Baseball America’s Top Cubs Prospects for 2012

The CCO’s off-season look at the Cubs’ farm system continues with the top 31 prospects in the Cubs organization according to Baseball America.

Baseball America’s 2012 Prospect Handbook arrived with the Angels’ Mike Trout on the cover. For the second straight year, the Cubs made changes to the system after Baseball America went to the presses with their prospect book.

Baseball America ranked the Cubs’ system 14th in baseball prior to the additions of Anthony Rizzo, Ronald Torreyes, Dave Sappelt and Zach Cates. The four prospects Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer added in the Sean Marshall and Andrew Cashner trades all ranked among the top prospects in the Reds and Padres system with Anthony Rizzo topping the Padres’ organization rankings prior to the trade.

Baseball America is scheduled to update their organizational rankings in February.

Brett Jackson is the top prospect in the Cubs’ system even with the addition of Anthony Rizzo. The former top prospect in the Padres’ system slots in behind Jackson in a majority of the rankings after he was acquired from San Diego.

According to Baseball America, the Cubs’ system is more notable for solid depth than top-tier talent. But one good season down on the farm, another solid draft and a few international signings could make a difference for what is currently ranked as a middle-of-the-road organization.

The new Prospect Handbook for the first time includes a grading system and risk factor for each player. Baseball America used a 20-80 scale similar to the scale the scouts use for their grading system. The goal of the Grade/Risk system is to provide a quick look at how strong a team farm system is, and also how much immediate help the big league club can expect from the prospects.

For an explanation of Baseball America’s grade scale and Risk Factors, click here or read below the list of the top prospects in the Cubs system as well as how BA ranked Anthony Rizzo, Ronald Torreyes, Dave Sappelt and Zach Cates in their previous organization.

Top 31 Prospects for 2012
(Last Year’s Ranking, BA Grade and Risk Factor in Parenthesis)

1. Brett Jackson, OF (2, 60, Medium)
2. Javier Baez, SS (NA, 65, High)
3. Matt Szczur, OF (7, 60, Medium)
4. Trey McNutt, RHP (3, 55, High)
5. Dillon Maples, RHP (NA, 55, High)
6. Welington Castillo, C (17, 50, Medium)
7. Rafael Dolis, RHP (9, 50, Medium)
8. Junior Lake, SS (27, 50, High)
9. Josh Vitters, 3B (5, 50, High)
10. Dan Vogelbach, 1B (NA, 50, High)
11. Dae-Eun Rhee, RHP (30, 50, High)
12. Dallas Beeler, RHP (NR, 50, High)
13. Chris Carpenter, RHP (6, 50, High)
14. Zeke DeVoss, 2B (NA, 50, High)
15. Tony Zych, RHP (NA, 50, High)
16. Marco Hernandez, SS/2B (NA, 55, Extreme)
17. Reggie Golden, OF (23, 50, High)
18. Jae-Hoon Ha, OF (28, 50, High)
19. Robert Whitenack, RHP (NR, 50, High)
20. Jeimer Candelario, 3B (NA, 55, Extreme)
21. Steve Clevenger, C (NR, 45, Low)
22. Jose Rosario, RHP (NR, 50, High)
23. Logan Watkins, 2B/SS/OF (21, 45, Medium)
24. Jeff Beliveau, LHP (NR, 45, Medium)
25. Ben Wells, RHP (24, 50, High)
26. Marcus Hatley, RHP (NR, 50, High)
27. Casey Weathers, RHP (NA, 50, High)
28. Taiwan Easterling, OF (NA, 50, High)
29. Hayden Simpson, RHP (8, 50, Extreme)
30. Shawon Dunston, Jr., OF (NA, 50, Extreme)
31. Pin-Chieh Chen, OF (NA, 50, Extreme)

Additions to Cubs System
(Ranking with Previous Organization, BA Grade and Risk Factor in Parenthesis)

Anthony Rizzo (Padres-1, 60, Medium)
Ronald Torreyes (Reds-13, 50, High)
Dave Sappelt (Reds-16, 45, Low)
Zach Cates (Padres-31, 50, High)

30 of the 31 players listed as the top prospects in the Cubs’ system are homegrown players, only Casey Weathers came from another organization.

Brett Jackson and Anthony Rizzo figure to make their Cub debuts during the upcoming season and BA thinks Jackson could be the Cubs’ top rookie for 2012. As for a breakout prospect, Baseball America tabbed Marco Hernandez as the player to keep an eye on and the sleeper in the system could be Gioskar Amaya.

Cubs Prospects in the Top 50
The editors of Baseball America included their lists of the top 50 prospects in the 2012 Prospect Handbook. Here is how the top names in the Cubs’ system stacks up with the rest of the game according to BA’s editors.

Jim Callis: Brett Jackson (28); Javier Baez (31); Anthony Rizzo (42)
J.J. Cooper: Brett Jackson (40)
Will Lingo: Brett Jackson (33); Antony Rizzo (40)
John Manuel: Brett Jackson (38); Matt Szczur (49)

Baseball America Grade Scale and Risk Factors
BA Grade Scale

  • 75-80: Franchise players and No. 1 starters, such as Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Roy Halladay.
  • 65-70: No. 2 starters and perennial all-stars in the mold of Chase Utley, Matt Cain, Matt Kemp and Adrian Beltre.
  • 55-60: First-division regulars and No. 3 starters and elite closers, such as Jonathan Papelbon, James Shields and Torii Hunter would earn these grades.
  • 45-50: Most players reside here. The high end (50s with lower risk) are second-division regulars with higher peaks, eighth-inning relievers and fourth starters on playoff teams. The lower end are platoon/utility players, back-end starters and relievers. Think of Jamey Carroll, Joe Blanton and Angel Pagan.
  • 35-40: Players with fifth-starter or utility/backup catcher upside, or relief specialists. It will be rare for a 35 to make the book. This category includes the likes of Doug Slaten, Matt Treanor and Alfredo Simon.

Risk Factors

  • Safe: Has shown realistic ceiling in big leagues; ready to contribute in 2012.
  • Low: Likely to reach realistic ceiling, certain big league careeer barring injury.
  • Medium: Still some work to do to turn tools into major league-caliber skills.
  • High: Most draft picks in their first seasons, players with plenty of projection left.
  • Extreme: Teenagers in Rookie ball or players with significant injury histories.

Coming Soon: The CCO’s Top Cubs Prospects for 2012

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