2012 Chicago Cubs Top 10 Prospects Chat With Jim Callis




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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.


Moderator: Jim Callis will answer your Cubs questions beginning at noon ET.

Jim Callis: Hi, everyone. I'm expecting a phone call in an hour, so let's jam as many questions in here as possible. Before we start, let me mention that I'm still juggling the 11-30 order. The Cubs are a hard system to put in order because there are diverging opinions on many of their prospects, both within and without the organization.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): What have you heard about international 3B prospect Jeimer Candelario? Did he make your top 30?

Jim Callis: Very promising switch-hitting bat. A long ways away, but he could be a plus hitter with at least average power. He will have to work hard to avoid a move to first base, however. He's in the middle of the 11-30 range.

    Keith (Manchester, CT): Thanks, Jim. I'm a big fan of Javier Baez. Given the Cubs situation at 3rd, do they try to rush Baez through the system, and either way, how quickly does he get to the majors?

Jim Callis: I am too. Baez has the potential to have a very special bat. I don't think they'll try to rush him even though they currently need a third baseman, because they have several 3B candidates to sort through ahead of him (Vitters, LeMahieu, Flaherty, Lake). The Cubs aren't afraid to push guys, either, and I think Baez' bat will dictate how fast he moves. He'll start 2012 in low Class A, and if his bat is as good as advertised, he could be knocking on the door in 2014.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Between this year's top 10 and last year's, which do you prefer and why?

Jim Callis: Brett Jackson, Trey McNutt, Josh Vitters, Matt Szczur and Rafael Dolis were on both lists. So that makes it Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee, Chris Carpenter, Hayden Simpson and Brandon Guyer (2010) vs. Javier Baez, Dillon Maples, Welington Castillo, Junior Lake and Dan Vogelbach (2011). I'll give a slight edge to 2011 because I like Baez so much and Simpson is a huge question mark right now.

    Laura (Chitown): Just how close was it for the top spot between Jackson and Baez?

Jim Callis: Extremely close. There were three candidates for No. 1. In order of ceilings, it would be Baez, Szczur, Jackson. In order of certainty, it would be Jackson, Szczur, Baez. I think you can defend lining those guys up in any order.

    Harry (Chatham, IL): Thoughts on Tony Zych?

Jim Callis: Really like him and thought he was a steal in fourth round. He could move quick, especially if he maintains a consistent slider to go with his plus-plus fastball velocity. He'll make the Top 30. The Cubs' relief prospects, if you include guys who probably move to the bullpen in the future, jump out more than their starting prospects.

    Ben Badler's Imposter (NC): This is an outrage, Jim! How did Candelario miss out? Just look at that plate discipline.

Jim Callis: I know this is tongue in cheek, but I'll submit that BB totals in the Dominican Summer League don't tell you a lot about plate discipline. Pitchers can't exactly subtly pitch around hitters—they usually miss the zone by a wide margin.

    Michael Stern (Rochester NY): I know Bryan Lahair is old for a prospect - but he did have a monster year last season, and did play extremely well for the Cubs when they brought him up in September. Do you foresee any scenario where the Cubs forego the free agent market and just give Lahair a shot to take the 1B job next season. I think given a chance he could run with it. He just might be one of those late bloomers who needs a chance a la Nelson Cruz. What are you hearing?

Jim Callis: LaHair has played enough in the majors that he didn't qualify for the list. He tore up Triple-A but it also was his sixth year in Triple-A. I don't think the Cubs will have LaHair as Plan A, but if 2012 is a total rebuilding year (which it should be), I think he'll get a chance to earn some playing time. The odds that he's another Cruz are pretty long though.

    Davey (Willmette): Any chance Shawon Dunston Jr. is as good as his bonus would indicate, or was this a pure nepotism pick? Thanks.

Jim Callis: Not a nepotism pick, as Sr. doesn't work for the team and you would pay his son $1.275 million just because the dad was a former No. 1 overall pick by the Cubs. Our reports on Dunston weren't as good as what the Cubs saw in him. He had a down spring, but they see an athletic center fielder who will hit.

    Barry (Atlanta GA): Did SS Marco Hernandez come close?

Jim Callis: He wasn't one of the 15 or so players I considered for the Top 10, but he is in the next group after them. I'd just like to see him play higher than Rookie ball before I go crazy on him. He's a promising hitter with the tools to stay at shortstop. We'll know a lot more once he plays in Class A in 2012.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): Now that Bud Selig has stepped in, what kind of compensation are the Red Sox likely to receive in exchange for Theo?

Jim Callis: I tackled this in last week's Ask BA, and still think it ultimately will come down to Selig not wanting to place premium value on executives. Not sure if Boston will get one or two players, but I don't believe it will be a frontline prospect. If I were the Red Sox, I'd target guys like catcher Steve Clevenger and lefty reliever Jeff Beliveau.

    Mike (Chicago): With a new emphasis on the farm system, do you think the cubs will still scout the Pacific Rim still, also have they signed anybody recently from the Pacific Rim that has promise since the players they have signed have had mixed results?

Jim Callis: I believe the Cubs will remain active all over the globe. They're pleased with several international prospects, including Pacific Rim signees such as righthander Dae-Eun Rhee and outfielders Jae-Hoon Ha and Pin-Chieh Chen.

    Warren (Texas): How does Dae-Eun Rhee profile as a prospect after 2011? I thought he might be in the Top 10, and was a little surprised he wasn't. Approximately where did he fall in the Cubs Top 30? Thanks for the chat.

Jim Callis: He was a Top 10 candidate who just missed. His stuff really bounced back by the end of 2011, looks like he has put the Tommy John surgery fully behind him and has a chance to be a No. 3 starter.

    Michael (Chicago): I heard about the new draft rules that may be coming and do you think that will hurt what Epstein wants to do since Boston spent a lot of money when he was in charge?

Jim Callis: We'll see what the new CBA brings with the draft. It may restrict draft spending in some manner, but I believe teams still can find ways to be aggressive and that Epstein and Co. will do exactly that. Owner Tom Ricketts is fully on board.

    Michael Stern (Rochester NY): What are you hearing about Ryan Flaherty? He was on his way to a .300, 25 HR, 100 RBI season at AA till he got promoted - but then didn't fare so well in the PCL. Is he on the radar at all as a prospect? Any future for him down the line as a major league 2B? Thanks for the chat!

Jim Callis: He is, though he's also tough to peg. He was a Top 10 candidate who just missed. I like his lefthanded power, but he has no chance to play the middle infield and may be no more than adequate at third base. He needs to get a lot of time at third to see what he can become, but Vitters and LeMahieu need reps there to. Flaherty probably winds up being a corner utility guy.

    Ben (Leland Grove): How many of the top 10 do you anticipate will make the top 100?

Jim Callis: Jackson, Baez, Szczur. That might be it.

    Ty (Midwest): From 1 to 10, how concerned are you at Baez's demeanor?

Jim Callis: Maybe a 3. He's immature at times, but what 18-year-old isn't? I haven't heard anything to indicate he's a bad person or has a red flag that will prevent him from reaching his potential.

    Michael Stern (Rochester NY): What made Jackson the # 1 over Baez? If Baez has the highest ceiling and Jackson's tools across the board are more around major league average - wouldn't it seem that Baez should be ranked higher? Is it just that he hasn't played, and Jackson has a couple of seasons under his belt?

Jim Callis: Jackson is a potential 20-20 center field with average or better tools across the board, and he's nearly big league ready. He's going to be more than just an average big leaguer. Baez has higher upside but a longer ways to get there. You can argue for either guy. We don't hold lack of pro experience against anyone—our lists are based solely on long-term major league value, factoring in ceiling and likelihood of reaching it.

    Jon (Peoria): What is it that separates Dolis from Carpenter?

Jim Callis: More consistent fastball velocity, significantly better slider, more success in 2011.

    Harry Pavlidis (Chicago, IL): Chris Rusin — how does he project? I get the nagging feeling that he's becoming a nibbler since his stuff isn't all that great. Does he have the command to pull that off?

Jim Callis: He has some of the best command in the system and is the Cubs' best lefty starting prospect, but his lack of overpowering stuff makes him a back-of-the-rotation guy.

    JD (AZ): Jim, will Pin-Chieh Chen figure into the Cubs top 30 and does he have a big enough bat to man a corner OF spot?

Jim Callis: Right now, he's in my just-missed group. The Cubs have a middle-of-the-pack farm system, but if we went 50 deep, they'd have one of the best 31-50 groups in the game. Chen is a slappy hitter without a lot of physical strength or projection, so he's going to have to stick in center to make it.

    Don (Rosemont, IL): I know that he's not eligible for this list anymore, but if you had the choice, would Andrew Cashner be a starter or reliever?

Jim Callis: I'd give him every chance to be a starter. If he can't cut it, he's the closer of the future.

    Jesse (IL): Jim, question about Daniel Lockhart, Keith's son and their 10th round draft pick. The Cubs liked him enough to give him a sizeable bonus, is he a sleeper type we should keep an eye on?

Jim Callis: Yes, he's a sleeper. Lefthanded-hitting infielder who makes good contact and has some athleticism. Maybe a second baseman in the long run.

    Grant (Chicago): Are Lake's AFL numbers an aberration, or a predictor of things to come next year?

Jim Callis: I don't believe much in AFL stats for a variety of reasons . . . the parks favor hitters, teams usually don't send many top pitchers to Arizona, relatively small sample size, etc. Lake always has had big tools and played well in high Class A this year before tailing off in Double-A. I'd be more impressed if he had handled Double-A than I am by his AFL performance.

    Dan (Boise): Would you rather have Baez or Lindor as your future infielder?

Jim Callis: It depends on what you want. If you want a slick-fielding shortstop with a solid bat for the position, that's Lindor. If you want a third baseman with a potential elite bat, that's Baez. Both are hard to find. To answer your question, I'd say Lindor just barely. Really on the fence on that one. If I thought Baez would stay at shortstop for sure, it would be him. He has a chance but most scouts think he'll move.

    Bob (Mundelein, IL): Is Hayden Simpson worthy of being in the top 30 after the year he had?

Jim Callis: He's going to make the Top 30 because I think he has to get a mulligan for 2011, when he pitched with a stress reaction and a small tear in his elbow, both of which have healed. I'd describe him as another draftee that the Cubs were higher on than the majority of clubs. Really don't know what to make of him until we see a fully healthy Simpson in pro ball.

    Randy (Naperville, IL): Is Ben Wells on your radar? What type of a prospect is he?

Jim Callis: He is and will make the Top 30. He's a potential mid-rotation starter with a heavy fastball, though as a 2010 Arkansas high school draftee, he's a few years away.

    Shane (Miami): Jim - You have been espcially high on Szczur, where some others in the industry have not. In the summer you indicated in a weekly chat, that Szczur's upside was similar to Ellsbury (possibly at the time not expecting him to hit 30+ Hr). Is his ceiling something less of Ellsbury's power display of this year, but similar speed, bat and other intangibles?

Jim Callis: Yes. I could see Szczur being Ellsbury without the 30 HR power. Szczur has a chance to be a plus hitter/SB threat/center fielder with maybe average power and great makeup. Sign me up.

    Matt (Chicago): I noticed that LeMahieu was left off the list. Do you think he has a viable shot at profiling as an everyday 2B or 3B?

Jim Callis: Another guy who just missed. He's the best pure hitter in the system but has yet to show the power to profile as a good regular at third base, where he's an average defender. He's not quick enough to be a big league second baseman. It all comes down to developing power for LeMahieu.

    Tim (Toronto): Kevin Rhoderick had a solid 1st pro season. If he can keep the walks down, does he have the upside of an 8th inning setup guy?

Jim Callis: That's him. Interesting fastball and slider, needs to throw enough strikes.

    Brent (Chicago): I know that we can't read too much into the 2015 line-up, but why Zeke Devoss at 2B over Junior Lake? Is there any way that Lake mans SS and moves Castro to 2B?

Jim Callis: Lake is already big at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, and my thinking was he'll be too big and not quick enough for the middle infield in the long run. I don't really see him as a big league shortstop.

    Joe R. (Newport News, VA): Forgive my pessimism. Can you compare Javier Baez to how Lou Montanez was perceived when Montanez was drafted?

Jim Callis: That's a name from the past (who has returned to the Cubs system, too)! Here's our report on Montanez from the 2000 Draft Preview: He hasn't received the recognition Gulliver Prep's David Espinosa has, but Montanez still ranks among the top 15 players because of the shortage of quality shortstops. While he lacks Espinosa's speed and athletic ability, scouts regard Martinez as the better pure shortstop and have compared him to Blue Jays shortstop Alex Gonzalez. He has excellent hands, glides effortlessly to balls and has a smooth, easy release. If his lack of speed eventually pushes him to third base, he has the bat to pull off the switch. The ball jumps off his bat and he projects 25-30 home runs a year. Like Espinosa, he has committed to Miami. Sounds like Montanez was considered a more likely shortstop (though he didn't stay there) with a promising bat, but scouts are more excited about Baez' bat than they were about Montanez'.

    Jon (Peoria): How does Jae-Hoon Ha compare with Jackson and Sczcur among CF prospects?

Jim Callis: Right now, he's the best defender of the three but lacks their offensive upside. Jackson has more power and basestealing savvy, while Szczur is a better pure hitter and has more speed.

    BJP (Tulsa, OK - Tulsa (TUL)): What's the outlook for Dallas Beeler? Was he close to top 10?

Jim Callis: I like Beeler. He's maybe the best prospect in the system who has gotten almost no hype, and I considered him for the Top 10. If everything works out, he could be a No. 3 starter with a solid sinker/curve/changeup combo.

    Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): The Cubs traded for two prospects previously ranked in BA's top thirty lists: Abner Abreau (Indians) and Michael Burgess (Nationals). Do either make the Cubs top 30 this year?

Jim Callis: Nope. Both have some power but don't do enough else to make it. Burgess is better than Abreu.

    Dan (lansing): is Dustin Gieger a 11-20 guy?

Jim Callis: Not yet, as he's still raw, but he does have interesting upside with his power and third-base defense. He's not on the Top 30 yet but I could see him making it next year.

    Dan (Lansing): Just curious as to where you think Lee and Archer would have ranked if they were still with the organization?

Jim Callis: Lee would have been near the top of the list, probably No. 3 between Baez and Szczur. Archer had a rough year, but so did all of the Cubs pitching prospects and I would have still kept him ahead of McNutt, who's No. 4.

    Jon (Peoria): How would you classify Jay Jackson's prospect status after the rough season he had in the PCL?

Jim Callis: Let me put it this way: He's not on the Top 30.

    Jon (Peoria): I contend that Vitters will benefit the most from a regime change that will put more emphasis on pitch selection and won't allow him to swing at anything he can reach. Agree?

Jim Callis: Not really. I don't think one regime can make a player more selective than another. I think plate discipline is more innate than a lot of fans realize.

    Bob (Mundelein, IL): As a follow-up to your response to my question about Simpson earlier, when did the Cubs find out that he had issues with his elbow? It seems like they should have shut him down when he struggled in the MWL and didn't show nearly the same stuff he had in college. Is this expected to just be a minor issue?

Jim Callis: Not until after the year. They say the elbow is fine now and he should be healthy in 2012.

Jim Callis: I have to run now. Thanks for all the great questions. For a lot more details on Cubs prospects (and those on the other 29 teams), check out the 2012 Prospect Handbook. Good for holiday gift giving too!