The future success of every Major League team lies
largely in its Minor League pipeline. With that in mind,
MLB.com is looking at the top 10 prospects from each farm
system, with only those who still maintain rookie status
entering 2011 being eligible.
Darwin Barney, quite simply, likes to win, and that should
make Cubs fans feel good about him potentially breaking camp with Chicago at the start of the season.
Barney, No. 10 on the Cubs' top 10 prospects list below, got started early, while at Oregon State. He won back-to-back national titles, finishing his sophomore and junior seasons celebrating in Omaha at the conclusion of the College World Series.
From there, Barney began his career as a Cub, a fourth-round pick in the 2007 Draft. The winning followed him in the Minors, with a Florida State League title in his first full season. The following year, in 2009, he hit .317 for Double-A Tennessee and made the Southern League All-Star team. That helped the Smokies win the first-half title, though Barney was up in Triple-A when Tennessee went to the Southern League finals that year. Being branded a "winner," however, isn't always what it's cracked up to be.
"The expectation is that a lot of guys aren't going to like you," Barney joked. "Your teammates are giving you [grief]
all the time [about the college championships]. Guys have
misconceptions just because of the success you had at that
level. It really set the table for my career. It made me the player I am. Going to college was the right decision.
"It's kind of a different feeling, what it's like to win in pro ball, what it's like to win in college. Everything like that helps you jump forward. Maybe your organization thinks you're a winner. Maybe they think you can help them win."
It is something the Cubs have stressed in their player
development department for years. More teams these days
stress success along with personal development, but that
wasn't always the case. But with a drought that is all-too
well-known at Wrigley Field, the hope has been to develop
players who expect to win right when they get to the big
"From Day 1, when I got drafted, the organization preached
winning," said Barney, who played in 30 games for Chicago
late last year. "They want winners, they want guys who can
help the team win, do the little things right. Obviously,
everybody knows that in Chicago, that's what we're striving for, a championship. It's been so long.
"Coming up through the organization, they want guys to know what it's like to win."
Cubs' Top 10
1. Brett Jackson, OF: He might be in the top spot
because of the departure of Chris Archer (along with Brandon Guyer and Hak Ju-Lee), but Jackson is a legit outfield prospect, as evidenced by his No. 6 ranking on MLB.com's Top 10 outfield prospects list. He made it to Double-A in his first season, showed the ability to hit for some power and steal some bases. He's able to play all over the outfield, and that could hasten his arrival in Chicago, perhaps by the end of this year.
2. Trey McNutt, RHP: Just about everything went right for McNutt in his first season, proving to be a huge steal as a 32nd-round pick in the 2009 Draft. He pitched at three levels in 2010, finishing second in the system in both ERA and strikeouts. His plus fastball and power breaking ball could probably work now in a big league bullpen, but as his changeup improves, he looks more like a starter to most. He should head back to Double-A to start season No. 2.
3. Chris Carpenter, RHP: Carpenter had a solid 2010
season, largely in Double-A and getting a few Triple-A
starts in. He created buzz in the Arizona Fall League
pitching in a bullpen role, including hitting triple-digits in the Rising Stars Game. He does have three pitches, though the changeup is a bit behind, and he struggles with command at times. Even if he begins the year in the Triple-A Iowa rotation, it wouldn't be surprising to see him help the Cubs out in relief before the year is over.
4. Hayden Simpson, RHP: It took everyone by surprise when the Cubs made Simpson, a Division II product, their top pick in last year's Draft. A bout with mono kept him from pitching last summer and fall, so he'll be making his true debut this year. An undersized righty with a big arm,
Simpson has a plus fastball and three other usable pitches, all of which he's shown decent command throwing. Like with
all pitchers his size, he'll have to prove he can handle a
starter's workload, something he'll start to do with a
full-season assignment in April.
5. Josh Vitters, 3B: The No. 3 overall pick of the
2007 Draft hasn't developed as hoped, but he's still too
young to give up on. The No. 7 third-base prospect on
MLB.com's list, he still has great bat speed and raw power. He doesn't draw walks and hasn't made adjustments, but the
Cubs liked how he dealt with being pushed up to Double-A. He should head back there to start 2011, which could be a very big season for the third baseman.
6. Jay Jackson, RHP: The 2008 ninth-rounder had a
huge first full season, earning MLB.com Cubs Pitcher of the Year honors after pitching at three levels. His 2010, while not awful, wasn't as extraordinary, though it should be kept in mind he spent all year in Triple-A at age 22. Still, others passed him by. He's got the stuff to be a No. 3 or 4 starter and he also looked good in relief last year, so he could be used there.
7. Rafael Dolis, RHP: Originally an infielder, Dolis was turned into a pitcher fairly early in his career. An
elbow injury cost him most of 2007 and all of 2008. Things
started to click for him last year and he made it to
Double-A for the first time. He's got an excellent
fastball-slider combination and some aptitude with a
changeup. He generates a ton of ground balls (2.75 GO/AO
ratio in 2010). Once he refines his command, he's got the
chance to be a solid starter, though he also has the power
stuff to relieve if need be.
8. Matt Szczur, OF: A standout football star from
Villanova, the Cubs drafted Szczur in the fifth round of the 2010 Draft. He had a fantastic pro debut (.347/.414/.465) then went back to play football in the fall. He chose baseball over football in the end and will now see how quickly he can move focusing on baseball only. He's got plus speed, which will work well on both sides of the ball, and has the chance to hit for average and some power when all is said and done.
9. Reggie Golden, OF: The Cubs liked drafting
athletes in the 2010 Draft with Szczur and Golden. Golden
received comparisons to Ron Gant coming out of the Draft, with terrific raw power and above-average speed. The Alabama high school product is raw in most facets of the game and may take a while to get there. But as with any high-risk, high-reward draftee, the payoff may be well worth it.
10. Darwin Barney, SS: He may not scream superstar,
but Barney's the type of player teams want for a
championship run. He can run a little and showed during his Major League debut that he can play three infield positions. He's been largely a shortstop, and he could back up Starlin Castro there as well as filling in at second and third as a super-utility guy in 2011.
Under the Radar
Alberto Cabrera, RHP: Signed back in 2005 at age 16, Cabrera has moved slowly up the Cubs' ladder. He made his
United States debut in 2007, then spent two seasons with
Class A Peoria, throwing only a combined 148 1/3 innings in those two seasons. In moving up to the Florida State League last year, he had a 3.28 ERA over 93 1/3 IP and struck out
nearly a batter an inning, showing a plus fastball. He got a brief taste of Double-A last year and will head back there in 2011, newly added to the 40-man roster this past
D.J. LeMahieu, INF: It's hard to say that a
second-round pick in the 2009 Draft is under the radar, but LeMahieu is a bit overshadowed by others in the system
despite his .316 average in one-plus season as a
professional. Part of that might be that he doesn't have a
true defensive position. He spent time at three infield
positions in 2010 while hitting .314, stealing 14 bases and making the Florida State League All-Star team. He'll move up to Double-A, and his bat is what will get him to the big leagues.
Hitter of the Year -- Szczur
Picking Jackson might be the easy way to go, but here's
saying that the football-star-turned-outfielder will hit the ground running, hitting for average, some power and stealing some bases while making the Midwest League All-Star team with Peoria.
Pitcher of the Year -- McNutt
He could've been the 2010 winner of this award, but he'll
walk away with it this time around. Especially without Chris Archer around, McNutt will compete for the organizational pitching triple crown.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter. This story was not subject to the
approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.