Baseball America has released its annual Prospect Handbook, and, if you’re a prospect hound, you should strongly consider a purchase. (No, this is not an advertisement – I just think they do good work.)

In it, you can find scouting reports on the top Cubs prospects, as well as the top prospects for the other 29 teams. It also has a list of the top 30 (number 31 comes in a supplement) Chicago Cubs prospects:

1. Brett Jackson, OF

2. Javier Baez, SS

3. Matt Szczur, OF

4. Trey McNutt, RHP

5. Dillon Maples, RHP

6. Welington Castillo, C

7. Rafael Dolis, RHP

8. Junior Lake, SS

9. Josh Vitters, 3B

10. Dan Vogelbach, 1B

11. Dae-Eun Rhee, RHP

12. Dallas Beeler, RHP

13. Chris Carpenter, RHP

14. Zeke DeVoss, 2B

15. Tony Zych, RHP

16. Marco Hernandez, SS/2B

17. Reggie Golden, OF

18. Jae-Hoon Ha, OF

19. Robert Whitenack, RHP

20. Jeimer Candelario, 3B

21. Steve Clevenger, C

22. Jose Rosario, RHP

23. Logan Watkins, 2B/SS/OF

24. Jeff Beliveau, LHP

25. Ben Wells, RHP

26. Marcus Hatley, RHP

27. Casey Weathers, RHP

28. Taiwan Easterling, OF

29. Hayden Simpson, RHP

30. Shawon Dunston, Jr., OF

31. Pin-Chieh Chen, OF

The fact that a number of notable omissions jump out – pitchers Chris Rusin, Nick Struck, Aaron Kurcz and Larry Suarez, and infielder Gioskar Amaya among them (and that’s without giving it more than a few moments’ thought – only underscores what you’ve heard about the system for months: it’s deep. Deep, deep, deep.

Obviously the handbook offers quite a bit more on those players, so, again, if you want to know more, you should head to a bookstore.

You’re probably also noticing several very obvious omissions. Namely: the dudes the Cubs picked up this Winter in the Sean Marshall and Andrew Cashner trades. First baseman Anthony Rizzo and pitcher Zach Cates bookended the Padres’ rankings, coming in at number 1 and number 31. The Padres’ system is one of the best in baseball, and is deeper even than the Cubs’, so Cates would easily crack the Cubs’ list, probably coming somewhere around 20. Rizzo would slot into the Cubs’ top three.

And then there are second baseman Ronald Torreyes and outfielder David Sappelt, who ranked 13th and 16th, respectively. It’s a fair bet that they’d be near the same range in the Cubs’ system (though opinions on Torreyes varying wildly, with some publications putting him in the top 100 overall prospects).

Overall, the Cubs’ system comes in at 14th in baseball, but that was prior to the above-noted additions, which Jim Callis has said would probably move the Cubs up a spot or two.

  • MightyBear

    Give the Red Sox Chen and be done with this.

  • Luke

    Let me second that recommendation to purchase the Prospect Handbook. If you only buy one prospect book… or baseball book period… give this one serious thought. It’s extremely well done and Baseball America is about as good as it gets when it comes to amateur and minor league baseball.

    Lots of good stuff on that list. I think Beeler is ranked a little aggressively, but I hope I’m wrong. And despite that #16 listing for Marco Hernandez, I still like Gioskar Amaya a little better.

    But the big take away is the depth the Cubs have. They profile Ben Wells as a potential #3 starter, and he checks in at #25 on the list. Yao-Lin Wang led the Northwest League in strikeouts per 9 and was mentioned by BA as a guy who could be the Cubs first Taiwanese major leaguer… and he didn’t even make the Top 31. That’s depth.

    • CubFan Paul

      what other positions can Clevenger play? he’s a converted IF right? to have his bat backing up Soto til the trade deadline (soto gets dealt, Castillo gets the callup w/ arbitration clock starting late) would make the bench flexible/better than jaramillo

      • Luke

        Castillo should be the backup out of spring training (unless Soto is traded before then).

        Clevenger can fill in at third or first, and probably in left if necessary. He is said to be a pretty good catcher, though. He’s not likely to be moved out from behind the plate permanently, but he that extra versatility could help him win a bench job.

        Soto, Castillo, and Clevenger should entire spring training in that order on the Cubs depth charts. Everyone else will be there for insurance reasons.

        • King Jeff

          Clevenger has also played a pretty decent amount at both second and first. I really like this guy and hope he sticks with the Cubs.

          Luke, are you the Luke that goes to all the Smokies games? If you are, I may see you at some games this year. I am thinking about taking an externship in Knoxville and the Smokies playing there is a big part of the consideration for me. Either way, you have a bigger brain than most when it comes to the Cubs minor leagues. It adds a nice dimension to the comments.

          • Luke

            I wish I was that guy, I really do.

            Right now I’m living far from any Cubs farm team, on the east coast. I’ve caught a few Iowa and Peoria games in the past, though, and highly recommend the minor league experience anyone and everyone who likes baseball and/or the Cubs. Cheap close seats, cheap food, cheap parking, easy access to autographs, the weirdest promotions in professional sports… what’s not to love?

            Thanks for the compliments, though. If by some chance I am able to make it down to Tennessee this year (looking unlikely, but you never know), I’ll probably mention it here as well as over on CubbiesCrib.

  • mooks

    No way man Chen is a great clubhouse guy

  • Chris84

    What about Rock Shoulders? He deserves at least honorable mention for having one of the best names in modern sports.

    • Kansas Cubs Fan

      He should be top 5.

      I hope he makes it to the bigs at least so people can see his name.

      • King Jeff

        He will make the bigs, hit three homeruns in his first game, and then never be heard from again. Just like his likewise cool-named uncle, Tuffy Rhodes.

  • cubsin

    I find it interesting that all of the ranked prospects except Casey Weathers (#27) were originally signed by the Cubs. That means that the prospects Hendry acquired in trades were just warm bodies, which reflects very badly on the former pro scouting operation.

    • gblan014

      In Hendry’s defense though is the fact that, especially during the later years, he would typically trade our prospects away for more established players rather than the other way around.

      • WGNstatic

        I agree, but that “defense” might be the most damning thing about him. I look at the Lilly and Maddux trades in particular as being really bad.

        It isn’t so much that the value they got back was less than what they gave up, but, I just don’t get why he went for established ML players who were relatively cheam utility IF types.

        Hendry actually had some success in picking out lower level prospects who blossomed in the Cubs system. He traded De Rosa and brought in Archer and earlier traded Todd Walker for Jose Ceda whom he later traded for Kevin Gregg. Say what you will about Gregg, but to get an average closer for a month of Todd Walker was a good trade.

        Had Hendry made the Lilly and Maddux trades with the same thinking I think he would have been better off.

      • King Jeff

        Actually, in his later years, more often than not, Hendry traded our established players for prospects, not the other way around. It tells me that Wilken and Flieta were both good at their jobs, and Hendry not so much in that regard. Aside from the Garza trade, I don’t remember Hendry as being a guy who traded prospects that often. He liked his guys a little too much in my opinion.

    • Brett

      Hendry was never any good at “sell” trades – his only winner of that type was the DeRosa deal.

  • Steve

    Huh?? What about the the top 8 prospects we just got for Garza?????

  • Leo Deleon

    Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times is reporting that Tampa has interest in Cubs Cather Geovany Soto for pitchers Jeff Nieman and Wade Davis. There are others on there list but Geo is at the top. Your thoughts?

    • Smitty

      I would make that trade, but the problem then becomes what are we going to do with all of these starting pitchers. Davis is going into his 3 year and is only 26. He isn’t a Strike-out guy and needs to cut down on his BB.

      I just see how this would be plausible for TB, trading away 2 of their starters for a catcher.

      • pakman23

        I believe it was one of those pitchers for Soto, not both. Could be wrong though.

    • Cedlandrum

      Im guessing that it is an OR not an AND for those two.

      • Luke

        I think it is an either or, and it was somewhat speculative.

        That said, I’d love to work a deal around Nieman for Soto. Nieman is a ground ball pitcher with numbers that suggest he might be better than he appears at first glance. And he won’t be a free agent until 2015.

        I think more would have to go into the deal to make it work, but I like the concept.

        • loyal100more

          i agree with the idea of allowing soto a chance to increase his trade value. a very good possibility he plays better than he did last year. not to mention around the trade deadline there could be a greater need for his services around the league. put all the together with the cubs having castillio more ready to take over another look at clevenger, and soto behind the plate for a good portion of the season, you have what seems to be a real winning situation for us behind the plate

    • WGNstatic

      My read of that article is that the author is guessing, not reporting actual interest. Not that it would be a completely illogical trade, and probably fair in terms of the players current value.

      I for one though would rather see Soto get his value up a bit. If he bounces back to All-Star form, then he would likely be worth more than a back of the rotation type starter.

      here is a link:
      Tampa Tribune

  • ferrets_bueller

    People are putting Torreyes in the top 100 overall?

    Wow.  I like the guy, but….wow.

    • Kyle

      I’ve seen it in at least two spots. People really love the Pedroia comp and the elite contact skills.

    • Luke

      I’m with ferrets on that one. He’s a one tool guy. Granted, that one tool is extremely good, but he’s a one tool guy. I need to see him replicate that success against a higher level of pitching before I get too excited. I like having him around, but I can’t buy into the Top 100 talk.

      If he puts up similar numbers vs. the league average in the FSL I may start to rethink that.

      • ferrets_bueller

        Well, technically, at least two tools- Hit, and his glove is allegedly elite.  With the potential to refine his speed into a third tool.  But at this point….I still think top 100 is a stretch, at least until he gains a little weight and plays above A ball.

        • Ryan G

          Those are most likely people that believe in his bat developing power as well as the elite hit tool. I agree, though, way too early to be annointed a top 100 prospect.

      • Kyle

        As others have said: Two tools, at least. He’s considered a plus defender at 2b with no concerns about whether he can stay there or not.

        Taking a wild stab at rating his tools just from what I’ve read and his stat lines, it’s something like:

        Hit: Elite

        Power: Below average with the potential to be average by middle-infield standards. Maybe even better. It’s really hard to project power with kids this young. You never know who will develop it and who won’t.

        Defense: Plus

        Baserunning: Average with a little upside

        Arm: Below average, which is why he’s a 2b and not a SS.

        • Brett

          One thing I wonder about him: given his age, isn’t there a chance he could still grow an inch or two? Just because I stopped growing at 13 doesn’t mean everyone does…

          • Luke

            Small chance. He will almost certainly put on more muscle, though, regardless of height. His power will increase a little as he gets older.

            He could improve into a plus defender, but I wouldn’t put him in that category yet. I’ve read good things on his hands and footwork, but I’ve also seen comments that his range is somewhat limited. He’ll be no worse than average and there is no doubt he can handle second, but right now I don’t think his defense is anything special.

            That said, a portion of a second baseman’s range comes from anticipation and reaction, and part of that is experience. I can easily see his defense taking a step up in the next couple of years as he gets more experience.

  • 2much2say

    What I’ve seen is Nieman is most likely to be traded.
    Both of those guys had poor seasons with 4.0 + ERA’s

    • yield51

      Niemann 4.06 ERA, and Davis 4.45 ERA. I wouldn’t necessarily call that poor for pitching in the A.L. East. We saw first hand what coming from the A.L. East to the N.L. Central can do for a pitcher’s ERA.

      I agree with others above though, that I would like to hold onto Soto until the break or deadline. The Cubs will need some veteran behind the plate to help groom Castillo or Clevenger to the ML level, and would also have some tips on the returning staff. Hopefully Soto starts strong, and raises his stock some before they deal him.

    • ferrets_bueller

      Poor? What? I would make that trade for Davis and a decent prospect.  If they do, I could actually see this team having an outside shot at .500 ball this season.

  • B_Scwared

    I read the article and I also think he was guessing but it could work.  I wouldn’t mind if the Cubs held onto Soto and let him build up some value, as long as they move him. 

    On that note, I think Byrd is poised for a big year (for him) being that its his contract year.

    Brett or Obstructed View guys, any info on whether teams tend to “overpay” more often at the trading deadline than during the offseason?  I would think that being on the brink of the playoffs may help push some teams to pony up more than someone’s WAR would suggest.

    • Luke

      You will see teams over pay at the trade deadline, but you also see bargains. I think when dealing in July, the situation in which the deal takes place can vary widely even from one deal to the next. While we could put number to it, the degree to which it is situational would make interpreting those numbers as important as the numbers themselves.

  • mpope30

    It is sad that I get excited every time someone mentions a trade involving one of our players that has been around a few years (Soto, Dempster, Soriano, Byrd, Marmol). Are they all that terrible, or do I just not want to be reminded of how bad we have been lately???

    • loyal100more

      not bad players as much as bad contracts, as for byrd he isnt under control beyond this year and also doesnt fit into the youth movement.

    • yield51

      None of the above are THAT bad. Three of them are being paid WAY over market value, and none of them fit into the future plans. I think the general consensus is that it is time to move on. Those players are tied to a past regime that we all want to forget. If we weren’t strapped with Sori/Dempster/Marmol contracts, I don’t think we would be talking about moving Garza at all. Those deals by themselves would pay for a 6yr/90M Garza extension, and the team would be in a better position to acquire free agents that would help us now. Instead they aren’t going to be competitive for 3 or 4 years of Garza’s prime, and he becomes a victim of those other bad contracts.

  • Deer

    Soto for Davis and a prospect? Done.

    • loyal100more

      this does make things a bit more interesting, then maybe you go out and sign virateck (however you spell it) to bring in the youngster with vet support and know how. i mean you cant make this trade with the assumption that castillio is ready now, and can take over behind the plate without a vet present. it could get ugly back there quick

      • Luke

        Actually, I think you can. Castillo has come up a couple times now to fill in when the Cubs had a catching injury, and despite be Quaded his last time up the Cubs should have a good idea of what he’s capable of. Also, with the fairly high overturn of the Cubs pitching staff, now would be the ideal time to let a young catcher establish relationships with the staff.

        If the Cubs did sign a veteran to go with Castillo after a Soto trade, I would still expect Castillo to be the starter and to catch the overwhelming majority of games. I would actually be just fine with two rookies behind the plate, Castillo and Clevenger. I wouldn’t say that about every young catcher out there, but I think those guys could handle it just fine.

  • KB

    I thin this list confirms what everyone has already been saying about the Cub system…real deep on longshots, but mighty thin on guys who actually project as stars. In fact, there are only a precious few who project as guys who will one day be in the starting lineup of a major league team.

    That said, it’s a fascinating group of characters, epitomized by Junior Lake…sky-high ceiling, below-ground “floor.”

  • Idaho Razorback

    The minor league experience is great. After living in the Los Angeles area for 30 years I moved to northern Idaho 5 years ago. Spokane, WA is about 30 miles from where I live so whenever Boise comes to Spokane to play the Indians (Texas Rangers affiliate) I attend the games. The only other minor league game I went to was when the Red Sox played the Trenton Thunder their AA affiliate in the early 2000’s in a charity exhibition game so that really doesn’t count. I highly recommend for anyone to attend a minor league game if they get the opportunity.

    • scorecardpaul

      I am also a big fan of minor league baseball. One summer a few years back took my family on a trip. We saw Peoria (low A), Daytona (A), Smokies (AA), and Iowa (AAA). My family had so much fun we thought long and hard about going to Idaho that year. We started, and finished our trip in Wrigley, and it was a great summer!!

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  • Pat demars

    How good in Shawon Dunston jr? Heard he’s athletic and toosly, see me being a very good player in the future? What does baseball America say about him?

    • yield51

      If I remember correctly he came in at #30 on the Cubs top 30 prospects. I believe BA was surprised at how far behind his mechanics were for a previous players son. He does however have a slim athletic build that he definitely could grow into with some professional conditioning and weight training.

    • Kyle

      Good enough to be an intriguing prospect with breakout potential, but not as good as the signing bonus the Cubs gave him (basically bought him out of college by giving first-round money to a second- or third-round talent).

      He goes into the pile of high-ceiling low-A players, where you try to grab five or six and hope that one or two become legit top prospects.