Chicago Cubs Top 10 Prospects Chat With Jim Callis
I've just finished my last contributions to
the Prospect Handbook, so let's get this chat started a few minutes
early. Fire away with Cubs questions!
JAYPERS (IL): Just how close was it between Archer and Jackson for the top spot, and what was the deciding factor?
It was very close, and Trey McNutt wasn't
far off either. I think Archer has a little more upside with a pair of
potential plus-plus pitches versus Jackson's solid all-around play.
Jackson is a safer bet, if you wanted to go in that direction. They're
the same age and have succeeded at the same level (Double-A), so those
weren't any help as tiebreakers.
Ben (Leland Grove): Thoughts on Micah Gibbs? 11-20 guy? How are his receiving skills?
He didn't make the Cubs Top 30 in the
upcoming 2011 Prospect Handbook. I think he was the best receiver
available in the 2010 draft, but scouts aren't sold that he's going to
hit enough to be a regular. I did consider him for the Top 30, but the
Cubs have impressive depth.
Harry (Trenton, NJ): I've been reading that
Reggie Golden could have 5-tool abilities. Do you concur with this, and
about how far off the Top 10 was he?
He does, but he also has a lot of
refinement to do. He fell in the middle of the 11-30 mix. Hamstring
problems limited him as a high school senior and in his pro debut, but
I've had multiple scouts compare him to a young Kevin Mitchell. He has
plus-plus raw power.
Guy (VA): Dae-Eun Rhee - prospect or suspect?
Still a prospect. He had Tommy John surgery
in 2009, so last year was just a recovery season for him. We'll have a
better feel for what he can become in 2011, when the surgery will be two
years behind him. His stuff hasn't come all the way back yet.
Frank (Joliet, IL): How far down has Jay Jackson's stock fallen since last year? What's his future role likely to be?
The Cubs called up 12 pitchers from
Triple-A Iowa in 2010, but Jackson wasn't one of them. He has been
passed by some other pitchers, and his stuff regressed a little last
year, but he still has the upside of a possible No. 3 starter.
Harry (Chitown): How far off the top 10 was Robinson Chirinos and whats the word on him. thanks
He was in the middle of the 11-20 mix. He
intrigues me. His conversion to catching has gone really well, and it
has made him a better hitter to boot. He's blocked by Geovany Soto in
Chicago, but Chirinos could be an ideal backup as a guy who can hit for
solid average and power while being able to play several positions. If
my team needed a catcher, I'd see if I could pry Chirinos away from the
Jake (MD): What did scouts have to say about LeMahieu's season?
Mixed reports. Everyone agrees that he can
hit, and he's the best pure hitter in the system. But while the Cubs
think he has a chance to play second base and make some adjustments to
hit 15 homers per year, scouts outside the organization don't think he
has the quickness to play second or the power for third.
JAYPERS (IL): About where would you rank the Cubbies' system overall at present?
I won't give away all of our farm system
rankings in the 2011 Prospect Handbook, but I will reveal that we ranked
the Cubs at No. 8.
Paul (Midwest): Is Simpson an overdraft in your opinion? What led the Cubs to take him as high as they did?
He was in my opinion but the Cubs have no
regrets about taking him 16th overall, after he missed his first pro
summer with a bad case of mono. They saw him better than most clubs did,
watching him work at 94-97 mph in an NCAA Division II playoff game and
think he'll have four average to plus pitches with good command. The
Angels also saw Simpson good and had five picks between Chicago's first-
and second-rounders, forcing the Cubs' hand.
Frankie (Dallas): Did Ben Wells come close to making your list? Why or why not?
Too early to make the Top 10, but he did
make the Top 30. He flew under the radar for much of the spring, and
teams who were on him told me that he would have been a third-round pick
(or better) had he gotten exposure and been crosschecked thoroughly. He
has a plus fastball, possible plus slider and an interesting splitter.
Jon (Peoria): Do you think that either Robinson Chirinos or Wellington Castillo can beat out Koyie Hill for the backup catcher job?
They could. I think the best case would be for Chirinos to back up Soto while Castillo plays every day in Triple-A.
Grant (Baltimore, MD): I see a few pitchers on
your list you describe as either a SP or RP down the road (in addition
to Cashner), yet you have Marmol as their closer on the 2014 lineup
card. If you had to pick one of these prospects to be their closer right
now (pretending for a minute they're all Major League-ready), who would
Assuming Marmol is gone, if I had to pick a
closer from the remaining arms, I might go with Archer. He has the
stuff to close, and his command and control aren't as good as Cashner's
Don (Rosemont, IL): Have you heard any word on
whether Sczcur will formally give up football prior to the scouting
combine? How do his tools compare with Reggie Golden's?
I haven't heard. He was injured for part of
the fall at Villanova, and I wonder if that might help drive him to
baseball, where it's easier to stay in one piece. Golden has more raw
power and more arm strength than Szczur, but Szczur is a better hitter,
runner and outfielder.
Dan (Lansing): Give me the quick scouting report on Dustin Geiger.
24th-round pick last June, still growing into body, power potential, good defensively at third base.
Steve (Sarasota): If he were eligible, where would Jeff Samardzija be in the Cubs top 30? Have you or the Cubs given up on him?
Maybe toward the end of the list. I don't
think the Cubs have handled him well at all, and I don't see him as more
as a middle reliever in the long run now. There's some obvious arm
strength there but he just doesn't miss enough bats.
JAYPERS (IL): How confident are you that Szczur will adapt to playing baseball full time better than someone like, say, Samardzija?
The difference to me is that Szczur has
shown aptitude in addition to raw physical talent. He's a gifted hitter
who squares ball up and made strides defensively during his short time
in pro ball. Samardzija threw hard at Notre Dame, but he was mostly a
one-pitch pitcher and didn't strike out a lot of guys in Big East
Bob (Mundelein, IL): Is Chris Rusin a guy to
keep an eye on as a back-end starter either toward the end of this year
or next year? Also, did Austin Kirk fall somewhere near the back end of
More for next year. He's a finesse lefty
who can really pitch, and he has the best changeup and control in the
system. I had trouble squeezing lefties onto the Top 30. I got Brooks
Raley on there but left Rusin and Kirk off. They'll all close, as are
Jeffry Antigua and Cameron Greathouse.
Marty (Philly): Hey Jim, I know you like
Marquez Smith a little, but was it a surprise to see him not selected in
the Rule 5? He seems to be MLB ready as a nice bat off the bench. Did
the Cubs get lucky?
It's harder for teams to take hitters (as
opposed to pitchers) in the Rule 5 draft because it's more difficult to
find enough playing time to avoid wasting their year. I thought Smith
might get popped because he can hit and he can play second or third
base, but the Cubs gambled successfully that he wouldn't be taken.
Bob (Mundelein, IL): Do you think that guys
like Ben Wells, Austin Reed, Aaron Kurcz, or Cam Greathouse will start
in Peoria next year? Who is the top pitcher (besides Simpson) to keep
an eye on in the lower levels of the organization?
Wells hasn't faced the competition the
other guys have, so it's possible he could make his pro debut at
short-season Boise, but I think the other three will open the year in
Peoria. Actually, Kurcz is advanced enough that he might skip a level
and head to high Class A Daytona. All of those guys are very
interesting, but the best young pitcher to watch may be Robinson Lopez,
who was part of the Derrek Lee trade with the Braves. The Cubs do a
great job extracting value when dealing veterans, and Lopez touched 97
mph at times last year.
Don (Rosemont, IL): As a charter member of the
Junior Lake Fan Club, I'm intrigued by his power potential and arm. Do
you think that his bat and defense will ever improve enough to be a
I am too, and he spent last year in high
Class A at age 20. He's not the most disciplined hitter or reliable
fielder, so it wouldn't shock me if the Cubs eventually tried him on the
mound. Lake's best position is probably third base, which means he may
have to go back to Daytona if D.J. LeMahieu and Ryan Flaherty are in
John (Daytona): Where do you see Ryan Flaherty?
He has hit well, with some power, at all stops except for a brief stint
in AA, and can handle many positions.
He's similar to D.J. LeMahieu in that he
has some strengths but doesn't profile great at a particular position.
Flaherty has some power, but he can't really play the middle infield and
has been erratic at third base. I think he's ultimately more of a
corner utility guy.
Pigs (Fargo, Nd): Where did Trey Mcnutt come from? He didn't seem like he was on the prospect map at all until this year.
Pigs, you have to read your Prospect
Handbook, because he was in last year's edition. The Cubs signed McNutt
as an obscure 32nd-round pick out of junior college, and he started
showing a mid-90s fastball and a power breaking ball. That combo allowed
him to reach Double-A in his first full pro season.
Mike (Des Moines): What's the word on OF Evan
Crawford? I don't think theres enough bat or aptitude. Prospects like
him (Toolsy, all projection, high K rates) frustrate me becasue they
never seem to pan out yet seem to get a lot of love from scouts.
He didn't make my Top 30. He can really run
and he's athletic, but I wonder about the bat as well. Not a bad get
for Mike Fontenot, though.
Don (Rosemont, IL): What are your thoughts on
Jae-Hoon Ha? I was impressed with his hitting ability last year, though
I wasn't sure about what type of power he could realistically have or
which outfield position he would fit best at.
Another guy I want to see more of. I got
mixed reviews on him when I was working on our Midwest League coverage,
but he did hit .317/.334/.468 in a tough hitter's league, playing in low
Class A as a 19-year-old. He's more of a high-average, gap-power,
15-homer-max type of guy than a slugger. One club official told me he
had the most competitive at-bats of any Cubs farmhand last year. He's a
good corner outfielder who can fill in in center as needed.
Pete O. (Chicago): A lot of turnover in the
Cubs' Top 10 between this year and last. Did Jay Jackson, Flaherty,
Watkins etc disappoint or did the system just get strong enough that
those guys didn't crack the top 10 anymore?
Some of each. Jackson, Flaherty and Watkins
didn't quite have the years hoped. Archer, McNutt and Guyer took huge
steps forward, and Szczur and Simpson arrived via the draft.
Ken (Lakewood CA): Guyer's stats in AA are
impressive. Where does he come up short that puts him at #10 instead of
closer to the top? Not that there is anything wrong with being an
organization's #10 ML. Thanks.
He's overly aggressive at the plate and has
a hard time staying healthy. He's a good athlete with legitimate tools,
but scouts aren't convinced that he didn't play over his head during
his big year in Double-A in 2010. Some see him as a possible solid
regular, others see him as more of a good fourth outfielder.
Dan (Lansing): Is Elvis Andrus a good comp. for Hak-Ju Lee or is that dreaming?
Different types of players. Andrus is a better defender while Lee has more offensive potential.
Jasen (FLL): Is the prospect book gonna be in stores by the end of the month?
I believe early to mid-February for stores.
If you order the Handbook directly from Baseball America, we'll ship in
the middle of the month, and throw in a bonus supplement with 30 extra
Dan (Lansing): What can you tell me about Dallas Beeler?
Another good sleeper from the 2010 draft.
Had Tommy John surgery at Oral Roberts, throwing 92-95 again and also
showing a promising slider.
Dan (Lansing): Any chance Casey Coleman sticks as a long term SP?
Sure. He doesn't have the ceiling of some
of the Cubs' other arms, but he really knows how to pitch and does all
the little things well. Those guys have a habit of sticking around
longer than might be expected. By the way, he didn't make the Top 30
because he exhausted his eligibility once he passed 50 innings in the
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Of
last years top 30 prospect group, who has jumped up the most notches and
who has dropped the most spots down in this years group?
Archer moved up 14 spots from No. 15 to No.
1, while McNutt rose 13 spots from No. 16 to No. 3. Chirinos and
Castillo both improved 10 spots from Nos. 26 and 27 to Nos. 16 and 17.
(Guyer came from off the 2010 list to No. 10 this year.) In the other
direction, Kyler Burke (was No. 11) and John Gaub (was No. 14) fell
totally off the list. Watkins went from No. 7 to No. 21 and Flaherty
went from No. 9 to No. 22. Remember, our list ultimately reflects
Baseball America's opinion and not necessarily that of the Cubs.
Travis (Phoenix, AZ): What is the outlook on Wes Darvill as he hit over .300 as an 18 year old in the AZL?
Another one of the Cubs' better sleepers.
He could be a very interesting hitter once he adds some needed strength.
Chicago is ridiculously loaded at third base with Vitters, LeMahieu,
Flaherty, Lake, Cerda, Smith, Darvill and Geiger.
Steve (Michigan): Hello Jim, thanks for
chatting...How would you rank/compare Josh Vitters to the other big 3B
prospects; Moustakas, Chisenhall, Dominguez, Viviedo? And, do the Cubs
plan on keeping him at 3B for the future? Thanks!
That's a motley crew. I believe more in
Moustakas' power than in Vitters', and I believe more in Chisenhall's
bat than Vitters'. Dominguez is a better fielder, but I'd still take
Vitters' bat over his. Viciedo, I see him more as a 1B/DH and I'd still
take Vitters over him. The Cubs think Vitters is poised to break out in
2011, and I'll still give him the benefit of the doubt because he's
barely 21. Would like to see him justify that faith next year, though.
Bernie (Warwick, RI): Where does Matt Cerda fall in the top 30 ?
He just missed, and in fact he's the bonus
Cub you get if you order the Handbook directly from us and get the
supplement with an extra prospect per club. He can really hit and
control the strike zone, but the other facets of his game still need
work. I think he fits best at third base, and he may not have enough
power for the position.
Billy (Champaign): Who do you like more: Brooks Raley or Chris Rusin? And why?
Raley. It's close, but I think his stuff is a little better and he's more athletic.
Raoul (Tucson, Az): Yo, Jimbo, does Cashner
have true #1 stuff or did you slot him as the top starter cause he'll be
the best of what they have in 3 years?
I'm tough doling out the No. 1 platitudes
and envision him as more of a true No. 2 starter. But he definitely has
frontline starter stuff with a mid-90s fastball and mid-80 slider. With
improved command, he could be a true No. 1.
Bill (Lincoln,NE): Thanks for answering my
Do you see Matt Szczur's ceiling being something along the lines of a
Grady Sizemore type centerfielder or am I just being optimistic?
Not saying he'll get there, but no, that's
not an unrealistic ceiling. Szczur has top-of-the-line speed and
athleticism, and he can really hit.
Joe R (Newport News, VA): If Hayden Simpson
hadn't been a first-round draft pick, but instead a third-rounder — and
had the same profile and lack of professional history, would he still
have been a top ten prospect?
Yes. Jay Jackson made our Cubs Top 10 in
his draft year, and he was a ninth-rounder. Obviously, we know these
guys' pedigrees, but we're ranking them based on talent and not draft
position. I put Szczur (fifth round) ahead of Simpson.
Bernie (Warwick, RI): What's the 2011 outlook for fellow RI'der Jeff Beliveau ? Is he a fringe mlb middle reliever if he can't harness his control ?
Another terrific sleeper. Could have made a
lot of Top 30s and I wanted to slide him on there. I think he's going
to have a nice career as a lefty reliever.
bubblesdachimp (DC): Do the Cubs have the best farm system in the NL central right now?
Neck and neck with the Reds.
Billy (Champaign): In the best tools section
you have Brett Jackson as the best hitter for power. Does that mean you
think he has more raw power than guys like Vitters and Golden or just
that you think he has a better chance of getting it to actually show up
That would be most usable power. Vitters
and Golden might have more raw power, but as of now, I'd bet that
Jackson will hit the most homers in the big leagues. Jackson's raw power
is nothing to scoff at either.
bubblesdachimp (DC): Dear Jim,
My buddy Steph an Orioles fan made the comment that 8 seems a little
high for the Cubs ranking. Would you take the Cubs over the Orioles
system and does the 8 ranking say more about incredible depth as
compared to high upside talent?
No question, Cubs over Orioles (No. 21 on
our list, dropoff after Machado and Britton). The Cubs have a pretty
solid top three (Archer, Jackson, McNutt) on the top of their list, but
it's fair to say their depth drives our ranking.
Ryan (Abingdon, MD): Can you remember the last
time you ranked a player in the top 10 who didn't make their team's top
30 the year before? If so, who was it?
Did the same thing with the Red Sox this
year, with Oscar Tejeda going from off the list to No. 10 (after the
Casey Kelly trade).
Sang (Chicago): What do scouts think of Scott
Maine? He's put up solid numbers the past couple years in the minors but
I dont recall too much being written about him.
Scouts give him a lot of credit for making
adjustments. He looked very ordinary at the beginning of last year, but
he was in Chicago throwing 93-95 mph and showing a much better slider at
the end of the season.
Bill (Deerfield, IL): Where would the Cubs system rank if Cashner and Castro still qualified?
They wouldn't be No. 1 ahead of the Royals, but they could make a case for No. 2.
Frank (Queens): Did Alberto Cabrera come close to making the list? What reports did you get on his stuff?
Very close. He's No. 11. Threw 92-97 mph as a starter, has a pair of hard breaking pitches, may wind up a reliever.
Ron (Wisc): Hello Jim, thanks for taking
this...I see in the write-up on Vitters a lot about what the Cubs and
others thing of him. I want to know what YOU think of him? Will be be a
solid 3B, what kinda of BA/HR will he produce, and when do you think
he'll get there and stay there? Thanks!
He was only 20 last year, so I'll still
give him the benefit of the doubt. I think he can be a .275/20 HR
hitter, possibly more, but I don't see him being more than decent at
Thanks for all the great questions. Cubs
fans always turn out in force. Feel free to hit me up at Twitter
(@jimcallisBA), and I'll have a new Ask BA up tomorrow. Tune in tomorrow
as well for our next prospect chat, as J.J. Cooper discusses the Reds.