Pos: LHP. HT: 6-5. WT: 185. Age: 25.
2006 Totals: 6-4, 1.61 ERA, 67.1 IP, 66 K, 25 BB, .235 AVG. AGAINST.
Acquired: Signed as non-drafted free agent (July, 2002).
After being plagued by injuries in 2005, Rapada was due for a strong bounce-back season in 2006. He held opposing hitters to a sub-.200 average in his first stint above A-ball at Double-A West Tennessee and would go on to post respectable numbers later on in the year at Triple-A Iowa.
Cubs Minor League Pitching Coordinator Alan Dunn, who served as Rapada's pitching coach at Iowa last season, believes the left-hander has a significant advantage over opposing hitters by way of his three-quarters delivery.
"When you have all these standard guys up top, he definitely gives a manager a different option," Dunn said. "Suddenly, you throw this guy and his delivery in the middle and it's almost like when you face a knuckleball pitcher. It throws everything out of whack for the hitters."
Armed with a two-seam fastball that generally tops out in the low 90s, plus a slider and changeup, Rapada routinely keeps the ball down in the zone and is able to induce many a groundball.
Throughout his tenure in the Arizona Fall League last year, Rapada began to work on a cut fastball to mix in against right-handed hitters. The Cubs say they see the 25-year-old as a lefty specialist out of the bullpen.
9. Jae-Kuk Ryu
Pos: RHP. HT: 6-3. WT: 220. Age: 23.
2006 Totals (Minor League play only): 8-8, 3.23 ERA, 139.1 IP, 114 K, 51 BB, .237 AVG. AGAINST.
Acquired: Signed as non-drafted free agent (June, 2001).
Ryu posted all-around respectable numbers in his first full Triple-A season in 2006 and made his major league debut in Chicago, where he appeared in most games as a reliever. The Korea native has done both starting and relieving in the Cubs' system previously, but told us last summer that he was a little uneasy about pitching in the bullpen.
While Ryu isn't considered a top five pitching prospect anymore, the right-hander is still young and has the ability to eat up a lot of innings and pitch effectively with an above-average changeup and breaking ball.
"I've had J.K. for the last two years and he's really matured as a pitcher," Dunn said. "He has a great feel and knowledge of how to control the bat speed. He's a very good competitor on the mound and he has a very good idea of what he's looking to do. He studies the hitter."
The key to Ryu's success is staying consistent, Dunn says.
"His stuff isn't going to blow you away. He doesn't have that," Dunn said. "But his fastball has good movement, he's got a plus changeup, and his breaking ball at times has shown signs of being a solid pitch for him. So with him, we're talking consistency with commanding the fastball and using that breaking ball to help with the changeup."
8. Ryan Harvey
Pos: OF. HT: 6-5. WT: 220. Age: 22.
2006 Totals: .248 AVG., 122 G, 20 HR, 25 2B, 84 RBI, 125 K, 25 BB, .290 OBP.
Acquired: First round of 2003 draft (Dunedin HS – Fla.).
Cubs Farm Director Oneri Fleita says you can sum up Ryan Harvey's 2006 season in one or two sentences.
"It's not how you start, it's how you finish up," Fleita said. "Twenty homers in the Florida State League speaks for itself."
Plagued by minor nicks and bruises periodically throughout the first half at Class-A Daytona, Harvey was hitting below the Mendoza Line before ending on a good note by batting over .300 in the final two months of last season.
Daytona broadcaster Derek Ingram could tell the difference between the first-half Ryan Harvey versus the second half edition. Ingram believes that with the team in a 0-6 hole to open the year, Harvey began to put a lot of pressure on himself to perform and thus started pressing.
Once the All-Star break arrived, Harvey wiped the slate clean and started over. He began to work more with Daytona coaches Richie Zisk, Antonio Grissom and second-half manager Buddy Bailey. The work led to Harvey drawing more walks and cutting back on his strikeouts.
"Working with those three guys, he really started to flourish," said Ingram.
At 6-5, 220 pounds, Harvey is the biggest power threat in the Cubs' farm system, as evidenced by the fact that he slugged four home runs in one game – a Florida State League record – against Clearwater on July 28. He won't ever lead his league in average (let alone in on-base percentage), but the Cubs seem willing to take the thorns so long as Harvey is the rose.
And as impressive as the four-homer performance was, Ingram believes it didn't qualify as Harvey's best of the season.
"His best game in my opinion was about a week before in Game 1 of a doubleheader," Ingram said. "We were down 7-0 after a half-inning, but battled back to put up 14 in the bottom of that inning. During that inning, he had a grand slam and then a three-run double, so he had seven RBIs in one inning. That night in Game 2, he also went deep."
Armed with a cannon for an arm in right field, Harvey contributed with nine assists from the Daytona outfield a season ago. The 22-year-old did some pitching while in his prep career at Dunedin (Fla.) High School, but don't expect him to go that route any time soon – if ever.
7. Scott Moore
Pos: 3B/INF. HT: 6-2. WT: 180. Age: 23.
2006 Totals (Minor League play only): .276 AVG., 133 G, 22 HR, 75 RBI, 127 K, 55 BB, .360 OBP.
Acquired: Trade with Detroit (Feb. 9, 2005).
Those on hand for Scott Moore's performance in the Southern League All-Star Game last July may have been witness to the infielder's coming out party.
Moore finished that hot summer night in Montgomery 3-for-4 with two home runs en route to unanimous All-Star Game MVP honors. For all intents and purposes, he was the best player in the Southern League on that particular night and would go on to hit .276 at Double-A before earning September call-up honors less than two months later.
A left-handed bat, Moore features power to all sides of the field and has fared much better for average the past two seasons since coming over to the Cubs from the Detroit Tigers' farm system in February, 2005.
As with most any power hitter, what concerned Moore's coaches were his strikeout totals. Moore whiffed 126 times in 463 at-bats at West Tenn a season ago, but coaches witnessed the 23-year-old cut back on his strikeout totals while drawing more walks as the season progressed.
West Tenn hitting coach Tom Beyers attributed that to Moore adjusting to the league's top quality pitching.
"A lot of it has to do with experience," Beyers said prior to Moore's All-Star showing. "He's gone through the league at least once. The real prospects are the ones that figure out the league the more the season goes on."
Defensively, Moore committed a career-high 18 errors last season, but manager Pat Listach warned not to read too much into those totals.
"He's saved us more times than not," Listach said last summer.
Moore was taken in the first round of the 2002 draft as a shortstop, but made the move to third base in his first full season with Class A West Michigan of the Midwest League in 2003. With Aramis Ramirez locked up long-term at third base, it's possible that Moore could re-audition this coming season at short, where there's currently not quite as tough an audience.
During the Arizona Fall League last year, he got some reps at short, second base, first and the outfield.
The Cubs are so ecstatic about their most recent first-round draft pick that they invited him to big league Spring Training in his first year with the team.
OK, so that's only part true (Colvin was awarded the invite to big league camp as part of his contract with the organization). Still, Cubs coaches and instructors are nothing if not carried away by what they've seen from the 21-year-old outfielder thus far.
Colvin placed second in the Northwest League in RBIs (53) and third in extra-base hits (29) a season ago, all the while missing the first week of the season after signing just before the June 21 Hawks season opener.
Colvin also led the league in post-season batting average with a .412 (7-for-17) clip in four games, and the Cubs feel he's developing quite nicely.
"He's shown everything you want to see out of him: power to all fields, runs the bases well, plays the outfield – left and center – and his throws are good," Colvin's manager at Boise, Steve McFarland, said last season.
Part of what makes Colvin so interesting is the fact that he was considered the first surprise pick (13th overall) of last year's draft. Yet Baseball America named Colvin the top prospect of the Northwest League for 2006.
While the Cubs pay little to no attention to rankings (and rightfully so), they believe they're dealing with someone who already was one of the most advanced, mature players at his level a season ago.
"He knows how to run the bases, can throw and field, and knows the strike zone," Fleita said of Colvin. "He's got a lot going for him."
Photo attribution: Rapada, Ryu, Moore -- Inside The Ivy/Steve Holley; Harvey -- Daytona Cubs/Tommy Proctor; Colvin -- Pam Davis.