Where Do Cubs Prospects Rank?

If someone were to rank the top 300 prospects in all of baseball, how many would you guess are from the Chicago Cubs?

It depends on who is ranking that list certainly, but a generous estimate might be anywhere from eight to 12 players. Actually, the exact number of Cubs players to make one such list—the Scout.com Top 300, part of the 2009 Scout.com Baseball Prospects Guide—is right in the middle: 10 players.

For this particular list, InsideTheIvy.com ranked the top 20 overall prospects in the Cubs' system, but it should be noted that we had no say in determining how many of these players would actually be ranked as top 300 prospects across the landscape of all 30 clubs. That was a decision reached by our editors, who did a thorough and exhaustive job of researching and ranking their top 300 list as usual.

As for the 10 Cubs players that were ranked in the top 300, it will come as no surprise to anyone that the consensus top prospect in the Cubs' system entering 2009 is 19-year-old third baseman Josh Vitters.

The Cubs' first-round (third overall) draft pick from Cypress (Calif.) High School in 2007 not only batted .328 with 32 extra-base hits and 37 RBI a season ago at short-season Class Low-A Boise, he had the Northwest League's longest hitting streak of the season at 25 consecutive games.

While Vitters is the clear-cut top prospect among Cubs players, he's also considered one of the top prospects in all of baseball and placed 24th overall in the Scout.com top 300. In case anyone is curious about the company Vitters keeps in these rankings, he is ranked one spot ahead of Oakland A's pitching prospect Trevor Cahill and one spot behind Angels pitching prospect Jordan Walden.

After Vitters, the second highest-ranked Cubs prospect in the Scout.com top 300 list is right-hander Jeff Samardzija, the club's consensus top pitching prospect. Samardzija had an impressive 2008 season, going from Class AA Tennessee to the major leagues and earning a spot on Chicago's post-season roster.

A fifth-round Cubs draft pick from Notre Dame (where he was a two-sport athlete in baseball and football) in 2006, Samardzija won seven starts in the minor leagues last season and was 1-0 with a 2.28 ERA from the Chicago bullpen in 26 appearances. He'll be competing for a spot on the club's 25-man roster this spring, either as a back-end starter or a long reliever, but it would not be a surprise to see the 24-year-old Samardzija open the year at Class AAA Iowa.

Samardzija placed 52nd overall in the Scout.com top 300, one spot ahead of A's pitching prospect Gio Gonzalez and one spot behind another A's pitching prospect, Michael Ynoa.

After Vitters and Samardzija, the list of Cubs prospects in the top 300 begins to taper off for a while. Last year's first-round pick, right-hander Andrew Cashner of TCU, is the only other Cubs prospect that cracks the top 150 spots in Scout's list. Cashner checks in at No. 93 overall and is the last Cubs prospect to appear on the list until Welington Castillo, the club's top catching prospect, at No. 169.

Six Cubs prospects round out the Scout.com top 300: right-hander Jay Jackson (No. 192), shortstop Ryan Flaherty (No. 207), right-hander Mitch Atkins (No. 226), outfielder Tyler Colvin (No. 230), right-hander Kevin Hart (No. 258) and first baseman-outfielder Micah Hoffpauir (No. 264).

Jackson and Flaherty joined the Cubs last year as part of the 2008 draft class; Atkins was a seventh-round Cubs draft pick as a prep standout in North Carolina in 2004; Colvin was the club's first-round draft pick in 2006 from Clemson; and Hoffpauir was a 13th-round draft pick from Lamar University in 2002.

Among all major league clubs, the total number of Cubs prospects on the top 300 list, in terms of volume, rank somewhere in the middle. Chicago is one of seven teams with exactly 10 players in the Scout.com top 300. Twelve clubs have fewer than 10 players ranked in the top 300; 11 clubs have more than 10.

The team with the most number of players listed in the top 300 is the Texas Rangers with 15. The team with the fewest number of players in the top 300 is the Cubs' National League Central Division rival, the Houston Astros. Houston has just four players in the Scout.com top 300.

For National League Central Division purposes, only the Cincinnati Reds have more players ranked in the top 300 than the Cubs with 12 players total. The St. Louis Cardinals placed 10 players on the top 300, while the Milwaukee Brewers have nine. The Pittsburgh Pirates placed eight players on the list.

EDITOR'S NOTE: If you are not an annual subscriber, or did not purchase an annual subscription in time to receive the 2009 Scout.com Baseball Prospects Guide, you may purchase the guide wherever magazines are sold.

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