Mid-Season Cubs Minor League Rankings 11-20

I know this is about a month late and three weeks or so after #1-10, but as I said, I had to move last month. I also put all my notes in a spiral notebook that I just unpacked this week. So better late than never.

I like some of the players on this list, especially players 11-15, but there's a real dropoff in quality from the top ten (or maybe the top seven) and then when you get to numbers 16 and lower, these are players I'm not confident in. Seriously, you could replace them with five other guys from the "others considered" list and I wouldn't argue with you. The system really is improving over last season, especially with position players, but it's still thin compared to most systems.

11. Brandon Guyer CF 23 years old. TN: 52G .173/.225/.268 Daytona: 55G .337/.401/.441 19 steals.

The athletic center fielder from Virgina had a strong second half last season for Peoria, so because of his age and big-time college experience, they jumped him past Daytona to Tennessee. Big mistake. Guyer was very much overmatched in AA, but once demoted to Daytona, he played like he did the second half of 2008 in Peoria.

It's clearly troubling that Guyer failed in AA, but if he had played the whole season in Daytona we'd all be very excited about his numbers with one exception. He hasn't hit a home run yet for Daytona and only had one for the Smokies. Guyer had 14 in 88 games last year for Peoria, so the dropoff is puzzling. Here's hoping it's just a fluke, because the doubles are there in Daytona at least.

The positive sign is that Guyer has managed to stay healthy this season after missing time the past three years, both with us and at Virginia. He's the type of player who would run through a brick wall to catch a popup, which isn't really a compliment when you remember than nobody actually can run through a brick wall.

His favorite player in high school was Aaron Rowand, and Rowand is likely Guyer's ceiling as well. They've got the same disregard for their bodies as well.

12. Logan Watkins 2B 19 years old. Boise: 51G .327/.391/.388 9 steals.

Watkins was a Kansas high school kid that the Cubs threw a ton of money at last year to keep him from going to Wichita State. It was a risky move as Kansas isn't exactly known for producing a ton of major leaguers, but so far Watkins has done nothing to make the Cubs regret the risk. So far, he's been providing Boise with a solid glove and a good on-base percentage. The power isn't there yet and at only 5'11", he's not likely to ever be a big power threat, but I can see him developing to where he can hit double-digits in home runs in a good year at the major league level. This is also just a personal observation, but he seems to have a really good baseball smarts for someone so young. He's developed an instant rapport with his DP partner Hak-Ju Lee, which isn't real easy since Lee doesn't speak very much English, and I'm pretty sure Watkins doesn't speak Korean.

The lack of power so far is a little concerning because the Northwest League is a pretty good place to slug, but he is young and really hasn't filled out yet. Peoria will be the real test for him next season.

13. Kyler Burke RF 21 years old. Peoria 112G .306/.394/.494 11 HR, 12 Steals.

If this hadn't been Burke's third season in the Midwest League, he'd rank a lot higher. But he's seems to have mastered the league on the third try and he's still only 21 years old, so he's not old for the level. The prospect we got from the Padres for Michael Barrett is a big, left-handed right fielder with a very good arm and some excellent power potential. He leads the Midwest League in doubles and has made a major leap in his ability to draw walks and get on base this season. The sky's the limit as far as a ceiling goes for Burke--he's got the athleticism, size and skills to be a major star. As Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus wrote about Burke last week: "[I]f some of his 37 doubles [now 38] in just 386 at-bats start to turn into home runs, look out" Now he'd just better not take three tries to master the Florida State League. . .

14. DJ LeMahieu SS 21 years old. Peoria 17G .294/.347/.368

The Cubs second round pick this June was the one of the hitting star of the College World Series for champion LSU Tigers. He hit .444 in the series and had a big double in Game 1 of the finals against Texas that tied the game in the ninth, a game LSU went on to win in extra innings. Unfortunately all of those collegiate heroics meant that LeMahieu got a late start on his professional career. But he's doing fine in limited action in Peoria.

LeMahieu is a big guy with a line-drive stroke. He tends to hit everything from gap to gap, so unless that changes, he's more likely to be a doubles guy than a home run guy. At 6'4", he's likely to big to be able to stay at shortstop. If he can handle second base, great, but if he needs to move to third base he may not have the home run totals you want there. As you would expect from a middle-infielder who went to a major program like LSU, LeMahieu has solid baseball intelligence.

15. Ryan Flaherty 2B 22 years old. Peoria 110G .261/.326/.448 16 HR

Almost everything I just said about LeMahieu you could have said about Flaherty last year when the Cubs took him as a supplemental first rounder. Big SS. Check. Major college program. Check. Good baseball smarts. Check. They said the 6'3" Flaherty was too big to stay at short, and while he still does get some starts there, milb.com lists him as a second baseman and he's been playing a lot of third base as well. The good news on Flaherty is that the power is developing and his 16 HRs puts him in the top five in the Midwest League. He's even got seven steals (although in 12 tries.)

The batting average has been disappointing for Flaherty, of course, but the power is there, he draws some walks and his strikeout numbers aren't too bad. Hopefully his bad batting average in the Midwest League is just a result of some bad luck but if it isn't, he might end up as a Dan Uggla-type player: a big middle infielder with a low batting average but decent OBP and a lot of power. I can think of worse things to be.

16. Chris Archer RHP 20 years old. Peoria 23GS 5-4 2.78 ERA 94IP 103K 57BB

A lot of guys from Peoria. Maybe that's why they've been winning so much lately. Archer, of course, came over in the Mark DeRosa deal, which means maybe my prospect list has too many Chiefs and not enough Indians. Anyway, Archer was the guy who was the furthest away with the most potential of the three pitchers. Archer throws hard, has a nasty curve ball and a change-up that's good enough to keep hitters from sitting on the other two pitches. He's been practically unhittable this season, as opposing hitters are batting .201 against him.

I shouldn't have to tell you what the "But" is here with Archer. His control is a major problem. However, those 57 walks in 94 innings is an improvement over last season, when he walked 84 in 115. That gives me hope that he'll continue to improve on his control.

17. Jeff Beliveau LHP 22 years old. Peoria 23G 7GS 5-3 3.55 ERA 83.2IP 101K 41K

Maybe Beliveau should be ranked ahead of Archer, since he striking out more batters and walking fewer. However, since he did a lot of that in a relief role and he's two years older, I'll rank Archer one spot higher for now.

As you can see, the Rhode Island native Beliveau strikes a lot of people out. He's got a fastball in the low 90s with a curve and slider/cutter, at least that what he called it. Like Archer, hitters in the Midwest League have trouble making contact as they are only hitting. 212 off of him. While he started off the season in the bullpen as the closer, a lot of his relief appearances were actually "handcuffed" to Aaron Shafer, who the Cubs had on a strict pitch count because of his injury history. So some of those relief appearances were more like starts. Still, Beliveau could end up as either a starter or a reliever in the major leagues: he's certainly an interesting potential closer.

Of course, he has the same problem as Archer. He needs to walk fewer people. At least he does, in fact, walk fewer people than Archer.

18. Tyler Colvin RF 23 years old. Daytona 32G .250/.326/.357 Tennessee 64G .279/.310/,460 9HR

Oh so frustrating. Most times you just want to write him off as a prospect altogether, but other times you see that tools and the determination that made the Cubs take him in the first place.

Colvin had Tommy John surgery over the off-season and pushed himself to get back on the field far sooner than anyone had predicted, albeit he had to DH for Daytona because he couldn't make the throws from the outfield yet. Once his arm was sound enough, he was promoted to Tennessee. Colvin has worked on his walk totals to the point where they're now just "bad" instead of being the Pope of the Church of Rob Picciolo. (Look him up, kids under 30.)

The other problem with Colvin is that he's looking like a "tweener." He wasn't able to stick in center field and he hasn't shown enough hitting, either in OBP or power, to handle right field on the major league level. He's been showing some power lately, he's going to need it to make the majors.

Its entirely likely that Colvin ends up as a good fourth outfielder: a guy who can play CF in a pinch and is a solid, left-handed bat off the bench. He's still got a chance to be better than that.

19. Welington Castillo C 22 years old. Tennessee 79G .210/.257/.356 10 HR

No one has fallen further this season than Castillo, who's had a miserable year at the plate. Worse, the reports that I'm hearing is that he still isn't making progress with his defense. He still has a great arm and can shut down the running game, but the rest of his defense isn't getting any better, or so I'm hearing. Pretty much everyone last off-season had Castillo as a top-ten prospect in the Cubs system and a lot had him as a top five. At this point, it's only caution that has me still listing him in the top 20.

If you're looking for positives, the ten home runs suggest that his power is developing, as he only hit four last year. And it's hard to write someone off who showed so much promise on the basis of one lousy season. Geovany Soto is having a lousy season too, and few of us think he's done as a ballplayer. But if he doesn't start to turn it around soon, he may not only find himself off of the prospect lists, he could find himself out of the organization.

20. Tony Campana CF 23 years old. Peoria 18G .283/.345/.340 11SB Daytona .279/.331/.309 48SB

I really struggled with who to include as the 20th pick. When I originally drew up the list, Josh Harrison clocked in at 19, so I had to replace him. There may have been better choices that this tiny little speedster, but I decided to go with him anyway. I probably won't have him in my end of the year top 20, although he'd be in a top 30.

Campana has only one skill--he's really, really fast. He may also cover a lot of ground defensively, but I haven't really heard one way or the other and I haven't seen him play personally. He's got no power and at 5'8", he's not likely to develop much. I'd compare him to Juan Pierre, but looking at Pierre's numbers, Juan was a lot better in the minor leagues. He does compare favorably to Scott Posednik at the same age and level, but Posednik is a lot bigger and was able to add at least some doubles power as he moved up the ladder.

But he does hit for a decent average and he gets on base enough to steal bases: 59 of them so far this summer. He's been caught 14 times which is a good ratio, but I get the impression that a lot of those caught stealings were pickoffs. He should be able to cut that number down as he gets better able to read a pitcher's move.

The system doesn't have a lot of blazing fast players (Let's see, there's Lee in Boise and then there is. . . hmmm) and so I'm putting Campana here to call attention to his 59 steals as much as anything. I'd love to see him get a September callup just so he could pinch run, but I know there are about four or five reasons why that's not going to happen.

Others considered: Iowa Cubs Darwin Barney SS , John Gaub LHP, Jeff Stevens RHP, Blake Parker RHP. Tennessee Smokies Marquez Smith 3B Tony Thomas 2B. Daytona Cubs Dan McDaniel RHP, Peoria Chiefs Chris Huseby RHP, Jeffry Antigua LHP. Boise Hawks Su-Ming Jung RHP

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