The Chicago Cubs invited 19 non-roster players to spring training this year! Starlin Castro is easily the biggest prospect out of all of them. I'm going to give you a breakdown of all the infielders in this article.( Starlin Castro, Josh Vitters, Bobby Scales, Matt Camp, Bryan Lahair, and Darwin Barney)
Highly touted prospect Starlin Castro will likely make his major league debut at some point this season! Castro is a 6 foot 1,175 pound 19 year old, right-handed shortstop from the Dominican Republic. He hit .299 last year at high-A and AA combined here's his full line .299/.342/.392/.734. He also finished 6th in the arizona fall league with a .376 average. While, he hasn't shown much power the cubs feel he will once he grows into his frame a little more. He has shown his speed, he stole 28 bases last year, but was caught stealing 11 times in High-A, in AA he stole 6 bases and wasn't caught once. He may still be on the learning curve as far as base stealing goes, but shows a lot of promise. Depending on how spring training goes he might break camp with the cubs if he has a tremendous spring and hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo and Lou Pinella feel he is ready,but it is more likely Castro will get some more polishing in the minors. Hendry said Castro will dictate when he is ready by his play, there's no timetable set or anything.
Third baseman Josh Vitters ranked 3rd among cubs prospects by baseball america is only 20 years old and is also a right-hander standing at 6 foot 3, and 200 pounds! He is the cubs 1st round 3rd overall draft pick from 2007. He started last year in Low A Peoria where he hit .316/.351/.535/.886 with 15 homeruns in just 269 at bats. Josh struggled in High-A after hurting his wrist with a line of .238/.260/.344/.604 in 189 at bats. He rebounded in the Arizona Fall League though, where he hit for a .353 average. Vitters has some defensive issues mainly a lack of focus, but he has shown he can make all the routine plays and has made some exceptional plays as well. There has been talk if he doesn't get thirdbase down pat, he might move over to firstbase or leftfield. He will likely get another year of seasoning in the minors but could be a September call up. I also have to believe if Aramis Ramirez is sidelined for any length of time due to his shoulder, Vitters would likely get a chance to prove his worth in the big leagues earlier than expected. He has nice power and a very fluid swing.
Bobby Scales not exactly a prospect at this stage of his career, but nonetheless he is a fan favorite from his two brief stints with the cubs last year. He is a 32 year old switch hitter who had years and years of experience in the minors before he got his short-lived major league debut last year where hit for a .242 average. He is solid defensively and can play 1b,2b,3b and leftfield. Scales has decent speed as well. He is also Mr. Scales substitute teacher during the offseason. He is a real nice guy and a hardworker, and will probably be back at AAA this year and may get a call up to the bigs if there are any injuries.
Matt Camp has played all over the infield and outfield(SS,2b,3b,LF,RF,CF) in his 4 years in the minors. He has pretty good speed he stole 19 bases last year and was caught stealing 4 times. He played the majority of last year at AAA where he hit .282/.326/.343/.669 in 347 at bats.Matt had a successful winter in Mexico where he hit .329/.400/.448/.848 in 252 at bats. Camp hits from the left side of the plate, and will be 26 years old this May. He lacks power, but if his defense and his plate discipline continues to improve he may make it to the bigs as a utility player but not likely this year.
The Cubs 4th round draft pick in 2007 Darwin Barney showed a lot of progress last year in AA and then was promoted to AAA for the second half of the season, he struggled a bit at first upon his promotion but went on to pull his average up to .264 at AAA. Combined between AA and AAA he hit .293/.339/.369/.708, I've heard him described as a Ryan Theriot type hitter, but with better defense. Barney stole 9 bases last year and was caught twice. Barney will get a look this spring but will probably be back at AAA and if he makes the bigs in the future it may be as a utility guy.
The newly acquired 27 year old Bryan LaHair bats from the left-side and plays first base. LaHair comes from the Mariners organization, a former 1st round pick. Last year he hit .289/.354/.530 with 26 homeruns in AAA. LaHair will be competing for a bench job this year with Micah Hoffpauir and Brad Snyder! If he doesn't make the cut he will be headed to AAA Iowa.
Well, thats a wrap for now, stay tuned I will be breaking down the non-roster pitchers(including top prospect Andrew Cashner), catchers, and outfielders( including 2009 1st round pick Brett Jackson). Look for these articles to be coming shortly!