Question: with the Cubs expected to stir the pot during the trade deadline, what exactly will we build around? Temporary solutions are ideal so as not to block prospects, but if we can get good prospects in return, what are our needs? The Cubs have worked hard in the last year and a half to boost a lackluster farm system, and there are now a number of prized players in the minor leagues at various levels, giving the team a solid base to build around It’s too bad we don’t have much of a chance to watch these guys perform, and therefore have mostly stats to go by. But the numbers do look promising…
Daytona Cubs (Florida State League- A)
Brett Jackson, OF- Recently moved up to the Tennessee Smokies, the 21 year old lefty may be the best in the Cubs’ system. He’s batting .333 in his first 9 games with Tenn., coming off of a league leading .937 OPS in the Florida State League. In Daytona, Brett exhibited how well rounded a player he is, with a high OBP & SLG, 19 doubles, 8 triples, 12 SB’s and 56 runs over 67 games. Between both leagues he’s .318/.425/.952 (BA/OBP/OPS) with 8 HR’s, 45 RBI’s, and 15 SB’s. Sounds like a soon to be great leadoff hitter to me.
Chris Archer, P- Also 21, Archer has collected 82 strikeouts in 72.1 innings so far this year, while walking only 26 batters. He’s been very effective as a starter, posting a 7-1 record and 2.86 ERA in 14 starts. His high K/9 (10.26) and low BB/9 would make him a bullpen candidate as well, depending on the team’s needs in the near future.
Trey McNutt, P has been a breakout case this year; in Peoria, the 20 year old righty is 6-0 over 13 games started with a 1.51 ERA and 70 strikeouts. With just under 60 innings under his belt, McNutt will now pitch in the Florida State League.
Tennessee Smokies (Southern League- AA)
Josh Vitters, 3B- Another promoted player from Daytona, the 20 year old was last seen hitting .292 before being promoted after 28 games. Since then, he has struggled in the Southern League, batting a meager .222.
At such a ripe young age, Vitters has time to polish his approach and improve on defense as he moves through the Cubs’ farm system. Given his reputation, Vitters could be a good prospect trade chip, but also retains some value since he adds needed depth at 3B.
Ty Wright, LF has been promoted to Iowa after tearing up the Southern League. For Tennessee, the 25 year old flexed his muscles, hitting 10 homers and 21 doubles, and batting .298 and driving in 51 runs in 73 games before his promotion.
Wright joins prospects Brad Snyder and Bryan LaHair in Iowa as possible outfielders or first basemen if needed in the immediate future. Given the glut of talent at these positions, any of these players has a chance to step up and render the other two expendable.
Chris Carpenter, P- 24 year old Carpenter has been performing quite well and seems ready for the next level since signing with the Cubs in 2009. In 15 starts this year, Chris has a 3.16 ERA and 6 wins. He has also exhibited his tendency toward throwing groundballs rather than strikeouts, with a 1.49 GO/FO ratio but only 55 K’s in 74 innings. At this rate, Carpenter may replicate or even surpass his 2009 numbers, when he had an even higher groundout rate (1.74) and a 2.82 ERA in 130+ innings between three leagues.
Iowa Cubs (Pacific Coast League- AAA)
Darwin Barney, SS- One of many good, young shortstops in the organization, Barney is temporarily blocked, but needs room to grow anyway. In his last two years, the 24 year old has put up batting average over .280 and a standard amount of RBI’s. He’s approaching 20 doubles again, and shows that he can swipe bases time to time. Combine his solid offense with a defense that is beginning to creep above the average, and Barney seems to be coming along quite nicely.
Jay Jackson, P – will not turn 23 until autumn. This year, he sports a 3.63 ERA in 90.1 IP, and has only walked 22 over 84 innings- that’s an impressive 2.3 BB/9. Jackson has cruised through the farm system since 2008, and should continue to be closely monitored as he holds his own in Triple-A. Hopefully, by the end of the season the right-handed Jacskon will join Andrew Cashner as a valuable member of future pitching staff.
These players have a couple things in common: all are 25 or under, none have played in the Major leagues, and they all seem to be different pieces of a good young foundation for the team to build around. The Cubs are definitely in good shape right now in the middle of the infield, as well as outfield depth and a handful of promising pitchers. Since the departure of the three C’s from the farm since the spring- Colvin, Castro, Cashner- and their results so far, the team has options on moving forward, and can even afford to dismantle a good chunk of their current starting roster if they choose to do so.