Chicago Cubs: Top 10 Prospects

1. Felix Pie, of
2. Donald Veal, lhp
3. Jeff Samardzija, rhp
4. Tyler Colvin, of
5. Sean Gallagher, rhp
6. Eric Patterson, 2b
7. Scott Moore, 3b
8. Ryan Harvey, of
9. Chris Huseby, rhp
10. Mark Pawelek, lhp
Best Hitter for Average Tyler Colvin
Best Power Hitter Ryan Harvey
Best Strike-Zone Discipline Sam Fuld
Fastest Baserunner Chris Walker
Best Athlete Felix Pie
Best Fastball Jeff Samardzija
Best Curveball Donald Veal
Best Slider Rocky Cherry
Best Changeup Billy Muldowney
Best Control Scott Taylor
Best Defensive Catcher Jake Muyco
Best Defensive Infielder Josh Lansford
Best Infield Arm Josh Lansford
Best Defensive Outfielder Felix Pie
Best Outfield Arm Ryan Harvey
Catcher Michael Barrett
First Base Derrek Lee
Second Base Eric Patterson
Third Base Aramis Ramirez
Shortstop Ronny Cedeno
Left Field Alfonso Soriano
Center Field Felix Pie
Right Field Tyler Colvin
No. 1 Starter Carlos Zambrano
No. 2 Starter Mark Prior
No. 3 Starter Donald Veal
No. 4 Starter Ted Lilly
No. 5 Starter Sean Gallagher
Closer Jeff Samardzija
Year Player, Position 2006
1997 Kerry Wood, rhp Cubs
1998 Kerry Wood, rhp Cubs
1999 Corey Patterson, of Orioles
2000 Corey Patterson, of Orioles
2001 Corey Patterson, of Orioles
2002 Mark Prior, rhp Cubs
2003 Hee Seop Choi, 1b Red Sox
2004 Angel Guzman, rhp Cubs
2005 Brian Dopirak, 1b Cubs
2006 Felix Pie, of Cubs
Year Player, Position 2006
1997 Jon Garland, rhp White Sox
1998 Corey Patterson, of Orioles
1999 Ben Christensen, rhp Out of baseball
2000 Luis Montanez, ss Cubs
2001 Mark Prior, rhp Cubs
2002 Bobby Brownlie, rhp Cubs
2003 Ryan Harvey, of Cubs
2004 Grant Johnson, rhp (2nd round) Cubs
2005 Mark Pawelek, lhp Cubs
2006 Tyler Colvin, of Cubs
Mark Prior, 2001 $4,000,000
Corey Patterson, 1998 $3,700,000
Luis Montanez, 2000 $2,750,000
Bobby Brownlie, 2002 $2,500,000
Jeff Samardzija, 2006 $2,500,000
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Chicago Cubs

The Cubs fully expected to contend in 2006, and that they did–for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft. They finished at 66-96, their worst record since 2000 and their second-worst in the last 25 years.

Chicago was cruising at the start of the season, going 9-5 though April 19, when Derrek Lee broke two bones in his right wrist in a collision at first base. By the time the 2005 major league batting leader returned to the lineup on June 25, the club was 28-45.

Citing Lee’s injury as the reason for team’s disastrous performance would be a gross oversimplification. The Cubs had problems that would have undermined them even had Lee stayed healthy, and those problems have plagued them since they got within five outs of reaching the World Series in October 2003.

Mark Prior and Kerry Wood combined for 32 wins that season, but just 30 in the three seasons since. Yet Chicago continued to bank on a full return to health for both, optimism at its worst. With Prior and Wood able to make just 13 starts in 2006, the club trotted out a succession of rookies in their place. Rich Hill proved to be one of the better young lefthanders in baseball, but Angel Guzman, Carlos Marmol and Sean Marshall–all members of our Cubs Top 10 Prospects list a year ago–got rocked.

The pitching staff finished next to last in the National League in runs allowed, mirroring its rank in runs scored. Chicago has posted on-base percentages below the league average since Jim Hendry became general manager in July 2002, yet its three newcomers in the lineup last season were rookie Ronnie Cedeno, free agent Jacques Jones and trade acquisition Juan Pierre. None of them is known for on-base ability, and the Cubs plunged to last in the league in OBP.

The team’s performance cost manager Dusty Baker his job, and club president Andy MacPhail resigned at the end of the regular season. Senior vice president of marketing and broadcasting John McDonough replaced MacPhail, and Hendry hired Lou Piniella to succeed Baker.

Piniella won’t tolerate losing, and speculation is that the Tribune Co., which may be considering selling the team, won’t either. If the Cubs’ fortunes don’t improve, Hendry and other members of the front office probably will be out of jobs after 2007.

With that pressure to win and a farm system thinned out by injuries, trades and attrition, Chicago plunged heavily into the free-agent market this offseason. The first move was to re-sign Aramis Ramirez for five years and $75 million, a deal quickly trumped by the eight years and $136 million given to Alfonso Soriano. All told, the Cubs committed $294.6 million to nine free agents, and they’ll cross the nine-figure payroll threshold for the first time.

In an attempt to revive the system, the Cubs also invested heavily in the draft. They took Notre Dame pitcher/wide receiver Jeff Samardzija in the fifth round, though it took a five-year major league contract worth $10 million to lure him away from the NFL. They also gave Florida high schooler Chris Huseby $1.3 million as an 11th-rounder, though he barely pitched during the spring while recovering from Tommy John surgery.