I started writing this post during Spring Training (probably the beginning of it, but perhaps the middle. It was definitely well ahead of the end.) For some reason it didn’t want to come together in a presentable form, and the process of writing it had me ripping my hair out. By the time the regular season started, and a week or so elapsed, I decided to abandon the idea of a Minor League “preview”.
Nevertheless, last week I decided a return at least to the ordinary Farm Boy Files was in order. My love for the kids is strong, even if my love of writing about a bunch of them at the same time is nonexistent. Before choosing a subject, I took a peek at what I’d managed to scrap together for the original preview. While it wasn’t much, it was slightly more assembled than I’d thought, and it seemed like a waste not to go ahead and publish it.
So here we are. This overview of the Cubs farm system is neither extensive nor cohesive, but I’ve tacked on some recent stats to try and prevent its being completely irrelevant. I hope those of you who share my affinity for prospects will enjoy. To those who don’t, here is a nice baby sloth photo to make your stop here today worthwhile.
Baseball America’s Top 10 Cubs Prospects, 2012:
1. Brett Jackson (OF)
2. Javier Baez (SS)
3. Anthony Rizzo (1B)
4. Matt Szczur (OF)
5. Trey McNutt (RHP)
6. Dillon Maples (RHP)
7. Welington Castillo (C)
8. Rafael Dolis (RHP)
9. Junior Lake (SS)
10. Josh Vitters (3b)
Brett Jackson (23). No one has received more attention as of late than our (probable) center fielder of the future. And deservedly so. The toolsy Mr. Jackson has nearly everyone on his bandwagon following his stellar performance in spring camp. I have been on his bandwagon for years, so forgive any indignant eye-rolls I may cast in the direction of the newbies.
If you have been living in a cave and aren’t sure what the buzz is about, allow me to enlighten you. Brett is super athletic and has progressed through the system quickly, performing well pretty much everywhere. He is a five-tool player. If I had to guess, I’d say he’s also probably possesses a pitch-perfect singing voice, is an excellent cook, a proficient knitter, knows how to hack computers, and studies astronomy in his spare time.
Thus far in 2012 at triple-A Iowa, Brett is batting .238/.345/.429 with a .773 OPS. He’s recorded 5 stolen bases, 3 home runs, 3 triples, and 9 doubles. He has 12 RBI, and 22 runs scored.
Anthony Rizzo (22). He may be relatively new to us, but Mr. Rizzo hasn’t wasted any time in winning over Cubs Nation. Rumors of his potent bat, quick glove, and charming smile have reached our ready ears.
Due to the unexpected and meteoric rise of Bryan LaHair, it is unclear when we may see Anthony in Chicago. I’m betting it’s still gonna be sooner rather than later. AKA, as soon as the Cubs figure where to put him, and/or Mr. LaHair.
He’s been cleaning up the competition in Iowa this year. .349/.418/.659? 1.077 OPS? 11 homers, 34 RBI and 22 runs? Uhh, yes please.
Matt Szczur (22). If you found my snobbery over Brett Jackson’s bandwagon insufferable, then you definitely don’t want to sit anywhere near me on the Matt Szczur train.
I read somewhere (and I don’t remember the source, which makes the information seem even less credible, I know) that when Matt breaks into the majors, he will be the fastest player in the league. I find it hard to believe that this could be true, but the point remains that he is a very speedy chap. And Baseball America not only crowned him the best baserunner in the Cubs farm system, but the best all-round athlete as well.
It’s been on the dormant side lately, but Matt also keeps up a half-decent Twitter account(I didn’t become a fast fan for nothing.)Mr. Szczur has started the year with the High-A Daytona Cubs, where he is currently batting .250/.353/.348. He has stolen 16 bases, while he’s been caught in the act 5 times. He has almost as many runs (32) as hits (33), which strikes me as kinda crazy.
Jeff Beliveau (25). First off, it’s pronounced Bell-uh-voe, not Bell-view. Seems obvious to me (high-school French, yo!), but I kept hearing Jeff’s name butchered all over in January at Cubs Con. It was also at this event that none other than Theo Epstein named Jeff as a player we should be keeping eyes on.
Jeff’s numbers were nothing short of shining between Hi-A and AA in 2011. He’s a lefty with great stuff who has made drastic improvements to his game since joining the organization in the 2008 draft. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what the future holds.
Mr. Beliveau has logged 17.0 innings of relief duty for Iowa this year, his ERA sitting at a respectable 3.71. He has struck out 15 and walked 7.
Walking The Line:
Josh Vitters (22). I used to not love Josh Vitters, back when he was a hot-shot bonus baby, drafted out of high school in the first round. I also pretty much thought that he was destined to fail. Now that he has fallen a bit off the radar, naturally, and since having seen him in person at the Cubs Convention, I have come to like him a lot more.
So what does Joshy V. have going for him? Even though it seems like he’s been around forever, he isn’t old (drafting high schoolers has its advantages.) He did very well in the Arizona Fall League last season (hitting .360/.383/.540). The Cubs have been trying him out at first base and in the outfield, which can’t be unuseful.
And, hey! Mr. Vitters is holding steady in Iowa. He is currently batting .278/.313/.417 with a .730 OPS. He has driven in 17 runs and scored 16. Make me proud, kid, make me proud.
Entering the scene:
Javier Baez (19). “Entering” the scene may be an understatement in the case of young Mr. Baez, who was the Cubs’ first round choice in the 2011 draft. I reckon him more likely to be bursting onto it.
The 19-year-young infielder earned his first round selection (and $2.6 million signing bonus) by demonstration of particularly potent offensive talents. He hits for average and power, posseses plus bat speed and hand-eye coordination, and has a great throwing arm to boot.
Javier is slated to play for the short-season Boise Hawks this season.
Dillon Maples (19). Dillon was a 14th round pick in 2011, but only because he’d earned the label of “tough sign.” The Cubs were able to lure him away from a UNC scholarship with a $2.5m signing bonus.
The thought of a teenager being handed that kind of money is somewhat horrifying, but I’m gonna try and look past it.
The Cubs hope that Mr. Maples will develop into a top-of-the-rotation starter. His repertoire inclused a mid-90’s sinking fastball and a promising curve. He will be working on adding a change-up now that he’s a pro.
According to MiLB.com, Dillon does not exist.
Trevor Gretzky (19). Look at that baby face. I’m starting to feel very old.
On my personal radar:
Chris Rusin (25). Do I have a justifiable reason for my interest in Chris Rusin? Not really. All I can say is that every scouting report I’ve ever seen on the guy has intrigued me. He’s one of those precision pitchers. He won’t blow anyone away with a 98 MPH fastball, but he’ll get them out just the same. I like that.
Chris is currently holding down a rotation spot in AAA Iowa. Through 7 starts, he has tallied 39.2 IP with 21K/12BB. Opponents are batting .213 off of Chris and his ERA is 3.40. His record is 3-2. Love the pitching face, Chris.
Rebel Ridling (25). Mr. Ridling, a former player in the Valley Baseball League, has already exceded the expectations of your average 25th round draft pick. And while he probably isn’t a future All Star, I feel he’s worth keeping an eye on. Rebel has moved through the Cubs system pretty quickly, displaying good power, ability to hit for average, and plate discipline. Enough to make him worth keeping an eye on, eh?