Below is a table listing the eight top position prospects for the Cubs in 2012, along with a similar table from a year ago. The data in both tables is taken directly from the prospect tables in the right margin of this webpage, except that I have removed the rows for players who are too old still to be taken seriously as prospects, including names like Lou Montanez, Brad Snyder, Jason Dubois and even Marquez Smith, who will be 27 in 2012. Bryan LaHair was a casualty of this removal process, in spite of the fact that he may become a fully-fledged major leaguer quite soon. I don’t see a rationale for including LaHair while at the same time excluding his steadily aging cohort from a list that purports to be strictly numbers-based.
These rankings track fairly closely to OPS except that I legitimize thievery. I consider a base that is stolen to be as valid a unit of offensive production as a base that is attained any other way. Basically, I take the sum of total bases + walks + SBs, adjust it slightly, and divide by games played to arrive at a score, according to which the players are ranked. Without receiving credit for stolen bases in 2010, Campana would not have made my top eight a year ago, nor would Matt Szczur have made the list this year; but then, there is Campana in the major leagues, after all. Campana was not on any prospect list that I ever saw besides this one.
Of the fifteen distinct names on these two lists, seven have already played in the majors in a pre-September context. They are Castro, Guyer, Chirinos, Campana, Rizzo, Sappelt and Castillo. Jackson will likely join their ranks in 2012. Among the rest, Torreyes may be the surest bet.
I am not predicting stardom for anyone here in particular–except perhaps for Castro, who is already something of a star–but I also am not expecting that so-and-so will be a fourth outfielder or a backup infielder or a DH. Prospect lists should be about players who are expected to earn everyday jobs in the majors. If you think about it, no one really makes the majors as a backup or a DH. Major-league backups and utility players are those who once earned starting jobs but subsequently lost them. Jeff Baker had a solid year at A+ and AA in 2004, and found himself the starting third baseman for the Rockies the following April. When he hit .211 for the month, he went back down to triple A and had to work his way up again. After you get a certain amount of experience in the majors, you can settle into a backup role. Blake DeWitt was a first rounder who started in 101 games for the Dodgers in 2008 at the age of 22. He is a backup now, but if he had projected as a backup, he probably would not have made the majors at all. The idea that one used to hear that an AL team would be interested in Jake Fox to DH–that was never possible. If you can’t play a position and you are not an elite slugger, you cannot stick in the majors long enough to ever find a niche. There are no niches for rookies. As has been reported recently –
Tony Campana’s speed is intriguing to Sveum and he thinks Campana could win five games in a season with his speed late in games … Sveum remembers Campana beating the Brewers a couple of times last year.
David DeJesus is the leading candidate to leadoff for the Cubs but Dale Sveum said he’s considering using Tony Campana in certain matchups.
–even Campana had to be taken seriously as a starter.
The purpose of this list, then, is to identify players who will make it to the majors and stick. What happens beyond that is a question for fate to decide. It is above the pay grade of a prognosticator or even a scout.
There are a couple of eye-catching items on the current list, such as Anthony Rizzo’s score, Ronald Torreyes’s age, and the mere sight of Richard Jones sitting there in third place. Where did he come from? He came from complete obscurity, just as Chirinos did a couple of years ago. Jones earned his fairly lofty score by notching more than two total bases per game. During the two years covered here, only Rizzo, LaHair, Guyer and Chirinos have done that over a full season.
Had I not deleted LaHair from the table, he would have been second to Rizzo with a score of 1.83. In 129 games, LaHair had 303 total bases, 60 walks and 2 stolen bases for 365 points, adjusted to 236 (by subtracting the number of games).