock

    I’m sure Brett already heard this, but I guess Sveum is having his second interview today. Hope that means we will have a decision by the end of the week. Ready to start wheelin’ and dealin’!

    • ottoCub

      Has anyone else had the thought that the compensation for Theo might be related to the managerial search both clubs are conducting?

      It seems unlikely (and unprecedented?), but both teams interviewed a very similar slate of candidates… Is it possible that the BoSox might get first choice in managerial hire as part of their compensation? If this was part of the discussion, it would explain why neither team has made a manager announcement yet.

  • Vinestal

    There were others that were reporting Cubs would not be giving Sveum a second interview.
    Bruce Levine
    Cubs will not have second interviews but will talk to some of the group of 6 over the phone. May have conversation with Dale Sveum here .”
    They are basically going to have conversations with him because he is in town for the RedSox but nothing formal was what I read somewhere

    • Brett

      That seems like the gist – Cubs will talk to candidates again, but won’t do full-on formal second interviews. Sveum will probably get a phone call.

      • Vinestal

        Well he is going to be in Milwaukee at the GM meetings to interview with the RedSox, I would assume they will speak to him while they are both in town for that.

  • Vinestal

    Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe)
    11/15/11 6:11 PM
    Sveum to meet with Henry, Werner and Lucchino tomorrow. #RedSox

    Sounds like they are close to hiring him. Cubs will be meeting with him Wensday.

    Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat)
    11/15/11 6:13 PM
    #cubs will talk to dale sveum wed. Sveum is coming n for 2nd interview with #RedSox

    • Brett

      The Sveum meeting with Red Sox brass has been known since late last week, so it’s not as if they are any closer to hiring him today than they were last Friday. Looks like the Cubs want to be sure he doesn’t sign on with them without talking to the Cubs first.