State of the Farm System Report

Rumors abound in regards to the Cubs and possible trade scenarios most every day. Both Sammy Sosa and Kyle Farnsworth are the primary focus of Cub players mentioned in these rumors and there are always a handful of minor league prospects brought up by opposing teams when Jim Hendry and company are involved with trade discussions.

As any Cubs fan with a modest perspective of the farm system knows, the organization appears loaded with pitching prospects. The Cubs, like all organizations, know that all of that talent will not pan out for their organization but could certainly receive better chances with others.

This was displayed in the recent Rule Five Draft as the Cubs lost quality left-handers Andy Sisco and Luke Hagerty, while leaving pitchers Chadd Blasko and Jae-Kuk Ryu unprotected.

However, there are some pitchers that have more than just your ordinary future with the Cubs; pitchers that will require some attractive offers before they are traded.

One such pitcher is right-hander Angel Guzman. Still regarded by many as the Cubs' top pitching prospect, many thought Guzman would be competing for the No. 5 spot in the 2005 Cub rotation. Unfortunately, Tommy John Surgery and a few setbacks stemming from it left Guzman on the disabled for much of the last two seasons.

Guzman's outlook is good, however, as Cubs Director of Player Development Oneri Fleita told ITI the 23-year-old right-hander will be 100 percent by Spring Training.

Any time the Cubs get in trade discussions with teams, Guzman seems to be the prospect that teams covet the most. To this point, Hendry has rejected any offers involving the right-hander. In Spring Training 2003, many experts thought Guzman looked better than anyone else in Cubs camp--including Mark Prior himself according to the Chicago Tribune's Phil Rogers.

Moving along to another Cubs pitching prospect that has shown plenty of promise, which should eventually put him in competition for a starter's spot, is right-hander Sergio Mitre. After a short stint with the Cubs during the beginning of the 2004 season, Mitre (6-3, 2.98 ERA at Triple-A) went on to pitch for the Iowa Cubs and simply dominated in the Pacific Coast League.

Since Mitre, 23, is a cheap option for the starting rotation and has plenty of potential, it seems unlikely that he will be included in any upcoming trade discussions.

Right-hander Bobby Brownlie (9-9, 3.36 ERA at Double-A) is another young prospect the Cubs are genuinely high on. Brownlie, 24, has also dealt with arm problems in the past, but logged over 100 innings for the first time in his career last season, and the Cubs' expectations of him are high entering 2005.

Left-hander Renyel Pinto (11-9, 2.92 ERA, 141.2 IP at West Tennessee) was the Cubs' Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2005 and could be competing for a bullpen job next year. Pinto, 22, averaged over one strikeout per inning and held left-handers to a .162 average this past season.

Speaking of the 'pen, several other pitchers that could fit into the Cubs' relief plans this season are RHP Michael Wuertz and LHP Will Ohman. Both have already had short stints in Cub uniforms, particularly Wuertz.

After impressing many with his low-90's fastball and sharp slider in April, Wuertz, 26, became the Iowa Cubs' closer and took command of the role with 19 saves. Meanwhile, Ohman, 27, was a huge surprise in Mexico during Winter League action this off-season and recorded 14 saves with a tremendous ERA of 1.00 in 17 appearances. His vast improvement could pay huge dividends as the Cubs are hoping he can take the second left-handed spot in the bullpen in 2005.

Said Rogers in a recent chat with ITI, "He'd practically have to pitch himself off the roster next season."

On the other side of the coin, the Cubs have some tremendous young hitters in the organization as well. Outfielder Jason Dubois, 25, has a more than solid chance of taking the outfield spot vacated by Moises Alou, and his terrific power potential was displayed at Iowa last season, cracking 31 HR and 99 RBI. Dubois' .316 batting average showed that he is much more than just a power hitter.

Coming out of the 2002 draft, many scouts said Brian Dopirak would either hit 40 homeruns a season or be a .240 hitter with 150 strikeouts. Well, his numbers at Lansing in 2004 indicate the former prediction is the most accurate: .309, 39 HR, 120 RBI. Dopirak, 21, was the most feared hitter in the Midwest League last season, leading the league in HRs, doubles, hits, and placing second in RBIs with 120.

Elsewhere, Felix Pie and Ryan Harvey are two of the most promising five-tool players in the Minor Leagues. Pie, 19, got on base at a .361 clip in Daytona last season while swiping a career-high 32 bases and notching 17 doubles.

Harvey, 20, was the Cubs' first round selection in the 2003 draft and crushed Northwest League pitching in his first stint of active duty. He finished third in the short-season league with 14 HR in 58 games in the outfield.

Matthew D. Clapp has been giving his "Birds Eye" view of the Cubs' farm system from atop the Rocky Mountains in Fort Collins, Colorado for two years. Matt welcomes feedback at cubsclapp@aol.com.


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