Checking up on the Cubs top prospects, part 1

A month ago I took a look at how the Cubs top prospects (ratings from John Sickels) were doing and the final part was a form for you so we could have our own top prospect list. The final part in this series will be those results. I know you’ve waited on pins and needles for them so you won’t have to wait much longer.

20) Welington Castillo, C, Grade C: Very effective against runners, has some power, but on-base skills are sketchy.

Castillo has only had about 60 plate appearances since we last checked in. I’m not sure if he’s been injured or what. He’s hitting .315/.376/.589 in over 200 PA at AAA this season. He kind of reminds me of Geovany Soto in terms of development.

Below is a list of Soto’s triple slash lines from age 18-24 and what level he was at:

18 Rk .260/339/.387
19 Rk & A-, .273/.335/.416
20 A+, .242/.313/.316
21 AA .271/.357/.342
22 AAA .253/.357/.342
23 AAA .272/.353/.386
24 AAA .353/.424/.642 

Here’s what Castillo has done in his career:

19 Rk A- .188/.257/.188 (36 PA)
20 A- .271/.334/.423
21 A+ AA AAA .287/.337/.383
22 AA .232/.275/.386
23 AAA .255/317/.498
24 A+ AAA .301/.367/.522 (42 rehab PA at Daytona)

Soto was about a year ahead of Castillo, but neither catcher had impressive numbers until their age 24 season. Early on it looked as though both catchers would have to field their position excellently to get by at the big league level, but by age 23 for Soto, it appeared as though he had plenty of power to play every day behind the plate. Castillo has clearly shown that AAA is too easy.

I’m not saying that Castillo is going to have as successful a career as Soto has had, but it’s just something that I’ve noticed this season. Both took off at age 24. Soto has still been inconsistent at the big league level with the stick so take the comparison for what it’s worth (not much). 

19) Ben Wells, RHP, Grade C: Hasn’t pitched  yet, but seventh round pick from Arkansas high school has potential as a hard-throwing starter.

Wells scouting report at the time he was drafted by Baseball America said this about him:

Ben Wells pitched at 84-87 mph most of his amateur career, but by the end of this spring he was throwing 90-94 mph and pitching a five-inning perfect game in the state 7-A championship game. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound righthander has a good feel for pitching, too, as he pounds the strike zone with a three-pitch mix that also includes a hard slider and splitter. He committed to Crowder (Mo.) JC and now is drawing attention from Southeastern Conference schools. Wells has the size and stuff to go in the first five rounds of the draft, though he may not have been scouted extensively enough to go that high.

Wells doesn’t turn 19 for over a month and in 41.2 short-season A ball innings he’s allowed 44 hits, struckout 30 and walked 14. The walk rate is good, but hitters aren’t having any difficulty getting base hits against Wells and he’s having a little trouble striking them out. He’s an extreme groundball pitcher (2.44 GO/AO). 

18) Jin-Young Kim, RHP, Grade C+: Will he be worth the big bonus?

Things have gotten worse for Kim since we last checked in. He’s allowed 38 hits in 24.1 short-season A ball innings. He’s allowed 4 home runs, walked 15 and struckout only 16. Only one time this season has he not allowed any runs. In his second appearance he threw 3.2 innings, allowed 5 hits, walked 1 and struckout 2. Not exactly an impressive outing by any means. His best outing other than that one was a 4 inning appearance in which he allowed 7 hits, walked 1 and struckout 2. 

17) Austin Kirk, LHP, Grade C+: Breakthrough candidate for 2011.

Kirk is having another solid season though last time we checked in he had gotten roughed up in his three previous starts and that trend has continued. Overall he’s thrown 118 innings at Peoria and allowed only 94 hits, walked just 27 and has struckout 101. He’s not a strikeout pitcher, but his control is excellent. I don’t know how his skills will translate to the next level or levels, but it’s always nice to see a young pitcher in the Cubs organization who throws strikes. 

16) Su-Min Jung, RHP, Grade C+: Wasn’t great at Peoria, but I think he can get better faster than people anticipate.

After walking 24 and striking out only 19 in 43.2 innings at Peoria, he was sent back to Boise. It hasn’t gone any better there either. He’s walked 16 batters, struckout only 8 and has allowed 9 runs in 10.2 innings. 

15) Brooks Raley, LHP, Grade C+: Was very effective in the second half.

Raley has LOOGY written all over him. Never a strikeout pitcher, Raley has struckout just 54 in 104 innings at AA. He’s walked 37 and allowed 13 home runs. Raley doesn’t strike many out, batters don’t have any trouble getting base hits or home runs and he doesn’t have excellent control, though it’s not bad. At the age of 23, I expect we’ll see Raley moved to Iowa next year and put in the bullpen. It’s hard to imagine there’s a future there as a starter. There may not even be one as a LOOGY. 

14) Brett Wallach, RHP, Grade C+: Another one (live arm, needs polish).

The Cubs acquired Wallach when they traded Ted Lilly to the Dodgers last year. Remember when the Cubs had a ton of strikeout pitchers who had a very high ceiling? Yeah, those days are gone. Wallach is yet another starter who doesn’t strike many batters out. He’s struckout 71 in 91 High A innings. He’s walked 34 so his command isn’t bad, but there’s probably not a large enough difference between K% and BB% for him to be a serious candidate for the rotation in the future. He turns 23 in December.

13) Rafael Dolis, RHP, Grade C+: Another guy in the live arm/needs polish brigade.

Converted to closer after 4 AA starts, he hasn’t been that impressive. On the season at AA he’s struckout only 6.6 batters per 9 and walked over 4 per 9. He does keep the ball on the ground and in the ballpark, but his strikeouts will only continue to decline as he moves up the system while his walks go the opposite direction. He’ll turn 24 in January and spend most or all of 2012 in Des Moines.

12) D.J LeMahieu, INF, Grade C+: I think people are a bit too down on him; he could surprise this year.

After breaking out in AA earlier this season, he was called up to Chicago out of necessity. After being sent back to AAA, things have not gone well. in 121 PA he’s hit .278/.306/.330 for the I-Cubs. LeMahieu just turned 23 so he’s another guy who is going to spend most or all of 2012 in AAA. He needs to work at getting on base without requiring a hit to do so.

11) Marquez Smith, 3B, Grade C+: Not young, but ready to help at the major league level and can catch people off-guard.

It seems rare to me that there’s a guy who has consistently hit as well as Smith has who has never gotten a shot at a big league job. It’s not just the Cubs either. He was available in last year’s Rule 5 and no team even took a flyer on him. The consensus seems to be that there’s little Smith can do to make up for whatever deficiency there is that we’re not seeing in the numbers. It’s not defense as he’s known as a good defender. It’s not like he’s a left fielder or 1st baseman. He plays 3rd base and could easily switch to 2nd if needed. Like I said last time, whatever it is that’s holding Smith back is something that we can’t see, but it’s obviously present. 


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