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, 2009.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
I'm a bit surprised not to see Colvin on the list this year. What does he need to improve upon after a mediocre 2008, and was he one of your last cuts?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Let's kick this chat off a couple of minutes early while we await the results of the HOF voting . . . I couldn't put Tyler Colvin on the Top 10 this year. I won't give away a lot of the specific 11-30 rankings from the Top 30 in the Prospect Handbook, but to show you how close he was, I'll tell you that Colvin came in at No. 16. He's intriguing and has some athleticism, but it's hard to find a scout outside the organization with much enthusiasm for him. His elbow did bother him last year and required Tommy John surgery, but I don't think the elbow can take all the blame for a .256/.312/.424 season with a 101-44 K-BB ratio. The consensus from scouts were that his tools looked pretty fringy across the board in 2008 and that he's not going to be a center fielder. If he's playing on a corner, he's going to have to do a lot more offensively.

 Q:  Ben from Leland Grove asks:
Did Aaron Shafer merit consideration for your list? What can you tell us about him?
 A: 

Jim Callis: He did. In fact, this year we've introduced a premium for people who buy the Prospect Handbook directly from Baseball America. We hope to ship the book next week, and if you bought from us, you'll get a bonus insert with a scouting report on each team's No. 31 prospect. For the Cubs, No. 31 is Shafer. I like him and think he'll move up close to the Top 10 after his first full season.

 Q:  Craig from Calgary, Alberta asks:
Is Mark Pawelek a total bust, or does he still have a chance to put it together and make it to the majors?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I think he can safely be classified as a total bust right now. I'll be surprised if he ever pitches in the majors. So the next time you read where Scott Boras talks about how his draft clients always deliver on their promise, remember that Pawelek was one of his.

 Q:  Paul from FL asks:
How close was Brandon Guyer to your Top 10? I see you have him on your 2012 lineup card and proclaim him the Best Athlete on the team.
 A: 

Jim Callis: He was close. The Cubs don't have a lot of depth, and at one point I considered Guyer in the middle of the Top 10. He ultimately wound up in the 11-15 range. I'd like to see him fully healthy and in a more age-appropriate league (he was 22 in low Class A last year), and he's still raw, but he has the best all-around tools in the system.

 Q:  Harry from RI asks:
What's left for Felix Pie?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I don't think he's going to be a superstar, but I'm still not convinced that he's not the best CF option (considering offense and defense) that the Cubs have. I don't think Lou Piniella agrees with me, though, so maybe Pie winds up as trade bait.

 Q:  Otto from Kankakee, IL asks:
If the Top 100 list was live today how many Cubs would make it, and approximately where would Vitters rank?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I ranked Vitters No. 37 when I put together my personal Top 50 for the Prospect Handbook. I suspect Jeff Samardzija will make the back half of our Top 100 Prospects list, and those will probably be the only two Cubs on there.

 Q:  Christy from Springfield, IL asks:
Hi Jim: How would you rate Chris Huseby after an underwhelming performance in the AZL this year? What type of ceiling does Matt Cerda have and what position will he end up at?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Huseby has shown very little in three pro seasons, and he's going to have to make significant progress in 2009 before I believe he's going to amount to much in the majors. Cerda has a nice ceiling as an offensive-minded catcher, and he will get every opportunity to make it work behind the plate.

 Q:  Navin from Pasadena, CA asks:
Last year at this time, I asked you about Dae-Eun Rhee and you clued us in on him. This time, I was wondering if you could fill us in on the Cubs two most recent Korean signees: Soo-Min Jung and Jae-Hoon Ha. Thank you very much!
 A: 

Jim Callis: Su-Min Jung is the better of those two and checked in at No. 30 on the Top 30. He projects to pitch in the low 90s with a plus breaking ball down the road. He signed for $510,000 out of the same high school that produced Shin-Soo Choo and Cha Seung Baek. Ha, a catcher, isn't as highly regarded. He signed for $225,000.

 Q:  Don from Rosemont, IL asks:
Could you please explain Jay Jackson's ranking compared to Carpenter or Shafer? Is Jackson's stuff much better? How much did his performance at both Class-A levels impact where he is?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Jackson (a ninth-rounder last June) made the Top 10, while Shafer (second round) and Carpenter (third round) did not. There were several reasons for this. In no particular order, Jackson has a cleaner medical history, he performed better and at a higher level, and he has quality stuff and a deeper repertoire. Jackson has a low-90s fastball and a mid-80s slider, and his curveball and changeup could be solid-average pitches in time.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
What was the rationale behind the Gregg/Ceda trade?
 A: 

Jim Callis: That really caught me off guard. Ceda would have ranked third on the Cubs Top 10 and I thought they could have used him as a chip in a bigger trade. Chicago is definitely in win-now mode, and apparently valued Gregg's proven track record in the big leagues more than Ceda's promise. The Cubs would love to try to develop Samardzija as a starter, and they will do that if they feel like they have enough big league bullpen arms, and Gregg adds to that stock.

 Q:  Ben from Leland Grove asks:
With a plethora of SS prospects in the system, does Flaherty look to be potential trade bait?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Potentially? Sure. But Flaherty is probably more of a second or third baseman down the road. The Cubs have a lot of third-base prospects, too, but if Flaherty could handle second base, he'd be their best prospect there. He'll probably stick at shortstop in 2009.

 Q:  Warren from Texas asks:
Was Robert Hernandez in the discussion for Top 10? How does he profile as a prospect? Thanks for the chat!
 A: 

Jim Callis: He's definitely a prospect but not a Top 10 guy (or a Top 30 guy, for that matter). He took a hit with a 50-game suspension for PEDs and didn't perform well when he repeated low Class A. He needs to get back on track in 2009.

 Q:  Lorenzo from Chicago asks:
Where do the Cubs rank overall this year?
 A: 

Jim Callis: In our farm-system rankings in the Prospect Handbook, the Cubs came in at No. 27.

 Q:  Ulysses from Tallahassee, FL asks:
Tony Thomas - prospect or suspect?
 A: 

Jim Callis: More prospect than suspect. But his bat was a disappointment last year and scouts outside the organization don't love his defense at second base. This will be a big year for him in Double-A.

 Q:  Shawn from Rochester asks:
How close did Larry Suarez come to making the Top 10? Is he ready for full-season leagues yet after a solid showing in the AFL? How high is his ceiling and how well do his pitches rate? Do the Cubs still see him starting down the line or might they move him to the bullpen sooner rather than later?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Suarez wasn't really close to the Top 10 and didn't even make the Top 30 after what was kind of a lost season. He had problems with some glass lodged in his arm from an accident before he signed, and only pitched 20 innings. He has a good arm and can be a mid-rotation starter if he develops nicely and keeps his weight under control. He's still seen as a starter.

 Q:  Jon from Lexington, KY asks:
I read a report in the Chicago Tribune that the Cubs traded Ceda after deciding that Marcus Mateo had passed him on the depth chart at reliever, and then the Cubs proceeded to add Mateo to the 40-man roster. Is there any truth to that report?
 A: 

Jim Callis: The Cubs are high on Mateo, who has a plus fastball and, at times, an untouchable slider. But I wouldn't put Mateo ahead of Ceda and it would surprise me if the Cubs felt that way.

 Q:  Jon from Peoria asks:
Did John Gaub become the top lefthanded prospect in the Cubs organization once he was traded? Are there any other lefties of note?
 A: 

Jim Callis: It would be either Gaub or Jeffry Antigua. Casey Lambert could be a useful lefty reliever. Other lefties of note include Jeff Beliveau, James Russell and James Leverton.

 Q:  Jon from Peoria asks:
What is the scouting report on Justin Berg? Would you have protected him on the 40-man roster ahead of Veal?
 A: 

Jim Callis: He's got one very nice pitch in a hard sinker, but the rest of his game is very inconsistent. I think his ceiling would be as a seventh-inning reliever. With Veal, he's so out of whack that it's hard to see him sticking with a big league club. So I can understand the decision. The Cubs think they'll get Veal back from the Pirates.

 Q:  Jason F from asks:
Please tell me that at least one Indian prospect (Stevens) just missed the top 10 - We gave up our team MVP (which by the way would have brought back a type A pick next year if we didn't sign him after the season).
 A: 

Jim Callis: I can't tell you that. The Cubs apparently had to deal DeRosa and Marquis to make room for Milton Bradley's contract. I haven't liked a lot of their offseason moves, to be honest. I think they'll really miss the ability to plug DeRosa in all over the diamond and get solid production out of him. As mentioned, I thought they could have used Ceda in a better trade. They may miss Marquis' innings, too. The three Indians pitchers are interesting but not anything special yet. Stevens can help in middle relief, but Gaub and Archer are quite a ways away. This would make more sense if the final move is the acquisition of Jake Peavy, but it's unclear if that will really happen.

 Q:  James from Whiteman Air Force Base, MO asks:
How close was Mitch Atkins to making the top 10? Will he be seeing time in the majors this year? Do you think he will remain a starter or possibly go to the pen?
 A: 

Jim Callis: He wasn't close to the Top 10 for me but I wouldn't be the first guy to underestimate him. He wound up in the 18-25 range. Atkins really doesn't have an overly impressive pitch or sterling command, but he goes out and makes pitches and wins. I think he's a middle reliever in the long run.

Moderator: FYI, Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice have been elected to the Hall of Fame, while Andre Dawson and Bert Blyleven finished third and fourth in the balloting.

 Q:  Navin from Pasadena, CA asks:
Thanks as always for a great list and the chat. What are your thought on Jovan Rosa? He doesn't seem to have a position right now but you can't ignore 40+ doubles in his first full pro season. Can he turn some of those doubles into home runs?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Rosa is probably more of a first baseman than a third baseman in the long run. But he has one of the better bats in the system, and he led the MWL with 43 doubles last year. He hit seven homers, and I think down the road you will see some of those doubles become homers. He has 15-20 homer power in him.

 Q:  Rick from Dexter, MN asks:
Who do you think has a better future: Josh Vitters or the guy taken ahead of him in the 2007 draft, Mike Moustakas?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I like Moustakas a little more. That said, Vitters may have a better chance of sticking at third base. And while he has just 14 at-bats in full-season ball, it's easy to forget that Vitters was 18 for most of the 2008 season. He hit very well in the Northwest League and is still ahead of where most players his age should be. I think he'll tear up the Midwest League this year.

 Q:  Jeff from NoCal asks:
In your opinion, are Smardizja and Cashner going to end up in the bullpen? Question - Is his stuff All Star quality out of the pen or are they better off letting him grow into a starter in a year or two? It seems to me, Smardzija has the athletic ability and intelligence to transform but the Cubs will have to let him work on things in the minors which they may not have the luxury of doing this year.
 A: 

Jim Callis: The Cubs see both as starters, but my gut feel says both will be relievers. Samardzija has a better chance to start for me, as I can buy that he has had little time to develop and can continue to make improvements after making a huge leap next year. Cashner pitched much better in relief last year than he had as a starter in high school or junior college. If they have enough bullpen arms, the Cubs won't be afraid to send The Shark to Triple-A to work on starting.

 Q:  Bill from Tempe, AZ asks:
Jim, thanks for the chat. Esmailin Caridad was hitting 97 with his fastball in the AFL. What's his prospect status in the Cubs organization and did he come close to the top ten?
 A: 

Jim Callis: He ranked in the 21-25 range. He touches 96 but usually pitches in the low 90s, and he lacks a lot of deception and life, so he's more of a groundball guy than a strikeout artist. His breaking ball is average and his changeup is fringy. I think he's going to be a middle reliever or swingman.

 Q:  Michael Stern from Rochester NY asks:
Do you see any future for Hoffpauir in Chicago? With D. Lee there he is blocked at 1B. Where can he go? I realize he's gonna be 29 and not really a prospect any more, but boy, .362 with 25 HR and 100 RBI in only 290 AB - that was a phenomenal year at AAA in 2008 - even for the PCL. And he did hit .342 during his short stint in Chicago. Do you think he;s ready to help someone in the majors? And who?
 A: 

Jim Callis: He's definitely not getting a shot at the RF job either now that Bradley has signed. I think Hoffpauir's ceiling with the Cubs will be to fell the Daryle Ward role while offering more athleticism and defensive versatility. Not sure he's really an everyday player in the majors and he's old, but those Triple-A numbers were astounding and it's unfortunate he won't get more of a shot.

 Q:  Steve from Lubbock, TX asks:
Hi Jim, Where do you have James Leverton ranked in the system? Would you consider him a sleeper similar to Jackson?
 A: 

Jim Callis: He didn't make the Top 30 but he's a sleeper who could move quickly as a lefty reliever. He was a two-way player in college, and those guys tend to perform better once they focus solely on pitching.

 Q:  Mudcatsfan from Raleigh, NC asks:
How much of Flaherty's success was due to him seeing pitches protecting Alvarez? Obviously he can stand on his own, but can he lay off the junk when he's the best bat in the lineup?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I'm not sure how batting behind Alvarez would have made things easier for Flaherty. He's a legit bat in any case. I wouldn't worry about his hitting.

 Q:  Justin from Nashville, TN asks:
What do you think of Nelson Perez? He seemed to be one of the big breakout guys in Rookie ball this year and got some rave reviews, but how worked up can you be about an older player in Mesa without much patience?
 A: 

Jim Callis: That's Perez in a nutshell. He's intriguing, but let's see how he performs against more advanced pitching.

 Q:  Matt from Toronto asks:
Of the Cubs strong group of SS prospects, who has... A) the best chance of becoming a solid big league regular B) the best tools and the most upside
 A: 

Jim Callis: A.: Starlin Castro. He can hit and stay at shortstop. B.: Castro or Hak-Ju Lee. A lot of scouts would give Lee's speed a 70 or 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale and are intrigued by his lefty bat. He had Tommy John surgery after signing last year and has yet to make his debut.

 Q:  Justin from Nashville, TN asks:
I thought Steve Clevenger had a chance for the Top 10. Pretty versatile player who can play IF and C, and he doesn't strike out much. Does he profile as a regular catcher?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Clevenger is getting there, and he ranked No. 11 on our Cubs list. The catching is still a work in progress but he's improving. Once he gets more accustomed to catching, his bat should improve, too. He has a chance to be a regular catcher, though probably not with the Cubs with Geovany Soto ahead of him.

 Q:  Lyle from Tampa asks:
Slightly off-topic, but has the Handbook shipped yet? Very, very, very anxious to get my copy (and your bonus # 31 insert).
 A: 

Jim Callis: It's supposed to ship in the middle of next week. You'll have it very soon.

 Q:  Justin from Nashville, TN asks:
If Donald Veal comes back to the organization, would he rank in the Top 10, or has his stock fallen so far that he wouldn't make it?
 A: 

Jim Callis: His stock has bottomed out. He wasn't going to make the Top 30 before the Rule 5 draft. He can't hold plus velocity for more than a couple of innings and the rest of his game is a mess. He's probably going to have to be a reliever and did not look good in that role in the Arizona Fall League.

 Q:  Justin from Nashville, TN asks:
Does Alessandro Maestri project as a starter or a reliever? I saw him once this year, and it looks like he's got a decent 89-92 fastball and decent stuff.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Justin dominating with the questions late in the chat. He has enough stuff to start, but his stuff played up better in the bullpen. He also came down with a tender shoulder trying to start, so he'll be a reliever in the future.

 Q:  dj from georgia asks:
Ive heard a lot of things about Casey Coleman, what do you have on him? good background i know and pitched well in all three levels he appeared in this year along side jay jackson
 A: 

Jim Callis: Another promising pick from the 2009 draft. He has a nice fastball/curve combination, plus terrific bloodlines (his father and grandfather were all-star pitchers). He didn't make the Top 30 but I could see him doing that a year from now with a full season under his belt.

 Q:  Justin from Nashville, TN asks:
What are your feelings on Ty Wright? He had a really nice second half for Daytona this year.
 A: 

Jim Callis: I like him and included him in the 21-30 range. He has a lot of Reed Johnson in him and quietly played through a sports hernia last year.

 Q:  Mudcatsfan from Raleigh, NC asks:
Wellington Castillo obviously is blocked, can you see a trade that matches up well for him? I'd love to see him in Florida for one of our mid-ceiling pitching prospects. (ie: not Tucker or West) Would it take that much?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Not sure the Marlins would give up one of those guys, but Castillo is intriguing. He still needs to polish up his defense, but the tools are there. In the long run, Clevenger could be a better backup for Soto because he hits lefthanded (Castillo is a righty) and can play other positions. So Castillo very well could be used as trade bait.

 Q:  Cubbies Junkie from Naperville asks:
Bottom line - do you see us getting Peavy? If so, what's it gonna take?
 A: 

Jim Callis: It's hard to say because both clubs are going through ownership changes. If it happens, there's a good chance Josh Vitters and Kevin Hart will be headed to San Diego. Ronny Cedeno or Felix Pie could be in there as well.

 Q:  Navin from Pasadena, CA asks:
You mentioned Jeffry Antigua. What is his repertoire like and will he have a chance at full season this year?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Antigua has a fastball that touches 92 mph, a solid changeup and a curveball that should be average. He also has very good feel for pitching and I could see him making the jump to the Midwest League this year. He'll probably be the guy I most regret leaving off the Top 30.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
If Vitters does indeed head over to SD, would he be their #1 prospect there as well?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Easily, yes. I like Kyle Blanks some, but I'd easily take Vitters over him.

Moderator: That's it for today. Our Top 10 chats will continue on Wednesday, when Derrick Goold breaks down the Cardinals.