(Photo Credit: Adam Kline)
It’s Tuesday, but for a lot of folks, it feels a lot like Monday. How about a quick edition of Minor League Monday….on Tuesday.
Today’s edition features an audio interview with Cubs prospect, Josh Vitters, who was kind enough to take a few minutes out for us before a recent game.
MINOR LEAGUE MONDAY
by Mark Sherrard
We are now about one third of the way through the minor league season and its time to take a look at some of the performances for the Cubs minor leaguers that have exceeded expectations. These are either players who appear to be on their way to a breakout season or who are showing skills they have not shown in the past.
Here are the early surprises to date:
Ryan Flaherty, OF, Tennessee – the 41st overall pick in the 2008 draft, Flaherty’s name should be familiar to many of you who follow Cubs’ prospects. He has had a couple good years in the minors, but nothing spectacular. His best year came in 2009, when he hit .276/.344/.470 with 20 homeruns in class A Peoria. However, this year it appears to all be coming together for Flaherty. He is hitting .317/.389/.599 with 11 homeruns in just 167 AB’s. This is by far the most power he has shown in his young minor league career. A top 10 prospect (by Baseball America) after his 2009 season, he dropped out of the top 10 after 2010. But, if he keeps this up, he could very well push himself into the top 5.
Rebel Ridling, 1B, Tennessee – Ridling has never been highly thought of as a prospect. He was selected in the 25th round in 2008 and has remained unranked by Baseball America, despite a solid year at Peoria in 2008 (.310/.357/.466 with 16 homeruns). However, he too is having a breakout year with AA Tennessee, hitting .329/.395/.544 with 9 homeruns in 158 AB’s. He is a little old for a prospect (25 as of May 22nd), but could still push himself into true prospect status.
Robert Whitenack, P, Tennessee – An 8th round pick in 2009, Whitenack has not posted an ERA below 4.15 in his brief minor league career, until now. So far this year, he has posted a combined 7-0 record with a 1.93 ERA across 2 levels. He was lights out for high A Daytona, with a 1.17 ERA and just 12 base runners allowed in 23 IP and followed that up with a 2.37 ERA in 7 starts at Tennessee. He is not a high strikeout pitcher (only 7 K’s per 9 this year), but keeps the ball on the ground (a career GO/AO ratio over 2.0).
Justin Bour, 1B, Daytona – In just 191 AB’s, Bour has already surpassed his career high in homeruns with 13 (surpassing last year’s 12). Bour is another player who has been under the radar so far in his career, but with a slash line of .330/.390/.623, so far, he should be getting some attention now.
Junior Lake, SS, Daytona – Lake has gotten some attention from Baseball America in the past, ranking as the Cubs’ 29th best prospect prior to the 2010 season and 27th this year, however he has not produced on the field, until now. In 49 games with Daytona, Lake has hit .315/.336/.498. He leads the team with 19 stolen bases, while also smacking 6 home runs. He is not a very patient hitter, as his 49/6 K/BB ratio can attest, but he has the ability to be a 5 tool player.
Austin Kirk, P, Peoria – Kirk, a 3rd round pick in 2009, has had trouble staying healthy, only pitched 64.1 innings last year, but he is making up for lost time this year. In 52.1 IP so far, he has a 2.06 ERA and 45 K’s. He has also allowed only 34 hits and 10 walks. Although he is one of the higher draft picks on this list, he has yet to crack Baseball Ameirca’s Top 30 prospect list for the Cubs. However, that should change after this year.
Mark blogs about the Cubs on the Billy Goat Blog