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'08 Draftees fill void in Cubs system

'08 Draftees fill void in Cubs system

Before the 2008 season began, MLB.com took an in-depth look at every big-league team's Minor League system. Now, it's time to recap and analyze all 30 organizations, from top prospects to the recent draft class.

The best way to sum up the Cubs system might be there's a lot to like, but not necessarily a ton to love.

There are plenty of nice players on Chicago's farm, but impact talent -- future superstars -- aren't easy to find. That doesn't mean help didn't come up from the Minors to the bigs. That happened both directly, with players like Micah Hoffpauir and Jeff Samardzija (who might be one of those impact players one day), and indirectly via the players sent to Oakland to obtain Rich Harden. All played a part in getting the Cubs back to the postseason.

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As far as Minor League results, there were some things to cheer. The organization finished with a .518 winning percentage, thanks largely to a pair of postseason participants. The Iowa Cubs made it to the Pacific Coast League playoffs and the Daytona Cubs won the Florida State League crown. One of the keys in that run was a trio of pitchers the Cubs pushed aggressively from the 2008 Draft class to the Class A Advanced league by the end of the summer. All three responded with strong postseason performances and are ahead of the curve, perhaps giving the Cubs more to be excited about in years to come.

Organizational Players of the Year
MLB.com Preseason Picks

Tony Thomas, 2B: Our prediction was that the 2007 third-rounder would hit over .300, slug .500 and steal 30 bases while reaching Double-A by the end of the season. Not quite. Thomas hit .266, slugged .400, stole 22 bases and spent the entire year in Daytona.

Donnie Veal, LHP: This may have been some wishful thinking as Veal was coming off a very tough offseason personally. In many ways, it was a triumph that he pitched through the season at all. He actually started strong, then had some problems later on, with command being the largest issue throughout.

MLB.com Postseason Selections

Micah Hoffpauir, 1B: The winner of the MiLBY Award for Best Single-Game Performance (four homers on Aug. 9) was much more than a one-game wonder. In only 71 Triple-A games, Hoffpauir hit .362 with 25 homers and 100 RBIs. His slugging percentage and OPS would have led the Pacific Coast League -- and his average would have been third -- had he played long enough with Iowa. The fact that he also excelled in the bigs is just icing on the cake.

Mitch Atkins, RHP: Between Double-A and Triple-A, Atkins managed to win 17 games, good for second in all of the Minor Leagues. His 4.00 ERA isn't thrilling, but it's mainly reflective of struggling a little bit in his first taste of the PCL (4.47 ERA). He walked only 50 and struck out 132 in 164 1/3 combined innings, giving him the organizational lead in strikeouts and wins while finishing fourth in the organization in ERA.
Atkins strikes out the side


•  Monday, Oct. 6: Washington Nationals
•  Tuesday, Oct. 7: Seattle Mariners
•  Wednesday, Oct. 8: San Diego Padres
•  Thursday, Oct. 9: Pittsburgh Pirates
•  Friday, Oct. 10: Baltimore Orioles
•  Monday, Oct. 13: Atlanta Braves
•  Tuesday, Oct. 14: San Francisco Giants
•  Wednesday, Oct. 15: Cincinnati Reds
•  Thursday, Oct. 16: Colorado Rockies
•  Friday, Oct. 17: Detroit Tigers
•  Monday, Oct. 20: Kansas City Royals
•  Tuesday, Oct. 21: Oakland Athletics
•  Wednesday, Oct. 22: Texas Rangers
•  Thursday, Oct. 23: Cleveland Indians
•  Friday, Oct. 24: Arizona Diamondbacks
•  Monday, Oct. 27: Florida Marlins
•  Tuesday, Oct. 28: Toronto Blue Jays
•  Wednesday, Oct. 29: St. Louis Cardinals
•  Thursday, Oct. 30: Houston Astros
•  Friday, Oct. 31: Minnesota Twins
•  Monday, Nov. 3: New York Yankees
•  Tuesday, Nov. 4: New York Mets
•  Wednesday, Nov. 5: Los Angeles Angels
•  Thursday, Nov. 6: Chicago White Sox
•  Friday, Nov. 7: Milwaukee Brewers
•  Monday, Nov. 10: Chicago Cubs
•  Tuesday, Nov. 11: Boston Red Sox
•  Wednesday, Nov. 12: LA Dodgers
•  Thursday, Nov. 13: Tampa Bay Rays
•  Friday, Nov. 14: Philadelphia Phillies

Climbed the Ladder
Jose Ceda, RHP: It's always encouraging when someone gets promoted and performs better. For Ceda, it was almost startling. He began the year starting games in Daytona and had a 4.65 ERA in 12 starts before making three relief appearances that brought his FSL ERA up to 4.80. He was moved up to Double-A Tennessee to pitch out of the bullpen and promptly saved nine games, posting a 2.08 ERA and striking out 42 in 30 1/3 innings. He may have found a new role as a short reliever, where his power stuff could play very well.
Ceda K's the side

Kevin Hart, RHP: After making Chicago's 2007 postseason roster, it seemed just a matter of time until Hart got a chance to help out in the bigs again. He started the year in the bullpen but got sent down after compiling a 5.06 ERA in April. He did some starting and some relieving in Triple-A, making a brief appearance in the Majors in June and July, and pitched well for Iowa, posting a 2.81 ERA over 57 2/3 innings and holding opponents to a .188 average. He was back in Chicago in September and was much more effective, with a 3.24 ERA in seven relief outings.
Hart sets down the side on strikes

Micah Hoffpauir, 1B: In addition to completely dominating the PCL, he showed he's not intimidated by big league pitching, hitting .342 and slugging .534 in 73 at-bats with the Cubs. He played some outfield as well as first base, showing some versatility, something that might help him stay with the parent club in 2009.

Jeff Samardzija, RHP: In his first taste of pro ball in 2007, the Notre Dame product showed he liked being pushed, pitching better when he got promoted to Double-A. It was a repeat performance for Samardzija this year, although this time, he made two jumps. After posting a 4.86 ERA in 16 outings for Tennessee, he went 4-1 with a 3.13 ERA in six Triple-A starts before getting called up to Chicago to help bolster the bullpen. All the right-hander did was post a 2.28 ERA, hold big leaguers to a .226 average over 27 2/3 innings and make a postseason appearance.
Samardzija gets his fourth strikeout

Kept Their Footing
Tyler Colvin, OF: After making it to Double-A in his first full season (2007), the Colvin express slowed down a bit. He spent all year in Tennessee, and while he did have 80 RBIs and 52 extra-base hits, his average dropped to .256 and his OPS to .736. It turns out he may have been playing much of the year with a bad elbow, one that required Tommy John surgery after a short stint in the Arizona Fall League. He's not expected to miss too much time at the start of 2009.
Around the Minors chats with Tyler Colvin

Tony Thomas, 2B: It wasn't quite the offensive explosion we predicted, but Thomas was a Florida State League All-Star and was named MVP of the Championship Series. He hit .483 in seven games during Daytona's title run.
ATM interviews Tony Thomas

Donnie Veal, LHP: It was Veal's second go-round in Tennessee, and while the numbers didn't get appreciably better, he deserves credit for persevering following his father's death. The southpaw still has outstanding stuff and if he can harness it with better command, he'll have a very bright future. At age 24, there's still plenty of time for him to figure it out.
Veal gets his fifth strikeout

Josh Vitters, 3B: Things started out well enough and according to plan. After hanging back in extended spring training, Vitters went to Peoria. Then things took a turn as a hand injury knocked him out after only four games. Once he recovered, he went to short-season Boise, hit .328 in 61 games and was named to the Northwest League Postseason All-Star team. This should put the 2007 No. 3 overall pick back on track in full-season ball in 2009 at age 19.
Vitters raps a run-scoring single

Slipped a Rung
Jose Ascanio, RHP: The hope was that Ascanio would give the Cubs another power arm to consider for big league bullpen help in 2008. He did get up for six games at different points of the season but wasn't exactly helpful as he allowed five runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 IP. He wasn't much better in Iowa. After a pretty good start, Ascanio finished with 11 saves and a 5.10 ERA. He still had the power stuff, as evidenced by 58 strikeouts in 54 2/3 IP, but had a 6.75 ERA in the second half and allowed 10 homers on the year.

Sam Fuld, OF: What happened here? The 2007 AFL MVP and Stenson Award winner looked like he could win an outfield job in Chicago. Instead, he hit .222 in 20 games for Iowa, then got demoted to Double-A when Felix Pie was sent down. After hitting .249 in his first 177 at-bats leading to the All-Star break, he did turn it up some, batting .345 in August to try and salvage the season. He'll be 27 heading into next season, so it's hard to know what his future may be.

Mark Holliman, RHP: In 2007, Holliman was a Southern League All-Star and seemed destined for a career as a back-of-the-rotation innings eater type. But after five starts for Iowa (5.16 ERA), he was moved back down to Tennessee to make room for Rich Hill. He was uneven in his return engagement, going 3-4 with a 4.50 ERA as a swingman. He was much better in the second half (3.32 ERA) and seemed to enjoy relief work (3.38 ERA), but he'll be 25 next year and will have to get a move on to have a big league career.

On the Radar
Welington Castillo, C: Playing all season at age 21, Castillo began the year with Daytona and made the Florida State League All-Star team. From there, it was a trip up to Double-A and an invitation to the Futures Game. He even made it up to Triple-A and was on Iowa's postseason roster. Combined, the backstop hit .287 in 91 games and continued to show the best defensive skills of any catcher in the system.
Castillo drills a two-run double

Steve Clevenger, C: Clevenger, a convert to catching, keeps on improving as he moves up the ladder. He began the year in Daytona but got pushed up to Double-A after a month. After hitting .247 in 29 games with Tennessee, he went back to Daytona and caught fire. The 2006 seventh-rounder hit .403 in June, slowed a bit in July, then finished with a .377 mark in August and a .355 average in the FSL playoffs. That gives him a .306 average as a pro. His catching is still a work-in-progress, but the Cubs have liked how he's developed thus far.
Clevenger doubles in a pair

2008 Draft Recap
1. Andrew Cashner, RHP: One of the fastest risers late in the draft season, the TCU closer was nabbed by the Cubs with the 19th overall pick. The Cubs had Cashner mostly starting during his brief pro debut and he wasn't particularly effective, with a 5.85 ERA over 20 innings. Walking (23) more hitters than he struck out (19) certainly didn't help. But something clicked when he pitched out of the 'pen in the FSL playoffs. The right-hander tossed six hitless innings over two appearances, walking four and striking out 11. His lone win was the championship clincher.
Cashner talks about being drafted

2. Ryan Flaherty, SS: The Vandy product was taken in the supplemental first round and went straight to Boise, where he hit .297 and slugged .511. He played nearly every day at short, though there are some who feel he'll need to move to second base long-term.
Flaherty send s solo shot into the seats

3. Aaron Shafer, RHP: The second-rounder out of Wichita State had some elbow issues but managed to get past them without surgery. He got in 33 innings as a pro, mostly with Boise, posting a 3.00 ERA. The right-hander walked only six and struck out 25 while holding opponents to a .226 average.
Shafer records his second strikeout

Others of Note: 2B Josh Harrison (6th round) hit .305 with 18 steals between Boise and Peoria. ... RHP Jay Jackson (9th round) went from Boise to Peoria to Daytona in his first summer. Combined, he had a 2.88 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 50 IP. He tossed 5 2/3 shutout innings for Daytona in a postseason win. ... 11th-rounder Matt Cerda was a shortstop in high school, but the Cubs are teaching him to catch. He hit .254 in 42 games while making that transition in the Rookie-level Arizona League. ... OF Tony Campana (13th round) tied for the AZL lead with 22 steals (in 23 tries) while hitting .277. ... RHP Joe (Casey) Coleman (15th round), son of ex-big leaguer Joe Coleman, pitched at three levels, posting a 3.11 ERA in 55 IP. He got a no-decision in a one-run, five-inning playoff start for Daytona. ... 1B Ryan Keedy (16th round) was a Northwest League All-Star after hitting .333 for Boise, good for third in the league. ... IF Logan (Vincent) Watkins (21st round) got in only 80 at-bats in the AZL but hit .327 with a .462 OBP in 27 games. ... 1B Rebel Ridling (25th round) hit 14 homers in 64 games between Boise and Peoria. He also struck out 68 times. ... C Michael Brenly (36th round), Bob's son, hit .325 in 39 games with Boise.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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