Best of the Rest

Twenty Cubs prospects were all we could jam into the annual Prospect Guide. Find out who just missed our Top 20 prospect rankings heading into 2008.

Josh Lansford – 3B
HT: 6'2". WT: 220: B/T: R/R.

Lansford, 23, did an impressive job of cleaning up his plate mechanics a season ago, striking out just 33 times in 322 at-bats. In order to stay at third base, he'll need to develop more power (eight career home runs in over 550 at-bats). The Cubs could decide to skip him a level and see how he handles Double-A pitching this spring.

Ryan Acosta – RHP
HT: 6'2. WT: 170. B/T: R/R.

Acosta, 19, is still a newcomer to pitching after spending most of his prep career as an infielder. Because of this, he's had to quickly learn how to pitch instead of throw. He regularly pitches 88-92 MPH with his fastball and has topped out at 93 MPH. He tinkers with both a curveball and slider for breaking pitches and throws a changeup and lesser-used split-finger fastball. He should begin 2008 in full-season ball.

Jose Ascanio – RHP
HT: 6'1". WT: 170. B/T: R/R.

Ascanio, 22, pitches off his fastball, which Cubs Scouting Director Tim Wilken says is anywhere from 92-97 MPH, and works in an average slider and a plus changeup. Because of his build, Ascanio has drawn some comparisons to former Cubs pitcher Juan Cruz. Chicago plans to use him in relief – at least for now.

Darwin Barney – SS
HT: 5'10. WT: 175. B/T: R/R.

Barney, 22, was a catalyst on the Oregon State Beavers' back-to-back NCAA Championship clubs and didn't slow down upon arriving in pro ball. He went 5-for-5 in only his second pro start in the Arizona League and then batted .273 in 44 games with Class A Peoria. Barney is a bit small, and everything he does with the bat is all for contact and average. He doesn't strike out a lot, but he doesn't draw very many walks, either. He does flash some speed and all-around quickness, which enables him to get to groundballs at short and makes him a smart base-runner.

Kyler Burke – OF
HT: 6'3". WT: 205. B/T: L/L.

Burke, who turns 20 in April, came to the Cubs from San Diego last year in the trade for Michael Barrett. After struggling with the Padres' Class A team in the Midwest League, Chicago sent him to short-season ball at Boise to instill some confidence. He responded by going hitless in his first 20-plus at-bats, but closed the season with a .254 average and 10 home runs. He then headed to the Instructional League, where the organization worked with Burke on staying more on top of his swing, and on staying grounded as he had a tendency to stand on his toes during some at-bats. He'll be ready to give the Midwest League another crack this season.

Alex Maestri – RHP
HT: 5'11. WT: 180. B/T: R/R.

Nicknamed the "Italian Stallion," the first Italian pitcher ever signed by a major league club excelled in the bullpen a season ago at Peoria, where he posted a skeletal 1.19 ERA in 44 appearances. His fastball can reach 93 MPH and he has gained some velocity since he was signed in 2006, according to former Cubs Minor League Pitching Coordinator Alan Dunn. Maestri, 22, complements his fastball with a plus slider that he touts as his "go-to pitch," and rounds out his repertoire with a modest changeup. His ability to throw strikes has been his biggest asset.

Billy Petrick – RHP
HT: 6'6". WT: 240. B/T: R/R.

Petrick, who turns 24 in April, still has some upside left after injuries, but his future will be in the bullpen. In his first season in relief a year ago, the product of Morris, Ill., started out in Class High-A before making his major league debut in the summer. But he began to tire down the stretch, and rather than receiving a September call-up for his hard work and overly solid results, he was shut down for the year in late August – by which point he was throwing batting practice and had lost several ticks on his velocity. After visiting with an orthopedic surgeon in the off-season, Petrick received some good news on his shoulder and will begin 2008 in Triple-A.

Jake Fox – INF/OF
HT: 6'0". WT: 210. B/T: R/R.

Last year was the first time in his career that Fox, 25, got the bulk of his starts away from behind the plate, and it appears the Cubs are willing to concede that he won't ever develop into a full-time catcher for them at the big league level. Fox's biggest strength has always been his bat anyway, and he had another solid season at the plate in 2007, all the while making his big league debut. His future with the Cubs is likely as a fourth outfielder and/or a late-inning bat off the bench.

Jeremy Papelbon – LHP
HT: 6'1". WT: 205.

Unlike his older brother, Jonathan, Papelbon isn't overpowering. Rather than reaching back for an upper 90s fastball, the younger Papelbon, 24, instead relies on the command and placement of his pitches to get hitters out. His fastball often sets in the mid to upper 80s, and he features a split-finger and forkball that he's able to use to induce groundball outs. While he spent most of last season in the bullpen, Papelbon closed the year with seven starts in the month of August and at last check wasn't sure whether he'd begin 2008 in the rotation or bullpen.

Steve Clevenger – C/INF
HT: 6'0". WT: 185. B/T: L/R.

Clevenger, who turns 22 in April, can play most every infield position now that he's added catcher and first base to his resume. His swing is effective and very non-complicated. After a strong performance a season ago at Daytona, the Cubs should have no reservations about giving him a look at Double-A to start 2008.

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