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Archer was an afterthought in the class of 2006 high school pitching prospects until he earned a last-minute invitation to the East Coast Professional Showcase the summer before his senior year. He showed a high-80s fastball and an athletic, projectable frame, piquing scouts' interest, then displayed a low-90s heater and sharp slider the following spring. The Indians selected him in the fifth round and signed him away from a Miami commitment for $161,000. Archer struggled in his first few seasons, but he hasn't looked nearly as raw since coming to the Cubs along with relief prospects John Gaub and Jeff Stevens in the Mark DeRosa trade in December 2008. Archer made progress while repeating low Class A in 2009 and then took off last season, when he was Chicago's minor league pitcher of the year and led the system in wins (15), ERA (2.34) and strikeouts (149). Promoted to Double-A in July, he didn't allow an earned run in his first 311⁄3 innings at Tennessee. He continued to star after the season, striking out 10 in six scoreless innings against Cuba in the Pan American Games qualifying tournament in October. He was a no-brainer addition to Chicago's 40-man roster a month later. Now that Andrew Cashner has graduated to the big leagues, Archer has the best fastball and slider in the system. He operates from 92-95 mph and touches 97, and though he has an over-thetop delivery, his fastball has some run and sink to it. His slider sits in the mid-80s and peaks at 91 mph, giving him two plus-plus pitches when his command is at its best. His changeup has improved markedly since the trade, and while he throws it a bit hard at times, it should give him an effective third pitch. The Cubs love the way he competes, reaching back for extra velocity when he needs it and demonstrating an ability to win on days when he doesn't have his best stuff. Archer is athletic and has a fluid delivery, and all he has left to do is improve his consistency and command. Though he has cut his walk rate the last three years, he still gives up too many free passes. He works up in the strike zone too often, and his high arm slot doesn't afford him much deception, but his stuff is so good that he has surrendered just six homers in 251 innings as a Chicago farmhand. Archer draws some Edwin Jackson comparisons, with scouts noting that Archer has better secondary pitches at the same age. He's ready for Triple-A Iowa at age 22 and not far off from the majors, especially if the Cubs wanted to promote him as a reliever like they did with Cashner last year. If Archer continues to progress as he has the last two years, he'll arrive in Wrigley Field around midseason. He projects as a frontline starter if he refines his command, and he easily has the stuff and poise to become a closer.
The Cubs rated Jackson's bat speed as the best in the 2009 draft, and they got him with the 31st overall pick because many clubs worried about his ability to make consistent contact. That hasn't been an issue since he signed for $972,000, as he already has conquered Double-A. He has been bothered by minor injuries: a strained wrist cut short his pro debut, a bruised heel hampered him with Team USA last October, and a staph infection in his shin ended his time in the Arizona Fall League. Jackson's quick bat, loft in his swing and plus speed should make him an annual 20-20 threat in the majors. He could stand to cut down his strikeouts, but he doesn't swing and miss as much as some teams feared and should hit for power and average. He played all three outfield positions last year, showing enough range to get the job done in center and honing his instincts with the help of roving instructor Bobby Dernier. Jackson gets good reads and jumps, has average arm strength and makes accurate throws. His even-keeled demeanor suits him well. He's not a true five-tool player or a pure center fielder, but Jackson does a reasonable impression of both. He'll open 2011 in Triple-A, and the Cubs are counting on him to crack their lineup in 2012--if not sooner.
When their Alabama area scout quit early in 2009, the Cubs decided not to replace him. So while other teams saw McNutt work in the high 80s at the start of Shelton State (Ala.) CC's season and backed off, Chicago didn't catch him until the Junior College World Series in June, when he showed a 90-93 mph fastball. After he turned down an eighth-round offer from the Twins, he slid all the way to 32nd round, where the Cubs signed him for $115,000. His stuff has continued to improve, propelling him to Double- A in his first full pro season. When he's going good, McNutt has two plus-plus pitches. Though his fastball comes in on a bit of a flat plane, he blows it by hitters at 92-98 mph. He can neutralize lefthanders by pitching to their back foot with his power breaking ball, which is more of a curveball than a slider. Once McNutt uses his changeup more, it should become an average third pitch. He's stingy with walks but sometimes lapses into overthrowing, costing him command. Ticketed for a return trip to Double-A, McNutt has a profile similar to that of Andrew Cashner and Chris Archer. All three have the stuff to pitch at the front of a rotation or close games.
Few clubs scout the Far East as actively as the Cubs, whose biggest recent prize is Lee, signed for $725,000 out of Korea in 2008. He had Tommy John surgery before coming to the United States, but it hasn't held him back. He ranked as the short-season Northwest League's No. 1 prospect in his 2009 pro debut, and he and Brett Jackson represented Chicago at the Futures Game last July. A potential leadoff hitter, Lee controls the strike zone and has plus-plus speed. He has the bat speed and strength in his hands to hit for some power once he develops his upper body, though he can get overly aggressive and spin off some balls. Managers rated Lee the best defensive shortstop in the low Class A Midwest League in 2010. He has quick reactions, good range to both sides and a strong arm, though he needs to improve his reads and his focus after making 34 errors in 118 games last year. He also has to break a habit of flipping throws to first base. He picked up English quickly, helping him soak up instruction. Lee will play at high Class A Daytona at age 20. The Cubs have time before they'll have to decide where to play him and Starlin Castro on the same club. Lee is quicker and flashier, so he could push Castro to second base.
The No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 draft and recipient of a $3.2 million bonus, Vitters reached Double-A before he turned 21 but doesn't get a universal seal of approval from scouts. He hit .361 in his first 11 games at Tennessee last May, then just .194 in the next two months before a pitch broke his left hand in late July. He returned in the Arizona Fall League, where he continued to generate mixed opinions. In Chicago's view, Vitters has the compact stroke, bat speed, strength and hand-eye coordination to hit .280 with 25 homers a season. Club officials believe he's realizing he has to stop trying to pull everything and avoid putting tough pitches in play, though scouts outside the organization think his lack of patience will undermine his potential. He has worked hard on his quickness and body control, improving his speed and range to close to average. His detractors, however, wonder whether he has enough athleticism for the hot corner. His above-average arm is not in question. The Cubs noted a greater sense of urgency in Vitters this offseason and think he's poised to break out at Tennessee in 2011. They hoped he'd be ready in time for them to decline Aramis Ramirez's $16 million contract action for 2012, but that might be pushing it.
The highest-drafted high school pitcher in 2004 (seventh round, Tigers) who opted for college, Carpenter had Tommy John surgery as a Kent State freshman and a second elbow procedure the following year. Though his medical history dropped him to the third round of the 2008 draft, he hasn't missed a start as a pro. He opened eyes as a reliever in the Arizona Fall League after last season. Carpenter profiles as a No. 3 starter or set-up man. Pitching out of the rotation, he works at 91-96 mph with his fastball, which has good life for a four-seamer. In relief in the AFL, he pitched at 94-99 mph and touched 100 in the Rising Stars Game. His low-80s breaking ball is a solid slider with bite at times and more slurvy at others. His changeup has deception and fade but probably won't ever be more than his third pitch. Carpenter still is figuring out control and command, as he runs into problems with walks and gets hit more than someone with his fastball should. He needs to do a better job of controlling the running game after giving up 23 steals in 29 attempts last year. He works diligently to stay healthy. Carpenter hasn't dominated as a starter, so he may be in for a change of roles. It's possible he could begin 2011 in Iowa's rotation and finish the season in Chicago's bullpen.
Szczur led Villanova to the 2009 NCAA football championship subdivision title, winning MVP honors in the final game with 270 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. He made more headlines last May, when he took time out of his baseball season to donate peripheral blood cells to a 1-year-old girl fighting leukemia. After missing three weeks, Szczur homered in his first at-bat back. The Cubs fell in love with his hitting ability, athleticism and makeup and drafted him in the fifth round. He signed for $100,000 and began his pro career with a 21-game hitting streak. Szczur returned to Villanova for his senior football season. Though he missed time with a high ankle sprain, he accounted for five touchdowns in an FCS quarterfinal game before the Wildcats were eliminated in the next round. Szczur's athletic ability is exciting enough, but it's his hitting skills that could make him a special player. Chicago marvels at his knack for barreling balls, and combined with his top-of-the-scale speed he should hit for high averages. He hits 400-foot bombs in batting practice, and once he gets more coaching and learns to finish through the ball better, he could have average or better power. He's refining his basestealing and baserunning, but his speed alone makes him a threat. Villanova football coach Andy Talley says Szczur is his fastest player ever, ahead of star NFL running back Brian Westbrook. In his short time in pro ball, Szczur's center-field play and his throwing made significant strides. He'll have plus-plus range once he improves his jumps, and his arm strength rated as average after he loosened up some of his football tightness. His competitiveness and work ethic are impeccable. He has more upside than any position player in the system, but Szczur also projects as a mid-round NFL draft pick as a slot receiver and kick returner. The Cubs would hate to lose him. If he makes a written commitment to them before the NFL scouting combine in February, his baseball contract calls for an additional $500,000 payment.
Chicago pulled the first huge surprise of the 2010 draft when it selected Simpson with the 16th overall pick. Considered as a fourth- to sixth-round talent by most clubs, he ranked second in NCAA Division II in wins (13) and strikeouts (131) last spring and went 35-2, 2.39 in three college seasons. A bad case of mononucleosis prevented him from pitching during the summer or instructional league, after he signed for a below-slot $1.06 million. Simpson uses a quick arm and a strong lower half to throw a low-90s fastball, and the Cubs saw him work at 94-97 in a Division II playoff game. They project him as a No. 2 or 3 starter with four average or better pitches, including a knee-buckling curveball, hard slider and effective changeup, not to mention plus control and command. Other teams don't rate his stuff quite as highly and think he'll have to add life to his fastball and work lower in the strike zone. They also wonder if he has the size to hold up as a starter, though Chicago thinks his athleticism will help in that regard. Simpson lost 15 pounds before heading to the Cubs' Arizona complex in November to regain strength. If he performs well in spring training, he could make his pro debut at high Class A Daytona.
The Cubs like to experiment with failed position players as pitchers, and they've turned former catchers into their closer (Carlos Marmol) and No. 4 starter (Randy Wells). They signed Dolis as a shortstop and moved him to the mound before he made his U.S. debut in 2006. He missed most of 2007 and all of 2008 with elbow issues that resulted in Tommy John surgery, then claimed a spot on the 40-man roster when he hit 101 mph in instructional league in 2009. Dolis' stuff kicked up a notch when current big league pitching coach Mark Riggins had him go to a full windup in the fall of 2009. Dolis pitched at 94-96 mph as a starter last season, holding his velocity deep into games, and if he moves to the bullpen he could work in the upper 90s. His mid-80s slider gives him a second potential plus pitch, and he also shows feel for a changeup. His command and control are still works in progress, understandable for a former infielder with less than 300 innings under his belt. Dolis has the power repertoire to close games, though it's too early to give up on him as a starter. At worst, the extra innings will give him some much-needed experience. After finishing 2010 in Double-A, he'll return there to start this season.
When the Cubs scouted Guyer at a 2007 NCAA playoff game, they saw him dislocate his left shoulder in a home-plate collision. The shoulder bothered him for his first two years in pro ball, and it led to another stint on the disabled list last May. That didn't stop him from leading the system in batting (.344) and the Double-A Southern League in slugging (.588) and OPS (.986), which earned him the organization's minor league player of the year award and a spot on the 40-man roster. An all-Virginia high school running back and linebacker who drew interest from college football programs, Guyer has solid power, plus speed and the best present outfield skills in the system. He's aggressive in all phases of the game, which hurts him at the plate because he makes contact so easily that he doesn't draw many walks. He knows how to use his quickness on the bases, swiping 30 bags in 33 tries last year. Guyer can play all three outfield positions, thanks to his speed and instincts. His arm has improved to where it's now average, and it's accurate as well. Scouts see Guyer as a lesser version of Brett Jackson or a stronger version of Reed Johnson. Guyer's encore this year in Triple-A will help determine whether he'll become a regular or a fourth outfielder.
Cabrera spent his first two years in full-season leagues battling shoulder and elbow tenderness, but he finally stayed healthy in 2010 and showed enough to claim a spot on the 40-man roster. He has one of the best arms in the system, maintaining a 92-97 mph fastball as a starting pitcher. He carries that velocity deep into games, and his fastball has good tailing and running life. He has a pair of mid-80s secondary pitches that lack reliability but show promise. His slider can freeze hitters at times and his changeup features some fade. Cabrera took a more direct path to the plate and did a better job of repeating his delivery last year, but he still needs to replicate his mechanics more consistently. His long arm action gives hitters a good look at the ball and makes him more hittable, especially when he falls behind in the count. He made strides with his control in Daytona at the start of 2010, but battled the strike zone and got torched following a promotion to Tennessee in mid-May and returned to high Class A in July. Cabrera will take another crack at Double-A hitters this year. He ultimately may be best suited for relief, but the Cubs haven't given up on him as a starter.
Winning follows Barney. He led Oregon State to consecutive World Series championships in 2006-07, captured the Florida State League title with Daytona in his first full pro season in 2008, helped Tennessee to the Southern League finals in 2009 and was a major reason why Iowa had the best regular-season record in the Pacific Coast League last year. Along the way, Barney consistently has improved all facets of his game, which earned him his first big league callup last August. He isn't flashy but he's the best defensive infielder in the organization, including the majors. He has excellent instincts, solid range, soft hands and an average arm that he enhances with a quick release and uncanny accuracy. He led PCL shortstops with a .970 fielding percentage in 2010. Barney has grown as a hitter, shortening his stroke and learning to use the entire field. Scouts thought his bat was a little quicker last year than it had been in the past. He won't have much power, but he knows that and focuses on making contact. He has average speed but runs the bases well and can steal on occasion. Barney's hustle and reliability endear him to managers and likely will win him a utility role with the Cubs in 2011. He's good enough to be an everyday shortstop but is blocked by Starlin Castro in Chicago. Don't bet against him finding a way to beat out Blake DeWitt and Jeff Baker for the Cubs' second-base job.
LeMahieu is the best pure hitter in the system, but his future will be determined by what else he can bring to the table. He led Louisiana State's 2009 College World Series championship team with a .350 average before signing for an above-slot $508,000 as a second-round pick. LeMahieu makes consistent sweet-spot contact, using an inside-out swing to lace balls to the opposite field. He makes good adjustments, as evidenced by him rallying from hitting .227 through mid-May to bat .344 in the second half of 2010. The problem is that his approach leads to few walks and little power. He can turn on pitches occasionally--as he showed when he hit a 390-foot blast off a 94-mph fastball from Phillies prospect Phillippe Aumont in September--but that represented half of his home run output for the year. LeMahieu has size and strength, and the Cubs believe he can hit 15 homers a season once he learns to recognize pitches he can drive. Skeptics aren't as optimistic and think more advanced pitchers will pound him relentlessly with inside fastballs. LeMahieu has played second base, third base and shortstop but isn't ideal at any of the three. His speed and quickness are fringy, which makes playing shortstop in the majors impossible and works against him as a second basemen. He has soft hands and a strong arm, so he could handle third, but he doesn't fit the power profile there. LeMahieu will see time at multiple positions again when he plays in Double-A this year, and he's probably facing a ceiling as a utilityman if he can't find more power.
Maine projected as a potential sandwich pick in the 2003 draft but went unselected because he was strongly committed to Miami. He had Tommy John surgery, costing him the entire 2004 season, but that was minor compared to what happened to him in August 2005, when he lost control of his truck on the Florida Turnpike in an accident that left him hospitalized for three weeks. Despite spending two days in an induced coma and needing surgery to reduce swelling in his brain and place seven titanium screws in his skull, Maine returned in the spring of 2006 to win 12 games. He turned down the Rockies, who drafted him in the 23rd round that June, and signed a year later as a seventh-rounder with the Diamondbacks. He came to Chicago with first-base prospect Ryne White in a November 2009 trade for Aaron Heilman. The deal seemed like little more than a salary savings for the Cubs last April, when they released White and watched Maine throw 87-90 mph fastballs and ineffective slurves. Fast forward to September, and Maine was one of the big league club's best relievers, weathering a demotion to Double-A and watching his stuff take a huge step forward. His fastball shot up to 93-95 mph and touched 97, and his slider added velocity and bite. He throws from a low three-quarters arm slot while flying open in his delivery and spinning off toward third base, providing deception. It's not always easy to repeat those mechanics or stay on top of his pitches, so Maine has trouble throwing strikes and maintaining a reliable slider. He has an effective changeup but doesn't use it much. If Maine's improved stuff is for real, he'll have a major league job for a long time. He has all but locked up an Opening Day roster spot with the Cubs for 2011.
Jackson breezed through his first two pro seasons while zooming to Triple-A, but when Chicago promoted a dozen pitchers from Iowa in 2010, he wasn't one of them. The Cubs moved him to the bullpen in May to prepare him for a possible callup, but when he pitched well and didn't get promoted he went into a funk. His stuff regressed slightly, as did his command, and he posted a 5.70 ERA in his final 20 starts. Jackson works with two fastballs, a low-90s four-seamer that's straight and a high-80s two-seamer with more run than sink. He used to feature two distinct breaking balls, a mid-80s slider and high-70s curveball, but they morphed into a low- 80s slurve for much of last year. His changeup lost effectiveness too. He pitched up in the strike zone too often and got tagged for 20 homers. While Jackson had a disappointing season, he still flashed three average or better pitches and threw strikes as a 22-year-old in Triple-A. He's motivated to catch up to the pitchers who passed him and he still has upside as a possible No. 3 or 4 starter. He'll return to Iowa in 2011, with a trip to Chicago on the horizon if he can improve his stuff and especially his command.
Chirinos was stalling in Double-A when the Cubs decided to move him behind the plate, making him a viable prospect and even jump-starting his bat. Calling games has given him a better understanding of hitting, and he has batted .310/.416/.543 since donning the tools of ignorance. He earned Southern League all-star recognition in 2010 and hit .471 in the playoffs. Chirinos always had shown an ability to handle the bat and control the strike zone, and now he has developed average power to all fields. He projects as a possible .275 hitter with 15 homers a year. Even more surprising is how quickly he has taken to catching. Managers rated him the best defensive backstop in the SL. Chirinos receives the ball and calls games like he has been doing so for years. He has solid arm strength, though his release is long and drops his pop times into the 1.95-2.05 second range. He still threw out 32 percent of basestealers in 2010. He's working on framing pitches and other nuances of the position, and he has the soft hands and quick feet to make it happen. He has below-average speed but isn't a bad runner for a catcher. The Cubs don't need a starting catcher with Geovany Soto on hand, but Chirinos could be a quality backup as a useful righthanded bat who can fill in behind the plate and around the infield.
There's debate within the organization whether Castillo or Robinson Chirinos is the system's best catching prospect. Castillo's proponents point out that he's three years younger, throws better and has proven himself in Triple-A. He even hit his first big league homer last September, capping a rebound from his worst year as a pro in 2009. Castillo matured last season and implemented suggestions from Cubs coaches. He stopped selling out for power at the plate and still slugged a career-high .498. He has average pop, though he lacks quality bat speed and gives away too many at-bats with his impatient approach, so he probably won't hit for much of an average. Defensively, Castillo improved his focus and cleaned up his receiving and game-calling, which still need further work. He has a stronger arm and quicker release than Chirinos, and he erased 39 percent of basestealers in 2010. He has little speed, though he was in better shape and played with more energy last year. It's easier to project Castillo developing into a regular than it is with Chirinos. Neither figures to displace Geovany Soto, and if Koyie Hill caddies for Soto again, then Castillo and Chirinos will share time in Iowa this year.
Mateo became the second member of his family to pitch for the Cubs when he got the call last August, following in the footsteps of his cousin Juan Mateo. He posted a 10.32 ERA in his first 11 big league appearances, but he settled down to pitch scoreless ball in nine of his final 10 outings. Originally signed by the Reds, he came to Chicago in an August 2007 trade for Buck Coats and has flashed huge upside but not much consistency. Mateo settled down some when the Cubs made him a full-time reliever in mid-2009, and his stuff played up in shorter stints. He pushes triple digits with his fastball, usually working at 94-97. When it's on, his upper-80s slider might be the most unhittable pitch in the system. He has a mediocre changeup and doesn't trust it enough. While Chicago has helped him calm down his delivery to some degree, Mateo still throws with a lot of effort at the expense of his command. He slashed his walk rate to a career-low 1.8 per nine innings in the minors last year. It's probably unrealistic to expect Mateo to become reliable enough to close games at the big league level, but his power stuff could make him a set-up man one day. He performed well in the Dominican League this winter, which could help his cause when he competes for a job in the Cubs' bullpen in spring training.
When the Cubs fell out of the National League Central race last summer, they moved to trade veterans for prospects, sending Derrek Lee to the Braves for minor league pitchers Lopez, Ty'Relle Harris and Jeff Lorick. Lopez was the key to deal from Chicago's perspective, as he held his own as a teenage starter in low Class A. He's far from a finished product, but his fastball touched 97 mph at times in 2010 while usually sitting at 88-93 mph. He'll cut his fastball at times, too. Lopez has an advanced changeup for his age, throwing it with sink and deception. He throws two breaking pitches, with his slider flashing depth and bite in the low 80s, giving it more promise than his curveball. He works from a high three-quarters delivery and like many young pitchers, he seeks more consistent control and command. Lopez has a ceiling of a No. 3 starter and may begin 2011 where he finished last season, at low Class A Peoria.
In another midsummer deal from 2010, the Cubs swapped Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot to the Dodgers for Blake DeWitt and minor league righthanders Smit and Brett Wallach. DeWitt could start at second base for Chicago this year, and both pitchers are keepers. Wallach has one of the best curveballs in the system as well as big league bloodlines--his father Tim played in five All-Star Games and won three Gold Gloves as a third baseman. Smit became a full-time reliever last season and took quickly to his new role. His stuff improved in shorter stints, he threw more strikes and he claimed a spot on the Cubs' 40-man roster. Tall and wiry, he resembles a young Ryan Madson. Smit has a deceptive delivery, allowing his 92-97 mph fastball to get on hitters quickly. His tight slider gives him a second strikeout pitch, and he uses a splitter as a change of pace. He figures to open 2011 in Triple-A, and he could make his major league debut by season's end.
Watkins flew under the scouting radar as a Kansas high schooler, but the Cubs liked his athleticism and intensity enough to give him $500,000 to buy him away from a Wichita State commitment. After hitting .326 in his first two years as a pro, he found the going rougher in his introduction to full-season ball in 2010. He did make adjustments and started turning on more pitches and hitting the ball with more authority in the second half. Watkins has a quick bat, good hand-eye coordination and plus speed, so he should hit for a solid average if he can smooth out the movement in his set-up. He won't ever have much home run power, but he's stronger than he looks and can sting balls into the gaps. His game is more about getting on base, and he shows patience and bunting skills. He's learning to steal bases, having succeeded on just two-thirds of his pro attempts. An all-Kansas quarterback and defensive back, Watkins is a versatile defender with above-average range, soft hands and solid arm strength. He has spent most of his career at second base, where he turns the pivot well on the double play. Chicago had resolved to get him time at shortstop and center field, and when that finally happened in 2010, he looked like a natural at both positions. Watkins plays with an intensity that inspires his teammates, and doubleplay partner Hak-Ju Lee in particular. They'll move up to high Class A together in 2011.
Flaherty batted cleanup behind Pedro Alvarez at Vanderbilt before signing for $1.5 million as the 41st overall pick in the 2008 draft. He's the son of Ed Flaherty, who has won two NCAA Division III College World Series as the head coach at Southern Maine. The Cubs wanted to separate him and D.J. LeMahieu, but they spent the last four months of the season together at Daytona after Flaherty was demoted. The two have a lot in common as big-bodied former Southeastern Conference stars who are best suited for third base. LeMahieu is more athletic and a better pure hitter, while Flaherty bats lefthanded and has more power. With a quick bat and some loft in his swing, he has pop to all fields and 20-homer potential, Flaherty has good instincts and a solid arm, but he's still seeking a full-time position. The Cubs have played him at second base and shortstop, but he lacks middleinfield actions, quickness and range. He has been erratic at third base, committing 17 errors in 74 games there. He played some left field in the Arizona Fall League after the season, and his ticket to the big leagues might be as an offensive-minded utilityman. Flaherty will try to solve Double-A pitching in 2011, when he and LeMahieu will shuttle around Tennessee's infield.
Multiple scouts have compared Golden to a young Kevin Mitchell for his stocky build and well above-average raw power. He showed off his pop during instructional league, when he homered to the opposite field off a 94 mph fastball from the White Sox' Brian Omogrosso, seven years his senior. Golden gutted through a severe hamstring pull as a high school senior to go in the second round of the 2010 draft, turning down an Alabama scholarship to sign for an above-slot $720,000. The hamstring limited him to 15 at-bats in his pro debut. With his short swing, fast bat and sheer strength, Golden qualifies as one of the top power hitters in the system. If everything comes together, he could be a five-tool player. He has the tools to hit, though he'll have to develop better plate discipline. Golden has plus speed and a chance to play center field, but he figures to lose a step as he fills out and probably will end up in right field. His solid arm will fit anywhere. He didn't face tough competition as an Alabama high schooler, so Golden may need time to adjust if the Cubs send him to low Class A in 2011.
Wells was a late bloomer, spending most of his high school career pitching at 84-87 mph. His fastball jumped to 90-95 mph with sink right before the draft, and he threw a five-inning perfect game in the state 7-A finals. A handful of teams quietly followed Wells, who might have gone in the first three rounds had he been thoroughly crosschecked. He signed at the Aug. 16 deadline for $530,000. Wells backs up his fastball with a hard slider that has a chance to be a plus pitch, and he throws a splitter as well. He quickly picked up a changeup after reporting to instructional league, so Chicago may scrap the splitter. He's athletic and repeats his delivery well, though he's going to have to work to make sure his 6-foot-3, 230-pound body doesn't go soft on him. Wells' performance in minor league camp will determine whether he makes his pro debut at Peoria or short-season Boise.
Kurcz spent his college freshman year at the Air Force Academy in 2009 before deciding he wanted to pursue a career in baseball. He transferred to the JC of Southern Nevada, where he benefited from the exposure that came from playing with Bryce Harper, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft. The Cubs signed him away from an Oral Roberts commitment for $125,000 in the 10th round. Kurcz struck out 48 in 27 innings in his pro debut, thanks to a 91-95 mph fastball and a deceptive three-quarters breaking ball with good bite. He flashed a plus changeup in instructional league, leading Chicago to consider developing him as a starter. At worst, he'd get more innings to work on honing a more consistent delivery, which would lead to improved control. His small, wiry frame scared some clubs off, but his arm works well and he was durable enough to maintain his stuff last summer. If the Cubs keep him in the bullpen, Kurcz could be the first member of their 2010 draft class to reach Wrigley Field. He'll begin his first full pro season in Class A, possibly skipping a level and jumping to Daytona.
Raley was one of college baseball's top two-way players in 2009, when he leveraged his sophomore-eligible status into a $750,000 bonus as a sixth-round pick. Though he could have been drafted as a center fielder/leadoff hitter, teams preferred him on the mound. The biggest knock on Raley was his lack of an out pitch, but the Cubs believe he addressed that by improving his curveball during his first full pro season. Focusing solely on pitching for the first time also helped his sinker, which bumped up a tick or two to 88-92 mph last year. His changeup also got better as Chicago forced him to throw it more often. Raley is extremely athletic and repeats his delivery well, so he has no problem filling the strike zone. His command could stand some improvement, however. He loves to compete and challenges hitters on the inside corner, almost to a fault. Raley had no trouble handling high Class A in his first full pro season, and he'll spend 2011 in Double-A. He has a ceiling of a No. 4 starter.
Born three days after Dominican countryman Starlin Castro, Lake teamed with him in the Rookie-level Arizona League in 2008. While Castro sped to the majors less than two years later, Lake was in Class A. He still has an impressive package of raw tools and work to do to refine them. His size, strength and quick hands give him plus raw power, but he has holes in his swing and chases too many pitches out of the strike zone. He showed more patience in 2010, but his plate discipline still leaves a lot to be desired. His speed and skills on the bases took a step back, and he's now a below-average runner. Lake's signature tool is his cannon arm, which grades as an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He doesn't always harness it, contributing to his 41 errors last year. His hands are an asset, but he lacks the range to stick at shortstop and needs to improve his overall defensive focus. If he doesn't make progress in 2011, it will become tempting to think of his arm on the mound. Lake probably will return to high Class A because he's best suited for third base, as are Double-A bound D.J. LeMahieu and Ryan Flaherty.
Though the Cubs signed Ha as a catcher out of Korea in 2008, he made his pro debut as an outfielder the following year at Boise. They worked him behind the plate in instructional league afterward, but he couldn't overcome a case of the yips on throws to second base. Ha returned to right field and had a strong 2010 season in low Class A at age 19, leading Peoria in batting (.317) and slugging (.468) after arriving from extended spring training in late May. He caught fire in the final month, when he hit .364/.370/.537, and one club official credited him with having the most competitive at-bats of any Chicago farmhand. Ha added some loft and backspin to his stroke last year, and he projects to have power to the gaps while maxing out at 15 homers per season. He could hit for a solid average as well, though a more disciplined approach would help. He has average speed and runs the bases well. Ha gets good breaks on balls from the outfield corners and he can fill in as a center fielder for short stints. With his strong, accurate arm, he fits best in right field. Whether Ha can develop into an everyday outfielder at the big league level remains to be seen, but he definitely has caught the Cubs' attention. He'll advance to high Class A in 2011.
Like Alfonso Soriano, Caridad is a Dominican who began his pro career with Japan's Hiroshima Carp and played briefly in the Japanese majors before using a technicality to become a free agent. The Cubs signed Caridad in December 2007 for $175,000 and an invitation to big league camp. He reached the big leagues at the end of his second U.S. season, earning manager Lou Piniella's trust by not allowing a run in 11 September outings. Caridad made Chicago's Opening Day roster last April, but made just four appearances before going on the disabled list with elbow problems. He avoided surgery, but Cardidad wasted most of the year with two stints on the DL, pitching just 16 innings between the majors and rehab assignments. When healthy, he can reach 96 mph with his fastball, though he's more effective pitching in the low 90s with more sink. While he's undersized, he generates velocity with arm speed and smooth mechanics rather than an abundance of effort. He relies mainly on his fastball and his command, because his slurvy breaking ball is average at best and his changeup is fringy. If he can put his elbow problems behind him, Caridad will get another opportunity to make Chicago's bullpen in spring training.
Signed for $525,000 out of a Korean high school in 2007, Rhee was so advanced that the Cubs sent him to low Class A to make his pro debut the next spring. He allowed just one run in his first three starts while showing precocious feel for three average or better pitches. He hurt his elbow in his fourth outing, however, leading to Tommy John surgery that cost him most of the 2009 season. Rhee was able to make a full schedule of starts in 2010, though he was kept on tight pitch counts. His stuff isn't as crisp as it was before he got hurt but Chicago sees signs that it's coming back. He has regained most but not all of his velocity, working at 88-92 mph with his fastball last year. His formerly plus changeup is just an average pitch for the moment, but his curveball showed improvement late in the season. He's back to throwing strikes, though he leaves too many pitches up in the strike zone. The Cubs consider 2010 a recovery year for Rhee and may have him return to high Class A to begin 2011. He'll still be just 22, giving him plenty of time to reclaim his potential as frontline starter.