2011 Top 10 Prospects: Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals

Chicago Cubs: Top 10 Prospects

1. Brett Jackson / OF / Jackson had a terrific first full season, but I stand firm with my cautiousness toward his future. His power and speed are playing in the minors, but he will have to show more before I start to believe that he can be an impact major leaguer.
2. Chris Archer / SP / From a command standpoint, Archer has good games and bad games, but he possesses tenacity and an above-average three-pitch mix that has Cub fans excited.
3. Trey McNutt / SP / Where did McNutt come from? He burst onto the scene this year with his mid-90s fastball and terrific breaking ball. His command looks merely average, however. We’re all waiting to see how he handles Double-A and if his change-up develops.
4. Hak-Ju Lee / SS / Lee had a fine full-season debut, posting a stellar batting average and proving to be a peskier out than most thought possible. His defense isn’t as advertised yet and he hasn’t shown any power upside, which are two problems holding back his stock.
5. Jay Jackson / SP/RP / Jackson started to use his full repertoire more this season, which had negative effects on his numbers. He has solid control of his fastball and curveball, but no out pitch to speak of. It’s hard to tell if he will start or relieve full-time.
6. Brandon Guyer / OF / Guyer posted a breakout campaign in 2010, and was even able to showoff the power potential that some thought was fading. His power and speed are playing now, but like Brett Jackson, I have doubts about it translating.
7. Hayden Simpson / SP / The selection of Simpson in the middle of the first round raised eyebrows, as he wasn’t on a lot of radar screens. He has polish across the board and four useful pitches but doesn’t seem to possess much upside. Still, let’s give him a chance.
8. Josh Vitters / 3B / Having youth on his side will only get Vitters so far; he needs to improve. As it stands now, his plate approach is terrible and won’t get the job done where he’s hoping to go.
9. Chris Carpenter / RP/SP / Carpenter’s command has improved since his college days, but is no better than average on a good day. He seems to project better as a reliever, where his exciting fastball and slider can stand out.
10. DJ LeMahieu / 2B / If nothing else, LeMahieu proved to be a tough out in 2010, contributing to his .314 batting average. He has a solid line-drive swing and some are projecting a bit of power, but he hasn’t shown any evidence yet.

Chicago Cubs: Top 10 Players Under Age 26 (as of 4/1/11)

1. Starlin Castro / SS
2. Brett Jackson / OF
3. Chris Archer / SP
4. Trey McNutt / SP
5. Andrew Cashner / RP/SP
6. Tyler Colvin / OF
7. Hak-Ju Lee / SS
8. Blake DeWitt / 2B
9. Jay Jackson / SP/RP
10. Brandon Guyer / OF

St. Louis Cardinals: Top 10 Prospects

1. Shelby Miller / SP / Miller’s command sharpened throughout 2010 and his curveball took a step forward, becoming his definitive out pitch. There is little holding him back from completely breaking through in 2011.
2. Zack Cox / 3B/2B / Cox embodies the phrase “professional hitter.” His power may not develop, but he is a safe-bet, offensive-minded infielder.
3. Carlos Matias / SP / Matias might have the most impressive fastball ever seen from a Hispanic teenager. Velocity is one thing, but it’s his impeccable command of the pitch that separates him. He has plenty of development in front of him, but a tremendous foundation is in place.
4. Oscar Taveras / OF / Taveras is a rare sort of five-tool talent in that his tools have actually translated to big numbers right out of the gate. Some may argue with this ranking, but I see no reason not to be excited.
5. Tyrell Jenkins / SP / Jenkins has raw mechanics and has shown inconsistencies, but is an extremely athletic high school pitcher with the passion and tools necessary to excel.
6. Eduardo Sanchez / RP / Sanchez is a young closer in training who continues to excel wherever he goes. He came in at No. 10 on last year’s version of this list and gets another boost this year.
7. Lance Lynn / SP / Lynn’s numbers went the wrong way in 2010, yet there was nothing particularly off regarding the way he performed. He has average command of average stuff, found it difficult to work out of the stretch, and left too many hittable pitches over the plate. He has the ability to correct most of that in time to be a back-end mainstay.
8. Matt Carpenter / 3B / Carpenter looks like he could follow in the footsteps of David Freese and Allen Craig, meaning he, too, has a shot to be a solid-but-unspectacular regular. His skills don’t jump out at you, but so far his production has.
9. Deryk Hooker / SP/RP / Hooker is getting his share of strikeouts, but his fastball hovers around 90 for the most part. He is putting up his numbers due to above-average command and a plus curveball. His mechanics look like they could cause future problems, leaving many to peg him as a future reliever.
10. Seth Blair / SP/RP / Bryan Anderson and Joe Kelly received consideration, but Blair deserves a chance to be firmly on radar screens. He isn’t particularly exciting, though he has stellar command of an above average fastball; however, his secondary offerings aren’t where you want them to be for a college pitcher.

St. Louis Cardinals: Top 10 Players Under Age 26 (as of 4/1/11)

1. Colby Rasmus / OF
2. Jaime Garcia / SP
3. Shelby Miller / SP
4. Zack Cox / 3B/2B
5. Carlos Matias / SP
6. Oscar Taveras / OF
7. Tyrell Jenkins / SP
8. Eduardo Sanchez / RP
9. Lance Lynn / SP
10. Matt Carpenter / 3B

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  1. Adam said...

    Carlos Matias is also known as Carlos Martinez. 

    For what its worth, my list would go:
    Miller (High floor and ceiling)
    Jenkins (High floor due to athleticism)
    Martinez (High ceiling)
    Cox (High floor, low ceiling)
    Taveras (High ceiling)

    Not the next guys on my list, but a few to watch that weren’t mentioned are C-Cody Stanley, LHP-John Gast, and RHP-Trevor Rosenthal.  Deep sleepers included OF-Adron Chambers and C-Audry Perez.

  2. BT said...

    Seriously, this is a bit embarrassing. I’m not arguing with a lot of your analysis, and there is nothing more annoying than a “why do you hate my team” approach to comments, but every comment on the Cubs prospects contains a “but this is why he could eventually suck” line, and every Cardinal comment contains a “but this is why he might be awesome” line.

    I’m not mad or anything, just amazed at the consistency. It’s pretty hilarious.

    “Brett Jackson was great in the minors, but I remain unconvinced but Oscar Taveras’s big minor league numbers prove he is a five tool player!”

    “Trey McNutt’s command is merely average, but Tyrell Jenkins has the passion and the tools to excel!”

    “Hak-ju Lee’s power isn’t developing, which might hold him back, but Zack Cox’s non-developing power makes him the very embodiment of Professional Hitter!”

    And so on.

  3. Bob said...

    The respective tones seem at least mildly slanted…but so what? Could that be due to the Cardinals simply having a better group of farmhands? (Or least a group with more upside?)

    I’ve yet to see anyone criticize any *specific* piece of Hagen’s analyses. For instance, is McNutt’s command actually other than “average”? Does Jay Jackson actually have an out-pitch Hagen refuses to acknowledge? Has H-J Lee actually shown power upside?

    I don’t know the answers to these questions. Maybe a cub fan could chime in.

    Oh, and as a Cardinal fan, I’d say Matt Carpenter’s got Jeff Cirillo potential, which is a darn sight better than Freese/Craig. Carpenter has strikezone control the aforementioned pair can only dream of, and his DEfensive performance as a professional has been nothing short of fantastic. (Cirillo, by the by, was on average a 4-5 win player over his first 6 full MLB seasons [age 26-31] depending whether one subscribes to the yardsticks of B-Ref, B-Pro, or Fangraphs.)

  4. Max said...

    As a Cubs fan I think it’s fair to say that when the Cubs as an organization actually develop a track record of developing minor league talent at the position level, you’ll see analysts showing a little more respect.

  5. BT said...

    Bob, I think you are missing the point. It’s not that the things the author is saying are necessarily untrue. It’s the fact that he has decided to highlight the negative aspect to EVERY one of them. And he only seems to do this with the Cubs prospects. Every prospect has SOMETHING wrong with them, or they’d be in the major leagues. The fact that Mr. Hagen seemed compelled to highlight these deficiencies is what I find so hilarious.

    Put another way, it would be like an author doing a piece on Robert DeNiro’s acting career, and focusing on “Rocky and Bullwinkle”, “Righteous Kill” and the Focker trilogy. All of it would be true, but it certainly would be an odd way to frame his career.

    One other thing. I’m not certain Mr. Hagen is a Cardinal fan, as the other write ups I’ve see him do are equally glowing regarding the positive aspects of those prospects. It’s not so much he is a Cardinal fan, as he just doesn’t seem to like the Cubs.

    Lastly? I can’t imagine you will find any reputable prospect site try to claim the Cardinals have a better group of prospects than the Cubs.

  6. BT said...

    Exactly. All the Cubs have developed recently is Castro. And Soto. And Colvin. And Theriot. And Marmol. And Zambrano. And Wells. And Cashner. And Marshall. And maybe Russel. And maybe Coleman. But other than that, they have NO track record.

  7. Bob said...

    BT: You got a problem with Rocky And Bullwinkle?!? I suppose you prefer the sturdy despair of City By The Sea, or maybe even that one movie about Pennsylvanians hunting deers. Hmph.

    Seriously though, I personally like Brett Jackson a lot (about the same as Shelby Miller, roughly in the 20-25 range among all prospects), and Archer + McNutt are a real nice duo. But beyond those three and Josh V, it’s a pretty tepid system to me—which does infact leave it a notch below St. Louis, with it’s deeper depth.

    For instance, #4 Cub H-J Lee put up a .704 OPS in the MML. Marginal Cardinal middle infield prospect Luis Mateo, a few months older in the same league, had a .706—and is not a top 20, or even top 30 player in their system.

    Guyer, #6 for the Northsiders, was terrific in AA at 24. But just a year ago, across A+ and AA, Guyer had a so-so .724 OPS. Another Cardinal farmhand, Tommy Pham, (like Guyer a fast, “raw” outfielder) played in A+ and AA at age 22 this year and posted an .835, including .966 at the *higher* level. Pham, though, will make no StL top 10’s.

    Other StL depth? Catcher Anthony Garcia was the first GCL teenager since Hanley Ramirez nearly a decade ago to post an .800+ OPS with more walks than whiffs and at least a .170 isolated slugging. (Garcia was several months younger than Han-Ram, by the way.)Cardinal teen starter Bryan Martinez was the *only* rookieball pitcher, foreign or domestic, to have at least 11 K’s per 9 IP and post a GB/FB ratio of at least 1.75—and Martinez’ ratio was a stunning 2.50+.

    And those two will appear on no StL top 10’s. That’s quality depth.

    I wouldn’t venture to guess where “reputable” sites will place the Cards & Cubs systems. When StL had Albert Pujols, they rated 27th at BA. When they had Dan Haren and Yadi Molina, BA rated the system dead last. So…reputation, schmeputation.

    Would a prefer B. Jackson or S. Miller? Toss up.
    McNutt and Archer, or Matias + Sanchez + Lynn (83/21 K/BB in 72 second half innings)? Maybe a slight Cubbie edge. Vitters v. Carpenter at the hot corner? If he stays at 3rd, Vitters is probably the better overall prospect—certainly the kid has more upside offensively. But Carpenter, due to vastly superior defense and strikezone management, has the higher floor. Who’ll have the most eventual MLB value? I wouldn’t bet even money either way.

    Jay Jackson v. Oscar Taveras? Jackson’s a nice arm…but Taveras was the youngest regular in the Appy (by several months) and put up an OPS nearly 200 points above league. Edge, Cardinals.

    So overall the top 10’s are quite comparable. And again, the depth factor leans heavily in one direction. So, all things considered, I’d give St. Louis the system edge. That one, I *would* bet even money on.

  8. BillVZ said...


    I must agree with the majority of the comments -your perspective is through the Red Bird eye -umm, OK but what really stands out is your tepid remarks in contrast about the Cub prospects.
    It is a long winter with nothing to do but come up with articles to express ones bias.No big deal!

  9. givejonadollar said...

    Yea, this was a bit biased I think. smile

    I think we have a few minor league outfielders who could possibly outperform our current major league outfielders.

    Another one that always seems to get overlooked is Sam Fuld, who I think is a terrific player.

  10. JR said...

    Baseball America will rank the Cubs’ system 8th, and 2nd if Castro and Cashner still retained prospect status.

  11. mikec said...

    Well, let’s flash forward seven months and see where we’re at. 

    BA just put out its midseason list of top 50 prospects. 

    Cards have Shelby Miller at No. 7 and Carlos Martinez at No. 18. 

    Cubs have Brett Jackson at No. 32, Matt Szczur at No. 48.

    Cards have gotten much-needed help from call-ups.  Most Cubs call-ups have shown they’re either not good or not ready. 

    Cubs traded four of their top 12 prospects for Garza’s 4.27 ERA, well below average in an extreme pitchers’ year.  Of those four, HJ Lee has risen to No. 22 on midseason prospect list.  He leads his hi-A team in OPS.  B Guyer leads his AAA team in OPS. 

    After the Garza trade, the ranking of the Cubs system dropped 13 spots to No. 23.  It will fall about another two notches.  Cards system isn’t great but will move ahead of Cubs.  BTW, I am a lifelong, diehard Cubs fan.  But my favorite org under failed GM Hendry is currently a complete train wreck.

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