Cubs Prospects Making Noise in Pre-Season Rankings

After being ranked as one of the worst farm systems in the game a year ago by Baseball America, the Cubs organization made a lot of improvement in 2009 … and the industry is recognizing the strides made last season.

Starlin Castro was recently named the 22nd best prospect in the game by MLB.com. Castro will be in big league camp as a non-roster invitee this spring and many think the Cubs will give him every chance to make the team. Castro was the Cubs lone representative in MLB.com’s Top 50 Prospects.

Keith Law ranked the Cubs’ system as the seventh best in the game a day before he unveiled his list of the Top 100 prospects on Thursday. Four of the Cubs’ top five prospects made Law’s list … and the fifth just missed and basically received an honorable mention.

Starlin Castro (12), Josh Vitters (30), Jay Jackson (50), Andrew Cashner (79) and Brett Jackson are the five best in an organization that has struggled in the past with producing quality players.

Keith Law’s ranking of the Cubs’ system took many by surprise. Baseball America has the Cubs’ system in the middle of pack but not in their top ten. Law pointed out that the Cubs “have hit on several top draft picks” and a “couple of later-round finds” under Tim Wilken.

Keith Law’s 2010 Organizational Rankings

Keith Law detailed the good, as well as the not so good, with each of the Cubs’ prospects. Due to the subscription only information, here are a few of the highlights.

Starlin Castro
19 – DOB – March 24, 1990
2010 ranking – 12
2009 ranking – NR

  • One of the most exciting position players in the minors
  • Electric bat and a hose for an arm
  • Has lightning in his wrists, ball flies off his bat
  • Adjusts well to an inside pitch, keeps hands in and squares up the ball
  • Make more contact than a lot of hitters
  • Quick on his feet, good range to his left and right … especially to the hole
  • Arm grades as a 65-70 on the 20-80 scale
  • Going to be an impact bat as a middle infielder
  • Could make his Cub debut in late 2010

Starlin Castro’s Page on Baseball Reference

Josh Vitters
20 – DOB – August 27, 1989
2010 ranking – 30
2009 ranking – 14

  • Has everything he needs to become an impact hitter in the majors
  • Lacks patience at the plate
  • Drew 12 unassisted walks in 2009 and a total of 26 in 830 professional Pas
  • Not a hacker, strong contact rate
  • Swing is superb
  • Strong front side, good hand speed, excellent hip rotation, generates hard contact and power
  • Projects as a .300 hitter with 30-home run power but with a .320 OBP
  • Will never be a plus at third base but can play there and has plenty of arm for the position
  • Hard to teach Vitters’ ability to make contact

Josh Vitters’ Page on Baseball Reference

Jay Jackson
22 - DOB – October 27, 1987
2010 ranking – 50
2009 ranking – 98

  • 2008 was a huge success for Jackson, reached Double-A
  • Missed a lot of bats in 2008 with low 90s fastball and out-pitch slider
  • Former two-way player in college
  • Very athletic, shows on mound
  • Has a loose, easy arm action that he repeats rather well
  • Throws four pitches: sharp mid 80s slider is best pitch, changeup needs work
  • Most trouble in 2009 came against lefties
  • Had a punitive demotion in 2009 after off the field issues, resolved problem and finished the year in Triple-A
  • Could pitch in relief for the Cubs this season
  • Could be a starter in the majors with an improved changeup or another pitch to retire lefties

Jay Jackson’s Page on Baseball Reference

Andrew Cashner
23 – DOB – September 11, 1986
2010 ranking – 79
2009 ranking – NR

  • Former closer in college
  • Has a big arm
  • Throws a 93-98 MPH fastball and a hard slider with very good tilt in the mid 80s
  • Slider command ahead of fastball command
  • Throws a changeup, but not too often
  • Doesn’t miss a lot of bats, odd for a power arm
  • Thinks if Cashner returns to the pen would be dominant
  • Cubs probably looking for Cashner to remain a starter, see if he can improve his command and miss more bats

Andrew Cashner’s Page on Baseball Reference

Keith Law ran a list of honorable mentions … or the ten best prospects that just missed his top 100. Brett Jackson made the cut.

Brett Jackson
21 – DOB – August 2, 1988
2010 ranking – NR

Brett Jackson had trouble making contact in his final season of college ball but did not once he turned pro. The Cubs first round pick in the 2009 draft (31st overall) put together a good sample size in limited time last season.

Jackson played at three levels (Rookie League in Arizona, Boise Hawks and Peoria Chiefs). Law thinks Jackson will be a great pick for the Cubs if he continues to play the way he did once he signed with the Cubs.

Brett Jackson’s Page on Baseball Reference

Andrew Cashner, Starlin Castro, Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters received non-roster invitations to big league camp.

Keith Law’s 2010 Top 100 Prospects

Related Articles on the Cubs’ Farm System

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