Cubs Prospect Rankings: 40-36

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

40. Joe Simokaitis
Pos: SS/2B. HT: 6'1". WT: 188.
2006 Totals: .259 AVG, 110 G, 13 EBH, 32 RBI, .347 OBP.

Simokaitis's bat hasn't quite matched the numbers he put up during his final college season at Nebraska, but the 10th-round pick from a year ago came on strong during the second half of this past season at Daytona after batting just .226 through July 1.

He closed out the year with a .315 average in August and finished with a respectable .347 on-base percentage. While his .259 average wasn't where he would have liked, Simokaitis managed a .307 mark against left-handed pitching, where he totaled almost equally as many extra base hits in over 100 fewer at-bats than against right-handers.

Defensively, he committed 15 errors at shortstop this past season and saw playing time at second base throughout the year. Toward the end of the season, Simokaitis tweaked his hamstring, causing him to miss the annual Instructional League camp in Arizona.

39. Russ Canzler
Pos: 1B. HT: 6'2". WT: 210.
2006 Totals: .264 AVG, 73 G, 16 HR, 22 2B, 61 RBI.

The year 2006 may have been Canzler's coming out party. After being held over in the Arizona Rookie League the past two years, the 20-year-old finally got his chance to play every day in the Northwest League and would go on to finish as the Hawks' all-time single season home run leader.

Canzler led the league in homers, doubles, extra base hits (42) and RBIs. Perhaps the only downside was that he struck out 70 times (the third highest rate in the league) in 280 at-bats, thus keeping with the trend of many power-hitting position players in the Cubs' system.

The Catch-22 is that Canzler still doesn't consider himself a power hitter in spite of the Cubs' apparent belief that he is one. In his previous two seasons with the Mesa Cubs, he went deep only twice in 262 at-bats.

38. Tim Layden
Pos: LHP. HT: 6'2". WT: 180.
2006 Totals: 7-1, 2.45 ERA, 66.1 IP, 61 K, 34 BB, .211 AA.

A left-hander that doesn't pack a whole lot of weight, Layden put together another solid season in Class-A ball between Peoria and Daytona in 2006. He works with a slider and two-seam fastball that registers in the upper 80s to low 90s on most occasions and will often mix in a straight changeup.

Though he was a starter throughout most of his college career at Duke, the Cubs talked to the southpaw about taking on a relief pitcher's role almost from the very beginning. He's taken that role in stride, averaging less than one hit allowed per nine innings in his career thus far.

Layden will be 24 by the time next season starts and could reasonably expect to break spring camp with the Double-A club if all goes as planned. When this season began, both he and Cubs Minor League Pitching Coordinator Lester Strode agreed that Layden needed to be more consistent by throwing strikes. He went on to strike out 46 and walk 28 in 54 plus innings with Daytona.

37. Matt Avery
Pos: RHP. HT: 6'6". WT: 230.
2006 Totals: 4-3, 2.15 ERA, 67 IP, 76 K, 27 BB, .188 AA.

The 6'6" right-hander's transition from the starting rotation back to the bullpen this past season went about as smooth as anyone could have asked. A starter and ninth-round pick from the University of Virginia in 2005, Avery hadn't pitched from relief since his first season with the Cavaliers three years ago. His numbers in the ‘pen speak for themselves.

Arsenal-wise, Avery's fastball sits in the upper 80s to low 90s and he mixes in a changeup and slider for good measure. He put more focus on the slider this season after working with Peoria pitching coach Rich Bombard, telling us that the pitch felt more natural to him than his curveball.

Avery was also an aggressive pitcher by and large. This past season, he averaged over one strikeout per inning for the first time in his career and is quick to point out that he puts a considerable amount of stock in attacking the strike zone rather than nibbling away from hitters.

36. Josh Lansford
Pos: 3B. HT: 6'2". WT: 220.
2006 Totals: .255 AVG, 62 G, 5 HR, 35 RBI, .333 OBP.

Like father, like son? Cubs Scouting Director Tim Wilken seemed to think so when he offered up a sixth-round pick on the son of former major leaguer Carney Lansford this past June.

"The apple doesn't fall far from the tree," Wilken said.

The father-son combo are both similar in build and – although still very early in Josh's professional career – power. As he matures, it's likely that Lansford will add more home run pop to his swing.

Minus a few points on his average, Lansford's numbers stayed relatively close to those in his final year of college at Cal Poly. A transfer from San Jose State, he batted .276 with the Mustangs in his final season with the team. Defensively at Boise, he committed eight errors for a .945 fielding percentage at third.

One thing that won't hinder Lansford as it has been known to do to certain other players is the transition to wooden bats. The 22-year-old began experimenting with wooden bats as far back as his high school summer leagues and says he's always preferred them to their aluminum counterparts.

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