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Pie, then 14, had played only street baseball when he stopped by a tryout in his hometown of La Romana in the Domincian Republic in 1999. Jose Serra asked Pie to show what he could do, and his skills impressed the Cubs scout enough that he got Pie involved in more structured baseball and signed him once he turned 16. Pie came to the United States at 17 and since has blazed a trail of success throughout the minors. He won championships with each of the four teams he played with in his first three seasons, and he played in the Futures Game in 2003-04. Both of those streaks ended in 2005 after he injured his right ankle when he slid late into a base in mid-June. A bone bruise initially wasn't expected to sideline him for more than a few weeks, but he never returned, forcing him to bow out of the Futures Game and leaving him unable to contribute to Double-A West Tenn's playoff run, which ended with a loss in the Southern League finals. If he hadn't been hurt, the Cubs say they would have called Pie up when they shipped Corey Patterson to the minors in early July. Pie has been the best athlete in the system since he made his pro debut in 2002, and his tools are similar to those of Carlos Beltran. Despite being one of the youngest players in his league each year, he consistently has hit for average. He has an uncanny ability to make hard contact even when he chases pitches out of the strike zone. After hitting just 16 homers in his first 287 pro games, Pie started to deliver on his power potential with 11 in 59 games in 2005. He improved his setup, used his legs more in his swing and started to pull pitches more often. His speed is his best tool, making him a basestealing threat and giving him the range to cover the gaps in center field. He also has a strong arm that would fit in right field if needed. Pie is still raw in many phases of the game. Though it has yet to catch up to him, his plate discipline has slipped as he has risen through the minors. He rarely walks because he lacks patience and is able to put balls out of the zone in play. Intrigued by his newfound power, he fell into ruts where he became too focused on trying to hit homers. Despite his well above-average speed, he's still figuring out how to steal bases and was caught nine times in 22 attempts in 2005. Defensively, he can improve his routes, especially when he comes in on balls. Losing three months of the season cost him valuable development time, though he did return to play with Licey in the Dominican Winter League. Patterson has fallen short of his considerable potential in part because the Cubs rushed him through the minors without forcing him to address his shortcomings. They contemplated doing the same with Pie but ultimately decided to trade for Juan Pierre in December. That move should give Pie time to add polish to his game at Triple-A Iowa. If Pierre stays in Chicago for the long term, Pie will slide over to right field for the Cubs.
When he went 20th overall in June, Pawelek became the highest-drafted Utah high schooler ever, surpassing Bruce Hurst, the No. 22 pick in 1976. Pawelek became the first 2005 first-rounder to sign, agreeing to a $1.75 million bonus. He rated as the No. 1 prospect in the Rookie-level Arizona League. Pawelek is a rare lefthander with a chance to have three plus pitches. He has a quick arm that already delivers lively 92-95 mph fastballs, and he could add more velocity as he fills out. Both his curveball and changeup have their moments. His secondary pitches are inconsistent, and the Cubs had Pawelek scrap his slider and splitter because they wanted him to focus on improving three pitches rather than five. His mechanics are sound, though he sometimes rushes and loses balance and command. He'll throw more, better strikes once he repeats his delivery better. The Cubs kept Pawelek on tight pitch counts last summer and will continue to exercise caution because he's still a teenager. He'll move up to low Class A Peoria in 2006.
Cedeno won the Arizona League batting title with a .350 average in his U.S. debut in 2001, then hit just .212 the next two seasons as the Cubs rushed him through Class A. His bat has bounced back, and he spent three months in the majors in 2005, mostly on the bench. He was just starting to get regular playing time in September when a Brad Hennessey pitch broke his left hand. Cedeno has the best actions and arm strength among Chicago's infield prospects, and he has proven that he can be more than just a glove man. His strong hands and wrists give him good bat speed that should allow him to hit for average and maybe 15 homers per year. His speed is slightly above average. To fit near the top of the lineup, Cedeno will need to show more patience and basestealing savvy. He can get homer-happy, but that happens less than it did in the past. Though the Cubs re-signed Neifi Perez, they say he'll be a backup. Cedeno will get the opportunity to start at second base or shortstop, depending on further moves the club makes this offseason.
Guzman was on a roll in Double-A and bucking for a big league callup in mid-2003 when he was diagnosed with a slight tear in his labrum. Though he required only arthroscopic surgery, he has pitched just 66 innings since. The Cubs were enthused by reports he was throwing 93- 96 mph in the Arizona Fall League. Before he got hurt, Guzman had arguably the best fastball, curveball and changeup in the system. The velocity and hard sink have returned with his fastball. He always has excelled at throwing strikes, and that hasn't changed. Guzman needs to trust his stuff and his health. He missed most of 2005 with forearm stiffness. He hasn't used his curveball much since his return, and his changeup isn't the plus pitch it once was. He must command both pitches better in the strike zone. It's impossible to count on Guzman or to even know what to expect from him, but he still has one of the highest ceilings in the system. If all goes well in spring training, he could start 2006 in Double-A and make his big league debut later in the year.
Hill always had a knockout curveball, but his inability to throw strikes (6.3 walks per nine innings) held him back in his first three seasons as a pro. The light turned on in 2005, which he credits to improved mental focus. Hill led the minors with 13.4 strikeouts per nine innings and made his major league debut. Hill's 12-to-6 curveball is often unhittable, and batters can't sit on it now that he can locate his 90-91 mph fastball. His changeup shows promise and would give him the third pitch he requires to remain a starter. He has cleaned up his delivery, which also improved his control. For all his progress, Hill didn't throw strikes when he joined the Cubs and big league hitters took advantage. He needs to trust and use his changeup more often. Hill will get a chance to crack Chicago's rotation in spring training, and he has the stuff to be a No. 2 starter. His curve is so good that he should at least become a dynamic lefty specialist.
Marshall and his twin brother Brian were part of a Virginia Commonwealth staff that led NCAA Division I with a 2.54 ERA in 2003, when the Red Sox took Brian in the fifth round and the Cubs selected Sean in the sixth. Sean has a 2.64 ERA in pro ball, but missed time in 2004 with a ruptured tendon in his left middle finger and again in 2005 with shoulder soreness. Marshall picks up plenty of groundballs and strikeouts thanks to an 88-92 mph sinker that can reach 95. He keeps batters off balance with his curveball, a sharp downer he can change speeds with. He commands both pitches well. The tendon injury was a fluke and his shoulder problems were probably related to compensating for the finger, but Marshall still hasn't proven he can hold up over a full season. He'll have to improve his changeup to remain a starter, and he's working on a slider. The Cubs believe Marshall is on the verge of a breakthrough season in 2006. He'll probably open the year in Double-A but isn't too far from the majors if he can stay healthy.
Though he blew out his right knee at a high school showcase the previous fall, Harvey recovered in time to go sixth overall in the 2003 draft and sign for $2.4 million. He made his full-season debut in 2005 and was a low Class A Midwest League all-star, leading the league in homers and losing the RBI title on the last day of the season. Harvey has massive power potential and is an incredible athlete for a 6-foot-5, 225-pounder. He looks like the blueprint scouts would draw up for a right fielder. He has plus speed and a plus-plus arm that unleashed 90-93 mph fastballs when he pitched in high school. Harvey has a huge ceiling but will have to make several adjustments at the plate to reach it. He's a free swinger with a long stroke who struggles against inside fastballs and chases wayward breaking balls. His two-strike approach is poor. It remains to be seen how well Harvey will do against more advanced pitching, and he'll probably never hit for a high average. But his tools excite the Cubs, and they'll see how he fares at high Class A Daytona in 2006.
Dopirak ranked No. 1 on this list a year ago, when he was coming off a 39-homer season and an MVP award in the Midwest League. The wheels came off in high Class A in 2005, however, as his average dropped 72 points while he dipped to 16 homers. He's a product of Dunedin (Fla). High, as are three other prominent Cubs: general manager Jim Hendry, new scouting director Tim Wilken and Ryan Harvey. Dopirak has power comparable to Harvey's, and who has more is a popular debate among Cubs officials. Dopirak can hit the ball out of any part of any park and doesn't need a long swing to do it. He has worked hard to improve defensively. He typically has needed time to adjust to a new level, but Dopirak seemed to panic in 2005. After he started slowly again, he lengthened his stroke and tried to pull everything in an attempt to pump up his homer totals. He has below-average speed and will never be more than adequate at first base. With Derrek Lee in the majors, Chicago can be patient with Dopirak. They'll move him up a level to Double-A in 2006 and hope he can bounce back.
Patterson may seize the Cubs' leadoff job that his brother Corey has failed to fill. An eighth-round pick who signed for fourth-round money ($300,000), Patterson won the Midwest League batting title and the Cubs' minor league player of the year award in his pro debut. Patterson isn't as strong or as fast as his brother Corey, but he still stands out in both areas. He has 65 speed on the 20-80 scouting scale and surprising pop for his size. Unlike Corey, Eric isn't allergic to walks. He should become an average defender at second base. Patterson can have too much power for his own good, as he sometimes worries too much about homers at the expense of getting on base. He'd be better off shortening his stroke. He's still rough at second base, where he can look stiff and needs to continue to clean up his double-play pivot. Patterson will return to Double-A, where he spent the last week of his first pro season. He has passed Mike Fontentot and Richard Lewis on the organization depth chart and could be starting for the Cubs at some point in 2007.
Marmol spent the first three years of his pro career as a catcher/outfielder, and unlike many former hitters who convert to the mound, he wasn't totally lost at the plate. He batted .273 while showing gap power and speed, but his powerful right arm was too hard to ignore. The Cubs made him a full-time pitcher in 2003, and he responded by leading the Rookie-level Arizona League in strikeouts. He followed up by tying for the low Class A Midwest League lead in wins in 2004, and a solid year in high Class A earned him a spot on the 40-man roster following the 2005 season. While he still has to develop more feel for pitching, particularly with his command, he's ahead of the game considering his inexperience. His fastball jumped a couple of ticks to 92-94 mph last year, and he also made some progress with his hard breaking ball, which is closer to a slider or a cutter than a curveball. Marmol also is doing well learning a changeup. If everything comes together, he could have three plus pitches. If not, he's an intriguing power arm for the back of the bullpen. He'll return to Double-A this year.
Scouts have been comparing Veal to former Cubs draft pick Dontrelle Willis since he was an Arizona high school star. He declined reported $500,000 bonuses from the Brewers and Yankees, and ultimately turned down the White Sox after slipping to the 12th round, deciding instead to attend the University of Arizona. A cousin of former NBA star (and former Athletics draft pick) Kevin Johnson, Veal had shoulder problems during fall practice, the result of a torn labrum that didn't require surgery but forced him to redshirt as a freshman while the Wildcats reached the College World Series. He transferred to Pima (Ariz.) CC for the 2005 season, then signed for $530,000 as a second-round pick. Though the Cubs kept Veal on short pitch counts in his pro debut, his talent still was obvious and he rated as the No. 2 prospect in the short-season Northwest League. He pitched mainly at 86-91 mph during the summer but sat at 93-94 mph when he was fresh during the spring. He keeps his fastball down, achieves nice run with it and works it to both sides of the plate. He shows the making of a plus curveball, though his changeup will need significant work. His delivery isn't as extreme as Willis', but Veal has some funk to his motion and his long arms make his pitches difficult to pick up. He's something of a project, as he has a ways to go with his secondary pitches and command, but the payoff could be huge. If Chicago continues to take it slow with Veal, he'll open the season in low Class A.
Gallagher has far exceeded expectations since signing as a 12th-round pick in 2004, but scouts wonder if he's already near his ceiling. The Cubs planned on sending him to extended spring training before shipping him out to short-season Boise last year, but injuries created an opening for Gallagher in the Peoria rotation. He seized the opportunity by not allowing an earned run in his first six starts (which included a combined no-hitter), en route to tying for the Midwest League lead in victories and winning Chicago's minor league pitcher of the year award. However, he leveled off after his hot start and may not have a plus pitch. Gallagher's best offering is his curveball, which managers rated the best in the MWL. But while some see his curve as an above-average pitch, others say it's loopy and slurvy and stands out mainly because he locates it well. His 88-90 mph fastball and changeup are fringe average, and he's not projectable at 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds. Gallagher's command, savvy and presence are all advanced for his age, and he figures to develop into a back-of-the-rotation starter. He'll open 2006 in high Class A, where he made a cameo last September, and could jump to Double-A quickly if he has another torrid streak to open the season.
Moore's career was going nowhere when the Cubs picked him up from the Tigers in a three-prospect package for Kyle Farnsworth last February. The eighth overall pick and the recipient of a $2.3 million bonus in 2002, Moore batted .240 with 24 homers and 266 strikeouts over 265 pro games in his first three pro seasons. Faced with repeating high Class A, Moore made adjustments to his approach. He got more selective at the plate, stopped trying to pull everything and didn't get down on himself when he struggled. His swing is still long and he always will pile up strikeouts, but if he generates the plus lefthanded power he showed in 2005, that's fine. He improved so dramatically that he represented Chicago at the Futures Game--in Detroit--and earned a spot on the 40-man roster. Moore has average speed and range at third base, and a plus throwing arm. His mechanics and footwork are rough, however, and he has led Florida State League third basemen in errors for two years running. The Cubs are anxious to see if his breakthrough is for real and should learn more from his Double-A performance in 2006.
When the Cubs signed Ryu out of Korea for $1.6 million in 2001, they figured he'd be contributing at the major league level by now. But when it seemed he might never be remembered for anything beyond killing an osprey by throwing a baseball that knocked it from its perch at Daytona's Jackie Robinson Ballpark in 2003, Ryu turned his career around last year. Hammered in Double-A in 2003 and hampered by elbow tendinitis in 2004, he came back to lead the Southern League in innings and prompted Chicago to protect him on its 40-man roster. Ryu has the best command in the system. He doesn't have a plus pitch, but he can locate all four of his offerings: a fastball that sits at 88-89 mph and maxes out at 91, slider, curveball and changeup. He mixes his pitches well and shows the ability to speed hitters' bats up or slow them down as needed. Ryu used to pitch in the low 90s but still was effective with reduced velocity in 2005. He also seemed to mature after the osprey incident and problems with teammates in the past. Some club officials still wish he were more competitive and took pitching more seriously. If he can build on his development in Triple-A, Ryu likely will make his big league debut this year.
It took Sing three tries to succeed in high Class A, but when he finally did he was the Florida State League's MVP and home run champion in 2004. He earned another homer crown after moving up to the Southern League in 2005, and he set franchise home run records both years. Sing's trademark tool, obviously, is his power. His swing can get long at times, but he has a selective eye and a knack for drawing walks. Where he fits on the diamond and in Chicago's lineup is a question. Sing signed as a third baseman and got a shot at second base in instructional league years ago, but his lack of speed and range limited him to first base or an outfield corner. He does have some arm strength and has committed himself to improving defensively, but he probably won't ever be more than adequate. Blocked at first base by Derrek Lee and in left field by Matt Murton, Sing's best hope of starting for the Cubs is in right field. But they didn't protect him on their 40-man roster, meaning he'll have to continue to prove himself this year in Triple-A.
Since drafting Joe Girardi and Rick Wilkins in 1986, the Cubs haven't had much luck developing catchers. Soto is their best hope to end that drought, playing in Triple-A at age 22 last year and making his major league debut in September. A cousin of former Cubs infielder Ramon Martinez, Soto doesn't have a standout tool but he doesn't have any glaring weaknesses either. While he was inconsistent at the plate against older Pacific Coast League pitchers, Soto showed good patience. He handles the bat well enough to hit for a decent average, and he has enough strength and loft in his swing to reach double digits in homers on an annual basis. He doesn't run well, like most catchers, but he's agile and blocks balls well. Soto's arm strength is probably his best tool. He's still learning how to handle veteran pitches and to call a game, but that's to be expected. He has spent just three years as a full-time catcher after dabbling at the infield corners in his first two pro seasons. He'll repeat Triple-A in 2006 to soak up some more experience.
The Cubs still haven't seen Johnson at his best since making him their top pick (second round) in 2004 and signing him for $1.26 million. He missed all of the 2003 season after surgery to repair a torn labrum, and he was getting back to 100 percent when he turned pro. He signed too late to make his pro debut in 2004, and skipped instructional league to work toward his marketing degree at Notre Dame. In 2005, a pulled quad muscle kept him in extended spring training for the first two months of last season. When Johnson finally got on the mound in June, his stuff was just OK. He showed heavy life on his fastball, but pitched anywhere from 87-93 mph after working consistently at 92-94 while in college. His slider, his money pitch before he hurt his shoulder with the Fighting Irish, was mediocre because he had trouble staying on top of it. His changeup and command didn't stand out either. Chicago hopes Johnson will be healthy and regain his old stuff this year in high Class A. His slider looked better in instructional league.
Signed away from a Washington State football scholarship in 2002--he was recruited as a long snapper--Petrick had developed into one of the system's best righthanders before last year was a total loss. His shoulder had bothered him for the last couple of years, and doctors found fraying in his labrum that had to be fixed with arthroscopic surgery. The problem was discovered before he did major damage. Before he got hurt, Petrick threw a heavy sinker at 90-93 mph. The pitch was difficult to lift, and he has surrendered just seven homers in 280 pro innings. He made strides with his breaking ball in 2004, replacing a loopy curveball with a slider, and had improved his changeup. He still needs to improve his location and do a better job of throwing his changeup with fastball arm speed. Petrick may not be ready to pitch at the beginning of spring training, in which case he'd probably start the season in extended spring. He's still just 21, so the Cubs can afford to take it slow with him.
Phelps lasted until the 11th round of the 2005 draft only because of major signability questions. Projected to be the ace on a loaded staff at Central Missouri State, a perennial NCAA Division II power, he got hit in the head by a throw from his catcher in the season opener. Phelps missed five weeks with a fractured skull and couldn't crack the Mules rotation when he returned. A draft-eligible sophomore, he figured to be an early-round pick in 2006 if he returned and had a healthy season. Credit area scout Tom Shafer for correctly gauging Phelps' willingness to turn pro and landing him for $55,000. Chicago eased him into pro ball by pitching him out of the bullpen, but challenged him with a pair of promotions, the second to high Class A. Phelps has the stuff to stay in the rotation, as his fastball, curveball and changeup all have the potential to be plus pitches. His fastball sits in the low 90s and tops out at 94, and his changeup may be his best current offering because he locates it so well. The Cubs still haven't determined whether they want to keep Phelps in the bullpen, which would expedite his development, or put him in the rotation this year. He has a chance to reach Double-A by the end of 2006.
When the Cubs realized they weren't going to make the playoffs, they salvaged three prospects in a pair of late-August trades for veteran outfielders who weren't part of their long-term future. They sent Matt Lawton to the Yankees for Berg, and Todd Hollandsworth to the Braves for righthanders Angelo Burrows and Todd Blackford. All three of the acquisitions throw in the low 90s, with Berg the best prospect of that group. New York drafted him out of Indian Hills (Iowa) CC after he helped the Falcons reach the 2003 Junior College World Series, and signed him as a draft-and-follow after he spent 2004 at Triton (Ill.) JC. He gets good sink on his fastball from a low three-quarters arm slot. He also could add some more velocity as he fills out his lanky 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame. His slider has some promise, though it's not always easy to stay on top of the pitch with his arm angle. His changeup and control still need a lot of work, but his upside is intriguing. A good athlete, he starred in hockey as well as in baseball in high school. Berg probably will pitch in low Class A this year.
The Bobby Brownlie who dominated college hitters and starred for Team USA in 2000-01 has yet to show up in pro ball, and it's increasingly unlikely that he will. Brownlie was an early favorite to go No. 1 overall in the 2002 draft, but he came down with biceps tendinitis that spring and slid to the Cubs at No. 21. He didn't sign until the following March, and after agreeing to a $2.5 million bonus he came down with a sore shoulder midway through his pro debut. Brownlie hasn't had any more health issues since, but his stuff is a far cry from what it once was. He operated with a 92-94 mph fastball and a plus-plus curveball before the biceps tendinitis, but he opened 2005 working at 86-87 mph. He got hammered as a starter and moved to the bullpen, where his fastball rose to 88-89 mph and topped out at 91 mph. When Brownlie returned to the Triple-A Iowa rotation in August, he got shellacked again, so his future appears to be in relief. His curveball is still good though not what it once was, and his changeup may now be his best pitch. He has survived as a pro by improving his command, though he tended to nibble and fall behind in counts as a Triple- A starter. He's destined for another year in Iowa.
The Cubs believe the best is yet to come for Billek, who won six games in three seasons at Central Florida before signing last June for $315,000 as a third-round pick. He didn't get in shape as a sophomore and then was suspended for violating team rules, and his junior season was marred by a nagging hip injury. Billek drew a lot of interest by hitting 95 mph on the Golden Knights' scout day in the fall of 2004, but pitched mostly at 88-90 mph while battling his hip during the spring. Big and strong at 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, he may profile best as a reliever. In that role he could pitch at 92-94 mph, and he also has shown a harder, tighter curveball when he has come out of the bullpen. Billek pitched as a starter in his pro debut, acquitting himself well in low Class A, and will stay in that role for now. If he comes up with a reliable changeup and shows more consistency with his fastball and curve, he could remain a long-term starter. Billek may open his first full season in high Class A.
A catalyst on Louisiana State's 2000 College World Series champions--Theriot led off the final game's bottom of the ninth with a single and came around to score the title-winning run--he was sent straight to high Class A after signing in 2001 because 2000 first-rounder Luis Montanez was in low Class A. Theriot batted just .204, prompting Chicago to ask him to switch-hit, an experiment that didn't help him over the next three seasons. He reverted to batting solely righthanded in 2005, had the best year of his career and made his big league debut in September after Cedeno broke his hand. Theriot never is going to be an offensive force, but he can handle the bat well. He can bunt, hit-and-run and use the entire field, and he rarely strikes out. He doesn't have much pop, so he needs to hit more balls on the ground to take advantage of his slightly above-average speed. He also can get pull-conscious at times, which doesn't play to his strengths. Though he played mostly second base in Double-A last year to accommodate Buck Coats, Theriot is a legitimate shortstop. His arm, range and instincts are all plus tools, and he impressed the big league staff with his glove and his intensity. He probably will open the year in Triple-A and doesn't project as a regular, but he could have a big league career as a utilityman.
After nearly three years of trying to become a shortstop, Coats started playing center field regularly again last July. He spent most of his first three pro seasons as an outfielder, and he looked so good upon his return that some Cubs officials say he's a better center-field defender than Felix Pie. Coats also has a strong arm for that position and looks more comfortable there than he does at short, where he has made 114 errors in 303 games. He's a good athlete who runs well, and now he needs to get his bat going. The Cubs had envisioned Coats becoming an offensive middle infielder, but he has been ordinary at the plate. He has a sound swing, makes reasonable contact and has a little gap power. Realistically, he fits at the bottom of a big league batting order and looks more like a utilityman who can play almost anywhere on the diamond (he has played seven positions as a pro) than a regular. Coats still played a little shortstop in August and in the Arizona Fall League, and he'll probably see action at a variety of positions in Triple-A this year.
Holliman left some unfinished business at Mississippi in 2005. He and the Rebels lost to Texas in a thrilling super-regional, and he finished his junior season with 281 career strikeouts, one shy of the school record held by former big leaguer Jeff Calhoun. But after deliberating for most of the summer, Holliman signed as a third-round pick for $385,000. He joined the Cubs for instructional league and made a good initial impression. He throws a 90-92 mph fastball that topped out at 94 in college, though at 6-foot-1 he doesn't always do a good job of leveraging it down in the strike zone. He needs to locate it better because it's very hittable when he leaves it up. Both his curveball and slider are plus pitches at times, and he also throws a changeup. His ability to deliver strikes and his strong body allow him to work deep into games. Though he missed what would have been his first pro summer, the Cubs think he's advanced enough to still advance quickly. He'll make his debut at one of their Class A affiliates.
Johnston led Hamilton High (Chandler, Ariz.) to state 5-A titles in 2003 and 2004 and a runner-up finish in 2005. He hit better as a junior and stood out more with his glove as a senior, but his flashes of all-around brilliance got him drafted in the fourth round last June. Signed for $270,000, Johnston will be a long-term project with the possibility of an exciting payoff at the end. He needs polish in all phases of the game, and the Cubs began tweaking his stance after he went hitless in five of his first six pro games. They've widened his setup and raised his hands. Johnston has plus bat speed and power potential. He's an average runner with OK range at shortstop. He has good hands, well above-average arm strength and a quick release, but he needs to raise his low three-quarters arm slot. As he fills out, it's possible that Johnston will have to move to third base. He'll play shortstop in 2006, when he figures to open the season in extended spring training rather than with a full-season club.
After pulling double duty as a starting pitcher and first baseman at Duke, Layden is finding out that less can be more. The Cubs made him a full-time reliever in 2005, and that may be his ticket to the majors. He's a lefty who throws from a deceptive low angle, and all of his pitches seem to dance. Layden's two primary pitches are a low-90s fastball and a hard slider. He also employs a changeup to keep righthanders honest. He does a tremendous job of keeping the ball down in the zone, as evidenced by his 3.3-1 groundball/flyball ratio last year. To keep climbing the ladder, Layden mainly needs to throw more strikes. The effort in his delivery and the movement on his pitches make that a challenge at times. He'll probably begin this year in high Class A, and he could move quickly if he develops better control.
Ryan Theriot's double-play partner on Louisiana State's 2000 national championship team, Fontenot went 19th overall in the draft to the Orioles a year later. Part of the Sammy Sosa trade with Baltimore before the 2005 season, Fontenot spent his second straight year in Triple-A and also got his first two big league at-bats. If Fontenot is to get more playing time in the majors, it probably will come as a utilityman. Despite the uncertainty surrounding Chicago's middle-infield situation, his name never came up as a possible solution, and he's probably headed for a third season in Triple-A. Fontenot has slightly above-average speed and good pop for his size, but he tries to hit for power too much and isn't a big basestealing threat. He doesn't cover as much ground defensively as his speed would suggest, and his arm is below average. Exclusively a second baseman in the Orioles system, he also saw extensive time at third base and got brief looks at shortstop and in the outfield last year. He doesn't profile as a good defender at any position.
Montanez won't ever live up to the expectations that come with going third overall in the 2000 draft, but moving from the middle infield to the outfield in mid-2004 resurrected a career that was going nowhere. He broke into pro ball by winning an MVP award in the Arizona League, but defensive woes at shortstop and second base affected him at the plate and he couldn't get past high Class A. Since going to the outfield, he has batted .294/.371/.482 and made it to Double-A and the Futures Game in 2005. Montanez has a good swing and approach, and he finally has started to hit for average and gap power. He controls the strike zone, though he does have a hole up and in. His speed and corner-outfield defense are OK, and he has a strong arm. He may yet make it to the majors as a backup outfielder who could fill in on the infield corners in a pinch. His bat slowed down some in Double-A in the second half of 2005, so he may go back there to start this season.