Cubs prospects are making a good showing this season in the Arizona Fall League. Yes, it' a small sample size. And yes you'll hear some tell you that it doesn't mean anything -- although I suspect that's because the darlings of the prospect world, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, are struggling mightily. Something tells me that if they were tearing up the league we'd be hearing a different tune. I'm not going to say that these performances tell us everything we need to know about prospects, but they don't mean nothing either. If so, why would they bother to have it in the first place? Why send so many scouts there? This is a chance for some of the games most talented young players to face each other on an everyday basis, so the fact that the Cubs prospects are doing so well is encouraging.
Josh Vitters - Vitters can flat out hit. Sure he has his flaws: he doesn't get on base enough, his swing doesn't lend itself to power, he's a poor defender who may have to move to a position where offense is at a premium. But this guy can flat out put the bat on the ball. His line is .405/.425/.649. He has 2 HRs, although both came in the first game. I'm willing to live with the low walks if he can hit .300 with 25 HR, so we need to see that tool develop more.
DJ LeMahieu - LeMahieu can also make contact extremely well, but he's a tall slender guy with a swing designed more for singles than extra bases. He's hitting .293/.370/.390. The most encouraging thing about LeMahieu is that OBP as he has significantly raised his walk rate where it's at about the league average. Again, small sample size caveats apply, but LeMahieu has shown the willingness to see more pitches so far this fall. Now...maybe the Cubs can slightly tweak that swing so that he can increase that low slugging number.
Junior Lake - I'm getting all kinds of excited about Lake's development. He's a toolsy guy with good size and the ability to play SS - if he can put it together he'd be very valuable asset, whether it's to challenge LeMahieu for the 3rd base job, an excellent utility player, or trade bait. His numbers have been outstanding this fall: .333/.400/.649 with 3 HRs and 7 SBs. He's still somewhat hacktastic and has 2 walks versus 10 Ks, but a SS with a speed/power combo? You could do a lot worse. It makes me laugh that fans in Boston think they can send Iglesias over to get Castro in a Theo deal. Not only would we never give up Castro, but I'm thinking I like Lake better right now as a prospect than Iglesias anyway. And it wouldn't surprise me if Boston did as well and that he winds up being part of the comp package...but that's 100% speculation on my part, so take that with several grains of salt.
Trey McNutt - The encouraging thing about McNutt is that his fastball is back. After an injury plagued year, he's back at in the 95-96 mph range that had him so dominant just a year ago. The discouraging part is that he has had trouble commanding it. His breaking ball isn't quite what it was yet either. The results are mixed. McNutt has a sterling 1.80 ERA but no strikeouts versus 3 walks in 5 innings. We can blame some of that on rust and assume (or hope) that McNutt will shake that off by next season.
Andrew Cashner -- His health and arm strength is back. Cashner is once again the pitcher with nasty stuff that we've seen only glimpses of so far. His fastball has been clocked at 100 mph. His numbers may not reflect it yet (6.00 ERA), but we know what Cashner is capable of when he's healthy. I wouldn't be surprised with this new front office that the Cubs will be mindful of a large innings jump. Cashner may well return to the bullpen next year with an eye toward building his strength up to be a starter by 2013, if not sooner.
Chris Carpenter -- Oh man. Carpenter is the pitching version of Junior Lake for me this fall in terms of me getting all giddy. He's always had a triple digit fastball and a filthy slider, but he always made you wonder what he could do if he could command it. Well, this is what he can do: 5.2 IP, 1.59 ERA, 1 walk versus 9 strikeouts in an extreme hitters league.
Marcus Hatley -- Hatley is the only Cub struggling. He has an 0-2 record with an 11.81 ERA. He's allowed 15 baserunners in just over 5 IP. Hatley is more of a middle relief prospect and likely someone the Cubs are trying to find out if he should be someone they should protect on their 40 man roster. It' safe to say they're in the clear to leave him exposed to the Rule 5. It's doubtful Hatley has shown anyone he's ready to contribute to a major league bullpen this year.