Chicago Cubs 2010 Minor League Review
Overall farm ranking via Baseball America (2010):
2010 (15) | 2009 (27) | 2008 (20) | 2007 (18) | 2006 (15) | 2005 (10) | 2004 (7)

Record of Major League Team and Affiliates
Majors: [75 – 87] NL Central
AAA: [82 – 62] Pacific Coast League – Iowa
AA: [86 – 53] Southern League – Tennessee
A+: [75 – 64] Florida State League – Daytona
A: [71 – 66] Midwest League – Peoria
A(ss): [34 – 41] Northwest League – Boise
R: [26 – 29] Arizona League

The Run Down
The Cubs received Matt Garza and Fernando Perez for pitcher Chris Archer, outfielders Brandon Guyer, Sam Fuld, catcher Robinson Chirinos, and shortstop Hak-Ju Lee. According to Keith Law, the Rays received a better deal than the Royals did for Grienke and, “Although their package of players is, collectively, further away than what the Royals got,” Law also stated,”Hak-Ju Lee is the star of the deal.” Seems like a lot for Garza. Subsequently, The North Siders made a play for now while the Rays restocked their system. Speaking of systems, the Cubs went from some intriguing players to “Who’s behind Brett Jackson?” Fernando Perez could be another Franklin Gutierrez, but that might be stretching his talent; defensively, he’s a stud, hitting-wise he’s average, health-wise he makes Rickie Weeks look like an iron man. They also just made a trade with Washington sending Tom Gorzelanny for prospects (LHP) Graham Hicks, (RHP) A.J. Morris, and (OF) Michael Burgess. This adds some depth in the minor leagues and clears pitching space on the major league squad. I make mention of just Michael Burgess in this article. This aging team has few immediate fillers in the minors, then again, I didn’t think Starlin Castro was going to be ready for 2010 and I was quite wrong. Oh, and Josh Vitters is still floundering. Beyond the top few prospects, this system feels shallow, a lot of their talent is in the low minors (i.e. Rookie Leagues and Single-A).

Graduating Prospects
#1 (SS) Starlin Castro; #4 (RHP) Andrew Cashner; #17 (RF) Tyler Colvin; #23 (CF) Sam Fuld; #25 (RHP) Casey Coleman

Arizona Fall League Players Mesa Solar Sox
Pitchers: #28 (RHP) David Cales; #8 (RHP) Chris Carpenter; (RHP) Jake Muyco; (RHP) Kyle Smit
Hitters: #9 (3B) Ryan Flaherty; #3 (3B) Josh Vitters; #2 (CF) Brett Jackson

Players of Interest
#3 Josh Vitters | 3B | D.o.B: 8-27-89 | Stats (A+/AA): .247/.312/.405 | 316 AB | 30 XBH | 10 Hr | .158 ISO | 6/1 SB/CS | 63:21 K:BB | .341 BABIP (A+); .247 BABIP (AA)
Vitters’ highlights from Baseball America, “compact stroke for a power hitter … 25 to 30 home runs … potential .300 hitter … strong arm … below-average runner … on course to hit major in 2011.” His numbers this year looked better than in past years, but that was due to smashing High-A. Career-wise, his numbers look, well, I’ll just put them up:

  • Career AA (’10): .223/.292/.383 | 206 AB | 19 XBH | 7 Hr | 41:13 K:BB
  • Career A+ (’09, ’10): .258/.294/.381 | 299 AB | 23 XBH | 6 Hr | 45:13 K:BB

Not pretty. John Sickels has a good take on Vitters, “[Vitters is tough to analyze as] [H]is strengths are obvious … he has a beautiful swing … tremendous bat speed, one of the quickest in the minors … easily makes contact and seldom strikeouts. Power to all fields. On defense, has a strong arm and fairly mobile … BUT for all the strengths, there are some negatives … walk rate is incredibly low … swings at [pitches] even if it is a pitch that he can’t do much with.” Sounds like Delmon Young, except he thrived in the minors. He’s still young, has the pedigree to warrant another year of review, and has the skills. ETA won’t be 2011 like BA stated. I’d expect more along the lines of 2012. For further details, see Scouting the Unknown.

#9 (WAS) Michael Burgess | RF | D.o.B: 10-20-89 | Stats (AA/AAA): .265/.357/.465 | 460 AB | 50 XBH | 18 Hr | .200 ISO | 5/2 SB/CS | 116:57 K:BB | BABIP (AA: .307 ; AAA: .366)
From the Washington Nationals Minor League Review: Burgess possesses plus-plus raw power but has a long swing and can’t hit breaking pitches or change-ups. Obviously, coaches are working on his batting mechanics. Historically, he has struggled against lefties (.227/.318/.307 in 2009). Scouts and coaches rave about his motivation to improve and strong work ethic. His defense is steadily improving but isn’t an asset beyond his plus arm that is accurate (had 26 assists in 2008). Don’t expect many steals as he’s a below-average runner. Sounds like Michael Cuddyer without the nagging injuries. I would expect 25 home runs with a .275 average, at best, in the majors if given a full season – even during his prime.

#2 Brett Jackson | CF | D.o.B: 8-2-88 | Stats (A+/AA): .297/.395/.493 | 491 AB | 58 XBH | 12 Hr | .196 ISO | 30/11 SB/CS | 126:73 K:BB | .395 BABIP (A+); .352 BABIP (AA)
I’ll quote my Scouting the Unknown article and let you read the rest, “I see a 20 homer, 30 steals, and a .270 to .280 average in his fantasy future.” Future may equal prime, just a heads up. Struggled more at Double-A, but still hit well (263 AB.316/.420/.517 (A+) | 228 AB .276/.366/.465 (AA)).

#27 Welington Castillo | C | D.o.D: 4-24-87 | Stats (AAA): .255/.317/.498 | 239 AB | 31 XBH | 13 Hr | .243 ISO | 0/2 SB/CS | 58:19 K:BB | .274 BABIP
The trade of Robinson Chirinos, a 27 year old catcher, clears room for Castillo to take over as the Cubs best catching prospect; technically Castillo was considered the better prospect before the trade due to his age. “Never has shown much plate discipline … sold out for power … best tool is his arm strength … sloppy receiver.” Thanks, Baseball America. Unless his scouting report changes much from preseason 2010, I think Castillo works best as a backup and pinch hitter.

Marquez Smith | 3B | D.o.B: 3-20-86 | Stats (AAA): .314/.384/.574 | 303 AB | 44 XBH | 17 Hr | .260 ISO | 2/0 SB/CS | 70:31 K:BB | .358 BABIP
I have to go back to Baseball America’s 2009 Handbook, “quick wrists … reasonable disciplined approach … [could hit] for decent average and some power … [fairly] athletic … versatile defender with strong arm.” It’s not like his 2009 season was poor, he hit .280/.339/.441 with 45 extra-base-hits and a 82-to-33 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Not sure why he was omitted for this year’s edition. His 2010 stats looked better due to a high batting average on balls in play (.358 BABIP) and a small sampling of at-bats (303 AB). Not like it completely matters when you expect a normal BABIP to reduce his stats to his 2009 season. He is a marginalized prospect with versatility, much like Casey McGehee. Matter of fact, they have very similar career paths. Will need injury to make the majors.

#5 Jay Jackson | RHP | D.o.B: 10-27-87 | Stats (AAA): 6.8 K/9 | 2.7 BB/9 | 157 1/3 IP | 4.63 ERA | 4.50 FIP | 1.29 WHIP | 1.1 Hr/9 | 8.8 H/9 | .291 BABIP
Throws four average or slightly-better pitches, a 90 to 95 MPH fastball, a mid-80s slider, a curveball, and an “effective” changeup. The two negatives from his 2010 season (1) diminishing strikeout rate and (2) home run rate. Nevertheless, Jay Jackson looks like a back of the rotation innings eater. With Garza coming over in a trade, I don’t think we see Jackson unless there is an injury or three.

#8 Chris Carpenter | RHP | D.o.B: 12-26-85 | Stats (AA): 7.5 K/9 | 3.4 BB/9 | 119 2/3 IP | 3.16 ERA | 3.45 FIP | 1.39 WHIP | .4 Hr/9 | 8.9 H/9 | .319 BABIP
An injury risk, with a medical history to make Dr. Freeze happy. He had Tommy John surgery in 2005 and another elbow surgery in 2006. Carpenter throws a 91 to 94 MPH fastball with movement and can touch 97; a slurve that flashes into a biting slider and a changeup that still needs work. John Sickels states that his ceiling is a number two starter if his control remains in-check or a number four starter. Or you know, another power arm in their bullpen. Carpenter did throw 15 innings at Triple-A (3 starts), but is riding the same boat as J.Jackson, waiting for another injury – not his – to make the majors.

Mitch Atkins | RHP | D.o.B: 10-1-85 | Stats (AAA): 6.4 K/9 | 3.5 BB/9 | 106 2/3 IP | 3.63 ERA | 4.75 FIP | 1.32 WHIP | 1.6 Hr/9 | 10.1 H/9 | .272 BABIP
A mediocre pitcher at best. Throws a 88 to 92 MPH fastball with some sinking action, a cutter, a potential solid-average curveball, and a changeup. The “potential solid-average” from the 2009 Baseball America Handbook should tell the whole story. I could see him getting a spot start as he has good command and pitches to contact. Seems like these type of pitchers get the spot starts. I’d avoid this past Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year (2008).

Honorable Mentions
Russ Canzler | 1B/3B | D.o.B: 4-11-86 | Stats (AA): .287/.372/.566 | 355 AB | 53 XBH | 21 Hr | .279 ISO | 5/4 SB/CS | 95:46 K:BB | .332 BABIP
More for minor league depth than major hype, Canzler has shown good statistical production in the last two years. Too bad he is playing with his same age-cohort. Has moderate power and decent strikeout-to-walk ratio. Not exciting, could see him as trade bait.

Tony Thomas | 2B | D.o.B: 7-10-86 | Stats (AA): .276/.338/.485 | 402 AB | 51 XBH | 11 Hr | .209 ISO | 15/2 SB/CS | 100:33 K:BB | .338 BABIP
From the 2009 Baseball America Handbook, “quick hands … aggressive swing … average runner … [defense] leaves something to be desired.” Smells of utility fielder, not what the Cubs were hoping for their round three pick in 2007.

#16 Trey McNutt | RHP | D.o.B: 8-2-89 | Stats (A/A+/AA): 10.2 K/9 | 2.9 BB/9 | 116 1/3 IP | 2.48 ERA | 2.16 FIP (A); 2.57 FIP (A+); (AA?) | 1.12 WHIP | .4 Hr/9 | 7.2 H/9 | BABIP?
Fangraphs did not have any advanced stats for McNutt, but their own Marc Hulet has him ranked as the Cubs second overall prospect, saying he throws a 93 to 96 MPH fastball, a “good” curveball, and an “improving” changeup. Had a 1.17 GO/AO too. Currently is under the radar. This would be one prospect to watch early next year to judge his value.

  1. Chris says:

    I had no idea Vitters has been THAT terrible, in the lower level minors no less. Man…

    I wonder if the Royals would’ve taken the Cubs’ Garza package for Greinke if it was presented to them. As a big Greinke supporter, I would’ve been very torn if he was shipped to North side Chicago.

  2. Tom Thumb says:

    What are the chances that Carpenter makes any impact in the Cubs’ bullpen anytime soon. Obviously not a closer while Marmol is still around…

  3. Stephen

    Stephen says:

    @Chris: To be fair, he does have some better numbers lower in the minors. Re:Greinke: Supposedly the Royals were targeting specific players and not just talent. This is according to Keith Law. To be honest, I only like Archer and Lee in that trade; the Greinke trade was a fleecing for the Brewers though because Garza does not equal Greinke.

    @Tom Thumb: I think he could be like potential future teammate Andrew Cashner was in 2010. So, early-to-mid season.

  4. Smokey

    Smokey says:

    The final member of the hip hop pitching trio, DVD, made it to the majors last year. Tho to be fair its no surprise it wasn’t noticed by anyone playing fantasy baseball.

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