This year pretty much the only thing worth paying attention to with the Cubs is the farm system. The big league club has Castro and then a bunch of guy hoping to play a role during the next run, which hopefully (even probably) is sooner rather than later. On the other hand, even after the Great Purge of 2010, the farm system is having a pleasant season, particularly offensively where breakout seasons and strong performances are all over. The system will not inspire awe with amazing raw talent, but there are alot of skilled baseball players here with plenty of upside. Baez, Vogelbach, and other 2011 picks won't make it if they're not signed, and the ones that are signed are probably not top 10 guys. Baez would probably be my #4 prospect, Vogelbach in the second half of the top 10, and if Maples/Dunston signed I'd probably have them in the top 10 too. Probably Jaquez too. I apologize to anyone who expected Bryan LaHair to be in here. Anyway, without further ado, a mid-season top 10 then other stuff:
1 - Brett Jackson (AA/AAA) - (.256/.373/.443 45 BB/ 74 K/ 10 2B/ 3 3B/ 10 HR/ 15 SB/ 6 CS)
Jackson had a ridiculous April where he hit .317 and put up a .961 OPS in 82 ABs. He then tanked in May and June, during which he's dealt with a wrist problem. Wrists and hands are a tricky thing with hitters, and they've severely reduced the numbers of some pretty good major league hitters like Nomar. That said, Jackson has shown some power this season, can play CF and takes his walks. I do wonder think he's a little prone to strike out as he's K'd 74 times in 246 ABs this year (including 21 during his hot 82 ABs in April). Jackson has some good upside, and he's certainly a lock to see the big leagues barring catastrophe. I wonder if he's more of a young Mark Kotsay than a pre-injury Grady Sizemore, but neither is a bad player and that's really not a bad worry to have for a prospect. If his wrist heals well then he might really have some bat upside, as he's got a strong, line drive inducing swing anchored by a strong frame.
Mid-season season grade - C+ Midseason prospect grade - B+
2 - Matt Szczur - (A/A+) - (.314/.368/.431 22 BB/ 28 K/ 17 SB/ 5 CS/ 15 2B/ 1 3B/ 5 HR)
A former college star, Szczur has taken to pro ball pretty well. He's been a little old for his level, but not significantly so especially given his performance. He's probably the best athlete in the system as it stands right now, and might be the best defensive OF amongst the significant prospects. He's an efficient player who BBs, makes contacts, and while statistically he doesn't look like a special basestealer he could be a very good one. I think a Carl Crawford comparison might be excessive, but I do think he can be in that mold of player. Probably won't hit with a ton of power, but like Jackson has enough skills that if it doesn't develop he can still be a good starting type player. There's still a ways to go for Szczur, and we'll get a better read of his upside in the second half and even moreso next year.
3 - DJ LeMahieu - (AA/AAA) - (.325/.380/.470/.850 12 BB/ 27 K/ 17 2B/ 2 3Bs/ 2 HR)
The Cubs got a breakout season from MIF prospect LeMahieu, who flew through the minors and made an appearance in the show just two years after being drafted from CWS winning LSU. LeMahieu doesn't have a set position yet, but he showed some chops at 2B during his big league call up and it's where his bat profiles best. Labeled the best pure hitter in the system by Baseball America last offseason, he has the ability to make consistent, line drive type contact with some gap power. The knock on LeMahieu is that he doesn't pack a punch, but the size/frame (6'4 180) as well as his hitting ability and doubles power suggests he might hit for a little more power in the future. Most likely, it's not alot of power and it's why he's not a more legitimate 3B prospect. He's the kind of player that surprises, because it seems that he doesn't get much hype as a prospect.
Mid-season season grade - A - Midseason Prospect Grade - B+
4 - Chris Carpenter - (AA/AAA) - (5.63 ERA/ 32 IP/ 30 H/ 21 BB/ 26 K/4 HR)
Nothing about this season looks good, but he somehow got the call to the Majors and didn't embarrass himself in a major way. Very good fastball/breaking ball combo that can be devastating out of the bullpen once he harnesses it. Right now he needs to throw more strikes, which means tightening up his mechanics and repeating everything better. In time he can be a Scott Williamson type set up man back when Williamson was nasty, but right now he's still somewhat raw, though I'll say it's not as bad as the stats look.
Mid-season season grade - C- (Not a D because he made it to the majors, not an F because that'd be ridiculous)
Midseason Prospect Grade - B
5- Jae Hoon Ha - (A+/AA) - (.273/.311/.424 16 BB/ 44 K/ 19 2B/ 3 3Bs/ 9 HRs)
The first guy born in the 90's on this list, the Cubs have pushed Ha this year. He was a significant IFA signing a couple of years ago from Korea, and has converted from C to OF, seeing alot of time in CF and RF this year. Ha is said to be very good defensively, and shares the contact oriented characteristic that we're seeing amongst the Cubs more touted offensive prospects and young players. He's on pace to hit over 30 doubles and should hit the teens in HRs, so there's a bat showing some potential here. I'm of the opinion that Ha could end up a Choo (Indians) esque player in time, but that's in time. Either way if you've followed Josh's Minor League Wraps this year you would notice he's found a way to contribute and contribute often, and that's a very likable quality in such a young player.
Mid-season season grade - B Midseason prospect grade - B-
6 - Reggie Golden - (Boise) - (.284/.402/.407 16 BB/ 21 K/ 3 2B/ 2 3B/ 1 HR)
Another young OF, might have the most raw power of anyone currently in the system besides Burgess. He's actually a little similar to Burgess, but hopefully he doesn't struggle as much. Athletic, loaded with tools, and can take a walk. Check back in 3 years.
Mid-season season grade - B+ Midseason prospect grade - B-
7 - Ryan Flaherty - (AA/AAA) - (.305/.384/.523 40 BB/ 55 K/ 20 2B/ 2 3Bs/ 14 HR)
I've been knocking Flaherty a little lately, but there's no denying he's having a great season. He's played all over the field this year, pretty much everything but SS, CF, and C. Seems destined to be a utility player, but with his season this year there is a legit chance he can have some starter caliber seasons offensively in the big leagues. As a starter probably profiles best as a 3B, which is a good thing because 3B might be free next year. I've made the comparison to guys like Hinske and DeRosa, and I think it just might work for him. Just to keep everyone on their toes, he'd look good to other teams too if they have something the Cubs want.
Mid-season season grade - A Midseason prospect grade - B
8 - Trey McNutt - (AA) - (Look them up, they're not that good anyway)
Still probably the highest upside arm in the system, though I'd say Cashner has more upside in the upper tiers of the organization. Blisters and bs have ruined a promising season.
Mid-season season grade - D Midseason prospect grade - B-
9 - Hayden Simpson - (Doesn't matter) - (Doesn't matter)
The whole mono thing pretty much kills this year, but I'm still a fan of the athleticism and what I've read in the scouting reports. Hopefully he's learning something.
Mid-season season grade - D- Midseason prospect grade - C+ (The + is because he's still interesting)
10 - Pin-Chieh Chen - (Boise) - (They're good)
Another CF prospect, Chen is one of the many IFA prospects slowly starting to get looked at seriously. He gets the ten spot over others because he's yet another contact oriented, line drive nailing hitter. Could be anything when it's said and done, but IIRC he started off as a 2B so he also gets points for switching positions successfully.
Mid-season season grade - B Midseason prsopect grade - C
Matt Cerda - One of my favorite players in the system for some reason, maybe it's his patience. He's a long ways off, but shows some offensive game and can handle 2B defensively. Lump him in with Watkins and LePage amongst the many Other Guys who are part of the MIF prospect depth.
Ben Wells/Austin Reed - 2010 overslot HS pitchers aren't lighting it up, but both have some of the best stuff in the system.
Penalver/Candelario - Both are 17 and showing uncanny plate discipline in the DSL.
Pedro Araujo - 17 year old pitcher throwing up good periphs in the DSL.
Willengton Cruz - Young lefty with a good arm.
Luis Liria - Another really young interesting arm.
Frank Del Valle - Also interesting, and even surprisingly polished maybe.
I'm just going to stop now. There's plenty of other names I could throw on here. This system is on the way up folks. I see us being able to land another stud in the next couple years, or maybe they even develop a stud amongst these many names.