Cubs Prospects Swinging Hot Bats

May has been a good month for many Chicago Cubs prospects and position players. Some hitters have continued to stay hot while others have picked up following a rough first month.

Jake Fox, for instance, continues to have Xbox numbers for Class AAA Iowa. After batting .429 in April, the 26-year-old veteran of the Cubs' farm system has added five home runs and 19 RBI this month and leads the system and the Pacific Coast League in batting average, homers and RBI. Moreover, he has 16 walks for a .513 on-base percentage and a combined OPS (on-base plus slugging) of 1.467.

Fox has always been a solid hitter, but even these numbers are surprising. He had hit safely in 11 straight games following Tuesday's 3-2 win at Salt Lake and used a four-RBI night on Monday to reach 50 RBI through his first 34 games. He is now hitting .431 with 17 home runs in 35 games.

Dating back to the start of last season, he has 48 home runs and 155 RBI.

On Monday, Fox suited up behind the plate for the first time in almost two years. That seems to have created some buzz about whether the Cubs may be trying to showcase Fox's versatility for a possible trade. It's just as possible that the Iowa Cubs wanted to give primary catcher Chris Robinson a night off and felt more comfortable keeping Fox's hot bat in the lineup rather than passing off the baton to anemic-hitting veteran Mark Johnson, who has struggled in limited time.

Speaking of Robinson, he has been a pleasant surprise as Iowa's primary catcher after playing in just 49 games a season ago at Class AA Tennessee, where he batted .214. Robinson, acquired in a trade with the Detroit Tigers in 2006 for INF Neifi Perez, is batting .400 for the month and .389 overall. He has nine doubles and 21 RBI for the year, and recently hit his first home run of the season.

Iowa isn't the only place where you'll find a pleasant surprise.

Second baseman Tony Thomas has had quite the fast start at Tennessee, where he's followed up a strong first month with a .365 average in 14 games in May.

The most surprising aspect of Thomas' hot start has been his power. He already has a career-high in home runs following his eighth of the season on Monday at Chattanooga.

Thomas, the Cubs' third-round draft pick from Florida State in 2007, is batting .350 overall following an up-and-down season at Class High-A Daytona, and a tough showing in Hawaii Winter Baseball.

Further down the chain at Daytona, Starlin Castro made an incredible jump from the Arizona Rookie League a season ago to High-A to start 2009 and has begun to silence some critics who thought the move might be too much for the 19-year-old shortstop to handle.

Castro is batting .410 with two home runs, a triple and five doubles through 17 games for the month. He picked up two hits in Daytona's 8-3 win at Dunedin Tuesday to extend his hit streak to eight straight games. He is currently batting .302 – his highest mark in over a month.

Still, the most talked about Cubs prospect has to be third baseman Josh Vitters, and not just because is the club's consensus No. 1 overall prospect. Of late, he has been hotter than a Laredo parking lot (to borrow a line from trusty old Dan Rather), batting .435 for the month through 18 games.

Vitters collected three hits and clubbed his seventh home run in Peoria's 9-1 win at Beloit Tuesday, marking the fifth straight game he totaled three hits and the fourth straight game he homered in.

He has fared well all season as his average has not dipped below .300 in well over a month. But the power numbers have started to come around this month, as six of his seven homers have come in May. His three walks for the entire year, while alarming, haven't hurt his overall play, either. He's batting .371 overall with a .400 on-base percentage through 35 games – more than anything the Cubs could have asked.


Statistics updated through May 19.

Josh Vitters.435186915306141.219
Jake Fox.434155316235191.380
Starlin Castro.410176112252121.042
Chris Robinson.40012508201120.974
Darwin Barney.38514528200100.929
Doug Deeds.377155311202101.092
Josh Harrison.3731875928180.915
Tony Thomas.3651452919451.199
Robinson Chirinos.357828810371.205
Steve Clevenger.34892328040.943

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