Yesterday, sabermetric uber-site FanGraphs released its top 15 Chicago Cubs prospect list, entering 2012. The rankings come complete with a scouting report on the top 10, and a shorter writeup on the next five. As has been the case with prior rankings, FanGraphs says the Cubs’ system is deep when it comes to B and C-level prospects, but thin on superstar types.
The top 15, according to FanGraphs, ranked thusly:
1. Javier Baez, SS
2. Brett Jackson, OF
3. Matt Szczur, OF
4. Dillon Maples, RHP
5. Trey McNutt, RHP
6. Dan Vogelbach, 1B
7. Ben Wells, RHP
8. Jae-Hoon Ha, OF
9. Austin Kirk, LHP
10. Dae-Eun Rhee, RHP
11. Chris Carpenter, RHP
12. Josh Vitters, 3B
13. Tony Zych, RHP
14. Welington Castillo, C
15. Rafael Dolis, RHP
One thing I find interesting: FanGraphs was willing to put young, inexperienced, but high upside prospect Javier Baez in the top spot over the far more established, but perhaps lower ceiling, Brett Jackson. At the same time, though, the FanGraphs list omits young, super high upside prospects like Jeimer Candelario and Marco Hernandez (the latter of whom did get an honorable mention).
Another notable bit: young pitchers Ben Wells and Austin Kirk show up relatively high on the list, despite usually being in the “near-miss” type category on other lists. Once again, it’s indicative of the state of the Cubs’ farm system: a few obvious guys at the top, and then whole lot of tough-to-differentiate depth.
On Wells, FanGraphs says:
Wells has a big strong pitcher’s frame. He performed well in 2011 at short-season ball, posting a 3.51 FIP in 77.1 innings. He’s not a strikeout pitcher but he is an extreme ground-ball pitcher that puts a lot of balls in play and relies on the infield defense behind him. Wells has an 89-94 mph sinking fastball, slider, and has dabbled with both a splitter and a changeup.
And on Kirk:
The 21-year-old southpaw had a solid season in low-A ball in 2011 and is one of the more underrated prospects in the system. Kirk’s repertoire includes an 87-92 mph fastball, curveball, and changeup. He was selected in the third round of the 2009 draft out of the same Oklahoma high school that Orioles’ 2011 first rounder Dylan Bundy played for during his prep career.
You may remember Kirk as “that kid who threw a no-hitter and then had his performance completely fall off the map late in the season.” Hopefully he can bounce back next year.
FanGraphs adds a sleeper at the end of the list:
Pin-Chieh Chen, CF: A 20-year-old outfielder from Taiwan, Chen has the potential to develop into a starting center-fielder or a fourth outfielder at the MLB level. Speed and defense are his two best skills. He’s a slap hitter who uses the entire field. He hit .300 and stole 20 bases in 26 tries during his stint in short-season ball in 2011.
The Cubs have been working the Pacific Rim as aggressively as any organization over the past five years, so hopefully we’ll soon see the fruits of those efforts.
The FanGraphs piece has a ton of info on the above players, and is worth a read.