Chicago Cubs Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports




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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, 2011.

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After the Ricketts family completed its $845 million purchase of the Cubs and related assets in October 2009, the team unveiled its marketing campaign for 2010: "Year One."

Unfortunately, Year One was a lot like the previous 101. Chicago still is seeking its first World Series championship since 1908 and first appearance since 1945, and the big league club is trending in the wrong direction.

The Cubs won 97 games and a second straight National League Central title in 2008, then dropped to 83 victories in 2009 and 75 a year ago. That's not exactly what the Ricketts family thought it was getting with a $146.6 million Opening Day payroll that trailed only the Yankees and Red Sox among major league teams.

Chicago still is paying the price for overaggressive spending, first when it was rebuilding following a 96-loss season in 2006, then when it was trying to get over the hump after getting swept out of the playoffs the next two years. The Cubs signed Ryan Dempster, Kosuke Fukudome, Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano to long-term deals totaling $404.5 million during that period, and they owe those five players $77.5 million for 2011 alone.

There were some silver linings during a disappointing 2010 season. Chicago promoted several prospects to Wrigley Field, and they acquitted themselves well. Starlin Castro nearly made the team out of spring training and came up for good May 7, homering in his first at-bat and driving in six runs in his first game. He became just the third shortstop age 20 or younger to hit .300 while qualifying for the batting title, joining Hall of Famer Arky Vaughan and Alex Rodriguez.

Andrew Cashner made tremendous progress as a starter in the minors before getting summoned to the big league bullpen at the end of May. He held his own with a mid-90s fastball and a mid-80s slider, and he'll move into the rotation for 2011. Casey Coleman, Tyler Colvin and Scott Maine also made successful major league debuts and claimed jobs for the upcoming seasons. Chicago used 10 rookies in an Aug. 18 game against the Padres, including a major league-record six rookie pitchers.

The Cubs responded well to an unanticipated managerial change, playing their best ball after Lou Piniella abruptly resigned Aug. 23 to take care of his ailing mother. They went 51-74 under Piniella and 24-13 under former third-base coach Mike Quade. Quade instilled a greater sense of accountability, including benching Castro for two games for concentration lapses, and had "interim" removed from his job title after the season.

Life was better down on the farm than it was at Wrigley Field. Righthanders Chris Archer and Trey McNutt went a combined 25-4, while outfielder Brett Jackson pounded Double-A pitching in his first full pro season, establishing themselves as the best prospects in the system. Triple-A Iowa and Double-A Tennessee had the best regular-season records in their leagues, and both Class A affiliates had winning marks, with legitimate talent driving all those victories. One pro scout who covered the Cubs opined that they had more future big leaguers than any other organization.

1.  Chris Archer, rhp   Born: Sept. 26, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 180
 Drafted: HS—Clayton, N.C., 2006 (5th round)Signed by: Bob Mayer (Indians)
Chris ArcherBackground: Archer was an afterthought in the class of 2006 high school pitching prospects until he earned a last-minute invitation to the East Coast Professional Showcase the summer before his senior year. He showed a high-80s fastball and an athletic, projectable frame, piquing scouts' interest, then displayed a low-90s heater and sharp slider the following spring. The Indians selected him in the fifth round and signed him away from a Miami commitment for $161,000. Archer received a rude introduction to pro ball, going 1-10, 6.23 in Rookie leagues in his first two seasons and 4-8, 4.29 in low Class A in his third. While he's still not a finished product, he hasn't looked nearly as raw since coming to the Cubs along with relief prospects John Gaub and Jeff Stevens in the Mark DeRosa trade in December 2008. Archer made progress while repeating low Class A in 2009 and then took off last season, when he was Chicago's minor league pitcher of the year and led the system in wins (15), ERA (2.34) and strikeouts (149). Promoted to Double-A in July, he didn't allow an earned run in his first 31 1/3 innings at Tennessee. He continued to star after the season, striking out 10 in six scoreless innings against Cuba in the Pan American Games qualifying tournament in October. He was a no-brainer addition to Chicago's 40-man roster a month later.

Scouting Report: Now that Andrew Cashner has graduated to the big leagues, Archer has the best fastball and slider in the system. He operates from 92-95 mph and touches 97, and though he has an over-the-top delivery, his fastball has some run and sink to it. His slider sits in the mid-80s and peaks at 91 mph, giving him two plus-plus pitches when his command is at its best. His changeup has improved markedly since the trade, and while he throws it a bit hard at times, it should give him an effective third pitch. The Cubs love the way he competes, reaching back for extra velocity when he needs it and demonstrating an ability to win on days when he doesn't have his best stuff. Archer is athletic and has a fluid delivery, and all he has left to do is improve his consistency and command. Though he has cut his walk rate in each of his three years in full-season ball, he still gives up too many free passes. He works up in the strike zone too often, and his high arm slot doesn't afford him much deception, but his stuff is so good that he has surrendered just six homers in 251 innings as a Chicago farmhand.

The Future: Archer draws some Edwin Jackson comparisons, with scouts noting that Archer has better secondary pitches at the same age. He's ready for Triple-A Iowa at age 22 and not far off from the majors, especially if the Cubs wanted to promote him as a reliever like they did with Cashner last year. If Archer continues to progress as he has the last two years, he'll arrive in Wrigley Field around midseason. He projects as a frontline starter if he refines his command, and he easily has the stuff and poise to become a closer.
 
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Daytona (Hi A) 7 1 2.86 15 14 0 0 72 54 4 26 82 .202
Tennessee (AA) 8 2 1.80 13 13 0 0 70 48 2 39 67 .198
 
2.  Brett Jackson, of   Born: Aug. 2, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 210
 Drafted: California, 2009 (1st round)Signed by: John Bartsch
Brett JacksonBackground: The Cubs rated Jackson's bat speed as the best in the 2009 draft, and they got him with the 31st overall pick because many clubs worried about his ability to make consistent contact. That hasn't been an issue since he signed for $972,000, as he already has conquered Double-A. He has been bothered by minor injuries: a strained wrist cut short his pro debut, a bruised heel hampered him with Team USA last October, and a staph infection in his shin ended his time in the Arizona Fall League.

Scouting Report: Jackson's quick bat, loft in his swing and plus speed should make him an annual 20-20 threat in the majors. He could stand to cut down his strikeouts, but he doesn't swing and miss as much as some teams feared and should hit for power and average. He played all three outfield positions last year, showing enough range to get the job done in center and honing his instincts with the help of roving instructor Bobby Dernier. Jackson gets good reads and jumps, has average arm strength and makes accurate throws. His even-keeled demeanor suits him well.

The Future: He's not a true five-tool player or a pure center fielder, but Jackson does a reasonable impression of both. He'll open 2011 in Triple-A, and the Cubs are counting on him to crack their lineup in 2012—if not sooner.
 
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Daytona (Hi A) .316 .420 .517 263 56 83 19 8 6 38 43 63 12
Tennessee (AA) .276 .366 .465 228 47 63 13 6 6 28 30 63 18
 
3.  Trey McNutt, rhp   Born: Aug. 2, 1989B-T: R-RHt: 6-4Wt: 205
 Drafted: Shelton State (Ala.) CC, 2009 (32nd round)Signed by: Jim Crawford/Al Geddes
Trey McNuttBackground: When their Alabama area scout quit early in 2009, the Cubs decided not to replace him. So while other teams saw McNutt work in the high 80s at the start of Shelton State (Ala.) CC's season and backed off, Chicago didn't catch him until the Junior College World Series in June, when he showed a 90-93 mph fastball. After he turned down an eighth-round offer from the Twins, he slid all the way to 32nd round, where the Cubs signed him for $115,000. His stuff has continued to improve, propelling him to Double-A in his first full pro season.

Scouting Report: When he's going good, McNutt has two plus-plus pitches. Though his fastball comes in on a bit of a flat plane, he blows it by hitters at 92-98 mph. He can neutralize lefthanders by pitching to their back foot with his power breaking ball, which is more of curveball than a slider. Once McNutt uses his changeup more, it should become an average third pitch. He's stingy with walks but sometimes lapses into overthrowing, costing him command.

The Future: Ticketed for a return trip to Double-A, McNutt has a profile similar to that of Andrew Cashner and Chris Archer. All three have the stuff to pitch at the front of a rotation or close games.
 
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Peoria (Lo A) 6 0 1.51 13 13 0 0 60 43 0 24 70 .202
Daytona (Hi A) 4 0 2.63 9 9 0 0 41 29 3 9 49 .191
Tennessee (AA) 0 1 5.74 3 3 0 0 16 21 2 4 13 .333
 
4.  Hak-Ju Lee, ss   Born: Nov. 4, 1990B-T: L-RHt: 6-2Wt: 175
 Drafted: Korea, 2008Signed by: Steve Wilson
Hak-Ju LeeBackground: Few clubs scout the Far East as actively as the Cubs, whose biggest recent prize is Lee, signed for $725,000 out of Korea in 2008. He had Tommy John surgery before coming to the United States, but it hasn't held him back. He ranked as the short-season Northwest League's No. 1 prospect in his 2009 pro debut, and he and Brett Jackson represented Chicago at the Futures Game last July.

Scouting Report: A potential leadoff hitter, Lee controls the strike zone and has plus-plus speed. He has the bat speed and strength in his hands to hit for some power once he develops his upper body, though he can get overly aggressive and spin off some balls. Managers rated Lee the best defensive shortstop in the low Class A Midwest League in 2010. He has quick reactions, good range to both sides and a strong arm, though he needs to improve his reads and his focus after making 34 errors in 118 games last year. He also has to break a habit of flipping throws to first base. He picked up English quickly, helping him soak up instruction.

The Future: Lee will play at high Class A Daytona at age 20. The Cubs have time before they'll have to decide where to play him and Starlin Castro on the same club. Lee is quicker and flashier, so he could push Castro to second base.
 
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Peoria (Lo A) .282 .354 .351 485 85 137 22 4 1 40 49 86 32
 
5.  Josh Vitters, 3b   Born: Aug. 27, 1989B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 195

 Drafted: HS—Cypress, Calif., 2007 (1st round)Signed by: Denny Henderson

Josh VittersBackground: The No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 draft and recipient of a $3.2 million bonus, Vitters reached Double-A before he turned 21 but doesn't get a universal seal of approval from scouts. He hit .361 in his first 11 games at Tennessee last May, then just .194 in the next two months before a pitch broke his left hand in late July. He returned in the Arizona Fall League, where he continued to generate mixed opinions.

Scouting Report: In Chicago's view, Vitters has the compact stroke, bat speed, strength and hand-eye coordination to hit .280 with 25 homers a season. Club officials believe he's realizing he has to stop trying to pull everything and avoid putting tough pitches in play, though scouts outside the organization think his lack of patience will undermine his potential. He has worked hard on his quickness and body control, improving his speed and range to close to average. His detractors, however, wonder whether he has enough athleticism for the hot corner. His above-average arm is not in question.

The Future: The Cubs noted a greater sense of urgency in Vitters this offseason and think he's poised to break out at Tennessee in 2011. They hoped he'd be ready in time for them to decline Aramis Ramirez's $16 million contract action for 2012, but that might be pushing it.
 
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Daytona (Hi A) .291 .350 .445 110 16 32 8 0 3 13 8 22 4
Tennessee (AA) .223 .292 .383 206 28 46 12 0 7 26 13 41 2
 
6.  Chris Carpenter, rhp   Born: Dec. 26, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 6-4Wt: 215
 Drafted: Kent State, 2008 (3rd round)Signed by: Lucas McKnight
Chris CarpenterBackground: The highest-drafted high school pitcher in 2004 (seventh round, Tigers) who opted for college, Carpenter had Tommy John surgery as a Kent State freshman and a second elbow procedure the following year. Though his medical history dropped him to the third round of the 2008 draft, he hasn't missed a start as a pro. He opened eyes as a reliever in the Arizona Fall League after last season

Scouting Report: Carpenter profiles as a No. 3 starter or set-up man. Pitching out of the rotation, he works at 91-96 mph with his fastball, which has good life for a four-seamer. In relief in the AFL, he pitched at 94-99 mph and touched 101 in the Rising Stars Game. His low-80s breaking ball is a solid slider with bite at times and more slurvy at others. His changeup has deception and fade but probably won't ever be more than his third pitch. Carpenter still is figuring out control and command, as he runs into problems with walks and gets hit more than someone with his fastball should. He needs to do a better job of controlling the running game after giving up 23 steals in 29 attempts last year. He works diligently to stay healthy.

The Future: Carpenter hasn't dominated as a starter, so he may be in for a change of roles. It's possible he could begin 2011 in Iowa's rotation and finish the season in Chicago's bullpen.
 
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Tennessee (AA) 8 6 3.16 23 23 0 0 120 118 5 48 100 .262
Iowa (AAA) 0 0 5.40 3 3 0 0 15 19 3 9 12 .317
 
7.  Matt Szczur, of   Born: July 29, 1989B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 190
 Drafted: Villanova, 2010 (5th round)Signed by: Tim Adkins
Matt SzczurBackground: Szczur led Villanova to the 2009 NCAA football championship subdivision title, winning MVP honors in the final game with 270 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. He made more headlines last May, when he took time out of his baseball season to donate peripheral blood cells to a 1-year-old girl fighting leukemia. After missing three weeks, Szczur homered in his first at-bat back. The Cubs fell in love with his hitting ability, athleticism and makeup and drafted him in the fifth round. He signed for $100,000 and began his pro career with a 21-game hitting streak. Szczur returned to Villanova for his senior football season. Though he missed time with a high ankle sprain, he accounted for five touchdowns in an FCS quarterfinal game before the Wildcats were eliminated in the next round.

Scouting Report: Szczur's athletic ability is exciting enough, but it's his hitting skills that could make him a special player. Chicago marvels at his knack for barreling balls, and combined with his top-of-the-scale speed he should hit for high averages. He hits 400-foot bombs in batting practice, and once he gets more coaching and learns to finish through the ball better, he could have average or better power. He's refining his basestealing and baserunning, but his speed alone makes him a threat. Villanova football coach Andy Talley says Szczur is his fastest player ever, ahead of star NFL running back Brian Westbrook. In his short time in pro ball, Szczur's center-field play and his throwing made significant strides. He'll have plus-plus range once he improves his jumps, and his arm strength rated as average after he loosened up some of his football tightness. His competitiveness and work ethic are impeccable.

The Future: He has more upside than any position player in the system, but Szczur also projects as a mid-round NFL draft pick as a slot receiver and kick returner. The Cubs would hate to lose him. If he makes a written commitment to them before the NFL scouting combine in February, his baseball contract calls for an additional $500,000 payment.
 
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
AZL Cubs (R) .500 .750 .500 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 1
Boise (SS) .397 .439 .521 73 17 29 9 0 0 8 6 11 1
Peoria (Lo A) .192 .300 .308 26 6 5 1 1 0 2 3 5 0
 
8.  Hayden Simpson, rhp   Born: May 20, 1989B-T: R-RHt: 6-0Wt: 175
 Drafted: Southern Arkansas, 2010 (1st round)Signed by: Jim Crawford
Hayden SimpsonBackground: Chicago pulled the first huge surprise of the 2010 draft when it selected Simpson with the 16th overall pick. Considered as a fourth- to sixth-round talent by most clubs, he ranked second in NCAA Division II in wins (13) and strikeouts (131) last spring and went 35-2, 2.39 in three college seasons. A bad case of mononucleosis prevented him from pitching during the summer or instructional league, after he signed for a below-slot $1.06 million.

Scouting Report: Simpson uses a quick arm and a strong lower half to throw a low-90s fastball, and the Cubs saw him work at 94-97 in a Division II playoff game. They project him as a No. 2 or 3 starter with four average or better pitches, including a knee-buckling curveball, hard slider and effective changeup, not to mention plus control and command. Other teams don't rate his stuff quite as highly and think he'll have to add life to his fastball and work lower in the strike zone. They also wonder if he has the size to hold up as a starter, though Chicago thinks his athleticism will help in that regard.

The Future: Simpson lost 15 pounds before heading to the Cubs' Arizona complex in November to regain strength. If he performs well in spring training, he could make his pro debut at high Class A Daytona.
 
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Did Not Play—Illness
 
9.  Rafael Dolis, rhp   Born: Jan. 10, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 6-4Wt: 215
 Drafted: Dominican Republic, 2004Signed by: Jose Serra/Marino Encarnacion
Rafael DolisBackground: The Cubs like to experiment with failed position players as pitchers, and they've turned former catchers into their closer (Carlos Marmol) and No. 4 starter (Randy Wells). They signed Dolis as a shortstop and moved him to the mound before he made his U.S. debut in 2006. He missed most of 2007 and all of 2008 with elbow issues that resulted in Tommy John surgery, then claimed a spot on the 40-man roster when he hit 101 mph in instructional league in 2009.

Scouting Report: Dolis' stuff kicked up a notch when then-pitching coordinator (and current big league pitching coach) Mark Riggins had him go to a full windup in the fall of 2009. Dolis pitched at 94-96 mph as a starter last season, holding his velocity deep into games, and if he moves to the bullpen he could work in the upper 90s. His mid-80s slider gives him a second potential plus pitch, and he also shows feel for a changeup. His command and control are still works in progress, understandable for a former infielder with less than 300 innings under his belt.

The Future: Dolis has the power repertoire to close games, though it's too early to give up on him as a starter. At worst, the extra innings will give him some much-needed experience. After finishing 2010 in Double-A, he'll return there to start this season.
 
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Daytona (Hi A) 4 5 2.92 14 13 1 0 71 63 3 30 48 .242
Tennessee (AA) 5 4 4.07 12 12 0 0 55 65 3 27 45 .295
 
10.  Brandon Guyer, of   Born: Jan. 26, 1986B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 210
 Signed: Virginia, 2007 (5th round)Signed by: Billy Swoope
Brandon GuyerBackground: When the Cubs scouted Guyer at a 2007 NCAA playoff game, they saw him dislocate his left shoulder in a home-plate collision. The shoulder bothered him for his first two years in pro ball, and it led to another stint on the disabled list last May. That didn't stop him from leading the system in batting (.344) and the Double-A Southern League in slugging (.588) and OPS (.986), which earned him the organization's minor league player of the year award and a spot on the 40-man roster.

Scouting Report: An all-Virginia high school running back and linebacker who drew interest from college football programs, Guyer has solid power, plus speed and the best present outfield skills in the system. He's aggressive in all phases of the game, which hurts him at the plate because he makes contact so easily that he doesn't draw many walks. He knows how to use his quickness on the bases, swiping 30 bags in 33 tries last year. Guyer can play all three outfield positions, thanks to his speed and instincts. His arm has improved to where it's now average, and it's accurate as well.

The Future: Scouts see Guyer as a lesser version of Brett Jackson or a stronger version of Reed Johnson. Guyer's encore this year in Triple-A will help determine whether he'll become a regular or a fourth outfielder.
 
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Tennessee (AA) .344 .398 .588 369 76 127 39 6 13 58 27 51 30

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