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Q & A with Jim Callis on Cubs prospects

Q & A with Jim Callis on Cubs prospects
Two prospects to watch: Javier Baez and Starlin Peralta

If you've read my blog, you'll know I've made it no secret that Jim Callis is one of my favorite baseball writers and I consider him one of the top authorities on prospects.  I've been reading Baseball America for as long as I can remember and it's a big reason as to why I've come to love amateur baseball, the draft, and the minor leagues.  He's had a huge impact on prospect writers everywhere.

I'm absolutely thrilled that he was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.

JA:  Which 2 Cubs prospects, one position player and one pitcher, will be the next to make a big impact in Chicago?

JC: If we're saying "big impact" and not counting guys who have come up to the Cubs this year, then I think the next guy is Javier Baez. He's probably two years away from the majors, but he has huge upside with the bat (.300, 30 homers) and has gotten stronger reviews than I expected for his play at shortstop. I really don't see a pitcher who I'd say would make a huge impact. I really like Pierce Johnson, their supplemental first-round pick this year, who has a chance to be a No. 2 starter but more realistically might be a solid No. 3. He's a couple of years away, too.

JA: We all know about the top guys, but which lesser known, under-the-radar prospect (or prospects) should Cubs fans really keep an eye on?

JC: Arismendy Alcantara never has made the Cubs Top 30 in any of our Prospect Handbooks, but he's a toolsy shortstop who's playing well in high Class A this year at age 20. Starlin Peralta is a low Class A righthander with a fastball that hits 96 mph and the makings of a plus slider.

JA: Whether it's in a good way or bad way, which Cubs prospect(s) surprised you the most this season?

JC: Brett Jackson losing his decent control of the strike zone really surprised me. I once had high hopes for Trey McNutt, but now he clearly looks like a reliever to me. On the positive side, as I mentioned before, I've been surprised at the reviews Baez has gotten for his play at shortstop.

JA: Other than 1st pick Albert Almora, which pick(s) should Cubs fans get really excited about in the 2012 draft?

JC: Johnson would have gone in the bottom half of the first round if he hadn't strained his forearm and missed a couple of starts. I also liked the high school pitching they got with the three picks after Johnson: Paul Blackburn, Duane Underwood and Ryan McNeil. Among the late-round sleepers, I like 16th-round righthander Mike Hamann.

JA: If the 2013 draft were held today, which player should the Cubs pick?

JC: They really need pitching so I think they'll take the best college pitcher on the board, either righthanders Mark Appel (Stanford) or Ryne Stanek (Arkansas) or lefthander Sean Manaea (Indiana State).

JA: How do you see the Cubs system overall as compared to last year and what areas still need the most improvement?

JC: It stands out to me as a system with more depth in the lower levels than the higher levels, especially in terms of pitching. It's going to be a couple of years before the system can provide much help. There is some upside with player like Baez, Almora, Jorge Soler and company, but Cubs fans are going to have to be patient.

Great stuff from Jim as always and a big thanks for sharing his time and information with us.  You can follow Jim on Twitter at @jimcallisBA and read his great prospect work at www.baseballamerica.com.

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  • fb_avatar

    I was hoping he'd have higher praise for Underwood. His take on the pitching in the Cubs system is kind of my thinking -- but it still sucks. The three college pitching prospects he mentioned are why I'm actively rooting for the Rockies this weekend, much to the frustration of John and Robert, I know.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Ha! Just can't root against the Cubs, even if it's for their own good. I'd be thrilled with one of those 3 pitchers though. College pitching is the strength of the draft and those 3 are at the top right now.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm with you John, even if the Cubs might be drafting the next Justin Verlander next summer.

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    You're overstating your case a bit. It's difficult to argue that you win a single game this season if you KNOW losing = Justin Verlander.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    EXACTLY!!! GO ROCKIES!!!

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I'll never root against the Cubs. I'm sad to other Cub "fans" doing that.

  • Are you questioning my fanhood? ;)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7Bvk70VsI4

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    In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Days like today are exactly why we try to build our lead against teams like the Brewers. As the old saying goes: "You can't lose them all." (Although, to be fair, the Astros are giving it the old college try.)

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Whoever the Cubs draft in next, or any, year's draft is hardly a certainly to reach the Majors, not to mention become an All-Star caliber player.

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    A lot of those old sayings aren't as powerful as they once were. The thing that made baseball drafts crazy was signings bonuses. So a team that was being cheap might take a lottery ticket in the first round (let's call him Hayden Simpson) instead of better quality players (let's call them Zach Lee or Nick Castellanos) because he was signable. With the new rules restricting bonuses in place, that is out the window. So, much like football and basketball, you can expect high picks to make it to the big leagues and be all stars much more often.

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    Good stuff, John, thanks.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    Thanks JW!

  • Speaking of Baseball America, there's a story on the Cubs that caught my attention:
    http://www.baseballamerica.com/blog/business/2012/08/cubs-kane-county-news-gets-oconners-attention/

    Is this another front office "cubbie occurrence"? Half a million here, hundred thousand there, pretty soon things start getting expensive!

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Ha! It seems that Theo hasn't been able to shake those kind of flubs yet. It appears even that will take some time.

  • I see the Dodgers just claimed Adrian Gonzalez from waivers.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    I don't think anything will come of it unless LA willing to give top prospects and eat the rest of his contract. But...then again, I wouldn't put it past them.

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    In reply to SFToby:

    I honestly think these owners are goin to get them in a bad situation were they have all of these long term contracts for players out of there prime... Sound familiar?

  • In reply to Colman Conneely:

    Agreed, I can see them going overboard here trying to bring a title in the short term. They've got lots of cash to play with, but as Cubs fans know, you have to spend wisely.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Oooh..they claimed Josh Beckett too. Could be a package deal, we'll trade you A Gon, but only if you take Beckett and pay his salary. Wow!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Looks like you got the scoop again, John. Apparently Boston is talking package deal with L.A. Beckett, Gonzalez, Crawford and Punto.

  • Insane! Pretty gutsy by LA but it could end horribly!

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    The prospects being discussed so far (who do NOT include Zach Lee or Allen Webster) make no sense whatsoever. If this goes down as its being discussed, it's hard to read it as anything but Boston dumping salary and starting over.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I think that's exactly what they plan to do. We know LA has been unwilling to give up prospects.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    You'd think AGonz would get them to dig a bit deeper into the wallet than Ryan Iscariot Dempster, but apparently not. Again, going only on reports, it would seem Boston is that desperate to dump these guys and the Dodgers that willing to spend. (Boston DOES get Ivan de Jesus, Jr., in the reports, but that doesn't seem close to fair market value.)

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Yeesh. Not at all. that's the best guy?

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Rubby De La Rosa's name is now a part of this. (Coming off of TJ -- but he's the centerpiece. This might be bias, but I think I'd rather have Vizcaino.). The others are James Loney, Ivan de Jesus, Jerry Sands, and one more prospect. I guess that one more prospect could theoretically be Lee or Webster.

    The Red Sox would send: Crawford, Beckett, Gonzalez, and Punto to the Dodgers.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    As I think about this: how the h-e-double-hockey-stick did Rubby De La Rosa clear waivers? Seems like a guy lots of rebuilding clubs would have jumped at. We'll see if that holds up.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Okay, starting to come into focus. Boston media is reporting that Zach Lee has to be part of any deal. He would then be the un-named prospect, and this deal makes a lot more sense.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    De La Rosa would have to be a PTBNL, I would think.

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    Unreal...

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    Wow Baez hitting 300.. With 30 plus hrs... (drooling)

  • In reply to Colman Conneely:

    I liked to see that too.

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    John, if the cubs do move to Kane county you should start up a group to watch the games. Bs about prospects and have a few beers .

  • In reply to Barry Bij:

    Sounds good. If they come to Kane County I'll be there a ton.

    If anybody is up for going this Labor Day weekend, I'll be there all 3 games.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I am going on Monday, section 113. I hope to see Soler have a good day.

  • In reply to John57:

    Stop by and say hello. I'll be in section 110 for all 3 games.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John,
    I'm in Section 106 on Sunday. Will stop by and say hello.

  • In reply to Break The Curse:

    Awesome! Looking forward to it!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Well since everyone else is sharing, I'm in section 115 two rows behind 3B.

    Maybe next year they'll have a Cubs Den section.

  • In reply to WillieG1:

    Awesome! Mini Cubs Den party. We'll all have to have a beer together.

    I like the Cubs Den section idea ;)

  • Thanks for your great stuff on the minor leaguers John. I first found your blog this spring and read it every day. This is my first post. Keep up the good work.

  • In reply to Bucky:

    Thanks Bucky. Appreciate that!

  • I realize that both Jackson and Vitters are still young, but I predict neither will be successful major leaguers. Jackson may have a limited role for several years, as he offers value with other aspects of his game, but I do not see an impact player.

    Vitters is close to being a bust. Although he has a good contact profile, he gets himself out much too often.

    I still have hopes for Jackson, but in the reality of the moment, he has regressed badly and from the limited amount of time that i have watched his approach, I am alarmed that he may have uncorrectable hitting tendencies.

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    In reply to JK1969:

    We're getting to the point where Rizzo might need to be added to that. Len and Bob pointed out today that the issue in August is that he's seen nothing but a stead diet of off-speed pitches, and he has not adjusted at all. Hopefully he can.

  • In reply to JK1969:

    The bloom is off the rose a bit with those two. Never was a huge Vitters fan, but had high hopes for Jackson. Now as Callis, says, you hope he's an average regular.

  • In other news, Mark Grace arrested for DUI.

  • Yes, leaving for "personal assistance". Not to hard to guess what that is. He's been a party guy since his days with the Cubs.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Always liked Grace.

  • Always loved Gracie! I'm friends with a former Cubs player, won't mention any names but he's a Bolles H.S & Furman Univ. almni, from Jacksonville and the only catcher in cubs history to hit 30 HR's & bat .300+ in the same season..... Anyways, he once told me that Gracie was the biggest party animal & P-hound he's ever played with. Since the guy was on roughly 1/2 dozen MLB teams over 7-8 years.... that's a lot of MLB players.

    I still love Gracie though.... lol

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I see the Jax connection......x has his baseball school HQ on Powers, doesn't he?

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    No, he's further south in Mandarin. He was originally next to UNF off of St. Johns Bluff but he moved. The one off of Powers is Mark Campbell's. That's where Billy Butler works out when he's in town.

  • Both Gonzalez and Loney taken out of their respective lineups tonight.

  • Gonzalez and Punto called into Sox' front office for a talk.

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    Funny that Crawford and Beckett weren't. Don't understand this deal without those 2.

  • Done deal. Loney, De La Rosa, Sands, DeJesus and Webster for Gonzalez, Beckett, Crawford and Punto.

  • Red Sox get a couple of nice arms. Wonder how much money is involved.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I was wondering about the money, too.

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    Where are you seeing done deal? All I see is "close." One story had Beckett waiting 10/5 as the holdup.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    You understand I can't reveal my sources. You're right about Beckett, though.

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    Guys, apparently per Jon Heyman, Justin Upton was placed on waivers and promptly claimed..any chance the Cubs were the claiming team?

  • In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    Not impossible, but I'd say those odds are pretty low, simply because the Cubs probably won't and/or can't pay the price to obtain him.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Brett Jackson + Josh Vitters + PTBNL for Upton, done deal. (The PTBNL is Trey McNutt, who comes with an envelope full of pictures of Kevin Towers and his intern at a posh resort in the Caribbean.)

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Why would AZ want that package?

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Apparently the joke didn't work -- the pictures are for blackmail.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Mike Moody:

    That is, to blackmail Towers into accepting the deal.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Ha! Sorry, missed that part. Neighbor came by to watch the end of the Bears game and my attention was divided.

    That's about the only way that offer would work ;)

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    I don't consider myself any less of a Cubs fan for rooting for a Rockies sweep. I consider my stance to be practical one. The cream of this upcoming draft will be college pitchers, and I want the Cubs to have the opportunity to take the best one they can possibly get, because I know that with this FO running the show that they will. This teams emphasis on winning meaningless games in 2010 and 2011 cost it dearly, and given the rules of the new CBS, if you aren't playing to go to the playoffs, you might as well play for draft position.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I prefer to root for the Cubs to win that particular day's game and someday have the last pick in the 1st round of the next year's draft rather than rooting for their opponents and hoping for a higher pick in the next year's draft. The latter is no guarantee of the former.

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    In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    If being truly terrible for a rebuild worked for the Yankees, I'm pretty comfortable trying it.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    When all is said and done, I want them to have a top 3 pick, but I"m still going to root for them on any given day. Seems contradictory, but my rooting for them has nothing to do with whether they'll win or not.

  • Rooting for the Rox and Twins to win and the Cubs to lose regardless of who they are playing is rooting for the Cubs to win a WS sooner rather than later. So your choices are rooting for Cubs to win a meaningless game in 2012 or win meaningful games down the road. Easy choice what to root for as a Cubs fan.

    I understand the difficulty in going against deep rooted instincts to want the Cubs to play well and win. But I see nothing anti-Cubs about rooting for them to get the highest draft pick possible when they have no chance of making the post-season.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    To each their own. Here's hoping the Cubs win again today.

  • As far as the chat, one, thanks for getting Callis to stop by, John. Always nice to hear what he has to say about Cubs prospects.

    Unfortunately, only the Michael Hamman mention was new information to the avid and well-informed, thanks to John And Tom, readers of the best Cubs blog on the Internet.

    Side note: Isn't it Starling Peralta, not Starlin?

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Thanks Quedub!

    I've seen it both ways, but lately I've seen it more as Starlin, so I think somebody fixed it for him. I guess that's what happens when you start to get respect as a prospect, people get your name right :)

  • The Cubs have some great positional players that can hit in the minors and in a couple of years they will impact the Cubs into a very good offensive team to deal with. But winning teams have pitching and the Cubs are so weak in that area.

    I dont follow minor leagues players or stats that they have once they reach the big show is when it counts, sure you have to produce to make it to the majors. But pitching is the key every pitcher the Cubs have brought up have shown that they are not ready for prime time, right now Samardzija, and Garza are the only ones that are major league ready the rest are nothing but roster fillers.
    Carlos Marmol, what a letdown, a relief pitcher who you never what you are going to get, throws to many balls and its all about his follow through where is the pitching coach?

    There is no way that you should be a relief pitcher throwing ball after ball.

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