Midseason look at the Cubs top prospects, part 3

We’ve taken an extensive look at the top 20 Cubs prospects this season by Sickels so it’s time to look at some others who weren’t ranked.

John Gaub

Gaub is coming of a season in which he walked almost a batter per inning and allowed a tons of runs, but this season he’s been pretty good. His strikeouts are through the roof. He has Marmol-esque strikeout potential. He’s struckout 54 in 36.1 innings, but his command is what has held this 26 year old back. He’s also walked 23 at AAA. I wouldn’t be too surprised to see Gaub get a call-up at some point later in the season. The Cubs are still trying to win games so, you know, moving on to the more important things of trying to figure out what you can and can’t do next season will just have to wait until they’re no longer trying to win games.

Marwin Gonzalez

Gonzalez is off the best start in his career. The 22 year old shortstop had 239 plate appearances at AA this season and his wOBA was .345. While that may not sound like much, Gonzalez has been a guy who has consistently posted OPS’s in the low .600s. He’s not a good hitter and his career .307 OBP and lack of power probably prevent him from ever being a starter at bit leagues. He’s played in a few games at AAA after being promoted and has hit well in limited time. He’s a guy who has primarily played SS, but has played some CF as well as most other positions. He’s a super utility player who probably won’t hit much, but he is just 22 and having the best season of his career. He’s young so there’s still the possibility that he can figure it out.

Steve Clevenger

The Cubs 2012 back-up catcher has a career  minor league line of .308/.367/.422. He’s 25 years old and his hitting has gone up and down over the years, but it’s hard to imagine the Cubs keeping Koyie Hill around and if it’s a battle between Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger, methinks Clevinger wins that battle. Both are having very good seasons in 2011.

DJ LeMahieu

We’ve seen a little action from this season so we know how highly the Cubs think of the 2009 draft pick. He’s never going to be a great hitter, but he plays all the infield spots and is still technically 22. He turns 23 in less than a week. He’s having the best season of his career so far, but doesn’t like to take walks.

Ryan Flaherty

Flaherty was picked in the first round by the Cubs during the 2008 draft (41st overall). He turns 25 at the end of the month. It was kind of surprising that LeMahieu got the call instead of Flaherty who is just having a great season. Flaherty’s overall numbers remind me of another Cubs prospect who is a little older than you’d like and has been passed over.

Marquez Smith has a career line of .283/.357/.477 while Flaherty’s line is .282/.352/.471. Smith has had a lot of plate appearances at AAA while Flaherty has yet to advance past AA. The similarities don’t end with their batting lines. The age is another one and also the ability to play several positions. Flaherty, though, can also play SS. Flaherty’s primary position has been 2nd base this season, but he’s played there in just 35 of his 78 games. He’s also played 21 in LF, 13 in RF, 13 at SS, 10 at 3rd and 4 at 1st.

After hitting for a .380 park-adjusted wOBA in his first full season in 2009, he struggled upon a promotion from Low A to AA in 2010, but this season his numbers are back. His park-adjusted wOBA is .395. After being sent back to High A last season, he continued to hit as he did the year before.

Rebel Ridling

I usually don’t care a lot about 1st base prospects because they have to be such good hitters to succeed. Ridling may not be that good, but he is putting together a strong season at AA. He’s also 25, but he has an .845 OPS so I figured I’d at least mention him.

Jae Hoon Ha

He began the season in High A and got off to a fantastic start. He was promoted to AA when Brett Jackson was injured and struggled. His numbers have fallen back to earth since and his overall line is .274/.314/.431. Ha apparently has a cannon for an arm and plays very good defense in RF. His patience has improved a bit, but it will have to improve much more. He has taken as many walks (16) this season as he had combined in 2009 and 2010.

Chris Rusin

He has fantastic control for a pitcher. In 76 AA innings this season, Rusin walked just 16. He struckout only 49, but that’s a very good ratio. His career BB/9 is under 2 and his career K/BB is well over 3. I’m too lazy to do the K-BB%, but it would certainly be better than league average. Rusin doesn’t turn 25 until after the season and following his last start he was promoted to AAA Iowa. That’s an extreme hitter’s league so it’s going to be interesting and worth following.

Robert Whitenack

Off to a terrific start and after a promotion to AA, his elbow went and he’s out for the season.

Nicholas Struck

Struck is only 21 years old. He was drafted in the 39th round in 2009 and in his second full season of professional baseball, he’s already at AAA. He’s made only one start there since being promoted less than a week ago, but it always impresses me how quickly some can move through a system.

He has good command, but he’s not going to strikeout a ton of batters. His strikeout ratios are probably good enough considering his good command. He also gives up more hits than you’d like, but he limits the baserunners by not walking many. It’s tough to figure out someone his age who has moved up the system so quickly. He’s only thrown 219 professional innings. Also, his ERA looked so sparkly in AA this season because nearly half the runs he allowed were unearned. However, his tRA+ in Daytona was 114 and then it was 132 in Tennessee so he’s been good. Really good.

You can find a pretty good writeup on Struck around the draft time here.

Jeffrey Belliveau

The lefty’s first 36 professional innings in 2008 (18th round pick that year) didn’t go too well. It likely changed our perception of him and we forgot about him. It was easy to do, though. He walked around 7.5 batters per 9 innings the first 70 professional innings of his career. It really doesn’t matter how many you can strikeout if you’re giving away that many free passes in the lowest levels of the minor leagues. He was striking a lot of batters out (13+ per 9).

Something changed upon his promotion to Peoria in 2009. His walk rate dropped to 4.2 per 9. His strikeout rate also fell, but it was still 10 per 9. In 2010 it dropped to 4.1 per 9 and his k-rate increased back to 13+. This season he’s walked under 3 per 9 and struckout more than 11 per 9.

He looks as tough to hit as Carlos Marmol does. In 33 appearances this season (all relief) in A+ and AA, he’s thrown 47.2 innings and allowed 28 hits. He’s struckout 62. He’s walked only 13. At AA, he’s thrown 30.1 of those innings and allowed just 15 hits. He’s struckout 42 and walked 7, but 2 of those were intentional. He has a 1.39 tRA in AA, which has a league average of 4.52. His tRA+ is 169. He’s having a great season. It’s hard to believe he’ll be in AA much longer.

Evan Crawford

The Cubs acquired the 22 year old outfielder last season for Mike Fontenot. Crawford is in High A and hitting .324/.390/.423. That’s good for 8th in the league in batting average and 17th in on-base percentage. He has a .370 wOBA and a team high 10.3 batting runs above average (braa).

He’s just 6-2 and 165 pounds so power isn’t going to be a part of his game. He can run. He stole 27 bases last season and has already stolen 20 this year. He’s been thrown out only 5 times. He swings and misses, but has above average plate discipline.

His defense must not be all that special as he’s mostly played LF this seaosn, which is of course a problem.

Aaron Kurcz

Drafted in the 10th round of the 2010 Draft, Kurcz is quietly putting together a solid start to his professional career. He turns 21 in a month and so far he’s thrown 83.1 innings in his career, allowed 67 hits, struckout 104 and walked 36. The Cubs signed him for $125,000 and here’s what Baseball America had to say.

Righthander Kurcz came to Southern Nevada from Air Force. He’s not big, standing 6 feet and 175 pounds, but has consistently pitched with good velocity. He sits 92-94 mph with a slurvy breaking ball that has some bite to it. If he doesn’t sign, he’ll head to Oral Roberts.

Already at AA, he’s made 17 appearances, 12 of which were starts, and thrown 56 innings. He’s allowed 52 hits, struckout 56 and walked 25.

Matt Szczur

Baseball America said this about the Cubs 5th round pick in 2010.

A wide receiver for Villanova’s football team, Szczur led the Wildcats to a Football Championship Subdivision national title last fall, earning MVP honors in the championship game after racking up 270 all-purpose yards. He is a legitimate NFL draft prospect as a receiver in the Wes Welker mold, which clouds his baseball signability, but he also could be drafted as early as the fifth round in baseball. Szczur is an electrifying athlete with true 80 speed on the 20-80 scouting scale. He is still learning to put his speed to use in the outfield—he arrived at Villanova as a catcher and has never concentrated on baseball full-time—and has played right field for the Wildcats, but he could become an adequate defender in center or left with work. His arm is well-below-average. Offensively, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Szczur has an unorthodox, slashy swing, but he has a knack for barreling up balls consistently, and he projects as an average hitter with below-average power. He has a patient approach, and he can use all fields and make adjustments from at-bat to at-bat. Scouts love Szczur’s intensity on the field, and coaches rave about his work ethic and ability to learn. He also has special makeup off the field; days after hitting for the cycle on April 27, Szczur donated bone marrow to a 1-year-old girl with leukemia, sidelining him for the next three weeks.

All he’s done in a little over 400 professional plate apearances is hit .325/.383/.445. This year at Peoria he’s hitting .317/.370/.438. He has 5 home runs, 15 doubles and a triple to go along with 17 stolen bases and 5 times caught stealing. Not to mention he makes a ton of contact. He’s struckout just 26 times this year in 289 plate appearances and has taken 21 walks. He turns 22 in a couple weeks, but hasn’t focuses solely on baseball for very long yet. We’ll have to see what he does at the higher levels, but so far he’s doing a great job.

Austin Kirk

The Cubs selected Kirk in the 3rd round of the 2009 draft. He turned 21 at the end of May and began playing in his first full season league this season. At Peoria he’s made 17 appearances (16 starts) and thrown 93.1 innings. He’s allowed only 63 hits while walking 22 and striking out 82. His WHIP is only .911. He has a 3.89 tRA, which is good for a 115 tRA+.

At the time of the draft, Baseball America had this scouting report for Kirk.

He surprised scouts by touching 92 mph in a February scrimmage against Tulsa’s Memorial High and ace Jon Reed. Kirk has moved past Reed as the state’s No. 2 high school prospect behind projected first-rounder Chad James (Yukon High) by pitching at 88-91 mph all spring after previously topping out in the high 80s. His fastball is explosive and gets on hitters quickly, making it appear even faster. He also consistently stays on top of his improved curveball with his high three-quarters delivery and has an advanced changeup for a high schooler. Kirk could go in the fourth or fifth round if teams believe he’ll sign. If he doesn’t, he’ll head to Oklahoma and get the chance to contribute as a two-way player. He’s a first baseman with some lefthanded power.

The Cubs signed him for just over $300,000.

Starling Peralta

Is it Starling or Starlin? Minor League Baseball has Starling while Baseball Reference has Starlin. Who knows? Who cares? Anyway, there’s been some talk about him on here recently, but I’m not sure he’s as good as DJ things. He’s definitely not old for his level, but his overall minor league pitching numbers aren’t really that impressive. In 151.2 innings between the Dominican Leagues and the 5+ innings at Peoria, he’s allowed 158 hits, struckout 146 and walked 50. Not bad at all, but not something that gets me that excited either. He has a career 4.57 ERA. He is off to a really good start this season in 18 innings. He’s struckout 24 and walked only 3.

Paul Hoilman

Drafted by the Cubs last month, Hoilman is already 22 and in the Northwest League so the numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt. Still, they’re quite impressive. He’s hit .267/.464/.517. Yeah, his OBP is nearly 200 points higher than his average. He’s walked 21 times in 84 plate appearances. He’s also struckout 27 times. 53 of his 84 plate appearances have been walks, hit by pitch, strikeouts or home runs. He was known as college baseball’s home run king.

Rafael Lopez

The Cubs haven’t signed too many players from the 2011 draft yet, but Hoilman and Lopez are two of them. Lopez, also now at Boise, is also hitting quite well. The 16th round pick is already 23 and turns 24 after the season. So far he’s hitting .333/.432/.444 between Rookie League and short-season A ball. He was a 4-year college player so both of those levels are not quite the same talent as he’s used to facing.

Ben Klafczynski

An outfielder, drafted in the 20th round this year out of Kent State he’s played only 18 games and has a .599 OPS.

Taiwan Easterling

He was drafted in the 6th round in 2007 by the Marlins who again selected him in the 31st round in 2010, but Easterling refused to sign. He should have signed in 2007. The Cubs picked him in the 27th round and he’s had only 7 plate appearances for Boise so far.

Pete Levitt

The Cubs drafted Levitt in the 50th round in 2008 and then again in the 32nd round this year. Levitt has appeared in only 4 games across rookie league, Boise and low-A.

Travis Garcia

36th round pick this year. He’s had fewer than 30 plate appearances so far.

Patrick Franceson

The 40th round pick is at Peoria, but has thrown fewer than 10 innings so far this year.

Brad Zapenas

21 year old middle infielder selected in the 42nd round, he’s played 15 games at Boise. He’s primarily played 2nd, but a few games at SS.

Kenny Socorro

Selected in the 44th round, the 5-9, 175 lb. middle infielder has had fewer than 40 plate appearances between rookie league and Boise.

From what I can tell, that appears to be all the Cubs draft picks who have signed and played in real games so far. I’m going to post a survey sometime soon for you to fill out your top prospects so we can have a midseason list to look at. Lists are fun.