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Cubs Chat with Jim Callis

Moderator: Jim will begin taking your Cubs questions at 1:30 p.m. ET

 Q:  Mark L. Peel from Arlington Heights, IL asks:
I haven't heard a word about RHS Chadd Blasko, a previous Top Ten entry, since he flew to Chicago last summer for a shoulder exam. What's his current condition?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Always have to let Mark get an early Cubs question . . . Blasko had surgery to clean out his shoulder and probably won't begin his 2005 season until May. He was one of the system's most pleasant surprises in 2003, so his injury hurt.

 Q:  Phil from Frederick, MD asks:
Richard Lewis obviously had a great season last year, but how high are the Cubs on him? I see he didn't crack your top 10 list. Is he a marginal prospect?
 A: 

Jim Callis: He did have a great season, winning Southern League MVP honors before going to Triple-A and breaking his leg on a routine slide. Lewis is better than a marginal prospect, though he's more of a solid all-around guy than someone who possessing overhwhelming tools. I think I say this every time I do a chat, but just because someone doesn't make a Top 10 doesn't mean he's not good or we don't like him. Lewis just missed the Top 10, and it will be interesting to see if he can 1) repeat his 2004 success and 2) if he does, whether Dusty Baker will give him the chance to be the Cubs' second baseman in 2006.

 Q:  Dan from Massachusetts asks:
How far was Matt Murton from making the Top 10 and what do you see his ceiling being in the majors and when do you think he'll make it to the big leagues? Thanks a lot.
 A: 

Jim Callis: He was as close as could be, coming in at No. 11. (Lewis was No. 12, and if anyone wants to know more specifics about our Cubs Top 30, they'll have to buy the 2005 Prospect Handbook!) Murton may be the best pure hitter in the system, though some who saw him in the Florida State League last year questioned how much power he'll ultimately develop. The last spot on the Top 10 came down to Murton and Jason Dubois. They have similar profiles, but Dubois had a huge year in Triple-A, so I gave him the nod.

 Q:  Mike Marinaro from Tampa (close to Dunedin), FL asks:
Hi Jim. I'm just wondering where you would have ranked Justin Jones "as is," meaning considering last season and his injuries, within the current Cubs' system. Thank you.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Because he has had physical problems the last two years, especially in 2004 when his stuff was not as crisp, I would have played it conservatively with Jones and probably ranked him No. 13, right behind Murton and Lewis.

 Q:  Ozzie from Chicago asks:
Can you tell me the likelihood of the Cubs getting Andy Sisco back after they lost him in the Rule 5 draft?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I don't think Sisco is anywhere close to belonging in the majors, and there are a lot of questions about his maturity, so it's possible the Royals could offer him back. But Kansas City is also bad enough that it could be worth the club's while to try to keep Sisco all year and hope his stuff bounces back to where it was in 2003.

 Q:  Nathan from Chicago asks:
Nick Jackson injured his shoulder last season. He seemed as if he was doing everything right until his injury. What is his status, and if fully recoverd can he make it to the bigs soon?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Jackson had a big year in high Class A in 2001 but hasn't been able to stay healthy since. He has shoulder surgery last year. I think at this point, the Cubs aren't really counting him in their future plans because of all the injuries, but if he gets healthy they'll happily reconsider him again.

 Q:  Jimmy from Oak Park asks:
What's the truth about Angel Guzman? Will he ever be ready?
 A: 

Jim Callis: You can't handle the truth, Jimmy. No, seriously . . . Guzman began his rehab as soon as he could after he had his shoulder scoped in 2003, and he worked so hard without taking time off, that he was worn out before the end of the 2004 season. The Cubs just decided there was no hurry, so they shut him down as a precautionary measure. He should be good to go in 2005, and you may see him in Wrigley Field at some point this summer.

 Q:  Nathan from Chicago asks:
Adam Greenberg had a good AFL, he seems to have the speed the Dusty Baker wants atop of the lineup. Is there any chance of him suprising people this spring and making the club? I saw in play in the AFL playing left.
 A: 

Jim Callis: I think Greenberg is more of an excellent organization player than a true prospect. No chance of making the Opening Day roster.

 Q:  Michael Stern from Rochester NY asks:
What are the Cubs plans for Bobby Brownlie? Do they still see him as a future member of the rotation? He had pretty good numbers at AA. I was kind of surprised to see him drop out of the top 10. Is he completely healthy?
 A: 

Jim Callis: He's still part of the Cubs' future. His velocity isn't nearly what it was in college, as he pitched at 87-90 mph, but he has learned how to pitch without his best fastball. If it ever bounces back, he could really be something.

 Q:  Nathan from Chicago asks:
Sergio Mitre wasn't on the top ten. I have heard rumors that teams keep calling Jim Hendry about him, why would that be? He doesn't seem to have great stuff.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Mitre didn't qualify for the list because he pitched too many innings. He has solid-to-plus stuff and competes well, hence other clubs' interest, especially when they know the Cubs are deep in starting pitching.

 Q:  Steve Davis from Des Moines asks:
Would have either Andy Sisco or Luke Hagerty made the top 10 if they were still with the organization. Do you think there is any chance that either will stick in the majors with the respective teams that they belong to now?
 A: 

Jim Callis: They both would have been in the 11-15 range. Sisco's stuff really tailed off for most of 2004, and he really needs to mature. Hagerty is on the road back from Tommy John surgery, but has yet to look as dominant as he did before he got hurt. I addressed Sisco's Rule 5 status above. The Marlins could try to keep Hagerty on the DL for part of the year, but the Cubs will snatch him back if they get the opportunity.

 Q:  Nathan from Chicago asks:
Luis Montanez doesn't seem like he was worth the high pick. He even has changed from SS to an OF. What do you see him doing, a carrer minor leaguer?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Montanez went third overall in 2000 and doesn't look like he'll justify that pick. He is an outfielder now and tore up the short-season Northwest League--at age 22. If he shows he can hit at high Class A, where he spent the previous two years, I'll start to get interested.

 Q:  Scooter Fletcher from Newcastle ON asks:
I was shocked to see that Bobby Brownlie failed to crack the Cubbies Top-10. Is the farm system that deep or has he fallen that much? Raw numbers seemed to indicate a decent bounce back season for him in '04.
 A: 

Jim Callis: I just addressed Brownlie, but it's time for another one of my repetitive lectures. Guys, we know how to analyze statistics. I used to work at STATS, Inc. Stats do matter, especially at the upper levels of the minors. Baseball America understands stats. But IT'S NOT ALL ABOUT STATS! It's a balance of stats and tools. And Brownlie's stuff isn't nearly as good as it was in college, even if he did have solid numbers in Double-A. And riddle me this, if Brownlie averaged 7.0 K9 in Double-A, how well does that translate for big league success. He belongs in the 11-15 range on this list, and that's where you'll find him.

 Q:  Tedward from NSBB.com asks:
Jim, Could you enlighten us on Carlos Marmol? Pretty darn good stats at Low A last year, where does he stack up? Thanks.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Marmol is a converted catcher who has taken very quickly to pitching. He has a 90-94 mph fastball, and the key for him is how much he can refine his decent curveball and changeup.

 Q:  buckner from Chicago asks:
Where would Brendan Harris rank in the Cubs system.
 A: 

Jim Callis: He'd be in the 11-15 mix if he hadn't gone to the Expos in the Nomar Garciaparra trade. I like Harris, but I'm starting to wonder if he's going to get stuck as a tweener who can't play second base on an everyday basis and doesn't have enough power for third.

 Q:  Mike Marinaro from Tampa (close to Dunedin), FL asks:
Jim: It's obvious after the past two seasons that Jason Dubois is a better hitter than David Kelton. Does Kelton even have a future in the majors?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Kelton may get a look as an extra outfielder this spring, and he had a nice winter. But he regressed at the plate last year because he was trying to hit homers and got messed up. It's unlikely he's ever going to be a regular for the Cubs after projecting as one earlier in his career.

 Q:  paul from Bandon asks:
Is ex-Tiger prospect Jon Connolly a Top 30? He was one of the best pitchers in his league the last two years.
 A: 

Jim Callis: I think he's just going to squeeze in at the end (the 11-30 list is still a work in progress). Connolly has had great numbers, but he's also a one-pitch guy (changeup) whose the definition of finesse. Without a legit fastball or curveball, he might really struggle above Class A.

 Q:  Brian from Washington DC asks:
Jim- Where does Matt Craig fall on the Cubs prospect list and where do you see him starting in 2005? Does he have a shot at the majors this year?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Craig is one of the best pure hitters in the system, though he doesn't really work at third base and will be blocked by Derrek Lee, Brian Dopirak (and possibly Jason Dubois and Brandon Sing) if he's limited to first base. Craig will play in Triple-A this year, but doesn't have much chance of big league playing time in 2005.

 Q:  Max Power from Springfield asks:
Thanks for the chat, Jim! I'm confused by the wildly divergent opinions of Brian Dopirak I've seen. B-Dope has been ranked anywhere from a top 10 overall prospect(!) to not even top 75. At the risk of oversimplifying, doesn't he basically project along the lines of Ryan Howard & Jason Stokes (.260-.270, 35-40 HR, 50-60 BB in his prime)? Thanks again!
 A: 

Jim Callis: When some of the BA editors put together our personal Top 50s for the Prospect Handbook, I put Dopirak at No. 26. He has huge power and has a clue at the plate. He also was 20 last year, so he has plenty of time to develop. I like him more than Howard, and while Stokes is a prospect, I think he's generally overrated. I'd easily take Dopirak over Stokes.

 Q:  Chad from New York asks:
Ryan Harvey hasn't done anything as a pro yet, what is it that keeps him ranked so high, 2 years after being drafted?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Who was that guy who 14 homers in 58 games at short-season Boise at age 19, then tore up the Northwest League playoffs? Why, it was Ryan Harvey! His 77-20 K-BB ratio is a little scary, but he had a very good year for someone young for his league. His big-time power is right there with Dopirak's--they both are products of Dunedin (Fla.) High, for what that's worth--and he's a good all-around athlete. Harvey has the chance to be very, very, very good.

 Q:  Raymond from New York asks:
Hi Jim, Isn't Ricky Nolasco, HS pitcher from Calif., a legitimate ML prospect ? how did he escape the rule 5 minor league phase of the Dec draft ? thanks
 A: 

Jim Callis: Nolasco is a legitimate prospect. He has a very good curveball, throws a low-90s sinker and needs to improve his changeup so he can get lefties out. He has been pushed very quickly by the Cubs and, until he got to Triple-A last year, responded well. He wasn't eligible for the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft, just the major league phase.

 Q:  Tom Abegglen from St. Louis, Missouri asks:
Do you think Ronny Cedeno will become an everyday major league shortstop or a utility infielder?
 A: 

Jim Callis: It all comes down to whether he can keep making offensive improvements like he did in 2004. If I have to guess, right now, I'd say utility guy, but he's only 21 and can certainly exceed my expectations.

 Q:  Navin from NorthSideBaseball.com asks:
What are the chances Mark Reed will stick as a catcher in the future?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Too early to tell. He's versatile enough to factor at about five different positions, with arm strength the question behind the plate. The Cubs do love his bat, and it appears all the hitting genes in the family didn't go to his brother Jeremy.

 Q:  Trent Rathbun from Aurora, IL asks:
The the Cubs expect anything from Dwaine Bacon anytime soon? We he be able to put up a good enough average to be successful in the Major Leagues?
 A: 

Jim Callis: No. Bacon is one of the fastest players in the minors and even draws walks, but he can't hit enough. Plus, he spent last year in Double-A at age 25, so he's starting to run out of time.

 Q:  Bryan from Streamwood asks:
Jim, although the farm system isn't rated as high as a couple years back, I like this list better due to the fact it seems more ready to produce Big league position players and pitchers in the near future (Marshall, Pinto, Guzman, etc...) Would you agree with this?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I don't know if I'd say I'd like it better, but I don't disagree with the premise that a system with more balance between hitters and pitchers is going to be more productive than a system that's pitching heavy.

 Q:  Russ Oates from NY asks:
The Cubs missed out on signing Micah Owings, but signed his former teammate Eric Patterson. What's your view on Patterson?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Looks like Georgia Tech will produce the Cubs's second baseman of the future with either Richard Lewis or Patterson. Patterson is a plus runner and if he remembers to stay patient and not worry about homers, he can be pretty good. Kind of sounds like his brother Corey, doesn't it? Though Eric isn't nearly as strong.

 Q:  topgun from chicago from chicago asks:
Where do the Cubs expect Wellemeyer and wuertz to be thisn season and where are they on the prospect list?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Both Todd Wellemeyer and Mike Wuertz will get the opportunity to make the bullpen this year. It also wouldn't surprise me if Wellemeyer got traded to some club that will return him to the rotation. He doesn't qualify for the list any longer, but Wuertz is in the 11-20 range.

 Q:  DJ from Pittsburgh, PA asks:
Many people believe Jason Dubois has proved scouts wrong on every level and deserves more respect as a prospect. How do you see his ML future working out? And how does he compare to Jason Bay?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I think Dubois can hit, and I hope Dusty Baker gives him the chance to prove it. I don't think he'll be a star, but he can be a solid, cost-effective left fielder for the Cubs. Both Bay and Dubois tore up the PCL, if that's where you're going, but Bay is a better all-around athlete.

 Q:  Joshua Heines from Trenton, NJ asks:
What is Felix Pie ceiling right now? Carl Crawford or Carlos Beltran? If neither, what MLB player does he profile as?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Pie has a high ceiling, but you can't put his current power anywhere near in the same category as Beltran's, so I'd put him closer to Crawford. He's got a much better arm than Crawford, so there's no reason Pie won't be able to stay in center field (well, except for maybe Corey Patterson).

 Q:  Mike W. from New Jersey asks:
Geovany Soto was rated best defensive catcher. He seemed to be holding his own with the bat at AA (.271 9HR). What impact will he have at the Major League level? Is he the best catcher in the system, or can we expect more from Alan Rick, Jake Fox or Casey McGehee provided he stays behind the dish?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Soto is the best catcher in the system and the only one on the Top 30 list. "Holding his own" is a good way to describe him offensively, as he's more of a bat-control than a power guy.

 Q:  John Madden from Too Much Time, WA asks:
What are the chances that the Saints can beat the Patriots?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I wish I had too much time on my hands.

 Q:  Tom McCullough from York PA asks:
Jim: Brandon Sing is prospect-old and defensive position- challenged. The numbers say he surely can hit the ball hard. Is he still a prospect in the Cubs view? Thanks.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Yes, the Cubs respect Sing's ability. He's always been compared to Richie Sexson, and last year that comparison looked more realistic when he tore up the Florida State League and was named league MVP. Sing has to show he can do that again this year in Double-A, and he has Derrek Lee and Brian Dopirak to contend with at first base.

 Q:  thebig747 from Milwaukee, WI asks:
Do you really think Jon Leicester has the ceiling to justify a spot in the top 10? He's a middle reliever.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Well, gee, I put him in the Top 10, so yeah, of course I think he justifies the spot. On most any other club, Leicester would get the opportunity to start with his mid-90s fastball, slider and splitter. He's a middle reliever because the Cubs are loaded with starters.

 Q:  Eric from Greencastle, Ind. asks:
Can Brian Dopirak play OF, if so, do you think he could get a shot at LF in spring training? Also, why do the Cubs continue to hold onto Scott Chiasson after he cost them so dearly in lost personnel?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I don't think Dopirak can play the outfield. The Chiasson trade didn't work out for the Cubs, but it's not like Eric Hinkse would be starting for Chicago with Derrek Lee at first base and Aramis Ramirez at third base. And at this point, it doesn't really cost the Cubs anything to hand onto Chiasson, who looked like he'd be a good reliever before he got hurt.

 Q:  Patrick from Fort Wayne, Indiana asks:
What is the status of Jason Wylie's injury rehabilitation and is he still a prospect?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Wylie had been one of my favorite Cubs sleepers. Unfortunately, he had shoulder surgery last year (more major than Chadd Blasko's). Didn't really consider him for the Top 30 this year.

 Q:  Buzz from Chicago asks:
Is Pinto overrrated? His numbers were the best in the organization and there is little speculation that he will make it to the show this year.
 A: 

Jim Callis: I don't think Renyel Pinto is overrated, and you have to respect the year he had in Double-A as a 21.5-year-old. But some scouts think he doesn't pitch as well as the sum of his stuff or his stats might indicate, mostly because his command and location are his weakness. He's still young and fairly advanced, so I can see him turning out pretty well.

 Q:  Frank the Tank from North Aurora, IL asks:
I'm a huge Cubs fan and think they have a bunch of stud pitchers in the minors. Looking at the numbers, why does is Petrick ahead of Pinto?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Tank, put your clothes back on before your wife sees you. I think Billy Petrick has a chance to be a real breakthrough prospect in 2005. He has a heavy, heavy sinker, and his slider and changeup are starting to happen for him. His command is better than Pinto's, too.

 Q:  Eric from Queens, NY asks:
Could you tell me what you think of Sean Marshall? Where do you see him on the depth chart, and how soon do you seem him in the bigs and what do you project out of him? Thanks
 A: 

Jim Callis: I like Marshall a lot. I wish he hadn't ruptured the tendon in his middle finger, because then we could have seen how he would have held up in Double-A. He's a tall lefty with a tough sinker and a sharp curve. He could be at least a No. 3 starter.

 Q:  Jimmy from Oak Park asks:
Of the top ten prospects, which one are you most uncertain will reach his potential?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Hmmm. Good question. Probably Harvey, just because he's the furthest away.

 Q:  Michael from Decatur asks:
For awhile the Cubs farm system was at the top of the organizational rankings, but has slid somewhat due to some promotions to the majors, and injuries. Where would you rank them today (topmiddlebottom third), and how effective do you think of their most recent drafts in re-loading their farm system?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I'll answer a couple of more quick questions before (two days late) Ask BA and the Prospect Handbook take hold of me again. I'd rank the Cubs toward the bottom of the top 10 in organizations. Their recent drafts under John Stockstill have been fine, bringing in more talent. From 2004, with no first-rounder, Grant Johnson, Mark Reed and Eric Patterson will make the Top 30. From 2003, it's Ryan Harvey and Sean Marshall are already in the Top 10 in a good system.

 Q:  Jamo Pytlak from Chandler, AZ asks:
Just because Dusty Baker hit .321 with 17 HR and 76 RBI as a 23-year old rookie, does he expect everybody to be able to do this? Doesn't he realize that Barry Bonds hit .223 in 400 at bats his rookie season, and that his encore was hitting .261 in 551 at bats the following year? What gives with Dusty's reluctance to give young guys time to develop in the majors? If Bonds's first two seasons didn't teach him something, maybe the fact that he only hit .300 or higher twice more in his 19 year career should.
 A: 

Jim Callis: No idea why Dusty is that way, but never had thought to look at it in terms of his own career.

 Q:  Buzz from Chicago asks:
Kevin Collins has to be upset about the publicity Brian Dopirak is getting. He had just 6 less home runs than Dopirak in over 100 less at bats. His strike zone discipline is as good as Dopirak's and he almost hit .300. What's the deal?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Collins has no reason to be upset. He's more than 2.5 years older than Dopirak, and he was in low Class A last year at age 23. No comparison.

 Q:  Patrick from Chicago, IL asks:
Jim, what's your take on Ronald Bay? He put up some very nice numbers last season at Lansing and I was curious to see if he could end up having a breakout performance in the near future.
 A: 

Jim Callis: I like Bay. He has a good changeup and a late-breaking slider, and his fastball ranges from 88-94 mph. He has a slight build, though, so he needs to get stronger.

 Q:  Patrick S. from Fort Wayne, Indiana asks:
The Cubs invited 27 year old left handed Raul Valdez, who once pitched for the Cuban national team, to spring training. Do you have a scouting report on Valdez?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I do, though it's hard to figure out where to rank him. He has good movement on an otherwise uninspiring 83-88 mph fastball, and wins with his command, curveball and changeup. Could make the Cubs as a lefty reliever at some point this year.

 Q:  Jeff Williams from Vinita, Oklahoma asks:
I was hoping you could tell me a little bit about Jermaine Van Buren. Thanks.
 A: 

Jim Callis: The Cubs signed him out of an indy league. He has a very good slider, and his velocity ranged from 88-93 mph last year.

 Q:  Ken from Fairfax asks:
Chose three previously unknown Cub Prospects who could be on the verge of becoming "known". Thanxs
 A: 

Jim Callis: I'll limit myself to guys who didn't make my Top 10 and go with Carlos Marmol, Mark Reed and Darin Downs. The problem with answering this is that the Cubs get so much hype that most of their prospects aren't unknown like they would be in other organizations.

 Q:  Phil from Frederick, MD asks:
Are the fans of any other team as obsessed with the status of their team's farm system as we Cubs fans are? Always looking to the future, we are.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Outside of the Red Sox, perhaps not. Thanks for all the questions today, and I'm sorry I couldn't get to more of them. I'll be back Monday to chat about the Astros.

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