Post-season Prospect Rankings: 46-50

First, a word on these rankings and the effort that went into compiling them.

These rankings, like all others, are strictly the author's opinion, shaped by his own observations of players with feedback on said players from Cubs coaches, officials, scouts, etc.

This list and subsequent rankings do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions shared by the Cubs' organization.

This list is in no way meant as a slight to any prospects who failed to make said list, nor a criticism of those ranked above or below fellow players.

As always, these rankings were compiled based on numerous factors: tools, potential, results, makeup, etc.

Additionally, players who logged or have logged over 50 innings at the major league level (i.e. Angel Guzman), or accumulated 130 major league at-bats (i.e. Ryan Theriot) do not qualify for this list.

Our rankings will debut in a series of five players at a time, counting all the way down to No. 1.

50. Paul Schappert
Pos: LHP. HT: 6'5". WT: 215.
2006 Totals: 5-1, 2.83 ERA, 42 K, 29 BB, .236 OPP

Signed as a non-drafted free agent two-plus years ago, Schappert is the first to admit he won't ever blow away opposing hitters with his stuff. His fastball isn't very strong, often registering in the mid to low 80s with a purported top-out speed of 86 mph. But what he lacks in velocity, he makes up for in the off-speed department.

The left-hander uses a breaking ball and changeup, which he deems his out-pitch, and put some time in developing a cut-fastball to use against right-handed batters this past season.

He had some trouble with walks in his two-plus months at Double-A this year, putting 20 on with the free pass and striking out just 21, but for the most part, Schappert is a strike-thrower that locates his pitches well.

"He just throws strikes and changes speeds," Daytona pitching coach Tom Pratt said of Schappert. "He's an intelligent pitcher that studies hitters. He locates his pitches very well."

Schappert received a demotion to Daytona in late June that was made more because of an influx of pitchers at West Tenn than anything else. Upon arriving in Daytona, he began closing games for the Florida State League club and notched 20 saves in 27 appearances, finishing all 27 games in which he pitched.

A starter throughout college at Texas State University (formerly Southwest Texas State), Schappert has been used exclusively from the bullpen in his three seasons with the Cubs. He made three spot starts for West Tenn this year, but was more commonly used in long relief with the club, often pitching up to two and three innings at a time.

The Cubs wanted to see him in the closer's role at Daytona and Schappert told us that despite not having the repertoire a typical closer has, he felt he was mentally ready for the challenge.

Though his makeup may not be as eye-popping to scouts and the casual observer, Schappert's career 2.79 ERA and two-to-one strikeout to walk ratio are nothing to sneeze at just yet.

49. Jesse Estrada
Pos: RHP. HT: 6'8", WT: 250.
2006 Totals: 7-1, 3.32 ERA, 95 IP, 61 K, 28 BB, .250 OPP

Estrada made the move from the starting rotation into the bullpen this year at Peoria and had modest success in doing so.

The right-hander also made the occasional start (five in all) and in actuality, his five starts were more impressive statistically than his 31 relief appearances. In those starts, he gave up just five earned runs for a 1.67 ERA and 18 hits in 27 innings. From relief, he was 5-1 with a 3.97 ERA and .276 average against.

"Last year, he kind of just threw the ball," Peoria broadcaster Nathan Baliva said of Estrada, whose fastball registers in the upper 80s. "This year, he was more of a pitcher."

Estrada is now 23 and has two straight years of Mid-A ball under his belt, so a full year at Daytona or better next season is a must.

48. Justin Berg
Pos: RHP. HT: 6'4", WT: 220.
2006 Totals: 7-7, 4.38 ERA, 115 IP, 82 K, 53 BB, .278 OPP

From a numbers standpoint, Berg's first full season in the Cubs' system was nothing to write home about. He began the year by dropping his first three starts and had an ERA of almost five points through the first half of the season.

As the second half wore on, Berg posted better numbers, but in fewer innings. A trip on the disabled list in mid-July eventually sidelined him for a month.

He threw a league-high 19 wild pitches and partially attributed that to several of his pitches getting away from Daytona catchers Jake Fox and Alan Rick. That still doesn't change the fact that he averaged over four walks per nine innings.

Berg admits to getting himself in trouble when he begins to speed up the pace of the game and that was evidenced in his early outings this year. He also began to put more emphasis on his changeup midway through the season and reported genuinely good progress with the pitch.

Aside from the changeup, Berg throws a four-seam fastball that usually averages in the low 90s and compliments his repertoire with a sinking, two-seam fastball and a slider that he considers his out-pitch.

47. Thomas Atlee
Pos: RHP. HT: 5'10". WT: 195.
2006 Totals: 3-6, 3.04 ERA, 83 IP, 58 K, 39 BB, .220 OPP

Because of his age (27), Atlee usually goes unnoticed on most rankings lists. But each year, the right-hander generally puts up solid numbers. He still throws a hard fastball in the mid 90s after bouncing back from two separate arm surgeries in the past.

Atlee has always kept the ball in the park and held his average against to a minimum. This year, he logged a career-high 83 innings from the bullpen.

Now playing Winter Ball in Venezuela for team Caribes, he's yet to allow an earned run through nine appearances, a span of 8 2/3 innings.

It's often said that players who do well in Winter League's leave lasting impressions on clubs. Here's hoping Atlee does, too.

46. Jake Muyco
Pos: C. HT: 6'1". WT: 190.
2006 Totals: .208 BA, 83 G, 260 AB, 4 HR, 25 RBI.

If the Cubs' eighth-round pick from North Carolina State a year ago can put it together at the plate, watch out.

Muyco has one of the best arms in the Cubs' system behind the plate as evidenced by his gunning down over 50 percent of opposing runners at Peoria. He got a promotion to Daytona midway through the season and threw out 44 percent of runners there, committing six passed balls and nine errors combined.

Offensively, it just hasn't come around yet. Muyco again batted only a little over the Mendoza Line and has to this point posted an on-base percentage of under .300 since being drafted.

The Cubs say they're not too concerned with Muyco's bat just yet.

"His defense is superior to his bat at this point," Cubs Farm Director Oneri Fleita acknowledged back in July, shortly after Muyco's promotion to Daytona. "But his bat is something that, as he goes up higher and faces pitchers more around the strike zone, I think he'll learn to do some things with."

Second-half Daytona manager Buddy Bailey, previously the Cubs' Catching Coordinator, saw Muyco quite a bit this year and described the 22-year-old as a student of the game.

"He's a very good blocker and understands the pitchers' strengths," Bailey said. "He's got an above average arm and works the pitcher to get outs ... His defense is as solid as anyone's in the system, and he's a quiet leader and a great personality for any ball club. I think he'll go places if we can just find a way to improve his bat."

Photo attribution: Schappert, Estrada, Berg -- Chicago Cubs; Atlee -- Inside The Ivy/Steve Holley; Muyco -- Inside The Ivy/Jennifer Harasek.

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