The Farm Boy Files: 2012 Outlook

Here’s the deal:

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)

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The Farmboy Files: Midseason Roundup

Since the season is halfway through, I thought it would be a good time to take a peek at a few of the farmboys in the Cubs system and see how they are faring in 2011. First lets look at an overview of where our Cubs affiliates are currently standing…

Peoria Chiefs (Low A): The Chiefs are 41-49 and in next to last place in the Western Division of the Midwest League.

Daytona Cubs (High A): The D-Cubs, under the tutelage of Buddy Bailey, are currently sitting high atop the Florida State league with an impressive 57-33 record. The next best team is 8 games back. Keep it up, Daytona!

Tennessee Smokies (Double A): The Smokies aren’t doing too bad themselves with a 53-38 record on the year. They are easily in first place in the North Division of the Southern League.

Iowa Cubs (Triple A): And the I-Cubs, currently sitting on a 41-51 record, bring us back down to earth. They are in last place in their division of the Pacific Coast League.

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Now that we know where the teams are at, let’s get on to some individuals! Here we go.

Josh Vitters: Long considered the golden boy of the Cubs system, Joshy has yet to really live up to the hype. He has been healthy so far this year, though, which is good. His offensive numbers are respectable, but hardly mind-boggling. He’s batting .279/.316/.442 with 34 runs and 39 RBI through 80 games in Tennessee and has hit 8 homers and 19 doubles. He has a fielding percentage of .885 at 3B, where he has spent the most playing time. I don’t mean to dis the boy, but I’m a bit concerned at this point about what the post-Aramis era is going to look like for the Cubs.

Kyler Burke: The one time Cubs Minor League player-of-the year is a pitcher now, apparently. Whoa.

Matt Szczur: My new favorite prospect. Recently promoted from low-A Peoria to high-A Daytona. He was the Cubs rep in the MLB Futures Game. Follow him on Twitter! @SuperSZCZ4

It’s pronounced “See-zur.” Get it down now, folks!

Rebel Ridling & Ryan Flaherty: Two former VBL players, both doing tremendously well in AA Tennessee. One or other of the two leads almost every offensive category… convincingly ahead of Mr. Jackson and Mr. Vitters. It’s paying off, too. Ryan Flaherty was promoted to Iowa on Monday.

Drafted as a SS, Ryan has moved around a lot the past few years due to the Cubs depth at that particular position. And when I say moved around, I mean moved around. In 2011, he has played short (14 games), 1st (4), 2nd(37), 3rd (12), left (21), right (13), and has acted as DH a few times. It strikes me that Mr. Flaherty might be coming in handy in Chicago in a very short time.

Evan Crawford: I hadn’t heard of Evan up to this point (blast you, Vineline, and your less extensive 2011 minor league prospectus!) He was drafted by the Giants in 2009 and came to the Cubs I know not how.  Evan has registered 98 hits in just 78 games this season in Daytona, which caught my eye. He has also scored 52 runs, stolen 21 bases, and been hit by 12 pitches.

Not to be confused with Toronto double-A pitcher Evan Crawford.

Justin Bour: A Virginia native and George Mason alum. Woot. Justin, who plays 1B, has put up a good showing in Daytona, hitting 17 long-balls and 21 doubles in 85 games. He has driven in 63 runs and scored 45.

Ima be keeping my eye on him now.

Pitching, in general: It’s hard to judge. A lot of our farmboy pitchers have put up some less than exciting stats, but numbers rarely tell the whole story in minor league baseball.

Marwin Gonzalez: BRING HIM UP NOW, BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE TO ACHIEVE THE STARLIN-MARLON-MARWIN-DARWIN COMBO!

Brett Jackson: Promoted Monday to triple-A Iowa along with Ryan Flaherty. Look for one or both in Chicago soon. We are going to need something cooler than “B-Jax” to call him. Get working on that, people.

D.J. LeMahieu: Premature cup-of-coffee stint in Chicago aside, D.J. has been very impressive so far this season. In 61 games between double and triple A, he has batted .353, hit 17 doubles, driven in 31 runs and scored 36. He’s only walked 12 times, but he’s also only struck out 27. I’ll take that.

Angel Guzman: After undergoing major surgery at the beginning of last year, Angel is finally back in the game. He has thrown 4 innings for Peoria and allowed one run. After all that he has been through, you can’t help but get behind this guy and root him on. I hope we will see him back in Chicago soon.

Draftees: Through Thursday, the Cubs had signed 17 of their draft picks from ’11, including first round selection Zeke DeVoss (an outfielder from the University of Miami.) Welcome to the Cubs, Zeke and company!

Stay tuned for more FBB Farmboy coverage throughout the year!

The Farm Boy Files: Tony Campana

It’s time for another exciting edition of The Farm Boy Files! Today we take a closer look at outfield prospect Tony Campana…

  Basic Info

Full Name: Anthony Campana

Born May 30th, 1986 in Springboro, Ohio

H/W: 5’8”, 160

B/T: L/L

Statistics

Tony spent 2010 with the AA Tennessee Smokies. He batted .319 in 131 games with an OPS of .763 and scored 76 runs while driving in 39. He hit zero home runs, but had 5 triples, and stole 48 sacks. This year, Tony has advanced to AAA Iowa where he is batting .346/.384/.469 in 20 games so far. He has scored 16 runs and stolen 4 bases.

Honors

Tony was a mid- and post-season all star for the Smokies last season. He was also named the Southern League’s “Best Hustler”(Personally, I think the award for that should be a trophy of Paul Newman with a pool cue.)

Scouting Report

Speed is the name of Tony Campana’s game. Vineline magazine calls him “a terror” when he bunts. I like to bunt any time I can,” Tony himself says. “Two strikes, it doesn’t matter. I feel comfortable in any situation.” He has been clocked at 4.35 in the 40-yard dash, 3.6 to first base on a batted ball, and 3.3 to first on a bunt.

Recognizing the source of his livelihood, Tony takes very good care of his tootsies. “…I don’t try to go out and do too much [after games]; otherwise they’ll be tired the next day,” he says. “I don’t wear flip-flops or anything. I usually wear tennis shoes just because they’re better for your feet.” When I read this statement, for some reason, I was reminded of the episode of Seinfeld where George becomes a hand model…

Minor league coach Buddy Bailey had this to say of young Mr. Campana: “He makes a lot of things happen, not only his stolen bases. He gets us some pitchouts, diverts the pitcher’s and catcher’s attention, gets guys more fastballs, has shown the ability to steal second and third, and we have some guys here that have been fortunate to have him on third when they’ve hit some very weak fly balls that have turned into sac flies that got them RBIs and saved them at-bats.”

As a diminutive fellow, Tony has had to battle and prove himself at every level. “Nothing is ever going to come easy for me, so I have to work my way [to the top.]”

In case you were wondering…

Tony Campana is also the name of a plumber from Vineland, New Jersey.

You should also know that…

As a child, Tony battled Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was diagnosed at the age of seven and wasn’t proclaimed to be cured until he was 18. Baseball seems like small potatoes when you take stuff like this into consideration.

The Farm Boy Files: Ryan Flaherty

The Farm Boy Files is a feature designed to better acquaint ourselves with our Cubs prospects. Today’s profile is on shortstop turned utily-man and Arizona Fall League participant Ryan Flaherty.

Basic Info:

Ryan E. Flaherty, born July 27, 1986 in Portland Maine

6’3”, 220 lb.

B/T- L/R

Drafted by the Cubs out of Vanderbilt in the first compensation round in 2008.

Stats:

Between 131 games in single-A Daytona and double-A Tennessee in 2010, Ryan batted .271 with 10 home runs, 36 doubles, 72 RBI and 75 runs scored. He walked 51 times, to 86 strikeouts. In 6 games (14 AB) for the AFL’s Mesa Solar Sox, he has batted .286, scored 4 runs, and walked 5 times.

VBL Alum Power!: Ryan played for the Waynesboro General in 2007 (?).

Scouting: Ryan is a shortstop by trade, but is big and hits for power (think along the lines of Cal Ripken Jr.) Due to the logjam the Cubs organization has at shortstop, Ryan has been moved around the field a lot the past year or so. He spent the majority of 2010 at second and third base. According to a Vineline magazine poll of minor league coaches, Ryan is tops in the system in hitting for power, defensive range, and footwork.

Ryan had these things to say on his recent moving about the field:

I’m open to anything. Whatever they think gives me the best chance to move on in my career, I’m willing to do that. I’m ready.

As a kid, even though I loved playing shortstop, my father taught me to learn all positions in the field because you never know where help will be needed.

Video!

#1 Do you want to get some hitting pointers from Ryan Flaherty? Of course you do!

#2 Interviewage

The Farm Boy Files: Chris Archer

The Farm Boy Files is a feature designed to better acquaint ourselves with our Cubs prospects. Last time we featured RHP Kyle Smit, and this week we will continue with the Arizona Fall League theme by taking a look at young Chris Archer.

Name: Christopher Archer

Basic Stuff: 6’3″, 180

Born September 26, 1988 in Raleigh, North Carolina

B/T: R/R

Drafted in the 5th round by the Cleveland Indians round in 2006.  Acquired by the Cubs in the Mark DeRosa trade… don’t hold it against him.

Stats: In almost equal time between high-A Daytona and double-A Tennessee this season, Chris went 15-3 with a 2.34 ERA in 142.1 innings pitched. He racked up 149 strikeouts to 65 walks and recorded a 1.17 WHIP. This fine showing earned Chris the distinction of being named Cubs minor league pitcher of the year.

Scouting Report: Chris has a low 90’s fastball, a good slider and a good change-up to go along with plus arm strength. His command has improved quite a bit from recent years.

Quotables:

“He’s been outstanding for us from the day he walked in. He’s come into a level where there’s some pretty good hitters and done a good job.” -Tennessee manager Bill Dancy

“Some guys come up and have stuff, but they can’t command it. He doesn’t always command it, but when he gets in trouble, he knows how to get out of it. A lot of guys come up and they struggle but don’t know how to get out of it.” -Tennessee pitching coach Dennis Lewallyn

“When I was with the Indians and last year, my first year with the Cubs, all I thought was, ‘OK, let’s just throw strikes, let’s just get it in there.’ Now, it’s ‘This guy he can hit, so I’m going to give him fastballs low and away.’ Instead of just trying to throw strikes, I’m setting hitters up and they start swinging at off-speed stuff earlier in the count.” -Chris

Chris has definitely propelled himself to the top of my prospect-watch list! Be sure to keep tuning in once the AFL gets underway… I’ll be keeping tabs on Chris and all the other Cubs reps.


The Farm Boy Files: Hung-Wen Chen

The Farm Boy Files is a feature designed to better acquaint us all with our Cubs prospects. Today’s profile is one right-handed pitcher Hung-Wen Chen.

Full Name: Hung-Wen Chen

Basic Info: 5’11”, 210 lbs.

Born February 3, 1986, in Hualien, Taiwan

B/T: R/R

Signed by the Cubs as a non-drafted free agent in 2006.

Stats: At AA Tennessee last year, Chen (should I call him Chen?) went 8-11 with a 4.48 ERA in 27 starts (142.2 innings.) He tabulated 98 strikeouts to 32 walks, with a 1.38 WHIP.

He is with the Smokies again in 2010, and has thus far compiled a 3-4 record, with a 2.96 ERA in 8 starts (48.2 IP.) He has 24 strikeouts, 13 walks and a 1.15 WHIP.

Fun Facts!:

Chen was the first Taiwanese player ever signed by the Cubs.

He is the nephew of former Olympic hurler Yi-Hsin Chen.

He was on Taiwan’s roster for the 2009 World Baseball Classic but did not pitch in the Classic itself.

Scouting Report: The most advanced of the Cubs’ Taiwanese prospects, Chen is a tough, fearless competitor with a rubber arm. He is not afraid to pitch to contact. He is a smart player, and learned English quickly.

According to polls taken of organizational coaches and scouts, Chen ranks among the tops in the system in command, durability, poise and make-up. He is also said to have the best splitter of any Cubs prospect.

Some words from Cubs minor league pitching coordinator Mark Riggins:

He’s got a slider and a split that he throws. He’s in the range of 89 to 92 (mph) and has very good movement on his fastball. He locates his pitches really well and he’s also pretty smart at how to pitch. He knows how to mix his pitches.

Video!:


The Farm Boy Files: John Gaub

Because I enjoy being “up” on the Cubs’ farm system, and because every time I write about a prospect the blog seems to get a ton of hits, I’ve decided to start profiling individual players.

To kick it off, we are going to take a look at left-handed pitcher John Gaub. Let’s giddy-up!

Basic Info – Born 4/28/85, 6’2”/200 lb., College- Minnesota. Selected by the Cleveland Indians in the 21st round of the 2006 draft, acquired by the Cubs on December 31, 2008 in the Mark DeRosa trade.

Statistical Stuff – Solid in 2009, John split the year between AA Tennessee and AAA Iowa. He went a combined 4-2 with a 2.25 ERA in 60.0 IP… 33 BB/80 K, .172 OpAVG, 1.15 WHIP. He struggled in Arizona Fall League, going 1-1 in 9.2 IP with 9.31 ERA.

Repertoire Includes – Fastball in the low 90’s, above average slider.

Socks – CHECK!

In case you were wondering – John is a hockey fan (favorite team, Minnesota Wild), he is annoyed by ketchup packets, his favorite boardgame is Candyland, he never leaves home without chapstick, he wanted a new arm for Christmas, he enjoys the lakes of Minnesota, and he can bend his fingers all the way back so they touch the back of his hand.

Minorleagueball.com says[John Gaub is a] guy who could help in the bullpen in 2010. Command is an issue but great K/IP ratios and low hittability stand out.

Marc Hulet of fangraphs.com says – The southpaw began the year in double-A where he allowed 19 hits in 28.2 innings of work with a walk rate of 5.34 BB/9 but a strikeout rate of 12.56 K/9. Gaub, 24, has now allowed one hit in 5.2 triple-A innings, with three walks and four Ks. In his career, left-handers are hitting just .158 against him, so he could have a career as a LOOGY* if he cannot sharpen his command and control. (July 2009)

*Left handed specialist

Marc Hulet also says – The organization may have regretted trading veteran infielder Mark DeRosa to the Indians, but it wasn’t all bad. The club received back three interesting arms in the deal. Gaub is the closest to having a key impact at the MLB level. The left-handed reliever had a dominating season in the minors, even with below-average control (5.34 BB/9 in double-A). At that level, he also allowed just 19 hits in 28.2 innings of work, while also posting a strikeout rate of 12.56 K/9. Moved up to triple-A, Gaub allowed 17 hits in 31.1 innings with a strikeout rate of 11.49 K/9. His control improved a smidgen to 4.60 BB/9. His stuff – especially his fastball velocity – has improved each of the past three seasons. Impressively, he’s equally as effective against left-handed and right-handed hitters (.167 average/12.57 K/9 vs lefties and .175/11.45 vs righties). (December 2009)

I sayThat what you say is what I say.

But seriously – Other than his shaky AFL showing, I don’t see any reason why John Gaub shouldn’t be able to make it to the bigs at some point in 2010. I would not expect him to make it right out of spring training, but we’ll have to wait and see I suppose. With injuries and such, one never knows. Oh my goodness… that rhymed.

Because that accidental rhyming just inspired me

John Gaub

ain’t no slob.

For his job

a ball he lobs.

And if you’re interested in a YouTube video of John throwing, here is one.