Minor League Keeper Thoughts: Chicago Cubs

ANAHEIM CA - JULY 11: U.S. Futures All-Star Brett Jackson #13 of the Chicago Cubs fields a pop fly during the 2010 XM All-Star Futures Game at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 11 2010 in Anaheim California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

So far, we've looked at 5 of the systems in the Majors, and seen some good and some not-so-good. The goal with each team I look at is to discuss a few players who are likely to have an impact in the Majors in 2012, a few who could be ready by the start of 2014, and a few more who are a long ways away, but could be interesting as well. You can find links to the previous teams below:

Keeper Thoughts - Houston Astros
Keeper Thoughts - Minnesota Twins
Keeper Thoughts - Seattle Mariners
Keeper Thoughts - Baltimore Orioles
Keeper Thoughts - Kansas City Royals

Next up for review is the Chicago Cubs system, which should hopefully start to improve with new team president Theo Epstein and new general manager Jed Hoyer running the show.

Overview

The system was emptied quite a bit last offseason with the acquisition of Matt Garza, but there are a few players of interest still in the Cubs' system.

2011 Graduates

None

Ready in 2012

Brett Jackson

Year Age Lg Lev G R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2009 20 ARIZ Rk 3 6 5 0 1 0 4 0 0 3 4 .455 .533 .636 1.170
2009 20 NORW A- 24 14 29 1 1 1 15 2 1 17 20 .330 .443 .398 .841
2009 20 MIDW A 26 30 33 5 1 7 17 11 1 11 32 .295 .383 .545 .927
2010 21 FLOR A+ 67 56 83 19 8 6 38 12 7 43 63 .316 .420 .517 .937
2010 21 SOUL AA 61 47 63 13 6 6 28 18 4 30 63 .276 .366 .465 .831
2011 22 SOUL AA 67 45 63 10 3 10 32 15 6 45 74 .256 .373 .443 .816
2011 22 PCL AAA 48 39 55 13 2 10 26 6 1 28 64 .297 .388 .551 .939
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/27/2011.


Jackson came into the 2011 season widely viewed as the top prospect in the Cubs' system, and did nothing to dissuade that ranking last year. He finished the season at AAA, showing power and speed. Here's what Nathaniel Stoltz of Seedlings to Stars had to say about him:

Jackson has significant skills that make him a very intriguing, and if he could find a way to solve his strikeout problems and/or add a ton of power, he could be a star. The most likely outcome, however, is that he’ll be an average starting outfielder–a three-win player, basically. He’s close to that level already, but he still needs to prove he can make some reasonable level of contact against top pitchers to avoid being a Corey Patterson-style bust.

The strikeouts remain a huge problem, as he struck out 138 times last year, and 126 times in 2010. However, I like the comp that Nathaniel gave in the same post: Chris Young of the Diamondbacks. Jackson profiles to be a useful outfielder for fantasy purposes, although the batting average may be a downside from him. I am of the opinion that he will start 2012 in AAA, but could be in Chicago by midseason depending on how he performs.

Josh Vitters

Year Age Lg Lev G R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2007 17 ARIZ Rk 7 0 2 0 0 0 2 0 0 1 9 .067 .094 .067 .160
2007 17 NORW A- 7 2 4 0 0 0 1 1 1 2 5 .190 .261 .190 .451
2008 18 NORW A- 61 38 85 25 2 5 37 1 3 13 45 .328 .365 .498 .863
2008 18 MIDW A 4 1 3 3 0 0 1 0 0 0 5 .214 .214 .429 .643
2009 19 MIDW A 70 42 85 12 1 15 46 4 0 7 42 .316 .351 .535 .886
2009 19 FLOR A+ 50 21 45 7 2 3 22 2 1 5 23 .238 .260 .344 .604
2010 20 FLOR A+ 28 16 32 8 0 3 13 4 1 8 22 .291 .350 .445 .795
2010 20 SOUL AA 63 28 46 12 0 7 26 2 0 13 41 .223 .292 .383 .676
2011 21 SOUL AA 129 56 127 28 2 14 81 4 10 22 54 .283 .322 .448 .770
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/27/2011.

Every year, it seems like Vitters has the potential to move forward and really emerge as the player that was drafted #3 overall. And every year it seems like he just doesn't quite reach the expectation of him. He posted solid numbers in AA last year, hitting 14 home runs with a .283 batting average. Here's what Ray had to say as a part of his review of Vitters for Minor League Ball back in August:

At this point in his minor league career, Vitters has walked an unfathomable 65 times in almost 1,500 at bats. Needless to say, he is never going to be an on-base guy. But, the power has not developed either. His career slugging percentage is just .438, and he has just 45 HRs, an for a third baseman, that is not going to cut it.

It's hard to get too down on Vitters performance to date, because even though he has been in the minors for parts of 5 seasons now, he is still just 22 years old. That said, he will need to produce with the bat to make it long term as a 3B, and I agree with Ray that he will need a pretty good year in AAA to show he can do that.

Trey McNutt

Year Age Lg Lev W L ERA G IP H R ER HR BB SO HBP WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2009 19 ARIZ Rk 0 1 0.00 6 7.1 5 5 0 0 3 7 0 1.091 6.1 0.0 3.7 8.6 2.33
2009 19 NORW A- 3 0 1.33 7 20.1 9 7 3 1 12 21 3 1.033 4.0 0.4 5.3 9.3 1.75
2010 20 MIDW A 6 0 1.51 13 59.2 43 14 10 0 24 70 2 1.123 6.5 0.0 3.6 10.6 2.92
2010 20 FLOR A+ 4 0 2.63 9 41.0 29 16 12 3 9 49 2 0.927 6.4 0.7 2.0 10.8 5.44
2010 20 SOUL AA 0 1 5.74 3 15.2 21 12 10 2 4 13 0 1.596 12.1 1.1 2.3 7.5 3.25
2011 21 SOUL AA 5 6 4.55 23 95.0 120 50 48 5 39 65 5 1.674 11.4 0.5 3.7 6.2 1.67
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/27/2011.

McNutt burst onto the scene in 2010, where he struck out 132 in 116 innings across 3 levels. However, 2011 was a lost year, between the performance he showed and the injuries he suffered. John Sickels made mention of this in his review of his top 50 pitching prospects:

20) Trey McNutt, RHP, Chicago Cubs, Grade B+: 4.55 ERA with 65/39 K/BB in 95 Double-A innings, 120 hits. Hampered by blisters and rib injury, was not 100% for most of the season.

I believe that McNutt will return to AA to start out the 2012 season, and could potentially move up after a few starts if he can show some of the skills he did in 2010. I don't think he will likely be up during the 2012 season, unless he gets a September callup. That said, I think that if the injuries are behind him, he could be a fast mover and we could see him on the North Side by the start of 2013.

Could be Ready by 2014

Matt Szczur

Year Age Lg Lev G R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2010 20 ARIZ Rk 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 .500 .750 .500 1.250
2010 20 NORW A- 18 17 29 9 0 0 8 1 0 6 11 .397 .439 .521 .960
2010 20 MIDW A 6 6 5 1 1 0 2 0 0 3 5 .192 .300 .308 .608
2011 21 MIDW A 66 55 86 15 1 5 27 17 5 21 28 .314 .366 .431 .796
2011 21 FLOR A+ 43 20 45 7 2 5 19 7 0 5 20 .260 .283 .410 .694
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/27/2011.

In case anyone was wondering, it is pronounced "Caesar". Szczur was a 2010 draftee who played in full season ball for the first time in 2011, and his performance shows a potentially high-level talent. However, Szczur will likely need to start moving up the system relatively quickly to keep up with the expected age for the league. He finished last season in High-A as a 21 year old, which is about right. He'll likely start the year there, and could be promoted to AA by the All-Star break. Here's what Al Skorupa of Bullpen Banter had to say about Szczur as a part of their top 15 Cubs' prospects:

Matt Szczur is a speedy, max effort centerfelder. I question how much power he'll hit for as he doesn't incorporate his lower half in his swing well. Like Jackson, he's probably more of a good MLB starter than a regular All Star.

Overall, Szczur could vault toward the top of overall prospect rankings if he can repeat his 2011 season. We could be looking at a potential 20-20 candidate at his peak.

Long-Term Prospects (Won't Be Ready Until at Least 2015)

Javier Baez

Year Age Lg Lev G R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2011 18 ARIZ Rk 3 2 4 2 0 0 0 2 0 0 2 .333 .333 .500 .833
2011 18 NORW A- 2 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 2 .167 .167 .167 .333
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/27/2011.

Baez was the Cubs' top pick in the 2011 draft, and while he was drafted as a shortstop, it sounds like he will have to move as he continues to grow. Here's what Kevin Goldstein had to say about Baez as a part of his top 11 for the Cubs:

The Good: Baez can flat-out rake. He has blinding bat speed, excellent hand-eye coordination, and projects for average to plus power as he learns how to drive balls. He has solid defensive fundamentals for his age, and his arm is more than enough for the left side of the infield.
The Bad: Baez is not the kind of athlete one normally sees at shortstop. He's an average runner at best and not especially quick, leaving most to believe he'll move to third base early in his development. Some describe his play as "out of control," and he'll need to develop a big-league approach at the plate. One scout noted that he rarely took pitches—even bad ones—in high school.

Overall, I believe he will end up at 3B long term, but he probably won't be in Chicago for another 5 years at the soonest. If the team is looking to challenge him, they might send him to a Low-A full-season affiliate to start out, but I think more likely he will be in one of the short-season leagues.

Dan Vogelbach

Year Age Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB
2011 18 Cubs ARIZ Rk CHC 6 27 24 4 7 3 0 1 6 1 0 2 2 .292 .370 .542 .912 13 0 1 0 0 0
1 Season 6 27 24 4 7 3 0 1 6 1 0 2 2 .292 .370 .542 .912 13 0 1 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/27/2011.

Vogelbach was the Cubs' 2nd round selection this year, signing an overslot deal of $1.6 million. He did make his debut in the Arizona Rookie League, appearing in 6 games and hitting 1 homer in that time. Vogelbach was drafted out of high school and his calling card appears to be his power. Here's what Matt Garrioch over at MLB Bonus Baby had to say about Vogelbach back in January:

Power is an asset for Vogelbach and he presented it last week at Chase Field in Arizona at the 5th Annual Power Showcase. You may have heard of a kid named Bryce Harper who hit a 502 FT home run in the 2009 power showcase at Tropicana Field. Well, Vogelbach hit a ball 508' at Chase Field to set a new Power Showcase record. He hit 30 in total.

His power does come pretty easily, or so it looks, with a well balanced powerful swing from the left side. He has lightning fast wrists to generate enormous power. He's not a one trick pony though. When I saw him run a 60 yard dash, I was shocked. He has average speed, plus for his size, and is a better athlete than you would expect. His defense at 1B is adequate and could get better with some work.

I would imagine that Vogelbach will start the 2012 season in one of the Cubs' short season affiliates, as he will be 19 years old for the entire 2012 season. Down the line, he could have the potential to be a top-tier home run threat, but that is probably years away still. He could vault up prospect rankings if he translates that power during the season.

Jeimer Candelario

Year Age Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB
2011 17 Cubs 2 DOSL FRk CHC 72 305 249 50 84 16 2 5 53 4 4 50 42 .337 .443 .478 .921 119 4 1 0 5 0
1 Season 72 305 249 50 84 16 2 5 53 4 4 50 42 .337 .443 .478 .921 119 4 1 0 5 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/27/2011.

Candelario spent the entire 2011 season in the Dominican Summer League, but posted some excellent numbers while there. I love seeing that many walks from a player that young, but the key to remember here is that he has yet to debut in the States. Here's what Kevin Goldsterin of Baseball Prosepctus had to say about him:

The Good: Candelario has significant offensive potential. He earns raves for his highly-polished approach, and is a switch-hitter with power potential to all fields and a knack for consistent hard contact. He's a solid runner with the tools to become an average first baseman.
The Bad: Candelario's swing works much better from the left side; his power is reduced greatly with his contact-based swing against lefties. He's still messy defensively, and there are worries that he could be forced to first base or left field should he fill out and slow down.

At this point, Candelario is only a play in extremely deep leagues, as he is still extremely far away. It concerns me that he's already at 3B, and could be forced from there as well. If he is, he will have to provide nearly all of his value with the bat.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join Fake Teams

You must be a member of Fake Teams to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Fake Teams. You should read them.

Join Fake Teams

You must be a member of Fake Teams to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Fake Teams. You should read them.

Spinner

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker