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lendy castillo cubsRanking prospects is not an easy task. There are lot of stats to be considered, videos to be watched, write ups to be read, commentaries to be followed, and formulas to be generated. And all of that was just laying the groundwork. This project started in early December; after the better part of three months, I am happy to unveil the first installment our top prospects list – The Bleacher Nation Top 40.

To begin, allow me to make a few comments on how these rankings were assembled. In general, these rankings consider players from two perspectives: Projection (how good they are likely to be (not the same thing as ceiling)), and Risk (how likely they are to reach the majors). A player who projects very high but has a high level of risk could easily be ranked below a player with a lower risk and a lower projection.

In addition, I did not consider anyone who has not played in the United States yet. The teenage stars of the DSL are not on this list, and neither are any recent signings out of Asia. I still like many of those guys as prospects, but in most cases it was all but impossible to normalize their their current production levels into any system that would allow me to objectively measure them against prospects in the States. The range in terms of both Projection and Risk was just too great.

And finally, I considered only players whom I honestly believed could reach the major leagues. This list is not being unnecessarily lengthened with minor league roster fillers. Some prospects are more likely to reach the majors than others, but every name in this Top 40 has a decent chance of appearing in uniform at Wrigley (but the listed arrival time for each prospect should not be interpreted as a guarantee that they make it, because, of course, some will not). Even with that limitation, my list of candidates was over 70 names long. The Cubs really do have a very deep farm system.

We kick things off today by counting upwards from 40.

There are a lot of players who could fit into this section of the list, so, for those in the lower rankings, I have selected some names that I think are often overlooked or are especially interesting for some other reasons. There will be a few surprises here, I think, but nothing too shocking.

40. Greg Rohan, INF/OF
Where to watch him: Iowa and Chicago
Wrigley Field ETA: late 2013
Projects as: Slugging super-sub

Rohan somewhat defies the conventional definition of prospect. At 26 he was old for every league he played in last season. He did hit everywhere he landed, though, including an OPS of .890 in a brief stop in Double A, and an OPS of .779 during his time with Iowa. In both cases that was his first taste of the league. Until the Cubs pushed him north from Daytona in the final weeks of the 2012 season, Rohan had apparently been a forgotten man in his own farm system.

At every stop in his minor league career Rohan has hit for average, flashed above average power, walked at a solid clip, and held his strikeout rates well below 20%. Despite all of that he was somehow left in A ball for three seasons after being drafted out of college. It really is hard to fathom. Now that he has finally hit his way into the upper levels of the farm system we can see that Rohan has plenty of potential as a slugging handed bat off the bench. For the Cubs, a team that projects to feature a left handed hitter at first and third, that’s a nice asset to have. Rohan has also played some left, and I strongly suspect his arm would be adequate in right should the team ever need it.

He projects purely as a bench player, but those guys have value. A very good farm system should be able to fill up the major league bench and Triple A roster with a variety of players who can fill in at the major league level for an inning or a season. The Cubs farm system is nearly there, and Rohan is leading the charge.

39. Kevin Rhoderick, RHP
Where to watch him: Iowa
Wrigley Field ETA: 2014
Projects as: Middle reliever

Kevin Rhoderick looks like a reliever. He has the mound presence and the strikeout-inducing nastiness that you like to see from a guy who is called in with the game on the line. He trends towards earning ground balls, he doesn’t give up many home runs, his hit per nine innings is very healthy, and he can pile up the Ks at the rate of about one per innings. All of that is too his credit and supports projecting him as a quality addition to any major league bullpen.

And then we have his walk rate. It is pretty much awful. As in 7.3 BB/9 last season in Tennessee and 6.3 BB/9 for his career awful. That is not just unsustainable, that is the kind of figure that could derail his career altogether. It is also essentially the only thing holding him back. If he can bring that BB/9 back down to a reasonable level, he should motor into Chicago’s bullpen in a hurry. I see Rhoderick as more of a seventh inning guy than a setup or closer type, but I wouldn’t check him out of the late inning picture altogether. The key is that walk rate. Once he gets that under control, he should have a long career.

38. Reggie Golden, OF
Where to watch him: Kane County
Wrigley Field ETA: 2016
Projects as: All-star potential outfielder

How quickly we forget. Reggie Golden was a potential five tool athlete when the Cubs took him in the second round in 2010, but some bad injuries have limited him to just 75 games since then. As a result, and probably in part because of the excitement generated by Soler and Almora, a lot of fans have completely forgotten that Golden is in the system. Granted, the on-field results in those 75 games have been fairly unimpressive so far, but that’s not unexpected given that he was more of an athlete who played baseball than a baseball player when he was drafted. More than anything else Golden just needs to go play baseball. Now that he is healthy again, he should head back to the Midwest League where he will likely be the regular right fielder. He definitely has the potential to turn into a truly impact prospect, but it will be up to the Cubs coaching staff to unlock that potential.

37. John Andreoli, OF
Where to watch him: Tennessee
Wrigley Field ETA: 2014
Projects as: Fourth outfielder and a serious threat on the base paths

A few weeks ago on Twitter I referred to Andreoli as Tony Campana 2.0. That was not entirely fair to Andreoli. He does not have Campana’s raw speed (who does?), but in every other facet of the game is simply a superior player. The real stunner with Andreoli is his ability to draw walks. At Daytona in the Florids State League, frequently considered among the toughest leagues for hitters, Andreoli has a BB% of 15.1%. Virtually no one walks 15% of the time, and those that do are usually sluggers. His OBP checked in at .402 while his batting average was just .289. And on top of that, he stole 55 bases in 75 attempts.

Ponder that last figure a moment. Here is a guy who already is very good at getting on base and is good enough to steal 55 bags in a season, but his mediocre success rate strongly implies he will get better at stealing as he gains experience. Interested yet? Then lets talk power. Even though he had just one home run last year, most analysts agree that Andreoli has some sneaky power that should start showing up as he heads to the Southern League. That is almost a bonus, though. The story with Andreoli will be OBP and steals, and you better believe he will be aiming to pile gaudy numbers in both categories as a member of the Smokies. I don’t think he could reach Wrigley until late 2014, but he may be hard to take off the roster once he arrives.

36. Nick Struck, RHP
Where to watch him: Iowa and Chicago
Wrigley Field ETA: 2013
Projects as: Fifth starter

Struck piled up 155 innings with Tennessee this year, and then he went to the AFL for 16 more. During the regular season he gave up just 8.1 H/9 and 2.5 BB/9. That translates into a very respectable WHIP of 1.182. Struck is not a guy who has great stuff, but he has had success by pitching intelligently. Through his age 22 season he had already made 32 starts in Double A and eleven at Triple A. I suspect he’ll get another 10+ starts for Iowa this year, and if those go well he should be ready to take on the majors. Despite his success, experience, and good peripheral numbers, his lack of raw stuff results in Struck not getting a lot of respect in prospecting circles. He has my attention, though, and I expect some good things out of him in his return to Iowa. If the Cubs need a starter sometime this summer, Struck could be the first name called.

35. Ronald Torreyes, 2B
Where to watch him: Tennessee
Wrigley Field ETA: 2014
Projects as: Good starting second baseman

Torreyes is known for two things: his diminutive size of just 5’9” and his incredible ability to hit. This guy might be the best pure hitter in the farm system. In the second half of 2012 he posted a Daytona line of .297/.361/.450 with 19 walks and just 16 strikeouts over 60 games. For the season he finished with a walk rate (6.8%) that was actually higher than his strikeout rate (6.1%), and that is despite getting off to one of the slowest starts imaginable. Torreyes is a very good, possibly a great, hitter.

Unfortunately, that is almost all he brings to the table. He has no power to speak of, little speed, and while he is solid with the glove, I don’t think he projects to have the defensive ceiling of someone like Watkins or Amaya. Torreyes is the definition of a one tool wonder… but that one tool is so good it will probably carry him to the majors. Ultimately, though, with Watkins ahead of him at second, and with Amaya not far behind him, and with recent draftees like Tim Saunders and Stephen Bruno lurking in the wings, it is hard to imagine what sort of long term future Torreyes has with the Cubs. So long as he continues to hit, and I think he will once he adjusts to Tennessee this year, he should reach the majors no later than September of 2014. After that? We’ll have to see. For Torreyes, it all depends on his bat.

34. Trey Martin, OF
Where to watch him: Kane County
Wrigley Field ETA: 2016
Projects as: Defense-focused center fielder

In a system loaded with premier outfield talent, Trey Martin is very quietly making a name for himself. He already ranks just behind Ha and Almora as a defensive center fielder and has a chance step up even with those two… if not ahead of them… before he is done. The rest of his game is still definitely a work in progress. He has the speed to be a threat on the base paths, but his 11 steals in 18 attempts as a professional show he is still learning how to use that speed. Reports suggest his swing will need some work before he can maximize his offensive potential, but those same reports suggest he has a fair amount of power that could yet be unlocked. Given his age (just 19 last season), it is possible that the Cubs have a potentially special player here. The Cubs will be able to keep a close eye on his progress since he should be starting the year in Kane County.

33. Tayler Scott, RHP
Where to watch him: Kane County
Wrigley Field ETA: 2016
Projects as: Mid-rotation starter

I am looking forward to seeing what Tayler Scott can accomplish in the Midwest League this season. The Cubs grabbed the South African right hander in the fifth round in 2011, and he instantly became one of the most intriguing but raw prospects in the system. A successful 71 innings in Boise last season introduced us to a very good ground ball pitcher (1.88 GO/AO) who has yet to give up a home run as a professional. For real. In 75 innings, no one has taken this guy deep. I doubt that streak will last another full season, but if Scott can keep his Midwest League ERA around his Boise figure of 2.52, I doubt he’ll mind too much. If he pulls off that sort of a performance when he takes the field this season he may find himself in Daytona in a hurry.

32. Brooks Raley, LHP
Where to watch him: Iowa and Chicago
Wrigley Field ETA: 2013
Projects as: Solid middle reliever or back of the rotation starter

Brooks Raley makes his living with a great changeup that, usually anyway, induces ground balls and keeps opposing hitters from going yard. His other pitches are not up to the standard of his changeup (which is still the best in the farm system by some accounts), but the total package should be effective enough to find him steady work in Chicago later this season. If he struggles as a member of the rotation I think his stuff will play quite well as a steady reliever towards the back of the bullpen. He is usually fairly effective against hitters on both sides of the plate, so right now there is no reason to condemn him to lefty-only status. In fact, I would not be at all surprised to see Raley and his old college rotation mate Barret Loux reunited in the Cubs starting five in a year or two.

31. Lendy Castillo, RHP
Where to watch him: Tennessee?
Wrigley Field ETA: 2015
Projects as: Late-inning reliever

The worst part of the Rule 5 draft is that it sometimes causes legitimate prospects to miss a year of development that they badly needed. Such was the case with Lendy Catillo. The Cubs grabbed because they saw the clear upside in Castillo’s brief career on the mound, but to keep him the Cubs had to force him into wasting a year pitching garbage innings in Chicago and lurking on the disabled list. Catillo has pitched a grand total of 149 innings in his career, but the converted shortstop already shows signs of having two plus pitches. His fastball sits in the low to mid 90s, and his slider (when it was working) hinted at becoming a potential strike out pitch. There is potential here as either a starter or a reliever, but in order to unlock that potential this guy just needs to pitch. Look for him to join the starting rotation in either Daytona or Tennessee for at least part of the season, and for the Cubs to limit his workload by moving him to the bullpen for the rest of the year. Once he gets another 200 or so innings under his belt I think we’ll him return to Wrigley Field and have a great deal more success than he did during the 2012 season.

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