Two Cubs’ Farmhands to Keep an Eye on in 2011

The Cubs have a lot of depth throughout the system in the middle infield. From players such as Tony Thomas, Ryan Flaherty, Wes Darvill, Junior Lake, Logan Watkins, Marwin Gonzalez, D.J. LeMahieu and Hak-Ju Lee, the Cubs have big athletic middle infielders that project as big league ball players coming through the system … and two of those players could be on the verge of separating themselves from the group.

I’m going to go out on a limb and predict D.J. LeMahieu and Hak-Ju Lee will have breakout seasons in 2011.

D.J. LeMahieu
The Cubs selected D.J. LeMahieu in the second round of the 2009 draft. LeMahieu wasted no time signing his contract and put up decent numbers in 41 games between rookie ball and Low Class-A in 2009 … .323/.376/.384/.760 with four doubles and three triples.

The 22-year old (July 13, 1988) right-handed infielder is coming off a solid first full year of pro ball. LeMahieu posted a .314/.346/.386/.732 line (24 doubles, five triples and two home runs) in 135 games at Daytona (High Class-A). LeMahieu struck out only 61 times in 600 plate appearances last year, but walked only 29 times as well and showed little home run power as predicted by Tim Wilken when he was drafted.

Quotes from Tim Wilken, the Cubs Director of Amateur and Professional Scouting, on D.J. LeMahieu:

  • “He runs average, plays the game well and is going to have some power down the road.”
  • “But it’s going to be a few years. It’s going to be three to four years in my mind before you see that he has that kind of pop.”
  • “He handled the bat really good in the Cape Cod League (last) summer. He hits the ball really well to the other side of the field. When you know you’ve got a guy that can hit the ball the other way that well … the hitting instructors will tell you that nine times out of 10, this guy will have a chance to pull the ball with authority as he gets older and stronger.”

LeMahieu is listed at 6’4″, 185 lbs and has already reported to “Camp Colvin” this winter to work on filling out that large frame. Once LeMahieu starts hitting with power and shows he can deliver consistently, I feel he will move up the system rather quickly.

LeMahieu spent a decent amount of time at three infield positions last year, shortstop (25 games), third base (39 games) and second base (65 games). With a .990 fielding percentage at second base, if LeMahieu can add some power he could be a very good Major League second baseman … but third base may not be out of the question.

LeMahieu is solid fundamentally and is a smart player. He will more than likely get more time at second and third next season, with even less time at short. LeMahieu is decent a shortstop but lacks the range teams would like a shortstop to possess, couple that with the likes of Hak-Ju Lee and Starlin Castro, his original position is likely not where he will end up.

D.J. LeMahieu will likely start the year with the Smokies (Double-A) and could end up in Iowa before the season is over.

More on D.J. LeMahieu
John Sickels of Minor League Ball.com gave LeMahieu a C+ in his recent Cubs’ top prospects list for 2011. I feel the C+ is a bit low …
Chicago Cubs Top Prospects for 2011 – Minor League Ball.com

Here is the link to a profile I wrote about D.J. LeMahieu last April … Chicago Cubs Prospect Profile: D.J. LeMahieu

Scouting Report on LeMahieu before the 2009 draft

D.J. LeMahieu’s Page on Baseball-Reference.com

Hak-Ju Lee
Hak-Ju Lee is a speedy shortstop with exceptional range and a great arm … and Lee has been in the rumor mill a lot of late. The Rays are rumored to be asking for Lee in a possible Matt Garza deal. Lee had a good season in his first full year of pro ball. Lee played 122 games for the Peoria Chiefs at just 19 … the Korean-born shortstop turned 20 on November 4.

Lee did okay at the plate last year in Low Class-A ball. Lee posted a .282/.354/.351/.704 line in 551 plate appearances with 22 doubles, four triples and a home run. Lee struck out 86 times, walked 49 times and was successful in 32 of his 39 stolen base attempts.

In the field, Lee had a .939 fielding percentage last year (34 errors in 561 chances). Lee’s error total should go down as he matures.

Hak-Ju Lee is currently in Korea working with his personal trainer. The Cubs want him to add about 15 pounds to his 6’2″ 170 pound frame … reportedly, Lee has already added 10 pounds.

Lee is not projected to hit with a lot of power, but adding some muscle in his version of “Camp Colvin” could only help. If Lee is able to fill out his frame a little better, he could end up hitting around 10 home runs a year with more than his fare share of doubles and triples, thanks to his speed.

Hak-Ju Lee could end up as the Cubs’ leadoff hitter but he is still at least a couple of years away. Lee should begin 2011 at Daytona and he could end up in Double-A by the end of the season. Many feel Lee is a one-level per year guy which would mean a full year in High Class-A with the Smokies being a possible destination as late as Opening Day 2012.

The potential is there but Lee is a little raw … but I think he will make great strides in the coming year.

More on Hak-Ju Lee
John Sickels of Minor League Ball.com gave Lee a ‘B’ in his recent Cubs’ top prospects list for 2011. Chicago Cubs Top Prospects for 2011 – Minor League Ball.com

Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus recently ranked Hak-Ju Lee as the fifth best prospect in the Cubs’ system.

Goldstein’s perfect world projection for Hak-Ju Lee: Lee could be an everyday shortstop with good defense and enough bat to hit toward the top of the order.
Path to the big leagues according to Baseball Prospectus: Lee made excellent strides in 2010 but he’s still one-level-at-a-time-talent. Lee will spend most, if not all, of 2011 at High-A Daytona. ETA – Late 2013

Here is the link to a profile I wrote about Hak-Ju Lee last May … Chicago Cubs Prospect Profile: Hak-Ju Lee

Scouting Report on Lee last May from MLB Fanhouse

Hak-Ju Lee’ Page on Baseball-Reference.com

Quote of the Day

"There are only two seasons ... winter and baseball." - Bill Veeck

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  • Tony_Hall

    I didn’t realize LeMahieu was 6’4″ and with joining Camp Colvin, putting on some muscle is a great, move and shows his dedication.

    This also shows that the rating systems (C+ for this guy) are a crapshoot. The guys with more publicity will get higher rankings, and that is where a good scouting departement is needed. Anybody can take the ranking list of another team, and try to get their top “ranked” players in a deal. A good scouting department finds, guys that are ranked low or not ranked at all, and deals for them for their players only worthy of getting an unheralded prospect in return.

  • Tony_Hall

    Patrick – D.J. seems pretty versatile on the field and has size. If he can develop into our future 2B or 3B, that would be great.

    Is he a possibility to play 1B down the road. He’s athletic enough to play anywhere, and has the size, I like over at 1B. If he finds that power stroke as he develops, that might work. What do you think?

    • The Maven

      Tony, I’ve wondered the same thing about LeMahieu. At 6’4″, he can be considered “too tall” for other infield positions. As the theory goes, reflexes and flexability diminish over time. Tall infielders will then have increasing difficulty in “getting down” on ground balls. However, height can be a plus at first base. If he develops power as projected, you could have a very good all-around first baseman. If not, he could possibly be a “Mark Grace type”.

      • GrantJones7

        I think maybe 3rd base, 1st would help a lot though!

    • Patrick_Schaefer

      2b or 3b is a much more likely scenario. Preferably he can stick at second. He is good defensively but his arm is only average to slightly above average and at 3b u want a guy with a good arm.

      • Tony_Hall

        Thanks Patrick!

  • Tony_Hall

    I can’t wait to see Hak Ju Lee at Wrigley. Late 2013, I guess I will have to use my Cubbie patience on this one….

    I am going to fast forward his debut to Opening Day of 2013. That means Castro has 2 years to develop more and for other players to develop around him to determine what position he would ever move to, upon Lee’s arrival. Most of our top prospects for 2B or 3B, being closer to the show than Lee, upon his arrival, we could have a very nice young athletic infield, to go with an athletic outfield for many years.

    2011 is a reshuffling of the deck and will hopefully lead to some quality playing time and development of our young players. Having a winning record and competing would be nice, but is unlikely, except in a dream scenario.

    2012 should be a year of more youth and filling the roster with the RIGHT FA’s as to not block guys like Lemahieu and Lee in the future. If the young guys get the time in 2011, 2012 could be a fun year, with many more to come.

    2013 – Hak Ju Lee arrives. Our infield could be extremely athtletic, Castro, Lee, Lemaieu, Flaherty, Vitters at one of the corners.

    The young guys are coming, let’s hope that our team will keep the elite, the difference makers, trade off the hype, and sign the right difference making FA’s to fill in our holes, that our system can’t fill. The Yankees and Red Sox have used this formula to get competive and stay competive.

    • studio179

      “2013 – Hak Ju Lee arrives. Our infield could be extremely athtletic, Castro, Lee, Lemaieu, Flaherty, Vitters at one of the corners.”

      I would hope the same. I just do not see that as the Cubs and Hendry will likely use one or two of those names in trades this offseason or next. They will trade from their strength and up the middle is strong.

  • Tony_Hall

    If you haven’t read John Sickels propsect rankings (link above in Patrick’s article.) read it.

    It finishes like this.

    ‘The theory is that by being strong on the mound and at catcher, center field, and middle infield, you have chips to trade to fill in your offensive gaps at the corners. It’s a good theory, but remember von Moltke’s dictum: no plan survives contact with the enemy intact.’

    This team is strong up the middle and could have many combinations of players make it to the majors. This team should be able to fill in C/2B/SS/CF from their system. They should have some spill over to 3B, and one of the corner OF’s (hopefully both corners) from within the system.

    The glaring hole is an impact bat at 1B!!!!

    This needs to be filled via FA or trade.

    • The Maven

      I’m going to channel my inner “Ripsnorter” here. The main consideration is that the Cubs need to develop is their power, especially their right handed power. The Cubs seem to be somewhat well set left handed with Tyler Colvin, Brett Jackson, Ryan Flaherty, Matt Spencer, Kyler Burke, and Justin Bour among the young power hitters.

      Right handed power seems to be concentrated at the catcher position, including Soto, Chirinos, and Castillo. After that, Brandon Guyer and Josh Vitters are the only right handed power hitters on the horizon. Youngsters such as Brandon May, Jae-Hoon Ha, and Reggie Golden appear to be works in progress. If the Cubs can develop their power, first base will take care of itself.

      • Gramps

        I think Jae-Hoon Ha is the sleeper in the organization.

        • GrantJones7

          Theres a reason i put him #10 on my list, i like Ha very much

    • studio179

      “‘The theory is that by being strong on the mound and at catcher, center field, and middle infield, you have chips to trade to fill in your offensive gaps at the corners.”

      That is the plan and guys Tim Wilken usually drafts.

  • Tony_Hall

    John Sickles on the pitching in the system.

    “The foundation for a strong pitching staff is clearly here.”

    This is why I don’t agree with going out (this offseason) and signing or trading for a pitcher, who is not a clear #1 starter. This team will have the payroll flexibility, starting next year, to add, elite, difference makers, when they are available.

  • cubs1967

    here’s hoping all these prospects don’t become the next felix pie or corey patterson…….or worse earl cunningham, karl pagel, ryan harvey(who btw is w/ the bosox now and attempting to become a pitcher).

    while the majority of this site is excited about minor leaguers; I’m wondering why I should be stating 107 yrs and counting and NO championships while we wait for them………….because that’s what’s gonna happen. in 5 yrs.gents and ladies and your too P.K. McCaskey……….we shouldn’t be waiting.

    nice BS about major league money moved to the minor league system….yet there has not been 1 significant domincan or asian siging this off season….and the draft will cost more becuz the cubs pick is higher-top 10-becuz the team sucked……..who’s fault is that??
    ………….i beleive the money is being used to cover the debt the PK MCCaskey family has, to cover maintentace and repairs to the Dump, etc. this is just a good cover to say “monies” are being used in the minors becuz those figures are not public………….but the signings are and there haven’t been any yet.
    more BS from an imcompetent owner and management………while they figure out what the hell they are doing………and more fans like Santo die waiting and waiting to win something.

    buying the Cubs req’d an uber billionaire……like a Cuban who could absorb losses w/ a very high payroll to end the 102 yrs and counting streak…….
    not sure how MLB policy overruled the bankruptcy courts and allowed the Cubs to be sold to the 3rd highest bidder and w/ the Tribune starting year 3 of bankruptcy even a more curious decision this happened as the unsecured creditors are now wanting bonuses paid from the sale……….how about the 200M left on the table by uncle Bud and his bandit of archaic owners not allowing the sale to Cuban or the other 1B bidder from New York??

    it’s not a coincendence the Cubs convention is NOT sold out…….usually in hours or a day………..but NEVER not sold out. hint-hint-P.K.

    i’ll bet anyone right now attendance does not exceed 2.7M………which would be a 600K loss from the peak in 2009. that’s a HUGE revenue loss…another HINT-P.K.

    here’s a roadmap for the new owners (like the Bears have 3 keys to any season-beat the packers, win the division and win the SB.)

    1.win the WS
    2.build from within
    3.fix the Dump

    if number 1 happens, the Dump will get fixed………but don’t try to fix the Dump while number 1 is yeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaars away while we wait for all these NON 5 star prospects to develop…or not develop………Mr Pagel.

    • daverj

      Love the Karl Pagel reference. And you’re right on. It seems so many on this site are so excited about all our prospects. While the system is better than it’s been the past few years, the system has been much better at various times in the past and very few of those players actually panned out. NOW is the time to deal some of these guys if the opportunity arises to bring in a quality major leaguer like Garza … before their luster wears off ala Vitters.

      Tony, John Sickels is recognized as one of the top evaluators of minor league talent and does not rely on “publicity” for his rankings. If Sickels says a player is a C+, I’d trust him over most (if not all) other sources. It is much more likely that Cub fans are overrating D.J., not Sickels underrating him. That’s not to say that D.J. won’t be be a great major league player, it just means the odds are well against him and I’d have no problem dealing him.

      On a related note, the consensus is that the Cubs have a deep system with many potential decent major leaguers, but don’t have any future superstars. I think most Cub fans are evaluating our future with their hearts (and hopes) and not their heads…

      • Tony_Hall

        Thats good that you trust Sickels – From John Sickels –

        “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.”

        Lemahieu got a C+ – I think people sometimes believe that only A, 5 star, etc prospects will play major leagues. B/C, 3 star/4 star players make the majors, just a lesser percentage of them.

        Sickels ranked Hayden Simpson 7th – I bet if he was drafted where he was projected to be drafted, he would not be in the Top 20 Cubs prospects, let alone the Top 10. Even Sickels, ups prospects on hype. Everyone does.

      • The Maven

        It’s interesting that you use Karl Pagal as an example, because he’s the perfect example as to how the Cubs historically mistreat their prospects, not how their prospects are overhyped. Pagal put up monster numbers in 1978-79 in AAA. Most franchises would bend over backward to give a player like him an opportunity. But the Cubs blocked his progress with Bill Buckner, Bobby Murcer, Jerry Martin, and Dave Kingman (the Milton Bradley of his time). They then “boxed” him in when they drafted players like Billy Hatcher, Henry Cotto, and Joe Carter. By the time they had an chance to promote him, he had grown stale and they traded him off to Cleveland (the Pittsburgh of that day). Here’s hoping that doesn’t happen with some of the present minor leaguers.

      • sadowski

        Well Sickles has had a turn of events, he’s always struggled with Wilken drafts, just go back and read past stuff whether it was Toronto, Tampa and here with the Cubs. You get a rare comment from Wilken about Lemahieu and I’m going with him over Sickles.

    • Tony_Hall

      When you have little to cheer for at the major league level, you look to the prospects.

      You always seem to want them to go for it this year. JH has been going for it every year, and it hasn’t worked.

      What specifically, would you like them to do, to win the World Series? Tell us what your moves would have been this offseason, that would put the Cubs in a better position, to win it all.

  • The Maven

    “Teach your children well, their father’s hell did slowly go by,
    And feed them on your dreams, the one they fix, the one you’ll know by.
    Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
    So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.”

    Every time I read comments like the ones just posted, it makes me sigh, just like in the song lyrics. It seems as if no matter how hard you try, some people just don’t seem to get it. You tell them over and over again that well run franchises develop their own talent, and they keep clammoring for other people’s problems. Then they complain that management hasn’t provided them a winner, when it’s there own desires that stand in the way. That’s when it truely sucks to be a Cubs fan.

    • daverj

      I actually agree with you that the well run franchises develop their own talent. I just don’t that our farm system is so great right now so if we can deal some of the more highly regarded ones for major league talent, I’d do it. I’d hold on to B Jackson, but everyone else would be available in the right deal.

      As for Pagel, even when top prospects are held back, if they have the talent, the eventually shine in another organization. Pagel never did. The Cubs management was right about him. The cream always rises to the top … sometimes it take a little longer when an organization holds a guy back … but if he’s the real deal, he’ll make it elsewhere (like Brandon Phillips, Jason Werth, and other top talents that were held back).

  • GrantJones7

    Well i think everyone knows my love for Hak, i think he could make huge strides this year and make it to Tenn, i think the extra muscle will help imensly

  • roseyc

    I think Sutcliffe would be the ideal one. He is a plesant voice to listen to and is humorous enough with good knownledge of the game and doesn’t beat you down with criticizism. My personal favorite would be Stoney. It so strange to see him with the Sox. While they are at it why don’t they get rid of Kasper…

  • Aaron

    I will refrain from reiterating what I’ve said all season about this team going nowhere, what they should/shouldn’t do in trades/FA, and how to plan for the future.

    Instead, I want to reflect on a few things that have been posted recently…and a few other things on my mind:

    First of all, I think we’d all agree that the Ricketts family really isn’t as advertised (by themselves). They quite obviously have no plan for the present or future, other than adding revenue streams, which is their prerogative as owners…I get it. What I don’t get, is why they gave all these statements about how winning right away and being good for years to come was of utmost importance to them…and here’s why it’s confounding to me:
    1) If winning right away was so important, then why would they stick with a GM that was just coming off a season in which he looked so lost and overmatched comparatively speaking? Why would they stick with a manager who looked like he’d just mailed it in the prior season, then watch as he proceeded to do the EXACT same thing the very next season, then watch as he literally checked himself out of the season? Why would they then hand the reigns of the team to a guy like Quade that was part of the debacles the past 2 seasons?

    2) Outside of baseball, if winning was so important, why would they spend all their time and energy on stadium upgrades and finding different revenue streams?

    3) If winning was so important, and building from within so important (as stated by them), then why would they be in the bottom of the league in spending on the draft and international free agents?

    4) If building from within was so important, then why would they even consider trading a building block like Hak-Ju Lee for a position of strength (pitching)?

    5) If they really wanted to build from within and reward their own, then why the hell would they not give Sandberg the position? It’d be a message to the players and coaches alike, that if you work your tail off in the minors and do a great job, you’ll be rewarded.

    6) The Ricketts said they met with the Red Sox, because they wanted to get it right, and follow the blueprint of a successful organization. Too bad they seem clueless as to how the Red Sox won a championship. Maybe they didn’t take good notes, or perhaps they just lack the same vision and commitment that won the championship for the Red Sox. If anyone doesn’t know the story, I’ll refresh your memory. In 2002, a group led by John Henry, Larry Luchinno, and Tom Werner took over the team. They made an impact immediately, firing the GM Duquette in Spring Training, then a week later, firing the manager, Joe Kerrigan. They were replaced by Mike Port and Grady Little respectively. The team finished that season 10 1/2 games behind the Yankees and 6 behind the Wild Card Angels. So what did they do? They replaced Port with Epstein…and after the playoff debacle of 2003, they replaced Little with Francona, and the rest is history. The point of this is, they didn’t set idly by, and watch their team implode. They made some tough decisions right away, and they got results. It taught everyone in the organization that if they’re spending the kind of $$ they were, then they better produce, or they’re out…and that’s precisely what happened. There’s a LOT more to their player personnel decisions that I didn’t mention, but getting good management in there was absolutely key to their success….All you have to do is look at the Phillies, who quite obviously followed the same blueprint the Red Sox did, and look how far they’ve come.

    I’m just sick of this management and the complacency they’ve shown thus far.

    • Scott McMeekan

      Aaron, always great to read your thoughtful posts. As usual, all I can really say is “I AGREE” as loudly as my sick lungs will let me. (nothing serious, just bad bug)

      As some of you older members here may remember, I own a manufacturing business. Nowhere in America has the logic of what Aaron describes above been more obvious than in US Manufacturing. My small company survived the “Great Depression” we’re still currently mired in because we did exactly what the Red Sox mgmt did. Honestly assessed the situation, made some tough decisions, and then worked our asses off to make sure we got results. And if they weren’t forthcoming in a quick enough manner, then we made changes and re-doubled our efforts. It’s the only way folks. Call it whatever mantra you want, “Continuous Improvement” or whatever. Nobody I know has a customer base that will just gladly keep buying parts from me as I raise prices willy nilly, allow my quality to go to hell, and tell them all the while, “Hey, I really care about you Mr. Customer! It’s going to get better, I promise!”

      I had hopes for Ricketts, I really did. But so far he’s pushing sand, and my mouth is dry.

  • Baron_S

    http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/news;_ylt=Av_B2xXzRYH4x8C88Q_fBEMRvLYF?slug=ti-powerrankings122310

    http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/powerrankings

    http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/powerRankings

    The Cubs rank 22nd out of 30 teams in just about every power-ranking conducted by national media outlets.

    The way things stand today, a 90 loss season is very possible.

    1 single real off-season move for a fat Dominican with a career .241 average. The positive news is — If Jim Hendry can keep his job by being a donkey, so can anyone else.