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June has ended, and that means it is time for another round of Minor League Honors. This month’s will be notable in that Anthony Rizzo is not going to win anything. After thoroughly overshadowing all other hitters in the farm system since the season started, the promising first baseman is finally starring in Chicago. Fortunately for Iowa, another young hitters is picking up where he left off.

Also this month, by popular demand, I am bringing you a mid-season list of the Cubs’ Top Ten Prospects. I have been talking on the Message Boards and in the comments for a week or two about starting a monthly ranking system based on a mix of empirical and subjective data, likely including the poll on the Message Boards. This list has nothing to do with that work. This list is based on nothing more than my own opinion.

But first, we have the June awards.

Hitter Of The Month
Josh Vitters

Here’s what we know about Josh Vitters: He can hit.

In June, the young third baseman was arguably the best hitter in Iowa. His month end line of .324/.387/.583 is dripping with good news no matter where you look. His six home runs were one behind his May total, but that is just about the only stat that did not improve month over month. Of particular interest, he raised his walks (to eight) and cut his strikeouts (to fifteen).

In a nutshell, Vitters has done just about everything we could have hoped for this season. He is showing more discipline at the plate, working deeper into counts, drawing more walks, and hitting for more power. His major league timetable is now likely to depend more on his progress at third than any additional improvements with this bat. If he can play at least league average defense at third base, he could be the starting third baseman when the Cubs’ break camp in 2013.

Pitcher of the Month
Austin Kirk

Thanks to the Florida State League All-Star break, Kirk only had four starts in June. He pitched at least six innings in all of those starts and finished the month with some very nice numbers. His 0.72 ERA is impressive enough, but when we factor in his opponents batting average of just .200, his 18 strikeouts versus seven walks, and the mere 18 hits he allowed in 25 total innings, he becomes an obvious choice for June’s Pitcher of the Month.

Long term, Kirk still projects more as a No 4 starter than a No 3, but he does have major league potential. The young lefty will likely stay in Daytona for the remainder of this season and move on to Tennessee next year.

Breakout Performance
Matt Szczur

After a slow start and a prolonged absence from a knee injury, Matt Szczur finally gave Cub fans plenty to be encouraged by. He appeared in nine games in June, all after his knee injury, but it may be the finest nine game stretch we’ve seen out of him as a professional. Szczur finished the month with a line of .394/.524/.576, eight walks, five strike outs, one home run, and seven steals in eight attempts.

This could just be an anomalous hot streak, but it could be the first sign this season that Szczur is learning to translate his prolific physical tools into baseball abilities. We’ll keep a close eye on him as we head into the hottest part of the summer.

Biggest Surprise
Jeimer Candelario

I thought Candelario’s 2011 DSL numbers indicated a relatively advanced hitter, and so far that has proven to be the case. The Cubs jumped Candelario to Boise as an eighteen year old and he has had no trouble with it. In fact, he’s having less trouble than I would have expected, and I am as high on this guy as anyone. Through fifteen games the switch hitting third baseman has been hitting well from both sides of the plate and has very healthy percentages of walks (7.4%) and strikeouts (17.2%). If I had to nitpick, I would point to his home / road splits (1.445 OPS at home, 0.531 on the road), but that is not uncommon in young players and should not be a concern long term.

A New Top Ten

1. Javier Baez SS/3B – He has the potential to be a very good with both the bat and the glove.
2. Jorge Soler OF – He is said to have a ton of power. Now, how well can he make contact?
3. Albert Almora OF – He has not signed yet, but his defense could be the best in the system when he does.
4. Dillon Maples RHP – Even though he has not pitched, he’s still one of the few high ceiling starting pitching prospects in the system.
5. Josh Vitters 3B/1B – The questions about his bat have been answered for now. If his glove can make that same progress, the Cubs have a third baseman.
6. Pierce Johnson RHP – The best pitcher taken by the Cubs in the 2012 draft instantly becomes the second best pitching prospect in the system.
7. Brett Jackson OF – We talk a lot about his strikeouts, but that somewhat masks the fact that the rest of his game is probably major league ready right now.
8. Junior Lake SS/3B – He still has a lot of work to do, but his upside is nearly as high as any infielder in the system.
9. Jeimer Candelario 3B – Candelario is my ninth best prospect, but he is still only fourth among likely third baseman.
10. Robert Whitenack RHP – I rated Whitenack very high coming into the season, and even though his post surgery campaign has not gone smoothly, I see no reason to drop him down the list just yet.

Anthony Rizzo, had he not been promoted to Chicago, would have been on top of this list. Rafael Dolis would have been somewhere between eight and ten had he not been called up as well.

Every time I do a project like this I am reminded again just how incredibly deep the Cubs’ farm system is. While I am pretty set on my top seven players for now (although perhaps not on their order), there is a large number of prospects that could have slotted into the last two spots. I could have written a fifteen way tie for tenth place, but that felt too much like cheating. If you don’t see a name that you feel should be on the list, odds are probably good he was in the mix for those final two slots.

  • Featherstone

    What is Brett Jackson’s ceiling, high K rate and all.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Hard to see him putting up lines better than .280/.370/.450 in his prime (and obviously, that’s pretty great for a solid defensive center fielder).

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        Those numbers sound about right.  Add in 20 HR and 20 SB and you’ve got a very nice player.

      • Featherstone

        Brett: Let’s say he puts up those numbers what would a reasonable player comp be and what kind of WAR are we talking? Forgive my lack of knowledge on center fielder positional worth.

      • Gabriel

        I will be pretty shocked if he hits .280 but I think the split scale you have is about right. I am hoping for .260/.360/.440 or something like that. I think he’s kind of a clone of Drew Stubbs with just a little less speed but better defensively.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Well, keep in mind that the difference between 0.260 and 0.280 is about 12 hits in a season (especially for someone who walks as often as Jackson does), or one hit ever 2 weeks.  A “true” 0.260 hitter will have seasons over 0.280 quite frequently, and vice-versa.

      • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

        WITH the strikeouts?
        220/290/420

        • Gabriel

          this is pretty pessimistic considering his track record is much much better than this and he should continue to improve.

          • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

            It is. We need some to balance out the optimism.

          • Noah

            Yeah, the optimism on Jackson is just getting kind of crazy. This is a guy with a major offensive flaw, and someone I could see with wildly varying numbers each year. All the Ks are going to result in less balls in play, so his sample that BABIP is determined from will be smaller, resulting in even more sampling error than most have.

            Look at these scenarios, all of which presume Jackson has 600 PAs in a season

            1) 180 Ks (30% rate), 60 walks (10%), 20 HRs, .330 BABIP: This means he gets 132 hits in a season, and his average/OBP are .244/.320

            2) 180 Ks, 60 walks, 20 HRs, .300 BABIP: This means he gets 122 hits in a season, and his average/OBP are .226/.303

            3) 180 Ks, 60 walks, 20 HRs, .270 BABIP: 112 hits in a season, average/OBP are .207/.287

            4) 150 Ks (25% rate), 60 walks, 20 HRs, .330 BABIP: 142 hits in a season, average/OBP are .263/.337

            5) 120 Ks (20% rate), 60 walks, 20 HRs, .330 BABIP: 152 hits in a season, average/OBP are .281/.353

            See how much a difference the K rates make? At a 30% K rate, you really have to do two of the following three things to be even an average offensive major leaguer: (1) have a massively high BABIP; (2) hit for a ton of power; and (3) walk a ton.

            • Sam

              Problem here is he has always been an incredibly high BABIP player. When he makes contact, it’s generally very good contact. That’s why even with a horrendous anticipated K rate I see him batting .255+

            • Drew7

              I see what you’re saying, but to Sam’s point, he has and (most likely) will always have a high BABIP.

              This was discussed last week, but 2 things keep Jackson’s BABIP high:
              Speed, and a high XBH-Rate fueled by linedrives (undoubtedly stemming from his selectively – aggressive approach).

              With those two factors, I see no reason not to expect a BABIP of. 330 out of Jackson. That being said, scenario 1 is probably the most likely, but one I would have no problem with: 20 HR, along with a good amt of 2B and 3B, probably puts his OPS around .775-.800!

              • Scotti

                Batting left-handed is also a BABIP advantage.

              • Noah

                I agree that Jackson will probably have a high BABIP for his career, with .330 being a good bet. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a couple career years where he has BABIPs in the .360-.370 range. I also wouldn’t be surprised if he has years with BABIPs in the .270-.280 range.

                I think those guessing a .775-.800 OPS with a .244 average and a .320 OBP are guessing high on the slugging. That would be a .455-.475 slugging, which means you’re looking at an ISO rate in the .210-.230 range. I mean, is it possible Jackson could do that? Yes. But he’s not even much above that number in the PCL, and with him turning 24 in August I have questions regarding if he can be expected to add power.

                • Drew7

                  “I think those guessing a .775-.800 OPS with a .244 average and a .320 OBP are guessing high on the slugging. That would be a .455-.475 slugging”

                  It seems high, but it isnt a complete guess – Using his total MiLB numbers, Jackson averages 27.6 2Bs and 11.4 3Bs per 600 PA’s in the Minors. If we lower those averages to 26 and 10, along with 20 HR’s, we end up with a SLG% of .441 (without SH or SF; basically PA-BB).

                  Those number give us an overall 3-slash of .244/.320/.450~ish, which I would be thrilled with. If Jackson has the ability to keep his K-rate around 30% at the ML level, his couple of AS-years will probably be those couple of years when that BABIP hovers around .360 or .370.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      His offensive ceiling has been compared to Jim Edmonds, but that is no doubt a stretch.  He is going to strike out a lot… that’s always been part of his game… but I think he’ll put up a league average OPS for a starting outfielder despite that.  He is not a star in the making, but could definitely be a long term, quality outfield regular.

      • calicubsfan007

        Luke: I like the Edmonds comparison. Loved him wherever he played, even when he played for the Cards (I HATE the cards). Wouldn’t mind that comparison.

        • @cubsfantroy

          Gotta agree with calicubfan007 here.

      • Spriggs

        As much as I dislike Edmonds, I have to give him credit for being a legit Hall-Of-Fame candidate or at the very least a legit borderline candidate. I simply cannot see anywhere near the same upside coming from Jackson. He might be a tad faster, but that’s it.

        I liked the Rick Monday comps as much more realistic.

        • djriz

          I’m going to throw in Grady Sizemore, with better health. I really believe he’ll develop into a 25-30 HR guy in his prime.

          That said, he has to get his ‘k’ rate down some. I think, at this point, he just has the ‘yips’.

  • Cerambam

    Is this list a max ceiling prostpect list? Also, I just can’t see how Jackson can be dropped down that far because of his strikeouts, I know you are way more involved and knowledgeable than I am, but as far as I’m concerned in Bjax we still have a quick, defensive, center fielder with power, walk-ability, and speed. I love vitters and I’m psyched he’s doing so well but as you’ve pointed out before, sample size(2 months) and position(3b- not a super valuable position) are important factors. Is vitters age relative
    To Jacksons the deciding factor here?

    • Kyle

      The concern with Jackson is that he showed a huge jump in Ks (and a drop in production) when he advanced from AA to AAA. That shows he might have an exploitable hole in his offensive game that MLB pitchers could utterly dominate. If AAA pitchers are finding the hole in your swing 33% of the time, the MLB pitchers might do it 40% or more, and even Jackson can’t maintain good offensive rates while K-ing 40% of the time.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Vitters is younger than Jackson and is out performing him at the same level.  Jackson does play a more valuable defensive position, but that is not enough to earn him the nod over Vitters right now.

      Now, if Jackson cuts his K% to 27% or so and still maintains an OPS over .850 by the end of the year, they might flip back.  On the other hand, if Vitters shows that he can be better than league average defensively at third, he might stay ahead of Jackson.

      Neither is a bad prospect.  Both are in the very upper echelons of the Cubs’ system.  We’re not even trying to choose between two different kinds of cake here, we’re just trying to decide which slice has the most frosting.

      • calicubsfan007

        Luke: Who gets called up first? Jackson or Vitters?

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          As of now, Vitters.  If Jackson adjusts his swing and cuts back on the strikeouts like he’s been talking about lately, it’ll be Jackson.

          • supercapo

            Luke,

            If you were going to make a list of 11-20, what names would be on it?

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

              The Top 20 poll on the Message Boards coves most of the positional candidates.

              There are a lot of candidates on the pitching side of things.  I think I’ll be doing a list of them for a feature soon.

      • Richard Nose

        God I love frosting.

        • calicubsfan007

          Three cheers for frosting! Hip Hip Hooray! Hip Hip Hooray! Hip Hip Hooray!

      • Featherstone

        Luke: I know the Cubs were pretty firmly in the middle of the pack in terms of Farm system strength at the beginning of the year. With the development of some of the current prospects along with the signing of Soler and hopefully the signing of Almora/Underwood, where do you feel that puts the Cubs now in terms of Farm system strength? top 10? top 5?

        Also, how much of an impact do you feel the change in the FO (Theo/Jed/McLeod) has impacted the type of the players drafted and the direction of the farm system overall? What’s better and what’s potentially worse?

        Thanks so much for answering my question.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          As of now (assuming Almora signs) I think the Cubs are a Top 10 system.  They are still thin on high ceiling pitching, but their overall depth is remains very impressive.

          I think the change in direction for the farm system started before Theo, Jed, and Jason arrived.  It started in 2011 when Tim Wilken was finally given a useful budget and allowed to draft aggressively.  At the same time, Oneri Fleita was given a nice high budget and was allowed to pursue the best international free agents he could land.  Theo, Jed, and Jason when they arrived just continued those new trends that were already in place.

          We know that the Cubs are changing the philosophies they teach in the minors, but it is too early to say what effect that is having.  For example, we think they are pushing the importance of getting on base more than in the past, and some players (Vitters, Burgess) may be responding to that new emphasis.  On the pitching side, I suspect they are placing more emphasis on getting ground ball outs and working efficient innings over simply striking people out, and the result may be the series of low WHIP / Low K/9 games we see a lot of the Cubs’ pitchers throwing in the minors, particularly in Daytona and below.

          • calicubsfan007

            Luke: Correct me if I’m wrong, but is it safe to rank the Cubs’ pitching at like a C to B- range?

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

              Depends on your scale, I suppose.  The Cubs have a lot of middle reliever prospects, several set up and closer candidates, a couple rotations worth of back of the rotation prospects, a handful of potential No 3 starters, and two potential No 2 guys (Maples and Johnson).  As of now, there are no true aces in the system.

              Check back on August 1 and this might have changed significantly.

          • Featherstone

            Awesome, I know the 2011 draft definitely was a change of direction than previous years and I wasn’t sure how the 2012 draft stacked up in comparison. I appreciate the detailed response.

        • Quintz

          I think they are now reaching the middle of the pack. Most had them in low 20’s before season. I’d say 15ish. Take a look at the top 100 prospects and notice how many guys top 5 or 10 farm systems have. Plus they have few (or zero) high end pitching prospects. The Cubs aren’t in that class yet. Their 15ish ranking is giving them lots of credit for their system depth. No way they are top 5, really reaching to put them in top 10. But that is my novice opinion (that you didn’t ask for).

          Here are ten teams. Pirates, Cards, Royals, Rangers, Padres, D-Backs, Orioles, Rays, Mariners, Jays. Nobody really thinks the Cubs have a better system than any of them, right?

          • EvenBetterNewsV2.0

            I could put up an argument for us over the Rays and Orioles. The Orioles have 2 studs. That’s really it for the most part. We are deeper. The Rays don’t really have top prospects now that Moore is up. Their top 2 prospects are prospects we sent to them. Both are solid but not spectacular. Other than that I wish we had the farms of those mentioned.

            • Kyle

              Studs >>>> depth when it comes to prospects.

              • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

                This is true, but even so I can’t list Baltimore over the Cubs. Machado and Bundy are very good, but there is not much past those two.

                • Quintz

                  I can make an argument that the Braves, Rockies and Mets, are all better and I’d put em neck and neck with the Marlins, Twins and Red Sox. My only point was that it’s a reach to put them in the top ten. That being said it’s a crap shoot much of the time and I can say in great confidence the Pale Sox are dead last…..still.

                  Let’s say I’m a “crazy person” and they actually are around 15, that is a significant improvement over last year, which is a nice accomplishment in itself.

              • Quintz

                Maybe the Farm System Rankings (or FSR) will go to a playoff system so this can finally be decided on the field.

              • djriz

                Yes, BUT……
                Even if you concede Bundy and Machado are more advanced ‘studs’, which is arguable on Machado, the Cubs could have more players with ‘stud’ potential. Theyare just concentrated in the lower minors.

                Baez, Almora, Soler, Candelario, and possibly Vitters and Jackson, could ALL be considered have upper echelon talent.

  • PKJ

    I like what’s setting up to be a confusing situation in the infield for the Cubs. One of the best potential storylines over the next two years or so will be how do you solve the logjam at 3B/SS with Vitters, Baez, Lake and Castro? It’s a good problem to have.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Part of that is easy.  Castro stays at short.

      Right now I think Vitters will be able to stay at third (2013) and Lake (2014) will head to the outfield.  Baez (2015) could probably supplant Vitters in a few years, or he could be moved to second (or to the outfield).  Candelario (2015?) has the potential to supplant Vitters as well.

      • Featherstone

        Luke: Highest ceiling player in the Cubs organization currently? Farm or Major-League club and what kind of numbers does that player project at?

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          Highest ceiling?  Probably Starlin Castro, given that his early major league career compares favorably with Hall of Fame shortstops.  You can’t get a much higher ceiling than that.

          • Gabriel

            I should note I agree with Castro when you include the MLB team. I know he get an unfair amount of grief, but my goodness he’s awesome. I totally believe in him & see him as a perennial all-star with definitive HOF potential.

          • calicubsfan007

            Luke: But is it really fair to compare Castro’s numbers to past Hall of Fame shortstops? I mean like the pitching these Hall of Famers probably faced and things like that. I am not trying to challenge you, I am really trying to learn all that I can about a system that isn’t exactly my forte.

            • DocPeterWimsey

              The HOF voters will not standardize for pitching.  Besides, pitching right now is as strong as it has been since the late 1960’s.  The computerized graphic scouting reports have had a huge effect, as has had the increase in hard-throwers (there are 3 times as many 90+ starters as there were 10 years ago) and the expansion/migration of the strike zone.

              • calicubsfan007

                Doc: Thanks for the quick answer. I think I am figuring this system out.

          • Featherstone

            Crazy to think of the potential that Castro has. Assuming Castro continues his progress this season I’d love to see a long-term contract (team friendly hopefully) signed.

        • Gabriel

          I’m not Luke but I would say Javier Baez hands down. Soler has a shot to join the conversation once he gets some PT under his belt. Also starting to love Candelario.

  • AB

    Is Wellington Castillo still considered a prospect??

    I still think he belongs in the top ten, especially when you look at the similarity between him and Willin Rosario and what Rosario’s done this year for colorado with extended playing time.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Sure.  He’s in that mix for the last couple of spots.  He still projects as decent starting catcher for a lot of teams.

  • Puma0821

    Really hoping Jackson can figure it out but at this point I don’t know if it’s all too likely. His swing is long and if he shortens it too much he could lose too much power. It might behoove him to try and bulk up more and just be a power hitter a la Dunn (not as big or powerfull obviously). If he doesn’t work out though it’s not a huge deal as CF looks to be pretty deep in the minors. All of Sczcur, Ha, Soler, Almora or Dunston could work out better there with also guys like Watson and Lake possibly moving to CF at some point.

    Question on the topic of Ha:I’ve heard he’s a converted OF from catcher and I know that he is really good defensively in the OF and fast… Wouldn’t he have more value as a catching prospect? what was the issue there? Was he just not up to par defensively?

    • Kyle

      Soler and Lake are definitely not CFers in any scenarios.

      • Puma0821

        I understand that is a long shot with Soler but some reports have listed him as such with the probabilty that he’ll move to RF. As far as Lake goes he seems to be plenty fast enough to play there although I haven’t heard of him ever playing any OF spot but of course his arm would profile better a RF. I also understand that if any of the ‘prototypical’ CF’ers work out you would not want either of those guys there. My point was more on the overall OF depth in the system.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      I think Ha’s defense in center is far more valuable than what he would provide behind the plate.  Until Almora signs, he’s the best defensive outfielder in the organization.  I don’t think he’d be rated any where near that high as a catcher.

      • Puma0821

        I get it, but he projects as a 4th OF’er type with his bat. I was wondering more in genral terms, wouldn’t he be a hugely more valuable prospect with his ofensive skill set as catcher? If that is the case then why convert him to OF?

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          He wasn’t a very good catcher.

          There are some reports that he developed the yips on throws to second thereby forcing the move to the outfield, but I’ve not read anything especially glowing about his work behind the plate.  I’m not sure if that’s an accurate story or more of a myth, but that’s somewhat besides the point.  He is a very, very good outfielder and is not a good catcher.  It really is as simple as that.

          • Puma0821

            OK thanks! That’s what I was getting at… Just wanted to know if anyone had heard about his catching abilities or lack there of.

  • hogie

    Pretty low on Sczur huh? Four guys that haven’t even played yet above him, I thought he was more highly regaurded than that!

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      I’m not low on Szczur at all, but he just doesn’t have the ceiling of Almora or Soler and potential No. 2 starting pitchers tend to be more valuable than good defensive center fielders with questions about their bat.

      If Szczur had played all season like he played in June, he would have been on this list.  I’m not sure if his recent hot streak is anything more than an anomaly, though, so I’m staying cautious.  If I extended this to a Top 20, he’d definitely be in there.

      • hogie

        Fair enough. Does that league favor hitters or pitchers at all? For someone who was supposed to be very unpolished, his approach seems to be pretty advanced so far.

  • Jeremy

    Vitters has been on a tear. I see him getting a September call up if he keeps it up all season. I see him more as a Corner OF/3B prospect so if he keeps this up and does indeed become part of the young core the Cubs are trying to build I see him making a move to LF a la Ryan Braun (not comparing the two) if everything works out perfectly with Baez.

    • calicubsfan007

      Jeremy: I am not sure that I would completely bank on Baez making a perfect transition to third. Has he really even played enough third in the minors to even warrant the high expectations of him playing third?

      • Jeremy

        I’m saying it will be perfect, but most scouts see him moving to third as he fills out and loses a step on his range. 2B is also a possibility but I think 3B is more likely. That’s why I said if everything goes perfectly (not trying to be snarky there) He hasn’t played 3B in the minors yet.

        • calicubsfan007

          Jeremy: I understand what you meant. It just seems like such a gamble (I know, I know) to have a lineup of the future really centered around a guy playing a position that he has little to no experience playing. I agree with your theory in general, I am really just worried about the risk (I know, I know) involved with this theory. I like him more at second, but he will probably play third.

          • Gabriel

            Speaking from experience here – moving from SS to 3B is actually a fairly simple transition. I did it during the month leading up to my first Varsity season in high school & once you get the hang of it, its sooo much easier than SS.

            Someone as good & quick as Baez will have no problem whatsoever making the switch at any minor league level – could be done in an offseason, and I’m sure it will happen before he gets to the bigs.

            However, I can’t help but envision how fracking INCREDIBLE his bat would profile at 2B, especially considering our other strong 3B prospects right now.

            • calicubsfan007

              Gabriel: I had to switch from first to third my Freshman year of high school. I am not really questioning the ability to switch in general, I am more questioning the ability to switch at this level. I have seen it done before in the MLB, but it seems to be a 50/50 shot at working. Baez could be a new breed of an elite 2bman with his hitting ability. It would be a thing of beauty.

  • calicubsfan007

    Two questions when it comes to the promotions: First: Who in the outfield will be moved to make room for Jackson? Second: Valbuena has been pretty good for us at third, who would play third more once Vitters is promoted? Or are the Cubs secretly hoping that this problem would work itself out before they promote him?

    • Puma0821

      On the first question, I would be eventually who ever gets traded from SOri, Lahair and even Dejesus.

      • calicubsfan007

        Puma: Thanks for answering my question.

        • Puma0821

          Not a problem… the second one is a bit tougher, I would assume vitters is going to be given every opportunity to stick at third whether it’s in AAA or the bigs for this year. Valbuena will probably be given the rest of the year to show what he can do at 3rd. If he tears it up he could always be moved to 2nd or maybe a super-sub type.

          • calicubsfan007

            Puma: Could the Cubs hype Valbuena up to the point that a team might trade for him and give up solid pieces? I have seen it in the NFL all the time (a la Kevin Kolb), I wonder how common it is used by MLB GMs?

            • Gabriel

              Not ala Kevin Kolb – players in MLB need to play big-time innings or they lose their value very quickly. Valbuena is young enough that if he blossoms into a regular/super-sub who starts at various positions 4-5 times a week that could get us something of value in a trade.

              However, he’s also old enough (26) that if he’s not producing or not playing he’ll be considered a lost cause regardless of his flashes of potential.

              • calicubsfan007

                Gabriel: Thanks for answering my question.

              • hansman1982

                Agree, in the NFL you can hype up a back-up QB and not get him playing time because of the starter. In MLB there is ALWAYS a place a guy can go to get some playing time.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Jackson needs to earn that promotion before the Cubs have to decide who to move.  They could have all winter to figure it out.

      Valbuena can play second base as well, so I suspect he’d go to the bench as a general purpose infield backup.

    • willis

      If they can move Soriano, Jackson is the obvious call. But without that move Jackson stays down in Iowa and continues to iron out his “K” issue. He’ll be a callup in September I would think if Soriano is not moved before then.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        I don’t think Jackson is on the 40 man yet.  If he’s not ready to go, I’m not sure they would add him to the roster just for September.  I have not looked to see who all they need to protect from the Rule 5 in December yet, but I would not be surprised if 40 man roster slots are going to be used sparingly again.

  • Ryno G

    I disagree on Kirk. Think he definitely sees some time in Tennessee this year. Honestly, there’s no reason to be so conservative with him, he’s dominating and it’s not like he’s young for the level or anything.

  • nkniacc13

    Cubs sign Frandy De La Rosa SS dominican for 700k today. Rated 19th best international prospect

    • ETS

      Ninja’d

    • calicubsfan007

      What exactly is the scouting report on De La Rosa? What is his ceiling? And I agreed with ETS, “ninja’d”.

      • nkniacc13

        he’s 6’1” and 180 and apparently has a smooth swing from both sides of plate according to baseball america

        • calicubsfan007

          nkniacc: Thanks for the quick response. We really seem to be overflowing with shortstops in the minors.

          • ETS

            Yes and no. Many of the good short stops in our current farm don’t project to be shortstops when they get to the mlb level.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

              This is true.  The only two shortstops in the farm system I am nearly certain could play average or better shortstop in the majors are Elliot Soto (AA) and Marco Hernandez (SS-A).  I’m not sure about Arismendy Alcantara (High-A) just yet.

    • João Lucas
      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        Anyone else think his swing seemed a little long and loopy from the right side?  His left handed swing looked pretty good.

        • Gabriel

          agreed, although when he was fielding his arms looked really really long. He may have trouble shortening his swing ala Richie Sexson cuza those arms.

          That said, looks like a MLB body to be sure. He’s only 16, so he’s prob gonna end up 6’3″ and around 200lbs – I’m all for adding cheap, athletic assets like this kid.

        • djriz

          Yes, the right handed swing was loopy, but it is caused by how high his hands were (held them lower batting LH). This should be easily correctable (ask Anthony Rizzo).

  • http://www.cubsminorleague.blogspot.com Lothar

    Minorleagueball.com has Delarosa as the #2 international prospect and mentions his “enormous potential”.

    http://www.minorleagueball.com/2012/5/18/3027427/2012-mlb-international-preview

    • ETS

      Great link. H/T

  • nkniacc13

    interesting the different ranks for him

    • djriz

      probably has to do with the difficulty of projecting 16 year olds.

  • http://bleachernation.com lou brock lives

    One thing I worry about is the fact that with the exception of Rizzo, B.Jackson & Candelario all of our top prospects are right handed hitters. We need more balance in our lineup & I’m worried that with Vitters, Baez, Castro, Soler, Szczur, Castillo, & Lake; Almora that we are becoming overloaded from the right side. Any thoughts Luke ?

    • ETS

      Why do you I suddenly get chills and shudders thinking of Milton Bradley’s signing?

    • Gabriel

      Great teams don’t worry about this – 2 or 3 lefties is just fine, in fact righties have a much easier time hitting righties than lefties do lefties (in general) because its so much more common & therefore a vitally important skill.

      When we have great players throughout our lineup, righty or lefty won’t make a different – it will be all about skills

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      It’s not worth worrying about.  History tells us that most of those guys are not going to make it to the majors, so the time to think about balancing a lineup will be after they have the pieces in place to balance.

      With Rizzo and LaHair (if he stays) they have two pretty good left handed bats already.  Assuming Jackson can made enough adjustments to succeed in the majors, that would be three.  Clevenger seems like he can hold his own with the bat, so there’s four.  Not counting the pitcher’s slot that’s half a lineup.

      And keep in mind that there are other guys who have a good chance to make it to the majors who are not on this list.  This is just the Top 10, not All The Good Prospects.  The Cubs have very deep depth.

  • http://bleachernation.com lou brock lives

    Campana gets start in CF tonite. As I mentioned yesterday DeJesus looked like there was something wrong with his left ( throwing) arm in his stint yesterday late in the game.

  • Carew

    Any word on that Armando Rivera pitcher?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Nope.

  • Nathan

    Luke, what are your thoughts on Torreyes? Do you think he is still worth a top 20 prospect nod? Also to add on what you said about the lefty/righty line-up. The cubs have plenty of left handed bats in the minors that could end up turning out. No reason to worry just like you stated

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Torreyes has one standout tool (hit), but not much else.  His defense is good, but not great.  That said, his hit tool is so good that if he can keep hitting he’ll stay in the Top 20 for sure.  If he can keep hitting, he’ll probably make the majors and have a nice career.  But he has to keep hitting for a high average.

      Right now I don’t think I would have him on my Top 20 list, but he would definitely be in the conversation.  His bat has started to heat up in Daytona, though, and if that keeps up he should be somewhere in there at the end of the season.  I do tend to be more cautious on the very one dimensional players.

  • Mike

    What about Matt Szczur?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      I think I talked about him earlier in the comments.  I still like him, but right now he’s not quite in my Top 10.  He’d definitely be Top 20, though.  If he proves his month of June was no fluke, he’ll be right back up there with Vitters and Lake.

  • Njriv

    Hey Luke, whats the wrap on Logan Watkins? Do you think he might be able to handle second base in the majors? How is he compared to Zekke DeVoss?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      I’m a fan of Watkins.  He has the potential to be an above average defensive second baseman in the majors.  He could probably be league average at shortstop should the need ever arise.  At the plate, he’s almost a pure lead off hitter.  So long as he continues to do a nice job getting on base so he can use his speed, I think he has a very bright future.  Whatever power he provides is almost just a bonus.

      If Darwin Barney is pushed off second base with the next two years, I think Watkins is the guy who will be doing the pushing.

  • Stu

    Could it be that Jackson needs to have a different approach with 2 strikes? Is his OPS really high with 2 strikes, thus shortening his stroke with 2 strikes diminishes his overall game?

  • Stu

    Just checked Jackson’s stats:

    Ahead in count:

    .286 98 AB’s 28K’s

    Behind in count

    .182 110 AB’s 57K’s

    It appears that he isn’t making enough adjustments when the pitcher has the advantage.
    What about shortening the stroke and focusing on contact in those cases? He is not an Adam Dunn like hitter and I am not sure management wants him to be that.

    Just a thought.

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