Anthony Rizzo, Josh Vitters: Who's Hot, Who's Not Among Cubs Prospects Part 2

Eli GreenspanSenior Analyst IApril 22, 2012

Anthony Rizzo, Josh Vitters: Who's Hot, Who's Not Among Cubs Prospects Part 2

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    We are running it back with the "Who's Hot, Who's Not" column on the Cubs' top prospects. It is important to keep an eye on Chicago when considering these guys' options. 

    For example, a guy like Welington Castillo is not only blocked by Geovany Soto, but he is also blocked by a hot-hitting Steve Clevenger. Clevenger is the feel-good story for the Cubs, rising out of relative obscurity into a great game manager and backup for the club.

    The recent trade of Marlon Byrd raises questions on when one of the Triple-A prospects will reach Chicago, and who.

    Let's take a look at who's doing well in the first month of the season.  

HOT: Anthony Rizzo

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    Through 16 games, Rizzo is hitting .367 with seven home runs and 19 RBIs. He is still striking out more than he walks (15:3 K:BB), but through 65 at-bats he owns a .406 OBP and 1.113 OPS. 

    He is destined to get an opportunity with the Cubs sometime soon, but I believe the Cubs are waiting for him to develop so when they do call him up, he will be here to stay.

HOT: Austin Kirk

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    After a mediocre year with the Peoria Chiefs in 2011, Austin Kirk is off to a good start with High-A Daytona. The former third-round pick out of high school is 1-0 with a 1.54 ERA in four appearances (three starts), and has gone seven innings in back-to-back starts, allowing just two earned runs. 

    Kirk has not been lights-out at any level in the organization, but last year was his first year pitching a full season in one place. Let's hope he can get in a rhythm so we can follow his 2012 progress. 

HOT: Adrian Cardenas

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    Adrian Cardenas was claimed off waivers from the Athletics prior to the season, and is off to a great start in Triple-A. He is hitting .333 through 57 at-bats with a home run and nine RBIs. He also has walked four times to three strikeouts. 

    Cardenas is in Triple-A because of the Cubs' influx of middle infielders. But make no mistake, he will be in Chicago at some point this season. 

NOT: Hayden Simpson

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    The former first-round pick is off to a rocky start in Class-A Daytona, and considering he has only one win under his belt in his professional career, it is safe to assume the 23-year-old still has some hurdles to jump.

    Hayden Simpson is just 1-12 with an obnoxiously high ERA through two professional seasons. He battled some form of mono after he was drafted, forcing him to miss significant time, but the Cubs thought they had a steal when they took him 16th overall, and so far it is looking to be the opposite.

    So far this season, Simpson is 0-2 with a 7.11 ERA and three strikeouts. It looked like the club was building his arm strength back up, but he didn't make it past the third inning in his most recent start.

    There's always cause for hope, but he needs to turn it around and fast.  

NOT: Josh Vitters

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    After a hot start, and being labeled "HOT" in the first edition of this column, Vitters has cooled dramatically over the past ten games.

    Through his last ten games, Vitters is hitting just .200 with a .237 OBP. I would not say he is at risk of being sent down, but it appears he will spend more time at Triple-A Iowa this year than Chicago.   

    He is hitting just .269 with no home runs and eight RBIs through 52 at-bats. His K:BB ratio is 6:5 so he is showing better patience, but the lack of power is certainly worth monitoring as he is projected to put up 10-20 home runs this year and beyond.

NOT: Travis Wood

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    Travis Wood was bumped from the Cubs rotation in Spring Training and has not been able to find his rhythm in Triple-A. While he is 1-1 through 17.1 innings, he's surrendered at least three runs in each start, including home runs in back-to-back outings. 

    While this may seem insignificant, Wood is no guarantee to join the Cubs. He's reached a plateau and has not performed as well as he did in 2010, when he was still in Triple-A.

    Through 39 appearances, 35 starts at the MLB level, he is 11-10 with a 4.18 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. He has the talent to pitch at the big league level, but he has yet to be consistent enough.  

    At least he is getting his innings in, and it is very possible for him to settle in when the weather in Iowa warms up a bit. 

Newest Addition: Michael Bowden

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    Michael Bowden was a top prospect compared to the likes of Clay Buchholz not too far back. He has since been converted to reliever, which is just what the Cubs need, and a change of scenery with familiar faces in the front office may be just what he needs.

    He has not even struggled as a pitcher. In 2011 at Triple-A Pawtucket, he went 3-3 in 41 games with 16 saves and a 2.73 ERA. And in 2010, as a spot starter for Triple-A, he went 6-4 with a 3.66 ERA in 31 appearances, 16 of them starts.

    The Cubs are definitely going to lean on him and he has the potential to be an effective setup man or middle reliever for the club.