Here is my claim to fame – Caleb Thielbar. He lived kitty-corner to my house and we played basketball together in high school (which he hated, but was recruited to play division one in college). Either way, he was a two star athlete in Minnesota and went to South Dakota State University for four years and was drafted by the Brewers this summer in the 19th round. Not that we were great friends, but we know each other and I will continuously watch him (hopefully) progress through the minors.   Enough with my narcissism and attempt to claim some fame.

Jarrod Parker | SP | Arizona Diamondbacks | DOB: 11/24/89 | 6-0 | 180 lbs | Bats/Throws: Right | ARI #1 prospect according to Baseball America
The Cube: Control (88) | K-Rating (93) | Efficiency (91)

Drafted out of high school as the ninth pick in the first round in 2007 from an obscure town in Indiana, Parker has since marveled hundreds, possibly even thousands, with his fastball that seems to zip out of his hand from an effortless delivery. What makes that fastball so special? Well, that would be how it is clocked anywhere from 94 mph to 98 mph without Parker straining his mechanics. He also throws a power slider and a tight curve along with a change-up. Up until this year, his slider was his go-to pitch with his curve lacking consistency. However, this year in an interview he stated that he regards both as good pitches and is comfortable throwing either – but the slider is still his out-pitch. In high school, he never needed to throw a change-up and thus only started to throw it in the minor leagues. Interestingly, he had great feel for the pitch and it’s at least an average to above-average pitch. Pretty impressive if you ask me. Scouts and coaches claim he has great polish and personally, he seems to be a natural. With comparisons to Tim Lincecum, he has a lot to live up to.

08 (A) 8.95 K/9 | 2.52 BB/9 | 117 1/3 IP | .61 HR/9 | 3.44 ERA | 1.24 WHIP
09 (totals) 8.8 K/9 | 3.5 BB/9 | 97 1/3 IP | 3.14 ERA | 1.35 WHIP
09 (A+) 9.95 K/9 | 1.89 BB/9 | 19 IP | 0 HR/9 | .95 ERA | .84 WHIP
09 (AA) 8.5 K/9 | 3.91 BB/9 | 78 1/3 IP | .23 HR/9 | 3.68 ERA | 1.48 WHIP

Coming out of high school really limited the number of innings that Parker could pitch in 2008 as the Diamondbacks kept a tight pitch limit. Consequently, he never pitched more than seven innings, and he only pitched to seven once in 2008. Nevertheless, he showed why he was drafted so high. Due to his diminutive size, some people were led to believe that he wouldn’t succeed in a starting pitching role. He has proved them wrong since (he has a Roy Oswalt, Lincecum, and an Ian Snell like build) and has pitched like the star Arizona believes him to be. The K-rates are pretty, and the walks just became an issue this year upon his promotion to AA. This could be caused by “elbow tightness” that caused him to be DL’d on August 5th this year which lead to a visit to Dr. Freeze’s office (aka, Dr. James Andrew). This is either a bad thing or a precautionary visit. I am hoping the latter because of his repertoire of fastball/slider combo. Think of it this way (and this is how my mind is thinking too): Josh Johnson vs Francisco Liriano. Johnson has a fastball/change-up combo and Liriano has a fastball/slider combo. Which one is having a better year this year? That is why I am a tad fearful. Take the injury away, and I am gaga over Parker, though not like Mary Jane (sorry, I couldn’t resist any longer. It’s been eating at me the whole article).

Josh Vitters | 3B | Chicago Cubs | DOB: 8/27/89 | 6-2 | 190 lbs | Bats/Throws: Rights | CHC #1 prospect according to Baseball America
The Cube: Power (69) | Speed (13) | Contact (38) | Patience (7)

Just like Parker, Vitters was drafted in 2007 out of high school, but with a ton more hype. Playing baseball in southern California must do that to you. After lengthy contact negotiations, much like Strasburg, he missed any chance of playing in the summer leagues. Thus, he played in some Short Season ball too (just 51 AB in both Rookie and Short Season play). Looking forward to the 2008 season and actually hitting the ball (.118 Ave in those 51 AB), Vitters hurt his wrist in spring training. He attempted to play through the pain, but eventually had a two month disabled list trip. Consequently, this caused him to play Short Season again with 259 AB and no more injuries to his wrist.

After two mediocre years of minor league play, Vitters has finally turned it around this year hitting for a slash line of .289/.320/.471; but why is he still such a promising prospect? He has a smooth swing with above average power and little defensive skills. He drives the ball to the gaps well, is extremely “coachable,” has soft hands, a strong arm, below average range at third base, and has been compared to Pat Burrell. For a number three pick in the draft I think I would rather have more qualities than what I just listed off. Either way, this is what the Cubs have in Vitters and here are his stats so far:

07 (totals) .118/.164/.118 | 51 AB | 0/0 HR/2B | 30 K% | 3.2 BB%
08 (totals) .322/.365/.495 | 273 AB | 5/28 HR/2B
08 (A-) .214/.214/.429 | 14 AB | 0/3 HR/2B | 35.7 K% | 0 BB%
08 (SS) .328/.365/.498 | 259 AB | 5/25/.170 HR/2B/ISO | 17.4 K% | 4.8 BB%
09 (totals) .289/.320/.471 | 400AB | 16/17 HR/2B
09 (A) .316/.351/.535 | 269 AB | 15/12/.219 HR/2B/ISO | 15.6 K% | 2.5 BB%
09 (A+) .237/.254/.328 | 131 AB | 1/5/.094 HR/2B/ISO | 13.4 K% | 1.6 BB%

I sure hope that his smooth swing keeps swinging away as he walks less, or about the same as Delmon Young. Folks, that isn’t a compliment. Matter of fact, those K-rates … those are similar to Delmon Young too. Some positives, he started to finally hit for power this year, both gap and fence power. Not to be a Debbie Downer or to have a Vitters Vendetta, but I don’t trust those peripherals numbers. Scouts predicted that he would be in the majors by late 2010 and that was before this season started. This is all speculation, but I would expect to see him in early 2011 actually. He needs to develop patience, but Baseball America relayed that the Cubs were waiting for him to gain some confidence in his hitting before making adjustments to his approach. I smell bust. Maybe by the end of the year and starting next spring I will think differently. However, at this point I don’t really see him making it the majors and if he does, succeeding.

  1. JR says:

    I think Jon Sickels said that Jarrod Parker had the best stuff he saw in the minors all year.

  2. Stephen says:

    @JR: I believe it. He has pretty nasty stuff. However, I am still kinda worried about that elbow tightness.

  3. spenceR says:

    Hey. Quick q. Who do you like for the rest of the year more? Aka name game with
    Ryan zimmerman michael young and kendry morales.


  4. Stephen says:

    @spenceR: In order, Zimmerman, Morales, Young

  5. spenceR says:

    Why no love for michael?

  6. Stephen says:

    @spenceR: Zimmerman and Morales are in better positions in their respectful lineups to produce better counting stats. All three are putting up great numbers in the second half. Young may play in Texas, but I don’t see him out producing the other two players. It isn’t that there is no love for Michael, instead it is that the love for the other players is larger.

  7. PhillyYorker says:

    Keeper league: Werth or Carlos Pena?

  8. Stephen says:

    @PhillyYorker: Depends on what you want. I would go with Pena. He is like Dunn but cheaper, and Werth is just one year younger and likely give you 15 steals next year along with 23 to 27 homers. Plus, Pena is a middle of the order hitter and Werth bats at best 5h usually 6th.

  9. airlifting says:

    carlos pena is going to hit six home runs tonight :)

  10. generic says:

    Josh Vitters turns 20 tomorrow, and you’re ready to declare him a bust? That seems a bit short-sighted.

  11. Stephen says:

    @generic: it isn’t that I am calling already a bust. what I mean is my gut is telling me that I don’t hink he’ll live up to the hype. for me it’s like Jamarcus Russell of the Oakland Raiders- tons of talent but can’t produce at the next level (sorry for the football reference). I just don’t think Vitters will be what the Cubs are hoping for, especially will lacidasical/average a best defense. think Koumanoff.

  12. Stephen says:

    @generic: Let me try that again. It’s not that I am calling him a bust already. What I mean is that my gut is telling me that I don’t think he’ll live up to the hype that is surrounding him. For example (and sorry for the football reference), think of Jamarcus Russell of the Oakland Raiders. He has a rocket of an arm but can’t do anything in the NFL. I just don’t think Vitters will pan out. He doesn’t walk enough and his defense is average at best. The Cubs are going to need more than a homeless Derrick Lee filling in at 1B. Compare to Kevin Kouzmanoff – I nothing screams stud about him but he still plays ok ball.

  13. IowaCubs

    IowaCubs says:

    Vitters was barely 18 when he was drafted. The Cubs drafted him to be Aramis Ramirez’s replacement when his contract is up in 2011 and if they’re extremely ambitious, 2010 when Derrek Lee’s contract is up.

    You’re down on him because he’s been compared to Pat Burrell? I’ll take that… a career .850 OPS at third base? Yes please!

  14. generic says:

    I think he’ll have to move his act to the OF unless his defense really improves at 3B, but the way his power has developed at age 19, it might allow for it. His OBP is poor, but if he hits .300 with 25 HR or so, which looks within the realm of possibility, I think he could be a nice piece for the Cubs for a long time. Maybe not “hype worthy” as you state, but a good ballplayer nonetheless.

  15. Stephen says:

    @IowaCubs: Yes, I know that. I know that he is just nearly 20. Also, comparisons don’t always mean that is who they will turn out to be like. I am actually more down on him because he doesn’t walk enough and his defense will place him in the outfield, he doesn’t run the bases extremely well. He will not play third and first would be a stretch.

    @generic: Oftentimes high average hitters walk much more than Vitters does (sans Ichiro who is a different bred of players. For his career, Ichiro strikes out less than 10% and walks more than 6%). Vitters is striking out at about 15% and walking less than 4% for his career so far. Not an awful strike out rate, but nothing to brag about (for example, Pujols strikes out at 11% and walks at 13%. Delmon young has a career 4.2% walk rate and a 20.3 K%). He may have great low minor success but I don’t think it will translate into great success in the majors. Here is another example with someone with similar K% and BB% as Vitters, granted he accumulated these numbers in the Majors. Shea Hillenbrand had a 3.8 BB% and a 13 K% and Jose Lopez (for the Seattle) has a 3.8 BB% and a 12.1 K%.

    These aren’t players that are awful – they did make the majors. However they aren’t year to year all stars that you would hope a number 3, even if he is just turning 20.

  16. Stephen says:

    @generic: I think he will be more like a .255 to .275 AVE and 15 to 20 HR tops.

  17. spenceR says:

    So. I made a good trade here?

    Beckham morales danks mclouth for beckett and zimmerman?

  18. Stephen says:

    @spenceR: If Beckett turns it around then yes. Who did you use to fill the two other opening spots on your roster?

  19. spenceR says:

    Andrew Bailey and took upton off DL.

  20. Stephen says:

    @spenceR: Yeah, then I like what you did.

  21. IowaCubs

    IowaCubs says:

    @Stephen: Fair enough… After this season, however, Brett Jackson will be considered the Cubs’ number one prospect.

  22. generic says:

    I’m going to reserve comment a bit until we see how Vitters fares in the AFL. If he can hold his own against the top-level prospects at his age, I’m thinking more towards the numbers I listed above. If not, he might take quite a bit longer to develop that the Cubs had originally hoped.

    Either way, love these pieces and your analysis and hope you keep going with these.

  23. Stephen says:

    @generic: Since I should be doing these for the rest of the season and some whole team farm analysis throughout the winter (and hopefully starting StU next February), I will look at the AFL too. I completely agree with your comment too. Even if he struggles really bad, it will show the Cubs and fans where he is at.

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