The Hardball Times Top Cubs Prospects

The CCO’s look at the Cubs’ farm system continues with the Hardball Times’ ranking of the top 10 prospects in the organization.

Like Baseball Prospectus and Minor League Ball, Brett Jackson tops the Hardball Times’ list … with Chris Archer, Trey McNutt, Hak-Ju Lee and Jay Jackson rounding out the top five. Here is the complete list and the top players in the Cubs system under the age of 26 …

Baseball’s off-season is filled with prospect lists, seemingly a new one released daily. The latest is the Hardball Times, and they raise as many doubts about the top prospects in the Cubs’ system as they hand out praise.

1. Brett Jackson, OF
2. Chris Archer, RHP
3. Trey McNutt, RHP
4. Hak-Ju Lee, SS
5. Jay Jackson, RHP
6. Brandon Guyer, OF
7. Hayden Simpson, RHP
8. Josh Vitters, 3B
9. Chris Carpenter, RHP
10. D.J. LeMahieu, IF

Top 10 Players under the Age of 26
1. Starlin Castro, SS
2. Brett Jackson, OF
3. Chris Archer, RHP
4. Trey McNutt, RHP
5. Andrew Cashner, RHP
6. Tyler Colvin, OF
7. Hak-Ju Lee, SS
8. Blake DeWitt, 2B
9. Jay Jackson, RHP
10. Brandon Guyer, OF

Notes from the Hardball Times Top Cubs Prospects list:

Brett Jackson – The Hardball Times pointed out Jackson had a terrific first full season, but they “stand firm with cautiousness toward his future.” THT likes his speed and power but question if Jackson’s strengths will translate into an “impact major leaguer.”

Chris Archer – Possesses tenacity and “an above-average three-pitch mix.”

Trey McNutt – A mid-90s fastball and a terrific breaking ball. Waiting to see how his change-up develops in Double-A

Hak-Ju Lee – A fine full-season debut but his defense isn’t as advertised yet.

Jay Jackson – Solid control of his fast ball and curveball, but no out pitch yet. It is hard to tell if Jackson will be starter or a reliever.

Brandon Guyer – Posted a breakout campaign last year but it is unclear if Guyer’s talents will transfer in the big leagues.

D.J. LeMahieu – Proved to be a tough out last year. Has a solid line-drive swing. LeMahieu is projected to hit with power but hasn’t shown it yet.

Baseball Prospectus Top 20 Cubs Prospects
Four-Star Prospects
1. Brett Jackson, OF
2. Trey McNutt, RHP
3. Chris Archer, RHP
Three-Star Prospects
4. Josh Vitters, 3B
5. Hak-Ju Lee, SS
6. Chris Carpenter, RHP
7. Hayden Simpson, RHP
8. Reggie Golden, OF
9. Jay Jackson, RHP
10. Robinson Lopez, RHP
11. Brandon Guyer, OF

Nine More

12. Robinson Chirinos, C
13. Marquez Smith, 3B
14. Welington Castillo, C
15. Rafael Dolis, RHP
16. Ben Wells, RHP
17. Brett Wallach, RHP
18. Darwin Barney, IF
19. Austin Reed, RHP
20. Alberto Cabrera, RHP
The Sleeper – Tony Thomas, 2B

Link to full report on Baseball Prospectus Top 20 Cubs Prospects

Minor League Ball’s Top Cubs Prospects
1. Brett Jackson, OF – B+
2. Trey McNutt, RHP – B+
3. Chris Archer, RHP – B+
4. Hak-Ju Lee, SS – B
5. Chris Carpenter, RHP – B
6. Jay Jackson, RHP – B
7. Hayden Simpson, RHP – B
8. Brandon Guyer, OF – B-
9. Reggie Golden, OF – B-
10. Josh Vitters, 3B – C+
11. Robinson Lopez, RHP – C+
12. Austin Reed, RHP – C+
13. Alberto Cabrera, RHP – C+
14. Marquez Smith, 3B/2B – C+
15. Robinson Chirinos, C – C+
16. D.J. LeMahieu, INF – C+
17. Rafael Dolis, RHP – C+
18. Brett Wallach, RHP – C+
19. Brooks Raley, LHP – C+
20. Su-Min Jung, RHP – C+
21. Austin Kirk, LHP – C+
22. Jin-Yeong Kim, RHP – C+

Link to full report on Minor League Ball’s Top Cubs Prospects

The CCO’s Top 15 Cubs Prospects
1. Brett Jackson, OF
2. Chris Archer, RHP
3. Hak-Ju Lee, SS
4. Trey McNutt, RHP
5. Brandon Guyer, OF
6. Jay Jackson, RHP
7. Josh Vitters, 3B/1B
8. D.J. LeMahieu, IF
9. Chris Carpenter, RHP
10. Jae-Hoon Ha, OF
11. Reggie Golden, OF
12. Ryan Flaherty, IF/OF
13. Rafael Dolis, RHP
14. Justin Bour, 1B
15. Junior Lake, SS

Link to full report on the CCO’s Top 15 Cubs Prospects

The names might be the same … but the views can be very different.

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  • Vivid_Reality

    Out of Cashner, Carpenter, Jackson, Archer, and McNutt, you gotta figure at least one or two figure it out in the bigs. Could be a fun rotation to watch in a couple years if Simpson develops into anything.

    For all the talk of adding a pitcher, the trade route seems like it should be the least likely. Even if we were to trade for a pitcher does anyone really think that Garza or Carmona are the right ones? I would rather see Hendry go after Ian Kennedy. He is cheaper, could probably be had for a lesser package of prospects, and looks to be as good if not better than Garza. If Hendry offered Chirinos, Carpenter, Guyer, and Dolis for Kennedy, Kevin Towers is gonna think it over fairly well. This also theoretically frees up Wells to be traded or even included in the package. Maybe a Wells, Carp, Chirinos package.

    A rotation of:
    1.) Cashner
    2.) Simpson
    3.) Archer
    4.) Kennedy
    5.) McNutt


    1B: F/A
    2B: Castro/DJ LeMahieu
    SS: Lee/Castro
    3B: Vitters/Castro/Smith? F/A
    C: Soto – Don’t care what anyone says, Soto is the man.
    LF: Soriano – Lets face it, he probably isn’t going anywhere
    CF: Jackson
    RF: Colvin

    That team would be interesting to say the least. An above average offense depending on the F/A’s with some potential high end starters.

    • Tony

      That is an awful lot to give up, to add a pitcher to our mix. I like the idea of getting a younger pitcher, but if we are looking down the road, I would rather keep our prospects, let them develop. In a year or two, when we have a better idea, what holes we will have, then trade prospects to fill those holes. Right now, we have too many holes to fill and too many bad contracts taking up roster spots, to give up prospects.

    • joejoed

      I’m OK with a package for Garza, but not Carmona. 15 wins in the AL east with a rather light-hitting Rays team last year to back him up. He should be able to manhandle many of the NL line-ups. Plus we’ve got a surplus of catching and middle IF talent in the minors. But it may be a moot point since the Yanks and Rangers are more involved. They seem to be much more “win now” than the current Cubs team.

    • Gary J

      Does anyone think Garza or Carmona are the right ones? Garza yes – Carmona no

  • Tony

    I love how Hayden Simpson (who I hope makes it to the show and is a mainstay for years) is #7 again. Only our own CCO prospect list, didn’t automatically pencil him in the rankings. For those of you that think that the CCO’s comments are biased (of course they are) and blinded; this should show you that players aren’t automatically hyped on here, just because they are the Cubs #1 pick. Let him actually pitch in the minors first, before we rank him.

    • Neil

      Tony, thank you for pointing that out. That is the reason we left Simpson off.

      I have another look at the Cubs prospects planned before BA releases their list … and it should be very interesting.

      Happy New Year!

    • GrantJones7

      Thank you, means a lot, i wanted to put Simpson in at 15, but just couldnt justify it, if he was taken where he was projected to be taken he would be anywhere near the top 10

  • Denio

    I Have to agree with Tony 100 % on this one….

    (I would rather keep our prospects, let them develop. In a year or two, when we have a better idea, what holes we will have, then trade prospects to fill those holes. Right now, we have too many holes to fill and too many bad contracts taking up roster spots, to give up prospects.)

    The Braves are said to be looking for an outfielder.. Trade Byrd and bring up Brett Jackson and play him in a 4 man rotation in the outfield..
    K. Hill needs to go and bring up Chirinos/Castillo.

    A team is built with young players and then filled in with good free agents or trades.. I do not like trading young player without us having given them a chance to play at the top level.
    Get the payroll in line and give the young player a chance and then we will go from there…

  • Tom U

    Good Morning to everyone! I’d like to be the first to wish Neil and all the CCO faithful a Happy New Year.

    I’d like to “frame” some of the comments Neil posted on our top prospects. Hopefully, it will provide some perspective.

    Brett Jackson – There hasn’t been any mention of Jackson being a 5 tool “impact” player, but a player that can be integral in the Cubs’ future. Defensively, he has the speed and range to play centerfield, and the athleticisn and arm strength to play rightfield. It is his place in the batting order that will have the greatest impact on the Cubs. He has shown the speed and baserunning ability to hit leadoff. His plate discipline is developing, and in the future could possibly bat third. If his power continues to develop, he could wind up in a run producing spot in the order. While it’s becomming clear that he has major league ability, the question will be how he develops.

    Chris Archer, Trey McNutt, Jay Jackson – There was no great criticism about any of theses pitchers, just words of caution.

    Hak-Ju Lee – Questions about his defense seem to be linked to his error total, not his overall ability. At this point, Lee is actually ahead of what Shawn Dunston was in his development. Dunston would go on to have a career major league fielding percentage of .966, one percentage point higher than Ozzie Smith.

    Brandon Guyer – Comments seem to be right on target. While posting good numbers, he may end up being a AAAA player.

    DJ LeMahieu – His power is pure specualtion, but his production is not. He’s one of the best clutch hitters in the organization, much better than another hyped prospect, Marquez Smith. The Cubs would be foolish to wait for his power to develop before promoting him. If he keeps on producing, but his power develops similarly to someone like Davey Lopes, you could end up wasting a talent.

    • GrantJones7

      Haks defense to me seemed looked he didnt play the ball right and tried getting ready to throw before he had the ball, which can be fixed, when i would talk to him after games he would be ready to play the next day and fix it

      Side note, Matt Cerda, i love him as a player, gives %110 all the time, very good bat and a very strong arm

  • cubs1967

    WOW–for all the talk on here of the great prospects the Cubs have and there are 9 rate B- or above………..NINE!!

    and one –H Simpson-should not even be rated since he has no professional experience yet…… really 8.

    and funny how the next great Karl Pagel/Ryan Harvey clone-J Vitters is now a C+……w/ a bullet downward……….

    but we don’t wanna trade for AGon or Grenieke or Garza…….I trade all top 9 for those 3……….signed Beltre and Hudson and traded ARam for mote trade chips and won ourselves a damn division…………


    or hey………wait till have of the 8 “B” prospects become C or worse like Karl Ryan Vitters………and more Cubs fans like Santo can pass away.

    Happy new year………………..just one more where there won’t be a Cubs championship……….

    • Tony

      Just in case you don’t know what those B prospects are considered.

      The majority of players in the majors were C Prospects, the next most is B and the lowest pct were A prospects.

      A prospects most all make into major league players.
      B prospects – more make it than not

      From John Sickels on his grading.


      Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Almost all Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don’t intervene. Note that is a major “if” in some cases.

      Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.

      Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don’t make it at all.

      A major point to remember is that grades for pitchers do NOT correspond directly to grades for hitters. Many Grade A pitching prospects fail to develop, often due to injuries. Some Grade C pitching prospects turn out much better than expected.

      Also note that there is diversity within each category. I’m a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise coming from me, and some C+ prospects turn out very well indeed.

      Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment for my full opinion about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.”

    • Tony

      Do you think that those 3 teams (Padres, Royals, and Rays, would only want the Top 9 to share for those 3 players?

      It takes two teams to make a trade and to date, Garza is still a Ray, because they are looking for 4 top prospects, the same ones that would have been needed to trade for AGon, and the same ones that the Royals would have wanted for Grienke.

      ARam has a no-trade clause!

      Beltre still hasn’t signed with the A’s, and they have a huge contract waiting for him.

      Hudson would have been great a few years ago, but not now.

      What ideas do you have that can ACTUALLY happen?

      I understand your frustration, but this team went for it and lost!!!! Now they have to get a new core to this team, and hanging on to the old and unsuccessful core, and trying to mortgage the future more, to make a run…just doesn’t make sense.

      • cubs1967

        ARam would go to the BoSox in a heartbeat before he’d stay w/ this loser team so if the Cubs had AGon–yes that is realistic.

        and yeah–those 9 plus Vitters (the C+ legend) would of gotten garza, greineke and Agon…….please.

        beltre is a boras client–always waiting………5 yrs for 60m is the a’s offer…..less than what aram got from the 5th place losers.

        hudson is better than dewitt–even now.

        u enjoy the next decade while it;s 112 yrs and counting while all these prospects don’t pan out……….felix pie, corey patterson, eric patterson, ryan harvey, andy sisco, and let’s not forget the injured ones….rich hill, prior and even woody……………

        like i said………………..ZERO championships mean you go for it every damn year………..ya don’t :build from within and win nothing…… do ya…………hey Twins fans–how many you one lately……sick of getting your ass beat by the free agent filled yanks………..exactly!!

        2011———here we come………….just like the last 102 yrs………LOSERS!….but look at all the B rated prospects………ahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

        • The Maven

          Are you a White Sox or Cardinals fan in disguise?

          • cubs1967

            haha-good question though……….dude my basement in painted in Cubs colors w/ autographs from Ryno at his HOF ceremony to a picture signed and addressed to me from Ron Cey…… balls-photos–hell even my sons has Cubs binkys at birth………..i’m just done w/ “let wait for the prospects to pan out” crap……we’ve been there………it don’t work!

            new owners do not show up-jack up tix prices 2 yrs running and then LOWER payroll……..while asking for public handouts to fix the Dump and new spring training complex. they done everything wrong. (NOT TO MENTION THE RYNO PR DISASTER).

            it’s time cubs fans expect a winner ; nothing less. don’t give me 8 B rated prospects and get happy………seriously.

            all i can say is good the convention is NOT sold out; step 1 in teaching the owners a lesson. i bet they get booed.

            step 2-don’t attend games.

            look at the Sox—they don’t even have 9 B rated prospects-prob even C…kenny trades them all……….but Sox fans are gonna die happy w/ at least 1 championship.

          • The Maven

            I agree that Cubs fans should be making an economic impact to influence change.

          • Tony

            Also, I am extremely jealous of your basement. I am finishing my basement right now, and would love to have the Cubs decor with Ryno HOF picture and all. My son’s room has always been Cubs decor (he was named after Sandberg), but my finished basement is still, aways off.

          • cubs1967

            it’s white-red-blue. huge Cubs logo on 1 wall.
            black and white huge framed photo of wrigley in a lightning storm…..looks really cool. huge mural like framed painting of wrigley, harry, jack, ryno, all the ’69 guys, gracie, woody, etc in a collage. photos of maddux on his 300th win game, ryno’s autograph w/ his rookie card and HOF postcard plaque framed, signed balls in a wall display, cubs teddy bears on display w/ maddux, grace and sosa on back. cubs wooden clock. ron cey auto framed w/ his dodger rookie and cubs cards. plus a few other photos.

            good luck w/ yours!!

          • cubs1967

            OH……..and ZERO championships displays!!/haha.

        • Tony

          You seem to think that all of these FA’s and teams are willing to make the Cubs better, just because they haven’t won in over 100 years.

          Would the Red Sox want ARam! They are much happier with AGon and Youkilis, then Youkilis and ARam. I for one, would have went after AGon, but their would have been a limit as to how far I or anyone would go to get him. And don’t forget, maybe AGon directed this trade to Boston. Players have choices as well.

          The Cubs should go after FA’s again, next offseason, and the following year. Once they know which of these prospects are ready and which ones are not. Not sure which Yankees you are talking about, as they have used this same formula to get where they are at today. Use players from their own systems, and buy the players that fill the holes, that are left behind.

          Zero Championships or not (and actually the Cubs have won the World Series, you know prior to the Titanic sailing…) doesn’t mean you make bad decisions, worse, by adding to it. This team needs to move out the bad contracts, of which a good chuck is gone after next season.

        • Patrick_Schaefer

          Vitters is overrated in my opinion. Aram has been mostly very good for the cubs, injury prone but good, the BoSox would not trade for Aram after his down year last year his poor defense and large money owed they would be over the luxury tax. DeWitt still has upside, Hudson is and has been on the downside the last couple years. Not to mention we have several middle infield prospects who could fill that hole in a year or 2. Greinke is good but overrated. Agon is a stud and it would have been nice to get him. Hendry supposedly tried and we lost out. Garza hasn’t been traded yet and the Cubs are in the bidding for him.
          I would love for this team to win the world series, after this year the Cubs have a crapload of money coming off the books look for them to make a splash then.

  • paulcatanese

    In case I dont get a chance to post today,,,,, Happy New Year to everyone on the site and posters.

    • Neil

      Paul, Happy New Year!

    • The Maven

      Happy New Year, Paul!

      • paulcatanese

        to the Maven and Neil,thanks for the response. I entered wrong and should
        have done to the body,sorry

  • Steven Petty


    On my blackberry tour, I can see the page and read the article, but the comments do not display. Is there something that I need to do? Can you please help me so I can read the comments as well? Thank you. Happy New Year.

    • Neil

      Steven, right now Disqus is not readable on a blackberry … I’m sorry. Disqus is working on the issue from what I’ve been told. This is not just a CCO issue, but all of Disqus.

      And Happy New Year to you!

  • paulcatanese

    Neil,they All look good to me. As I have said before,keep em,bring em up and play them.We could do no worse than we have done,,,,and they might surprise a lot of people.

  • GrantJones7

    1. Brett Jackson, OF
    2. Chris Archer, RHP
    3. Trey McNutt, RHP
    4. Hak-Ju Lee, SS
    5. Jay Jackson, RHP
    6. Brandon Guyer, OF
    7. Hayden Simpson, RHP
    8. Josh Vitters, 3B
    9. Chris Carpenter, RHP
    10. D.J. LeMahieu, IF

    I like that list a lot, except i would take out Simpson as we know NOTHING about him and put Ha at 10, i like him a lot more then other people but i think he could be pretty good

  • Aaron

    You know what I think is the most humorous development of this offseason for the Cubs? The Cubs finished in 5th place last year…Even the lowly Astros finished 1 game ahead of them.

    So what does Hendry do to improve the team? He signs Kerry Wood and Carlos Pena. I think most fans would agree that pitching was NOT the issue last year, and especially wasn’t the issue down the stretch (sure the pen was leaky early on, but it improved dramatically after Piniella left). But the main issue was lack of offense, so Hendry goes out and signs a guy that hit just .196 last year…LOL

    It’s almost criminal how poorly this franchise is run with Hendry at the helm. It’s almost like we have an absentee owner in all of this. What are the Ricketts watching? How in the hell did that family make billions in the financial sector without making tough personnel/management decisions?!? Why can’t they apply those same tactics to running the Cubs?

    • Gary J

      After Lou left – the pen improved. After the pen improved – the record improved. So signing Wood was a good thing. Shore up a weakness that killed us in the early season and bring a favored son back home.

      The rotation lost a bulldog in Lilly, so there’s a hole there. I desperately hope that one of the youngsters steps up – there’s always a rookie pitcher here or there that makes an impact each year in the bigs. I’d still rather see a deal for Garza but we’ve talked about what I see as pluses with that before.

      As for Pena – Lee’s OBP before he got traded to ATL was only 10 points higher than Pena’s on the year and Pena is a legitimate power threat. He’s averaged 36 hr/yr the last 4 years. And he’s a gold glove defender.

      Plus I’m going on record – there’s no way he hits .198 again.

      So yes – Pena’s not Pujols or AGon or Fielder… but he’s an upgrade in the lineup to Lee – and with a one year deal there’s a shot we could have Pujols or AGon or Fielder if they hit the market next year.

      Is it a sexy move? HELL no. Is it a smart move especially considering the contract? I think so at least.

      But his options were limited by the contracts already on the books – which yes – it’s his fault. (although the players not living up to the salaries is their fault) Doesn’t change that his options were limited for this offseason.

      With the limitations in mind – signing Wood and Pena upgrades both the pen and the lineup from where we ended the year.

      The rotation is down huge from where we ended the year – losing Lilly hurts. And a lot of people have pointed to the number of quality starts last year as the strength of the team… and Lilly was a big part of that.

      But hope remains with the prospects and maybe a deal. I’d say getting Garza would be a lateral move from Lilly and would keep the status quo there. (arguable I know – Lilly is better as of right now – but aging. Garza 27 with ace potential. But both innings eaters) Plugging in a prospect would be a significant downgrade. Garza keeps the rotation solid… a prospect would be a question mark.

      And considering how the team played after Lou left with the 24-13 record – having a minor upgrade to the offense, a significant upgrade to the pen (if Grabow is indeed healthy – if not then Wood just makes it a solid upgrade), and a drop in the rotation which was considered a strength last year….

      Hope. I have hope.

    • cubs1967

      ‘cuz P.K. McCaskey and family are soooooooooo far over their skis; they are like deer in headlights. seriously………look at their non-accomplishments. their biggest effort has been to put a “C” on the john doors while leaving troughs (‘cuz we Cubs fans should be treated like piss), apparently, and to get public handouts for a spring training complex and the Dump. OH and raise tix prices while lowering payroll.

      NOT a one dominincan or asian signing of note; no new scouts of note for foreign signings; no new complexes or improvments either-zip zero.

      they were the 3rd highest bidder. they were forced to up their bid becuz in 2007 the economy was still hot i would guess by 150M. then the economy tanked; so their down pymt had to be 400M; i bet 200M higher than they ever imagined and then found out the Dump………is a damn Dump.(hmmmmmmm….typically before you buy a house; you have a “walkthrough”. where they hell were they for their “walkthrough”?
      did U see Todd on the Boss show; how did you not know the workers clubhouse was cramped–hello–its 100 yrs old. he didn’t know the trailer in the parking lot had been replaced to a smaller version……….hello–did you walk around.

      the mccaskey’s are clueless. kenney craine is a leftover tribune clown.
      JH……… just bumbling around….pissing off HOF 2nd baseman.

      calgon——-take me away!!

  • Jmill76


  • Patrick_Schaefer

    Happy New Year Everybody!

  • Chuck

    To the best fans in the world, a very happy new year. Get rid of the Blackberry, go Apple. Calos Pena signs a one year for 10 million, Derrick Lee signs one year for 8 million. Give me Lee over Pena anyday.