Chicago Cubs: Top 10 Prospects

Chicago Cubs

Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2009.

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1. Josh Vitters, 3b
2. Jeff Samardzija, rhp
3. Andrew Cashner, rhp
4. Dae-Eun Rhee, rhp
5. Wellington Castillo, c
6. Kevin Hart, rhp
7. Starlin Castro, ss/2b
8. Ryan Flaherty, ss
9. Jay Jackson, rhp
10. Hak-Ju Lee, ss
Best Hitter for Average Josh Vitters
Best Power Hitter Josh Vitters
Best Strike-Zone Discipline Sam Fuld
Fastest Baserunner Tony Campana
Best Athlete Brandon Guyer
Best Fastball Jeff Samardzija
Best Curveball Casey Lambert
Best Slider Andrew Cashner
Best Changeup Dae-Eun Rhee
Best Control Esmailin Caridad
Best Defensive Catcher Luis Flores
Best Defensive Infielder Darwin Barney
Best Infield Arm Junior Lake
Best Defensive Outfielder Sam Fuld
Best Outfield Arm Kyler Burke
Catcher Geovanny Soto
First Base Aramis Ramirez
Second Base Ryan Flaherty
Third Base Josh Vitters
Shortstop Starlin Castro
Left Field Alfonso Soriano
Center Field Brandon Guyer
Right Field Tyler Colvin
No. 1 Starter Carlos Zambrano
No. 2 Starter Jeff Samardzija
No. 3 Starter Andrew Cashner
No. 4 Starter Rich Harden
No. 5 Starter Ryan Dempster
Closer Carlos Marmol
Year Player, Position 2008
1999 Corey Patterson, of Reds
2000 Corey Patterson, of Reds
2001 Corey Patterson, of Reds
2002 Mark Prior, rhp Padres
2003 Hee Seop Choi, 1b Kia (Korea)
2004 Angel Guzman, rhp Cubs
2005 Brian Dopirak, 1b Blue Jays
2006 Felix Pie, of Cubs
2007 Felix Pie, of Cubs
2008 Josh Vitters, 3b Cubs
Year Player, Position 2008
1999 Ben Christansen, rhp Out of baseball
2000 Luis Montanez, ss Orioles
2001 Mark Prior, rhp Padres
2002 Bobby Brownlie, rhp Nationals
2003 Ryan Harvey, of Cubs
2004 Grant Johnson, rhp (2nd round)
2005 Mark Paewlek, lhp Cubs
2006 Tyler Colvin, of Cubs
2007 Josh Vitters, 3b Cubs
2008 Andrew Cashner, rhp Cubs
Mark Prior, 2001 $4,000,000
Kosuke Fukudome, 2007 $4,000,000
Corey Patterson, 1998 $3,700,000
Josh Vitters, 2007 $3,200,000
Luis Montanez, 2000 $2,750,000
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Chicago Cubs

Getting swept in the Division Series for the second straight year was a bitter fate for the Cubs, but it shouldn't obscure the job general manager Jim Hendry and his front office have done.

They may have fizzled in the playoffs, but the Cubs were the National League's best team during the regular season.

A club that lost 96 games in 2006 won 97 in 2008—the most for Chicago since it made its last trip to the World Series 63 years earlier. The Cubs led the NL in runs scored—fueled in part by the league's best on-base percentage, a stunning development for a team that had been consistently allergic to walks—and ranked second in runs allowed.

Chicago's 182 wins in 2007-08 are its most in consecutive years since 1937-38. The Cubs' back-to-back playoff berths are their first since 1906-08, which concluded with the last World Series triumph in franchise history.

While Chicago's championship drought may be at 100 seasons and counting, there's reason to believe it could end in the near future. Hendry and his lieutenants have built a balanced club that is the class of a weakened NL Central. Trades (Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez) and free agents (Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly, Alfonso Soriano) have provided the foundation for the Cubs, but their farm system has pulled its weight as well.

Geovany Soto was a near-unanimous pick as NL rookie of the year in 2008 after batting .285/.364/.504, ending a long search for a catcher. Jeff Samardzija energized the bullpen when he came up at midseason, posting a 2.28 ERA in 26 relief appearances. Carlos Marmol will take over as closer in 2009, Ryan Theriot has put an end to a revolving door at shortstop and swingman Sean Marshall has been steady for the club in a variety of roles.

Focusing on winning now and worrying less about the future, the Cubs have used several of their best prospects in trades. They gave up righthander Sean Gallagher and catcher Josh Donaldson as part of a four-player package for Rich Harden last summer, and swapped flamethrower Jose Ceda for Kevin Gregg in November.

Hendry then turned his attention to former Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy and reportedly was willing to give up third baseman Josh Vitters—the top player on this list and the No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 draft—but couldn't agree to a deal with the Padres.

Promotions and trades have contributed to thinning out the system, and so have a series of uninspiring drafts. Chicago hasn't gotten long-term production out of a first-round pick since Kerry Wood in 1995.

Soto, an 11th-round pick in 2001, was the first position player the Cubs have signed and developed into an all-star since they drafted Joe Girardi in 1986.

The Cubs aren't expected to be affected by the bankruptcy filing of the Tribune Co., which bought the club in 1981. The Cubs and Wrigley Field aren't part of the bankruptcy proceeding.  The Tribune Co. hopes to complete the sale of the team and the ballpark by Opening Day, though it has been trying to divest itself of both since Sam Zell bought the company out in April 2007.

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