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Taking Stock

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Matt Swain

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

First of all I'd like to apologize for my unexplained absence for the last month. It was unplanned and I had some personal things to deal with, but I'm excited to get back to blogging and providing you with some coverage of the Cubs farm system again. I have an interview lined up with a current minor leaguer, a trip to see a game planned, and a new set of rankings on the way, so I hope you'll check back soon.

Now, I think an appropriate way to start back up is to look at how the landscape of the Cubs minor league system has changed in the last month since I've been absent. And what better way to do that than with everybody's favorite banality, a "stock up, stock down" feature!

Way Up

Brett Jackson, CF, AA Tennessee

Jackson's stock was already on the way up with a very good performance in Daytona, but over the last month as he has smoothly transitioned to AA, he's ensconced himself in the discussion for top 25 prospect status. His overall line of .314/.420/.509 with 18 stolen bases is fantastic, and he's taken more walks than anyone could have anticipated. He posted a 22% line-drive rate in the Florida State League, and has bumped it up to 31% since his promotion. He's generating a lot of hype, and Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus even mentioned him as a potential candidate for the #11 overall prospect in a recent article.

The only problem is that everything I'm hearing from coaches and scouts indicates that Jackson doesn't make good enough reads to hold onto center field long term. His speed, described to me as "comfortably above-average" (think 55-60 on the 20-80 scouting scale), is significant enough to cover a lot of ground. The problem seems to be that he doesn't consistently get good reads off the bat, leading to poor jumps and cutting down on his range. He was unfavorably compared to Tyler Colvin, who a scout thought had a better shot to stay in center. Of course, with all that said, Jackson is still an excellent looking prospect who clearly has moved into the top spot in the Cubs system.

Chris Archer, SP, AA Tennessee

It's fitting that Archer was acquired from the Indians, as his sudden command evokes memories of Rick Vaughn. I don't have as clear cut of an explanation in this case (as far as I can tell, no eyewear was prescribed), but it was the biggest concern coming into the season for a young kid with some promising stuff. Since a rough start for Daytona where he walked 16 in his first 29 innings, he's given just 20 free passes in the ensuing 65.1 innings. He hasn't quite slayed his demons yet-- he'll need to keep this up in the upper levels before we can say that-- but he has at least beat them back with a stick to a point where there is potential for him to become a #2-3 starter.

Also Receiving Votes: Austin Kirk, SP, A- Boise

Slightly Up

Justin Bour, 1B, A Peoria

If you want to play first base, the ball better be afraid of you. For a while, the ball maybe had a slight aversion to Bour, perhaps looking the other way when they passed in the hallway, but always knowing in the back of its mind that the worst case scenario was a slightly inconvenient trip to shallow center field. Since June though, Bour has been busy antagonizing his old nemesis with a healthy dose of round trippers. 2 in April/May, 8 in June/July so far, improving his overall line to .288/.382/.446. Bour's no world beater, but the first step to him becoming noteworthy was displaying power, and he's delivered.

Also Receiving Votes: Brandon Guyer, RF, AA TennesseeMichael Brenly, C, A+ Daytona

Slightly Down

Logan Watkins, 2B, A Peoria

When your walk rate stays the same, but your strikeout rate doubles, it's not a good sign. I was never as high on Watkins as most. His athleticism isn't elite and there's no power potential at all, so I always saw his upside as an a lower-division starter in the infield. But if he hits like he has this season, he won't even go that far. Now at .245/.314/.314, he's not having the same luck on his balls in play that he had last year, and seems to be struggling with the adjustment to the Midwest League. If things keep up at this rate, we might see the Watkins/Lee double play combination broken up after this year ends as Hak-Ju moves up and Watkins repeats.

Also Receiving Votes: Brooks Raley, SP, A+ Daytona 

Way Down

Kyler Burke, RF, A+ Daytona

I may have been right to doubt Watkins, but I'll admit I was driving the Burke bandwagon heading into this year. Murphy's law has reared it's ugly head, and Burke seen a major spike in his strikeout numbers while simultaneously losing half of his walks and having less balls in play fall for hits. It's a career killing type of season, which is unfortunate after all the success Burke had last in 2009. He'll need to completely alter his approach at the plate and get back to the discipline he showed last year to jar himself from his summer-long nightmare.

Also Receiving Votes: Josh Vitters, 3B, AA Tennessee

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3 Comments

MB21 said:

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Glad to have you back. I'm still not sure why people are surprised about Jackson's walk rate. It's about the same as it was in college. His so-called discipline issues that we heard about were about the strikeouts and not his discipline. I think too many people saw strikeouts and thought he was a hacker, but the truth is that he was almost certainly working a lot of deep counts and when you do that a lot, you're going to strike out a lot. I'm not surprised by the walks. It's actually what I expected based on his college career. That's why I was so excited when the Cubs drafted him. It was the first top pick I can remember that the Cubs focused more on OBP than other skills. I loved the pick.

Matt Swain said:

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Fair, but while most guys don't maintain the same rates they had in college, Jackson has actually bumped his walks from ~10% at Cal to ~13% this year, while cutting his strikeouts from ~25% his junior year to ~19% this year.

Kudos to Brett, as that is a very impressive feat and strikes me as something that would be rare to see.

Wayne said:

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Matt- enjoyed the list. Couple comments- Vitters is down but not way down given his age and the level. I would say McNutt is way up. Also Lake is making a nice comeback in the 2nd half.

Wayne

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