Cubs Prospect Rankings: 41-45

Each Tuesday, we release the list of our annual post-season top prospect rankings in the Cubs' farm system counting down to No. 1.

45. Justin Rayborn
Pos: RHP. HT: 6'5". WT: 220.
2006 Totals: 6-1, 1.93 ERA, 65.1 IP, 72 K, 17 BB, .235 AA

Like a few other pitchers on this list, Rayborn's fastball isn't overly blazing. But also like those certain pitchers, the numbers don't lie. The right-hander was 23 and pitching in the Class A Midwest League for Peoria this past season, but pitched effectively while using his out-pitch – the slider – as his key weapon.

Rayborn posted a strikeout to walk ratio of over four to one and averaged fewer than one hit per inning. From June 27 all the way through the remainder of the year, he allowed just two earned runs in the span of 35 innings, primarily serving as setup man to Chiefs closer Matt Avery.

"That's the whole key to him (the slider)," said Peoria broadcaster Nathan Baliva. "When the slider was going good, he was going good and when it wasn't, a couple of times he got hit hard."

Throughout his brief pro career, Rayborn has averaged almost 11 strikeouts and just over two walks per nine innings.

44. Chris Robinson
Pos: C. HT: 6'0". WT: 200.
2006 Totals: .294 BA, 107 G, 3 HR, 59 RBI

This past year was Robinson's first full season since being drafted by Detroit in the third round in 2005. He came to the Cubs in the trade that sent Neifi Perez to the Tigers and was one of the Florida State League's best hitting catchers all year.

Robinson left the Lakeland Tigers with a .286 average and didn't disappoint the Cubs by hitting .356 in 12 games at Daytona. He likes his doubles (totaling 24 this season) and considers himself a gap-to-gap hitter.

It appears Robinson can hit, but what about defensively?

The 22-year-old was somewhat shaky with eight errors and 16 passed balls behind the plate this year. Robinson says he's always prided himself on defense, and added that his goal is have every pitcher on the staff want to throw to him. He threw out 26 percent of opposing runners.

43. Chris Huseby
Pos: RHP. HT: 6'8". WT: 220.
2006 Totals: 0-2, 5.19 ERA, 17.1 IP, 14 K, 6 BB, .296 AA

It's hard for us to rank Huseby any higher based on how little we've seen him pitch and the questions surrounding his health following Tommy John Surgery during his junior year of high school.

The good news is, the Cubs say Huseby's health is on the up and up with word that the Stuart, Fla., native was throwing in the low to mid 90s throughout his tenure in Arizona with the Mesa Cubs.

That's a good thing, considering Huseby secured first-round money ($1.3 million to be exact) as an 11th-round pick.

Just one day prior to being drafted, it was announced that the 18-year-old had committed to Auburn for college ball. Instead, he wisely took the Cubs' offer and the immediate chance to make first-round dollars.

Making six starts for the Rookie League team in Mesa, Huseby allowed four runs in two separate outings, but surrendered one run or less in his remaining four starts while averaging around three innings per game.

"He's got a good arm and a good body," Cubs Farm Director Oneri Fleita said after watching Huseby pitch in Arizona. "He throws a lot of strikes and has a real good future ... He's 6'8" and very athletic."

42. Bobby Brownlie
Pos: RHP. HT: 6'0". WT: 220.
2006 Totals: 3-14, 6.37 ERA, 86.2 IP, 66 K, 40 BB, .351 AA

Is it fair to call the Cubs' first first-round pick from the 2002 draft a bust? Not just yet, we say.

While practically nothing went right for Brownlie in 2006, it wasn't but just eight months ago that Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild was talking to the now 26-year-old about his future as a big league reliever.

So Brownlie began the year in Triple-A and had hoped to make it up to the major league team some time on or before September. Instead, he was demoted to Double-A a month into the season and was actually demoted again, to Daytona, before a last-second change of plans.

The Cubs may have been showing their poker faces at time, but they didn't seem too concerned with Brownlie's down year back in July.

"He simply needs to keep pitching," Fleita said at the time. "Guys who stay healthy long enough figure things out ... He will figure things out."

The question is with who? The right-hander will likely be Rule Five eligible in less than a month, so plenty of teams should have the opportunity to take a flyer on the Rutgers alum's services should they choose.

Brownlie himself chalked up his struggles this year to a learning curve. He began to leave the ball up in the zone and that helped lead to 11 home runs allowed over the course of 85-plus innings.

He also expressed some frustrations with his role, which alternated from month to month between the bullpen and starting rotation at times this season.

"I'm not the kind of guy that goes out there and complains," Brownlie told us. "I take the ball when they give it to me and really enjoy competing, but it does make it hard to get into a routine."

41. Billy Muldowney
Pos: RHP. HT: 6'1". WT: 205.
2006 Totals: 1-3, 2.68 ERA, 43.2 IP, 42 K, 11 BB

Shortly after the draft, Pitt head baseball coach Joe Jordano called the Cubs' eighth-round pick from his school "the full package."

Armed with a fastball that routinely registers in the low 90s, a changeup, plus a breaking ball for an out-pitch, Muldowney overcame some elbow inflammation shortly after the draft to post genuinely solid numbers in his first taste of pro ball.

Keeping up with the pace he set in college of being a strike-thrower who limits the walk, Muldowney displayed good control and averaged almost one strikeout per inning at short-season, Low-A Boise this past season. He finished his two-year career at Pitt second on the school's all-time strikeout list with 188 in 166 1/3 innings.

"He's got three good pitches to work with and has good command and movement on all of them," said Cubs area scout Lukas McKnight, who signed Muldowney. "He's just a guy you can really see making it to the big leagues. We knew he probably wasn't a first-round talent, but he was one of those guys I really targeted."

Photo attribution: Rayburn -- Chicago Cubs; Robinson -- Daytona Cubs/Tommy Proctor; Brownlie -- Inside The Ivy/Steve Holley; Muldowney -- Pitt Sports Information/Brad Cuprick.

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