If a prospect is someone who has a good chance of making the major-league team in the not-too-distant future, I like the chances of these four unheralded players.
1) Steve Clevenger. A converted shortstop, Clevenger is a good defensive catcher who throws out over thirty percent of runners attempting to steal. He swings a good lefty bat: his aggregate minor-league numbers are .309/.374/.405 (/.779). He’s not a power hitter (like I said, he’s a converted shortstop) but he always hits, seldom slumps. He did sag recently when he was promoted to Iowa, but he recovered fairly quickly. Clevenger, along with Samardzija, Matt Camp and player-coach Matt Matulia, is carrying the banner of the 2006 draft class at Iowa. Having Jake Fox, an emergency catcher, on the parent team means that the backup catcher is available to pinch hit, so the Cubs will be looking to upgrade at that position. Since Clevenger is a better hitter than Koyie Hill, there may be a little bit of an opening for him. It may happen next year coming out of spring training, or this September, or sooner.
2) Tony Campana. THE CUBS NEED PLAYERS WHO CAN RUN! Tony Thomas (Tennessee) was supposed to be a speed guy, but he’s 7 for 17 this year attempting to steal. James Adduci (Tennessee) is 17 for 20–not bad. Sam Fuld is 20 for 25 at Iowa. That’s excellent. Fuld is trying to chase down Fukudome, who is catchable, since Fuld can almost duplicate Fukudome in every area of his game, and can beat him on the bases. But the rabbit in the Cubs’ organization right now is Campana with 30 stolen bases in 37 attempts: 11 out of 13 at Peoria and 19 out of 24 for Daytona. Campana plays centerfield, where there is usually an opening on the Cubs. Drafted last June (2008), he is hitting .290 in high-A ball. I hope he keeps it up. We need players who can run!
3) Kyler Burke. Burke was drafted #35 overall by the Padres in the 2006 first-year-player draft. That’s the draft where Tyler Colvin was #14; but Burke was drafted out of high school and is much younger. He struggled early, and after his trade to the Cubs for Michael Barrett, he struggled with the Cubs, who sent him to Boise twice, in 2007 and 2008. He finally made it to Peoria late last season and struggled there. This year is different. His numbers are .291/.371/.483 (/.854). Athletic and strong-armed, he plays all three outfield positions. He has pop: half his hits (34 of 68) are for extra bases, including a remarkable 28 doubles. By comparison, his teammate Josh Vitters has 12 doubles, though Vitters has 13 homers to Burke’s 5. Burke was 21 in April, so he’s just a year and four months older than Vitters, who will be 20 in August. Burke is a genuine prospect.
4) David Macias. Macias is a versatile infielder/outfielder at Peoria who, in his first full pro season after being drafted last year (2008), has been called up to Iowa twice and has seen 68 plate appearances there. Never mind what his numbers were. They aren’t great at Peoria, either. I just think it’s interesting that when Iowa was bussing its middle infielders to Chicago and had to replenish its supply, they reached down to Peoria for Macias. It’s true that these were temporary assignments and it was closer to Peoria than to Knoxville or Daytona; but the Cubs must think a lot of Macias to throw him into games at that level, that soon. Since he’s very versatile on defense–a regular Mark DeRosa–I’m going to predict that he has a future with the Cubs.