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Cubs Prospects 2-10
Signed: Venezuela, 1999. Signed by: Hector Ortega.
Background: The Cubs thought Guzman was headed for a breakout 2002 season, and they were correct. In his first taste of full-season ball, he breezed through two Class A leagues and led Chicago minor leaguers in wins (11) and ERA (2.19).
Strengths: After his promotion to high Class A Daytona, Guzman regained the curveball he had when he signed three years earlier. At times, all three of pitches graded as 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He also throws a 91-96 mph fastball with explosive sinking life and the best changeup in the system. Hes athletic, throws strikes and has a feel for pitching. His delivery is effortless.
Weaknesses: Guzman needs only to make subtle adjustments, such as improving his location within the strike zone and pitching inside more often. Maintaining the curveball he had in the second half of 2002 would be huge.
The Future: Guzman is set to begin the year at Double-A West Tenn. Some Cubs officials believe he could move from there to Wrigley Field as quickly as Mark Prior did last season.
3. Andy Sisco, lhp
Age: 20. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-9. Wt.: 250. Drafted: HSSammamish, Wash., 2001 (2nd round). Signed by: Al Geddes.
Background: The Cubs may have found not one but two No. 1 starters in the 2001 draft. After taking Mark Prior No. 2 overall, they landed Sisco in the second round. A former defensive end who turned down football scholarships from Pacific-10 Conference schools, Sisco signed for $1 million. He was the short-season Northwest Leagues No. 1 prospect and strikeout leader in 2002.
Strengths: Because hes an intimidating 6-foot-9 lefthander, Sisco draws comparisons to Randy Johnsonand hes more polished than Johnson at the same age. Sisco made strides with his mechanics last year, when he regularly threw 90-96 mph. Besides his arm, he also earns high marks for his athleticism, feel, poise and work ethic.
Weaknesses: Sisco needs to make his delivery and his pitches more consistent. He has a slurvy breaking ball that should become a curveball if he maintains a higher arm slot. He throws his splitter too often and needs to develop a true changeup. His command can be shaky.
The Future: Chicagos strength is pitching from top to bottom, so Sisco wont be rushed. Hell open 2003 at low Class A Lansing and wont see Wrigley Field before late 2005.
4. Felix Pie, of
Age: 18. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 160. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2001. Signed by: Jose Serra.
Background: The Cubs touted Pie as their top position-player signing on the international market in 2001, and he looked the part last season. In his pro debut, Pie led the Arizona League in extra-base hits and was the leagues co-MVP and No. 1 prospect. He played on championship teams in the AZL and Boise.
Strengths: The top all-around athlete in the system, Pie already shows four tools. His best at the moment is speed, which allows him to steal bases and cover plenty of ground in center field. He also shows a solid arm. For a teenager, Pie has an advanced approach at the plate. Pie has a quick bat and hes wiry strong, and hes already capable of driving the ball into the gaps. His enthusiasm is another plus.
Weaknesses: Pie just needs time. With more experience, hell make more contact and learn the art of basestealing. As he fills out his frame, he should develop at least average home run power.
The Future: Chicago wont rush him, so Pie might go to extended spring training before returning to Boise. Hes three or four years away from the majors.
5. Nic Jackson, of
Age: 23. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 205. Drafted: Richmond, 2000 (3rd round). Signed by: Billy Swoope.
Background: Since signing, Jackson has been fully healthy for only the 2001 seasonwhen managers rated him the most exciting player in the high Class A Florida State League. In his draft year of 2000, he had a ligament injury in his right middle finger. Last season he fouled two pitches off his right leg, breaking his right shin, and didnt play after May 11.
Strengths: Jackson is athletic in the mold of fellow University of Richmond product Brian Jordan. He hits for average and power, runs well and can play all three outfield positions capably. His worst tool is probably his arm, but its solid-average and doesnt keep him from projecting as a right fielder.
Weaknesses: Jackson lost a year of development. He tried to make up some at-bats in the Mexican Pacific League this winter, but tweaked a hamstring and left at midseason. Hes still refining his plate discipline.
The Future: With several outfielders pushing their way up from high Class A, Jackson could begin 2003 in Triple-A. The Cubs expect him to reach the majors at some point in 2004, and he could make it easy to decline Moises Alous $11.5 million option for 2005.
6. Francis Beltran, rhp
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 220. Signed: Dominican Republic, 1996. Signed by: Jose Serra.
Background: Though he had a 5.02 ERA in five pro seasons, Chicago protected Beltran on its 40-man roster after the 2001 season. Then he emerged as a dominant closer in Double-A and reached the majors. At the Futures Game, Beltran threw 96 mph and struck out Joe Borchard and Jason Stokes with sliders.
Strengths: Managers rated Beltrans 95-98 mph fastball the best in the Double-A Southern League. No one in the Cubs system has a better heater or slider. He throws the latter pitch in the mid-80s. He also uses a splitter to give hitters something else to think about it.
Weaknesses: Beltran didnt have as much success as a starter because his changeup and command were spotty. He doesnt need the changeup now, but he does need to improve his control, both throwing strikes and locating pitches in the zone. Though his age was revised upward eight months last spring, that didnt alter his prospect status.
The Future: While with the Cubs, Beltran showed he needed some more seasoning. After Chicago signed Mark Guthrie, Mike Remlinger and Dave Veres after free agents, Beltran will go to Triple-A Iowa.
7. Luke Hagerty, lhp
Age: 22. B-T: R-L. Ht.: 6-7. Wt.: 230. Drafted: Ball State, 2002 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Scott May.
Background: Hagerty played second fiddle to No. 1 overall pick Bryan Bullington at Ball State and to Bobby Brownlie in the Chicagos 2002 draft. While the Cubs still hadnt signed Brownlie, their sense of urgency was reduced by Hagertys performance in his pro debut. He was more consistent than he was in college and looks like a steal for where he went (32nd overall) and what he signed for ($1,150,000).
Strengths: Hell need time to develop, but Hagerty oozes potential as a strong, 6-foot-7 lefthander. He throws 88-94 mph with late life, and he projects to add velocity. His slider is average at times and should give him a second plus pitch once he refines it. For a pitcher his size, Hagerty has smooth mechanics and throws without effort.
Weaknesses: Hagerty was up and down during the spring at Ball State, which is why he fell from the top half of the first round. His changeup has a ways to go, and his fastball and slider also need work. But all the ingredients are there.
The Future: The pitching-rich Cubs have the luxury of letting Hagerty move at his own timetable. Theyll probably start him at low Class A in 2003.
8. Brendan Harris, 3b/2b
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 195. Drafted: William & Mary, 2001 (5th round). Signed by: Billy Swoope.
Background: Area scout Billy Swoope has a knack for finding talented hitters at Virginia colleges. After cutting his pro debut short to work toward his government degree at William & Marywhich he completed in December 2002Harris was spectacular in his first full season. Playing through a nagging knee injury, he hit .328 and reached Double-A.
Strengths: Harris has supplanted David Kelton as the systems top pure hitter and best hope to end the Curse of Ron Santo. He hits for gap power and, unlike Kelton, has demonstrated the ability to play the hot corner. Managers rated Harris the Florida State Leagues best defensive third baseman and he has the strongest infield arm among Cubs farmhands. An all-New York basketball player in high school, he also offers athleticism and speed.
Weaknesses: Harris has a fiery temper that sometimes gets the best of him. Then again, his drive allowed him to play through his knee problems and recover from a .217 April last year.
The Future: Hell begin 2003 as a Double-A third baseman but could push for a quick promotion and be in Chicago by the end of 2004.
9. David Kelton, 3b/1b
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 205. Drafted: HSLaGrange, Ga., 1998 (2nd round). Signed by: Oneri Fleita.
Background: How Kelton fared in 2002 is in the eye of the beholder. In his sixth pro season, he still didnt make it to Triple-A and had continued difficulty playing third base. On the other hand, at 22 he wasnt old for Double-A, led the Southern League in homers, RBIs and extra-base hits, and managers rated him the leagues best batting prospect.
Strengths: Kelton owns a pure swing and theres little doubt that he can hit .275 with 20-25 homers in the majors. He has the hands, range and quickness for third base, and perhaps to become an average outfielder.
Weaknesses: Kelton never has looked comfortable at third, where his bat would fit best. He had shoulder surgery in high school, and he has had mechanical and mental problems throwing from the hot corner as a pro. He played just six games there in Double-A last year, and committed 11 errors in 43 games at third in Mexico this winter. Offensively, he needs to tighten his strike zone.
The Future: The Cubs plan to send Kelton to Triple-A to play third base, his clearest path to the big leagues. If he cant cut it defensively or is passed by Harris, Kelton may have to move again.
10. Todd Wellemeyer, rhp
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 205. Drafted: Bellarmine (Ky.), 2000 (4th round). Signed by: Mark Adair.
Background: Wellemeyer might not have played college baseball if Bellarmine hadnt offered him a last-minute scholarship, and he didnt get much exposure until he pitched in the Coastal Plain League in 1999. Though he was raw, the Cubs took him in the fourth round in 2000 and havent been disappointed. He has improved each year and was an Arizona Fall League all-star after last season.
Strengths: Wellemeyer always has shown arm strength, and he pitches at 90-95 mph with his fastball. He upsets hitters timing with a changeup that features splitter action. In 2002, he made significant strides with his command and his slider. One scout who saw him in the AFL compared him to Todd Stottlemyre, though not as athletic.
Weaknesses: The biggest thing Wellemeyer needs to do is maintain the consistency he started to show with his control and breaking ball. He missed a month last summer with back problems.
The Future: Wellemeyer likely will begin 2003 in Double-A, where he pitched better last year than his ERA would indicate. Because the Cubs have so many starters, his long-term role might be as a reliever.
Best of the Rest
If the Cubs dont sign first-round pick Bobby Brownlie, whom theyre still negotiating with, they still had a productive draft. In addition to lefthander Luke Hagerty, a supplemental first-rounder who made the top 10, Chicago hit on several other draftees.
Lefthander Justin Jones (second round) already touches 93 mph and has a quality curveball, not to mention a Rookie-level Arizona League ERA title under his belt. Righty Billy Petrick (third), another 18-year-old, turned down a Washington State football scholarship. He won the AZL championship game and reached 95 mph in instructional league. Righthanders Chadd Blasko (supplemental first) and Jason Wylie (12th) also can pitch in the mid-90s. Another righty, Matt Clanton (supplemental first), has a low-90s fastball and a hammer curveball. As for hitters, first baseman Brian Dopirak (second) had more raw power than any other player in the draft.
The Cubs also added prospects in trades. Lefthander Russ Rohlicek, who draws Denny Neagle comparisons, was the best of the lot. He came from the Astros in a deal for Tom Gordon. Other acquisitions included: righthanded relievers Jared Blasdell (from the Cardinals in a trade for Jeff Fassero) and Jeff Verplancke (Giants for Bill Mueller); and athletic outfielders Jackson Melian (Brewers for Roberto Machado) and Aron Weston (Pirates for two minor leaguers).
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The Top 10 Prospects lists are based on players' projected long-term worth and on discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of Opening Day 2003.