FanPost

First Half Roster Analysis-- West Tennessee (Position Players)

Dear BCB Readers,

Because of the positive response that I received from my Roster Analysis of the Iowa Cubs (and because I learned so much in the process), I decided to do a similar analysis for the Cubs AA club, the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx.

If you didn't get to read my diary about Iowa (or if you want to read again-- and just for fun I added a poll on each diary) click here:

For Iowa Cub Position Players:

http://www.bleedcubbieblue.com/story/2006/7/12/5443/33523

For Iowa Cub Pitchers:

http://www.bleedcubbieblue.com/story/2006/7/12/12214/3026

If you want to read about West Tennessee's Pitching Staff:

http://www.bleedcubbieblue.com/story/2006/7/15/2424/73171

West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx's Position Players

Gary Cates, 2B (25 yrs, 0 months)
0 HR, 17 RBI
.271/.356/.337 (.693 OPS)
166 AB, 22 BB/ 22 K, 4-3 SBs

Originally drafted by the Baltimore Orioles, Cates has bounced between A-ball and AA for eight seasons.  Playing mostly utility roles for West Tenn at 25 years old (and having never reached the highest level of the minors), Cates (while younger and more effective than other West Tenn utility player, Richard Lewis) doesn't project into more than a career minor-leaguer.  

With a 2006 OBP of .356, Cates has improved upon his career OBP (.321) and with the (hopeful) graduation of Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot to the ML club next year, it seems possible that Cates may finally break into a AAA roster.

Brian Dopirak, 1B (22 yrs, 7 months)
0 HR, 14 RBI
.218/.269/.261 (.530 OPS)
119 AB, 7 BB/26 K, 0-0 SBs

A 2nd Round draft pick by the Cubs in 2002, Dopirak was the Cubs Minor League Player of the Year in 2004 after a monster season at Mid-A Lansing (39 HR, .956 OPS in 541 AB).  

Since then, Dopirak has really fallen on hard times.  He struggled at High-A Daytona in 2005 (only 16 HRs, .670 OPS in 507 ABs), dropping his output substantially in every offensive category.

Dopirak hit well during the 2006 Spring Training however, only to break his foot on the first game of the season at West Tenn.  Since his return from injury, Dopirak has been abysmal at the plate.  One can only assume that because of the extreme decline in his power numbers (5 XBH in 119 ABs-- no HRs) his poor 2006 output is at least partially related to his injury, and we must hope that he somehow rights the ship and begins to show the talent he flashed at the plate in 2004.

At 22 and a half, Dopirak is at a much better position developmentally than his 1B counter-part Brandon Sing.  However, having already been leap-frogged in the organization by Micah Hoffpauir, Dopirak will need to begin hitting better very soon if he hopes to continue to advance through the system.

Jake Fox, C (23 yrs, 11 months)
2 HR, 5 RBI
.232/.283/.411 (.694 OPS)
56 AB, 4 BB/13 K, 0-0 SBs

A third-team All-American catcher at the University of Michigan, the Cubs selected Fox in the 3rd Round of the 2003 draft.

Coming into the 2006 season, Fox's offense has been very solid in all levels of A ball, posting a career OPS of .802 in 786 minor-league ABs.  After a very impressive 2006 Spring Training, Fox landed on the radar as one of the Cubs top positional prospects.

Allegedly to work on his defense, Fox began 2006 repeating High-A Daytona, but after posting a .313/.383/.574 (.957) batting line (249 ABs), he was promoted to West Tenn.  Though he's hit a little better recently, Fox hasn't adjusted quite yet to the higher level of play.  He will turn 24 on July 20th, so his success at this level of play seems important to his overall standing as a ML prospect.

Nic Jackson, OF (26 yrs, 7 months)
3 HR, 36 RBI
.300/.373/.457 (.830 OPS)
230 AB, 26 BB/47 K, 15-5 SBs

A former 3rd Round draft pick of the Cubs, Jackson was the organization's Minor League Player of the Year after a solid season at High-A Daytona in 2001 (19 HR, .844 OPs in 503 ABs).  Five years later and unfortunately he's still in AA after actually beginning the season repeating high-A.

Jackson battled injuries in 2002, underperformed in a full season at Iowa in 2003 (.699 OPs in 458 AB), and then has been battling injuries ever since, playing in only 14 games combined in 2004 and 2005.

And though injuries have made him too old for AA, Jackson has put up solid numbers in his return from being mostly out of organized baseball for the last two seasons.  If Jackson continues to play well at West Tenn (and considering his age), I suspect the Cubs might give him another shot at Iowa before the season is over.

Richard Lewis, 2B (26 yrs, 1 month)
1 HR, 19 RBI
.232/.292/.316 (.608 OPS)
190 AB, 16 BB/37 K, 9-2 SBs

Originally from Georgia, Lewis is a former 1st Round pick of the Atlanta Braves.  An unfortunate example of a hometown boy failing his potential, Lewis really underachieved in the Braves organization.  

Continuing that trend, outside of one good season (2004 at West Tenn), Lewis has been totally unproductive for the Cubs.  Lewis has bounced back and forth between AA and AAA, not hitting for any value at either place.  In fact, his 2004 season is so far above his career totals that it's just plain weird.  Unless Lewis finds the magic of his 2004 season (which, at 26 years old in AA is highly unlikely), he seems very much like a career minor-leaguer and a first-round bust.

Scott Moore, 3B (22 yrs, 8 months)
14 HR, 50 RBI
.270/.333/.473 (.806 OPS)
311 AB, 25 BB/90 K, 11-6 SBs

Acquired in the Kyle Farnsworth trade, Moore is a former 1st Round draft pick of the Detroit Tigers.  Originally a SS, Moore has sparked alot of debate regarding his status as a Major League prospect.

After underperforming for several seasons in the Detroit system, Moore put together his best professional season last year at High-A Daytona (.843 OPS in 466 AB) as a 21 year-old.  Moore has played the entire 2006 season at West Tennessse, and has moved over to 3B (where he has made roughly 15 errors this season).  As he's moved up to AA, Moore's power numbers are impressive (35 XBH in just over 300 ABs), but his K totals are very disturbing-- 90 K in 311 ABs.

At 22 years old, Moore is still at a good age for AA, but it seems he'll need to work on his plate discipline to continue to advance through the system (his career BB rates, by the way, are decent though they've taken a bit of a hit this season).

And while Moore's raw numbers still look promising, it seems like the league has adjusted to him as his season OPS has steadily dropped as the season has progressed.  Moore will be fun to watch in the second half, but will need to improve upon his first half successes to be considered a legitimate ML prospect.

Miguel Negron, OF (23 yrs, 11 months)
1 HR, 19 RBI
.338/.388/.511 (.899 OPS)
133 AB, 12 BB/21 K, 4-1 SBs

A 1st Round draft pick by Toronto in 2000, Negron kicked around the Blue Jays system for six seasons, playing only one year above A-ball and posting a career OPS of .680 in over 1700 minor league ABs.

Due to apparent injuries and ineffectiveness, the Toronto organization gave up on him and Tim Wilken (who originally drafted Negron) brought him over to the Cubs organization.  Since then, Negron has played substantially better in limited time (42 games).

In lmited ABs at West Tenn, Negron has shown improvement in his K/9 and BB/9 rates, leading to improvement across the board in most every offensive category.

At almost 24 years old, Negron is probably nearing his developmental ceiling and will need to continue to hit well over the course of an entire season to regain his status as a ML prospect.  In the meantime, his brief tenure at West Tenn has been encouraging.

Eric Patterson, 2B (23 yrs, 3 months)
5 HR, 35 RBI
.280/.341/.416 (.757 OPS)
332 AB, 32 BB/66 K, 29-8 SBs

The younger brother of Corey Patterson, E-Patt burst onto the scene last year with a very good first year of pro ball at mid-A Peoria (.940 OPS and 40 SBs in 110 games).

Patterson has been less impressive at AA, but he has at least been respectable.  It seems likely that Patterson will need a solid second half of play (an .800 OPS with good peripherals) to confirm his status as one of the organization's best position player prospects.  At a young 23, Patterson is still at a decent age at AA, and will hopefully advance to Iowa for 2007 (anyone who projects Patterson as the Cubs' starting 2B in 2007 is really over-shooting Patterson's development).

Patterson's K rate is a little high (119K/600) this season, but it's an improvement upon last year's rate of 131K/600.  These numbers are encouraging, especially considering his jump in levels of play.  And while he hasn't shown as much extra base power as brother Corey, Patterson has shown much better plate discipline, with a BB/600 rate of 58/600 this season, for a total of 69/600 in his career (794 ABs).

Tony Richie, C (24 yrs, 5 months)
0 HR, 8 RBI
.204/.237/.265 (.502 OPS)
147 AB, 5 BB/30 K, 1-0 SBs

Another stud college catcher (2nd team All-American at Florida State), Richie was selected by the Cubs in 4th round of the 2003 draft.

He hit passably in his first 3 pro seasons (.707 OPS in 489 ABs), all of which were in A-ball.  In his first taste of AA, Richie has really struggled.  Older than Jake Fox (and Geovany Soto at AAA), Richie projects to a minor-league back-up catcher-- a disappointing projection for such a high draft pick.

Carlos Rojas, SS (22 yrs, 6 months)
0 HR, 10 RBI
.236/.311/.264 (.575 OPS)
220 AB, 23 BB/30 K, 2-0 SBs

Rojas was signed by the Cubs as a 19-year old free-agent out of Venezuela.  With a total of 35 career extra-base hits in 1300 minor-league ABs (.262 career SLG), Rojas is an extremely light-hitting SS.

He has moved up a level in the minors each year of his career, presumably for his defense (though I have no statistics to confirm or deny this).  With a career OPS in the .560-.570 range, unless Rojas develops more as a hitter (or unless he's Ozzie Smith in the field), I don't expect him to project into more than a career minor-leaguer.

Brandon Sing, 1B (25 yrs, 4 months)
3 HR, 19 RBI
.211/.336/.333 (.669 OPS)
114 AB, 21 BB/34 K, 0-0 SBs

Drafted out of high school, Sing bounced around A-ball as a mostly unproductive hitter until breaking out at High-A Daytona in 2004 (32 HR, .970 OPS) and follwing up with an equally good season at West Tenn in 2005 (26 HR, .942 OPS).

After an impressive 2006 Spring Training, Sing seemed poised to be a solid (though a tad old) prospect at 1B.  However, he has really fallen on hard times since the season began.  Sing began the season at Iowa and really struggled, posting a .651 OPS with 33 Ks in only 96 ABs (a K/600 Rate of 206).  Sing was demoted to AA, essentially trading places at West Tenn with Micah Hoffpauir.  Upon Sing's return to West Tenn, he's been almost equally as bad as he was at Iowa.  His K rates are almost absurdly high, and he has hit for very little power (only 7 HRs in 210 combined ABs in AA and AAA).

In what began as a promising season for him, (at 25 and a half years old and struggling in AA) if Sing doesn't begin hitter better, he is likely to remain a career minor-leaguer at best.

Chris Walker, OF (26 yrs, 0 months)
2 HR, 30 RBI
.305/.361/.403 (.764 OPS)
347 AB, 26 BB/59 K, 35-13 SBs

Walker is a former 6th Round draft pick of the Cubs in 2002.

I have heard rumblings that the Cubs are considering putting Walker on their 40-Man Roster, and I hope the rumblings aren't true.  While it seems clear that Walker has alot of speed (205 career SBs in 473 minor league games), it took Walker three years to get out of A-ball from college and is putting up pretty marginal numbers for a 26 year-old in AA.

With very suspect BB and K rates and limited XB power (.355 career SLG), I don't see Walker as being much more than a career minor leaguer.

Summary

Overall, there is not a lot to get excited about with the position players at West Tennessee.  In fact, with three former "Cubs Minor League Players of the Year" (Jackson, Lewis, and Dopirak) gone wrong, and three former 1st round draft picks who haven't lived up to their promise (Lewis, Moore, and Negron), this roster is almost downright tragic.

However, there is some promise in a few of the players on the roster:

Because of his age, pedigree, and success-rate, Eric Patterson may be in the best position to impact a major league roster, though he'll need to improve some on his first-half numbers.

Jake Fox and Scott Moore also show some promise, though Fox is a little old (almost 24) and has faced criticism about his defense, while Moore likely needs to gain better control of the strike zone to continue to advance.

Ultimately, they are doubtful as prospects, but Nic Jackson and Miguel Negron will be interesting to monitor as they battle back from injuries and both seemingly have something to prove.

And though Brian Dopirak is two and a half years younger than Brandon Sing, they find themselves in a similar crisis of having fallen apart at the plate and having fallen off the radar of top Cubs prospects.

The rest of the roster, Gary Cates, Richard Lewis, Tony Richie, Carlos Rojas, and Chris Walker seem like career minor-leaguers.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of SB Nation or Al Yellon, managing editor (unless it's a FanPost posted by Al). FanPost opinions are valued expressions of opinion by passionate and knowledgeable baseball fans.

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