Twenty Names from the Cubs Farm System

The Vine Line’s annual look at the Cubs’ farm system, with Brett Jackson on the cover, features twenty players in the Cubs organization to keep an eye on in the upcoming season.

The Cubs farm system has shown improvement in the last four years and the organization, as a whole, remains deep in talent. Even with the promotions of Starlin Castro, Andrew Cashner and Tyler Colvin to the big league team and sending four of the top prospects in the organization to Tampa for Matt Garza, the Cubs have players down on the farm that project as Major Leaguers.

The Vine Line pointed out the hit the farm system took with what Jim Hendry described as a “good old-fashioned baseball trade” between the Cubs and Rays. The Cubs still have depth, athleticism and versatility throughout the system “with several top prospects knocking at the big league door.”

Most know the usual suspects but there are players outside of Trey McNutt, Brett Jackson, Jay Jackson, Chris Carpenter and Josh Vitters that could play a role for the Cubs down the road.

Here are the 20 players, in alphabetical order; all are linked to their page on Baseball-Reference.com with their date of birth in parenthesis, plus how the Cubs acquired them.

  • Tony Campana, OF – (05/30/86) – 13th round pick in the 2008 draft
  • Chris Carpenter, RHP – (12/26/85) – 3rd round pick in the 2008 draft
  • Welington Castillo, C – (04/24/87) – Signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2004
  • Rafael Dolis, RHP – (01/10/88) – Signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2004
  • Ryan Flaherty, IF – (07/27/86) – Supplemental Pick (round between first and second) in the 2008 draft
  • Micah Gibbs, C – (07/27/88) – 3rd round pick in the 2010 draft
  • Reggie Golden, OF – (10/10/91) – 2nd round pick in the 2010 draft
  • Brett Jackson, OF – (08/02/88) – 1st round pick in the 2009 draft
  • Jay Jackson, RHP – (10/27/87) – 9th round pick in the 2008 draft
  • Aaron Kurcz, RHP – (08/08/90) – 10th round pick in the 2010 draft
  • Junior Lake, IF – (3/27/90) – Signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2007
  • D.J. LeMahieu, IF – (07/13/88) – 2nd round pick in the 2009 draft
  • Marcos Mateo, RHP – (04/18/84) – Acquired from the Cincinnati Reds in August of 2007 as the player to be named later for Buck Coats
  • Trey McNutt, RHP – (08/02/89) – 32nd round pick in the 2009 draft
  • Brooks Raley, LHP – (06/29/88) – 6th round pick in the 2009 draft
  • Chris Rusin, LHP – (10/22/86) – 4th round pick in the 2009 draft
  • Hayden Simpson, RHP (05/20/89) – 1st round pick in the 2010 draft
  • Kyle Smit, RHP (10/14/87) – Acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in July of 2010 in the Ted Lilly-Ryan Theriot trade
  • Josh Vitters, 3B (08/27/89) – 1st round pick in the 2007 draft
  • Logan Watkins, IF/OF (08/29/89) – 21st round pick in the 2008 draft

Of the 20 players mentioned by the Vine Line, four players are currently on the Cubs’ 40-man roster … Welington Castillo, Rafael Dolis, Marcos Mateo and Kyle Smit.

The two players the Vine Line expects to make a big splash in 2011 are Alberto Cabrera and Rob Whitenack. Cabrera is on the Cubs 40-man roster.

Alberto Cabrera turned 22 back in October (10/25/88) and was added to the Cubs’ big league roster this winter. Cabrera made strides last season with his secondary pitches and repeating his delivery. Cabrera is a power pitcher that throws a mid 90s fastball, a hard slider and a changeup. In 28 games in High Class-A and Double-A last season, the 6’4″, 170-pound right-hander showed improvement with his command. Click here for Alberto Cabrera’s page on Baseball-Reference.

The Cubs drafted Rob Whitenack in the eighth round of the 2009 draft. Whitenack throws a knuckle-curve that rates as an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale. The 6’5″, 180-pound right-hander features a smooth arm delivery with no recoil and throws his fastball in the upper 80s to lower 90s with an average slider and changeup. Click here for Rob Whitenack’s page on Baseball-Reference.

The Cubs big league camp will feature many of the players listed above (Brett Jackson, Jay Jackson, Chris Carpenter, Josh Vitters, Alberto Cabrera, Rafael Dolis, Marcos Mateo, Kyle Smit, Welington Castillo and Trey McNutt) so Mike Quade and his staff will get a first-hand look at many of the young Cubs moving up the ranks.

And just because players like D.J. LeMahieu and Ryan Flaherty did not receive non-roster invites to camp, it does not mean they will not get a chance to play with the big league club in the Cactus League. Several prospects get the call over from minor league camp during the exhibition season, especially on split-squad days.

There are players in the Cubs’ system that project as big leaguers but it is up to them to continue to put in the work and turn their projections into reality.

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  • jw

    Nice work as always!

    It adds another dimension to know more about the minor league system. and it will be interesting to track the development…hopefully the system has improved because that is the key to success. As noted elsewhere what the system lacks is power, infield talent and high ceiling difference makers like the kids SF brought up Baumgartner and Posey. The Cubs need to get lucky and have one of these prospects develop to that level.

    Now I am going into my snow bunker.

  • Aaron

    wow….Jay Jackson is only 14 years old? That’s incredible!!! 10/27/97….LOL….just giving you grief Neil, I know it was a typo….good job though as always with the info.

    I’m curious as to what Vine Line sees in Kyle Smit. The dude is NOT very good, and has just the one good year (last year) thus far after being in the minors for 4 prior seasons, and having ERA’s ranging from 4.09 to 6.55…he also has a horrible career WHIP of 1.517. I just don’t see any other positives with this guy either. He gives up a lot of hits, doesn’t strike out many guys, and doesn’t deserve a spot on the 40-man roster. The only reason he had a sub 4 ERA for the first time in his career was because he was lucky:
    Overall-10-4, 2.25 ERA, 49 games, 72 IP, 75 hits, 14 walks, 63 K’s, 1.236 WHIP
    *with Cubs AA, 5-1, 1.96 ERA, 12 games, 18 IP, 23 hits, 4 walks, 16 K’s, 1.473 WHIP
    Soooooooo…you can see, especially with hits/IP, he’s really pitching to contact, and getting quite a bit of luck doing so, given his track record in previous seasons with high ERAs.

    I’m also not very high on Watkins. Yes, he’s young, and had 2 good seasons in rookie ball at 18 and 19 years old, but in low-A last year, he batted around .260, while having an above average OBP of .350+….but he’s got no power whatsoever. He’s basically the lefty version of Theriot, same height and build, little to no power, decent speed, but gets CS a lot, and he can play both SS and 2B.

    I also debate whether or not the 25 year old Campana will even make it to MLB, or if he’ll be the second coming of Sam Fuld with no power, above average speed, but not elite speed, decent average, but just average OBP. He might make it if we’re really that desperate for speed, otherwise no tool really sticks out to me.

    I also cannot understand why Gibbs didn’t have more success after he was drafted. I was really high on him, and most scouts were too, then he completely bombed in rookie ball, hitting almost Carlos Pena-like in 2010. Hopefully he can put it all together this year, because there were pretty valid comparisons between him and Wieters based on their college stats and their physical similarities, and the fact they’re both switch hitters.

    It also is confounding why Tony Thomas and Marquez Smith aren’t on that list. I realize with Thomas, I’m going to catch a lot of flack here, but like Gibbs, I was really high on him coming out of college, and I know I’ll REALLY catch some grief here…but if you compare Tony Thomas to Dan Uggla in their minor league careers, they are pretty damn close in nearly every category. They have very similar builds as well. I just think the Cubs are unnecessarily blocking the guy’s potential, and I truly believe if we lose him next year in the Rule 5 or Rule 55 (not sure which one he’d qualify for…I know the Rule 5 he’d be up for, but I think he already was this year…anyway), he’ll flourish like Uggla did after getting selected in the Rule 5. Thomas has power, speed, a quick bat, and has the versatility to play the OF in a pinch if necessary. I like him better than Barney and DeWitt at 2B.

    I was also never a fan of Junior Lake until late last season. I think he came on pretty strong, and that certainly bodes well for our future given the fact we dealt Hak-Ju Lee. Lake has the best arm of any IF in our system, but his bat really never came around until last year.

    The best case scenario for the Cubs at this point is to have LeMahieu develop enough power to play corner IF. Vitters to realize his potential as a 1st round pick, and play corner IF for us, and one of Thomas/Flaherty/Lake grabs hold of 2B.

    It would also be huge if Golden, Jackson, Sczur, and Colvin become our OF corps.

    I also love the idea of a power hitting switch hitter at catcher in Gibbs to combine with Soto or Castillo.

    It’ll NEVER work out the way I outlined, but it would be something if all these players Wilken put together could compete like his Blue Jays players did at the MLB level.

    C-Soto/Castillo, Gibbs
    1B-LeMahieu/Vitters
    2B-Thomas/Flaherty/Lake
    SS-Castro
    3B-LeMahieu/Vitters
    LF-Golden
    CF-Jackson/Sczur
    RF-Colvin

    It’d also be something if Burgess could develop into a bona-fide power hitting corner OF.

    The thing we really need a LOT more of in our system is high average guys like LeMahieu (who really is the only consistent hitter we have down there), and power hitters at corner IF and corner OF.

    I hope Wilken recognizes these weaknesses and addresses them in this year’s draft

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Aaron, thanks for catching. I corrected it.

    • Ripsnorter1

      “[You] hope Wilken recognizes these weknesses and addresses them in this year’s draft?” What’s Wilken been doing, anyway? We have the #20 system out of the 30 MLB Clubs. Sure, Jim Clueless, “in a good old fashioned baseball trade,” dealt away two of our top four players, but still–#20?

      What am I saying? I have no confidence in this management to anything right.

      • Gary J

        That number 20 was number 10 before the trade – so that’s skewing things a little don’t you think Rip? :-)

        • Tony_Hall

          Not really. They gave up 4 players and it dropped them 10 spots. Thats not good.

    • GrantJones7

      Dont count out Ha in the OF!

      Also, I was very high on Gibbs also, im hopeing to see a bounce back

    • Patrick_Schaefer

      Well put, Aaron !!!

  • Patrick_Schaefer

    DJ LeMahieu and Hak Ju Lee were the players noted to make the biggest splash last year, and while LeMahieu hit .314 he didn’t show a lot of power. I read that they were working with him at the end of last year trying to teach him to turn on the ball, and with the added 20+ pounds of muscle he put on this year, I think he will make the biggest splash this year. LeMahieu has been referred to as the “Best Pure Hitter” in the Cubs System if he develops the power I think he could be a real force for the Cubs in the future!!! It is very interesting that with little power he still knocked in 73 runs last year. He did have 2 HR but he needs to show a lot more than that. Onieri Fleita said that his body will determine whether he plays 2b or 3b, and I think despite the added muscle weight the Cubs are hoping he can stay at 2b, but I think it is more likely that he moves to 3b. At this point I think he has a greater chance of being a starter at 3b than Vitters. Vitters hit the weights this year as well, hopefully it has a big impact as well, he needs to learn though that just because he has really quick hands and bat speed and can make contact with all kinds of pitches in and out of the zone, he still needs to be choosy. If his defense starts to come along he could stay at 3b, He has a great arm, but he will be playing 1b and 3b this year and I think at this point it is more likely that he moves to 1b.
    I am happy to see that Tony Campana made the list, he added some muscle this winter as well I know the Cubs really like his speed and defense, if you havn’t read the article I wrote about him it is a good one and you should check it out http://chicagocubsonline.com/archives/2011/01/cubstonycampana.php#disqus_thread

    • Gary J

      Nice insight on LeMahieu – I’d say that getting 73 RBI with only 2 dingers shows he’s a clutch hitter on top of it. He’s never shown that much power even back to his high school days – but he’s always hit for average. To me that says 2B but we’ll see. Looking forward to seeing how AA goes for him this year.

  • Ripsnorter1

    Well now, Just got through reading the Bleacher Report and their scuttlebutt about the Cubs shopping Geovanny Soto. “Jim Hendry has never liked Soto very much.” Could it be due to the fact that he was rated the #4 Pot Head–of all time–in MLB? You can read it at this link:
    http://coedmagazine.com/2010/10/11/10-of-baseballs-best-and-brightest-potheads/

    Soto had a fine year in 2010. Even the Bleacher Report–THE N.I.V. BLEACHER REPORT!!!!!–said that Soto’s AB’s were low due to “injuries and managerial stupidity.” Ain’t that the truth.

    Anyway, Bleacher Eugene Report is speculating that Soto may be departing so Jim Clueless can play his favorite Cubs: Koyie Hill and Max Ramirez.

    I sure hope not.

    • paulcatanese

      Rip,I also read the report and believe they will trade Soto and another for what they think is a “step-in” vet 2nd baseman. I think JH feels he can live with the catchers they have (Hill) and the rest.What JH cannot live with is a top flite 2nd baseman.He needs that to compensate the fact he did not sign that other 2nd baseman for Manager.In his mind he(JH) needs to make the fans forget what was at 2nd.Not an easy task but thats what I think his motive is,and will do whatever he needs to acomplish that goal. Again he is on the sell that this will make them a contender this year in the eyes of the fans.

      • paulcatanese

        What I meant to say above is JH cannot live with the fact that he does NOT have a top flite 2b.And that is his sore spot.

      • Gary J

        Well to be honest – 2b IS the biggest hole in the lineup. And I think they could improve the team more by getting a solid 2b in return for Soto and replacing him internally than by sticking with Baker/DeWitt. Don’t think it has a darn thing to do with not hiring Ryno – it’s simply an identifiable need.

        Plus makes me wonder what’s going on behind the scenes about Soto – he was never anything special in the minors until going nuts in his final year in 2007. 2008 wins ROY… and then regressed big time in 2009. Bounced back (but not all the way back) in 2010… but there always seemed some sort of management doghouse thing going on that we didn’t know about.

        Depends on what 2b might be out there for the asking – because I’d assume teams would be drooling over the possibility of Soto’s bat.

        As for the replacements – Max Ramirez could benefit from getting a real shot (never truly got one at TX) and Castillo throws out 40% as opposed to the paltry 25% that Soto guns down… but in contrast Ramirez is only 22%… if we could somehow combine Max’s bat with Wellington’s glove and arm we’d have something.

        Either way – it does make me wonder about whether or not the Cubs know something about Soto that isn’t public – or if it’s just his below average arm.

        • paulcatanese

          Gary,you make sense with a Soto trade,If Ramirez and Castillo have a FAIR
          shot at catcher. Also depends on what they want along with Soto. I would
          hate to see Hill have the top spot for the year.Also Quade has proven he
          likes the veterans,thats fine also,if they produce.

        • Tony_Hall

          I have advocated trading Soto while he has value, and people might look past the fact he can’t play a whole season. But that was always with Chirinos as 1 option. Maybe they like Max that much.

          • Patrick_Schaefer

            Max has thrown out only 18% of base runners in the minors, that is horrible!
            A guy on BLEACHER REPORT speculates something???? You should NEVER EVER take anything on bleacher report seriously!!! ANYONE I repeat ANYONE can write for Bleacher Report all you have to do is sign up with your e-mail address and fill out a short online form and that’s it your a writer for Bleacher Report!!!

          • Tony_Hall

            I wasn’t referring to the bleacher report “article”, it just seems so much like JH to go with Max R/K Hill catching duo, after trading away Chirinos, and IF he traded Soto.

        • Ripsnorter1

          Gary,
          I love ya, man, but . . . when one speaks of dealing Soto, you are speaking of dealing the #1 offensive catcher in all of MLB. Offensively productive catchers in MLB are EXCEEDINGLY RARE. So if we were to deal Soto, we should be sure to get a TOP OF THE LINE 2B.

          Me–I ain’t dealing Soto because I don’t see a 2B that can hit 20-25 HR per year and field his position effectively.

          Losing teams, teams like the Cubs, deal superstars off for “good” players. Case in point: dealt Bruce Sutter away for Dave Radar, a reserve C, and Ken Reitz, a washed up, aging 3B. Reitz flopped as badly as Little Milty Eugene, and Dave Radar was really a platoon player that was never born to be a full time MLB catcher. In short, the trade was a STUPID TRADE BY CUBS “[MIS]-MANAGEMENT.”

          Need another example? Let’s trade a great reliever for a #5 starter and a potential closer. The stud closer was Lee Smith, one of the greatest closers of all time, and the #5 starter was Al Nipper, whose career WHIP was 1.440. HORRIBLE TRADE. Calvin Scharldi never made it, Nipper was released after just one year and 12 starts, and Lee Smith went on to the Hall of Fame.

          SO WHY IN THE SAM EUGENE WOULD YOU DEAL SOTO AWAY?

          • Gary J

            I’m with the person that said don’t trust bleacher report :-) I doubt they’d trade him unless there was something out there worth trading him for – but if they WERE thinking of dealing him, 2b is the weak spot.

            If there is talk of sending him out though…. makes me wonder what part of the story we don’t know.

            As for him being the best hitting C in MLB… I wouldn’t go that far. Mauer, V Mart, and McCann have him beat – but if you wanted to argue top 5 hitting catchers I’d listen.

            He really lacks in his ability to hold guys on though – and I’m still not sure about his mental makeup. So if a trade offer came along for a top 10 second baseman, I’d be curious.

            Just want to go on record that I’m not in favor of trading the guy though – you’re right that we need hitters and the guy is a plus hitter. But if we got a plus hitting second baseman that could maybe also leadoff…. I think the addition to the lineup by upgrading second over what we have would be greater than what we would lose combined hitting and behind the plate with replacing Soto.

            That’s a big if though – and since there’s no talk about anyone shopping a second baseman of that caliber, pretty sure it’s all just more conjecture

  • Ripsnorter1

    The #1 Pothead was Tim Lincicum, and he sure needs a haircut. And that brings me to the Shark, and his ungodly mane, and makes me wonder if his real problem isn’t . . . .

  • Cubs_fan_in_ky

    I’m curious as to why Justin Bour isn’t on this list. He had a decent season, and he would seem to have some upside at the age of 22.

  • Ripsnorter1

    Suddenly I’m thinking Jim Clueless is keeping Braden LaVerne Looper for our ‘pen. Jim Clueless says, “He saved 28,29, and 28 games in 2003-2005. Why wouldn’t he make our pen better?” I say, “Because #1, this is 2011, six years later, and #2, even when he was saving 28,29, and 28 games in those three years, he still gave up more hits than IP, his whip was 1.466 in 2005, and whether starting or relieving, he has always given up more hits than IP. ANd now at age 36.5, it isn’t likely he has found the fountain of youth, unless of course, he’s using HGH.”

  • paulcatanese

    Neil,nice post,and I sure hope to see some of these guys in the near future.

    • The Maven

      Hey Paul, how are things in sunny California? We’re getting killed here!

      • paulcatanese

        to the Maven. Its not too warm,last week 70’s and sunshine. This week 60’s
        and sun. But it does get cold here nights are in the low 30’s. Actually if
        you were to look on a map of Northern Calif.I am 10 miles north of Redding
        and 1 mile south of Lake Shasta. Used to live on a houseboat on the lake,but
        no longer,too many visitors in the summer. Saw someones post that he was
        going back to his snow bunker,wow.Fishing was great and my son Paul is also
        a guide on the Trinity river where he has taken Dusty Baker out several
        times. Also in the Bay Area where he and another have a deep sea fishing
        boat and have taken many Giant players out for Salmon. Great to have
        you drop a line Paul

  • Ripsnorter1

    IF Cubs’ management likes Max that much, then Jim Clueless must be sharing a bong with Tim Lincicum and Soto. He’s terrible.

  • Ripsnorter1

    People, do you want the Cubs to build a winner? Here’s how you do it: you build a winner by collect DIFFERENCE MAKERS. A difference maker is a player who, in some way, exceeds all others, or is in the top 3 in his position, with his ability to produce runs.

    What would be an example of a top level 2B? How about a Ryne Sandberg, who could hit 25 HR, bat .285-.310 per year, and drive in 80-110 runs? Isn’t that better than Blake DeWitts 9 HR and 52 RBI and .242 BA? And Ryno could run when he wanted to run. This is a difference maker.

    Dump the stupidity of “pitching and defense wins games.” Sure, if a person drops the ball every single time, he can only DH. But the difference between the very best and very worst 1B is really negligable, amounting to about 4-6 extra runs scored by the opposition PER YEAR. So go GET THE BASHER and let some panty-waisted sissy carry his glove for him.

    Take the Cubs for 2011. What have we got in the way of difference makers?
    3B–Aram
    C–Soto

    That’s about it. Some might protest and say “Castro.” He hasn’t yet proven that he is going to be a difference maker. Gary Templeton started out hot with St. Louis, and after 1 or 2 years became a very average SS with the bat. Attitude. Pot. I dunno. Something kept he from being a Hall of Fame SS. So we don’t know what Castro will be yet, but we do see potential.

    SO again, we have a difference maker at C, why would we deal him away?

    This kind of mentality dealt DeRosa and his 21 HR and 87 RBI away for Aaron Miles’ .154 BA 0 HR and 5 RBI in 170 PA! WOW! He was pro-rated to drive in 16 runs in 550 AB! GREAT TRADE, JIMBO!

    Joey Gathright for Jim Edmonds. Hahahahahahaahahahahahaha.
    Edmonds: .256 BA .568 SLUGGING, .938 OPS .368 ON BASE
    Gathright: .214 0 HR 0 RBI .214 SLUGGING

    Dumb. Just DUMB.

    We need BASHERS. RUN PRODUCERS. That’s how you win.

    • Patrick_Schaefer

      The Giants only scored 12 more runs than the Cubs last year!!!

      • Ripsnorter1

        So true. BUT . . .
        1. They won’t compete in 2011. At least I don’t think so.
        2. They only got to the WS thru luck. They barely won their own division, and only did because the ChiCubs buzzsaw cut the Padres in half for them, winning 1-0 two nights in a row in Sept. If the Giants had not won the division, they would not have even made the playoffs because they didn’t win enough games to be the wildcard.
        3. WS wins have to do with who is hot at the time, the manager’s decisions, and some luck. Cody Ross had exactly 73 AB during the regular season, but picked up 51 AB in the post season, with 11 hits, including 5 HR and 5 2B. He slugged .686 with an OPS of 1.087. INcredible numbers he won’t repeat during the regular season. Do you really think that the Giants are better than the Yanks? The BoSox? Than the 2010 Rays?
        4. The Padres allowed the fewest runs in all of MLB, and didn’t even make the playoffs. Top pitching wasn’t enough.
        5. Bill James has proven that in the history of MLB, top pitching teams seldom win the WS. The formula from all of MLB history is near top of the league runs scored with middle of the pack pitching.

        Everything came together for them at once. But not likely in 2011.

        I”m still your friend although I disagree with you.
        And remember: the Cubs–the N.I.V. CUBS!–had more quality starts than the Giants.

        • Patrick_Schaefer

          The Cubs had the Quality starts but a terrible bullpen (besides marmol and marshall) and horrendous defense. The worst defensive team in the Majors last year giving up 99 unearned runs and tied for 3rd in errors in the majors with 126.
          I know what you are saying RIP, they got lucky at the right time and played hot in the playoffs, but they still won the WS and that is all that matters. You do still have to score some runs, but the SF Giants proved pitching and defense can win the world series.
          You don’t have to have the best pitching staff but a very good one. You don’t have to score the most runs, but you have to score runs when it matters. The Cubs lost a boatload of games last year by one run!!!!!

    • The Maven

      Rip, I’m surprised at you. You usually have such well researched posts. The Cubs’ didn’t get Dave Radar in the Bruce Sutter deal, they got Ken Reitz, Ty Waller, and a player to be named later, which turned out to be Leon Durham.

      Next you use Ryne Sandberg as an example of a difference maker. Sandberg was hardly that in his first two seasons with the Cubs. In fact, his numbers compare with someone you like to criticize, Blake DeWitt. It wasn’t until Jim Frey taught Sandberg how to wait back, and then turn on pitches that he finally hit for power.

      And one more thing. Sandberg wasn’t considered a bona fide slugger until he hit 26 Home Runs in 1985, when he turned 25 years old. Perhaps DeWitt, Castro, LeMahieu, or some other prospect can become a “difference maker”. Maybe all they need is some coaching, some maturity, AND A CHANCE.

      • Ripsnorter1

        You’re right. You see, this blizzard has my mind full of snow, and I didn’t research the trade again, just wrote from memory. My bad. Thanks for pointing it out.

      • Ripsnorter1

        I’m giving Castro “a chance.”
        If they call up LeMahieu, I’ll give him “a chance.”
        DeWitt–oh boy. No chance.

        • The Maven

          Not you, Rip. THE CUBS need to give them a chance.

    • The Maven

      I do agree that the “pitching and defense” mantra is a bunch of garbage. This idea has been propagated by some cement-headed play-by-play announcers who seem to get their wires crossed between baseball and football.

      While pitching can help your team “not lose”, you need to cross the plate to win. And many poor defensive teams are wearing World Series rings. It’s because they make the routine plays, not the Web-gems. Give me a team who’s pitching can keep them close, makes routine plays in the field, and is good hitting in the clutch and I’ll show you a winner.

    • Tony_Hall

      Rip – My difference makers get a full season of AB”s.

      Soto is NOT a difference maker.

      2010 – 387 PA 322 AB’s
      2009 – 389 PA 331 AB’s
      2008 – 563 PA 494 AB’s

      So, only once has he had a full season (for a catcher) of PA/AB’s

      My differnce makers at Catcher

      Joe Mauer
      Vicotr Martinez
      Buster Posey
      Brian McCann

      There are some catchers coming on that will knock Soto back even farther, but Top 10 offensive catchers is it.

      IF, Soto could get a full season of PA/AB’s, then I would say he is in the argument for Top 5, but it is not going happen.

      • Ripsnorter1

        It is not always Soto’s fault. Last year we had the “manager who entirely quit” running the show, and he didn’t like Soto. So he sat him. Plus the shoulder injury which has now been scoped and should be okay. And do not forget that catcher’s need a day off every six days. Joe Mauer get to DH. He had a mere 107 starts at C in 2010. (Read it here: http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/m/mauerjo01.shtml ).
        Victor Martinez plays 1B for his time off. 106 starts at C. (Read it here: http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/m/martivi01.shtml).
        Buster Posey played in only 108 games in 2010, AND ONLY 75 WERE AS THE STARTING CATCHER. (Read it here: http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/p/poseybu01.shtml) [I did my N.I.V. research!].

        SO–none of your difference makers at Catcher meet your own qualifications to be a difference maker. SOTO got 97 starts at C in 2010.
        (Read it here: http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/s/sotoge01.shtml).
        BUT IN 2008 HE MADE 131 STARTS AT C.

        Soto best meets your own qualifications for a difference maker at C.

        • Tony_Hall

          I really don’t buy that it’s not “Soto’s fault” that he hasn’t played more, he has been hurt. Catchers get hurt, that is why there are so few “difference makers” at catcher.

          There are very few that I would pay money for, to have as my catcher.

          Joe Mauer, and Buster Posey…that’s about it.

          As a catcher it is not always important to catch that many games, as it is to be enough of a hitter, that they need your bat in the lineup, everyday, like Mauer, VMart, B Posey. That may be the truest test of a “difference maker” at catcher. That your bat is so valuable, you have to DH or play 1B.

          Buster Posey, was called up in May, and they had Bengie Molina at catcher, so he split time, and played 1B, mostly, to get acclimated to the majors. Going forward, I will take Posey, way way over Soto. It is not even a close comparison. You called Soto the #1 offensive catcher in MLB, HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Not even close.

          We agree on most everything, but sorry, not this one. Soto is a nice catcher, and if he could stay healthy, he would be a Top 5,

          If I could have any catcher, right now, moving forward, he might not make my Top 10, maybe not even Top 15, when I take into account, some of the catchers that have made it to the majors, or about to make it.

          Salary cost is a big reason. I don’t want to pay for a catcher, unless he is like Joe Mauer or Buster Posey.

          • Ripsnorter1

            Tony,
            I called Soto the #1 offensive catcher in MLB in reference to his 2010 performance. IF you go to this link, select “catcher,” and put minimum PA at 375, you will find that Soto’s position vs. All MLB catchers:
            #1 in OPS with .890
            #2 in slugging, .497 vs. Posey’s .505
            #3 in OBP with .393, (#1 Mauer .402; Ruiz, .400)
            #6 in BA with .280 (Mauer .327)
            #3 in BB 62 (McCann 74; Mauer 65)
            #7 in HR, 17 (Napoli 26, McCann 21)

            #1 in AB was Mauer with 510.
            Soto ranked #20 with 322 AB.

            The numbers I am looking at from my catcher: OPS, OBP, Slugging. Batting average is important, too. But I’d rather have a .280 catcher that slugs and OBP, has a good wOBA, than a .300 catcher with no power.

            So imo, Soto is right up there at the top, and I would not deal him away for a 2B unless that 2B can crunch 20+ HR and hit .280+.

            OPS .890

          • Tony_Hall

            But with having to go down to only 375 PA, just so Soto could qualify, just further proves my point, that their are very few difference makers at the catcher position. The 20th most AB’s by a catcher was 322!!

            But there is no way, Soto is in the same conversation as Mauer, Posey, McCann (I throw VMart out, only because his catching days are numbered). Soto is not number 1, in any list you could make up.

            I also wouldn’t trade him away (now that Chirinos is gone) unless we received back a 2B that could slug the ball, but I would trade him away in the right deal. Catcher need to be elite (in my book) to pay them any significant amount of money.

            Catchers I would pay more than $1M and still want.

            In no order

            Brian McCann, Buster Posey, Yadier Molina, Victor Martinez*, Joe Mauer.

            That’s about it. Part of this is because most catchers careers are shorter, thus the majority of their careers happen under team control. For the ones that are elite (offensively), I would be willing to pay when they get expensive, to be a defensive catcher and pay them is rare (for me), but Yadier Molina is one that I would. Otherwise I would go with guys that are under team control and move them out when they get expensive.

          • Ripsnorter1

            Tony,
            Okay, I agree he is not #1 MLB catcher. But it is undeniable that last year he was near the top in OPS (a major way I measure players offensively), slugging (another major factor) and BA and OBP. He was a very good offensive force in 2008 and 2010.

            If you want to deal him away, that’s your perogative as armchair GM. Me, I’d have to have a difference maker at 2B to trade for him. And heaven forbid that we deal him and have Koyie Hill as a starter, or backup–for that matter. I’d love to see Wellington Castillo perform for us. Might make a decent platoon. . .

          • Tony_Hall

            I will concede that when he gets to the plate he puts up good numbers, if you will concede, he needs to get there more often…deal.

            As far as trading him for a difference maker at 2B…good luck with that. The only GM dumb enough to do that is well, I think you know. Soto would not net a difference maker at 2B.

            2B or guys who you could play at 2B, that hit over 20 HR’s – 7.

            Differenc makers at 2B – Utley, Cano, Pedroia, Uggla, Weeks, K Johnson (last year), Kinsler (if he could only stay healthy as well)

            Near Difference makers – Phillips, Prado

            Plus guys like Zobrist, Hill, B Roberts, there are many 2B, that I don’t think we could get (straight up) for Soto.

            Plus, with out Chirinos, Castillo, and what would have been my fallback Hill as 3 options, we need to keep Soto, until we know more about Castillo (which we won’t because we will keep Hill), or Max Ramirez, or our next level of catching prospects. I still don’t like the cost of Soto,

  • Aaron

    Easy there Rip and everyone else not named Patrick that’s commented on the Bleacher Report….

    Neil, I’m sure you’d back up Patrick and myself that Bleacher Report is NOT a good source of information. I remember about 2 months ago I read something on there and shared it here, and it was correctly pointed out that 99% of what BR posts is bunk.

    Now, if MLBTR posted something like this, I’d take note.

    First of all, if you read the posting, it said Soto was out of favor with management. If he was out of favor, he would’ve been traded by now, or cut, especially after the pot incident.

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Aaron, let’s just say I have not heard/read anything near that report. There are a couple of guys there that do a good job and are very knowledgeable. They stick to the facts and do not “assume” what is going on.

      • Aaron

        Am I to take this as your diplomatic way of saying most of there guys do a subpar job of reporting stuff?

        Because if you look at a lot of their stuff, it’s not substantiated in any sort of legitimate news source, or tweets from MLB beat writers, etc. Even MLBTR uses links to legitimate news sources (meaning Sun-Times, ESPN, Tribune, etc.), whereas Bleacher Report seems to generate rumors out of thin air.

        Hell, we could start a bunch of rumors on here, and go to other websites, and blog there, posting a link to our comments on the CCO. Sure, that’d give you even more web traffic, but it’d do absolutely nothing to improve your standing as an informative fan site like it currently is.

        So…no need to comment, I think I know what you were trying to say.

        One of the things I love about what you do, is with all the topics you write about, they’re almost always backed up by legitimate links, etc., and you try to be as objective as possible with this team, so props to you, Sir. If it were me in your position, I think I’d lose my mind with how this organization is run, but I digress…

        • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

          Thanks Aaron.

        • Gary J

          Seconded – you do a fabulous job Neil of reporting what the reliable news sources are saying while being as objective as possible. Every once in a while they’ll be a little “fan voice” creeping in there – but you wouldn’t be pulling together a site like this if that wasn’t the case ;-)

          (insert hearty applause here)

  • Ripsnorter1

    I forgot Brian McCann. (Don’t want to be accused of skewing the stats to make my point. LOL). So here’s McCann’s stats:

    He made 129 starts in 2010. He is the only “fulltime” catcher on your list in 2010. 124 starts in 2009.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/m/mccanbr01.shtml

  • Tom U

    Lists are always subjective, but I feel that Vine Lines is a somewhat dubious source. Looking over the list, most are high draft picks that the Cubs want to promote name recognition. Some of the players I would have included:

    Pierre LePage, 2B: .331, 20 doubles, 38 RBI, 9 stolen bases
    Arismendy Alcantara, SS: .283. 3 HR, 24 RBI, 7 stolen bases
    Jae-Hoon Ha, OF: .317, 7 HR, 46 RBI, 9 stolen bases
    Matt Cerda, 2B-3B: .271, 5 HR, 80 RBI
    Austin Kirk, LHP: 4-5, 3.31 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 48 K, 12 BB

  • Joelaserzone

    were is Mike Parisi??