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Chicago Cubs

Prospects Overview

Top 30 Prospects

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Player Reports

  1. 1. Mark Prior | RHP
    Mark Prior
    Born: Sep 7, 1980
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'5" Wt.: 230
    Minors: 5-2 | 2.29 ERA | 79 SO | 18 BB | 51.0 IP

    Flirting with a no-hitter against Louisiana State at the 2000 College World Series and starring that summer with Team USA's college squad positioned Prior as the top pitching prospect for the 2001 draft. By the end of the season, several scouts called him the best college pitching prospect they had ever seen. After going 14-15 in his first two college seasons, Prior went 15-1, 1.69 with a Pacific-10 Conference record 202 strikeouts and just 18 walks in 139 innings. Baseball America's College Player of the Year passed Georgia Tech third baseman Mark Teixeira as the consensus best player available. Drafting first overall, the Twins opted for Minnesota high school catcher Joe Mauer. Picking second, the Cubs had determined in March they'd take Prior if they got the chance. Negotiations began in earnest in August, when Prior signed a four-year major league contract with a guaranteed worth of at least $10.5 million, a draft record, including a $4 million bonus. In December, Prior won USA Baseball's Golden Spikes Award, the baseball equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. Prior has everything scouts dream about in a pitcher. He throws his fastball at 94-97 mph, and his uncanny command of the pitch may be more impressive than its considerable velocity and life. Some scouts say they've never seen a 20-year-old pitcher locate his fastball at will like Prior does. He also can overmatch batters with his 12-to-6 curveball, another potential plus-plus pitch. Southern California coach Mike Gillespie insists Prior has a pretty good changeup, though he had little reason to give college hitters a fighting chance by throwing it. Prior has a classic pitcher's body at 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds; his mechanics are flawless. He's intelligent, poised and dedicated to his craft. His only real need is experience. The Cubs wish Prior had headed to instructional league or the Arizona Fall League after he signed, but he returned to college to finish his degree. He'll have to throw more changeups and get acclimated to throwing every fifth day as a pro. Prior will be in big league camp and make his pro debut at Double-A West Tenn. A true No. 1 starter, he's an obvious candidate for a September callup if he hasn't reached Wrigley Field already by then. Scouts look at him and see the next Roger Clemens.

  2. 2. Juan Cruz | RHP
    Juan Cruz
    Born: Oct 15, 1978
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'2" Wt.: 170

    Desperate for a starter in late August, the Cubs summoned Cruz to the majors. He made an impression on manager Don Baylor with his performance and courage. Cruz' stuff is just as exciting as Mark Prior's. Cruz also throws 94-97 mph, with more life but less command than Prior. He also has the best breaking ball (a darting slider) and changeup in the organization. He has been so overpowering since putting it all together in early 2000, the Cubs say they weren't surprised he was able to get the job done in the majors at age 20. Cruz just needs to put finishing touches on his command and pitching savvy. Lefties got to him in the majors, so he'll have to make some adjustments. Some opposing Southern League managers thought he was immature, but Chicago officials don't see that. Cruz will have a rotation spot awaiting him in spring training. He, Prior and Kerry Wood could form a nasty front three as early as 2003. In January, it came out that Cruz is two years older than his previously listed age, making him 23. That makes him less precocious but doesn't diminish the Cubs' enthusiasm about his special arm.

  3. 3. Hee Seop Choi | 1B
    Hee Seop Choi
    Born: Mar 16, 1979
    Bats: L Throws: L
    Ht.: 6'5" Wt.: 235

    Signed to a $1.2 million bonus in 1999, Choi slugged his way through the minors in his first two years and led the Arizona Fall League in homers in 2000. Sent to Triple-A Iowa last spring to work on hitting lefthanders, he lost much of the season to an injury in the back of his right hand. He had severe inflammation rather than a tear, but the hand was slow to heal. Choi is one of the top power hitters in the minors, and he still cranked out homers on a regular basis despite his painful hand problem. He drives the ball to all fields and is more than a slugger. He's an above-average first baseman who runs well for his size. In half a season Choi batted .286 with a .557 slugging percentage against lefties, so he may have solved that problem. His hand should be fine by spring training. His focus now is to watch his strikeouts and his weight. Chicago's trade for Fred McGriff pushed the timetable for making Choi the everyday first baseman back a year. He'll begin 2002 in Iowa and could be pushing for a promotion after the all-star break.

  4. 4. David Kelton | OF
    David Kelton
    Born: Dec 17, 1979
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'3" Wt.: 205

    Kelton seemed like Chicago's latest best hope to fill the void at third base that has existed since Ron Santo departed in 1973. After he made 15 errors in 54 games at West Tenn, he was set to move to the outfield before he popped something in his left hand on a checked swing, ending his season. He came back to play some outfield in the Arizona Fall League, where he batted .340. The best pure hitter in the system, Kelton was on pace to bat .300-30-100 in Double-A at age 21 when he got hurt. His swing is so pure the Cubs forbade their instructors from tinkering with it. He also has become more patient at the plate. Defensively, his speed and hands are fine. Kelton had shoulder surgery in high school, leaving him with modest arm strength. His release point got out of whack last year, resulting in throwing errors. He still needs work in the outfield, though the Cubs believe he can be at least an average defender. The initial plan for 2002 was to send Kelton to Triple-A and give him time at both third base and left field. But after the Cubs signed Moises Alou as a free agent, that closed off any opportunity in left field. They want to get Kelton's bat to Wrigley Field in the near future, so they'll hope he can handle the hot corner.

  5. 5. Bobby Hill | 2B
    Bobby Hill
    Born: Apr 3, 1978
    Bats: B Throws: R
    Ht.: 5'10" Wt.: 190

    After winning the College World Series with Miami in 1999, Hill turned down the White Sox as a second-round pick and spent a year in the independent Atlantic League. Signed by the Cubs for $1.425 million, Hill debuted in Double-A in 2001. The only downside was a slowhealing groin injury that limited him to 60 games and still bothered him in the Arizona Fall League. Hill is a quintessential leadoff man. He's a switch-hitter who hits for average and has decent pop from both sides, draws walks and steals bases. A college shortstop, he shows lots of range at second base and turns the double play well. Scouts questioned whether Hill had the arm to remain at shortstop, but he has plenty for second base. He struck out a bit more than desired for a No. 1 hitter in 2001. He hit .345 while playing at 85 percent in the AFL, and he might have been ready to take over at second base for Eric Young had he played a full season. Now Delino DeShields will likely keep second base warm while Hill gets at least a couple of months in Triple-A.

  6. 6. Carlos Zambrano | RHP
    Carlos Zambrano
    Born: Jun 1, 1981
    Bats: B Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'4" Wt.: 275
    Minors: 0-0 | 0.00 ERA | 11 SO | 6 BB | 9.0 IP

    The Cubs called up Zambrano, another precocious Latin American pitcher, the day before they promoted Juan Cruz. Zambrano struggled in one start against the Brewers, returned to Triple-A and resurfaced as a reliever in September. He reached Triple-A at 18 in 2000 and moved from the rotation to the bullpen, then reversed course last year. Zambrano has a mid-90s fastball that has gone as high as 99 and maintains its velocity for nine innings. He likes to vary his arm angle with his fastball, giving batters two different looks and achieving plenty of sink when he lowers his slot. When it's on, his slider gives him two power pitches. Lowering his arm angle gives Zambrano problems, because it flattens out his slider and costs him command. Both his slider and control need more consistency. He must refine his changeup to give him a better weapon against lefthanders. The Cubs believe Zambrano either can be a power starter or a closer, though they have yet to determine what his role will be. He'll compete for a big league job in spring training.

  7. 7. Nic Jackson | OF
    Nic Jackson
    Born: Sep 25, 1979
    Bats: L Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'3" Wt.: 200
    Minors: .290/.329/.443 | 3 HR | 8 SB | 131 AB

    Jackson slid in the 2000 draft because a ligament problem in the middle finger of his right hand cost him half the college season. The Cubs had an abundance of outfielders at low Class A Lansing in 2001, so they skipped Jackson to high Class A Daytona. Managers named him the Florida State League's most exciting player, and he led the league in hits. Jackson is an athletic outfielder in the mold of former Spiders product Brian Jordan. Daytona batting coach Richie Zisk showed him how to hit with backspin, and Jackson responded by driving balls all over the park. He has a quick bat and hits with authority against lefthanders. He runs well and could play center field, though he projects as a big league right fielder. Jackson's worst tool is his arm, which is average. He'll need to tighten his strike zone against more experienced pitchers. About two seasons away from the majors, Jackson is destined for Double-A in 2002. Corey Patterson and Sammy Sosa have two outfield spots nailed down for the long term in Chicago, so Jackson will eventually have to compete with David Kelton for left field if Kelton can't handle third base.

  8. 8. Ben Christensen | RHP
    Ben Christensen
    Throws: R

    Christensen was one of the better arms in the 1999 draft, though he lasted until 26th overall after an incident in his junior season at Wichita State. He was suspended for throwing a pitch at Evansville's Anthony Molina and striking him in the eye while warming up. Christensen's ascent through the minors was progressing rapidly and probably would have taken him to the majors by now if not for shoulder problems. His 2000 season ended in early July because of tendinitis, and he made just three starts last year before needing surgery to tighten his capsule and repair some fraying. When healthy, Christensen shows command of four pitches. His two best are his 90- 94 mph sinker and his slider. He has the long, loose body scouts like in a pitcher. But clearly his health has been the biggest cause for concern to this point. He has pitched just 176 innings in three years as pro and has made just 32 starts. He could have used more innings to work on his curveball and changeup, which aren't in the same class as his sinker and slider. The good news is that Christensen didn't have major shoulder damage and should be ready to go by spring training. If he's 100 percent, he should begin to move quickly again and should start the season at Iowa.

  9. 9. Scott Chiasson | RHP
    Scott Chiasson
    Born: Aug 14, 1977
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'3" Wt.: 210
    Minors: 1-4 | 7.47 ERA | 31 SO | 14 BB | 31.3 IP

    The Athletics traded Jay Witasick for Chiasson in 1999. The Cubs plucked him with the No. 1 pick in the major league Rule 5 draft at the 2000 Winter Meetings, then dealt third baseman Eric Hinske to Oakland last spring to keep Chiasson. Southern League managers named Chiasson the best relief prospect in the league. West Tenn pitching coach Alan Dunn made adjustments to Chiasson's mechanics. Combined with a move from starting to relieving, his fastball went from 90-94 mph to 95-97. Chiasson uses a hard slider and has added a splitter. He pitches on a good downhill plane. Chiasson's slider is an effective pitch, but sometimes it flattens out when he drops his arm angle. He hasn't developed much of a changeup, though that isn't as crucial now that he's in the bullpen. Pitching well in six September appearances did Chiasson a lot of good in his bid to open 2002 with the Cubs. He'll compete for a middlerelief role in spring training.

  10. 10. Lou Montanez | OF
    Lou Montanez
    Born: Dec 15, 1981
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'1" Wt.: 195
    Minors: .265/.333/.353 | 4 HR | 14 SB | 487 AB

    Though the Cubs struck a predraft deal worth $2.75 million with Montanez before taking him third overall in the 2000 draft, they say they valued his ability more than his price. Named MVP of the Rookie-level Arizona League in his pro debut, he got off to a rocky start at Lansing before adjusting as the season progressed. He hit .300 in the final month. Montanez has more offensive potential than the typical shortstop. He had 44 extra-base hits as a teenager in a full-season league, and he should add more power as he gets stronger and more experienced. He has solid hands and a strong arm at shortstop. Montanez isn't a bad runner, but he lacks the quickness associated with shortstops. His range is adequate, but some project him more as a second or third baseman. Many of his 32 errors last year came on errant throws, which can be addressed. He'll need to develop more plate discipline to develop offensively. The Cubs believe in Montanez as a shortstop, and think he'll be a good player if he hits as expected and plays average defense. He'll move up a notch to high Class A in 2002.

  11. 11. Steve Smyth | LHP
    Steve Smyth
    Born: Jun 3, 1978
    Bats: L Throws: L
    Ht.: 6'1" Wt.: 195

    The Cubs figured Smyth would make a decent lefthanded set-up man when they drafted him in 1999, and he didn't help his cause for the rotation by posting a 6.09 ERA in 15 starts in his pro debut. But in the last two years his velocity has jumped and he now projects as the lefty starter they've been looking for. He led the Southern League in ERA last year, and probably would have been called up when Chicago was desperate for starters in August if he hadn't had shoulder problems. He had surgery to tighten his capsule and clean up some fraying in his rotator cuff. Before he went down, Smyth was throwing 91-93 mph. Besides his fastball, he also has a slider, cutter and changeup, and all of his pitches are average or better. He's lagging a little behind in his rehabilitation and may not be ready to go at the start of spring training. As a result, the Cubs traded to get Jesus Sanchez from the Marlins in the offseason to make sure they have a southpaw starter. Once he's healthy, Smyth will go to Triple-A and shouldn't have any trouble elbowing Sanchez aside when he's ready.

  12. 12. J.K. Ryu | RHP
    J.K. Ryu
    Born: May 30, 1983
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'3" Wt.: 225
    Minors: 7-3 | 4.50 ERA | 77 SO | 33 BB | 72.0 IP

    Chicago struck prospect gold when it signed slugger Hee Seop Choi out of Korea for $1.2 million in March 1999, and eight months later they added potential backup catcher Yoon- Min Kweon from the same nation. Pacific Rim coordinator Leon Lee scored another bluechipper last June when he signed Ryu for $1.6 million. Lee had followed him for a year and saw him strike out 20 in seven innings in one of his final high school games. The Cubs believe Ryu would have been a low first-round pick had he been eligible for the 2001 draft. Red tape prevented him from making his U.S. debut until August, when he allowed just one earned run in four Arizona League starts. He already throws 90-95 mph as a teenager, has a tight rotation on his curveball and the makings of a changeup. His breaking ball gets a little slurvy at times and his change still needs improvement, but all of the ingredients are there. Ryu's intelligence and feel for pitching are so advanced that a good spring will allow him to head to full-season ball before he turns 19.

  13. 13. J.J. Johnson | SS

    Vice president of player personnel Jim Hendry calls Johnson "a gut-feel guy" from the 2000 draft, over which Hendry presided as scouting director. Georgia area scout Sam Hughes loved Johnson's bat, so the Cubs took him in the sixth round. After a fine pro debut that year, he was even better in 2001, when he was named MVP and the No. 1 prospect in the short-season Northwest League, which he also led in RBIs. He has the stroke and bat speed to hit for power and average. Compared to Nic Jackson, Chicago's other top outfield prospect, Johnson has more power and less athleticism. But he's not a bad athlete, as his speed is average and he shows a strong arm in right field, where he moved last year after playing shortstop in high school and third base in the Arizona League. Though Johnson will need to tighten his strike zone as he moves up, he should be able to make the adjustments. He'll begin 2002 in low Class A.

  14. 14. Angel Guzman | RHP
    Angel Guzman
    Born: Dec 14, 1981
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'3" Wt.: 190
    Minors: 11-4 | 2.19 ERA | 123 SO | 49 BB | 156.0 IP

    The Cubs think they're sitting on two pitching prospects who will have breakthrough seasons in 2002: Guzman and Felix Sanchez, who ranks right behind him on this list. Guzman already made some noise in his U.S. debut last year, leading the Northwest League in wins and earning all-star recognition. He usually throws in the low 90s but can get his fastball up to 94-95 mph, something that should happen with more regularity as he gets stronger. Besides velocity, his fastball also has a lot of sink and life, and he throws it so effortlessly that it gets on hitters in a hurry. Guzman's curveball and changeup could give him three plus pitches by the time he reaches the majors. He has fine control and poise, having no trouble battling older hitters in the NWL and in Venezuela this winter. The Cubs believe all he'll need is continued health and more experience. He'll probably start 2002 in low Class A with a chance to earn a promotion before season's end.

  15. 15. Felix Sanchez | LHP
    Felix Sanchez
    Born: Aug 3, 1981
    Bats: R Throws: L
    Ht.: 6'3" Wt.: 180

    Sanchez spent his first two years as pro in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League, and he didn't overwhelm Arizona League hitters when he made his U.S. debut last summer. But he looked tremendous after getting promoted to the Northwest League in August. His fastball reaches 95-96 mph, exceptional velocity for a lefthander, and he should throw harder as he fills out his 6-foot-3 frame. He also has a hard slider and is working on a changeup. He's not quite as advanced as Angel Guzman, as his secondary pitches and command need more refinement. But he could join him in Lansing this year and has the raw ability to move quickly through the system.

  16. 16. Jose Cueto
    Jose Cueto
    Born: Oct 24, 1985

    Signed by the Rangers as an outfielder in 1996, Cueto was released after one season in the Dominican Summer League and spent a year out of baseball. The Cubs gave him a second chance as a pitcher, though he made little progress in his first three years in the organization. Cueto began 2001 in the Lansing bullpen and got knocked around in relief until a spot opened in the rotation in mid-May. He really hit his stride as a full-time starter, advancing two levels to Double-A by the end of the year. Cueto can hit 94-95 mph with his fastball, which may be more effective when he throws it in the low 90s and achieves more sink. He likes to pound hitters inside with his fastball, then go outside with his slider, which some scouts say is his best pitch. His changeup still requires more work, as does his command. Chicago still hasn't settled on his long-term role, but he'll return to Double-A as a starter in 2002.

  17. 17. Ronny Cedeno | SS
    Ronny Cedeno
    Born: Feb 2, 1983
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'0" Wt.: 195
    Minors: .214/.270/.296 | 2 HR | 22 SB | 486 AB

    When the 2001 regular season ended, Cedeno had finished second in the Arizona League batting race at .350. But when SportsTicker reviewed all of its statistics before declaring them official, it discovered that Cedeno actually had won the batting title. The Cubs thought Cedeno was special when they signed him out of Venezuela, likening him to a second-round pick, and they appear to be right. He obviously can hit for average and he also has good power for a middle infielder, not to mention above-average speed. He has plus tools on defense as well, as both his range and arm are assets. Cedeno just needs to add polish to his game. He'll have to control the strike zone better, improve his basestealing skills (he was caught 12 times in 29 attempts last year) and get more consistent defensively (his 22 errors tied for the AZL lead). He's ready for low Class A, where he might see some time at second base if 2001 third-round pick Ryan Theriot is assigned to Lansing as well.

  18. 18. Todd Wellemeyer | RHP
    Todd Wellemeyer
    Born: Aug 30, 1978
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'2" Wt.: 215
    Minors: 5-7 | 4.14 ERA | 124 SO | 37 BB | 119.7 IP

    Wellemeyer received virtually no interest from big-time schools or major league organizations when he graduated from Louisville's Eastern High in 1997, so he planned on attending Kentucky as a full-time student. Then Bellarmine University, a local NAIA school, offered him a chance. Wellemeyer continue to fly under the radar of scouts until the summer of 1999, when he made the Coastal Plain League as an alternate, got to pitch and showed plenty of fastball. The Cubs expected Wellemeyer to struggle initially as a pro because of his small college background, and he did just that at the outset of 2001. He was working too much on his offspeed stuff and his fastball suffered, but he adjusted his approach and won his last 10 decisions. He has the tall, lanky body and loose arm that scouts love. Wellemeyer's 90-94 mph fastball explodes on hitters, and his changeup has so much life that many Midwest League opponents thought it was a splitter. His slider lags behind his other two pitches for now, though it flattened out much less often in the second half of 2001. He's still learning how to pitch and to throw strikes more consistently, but there's no question the package is there. He'll move up to high Class A this year.

  19. 19. Francis Beltran | RHP
    Francis Beltran
    Born: Nov 29, 1979
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'6" Wt.: 255
    Minors: 2-2 | 2.59 ERA | 43 SO | 19 BB | 41.7 IP

    Beltran was the biggest surprise among the additions when Chicago filled out its 40-man roster in November. In his first four years in the organization, he surfaced in full-season ball for just 16 games, posting a 9.68 ERA. But when he was forced to sink or swim in high Class A in 2001, he struggled for six weeks and then survived. He went 4-1, 2.08 over a sixstart span before he was hit by a bat and fractured a finger in June. Beltran missed six weeks and wasn't as dominant when he returned, but had shown enough to earn the Cubs' faith. His biggest assets are his intimidating size and his fastball, which hits 95 mph every time he takes the mound. His slider has its moments, though his changeup and control still have a ways to go. Chicago envisions him as a future set-up man or closer but will use him as a starter this year in Double-A to get him innings.

  20. 20. Aaron Krawiec | LHP
    Aaron Krawiec
    Throws: L

    Outside of Felix Sanchez, Krawiec has the best arm among lefthanders in the system. What he doesn't have is consistent mechanics, which is why he went 12-10, 5.80 in three seasons at Villanova and had an up-and-down first full pro season in low Class A. Krawiec gets a lot of sink on his fastball, which usually arrives at the plate in the low 90s and gets as quick as 94 mph. His curveball gives him a second plus pitch and he also throws a changeup. At 6-foot-6, he throws his pitches on a tough downward plane. He offered a glimmer of his potential last April 29 against South Bend, when he worked eight innings and allowed two hits and no walks while striking out 17. Krawiec had five double-digit strikeout games in 2001, but too often he couldn't get his delivery in sync to throw enough strikes. He kept falling behind in the count, and while he didn't surrender an abundance of walks, he'd lay pitches over the plate. Midwest League hitters batted .297 against him, far better than his stuff should warrant. Krawiec will try to iron everything out this year in high Class A.

  21. 21. Dontrelle Willis | LHP
    Dontrelle Willis
    Born: Jan 12, 1982
    Bats: L Throws: L
    Ht.: 6'2" Wt.: 230
    Minors: 12-2 | 1.83 ERA | 128 SO | 24 BB | 157.7 IP

    While the Cubs are looking for lefthanders for their big league rotation, they had no shortage of southpaw starters last year at short-season Boise, which had the best regular-season record in the Northwest League. Felix Sanchez came up at the end of the season, while Willis, Carmen Pignatiello and Adam Wynegar went a combined 19-7. Willis, a NWL all-star who led the league in innings, is the best prospect of the latter group. His curveball is his top pitch right now, and he already has an average fastball at 89-91 mph. Because he's big, lean and athletic, he projects to add velocity, which will give him a second plus pitch. While he's still working on his changeup, he already has command and an understanding of the importance of pitching aside, both well beyond his years. Willis will go to Lansing this year, where he could be part of a prospect-laden rotation with Jae-Kuk Ryu, Angel Guzman, Sanchez and possibly Sergio Mitre.

  22. 22. Ryan Jorgensen | C
    Ryan Jorgensen
    Born: May 4, 1979
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'2" Wt.: 220
    Minors: .245/.316/.341 | 5 HR | 7 SB | 367 AB

    The Cubs haven't signed an amateur catcher who developed into an all-star since drafting Joe Girardi in the fifth round in June 1986. At this point, they'd be happy if they could just come up with a regular. Their best hope now is Jorgensen, who was a backup catcher to Brad Cresse (now a top Diamondbacks prospect) on Louisiana State's 2000 College World Series champions. Jorgensen has lived up to his reputation as an outstanding catch-andthrow guy. In 2001, his first full season as a pro, managers rated him the best defensive catcher in the Florida State League and he threw out a combined 41 percent of basestealers at two stops. As a bonus, Jorgensen hit better than anticipated until his midseason promotion to Double-A, where he missed a month after straining his back in his third game. He still must prove he can hit in the upper minors, and adding some strength and making more contact definitely would help. Jorgensen batted just .225 in the Arizona Fall League, so Chicago may want to play it safe and let him begin this year back in the FSL.

  23. 23. Andy Sisco | LHP
    Andy Sisco
    Born: Jan 13, 1983
    Bats: L Throws: L
    Ht.: 6'10" Wt.: 270
    Minors: 7-2 | 2.43 ERA | 101 SO | 39 BB | 77.7 IP

    The Cubs have used their second-round picks well, landing infielders of the future David Kelton (1998) and Bobby Hill (2000). They may have hit on another second-rounder last year when they signed Sisco, who's about as intimidating as a lefthander can get, for $1 million. He already stands 6-foot-8 and 260 pounds, plus he has a consistent 90-93 mph fastball that topped out at 96 in instructional league. If he can smooth out his mechanics, not the easiest task for a pitcher his size, he might approach triple digits in the future. Sisco impressed Arizona League managers with his splitter, which serves as his changeup. Among his three pitches, his slider needs the most work. He won't be a pitcher who blows through the minors in a hurry, but Sisco's ceiling is awfully high.

  24. 24. Ryan Theriot | 2B
    Ryan Theriot
    Born: Dec 7, 1979
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 5'11" Wt.: 185
    Minors: .252/.335/.313 | 1 HR | 32 SB | 489 AB

    Theriot was Ryan Jorgensen's teammate on Louisiana State's 2000 club, singling to lead off the bottom of the ninth and coming around with the title-winning run in the College World Series championship game. The Cubs had 2000 first-round pick Luis Montanez playing shortstop at Lansing and Theriot had played for college baseball's premier program, so the Cubs sent him to high Class A to make his pro debut after taking him in the third round last June. Theriot had been idle for two months and struggled offensively. There's still some hope for his offense, because he batted .299 with wood bats in the Cape Cod League in 2000 and he did walk more than he struck out in the Florida State League. But he'll have to get stronger if he's going to bat near the top of a batting order. He also may start switch-hitting in 2002. Regardless, defense will be Theriot's ticket to the majors. His instincts, arm and range all grade out as above average. Montanez is expected to move up to the FSL this year, so Theriot may go to Lansing to regroup.

  25. 25. Courtney Duncan | RHP
    Courtney Duncan
    Born: Oct 9, 1974
    Bats: L Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'0" Wt.: 185

    Duncan hit the wall as a starter in Double-A in 1998 but regrouped and made it to the majors last year as a reliever. He showed his resolve the previous offseason, when he headed to Puerto Rico for winter ball shortly after his brother murdered his wife (Courtney's sister- in-law) and then killed himself. Duncan led the league in saves and posted a 1.05 ERA, a springboard to making the Cubs out of spring training. He pitched well until a back strain and shoulder tendinitis weakened him during the summer. Before he ran out of gas, Duncan was throwing 90-94 mph consistently. He uses more pitches than most relievers, also employing a slider, cutter and changeup. He'll have to trust his stuff and throw more strikes. He also needs to find a way to battle big league lefthanders more effectively. Chicago lost free agents Todd Van Poppel and David Weathers this winter, so Duncan should play a prominent role in the big league bullpen.

  26. 26. John Webb | RHP
    John Webb
    Born: May 23, 1979
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'3" Wt.: 220
    Minors: 9-8 | 4.00 ERA | 110 SO | 45 BB | 119.3 IP

    Two of the Cubs' better pitching prospects succumbed to Tommy John surgery in 2001. Webb, who emerged in the shadows of Juan Cruz at Lansing the year before, missed all of April, made five appearances in May and then was done for the season. Fellow righthander Carlos Urrutia, who had a live arm but hadn't gotten past Rookie ball, didn't even take the mound last year. Ironically, Webb had very little mileage on his arm after playing mostly shortstop and occasionally working out of the bullpen as an amateur. Before going down, he had three effective pitches: a 90-92 mph sinker, a plus slider and a changeup. He kept the ball down in the strike zone and didn't hurt himself with walks, either. Chicago hopes he'll be back on the mound by June at the latest.

  27. 27. Ryan Gripp | 3B
    Ryan Gripp
    Throws: R

    Gripp's stock took a huge hit in 2001. After winning the Midwest League batting title and leading all minor league third basemen with a .333 average the year before, he continued to hit for average and gap power in the Florida State League. But when he was promoted to Double-A to take over for an injured David Kelton, Gripp batted just .227. His plate discipline wasn't up to previous standards at either level last year, and he began pulling off of pitches in an attempt to hit for more power. His arm, range and mobility were all questionable to begin with, and he didn't play well defensively last year, making 31 errors. If he can stick at third base, he has a shot as a potential .280 hitter with 35 doubles and 15-20 homers. If he has to move to first base, that production won't be enough to unseat Hee Seop Choi. Headed back to Double-A, Gripp caught a break when FSL home run leader Jim Deschaine was traded to the Blue Jays in the offseason. Deschaine would have taken some playing time at third base, necessitating that Gripp play some first base, but now Gripp should have the hot corner to himself.

  28. 28. Michael Wuertz | RHP
    Michael Wuertz
    Born: Dec 15, 1978
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'2" Wt.: 225
    Minors: 9-5 | 5.55 ERA | 131 SO | 69 BB | 154.0 IP

    Wuertz' won-loss record in Double-A was deceiving. His 27 outings included 15 quality starts--in which he went 4-0 with 11 no-decisions. However, a lack of run support wasn't the only reason for his disappointing season. His velocity was down for much of 2001, as he worked at 88-90 mph after throwing 90-93 while helping Daytona win the Florida State League championship the year before. His slider is a solid second pitch, but he needs to get the juice back on his fastball. He also must keep improving his changeup and his location within the strike zone. The Cubs praise his competitive nature and he's extremely durable, having made 97 straight starts in four years as a pro. Wuertz didn't make the 40-man roster this winter, and now projects as a fourth or fifth starter at best unless his fastball returns. He'll probably move up to Triple-A to start 2002.

  29. 29. Mike Meyers | RHP
    Mike Meyers
    Born: Oct 18, 1977
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'3" Wt.: 215

    Finesse righthanders like Meyers have to prove themselves at every step of the minors. Now that he's done that, the Cubs have accumulated so much pitching talent that he may not be able to find a role in Chicago. After succeeding in Triple-A last year, he has an outside shot at making the big league team but isn't in the running for the open spot in the rotation. Meyers led the minors with a 1.73 ERA in 1999, when he also pitched for Canada in the Pan American Games. His fastball operates at 88-90 mph, though it's effective enough because it has life and he's not afraid to pitch inside. His curveball is his best pitch and his changeup is average. Meyers has allowed just 37 homers in 534 pro innings, but he'll need to be stingier with walks in the majors because his margin for error is small. His ceiling is as a fourth or fifth starter, and his greatest value to the Cubs could come as part of a trade.

  30. 30. Mike Mallory | OF

    Mallory has one of the best all-around packages of tools in the system but hasn't been able to do much with them yet. He has the body of a young Dave Winfield, oodles of raw power and speed, center-field range and a right-field arm. He also has a career average of .225 and has struck out almost five times as often as he has walked. He hasn't been able to do much against pro breaking balls and makes contact too infrequently. He is a high-percentage basestealer and the best defensive outfielder in that system, but that won't matter if Mallory can't hit. The Cubs like his makeup and dream that he'll be another Torii Hunter, who didn't become a viable big league hitter until his ninth year as a pro. Mallory will get a stern test from the pitcher-friendly Florida State League this year.

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