Because it’s the end of the year, because you might be momentarily sick of Cubs rumors, and because prospects may soon take on an increasing importance in the Cubs’ world, it seemed a fair time to break out some superlatives for a number of Chicago Cubs minor leaguers, courtesy of prospector, and friend of the program, Sean Carey.

Positional Prospect of the Year: Brett Jackson

Jackson, 23, ranked in most publications as a top 50 prospect in all of baseball before the year, and then added to that status by posting an .869 OPS between AA and AAA, despite battling a hand injury.

Starting Pitching Prospect of the Year: Chris Rusin

While a 3.96 ERA and 1.30 WHIP may not be too impressive, there wasn’t too much to be excited about for the Cubs starting pitchers this year. Rusin, 25, gets bonus points also for pitching almost half of his innings in the PCL where the league average ERA was 5.13! Rusin is very capable of being the next Randy Wells. A left-handed Randy Wells that is.

Relief Pitching Prospect of the Year: Jeff Beliveau

Beliveau, 24, put up disgustingly awesome numbers this year on his way to winning the Cubs’ organizational pitcher of the year award. The guy put in his work in the off-season, and it showed to the tune of a 1.57 ERA, a 0.93 WHIP, 10.8 K/9, and 4.68 SO/BB.

Pleasant Surprise: Marwin Gonzalez

Gonzalez, 22, has always had a bit of hype surrounding him since putting up numbers in rookie ball at age 18 that almost matched those of Starlin Castro. He’s been promoted aggressively, and many were left scratching heads as to why. This year may have reflected what the Cubs saw all along: a very nice slash line of .288/.343/.400 for the super utility player between AA and AAA.

Unpleasant Surprise: Marwin Gonzalez

The Red Sox took Gonzalez in the Rule 5 Draft two weeks ago, and shipped him off to Houston, where’s he got a good shot at sticking on the big club.

Most Likely to Help in 2012: Brett Jackson

He’s a top 50 prospect, and he’s ready. A couple of relief prospects may see more time than Jackson, who probably won’t break camp with the big club, but none could more positively impact the team than Jackson.

Most Likely to Emerge: Reggie Golden

A lot of people feel like Golden had a disappointing year. He showed up at the beginning of the season out of shape, was kept in extended Spring Training, and then put up a .752 OPS in 231 ABs at short season Boise. Then you remember … he was only 19 years old this year! There is plenty of space in the organization for a power hitting corner outfielder to move up. If Golden can bump his average up, he could end the year in A+ with top 100 prospect status next year.

Most Likely to End Up in Japan: Bryan LaHair

Truth be told, I think LaHair will get a year or two of spot starting in the majors, but I think he’ll likely make his career in Japan. Still, we must pay homage to his fantastic .331/.405/.664 year in AAA. It’s a shame that he hasn’t been put in a situation before now to compete for an MLB job.

Most Likely to Pull a Farnsworth: Jeff Beliveau

The guy trains as an ultimate fighter in the off season. Paul Wilson is happy he’s retired right about now.

Tough Mofo of the Year: Ty’Relle Harris

Harris, 25, was the victim of a hit and run in June while in the middle of a strong season. I’ve not heard any updates on his status since the hit and run, and it’s possible that it could be the kind of event that derails a young man’s baseball career. Regardless of whether he gets back on the mound, anyone that can take getting hit by a car is bad-ass in my book. Here’s hoping for a full recovery.

The Next Sam Fuld: Kyung-min Na

Short? Check. Low slugging? Check. Superior defender? Check. Quick base runner? Check. Na seems to be the spitting image of Sam Fuld – the only thing he’s missing is a Stanford master’s degree in statistics. I do reserve more hope for Na, in all seriousness. He held his own at the plate as a 19-year-old over three low minor league levels in 2011. By all accounts, his defense is fantastic in center field. If he can get on base at a .360 clip, he’ll be an asset.

  • Ch

    Any thoughts on why the San Diego beat writer has Rizzo going to the Rays and then traded to the Cubs?

    • Brett

      He gave the issue no context or discussion, simply saying: “I think Rizzo will be traded in the next week or two. I can see him going to Tampa Bay, then the Rays trading him to the Chicago Cubs. Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod still covet Rizzo.” Maybe he thinks the Padres really want Wade Davis, and the only way they can get him is in this kind of three-team swap. I thought it was an odd thing to say with no context.

  • Toosh

    He could just be using his imagination to create a rumor. Others do. The Rays need a first baseman, too. If they trade for Rizzo, why would they trade him away?

    • clark addison

      San Diego Union Trib writers are a sad, clueless bunch, working for a shell of a newspaper. Their credibility ranks about on a par with Phil Rogers.

  • Norm

    I’m on the pessimistic side of Brett Jackson…I think he can use a bit more time in the minors to work on making contact. I could easily see him striking out 200 times if he were to play a full year in the bigs.

    • Brett

      Tons of strikeouts. At the same time, tons of walks. So, it’s fair to ask: is he striking out so much because he’s swinging and missing too much, or is he striking out so much because he takes a lot of pitches?

      • CubFan Paul

        where’s a AA/AAA scout when you need one?

      • Norm

        Which is fine…I know K’s are overrated for hitters, but there is a limit….
        BJ Upton with half the steals?

        • Kyle

          I think things have come full-circle and strikeouts have become an underrated problem.

          Two hitters with the same production (OBP, SLG) are roughly the same value, even if one strikes out 100 times more.

          But the guy who strikes out less is, all other things being equal, more likely to maintain his production long-term. Guys who strike out less will move up the minor-league ladder better, and they will usually age better.

          Jackson’s strikeout totals are a big red flag to me and I’d like to see him get more AAA time to keep adjusting to increasingly difficult pitchers. His ability to play CF defense and take a walk will make the offensive bar easier for him to hurdle, but there’s a very real chance that MLB pitchers will just exploit him.

          • hansman1982

            I agree that K’s are not being taken seriously enough. 

            I understand an out is an out and a K ensures that you saw at least 3 pitches but you give yourself no hope of getting on base due to an error and last I saw there was no Sacrifice K stat.

            His K rate is alarming because he doesn’t hit enough HR’s but he does make up for it in his high BB rate.  From what I have read elsewhere, from people far more knowledgable than I, Jackson’s high K rate comes from his patience and exposure to Jaramillo this year might do him some good in converting some K’s and BB’s into hits.

            • Adventurecizin’ Justin

              If we could cross the hitting abilities of BJaxx and Vitters, we would have a stud!!

              • Brett

                We have the technology.

      • loyal100more

        a disiplined hitter can always develop into a more confident aggressive hitter. i dont like the strike outs but i love the walks. any hitter with speed better serves his team making the pitcher throw him strikes or risk putting him on base. a AA to AAA jump i would imagine would require a more aggressive hitter to be a little more passive up front and look at some pitches.lastly guys he is our top prospect for now and im giving my blessing at every oppertunity.cubs fans are either built on hope or doubt.

    • JasonB

      I’m on board with Jackson getting more seasoning in Des Moines.  He’s always going to strike out alot – that’s a given.  But at AAA, he was striking out at a rate that was too high even for him.  When he gets to that 23-25% number that he’s shown at other levels and maintains that rate at AAA for a month or two, that’s when I think he’ll be ready.

      I think his BB ability gives him a rather high floor so I’m not all that concerned.  Of course, I could be wrong.

      • hansman1982

        Ya, I think the earliest we see Jackson is June 15 regardless of what he does in spring training or in Iowa in April and May.  No sense in starting his arb clock a year earlier.

        Hiis minor league K rate and BB rate would be 155 K’s and 85 BB’s over 650 PA.  Obviously you need to move both of those numbers in the wrong direction for the transition to the big leagues but if you can get that kind of BB rate out of a plus CF defender who will put up 20 steals, 20 doubles, 20 homers, I think you have yourself a pretty solid league minimum CF.

        • JasonB

          So just to prove how big of a dork I really am, I took those numbers and backed into his slash line.  If my math is right, I came up with .263/.359/.453 (.812 OPS).

          Assumptions – BABIP: .330, ISOP: .190 – both reasonable I think based on his past history

          And 155 Ks over 650 PAs is about a 27.5% K rate – knock that down to 25% and he’s .271/.367/.461 (.828 OPS)

          I’ll take it

          Comparing these numbers to last year’s CF numbers, the closest comp is Andrew McCutchen .259/.364/.456.  His wOBA was 6th among MLB CFs last year.  That’s why this talk of him not having All-Star potential befuddles me – if he produces at this level, he’ll play in a few All-Star games.

          • CubFan Paul

            wow, i’m impressed and wouldnt be surprised to see management dump (release) Soriano when the new year rolls around (to put his sunk $54million on the 2012 budget)

            BJax will be ready in June for sure, releasing Soriano will allow them to sign Coco to short term/low money deal (like dejesus’s) and then we’ll have that ‘offense’ Theo&Co. have been talking about for April and May ..and releasing Soriano now/soon gives him time to find a team for himself as a free agent

            i’m not sure how the WAR/$$ plays out in LeftField when your paying soriano $18/$54M to play elsewhere but an early season outfield of Crisp, Byrd, DeJesus, Reed, Sappelt doesnt sound half bad with Byrd presumably dealt at the deadline (BJax comes up) and maybe Cespedes proving his worth down in AAA

          • Norm

            Ya know, I underestimated his ISO…for some reason I was thinking more like .160…but .190 is most certainly a viable number.

      • Norm

        “I think his BB ability gives him a rather high floor so I’m not all that concerned.”
        Exactly. He will still be good, but he won’t be a star, and it’ll depend what defensive position he ends up at.

  • MightyBear

    Who do we have that the Rays want? Matt Garza? I don’t see that deal happening.

    • Sean C

      If you’re speaking to the rumored three way trade between Cubs/Padres/Rays, the better question to ask is why would the Rays trade away Rizzo when they need a first baseman? That rumor truly baffles me.

      However, if the Rays really wanted something out of the Cubs (maybe in a different trade?), I would have to think they would be looking for Soto or Castillo. Castillo makes more sense as he would have more cash controlled time where as Soto is going to start getting paid. Other than that, the Rays may be interested in acquiring Cashner as their closer going forward.

      • CubFan Paul

        i could see the Rays wanting Soto (not sure what else) if they could re-sign him cheaply to a 2-4year deal ..veteran catchers make about $6M/yr so if they could sign him (arbitration eligible) to $4M-$5M annually it makes sense, because Chirinos isnt ready

  • ferrets_bueller

    The Farnsworth body slam!!! Still among my favorite Cubs moments ever.

    • Sean C

      When I’m having a bad day, I look up the youtube video and smile.

  • Dougy D

    I guess I will be the man to step up and say, the Nintendo PRO WRESTLING game was kick ass, Brett. I do like the guy with the orange tan, but what about the stars and stripes guy, or the swamp monster looking guy?

  • jr5

    I’d kind of rather have Marwin Gonzalez on the 40-man roster than Andy Sonnanstine, but that’s probably just me.

  • Doug Dascenzo

    I know LaHair fits the mold of a guy who will finish out the rest of his career in Japan. But is there any precedent of a lifetime minor leaguer like LaHair actually having a productive career as an everyday player in the Bigs? He is 28, but those numbers are hard to ignore.

  • loyal100more

    chris sabo was rookie of the year at age 27… and last time i checked low cost run production is a gift to the club no matter how old you are

  • OHBearCub

    This isn’tnews Brett. Do you write this crap everyday just because you think its necessity?

    • Rick Vaughn

      Do you read this “crap” everyday just because you think it’s a necessity? Go start your own site if you don’t like this one. Seems like quite a few people here do appreciate what Brett puts on here. Are you really this sad of a person?

    • Brett

      If I stop writing the crap, the voices might stop talking to me.

      • BetterNews

        It’s not crap! Great stuff! And “yes” I did say that(BetterNews)