2009 Top 5 Prospects: Chicago Cubs

December 10, 2008
Josh Vitters is the object of many teams affections. (mwlguide/flickr)

Josh Vitters is the object of many teams' affections. (mwlguide/flickr)

It seems as if every winter the Chicago Cubs are big players in the free agent game and always seem to have big name players linked to them in rumors. Yet despite all the action they are involved in and all the big names they are able to bring to the north side, they still seem to always have a nice base of youngsters stocked up in their minor league system. In fact you don’t need to look any further for proof of this than last year’s Rookie of the Year winner in Geovany Soto. While a couple of the names from my top five of the Cubs from last season have managed to remain, we have some very talented new faces that have stacked the Cubs pretty well in a variety of positions. So let’s take a look at the Cubs top five:

1.) Josh Vitters
Position: Third Base | Statistics | Video | 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 (make sure to check out my in-depth Prospect Spotlight of Josh Vitters).

2.) Jeff Samardzija
Position: Pitcher | Statistics | Video | 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 | Statistics | Video | 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 | Statistics | Video | 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 | Statistics | Video | 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.

2008 Rankings: (1) Josh Vitters, (2) Geovany Soto, (3) Sean Gallagher, (4) Eric Patterson, (5) Tyler Colvin

By Matthew Whipps
The Diamond Cutter
Major & Minor League Baseball Columnist
mlbdiamondcutter@gmail.com | thefranch15e

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2008 Top 5 Prospects: Chicago Cubs

February 4, 2008

As we lead up to both the start of the 2008 season and our “Diamond Cutter” top 100 prospects list, I will be taking a look at the top five prospects from every single Major League team. Each team will have its top five prospects along with a brief scouting report on each player that I have pulled from my scouting notes. Today we move on to the NL Central with the deep Chicago Cubs top 5. As always, let me know how you feel about the rankings in the comments section below or via email.

1.) Josh Vitters, 3B: Vitters was the best high school hitter in this past year’s 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 only 18 years old, 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 (entire “Prospect Spotlight” scouting report).

2.) Geovany Soto, C: Soto made a very smooth transition to behind the plate at the Cubs request. Now it seems as if his bat is catching up with his glove finally as he has made excellent strides in both average and power. He has shown excellent discipline both at the plate and behind it. His rise up scouting charts was almost as fast as his rise through the system as the Cubs have a legitimate catching prospect for the first time in years.

3.) Sean Gallagher, RHP: Gallagher has the mentality that the plate belongs to him and not the hitter. With this fearless attitude, Gallagher isn’t afraid to come inside on batters which is incredibly important, especially for a youngster. His repertoire includes two fastballs – one in the low-90’s with good sinking movement and the other a few mph faster that rises, a stellar curveball, a change and a very successful slider all of which he has very good command of. It’s not often you see a pitcher this young with so many pitches at his disposal and such strong poise on the mound.

4.) Eric Patterson, OF: Patterson finally looks to be a legitimate lead off hitter the Cubs have been looking years for. His greatest attribute is his blazing speed and stellar base running instincts. He also has a lead off hitter’s approach at the plate as he works the count well and when he swings the bat he tends to slap the ball and hit line drives. Biggest weakness is his strikeout rate as he can sometimes get out of his game and try to do too much by swinging at bad pitches. The Cubs have moved him from second base to the outfield but the fact that he can play either makes him very valuable especially as their savior in the lead off spot.

5.) Tyler Colvin, OF: 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 leftfield.

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