2012 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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Chicago Cubs

As you might have heard, the Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908 or appeared in one since 1945. Their win total just declined for the third year in the row, and they finished 2011 with the second-worst record and fourth-oldest roster in the National League. Their farm system can't offer many immediate solutions.

Yet optimism runs rampant among Chicago fans, thanks to a front-office makeover that began with the firing of Jim Hendry in mid-August. Hendry was the most accomplished general manager in the franchise's modern history, building five winning teams and three playoff clubs in nine full seasons. But his increasing focus on the short term eventually left the Cubs with an aging roster, a bloated payroll and no obvious way to escape.

Owner Tom Ricketts actually dismissed him four weeks before the move was announced, but Hendry stayed on to conclude negotiations with the most expensive draft class in franchise history. Chicago handed out seven-figure bonuses to shortstop Javier Baez (first round), first baseman Dan Vogelbach (second), outfielder Shawon Dunston Jr. (11th) and righthander Dillon Maples (14th) while spending a total of $12 million. By comparison, it paid $8.7 million in bonuses in the previous two drafts combined.

The Cubs also have been aggressive seeking talent in Latin America and Asia, and Ricketts' commitment to player development attracted interest throughout the industry. Theo Epstein mentioned it as a major factor in why he decided to leave the Red Sox, where he won two World Series in nine years as GM, to become Chicago's president of baseball operations in October. He received a five-year, $18.5 million contract.

"As the Cubs' draft went on, we were sitting around in our draft room and we could tell what they were doing,'' Epstein said at his introductory press conference. "We said, 'Hey, they get it, they're finally getting it.' . . . That got my attention, the attention of a lot of other people in the game.''

Padres GM Jed Hoyer and vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod also took notice. Hoyer and McLeod, who helped build those championship teams in Boston before revitalizing the farm system in two years in San Diego, assumed the same roles in Chicago a week after Epstein came aboard. The Cubs continued to bolster what had been one of baseball's smallest front offices by hiring well-regarded Diamondbacks pro scout Joe Bohringer as director of pro scouting.

The team also retained most members of the previous administration, with the notable exception of respected longtime scout Gary Hughes, a special assistant who resigned out of loyalty to Hendry. Vice president of player personnel Oneri Fleita, who has overseen the farm system and international scouting, received a four-year contract extension prior to Epstein's arrival. Tim Wilken, who had been director of amateur and pro scouting, now will focus on the draft.

Epstein and Co. have their work cut out for them. The big league club has more bad contracts than young cornerstones and will need at least a year to rebuild, even with the Cubs' vast resources. Outfielder Brett Jackson is ready to play in the majors, but the system's other blue-chip prospects, Baez and outfielder Matt Szczur, are at least a couple of years away.
1. Brett Jackson, OF Born: Aug 02, 1988 B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 210
Drafted: California, 2009 (1st round).  Signed by: John Bartsch
Background: Undrafted out of high school, Jackson went to college at California, impressed scouts in the Cape Cod League in the summer of 2008 and became a first-round pick the following June. The Cubs believed he had the best bat speed in the 2009 draft, yet were able to get him with the 31st overall pick because teams worried whether he could make consistent contact. Signed for $972,000, he has struck out 320 times in 296 minor league games, but that hasn't kept him from being productive. He has earned in-season promotions in each of his three years as a pro, hitting 20 homers and stealing 21 bases while reaching Triple-A Iowa in 2011. He ended the year by batting .412 for Team USA at the World Cup in Panama. Only minor injuries have slowed him, with a strained ligament in his left pinky costing him three weeks last May and a foot issue relegating him to pinch-hitting duty at the Pan American Games.

Scouting Report: With solid to above-average tools across the board, as well as the ability to stay in center field, Jackson is a potential all-star. His power stands out the most, as he has the bat speed, loft and strength to drive balls out of the park to all fields. He has become much more selective at the plate than he was in college, waiting for pitches he can punish and taking walks when pitchers won't challenge him. Chicago would like to see him get a little more aggressive and attack more often early in the count. He's not a pure hitter, but he does have a compact swing and doesn't get himself out by chasing pitches out of the zone. Some scouts think Jackson's stroke can get too mechanical and believe he swings and misses too much to hit much better than .260 or .270. He pulls off pitches at times, and his strikeout rate spiked to a career-high 30 percent in Triple-A. Jackson isn't a blazer, but he has plus speed that enables him to get the job done on the bases and in the outfield. He knows when to pick his spots as a basestealer, succeeding at a 76 percent rate in the minors. Likewise, he gets good jumps and takes nice routes in the outfield. He has played all three outfield positions in pro ball, and his average, accurate arm is enough for right field if he eventually moves to a corner. His steady demeanor and work ethic are assets that have rubbed off on his teammates, such as 2007 first-round pick Josh Vitters.

The Future: Not only is Jackson the Cubs' top prospect, but he's also the only position player in the upper levels of the system ready to play regularly in the majors. They resisted the temptation to promote him during their disappointing 2011 season, in part because he doesn't have to be protected on the 40-man roster this offseason. With Alfonso Soriano and Marlon Byrd due a combined $24.5 million in salaries in 2012, he could open the season in Triple-A if Chicago decides to give Tyler Colvin another chance. Even if that happens, Jackson should push his way to Wrigley Field in short order. He has the upside of Jim Edmonds at the plate, if not the same Gold Glove ability in center field.

 
Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
'09 Cubs (R) 11 6 5 0 1 0 4 3 4 0 0 .455 .533 .636
'09 Boise (SS) 88 14 29 1 1 1 15 17 20 2 1 .330 .443 .398
'09 Peoria (LoA) 112 30 33 5 1 7 17 11 32 11 1 .295 .383 .545
'10 Daytona (HiA) 263 56 83 19 8 6 38 43 63 12 7 .316 .420 .517
'10 Tennessee (AA) 228 47 63 13 6 6 28 30 63 18 4 .276 .366 .465
'11 Tennessee (AA) 246 45 63 10 3 10 32 45 74 15 6 .256 .373 .443
'11 Iowa (AAA) 185 39 55 13 2 10 26 28 64 6 1 .297 .388 .551
Minor League Totals 1133 237 331 61 22 40 160 177 320 64 20 .292 .393 .491

2. Javier Baez, SS Born: Dec 01, 1992 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 180
Drafted: Arlington Country Day HS, Jacksonville, Fla., 2011 (1st round).  Signed by: Tom Clark.
Background: Born in Puerto Rico, Baez moved to Florida in 2005 and batted .711 with 20 homers as a high school senior last spring. Though the Cubs desperately need pitching, they passed on several college arms to draft him ninth overall last June. He signed for $2.625 million at the Aug. 15 deadline.

Scouting Report: Baez had the best bat speed in the 2011 draft, prompting comparisons to Gary Sheffield and Hanley Ramirez. In terms of the 20-80 scouting scale, Chicago thinks Baez could develop into a 70 hitter with 65 power. He's still learning that he doesn't have to overswing to do damage. His arm strength gives him a third well above-average tool and may allow him to stay at shortstop. Baez is an average runner with average range who will have to find a new position if he loses a step, with third base perhaps the best long-term fit. Second base, right field and even catcher are other options. Overly aggressive and emotional at times, he'll need time to mature on and off the field.

The Future: Baez has the highest ceiling in the system and could move quickly. His bat eventually should fit into the No. 3 slot in Chicago's lineup and should provide enough offense for any position. He'll head to low Class A Peoria at age 19.

 
Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
'11 Cubs (R) 12 2 4 2 0 0 0 0 2 2 0 .333 .333 .500
'11 Boise (SS) 6 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 2 0 0 .167 .167 .167
Minor League Totals 18 2 5 2 0 0 1 0 4 2 0 .278 .278 .389

3. Matt Szczur, OF Born: July 20, 1989 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 195
Drafted: Villanova, 2010 (5th round).  Signed by: Tim Adkins.
Background: The MVP of the 2009 NCAA Football Championship Subdivision title game, Szczur had NFL aspirations as a wide receiver. After initially signing him for $100,000 as a 2010 fifth-round pick, the Cubs paid him an additional $1.4 million last March to give up the gridiron. He ranked as the low Class A Midwest League's best defensive outfielder, played in the Futures Game and hit .368 in the playoffs as high Class A Daytona won the Florida State League title.

Scouting Report: Szczur is polished for a two-sport player. His plus-plus speed helps him hit for average, makes him a basestealing threat and allows him to run down balls from gap to gap. He has a short, quick swing and strength in his hands and wrists that could translate into average power once he gets more extension through the ball. Szczur's main needs are to get more patient at the plate and more aggressive on the basepaths. He has worked diligently to improve his arm strength from below average to solid. Coaches and scouts rave about his makeup as much as his tools.

The Future: After wearing down from his nonstop baseball/football grind in the second half, Szczur could be primed for a breakout. He'll start 2012 at Double-A Tennessee and could reach Chicago in 2013. He'll eventually push Brett Jackson to right field.

 
Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
'10 Cubs (R) 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 .500 .750 .500
'10 Boise (SS) 73 17 29 9 0 0 8 6 11 1 0 .397 .439 .521
'10 Peoria (LoA) 26 6 5 1 1 0 2 3 5 0 0 .192 .300 .308
'11 Peoria (LoA) 274 55 86 15 1 5 27 21 28 17 5 .314 .366 .431
'11 Daytona (HiA) 173 20 45 7 2 5 19 5 20 7 0 .260 .283 .410
Minor League Totals 548 99 166 32 4 10 56 36 64 26 5 .303 .350 .431

4. Trey McNutt, RHP Born: Aug 02, 1989 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 220
Drafted: Shelton State (Ala.) CC, 2009 (32nd round).  Signed by: Jim Crawford/Al Geddes.
Background: A 32nd-round steal who fell through the cracks in the 2009 draft, McNutt reached Double-A in his first full pro season but symbolized the Cubs' system-wide pitching woes in his second. Between blisters on two fingers, bruised ribs sustained in an infield collision and bad luck with rain, he worked just 26 innings from mid-May to mid-July. Even when healthy, he battled his command and consistency.

Scouting Report: McNutt can hit 98 mph with his fastball, though he gets more life and locates it better when he works at 92-94. His power breaking ball, which breaks more like a curveball and has slider velocity, can be equally as devastating. He could use an offspeed pitch to keep hitters off balance, and his changeup is just a work in progress. He needs to worry about working down in the zone rather than trying to blow the ball by hitters.

The Future: McNutt remained inconsistent in the Arizona Fall League, and he could wind up as a late-inning reliever if he can't improve his changeup and command. If it all comes together, he could be a No. 2 starter, similar to what Chicago hopes for from 2008 first-rounder Andrew Cashner. Ticketed for a return to Tennessee, McNutt could finish 2012 in the majors.

 
Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
'09 Cubs (R) 0 1 0.00 6 4 0 7 5 5 0 0 3 7 .185
'09 Boise (SS) 3 0 1.33 7 2 0 20 9 7 3 1 12 21 .129
'10 Peoria (LoA) 6 0 1.51 13 13 0 60 43 14 10 0 24 70 .194
'10 Daytona (HiA) 4 0 2.63 9 9 0 41 29 16 12 3 9 49 .191
'10 Tennessee (AA) 0 1 5.74 3 3 0 16 21 12 10 2 4 13 .309
'11 Tennessee (AA) 5 6 4.55 23 22 0 95 120 50 48 5 39 65 .296
Minor League Totals 18 8 3.13 61 53 0 239 227 227 83 11 91 225 .240

5. Dillon Maples, RHP Born: B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 195
Drafted: Pinecrest HS, Southern Pines, N.C., 2011 (14th round).  Signed by:Billy Swoope.
Background: One of the most talented and most unsignable high school pitchers in the 2011 draft, Maples slid all the way until the 14th round. He seemed likely to attend North Carolina, where he would have played baseball and kicked for the football team, before Chicago stepped in with $2.5 million at the signing deadline. His father Tim was a 1979 second-round pick who reached Double-A in the Orioles system.

Scouting Report: Maples has a pair of plus pitches in his heavy 92-96 mph fastball and hard curveball. There's little question about the quality of his arm, though many scouts worry about his mechanics. Though he's athletic, he has a non-athletic delivery with a short arm action and a stiff, upright finish. That could lead to problems with his command—he locates his curve better than his fastball—and stress on his shoulder. For their part, the Cubs don't have any significant concerns and won't make any major adjustments. They'll have him focus on improving his fastball location and developing a changeup.

The Future: Maples has enough weapons to succeed in low Class A when he makes his pro debut in 2012. As with Trey McNutt, his changeup and command will determine whether he reaches his ceiling as a No. 2 starter or becomes a late-inning reliever.

 
Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
Did Not Play

6. Welington Castillo, C Born: Apr 24, 1987 B-T: R-R Ht.: 5-10 Wt.: 210
Signed:Dominican Republic, '04 Signed by: Jose Serra.
Background: The Cubs always liked CasĪ“illo's arm and power potential, but a questionable work ethic slowed his progress and led to a .232/.275/.386 Double-A performance in 2009. He improved his effort and conditioning, leading to strong seasons and big league callups the last two years. Thumb and hamstring injuries limited him to 79 games in 2011.

Scouting Report: Castillo has 29 homers in 144 Triple-A games, with his power coming more from strength than bat speed. He doesn't give away as many at-bats as he used to, but his impatient approach will prevent him from hitting for a high average. Castillo has well above-average arm strength and a quick release. He threw out 31 percent of basestealers in 2011, an acceptable rate though a career low. His receiving and game-calling draw mixed reviews, but he has improved. He has next to no speed.

The Future: Castillo should serve as Geovany Soto's backup in Chicago in 2012. Soto is talented but also inconsistent and getting more expensive, and Castillo will get the chance to show what he might provide as a cheaper alternative.

Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
'05 Cubs (R) 204 29 59 14 0 1 28 19 28 1 2 .289 .370 .373
'06 Boise (SS) 6 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 .167 .286 .167
'06 Cubs (R) 26 4 5 0 0 0 0 1 6 0 0 .192 .250 .192
'07 Peoria (LoA) 317 41 86 11 2 11 44 23 77 1 3 .271 .334 .423
'08 Daytona (HiA) 121 15 33 8 0 0 12 4 23 1 0 .273 .299 .339
'08 Tennessee (AA) 198 25 59 11 0 4 24 14 50 0 0 .298 .362 .414
'08 Iowa (AAA) 5 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 .200 .200 .200
'09 Tennessee (AA) 319 27 74 16 0 11 39 15 71 1 0 .232 .275 .386
'10 Iowa (AAA) 239 35 61 17 1 13 59 19 58 0 2 .255 .317 .498
'10 Chicago (MAJ) 20 3 6 4 0 1 5 1 7 0 0 .300 .333 .650
'11 Daytona (HiA) 42 6 10 3 0 1 7 6 9 0 0 .238 .327 .381
'11 Chicago (MAJ) 13 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 4 0 0 .154 .154 .154
'11 Cubs (R) 6 2 4 3 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 .667 .778 1.167
'11 Iowa (AAA) 227 38 65 9 0 15 35 20 57 0 0 .286 .351 .524
Major League Totals 33 3 8 4 0 1 5 1 11 0 0 .242 .265 .455
Minor League Totals 1710 223 458 92 3 56 249 125 380 4 7 .268 .329 .423

7. Rafael Dolis, RHP Born: Jan 10, 1988 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 215
Signed:Dominican Republic, '04. Signed by: Jose Serra/Marino Encarnacion.
Background: The Cubs love to try failed position players on the mound, and their success stories include former catchers Carlos Marmol and Randy Wells. They signed Dolis as a shortstop but made him a pitcher before he arrived in the United States in 2006. He hurt his elbow in 2007 and missed 2008 following Tommy John surgery, then claimed a spot on the 40-man roster by hitting 101 mph during instructional league in 2009.

Scouting Report: Dolis reminds scouts of Marmol, and the similarities became more striking when Dolis became a full-time reliever in 2011. He can make hitters look silly with a 93-100 mph fastball with heavy sink and a mid-80s slider with hard bite. His stuff should have played up in shorter stints, but Dolis' strikeout rate dipped to a career-low 5.9 per nine innings. That's because he focused so much on his command, his biggest shortcoming, that he pounded the bottom of the strike zone and generated groundouts rather than strikeouts. He has a clean, high three-quarters delivery that gives him good downward plane with his pitches, but he still needs to throw more strikes.

The Future: A potential closer if he improves his command, Dolis made his major league debut in late September. He figures to get some Triple-A experience at the start of 2012.

Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
'06 Cubs (R) 0 2 8.28 13 3 0 25 30 27 23 1 16 33 .286
'07 Peoria (LoA) 3 1 1.80 6 6 0 30 23 7 6 1 16 24 .204
'09 Daytona (HiA) 3 9 3.79 27 25 0 100 78 46 42 4 53 75 .207
'10 Daytona (HiA) 4 5 2.92 14 13 0 71 63 31 23 3 30 48 .228
'10 Tennessee (AA) 5 4 4.07 12 12 0 55 65 32 25 3 27 45 .281
'11 Tennessee (AA) 8 5 3.22 51 4 17 73 61 36 26 2 35 48 .219
'11 Chicago (MAJ) 0 0 0.00 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000
Major League Totals 0 0 0.00 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000
Minor League Totals 23 26 3.69 123 63 17 354 320 320 145 14 177 273 .232

8. Junior Lake, SS Born: Mar 27, 1990 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 215
Signed: Dominican Republic, '07. Signed by: Jose Serra.
Background: Lake is three days younger than fellow Dominican Starlin Castro, whom he teamed with in the Rookie-level Arizona League in 2008. While Castro has spent the last two years starring in Chicago, Lake has yet to find success above high Class A. The Cubs hope his breakout performance in the Arizona Fall League is a sign of things to come.

Scouting Report: Lake has some of the flashiest tools in the system, starting with what might be the strongest infield arm in the minors. His bat speed and strength give him above-average raw power to all fields, though his lack of patience and tendency to chase breaking pitches undermine him at the plate. After losing a step in 2010, Lake regained his plus speed underway and stole 38 bases in 44 tries. His range also has improved and he's doing a better job of anticipating plays at shortstop, but he may be too big for the position. His hands are fine for the infield, and he ultimately may wind up as a third baseman or right fielder.

The Future: Though he remained impatient and tailed off toward the end of the fall, Lake's AFL success is encouraging. If he can build on it, he'll find a job in Chicago at a position to be determined. His next task will be to solve Double-A pitching.

 
Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
'07 Cubs (R) 223 41 61 16 2 3 30 16 53 9 3 .274 .341 .404
'08 Cubs (R) 168 24 48 4 6 2 23 13 42 12 2 .286 .335 .417
'09 Peoria (LoA) 463 71 115 19 7 7 42 18 138 10 7 .248 .277 .365
'10 Daytona (HiA) 394 56 104 18 4 9 46 35 99 13 9 .264 .333 .398
'11 Daytona (HiA) 203 39 64 11 4 6 34 6 49 19 4 .315 .336 .498
'11 Tennessee (AA) 242 41 60 10 2 6 17 13 60 19 2 .248 .300 .380
Minor League Totals 1693 272 452 78 25 33 192 101 441 82 27 .267 .315 .401

9. Josh Vitters, 1B/3B Born: Aug 27, 1989 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 200
Drafted: Cypress (Calif.) HS, 2007 (1st round).  Signed by: Denny Henderson.
Background: The third overall choice in the 2007 draft, Vitters hasn't developed as quickly as hoped since signing for $3.2 million. Nevertheless, he reached Double-A at age 20 and had a solid season when he repeated the level in 2011. Some scouts think he has Jeff Conine potential at the plate, while others question whether he can be a quality big league regular.

Scouting Report: Vitters still shows the short stroke, bat speed, strength and ability to barrel the ball that made him the No. 3 pick. He recognizes pitches well, makes consistent contact and uses the whole field. However, he has yet to develop the patience to draw walks and lay off pitches he can't punish. His 22 walks in 2011 represented a career high. Vitters has shed a reputation for being laid-back and has worked hard to improve his defense. He has a solid arm but fringy quickness, speed and range. He topped Double-A Southern League third basemen with 21 errors in just 100 games. He also saw time at first base during the season and in the outfield in the Arizona Fall League.

The Future: He still could be Chicago's third baseman of the near future, but so could Javier Baez, Junior Lake, D.J. LeMahieu and Ryan Flaherty. The Cubs don't have an obvious starter for 2012, which Vitters will begin in Triple-A.

 
Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
'07 Cubs (R) 30 0 2 0 0 0 2 1 9 0 0 .067 .094 .067
'07 Boise (SS) 21 2 4 0 0 0 1 2 5 1 1 .190 .261 .190
'08 Peoria (LoA) 14 1 3 3 0 0 1 0 5 0 0 .214 .214 .429
'08 Boise (SS) 259 38 85 25 2 5 37 13 45 1 3 .328 .365 .498
'09 Peoria (LoA) 269 42 85 12 1 15 46 7 42 4 0 .316 .351 .535
'09 Daytona (HiA) 189 21 45 7 2 3 22 5 23 2 1 .238 .260 .344
'10 Daytona (HiA) 110 16 32 8 0 3 13 8 22 4 1 .291 .350 .445
'10 Tennessee (AA) 206 28 46 12 0 7 26 13 41 2 0 .223 .292 .383
'11 Tennessee (AA) 449 56 127 28 2 14 81 22 54 4 10 .283 .322 .448
Minor League Totals 1547 204 429 95 7 47 229 71 246 18 16 .277 .319 .439

10. Dan Vogelbach, 1B Born: Dec 17, 1992 B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 250
Drafted: Bishop Verot HS, Fort Myers, Fla., 2011 (2nd round).  Signed by: Lukas McKnight.
Background: Bryce Harper added to his legend when he blasted a 502-foot homer at the 2009 Power Showcase, a high school homer run derby. Vogelbach surpassed that by launching a 508-foot shot while winning the 2010 event, showcasing the power that earned him $1.6 million as a second-round choice a year later. He and Twins sandwich pick Hudson Boyd led Bishop Verot High (Fort Myers, Fla.) to the Florida state 3-A championship last spring.

Scouting Report: Vogelbach's plus-plus raw power is all the more impressive because it comes to all fields and he generates it with a very loose, effortless swing. His rhythm, patience and pitch recognition give him the chance to hit for average as well. Vogelbach's bat will have to carry him because he lacks athleticism and speed. He has gotten in better shape since carrying 280 pounds on the showcase circuit in 2010, but he may never be more than an average defender and won't be a factor on the bases. He takes pride in his defense and is working to improve his footwork around the bag.

The Future: The Cubs would love to see Vogelbach drop to 240 pounds before he reports to spring training. A potential middle-of-the-order threat, he has enough polish at the plate to make the jump to low Class A in 2012.

 
Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
'11 Cubs (R) 24 4 7 3 0 1 6 2 2 1 0 .292 .370 .542
Minor League Totals 24 4 7 3 0 1 6 2 2 1 0 .292 .370 .542