Cubs Prospect Rankings: 20-16

The countdown to No. 1 continues. Here are prospects 16 through 20.

20A. Casey McGehee
Pos: 3B/INF. HT: 6'1". WT: 195. Age: 24.

2006 Totals: .280 AVG., 135 G, 40 XBH, 41 BB, 70 K, .336 OBP.
Acquired: 10th round of 2003 draft (Fresno State University)

Since being drafted, McGehee (Mc-GEE) has moved up a level each year and has hit well for average, particularly the past two seasons. He consistently puts the ball in play and has showcased a quality eye for the strike zone, having never whiffed more than 70 times in a season.

An interesting problem may eventually arise with where to play McGehee. He was drafted as a third baseman, but got in a considerable amount of reps at catcher in his first full season at Class-A Daytona in 2004. He's since been a mainstay at third and told us last year that his catching days were over.

Once his first Triple-A season ended in early September, however, McGehee went to the Cubs' annual Instructional League camp in Mesa, Ariz., and got some looks in at – you guessed it – catcher. He could ultimately decide to try his hand there next season and like many Cubs infield prospects, McGehee could stand to add some versatility to his game.

While he won't ever be the flashiest of Cubs prospects, McGehee plays the game hard and doesn't cost his team any games with the glove at third.


20B. Chris Walker
Pos: OF. HT: 5'8". WT: 175. Age: 26.

2006 Totals: .292 AVG., 131 G, 35 XBH, 40 BB, 102 K, .351 OBP.
Acquired: 6th round of 2002 draft (Georgia Southern University)

The Cubs say Walker possesses a tool that can't be taught: speed.

"(Speed) never slumps," says Cubs Farm Director Oneri Fleita.

What separates Walker from the modern day Willie Mays Hayes' of the game is that although he's fast, he can hit, too.

Over the last three seasons, Walker has made three All-Star teams batting atop the lineup. He's hit well for average in that span and has swiped a total of 170 bases while getting thrown out 61 times.

Walker often does not get the respect he deserves on many prospect rankings lists because critics feel he's been too old for his level of competition each year. That's hasn't stopped the 26-year-old from competing (and excelling) at every level of the farm system to this point.

West Tennessee hitting coach Tom Beyers even called Walker the undisputed MVP of last year's Double-A squad.

"When he's clicking, our team is clicking," Beyers said during the All-Star break. "I can't think of anyone in our lineup that's been more consistent than him. He's been great in the leadoff role and has played great defense."

Walker drives opposing pitchers crazy at the plate and especially on the base pads. Coincidentally or not, he's been plunked a few times along the way, such as last year when he took a fastball in the ear from Cincinnati Reds pitching prospect Homer Bailey that Walker felt was intentional.

Defensively, Walker showcases good range from his post in center field and can take away a good number of would-be hits. While his throwing arm is genuinely accurate, Walker has been working with Boston Red Sox pitching prospect Mike James this offseason to improve his mechanics enough to where he can put more strength behind his throws.


19. Rocky Cherry
Pos: RHP. HT: 6'5". WT: 225. Age: 27.

2006 Totals: 5-1, 2.63 ERA, 51.1 IP, 52 K, 15 BB, .247 OPP. AVG.
Acquired: 14th round of 2002 draft (Oklahoma University)

Cherry made one of the quickest recoveries possible from Tommy John Surgery and had his best year to date in the Cubs' farm system in 2006. Upon his return to Double-A last year, Cherry was used exclusively from the bullpen after two seasons as a starter.

He was promoted to Triple-A in July, but made only two appearances there before succumbing to a bone spur in his middle pitching finger. The injury would require surgery and Cherry missed the remainder of the season.

Not only did Cherry take the relief role in stride, but prior to the injury, he was throwing harder than ever before as West Tenn coaches reported that Cherry was consistently in the mid to upper 90s throughout the first half.

The Sooner alumnus was also able to command the strike zone better than at any point in his professional career previously, finishing with a plus 3-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio. Cherry deals primarily with a fastball-slider combination and admitted that the slider was a pitch that at first presented some difficulty in terms of grip following Tommy John.

Just before the injury to Cherry's finger, the right-hander said that word around town had him making his major league debut some time in the coming days or weeks. While the Cubs should have an abundance of right-handers competing for the final spot or spots in the big league club's bullpen this spring, Cherry could still battle for a relief role some time in 2007.


18. Carmen Pignatiello
Pos: LHP. HT: 6'0". WT: 190. Age: 24.

2006 Totals: 3-1, 2.69 ERA, 67 IP, 78 K, 21 BB, .234 OPP. AVG.
Acquired: 20th round of 2000 draft (Providence Catholic HS – Ill.)

While most pitchers in last year's Arizona Fall League were on hand to work on things like secondary pitches or merely just wanted to get more innings, Pignatiello (Pig-nah-TELL-oh) was there for what might otherwise be the simplest of things: his fastball, and more specifically his command of the pitch.

"I can throw it for strikes, but where in the strike zone," Pignatiello asked. "Is it on the corner, or the outer third? They want to get me to where I can throw it on both sides of the plate and hit that corner all the time."

The southpaw made considerable strides in 2006, in large part because his role was defined after going back and forth between starting and relieving the previous season. The Cubs are hoping Pignatiello can catch on as a lefty vs. lefty specialist from the bullpen and the southpaw is fine with that.

Pignatiello is a noted curveball specialist with above-average velocity that generally tops out in the low 90s. As a former starter, he has the endurance to go several innings from the ‘pen if needed.


17. Billy Petrick
Pos: RHP. HT: 6'6". WT: 240. Age: 22.

2006 Totals: 6-2, 3.45 ERA, 52.2 IP, 37 K, 14 BB, .293 OPP. AVG.
Acquired: 3rd round of 2002 draft (Morris HS – Ill.)

In 2006, Petrick returned from a torn labrum and had good success at Class Low-A, short-season Boise against hitters that were primarily fresh out of the draft. While the right-hander's velocity was back in the low to mid 90s after taking a hit on the radar gun the previous season in Daytona, Petrick admitted that he had to work on getting his location back.

After going 5-0 with a 2.23 ERA in seven starts at Boise, the Cubs sent Petrick back to Daytona where he would pitch until being shut down for precautionary reasons after complaining of shoulder soreness.

The key to Petrick's future is still his health, but his age, 6'6" frame and the fact that his velocity was back on the rise following surgery is encouraging.


16. Adam Harben
Pos: RHP. HT: 6'5". WT: 215. Age: 23.

2006 Totals: 4-9, 3.96 ERA, 122.2 IP, 74 K, 67 BB, .254 OPP. AVG.
Acquired: trade from Twins; selected in 15th round of 2002 draft (University of Central Arkansas)

Harben was the Cubs' ransom for trading veteran Phil Nevin to Minnesota in late August of last year. After coming off his best year to date in 2005, in which he won 10 games and posted a 2.66 ERA for Class-A Fort Myers of the Florida State League, Harben was shaky in his first Double-A season with the Twins and averaged just shy of five walks per nine innings.

Upon joining the Cubs, Harben went to the Arizona Fall League to work on command, but was hindered by a sore elbow and made only three starts.

Harben has always been a groundball pitcher, who induced twice as many groundballs than flyballs with the Twins affiliate a season ago (193 to 95), and the Cubs liked what they saw during his time in Arizona.

"He's a big, tall kid with a good arm and good sink on the ball, and he has a pretty good breaking ball," said Harben's Fall League manager, Pat Listach.

Photo Attribution: McGehee, Walker, Pignatiello -- Inside The Ivy/Steve Holley; Cherry, Petrick -- Inside The Ivy/Jerry Hale; Harben -- Scout.com/Bobby Vangelatos.


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