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Alex Eisenberg on Cubs Prospects, Part 2

Matt Swain

Illinois engineering student, way too emotionally invested in the Cubs.

Alex Eisenberg of Baseball-Intellect rejoins us for more Cubs prospect talk, including his thoughts on '07 first rounder Josh Vitters, '08 first rounder Andrew Cashner, and some sleepers in the system. For Part 1 of the interview, click here.

WB: Andrew Cashner's velocity was down this year to 90-92 after he sat high 90's while closing in college. Is that a pretty typical drop for someone moving from the rotation to the pen? Have you seen anything in his mechanics at all that could be sapping velocity? What's your overall impression of him?

I'm not sure what's going on with Cashner's velocity.  I haven't tracked down any video of him this year, so I can't explain what might be causing it.  I'll say this though...I do wonder how often Cashner actually sat between 96 - 98.  His draft video, which was shot in-season, had him between 91 - 94, sitting at 91 and 92.  It was only one game, but then he showed diminished velocity in Boise and he's showed diminished velocity this year as well, so I do wonder if the scouting reports overstated the consistency of his velocity.  Also, a normal velocity loss from moving out of the bullpen and into a starting role is typically between 2 - 4 mph.

I'm definitely down on him compared to what I felt when he was drafted.  Not to say he's not a good prospect.  He is...but I think his future is in the bullpen as a potential set-up guy.

WB: Do you have any sleepers in the Cubs system you feel are underhyped?

AE: Sleepers...I've looked through the Cubs system and there aren't a ton of sleeper prospects, but there are a few that stand out:

- Chris Huseby - he's been around for a while, but he's still pretty young.  He's battled injuries and command, but a move to the bullpen seems to have been the cure.

- Kyler Burke - another guy that's been around for a while, but he broke out last year.  Cut down on the strikeouts dramatically, and increased what was already a solid BB%.  Power is solid as well and I like that he gets lift on the ball.

- Jeffry Antigua - I haven't watched him yet and I'll do so in the near future, but he's worth mentioning because his peripherals look good, he's young for his level, and he's left handed.

- Jeff Beliveau - a lefty that has a fastball with good life, solid breaking ball, misses bats, but only so-so command.

WB: I'd be remiss if I didn't get your opinion on Josh Vitters. His stock has fallen considerably in the few months since the all-star break, as he's dealt with a huge slump in Daytona, a wrist injury, and some major questions about his defense. Do you still think he's a top 50 prospect in baseball?

AE: He's one of the toughest guys to evaluate this year.  He's genuinely got a pretty swing, which isn't something you hear much about right handed hitters.  He's got those quick-twitch muscle fibers in his wrists and forearms that allow him to generate plus bat speed without much of a loading process, which enables him to keep his swing short and make consistent contact.  His power has come along nicely and he's definitely showed an ability to rake by making consistent hard contact.  He's a potentially high average hitter.

The problem with Vitters as most know is his tendency to swing at everything.  Good pitches, bad pitches, whatever...he'll swing at it.  And the FSL really exposed that weakness.  So the question is: can he develop his plate discipline to an acceptable level?  You rarely see huge jumps in patience/plate discipline, but rather you see incremental improvements over time.

I don't have the data in front of me that can give us an indication of the success rate of players with his skill set, but overall, his plate discipline will almost certainly limit his true upside.  He's going to have hit for a high average to maintain an acceptable OBP.

There are also concerns about his position.  His value as a third baseman is much greater than his value as a first baseman, so that's another question mark to consider.

Is he top-50?  Too soon to say.  We'll find out later in the offseason once I've had more time to evaluate other prospects around the league.

WB: Quick hit: who's the top Cub prospect, Starlin Castro or Josh Vitters?

AE: Difficult to say...probably Castro right now...he's younger, he performed better at a higher level, and the biggest reason of all: he plays a premium defensive position and he plays it well.

However, if you ask me tomorrow, I might tell you Vitters.  It's that close.

Thanks a lot to Alex for his time and his insights. Remember to check out his work at Baseball-Intellect, including the recently launched Premium Intellect.



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