Chicago Cubs: Draft Review

General Manager: Jim Hendry
Farm Director: Oneri Fleita
Scouting Director: Tim Wilken

2006-2009 Draft Results:
First three rounds included
x- over-draft signees ($200,000 or more)

2009 1st Round: Brett Jackson, OF, U of California
2. D.J. LeMahieu, 2B, Louisiana State
3. Austin Kirk, LHP, Oklahoma HS
6x – Brooks Raley, LHP, Texas A&M

Jackson was a bit of a surprise pick where the Cubs selected him, but the early results have been promising. The outfielder flew through three levels in his debut and ended the year in low-A ball where he hit .295/.382/.545 in 112 at-bats. If Jackson continues to hit with power (.250 ISO) and speed (11 steals in 12 attempts, 30 runs scored in 26 games), the organization could have a real steal here. However, his walk rate did diminish with each promotion, and his strikeout rate was quite high (28.6% in low-A). Still, you can’t sneeze at a .436 wOBA.

The shortstop had a solid debut in low-A ball. He hit .316/.371/.368, thanks to a solid .369 BABIP. LeMathieu also kept his strikeouts in check at 14.5% and his walk rate was a reasonable 7.3%. On the down side, he showed little power (.053 ISO) and he didn’t run much, either (two steals in four tries). Despite the lack of power, he managed to drive in 30 runs in just 38 games.

The first high-schooler taken, Kirk pitched just 13.2 innings, but he got a taste of both rookie and short-season ball. The young southpaw showed some rough spots, especially with his command and control, which should not be unexpected in young pitchers. A college left-hander, Raley also pitched just a few innings after being signed to an over-draft deal. He should open 2010 in low-A ball.

2008 1st Round: Andrew Cashner, RHP, Texas Christian
1S. Ryan Flaherty, SS, Vanderbilt
2. Aaron Shafer, RHP, Wichita State
3. Chris Carpenter, RHP, Kent State
4x – Matt Cerda, SS, California HS
21x – Logan Watkins, SS, Kansas HS

The organization added some real depth with this draft and first-rounder Cashner jumped to the top of the club’s Top 10 prospects list after showing he can certainly stick in the starting rotation. He reached double-A in his first full pro season. Flaherty also joins Cashner on that list (due up on the site tomorrow) and he could be the second baseman (or even third baseman) of the future with Starlin Castro earmarked for shortstop. Carpenter is another promising pick from the draft. The right-hander has a big arm, but he has also had some pretty serious injuries so the catchphrase to be used here is “cautiously optimistic.”

Second-round pick Shafer has a nice pitcher’s frame, but he’s been slower to develop and spent all of ’09 in low-A ball. He displayed good control (2.40 BB/9) but posted a strikeout rate of just 6.27 and allowed too many hits: 122 in 116.1 innings, despite a modest BABIP at .304. He needs to miss more bats, or Shafer is headed to the bullpen. Cerda had a promising debut in low-A ball, but he appeared in just seven games in ’09 thanks to injuries. If he can get back on the field, the catcher shows a keen eye at the plate for his age.

Just 20, Watkins has hit .326 in his short career, spanning two half seasons (one in rookie ball, one in short-season ball). The middle infielder enjoyed his time at the plate in ’09 and hit .326/.389/.391 in 279 at-bats. He needs to work on his base running a bit after getting caught seven times in 21 attempts. Watkins could also stand to be more patient at the plate after posting a walk rate of just 8.8%. He has little-to-no-power after posting an ISO of .065.

Right-hander Jay Jackson was a steal in the ninth round.

2007 1st Round: Josh Vitters, 3B, California HS
1S. Josh Donaldson, C, Auburn (Traded to OAK)
2. None
3. Tony Thomas, 2B, Florida State
12x – Ryan Acosta, RHP/SS, Florida HS
14x – James Russell, LHP, Texas

Despite some clear rough spots in his game, Vitters is still one of the top prospects in the system. Donaldson also showed some potential before he was flipped in the ’08 Rich Harden trade with the Oakland Athletics. Thomas, an offensive-minded second baseman, has seen his offensive numbers slip as he ascends through the system. His power has also diminished, as has his base running skills and he was successful in just 50% of his 26 attempts in ’09 at double-A.

Acosta was unceremoniously released by the club after the ’08 season. Russell hasn’t really lived up to his over-draft signing, either, but he made it to triple-A in ’09 and has been serving as a swing man. He made 12 starts in ’09 (between double-A and triple-A), as well as 25 relief appearances. Russell has a chance to be a useful arm in the Majors, but he’s not likely to be an impact pitcher.

Infielder Darwin Barney (fourth round) and outfielder Brandon Guyer (fifth round) could also end up being useful players.

2006 1st Round: Tyler Colvin, OF, Clemson
2. None
3. None
5x – Jeff Samardzija, RHP, Notre Dame
11x – Chris Huseby, RHP, Florida HS
14x – Drew Rundle, OF, Oregon HS

Until ’09, Colvin looked like a complete bust. He began this past season in high-A, after spending the previous two seasons in double-A. He did not hit overly well but found himself back in double-A where his bat woke up and he managed a triple-slash line of .300/.334/.524 in 307 at-bats. Colvin still doesn’t like walking, but he’s shown improved patience since the ’07 debacle (3.0% walk rate). His ISO of .225 in ’09 was encouraging but he stole just eight bases, which is disappointing. Colvin got a taste of the Majors in ’09 (six games) but it still looks like he’s a platoon or fourth outfielder.

Samardzija’s rookie eligibility has expired but he has yet to develop into the impact arm that the Cubs had hoped for. He still has a powerful fastball, but he’s been painfully inconsistent, for which the Cubs must take partial blame. The former college football star has shuttled from the starting rotation to the bullpen and back, on multiple occasions. He needs to stick in one role in 2010.

Huseby has been a source of frustration for the organization, as a highly-promising but inconsistent over-draft pick out of high school. Moved to the bullpen full-time in ’09, he flourished with a walk rate of just 1.67 BB/9 and a strikeout rate of 12.17 K/9 (7.30 K/BB rate in low-A). He could be a fast-mover in 2010 if those rates keep up. Rundle has yet to show the ability to hit professional pitching, outside of a 53-game stint in short-season ball in ’08.

Blake Parker (16th round) reached triple-A in ’09 and posted solid numbers out of the bullpen. The right-hander is a converted college catcher. He just needs to sharpen his command/control.

Up Next: The Chicago Cubs Top 10 Prospects

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects, depth charts and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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6 years 9 months ago

Some comments:

First off, excellent work Marc.

Minor quibble, but Brett Jackson wasn’t a big surprise. Everyone was anticipating a college CF. I was very glad when the D-backs took AJ Pollock. I wasn’t sure if the Cubs were going to go Brett Jackson or Tim Wheeler, but a college OF bat was the expectation.

LeMahieu is likely going to be slated for 2nd base. He could be fine at short, but his better spot would be at 2nd. I’m not sure the power will ever develop … but I’m not sure it’s absolutely necessary for it to. If he can continue his high contact rates, I think I could live with the profile for 2nd base.

There’s an outside chance that the Cubs push Raley to A+. Something to watch.

I completely agree on the “cautiously optimistic” aspect to Chris Carpenter. I was honestly just hoping he would stay healthy this year. Anything else was gravy, and as such, I’m very excited.

Fyi, Cerda has been moved to 3rd. An arm to watch is Justin Bristow. He was working his way back to full health, so I had minimal expectations, but late in the year, the stuff was showing well (fastball was getting to the mid-90’s range). Good athleticism (former prep SS I think).

I still don’t recall the exact details as to why Ryan Acosta was released. He missed time due to some personal issues, and I think they just decided to cut the ties. James Russell is a frustrating guy to follow, as a Cubs fan. With a plus change, a good curve, and a low 90’s fb, that’s a deep, solid arsenal. Plenty of lefties have succeeded with less. It’s been fb command that’s been the issue. I think they’ll give him another go as a starter next year, although his future might be in the pen.

Darwin Barney’s a fairly decent shortstop prospect who could probably make a career as a borderline starter/utility type. He just happens to be in a system that is current loaded with middle infield talent. Brandon Guyer has to show some power, otherwise he’s a depth OF type. He has the frame and physical capability to, as his Low A stats from last year showed.

Drew Rundle, IIRC, was moved to pitching. I really hope Chris Huseby gets a shot to start again. The profile (low 90’s fb, plus slider, cutter) doesn’t strike me as a closer, but it could really work as a starter. He had terrible control problems last year that slowed down his progress (he was showing positive signs in Boise 2 seasons ago) and there was some thought that the Cubs put him in the pen to slowly ease him back.

I’ll be curious what your Cubs top 10 prospects are. Mine goes Castro, Vitters, J Jackson, Brett Jackson, Cashner, Carpenter, Lee, Burke, Flaherty, Rhee.

6 years 9 months ago

I’ll go:


for top 4. I’d almost drop Vitters to 4th. I just HATE that walk rate.

David MVP Eckstein
6 years 9 months ago

Vitters is a shameful bust, if you ask me. If the cubs can get established value for him, they should take it. Let him be the trade chip

Mike Olson
Mike Olson
6 years 9 months ago

David you are an idiot, have you seen Vitters play? I live in Peoria and this guy was as hot of a hitter as i have ever seen and I’ve been a cross scout for the mariners for many years. Before his call up to daytona he was on a streak of like 8 straight games with a homer and at least 3 hits or something along those lines. The florida st league is known for pitching, its a place where hitters go to die per se.