Two of the Cubs’ top position player prospects were promoted from Double-A Tennessee to Triple-A Iowa today and are set to start play with the I-Cubs when the second half of the Triple-A season starts Friday.
With their promotions, infielder Ryan Flaherty and outfielder Brett Jackson are most of the way to Chicago–all they have left to do is succeed in the relatively easy Pacific Coast League environment. Their Double-A performance says they’re up to the task.
I’ll start with Jackson, since lots of people had him right at the top of their Cubs prospect lists entering 2011. He hit .256/.373/.443 in Double-A this year, a solid performance for a player who’s about to turn 23, but nothing earth-shattering. He’s always had trouble making consistent contact, and has struck out 74 times in 67 games this year. Jackson makes up for it with walks (45), but it’s unlikely that he’ll wind up a high-average hitter in the big leagues.
Other than the troublesome average, Jackson does basically everything well, but nothing truly great. He projects to be a 15-25 HR/15-25 SB guy with okay center field/good right field defense, a .250 average, and a good amount of walks–basically, a 3-win player, which would make him a solid starter but not a star. That’s not exactly what Cubs fans would hope for from a guy who’s been billed as their #1 prospect fairly often, but given how many guys flame out, it won’t be a bad result if he settles in as a solid starter for half a decade.
Flaherty was once considered a fairly hot prospect, but a mediocre 2010 season at age 24 dropped his stock. This season, though, he put on a big show in Double-A, batting .305/.384/.523 with a good 55/40 K/BB in 83 games. He’s played all over the field, so he may wind up as a Ben Zobrist-type offense-oriented super-utilityman/starter at whatever position there’s nobody else good to start at. Turning 25 later this month, he’s quite old for a prospect getting his first look in Triple-A, but Flaherty could wind up serving a pivotal role for the Cubs if he can continue to prove himself with the bat in Iowa.
A hot August from either Jackson or (especially) Flaherty could prompt the 37-55 Cubs to give them a look in September. Given that Chicago’s outfield has combined for just 2.2 WAR, both players might be able to outplay the likes of Tyler Colvin and Blake DeWitt sooner rather than later.