Chicago Cubs Top-15 Prospects of 2009, No’s 6 – 15
For an overview of the process used to grade players, the factors used to determine where a player ranks, and other frequently asked questions, please click here. All grades are subject to change based on any new information I receive before the start of the season. If you disagree, you can make your case by contacting me or you can make a comment below at the bottom of the page.
You can find a full listing of each team’s top prospect list in the Top Prospect List Archive Page. Also, each team will have their Team Page published when their top prospect list becomes available. Team pages include team rosters, stats, payroll and front office information, past Baseball-Intellect articles related to that team, and links to some of the team’s best fan sites. We round out the Chicago Cubs…
Also See: Chicago Cubs, Prospects 1 – 5
*Take Note: as I mentioned in part 1, Jeff Samardzija did not qualify for this list…as a reliever, he was over the 25 inning threshold for moving out of prospect status. He would be the team’s No. 2 prospect and a grade B should he have been included. The same rule applies to Kevin Hart.
*Also of Note: I don’t have scouting reports on the three pitchers acquired by Chicago via trade this offseason, but if I included them in this list, here is where they would rank:
Chris Archer would be unlisted because of control problems, John Gaub would sneak into the honorable mentions category because of a high K-rate, and Jeff Stevens would be ranked probably in the No. 12 or 13 spot
6. Starlin Castro | SS | B – R | AZL (Rookie) | Age – 19 | Signed – Domin. Republic, 2006
Body Type – lean frame that needs to add strength
Castro is the most interesting of the bevy of middle infielders littered throughout lower levels of the Cubs organization. It’s Castro’s all-around potential that makes him most interesting.
When all is said and done, Castro has the potential to hit for average with slightly above average power and above average to plus defense.
Castro flashed his ability in the AZL last season as he put up an .827 OPS including a .311 BA and .153 ISO-power. His contact rate was acceptable (15.3 K%), but he will need to walk more as he advances to higher levels of competition (just a 6.5 BB% last season). This quote from Cubs Scouting Director leaves me optimistic (Source: Minor League Baseball)
“In his hitting action, he’s got about as good wrists as I’ve seen in quite some time,” Wilken said. “Very supple, and he’ll have opposite-field power because he lets the ball travel.”
One of the biggest problems you’ll see in young athletes/middle infielders is that they don’t let the ball travel deep. They get too handsy and out in front, which hinders the player’s power potential. The fact Castro lets the ball travel deep is an excellent sign.
Castro will fill out as he gets older, but he still projects as a shortstop. Should he move, he’ll be able to easily make the transition to second.
Best Case Outcome – Above average shortstop
More Likely Outcome – A Ronny Cedeno type player
7. Hak-Ju Lee | SS | B – L | N/A | Age – 18 | Signed – Korea, 2008
Body Type – thin with a skinny frame
Has yet to play a professional game, but was the team’s top 2008 International signee.
Lee’s best tool is his plus-plus speed, which will help Lee to wrack up steals and potentially hit for a high average.
He needs to add strength to his small frame, but one thing I worry about with players like Lee is they’ve been taught to hit the ball on the ground so they can better utilize their speed. Hitters do this to the detriment of their power. I’ve seen one scouting report that had a scout who has seen Lee describe him as a slap hitter and that makes me question how much power he’ll hit for down the road.
Defensively, Lee has the feet and agility to go along with a strong enough arm to stay at shortstop, which will help play up the value of his bat.
Best Case Outcome – Would like to actually see him play a professional game first, but I’ll say average to above average shortstop would be the best case outcome
More Likely Outcome – Too soon to say
*Updated on 10-15-09 – Click here to see Lee live in action as well as an updated scouting report from the 09′ season
8. Welington Castillo | C | B – R | Tennessee (AA) | Age – 22 | Signed – Dom. Rep, 2004
Body Type – compared to Cardinals backstop Yadier Molina
Castillo is a mildly intriguing catching prospect, but I’m skeptical of his ability to hit.
At the heart of the problem is Castillo’s abhorrent performance against right handers. In 2007, Castillo posted a .698 OPS against right handers and he followed that up with a .582 OPS in A+ Daytona and a .589 OPS once promoted to Double-A Tennessee.
Castillo did show signs of improvement as a hitter overall when he was promoted to Double-A, but much of his improvement was the result of a huge BABIP spike: from .347 to .386. He also has issues with plate discipline and recognizing pitch types.
On the plus side, Castillo will turn 22 in late April, he’s a catcher (where his bat won’t carry as much weight), and he hits lefties at a very respectable rate.
Castillo’s best tool is his arm, but his other defensive tools need work. He allowed 52 wild pitches last year to go along with 20 past balls and seven errors. Some reports indicate he needs to do a better job of keeping his focus.
Best Case Outcome – Below average everyday catcher
More Likely Outcome – Above average back-up catcher that plays against most lefties
9. Brandon Guyer | OF | B – R | Single-A Peoria | Age – 23 | Drafted – Round 5, 2007
Body Type – muscular and athletic
What intrigues me about Guyer is his ability to play center field. He played mostly left field for Single-A Peoria, but the Cubs believe he has the range to play in center field though he still needs to learn some aspects of the position.
As a center fielder, Guyer’s bat could hold some real value. He posted an ISO-power of .230 partly due to his fly ball tendencies. In conjunction with his fly ball tendencies, Guyer has a propensity to pop-up. His infield fly percentage was just under 27%, which undoubtedly contributed to his sub-par BABIP. Solid bat speed helps Guyer make hard contact when he actually does square up on the ball.
Guyer’s K% isn’t at an alarming level, but it needs to lowered. He also needs to be more selective with his pitches in order to get on base more.
Guyer probably has the best set of tools in the system, as he’s an above average runner with good instincts on the base paths, and a good athlete overall. His arm is only considered average however.
Best Case Outcome – 4th outfield type with the ability to play center
More Likely Outcome – 5th outfield type…I suppose the Cubs could work with him to play all over the diamond if they see his arm strength as acceptable at third base
10. Tyler Colvin | OF | B – L | Double-A Tennessee | Age – 23 | Drafted – Round 1, 2006
Body Type – athletic, solid build
I’ve never been a believer in Colvin’s bat and made my case last year in this scouting report. Colvin cemented my view on him with a very mediocre season in 2008. He was consistently bad from April through July, posting OPS’s between .661 – .696. In August, however, he tore it up with a .983 OPS, but it should also be worth mentioning that pitchers tend to wear down a bit when August hits.
Even worse, what was once a toss-up, the question over Colvin’s postion was essentially settled. Most scouts don’t see Colvin being able to play an adequate center field and have penciled him in as a corner outfielder. Perhaps Colvin can lose a little bulk and work on improving his agility and speed, which would help him with his range in center, but for now, his bat holds less value than it once did.
The crux of Colvin’s problems have been a lack of plate discipline and patience. He did work the count more last year, but was better when he was allowed to hack away.
Colvin isn’t as bad as his numbers show. His BABIP indicates he was unlucky and he did make improvements in his plate discipline. However, it’s hard to envision Colvin being anything more than a fourth or fifth outfielder without the ability to play a capable center field.
Best Case Outcome – 4th outfielder minus the ability to play center
More Likely Outcome – 5th outfielder or 4A player
11. Steve Clevenger | C | B – L | Tennessee (AA) | Age – 23 | Drafted – Round 7, 2006
*Credit to David Pratt (click for more videos)
A converted infielder, Clevenger has took to catcher pretty well, but is still adjusting to the intricacies of the position. Clevenger can play numerous positions, but his bat has the most value at catcher. He’s a high contact hitter with a short stroke (as you can see above). He has only average bat speed, but he does a good job recognizing and adjusting to breaking pitches. His power is limited, but his plate discipline is excellent. He might not be a regular, but he can find himself a career as a versatile back-up.
Grade – C
ETA – 2010
12. Micah Hoffpauir | 1b/OF | MLB | Age – 29 | Drafted – Round 13, 2002
Hoffpauir is a low upside player that is ready to contribute now at the big league level. Whether there is a spot for him is another question. He tore it up in Iowa last year and then contributed at the major league level for the Cubs. He’s an aggressive hitter that’s adept at making hard contact and he uses a high batting average to maintain a respectable OBP because he rarely walks, which could come back to bite him. He might not get a chance until somebody gets injured or he gets traded to another team though I suppose the Cubs could use him as a 1b, corner outfield, DH (during Interleague play) off the bench.
Grade – C
ETA – 2009
13. Junior Lake | SS/3b | B – R | AZL (Rookie) | Age – 19 | Signed – Dom. Rep, 2007
Lake is another one of the young middle infielders in the low minors with solid upside. He has less chance to stay at shortstop than somebody like Starlin Castro and could move to third as he fills out his frame. He’ll need to make more contact and walk a bit more, but he has good bat speed and the ability to make hard contact. He’ll likely start next year in Boise.
Grade – C
ETA – 2014
14. Tony Thomas | 2b | B – R | A+ Daytona | Age – 22 | Drafted – Round 3 (97), 2007
Thomas saw his plate discipline collapse last year, but I think you do have to consider he was jumped one level to play in A+ Daytona last year. Thomas’ numbers dropped pretty significantly across the board, but most concerning was the spike in strikeouts and the drop off in walks. The drop in power isn’t all that surprising considering his swing was more tailored for contact, but he has always shown an ability to make hard contact. He’ll still be an appropriate age next year even if the Cubs decide to make him repeat A+ ball again.
Grade – C
ETA – Late 2011
15. Alessandro Maestri | RHP | A+ Daytona | Age – 23 | Signed – Italy, 2005
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Honorable Mentions (in no particular order): Casey Lambert, Esmailin Caridad, Marquez Smith, Chris Carpenter, Casey Coleman, Mitch Atkins, Andrew Rundle, Dan McDaniel, Josh Harrison, Ryan Searle, Robert Hernandez, Aaron Shafer, Brian Schlitter, Jake Fox, Blake Parker, Billy Petrick, Dylan Johnston
Also See: Chicago Cubs Team Page
Up Next: Cincinnati Reds, Prospects 1 – 5
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