As prospects continue to take on increasing importance in the future of the Chicago Cubs, it’s nice to see a prospects rankings list for 2012 that comes after the Sean Marshall and Andrew Cashner/Anthony Rizzo trades. It is becoming clear that the Cubs are moving in the right direction.

From John Sickels, the Cubs’ 2012 top prospects rank thusly (with his comments for the first five, and the new acquisitions – he drops comments for each of the top 24, though, so head over to the link and check it out):

1.) Brett Jackson, OF, Grade B+: I love his broad range of skills…speed, power, patience, defense. Only problem is a high strikeout rate which could foretell adjustment issues and/or preclude a high batting average. A more complete player than newly-acquired Rizzo, so ranks ahead for me.



2.) Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Grade B+: Acquired today from Padres for Andrew Cashner. Nobody should panic about 128 at-bats. Although he’s not going to hit .300 in the majors, Rizzo should provide plenty of power and walks and I think he’ll make the needed adjustments. Maximum outcome: Ryan Howard. Worst-case: Chris Davis.

3.) Javier Baez, SS-3B, Grade B: 2011 first-round pick. Outstanding bat speed, should hit for average and power. Questions revolve around future position as well as volatile personality. Higher ceiling than Jackson or Rizzo but we need to clear these issues up first.

4.) Matt “Scrabble” Szczur, OF, Grade B-: Borderline B. Grade under review. Outstanding tools but still learning how to play baseball. Uses speed very well, skilled defensively, should develop more power but plate discipline slipped in High-A.



5.) Trey McNutt, RHP, Grade B-: Hampered by nagging injuries in Double-A and gets a partial mulligan, although stock is legitimately down a bit. I am concerned by low strikeout rate.

6.) Dillon Maples, RHP, Grade B-

7.) Dan Vogelbach, 1B, Grade B-

8.) Junior Lake, SS, Grade C+

9.) Welington Castillo, C, Grade C+

10.) Dae-Eun Rhee, RHP, Grade C+

11.) Josh Vitters, 3B-1B, Grade C+

12.) Jeimer Candelario, 3B, Grade C+

13.) Marco Hernandez, SS, Grade C+

14.) Chris Carpenter, RHP, Grade C+

15.) Rafael Dolis, RHP, Grade C+

16.) Zach Cates, RHP, Grade C+: Acquired in the Cashner/Rizzo trade. Often overlooked due to 4.78 ERA in Low-A, but he has a live arm and peripheral stats were much better. Breakthrough possible.

17.) Ben Wells, RHP, Grade C+

18.) Dave Sappelt, OF, Grade C+: Acquired in Sean Marshall deal. Perfect fourth outfielder with a broad balance of average tools/skills.

19.) Ronald Torreyes, 2B, Grade C+: Acquired in Sean Marshall deal from Reds. Excellent performance record, hits for average, very reliable with the glove, but undersized at 5-7, 150. Can he do what Jose Altuve did with the Astros?



20.) Reggie Golden, OF, Grade C+

21.) Gioskar Amaya, INF, Grade C+

22.) Tony Zych, RHP, Grade C+

23.) Shawon Dunston, Jr, OF, Grade C+

24.) Aaron Kurcz, RHP, Grade C+

OTHERS: Jeffry Antigua, LHP; Dallas Beeler, RHP; Jeff Beliveau, LHP; Jeff Bianchi, INF; Lendy Castillo, RHP; Pin-Chieh Chen, OF; Zeke DeVoss, 2B; Jae-Hoon Ha, OF (a lot of people really like him but he looks like a tweener to me); Jay Jackson, RHP; Eric Jokisch, LHP; Austin Kirk, LHP (season collapsed after he threw the no-hitter); Luis Liria, RHP; Kevin Rhoderick, RHP; Jose Rosario, RHP; Neftali Rosario, C; Hayden Simpson, RHP; Nick Struck, RHP; Yao-Ling Wang, RHP; Logan Watkins, 2B; Robert Whitenack, RHP.

If you’re wondering about the grading system, Sickels explains it before each of these rankings. A super-short description: A’s are expected to be very good MLB regulars with a high chance of becoming stars or superstars, B’s are expected to be regulars in MLB (with the chance to be a star), and C’s are good prospects with a few question marks or who are too far away from the bigs to get a higher grade. You can see why the Cubs have so many C+ prospects, which is actually a high compliment from Sickels.

In addition to the interesting comments on the new guys, overall, you get a sense that Sickels sees a huge number of breakout candidates in the Cubs’ system. That squares with my overall impression of how things stand: tons of young talent at the lower levels, not much talent at the upper levels. That hurts the Cubs in rankings (because there’s less reliability with younger, low-level players), but means the system could explode in as short as one year if many of these young kids play well in 2012. In sum, Sickels describes the Cubs’ system in terms with which we’ve become familiar: very deep, but lacking at the top.

Baseball America’s Jim Callis also recently addressed the Cubs’ system in the post-Marshall, post-Cashner trade era. Callis says that, if he were re-ranking the Cubs’ system now, Anthony Rizzo – his overall number 42 prospect – would be third in the Cubs’ system, behind Jackson (28) and Baez (31). Torreyes, Cates, and Sappelt – in that order – would show up somewhere in the latter half of the top 30.

Callis adds that, when the Cubs’ system was ranked earlier in the offseason, he had them at number 14 in baseball (which sounds about right). After the Marshall and Cashner moves, he says the Cubs would probably move up a spot or two. My sense is, a well-executed Matt Garza trade and a, for example, Jorge Soler signing, would push the Cubs well into the top 10. Maybe even bordering the top 5.


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