Chicago Cubs Top-15 Prospects of 2009, No’s 1 – 5
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 move on to the NL Central and start with the Chicago Cubs…
*Take Note: 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 See: Chicago Cubs, Prospects 6 – 15
1. Josh Vitters | 3b | B – R | Boise (SS) | Age – 19 | Drafted – Round 1 (3), 2007
Body Type – good athlete, projectable
Vitters more than held his own as the youngest position player in the Northwest League this past season.
Vitters has a quality that many top rated hitting prospects possess: an ability to RAKE. By this, I mean Vitters has an ability to put the bat head squarely on the ball and get hits on pitches he should have no business swinging at. This ability shows up in his BABIP and if he can keep their strikeouts to a minimum, their batting average–for Vitters, he had a .381 BABIP and hit .324 overall. He’s able to generate excellent bat speed with some very quick wrists though there are times he lets his hands overtake his hip rotation, causing contact to be made too far out in front.
He flashed an ability to hang on breaking pitches but too often swung and missed. Vitters is an aggressive hitter and needs to work on both pitch recognition and laying off borderline pitches when he might get something better to hit later in the at bat.
Vitters isn’t a plus defender at third base, but he’s more than capable with a strong arm.
Best Case Outcome – Top-5 third baseman
More Likely Outcome – Top-10 third baseman
2. Andrew Cashner | RHP | Boise (SS) | Age – 22 | Drafted – Round 1 (19), 2008
I completed an earlier scouting report on Cashner this past Summer, which you can read here. One thing I’ve read about Cashner has been that his stuff plays better out of the bullpen, in terms of quality and command. I probably underestimated that aspect when I graded him in my draft review. The Cubs reportedly downplayed his very poor professional debut and attributed it to rust and the need to get reaclamated to starting. It’s more of a wait-and-see as the questions about Cashner will likely be answered next year. He does have the raw stuff of a front line pitcher, but the command needs a lot of work. Bottom line for me…I’m giving him a free pass for last year. We’ll see if he can work out his problems in the offseason.
Best Case Outcome – Borderline No. 2 starter, but it’s a long shot
More Likely Outcome – Power set-up arm out of the bullpen
3. Ryan Flaherty | INF | B – L | Boise (SS) | Age – 22 | Drafted – Round 1A (41), 2008
Flaherty is another Cubs draft pick I reported on this past in Summer, and he was about as good as expected. He’ll stick at shortstop for now, but most scouts feel he’s more likely to make a move to second base or third base. Second base should be the first option because his bat has more value at the postion.
Best Case Outcome – Average…maybe slightly above average everyday shortstop or second baseman
More Likely Outcome – Super utility player that can play all positions but catcher and centerfield. He can be used against right handers at a variety of positions.
4. Jay Jackson | RHP | A+ Daytona | Age – 21 | Drafted – Round 9, 2008
Body Type – a little short for a pitcher, but a very good athlete
Fastball – sits in the 89 – 92 range…will touch 93
Curveball- potentially an above average pitch and clocked in the low-mid 70′s….12-to-6 variety…manages to keep the initial curveball hump to a minimum
Slider – late and hard breaking…his out pitch. An example of his fastball and slider combo below, with the slider on the right and the fastball on the left:
*Credit to the Boise Hawks (click for full a link to a listing to full Boise games)
Change-Up – fringe-average for now, but he has a feel for throwing the pitch
First thing you notice about Jackson is how he works quickly and goes right after hitters, often getting ahead in the count. When he’s ahead, Jackson uses his four-pitch repertoire to keep hitters guessing. All four pitches come from the same release point and he sells each pitch well.
Jackson is usually around the strike zone, but doesn’t necessarily hit his spots on a consistent basis. He also allows a huge number of fly balls and when you combine that with his aggressiveness on the mound, Jackson will give up a fair share of home runs.
Mechanically, my philosophy is for a pitcher to use what is most comfortable for them. Jackson’s mechanics are a bit problematic for me because he has a relatively short stride and he remains very upright throughout his wind up. He’s a bit of an armsy thrower and I like pitchers to make better use of their lower bodies.
However, his arm action is hitch-free and quick, making it tougher for hitters to pick up the ball out of his hands. Lastly, he does an excellent job of repeating his delivery, a very important aspect in a pitcher’s control.
Best Case Outcome – Would like to see some more data as a professional, but I think a borderline No. 3 starter is a fair upside for Jackson
More Likely Outcome – No. 4 starter, though the way he goes right after hitters might make him profile better as a reliever.
5. Dae-Eun Rhee | LHP | Single-A Peoria | Age – 20 | Signed – South Korea, 2007
Body Type – projectable, athletic
Fastball – low 90′s with sink, touching 94
Curveball- haven’t been able to find much information on this pitch, but it’s reportedly an average offering, flashing above average potential. I’ve seen it described as a slider as well, so it may be a slurvy type pitch.
Change-Up – described as his best pitch, with a splitter like action. He’ll get ground balls with the fastball, but the change-up is his biggest ground ball inducer
The biggest issue facing Rhee is the fact that he won’t be back until mid-season. He underwent Tommy John surgery in mid-2008 and while recovery rates are much better than in the past, they aren’t 100%.
When healthy, Rhee is tough to center the ball against as evidenced by his .252 BABIP against. His feel for pitching is also advanced for his age.
One thing Rhee will need to shore up is his command. His BB% was a little too high for my liking…would also like to see him miss a few more bats, but he’s still solid in that regard.
Best Case Outcome – No.3 starter
More Likely Outcome – Probably a No. 4 starter…he’s another guy I would like to see more data on in addition to seeing how he responds from injury
*Credit to East Windup Chronical for some of the information in this report on Dae-Eun Rhee
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Also See: Chicago Cubs Team Page
Up Next: Chicago Cubs, Prospects 6 – 15
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