View From The Bleachers

Talking Cubs Baseball Since 2003



July 2011



Roundtable: Who's Your Prospect?

Written by , Posted in General

Which prospect(s) are you most rooting for in the system?

They haven’t signed as of this writing, but I’m really pulling for Javier Baez and Dan Vogelbach. The Cubs are starved for impact bats, and these players have a chance to develop into that category. Of course, no prospect discussion would be complete without a quick comment about Brett Jackson. John Sickels rates Jackson as a B+ prospect and “loves his broad base of skills.” Baseball America ranked Jackson as the 37th best prospect in baseball. He can’t get to Wrigley soon enough for me. ~ Buddy

I am rooting for Bryan LaHair to continue his success at the minor league level.  I am a fan of LaHair, who is still in the minors at age 28, because I think his numbers are deserving of a shot in the big leagues but his break has not yet come.  I know that Father Time is working against him, but there is still a chance for LaHair to have a career as a reserve or even a starting first baseman in the bigs.  In 93 games at Triple-A Iowa, his numbers are almost unbelievable.  LaHair owns a .346 average, has launched 28 home runs and drove in 78.  He leads the Pacific Coast League in homers, ranks fourth in RBIs and eighth in batting average.  He swings a powerful stick from the left side, which could be a major asset to the Cubs next season.  When I check the minor league box scores, I hope to see big numbers next too LaHair’s name because I think he has already earned a shot with the Cubs.  If he continues to produce, Bryan LaHair cannot be ignored much longer. ~ Brandon Vickrey

For position players, the prospect I’m rooting for most is also a guy with one of the prettiest swings in all of minor league baseball, Josh Vitters. He’s fallen off most Top Prospect lists because he swings at everything and it seems he’s allergic to take walks. His walk rate this season is a putrid 4.0% which puts him in the bottom three of the Southern League. On the plus side, he only strikes out in 10% of his at bats, which puts him in the top 10. If he never improves, he might be a Shea Hillenbrand type player, and that’s not a compliment for the number three overall pick in the draft. With a little plate discipline he can become much more than that and would be a boon to the Cubs future.

Another position player I’m interested in, who is not yet officially a Cub, is this past June’s second round draft pick, Dan Vogelbach. Watch this and tell me he’s not going to be a fun guy to watch!

The second coming of Prince Fielder!

As for pitchers, I’ll go with Austin Kirk, a third round pick in 2009. Looks to be a good control type pitcher, something the Cubs always seem to lack. Earlier this season he threw a no-hitter for Class A Peoria. Above average strikeouts, above average control, but a long ways off; he was selected by John Manuel as a Breakout Candidate and that selection appears to have been a good one. ~ Norm Bothwell

If you would have asked me this question last year, I would have ended up giving you two names, both hitters. Instead, this year I can give you the same exact names and yet one is a hitter and one is a newly converted pitcher. Ryan Flaherty is a versatile infielder that can even play in the OF if needed and may end up at third when all is said and done. He was picked in the supplemental picks of the first round in 2008 out of Vanderbilt. He’s got the potential to be a 20-25 homerun guy in the majors as his power develops. He’s slowly working his way through the system and I think you’ll see him with a chance to compete for a spot on the roster next year at some point. The fact that he lacks a true position could actually make him more valuable as a Mark DeRosa super-sub type guy.

On the mound, Kyler Burke is a guy I’ve been hoping on for the last four years since he was acquired from the Padres in the Michael Barrett deal. He’s a former 1st round pick of the Friars who just couldn’t turn the hype into production at the plate, save a really nice 2009 when things fell into place and he won the player of the year award in the Cubs system. Aside from that hiccup of good production, he just couldn’t hit with any consistency. This year, at age 23, he’s converted to the mound in an effort to try to harness the raw power his arm possesses and try to make it to the majors as a reliever. As of this writing, pitching for Peoria (Low-A), he’s appeared in eight games with an ERA of 3.92 in 20.2 innings of work. The encouraging part is the fact that he’s struck out 16 and walked just 7. ~ Joe Aiello

Although I don’t know if he still qualifies as a prospect, I’m rooting for Tyler Colvin to rediscover his swing and hit his way back up to the majors.  At times last season he excelled in a difficult, fluctuating role in the outfield.  But even when he wasn’t at his best, he was still as good as most of our other OF options.  I’d like to see what he can do with some consistent playing time, but we won’t find out until he can hit big league pitching again.

I’m also rooting for Wellington Castillo, mainly because I’m a fan of catchers who can hit, and his promotion to the bigs gives the Cubs some flexibility.  Should we try to trade Soto or dump Hill? Until Castillo takes the next step, neither really seems like a viable option. ~ Jeremiah Johnson

I’m pulling for Trevor Gretzky, 18 y/o firstbaseman, signed in the 7th round of the June 2011 baseball draft.  It’s not for Trevor’s sake that I hope he makes it, it’s for the sake of the Chicago Cubs.

Trevor’s “woulda been” baseball coach at San Diego State University, HOFer Tony Gwynn, says good things about young Mr. Gretzky.
Trevor impressed Cubs scouts at a predraft workout at Mesa, AZ.
Trevor played football at Oaks Christian H.S. (Westlake Village, CA) along with the sons of some other famous people (until a torn labrum ended his season).
Trevor grew up in sunny Southern California.
Trevor signed for an “undisclosed amount” (which usually indicates the contract is worth more that the league’s recommended slot).

Baseball America says of Trevor Gretzky:

  • He’s a “poor runner”.
  • BA questioned his defense, and added
  • “He has plenty of holes in his swing.” ~ CubbieDude
  • Buddy

    Love the roundtable format! Keep up the good work Joe!

  • Josh

    I’m with Norm.

    I really want to see Vitters do well. The kid had a lot of talent coming out of high school and still does at only 21 22? Can’t remember which. If he raises his OBP and learns more patience at the plate he should be a mid-level starting 3B in a year or two.

  • Norm

    oooops, for my Kirk entry, “he was selected by John Manuel as a Breakout Candidate” should have said John Sickels.

  • Buddy

    Maybe John Manuel feels the same way!

  • BuckeyeLakerCub

    No one for Brett Jackson? I’m pulling for him.

    • Norm

      The question was looking to focus on guys that weren’t necessarily TOP prospects so I think everyone stayed away from him.

  • Buddy

    I mentioned Jackson, and absolutley I’m pulling for him to succeed.

  • Seymour Butts

    Here’s a cute You tube clip of a switch hitter facing a switch pitcher.

    • CubbieDude

      Never seen that before!

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    Norm, Is Vitters still projected to be a 3B in the bigs? For as long as I’ve been hearing about him, I don’t really have an idea what kind of player he could be. I got the sense a while back that his glove was only so-so, and that it was part of what was holding him back. Don’t know how accurate that is these days, but where does he fit with the Cubs going forward? Could he replace Ramirez as soon as next season, or in 2013? Or do you see him shifting over to 1B or the outfield?

    • Jeremiah Johnson

      Also, I enjoyed the video of Vogelbach. He looks Kruk-tastic.

    • Norm

      The Cubs have Vitters and Flaherty splitting time between 1st and 3rd. I think they’ve given up on him being a full time 3B…but will not say that publicly of course.

      • Norm

        I should’ve said “had” them splitting time…I’m not sure what they’ve been doing since the Flaherty promotion.

  • Buddy

    Vitters’ fielding percentage at 3B this year is .887.

  • Buddy

    This season Vitters has played 65 games at 3B, 29 at 1B, and 1 at DH.