Chicago Cubs 2009 Minor League Review
Overall farm ranking via Baseball America:
2009 (27) | 2008 (20) | 2007 (18) | 2006 (15) | 2005 (10) | 2004 (7)
Record of Major League Team and Affiliates
Majors: 83 – 78 (NL Central)
AAA: 72 – 72 (Pacific Coast League)
AA: 71 – 69 (Southern League)
A+: 64 – 71 (Florida State League)
A: 81 – 57 (Midwest League)
A(ss): 34 – 52 (Northwest League)
R: 29 – 27 (Arizona League)
The Run Down
Two really interesting factoids from Baseball America’s preview on the 2009 Cubs, factoid number 1 – “Chicago hasn’t gotten long-term production out of a first-round pick since Kerry Wood in 1995; factoid number 2 – other than Geovany Soto, who as drafted in round 11 in 2001, they “haven’t developed a position player it signed into an All-Star since they drafted Joe Girardi in 1986.” With a couple of trades this past year (Sean Gallagher and catcher Josh Donaldson for Rich Harden; Jose Ceda (#4 ranked prospect) for Kevin Gregg) the Cubs traded away a third of their top ten prospects. Through trades in the recent past, Chicago has built a contender each year at the expense of their farm system.
After another disappointing season on the north side, the Cubs have several pressing issues about their team. Milton Bradley was a flop, Rich Harden is a free agent, Alfonso Soriano got old really fast, and second base was a tale of two halves. Bradley looks like he on his way out of town, Harden may be too costly to keep around, Soriano is on the tail end of his career, and there are few solid options from within to replace the outfield spot of Bradley let alone another injury ravaged season of Soriano. On a positive note, Derrek Lee was his old self hitting 35 homers and .306/.394/.579, Randy Wells came out of nowhere to have an extraordinarily great rookie year, and Ryan Theriot provided good defense and sufficient offense from the shortstop position.
Players of Interest
*A number prior to a player’s name indicates Baseball America’s 2009 prospect Ranking
#1 – Josh Vitters | 3B | A/A+ | 19 | totals – .284/.314/.456 | 458 AB | 18 HR | .172 ISO | 65:12 K:BB
If you’ve been reading Razzball all summer, you would have saw here that I wasn’t sold on Vitters being a stud major league hitter in his career. This isn’t to start a debate, but a harsh analysis on Vitters may not be terrible. Each prospect has their pros and cons. I will look at Vitters again next summer and see where he is at. His overall total numbers look pretty good, but he struggled at High-A this year. Look at his slash line at each level:
A – .316/.351/.535 in 269 AB
A+ – .238/.260/.344 in 189 AB
Not what you want your hitter doing upon a promotion; granted his BABIP at Single-A was .330 and at High-A was .258 indicating he was having some “bad-luck.” He is only 19, is a level-or-so above his age, but his walk ratio will start to become a larger red flag as he progresses through the minors unless he can change his walking ways. He still is one of the best young hitting prospects in the entire majors, so patience may be a HUGE key (and for me, as well).
Kyler Burke | OF | A | 21 | .303/.405/.505 | 465 AB | 43 2B | 15 HR | .202 ISO | 99:78 K:BB
2009 was a career year for Burke. He cut his strikeout rate by a third and increased his walk-rate from 7.7% to 14.4% since 2008. With an aging outfield in Chicago, he may be a bright spot if he can reproduce these numbers at higher levels. Take this all with a grain of salt, this year was his first full year at Single-A, but he has had half seasons there in the past two seasons.
#10 – Hak-Ju Lee | SS | A(ss) | 18 | .330/.399/.420 | 264 AB | .090 ISO | 25/8 SB/CS | 50:31 K:BB | .401 BABIP
Chicago’s big international signing out of Korea did pretty well for his first year in America. He looks to be a light hitting, defensive shortstop with some speed. Keep in mind he had an extremely high batting average on balls in play (BABIP). Being so young, his ceiling is still sky high. Look for him to play at Single-A in 2010 and ideally progress to Double-A by the end of ’10.
#7 – Starlin Castro | SS | A+/AA | 19 | totals – .299/.432/.392 | 429 AB | .093 ISO | 28/11 SB/CS | 53:29 K:BB
Another prized shortstop in the Cubs organization put things together this year. The upper brass is really hoping that Theriot can keep the spot warm for Castro. He has more speed than his steals would even lead one to believe as he is still learning the stealing craft. Playing predominately at Single-A, his late season promotion to Double-A proved that he could handle the higher competition. Look for him to start at Double-A in 2010, even if he performs above expectations at Arizona this fall.
#3 – Andrew Cashner | SP (RHP) | A+/AA | 22 | totals – 6.7 K/9 | 3.8 BB/9 | 100 1/3 IP | 2.60 ERA | 1.18 WHIP
Once he was promoted to Double-A his stats started to fall. Both his strikeouts and walks took large hits at Double-A. One positive is he only gave up one homer all season. His ranking should take a hit as he didn’t produce like a top prospect. If he has a strong Fall League performance, he may be nearing a mid-season look or September call up in 2010. Look for him to start in Double-A.
#9 – Jay Jackson | SP (RHP) | A+/AA/AAA| 22 | totals – 9 K/9 | 3.3 BB/9 | 127 IP | 2.98 ERA | 1.22 WHIP
His level spread is a bit deceiving as he only started and pitched in one game at Triple-A. Once he started pitching in Double-AA his walk rate went from .8 BB/9 in 36 1/3 innings at High-A to 4.2 BB/9 in 82 2/3 innings at Double-A. His dominance in High-A is truly what makes his stats look really impressive. He might start 2010 in Double-A, waiting for the warmer weather of the Pacific Coast games, or could start in Triple-A. Either way, he should be given the chance to play in the majors next summer.
Jeff Antigua | SP (LHP) | A(ss)/A | 19 | totals – 8.9 K/9 | 2.5 BB/9 | 68 2/3 IP | 3.01 ERA | .99 WHIP
A little under the radar, Antigua pitched brilliantly aside from his seven home runs he gave up. Being left-handed will increase his stock greatly as the Cubs don’t have many top left-handed prospects. He’ll probably start again in Single-A with a mid-season promotion to Double-A.
Brett Jackson | OF | R/A(ss)/A | 20
Drafted number 31 in the 2009 draft. Hit seven of his eight homers, 11 of his 13 stolen bases, and five of his six doubles at Single-A.
Rebel Ridling | 1B | A | 23
As both ranked first basemen above him in the Cubs organization have graduated, look for Ridling to be a prospect rated in the low twenties for 2010. He finally produced in his second year at Single-A. He cut his strikeouts by nearly half, almost doubled his walk rate (not hard when you start so low), yet he still has a long ways to be more than organizational depth.
#16 – Tyler Colvin | OF | A+/AA | 23
Actually got promoted in September with three hits in 17 at-bats.
#8 – Ryan Flaherty | 3B/2B | A | 22
Hit 20 homers in 485 at-bats while producing an above average slash line of .276/.344/.470 and a decent K:BB of 98:50.
#18 – Chris Carpenter | SP (RHP) | A/A+/AA | 23
Finally moved up a few levels to match his talent and age. Still performed below expectations at each level besides Single-A, while pitching the best overall at High-A