Analyzing the Top 20 Prospects: Part II

Our annual analysis of the top prospects in the Cubs' farm system, as ranked by in the 2008 Prospect Guide, concludes.

Click Here to View Part I

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11. Justin Berg – RHP
VITALS: HT: 6'4". WT: 220. B/T: R/R.
2007 Season: 7-7, 4.95 ERA, 140 IP, 69 K, 69 BB
: "He'll touch 94, 95 (mph). Most sinkerball pitchers throw 85 to 87. He does it at 91, 92 consistently. You can't teach that. When he figures out how to throw more strikes, he's going to be a big league pitcher." – Class AA Tennessee pitching coach Dennis Lewallyn on Berg.

COMMENTS: Berg, 23, has the best sinker of anyone in the system, and coaches like Lewallyn have even compared him to such noted sinkerball pitchers as Arizona ace Brandon Webb. The problem for Berg – much as it was for Webb in his minor league career – is command, or lack thereof. Berg averaged one walk per every two innings a season ago in his first stint at Double-A and also hit 14 batters, prompting manager Pat Listach to give him the nickname "Plunk." Berg did begin to gain more consistency with the sinker after working on mechanics, though, and he used his time in the Arizona Fall League to sharpen up his slider. He could make a push for a Triple-A job this season.

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12. Josh Donaldson – C
VITALS: HT: 6'0". WT: 195. B/T: R/R.
2007 Season: .335 AVG, 53 G, 9 HR, 35 RBI, .460 OBP
: "I really take a lot of pride in my on-base percentage and in not striking out, and in just putting the ball in play. I want to win the game and I feel the best possible way to do that is to get on base and score runs." – Donaldson on his philosophy at the plate.

COMMENTS: Chicago's supplemental first-round draft pick a season ago rewarded the organization by putting together the finest season of any Cubs 2007 draft pick. Donaldson, 22, was solid both at the plate and in the field for Class Low A short-season Boise. Defensively, he threw out 40 percent of opposing runners and led the league with a .990 fielding percentage. At the plate, the Auburn alum was well disciplined, striking out just 34 times. With Geovany Soto expected to surpass his rookie eligibility at the big league level this season, Donaldson figures to become the top catching prospect in the system.

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13. Tony Thomas – 2B
VITALS: HT: 5'10". WT: 180. B/T: R/R.
2007 Season: .296 AVG, 51 G, 5 HR, 39 RBI, .404 OBP
: "He's got a very non-complicated swing and he's made some adjustments with his stance. He hits the ball with good authority. He's under control, pretty selective, and he can dial up on velocity." – Cubs Scouting Director Tim Wilken on Thomas's rookie season at Class Low-A Boise in 2007.

COMMENTS: A third-round pick from Florida State last summer, Thomas, 21, could develop into one of the biggest steals of the draft. In addition to showcasing himself as a solid on-base hitter, he possesses game-changing speed on the base-paths, swiping 28 bags and being thrown out only twice a season ago at Boise in just 46 games. He also showcased some pop with five home runs in 182 at-bats, and the Cubs see him as an extra-base type hitter with the potential to develop some power. Defensively, Thomas has the arm strength to handle second base, but the Cubs are looking for some improvement with the glove.

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14. Mark Holliman – RHP
VITALS: 6'0." WT: 195. B/T: R/R.
2007 Season: 10-11, 3.57 ERA, 161.1 IP, 108 K, 57 BB
: "He doesn't have one outstanding major league pitch, per se. But when he mixes four pretty good pitches in there, it makes him an effective pitcher and I think he can pitch in the big leagues with them." – Class AA pitching coach Dennis Lewallyn on Holliman.

COMMENTS: Holliman, 24, got off to a blazing start at Double-A a season ago only to cool off as the year progressed – possibly the result of leading the system in innings pitched. As a result, strengthening his endurance is his biggest goal heading into the season. A big part of his success early last summer (which included a seven-inning no-hitter) was that he simply threw strikes and limited his walks. One downside, according to Lewallyn, is Holliman sometimes gets complacent and waits until he's in a jam to begin throwing as hard as he can. On a positive note, Holliman pitched more effectively with his two-seam fastball last year and continued to develop his changeup and curveball.

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15. Larry Suarez – RHP
VITALS: HT: 6'4". WT: 245. B/T: R/R.
2007 Season: 1-4, 5.31 ERA, 40.2 IP, 35 K, 26 BB
: "I would never compare him to (Carlos) Zambrano because Zambrano was a much better athlete at the same stage in his career, but there is a lot of similarity between the two." – Cubs Vice President of Player Personnel Oneri Fleita on the similarities between Suarez and Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano.

COMMENTS: It isn't often that scouts – let alone a club's Farm Director – compare a young Latin American arm like Suarez's to the likes of Zambrano. But the Cubs seem to see some parallelism between their No. 1 starter and the 6-foor-4, 245-pound Suarez, 18, who Fleita described as "the best pitcher in Latin America" when the club signed him in 2006. Suarez, like Zambrano, has a power arm, having topped out at 93 MPH last summer in the Arizona Rookie League. He complements his fastball with a curveball and changeup that are still in the early developmental stages.

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16. Mitch Atkins – RHP
VITALS: HT: 6'3". WT: 220. B/T: R/R.
2007 Season: 9-8, 3.57 ERA, 141 IP, 106 K, 42 BB
: "He's quiet, but he's intense and he listens well ... He's a good athlete and shows the ability to do what we need him to do in the bullpen sessions between starts. He's just got to consistently do it in the game." – Class AA Tennessee pitching coach Dennis Lewallyn on Atkins.

COMMENTS: Atkins, 22, has to be one of the most overlooked prospects in the Cubs' chain. He is seldom mentioned as trade bait, let alone thought of as an "untouchable" prospect. Instead, all he's done since being drafted out of high school in the seventh round in 2004 is win and advance a level each year. Atkins followed a strong 2006 campaign with another solid showing in '07, earning his first in-season promotion in the process. He struggled following the move from Single A to Double-A, where he began to overthrow and over-think. This spring in camp, Atkins has been working on the development of a cut-fastball to mix in with the plus two-seamer he uses to get groundouts.

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17. James Russell – LHP
VITALS: HT: 6'4". WT: 205. B/T: L/L.
2007 Season: 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 9 IP, 11 K, 4 BB
: "He's got good delivery, good arm action, pretty good arm speed, and has good body control and balance to his delivery." – Cubs Scouting Director Tim Wilken on Russell.

COMMENTS: The Cubs felt that the addition of Russell, 22, and right-hander Ryan Acosta on day two of the draft last year gave some balance to what was an offense-oriented draft. Russell, a 14th-round draft pick from Texas, features a fastball (88-92 MPH), curveball and changeup in his repertoire. His changeup is his out-pitch while his curveball is the pitch the Cubs feel needs the most attention right now.

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18. Rocky Roquet – RHP
VITALS: HT: 6'2". WT: 210. B/T: R/R.
2007 Season: 5-0, 2.31 ERA, 70.2 IP, 80 K, 30 BB
: "He's the type of guy that's going to come after you ... the type of guy that you definitely want on the mound in the ninth inning. He's got it together and he's composed. He's got one heck of a fastball and isn't afraid to use it." – Matt Canepa, Roquet's college teammate at Cal Poly.

COMMENTS: Roquet, 25, may have a few years age-wise on many Cubs pitching prospects, but his arm is still young, having only pitched the past four years after beginning his college career as an outfielder. A year ago, Roquet appeared at three different levels in the system, beginning in Peoria and ending in Double-A. He was solid all throughout the year in relief and then received an invitation to the Arizona Fall League, where he was shut down with a hernia injury that required surgery. As a result, the Cubs could take it slow with Roquet early in 2008. He has a power arm with a fastball that has topped out in the upper 90s, and was looking for more consistency with his slider and changeup in the Fall League.

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19. Ryan Harvey – OF
VITALS: HT: 6'5". WT: 240. B/T: R/R.
2007 Season: .237 AVG, 63 G, 11 HR, 36 RBI, .262 OBP
: "You never know. Right now, you can't teach power and he (showed) some flashes in the last couple of months. If we can keep the guy healthy, he's got a chance to hit and hit with a lot of power. (But) you never know." – Cubs Vice President of Player Personnel Oneri Fleita on the possibility of Harvey making a switch to pitcher.

COMMENTS: Because of his past as a pitcher for his prep team in Dunedin, Fla., there is a chance the Cubs could attempt to convert Harvey, 23, to pitcher if his struggles at the plate persist. He missed the first month of 2007 with a hamstring problem and never seemed to recover. While Cubs Minor League Hitting Coordinator Dave Keller reported that Harvey had cleaned up his mechanics and was handling the strike zone better after rehabbing in Extended Spring Training, any would-be adjustments were not on display once he returned to Class A Daytona for a repeat stint in the Florida State League. Harvey put up virtually the same numbers as he did in his disappointing 2006 season, only in fewer games. The sixth overall pick from the 2003 draft continues to be a disappointment for first-round standards, and some (including a few of his teammates) have even begun questioning his work ethic. This could be a make-or-break year for him offensively.

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20. Mark Pawelek – LHP
VITALS: HT: 6'3". WT: 190. B/T: L/L.
2007 Season: 1-2, 8.37 ERA, 17.2 IP, 14 K, 15 BB
: "With Mark, it's all about throwing strikes and repeating his delivery. ... Once he does that, he's going to advance quickly because his stuff is overpowering." – Cubs Assistant General Manager Randy Bush on Pawelek.

COMMENTS: Anything that could go wrong for Pawelek has gone wrong since he was selected by the Cubs in the first round of the 2005 draft. Despite arriving to camp in good physical shape to open the 2007 season, Pawelek was sent back to Extended Spring Training in early April after only two appearances with Peoria. While in Arizona, he continued to work on mechanics and was ready to ship out to Boise for a second stint in the Northwest League in June before a freak accident caused him to fracture his non-throwing arm. Pawelek, 21, spent the entire past off-season working on his command and says he was "thrilled" with the progress. He'd prefer a return to starting after making only one start a season ago, and the Cubs would probably be doing his arm a favor by not sending him back to the frigid Midwest League to open the season.

Photo attribution: Berg, Donaldson, Atkins, Roquet, Harvey -- STAFF/PAM DAVIS; Thomas -- AP Photo/Steve Cannon; Holliman, Suarez, Pawelek -- STAFF PHOTOS; Russell -- INSIDE TEXAS MAGAZINE/WILL GALLAGHER.

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