Minor League Ball’s Top Cubs Prospects for 2012

The CCO’s look at the Cubs’ farm system this off-season continues with Minor League Ball’s ranking of the Cubs’ top prospects.

Minor League Ball released their list soon after the Anthony Rizzo-Andrew Cashner trade was announced and also includes what the Cubs received from the Reds in the Sean Marshall deal.

John Sickels pointed out that even before the Marshall and Cashner trades, the Cubs’ system had some good things happening and he thought the system as a whole was underrated. Sickels said the weakness in the system is the lack of impact players (position players and starting pitching) close to the big league level … same as Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus.

Brett Jackson topped Minor League Ball’s list with Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Matt Szczur and Trey McNutt rounding out the top five.

There are players that could help the Cubs at the big league level in the upcoming season, outside of Brett Jackson and Anthony Rizzo. Some of the players that missed Sickels’ list that could contribute in the majors this year include Jeff Beliveau and Nick Struck.

The Cubs’ system is similar to the Indians according to Sickels due to the fact there is a lot of depth in the middle range prospects with upside that could develop into big league ballplayers.

Sickels completed his look at the Cubs’ system by saying, “Overall, if I was a Cubs fan, I would be pleased with the level of depth, but anxious in a good way to see how the new front office manages the draft and international scouting to bolster what is already present.

Sickels did not give out an “A” grade to any of the prospects in the system. Here’s how the Cubs’ systems lines up according to John Sickels and the preliminary grade for each prospect.

Minor League Ball’s Top 20 Cubs Prospects
2011 Minor League Ball’s Ranking in Parenthesis – (NA – not available, NR – not ranked)

1. Brett Jackson, OF – B+ (1)
2. Anthony Rizzo, 1B – B+ (NA)
3. Javier Baez, SS-3B – B (NA)
4. Matt Szczur, OF – B- (NR)
5. Trey McNutt, RHP – B- (2)
6. Dillon Maples, RHP – B- (NA)
7. Dan Vogelbach, 1B – B- (NA)
8. Junior Lake, SS – C+ (NR)
9. Welington Castillo, C – C+ (NR)
10. Dae-Eun Rhee, RHP – C+ (NR)
11. Josh Vitters, 3B-1B – C+ (10)
12. Jeimer Candelario, 3B – C+ (NA)
13. Marco Hernandez, SS – C+ (NA)
14. Chris Carpenter, RHP – C+ (5)
15. Rafael Dolis, RHP – C+ (17)
16. Zach Cates, RHP – C+ (NA)
17. Ben Wells, RHP – C+ (NR)
18. Dave Sappelt, OF – C+ (NA)
19. Ronald Torreyes, 2B – C+ (NA)
20. Reggie Golden, OF – C+ (9)
21. Gioskar Amaya, INF – C+ (NA)
22. Tony Zych, RHP – C+ (NA)
23. Shawon Dunston, Jr., OF – C+ (NA)
24. Aaron Kurcz, RHP – C+ (NR)

Others: Jeffry Antigua, LHP; Dallas Beeler, RHP; Jeff Beliveau, LHP; Jeff Bianchi, INF; Lendy Castillo, RHP; Pin-Cheih Chen, OF; Zeke DeVoss, 2B; Jae-Hoon Ha, OF; Jay Jackson, RHP; Eric Jokisch, LHP; Austin Kirk, LHP; Luis Liria, RHP; Kevin Rhoderick, RHP, Jose Rosario, RHP, Neftali Rosario, C; Hayden Simpson, RHP; Nick Stuck, RHP, Yao-Ling Wang, RHP, Logan Watkins, 2B; Robert Whitenack, RHP

Several players took steps forward but some took a step back as well last season. The amount of players selected in last June’s Draft is both telling and a little misleading. The upcoming season will be an important one for the organization.

The CCO will release our list of the top prospects in the Cubs’ system in the coming weeks.

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO

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  • Smcneil

    What no Rebel? Is he locked into Tenn now?

    • Tom U

      At this time, Rebel Ridling is still projected to be at Iowa, although those things change. At Iowa, he will probably rotate in at first, outfield, and DH.

  • GaryLeeT

    The farm system is producing position players, but zero #4 starting pitchers and above. This is giving the system as a whole, an overall feeling of failure.

    • Tony_Hall

      Just looking at the Top 20, there’s McNutt and Maples at B-.  

      Where have you seen them projected as #5 guys?  I’ve always seen them projected higher than that.

      In case you are looking at the grades and thinking B’s and C’s are bad…they give out very few A’s (Matt Moore of the Rays is an A, Hak Jue Lee (their #2 prospect) is a B+)

      QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:

      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.

      • GaryLeeT

        Are they starting in the majors? I said what the farm system is producing, (like Coleman, and Wells) not will produce. Maybe McNutt will see time soon, but Maples has a very long way to go, and they both are B -. Needlessly contrary, as usual :)

        • cubtex

          You are right to say that they have very few…near ready starting pitchers in the system. I am a big Garza fan….but that is why I am an advocate for trading him IF they can get back 2 starting pitching prospects who are a year or 2 away. McNutt needs to bounce back, Maples is several years away…Whitenack is coming off Tommy John and keep on eye on Rhee.

          • Tom U

            Cubtex, you can correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the biggest issue with young pitchers the conversion from thrower to pitcher? Most of these pitchers are used to dominating because they rarely see elite batters until they are in the pros. Then they have to work on locating their pitches, working the count, and exploiting a hitters weaknesses. 

            Several pitchers in the system jumped multiple levels last year, including Nick Struck, Dallas Beeler, Larry Suarez, and Eric Jokisch. Equally, some were demoted several times or levels, like Cameron Greathouse, Brett Wallach, and Hayden Simpson. It all depends on how the player masters the nuances of pitching, not always their “stuff”.

            Therefore, when focusing on pitching that may help the parent club, look as possibly far down as High-A Daytona, for pitching can be ready in a hurry.

          • cubtex

            agreed…but I believe the BEST indicator of a pitchers stat is hits per innings pitched. If a kid gives up a lot of hits in the lower levels…..that is usually a pretty good indicator that that trend will continue. Are there exceptions??Yes…but more times than not that is the case. That is why I am not high on Nick Struck.

          • cubtex

            Aaron Kurcz is a little small…..6′  175 but his hits per innings pitched has been very impressive. He will be worth watching this year as well.

          • mutantbeast

            Tex-his splits were much better out of the bullpen. His stuff plays up much better in 1-2 inning stints. Seems a bit like a RH Sean Marshall.

          • Anthony

            I would say that is true for high school age signed pitchers. College pitchers have faced better hitters, and the metal bat, and have experience and instruction at a high level already.

          • cc002600

            I understand what you are saying about Garza. But you say we need to get 2 good prospects back in return, which is realistic, but just for that reason alone is why I’m not in favor of trading him.  Because the only way we win that deal is if BOTH prospects turn out better than Garza, and I think the chances of that are slim and none.  And it will take years to find out.

            Now if you get could 3 top prospects, than I might change my mind, but I’m not sure anyone will do that. 

            I say we keep him

          • cubtex

            If the Tigers part with Jacob Turner and Smyly….that could be the case.

          • cc002600

            That would be a good start, but I would want 1 more good one.  Maybe that would be too much for some team to meet. But if so, oh well. Then the Cubs should lock him up long term.

          • gary3411

            How do you come to that rationale? If one of the pitchers became equal to Garza and you got them for 6 years with 3 of them being for basically no cost, how is that not worth it? Especially when we are not ready to compete right now, and plan to be during that time that pitcher will be in his prime? Just think you took it a little over the top there in what to expect as a return in a trade like this.

            Unless you’re saying Garza’s attitude is worth exponentially more than his talent??

          • cc002600

            Well, yea, I guess. That is good point when you consider the financial implications.

            I just think that pitchers of Garza’s quality are hard to find.  Plus, he is durable, so far (knock on wood).  And it takes a loooooong time for pitchers to mature to get to his level.

            All I’m saying is that I have to be absolutely blown away  by an offer before I’m giving him up.  And 2 good pitching prospects are not enough, IMO.

          • cc002600

            Remember, too.  The cubs have all the leverage.  They do NOT have to trade him, so they can hold out for great offer, or just keep him and sign him to long term deal, which they can easily afford now.

        • Tony_Hall

          Sorry, thought you were talking about the Top 20 list.

          One thing to note, Coleman and Wells, I don’t believe, ever made the Top 20 list, they were more in the “others” category.

          Looks like we started quite the discussion though.

  • Cloycub13

    Uhhhhhh, Rock Shoulders?????? Have not heard a word on him since the signing. Liking the overall look of things, notice how many on that list came on in the last year or 2. With the new braintrust it can only get better from here.

    • Tom U

      Shoulders may have been left off some lists due to some minor surgery and some indecision as to what position he will actually end up at.

      • Cloycub13

        Thanks Tom!

  • jiba11

    Definitely thin in elite talent. Must be tough for
    Hayden Simpson (Cubs 2010 #1 draft pick). I think he had surgery in 2010, but not being in the top 25. Ouch!

  • Anthony

    Lists are nice entertainment, and this particular one that comes from a British History academecian and Saber Stat guy is like most of the others, regurgitated.

    Two dynamics, the 2011 Draft class, and basically an entire new regime, a fresh set of eyes, will make the 2012 full season in the minors very interesting. Each player, whether 1st rounders who get all the press, high school kids who signed late and had nothing more than BP equivalent in 2011, college guys, stuck players, off the radar guys, everybody there, will be freshly evaluated.

    Each player in Mesa will get the opportunity to perform against their paper scouting report, prove their worth, show their desire and hunger, exhibit their maturity, or lackthereof, and earn their best available assignment to a team.

    New names may crop up, pleasant surprises may occur, it all becomes a grand audition under new direction.

    The young kids will be tested with “the grind” consisting of everyday play, managing time, excessive and taxing travel, and maintaining performance under wear and tear conditions. They will show how they deal with failure, as well as the successes the game can bring. They will have to deal with being a good teammate while at the same time knowing they are competing, and showcasing against some of their own in the dugout.

    Bonus kids will feel the pressure of producing, and must perform without a sense of entitlement, and non-invested players will challenge them to try and prove many wrong.

    Very exciting stuff.

    That’s my Top List.

  • Joshmoran118

    jeff bianchi is no longer in the cubs organization.

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Thanks for pointing that out. I left in because he was part of their rankings. Minor League Ball realesed just prior to his release.

  • cubtex

    There could possibly be one or even 2 of these players sent to Boston as compensation for Theo. We will see how Bud Selig handles this.

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    From Jon Heyman: Garza actually filed at $12.5M, w/ Cubs at $7.95M. misread chart. the $10.225M was midpoint (seemed like weird filing number)

    • cubs1967

      if this had been a JH move; this site would of gone spastic.  team Theo trio needs to not be so “cool” to float arb elgible good SP and then not get the deal done…….asking for the “moon”.
      great move by the agent; if Garza is worth the “moon” then so should his salary.  horrible roster mgmt by team Theo. should of moved him back in December or extended him.
      NO one will trade for him now……..now Garza is expensive if he wins in arb court.
      NOT sure how he can; Kershaw asked for 10M and he won the cy young.
      MLB needed to make changes to arbitration in the CBA; extended uncle bud blew it again.  free agency is no where near as bad as arbitration.  wells got 6X his salary for having his worse career year.  stewart another joke getting a small raise hitting .151.
      AND we the fans pay for it.

      great move Theo……..suggest you get him extended now…you have NO leverage for trades or salary negotiation now. (perhaps let’s not be SO eager to trade all JH leftovers….LaMaheiu would of looked great at 2b instead of Barney….Stewart isn’t even as asset..but he is overpaid.

      • Tony_Hall

        Garza will not win at his number he asked for in arbitration.  It actually tells me, he wants a contract.

        Theo’s number is the realistic number and will win, if they go to arbitratioin.

        Wells was 1st year arbitraton, it’s gonna look like a big raise, as a SP.

      • daverj

        I asked you this question last time you made a similar post and you didnt respond: how is arb worse than free agency from the team’s perspective? A team can always non-tender a arb eligible player and make him a free agent instead. So arb is purely an option for the team to elect or not … It is better for the teams than pure free agency. If the cubs thought stewart was not worthy of an increase they could have non-tendered him and tried to sign him for less as a free agent.

  • soonerfan747

    I find it interesting that very little opinion is ever given about Marcus Hatley. Here is a kid who started his pitching career (minor leagues) against elite talent. He will be on his second full season after TJS and didn’t do too bad in the Fall league after settling down. He pitched 20 innings in HS and 2 innings in college. You may consider him a thrower who is coming along as a pitcher. An opinion would be appreciated.

    • Tom U

      A big guy at 6’5″, 220 lbs., Hatley was promoted two levels last season, demonstrating he may be all the way back from his arm surgery. Some observers in the AFL this past season stated that his fastball was only overshadowed by Chris Carpenter’s. 

      Hatley recorded 11 saves in his three stops. He was part of the “light’s out” bullpen in Tennessee that included Rafael Dolis, Jeff Beliveau, and Kevin Rhoderick. Hatley’s 4.66 ERA with the Smokies was due five bad outings he had where he gave up a total of 12 earned runs. In his other 17 appearances, Hatley only allowed 2 earned runs total.

      Hatley has the tools to be an effective reliever, but needs to work on getting batters out on “pitcher’s pitches”. His WHIP at Daytona was 1.370 and in Tennessee it was 1.414, despite allowing only 11 walks apiece at each stop.

  • Cubsfanny

    Any prospect list without a pitcher in AA who goes 7 – 0 with a 1. 93 era and I homer allowed in 60 innings is bogus