Monday, July 05, 2004

Cubs Mid-Season Top 50 Prospects
-rankings were done a couple weeks ago, so write ups may be slightly outdated.

1. Felix Pie- youngest player in FSL, 4th in hitting, 2nd in hits, 3rd in runs scored, starting to pick up SB efficiency.
2. Angel Guzman- back from off-season surgery, 40 Ks and 0 walks in 30 innings
3. Justin Jones- also coming back from injury, just now getting comfortable; 2.4 ERA, 23 Ks in last 15 innings.
4. Bobby Brownlie- velocity is down, along with K/9, but leads the SL in innings, and is top 6 in ERA and WHIP
5. Andy Sisco- up-and-down season, hasn't been the same since broken hand, but has struck out over a man per inning, and has a respectable .243 BAA.
6. Ryan Harvey- hasn't seen the field this year, and is injured again....but was murdering the ball in Arizona
7. Brendan Harris- missed all of spring training, hasn't missed much since with a recent 29-56 stretch.
8. Chadd Blasko- hasn't shown his ERA title winning form in AA. Been injured a bit, but still has good K and walk rates.
9. Jason Dubois- hasn't stopped hitting since he was drafted, 3rd highest SLG in the system, sac fly RBI in his ML debut, proved he's worth a long look.
10. Brian Dopirak- leads the system with 20 HRs; hitting 50 points over his career average
11. Sergio Mitre- forced into ML action too soon, but held his own for a while; is a pitch to get LHs out from being a middle of the rotation starter
12. Richard Lewis- cooled off a bit in June, but still in top 5 in SL in most offensive categories; the key in the Juan Cruz trade
13. Ricky Nolasco- threw well in AA, before being promoted too soon; still young, but his WHIP is 2.15 in 7 starts
14. Sean Marshall- absolutely obliterated MWL competition w/ an unheard of 51:4 K/BB ratio; showing signs of turning around a slow start at AA after a huge jump
15. Jae Kuk Ryu- injured in spring, still has yet to take the mound; questions about his makeup won't go away.
16. David Kelton- repeating AAA, but not on pace to improve much on disappointing 2003 numbers
17. Renyel Pinto- may be turning the corner, averaging nearly 11 Ks per 9, ERA in the mid 3's, solid #2 all year behind Brownlie
18. Billy Petrick- quietly the most consistent Lansing pitcher, ERA under 3, K:BB over 2.5; one of MWL's youngest pitcher's has made huge strides this season.
19. Rich Hill- again leads the system in K/9 (over 11), walks are WAY down, among ERA leaders in FSL
20. Luke Hagerty- had TJS last season, has yet to take the field in 2004.
21. Matt Craig- picking up where he left off in the 2nd half of 2003, OPS over 1, power from both sides of the plate
22. Nic Jackson- shown he can hit, run and field......can't stay healthy. Another freak injury will cause him to miss rest of season, longshot at best to contribute now.
23. Jon Leicester- hard-thrower, who just goes out on the field and does his job. Walks a bunch of men, but is tough enough to get out of jams
24. Carlos Marmol- OF turned C turned SP. Marmol has decreased walks, maintained Ks and has a solid ERA
25. Carlos Vasquez- started off the season turning heads in FSL, got injured is just now coming back.
26. Ronald (Bear) Bay- quietly putting up solid numbers in MWL
27. Jake Fox- power has slowed a bunch, but has concentrated to become a better defensive catcher, made strides in his receiving
28. Jon Connolly- MWL ERA leader in Detroit, hasn't missed a beat as a Cub. Not quite the upside of Felix Sanchez, but more likely to contribute in some form
29. Alan Rick- quietly out performing higher ranked Jake Fox, best OPS from the catching position in the system.
30. Brandon Sing- top 5 in all of the minor leagues in walks, HRs, and RBIs. 3rd year in FSL, and a little too old, but numbers have been outstanding.
31. Jason Szuminski-
32. Jason Wylie-
33. Ronny Cedeno-
34. Geovany Soto-
35. Dwaine Bacon-
36. Robinson Chirinos-
37. Buck Coats
38. Kyle Boyer
39. Casey McGehee-
40. Micah Hoffpauir
41. Tony Richie
42. Adam Greenberg
43. Drew Larsen-
44. JJ Johnson-
45. Chris Walker-
46. Clayton Rapada-
47. Darin Downs-
48. Robert Ransom-
49. Alberto Garcia-
50. Jose Reyes

Monday, March 08, 2004

Discussion Boards now re-opened! Please feel free to leave questions or comments.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

We now continue with Todd's top 50 list.....I will update 2-4 prospects a day.

Please also take a look at My top 30 list on the right side of the page.

Hope you enjoy!
Now the moment, you've all been waiting for.....THE TOP 10 CUBS PROSPECTS!

#1 Angel Guzman 6'3" 190 LBs (RHP) 22 yo.
2003 stats- West Tenn (AA)- 3-3 15 GS 2.81 ERA 89.2 IP 83 H 26 BB 87 K

Angel Guzman tops the list as the top Cubs prospect! Since being signed in 2000, Guzman has done nothing but put up stellar numbers. He has a career record of 24-9 with a 2.33 ERA, and a career .235 average against. In 2003, Angel put up his usual numbers in AA, after a slow start. His season peaked in his final 5 starts before the injury. He went 3-1 with a 1.01 ERA (4 ER/35.2 IP), including allowing just 22 hits while striking out 37 batters. Guzman originally opened eyes with his 2003 spring performance. In 5 dominant outings, he posted 1.13 ERA to earn the 1st ever Rookie of the Spring award.

Guzman throws an absolutely filthy fastball. It sits in the low-to-mid 90s, topping out at 96 mph with explosive sink. His secondary pitch is the perfect compliment, a mid-80s changeup. Angel's changeup is easily the best of its kind in the entire organization. His 3rd major league quality pitch is a devastating curve. Admittedly it needs more consistency, but can be flat out unhittable. In addition, Guzman has amazing control and mound presence for his age. Over his career, he has walked just 2.5 men per 9, with an exact 3:1 BB/K ratio. His poise on the mound has been compared to Mark Prior's. He's quiet, focused, and has sound mechanics and a smooth delivery.

The injury bug bit the Cubs pitching prospects a ton last year, and Angel Guzman wasn't an exception. After feeling some discomfort in his shoulder on June 20, Guzman was discovered to have a slightly torn labrum. He went on the have arthoscopic surgery and miss the rest of the season. It was the 3rd consecutive season which Angel couldn't finish due to fatigue or injury.

Jim Hendry is on record of saying that if Guzman was healthy last season, the Cubs would have been in the World Series. He was ready to step into the Cubs rotation before going down for the season, and most likely would have been a huge improvement over Shawn Estes. The Cubs thought he would make a Prior-like meteoric rise through the system and burst onto the scene in the early summer. So, obviously, the front office believes he can reach his ceiling of a top of the rotation starter. The Cubs will be cautious with Guzman coming off of an unpredictable shoulder injury. Early signs are good, as Angel seems to be impressive down in Mesa as we speak. However, he probably won't pitch in game action until sometime in May. Guzman should get the entire year of 2004 to get back his pre-injury form in either West Tennessee or Iowa. In 2005, he has the upperhand to make Matt Clement expendable and slide into his rotation spot.

Likely '04 destination- West Tenn
Major League ETA- 2005

#2 Justin Jones 6'4" 195 LBs (LHP) 19 yo.
2003 stats- Lansing (low A)- 3-5 16 GS 71 IP 56 H 32 BB 87 K

Felix Pie opened eyes as the youngest position player in the league, but it was one of the league's youngest starting pitchers that emerged as one of baseball's top prospects. At 18 years old, Justin Jones wowwed the Midwest League. He posted a .215 batting average against, a 2.28 ERA, and 11.04 K/9; the latter two would have made him top 5 in the MWL with more innings. After all was said and done, Jones was rated the 3rd best prospect in the MWL and it's 2nd best pitcher. Pretty good season for a guy who was slated to start at short-season Boise in 2003.

Jones can flat out pitch. He throws a fastball that tops out 94 mph, which projects to add a few more ticks when he becomes a man. His best pitch is perhaps his 12-to-6 curve, which he willingly throws in any count with very good command. If that's not enough, Jones has a changeup well beyond his years which projects to be his 3rd plus pitch. He also throws an occassional splitter just for fun. In addition to 3 ML quality pitches, Jones has shown decent if not very good control. He keeps the ball in the park, only giving up 1 HR in 126 professional innings. In 27 career starts, he has only given up more than 3 runs only once. And he also hit 7 batters last year, which shows he has the toughness to use both sides of the plate.

Jones has the most projectable body in the system. At just 19 years old, Justin has room to grow taller and stronger. He maintained pinpoint control of his fastball, while gaining a few ticks in 02. The key for him will be if he can put up these eyepopping numbers over an entire season. Jones was shutdown for the season on August 5th with a tired arm, after suffering the same ailment earlier in the year. Being just barely out of high school, it's understandable that his stamina needs work. He has a ton of time to work on getting his arm strong enough to start 20+ games and throw over 100 innings in the minor leagues to get himself ready for a 6-month major league season. He will start 2004 at Daytona, with a chance to get a taste of AA before the season ends, if healthy.

Likely '04 destination- Daytona
Major League ETA- 2007

#3 Felix Pie 6'2" 165LBs Bats-L Throws-L (CF) 19yo.
2003 stats- Lansing (low A)- .285avg .346obp .388slg 505 ABs 144 H 4 HR 47 RBI 22db 9tr 72 R 19sb 13cs 41 BB 98 K

Felix Pie is the youngest entry in the Cubs top 10 prospects. At 18 years old, Pie, was also the youngest player to start the season in a full-season league. Felix had a good showing, ranking in the top 3 in triples, top 10 in hits, top 15 in runs and batting average; leading the Lugnuts in all categories. But for some reason, he took some heat from scouts for not showing all 5 tools on a consistant basis.

The most obvious tool Felix possesses is his speed. Pie is the 2nd fastest player in the system (Dwaine Bacon). However, he hasn't grasped how to use that speed as an offensive weapon. With the lead he takes, it's a testament to his pure speed that he has ever successfully stolen a base. Pie doesn't get any type of lead off of 1B and is often headed back to 1B as the pitch is headed home. Fortunately, he will be working with base stealer extraordinaire, Vince Coleman this spring on reading pitchers and getting comfortable with his lead. Pie's 2nd best tool is his defense. Voted the best defensive OF in the MWL last year, Felix played shallow CF and took away a ton of hits. He has great instincts, gets great jumps, and can go up, back, and in either alley with ease. He also has an above average throwing arm for a CF, which is also pretty accurate.

At the plate, Pie projects to be a protoypical leadoff hitter. He has a quick bat and can get on base in a variety of ways. For someone who started to play baseball just 5 years ago, Pie is a very intelligent hitter. He the ability to adjust at the plate and taking what the pitcher is giving him. He is mostly a slap hitter using the entire field. But he's an above average bunter, knowing when to lay one down. He also has shown the ability to turn on the ball and rifle it into the gaps. In addition, Pie has amazing pitch recognition for his age and a good grasp of the strikezone. However, the problem right now with Pie is that he seems to have a few holes in his swing, often swinging and missing at pitches in the zone. The holes and the fact that he is slight of build have led to the disappointment in his power numbers.

I had the pleasure of seeing Felix Pie play 10 times last season. Amazingly enough, in those 10 games, Pie hit .385/.430/.558. I saw him bunt for a hit, drive a ball to the CF wall for a triple, make a running catch at the 410 mark, and make an OF assist all in the same game. He is easily one of the most exciting minor leaguers. Scouts have been disappointed by the hole in his swing and lack of a power producing stroke, but they fail to remember that he started playing baseball at 14, and was 18 in a full-season league last year. Even if he never finds that 5th tool, Pie's other 4 above average tools would make him a pretty good major leaguer. He will spend 2004 in Daytona and work with minor league hitting guru, Richie Zisk. Pie has all the time in the world to fix the holes in his swing, and if he does, the Cubs have a star on their hands.

Likely '04 destination- Daytona
Major League ETA- 2007

#4 Andy Sisco 6'9" 265 LBs (LHP) 21 yo.
2003 stats- Lansing (low A)- 6-8 3.54 ERA 19 GS 94 IP 76 H 31 BB 99 K

Much like the guy he will always be linked to (Ryu), Sisco had a 2003 marred by immaturity. The most infamous bout of childishness came in the broken hand fiasco. It is now known that the "punching the wall" excuse was a cover-up of some kind. The most popular theory is that he punched, teammate at the time, Jae Kuk Ryu in a fight stemming from an argument over signing bonuses. That incident overshadowed what was a brilliant start by Sisco. In his first 4 starts, Sisco threw 18.1 innings, giving up just 6 hits and striking out 18. He left the rotation with a 1.78 ERA, but got knocked around to the tune of a 4.41 ERA after returning from injury. Sisco finally turned it up again when it mattered the most. In the playoffs, he threw 12 1/3 innings without allowing an ER, leading the team to 2 of its 7 wins for the Midwest League Championship.

Sisco's stuff is as electric as it gets. At 6'9", the ball comes barrelling downward out of his hand and naturally intimidates hitters. Sisco has an effortless delivery and easily hits 92-94 with his fastball consistently. His 2nd plus pitch is a filthy splitter, which he will throw anytime in the count. However, the Cubs forced Andy to lay off the splitter and focus on his 2 offspeed pitches, a curve and changeup. He shows flashes of a brilliant hook, but will also mix in his share of flat curves and hangers. His changeup is a work in progress, but has potential. Lost in his dramatic season was the fact that Andy really made strides with his control. He walked over 1.5 men fewer per 9 (than he did in '02), while keeping a very good strikeout rate. The one problem he has is that he tends to take a little off of his pitches in order to throw strikes, but sometimes takes too much off and can get hit hard when he does.

By all accounts, Sisco is a very intense young man. He has the determination to get better and live up to his #1 pitcher ceiling. But has to be able to control his emotions much better. For example, I had the pleasure of watching Andy's first full game this season in early April. His stuff was completely filthy. He threw 5 innings, only giving up a half-swing 40ft. single that the runner only beat out because Sisco slipped off the mound. But Sisco completely forgot he was dominating the game, and proceeded to walk 2 of the next 3 batters, putting the team in jeopardy of losing control of a scoreless game. A few starts later, in his 1st less than spectacular start, Sisco got upset leading to him breaking his hand. The broken hand that caused Sisco 2 months of his 1st full season, more importantly caused him 2 months of working on developing his secondary pitches. The most important thing is, obviously for Sisco, is to balance his intensity with idiocy. He is still very raw, and needs to be on the mound to harness his repetoir.

Likely '04 destination- Daytona
Major League ETA- 2006

#5 Chadd Blasko 6'6" 220 LBs (RHP) 23 yo.
2003 stats- Lansing 0-1 1.64 ERA 2 GS 11 IP 10 H 5 BB 6 K
Daytona (high A)- 10-5 1.98 ERA 24 GS 136.1 IP 100 H 43 BB 131 K

Who woulda thought that the 2003 Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year would be right under my nose all my life? Chadd Blasko grew up in the neighboring town of Mishawaka, IN, attending a conference rival high school. He then went on to play baseball at a huge rival Big Ten school, Purdue. If that's not enough, Chadd grew up a White Sox fan. It's a wonder that I even like the guy! All those differences were put aside once Chadd signed with the Cubs, though. Fittingly, Blasko made his professional debut for Lansing in front of his family and friends. He didn't disappoint as he gave up just 2 hits in 6 shutout innings against South Bend. After another solid start, Blasko was promoted to Daytona, where he became a bonafide star.

One word can describe Chadd Blasko's 2003: WOW! In his 1st professional season, he led the most dramatic pitcher's league (Florida St. League) in ERA and finished 3rd (behind teammates Pignatiello and Nolasco) in strikeouts. His overall 1.96 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP led the entire organization. He also posted a .205 batting average against and a 3:1 BB/K ratio. Blasko throws a big curveball that hangs in the zone, before dropping out of sight. And last year, got the feel of the changeup enough to keep hitters off balance. He continues to work on a slider, which has a ways to go to become a major league quality pitch. But his best pitch is a mid 90s fastball, which he spots on both sides of the plate. Chadd also has the intimidation factor on his side. He's 6'6", can throw 96mph, and isn't afraid to go inside, as witnessed by his 8 hit batsmen.

Blasko should be the 4th top 10 pitcher in the aforementioned Diamond Jaxx rotation. It will be nearly impossible for him to repeat his stellar 2003 numbers, especially in a more advanced league. But much like Ryu, Nolasco, and Brownlie; Blasko will have the benefit (or curse) of looking out on the mound and watching his competition for a callup and subsquent major league rotation slot. As of now, Chadd has as good a shot as any of those three. He doesn't have the maturity issues of Ryu, the injury questions of Brownlie, nor the inexperience of Nolasco. Even if he doesn't put up the great numbers again, Blasko could have a future in the role the Cubs invisioned when drafting him, a dominant reliever. However, if he maintains his peripherals and stays healthy, he is as good a bet as any to join the middle of the Cubs rotation.

Likely '04 destination- West Tenn
Major League ETA- 2005

#6 Bobby Brownlie 6' 210 LBs (RHP) 23 yo.
2003 stats- Daytona (high A) 5-4 3.00 ERA 13 GS 66 IP 48 H 24 BB 59 K

The year after drafting the consensus best college pitcher with the 2nd pick of the draft, the Cubs picked up Bobby Brownlie with the 21st pick of the 2002 draft. Like Mark Prior in '01, Brownlie was the #1 prospect for the '02 draft. However, Brownlie suffered from elbow tendonitis, causing him to have a mediocre junior season at Rutgers. The Cubs gambled on his health, but did not sign him until he proved he was 100% healthy. That day finally came in March of '03, when Brownlie signed a $2.5M contract. After an extended spring training, Brownlie got his Cubs career started with Daytona, where he showed why he was the top pitcher going into the 2002 college baseball season. He joined the team in late April, and spent the first month feeling out the competition. However, from May 31 to June 22, Brownlie put together the best stretch of mound work in the system. He gave up just 2 ERs in 30 innings of work (0.60 ERA). This streak culminated with a 7-inning shutout, in which he came within 1 pitch of a no-hitter.

Brownlie features a plus fastball that works in the low 90s, but topped out at 97 mph while he was in college. His best pitch, however, is a picture-perfect 12-to-6 curveball that may even be more devastating than the one Mark Prior throws. He also throws a changeup that needs work, but he should have plenty of time to work on it as he can spot his 1 and 2 pitches well enough to get major league hitters out.

The caution with Brownlie will always be his health. After a few rough starts, Bobby was shutdown for the season in mid-July with a dead arm. However, it should be noted that he started throwing the baseball in January, 2 months before any other pitcher, to show the Cubs that he was worthy of his asking price. Brownlie will probably be the #1 starter on the loaded West Tennessee staff. The key for Bobby will be showing that he can handle a full season workload. His career high in innings is 102 way back in 2000 at Rutgers. Still, Brownlie is an extremely polished pitcher. If you take away his final 2 starts, when he was running on fumes, he would have posted a 1.88 ERA. In another pitcher's league in '04, I would expect similar (if not better) overall numbers. If he can stay healthy, Brownlie would likely be in line for a September callup and could compete for a rotation spot in 2005.

Likely '04 destination- West Tenn
Major League ETA- 2005

#7 Jae Kuk Ryu 6'3" 185 LBs (RHP) 20 yo.
2003 stats-Daytona (high A)- 0-1 3.05 ERA 4 GS 20.2 IP 14 H 11 BB 22 K
Lansing (low A)- 6-1 1.75 ERA 11 GS 72 IP 59 H 19 BB 57 K
West Tenn (AA)- 2-5 5.43 ERA 11 GS 58 IP 63 H 25 BB 45 K

Jae Kuk Ryu was another Cubs prospect who had a wild 2003. Most notably were his "maturity" issues. After just 4 starts in Daytona, Ryu was demoted to Lansing because of the expected backlash from an osprey beaning. After apparently being told to stop throwing baseballs at the endangered bird, Ryu struck and killed the osprey with a heater. Ryu's dominant stint at Lansing was marred by a now infamous argument and subsequent shower fight with teammate, Andy Sisco. From there, JK was sent to West Tenn where he struggled for consistency with his control in and out of the zone.

Although the emotional maturity has a ways to go, Ryu has physical maturity beyond his years. Despite all the drama of season, JK finished 4th in the system with 150.2 innings and posted a very good 3.35 ERA. Ryu has the potential to have 4 plus pitches. Already a plus is a mid-90s fastball, which he will move all over the zone for strikes. He also has a good 12-to-6 curveball, the makings of a plus changeup, and the staple of many pitchers from the Far East, a nasty splitter. The splitter comes to the plate in the low to mid 90s before diving out of the zone. His splitter can be as tough to catch as it is to hit, as witnessed by his 30+ wild pitches as a minor leaguer.

Ryu should get another shot in West Tenn in 2004 along with 3 of the other top 10 prospects(possibly 4 if Guzman returns). Of the 4 projected starters, Ryu is the only one who has faced this level of competition. He is also the youngest of the group, as he won't turn 21 until the 2nd month of the season. The primary goals for JK should be to work well with his teammates and to improve on the 7 strikeouts per 9 innings that he put up after the first month at Daytona last season. If he keeps his mouth shut and the ball going toward the plate, Ryu has the talent to outshine his peers and win the race to earn a very elusive spot in the Cubs major league rotation.

Likely '04 destination- West Tenn
Major League ETA- 2005

#8 Brendan Harris 6'1" 195 LBs Bats-R Throws-R (2B/3B) 23 yo.
2003 Stats- West Tenn (AA)- .280avg .364obp .425slg 435 ABs 122 H 5 HR 52 RBI 34db 7tr 6 sb 7cs 51 BB 72 K

Brendan Harris burst onto the scene with a phenomenal 2002. He put up eye-popping numbers of .328, .395, .532, with 15 HR, 39 doubles, 7 triples, and 17 stolen bases. Understandably, Harris suffered a dropoff in '03, but still put up very respectable numbers. His HRs dropped from 15 to 5, average fell nearly 50 points, and his steals became a non-factor. Still, Harris was right on par with his doubles, triples, and BB/K ratio.

And what a strange year 2003 was for Brendan. He went from splitting time at 2B and 3B to a short-lived experiment at catcher. From there he went back to splitting time at 2B and 3B to the Cubs #1 3B prospect after Kelton's position switch. After the trade to bring in Aramis Ramirez, Harris became the #1 2B prospect when the deal included Bobby Hill. For the first time since being drafted, Harris should have the benefit of focusing primarily on 1 position. Brendan is more polished at 3B defensively, but has the ability to be above average at 2B. He has decent range, the best IF arm in the system, and good, soft hands. The only thing he lacks right now is the experience with the double play pivot, which should come with consistent play there.

Brendan Harris is exactly the type of player the Cubs need. He doesn't have the speed of a prototypical leadoff hitter, but would be the perfect #2 hitter for the Cubs. He's patient, a tough out, and can flat out rake. He has a minor league career batting average of .302 , an OBP in the .370's, and a solid .71 BB/K ratio. Harris is a natural gap hitter, who has averaged 36.5 doubles in his 2 full seasons as a Cub. The potential is there for some of those doubles to turn into HRs, as Harris has played in a couple of tough pitcher's leagues. The Cubs have 2B covered in the majors with Mark Grudzielanek and Todd Walker, but both are in their contract years. Which means Harris will likely get a shot in 2005 to become the Cubs everyday second baseman. Brendan should enjoy hitting in the PCL, a league with a enough gaps and altitude to boost his XB numbers even more. Unfortunately though, he has suffered a setback, as he will miss 6-12 weeks after having arthoscopic knee surgery. When he is ready to play, Harris should hit near the top of a loaded Iowa lineup which will also feature top prospects, Jason Dubois, David Kelton, and Nic Jackson. I expect Brendan to put together another solid season and become the Cubs 2B and #2 hitter for a long time.

Likely '04 destination- Iowa
Major League ETA- 2005

#9 Ryan Harvey 6'5" 215 LBs Bats-R Throws-R (OF) 19 yo.
2003 Stats- Mesa (Rookie) .235avg .339obp .431slg 51 ABs 14 H 1 HR 7 RBI 3db 2tr 6 BB 21 K

It's rare that you find a prospect as blessed with natural tools as Ryan Harvey. At 18 years old, Harvey already rates as at least a 70 on an 80 scale of all 5 tools. He is the prototypical RF, with Gold Glove ability, great range and a cannon for an arm. He was clocked consistently up to 93 mph as a highschool pitcher. Despite suffering a major knee injury in a summer showcase, Harvey didn't lose a step. He runs under a 7-second 60 yard dash, exceptional for someone of his size. But the Cubs didn't draft Harvey 6th for his defense, arm or athletic ability. Ryan has exceptional natural power, compared to that of a young Mark McGwire.

Highly regarded as the best all-around player in the 2003 draft, the Cubs were thrilled to see Harvey available at the 6th pick. Knee surgery caused him to miss over half of his senior season, but for the 3rd consecutive season, the Cubs were in the right place to pick up the draft's top prospect (Prior, Brownlie). With the praise comes pressure, though, as Ryan Harvey is the likely heir apparent in RF to Sammy Sosa. Despite the rust of missing a lot of baseball over the previous year, Harvey showed flashes with 6 XBH of his 14 hits. However, he did show his one weakness, striking out 21 times in just 51 ABs.

I believe that the Cubs will see what Harvey can do in Lansing. After giving him a $2.4M signing bonus, I think they want to see their investment perform in a full season league. He should hit 3rd for a powerful lineup including highschool teammate, Brian Dopriak and Kyle Boyer.

Likely '04 destination- Lansing
Major league ETA- 2007

#10 Ricky Nolasco 6'2" 220LBs (RHP) 21 yo.
2003 stats- Daytona (high A)- 11-5 2.96 ERA 149 IP 129 H 48 BB 136 K

Not blessed with great height and projectability, Ricky Nolasco has always been overlooked by his teammates with such attributes. Even without those tools, Nolasco has put up numbers right on par with Ryu, Sisco, and Brownlie, while at the same level. His accomplishments at the same level were still taken with caution as he had to prove himself in a full-season league. Nolasco did just that. The Cubs were aggressive with Ricky, skipping him past low A to the 5th starter's slot in Daytona after Hagerty went down with his injury. Despite being one of the youngest pitchers (20) in the Florida State League, Nolasco went on to finish 10th in the FSL in ERA, 2nd in strikeouts, and 4th in innings and wins.

Ricky features a lively low 90s fastball that has late sinking action. He throws a plus curveball which he can throw at a couple different speeds to keep hitters off balance. He also has a good feel for an improving changeup. At just 21 years old, Nolasco is probably more polished than most of the Cubs system. He is the only pitcher that has consistently shown a plus offspeed pitch, a good GB/FB ratio, and the ability to harness his control.

Kudos go to Hendry, Stockstill, and company for a great find in the 2001 amateur draft. Along with finding current and future aces Mark Prior and Andy Sisco, the Cubs picked up a middle of the rotation starter in Nolasco in the 4th round. In 2004, if Ricky can stay healthy and retire AA hitters as he has at every other level, then people around baseball will take even more notice. Nolasco would be good trade bait, but don't be surprised to see him hold his own against the more injury prone, less polished pitching prospects ahead of him.

Likely '04 destination- West Tenn
Major League ETA- 2005

Thursday, February 12, 2004


#11 David Kelton 6'3" 205 LBs Bats-R Throws-R (OF) 25 yo.
2003 stats- Iowa (AAA) .269avg .338obp .446slp 16 HR 67 RBI 24dbs 4tr 8sb 2cs 62 R 46 BB 115 K
Chicago (ML)- .167avg .167obp .250slp 0 HR 1 RBI 1db 0tr 1 R 0 BB 5 K

Last year was gonna be a big year for David Kelton. The 2002 Southern League RBI leader was finally feeling 100% healthy, he was going to the hitter friendly PCL, and was again the Cubs third baseman of the future. The season started out well as Kelton was getting comfortable back at the hot corner and 6 weeks into the season was hitting a robust .331 on May 19th. At the same time, an opportunity with the big league club appeared in his future as the Cubs were getting very little production at 3B and needed an offensive spark. Then came the 5 days that changed Kelton's fate. DK had a rough week, committing 4 errors (and various other mistakes) in the next 5 games. After an error on May 24th, Kelton gave up 3B for good to concentrate on the outfield. Kelton finally earned a callup to replace a suspended Sammy Sosa, but was only given 2 chances to start in 8 games, even while playing with a DH and after a 2 for 4 debut. Afterward, he was sent back to AAA-Iowa where he seemed to run out of steam down the stretch.

You can't mention David Kelton without talking about his picture perfect swing. He generates good bat speed with a slight uppercut swing and gets great plate coverage. The ball jumps off his bat, thus making him a big time extra base threat. However, Kelton has a tendency to overswing as witnessed by his very high K rate. He counters that with a decent walk rate, but he could still stand to improve in that area. Kelton still projects to be a major league regular, even though he had a horrible time hitting RH pitchers last season. However, that is a far cry from his once upside of a .300/30/100 hitter. Kelton will return to the Iowa OF, where he will be a part of the 3-headed monster vying for a vacant LH spot in Chicago in 2005. He looks to be the favorite, as he is much more athletic and heralded than Dubois and projects to be a better than Jackson.

Likely '04 destination- Iowa
Major League ETA-2004

#12 Francis Beltran 6'5" 220LBs (RHP) 23 yo.
2003 stats- Iowa (AAA) 6-2 4 Svs 31 G 2 GS 2.96 ERA 48.2 IP 46 H 19 BB 33 K

Francis Beltran seems to be somewhat of the forgotten man in the Cubs system. Just 2 years removed from being rated the Cubs 4th best prospect, Beltran has done little statistically to lose his prospect status. However, he lost a lot of time in 2003 due to triceps tendonitis. Beltran went to the DL in June, but was brought back prematurely a month later, effectively ending his season. This may have been a blessing in disguise, as the Cubs were in danger of losing Francis to Pittsburgh in the Lofton/Ramirez trade. When he did pitch, Frank wasn't quite himself. He gave up a lot more hits/IP and for the first time in a while, wasn't striking out a man per inning. However, he redeemed himself and proved his health with an outstanding Dominican winter league showing. Beltran threw 10.2 innings for Licey, giving up just 5 hits and striking out 12. He also saved 3 of the 6 games in the Caribbean World Series to earn MVP honors.

When healthy, Beltran still has the best fastball and slider anywhere in the minor league system. His fastball is near unhittable, topping out at 98 mph with great movement. His slider bites low and away from RH hitters and comes to the plate in the upper 80s. Beltran had a shot to win a bullpen job in 2003, but the Cubs wanted him to go to Iowa and work on his control (which allowed 12 BB/9 in his brief 2002 callup). He will never have pinpoint control, but should once again get a shot to win a job in spring training. This will be a big year for Frank. He is just 23, but has been around the system forever. He needs to stake a claim to a roster spot soon, because all the talent is coming up fast behind him.

Likely '04 destination- Iowa
Major League ETA-2004

#13 Brian Dopirak 6'4" 225 LBs Bats-R Throws-R (1B) 20yo.
2003 Boise (short-season)- .240avg .330obp .464slp 13 HR 37 RBI 4db 0tr 24 BB 58 K
2003 Lansing (low A)- .269avg .305obp .385slp 2 HR 10 RBI 3db 0tr 2 BB 22 K

If Billy Petrick is the biggest high risk/high reward pitcher, Brian Dopirak is the offensive counterpart. The original scouting report on Dopirak was "he will either hit 40 HRs/year, or flame out in AA". In 2003, Dopirak showed a little of both. High reward: 13 HRs in just 192 short-season ABs, to place 3rd in the league, despite his promotion 3 weeks before the NWL season ended. High risk: 29.63 K/100 ABs .248 BA .314 OBP, and a tendency to fish for breaking balls out of the zone. A big positive of Dopirak's 2003 was his ability to take the walk, before his late season promotion. In Boise, the "Big Dope" had a respectable walk rate of 12.5 per 100, just a notch below guys like Jason Dubois and Buck Coats. However, he left his batting eye in Idaho, as he wasn't very selective upon his arrival at Lansing.

Dopirak is a big 6'4" kid with chiseled biceps, a Florida tan, and blond highlights, so he already has the looks of a star. He also has a cocky swagger to himself as he takes batting practice wearing dark sunglasses and a sleeveless t-shirt. And he must realize that "chicks dig the longball", because I hear he puts on quite the show in BP. But despite a linebacker-like build, Dopey isn't extremely athletic. He doesn't have much speed, and lacks lateral movement. Thus, 1B is the only position he can play, and he doesn't project to do so much better than average. Good thing for him, nobody will care about his glove if he reaches his enormous offensive potential. Dopirak will return to Lansing in '04 and should benefit from a being in the middle of a lineup much better than the dismal one in Boise last season. If he is more selective, Dopirak is my candidate for the biggest breakout season in the system.

Likely '04 destination- Lansing
Major League ETA- 2007-08

#14 Todd Wellemeyer 6'3" 205LBs (RHP) 25 yo.
2003 stats- West Tenn (AA)- 1-1 4 GS 5.48 ERA 21.1 IP 19 H 10 BB 34 K
Iowa (AAA)- 5-5 13 G 12 GS 5.18 ERA 66 IP 68 H 33 BB 56 K
Chicago (ML)- 1-1 1 SV 15 G 6.51 ERA 27.2 IP 25 H 19 BB 30 K

After bursting on the scene in 2002, Todd Wellemeyer had an up and down 2003, literally and figuratively. Todd started the season as the D'Jaxx opening day starter, was promoted to Iowa after just 4 starts, and later promoted to the major leagues (and back) 3 different times. In his 4 starts at West Tenn, Welly was bombed twice (5 ER, 3.1 IP, 6 ER 5 IP) and was stellar twice(1 ER, 7 IP, 1 ER, 6 IP). But it was his 14+ K/9 rate that earned him a promotion to AAA Iowa. After just 13 innings at Iowa, Wellemeyer got the pleasure (or pressure) of replacing Sammy Sosa on the Cubs 25-man roster, due to his toe injury. Todd's dream start to 2003 came to an acme as he became the first Cub to earn a save in his debut. It was not just any save, though, as Welly struck out 3 Milwaukee Brewers in 17th inning as the last arm available out of the bullpen. Welly went on to post 13 Ks in his 1st 7.2 shutout innings, and a 1.29 ERA after his 1st 14 IP. But Todd had help with his major league inconsistency. After another solid outing on June 19, Welly was called on to throw a whopping 96 pitches the very next day, where he understandably ineffective. He never really recovered from Dusty's misuse, as he allowed 16 runs in his next 10+ innings in Chicago, and 34 more in 53 innings at Iowa.

Despite his ups and downs, Wellemeyer again made strides in 2003. He rapidly advanced through the system, and proved he could get major league hitters out. He also gained that ever important experience, which gives him an edge of over the other top pitching prospects. However, he still has room to improve. Wellemeyer primarily used his fastball to throw strikes. He throws it in the low to mid 90s and showed he could hit the corners on a fairly consistent basis. Welly's "out" pitch is a nasty changeup that acts like a splitter and gets great downward action. He has continued to work on a curve and slider, and consistent command of either should make it a 3rd plus pitch. Wellemeyer has a great shot of making the Cubs pitching staff in 2004. If he doesn't win the 5th starter's job over Juan Cruz, he should have a leg up on his competition for the last bullpen slot. The key to his success will be his ability to keep the ball down and in the zone. Despite a great arm and sometimes eye-popping K rates, Wellemeyer isn't all that overpowering. He needs to have that downward movement to keep hitters fishing or beating the ball into the ground.

Likely '04 destination- Chicago
Major league ETA- 2003

#15 Jason Dubois 6'5" 225LBs Bats-R Throws-R (OF) 25yo.
2003 West Tenn (AA) .269avg .367obp .458slg 15 HR 73 RBI 31db 4tr 57 bb 118 K

The fact that Jason Dubois is even in the Cubs top prospects is a testament to his work ethic. The Cubs are loaded with flamethrowing pitchers and "toolsy" hitters, but JD has been the most consistent offensive player in the system since he was drafted in 2000. In his first 2 seasons (after missing 2000 with a broken ankle), Dubois averaged .307, .386, .562, 22 HRs and 89 RBI in tough hitters parks in pitcher friendly leagues. In 2002, the only thing that stopped him from a FSL MVP award was a broken wrist which caused him to miss a month and a half. Despite the astronomical numbers, the Cubs didn't protect Dubois after the 2002 season, and were in danger of losing him after Toronto selected him in the Rule V draft. Luckily, JD wasn't quite ready and was returned to the Cubs. He was headed for another huge season at AA last year, but the Cubs decided to try and get him to be more aggressive and cut down on his strikeouts.

Dubois is the 2nd part of the 3-headed monster vying to take over Moises Alou's LF spot in 2005. Even with the numbers, Jason is probably the longshot in the competition. He doesn't have the speed or defensive prowess of Jackson. He doesn't have the pedigree or athletic ability of Kelton. However, he has more power than both and is miles ahead of either in his ability to take a walk. In fact, Dubois combines power and selectivity as well as any hitter in the minor leagues. JD was finally rostered by the Cubs this offseason, and hopefully he will get his just due from the organization. He will spend 2004 in Iowa, where the high altitude of the PCL is ideal for his hitting style. However, he will see a more consistent diet of offspeed pitches and will have to make the adjustment. I wouldn't expect a high average from Dubois, but 25 HRs and a near . 900 OPS is very possible.

Likely '04 destination- Iowa
Major league ETA-2005

#16 Jason Wylie 6'5" 225 (RHP) 22yo.
2003 stats- Lansing (low A) 1-2 29svs 1.38 ERA 57 G 58.2 IP 36 H 22 BB 54 K

Since the 2002 draft, the most commonly asked question about Jason Wylie has been "why isn't this guy starting?" It's not too often you find a guy with his pitching repertoire instantly made into a closer. Wylie throws 2 different fastballs, a cutter and a sinker, which both get to the plate in the mid 90s. His secondary pitch is a tough slider that breaks down and away from righties. He also has a token curveball and changeup which aren't great, but can be used to keep hitters off balance.

Wylie was a victim of the numbers game on the 2002 Boise team. Understandably at that time, he couldn't crack the rotation that consisted of the more highly touted Andy Sisco, Jae Kuk Ryu, Hagerty, Ricky Nolasco, and Carlos Vasquez. So, the Cubs made him a closer. The Cubs gave Wylie a chance to compete for the 2003 Lansing rotation, but he preferred to stay in his 9th inning role. Maybe Jason knows himself better than the scouts? Wylie had a very "rocky" college career in the high altitude of the Mountain West conference. As a starter at Utah, he posted a career ERA of 7.79, gave up over 11 hits per nine, 5.5 BB/9, and struck out just 6 men per 9 innings. Since becoming a pro, Wylie has flourished in relief, putting up a microscopic 1.65 ERA in his 1st 2 years. Wylie has also vastly improved his H/9 and his strikeout rate, while discovering near pinpoint control, all prerequisites for a closer.

Failure as a starter is on the resumes of plenty of the game's dominant short-relievers. Eric Gagne is the benchmark for all converted starters, but obviously his success is unlikely. Wylie needs to look no further than Kyle Farnsworth and Latroy Hawkins in Chicago who also made the successful turnaround. Jason Wylie has the arm, the stuff, and the makeup to be the Cubs closer of the future. I would love to see the Cubs skip him to AA in 2004, which would be right on par with his age (23).

Likely '04 destination-Daytona
Major league ETA-2006

#17 Sergio Mitre 6'4" 210LBs (RHP) 23yo.
2003 West Tenn (AA) 7-9 3.34 ERA 25 G 24 GS 145.2 IP 162 H 41 BB 128 K
2003 Chicago 0-1 8.31 ERA 3 G 2 GS 8.2 IP 15 H 4 BB 3 K

For those who want a little change of pace from the hard throwing of Wood, Prior, and Zambrano, Sergio Mitre is the perfect compliment. Slowly becoming one of my favorite prospects, Mitre has drawn comparisons to former (and hopefully future) Cub, Greg Maddux. Believe it or not, there are 10 pitchers ranked ahead of Mitre on this list. In most other systems, he is easily one of the top 3-5 and would have a certain future in one of those team's rotation. He won't dazzle you with his stuff, but he features a low 90s fastball with great sinking action. He also throws a sharp slider and an ever improving curveball, both which rate as above average pitches. Admittedly, Mitre will be hittable, as he is averaging over a hit per inning in his career. However, he won't hurt himself with the walk or the longball. He walked just 2.5 hitters per 9 IP last season in AA, and has given up just 13 HRs in over 400 minor league innings. He had a GB/FB ratio of 1.95, which would put him with Zambrano and Clement in the top 10 in all of major league baseball. However, it was the refining of the curve which helped him increase his strikeout rate by a whopping 3 per 9 innings, after skipping high A. To top all that off, he has a great "pitcher's body" and figures to be a workhorse. I believe Mitre is a real threat to Juan Cruz's 5th rotation spot (Maddux pending) this spring. Most likely, though, he will be placed in the Iowa rotation and be insurance to the Cubs overused starting rotation.

Likely '04 destination- Iowa
Major League ETA- 2004

#18 Luke Hagerty 6'7" 230LBs LHP 23yo.
Missed entire 2003 season-Tommy John Surgery

Last year was a tough season to be a Cubs pitching prospect. Six of the top 12 Cubs minor league arms missed significant time. None was injured as severely as Luke Hagerty, who suffered torn ligaments in his elbow and was forced to have Tommy John surgery right before camp broke. If not for the injury, Hagerty would be on the fast track to Wrigley Field. He was slated to start 2003 in Daytona, and if he had the success of his fellow draftees (Blasko, Brownlie), would have probably ended the year in AA. Instead, Hags will come back right on the same schedule as fellow lefties Sisco, Jones and Marshall and find himself in a dogfight to earn a scarce spot in the Cubs rotation. The advantage Hagerty has is that he has 3 years of college baseball under his belt. He throws a fastball that he can dial up to about 93mph, a sharp slider, and one of the better changeups in the system. He has a good feel for and gets great movement on all 3 pitches, which should all rate as plus pitches with normal minor league seasoning. He also has the rare combination of strikeout ability and good control as evidenced by his 3+ BB/K ratio.

I sincerely hope the Cubs will be very cautious with Hagerty. He'll probably hang around in Mesa after spring training to work on his arm strength. Then get a few starts against live action before reporting to full season baseball around the start of July. Hags' numbers can probably be thrown out for 2004, but look for him to resurface as a top arm in the system in 2005.

Likely '04 destination-Lansing/Daytona
Major league ETA- 2006

#19 Billy Petrick 6'6" 220LBs (RHP) 19yo.
2003 Boise (short-season) 2-5 14 G 14 GS 4.76 ERA 64.1 IP 60 H 27 BB 60 K

There is probably not a higher risk/higher reward player in the Cubs system than Billy Petrick. In 2002, he showed the high reward. Overshadowed by Justin Jones, Petrick also had a very successful debut in Mesa in 2002. He was proved to be unhittable (.189 BAA), dominant (10K/9), and deadly accurate (1.7BB/9). Last season, though, was the high risk. He walked 2 more men per 9 and NWL hitters hit over 50 points higher against him than the rookie leaguers.

Petrick is the definition of stud. He's huge at 6'6", and athletic enough that he turned down a full scholarship to play football at Washington State. I'm glad he chose to throw the hardball to a catcher instead of snapping the pigskin to a punter. The WSU punter is probably glad also, because Petrick can rush it at 95mph, with room to improve. What he needs to improve, though, are his secondary pitches. If he can develop a hard slider and a decent changeup, he will be a major force. Being that Petrick was a high draft pick (3rd round) and he is the best pitching prospect at his level, I believe the Cubs should see what he can do at Lansing. Plus, I wouldn't mind seeing him pitch in mid-April!

Likely '04 destination- Lansing
Major League ETA-2007

#20 Renyel Pinto 6'4" 195LBs (LHP) 21yo.
2003 Daytona (high A) 3-8 20 G 19 GS 3.22 ERA 114.2 IP 91H 45 BB 104 K

Like Sanchez, Renyel Pinto is also going into his 6th season while being just 21-years old. The Cubs took a similar approach as they did last year with Sanchez and added the very raw lefty to the 40-man roster despite no action above A ball. All reports I have on Pinto state that he doesn't have the greatest stuff. What he does have, though, is a lively arm and a projectable body. He can rush the ball to the plate in the low 90s, and may add a few ticks when he fills out completely. However, he doesn't have much of an offspeed pitch to compliment it as of yet.

Pinto has been a model of inconsistency throughout his career. He has turned the corner a bit in his last 2 seasons. He posted back-to-back seasons (in Lansing and Daytona respectively) of an ERA in the low 3's. However, his successful season in Lansing was a repeat of the low class A level. He also was roughed up for 5 HRs and 45 hits 32+ innings at Daytona in 2002, before putting together a solid 2003. Like many of the Cubs raw pitching prospects, Pinto has a ton of time to have it all click. He was still young for the FSL and had a season comparable to top prospects like Gavin Floyd.

Obviously, the Cubs brass really sees something in Pinto to protect him as they did in November. If they continue to follow the Sanchez model, Pinto may start 2004 in the West Tenn bullpen. This may be the best move for him, allowing him to focus on perfecting one offspeed pitch. However, his primary competition for the 5th spot in Jackson is probably Carmen Pignatiello, who was left off the 40-man roster. So, he may get a shot in that very crowded rotation.

Likely '04 destination-West Tenn
Major League ETA- 2006

#21 Nic Jackson 6'3" 205LBs Bats-L Throws-R (OF) 24yo.
2003 Iowa .253avg .315obp .384slg 458ABs 116H 19db 4tr 11hr 44rbi 17sb 9cs 35bb 102K

Admittedly, my favorite offensive prospect (it's all in the name!); Nic has always shown he can play. But injuries have derailed him time and again. A bad hand in college, a freak broken shin in 2002, little nagging issues in 2003 have all put Jackson's ability to stay healthy in question. As if that wasn't enough, the Cubs have been a little aggressive with his advancement. Though he attended a pretty good U of Richmond program, he was still a raw talent. After a decent showing at short season Eugene, Nic was skipped to Daytona, which worked out well as he was rated the FSL's most exciting player. He continued his run with a great start in West Tenn, before missing the final 4 1/2 months to injury. After a successful winter ball appearance, Jackson was skipped to AAA-Iowa, despite only 32 games above A-ball. As a 23 year old, in only his 3rd professional season, he struggled for consistency.

It seems as if Jackson is the forgotten man in the race to succeed Moises Alou in LF next year in Chicago. He is still the best athlete in the system, the best defensive OF in the organization, and his line drive stroke still causes the ball to jump off of his bat. Jackson projects as more of a corner OF, but will man CF in Iowa in 2004, with his biggest competition on either side of him. He probably has to outperform David Kelton and Jason Dubois in order to get a shot at Wrigley in the near future.

Likely '04 destination- Iowa
Major league ETA- 2005

#22 Felix Sanchez 6'3" 180LBs (LHP) 21yo.
2003 West Tenn (AA) 2-2 30G 8GS 3.23 ERA 64 IP 57H 31BB 55K
2003 Chicago 3 G 10.80 ERA 1.2 IP 2H 3 BB 2K

Felix Sanchez has been around the Cubs organization for 6 years now, but still was barely 21 years old in his major league debut last season, and this is after he aged an extra year in the 2002 offseason. In 3 appearances, Felix showed he could get anyone not named JD Drew out when he threw strikes. Therein, lies the problem. Sanchez showed decent control throughout the minors, until AA. His 3.2 BB/9 shot up to nearly 4.5/9 last season. Not coincedently, the jump in walks came when he was moved to relief, decreasing the innings he had to harness his nasty stuff.

Sanchez is as gifted as they come. He throws fastball that works in the mid 90s, and is rumored to hit 99 on occasion. He also has the makings of a nasty slider, but is not near consistent enough for it to be quite a plus pitch yet. He also has experimented with a changeup, that he just can't get the feel for. Hence, Sanchez will likely make his impact in relief. It is imperative the Felix gets a better grasp on his slider, because he has shown to be a predominantly fly ball pitcher. He also needs the slider for an out pitch, because despite overwhelming stuff, he doesn't rack up the strikeout numbers of someone of his talent. Sanchez will compete for the final bullpen slot in Chicago this March, but is a long shot to beat out Wellemeyer, Cruz, or Mitre. If he repeats last spring's performance (in more innings) he would look good as the 2nd LOOGY in the Cubs' pen. Felix will probably see time in relief and the rotation in Iowa in 2004, and can use all the innings he can get. He's gonna have to keep the ball down in the PCL or his high heat will go a long way.

Likely '04 destination- Iowa
Major League ETA- 2004

#23 Carmen Pignatiello 6' 175LBs (LHP) 21yo.
2003 Daytona (high A) 8-11 26G 26GS 4.38 ERA 156.1 IP 144H 55BB 140K
West Tenn 1-0 1GS 1.50 ERA 6 IP 3 H 2 BB 11 K

Is there anyone in the system more overlooked? He's a lefty in a system that doesn't produce many. He has numbers rivaling many of the Cubs top prospects. He's even a local product growing up and playing HS baseball 40 minutes from Chicago. Despite all this, he was still left off the 40-man roster for less successful, "toolsy" LH pitchers. "Piggy" has to continually prove himself due to his having a fastball that tops out at just 85mph and a body type that won't allow him to add anymore velocity. Despite his lack of size and power, Piggy has posted 4 seasons of a respectable 7.5 strikeouts per 9 innings. Piggy's biting overhand curve and circle change have allowed him to overcome velocity issues to have success against A-ball hitters.

Next year in AA, the question will be "can he get more advanced hitters out?" As a soft-tossing, fly ball pitcher; Piggy has to really concentrate on keeping the ball down and his walk rate low. He struggled with inconsistency in 2003, and can't afford to have the slight increase in BB/9 and HR/9 that he had last season. Piggy should have a couple shots to again prove scouts wrong, as he will be just 21 for the entire 2004 season. Early returns look good, as he tossed an 11 K, 6 inning game in a token start for West Tenn to end last season.

Likely '04 destination- West Tennessee
Major League ETA- 2005

#24 Matt Craig 6'3" 200LBs Bats: Switch Throws: R 22yo. 3B
2003 Stats- West Tenn (AA) .285avg .357obp .425slg 11 HR 66 RBI 25db 2tr 4sb 46 BB 87 K

A 3rd round pick (96) in the 2002 draft, Matt Craig suffered a disasterous first season in the Cubs organization. 2002 was a season of change as the former U of Richmond All-American shortstop had to adjust to playing 3B, wooden bats, and the great northwest. But 2003 would bring Florida sunshine and a breakout season.

At 6'3" 200 lbs, Craig has the makeup of a big time power potential. But he failed to show much of it early on in Daytona. Although, he was hitting for a solid average and showing a decent batting eye, Craig put up slap-hitter like numbers: Through June 30th: .278, .338, .365.

Well, something must have clicked overnight, because Craig began ripping the cover off the ball. After July 1st, he put up a staggering .294, .371, .508 with 10 of his 11 HRs and 44 RBI.

The final 2 months in Daytona firmly established Craig as the Cubs top 3B prospect (assuming Brendan Harris moves permanantly to 2B). This hasn't been a favorable position as of late with the likes of David Kelton, Ryan Gripp, and Brandon Sing proving incapable of playing 3B defensively. Luckily, the Cubs blackhole seems to be temporarily filled by Aramis Ramirez, because Craig still needs time to refine his skills. Being a switch hitter, it may take him a couple more years to refine his stroke from both sides of the plate. He also needs to prove that July and August 2003 was not a fluke. Most of all, he has to make defensive improvements in order to stay at the hot corner. Albeit his first year at 3B, Craig's 24 errors raises questions on whether he can handle the position. He's not athletic enough for the middle IF and if he has to move to 1B, he won't be much of a prospect. I expect Craig to hit well this year in West Tenn and hopefully he gets more comfortable on the defensive end.

Likely '04 Destination- West Tennessee
Major League ETA- 2006

#25 Sean Marshall 6'6" 180LBs LHP 21yo.
2003 Stats Boise (Short-season) 5-6 2.57 ERA 14G 14GS 73.2 IP 66H 23BB 88K
Lansing 1-0 0.00 ERA 1 GS 7 IP 2H 11 K

Stop me if you heard this before, "Cubs tall lefty dominates short season baseball. " The 1st of the 4 LHs in the top 30, Sean Marshall exploded onto the scene in his 1st action after being drafted. He combined the unhitability of Sisco and Jones (10.75 K/9) with the near pinpoint control of Hagerty (less than 3BB/9). Unlike his predecessors, Marshall didn't use a low 90s fastball to get by. His bread and butter pitch is a Barry Zito like curve, which he throws at 2 different speeds. His poise and maturity showed when he tossed 13 2/3 scoreless innings at Lansing down the stretch, including a 7 inning, 11 K debut and 6 2/3 scoreless in the playoffs to send the Lugnuts to the MWL finals. Marshall tops out in the high 80s right now, but should add enough weight to his 6'6 frame to get the ball into the low 90s. He is 20 lbs and a consistently located changeup from having 3 ML plus pitches and reaching his ceiling of a #2/3 starter. After his 2 impressive low A starts, Marshall has a good shot to make the Daytona rotation, but I would put him at Lansing to start.

Likely '04 destination- Lansing
Major league ETA- 2006

#26 Jon Leicester 6'2" 220LBs RHP 25yo.
2003 stats-West Tenn (AA) 45 G 9 GS 3.89 ERA 6W 7L 6Svs 106.1IP 89H 53BB 106 K
Iowa (AAA) 1 G 1 GS 5 IP 7.20 ERA 2BB 4K

After a few years of struggles, Jon Leicester is finally starting to get noticed. This year, he posted a career low .227 BAA and a career high near a strikeout per inning. Funny what an increase in arm strength to a mid-90s fastball can do. Jon has always had the arm, the question with him has always been, "Can he get the ball over the plate?" He improved in that area in 2003, but still needs to lower his 4.5 BB/9 in order to be an effective pitcher. In 2003, Leicester took the ball in every possible situation. From starter to closer to long relief to setup. He led the team in holds, picked up 6 saves, and pitched the game of the year, a 1-hit, 10K CG shutout, in which he took a no-hitter into the 9th. Probably to his benefit he began to find his niche as a reliever (his long-term projection), when he sported a 3.35 ERA in 53 2/3 innings out of the pen. That should be good enough to earn him a shot at the 11th man on the Cubs pitching staff.

Likely '04 destination- Iowa
Major League ETA 2004

#27 Kyle Boyer 6'1 200LBs (OF) Bats:R Throws:R 22yo.
2003' Boise (Short-Season) 170ABs 28R 46H 6DB 5TR 9HR 27RBI 2SB 1CS 17BB 57K .271/.344/.524

Drafted in the 7th rd. in 2003.

Deciding not to sign with the White Sox as a 24th rd. draft pick out of High School, Boyer made the right decision by attending powerhouse Cal St. Fullerton and improving his game. Like Ron Santo, Boyer is a diabetic and has made tremendous efforts to become a successful athlete which comes from a great work ethic. Following a successful campaign at CSF in the Spring, he entered Short-Season having to make the typical adjustments needed to be made, aluminum to wood and the travel schedule. He handled each of them very well, continuing hit for power with wood as almost 50% of hits were XBH, including a HR/AB ratio of less than 20 to 1. He also did a good job of working the count drawing a good amount of BBs/ABs and hit for a decent avg. The one aspect of his offense he does need to improve on is the ability to make contact as he had 57Ks in only 171ABs, if he can lower his strikeouts, his avg. will likely increase to the range that equates to a higher projection. Defensively, he projects to a corner OF, if he makes it to the majors with Pie and Patterson ahead of him in CF, he would shift. I think if they did keep him in CF, he would project as avg. to slightly below avg. He does have better speed than indicated by his SBs last year at CSF, he had a high # of SBs and a great SB%, that speed equates to good range in the OF as he gets good jumps to the ball as well. His arm strength is avg. and his accuracy is above average. Kyle will have to continue to hit for power and make improvements as far as making contact, he will likely start at Lansing in '04, but it would not be a surprise to see him start at Daytona.

Likely 2004 destination-Lansing
Likely Major League ETA-2006

#28 Anderson Tavarez (starter) RHP 20yo.
2003' Lansing (Low-A) 12-9 3.25ERA 26G 25GS 152.2IP 154H 69R 55ER 9HR 25BB 100K
Signed out of Venezuela

Productive but not spectacular is probably the best way to describe Tavarez. Able to skip Boise and go straight from Mesa to Lansing, Tavarez actually improved some key numbers from '02. Young for the Midwest League at 19yo, he was able to show great control, get ground balls, and retire hitters by keeping the ball on the ground. Armed with a low 90s sinker and a decent slider, Tavarez has good enough stuff to retire hitters, but will never overwhelm them. There were some troubling signs from his '03 season, his K rate had dropped nearly batters per 9IP, while he was able to reduce his BB/9 and HR/9. He started off better than he finished '03 and seem to fatigue as the season progressed, he stuff was not as sharp when I seen him in May, compared to July and August. He is a possibility of being included in the Lee/Choi, but I think the Marlins will look for a more lively arm. He will have to improve his strikeout ratio as he progresses and will have to cont. to limit the BBs and HRs, b/c quite honestly his stuff is average. I think he projects as a bottom of the rotation starter/long relief, his slider is effective against RHP and with his age he has plenty of time to progress and should do so at Daytona next year.

Likely '04 destination-Daytona
Likely Major League ETA-2006

#29 Buck Coats 6'3" 195LBs (SS) Bats:L Throws:R 21yo.
2003' Lansing (Low-A) 488ABs 64R 135H 25DB 7TR 1HR 59RBI 32SB 15CS 64BB 93BB .277/.364/.363
Selected in the 18th rd. in '00

Probably my favorite of the Cubs prospects, had the pleasure of speaking to him numerous times throughout his 2 years w/Lansing. Originally drafted as a SS out of HS, the Cubs shifted him to the OF after a strong debut at Mesa. Blessed with a strong arm, good size, and good range he has the ability to player several positions. Following the strong '00 performance, for some reason that I have explanation for, they sent him back to Mesa for '01 where he struggled as an OF. Then in '02, following that poor performance they send him to Lansing as a 19yo coming off a poor campaign at Mesa, where Coats struggled offensively. With a repeat likely for '03, the Cubs made a wise move and shift him back to his natural position of SS, where his value can be fully utilized. Despite the difficult positional shift and still being young for the Midwest League, Coats made dramatic improvements at the plate, his AB/BB ratio went 16.16 to 7.625, he increased his XBH ratio, his OBP went from .303 to .364, his SLG went from .339 to .363. A natural slap hitter, it is difficult to project much power from him, although he is 6'3" 195LB, he can add some weight but, that might hurt him defensively. He did have a sharp increase in Ks, which he will have to work on, that is more a product of him trying to work the count as he was instructed to do by Zisk, he will also have to increase his XBH and reduce his CS, as he has very good speed, but is not a good runner. Defensively, it is where the main questions lie, he had 51 errors last year in 122G at SS, he showed a lack of consistency with his footwork and his arm slot when throwing, as I mentioned before he does have a strong arm, good range, and ok hands for a SS. I think the struggles defensively are attributed to his rust from not playing the position in 3 years and still being raw for a SS. I think if given the chance he will likely improve on those areas as he gets more experience. He mentioned to me that the Cubs plan on keeping at SS for the duration, he is the Cubs top SS at the present time in the Cubs greatest positional weakness in the minors.

Likely '04 destination-Daytona
Likely Major League ETA-2007

#30 Alan Rick 6'3" 200LBs C 20yo
2003' Boise (short-season) 171ABs 20R 44H 7DB 0TR 6HR 20RBI 2SB 1CS 18BB 47Ks .257AVG .339OBP .404SLG
Selected in the 4th. rd in '02.

Following the draft of the Catchers, it is interesting that Rick has the highest ceiling of the group and despite the odds of a drafted HS catcher making it to the majors as a C, he is the best C the Cubs have. While Richie depends on his defense and his knowledge of the position and Fox needs his bat to get him to the majors, Rick is better than Richie offensively while better defensively than Fox. Rick is still considered an offensive C, b/c of his obvious power and a smooth stroke that projects to power as he progresses, almost 33% of hits last year were XBH. Defensively, he projects as avg. behind the plate, strong arm., avg. footwork, avg. blocking skills. He is athletic for a C, with a little more speed than an avg. C. He does need to do a better of making contact, while he does a good job of drawing BBs. I disagree with Jim Callis of Baseball America as far ranking Richie ahead of Rick at this point (also Fox). Rick will be young for the Midwest League and if he continues to make simlar progressions as he did going from Mesa to Boise, he will quickly rise up the charts.

Likely '04 destination-Lansing
Likely Major League ETA-2006

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Now on to the top 30!!!!

#31 Carlos Marmol 6'2" 190LBs RHP (starter) 21yo
2003' AZL Cubs (rookie) 3-5 4.76ERA 15G 9GS 64.1IP 59H 43R 34ER 37BB 74Ks
Signed out of the Dominican Republic.

Not too often a pitcher that was old for the Rookie League with a high ERA and BBs in his 3rd year in that Rookie League just misses the top 30 prospects. That is the case for Marmol, who is in 3rd positional shift going from OF to C to P in the past 3 years. Unable to hit consistent enough to be a positional player, the Cubs are looking to capitalize on his greatest tool (his arm). For just learning how to pitch and extremely raw, he made great strides with his FB (mid 90's w/downward movement) and a very nasty slider. He led the AZL in strikeouts and has two plus pitches, but he is Rule 5 eligible/21yo which is rare to project a player as a prospect if he is only performed well at a rookie league and can be removed by another team this year. Another scenario might include him in a trade, he has value for teams with the ability to lock him on the 40 man roster. I hope the Cubs hang onto him as pitchers w/a 75 FB and a 70 slider are hard to find, especially one this raw, which as high of a ceiling.

Likely '04 destination-Lansing
Likely Major League ETA- 2007

#32 John Webb 6'3" 200LBs RHP (starter/reliever) 24yo.
2003' West Tenn. (AA) 5-8 4.50ERA 30G 22GS 132IP 135H 74R 66ER 11HR 52BB 85K
Selected in the 19th rd. in '99.

Another TJS survivor, Webb has made a full recovery, but the injury has dropped him from his top 10 ranking in '01 as his performance leveled off in '03. In his 11 starts at 62IP at AA in '02, his ratios were nearly identical to his numbers in '03, with his age and lack of improvement his ceiling has been reduced from a #4 starter to situational RH. There was a light at the end of the tunnel as Webb went 4-0 2.42ERA in 26IP in the Arizona Fall League. Armed with a low 90's sinker, a very good slider, and a good change, Webb has decent stuff, not as good as the remainder of the '03 West Tenn rotation though. He has a very good ethic and will give everything he has. Unfort. for him, he is in the wrong system to compete for a future spot in the rotation, he projects as a middler reliever, he will have to improve on his splits against vs. RHs. The one positive vs. RHs was the ability to use the sinker/slider effectively at not allowing HRs (2HR in 69.1IP), compared to 7HRs in 55IP against LHs. If he is still on the Cubs' roster, he will likely begin at Iowa out of the pen, he will have to continue to keep the ball down and limit the BBs and hopefully, he can build off of his great performance in the AFL.

Likely '04 destination-Iowa
Likely Major League ETA-'04

#33 Russ Rohlicek 6'5" 220LBs (reliever) 23yo.
2003' Daytona (High-A) 2-3 2.40ERA 41G 48.2IP 34H 13R 13ER 1HR 21BB 50K
2003' West Tenn. (AA) 2-3 9.77ERA 13G 2GS 15.2IP 22H 17R 17ER 0HR 13BB 12K
Selected by Houston in the 6th rd in '01.
Traded by Houston with two players to be named for Tom Gordon.

Quite a tale of two seasons for Rohlicek, who started off the season for Daytona allowing 0ER in 11 1/3 innings before being promoted to West Tenn as Nannini shifted to the rotation. Returning to Daytona after a poor stint at AA, Rohlicek continued to pitch well at Daytona out of the pen. Rohlicek was acquired in the Tom Gordon trade that also brought over Mike Nannini and Travis Anderson, Rohlicek was likely the key piece of the trade, but Nannini has surpassed him as far as the best prospect acquired in that trade. Rohlicek throws a low 90's FB, slider, change, and cutter, he throws from 3/4 and has struggled with his control throughout his college and professional career, especially with his secondary pitches. He has made major strides with his control in '02, but also had a steep drop in strikeouts and a rise in HR/IP. In '03, he improved his strikeouts, lowered in HR total to only 1 allowed in 64IP and maintained a decent BB/IP ratio. Russ will have to continue to hold LH hitters under .200 again, find the same release point on the sec. pitches, and continue to make strides with his control. He has good enough stuff to be a quality major league pitcher (likely LOOGY), he just has to take that next step at AA, and handle more advanced hitters.

Likely '04 destination-West Tenn
Likely Major League ETA-2005

#34 Rich Hill 6'4" 180LBs LHP (starter/reliever) 23yo
2003' Lansing (Low-A) 0-1 2.76ERA 15G 4GS 29.1IP 14H 12R 9ER 0ER 36BB 50K
2003' Boise (Short-Season) 1-6 4.37ERA 14G 14GS 68IP 57H 40R 33R 5HR 32BB 99K
Selected in the 4th rd. in 2002.

One of my favorite prospects in the Cubs' system, Hill remains an enigma with some of the best stuff in the organization, but has the most inconsistent mechanics and no consistent release point as anyone in the system. Anytime a pitcher can avg. 13.8Ks per 9IP, he has outstanding stuff, armed with a heavy mid 90FBs and a nasty curve, Hill is one of the best 2 pitch pitchers in the minors (not just the Cubs) when it is working. He also limits hits/IP and has only allowed 5HR in 111IP, at the University of Michigan he allowed 6HRs in 177IP. Despite allowing 68BBs in only 97.1IP, he still struck out 10 more batters than baserunners allowed. The reason why he isn't in the top 30 overall and right there w/Beltran and Wylie as far as relievers is the lack of control which is caused by the inconsistent mechanics and release point, he also has 18 wild pitches in those 111IP. He has been too old for Boise and Lansing, which might impact his Rule 5 status next year. If he does show the same improvements with his control/delievery/mechaincs as did going back to Fitch and then to Boise, he will rocket up the charts and should start at Daytona in '04. Right now, he projects as a reliever b/c of his inability to throw strikes, but since the rotation heading to Lansing should not be up to par as those heading to Daytona/West Tenn/Iowa he might have a shot with Lansing's rotation, if the Cubs are patient.

Likely '04 Destination-Daytona
Likely Major League ETA-2006

#35 Adam Greenberg 5'9" 170LBs OF Bats:L Throws:L 22yo
2003' Daytona (High-A) 271AB 42R 81H 11DB 5TR 3HR 27RBI 26SB 9CS 38BB 46K .299/.387/.410
Selected in the 9th rd. in '01

One of the best examples in the Cubs' system of a player who maximizes his god given abilities. Greenberg manages to produce despite being one of the smaller positional players because Adam has a solid approach which he uses to draw plenty of BBs (solid BB/AB ratio), limits the strikeouts, can hit for avg, and has very good speed with the knowledge of how to steal a base. Defensively, he gets very good jumps on the ball, has good range and an accurate arm. The main drawback for Adam is his size, it is very unlikely he will hit power, he does have a decent XBH ratio, which does give him hope for future success. He is an ideal leadoff hitter and if he is able to hit at a parallel clip as he currently is, he would have a chance as a starting CF, that is a big question though. He is a natural leader (team captain at UNC), received plenty of praise for his work ethic, and is great for a clubhouse. Right now, he projects as a 4th OF & with another solid season, scouts should start to look at his production more than his size and I hope I will also.

Likely '04 Destination-West Tenn
Likely Major League ETA-'05

#36 Jemel Spearman 6'0" 190LBs SS Bats:R Throws:R 22yo
2003' Daytona (High-A) 365ABs 53R 100H 13DBs 1TR 2HR 47RBIs 15SB 11CS 39BB 71K .274/.349/.332
2003' West Tenn (AA) 57ABs 11R 20H 2DB 1TR 1HR 9RBI 5SB 2CS 6BB 6K .351/.413/.471

Selected in the 16th rd. in '02

Jemel surprised some people last being able to jump from the Arizona League to Daytona in one off-season (had a cup of coffee w/Boise in '02), mostly b/c he was too old for the AZL at the age of 21. Jemel has the ability to play several IF positions and the occasional OF, he has spent the majority of his time at SS he projects to be an avg. SS defensively, good range, avg. hands, not a strong arm though which will likely shift him to rover or 2B, depending who his teammates are.

Offensively, Jemel is a slap hitter with good speed and the ability to draw a decent amount of BBs, he will have to make a little more contact and get more XBH. He will never hit for power despite having decent size and will likely have to progress based on his ability to get singles and use his speed once he gets on 1B. It would benefit Jemel greatly if they did start him out at SS, depending if Theriot remains in the organization as it appears 3B will be occupied by Craig and 2B w/Montanez if he remains. Depending on what position they put him at how well he can hit despite limited power, will determine if he will rise or fall. Projected to be a utility infielder.

2004 Destination-West Tenn
Likely Major League ETA-2005'

#37 Carlos Vasquez 6'2 185LBs LHP (starter) 20yo.
2003' Lansing (Low-A) 10-13 3.74ERA 24G 23 GS 137.1IP 136H 74R 57ER 5HR 47BB 87Ks
Signed of out Venezuela 00'

Vasquez was 2 years younger than the avg. player in the Midwest League and was able to be productive by being able to keep the ball in the yard and letting the defense create the outs. What makes it even more surprising that Vasquez is ahead of the curve is the fact that he missed an entire season (01') due to injury. Along with his ability to keep the ball on the ground and not allow many HRs is that improved on his BB/K and BB/9 ratios which helped him improved in 03'. He throws a FB, sinker, and a slider, his best pitch is obviously the 2-seem FB with downward movement (sinker). If he can maintain his low HR/9, lower his BB/9 ratio and increase his K/9 ratio, he will continue to rise up the charts. I recently included him in my prospect report because of the Cubs placing on the 40 man roster over such quality pitchers like Nannini and another lefty Pignatiello and that the injury that shut him down late in 03', I expect is not as serious as I assumed at the time.

Likely '04 destination-Daytona
Likely Major League ETA-06'

#38 Dwaine Bacon 6'0" 185LBs OF Bats:R Throws:R 24yo
2003' Daytona (High-A) 350ABs 65R 94H 12DBs 6TR 4HR 71SB 12CS 63BB 100Ks .269avg .392obp .371slg
2003' West Tenn (AA) 47ABs 7R 2DBs 0TR 0HR 3BBs 11Ks .149avg .200obp .191
Selected in the 16th rd. in '01.

The fastest player in the Cubs' system found a new tool in 03', the ability to work the count and draw BBs. Bacon also raised his batting to a decent .269 and he led the FSL in OBP and finished among the best in the minors with 71SB while only being caught 12 times (86%). Bacon will be 25 next April, so he will have to do well in AA next year and if he can translate similar numbers to AA next year, he will rise further and next year will be key in projecting him as a major league player. Dwaine also has to hit RHs better last year he hit .251/.372/.351 versus RH compared to .319/.403/.440 against LH, obviously he lacks power and will need to do a better of at least getting DBs, still his speed will allow him to get to 2B by his speed. Defensively, he has very good range, fair at reading the ball of the bat, and an avg. at best arm. Offensively, he will have to cont. to lead the Cubs system in BB/AB and SBs as it is unlikely he will improve his XBH or batting avg. due to being mostly a slap hitter and being in the SL. By the end of 04' we should have a very good idea of where he fits into the Cubs system.

Likely '04 destination- West Tenn
Likely Major League ETA- 05'

#39 Robinson Chirinos 6'1" 190LBs 3B/2B Bats:R Throws:R 19yo.
2003' Lansing (Low-A) 362ABs 84H 27DBs 1TR 7HRs 39RBIs 10SBs 2CS 28BBs 82Ks .232avg. 298obp .370slg
Signed out of Venezuela (FA)

Chirinos has one of the best starts of anyone in the Cubs' system in '03, he was able to hit consistently with a large amount of XBH, draw walks, and play well beyond his years. Starting the year at Lansing at the young age of 18, he was quickly rising up the charts, and he has the benefit of being the best defensive IF in the entire system. Then, his hitting started to drop and then his plate discipline did as well as he stopped going to RF and became more of a pull hitter. Chirinos projects as a defensive gem at either 3B or 2B, his arm is more than strong enough to play any of the IF positions, extremely sure hands, and has perfect fielding techniques despite being so young. Offensively, he has good size and the ability to juice the ball into the OF with power, he has had a large % of XBH, just falling short of 30DBs and 10HRs in only 362ABs. His BB totals have increased slightly since his days in the AZL and will have to make greater strides with his plate discipline and increase his BB totals. Given his age, he will likely be one of the youngest in the FSL (Pie will likely be the youngest), and his abilities with the glove, the Cubs will give him every chance to allow his bat to catch up with his defensively (defensively, he is ML ready), and going to FSL will allow to improve on his XBH totals, but he will have to increase his BBs and concentrate on going to the opposite field to improve his overall hitting. If he can hit in the FSL, he will rise quicker than anyone in the Cubs organization.

Likely '04 destination-Daytona
Likely Major League ETA-2006'

#40 Jake Fox 6'0" 210LBs C Bats:R Throws:R
2003 AZL Cubs (Rookie) 50ABs 12H 5DB 0TR 1HR 5BB 14BBs .240avg .321obp .400slg
2003 Lansing (Low-A) 100 ABs 26H 8DB 0TR 5HR 8BB 19Ks .260avg .330obp .490slg

One of the best players in the Big Ten last year, leading the conference in HRs and RBIs, Fox was among the best offensive Cs in the country and 2nd in the Midwest (Maier from Toledo). Amazing strength, he was probably 2nd of the '03 draftees as far as raw power behind Harvey. Fox does not get cheated when he swings and when he makes solid contact he will hit plenty of mammoth HRs, at Michigan he consistenly hit 450ft HRs in BP. With the powerful swings will also include plenty of times when he will not make contact and hopefully his plate patience will make up for his expected high strikeouts totals, I assume that if he gets 450ABs next year he will get around 50BBs and 120Ks. He is a hard worker that is trying his best to improve his skills behind the plate, while having average shils behind the plate, he has below avg. hands and arm strength and he will likely have to battle Rick and Richie for duties behind the plate at Daytona or Lansing. He is the strongest offensively of the C prospects and is close with Rick as far as having the highest ceiling in the system as far as Cs. It would be wise for the Cubs to cont. to use him at C w/his offensive potential and despite their poss. disappointments with his progress defensively, he has an outstanding work ethic and with Servais remaining in the organization there is a chance of him becoming avg. behind the plate which is more than adequate. If they did perm. did switch him to 1B/DH, he would probably rank 3rd as far as 1B prospects (Dopirak/Kelton) which would likely be premature heading into 2004.

Likely 04' destination-Daytona
Likely Major League ETA-2006

#41 Luis Montanez 6'2" 185LBs 2B/SS Bats:R Throws:R
2003' Daytona (High-A) 486ABs 123Hs 18DB 3TR 5HR 39RBIs 11SB 33BB 89K
Selected in the 1st rd. in '00 (3rd overall).

Being ranked #41 is quite a drop for this former HS All-American and AZL MVP, he has been a product of being pushed too rapidly despite his amazing numbers in 00', which deceived many, including myself. Montanez will have to take that next step to once again project as a ML starter. He projects to have an above avg. bat for a 2B with a nice swing and the ability to make the ball jump off his bat, he has been unable to produce enough hits (espec. XBH) to prove he is above avg. offensively for a MI. To compound the problem, Luis has been unable to improve his plate discipline throughout his 4 years within the system. In '03, Luis repeated Daytona and actually had his performance drop than 02', which was considered a very mild success due to the fact he was very young for the FSL in '02. The drop in numbers consisted of H, XBH, BB, SB, avg, OBP, and Slg., and on defense he has a strong arm and decent hands without great range or speed. He will likely have to have a major jump despite making the difficult transition as far as advancement (High-A to AA) without him deserving of a promotion. If Montanez shows improvement, he will quickly rise up the charts again and he is gifted enough to do so, but hasn't been able to do so in 4 years and is unprotected for the Rule 5 draft.

Likely '04 destination-West Tenn.
Likely Major League ETA-06'

#42 Tony Richie 6'1" 215LBs C Bats:R Throws:R 21yo.
2003' 57ABs 10H 2DBs 0TR 0HR 4RBIs 6BB 12Ks .175avg .260OBP .211Slg

Former All-American at Florida State and voted the best defensive C and strongest arm in the ACC by Baseball America, Richie looks to rebound from an injury plagued 1st season in the Cubs organization. As one of the best defensive Cs in the 2003 draft, Richie posseses a strong arm, quick release, great knowledge of the game, and the ability to block pitches well, he will be a pleasure for the talented pitching prospects to work with. Offensively, he has a nice balanced swing that will lead to XBHs and projects between 10 and 15 HRs per season in the majors and does a good job of drawing BBs. He was hampered with shoulder problems, after making his debut at Lansing and struggled because of it. It will be a close competition between him, Fox, and Rick as far as the system's top C, he is clearly the best defensively of the 3, I have him rated 2nd in the system defensively behind Jose Reyes behind the plate. I have Rick and Fox rated ahead of him at this point because I think they are better offensively and project as avg. defensively, it just depends how they allocate the time behind the plate as all 3 are slated to see action between Lansing and Daytona, I assume Fox will be the 1st to shift to 1B/DH. Most likely Richie will fit in the Brad Ausmus/Mike Matheny realm with hopefully a stronger bat.

Likely 04' destination- Daytona
Likely Major League ETA-2006

#43 Micah Hoffpauir 6'3" 180LBs 1B Bats:L Throws:L
2003' Daytona (High-A) 477ABs 121H 33DBs 2TR 8HRs 44BBs 96Ks .254avg .323obp .382slg
Selected in the 13th rd. in 02'.

The 1st of at least 3 1B that will be mentioned on the prospects (there is a possibility of two more depending on their positions next year), in only his 2nd year within the organization, he will likely start 04' at AA. Blessed with an ideal left-handed short stroke, Micah has the ability to rack up a high amount of XBHs and should likely develop that into more HRs once he leaves the Florida State League. Unfort., for Micah a trip to Pringles Park and the Southern League awaits, as will the needed improvement for him against LHs, which he struggles against in 03'. Micah did end on a good note going 11 for 26, 3DBs, 1TR, and 4BBs in the final week and and a half. Micah is also above avg. defensively at 1B and if need be can play the OF, he has received rave reviews about his approach to the game and his ability to be coached. Micah will have to take the next step to catch to fellow 1B within the system like Kelton and Dopirak and will also have to turn those DBs into HRs as he progresses and has to improve against LH pitching and will have to keep improving his BBs totals as he did in 03' compared to his 02' season which will help as well.

Likely 04' destination-West Tenn.
Likely Major League ETA-05'

#44 Rocky Cherry 6'5" 210LBs RHP (starter) 24yo.
2003' Boise (Short-Sea.) 5-2 2.17ERA 10G 10GS 54IP 36H 21R 13ER 1HR 18BBs 55Ks
2003' Lansing (Low-A) 2-1 2.76ERA 8G 4GS 29.1IP 23H 10R 9ER 1HR 7BB 18Ks
Selected in the 14th rd. in 02'.

Originally selected by the Phillies in the 10rd. in 2001', Cherry elected to go back to Oklahoma for his Senior Season and it was in that Senior season that Cherry had a great start as his stock was starting to rise and then he suffered an arm injury that sidelined his season after only 7 starts. Despite the arm injury, the Cubs took a chance on him in the 14th rd. and allowed him to rehab his injury for the remainder of until the start of Short-Season (June) in 2003' and cleared him to pitch. So between the injury and the decision to stay at Oklahoma for his Senior year, it has stunted his progression as far as his age compared to both of the leagues he pitched at in 2003. He will have to overcome the age difference quicker than most and having pitched in the Big 12 will help as well as having played for Oklahoma.

Cherry does have a season under his belt, one where he finshed 2 years older than the avg. player in the Midwest League and very productive at each of the stops last year. Armed with a low 90's FB, sinker, and a slider as his out pitch, he was able to show good command, keep the ball down, and have a decent strikeout ratio, especially for a groundball pitcher. Cherry will likely start at Daytona next year and if he is able to pitch well in the FSL, with his poise, command, and the ability to keep the ball down, there is a chance if he does well that will be at West Tenn. at the end of 04'. His stuff is not overwhelming nor deceptive, but it is good enough to get hitters out and he knows how to put it in the right location.

Likely 04' destination-Daytona
Likely Major League ETA-2005'

#45 Steve Smyth 6'1" 200LBs LHP (starter) 25yo.
2003' Iowa (AAA) 6-11 5.23ERA 28G 26GS 130.2IP 143H 85R 76ER 16HR 72BB 98Ks
Selected in the 4th rd. in 99'

As a valued commodity within the Cubs system as a lefty that projects as a bottom of the rotation starter, Smyth has declined as injuries have impacted his velocity, his delivery, and he has regressed b/c of those reasons. Towards the end of 2001', Smyth was leading the Southern League in ERA, with his ability to keep hitters off balance with his FB, curve, and change-up until there were problems with fraying in his rotator cuff that required surgery to correct the injury. Once he came back, the FB that could touch 93 and sit around 90-91 was topping out at 89 and usually around 86-87 and the seperation in both deception and velocity was not great enough for Smyth to continue the production he had in 2001'. I still question whether Smyth was brought back too soon in 2002', was it just fraying of the rotator cuff and not a more complete tear, and if he can make it back to the level he was at in 01'. His 03' season was similar to his 2002' stint at Iowa (larger amount of H/IP, rise in BB/IP and HR/9), but some more troubling signs did arise as Smyth had a significant rise in BBs, I assume this was due to poor mechanics and the ability to not find a consistent release point on his breaking pitch. If somehow, he does regain his velocity into the low-90's and finds a consistent release point again, he can be a viable option at the bottom of the rotation or long-relief, but he has to prove he is healthy and able to throw 3 pitches for strikes w/deception and a difference in velocity. I hope that like Prior, Nannini, and Foli that Smyth can work with fellow USC alum Tom House to maybe find a different angle in correcting his problems that have plagued him the past 2 seasons.

Likely 04' destination-Iowa
Likely Major League ETA-04'

#46 J.J. Johnson 6'2" 195LBs OF Bats:R Throws:R 22yo.
2003' Lansing (Low-A) 361ABs 40R 87H 10DBs 2TRs 3HR 33BB 55Ks .241avg .305obp .305slg
Selected in the 6th rd. 00'

It is amazing what 2 years of lack of production can do to a former top 15 prospect. This former MVP and top prospect of the Northwest League at the age of 19 has been hampered with injuries and poor play. Blessed with a solid bat and enough speed and a strong enough arm to play RF, he not been able to showcase either as injuries to his hands and hamstring limited him in 02'. 03' was not much better as like the weather, he started off miserable and gradually improved as the season continued. Despite the gradual improvement, his numbers were poor and do not have the proper merit for a promotion, but since it would be his Jr. season in the Midwest League an attempt to get back on track will likely be at Daytona, where Zisk should likely benefit him. If he can show the bat speed he did at Boise as well as the avg. OF speed at Boise, there is still hope for him as he was young for the Midwest League despite it being his 2nd year there as he will be young for the FSL as well. Still, it will be hard for him to overcome a power hitting RF with a career slg % of .373 and a poor BB/AB ratio at this stage of his development. He is running out of chances and he'll have to reverse the trend in a League that is difficult to produce offensively.

Likely 04' destination-Daytona
Likely Major League ETA-06'

#47 Ryan Theriot 5'11" 175LBs SS Bats:R Throws:R 23yo.
2003' West Tenn. (AA) 178ABs 20R 42H 3DBs 0TR 1HR 9RBIs 9SBs 8CS 29BB 21Ks .236avg .351obp .270slg
2003' Lansing (Low-A) 220ABs 29R 57H 2DBs 1TR 1HR 17RBIs 21SBs 5CS 31BB 34Ks .259avg .353obp .318slg

Selected in the 3rd rd. in 01'

Who was selected right in the middle of Mark Prior, Andy Sisco, Ricky Nolasco, and Brendan Harris? That's right, Ryan Theriot was selected out of LSU, who provided a good eye, good speed, and great defense as a catalyst for LSU. For Theriot, the eye is still there as he was among the best the organziation at BB/AB, he was among the leaders with 30SBs, and his defense is right there with Chirinos as far as the best IF defense in the system in 03', then the questions arise about his ability to hit for enough power to where a team can use the strengths mentioned.

Onto to his glaring weakness, his inability to hit for avg. or power. He is a protypical slap hitter with a little frame with a short/compact stroke and like most slap hitters needs the ability to hit for XBH to become effective.

In his 3 seasons of professional ball, Ryan has hit 43XBH out of his 243 hits (17.7%) which also equates to (4.3%) of his 990ABs. In 2003', these ratios actually dropped 14XBH out of 99 Hits (14.1%) and 14XBH out of 398ABs (3.5%). To put these figures into perspective, I will compare them to Augie Ojeda.

Augie Ojeda is very similar to Theriot in the fact that he came from a SEC school (Tennessee), projected as a utility IF, known for great defense, and a spark at the top of the order with little power.

Numbers thru each of their 1st 3 years which extended from Low to AA for each of them. Augie has a much higher % of his ABs at AA compared to Theriot.

Theriot (990ABs)
.245Avg .342obp .300Slg
Ojeda (1093 ABs)
.277Avg .347obp .379Slg

XBH ratios:
Ojeda 24.4%
Theriot 17.7%

BB ratios:
Theriot 1 every 7.07ABs
Ojeda 1 every 9.42ABs

Despite the offensive futility, Theriot is listed because of the lack of depth at SS within the Cubs organization and his strengths have already been mentioned (ability to get on base, defense, speed). He still projects as a util. type player, but any further commitment as far as strength programs could help him reach gap power and raise his value. At this point, he is more likely to fall from the ranks than rise.

Likely 04' destination-West Tenn.
Likely Major League ETA-Sept. 2005'

#48 Darin Downs 6'3" 176LBs LHP (starter) 18yo.
2003' AZL Cubs (rookie) 0-2 6.57ERA 13G 11GS 38.1IP 48H 30R 28ER 2HR 17BB 32K
Selected in the 5th rd. in 03'

Gifted pitcher who is extremely advanced for a 18yo & has the ability to throw 3 pitches for strikes. His above avg. curve and change-up compliment his high 80's FB nicely. Downs has the time and frame to add velocity as he matures physically. Arm problems have lowered his ranking, but if he is ready for Short-Season he will quickly rise up the rankings with a good showing. Was a possibility to start at Lansing if he did not get injured as fellow LH prospect Justin Jones did in 03'. Comparisons to Jamie Moyer/Tom Glavine are premature, but they'll always be attached with a pitcher with the skills of Downs.

Likely 04' destination- Boise
Likely Major League ETA-2007'

#49 Alfredo Francisco 6'3" 180LBs 3B Bats:R Throws:R 19yo.
2003' AZL Cubs (rookie) 160ABs 14R 42H 9DB 2TR 1HR 19RBIs 4BBs 42Ks 1SB 4CS .263avg .289obp .363slg
2003' Boise (Short-Season) 52ABs 3R 8H 2DB 0TR 0HR 0RBI 0BB 15Ks .154avg .170obp .192slg

Signed out of the Dominican Republic

Former top 15 pick has continued to struggled against more advanced pitching than he has faced since arriving from the Dominican Republic. Still very young at 19yo and very raw, the Cubs still have hope for him and will be patient as they hope his production can equal his talents, despite two poor years at Mesa and Boise (in '02 he had a 7AB stint at Lansing). Despite his struggles, Francisco has shown a short compact stroke, good power potential and is strong defensively at 3B, he has a good frame to play 3B, but he needs to get stronger and will likely do so. His main problems offensively is mastering the strike zone, he has not shown enough improvement as far as pitch recogn. to see the dramatic jump in numbers that someone with his talent should do. He did have a jump in XBH from 14% to just under 25%, which gives indications that he will improve his power once he develops a better approach at the plate. I still like Francisco, if he gets a full off-season at Fitch and progresses, he will likely start at Boise as there isn't much in the lower levels (Mesa or Boise) that will block his progress.

Likely 04' Destination-Boise
Likely Major League ETA-2007

#50 Alberto Garcia 6'0 160LBs 1B/3B/C Bats:R Throws:R 20yo.
2003' AZL Cubs (rookie) 182ABs 34R 58H 15DB 10 TR 0HR 34RBIs 13BBs (8 HBP) 30Ks 5SB .319avg .385obp .511slg
2003 Boise (Short-season) 19ABs 3 R 5 H 2DB 0TR 0HR 3RBI 2HBP 3Ks .263avg .333obp .368slg

The quintessential "jack of all trades", Garcia saw the majority of his time in Mesa at 1B, before trying his hand at 3B, OF, and ultimately at catcher. Garcia played solid defense at all 4 positions, and despite the stereotypes of a corner IFs and catchers, displayed some speed and athleticism. Though he will probably never be a big HR guy, of his 63 hits combined, Garcia hit for 17 doubles and 10 triples, and stole 5 bases for good measure. For a relatively inexperienced baseball player, he also showed a knack for getting on base with 13 BBs and 10 HBP. The key to Garcia's development is his ability to play catcher. The Cubs will likely allow him to focus primarily on the tools of ignorance, increasing his chances of eventually becoming a major leaguer. He obviously has a long way to go, but he showed enough last season to at least warrant a long look.

Likely '04 destination-Boise
Likely Major League ETA-2008

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