I've been a Chicago Cubs fan since I was little so naturally when I stumbled across "Chicago Cubs Online" I was an instant fan. I am a baseball columnist and have written for numerous sites including my blog "The Diamond Cutter" (http://diamondcutter.wordpress.com/) where I have covered Major League Baseball and it's prospects.
Earlier this winter I started my annual coverage of the top five prospects from each organization. I wanted to share my Cubs list with the community to see how you feel its stacks up. I have received input from the baseball world and would now like some discussion from true Cubs fans. Who do you think are the top prospects?
1.) Josh Vitters Position: Third Base | 2008 Rank: #1 Bats: Right | Throws: Right | Height: 6-3 | Weight: 195
Scouting Report: Vitters was the best high school hitter to come out of the 2007 draft. What makes him so special at the plate is his uncanny hand-eye coordination, fast wrists, and beautiful, fluid swing. He has great bat speed with a short, compact swing that generates incredible home run and gap power. It's hard to believe he's still so young, but considering his 6-foot-3 build, he still has a lot of potential to add mass and in turn adding more power. Vitters should be a huge addition to the Cubs roster in the next few years if he stays on with the club. There are a lot of teams that are trying to get their hands on this youngster and for good reason.
2.) Jeff Samardzija Position: Pitcher | 2008 Rank: NR Bats: Right | Throws: Right | Height: 6-5 | Weight: 220
Scouting Report: The Cubs have an incredibly versatile pitcher with Samardzija. There's not too many pitchers in baseball who you could feel comfortable throwing into your rotation or in as your closer and not think twice about it. Samardzija has both the work horse capability as well as the nasty closer persona. With a heavy, hard-sinking fast ball that sits in the low 90's (mid to upper 90's out of the bullpen), a plus slider and a developing change. As a reliever he can get away with the sinking fastball and dirty slider, but if he is ever inserted as a starting pitcher he will need to further develop his off speed stuff to be effective. I'm guessing the Cubs will keep him in the pen for the short term only because of a heavy rotation and need for a back end guy with the departure of Kerry Wood. Regardless he will be a staple of this staff for years to come.
3.) Ryan Flaherty Position: Shortstop | 2008 Rank: NR Bats: Left | Throws: Right | Height: 6-3 | Weight: 200
Scouting Report: Flaherty is a big, strong infielder with a smooth and classic swing. While he doesn't have big time home run power, he does have a good eye at the plate to go with his pretty swing that should enable him to hit for a high average during his career. He has a plus arm strength at shortstop and excellent hands but has below average speed which translates into below average range. Due to this I see a move to third base in his future as he's better suited for that position and would fair too well at short in the Majors. I really like the make-up of this kid overall (pending a move to third) despite him not fitting the "power hitter" mold of a third baseman.
4.) Andrew Cashner Position: Pitcher | 2008 Rank: NR Bats: Right | Throws: Right | Height: 6-5 | Weight: 195
Scouting Report: Andrew Cashner is the perfect example of how a change can sometimes be just what a player needs. Cashner's move to bullpen as TCU's closer worked out great for him as he was able to shin and take advantage of the pitches he uses most effectively. His best pitches, a plus fastball (upper 90's) and a plus slider (upper 80's), are exactly the kind of pitches a set-up man or closer need and having ones as strong as Cashner has helped him dominate in college. The only concerns I have are in regards to his control problems. With as hard as he throws, he sometimes tends to over throw his pitches and can lose the strike zone which caused him to begin to walk a few too many hitters. As a closer this can be a death sentence. If he can learn to harness his stuff more consistently, he has the make up of a great set-up man or even a closer down the road.
5.) Tyler Colvin Position: Outfield | 2008 Rank: #5 Bats: Left | Throws: Left | Height: 6-3 | Weight: 190
Scouting Report: Colvin has a nice approach at the plate with a short compact swing and quick wrists which helps make him a very good contact hitter. At first he only seemed to have gap power but that has begun to develop more into overall power. Colvin has plus speed which translates very well into smart base running as well as an improved approach to base stealing thanks to some work with the Cubs. His athleticism and speed provides him good range in the outfield to go along with an above average arm and glove. Well rounded player that should fit in the best in left field.