Sign Up! Join our newsletters, get a FREE e-Edition
Clubs rarely ask players to make the jump from Rookie ball to high Class A, but that's exactly the challenge the Cubs presented Castro with in 2009. After he and Junior Lake shared shortstop duties in the Rookie-level Arizona League in 2008, Chicago wanted both to play regularly and sent Lake to low Class A Peoria and Castro to Daytona--skipping two levels in the process. Simply holding his own as the youngest regular in the Florida State League would have been a significant accomplishment, but Castro did much more. He won MVP honors at the FSL all-star game by going 4-for-4 with an inside-the-park home run, and made the league's postseason all-star team. He singled in his lone at-bat in the Futures Game before earning an August promotion to Double-A Tennessee. Castro hit .303 in the Southern League playoffs, then moved on to the Arizona Fall League, where he continued to establish himself as an elite shortstop prospect. The Cubs, who signed him for $50,000 out of the Dominican Republic, thought Castro had all-star potential but never expected him to be this good this quickly. Castro's performance has drawn him comparisons with the likes of Tony Fernandez, Edgar Renteria, Miguel Tejada--and even Derek Jeter. Castro covers the plate well for a young hitter and does a nice job of staying inside the ball and using the entire field. He consistently puts the barrel of the bat on the ball and has a knack for making adjustments. He has no trouble hitting breaking pitches, usually taking the first one from a pitcher he hasn't seen before, sizing it up and attacking the next. Though he had just 32 extra-base hits in 2009, Castro has the power potential to double that total once he matures physically. He has added 15 pounds in the last year and Chicago envisions him growing to 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds. He has strong hands and wrists, and he's starting to pull and drive more pitches. He has the plus speed to make things happen on the bases. Castro excels defensively as well, with range to both sides, body control and arm strength to make any play. Managers rated him the best defensive shortstop in the Florida State League. The Cubs also like his instincts, charisma and work ethic. Castro just needs time to fill out and polish his game. He made 39 errors last season, which isn't a high number for a young shortstop but shows that he needs to play more under control. He makes so much contact that he doesn't draw many walks, though he does work counts. He's still learning to look for pitches he can drive in certain situations. He needs to hone his basestealing technique after getting caught in 11 of 39 tries in 2009, though he did go 6-for-6 in Double-A. Castro's stellar AFL performance further accelerated his timetable. He'll probably open 2010 back in Tennessee because Darwin Barney is slated for Triple-A Iowa, but there's rumbling that Castro could be in Chicago by season's end. He has all the ingredients to become the Cubs' first all-star shortstop since Shawon Dunston in 1990.
The Cubs thought Jackson had the best bat speed and some of the best power in the 2009 draft class, but he lasted 31 picks because other teams questioned his ability to make contact. The Cubs took him with their first pick and he signed quickly for $972,000. He had a smashing pro debut until he tweaked his right wrist on a practice swing in late August. More than just a slugger, Jackson is the best athlete in the system. His quick bat and the loft in his swing give him well-above-average raw power. He uses his plus speed well on the bases and in center field, and he also has solid arm strength with good accuracy on his throws. He plays with constant energy. Jackson will accrue his share of strikeouts but can keep them under control if he doesn't get too aggressive. He has enough natural power that he doesn't have to chase pitches out of the zone or swing for the fences to produce home runs. After using five different regular center fielders in the last five years, the Cubs are seeking stability. They may send Jackson to Double-A to start his first full pro season, and he could reach Chicago by the end of 2011.
The No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 draft, Vitters signed for $3.2 million. Managers rated him the best hitting and power prospect in the Midwest League last summer, when he arrived in low Class A a year behind schedule after developing tendinitis in his left hand in 2008. He struggled when promoted to high Class A at age 19. Vitters has a compact stroke for a power hitter, using his exceptional hand-eye coordination to easily put the fat part of the barrel on balls. He's a potential .300 hitter who could have 25-30 homers a year. He has the hands and arm strength to play third base, and he has improved his agility and footwork since signing. Vitters makes contact almost too easily, as he rarely walks and gives away at-bats by putting balls in play that he should let go by. Though he has gotten better defensively, there's still concern that he doesn't have the quick first step and range to play third base. He's a below-average runner. The game comes so easily to him that some question how diligent he is about addressing his shortcomings. By pounding Arizona Fall League pitching, Vitters made a case for opening 2010 in Double-A. He's on course to hit the majors by the end of 2011.
Cashner turned down the Cubs as a 29th-round pick from Angelina (Texas) JC in 2007, then signed for $1.54 million as a first-round pick out of Texas Christian a year later. He won the Florida State League championship clincher in his pro debut and finished his first full season in Double-A. With his frame and power stuff, Cashner is reminiscent of Kerry Wood. His fastball sits at 92-95 mph and touches 98 when he starts, and he has operated in the upper 90s as a reliever. His 81-85 mph slider breaks like a power curveball. He works down in the zone, allowing just two homers in 120 pro innings. Chicago wants to develop Cashner as a starter, but some scouts believe he's destined to be a reliever. His delivery is sound but not fluid, and he often battles his command. His changeup has the potential to become an average pitch, but he needs to use it more often. The Cubs kept him on tight pitch counts after he missed the start of last season with a strained oblique, so he has yet to prove he can pitch deep into games. Whether he's a frontline starter or a closer, Cashner should be a big part of Chicago's future. He'll likely begin 2010 in Double-A and could make his big league debut later in the year.
Jackson looks like one of the steals of the 2008 draft after lasting nine rounds and signing for $90,000. A two-way star at Furman, he breezed through his pro debut and opened his first full season in Double-A. His only speed bump came in late July, when he was demoted for violating an unspecified team policy. Jackson has good feel for four pitches that are average or better. His best offering is a fastball ranging from 90-95 mph. His mid-80s slider and high-70s curveball are distinct pitches that rate as above-average at times. He also has an effective changeup. He has a long arm action, but he's so athletic that he repeats his highthree- quarters delivery easily. He's fearless and fields his position well. Jackson sometimes overthrows, costing him command. Because he's not tall, he has to stay on top of his pitches to keep them down in the zone. His changeup lags behind his other pitches and could use refinement. The Cubs believe his indiscretion was a one-time incident, and he responded well, earning a late-season start in Triple-A. Once Jackson throws quality strikes on a more consistent basis, he'll be ready for the big league rotation. He'll probably return to Double-A to start 2010.
More active than most clubs in the Far East, the Cubs spent $725,000 to sign Lee out of Korea in June 2008. He injured his elbow before coming to the United States, requiring Tommy John surgery, delaying his professional debut. He recovered quickly, ranking as the top prospect in the short-season Northwest League. Lee has four above-average tools, starting with plus-plus speed that he used to lead the NWL with 25 steals. He's a gifted hitter who stays inside the ball and sprays line drives all over the field. His patience and quickness enhance his ability to get on base. He gets to balls that a lot of shortstops can't reach, and he has the actions, hands and arm strength to make difficult plays. Lee doesn't possess much power and needs to get stronger, though he does sting the ball with authority. For a player with his profile, he'll have to make more contact. He can get flashy and sloppy at times, especially on defense, where he led NWL shortstops with 27 errors. Lee is more athletic than Starlin Castro, which could push Castro to second base when they're double-play partners in Chicago. The Cubs haven't ruled out skipping Lee a level to high Class A in 2010.
Watkins generated little predraft hype in 2008 and appeared headed to Wichita State out of high school before the Cubs selected him in the 21st round and gave him a stunning $500,000 bonus. He has been worth every penny so far, batting .326 in two pro seasons. He led the Northwest League in plate appearances per strikeout (10.3) in 2009. An all-state quarterback and defensive back in high school in Kansas, Watkins is a quality athlete. He has an unorthodox stance with high elbows, but whips the bat through the zone and makes contact easily. He uses the whole field and is a skilled bunter. He has plus-plus speed and an above-average arm, making him capable of playing almost anywhere on the diamond. He's a hard worker whose intensity rubs off on his teammates. Watkins needs to get stronger to hit the ball with more authority. He can get too aggressive running at times, and too passive at others. He waits on balls too much at second base, relying on his arm to make plays. Watkins merits a look at shortstop and center field, but Chicago hasn't figured out how to make that happen. The Cubs like the way he interacts with Hak-Ju Lee, and if they play together in low Class A in 2010, Watkins faces another season at second base.
The highest-drafted prep pitcher in 2004 who opted for college, Carpenter turned down the Tigers as a seventh-rounder. He had Tommy John surgery as a Kent State freshman in 2005, then a second elbow procedure the next year. His medical history made him available to the Cubs in the third round in 2008. Carpenter throws his fastball at 91-94 mph and touches 97. It has very good life for a four-seamer, inducing lots of groundballs. He also has a mid-80s slurve that flashes the bite and depth of a slider. His changeup gives him a potential solid third pitch. He's a diligent worker with a frame built for innings. Carpenter's stuff can be so lively that he struggles to control it. He needs to stay on top of his breaking ball to make it a true slider, and his changeup will develop more quickly if he uses it more often. While his health may always be a concern, he has had no physical problems since a tired arm in the summer of 2007. As long as he stays healthy, Carpenter has a bright future. He'll return to Double-A to open 2010 and contend for a big league rotation spot the following year.
After playing second fiddle to Pedro Alvarez in the Vanderbilt lineup, Flaherty went 41st overall in the 2008 draft and signed for $1.5 million. He has ranked third in his league in homers in each of his two pro seasons. His father Ed has won two NCAA Division III College World Series as the head coach at Southern Maine. Flaherty made significant improvements in 2009. Formerly a dead-pull hitter, he started driving balls the other way, giving him solid power to all fields. He has a polished lefthanded swing and hit .309 in the second half. His arm strength went from subpar to average, and he did a better job of turning double plays. His instincts and makeup enhance his tools. Flaherty is seeking a defensive home after splitting 2009 between second base, shortstop and third base. He's a below-average runner who lacks the range for shortstop. He may not be quick enough for second base, and some scouts question whether he has enough power and arm to profile at third base. Chicago has yet to decide what level and what position Flaherty will play at in 2010. If he doesn't settle into one position, he could have value as a lefthanded-hitting version of Mark DeRosa.
LeMahieu starred in the Cape Cod League in 2008, but his play slipped last spring. He played his way off shortstop and hit just five homers for Louisiana State, though he led the Tigers in batting (.350) as they won the College World Series. The Cubs took him in the second round and signed him for a $508,000 bonus. LeMahieu may be the purest hitter in the system, staying inside the ball and drilling line drives to the opposite field. He could develop average power as he fills out and turns on more pitches, which he started to do after Peoria hitting coach Barbaro Garbey helped him reduce the front arm bar in his swing. As a defender, he has a solid arm and good hands but doesn't have the range to stay at shortstop. Some scouts wonder if he'll have enough quickness for second base or provide enough offense to play regularly elsewhere. He's a fringe-average runner. LeMahieu has some similarities to Ryan Flaherty, and the two could shift around the infield together in high Class A in 2010. The Cubs believe in LeMahieu's bat, and he could move quickly if he finds a position.
The Padres gave Burke $950,000 as the 35th overall pick in the 2006 draft, but soured on him when he hit just .210 in 107 games in the lower levels of their system. They traded him to the Cubs for Michael Barrett the following June. Chicago discussed using Burke on the mound before the 2009 season, but he insisted he could hit, and the Cubs told him it was time to prove it. He did just that, winning the organization's minor league player of the year award. Burke improved both his plate discipline and power. He has a short, direct lefthanded swing and stays inside pitches well. His power is to the gaps--he led the MWL with 43 doubles--and he could have plus power in time because he drives the ball well to left-center. He'll have to show more pop against lefthanders to become more than a platoon partner in the big leagues. He can be too patient, taking hittable pitches, but he has cut down on his tendency to chase pitches when he fell behind in the count. Though Burke has below-average speed, he runs the bases well. He played all three outfield positions and first base last year, fitting best in right field. His instincts give him slightly above-average range and reads on the corners, and he has one of the best outfield arms in the minors. On the 20-80 scouting scale, his arm strength rates a 70 and his accuracy an 80, allowing him to rack up 43 assists in 378 games in the outfield. Burke should see Double-A at some point in 2010.
The Cubs mine Korea as aggressively as any club. They gave seven-figure bonuses to Hee Seop Choi and Jae-Kuk Ryu, two of the 12 Koreans to reach the majors, and have another wave of Korean talent coming, led by Hak-Ju Lee and Rhee. who was signed for $525,000 as an 18-year-old in July 2007. Rhee was so advanced that the Cubs sent him to low Class A to make his pro debut the spring after he signed. He looked terrific before injuring his elbow in his fourth start, resulting in Tommy John surgery that sidelined him for most of 2009. During instructional league, Rhee showed that he's on the verge of regaining his feel and stuff. His fastball returned to the low 90s, and he flashed a solid curveball and a nifty changeup with splitter action. He threw well enough for the Cubs to consider sending him to high Class A to start 2010. He has a clean arm action and no red flags in his delivery, so there are no health concerns going forward. While rehabbing, he used his downtime to improve his English and his conditioning. With a chance for three plus pitches, Rhee could develop into a frontline starter.
The Cubs convert more position players to pitchers than most clubs. The best starter on their big league club last season was Randy Wells, an ex-catcher, and their closer down the stretch was Carlos Marmol, a former catcher/infielder. The talk of Chicago's instructional league camp was Dolis, originally signed as a shortstop. He became a pitcher before he made his U.S. debut in 2006, but he injured his elbow early in 2007 and missed 2008 while recovering from Tommy John surgery. The Cubs kept Dolis on short pitch counts when he returned last season, and he showed a 92-97 mph fastball and flashed a hard slider while averaging fewer than four innings per start. In instructional league, pitching coordinator Mark Riggins had Dolis start using a full windup. The results were immediate, as Dolis' fastball sat in the mid-90s and touched triple digits. His slider jumped to 86-87 mph and showed out-pitch potential. He also has a changeup with some fade, but at times he throws the pitch too hard. The full windup allowed Dolis to get better extension on his delivery and better finish on his pitches, and may be the key to improving his inconsistent command and control. If Dolis can throw more quality strikes, he has the stuff to be a frontline starter. If not, he could be a late-inning weapon out of the bullpen. After adding Dolis to the 40-man roster, the Cubs will send him to Double-A to open 2010.
The Cubs acquired Gaub from the Indians in the Mark DeRosa deal. One pro scout with another organization said Gaub was the best lefthanded reliever he saw in the minors in 2009. He had shoulder surgery after his sophomore season at Minnesota and again in pro ball in 2007, and his stuff came all the way back last season. Gaub touched 93 mph and showed a good slider at the end of 2008, and last year he worked from 91-96 mph with his fastball and 84-90 mph with a wipeout slider. The deception in his three-quarters delivery makes him that much tougher to hit. Gaub needs to find more consistency with his slider, and an offspeed pitch would help him confound batters who are geared up for hard stuff. His top priority is to improve his control, though there are advantages to being effectively wild. He gets righthanders out, so he can work the late innings and be more than a lefty specialist. A November addition to Chicago's 40-man roster, Gaub likely will begin 2010 in Triple-A but should help the big league club later in the year.
Archer went just 5-18, 5.13 in three seasons in the Indians system but turned a corner after coming to the Cubs in the Mark DeRosa trade. He went 6-4, 2.81 in low Class A and didn't allow a homer in 109 innings. Archer turns bats into kindling with a 91-93 mph fastball and a hard breaking ball. His heater tops out at 96 mph, and while it can get straight because he uses an over-the-top delivery, it has some sink and armside run. His curve becomes slurvy at times, but it's a plus pitch when he commands it. It remains to be seen whether Archer will be a starter or reliever. To remain in the rotation, he'll need to improve his control and command and commit to using his changeup more often. He shies away from pitching to contact, and he has the stuff to challenge hitters more often without getting hit. He has an easy delivery without any obvious flaws, yet he has repeated trouble throwing strikes. Archer will seek more consistency in high Class A this season.
Strange as it may sound, the Cubs benefited when their area scout for Alabama quit and they decided not to replace him. While other teams saw McNutt throw in the high 80s as as a freshman for Shelton State (Ala.) CC early last spring and moved on, Chicago didn't get its first look at him until the Junior College World Series, where he threw 90-93 mph despite getting knocked around by eventual champion Howard (Texas). After McNutt turned down an eighth-round offer from the Twins, he slid all the way to the 32nd round. The Cubs saw him reach the mid-90s in summer ball and signed him at the end of June for $115,000. They compare the big, strong, athletic righthander to a lesser version of Andrew Cashner. McNutt's fastball has climbed as high as 96 mph and features late riding action. His power curveball projects as a second plus pitch, and he has the makings of a good changeup. McNutt needs to cut down on his walks, but he dominated hitters in his pro debut. The 980th player drafted in 2009 looks like a steal, and the Cubs are looking forward to seeing how he fares in Class A this season.
Now that Colvin has put elbow problems behind him, the Cubs believe they're seeing the player they expected when they drafted him 13th overall and signed him for $1.475 million in 2006. He first injured his left elbow in instructional league after his pro debut, and it repeatedly bothered him until he had Tommy John surgery following the 2008 season. Fully recovered by the time he joined Tennessee at the end of May, he put up the best offensive numbers of his career and tied a Southern League record with 11 consecutive hits in August. Colvin got the bat head through the zone quicker and did a better job of covering the plate, as it no longer hurt when he torqued his elbow extending his arms to hit pitches on the outer half. With his size, bat speed and the loft in his swing, he could develop 20-homer power. To deliver on his power potential, Colvin will need to show more discipline against more advanced pitchers. Some evaluators outside the organization aren't as high on him, criticizing his swing, lack of patience and tendency to roll over on pitches and hit soft grounders. He has lost a half-step since signing and has below-average speed out of the box, though he's a solid runner under way. He has good range and enough arm to play right field. When the Cubs suspended Milton Bradley at the end of the season, they promoted Colvin and gave him five starts in the final two weeks. He'll open 2010 by getting his first taste of Triple-A.
It's no coincidence that Oregon State won College World Series championships in Barney's last two seasons there, or that Daytona won the Florida State League title in his first full pro season. He's not flashy but has a knack for doing what it takes to win in all phases of the game. Scouts both within and outside the organization think more highly of his tools than they did when he signed. He always handled the bat well, but he took a step forward when Daytona hitting coach Richie Zisk switched him to a 35-ounce bat in mid-2008. Barney's approach noticeably improved, as he stopped trying to pull everything and hit more hard liners and grounders than easy flyouts. He doesn't have any power and will have to bat toward the bottom of the order unless he starts taking more walks, but he makes consistent contact and isn't afraid to hit with two strikes or in clutch situations. His instincts allow his average speed to play up on the bases. Barney's range and arm are just a tick above-average, but he grades as a plus defender because he reads balls well and has soft hands and a quick release. Barney is nearly ready after spending the second half of 2009 in Triple-A, but it's uncertain how much of an opportunity he'll get in Chicago with incumbent Ryan Theriot, a similar player with more speed, ahead of him and Starlin Castro closing fast on both of them.
Looking to stock up on lefthanders, the Cubs drafted Austin Kirk, Chris Rusin, Brooks Raley in the first six rounds of the 2009 draft. The unheralded Antigua is younger and has better stuff than all of them. He has had steady success at each of his four pro stops and wasn't fazed by jumping to low Class A shortly after he turned 19 last summer. Antigua has very good feel for three pitches that project as average or better. His changeup is his best present offering, ranking ahead of his 89-92 mph fastball and his slider. He needs to get stronger so he can maintain his fastball velocity deeper into games and into the season, and his slider lacks consistent tilt. Antigua is advanced well beyond his years. He fills the strike zone, reads hitters well and has the ability to adjust to how good his individual pitches are on any given day. He can run his fastball to both sides of the plate and while he's not overpowering, he has swing-and-miss stuff. He could do a better job of using his lower half in his delivery, but his mechanics are sound. Antigua has a realistic expectation of becoming a No. 3 starter and should reach high Class A by the end of 2010.
Parker batted just .266 in three college seasons at Arkansas, and when he hit .224 in his pro debut, the Cubs promptly made him a pitcher. He took to the mound just as quickly, and his mound presence may be more impressive that his stuff, which is formidable. Parker can get hitters out with three different pitches: a low-90s sinker that touches 95, a slider that's a plus pitch at times and a changeup that he picked up from Dae-Eun Rhee when they were Peoria teammates in 2008. Parker needs more consistency with his pitches, as his fastball can get true and his slider can get flat. He doesn't use his changeup as much as he should. He gets himself into jams with walks, but gets out thanks to his competitiveness and fearlessness. He converted 25 of his 26 save opportunities in 2009. Parker projects as more of a sixth- or seventh-inning reliever than a closer in the majors, but don't be surprised if he exceeded expectations and becomes a setup man through sheer will. He figures to make his major league debut at some point this season.
Though he was a sixth-round pick, Raley received the second-highest bonus among Cubs 2009 draftees, using his extra leverage as a draft-eligible sophomore to wrangle a $750,000 bonus. His talent should have placed him in the second or third round, but clubs couldn't get a handle on his signability before the draft. He was one of college baseball's best two-way players and would have drawn interest as a center fielder/leadoff hitter had it been his lone role. Teams preferred him on the mound because he commands several pitches and competes. Raley's best pitch is his solid slider, and his other primary offerings are his 87-90 mph sinker and his changeup. He can hit 93 mph when he opts for a four-seam fastball, and he also can throw a curveball. He's athletic and repeats his smooth delivery well, so he throws strikes with ease. The question is whether Raley's feel for his craft can overcome his lack of a plus pitch against advanced hitters. Scouts also wonder whether his wiry frame is durable enough. After working just 11 innings in his pro debut, he may start 2010 in low Class A, but he has the polish to move quickly.
Like Alfonso Soriano, Caridad signed with Japan's Hiroshima Carp out of the Dominican Republic and played briefly in the Japanese majors before becoming a free agent on a technicality. The Cubs beat out other U.S. clubs for Caridad during the 2007 offseason, thanks to a $175,000 bonus, an invitation to big league camp and a visit from general manager Jim Hendry during his trip to the team's Dominican complex. Caridad paid quick dividends, reaching the big leagues last August and winning manager Lou Piniella's trust by not allowing a run in 11 September appearances. A starter in the minors, Caridad was more effective in shorter stints as a reliever in the majors. Though he's just 5-foot-10, his quick arm and smooth mechanics allow him to throw his fastball in the low 90s with some sink. He can reach 96 mph, but his heater tends to flatten out when he throws harder. His curveball morphs between an average pitch and a slurve, and his changeup has some splitter action but is fringy. Chicago envisioned him as a reliever all along but started him in the minors to give him innings to work on his secondary pitches. He attacks hitters and throws strikes, though his delivery lacks deception. Caridad's strong finish in 2009 helps him stand out amidst the Cubs' slew of bullpen candidates and enhances his chances of making their Opening Day roster.
Fuld finally avoided the disabled list and carved out a niche for himself in the major leagues in 2009. He's had to scrap his way through the minors since signing as a 10th-round pick in 2004, and after generating some momentum by winning Arizona Fall League MVP honors in 2007, he lost it by failing to hit in Triple-A at the start of the next season. Fuld conquered the Pacific Coast League last year, earning a callup in late June and coming up for good at the end of July. He doesn't have the tools to profile as a regular, but he's capable of helping a club win as a quality bench player. Fuld controls the strike zone and plays center field better than anyone on Chicago's big league team. He makes consistent line-drive contact and draws walks, and he improved his bunting last season. He has little home run power, so he focuses on getting on base. He has average speed, and his instincts make him a savvy baserunner and a quality center fielder. In his short time in Chicago, Fuld has made several highlight plays where he has gone crashing into the Wrigley Field bricks. That all-out style has led to a lengthy medical history, as he has missed time with shoulder, back, hip, hernia, oblique and thumb problems since turning pro. He has below-average arm strength but compensates with a quick release and good accuracy. He's a smart player, no surprise considering he graduated from Stanford with an economics degree, and gets the most out of his ability. Fuld has become an organization and fan favorite and should be the Cubs fourth outfielder in 2010.
A cousin of former Cubs pitcher Juan Mateo, Marcos originally signed with the Reds and joined Chicago in an August 2007 trade for Buck Coats. The Cubs added Mateo to their 40-man roster after the 2008 season, but he responded by arriving in big league camp out of shape last spring. He struggled for most of the first two months of last season before recapturing his electric stuff after the all-star break. Chicago primarily used Mateo as a starter to get him innings before turning him loose as a reliever last July. At his best, he sits in the mid-90s and tops out at 98 mph with his fastball--and his high-80s slider may be more unhittable than his heater. He doesn't believe in throwing his changeup and has some effort in his delivery, though pitching coordinator Mark Riggins has helped him make his mechanics smoother than they once were. Mateo's command is still a work in progress and will determine his ultimate role. He has closer's stuff but will have to do a much better job of locating his pitches to ever get a chance to finish big league games. Ticketed for Triple-A to start 2010, he could make his major league debut by the end of the year.
Few players have better bloodlines than Coleman, whose grandfather and father (both named Joe) were all-star pitchers who combined for 194 big league wins. His background led to the polish that enabled him to jump to Double-A and win the organization's minor league pitcher of the year award in his first full pro season. Coleman led the Southern League with 14 wins, a testament to his craftiness. His 88-91 mph fastball plays up because he can spot it where he wants. His changeup is his best pitch and the best in the system, and his curveball is an above-average pitch at times. Coleman has a chance to have plus command, though he sometimes can try to be too fine with his pitches, resulting in walks. A two-way player who was a regular shortstop at Florida Gulf Coast, he's very athletic and helps himself by doing all of the little things well. He fields his position like an extra infielder and topped Southern League pitchers in total chances (43) and fielding percentage (1.000). He shuts down the running game, leading SL pitching qualifiers by giving up just three steals (in eight tries) in his 27 starts. He handles the bat better than most pitchers too. Coleman's primary tasks this year in Triple-A are to put on more weight and to be a bit more aggressive without catching too much of the plate. His feel for the game gives him a good chance of reaching his ceiling as a No. 4 or 5 starter.
Signed in 2000 as an infielder, Chirinos bounced around the lower levels of the system for years, including three full seasons in low Class A. In the middle of 2008, his eighth pro season, the Cubs decided to try him behind the plate as a last resort. He has progressed so quickly that he has become the best catching prospect in the system. The move even jump-started Chirinos' bat, as he has hit .296/.416/.511 since the switch. His ability to handle the bat and his patient approach are nothing new, but now he's showing some solid pop as well. He runs better than most catchers and moves well behind the plate. Chirinos mitigates his arm strength with a long release, and he has thrown out 30 percent of basestealers in two years as a catcher. Though he needs to improve his receiving, he has soft hands and should be able to do so. Because he still needs more polish and has yet to prove he can hit Double-A pitching at age 25, the Cubs gambled on leaving Chirinos off its 40-man roster. They then sweated that decision when he ranked among the batting and home run leaders in the Venezuelan Winter League. Chirinos doesn't profile as a regular because he lacks a standout tool, but he does everything well for a catcher and could make a fine backup whose capable of playing all four infield positions in a pinch.
The Cubs debated which of their catchers to protect on their 40-man roster during the offseason, and Castillo ultimately got the nod over Robinson Chirinos and Steve Clevenger. Castillo earned his spot due to his youth and upside rather than his performance. After appearing in the Futures Game the year before, he turned in the worst full season of his career in 2009. Castillo's swing deteriorated as he sold out for power, and while he matched a career high with 11 homers, he set career lows with a .232 average and .275 on-base percentage. He never has shown much plate discipline or the ability to solve breaking pitches, so he might be more of a platoon player against lefthanders or a backup than a starter. Castillo's best tool is his arm strength, and he led the Southern League by throwing out 44 percent of basestealers last season. But he's a sloppy receiver who loses his concentration too often. He also let his body get soft in 2009, costing him some agility behind the plate. He offers little speed, even by catcher standards. He used to draw Yadier Molina comparisons but those seem way too optimistic at this point. Castillo will advance to Triple-A and attempt to get back on track in 2010.
Excuse Cales' family if they have a tinge of regret that he's on the verge of joining the Cubs. He grew up on Chicago's South Side and his mother Mary Weiss works in the White Sox ticket office. Of the five Cubs pitchers who jumped from the draft in 2008 to Double-A in 2009, he was the biggest surprise. Cales had a checkered college career, bouncing from Missouri to Illinois-Chicago to St. Xavier (Ill.), redshirting at that last stop in 2008. Familiar with the local kid, the Cubs drafted him in the 24th round and signed him for $52,500 after he pitched 11 scoreless innings in the summer collegiate Northwoods League. Cales got torched when he first joined Tennessee last May, allowing 14 runs in 12 innings, but dominated when he returned in August, permitting just one run in 13 frames. His stuff was noticeably better, as his fastball jumped from the high 80s to 91-92 with good armside run. His slider improved as well, rating as a plus-plus pitch at times. He's 5-foot-11 and throws from a low three-quarters angle, yet he gets good depth on his slider. He also flashes an effective changeup, though he often throws it too hard. Animated on the mound, Cales backs down from no one and aggressively challenges hitters. If he can carry over his late-2009 success to Triple-A this year, he won't be in the minors for much longer.
While Starlin Castro thrived after being promoted from the Rookie-level Arizona League in 2008 to full-season ball as a 19-year-old in 2009, Lake struggled under the same circumstances. He still showed an intriguing package of tools but wasn't able to translate them into production against low Class A pitchers. He has the size, quick hands and snap in his swing to hit for more power than most infielders, but he also has a lot of holes in his stroke and approach. His swing gets long and he exhibits no patience. He improved his swing plane late in the season, though it didn't yield any noticeable results. Lake has average speed out of the box and is an aboveaverage runner underway, and he's more adept at taking extra bases than basestealing. His single most impressive tool is his cannon arm, one of the strongest in the minors. It sometimes gets him in trouble because he'll attempt some throws he shouldn't. His hands aren't the softest and he also has lapses in concentration, all factors that led to 42 errors in 2009. He has good range but will outgrow shortstop as he gets stronger and slows down. Castro probably will see a lot of time at third base in 2010, because the Cubs have double-play combos set for Daytona (Ryan Flaherty, D.J. LeMahieu) and Peoria (Logan Watkins, Hak-Ju Lee).
When the Cubs traded Todd Wellemeyer to the Marlins in 2006, they received pitchers Lincoln Holdzkom and Zach McCormack in return. McCormack would never pitch again because of a pre-existing injury, and Chicago returned him to Florida at the end of the 2006 season and received Adduci instead. The son of former big leaguer Jim Adduci, James got off to a slow start in pro ball. He attended some college classes in his first season, then played in just 25 games in 2005-06 while battling quad, knee and hand injuries. Healthy with the Cubs, he has improved in each of his three seasons in the organization. He's making more consistent line-drive contact and pulling more pitches, though he still doesn't exhibit much power. His speed rates as average out of the box and plus once he gets going, and he's a proficient basestealer. Adduci has gotten better defensively too, becoming a solid center fielder after playing first base and corner outfield. Though he has below-average arm strength, he recorded 14 assists in 2009 because he charges balls well, has a quick release and makes accurate throws. Adduci hasn't shown enough thump to be a big league regular, but he can be a valuable reserve with his on-base skills, speed and ability to play four positions. He'll move up to Triple-A after gaining a spot on the 40-man roster in November.