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Undrafted out of high school, Jackson went to college at California, impressed scouts in the Cape Cod League in the summer of 2008 and became a first-round pick the following June. The Cubs believed he had the best bat speed in the 2009 draft, yet were able to get him with the 31st overall pick because teams worried whether he could make consistent contact. Signed for $972,000, he has struck out 320 times in 296 minor league games, but that hasn't kept him from being productive. He has earned in-season promotions in each of his three years as a pro, hitting 20 homers and stealing 21 bases while reaching Triple-A Iowa in 2011. He ended the year by batting .412 for Team USA at the World Cup in Panama. Only minor injuries have slowed him, with a strained ligament in his left pinky costing him three weeks last May and a foot issue relegating him to pinch-hitting duty at the Pan American Games. With solid to plus tools across the board and the ability to stay in center field, Jackson is a potential all-star. His power stands out the most, as he has the bat speed, loft and strength to drive balls out of the park to all fields. He has become more selective at the plate than he was in college, waiting for pitches he can punish and taking walks when pitchers won't challenge him. Chicago would like to see him get a little more aggressive and attack more often early in the count. He's not a pure hitter, but he does have a compact swing and doesn't get himself out by chasing pitches out of the zone. Some scouts think Jackson's stroke can get too mechanical and believe he swings and misses too much to hit much more than .260 or .270. He pulls off pitches at times, and his strikeout rate spiked to a career-high 30 percent in Triple-A. Jackson isn't a blazer, but he has plus speed that enables him to get the job done on the bases and in the outfield. He knows when to pick his spots as a basestealer, succeeding at a 76 percent rate in the minors. Likewise, he gets good jumps and takes nice routes in the outfield. He has played all three outfield positions in pro ball, and his average, accurate arm is enough for right field if he moves to a corner. His steady demeanor and work ethic are assets that have rubbed off on his teammates, such as 2007 first-round pick Josh Vitters. Not only is Jackson the Cubs' top prospect, but he's also the only position player in the upper levels of the system ready to play regularly in the majors. They resisted the temptation to promote him during their disappointing 2011 season, in part because he didn't have to be protected on the 40-man roster this offseason. With Alfonso Soriano and Marlon Byrd due a combined $24.5 million in salaries in 2012, and David DeJesus coming aboard as a free agent, Jackson could open the season in Triple-A. Even if that happens, he should push his way to Wrigley Field in short order. He has the upside of Jim Edmonds at the plate, if not the same Gold Glove ability in center field.
Born in Puerto Rico, Baez moved to Florida in 2005 and batted .711 with 20 homers as a high school senior last spring. Though the Cubs need pitching, they passed on several college arms to draft him ninth overall last June. He signed for $2.625 million at the Aug. 15 deadline. Baez had the best bat speed in the 2011 draft, prompting comparisons to Gary Sheffield and Hanley Ramirez. In terms of the 20-80 scouting scale, Chicago thinks Baez could develop into a 70 hitter with 65 power. He's still learning that he doesn't have to overswing to do damage. His arm strength gives him a third well above-average tool and may allow him to stay at shortstop. Baez is an average runner with average range who will have to find a new position if he loses a step, with third base perhaps the best longterm fit. Second base, right field and even catcher are other options. Overly aggressive and emotional at times, he'll need time to mature on and off the field. Baez has the highest ceiling in the system and could move quickly. His bat eventually should fit into the No. 3 slot in Chicago's lineup and should provide enough offense for any position. He'll head to low Class A Peoria at age 19.
The MVP of the 2009 NCAA football championship subdivision title game, Szczur had NFL aspirations as a wide receiver. After signing him for $100,000 as a 2010 fifthround pick, the Cubs paid him an additional $1.4 million last March to give up the gridiron. He ranked as the low Class A Midwest League's best defensive outfielder, played in the Futures Game and hit .368 in the playoffs as high Class A Daytona won the Florida State League title. His deal necessitated a spot on the 40-man roster after the season. Szczur is polished for a two-sport player. His plus-plus speed helps him hit for average, makes him a basestealing threat and allows him to run down balls from gap to gap. He has a short, quick swing and strength in his hands and wrists that could translate into average power. Szczur's main needs are to get more patient at the plate and more aggressive on the basepaths. He has worked to improve his arm strength from below-average to solid. Coaches and scouts rave about his makeup as much as his tools. After wearing down from his baseball/football grind in the second half, Szczur could be primed for a breakout. He'll start 2012 at Double-A Tennessee and could reach Chicago in 2013. He should eventually push Brett Jackson to right field.
A 32nd-round steal who fell through the cracks in the 2009 draft, McNutt reached Double-A in his first full pro season but symbolized the Cubs' system-wide pitching woes in his second. Between blisters on two fingers, bruised ribs sustained in an infield collision and bad luck with rain, he worked just 26 innings from mid-May to mid-July. Even when healthy, he battled his command and consistency. McNutt can hit 98 mph with his fastball, though he gets more life and locates it better when he works at 92-94. His power breaking ball, which breaks more like a curveball and has slider velocity, can be equally as devastating. He could use an offspeed pitch to keep hitters off balance, and his changeup is just a work in progress. He needs to worry about working down in the zone rather than trying to blow the ball by hitters. McNutt remained inconsistent in the Arizona Fall League, and he could wind up as a late-inning reliever if he can't improve his changeup and command. If it all comes together, he could be a No. 2 starter, similar to what Chicago hopes for from 2008 first-rounder Andrew Cashner. Ticketed for a return to Tennessee, McNutt could finish 2012 in the majors.
One of the most talented and most unsignable high school pitchers in the 2011 draft, Maples slid to the 14th round. He seemed likely to attend North Carolina, where he would have played baseball and kicked for the football team, before Chicago stepped in with $2.5 million at the signing deadline. His father Tim was a 1979 second-round pick who reached Double-A in the Orioles system. Maples has a pair of plus pitches in his heavy 92-96 mph fastball and hard curveball. There's little question about the quality of his arm, though scouts worry about his mechanics. Though he's athletic, he has a non-athletic delivery with a short arm action and a stiff, upright finish. That could lead to problems with his command--he locates his curve better than his fastball--and stress on his shoulder. The Cubs don't have any significant concerns and won't make any major adjustments. They'll have him focus on improving his fastball location and developing a changeup. Maples has enough weapons to succeed in low Class A in his pro debut in 2012. As with Trey McNutt, his changeup and command will determine whether he reaches his ceiling as a No. 2 starter or becomes a late-inning reliever.
The Cubs always have liked Castillo's arm and power potential, but a lack of work ethic slowed his progress and led to a .232/.275/.386 Double-A performance in 2009. He got the message and improved his effort and conditioning, leading to strong seasons and big league callups in each of the last two years. Thumb and hamstring injuries limited him to 79 games in 2011. Castillo has 28 homers in 131 Triple-A games, with his solid power coming more from strength than bat speed. He doesn't give away as many at-bats as he used to, but his impatient approach probably will prevent him from hitting for a high average. Castillo has well above-average arm strength and a quick release. He threw out 31 percent of basestealers in 2011, an acceptable rate though also a career low. His receiving and game-calling draw mixed reviews, but he has gotten better. He also has improved his English so he can better communicate with his pitchers. He has next to no speed. Castillo should serve as Geovany Soto's backup in Chicago in 2012. Soto is talented but also inconsistent and getting more expensive, and Castillo will get the chance to show what he might provide as a cheaper alternative.
The Cubs love to try failed position players on the mound, and their success stories include former catchers Carlos Marmol and Randy Wells. They originally signed Dolis as a shortstop but made him a pitcher before he arrived in the United States in 2006. He hurt his elbow in 2007 and missed 2008 following Tommy John surgery, then claimed a spot on the 40-man roster by hitting 101 mph during instructional league in 2009. Dolis reminds scouts of Marmol, and the similarities became more striking when he became a full-time reliever in 2011. He can make hitters look silly with two pitches, a 93-100 mph fastball with heavy sink and a mid-80s slider with hard bite. His stuff theoretically should have played up in shorter stints, but Dolis' strikeout rate dipped to a career-low 5.9 per nine innings. That's because he focused so much on his command, his biggest shortcoming, that he pounded the bottom of the strike zone and generated tons of groundouts rather than strikeouts. He has a clean high three-quarters delivery that gives him good downward plane with his pitches, but he still needs to throw more strikes. A potential closer if he improves his command, Dolis made his major league debut in late September. He figures to get some Triple-A experience at the start of 2012.
Lake is three days younger than fellow Dominican Starlin Castro, whom he teamed with in the Rookie-level Arizona League in 2008. While Castro has spent the last two years starring in Chicago, Lake has yet to find success above high Class A. The Cubs hope his breakout performance in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .296 with five homers and a league-best 18 steals in as many attempts, is a sign of things to come. It helped earn him a spot on the 40-man roster after the season. Lake has some of the flashiest tools in the system, starting with what might be the strongest infield arm in the minors. His bat speed and strength give him above-average raw power to all fields, though his lack of patience and tendency to chase breaking pitches undermine him at the plate. After losing a step in 2010, Lake regained his plus speed underway and stole 38 bases in 44 tries. His range also has improved and he's doing a better job of anticipating plays at shortstop, but he may be too big for the position. His hands are fine for the infield, and he ultimately may wind up as a third baseman or right fielder. Though he remained impatient and tailed off toward the end of the fall, Lake's AFL success is encouraging. If he can build on it, he'll find a job in Chicago at a position to be determined. His next task will be to solve Double-A pitching.
The third overall choice in the 2007 draft, Vitters hasn't developed as quickly as hoped since signing for $3.2 million. Nevertheless, he reached Double-A at age 20 and had a solid season when he repeated the level in 2011. He batted .360 in the Arizona Fall League and joined the 40-man roster afterward. Some scouts think he has Jeff Conine potential at the plate, while others question whether he can be a quality big league regular. Vitters still shows the short stroke, bat speed, strength and ability to barrel the ball that made him the No. 3 pick. He recognizes pitches well, makes consistent contact and uses the whole field. However, he has yet to develop the patience to draw walks and lay off pitches he can't punish. His 22 walks in 2011 represented a career high. Vitters has shed a reputation for being laid-back and has worked hard to improve his defense. He has a solid arm but fringy quickness, speed and range. He topped Double-A Southern League third basemen with 21 errors in just 100 games. He also saw time at first base during the season and in the outfield in the Arizona Fall League. He still could be Chicago's third baseman of the near future, but so could Javier Baez or Junior Lake. The Cubs don't have an obvious starter for 2012, which Vitters will begin in Triple-A.
Bryce Harper blasted a 502-foot homer at the 2009 Power Showcase, a high school homer run derby. Vogelbach surpassed that by launching a 508-foot shot while winning the 2010 event, power that earned him $1.6 million as a second-round choice a year later. He and Twins sandwich pick Hudson Boyd led Bishop Verot High (Fort Myers, Fla.) to the Florida state 3-A championship last spring. Vogelbach's plus-plus raw power is all the more impressive because it comes to all fields and he generates it with a very loose, effortless swing. His rhythm, patience and pitch recognition give him the chance to hit for average as well. Vogelbach's bat will have to carry him because he lacks athleticism and speed. He has gotten in better shape since carrying 280 pounds on the showcase circuit in 2010, but he may never be more than an average defender and is a well below-average runner. He takes pride in his defense and is working to improve his footwork around the bag. The Cubs would love to see Vogelbach drop to 240 pounds before he reports to spring training. A potential middle-of-the-order threat, he has enough polish at the plate to make the jump to low Class A in 2012.
Rhee signed for $525,000 out of a Korean high school, and he was so advanced that the Cubs had no qualms about sending him to low Class A at age 19 for his pro debut the following spring. He aced the test, giving up just one run in his first three starts while displaying precocious feel for three average or better pitches. Then he hurt his elbow in his next outing, leading to Tommy John surgery that knocked him out for most of 2009 and left him without his best stuff in 2010. Rhee finally began to regain his previous form in 2011, saving his best for last. He went 3-0, 2.84 in August before posting a 2.25 ERA in two playoff starts, winning the finale to give Daytona the Florida State League championship. Rhee pitched at 88-92 mph for much of the year before adding 2 mph in the final month. He also added more power to his breaking ball, which can get caught in between a curveball and a slider at times but is a solid curve at its best. His changeup is his best pitch at times, featuring both sink and fade. Rhee generally throws strikes and works the bottom of the zone. If he stays healthy and continues to improve, he could become a No. 3 starter.
Beeler began his college career by helping Seminole State (Okla.) reach the 2009 Junior College World Series, then had Tommy John surgery following the season. Expected to miss all of 2010 after transferring to Oral Roberts, he came back at midseason and showed enough for the Cubs to draft him in the 41st round and sign him for $150,000. They handled Beeler carefully in his first full pro season, letting him work as many as five innings only once before June, but he still forced his way to Double-A. Chicago also kept his innings down by shelving him for two weeks when he strained an oblique in late April and for a month when he came down with shoulder tendinitis in late July. Beeler flashed more plus pitches (three) than he had victories (two) in 2011. He throws an 89-93 mph fastball that runs down and in on righthanders, inducing plenty of groundouts. He has a hard curveball that gets slurvy at times, and he also has a changeup with nifty sink. Beeler throws across his body, which creates deception but doesn't prevent him from filling the strike zone. He still needs to refine his command, however. He's a good athlete who helped Jenks (Okla.) High win two Oklahoma state 6-A championships as a wide receiver. The Cubs will turn Beeler loose in 2012, when he's set to open the season back at Tennessee. A potential No. 3 starter, he's battling his brother Chase (a center on the San Francisco 49ers' practice squad) to become the first member of the family to reach the big time in his sport.
The Tigers took Carpenter in the seventh round of the 2004 draft, but he became the highest prep pick that year to opt for college when he attended Kent State. He had Tommy John surgery as a freshman and a second elbow operation the next year, but regained his stuff and became a third-round pick in 2008. He has been healthy throughout his pro career, with the exception of missing most of last August with a strained oblique. Carpenter was a starter until he got to the Arizona Fall League in 2010, when his fastball jumped to 94-100 mph when he came out of the bullpen. The Cubs kept him in relief and brought him to the big leagues last season, but his control and command regressed and he put up the worst numbers of his pro career. He had trouble adjusting to the routine of a reliever, and he started overthrowing and lost consistency with his mechanics. By the end of the year, Carpenter realized he still could sit in the mid-90s and touch triple digits without selling out for velocity. He has tightened his breaking ball, giving him a consistent hard slider as a second pitch. He showed a changeup with some deception and fade as a starter, but he doesn't use it much as a reliever. Carpenter got back on track and lived in the strike zone when he returned to the AFL following the 2011 season, laying the groundwork to contribute in Chicago this year. He eventually could develop into a set-up man.
Cubs officials joke that DeVoss became owner Tom Ricketts' favorite player after Ricketts watched him draw three walks and blow up the opposing catcher in a home-plate collision in an August game at Boise. The Red Sox made a run at DeVoss as a 38th-round pick out of high school in 2009, but he opted to attend Miami, then signed for $500,000 as a sophomore-eligible in the third round last summer. He has all the tools to be a leadoff hitter, most notably on-base ability and speed. He ranked fourth in NCAA Division I with 57 walks last spring, and he drew more free passes (33) than he had strikeouts (32) in his pro debut. A switchhitter, he's adept from both sides of the plate, though he won't hit for much power. He can run the 60-yard dash in 6.45 seconds and knows how to use his speed, swiping 16 bases in 20 tries as a pro. DeVoss split time between second base and the outfield with the Hurricanes, and Chicago deployed him mostly at second. He has the quickness for the position, and his hands and arm are good enough to keep him there, though he made 14 errors in 31 pro games. DeVoss has the wheels and instincts to handle center field if he can't cut it at second base. The Cubs aren't afraid to push players, so DeVoss could wind up in high Class A at some point in 2012.
Scouts voted Zych the Cape Cod League's top prospect in 2010, when he led college baseball's premier summer circuit with 12 saves and dealt 97-mph heat during the all-star game. The 2011 draft was unusually deep as well as stocked with college relievers, and the product of the south Chicago suburbs surprisingly lasted until the Cubs pounced on him in the fourth round. They also had drafted him in the 46th round out of high school three years earlier. He signed three days before the Aug. 15 deadline for $400,000 and made four brief appearances afterward. Zych usually pitches at 94-97 and has touched 99, and his fastball seems even quicker because he has a funky delivery. Scouts don't love his arm action, which adds stress to his shoulder, but it gives him deception and doesn't prevent him from throwing strikes. Zych has the upside of a closer, and whether he reaches that ceiling depends on how well he can develop his slider, a mid-80s pitch that flattens out some of the time. He's extremely competitive and athletic, and he saw some action as a middle infielder as a Louisville freshman. Zych should move quickly through the minors, with a chance to reach Double-A by the end of 2012 and Wrigley Field at some point in 2013.
In 2008, scouts and managers fell in love with the Cubs' Arizona League double-play tandem of Starlin Castro and Junior Lake. That scenario repeated itself three years later, as Hernandez and Gioskar Amaya were two of the AZL's best middle-infield prospects. Amaya hit .377, but Hernandez wasn't far behind at .333 and ranks as the better prospect because he has a better chance to stay at shortstop. A switchhitter, Hernandez handles the bat well but is better from the left side of the plate. He has enough bat speed and strength for gap power and the plus speed to beat out bunts. He's still learning to use his quickness on the basepaths. His first-step quickness and above-average arm strength give Hernandez the tools to make plays at shortstop. He needs to improve his throwing accuracy but overall is very reliable for a young defender. His .953 fielding percentage would have led AZL shortstops had his timeshare with Amaya not limited his playing time there. Chicago isn't afraid to aggressively promote teenagers, though it's unlikely Hernandez will jump from Arizona all the way to high Class A like Castro did three years ago.
Golden has one of the highest ceilings among Cubs farmhands, though they knew his development would require patience when they paid him an above-slot $720,000 bonus as a second-rounder in 2010. He was extremely raw coming out of an Alabama high school, and a severe hamstring pull restricted him as a senior and limited him to 15 at-bats in his pro debut. He moved to short-season Boise in 2011 and won't make his full-season debut until this year. Golden's impressive bat speed and physical strength give him well above-average power potential and draw comparisons to a young Kevin Mitchell. He made strides with his approach and discipline last year, pulling off of fewer pitches and drawing more walks, but he still swings and misses a lot. He'll need to improve his pitch recognition if he's going to hit for average. Golden is a good athlete who's slow out of the batter's box but has solid speed once he gets going. He has a very strong arm that plays well in right field, though he sometimes gets out of control and led Northwest League outfielders with six errors in 2011. Golden will advance to low Class A as a 20-year-old, and he'll probably need a full season in Peoria.
Ha has been full of surprises since signing as part of the Cubs' Korean pipeline in 2008. A catcher as an amateur, he debuted as an outfielder before moving behind plate again in instructional league that fall. He developed a mental block about making throws to second base, however, so his catching career ended. Chicago didn't think he was ready for full-season ball as a teenager in 2010, but he batted .317 after arriving in low Class A in late May. Last year, he hit his way to Double-A while establishing himself as the best defensive center fielder in the system. Ha doesn't walk much, but he doesn't chase pitches out of the zone and almost never gives up at-bats. He has a short stroke and some deceptive pop, backspinning enough balls to hit 15 homers a season. He has plus speed but is an adventure on the basepaths, running into outs and getting caught 17 times in 30 steal attempts in 2011. Ha has a quick first step and gets outstanding jumps in center, enabling him to track down balls from gap to gap. He hasn't had any problems throwing in the outfield, and his strong, accurate arm would fit in right field. Ha may not be able to keep the Cubs' center-field job away from Matt Sczcur in the long term--and he might not provide enough offense to be a regular on a corner--but should beat him to Chicago.
Few Cubs pitchers enjoyed sustained success in 2011, with Whitenack a rare exception-- until he blew out his elbow in late May. The only player ever drafted out of SUNY Old Westbury, he signed for $125,000 as an eighth-rounder in 2009. He finished strong at Daytona in 2010 and needed just four starts there last April to earn a promotion to Double-A. Whitenack added 15 pounds in between the two seasons and his stuff got stronger as well. His fastball jumped from the high 80s to 89-94 mph with a high of 96 while maintaining hard sink. He traded his knuckle-curve for a low-80s slider and kept his effective changeup. With his big frame and long arms, Whitenack throws on a steep downhill plane, consistently finding the strike zone and inducing groundouts. At the rate he was going, he might have pitched his way to Chicago by the end of 2011. Instead, he had Tommy John surgery in June and won't return to the mound until the second half of 2012. The Cubs anxiously await his return because Whitenack looked like a possible No. 3 starter before he went down.
Signed for $500,000 as a 16-year-old in 2010, Candelario had a banner pro debut in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League last year. He ranked second in RBIs (53), third in hits (84) and fifth in batting (.337), living up to his billing as a player with offensive promise. He has an advanced approach for his age, as he's patient, recognizes pitches well and uses the entire field. He's a switch-hitter with a loose swing and impressive bat speed from both sides of the plate. He projects as a plus hitter whose strong hands should produce at least average power. Candelario has thick legs and below-average speed, and he'll have to watch his conditioning as he gets older. He has the hands and arm strength to play third base, though some scouts wonder if he'll slow down enough and necessitate a move to first base. He needs to do a better job with his footwork and with getting better prepared before the pitcher delivers to the plate. The Cubs have several third-base prospects ahead of him, but they better watch out for Candelario. He'll make his U.S. debut in the Arizona League in June.
Clevenger took a circuitous path to the majors. He began his college career as a shortstop at Southeastern Louisiana in 2005 and planned to transfer to Texas, but a credit snafu led him to Chipola (Fla.) JC, which made him draft-eligible a year earlier than expected. The Cubs signed him for $150,000 as a seventh-rounder in 2006, quickly found his infield actions lacking and converted him to catching in instructional league that fall. It took him six years to climb through the minors before he reached Chicago late last September. Clevenger excels at putting the bat on the ball. He controls the zone, rarely strikes out and has a career .308 average as a pro. He's not a big home run threat, but he can drive balls to the gaps and has done so more frequently in the last two years. As his legs have gotten stronger from catching, he has added power. He has developed nicely behind the plate, with Tennessee manager Brian Harper (a former big league catcher) calling Clevenger one of the best receivers he ever has seen. He has solid arm strength and makes accurate throws, though he erased just 23 percent of basestealers in 2011. He has improved his ability to block balls and manage a pitching staff. Clevenger has below-average speed but has more than most catchers and runs the bases intelligently. He also offers versatility, with the ability to play first or third base if needed. Clevenger profiles more as a quality backup than as a regular, and as a lefthanded hitter he'd be a perfect complement to Geovany Soto in Chicago. However, Welington Castillo is also in the picture, so Clevenger may spend most of 2012 in Triple-A.
Rosario has yet to make it to full-season ball after four years as a pro, including three in the United States, but he'll get there in 2012 after making impressive strides last season. After his fastball worked at 90-93 mph in 2010, it jumped to 93-97 and exploded on hitters last year. One scout saw him throw five consecutive 97-mph heaters in one game. Rosario has good life to go with his velocity, and he also has improved his ability to command his fastball. He has a chance to develop a plus slider, though his is presently more notable for its mid-80s velocity than its bite. It lacks consistency and gets slurvy at times. His changeup is even more rudimentary, and some scouts wonder if he'll develop a deep enough repertoire to remain a starter in the long run. His lack of size also may not be conducive to the durability needed to stay in the rotation, though he generates his velocity with arm speed and not effort. Rosario has the ceiling of a No. 3 starter or a set-up man, but it will take a few more years before the Cubs know exactly what they have in him.
The Cubs fell in love with Watkins' intensity when they were scouting him as a Kansas high schooler, and he has been an organization favorite ever since he signed for $500,000 as a 21st-round pick in 2008. His mental toughness helped him rebound from a dreadful start in 2011, when he hit .122/.235/.149 in his first 20 games in high Class A. He batted .310/.373/.450 the rest of the way and led the Florida State League with 12 triples. Watkins has become less pull-conscious as he has gotten older, spraying line drives to all fields. He has bat speed and is stronger than his 170-pound frame might indicate, capable of hitting 30 doubles a season, but his main job will be to get on base. He's selective but could stand to draw more walks. An all-state quarterback and defensive back as a high school football player, Watkins is a good athlete with plus speed. He's an adept bunter who's getting more proficient at stealing bases, establishing career bests with 21 swipes and an 81 percent success rate last year. His athleticism also makes him a versatile defender. At second base he has plus range, soft hands and solid arm strength. He has gotten the job done in stints at shortstop and center field, and he also has seen time at third base and both outfield corners. Watkins will profile more as a utilityman than as a regular unless he maintains the offensive progress he made in 2011. He'll advance to Double-A this year.
Beliveau won three consecutive Rhode Island state championships at Bishop Hendricken High (Warwick) and was the state's player of the year as a senior in 2005. Undrafted out of high school, he spent two years at the College of Charleston before transferring to Florida Atlantic, where he ranked second in NCAA Division I with 77 walks in as many innings in 2008. The Cubs drafted him in the 18th round that June, signed him for $30,000 and have since polished him into a reliever on the verge of helping their big league club. Beliveau still had more than his share of skeptics despite averaging 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings in his first three pro seasons, but he quieted many of them when he dominated Double-A hitters in 2011. He led Southern League relievers in opponent average (.183) and baserunners per nine innings (8.1) while earning Chicago's minor league pitcher of the year award and a spot on the 40-man roster. Beliveau relentlessly attacks hitters with an 88-91 mph fastball, which generates swings and misses because it looks like it's coming out of his sleeve. He keeps opponents off balance with a deceptive changeup, and also mixes in a curveball that has added depth since he has turned pro. Beliveau's biggest improvement has come with his control, as he led SL relievers in fewest unintentional walks per nine innings (1.6) and didn't give up a single free pass to a lefthander in 100 plate appearances last year. After the season, he had a successful stint with the U.S. World Cup team and pitched briefly in the Arizona Fall League. It may be hard to project Beliveau as a set-up man, but he gets righthanders out and is more than just a lefty specialist. He's more reliable than the Cubs' other top lefty relief prospects, Scott Maine and John Gaub, and should get his first big league opportunity at some point in 2012.
Wells was unknown to all but a few area scouts until shortly before the 2010 draft, when his fastball jumped about 5 mph and he threw a five-inning perfect game in the Arkansas 7-A high school championship game. The Cubs took him in the seventh round and signed him at the deadline for $530,000. Though he faced limited competition as an amateur, he survived against older hitters when he made his pro debut at Boise last summer. Wells' weapon of choice is a heavy sinker that helped him post a 3.8 groundout/airout ratio in 2011. He threw it mostly at 87-90 mph early in the season before sitting at 90-94 in August. His hard slider shows flashes of becoming a plus pitch and his changeup has a chance to be a solid third offering. While Wells has a soft body, he's athletic and repeats his delivery well, giving him good control. He has uncommon mound presence for a teenager, which will come in handy when he advances to low Class A in 2012.
The Cubs drafted Hatley as an outfielder out of a California high school in 2006, and that's where he played at Palomar (Calif.) JC the following spring, making just two relief appearances. Yet Chicago signed him as a pitcher for $40,000 as a draft-and-follow. Raw on the mound, Hatley didn't reach fullseason ball until 2009, when he blew out his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery. He bounced back and reached Double-A last season. Hatley looks the part of a late-inning reliever. He's big and throws hard, working from 92-97 mph. He can get swings and misses up in the zone with his fastball and down in the zone with his hammer curveball. He also throws a cutter/slider that can be a solid pitch. Hatley's control and command never were his strong suits and aren't all the way back yet. The Cubs opted not to protect him on their 40-man roster, but he could pitch his way into their plans by the end of 2012 and eventually could become a set-up man.
The Rockies took Weathers eighth overall and signed him for $1.8 million in 2007, and he likely would have gotten to Colorado in 2009 had he not injured his elbow throwing a bullpen session in the Arizona Fall League after the 2008 season. After Tommy John surgery, he missed all of 2009 and has a 5.74 ERA in full-season ball since returning. He came to the Cubs with Ian Stewart in the December trade that sent Tyler Colvin and D.J. LeMahieu to the Rockies. Weathers' command wasn't sharp before he got hurt and is now the chief obstacle he must overcome. He has regained his two power pitches, a live fastball that sits at 95-98 mph and an 86-88 mph slider with good bite. Both can be wildly inconsistent. He also can mix in a below-average changeup. If he can learn to locate his fastball and slider better, Weathers has the stuff to be a late-inning reliever in the majors. He has toned down his high leg kick, so it's not a mechanical issue. Weathers faces a crucial season in 2012, when he could determine whether he's a big league contributor or an eternal puzzle.
The Marlins drafted Easterling in the sixth round out of a Mississippi high school in 2007, but he turned them down to play football at Florida State. A wide receiver, he caught 108 passes in the three seasons with the Seminoles. He didn't return to the diamond in 2010, going just 3-for-23 (.130) but enticing the Marlins to draft him again, this time in the 31st round. He skipped spring football in 2011 to focus on baseball, played semi-regularly as a redshirt junior and surprised the football program by signing for $150,000 after Chicago selected him in the 27th round. Like Matt Szczur the year before, Easterling surprised the Cubs by how little rust he had after juggling two sports in college. Despite having just 138 at-bats in four years at Florida State, he handled low Class A pitching in his pro debut, showing the hand-eye coordination to repeatedly barrel the ball. The ball explodes off his bat in batting practice, so he has the chance to develop average power. He'll need to improve his plate discipline, though that should come with more experience. Easterling was a plus-plus runner before rupturing his Achilles tendon in February 2009 and has lost maybe a half-step since. He's not particularly quick out of the batter's box but can create havoc on the bases. He's a fearless defender in center field and has solid arm strength to go with his plus range. Chicago can't wait to see how Easterling performs in his first full pro season, which he'll spend in high Class A.
The Cubs shocked the industry when they made Simpson the 16th overall pick in the 2010 draft, and they have yet to see much return on their $1.06 million investment. He went 35-2, 2.39 in three seasons at Southern Arkansas, and Chicago fell in love with him after seeing him throw 94-97 mph and show three solid or better secondary pitches in an NCAA Division II playoff game. But Simpson didn't pitch professionally in 2010 after coming down with a bad case of mononucleosis that cost him 25 pounds on an already skinny frame, and he hadn't fully regained his strength by the start of spring training. He struck out seven of the 14 batters he faced while touching 90 mph in his first pro game, then never looked that good again during a 1-10, 6.27 debut season. He never complained of soreness, but his fastball resided in the low 80s for most of the year. A postseason MRI revealed he pitched through a stress reaction and a small tear in his elbow, both of which healed on their own. When healthy, Simpson had a pair of hard breaking balls in his curveball and slider, as well as a promising changeup and solid command. The Cubs thought they were drafting a budding Roy Oswalt, but at this point they're just hoping he'll be completely healthy for the 2012 season. They'll determine where to send him after evaluating him in spring training.
Twenty-nine years after the Cubs selected Shawon Dunston with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1982 draft, they chose his son in the 11th round. Luring Shawon Jr. away from a Vanderbilt scholarship cost them $1.275 million--nearly 10 times his father's $135,000 bonus. Several clubs backed off Dunston when he didn't play well at the beginning of his high school senior season, but Chicago liked what it saw at the end of the spring. He had a bat wrap that hampered him at the plate, but the Cubs ironed his swing out during instructional league. He's raw and needs time to develop, but Chicago sees him becoming a solid hitter with average or better power. No one questions Dunston's speed. He runs the 60-yard dash in 6.55 seconds, allowing him to project as a basestealer and a plus defender in center field. He has a strong arm, though it's not in the same class as his dad's legendary cannon. His passion for the game is evident. Dunston signed at the Aug. 15 deadline and didn't play professionally last summer, so he could make his pro debut at Boise in June.