Baseball Prospectus Top 20 Cubs Prospects for 2012

The CCO’s look at the top prospects in the Cubs’ system continues with Baseball Prospectus’ list of the top 20 prospects.

Kevin Goldstein views the Cubs’ system a little differently from Baseball America and gave a good overview of the organization. Goldstein shares the views of the CCO … “it’s not a bad system by any measurement but it has far more depth than star power.”

Brett Jackson, Javier Baez, Welington Castillo, Dillon Maples and Matt Szczur make up the top five with Jackson the only five-star prospect in the organization.

The Cubs’ system has shown improvement and despite the recent changes to the draft and international signings, the new regime figures to take a middle of the pack system into the top ten in the near future.

Kevin Goldstein summed up the Cubs’ system by saying, “The new collective bargaining agreement adds some challenges to the existing Theo Epstein system of scouting and player development. While there are plenty of future big-leaguers in the organization, most of the players who are going to turn things around are not here yet.”

Here is how the Cubs’ system lines up according to Baseball Prospectus, plus the top players 25 and under at both the Major League and minor league level.

Baseball Prospectus’ Top 20 Cubs Prospects for 2012

Five-Star Prospects
1. Brett Jackson, OF (1)
Four-Star Prospects
2. Javier Baez, SS (NR)
Three-Star Prospects
3. Welington Castillo, C (14)
4. Dillon Maples, RHP (NR)
5. Matt Szczur, OF (NR)
6. Josh Vitters, 3B (4)
7. Jeimer Candelario, 3B (NR)
8. Trey McNutt, RHP (2)
9. Marco Hernandez, SS (NR)
Two-Star Prospects
10. Junior Lake, SS/3B (NR)
11. Rafael Dolis, RHP (15)
(2011 BP Ranking in Parenthesis)

Nine More
12. Dan Vogelbach, 1B (NR)
13. Jae-Hoon Ha, OF (NR)
14. Chris Carpenter, RHP (6)
15. Tony Zych, RHP (NR)
16. Ryan Flaherty, IF/OF (NR)
17. D.J. LeMahieu, IF (NR)
18. Zeke DeVoss, OF (NR)
19. Reggie Golden, OF (8)
20. Marwin Gonzalez, IF (NR)
(2011 BP Ranking in Parenthesis)

Top Talents in the Cubs’ System 25 and Under
(Born 04/01/86 or later)

1. Starlin Castro, SS
2. Brett Jackson, OF
3. Javier Baez, SS
4. Andrew Cashner, RHP
5. Welington Castillo, C
6. Dillon Maples, RHP
7. Matt Szczur, OF
8. Josh Vitters, 3B
9. Jeimer Candelario, 3B
10. Trey McNutt, RHP

Sleeper Prospect: Gioskar Amaya
The Venezuelan teenager is a plus runner with excellent contact ability that could be a utility player or more.

With a majority of Goldstein’s rundown being by subscription only, here are a few of the highlights on the top 11 prospects …

1. Brett Jackson, OF
Age/DOB – 23/August 2, 1988
Tools Profile – Jackson does not have any monster tools, but is average to plus across the board
The Good – Jackson does not have a below average tool … big, powerful athlete that could hit 20-25 home runs. Has excellent approach at the plate and above average speed. Solid centerfielder and could be even better in the corner thanks to his tick above average arm.
The Bad – There is a lot of swinging and missing in Jackson’s game which does not project for a high average and if he slows down could be pushed to right field which will increase his offensive expectations.
Perfect World Projection – An above average everyday centerfielder
Path to the Big Leagues – Likely begin 2012 in Triple-A but should spend a lot of time in the big leagues in 2012.
ETA – 2012

2. Javier Baez, SS
Age/DOB – 18/December 1, 1992
Tools Profile – Outstanding offensive potential, not a pure athlete
The Good – Can flat-out hit with blinding bat speed and excellent hand-eye coordination. Baez projects to hit for average and plus power once he learns how to drive the ball. Solid defensive fundamentals for his age and an arm that can handle the left side of the infield.
The Bad – Not the type of player normally seen at shortstop. Average runner at best and not especially quick … which leads to the thought he will end up at third base. Needs to develop an approach at the plate and learn how to take pitches.
Perfect World Projection – Excellent hitter that will likely end up at a less prominent position.
Path to the Big Leagues – Baez should start the season at Low-A Peoria.
ETA – 2015

3. Welington Castillo, C
Age/DOB – 24/April 24, 1987
Tools Profile – A catcher with power and a plus arm
The Good – Castillo’s combination of power and plus arm are rare in catchers. He can drive balls from gap to gap and can hit both righties and lefties well. Castillo’s arm is his best defensive tool and is an average receiver.
The Bad – Castillo is aggressive at the plate and can chase pitches when behind in the count. Is extremely slow, grading as a 20 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale.
Perfect World Projection – Castillo could be a 20 home run catcher that slows down the running game.
Path to the Big Leagues – Castillo will compete for a backup job this spring. Castillo will need to wait for Geovany Soto to either be traded or leave due to free agency (two season) before he gets a shot to play everyday.
ETA – 2012

4. Dillon Maples, RHP
Age/DOB – 19/May 5, 1992
Tools Profile – Teenage right-hander has athleticism and upside
The Good – Maples’ upside as a starter is unmatched in the Cubs’ system. Maples already throws in the low to mid 90s with natural movement and most scouts feel he will improve with professional instruction.
The Bad – Maples does not have a changeup, did not need one and his delivery is not “pretty”. Maples needs innings and professional experience.
Perfect World Projection – Maples could be an above average big league starter.
Path to the Big Leagues – Will go to spring training trying to convince the Cubs’ brass he should start his professional career at full-season level and not short-season Boise.
ETA – 2015

5. Matt Szczur, OF
Age/DOB – 22/July 20, 1989
Tools Profile – A weird profile with tools that have little polish
The Good – Szczur is a complete athlete with raw strength that could lead to 15 home runs a year. Szczur is not a burner but has plus speed that allows him to steal bases and cover ground in the outfield. Szczur has an average arm.
The Bad – Szczur’s baseball abilities are behind due to playing college football. Szczur is quite raw with a very poor approach at the plate. In the field, he needs to work on reads and routes to the ball.
Perfect World Projection – Szczur could be an everyday centerfielder, but not a star.
Path to the Big Leagues – Szczur should start 2012 with the Smokies despite his struggles at High-A Daytona.
ETA – Late 2013

6. Josh Vitters, 3B
Age/DOB – 22/August 27, 1989
Tools Profile – Vitters has a pretty swing but his progress has been slow
The Good – Vitters is still well thought of because one of the quickest, smoothest swings from the right side in the minors. Vitters flashes plus power and rarely strikes out and can crush mistakes. Defensively, Vitters has made progress and some think he might be able to stay at third base.
The Bad – Vitters hurts himself at the plate by swinging at bad pitches that results in weak groundouts and pop ups.
Perfect World Projection – Vitters could be an everyday third baseman but his star potential is fading.
Path to the Big Leagues – Vitters should start the year at Triple-A and could earn a September call-up.
ETA – 2013

7. Jeimer Candelario, 3B
Age/DOB – 18/November 24, 1993
Tools Profile – Candelario possesses a great combination of pure hitting ability and offensive polish
The Good – Candelario has a lot of offensive potential and has been praised for his high-polished approach at the plate. The switch hitter has power potential to all fields and a knack for consistent hard contact. Candelario could end up as an average defender at first base.
The Bad – Candelario has a better swing from the left side than the right side with reduced power against lefties. His defense could move him from third to first or to left field, if he doesn’t slow down too much for the outfield.
Perfect World Projection – Could end up a middle of the order run producer
Path to the Big Leagues – Candelario should be in the states this spring (played last season in the Dominican Summer League) and could see time in Short-Season A-Ball. He has tremendous upside but is a long way from the big leagues.
ETA – 2016

8. Trey McNutt, RHP
Age/DOB – 22/August 2, 1989
Tools Profile – McNutt is a big guy that throws hard
The Good – McNutt’s velocity dropped in 2011 to a fastball more in the low to mid 90s than the mid to upper 90s he flashed in 2010. McNutt’s delivery was bit of a problem but he still has a plus slider with a heavy two-plane break.
The Bad – McNutt struggled with his command last year, fell behind in counts often and became very hittable. McNutt continued to struggle with his changeup (below average pitch) and some would like to see what he could do out of the pen.
Perfect World Projection – McNutt could still be a strikeout pitcher, but it is unknown whether it will be as a starter or a reliever.
Path to the Big Leagues – Should return to Double-A to start the year
ETA – 2013

9. Marco Hernandez, SS
Age/DOB – 19/August 6, 1992
Tools Profile – Hernandez is a legitimate shortstop with some hitting ability
The Good – Hernandez is a true shortstop with above-average speed, quick reactions, range to both sides and a strong arm. Hernandez is a switch hitter with a line drive swing from both sides and has shown flashes of being able to drive a ball into the gap.
The Bad – Hernandez does not have a projectable frame (6-foot, 170 pounds) and may not develop much power and improve his on-base skills in order to keep from hitting at the bottom of the lineup. Defensively, Hernandez is prone to errors on routine groundballs when he rushes in the field.
Perfect World Projection – An everyday big league shortstop
Path to the Big Leagues – Could start the season in Low Class-A but likely short-season Boise
ETA – 2015

10. Junior Lake, SS/3B
Age/DOB – 21/March 27, 1990
Tools Profile – Lake is big, athletic and toolsy
The Good – Lake has always had impressive tools … above-average power and speed to go with an 80 arm.
The Bad – Lake’s game can be ugly. He is a complete mess at the plate and has shown very little discipline … same can be said about his defense. Lake has the upside but “there is so much work to be done that several teams who want to turn him into a power reliever have approached the Cubs.”
Perfect World Projection – A player with some power and speed at a yet to be determined position
Path to the Big Leagues – Lake will return to Double-A and could move up quickly or be one of those players that gets stuck in the upper levels of the minor leagues.
ETA – Late 2013

11. Rafael Dolis, RHP
Age/DOB – 23/January 10, 1988
Tools Profile – Dolis is a traditional right-handed reliever with a plus sinker/slider combination
The Good – Has two plus pitches: A fastball that sits in the mid 90s with natural sink and a slider with late, explosive movement.
The Bad – Dolis can get violent with his delivery and when he does he losses the strike zone and he adjusts by taking too much off his pitches.
Perfect World Projection – Set-up man on a good team or a closer on some teams
Path to the Big Leagues – Probably will not break camp with the Cubs but should return next season
ETA – 2012

Baseball America ran their list of the top 10 prospects in the Cubs’ organization last week. BP went a little deeper into the Cubs’ system than Baseball America and provided a pretty accurate assessment of the top players in the organization.

In the coming weeks, the CCO will revisit our list of the Cubs’ top prospects from last season and release our list for 2012.

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