Chicago Cubs: Top 10 Prospects Chat With Jim Callis

Chicago Cubs: Chat




Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after 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 April 1, 2008.

Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
Hi, Jim. Thanks for the chat. I noticed Vitters is noticably absent on your 2011 lineup card. With A-Ram blocking him at 3rd, which seems more likely - Vitters being his backup, or having to switch to another position and if so, where?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Hi, everyone. I have a few questions about Vitters not being on the 2011 Lineup, and it's just a goofy deal rather than a statement about his future. We go back and forth on the future lineups every year, bagged them at one point — and brought them back because of reader demand. Essentially, our policy is to not assume that anyone of the current players will leave the team because of trades or free agency, it's a depth chart of sort comparing the big league club to the best prospects in the system and saying who will be better in the long run. In Vitters' case, I love the bat. But the three positions he can play are third base (Aramis Ramirez), first base (Derrek Lee) and left field (Alfonso Soriano), which is where Chicago's three best players play right now. While I didn't put him in the lineup, I bet he's at third base for the Cubs in 2011. Just don't ask me how Chicago makes room — neither I nor they know yet. Whew, that was a long answer.

 Q:  Mike Marinaro from Tampa, FL asks:
Brian Dopirak, Ryan Harvey, Mark Pawelek, Grant Johnson, Mark Prior, Luis Montanez all faltered...then Samardzija struggled. The Cubs' top picks haven't fared well since 2000. Can you blame Cubs' fans from being scared of Josh Vitters' .118 average and .281 OBS in his 51 at-bat debut?
 A: 

Jim Callis: You're slipping, Mike, you didn't even throw Bobby Brownlie in there. I wrote a column for the last issue (not sure it's online yet) about Chicago's difficulty developing position players in particular, and it's a dreadful track record — they haven't signed and developed a homegrown all-star since Joe Girardi in 1986, and his one all-star berth came as an emergency fill-in. With Vitters, he had a long layoff and was eager to get out and play without being in game shape. I wouldn't worry about those numbers, as they're just a small sample size and not indicative of his talent. Guys like Montanez and Dopirak put up big numbers early in their careers, and those didn't turn out to be indicative of their talents either.

 Q:  Brian Daniels from Kennesaw Mountain Landis, Georgia asks:
Jim, I know the cubbie fans are out in full force today.. asking about the future.. do you see a problem developing in the future with Pie, Colvin, etc in the outfield. If so.. who gets traded? Also.. Does E Pat have that bad of make-up? my friend went to school with him and said he was a really nice guy! thanks again!
 A: 

Jim Callis: I don't think so, Brian, as I don't describe having too much talent as a problem. Unless they deal one of those guys as part of a package to get someone like a Carl Crawford, the long-term plan looks like Soriano in left, Pie in center and Colvin in right. Eric Patterson doesn't have bad makeup, he just overslept in the big leagues and got sent back down because of it.

 Q:  John from rockford asks:
Hey Jim thanks for the chat. Did Kyle Reynolds get any consideration? Is he a prospect or more of a 4a player?also what's his long term ceiling? He had a monster year this year.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Reynolds wasn't really close to making the Top 10, but he'll fall in the 21-30 range. Can't get more specific, in case that would deter people from buying the 2008 Prospect Handbook, on penalty of my death. Reynolds is a borderline regular for me, though his stock is on the upswing after hitting 21 homers this year. He also seems to have found a home at third base, which is becoming one of the system's deepest positions.

 Q:  Ben from Leland Grove asks:
How would you evaluate Ryan O'Malley, and can he make it back to Wrigley anytime soon?
 A: 

Jim Callis: O'Malley is a fringe finesse lefty who had a great highlight when he shut out the Astros for eight innings in his big league debut in 2006. He's not a big part of Chicago's long-term plans, though, so you may not see him again. I'm not sure if the Cubs are going to re-sign him as a six-year free agent.

 Q:  Todd from Chattanooga asks:
Hey Jim - I know Sam Fuld is on the verge of turning 26, but he absolutley killed the ball in Mesa this Fall. Was he given any consideration - maybe around the 20-30 area? He struck me as a great utility 4th or 5th outfielder. —also— What kind of ceiling do you see for a guy like Jake Fox - does he enough potential to catch for Chicago or do you believe age is a factor for him as well? Thanks
 A: 

Jim Callis: Fuld may even sneak into the back of the 11-20 range. He's an organization favorites, gets everything out of his ability, doesn't have a big ceiling. You're right, he's more of an extra outfielder, and I've always seen him that way. That said, one AFL scout I talked to turned him in as a regular and just loved him. Fox can't really catch, so his future is to let his bat carry him as a corner outfielder or first baseman. He's probably going to be a reserve too. I keep flipping him and Fuld back and forth in front of each other as I tinker with the 11-30 order.

 Q:  D. Cornell from Madison, WI asks:
Is Mark Reed still one of the Cubs Top Catching Prospects?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Yes, but not to the extent that he'll be back on the Top 30. He's more athletic than most catchers and has improved defensively, but his bat keeps going backward.

 Q:  Eric from California asks:
Hi Jim, What kind of ceiling do you see for Tony Thomas? I know that he has a lot of potential with the bat and a number of issues with the glove, so if you were to look into your crystal ball what does his future look like?
 A: 

Jim Callis: The Cubs insist his glove isn't as bad as it has been made out to be, and they think infield instructor Bobby Dickerson will polish him up. He's going to be an offensive second baseman, could see him moving quickly through the system. The Cubs love his bat.

 Q:  Jean-Paul from Midwest asks:
Dopirak and Harvey - official lost causes at this point?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I think so. Harvey has never made consistent contact and Dopirak has never been the same since his monster 2004. Neither one will make the Top 30.

 Q:  Todd from Chattanooga asks:
Your honest opinion! 5 years from now - Jeff Samardzija is: A.) A frontline starter B.) A middle relief guy C.) closer —or— D.) Brady Quinn's sideline warm-up guy?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Well, my honest opinion is I have no idea. He's a huge enigma. On one hand, all the physical aptitude is there and you have to cut him some slack because he hasn't pitched or focused on baseball for very long. But then a guy with his natural ability should miss a lot more bats. I'll split the difference between those who think he'll be a stud and those who think he'll wash out, and choose B. And yeah, that's the easy way out.

 Q:  Daniel C McBreen from Chicago asks:
How far down has Eric Patterson dropped? Were the Cubs grooming him to be a utility player or was his defense so bad they thought they'd try him in the outfield? And is it correct to think his only chance of big league playing time is in a different organization...if they think Matsui is an option, I'd guess that answer is yes.?
 A: 

Jim Callis: He fell just short of making the Top 10. The Cubs still like him and he has a nice broad base of offensive tools. But I think you can read into the fact that they have him playing outfield that they don't think he can get it done defensively at second base. That's my read, too. If he stays with the Cubs, I think he'll be more of a utility guy.

 Q:  Don from Chicago asks:
With Jose Ceda breaking out as a reliever and demonstrating above average control and a major league ready fastball, do you forsee him as being a possible possible September call-up in 2008? Or is his stuff still too raw to expect such a jump?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Well, he doesn't have above-average control. That's his big weakness right now. But he does have a big league fastball and slider. If he can throw enough strikes, yes, I think he'll be up this year. The quality of his stuff is already there.

 Q:  steve S from Davis, CA asks:
If you reranked the Cubs top ten prospects just by ceiling, how much would this list change? I think Vitters would still be #1, but would Veal and Samardzija become #2 and #3?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Nice question. Vitters would be No. 1, followed by Samardzija, Veal, Colvin and Soto. That might be a little light on Soto, though. If replicating his performance this year would be his ceiling, you're talking about an all-star catcher.

 Q:  Ryan from Chicago asks:
Any truth to the Carl Crawford rumors? If so (or even if not) what kind of package would it take to get him? Hill, Veal, Cedeno and Patterson?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Who knows with trade rumors? Crawford is very good and very affordable. I think Hill would have to be part of the package, and I think the Cubs would have to put more behind him than what Ryan has offered. Cedeno and Patterson are more spare parts and wouldn't start for the Rays (though I think Cedeno still could be the Cubs' long-term starter).

 Q:  Navin from Pasadena, CA asks:
What are the chances Billy Petrick can return to the starting rotation again?
 A: 

Jim Callis: He had a lot of success out of the bullpen this year, so I think they'll keep him in that role for a while. His stuff played up, no surprise, and he had no physical problems after having shoulder issues in the past. His bulldog mentality also fits well in that role.

 Q:  Don from Rosemont, IL asks:
Jim, Could you let me know your thoughts on a few younger pitching prospects: Chris Huseby, Larry Suarez, and Robert Hernandez? Hernandez had a decent year at Peoria for someone his age and he seems to be a guy that could project to throw harder as he fills out.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Huseby stuff was down a little this year, typical for a young pitcher in his first full pro season. I thought the Cubs overpaid for him at $1.3 million, but he does have a lot of upside. Suarez is a big Venezuelan, so he gets comped to Zambrano a lot. Good arm but far away. Hernandez gets the least fanfare but could be the best of the three. Pitched in low Class A at age 18, held his own, good arm, good changeup.

 Q:  Michael Stern from Rochester NY asks:
All I see and read is that Vitters is supposed to be this tremendous hitter, however he hit only .390 in high school (where all your top prospects like Moustakas, Heyward, Revere, Fairley all hit .500 - .550.) And then in pro ball he was terrible - barely hitting .100. Why all the hype? Where does it come from? And is it justified?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Michael, he had pneumonia during the spring and tried to play through it in southern California, a high school hotbed. Not to slight Revere or Fairley, but .390 in California is comparable to .500-.550 in Kentucky or Mississippi easy. Vitters tore up the showcase circuit last year against the best pitchers in the nation. He's legit.

 Q:  Justin Riddick from Nashville, TN asks:
One prospect that interested me was Wellington Castillo, who started out as a teenager in Low-A and was named the best defensive catcher while having a respectable year at the plate. How close did he come to making the Top 10, and does he have a good ceiling as a major league regular?
 A: 

Jim Callis: He is interesting, and I'm still trying to figure out how many L's there are in WelingtonWellington. Castillo is in the 11-20 range. The defense is advanced for his age and there's potential with the bat. I'd say his ceiling is as a decent to solid regular right now.

 Q:  Mudcatsfan from Halfway between Zebulon and Greensboro asks:
He's Pudgy ! He's Portly ! Hell hit Three Forty ! Soooootooooooooo ! Ahem. How long to you figure Geovany has to solidify himself before someone tries to take his spot? IE Jake Fox, Josh Donaldson.
 A: 

Jim Callis: And the award for today's most creative question . . . Soto is another tough guy to figure. He had a great year, hit much better than he ever had previously, then kept it going in September with the Cubs and even homered in the playoffs. If he's for real, he could be an all-star, because he's a solid defender as well. Fox can't catch, and Donaldson is at least two years away, so Soto has plenty of time to establish himself.

 Q:  Justin from Nashville, TN asks:
Is Darwin Barney's upside pretty comparable to Ryan Theriot's, or could he possibly be a little better?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Interesting comp . . . Theriot has better defensive tools and more speed than Barney, and Barney has a little more potential with the bat. Both are gamers, key parts of College World Series champions, who get the most out of their ability. They're pretty comparable.

 Q:  Jon from Peoria asks:
What do you think of Kyler Burke or Mitch Atkins as sleeper guys?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I like Burke more. He'll be in the 11-20 range, while Atkins would be a 31-40 guy if we went that deep. Burke has the tools to become a good RF and I'm surprised the Padres traded him so quickly. Atkins has a good arm. I think he'll wind up as a reliever if he makes the majors.

 Q:  Dave B from Pittsburgh asks:
Would you have picked Vitters with the third pick? Can you give us a good comp? Will he stay at 3B?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I might have taken Jason Heyward there, as I am enthralled by Heyward. But Vitters was a legit No. 3 pick, and the Pirates would have loved him at No. 4. He should be able to stay at third base and play average defense. If he reaches his ceiling, you're talking about a .300-hitting, 30-plus HR third baseman. He could become what Aramis Ramirez is today.

 Q:  Nate from Richmond, RI asks:
How far has Mark Pawelek's stock fallen? Can he still be called a legitimate prospect at this point?
 A: 

Jim Callis: The Cubs haven't given hope, but I haven't heard much good about him from other organizations who have seen him. His mechanics aren't good, his stuff is down. He needs to start showing something in 2008.

 Q:  Nate from Richmond, RI asks:
Alessandro Maestri's stats are ridiculously impressive, especially considering that his worst outings came in his 4 starts. As far as relief prospects go, is he the best in the system, and how quickly will he move? Also, does Hendry & Co. consider him to be the future closer of this team?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Well, Jose Ceda is clearly the top relief prospect for the Cubs. But Maestri isn't too far down the list. His fastball and slider really played up out of the bullpen, and he had better stuff than Chicago expected. He's still another 1.5 to 2 years away at least. Carlos Marmol and Ceda are 1-2 in line to be the future closer for the Cubs.

 Q:  ScottAZ from Phx, AZ asks:
Where does Jonathan Wyatt rank in the organization and how does he profile? He showed excellent on base skills, hit for surprising power, and has obvious plus-plus speed. Could he factor into the team's plans or is he seen more as a 4th OFer?
 A: 

Jim Callis: He's really a fourth outfielder, despite his nice debut. He's a good athlete with some speed and defensive skills, but I don't think there's enough bat to make him a big league regular. And that comes from someone who went to Georgia, just like Wyatt did.

 Q:  Justin from Nashville, TN asks:
What can you tell us about Ty Wright and Casey Lambert, a couple of college senior picks from this year's draft who had pretty good debuts?
 A: 

Jim Callis: The Cubs are very pleased with both. Lambert will move quickly as a lefty reliever with the best curveball in the system. Look out, Will Ohman and Scott Eyre. Wright can hit for average and may be able to play center field.

 Q:  J.P. from Springfield asks:
Holliman has the control, but can he develop enough velocity to make an appearance in the bigs anytime soon?
 A: 

Jim Callis: The stuff isn't overwhelming, but he throws strikes and competes. You could see him up in Chicago at some point this year, though his future is as a No. 5 starter or middle reliever.

 Q:  jerry from asks:
where do you think Tyler Colvin will start this year? Do you think they will keep him in center or right? Do you think he has a chance to make the club this year?
 A: 

Jim Callis: The Cubs have moved him aggressively and I could see him starting the year in Triple-A. My guess is he'll continue to see a lot of time in center, because Chicago hasn't settled on a center fielder in the majors. I think he needs a full year of minor league at-bats to tighten his zone and adjust to offspeed stuff. Though I could also see Lou Piniella falling in love with Colvin, too.

 Q:  Jon from Peoria asks:
It's definitely too early to consider moving Vitters from third, but do you think he could play a corner outfield spot or even at shortstop in the future?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Corner outfield, yes, he'd be at least adequate out there. Shortstop, no chance.

 Q:  Navin from Pasadena, CA asks:
Can you tell me anything about Dae-Eun Rhee, the Cubs big IFA signing from South Korea who debuted in the instructional leagues? Thank you very much!
 A: 

Jim Callis: I can . . . Rhee signed for $525,000 this summer. He has a lot of polish for an 18-year-old, with a very sound delivery and an advanced changeup. He throws strikes, gets up to 92-93 mph with his fastball, flashes a good curveball, still projectable at 6-3 and 180 pounds. Sounds very interesting. He'll be on the Top 30.

 Q:  Matt C from Surprisingly mild Central Iowa asks:
Where will the Cubs farm system rank overall in the 2008 handbook, the single digits, teens or twenties? Your best guess as to 2009, given the last few drafts? In other words, are they going forward or regressing? Thanks in advance.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Tim Wilken has added a lot of depth in his two years as scouting director. We ranked the Cubs No. 18 coming into 2007, and I suspect they'll be right around the same area in 2008 and up a few spots in 2009.

 Q:  Justin from Nashville, TN asks:
Steve Clevenger had a ridiculously good K:AB ratio this year. What's his potential like, and can he stay at catcher?
 A: 

Jim Callis: He does a great job of making contact and hitting for average, and he has a little pop. He's still rough behind the plate, after just converting, but there's some potential there. The Cubs will keep him behind the plate to see if he can make it work.

 Q:  Rob Pepper from Chicago asks:
I remember seeing Veal pitch in 2006 and just thinking this guy is going to be awesome. What in the world happened to him in 2007? One game he'd be unhittable and strike out 14 and the next he'd get shelled.
 A: 

Jim Callis: His command and his curveball just waver too much at this point. When they're on, he's very good. When not, he's not.

Moderator: Thanks for all the questions today. J.J. Cooper will be taking your Reds queries on Wednesday. See you then!

 Q:  Jody from Chicago asks:
Hi Jim! Ronny Cedeno question: I know you're one of his few supporters, but why do you think he doesn't have the starting SS job waiting for him with a bow on it in spring training? Sure, he took his knocks with the big club in 2006, but he dominated AAA in 2007 and showed much more confidenceresults with the Cubs upon his return. He's got a better glove than anyone else considered for the gig, and likely a better bat, so what gives? Is this another player Dusty's poor ability in developingmanaging prospects has damaged?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Bonus question I couldn't resist: I think the job is Ryan Theriot's to lose heading into spring training. That said, I like Cedeno more for the long term. But he had a dreadful year playing every day in 2006, and now he's going to have to wait for another chance. I can't blame Dusty Baker for Cedeno. He got 534 at-bats in 2006 and hit .245-.271-.339. That's Cedeno's fault.