I came across a souvenir program that I picked up from a game I went to when I was still in High School 10 years ago. Among features hyping Hee Seop Choi, Bobby Hill, Corey Patterson, and others who had recently made it to the big league team was a list of the top ten prospects in the minors. What followed was a list that perfectly shows why the organization had to rely on expensive acquisitions like Lee, Soriano, Ramirez, etc instead of producing our own players.
The list is as followers:
#1 - RHP Francis Beltran (signed out of the Dominican Republic)
2002 - 2-2 2.59 ERA 23 saves in AA
MLB Stats - 3-2 5.69 ERA in 67 pitching appearances.
What happened? Despite a shaky bullpen in 2004 that cost them some key games down the stretch, Beltran was the biggest piece the Cubs sent to Les Expos in the massive four team trade that netted the Cubs Nomar Garciaparra, so you really can't complain that they turned their top prospect into what they thought would be a healthy star shortstop. Especially considering Beltran made only 11 appearances for Montreal before blowing his elbow out. He hasn't appeared in the majors since 2008 and has been out of baseball since 2011.
Who could we have avoided signing to a massive contract if he had panned out? Latroy Hawkins, Kevin Gregg 1.0.
#2 - IF/OF David Kelton (2nd round draft pick in 1998. #45th overall prospect in 2002)
2002 - .261/.332/.462 20 HR 17 Errors committed in AA
MLB Stats - .136/.136/.227 in 22 AB
What happened? David Kelton was Josh Vitters before Josh Vitters. A relatively high draft pick with a solid bat but poor glove at 3B. After mangling 1B in AA, Kelton moved into the outfield, but he didn't hit for enough power in the offensively tuned PCL to justify his poor glove and was out of the Cubs organization by 2005.
Who could we have avoided signing to a massive contract if he had panned out? Jeromy Burnitz. Jacques Jones. Ultimately Milton Bradley.
#3 RHP Angel Guzman (signed out of Venezuela #47th overall prospect in 2003)
2002 - 11-4 2.19 ERA 123 K over 156 innings between two levels of A-ball
MLB Stats - 3-10 4.82 ERA over 88 appearances (14 starts)
What happened? A fantastic pitching talent (many preferred him over his countryman Big Z) who saw his career derailed by a multitude of injuries. You can't really blame the Cubs for this one panning out. Had one great season as a setup man in 2009, which would be his last season in the majors.
Who could we have avoided signing to a massive contract if he had panned out? Jason Marquis.
#4. CF Nic Jackson (3rd round draft pick in 2000. #100 prospect in 2003)
2002 - .290/.329/.443 in 32 games at AA
MLB Stats - N/A
What happened? Like Guzman, injuries. Jackson missed most of 2002 after team doctors misdiagnosed a shin fracture and he never really made up for missed time. He put up a .699 OPS in AAA in 2003 and tore his rotator cuff in 2004 and never made it to the show. He has been playing in independent leagues recently.
Who could we have avoided signing to a massive contract if he had panned out? Juan Pierre, Marlon Byrd.
#5 LHP Andrew Sisco (2nd round draft pick in 2001. #53 prospect in 2003)
2002 - 7-2 2.43 ERA 101 K in 77 innings in low A ball
MLB Stats - 3-9 5.18 ERA over 35 appearances.
What happened? The program compared Andy Sisco favorably to Randy Johnson. The Cubs surprisingly left Sisco unprotected in the 2004 Rule 5 draft and the Royals selected him and kept him in the bullpen where he looked like a wise choice (3.11 ERA in 67 appearances), but he never replicated his success and bounced around the minors after being dealt to the White Sox. He currently pitches in China.
Who could we have avoided signing to a massive contract if he had panned out? Scott Eyre.
I'll do the second half tomorrow. It's not pretty either.