When Keith Law released his organizational rankings for minor league systems, the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox were rated in the bottom ten. Both Chicago teams are going into a rebuilding phase, and many fans have begun to focus on the players coming up through the system that will be able to help their team win in the near future.
This article will take a look at the top eight prospects coming up that Chicago fans could see in the near future. The top four prospects for the White Sox and Cubs will be listed and then ranked from No. 8 down to the best prospect coming up in the Chicago organizations.
1. Anthony Rizzo
2. Brett Jackson
3. Trey McNutt
4. Javier Baez
Chicago White Sox
1. Addison Reed
2. Nestor Molina
3. Trayce Thompson
4. Simon Castro
White Sox minor leaguer Simon Castro
The eighth spot goes to Simon Castro, the 6'5" flamethrower who came over to the South Side in the Carlos Quentin trade this offseason.
Castro, who has the ability to touch 99 mph on the radar gun, is an intimidating presence on the mound. He has seen some action this spring for the White Sox, but has struggled during his time. He has pitched to the tune of a 13.50 ERA this spring.
However, don't let the spring stats fool you. Castro has the makings of a future rotation member for the Sox. His body has the ability to take the stress of a 200 inning work load which is not something all pitchers are able to handle nowadays. The verdict is still out on whether he will remain a starter, as some have discussed his live arm being used in the closer role as well.
Castro is a player that Chicago fans should keep their eye on this season. He can strike batters out in the bunches when he is on and has the ability to win games.
The seventh spot on our list goes to up-and-coming Sox outfield prospect Trayce Thompson. If this isn't a name you've heard before then that goes to show what the White Sox system has to offer.
However, don't let the lack of quality prospects fool you Sox fans, Thompson could very well be a big contributor for the club in a few years. Thompson is still only 21 years old and with a 6'3" build he has the ability to hit the ball around the yard. Despite a low .241 average last season at Single-A Kannapolis, Thompson clubbed 24 HR's and 36 doubles while driving in 87 RBI's. Not a bad season if you ask me.
Thompson has gotten a few at bats this spring with the big league club and has a .300 average to go along with a couple stolen bases.
Despite his impressive year at the plate last season, Thompson is a free swinger who racked up 172 K's in his 519 at bats and if there is one thing Adam Dunn showed us last year, it's that White Sox fans do not like to see their big hitter striking out repeatedly.
Thompson could be hurt by the weak farm system the White Sox possess. He is still a few years away from being able to handle the rigors of an everyday MLB spot which means the Sox need to stay patient with this prospect and not rush him through the system.
No. 6 goes to a guy that White Sox fans heard a lot about this offseason: Nestor Molina. Molina came over to the South Side in a trade for former closer Sergio Santos. When this trade occurred many fans, including myself, stopped and asked, "We traded him for who!?"
Well, as much as I would like to say this guy is the real-deal steal of the offseason for the White Sox, that isn't quite the case.
Molina is a former infielder turned pitcher, just like Santos was before he took the step onto the mound. Molina has shown great control thus far and last year recorded 148 strikeouts and only 16 walks while pitching for the Blue Jays minor league system. He held opposing hitters to a .234 average and also finished with a nice 2.21 ERA.
Molina has thrown just over five innings this spring for the Sox and has an 8.44 ERA. The kid has the potential to be big for the White Sox.
However, his stamina is a major concern. If the Sox keep him as a starter they will really need to get his arm strength up. He topped out at 130.1 innings last year, and if he expects to be a member of a big league rotation he will need to be able to handle close to at least 70 more innings in a year.
Many Sox fans will be following this kid closely this season, and they may have the opportunity to watch him firsthand when September call-ups come around.
Hopefully Molina blossoms into a great steal for the White Sox, especially since Santos had finally seemed to come into his own last season as an inexpensive closer for the South Siders.
Chicago Cubs pitching prospect Trey McNutt
Coming in at No. 5 is our first Chicago Cub on the list, Trey McNutt.
When looking at McNutt's stats throughout his minor league career thus far, it is very easy not to be blown away. A 5-6 record at AA Tennessee last year to go along with a 4.55 ERA does not usually scream future rotation member to anyone.
However, the Cubs have very high regard for the big right-hander. The Cubs did everything they could to hold onto McNutt in the trade that brought Matt Garza to Chicago and also in the compensation package for now President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein.
McNutt has seen extremely limited action in big league camp this season and projects to be spending most of his 2012 season back at Double A Tennessee. However, if the Cubs continue to discuss dealing one or more of their pitchers, it is not totally out of the question to see McNutt spend some time with the big league club this year.
McNutt has a powerful fastball which is complimented by a devastating curve that he has used to his advantage thus far in his career to get hitters out with.
Along with ranking on our list, Baez is also the first in this article who ranked on Keith Law's Top 100 Prospects list for 2012, coming in at No. 95.
There is not as much to say about Baez as the rest of the prospects on this list as he just came onto the scene in 2011. Taken by the Cubs with the ninth overall pick in last years draft, the Cubs selected a player who has the versatility to play close to any infield position.
With Starlin Castro as the shortstop of the future for the Cubbies, expect to see the Cubs work Baez at either third or second base. This could depend on the development of third base prospect Josh Vitters as well.
Baez has been projected to be an above-average defender who can also hit for some power. In very limited action in 2011, he was able to hit .333. The Cubs remain hopeful that the 19 year old Baez can continue his development in his first full season in the minors in 2012.
White Sox pitching prospect Addison Reed
At No. 3 comes our last White Sox player to be listed, pitching prospect Addison Reed.
Addison Reed's name has been thrown around a lot this spring as he is in the running for the closer position for the White Sox. Reed is the lone prospect for the White Sox who made it into Law's Top 100, being rated at No. 97.
Throughout his career thus far, Reed has been groomed as both a starter and reliever. However it seems the latter will be his role on a big league team. Reed has a live arm, hitting 98 on the radar gun while mixing in a dirty slider that has the ability to keep hitters off balance.
Reed got his first taste of the show last season when he threw 7.1 innings with the White Sox. He had a 3.68 ERA which might not impress many.
Here is what should impress you: 12 strike outs in those 7.1 innings pitched. He is continuing that trait this spring with nine K's in 7.2 innings pitched.
Reed might not win the closer job outright in spring, but he will still be a fixture in the White Sox bullpen this upcoming season. The future looks bright for the young Reed who could very well be the White Sox closer for years to come.
Chicago Cubs outfield prospect Brett Jackson
Coming in second on the list is Cubs center field prospect Brett Jackson.
Early reports on Jackson have Cubs fans salivating to see what he can do for them at the big league level. However, they will have to wait a bit longer as he was demoted to AAA this past week from the clubs big league roster at spring training.
Jackson came in at No. 89 on Law's Top 100, which may not seem very promising to some, but this kid has five tool talent that could make him a staple in Wrigley Field for years to come.
Jackson spent 2011 working his way through the minors and made it to AAA for a brief time. Overall, he hit .274 with 20 HR's and 58 driven in. He also was able to swipe 21 bags throughout the season.
Jackson is highly regarded by the Cubs front office and they are doing everything they can to not rush his development. Given the right coaching and tools this kid could turn out to be an amazing talent for the Cubs. If he is rushed he could also go down the same path as another former can't-miss center field prospect, dare I say it, Corey Patterson.
Don't worry though Cubs fans. I'm sure one Patterson incident was enough to teach them not to rush their top prospects.
Chicago Cubs top prospect Anthony Rizzo
And now, the one you've all been waiting for, the best prospect on our list is none other than Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Let's be serious, did anyone really expect anyone else?
Rizzo is the talk of the town among many Cubs fans as he was brought over this summer in a trade that sent hard-throwing righty Andrew Cashner to the San Diego Padres.
It was just one year ago that Rizzo was the main chip in the deal that got the Boston Red Sox their All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. And want to know the thing both of those trades have in common? They were orchestrated by current Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein.
So, if one of the first things Epstein did as President of Baseball Operations for the Cubs was to get GM Jed Hoyer to acquire a kid Epstein himself traded one year earlier, that has to say something for Rizzo wouldn't you say?
Well, it should as Rizzo absolutely raked in his one season in the Padres minor league system. Rizzo hit to the tune of a .331 average, 26 home runs, 34 doubles and an astonishing 101 RBI's. Not at all a bad season.
Now I know what some of you are thinking: what about that .141 average he displayed in 128 AB's for the Padres big league team at the end of the season? Rizzo was the highest-rated Chicago prospect in the Top 100 this year coming in at No. 36 and it is with good reason. Rizzo is projected to be an above-average first baseman offensively.
The Padres were able to trade Rizzo due to the acquisition of Yonder Alonso from Cincinnati and could not turn down acquiring an arm like the one they received in Cashner.
Cubs fans should be ecstatic for the day when Rizzo bursts onto the scene in Wrigleyville. However, just like Brett Jackson fans will need to wait as the Cubs are going to ride with Bryan Lahair as their first baseman to start the season. Don't be surprised to see Rizzo make his Wrigley debut this season though, whether it be during September call-ups or before.
Rizzo represents what Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer hope will be the future direction the Cubs take. I for one think Rizzo will be a great piece on the North Side for years to come.
Despite neither organization being praised for its minor league system, both the Cubs and White Sox have some intriguing players hoping to make their marks on Chicago baseball in the near future.
The Cubs have some power hitting position players while the White Sox hope their flamethrowing pitching prospects can solidify an often shaky pitching staff.
It is hard to say what any of these prospects will ultimately contribute to their respected teams, but it sure will be interesting to see.
This season has the potential to be frustrating to both North and South Side fans as both teams have their weaknesses and neither are ranked close to the top in their divisions. However, don't worry, fans. Help should be on its way shortly!