A Minor Review of 2009: Chicago Cubs

Prospect ranking season is just around the corner. In anticipation of that, we present an intro series looking at some of the players who deserve mentioning but probably will not be appearing on their teams’ Top 10 lists. The popular series is back for a second year.

Chicago Cubs

The Graduate: Jake Fox, IF/OF
Finally given an opportunity for significant playing time at the MLB level, Fox had a nice year as a bench player. His has almost zero value on defense, although he can fill in at a few different positions. The 27-year-old rookie showed good power with an ISO rate of .208. Overall, he hit .259/.311/.468 in 216 at-bats. He displayed more power against right-handers (.549 slugging) than southpaws (.373). Fox won’t be confused with a vampire after hitting just .189 in night games, compared to .314 in the sunlight.

The Riser: Chris Archer, RHP
I was tempted to include LHP John Gaub here, who was acquired along with Archer in the Mark DeRosa deal. Archer, though, has a higher ceiling even if he’s still a lot further off than Gaub. The right-hander repeated low-A ball in ’09 and was tough to hit (.202 average). Unfortunately, he was hard to touch in some games because his pitches could not find the strike zone (5.45 BB/9). Archer throws a pretty heavy ball and did not allow a home run all season (50.5% ground-ball rate). He has a fastball that can touch 93 mph, a plus curveball, and a changeup.

The Tumbler: Welington Castillo, C
Castillo took the wrong year to take a step back in his development with MLB catcher Geovany Soto being bitten by the sophomore jinx at the Major League level. Castillo’s overly-aggressive approach at the plate (4.5 BB%) caught up with him in ’09 at double-A. He was also hurt by a .266 BABIP; his overall line was .232/.275/.386 in 319 at-bats. Castillo did show some intriguing power with a .154 ISO rate, which was a career high. Defensively, he cut down on his careless errors, but he still allowed a significant number of passed balls. The 22-year-old catcher threw out 44% of base stealers.

The ’10 Sleeper: Chris Huseby, RHP
A former over-slot draft pick out of high school in the 2006 draft, Huseby has been slower to develop than the organization would have liked, mainly due to injuries. The right-hander has been shifted to the bullpen where he can focus on his two best pitches: low 90s fastball and plus breaking ball. In ’09 at low-A ball, Huseby allowed 43 hits in 54 innings of work, while posting a walk rate of 1.67 BB/9 and a strikeout rate of 12.17 K/9. He also allowed just three home runs. He dominated right-handed hitters with a .193 batting average, but he showed promise against lefties, as well, thanks to a 60% ground-ball rate.

Bonus: Steve Clevenger, C/IF
Meet Mr. Jake-Fox-Lite, whom I identified as the ’09 sleeper for the organization during the ’08 minor-league review. Clevenger is another minor-league catcher who’s not really good enough defensively to play everyday, but there is potential in his bat (although very little power). Clevenger split the season between double-A and triple-A. At the higher level, he hit a disappointing .265/.310/.327 in 226 at-bats. Prior to reaching triple-A, Clevenger displayed the ability to hit .300+ with gap power. The 23-year-old actually handles southpaw pitchers quite well, with a .298 career average. He threw out just 20% of triple-A base stealers.

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

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Not calling Starlin Castro the “Riser” in this system seems pretty ridiculous to me. He had a strong debut in ’08 in Rookie ball, and in his first full season at the age of 19 he was a FSL All-Star and was productive upon a promotion to AA. How is Archer– who spent the entire year in low-A– more of a “riser” than Castro?