These posts take a while to write and finals have been kind of kicking my ass lately, so you probably won't see that many of these All Bonus Baby Team posts over the next couple days. My last finals are on Tuesday, though, so once I get through those I should be able to really get back to writing again. Either way, here's the lineup and rotation for the Chicago Cubs. They've got hits and some misses, but the lack of star power is pretty notable. No wonder they've spent so much acquiring other stars from other teams.
And remember that these teams aren't meant to extend beyond 2011. With this series, we're simply looking to see what kind of team each organization could build using only players drafted and signed since 2000. And because this is mostly just a fun exercise, we're including DH's in all lineups, not just AL teams.
1) CF Sam Fuld - 2004 10th Round Pick
Pretty much everyone knows about Fuld now given what he's done for Tampa Bay over the past few weeks, and it appears that the Rays may have found another long-term bargain in the 29-year-old. He doesn't bring much power but makes contact and has a patient approach, along with superb defensive skills that he's shown off a lot so far this season. His glove doesn't play as well in center as it does on the corners, which is part of why he was never a major prospect, but ZiPS projects a .268/.344/.386 line the rest of the way and that's not bad for a good defensive outfielder.
2) SS Darwin Barney - 2007 4th Round Pick
Barney's currently the second baseman for Chicago, but he's a very good defensive shortstop and would probably be playing there if the Cubs didn't already have an elite young shortstop. Most of Barney's offense comes from strong contact skills, as he rarely walks and doesn't provide much pop, but he's batting .329 so far this season after hitting .299 at Triple-A last year, so clearly he can provide some value through a strong average. But with weak power and a 5% walk rate, his bat will only go as far as his BABIP will take him, and it's not likely to stay around .360 all season.
3) RF Tyler Colvin - 2006 1st Round Pick (13th overall)
The Cubs drafted Colvin in the first round partially to save money in order to sign fifth-round pick Jeff Samardzija, but Colvin seems likely to be the best player to come out of that draft for Chicago. The 25-year-old exploded onto the MLB scene last season with a .246 isolated power in 395 PA's for the Cubs, but posted just a .316 OBP, affirming concerns from scouts that he'd be a legit power threat but one that would struggle to get on base. He's off to a brutal start this year, somewhat caused by a .191 BABIP, but he should hit for enough power to be a solid regular.
4) C Geovany Soto - 2001 11th Round Pick
One of the more underrated players in the game, Soto's been an elite catcher in two of the past three seasons but rarely gets pub as one of the game's top players behind the plate. He provides most of his value through power and patience, as he clubbed 17 doubles and 19 homers while flashing a 16% walk rate in 105 games last season. He's been the fifth-best catcher in baseball since landing a full-time job in 2008 and he plays for one of the most popular teams in the sport, but somehow people still don't realize how good this guy has been.
5) 3B Casey McGehee - 2003 10th Round Pick
McGehee's rise to prominence is pretty fascinating. In 2008, he batted .296/.345/.429 as a 26-year-old for Chicago's Triple-A affiliate, and after the season Milwaukee claimed him off waivers. Since then, McGehee's been one of the better third basemen in the National League, hitting .288/.342/.466, good for tenth among NL third basemen with more than 1000 PA's since 2008. He's not a great defender and he appears to have peaked with a .367 wOBA during his rookie season, but he's still been quite the find for Milwaukee.
6) DH Jake Fox - 2003 3rd Round Pick
The 28-year-old Fox has been a tough nut to crack so far. He was one of the most dominant hitters in the upper minors over the course of the 2008-2009 seasons and led all hitters in home runs this spring, but he's hit only .233/.283/.424 in 487 PA's across four seasons, and has yet to show that he's anything more than a Quad-A guy. ZiPS still buys into the bat somewhat, projecting a .245/.314/.446 line for Fox the rest of the way, but it's getting harder to believe that he'll turn into a solid regular.
7) LF Brandon Guyer - 2007 5th Round Pick
Guyer's another guy who's had his share of ups and downs so far as a pro. Guyer fell square on his face in his first Double-A stint back in 2009, but followed that up by hitting .344/.398/.588 with 30 steals in 102 games at the same level in 2010. He's now at Triple-A Durham after getting shipped to Tampa, and has continued to thrive in the minors. I was talking up the Garza package when it happened, but I really think that the Rays got an exceptional package from Chicago, and more than Milwaukee gave up for Greinke.
8) 1B Micah Hoffpauir - 2002 13th Round Pick
On some levels, the 30-year-old has already gotten his chance and failed. He hit just .239/.300/.427 in 257 PA's with the Cubs in 2009, and doesn't seem likely to get another chance as a new set of young players begins to arrive in Chicago. He posted a really strong 2010 at Triple-A, though, with a .281/.366/.527 line and a solid 56/74 BB/K ratio in 118 games, so he's not awful.
9) 2B Ryan Theriot - 2001 3rd Round Pick
Cubs fans are very familiar with Theriot, as he was once the Cubs' starting shortstop and now fills the same role for the club's biggest rival in St. Louis. He's off a nice start with the bat this season, batting .311 with a .361 OBP, but he's benefitting from a high BABIP and still isn't hitting for any power. He's not a horrible option at shortstop, but at this point his glove profiles much better at second base, and he's no longer a legitimate top-of-the-order option.
1) RHP Ricky Nolasco - 2001 4th Round Pick
Nolasco was shipped to the Marlins as part of the 2005 Juan Pierre trade, and became one of Florida's best starters by 2008. He doesn't get a ton of hype because his 4.39 career ERA isn't that great and his performance rarely matches his outstanding peripherals, but his ERA is low this season and maybe those high ERA's were somewhat fluky. Because since the beginning of the 2008 season, when Nolasco became a full-time MLB starter, the 28-year-old has the fourth-best K/BB and tenth-best xFIP among pitchers with 500+ IP.
2) RHP Randy Wells - 2002 38th Round Pick
There have been a lot of words spilled over Cubs pitchers like Carlos Zambrano and Matt Garza, but Randy Wells has quietly been one of Chicago's best pitchers over the past two years. Whether you look at fWAR or rWAR, Wells has accumulated over 6 WAR since the beginning of 2009, which is pretty great for a 38th-round pick. He's currently on the disabled list after looking pretty bad in his first start this season, but the Cubs should expect to see a solid mid-rotation pitcher once he's healthy again.
3) RHP Andrew Cashner - 2008 1st Round Pick (19th overall)
Cashner's a rare bird, as the college closer has done nothing but thrive since shifting to the rotation upon becoming a pro in 2008. Like Wells, he's currently on the DL, but they're not remotely similar pitchers. With an impressive mid-90's fastball, a plus slider and a developing change-up, Cashner appears to be rounding out the arsenal of a legit starting pitcher. The Cubs have mostly taken things slow with Cashner, and you have to appreciate how much he's progressed as a starter so far.
4) RHP Sergio Mitre - 2001 7th Round Pick
He's now the long man in Milwaukee after failing to land a rotation spot with the Yankees this spring, but he shouldn't really be anybody's idea of a good fourth starter. He's not an awful pitcher, with a 4.23 career xFIP in 425 innings and a nice 2.6 WAR performance with the Marlins back in 2007, but he's struggled to establish himself in any role since missing the 2008 season to Tommy John surgery. His velocity is back to where it was in 2007, though, so there's some hope that he could turn in a solid season.
5) RHP Casey Coleman - 2008 15th Round Pick
It's rare for a 15th-round pick to reach the majors, but it's even rarer to see one do it in his second full season as a professional. The 23-year-old Coleman did exactly that last season, though. Drafted out of Florida Gulf Coast University in 2008, Coleman thrived at Single-A that year and managed to begin his first full pro season at Double-A in 2009. Strong performance there, coupled with continued success upon moving up to Triple-A in 2010, enabled Coleman to pitch 57 innings for the Cubs last season when most college pitchers drafted around him are just reaching Double-A. His raw stuff isn't great, but he's not a horrible option for a fifth starter, which is the role he's currently filling in Chicago.
The 27-year-old Blevins isn't anyone's idea of a star reliever, but he's been solid for Oakland over the past few years and has been dominant at Triple-A whenever there hasn't been room for him in the majors. With ERA and FIP marks around 4, he's shown how many relievers can be limited by high fly ball rates, but his numbers in the upper minors leave hope that he can still improve. In 155 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, Blevins has posted a 2.95 ERA with 176 strikeouts and only 38 walks.
He's another guy that's been exceptional in one of the biggest markets in the country, and yet people still don't realize just how good he is. Marshall probably gets underrated for a variety of reasons: (1) he's not a closer (2) his fastball sits 88-91 and (3) he was good-but-not-great in his first three years with the Cubs. But since the beginning of last season, few relievers have been as good as Marshall. Only Rafael Betancourt and Billy Wagner have posted better xFIP marks since the beginning of last season, and only Wagner, Carlos Marmol, Hong-Chih Kuo and Heath Bell have posted better FIP marks in the same time span.
DISTRIBUTION OF PICKS
2000: 0; 2001: 4; 2002: 2; 2003: 3; 2004: 2; 2005: 0; 2006: 1; 2007: 2; 2008: 2; 2009: 0
6th or later: 9