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Meet The Two Newest Cubs Prospects

Matt Swain

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

When I heard about Aaron Heilman's departure from Chicago, I was moderately excited to see him go. But I was even more excited to hear the return on Heilman: two shiny new prospects courtesy of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

For me, getting new prospects is like opening up a pack of old baseball cards and reading all the stats and background information on the back. There's so many interesting types of players you never knew about, all of them unique in some way, and with minor leaguers you get the added benefit of not knowing how things turn out for them.

So let's welcome our newest two Cubs prospects: 1B Ryne White and RP Scott Maine.

Ryne White is a stocky first baseman who was drafted in 2008 in the 4th round out of Purdue. Jim Hendry referred to him as a "Matt Stairs type of guy", presumably referring to their similar builds (White is listed at 5 foot 11, 205; Stairs is at 5 foot 9, 217) and high walk totals.

Thumbnail image for rynewhite.jpg

Ryne White in his time as a Coduit Kettleer (Cape Cod League)

Indeed White's high walk rates are the best feature of his game, and when you look at his line from last season (.266/.371/.356) the on-base percentage really pops out at you.

The main problem here is that to be a good first base prospect, you have to really be able to swing the stick, and White has shown very little power in his pro career.

His 25 extra base hits in 116 games in 09 are a low total even before considering the environment in which they were achieved. White played this past season for Visalia in the California League, which is one of the two most hitter-friendly leagues in baseball. The average line posted by a Cal League hitter was .270/.341/.417. That's an Isolated Power of .147, which towers over White's .090, and that's just not acceptable for a first baseman.

White would have to develop a good amount of power to even be average, and it's tough to find an MLB job at first with just average power. His high OBP's would certainly put him ahead of the game a bit, and he could be an extremely useful player if he could turn himself into a .270/.380/.420 hitter, but with the complete lack of power in his game now, I'm afraid I don't see it happening.

As for his defense, Hendry also said he could play some left field, which he manned some in college. LF might be a better spot for him given the Cubs lack of power prospects in the outfield. Most of the Cubs outfielders that are around White's age are speed guys or just non-prospects, so White could fill somewhat of a need in that area.

After playing the full season last year in Hi-A, it's likely the club will start White out in AA Tennessee with Rebel Ridling in his rearview mirror at Daytona. It's also possible that the two switch up based on their performances this spring, and a third possibility has Ridling at first base in Tennesee with White in left field. (With Ridling already coming up on his age 24 season, I could see them moving him along a little bit)
Scott Maine is a left-hander out of the University of Miami. He was rated the #7 high school prospect in the country when he enrolled at Miami in 2003, but was sidelined the entire next season recovering from Tommy John surgery. He went on to have an unspectacular but productive career starting for the Hurricanes before being drafted in the 6th round of the 2007 draft by Arizona.

The 24-year-old was converted to a relief pitcher by the D-Backs and rose fairly rapidly through the system, reaching AAA Reno in 2009. Along the way, Maine threw 120.1 innings with a 3.30 ERA, 134 Ks and 55 BBs, including a 2.90 with 61 Ks and 22 BBs this year.

I haven't been able to dig up much scouting information on him, but R.J. Anderson at Fangraphs tells us "Maine throws from a low arm slot and has a fastball that breaks into the low-90s as well as a slurve." It's a combination that sounds like it would be effective against same-handed hitters, so let's see if it was.

Using MinorLeagueSplits.com's fantastic stats, we see that his FIP (Fielding Inpendent Pitching) was 2.23 against LHP's and 3.48 against RHP's this year. He also had an impressive 10.89 strikeouts per 9 innings, compared to 7.25 against righties. At the very least, we have a potential LOOGY (Lefty one out guy) on our hands.

If you want to get an idea of how low Maine's arm slot really is (and see some Soriano-esque defense in the outfield) here's a video of Maine from August.

Maine's walk rates are a wee bit high, but bearable, as he walked right around 3 batters per 9 innings this season, approximately the same against righties and lefties.

I'm actually becoming convinced as I right this that Maine is a better relief prospect than highly touted LHP John Gaub. Though Gaub posted a ridiculous 2.25 ERA this season, Maine's FIP (which neutralizes the effects of defense on an ERA) of 3.08 compares favorably to Gaub's 3.34, and his walk rates are much more tolerable.

Maine is likely to start his season in AAA Iowa and await a call to the Cubs which will almost certainly come at some point this year.

I have to commend the Cubs for this move, as Maine appears to already be nearly as good a pitcher as Heilman was. Maine's MLE (Major League Equivalent FIP, which translates minor league stats to major league ones) was a 3.94 this season, which beats the 4.37 Heilman posted last season, and comes with a much smaller price tag. Ryne White is just an added bonus.



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berselius said:


This trade was a bit of a steal for Hendry. I didn't think he'd be able to get much more than someone like White, who's basically just a lottery ticket. As you pointed out Maine is probably a better reliever than Heilman already, and he's cheaper, left-handed, and under team control for longer. I think he breaks camp with the team. It also makes it far more likely that Marshall is traded this offseason

*dan bradley said:


A funny offseason in that I'll be more excited as to who's traded away than who's traded for. Now.. On to Bradley, Miles and Fontenot.

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