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Chicago Cubs: 7 Prospects Who Could Make the 2013 Roster

Mitch PetanickCorrespondent IDecember 5, 2012

Chicago Cubs: 7 Prospects Who Could Make the 2013 Roster

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    As we move into day three of the Winter Meetings, all has been quiet on the Chicago Cubs front so far.

    The Cubs began addressing their issues in early November, starting with the rotation, and signed Scott Baker and Scott Feldman. More recently, the bullpen was addressed, and the team landed the heavily lauded Japanese closer Kyuji Fujikawa. Even though the Cubs have taken steps in the right direction, holes still remain, most noticeably in the outfield and at third base.

    There have been many rumors about how the Cubs may address these holes going forward, from free agent signings to the trading of current players Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Marmol, but up to this point nothing has materialized.

    That doesn’t mean the Cubs won’t be able to address their needs during the Winter Meetings or the weeks succeeding. There is still time.

    However, just in case the Cubs don’t manage to land any free agent help and their trade markets dry up, here are a list of prospects that may be able to make the roster in 2013 and help fill some of the holes in Chicago.

Josh Vitters

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    As the No. 3 pick of the 2007 draft, many had written off Vitters as a bust until he seemed to turn the corner in 2011.

    2011 was Vitters’ breakout year as he hit .283 with 14 home runs.

    He followed a solid 2011 with another very impressive campaign in Triple-A where he hit .304 with 17 home runs. For his efforts, he was called up to the big league team where he looked over-matched at times. He struck out in 33 of his 99 major league at-bats which was ultimately a result of poor pitch recognition.  

    However, it should be noted that not everyone that gets called up to the bigs in August has success like Shane Spencer did.

    The kid still has ridiculous offensive skills. He generates tons of bat speed and has a sweet, smooth compact swing. He projects to hit 25-30 home runs once he makes Wrigley Field his permanent home, which could be as early as 2013.     

Matt Szczur

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    The Speedy outfielder doesn’t hit for much power, but makes up for it with stellar defense and what he can do on the base paths. In 113 games split between Single and Double-A last year, he accumulated 42 stolen bases.

    When reviewing the video on Szczur, I couldn’t help but notice how his front foot opens up when he plants it during the swing. You can see it clearly when the video slows his swing down. This may not seem like a big deal, but it will cause him to open his hips early, which will hurt his power and also make him vulnerable to off-speed pitches.

    Unless he straightens this out, I don’t see him ever being a .300 hitter. It's not difficult to fix, so it shouldn't be much of an issue if he works on it.

    Szczur will probably begin the 2013 season in Double-A, and don’t be surprised if he is called up sometime in mid-2013. His tools and skill set may be hard to ignore for too long.

Junior Lake

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    When you read a scouting report and a player’s arm is compared to Shawon Dunston it’s hard to believe. It’s an eye opening comparison.

    Like Dunston, Lake’s natural position is shortstop. However, with Starlin Castro locked in place, there’s a good chance that when Lake gets called up, it will be at another position.

    He is still considered a raw talent, but has a cannon for an arm, good power, great speed and excellent athleticism. The Cubs were giving him some time in the outfield during winter ball, so that could be a potential landing spot for Lake in the future. With his strong arm, he could also eventually end up at third base.

Brett Jackson

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    Brett Jackson is as close as a lock to be with the Cubs at the start of the season as anyone on this list so far.

    With the outfield question marks surrounding the Cubs, it is likely that Jackson will compete for a starting role in 2013. In fact, unless there are changes coming for the team, he may already have a starting job.

    Jackson got called up to the bigs in 2012 and didn’t do much. However, he did get about as much experience at the major league level as a player can get and still be considered a prospect. He is currently the most major league ready position player in the Cubs' farm system.

    Add in the fact that he can play any outfield position, and brings 20-20 potential to the table, barring an awful spring, Jackson will be with the club when spring training breaks.

Trey McNutt

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    McNutt has had what many would consider a roller coaster career thus far. He has great stuff, but after looking like a slam dunk prospect in his first full professional season, he hasn’t been able to stay consistent.

    Due to his lack of consistency, he was moved to a bullpen role in 2012. While this may be looked on as a step backwards for most pitchers, McNutt may find it to be his backdoor entrance to the show.

    One major area of concern for the Cubs in 2013 is their bullpen. With McNutt’s power breaking ball and mid-90s fastball, it may not be long before the Cubs are calling for Trey to bolster the bullpen in 2013.  

The Sleepers

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    The Cubs also have two pitchers that were on the fast track to the big leagues before injuries slowed their journey in the minor league system. If not for their injuries, they may have been in the major leagues by now. That's why they are worth mentioning, and could be sleepers to join the Cubs' roster at some point in 2013.

    Arodys Vizcaino

    Vizcaino came over to the Cubs in 2012 as a result of a trade with the Atlanta Braves for Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson. He was once the No. 2 prospect in the Braves organization until an elbow injury led to him missing the entire 2012 due to Tommy John surgery.

    Before the injury, he was throwing absolute bee-bees and was getting clocked at 101 mph on the radar gun.

    Only time will tell how he recovers from the surgery, but anyone that throws 101 mph won’t find it difficult in making it to the big leagues. If he regains that ridiculous velocity, he may eventually find a home in the Cub's bullpen.

    Robert Whitenack

    Whitenack was flying through the Cubs' minor league system before he was also sidelined with Tommy John surgery in mid-2011.

    Before the injury, this guy was eating up minor league hitters like Joey Chestnut eats Nathan’s hot dogs on the fourth of July. In case you don't get that reference, Whitenack was unstoppable.

    He pitched last season in High-A ball, but his stats weren’t as impressive as they were before he suffered his elbow injury.

    Throw the stats out the window, because the Cubs must like what they see in his recovery, or they wouldn't have added him to the 40-man roster heading into the 2013 season.

    He will probably start the season in Double-A, but if he gets back to the point where he was before he had the elbow injury, he will definitely be with the big league club at some point in 2013.  

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