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Top Ten Prospects: Chicago Cubs
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By Jim Callis
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, 2005.
The Cubs never recovered. They lost six of their next seven games to lose the wild card to the Astros, a team they held a seven-game lead over in late August.
On the final day of the season—a meaningless win over the Braves—Sammy Sosa sparked furor when he left Wrigley Field without permission before the first inning was completed. That was a perfect feel-bad ending for a club that had Moises Alou alleging umpires had it in for Chicago, and several players and manager Dusty Baker complaining about broadcasters Chip Caray and Steve Stone.
While the Cubs shed the “lovable” part of their “lovable losers” tag, they’re also doing a pretty good job of dropping the “losers” too. Their 89 victories may not have been enough to put them in the postseason, but they did post their first consecutive winning seasons since a six-year run from 1967-72. With their financial resources and farm system, they’re in a better position than any other club to annually contend in the NL Central.
Chicago’s farm system isn’t as strong as it was when it ranked among the game’s top three after the 2000-02 seasons, but it’s still one of baseball’s better collections of talent. The Cubs recently have produced two all-star starters (Mark Prior, Carlos Zambrano), their lineup’s most dynamic player (Corey Patterson) and trade fodder that netted three-quarters of their infield (Derrek Lee, Nomar Garciaparra, Aramis Ramirez).
Chicago’s affiliates combined for a .538 winning percentage in 2004 (sixth-best in baseball) as second baseman Richard Lewis (Double-A Southern League) and first basemen Brandon Sing (FSL) and Brian Dopirak (low Class A Midwest League) all earned MVP awards.
Baker isn’t noted for his willingness to break in young players, but Jason Dubois will get a look in left field this year and Lewis could push for the second-base job in 2006. The real gems of the farm system are Dopirak and outfielders Felix Pie and Ryan Harvey, though they’re at least a couple of years away.
The Cubs have produced more pitching recently, and they still have several promising arms—though the faces have changed. Lefthanders Justin Jones (Garciaparra trade), Andy Sisco and Luke Hagerty (both major league Rule 5 draft picks) went to other organizations in 2004, and righthanders Angel Guzman, Chadd Blasko and Jae-Kuk Ryu have suffered physical setbacks. Chicago still envisions Guzman becoming a frontline starter, while Billy Petrick, Renyel Pinto, Sean Marshall and Grant Johnson lead a new wave of pitching prospects.
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