This week is Minor League Week. Over the next four days, I’d like to introduce you to the 26 prospects I’m following closely this season. Why 26? Well, to steal a line from Scott over at Rays of Light, “why not 26?” What I plan to do this year is to follow 26 guys over the course of the year with daily updates on their performance. Are we limited to 26? Of course not. If someone begins to shine, you can bet they’ll make the list. If someone begins to fizzle out, you can bet they’ll be dropped. We’ll close out the week on Friday with the announcement of the Cubs top 10 prospects as voted on by 10 people who’s opinions I respect.

When I was a kid growing up, I would hear that the Cubs made a trade and in return received two or three prospects in return. I didn’t know anything about these kids, and they weren’t in the Major Leagues, so why should I care? Over time, I’ve learned that what type of farm you have has a direct impact on the success of your team over the long haul. The Cubs have shown a new commitment to being successful with their farm system with the addition of Tim Wilken to the mix. I’m excited to see what the system can produce over the next few years, and hopefully you will get there as well. If nothing else, use these farm reports as a way of knowing a little about what is going on in our system.

With that being said, let’s introduce you to some of the hitters we’re following this season. I’ve included the players most recent stats by level for your convenience.

Koyie Hill – C

Why would I choose Hill as part of prospect watch list even though he’s 28 years old? I did so for a few reasons. He figures to be the first catcher recalled in the event that Henry Blanco gets hurt or Geovanny Soto struggles miserably. Many really liked Hill. They felt he handled the pitching staff well and was our best option behind the plate because the staff posted low ERA’s and other secondary stats with him in there. I don’t put too much stock in the catcher ERA stat, but some do. The fact remains that Hill is what we’ve got as a third string guy and warrants being followed in the tracker.

Josh Donaldson – C

Donaldson was selected in the compensatory first round by the Cubs in 2007 and spent the bulk of his time with the Boise Hawks. He cracks many top 10 prospect lists for the Cubs and figures to land a spot on the compilation list I am working on. I’d love to see him get a spot in Peoria this season with the chance to be promoted mid year if performance merits it. He’s been invited to spring training as a non-roster player, but I don’t think that will amount to anything more than a taste of what he’s working for. had the following to say about Donaldson when he was picked.

Donaldson really helped himself with a strong Cape Cod season last summer, but there are concerns about whether he’ll be able to catch up to better velocities with the loop in his swing. He may improve with more experience as a full-time catcher, but his arm is below average and he does not profile as a premium catch-and-throw guy. Some see a switch to the infield — he’s played third in college — but he may make for a good backup catcher who plays the game the right way.

Eric Patterson – 2b / OF

I wrote a post about a week ago on why the Cubs do not need Brian Roberts because they already have Patterson. I’m sticking to my guns on that statement. I believe in Patterson a great deal and would love to see what he has to offer this team in 2008. That being said, I doubt he’ll get his shot unless something drastic happens. I ask you this, though. Is he better than Mike Fontenot? Ronny Cedeno? I think he’s better than both and yet both will probably make this opening day roster. Why not get the speed the team craves with Patterson? This is not Corey. As a fan, we need to put away the sting that Corey Patterson’s time with the team brought and look at his brother as a separate player. For one, Eric has less talent but a much better drive to succeed.

Tony Thomas – 2B

Like Donaldson, Thomas is another product of the 2007 draft, this time coming in the third round out of Florida State. Thomas is similar in stature to Ryan Theriot. He has good speed, stealing 28 bases in his limited time in the minors.

Josh Vitters – 3B

Drafted with the third overall pick of the 2007 draft, Vitters signed the day of the deadline, and as a result did not receive the amount of time to play that Donaldson and Thomas did. He figures to go back to Boise to gain some experience. As a high school draftee, the Cubs have plenty of time to allow Vitters to learn and develop in the minors. He figures to be the heir to Aramis Ramirez when his contract expires after the 2012 season. That should allow for him to progress slowly through the system and develop into the type of player the Cubs envision him to be. had the following to say:

Vitters entered the season as the top high school hitter on most draft boards and he did nothing all season to upset that standing, even though he dealt with a bout of pneumonia during the season. With an uncanny ability to make hard, consistent contact, Vitters has the ability to hit for average and power at the next level. He makes terrific adjustments at the plate and rarely gets cheated. His defensive game isn’t as strong as his bat, but he should be just fine at third base.

Tyler Colvin – OF

I’ve mentioned this plenty of times before and I’ll mention it again. Colvin was drafted in the first round and many felt it was an overdraft to be able to allow the team to offer big money to Jeff Samardzija in the 5th round of the 2006 draft. Colvin has since out played Samardzija and has justified his first round selection by being selected as one one’s top 50 minor league prospects in 2008 and as a member of the Team USA baseball team. Colvin has been invited to Spring Training, but his chances to make the team are slim. However, if he continues on his current pace, I expect to see him in Cub uniform sometime during the season, even if it means a September call up is all he gets.

Kyler Burke – OF

Burke was acquired in the deal that sent Michael Barrett to San Diego. At the time, many felt that Rob Bowen for Barrett was a deal that Jim Hendry lost. However, Bowen turned into Jason Kendall and Burke came along in the Padre deal as well. If he can justify some of the hype around him when he was picked in the first round, the Cubs will have stolen from the Padres big time in that trade.

We’ll continue tomorrow with the look at four more hitters we’re following in 2008.

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Joe Aiello is the founder of View From the Bleachers and one of the lead writers. Growing up in Chicago, he fondly remembers attending games in the bleachers before that was the popular thing to do. Currently Joe resides in North Carolina with his wife and three kids and helps people protect their assets as an independent insurance agent. Connect with Joe via Twitter / Facebook / E-mail