1999 Top 10
Chicago Cubs Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams
By David Rawnsley
1. Corey Patterson, OF
Background: After signing too late to play in 1998, Pattersons debut season was almost jinxed from the start. He cut his hand on Opening Day and had to miss a week waiting for the stitches to heal. In early May, Patterson broke a knuckle on his hand making a diving catch and missed another three weeks. Despite the downtime, Patterson finished fourth among Class A players in extra-base hits and second in slugging percentage (.592). He capped his season by hitting .368-4-24 in the Arizona Fall League despite being its youngest player.
Strengths: Pattersons speed ranks him among the fastest players in baseball. He runs 60 yards in 6.3 seconds with a power and balance that makes him resemble Michael Johnson more than any baseball player. That speed makes Pattersons power display even more impressive. He has a lightning-quick bat to the ball but gets excellent extension out front, which enables him to loft the ball. His combination of speed and aggressiveness accounts for many of his extra-base hits. Any ball not hit right at an outfielder is a potential double; any ball that gets by an outfielder is a potential triple. Pattersons 17 triples were the second-most in professional baseball. Pattersons defense is not as advanced as his offense but he has the tools to be an above-average center fielder. He has above-average arm strength and obviously enough speed to run balls down.
Weaknesses: Patterson hasnt played enough games in center field to polish his ability to get consistent quality jumps and run direct routes. Some have expressed concern about Pattersons low walk totals, but as one Cubs official said "Hes learning, but hes a slasher. Hes just as likely to knock that ball off the outside of the plate into the left-field corner for a triple." Lefthanders breaking balls are the cause of much of his impatience.
The Future: The Cubs are as impressed with Pattersons professionalism and approach to baseball as they are with his natural tools. They have no fear of rushing him through the system and hurting his confidence or swelling his ego. Patterson will start 2000 at Double-A West Tenn, but it would surprise no one to see him at Wrigley Field by late summer.
1999 Club AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB Lansing (A) .320 475 94 152 35 17 20 79 25 85 33
2. Hee Seop Choi, 1B
Age: 20 B-T: L-L Ht: 6-4 Wt: 235
Signed: South Korea, 1999 Signed by: Leon Lee
Background: The Far East is better known for its pitching prospects. Choi was the first South Korean position player of note to sign with a U.S. team. He agreed to a $1.2 million signing bonus and went directly from extended spring to Class A for his professional debut.
Strengths: True to his size, Choi has raw power and is capable of launching tape-measure home runs. But his swing is unusually short for a big power hitter. Choi shows the ability to control the strike zone and hit to all fields. His athletic balance is a plus both at the plate and in the field.
Weaknesses: Choi is not a baseclogger or a stiff, stationary fielder, but he wont conjure up images of Mark Grace around the bag, either. With work he should become an average defender.
The Future: Unlike most foreign players, Choi has chosen to stay in the United States most of the offseason instead of returning home so he can work on his English and cultural adjustment. This will only accelerate his development as the organizations likely successor to Grace.
1999 Club AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB Lansing (A) .321 290 71 93 18 6 18 70 50 68 2
3. Carlos Zambrano, RHP
Age: 18 B-T: L-R Ht: 6-4 Wt: 220
Signed: Venezuela, 1997 Signed by: Alberto Rondon
Background: Zambrano started the 1999 season as one of the youngest players in the minors, but hes hardly a skinny, projectable kid. He improved throughout the year and was at his strongest in the Midwest League playoffs.
Strengths: Zambrano is a power pitcher with a live 93-96 mph fastball he maintains late into games. He can throw either a two-seam or four-seam fastball for strikes depending on the situation. Zambranos primary offspeed pitch is a curveball that shows good potential. Scouts project his changeup as a plus big league pitch.
Weaknesses: Zambrano is still learning about spotting pitches, especially outside the strike zone. While he shows some feel for a slider, it is behind his curveball for now. Though he is well-built now, he will have to take care of his big body.
The Future: Zambrano is the lead prospect in what the Cubs consider a revamped and promising Latin program run by international scouting director Oneri Fleita. He will start 2000 with Class A Daytona.
1999 Club W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H BB SO Lansing (A) 13 7 4.17 27 24 2 0 153 150 62 98
4. Ruben Quevedo, RHP
Age: 20 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-1 Wt: 225
Signed: Venezuela, 1995 Signed by: Rolando Pettit (Braves)
Background: The Cubs acquired Quevedo, along with lefthanders Micah Bowie and Joey Nation, from the Braves in a late-July deal for impending free agents Jose Hernandez and Terry Mulholland. The Braves decided he could skip Double-A, so he pitched all of 1999 in Triple-A at 20.
Strengths: Quevedo has a simple, almost casual delivery with a silky- smooth arm action. What looks to the hitter like a decent fastball comes at him at 92-94 mph, often on the inside half of the plate, where Quevedo has pinpoint control. His hard curveball and changeup, are quality secondary pitches he can throw for strikes.
Weaknesses: Quevedo has gained around 45 pounds since he signed. He must check his eating habits before they hinder him on the mound.
The Future: Quevedo blossomed after the trade, allowing only one home run in 44 innings after allowing 26 in 105 innings in Richmond. With his solid stuff and excellent control, he should be nearly ready for the Cubs rotation.
1999 Club W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H BB SO Richmond (AAA) 6 5 5.37 21 21 0 0 106 112 34 98 Iowa (AAA) 3 1 3.45 7 7 1 0 44 34 21 50
5. Ben Christiansen, RHP
Age: 21 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-4 Wt: 210
Drafted: Wichita State, 1999 (1st round) Signed by: Mark Servais
Background: Christensens beaning of Evansville on-deck batter Anthony Molina and Christensens subsequent suspension are well documented. Potential criminal charges, which scared some teams on draft day, have been dropped.
Strengths: With his suspension cutting two months out of his season, Christensen didnt really show his true stuff this summer. During the spring, he threw a boring, sinking fastball in the 92-94 mph range and would touch 96. Christensens slider is in the mid-80s and was considered one of college baseballs best breaking pitches.
Weaknesses: Whether the Cubs or Christensen like it or not, the beaning will hang on his résumé for the rest of his career, especially when big league writers revisit it as he gets close to reaching the majors. His raw stuff has few weaknesses.
The Future: Christensen lost more development time when he pulled a hamstring in instructional league. He will start 2000 with Daytona looking for a healthy, uneventful season.
1999 Club W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H BB SO AZL Cubs (R) 0 1 3.00 3 3 0 0 9 8 5 10 Eugene (A) 0 2 5.91 5 5 0 0 21 21 14 21
6. Jeff Goldbach, C
Age: 19 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-0 Wt: 190
Drafted: HS--Princeton, Ind., 1998 (2nd round) Signed by: Scott May
Background: Goldbachs background is rare for a teenage catching prospect. He grew up in rural southern Indiana, where basketball is king. Goldbach was named the Midwest Leagues all-star catcher in 1999, his first full season.
Strengths: Goldbach has a strong, mature body with good bat speed. He projects power in the future, especially for a catcher. He drastically improved his strikeout-to-walk ratio after having four times as many strikeouts as walks in his Rookie-level Arizona League debut in 1998. Goldbach has a strong, accurate arm and quick actions behind the plate.
Weaknesses: As he grows older, Goldbach will rely more and more on his defensive skills rather than his raw physical tools, which are average.
The Future: The Cubs call Goldbach "a grinder with a great bat." He has the focused, determined makeup often seen in a less talented player with the offensive tools found in a top prospect. With the organization short behind the plate, Goldbach will get every chance to move quickly.
1999 Club AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB Lansing (A) .271 399 82 108 27 3 18 72 64 66 1
7. Mike Meyers, RHP
Age: 22 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-2 Wt: 210
Drafted: Black Hawk (Ill.) JC, 1997 (26th round) Signed by: Mark Adair
Background: Meyers ERA in 1999 was 1.73, a third of a run better than that of Bostons Pedro Martinez. Meyers went 1-1 pitching for Team Canada in the Pan American Games, beating Mexico and losing 3-2 to Cuba on a homer by Omar Linares.
Strengths: Meyers best pitch is an above-average curveball. He commands it well and throws it in hitters counts. He throws a boring, two-seam fastball in the 88-90 mph range aggressively to the inside of the plate. His changeup is a quality third pitch.
Weaknesses: Meyers relies more on movement and location over raw stuff. While thats common among big league pitchers, teams and scouts are traditionally wary of young righthanders who throw a lot of 88-mph fastballs.
The Future: If Meyers can maintain the edge and confidence he gained in the Pan Am Gamesand dominated Double-A hitters with after coming backhe may not face many more challenges in the minor leagues.
1999 Club W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H BB SO Daytona (A) 10 3 1.93 19 17 2 0 107 68 40 122 West Tenn (AA) 4 0 1.09 5 5 0 0 33 21 10 51
8. David Kelton, 3B
Age: 19 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-2 Wt: 190
Drafted: HS--La Grange, Ga., 1998 (2nd round) Signed by: Oneri Fleita
Background: Kelton was one of four 19-year-old starters for Lansing. Midwest League managers rated Kelton the leagues No. 8 prospect, ahead of teammates Choi and Goldbach.
Strengths: Kelton has a pure, low-maintenance swing that Cubs instructors have been told not to touch. He should begin developing power as he learns what pitches he can drive. Kelton is agile and fast for his size. He can make highlight-reel plays at third base and is an average runner with above-average baserunning instincts.
Weaknesses: Right shoulder surgery before his senior year of high school still hampered Kelton during the first half of the 1999 season, when he made too many throwing errors. The shoulder strengthened during the second half, though, an encouraging sign.
The Future: Third base, long a black hole with the Cubs, now is a prospect position. Aside from Kelton, the Cubs expect their full-season starters next spring to include Ryan Gripp, Eric Hinske and Cole Liniak. Kelton, the youngest of the group, has the highest ceiling. He should start at Daytona.
1999 Club AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB Lansing (A) .269 509 75 137 17 4 13 68 39 121 22
9. Scott Downs, LHP
Age: 23 B-T: L-L Ht: 6-2 Wt: 180
Drafted: Kentucky, 1997 (3rd round) Signed by: Mark Adair
Background: The Cubs sent Downs to the Twins in 1998, then reacquired him (with Rick Aguilera) in 1999 for righthanders Kyle Lohse and Jason Ryan. He was spectacular upon his return to the organization.
Strengths: Downs approach and stuff are similar to those of Meyers, though his fastball has a little less juice. He has excellent command of an above-average curveball and will spot his sinking fastball and changeup low in the zone. Lefthanders hit a meager .106 off Downs in Double-A with 24 strikeouts in 56 at-bats.
Weaknesses: Downs rarely will throw above 87-88 mph and doesnt want to if it costs him command or movement. When he loses the edge of the strike zone, he cant get hitters out.
The Future: Double-A hitters are generally much more patient than younger hitters and usually a big hurdle for control pitchers, but Downs dominance just increased at the higher level. That bodes well for his future.
1999 Club W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H BB SO New Britain (AA) 0 0 8.69 6 3 0 0 20 33 10 22 Daytona (A) 5 1 1.56 9 9 1 0 58 48 17 50 West Tenn (AA) 8 1 1.35 13 12 1 0 80 56 28 101
10. Eric Hinske, 3B
Age: 22 B-T: L-R Ht: 6-2 Wt: 225
Drafted: Arkansas, 1998 (17th round) Signed by: Brian Milner
Background: Hinske finished his first full season in Triple-A. He was playing in the Mexican Pacific League in the offseason to continue his development.
Strengths: Hinske has a special bat, and the makeup and character to take advantage of it. He has a smooth swing that is short to the ball, coupled with enough strength to reach the fences in the middle of the field. Despite his muscular build, Hinske is a surprisingly agile athlete and has excellent instincts on the bases.
Weaknesses: Hinske spent 1998 at first base but played third base in 1999 and was playing left field in Mexico this winter. He projects to be adequate at all positions, but the Cubs will place a high priority on determining if he can handle third base.
The Future: Every organization has a special "gut-feel" player, one instructors and coaches think is going to excel above his tools. Hinske, who should start 2000 in Double-A, is the Cubs guy.
1999 Club AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB Daytona (A) .297 445 76 132 28 6 19 79 62 90 16 Iowa (AAA) .267 15 3 4 0 1 1 2 1 4 0
Rest of the Best:
11. Jaisen Randolph, of
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