Chicago Cubs: Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Chicago Cubs

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, 2007.

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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.

1. Felix Pie, of   Born: Feb. 8, 1985B-T: L-LHt: 6-2Wt: 170
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2001Signed by: Jose Serra
Felix PieBackground: The best thing that may happened to Pie was hurting his right ankle sliding into a base in June 2005. The resulting bone bruise kept him out for the rest of the season, and ended the Cubs' plans to promote him when they tired of Corey Patterson in July. Unsure whether Pie would be ready to jump to Chicago after missing most of 2005, they traded for Juan Pierre in the offseason. Rather than being rushed to the detriment of his career like Patterson was, Pie got a full year of development at Triple-A Iowa in 2006. As it turns out, he wasn't ready for the majors, hitting just .248 with seven homers in the first three months. He adjusted and batted .322 with eight homers in the final two months, reaffirming that he's by far the Cubs' best position prospect. Success has followed Pie throughout the minors, as he has appeared in two Futures Games and won championships with each of the first four clubs he played with. Double-A West Tenn went to the Southern League finals while he was on the disabled list in 2005, and Iowa tied for the Pacific Coast League North title in 2006.

Strengths: The best athlete in the system, Pie has tools reminiscent of Carlos Beltran's. He's a power-hitting center fielder with basestealing ability. His bat is so quick that he can make hard contact against any pitch he can reach, even out of the strike zone. Though he always has been one of the youngest regulars in his leagues, he consistently has hit for average. In the last two years, Pie has started to incorporate his legs more into his swing and to turn on more pitches, allowing him to realize more of his power potential. He has well above-average speed, making him dangerous on the bases and able to run down most balls in center field. His arm is strong enough for right field, and he led Triple-A Pacific Coast League outfielders with 18 assists last year. In addition to his physical skills, the Cubs also like his makeup. They like how he turned his season around last year, and they say it's no coincidence that his teams have won consistently.

Weaknesses: Pie still needs to refine his instincts in all phases of the game. He doesn't control the strike zone, resulting in few walks and too many outs on balls he shouldn't chase. Chicago had him bat at the top of the Triple-A lineup to have him work on his plate discipline, with only moderate success. For all his speed, Pie was caught stealing 11 times in 28 tries in 2006 and has succeeded on just 63 percent of his attempts as a pro. Though he's the system's best defensive outfielder, he'll occasionally take some erratic routes.

The Future: Though the Cubs seemingly filled their outfield by signing Alfonso Soriano to a $136 million contract, they'd prefer to trade Jacque Jones and play Soriano in right. That would leave center open for Pie, who would offer a lefty bat in a predominantly righthanded lineup. If Chicago can't deal Jones, more development in Triple-A wouldn't hurt, as Pie showed by hitting a soft .216 through 125 at-bats in the Dominican Winter League. He'll make his major league debut at age 22, though it may be a few years before he can become an offensive force.
Iowa (AAA).283.341.4515597815833815574612617
2. Donald Veal, lhp   Born: Sept. 18, 1984B-T: L-LHt: 6-4Wt: 215
 Drafted: Pima (Ariz.) CC, 2005 (2nd round)Signed by: Steve McFarland
Donald VealBackground: After signing him for $530,000 as a second-rounder in 2005, the Cubs kept Veal on short pitch counts because he was worn out from a heavy workload at Pima (Ariz.) CC. When they turned him loose last year, he led minor league starters in opponent batting average (.175) and shared Chicago's minor league player of the year award with Rich Hill.

Strengths: Hitters can't square up the ball well against Veal because he has quality stuff and hides it with an unorthodox delivery. He has a 92-93 mph fastball that tops out at 95, and he likes to bust hitters inside with a four-seamer and then paint the outside corner with a two-seamer. His 74-79 mph curveball has tight rotation and is a strikeout pitch when it's on. His changeup is a solid third pitch. He has long arms and operates with a big leg kick and a high three-quarters slot, and his pitches get on top of hitters before they're ready.

Weaknesses: Veal's delivery is complicated, so command becomes an issue. He locates his fastball where he wants, but he won't be able to do the same with his secondary pitches until he starts using them more often. His inconsistent curveball can get loopy at times.

The Future: He'll open 2007 at the Chicago's new Double-A Tennessee affiliate. Though the Cubs have signed free agents Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis, Veal has the electric arm to push his way into the big league rotation by the end of the year if he improves the consistency of his secondary pitches. He's a possible No. 2 starter in the future.
Peoria (Lo A)532.69141400744544086.179
Daytona (Hi A)621.67141400814634288.170
3. Jeff Samardzija, rhp   Born: Jan. 23, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 6-5Wt: 218
 Drafted: Notre Dame, 2006 (5th round)Signed by: Stan Zielinski
Jeff SamardzijaBackground: Samardzija is the most accomplished wide receiver in Notre Dame history, owning school records for single-season and career catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. He also has a big-time arm that would have made him a first-round pick in baseball if not for his football prowess. The Cubs didn't have second- through fourth-round picks in the 2006 draft, and they compensated by taking Samardzija in the fifth. The Cubs signed him away from the NFL in January with a $10 million big league contract, including a $2.5 million bonus. The deal is comparable to the $10.5 million big league deal the Cubs gave No. 2 overall pick Mark Prior in 2001.

Strengths: Samardzija usually pitches at 91-94 mph with his fastball, but he has touched 99 and Chicago thinks he'll operate in the mid-90s once he cleans up his mechanics. His low-80s slider is inconsistent, but it presently grades as average and has plus potential. He's a phenomenal athlete who proved coachable and able to make quick adjustments in his first summer of pro ball.

Weaknesses: Samardzija is still raw in baseball. He'll open up early in his delivery and sling the ball, costing him deception and flattening his pitches. He rarely has used his changeup, a below-average pitch.

The Future: Now that Samardzija is focusing on baseball, the Cubs say he could become a No. 1 or 2 starter, with one club official comparing him with John Smoltz. He'll start the season at high Class A Daytona and could arrive in the majors no later than the end of 2008.
Boise (SS)112.37550019181613.247
Peoria (Lo A)013.272200116164.167
4. Tyler Colvin, of   Born: Sept. 5, 1985B-T: L-LHt: 6-3Wt: 190
 Drafted: Clemson, 2006 (1st round)Signed by: Antonio Grissom
Tyler ColvinBackground: Colvin was the biggest surprise of the first round of the 2006 draft, going 13th overall after not receiving a lot of hype at Clemson. He led the Tigers to the College World Series, then signed for $1.475 million. He ranked as the short-season Northwest League's No. 1 prospect in his pro debut.

Strengths: There's more projection remaining for Colvin than with most college draftees because of his gangly frame and age; he didn't turn 21 until the end of the season. He's the best pure hitter in the system and should develop plus power as he gets stronger, as he has quick hands and drives the ball to all fields. The Cubs believe his solid-average speed could improve as he matures physically. He also plays fine defense, with the range for center field and the arm for right.

Weaknesses: Colvin tried to do too much at the start of his pro career, leading to an immediate 8-for-46 slump. He learned to just let the game come to him, and made a similar adjustment at the plate. Rather than trying to muscle up for power against righthanders, he has started to let the ball travel deeper and trust his hands. He'll need to tighten his strike zone and lay off high fastballs.

The Future: While Colvin's upside, which draws comparisons to Steve Finley and Shawn Green, excites Chicago, he'll need time to develop. He could open his first full pro season at low Class A Peoria, though he should be able to handle high Class A Daytona.
Boise (SS).268.313.48326550711261153175512
5. Sean Gallagher, rhp   Born: Dec. 30, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 210
 Drafted: HS--Fort Lauderdale, Fla., 2004 (12th round)Signed by: Rolando Pino
Sean GallagherBackground: Gallagher was considered a tough sign if he didn't go in the first three rounds of the 2004 draft, but area scout Rolando Pino stayed on him and got a deal done in the 12th round. He won 14 games in low Class A as a teenager in 2005, then motored through two levels last year as his stuff improved.

Strengths: The biggest key to pitching is fastball command, and Gallagher can put his heater where he wants in the strike zone. It also surged from 88-90 mph in 2005 to 90-94 last year while retaining its boring life. His curveball remains his best pitch, and he has improved his changeup. He's built for durability and has the mindset that he should win every time he takes the mound.

Weaknesses: When he got to Double-A, Gallagher overthrew and lost the edge off his control and command. He sometimes leaves his pitches up when he doesn't finish his delivery. His changeup still needs some fine-tuning. He'll have to watch the weight on his stocky frame, but he's athletic for his size and pays attention to his conditioning.

The Future: Gallagher has developed faster than anticipated and has a ceiling of a No. 3 starter. He'll begin 2007 with a few starts in Double-A, but he'll move up to Triple-A by midseason and could make his big league debut in September.
Daytona (Hi A)402.30131300787552180.260
West Tenn (AA)752.71151500867445591.239
6. Eric Patterson, 2b   Born: April 8, 1983B-T: L-RHt: 5-11Wt: 170
 Drafted: Georgia Tech, 2004 (8th round)Signed by: Sam Hughes
Eric PattersonBackground: His older brother Corey may have played his way out of Chicago, but Eric is firmly in the club's plans. An eighth-round pick who signed for fourth-round money ($300,000) in 2004, he won the low Class A Midwest League batting title in his first pro season and reached Triple-A in his second. He led the Arizona Fall League with 15 steals and batted .345.

Strengths: Manager rated him the best baserunner in the Southern League last year, as Patterson has plus speed and good instincts. He hits for a solid average and has surprising pop for his size. Scouts see him as a less explosive version of Delino DeShields.

Weaknesses: There are a lot of questions about whether Patterson can play second base in the major leagues. He has made improvements but still has a long way to go. He relies on his speed rather than reading balls off the bat, and he doesn't have great range to his right. His plate discipline is just fair and he sometimes gets caught up in trying to hitting homers, compromising his ability to get on base and use his speed.

The Future: Though he'll remain at second base for now, Patterson spent some time in center field during instructional league and could become a super utilityman along the lines of Chone Figgins or Ryan Freel. The free-agent signing of Mark DeRosa will buy Patterson at least a half-season in Triple-A, but he's still the Cubs' second baseman of the future.
Iowa (AAA).358.395.49367142411212698
West Tenn (AA).263.330.40844166116229848468938
7. Scott Moore, 3b   Born: Nov. 17, 1983B-T: L-RHt: 6-2Wt: 180
 Drafted: HS--Long Beach, 2002 (1st round)Signed by: Rob Wilfong (Tigers)
Scott MooreBackground: A change of scenery was apparently just what Moore needed. He struggled after the Tigers made him the eighth overall pick in the 2002 draft, but he has hit 44 homers in two seasons since coming to the Cubs in a February 2005 trade for Kyle Farnsworth.

Strengths: Moore's power grades as a 55 on the 20-80 scouting scale and plays to all fields. After leading the high Class A Florida State League in errors the previous two years, he was much steadier in 2006 and managers rated him the best defensive third baseman in the Double-A Southern League. He has average speed and runs the bases well.

Weaknesses: Until he cuts down on his swing and his strikeouts, Moore won't hit for a high average. He's not as pull-crazy as he used to be, but he'll still chase breaking balls. Most of his errors still come on throws, though he has improved his accuracy and footwork.

The Future: With Aramis Ramirez locked up for the next five years, Moore is blocked at third base with the Cubs. He saw time at first base, left field and even shortstop in the Arizona Fall League, and will move around the diamond this year in Triple-A. He has the ceiling of a lefthanded David Bell, but Moore ultimately will serve Chicago as a versatile reserve or as trade bait.
Iowa (AAA).250.250.5004111000010
West Tenn (AA).276.360.4794635212828022755512612
Chicago .263.317.4743861020252100
8. Ryan Harvey, of   Born: Aug. 30, 1984B-T: R-RHt: 6-5Wt: 220
 Drafted: HS--Dunedin, Fla., 2003 (1st round)Signed by: Rolando Pino
Ryan HarveyBackground: Four years after making Harvey the fifth overall pick in the 2003 draft, the Cubs still don't know what they have him. Few players in the minors can hit a ball as far or look as silly on a strikeout as he can. He hit just .203 with seven homers in his first 68 games last year, then .320 with 13 longballs in his last 54, including a four-homer outburst on July 28.

Strengths: With his natural strength and leverage, Harvey is a threat to go deep at any time in any park against any pitcher. A right fielder, he threw 90-93 mph off the mound in high school and has accuracy to go with his arm strength. A very good athlete for his size, he runs well once he gets going.

Weaknesses: Harvey still uses the same one-plane swing he had in high school, and he could work harder to make changes. His approach also leaves a lot to be desired, as he chases too many pitches. Pitchers can bust him inside, and when he looks that way, he's easy prey for soft stuff on the outer half.

The Future: Did Harvey figure things out in the second half of 2006, or did he just ride an extended hot streak? The Cubs don't know for sure but they're anxious to see how he performs this year in Double-A.
Daytona (Hi A).248.290.432475641182512084251257
9. Chris Huseby, rhp   Born: Jan. 11, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 6-7Wt: 220
 Drafted: HS--Stuart, Fla., 2006 (11th round)Signed by: Rolando Pino
Chris HusebyBackground: Huseby had pitched for the U.S. youth national team and was establishing himself as an early-round prospect for the 2006 draft when he blew out his elbow as a high school junior in March 2005. After recovering from Tommy John surgery, the Auburn recruit pitched just a handful of innings last spring. But led by area scout Rolando Pino, the Cubs saw enough in his limited action and a workout to give him a $1.3 million bonus last June, a record for an 11th-rounder.

Strengths: Huseby has intimidating size and a chance for three plus pitches. He was throwing 90-95 mph 15 months removed from Tommy John surgery, and there's more projection remaining in his frame. He also has a power curveball and a promising changeup. He's athletic and has a sound delivery, so throwing strikes shouldn't be an issue. Because he has efficient mechanics and works hard at staying in shape, Chicago isn't worried about further arm problems.

Weaknesses: Like most pitchers coming back from elbow reconstruction, Huseby will need some more time to build up his endurance and regain his feel for his secondary pitches. His changeup is promising but still in the developmental stages.

The Future: The Cubs will do their best to take care of Huseby's valuable right arm. Rather than send him to the cold weather of the Midwest League in April, they'll probably keep him in extended spring training and ship him to Boise in June.
AZL Cubs (R)025.19660017211614.296
10. Mark Pawelek, lhp   Born: Aug. 18, 1986B-T: L-LHt: 6-3Wt: 190
 Signed: HS--Springville, Utah, 2005 (1st round)Signed by: John Bartsch
Mark PawelekBackground: Pawelek surpassed Bruce Hurst as the highest-drafted Utah high schooler ever, going 20th overall in 2005 and signing for $1.75 million. Rated the No. 1 prospect in the Rookie-level Arizona League in his pro debut, he showed up at his first spring training unprepared mentally or physically. The Cubs sent him a wakeup call by scrapping a planned assignment to low Class A and keeping him in extended spring training.

Strengths: Pawelek has a chance for three solid-average pitches. He pitched at 88-92 mph and touched 95 with his fastball during the summer. Chicago had him scrap his slider and splitter to concentrate on his curveball and changeup, and his secondary pitches are improving.

Weaknesses: A year ago, scouts thought Pawelek had a chance for three plus pitches. Even when he got into shape, he didn't show his previous arm speed and didn't work at 92-95 mph like he had in 2005. He has an awkward delivery that's very long in back and leaves him slinging his pitches. If he can't clean that up, shoulder problems could be in his future.

The Future: The Cubs believe Pawelek learned his lesson and expect him to be in better throwing shape when he arrives in 2007. Ticketed for low Class A, he still has promise even if his ceiling has diminished.
Boise (SS)352.51151200615412352.232

Photo Credits:
Pie: John Williamson
Veal: Paul Gierhart
Colvin, Huseby: Bill Mitchell
Gallagher, Patterson, Moore, Harvey, Pawelek: Steve Moore