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November 15, 2006

Future Shock

Chicago Cubs Top Ten Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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Excellent Prospects
None
Very Good Prospects
1. Donald Veal, LHP
2. Felix Pie, CF
Good Prospects
3. Sean Gallagher, RHP
4. Eric Patterson, 2B
5. Tyler Colvin, OF
6. Mark Pawelek, LHP
7. Jeff Samardzija, RHP
8. Chris Huseby, RHP
Average Prospects
9. Scott Moore, 3B
10. Ryan Harvey, RF

1. Donald Veal, LHP
DOB: 9/18/84
Height/Weight: 6-4/215
Bats/Throws: L/L
Draft: 2nd round, 2005, Arizona Juco
What he did in 2006: 2.69 ERA, 73.2-45-40-86 at Low A; 1.67 ERA, 80.2-46-42-88 at High A
The Good: Big, imposing lefty with an big, imposing fastball that sits at 92-94 mph and touches 96; his changeup is already a plus offering that he can use as an out pitch; opposing hitters went 91-for-521 (.175) against him with 174 whiffs; he has a durable body with repeatable mechanics.
The Bad: Still looking for a consistent breaking ball, as his present offering is slurvy; his control is below average.
The Irrelevant: Veal finished the season with 16 consecutive starts in which he had more innings pitched than hits allowed.
In A Perfect World, He Becomes: An top-tier lefty starter
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Average. Veal is the perfect combination of a very good player right now who still has much room for improvement. Double-A will be a significant test for him, because he either needs to substantially improve his control or continue to allow hits at the miniscule rate he has been. The former is an easier task than the latter.

2. Felix Pie, CF
DOB: 2/8/85
Height/Weight: 6-2/170
Bats/Throws: L/L
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2001
What he did in 2006: .283/.341/.451 at Triple-A (623 PA)
The Good: A long, lanky body with impressive tools, including power, speed, and arm strength; has performed at every level despite consistently while being young for each level; developing power has led to new career highs in home runs in each of the last three seasons; recovered from slow start to hit .322 with eight home runs after July 1.
The Bad: Needs to improve against lefties; his newfound power has led at times to a pull-conscious approach and too many strikeouts; he needs to learn how to utilize his speed better on the base paths, with a career stolen base success rate of just 63% (98/57) so far; his walk rate is improving, but isn't good enough yet.
The Irrelevant: It's pronounced PEE-AY. Sure, if it was pronounced like our favorite dessert, the marketing and headline opportunities would abound, but what can we do? [Ed. note: Charlie Finley would pay him to change it.]
In A Perfect World, He Becomes: A well-above-average centerfielder who is difficult to place in the lineup properly, as he might lack the on-base skills to bat at the top, and the power to hit in the middle. He could hit for a high enough average where it doesn't matter.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Average. Despite the fact that Pie just finished a full-season of Triple-A, he's still not ready to come out of the oven just yet, and can afford a return trip to Iowa, at least for the first half of 2007.

3. Sean Gallagher, RHP
DOB: 12/30/85
Height/Weight: 6-1/210
Bats/Throws: R/R
Draft: 12th round, 2004, Florida HS
What he did in 2006: 2.30 ERA, 78.1-75-21-80 at High A; 2.71 ERA, 86.1-74-55-91 at Double-A
The Good: He gained 2-3 mph on his fastball from 2005; reached Double-A and needed no adjustment period; now has a 91-93 mph fastball, and with his hard, biting breaking ball, he has two plus pitches.
The Bad: A stocky, thick body doesn't fit the general pitching profile; his control abandoned him for first time in career at Double-A; his changeup is no better than average.
The Irrelevant: Given his first opportunity to hit at Double-A (all levels below use the DH), Gallagher hit a perfect .000/.000/.000 by going 0-for-26 with 16 strikeouts.
In A Perfect World, He Becomes: A solid, middle-of-the-rotation starter.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Average. Gallagher's sudden problems with throwing strikes are a cause for concern internally, but not a major one. Making his big league debut by the end of 2007 is within the realm of possibility.

4. Eric Patterson, 2B
DOB: 4/8/83
Height/Weight: 5-11/170
Bats/Throws: L/R
Draft: 8th round, 2004, Georgia Tech
What he did in 2006: .263/.330/.408 at Double-A (503 PA); .358/.395/.493 at Triple-A (76 PA)
The Good: Athletic second baseman with leadoff tools and skills, hitting for average, drawing walks, and utilizing his plus-plus speed on the base paths. Fundamentally sound defender with dependable hands and arm.
The Bad: Struggles against good lefties; not especially rangy at second base due to a slow first step; needs to focus on making contact as opposed to trying to muscle every pitch
The Irrelevant: That he's the brother of Orioles outfielder Corey Patterson is well known, but the roots of the athletic family come from their father, who played two years in the NFL.
In A Perfect World, He Becomes: A multifaceted second baseman with above-average skills across the board.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Average. Patterson will start 2007 back at Triple-A, and the signing of Mark DeRosa gives the Cubs more options at the big league level and the ability to be patient in a way that they were unable to do with Eric's older brother. He's been one of the 'it' prospects of the Arizona Fall League, and should make his big league debut at some point in the season.

5. Tyler Colvin, LF/CF
DOB: 9/5/85
Height/Weight: 6-3/190
Bats/Throws: L/L
Draft: 1st round, 2006, Clemson
What he did in 2006: .268/.313/.483 at Short-season Boise (288 PA)
The Good: Athletically it's all there, including power and speed that are already showing up in game situations; plus arm; good bat speed; excellent makeup.
The Bad: Still working on becoming a better pure hitter; needs to improve his patience and curb a tendency to chase pitches outside the zone; can press in clutch situations; will probably end up in a corner as opposed to center field.
The Irrelevant: Colvin had a game for the ages on May 18, going 5-for-7 with a double, two home runs, and eight RBI in Clemson's 26-1 drubbing of Wake Forest.
In A Perfect World, He Becomes: A corner outfielder with 20/20 potential, maybe even 30 home runs.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Average to high. Colvin has more athleticism than your normal college pick, but at the same time he's further behind the curve when it comes to translating those tools into baseball skills. Nonetheless, he can probably afford to skip Low A and begin 2007 in the Florida State League.

6. Mark Pawelek, LHP
DOB: 8/18/86
Height/Weight: 6-3/190
Bats/Throws: L/L
Draft: 1st round, 2005, Utah HS
What he did in 2006: 2.51 ERA, 61-54-23-52 at Short-season Boise
The Good: A tall, lanky body that delivers low-90s heat with ease; an impressive feel for his changeup; good command of all of his offerings.
The Bad: Started season off on a bad foot by reporting to camp out of shape; everything about his game, from mechanics to velocity to control to movement took major steps backwards, as all offerings were well off from his high school days and pro debut.
The Irrelevant: Has given up one home run in 107 professional innings.
In A Perfect World, He Becomes: A frontline lefthanded starter.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: High. His performance in 2006 was a pretty big disappointment. He was unable to pitch in the first half because of his conditioning, and then he was uninspiring once he took the mound, despite decent numbers. The Cubs hope he can get everything back on track, beginning with a healthy spring training, in 2007.

7. Jeff Samardzija, RHP
DOB: 1/23/85
Height/Weight: 6-6/215
Bats/Throws: R/R
Draft: 5th round, 2006, Notre Dame
What he did in 2006: 2.37 ERA, 19-18-6-13 at Short-season; 3.27, 11-6-6-4 at Low A
The Good: Was in the low 90s in 2005, touching the mid-90s at the beginning of this year, and pumping the occasional 99 on the gun by the end of the season. Tall, strong, and athletic with nearly the ideal power pitcher's build.
The Bad: Baseball is still secondary to football, so he's raw; control, location, and breaking ball all lag behind; a straightforward delivery makes him more of a thrower than a pitcher at this point; commitment to waiting for the NFL Draft means he won't play first full season until he's 23.
The Irrelevant: According to most NFL experts, Samardzija would go somewhere in the late teens of the NFL Draft if it was held today.
In A Perfect World, He Becomes: A power pitcher; it's hard to say anything more at this point.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: High, and that's a concern for a college player. The record bonus is what it is, and plays no role in his ranking, but feelings on Samardzija fall into two camps. He's either far too raw to ever make it, or a potentially perfect diamond in the rough who is already a late first-round talent despite having little baseball experience. We won't know which sport he commits to until next spring.

8. Chris Huseby, RHP
DOB: 1/11/88
Height/Weight: 6-7/220
Bats/Throws: R/R
Draft: 11th round, 2006, Florida HS
What he did in 2006: 5.19 ERA, 17.1-21-6-14 at Rookie-level
The Good: A very tall righty who features a plus fastball and curve, with much-cleaner mechanics just a little more than a year after Tommy John surgery; his projection is through the roof.
The Bad: Very inexperienced arm that's already had major surgery; like most high school pitchers, he needs innings to work on secondary pitches and setting up opposing hitters.
The Irrelevant: Has the same agent (Mark Rodgers) as Samardzija. I could get all Oliver Stone here and bring up the ridiculous amount of connections between Cubs GM Jim Hendry, Scouting Director Tim Wilken, Florida High School baseball, and big bonuses for players from Notre Dame, but I won't go there. No sir-ee.
In A Perfect World, He Becomes: Far too early to say anything more than a major league power righty.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Very High. Huseby could have a breakout season in 2007 once he's two years removed from TJ, but he'll likely spend the first half of the year in extended spring training, and then move on to Short-season Boise.

9. Scott Moore, 3B/1B/LF
DOB: 11/17/83
Height/Weight: 6-2/180
Bats/Throws: L/R
Draft: 1st round, 2002, California HS (Tigers)
Acquired: Traded with Bo Flowers and Roberto Novoa to the Cubs for Kyle Farnsworth
What he did in 2006: .276/.360/.479 at Double-A (533 PA); .250/.250/.500 at Triple-A (4 PA); .263/.317/.474 at MLB (42 PA)
The Good: Lefty-swinging third baseman with plus power; dramatically cut his error rate in '06; very good arm strength.
The Bad: Long swing with uppercut leads to hefty strikeout rates; still a below-average third baseman, and maybe not a third baseman at all in the big leagues.
The Irrelevant: The third high school hitter taken in the 2002 draft; the first two were B.J. Upton and Prince Fielder, and the two after Moore were Jeremy Hermida and James Loney.
In A Perfect World, He Becomes: An average third-baseman with not much batting average but good power numbers.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Low. Moore needs to improve defensively, but nobody thinks he'll be a plus defender; he needs to improve his contact rate, but nobody thinks he will hit .300. It is more a case where his weaknesses are being accepted with the hope that his positives will outweigh them. With Aramis Ramirez signed for five more years and Derek Lee at first base, Moore begins 2007 at Triple-A with nowhere to really go no matter how well he does.

10. Ryan Harvey, RF
DOB: 8/30/84
Height/Weight: 6-5/220
Bats/Throws: R/R
Draft: 1st round, 2003, Florida HS
What he did in 2006: .248/.290/.432 at High A
The Good: A prototypical right fielder with ridiculous raw power, solid defensive skills and a big arm. He recovered from a miserable start to hit .306 with 13 home runs in 57 games after July 1.
The Bad: Long swing and horrible pitch recognition have proven to be the combination from hell, as evidenced by 365 career strikeouts against just 75 walks in 313 minor league games.
The Irrelevant: Harvey went to Dunedin High School, whose alums include Cubs GM Jim Hendry and 2002 Cubs second-rounder Brian Dopirak. Bring back Oliver Stone! Call the X-Files dudes!
In A Perfect World, He Becomes: An all-star right fielder that puts on a show on home run-hitting contests every July.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: High. Harvey has definitely progressed much more slowly than anticipated when he was the sixth overall pick in 2003. The year to come could be a make-or-break campaign, as he'll either prove that his second half performance in the Florida State League was for real, or Double-A pitchers will tear him apart.

The Sleeper: Righthander Lincoln Holdzkom was acquired from the Marlins after missing most of the 2004 and 2005 seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery. Known for his velocity in the past, Holdzkom put up solid numbers out of the bullpen despite being out of shape and sitting at only 88-92 mph at the beginning of the year while slowly building his arm strength back up. Now in the Arizona Fall League, he's touching the mid-90s, and getting the attention of scouts.

The Big Picture: Rankings Combined With Non-Rookies 25 Years Old Or Younger (As Of Opening Day 2007)

1. Carlos Zambrano, RHP
2. Donald Veal, LHP
3. Felix Pie, CF
4. Carlos Marmol, RHP
5. Sean Gallagher, RHP
6. Angel Guzman, RHP
7. Eric Patterson, 2B
8. Tyler Colvin, OF
9. Mark Pawalek, LHP
10. Jeff Samardzija, RHP

Believe it or not, Zambrano doesn't turn 26 until next June--it seems like he's been around forever. Despite an ugly ERA and ugly peripheral numbers, scouts were impressed with Marmol's ability to hold his own at times with a combination of 100% stuff and 0% pitchability--which is at least preferable to the exact opposite.

The Cubs system ain't what it used to be, and it's not because they graduated a lot of players to the big leagues. Unfortunately, what was seen as one of the most pitching-rich systems in baseball has yielded few results, and homemade hitters have been hard to come by. Wilken will try to turn that around next year with a full slate of picks, unless the Cubs get wacky in the free agent market.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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