View From The Bleachers

August 12, 2014

Back to the Cubs Future: A Look Back at the Baseball America Top 10 List from 2011

Filed under: Featured,Minor League — Joe Aiello @ 6:00 am

I grew up watching the Cubs as I was in middle school and high school in the early and mid-90’s. While I don’t have as much pain and heartache on my fan log, I do vividly remember following the team quite close. Since it was before social media and even before the internet, I lived for the morning newspaper. Weekly they would post the complete, updated stats for all the Major League teams. Every now and then, I’d get my hands on a sporting news publication, but nothing related to prospects.

Times have changed and now, in the midst of a massive rebuild of the farm system, fans are more interested in the prospects than they ever were before. At one point, ESPN Chicago had their beat writer, Jesse Rogers covering the team in Iowa rather than the big league club. It shows you just how far things have come when it comes to prospects. It’s hard not to get excited about the future as we see guys like Javier Baez come up and flex his power early in his career, but I thought it might be fun to take a look back to see what we were getting excited about just three short years ago.

Each year, Baseball America releases it’s top 10 list for each organization and then projects the lineup for the Major League team three years out. With this being 2014, I thought it interesting to take a gander at what that 2011 list looked like to see how they did. Here is the list in 2011 as Baseball America saw it:

At first glance, this doesn’t look so promising, and it really isn’t. A look at that list reveals no player currently on the Major League roster, with a good amount of them either out of the organization completely or on their way out. Let’s take a look at where these guys are now.

Chris ArcherThis one wasn’t a miss by the Jim Hendry regime when they acquired him from Cleveland in a Mark DeRosa trade. There is a reason he was the number one guy in the system at that time and he’s showing it in the Tampa Bay Rays rotation. Before we get frustrated that he’s not a part of our system, let’s see what he turned into. Archer was sent to the Rays before the 2011 season along with Hak-Ju Lee, Sam Fuld, Robinson Chirinos, and Brandon Guyer. A quick look at the top ten list will reveal that three of those five names were in the at that time top 10 list. Keep in mind that the system was fairly barren at that time. In return, the Cubs received Matt Garza, Fernando Perez, and Zac Rosscup. The Cubs would get quality production from Garza for 2011, 2012, and half of 2013 before shipping him to Texas for Justin Grimm, Mike Olt, CJ Edwards, and Neal Ramirez. So, while Archer isn’t a part of the organization right now, I feel like the overall result is OK.

Brett Jackson – He’s still in the system, but you would never know it given the hype and talk about the rest of the bats in this system. Jackson had his window open albeit briefly in 2012. He got the call late in the season, struggled to the tune of .173 / .303 / .342 and hasn’t seen a call up since. He’s no longer listed in top 20 lists and quickly moving off any radar whatsoever. In 2014, his 4th season with at bats in AAA, he’s hitting .210 / .300 / .352. At this point, the only reason he’s still in this organization is where he was drafted. It’s hard to admit a hiccup in the draft at the top and you tend to give those guys as much opportunity as possible to rebound. He’s on the 40 man roster still, but I don’t see him in the organization at the start of 2015. With the kids getting ready to come up soon, spots are going to be needed on the 40 man and Jackson is expendable. Look for him to be included as a wild card flyer in an off-season deal to acquire a starting pitcher.

Trey McNutt – McNutt had a tremendous first full season in the minors, going 10-1 with a sparkling 2.48 ERA in 2010 between A, High A, and AA. He was rising quick and looked to be a top arm in the system. Since then he’s faltered and has not pitched in 2014. To be honest, I can’t even find news as to if he’s even still a part of the organization.

Hak-Ju Lee – He was always compared to Starlin Castro and fans wondered what the Cubs would do when both players reached the Majors. Would Castro shift to 2B? Logjam at SS…sound familiar? Lee still hasn’t made it to the Majors and has struggled in AAA this season. Things don’t look so good for him.

Josh Vitters – He’s still quietly on the radar, but no longer a potential vital cog in the wheel. At this point, Vitters will either hit enough to find his way onto the roster as a 4th or 5th OF or get traded and get a chance to start fresh. Either way, this one looks very much like a miss.

Chris Carpenter – Not that one. We got the bad Carpenter. His claim to fame was his name and the fact that his trade to the Red Sox was met with much contention between Theo and his former employer. He’s pitched out of the pen in Japan this season after recovering from Tommy John, but nothing really to write home about.

Matt Szczur – He’s been a disappointment since being drafted in the 5th round. He has finally made it to AAA this season and has a slugging percentage lower than his on base percentage, which is hard to do.

Hayden Simpson – Don’t even get me started on this one. This pick had bust from the moment his name was announced. He didn’t pitch at all in 2010 after being drafted in June due to a bout with mono. When he finally took the mound in 2011 he sucked. In 2012 he sucked some more and found himself sucking for an independent team before being released due to severe suckage. In my mind, he’s one of the biggest bust picks by the Cubs in a long time.

Rafael Dolis – No longer in the organization. The fact that a MR was in the top 10 shows just how weak this list was.

Brandon Guyer – He’s in the lineup for the Rays, but not anything more than a spare outfielder.

Overall, not a good state of the system at that time. What makes me laugh is where our projected lineup was supposed to be for 2014.

Thank goodness we have a new era when it comes to talent down on the farm because this lineup is just a tad bit discouraging.

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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

  • Doug S.

    Yikes. Something tells me our payroll would be nasty with what our #4 and 5 SPs would be pulling in.

  • Doc Raker

    Interesting, just goes to show you what a crap shoot the MLB draft is. Baseball is so intricate and those intricacies change at each level.

    “A look at that list reveals no player currently on the Major League roster, with a good amount of them either out of the organization completely or on their way out.” A bit of a contradiction with Chris Archer and Brandon Guyer on the Tampa Bay roster although after seeing those uniforms on Sunday I would say those were not big league uniforms.

  • Noah_I

    I think it also shows what can happen when you don’t have a very good farm system. The fact that the Cubs had 2 guys everyone thought of as relievers at 6 and 9 shows a system lacking high end talent. Jackson was a lower first round pick, and Hayden Simpson was both a lower first round pick and one of the biggest reaches in the first round that I can remember. The big failure that hurts is Vitters because he was the Cubs’ one top of the draft pick between Prior and Baez.

    I’d say Lee probably would have been in the Majors by now if he hadn’t destroyed his knee last season, a rough injury for a walks/singles/speed/defense middle infielder. He’s been awful this season in his return, and instead of being a 22 year old on the verge of the Majors (which he was before the injury last season), he’s now nearly 24 and a good bet to never see the Big Leagues.

    Szczur was overrated by BA. No one else liked him that much.

    The one thing I’d note (and not saying you or Joe are saying this) is that the failure of the 2011 BA Top 10 should not be taken as an indication of what the current Top 10 will do. The 2011 list had no one viewed of as highly as Bryant, Baez, or Russell currently are, or as highly as Soler will be listed in the off season (if he stays healthy, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Cubs with 3 top 5 prospects in baseball in the off season, and that doesn’t include Baez who I believe will lost rookie eligibility).

  • Kizzfastfists

    Hak-Ju Lee is trying to come back from blowing out his knee last year. Going into last season it looked like he would be up at some point in 2013 before the injury. Now he may never make it out of the minors.

  • Doc Raker

    Interesting stuff. I feel bad for these guys that work so hard all their lives to fall short of their big league dream. Pro sports is a big meat market, a ruthless business dealing in talented flesh and blood. A dude works so hard and then is tossed aside when things break down it is enough to make one bitter and angry like Seymour and the Capn.

    Where is the humanity in it all………………ah never mind…forget humanity just hit home runs!

  • Michael Rice

    The differences in talent between this group and the current one is fully understood, but it does show why we shouldn’t worry about a logjam of players at one spot.

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