Originally posted on Razzball  |  Last updated 1/18/12

Chicago Cubs 2011 Minor League Review

Organizational Talent Rankings via Baseball America:

2011 (16) | 2010 (14) | 2009 (27) | 2008 (18) | 2007 (18) | 2006 (15)

2011 Affiliate Records

MLB: [71-91] NL Central

AAA: [66-77] Pacific Coast League – Iowa

AA: [83-57] Southern League – Tennessee

A+: [76-61] Florida State League – Daytona

A: [60-79] Midwest League – Peoria

A(ss): [36-40] Northwest League – Boise

The Run Down

The Cubs’ MLB-ready talent doesn’t extend too far beyond Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson.  A few relief prospects and a backup catcher could crack the big league roster, but there aren’t a slew of guys here who are ready to contribute in the majors.  Even so, Rizzo and Jackson alone are sufficient to generate fantasy buzz.  And behind them, the Cubs have youthful types like Matt Szczur, Javier Baez and Dillon Maples.

Of all their additions this offseason, none is more important than Theo.   The Cubs are finally setting smart, long-term goals through emphasizing scouting and player development.  They’ve partnered with Bloomberg Sports, who will develop custom information systems and support data-driven decision-making.  They’re dumping Major League dead weight and they’re building from within.  They seem to be heading in the right direction.

Arizona Fall League Players – Mesa Solar Sox

Jeff Beliveau (LHP); Chris Carpenter (RHP); Andrew Cashner (RHP); Marcus Hatley (RHP); Trey McNutt (RHP); Junior Lake (SS); D.J. LeMahieu (2B); Josh Vitters (OF); Brett Jackson (OF)

Graduated Prospects

Darwin Barney (2B); Tony Campana (OF)

Players of Interest

Hitters

Brett Jackson | OF:

Although Soriano and Byrd remain, it seems only a matter of time before one (or both) is shipped elsewhere, making room for Jackson in the Chicago outfield.  Grey previews Jackson here.  It’s a great write-up mostly because of the dong joke (dong jokes get me every time), but I tend to agree with the non-dong-related content.  I just used the word “dong” four times while discussing Brett Jackson.  That places me second all-time behind Phil Rogers.

Anthony Rizzo | 1B:

Grey discusses Donkey Kong Jr.’s 2012 outlook here.  Rizzo, of course, now has a new team, a new ballpark and new teammates.  Long-term, the new environment certainly helps Rizzo.  But for 2012, I don’t think much needs to be changed from Grey’s projection, although 25 homers is probably a fair assessment, now.  Rizzo will likely begin 2012 in Iowa.  Bryan LaHair will hold his place in Chicago in the meantime.  I expect Rizzo up by midseason.

Welington Castillo | C:

There’s a good chance he’ll serve as Geovany Soto’s backup in 2012.  .238 ISO at Triple-A in 2011 reflects nice pop for a catcher, even in the PCL.  Soto, like many other Cubs regulars, is a trade candidate and Castillo would step into a starting role should a trade occur.  He’ll be worth adding across all formats if he’s ever getting regular AB’s.

Pitchers

Rafael Dolis | RHP – RP:

I suspect that Theo will, at some point, be shopping Marmol.  That is, if he isn’t already.  And if the Cubs are so lucky to unload their closer, Dolis seems like a good candidate to take on the role, as his high 90s sinking fastball can be utterly unhittable.  He’ll likely start 2012 at Triple-A where he’ll work on secondary pitches and overall command, but he’ll be up before long.

Chris Carpenter | RHP – RP:

Carpenter is a power righty who projects as a setup man.  When his command is with him, he’s tough to hit, but he has struggled in that regard.  Carpenter is pretty much a two-pitch guy with a high 90s fastball and high 80s slider.  He should be ready to join the Cubs bullpen full-time in 2012.

Honorable Mention

Hitters

Josh Vitters | 3B/1B:

Vitters moderate improvement at Double-A in 2011, slashing .283/.322/.448.  But it’s still hardly the production that the Cubs would like to see out of their 3rd overall pick in 2007.  At just 22, there is still time for him to polish his tools and start progressing, but he’ll need to begin doing so quickly.

Pitchers

Trey McNutt | RHP – SP:

McNutt struggled at Tennessee in 2011 and is probably in for a return to Double-A in 2012.  For a power pitcher with a plus fastball and plus curve, it’s concerning that his strikeout ratios aren’t at all impressive (6.2 K/9 in 2011).  A prospect with this kind of stuff shouldn’t be ignored, however.  If he can improve his command, the ratios will fall in line and he could find himself pitching at Wrigley come September.

Jay Jackson | RHP – SP:

Jackson’s had a rough couple of years at Triple-A, but the Cubs haven’t yet lost faith.  An initiative of Epstein’s has been to glean his rotation from a hoard of Major League-caliber pitching.  Jackson still has the stuff to be included in that hoard.

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