The Cubs seem willing do whatever it takes to land Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. The Sox have an opportunity to restock their farm system after trading away several of their top prospects to land Adrian Gonzalez in 2010. Here are 20 Cubs prospects they should seriously consider chasing.
1. Brett Jackson, CF (LH), 23, Triple-A
Jackson is nearly unanimous as the top prospect the Cubs have to offer. He played 115 games in 2011, hitting 20 home runs and collecting 58 RBIs. With three years in the team's farm system, he is as close to ready as any minor league prospect could be.
2. Trey McNutt, P (RH), 22, Double-A
It's hard to believe McNutt was a 32nd-round pick, but the talent is there despite myriad injuries keeping him benched for much of 2011. The Red Sox could really use a low-cost pitcher to come up through the system.
3. Josh Vitters, 3B (RH), 22, Double-A
A consensus top five prospect for the Cubs, Vitters had some struggles in 2011 with an OBP of just .322 and a .283 average, but he has great upside. He just moved up to Double-A last year, so he may not be ready for the big leagues yet, but a year or two in Boston's farm system could go a long way in his development.
4. Matt Szczur, OF (RH), 22, Single-A
Szczur (pronounced Caesar) is perhaps the fastest prospect in the Cubs' farm system and could add to an outfield that already includes speedsters in Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford. He slumped slightly in 2011, but proved his potential in 2010 with a .347 average and .414 OBP.
5. Chris Rusin, P (LH), 24, Triple-A
Rusin turns 25 next Saturday and has pitched in the Cubs minor league systems since they drafted him in the fourth round of the 2009 MLB June draft. With so much minor league experience, Rusin is a guy who could jump to the majors in 2012. The lefty split time between Double-A and Triple-A last season, compiling an 8-4 record and a 3.96 ERA.
6. Reggie Golden, RF (RH), 20, Single-A
Despite struggles at Single-A Boise, Golden has displayed the type of power and bat speed that could make him a potential 30-30 player someday. He has speed, too. Clearly there is still work to be done, but he has the tools and could be a solid major leaguer in three to four years.
7. Rafael Dolis, P (RH), 23, Double-A
The Red Sox had some inconsistencies in their bullpen in 2011 and could use an arm like Dolis' as a set-up man. He's been clocked in the triple digits, and had a 3.22 ERA in 2011, starting in four games and pitching in 51 with an 8-5 record on the season. He also logged 17 saves.
8. Welington Castillo, C (RH), 24, Triple-A
Maturity issues have subsided, and Castillo has the promise of being a nice catching prospect. He played in 75 games in 2011 with 16 home runs and 42 RBIs across all leagues. His value to the Sox may be hindered slightly with Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek still in place and with Ryan Lavarnway getting close to being ready to spend a full season in the majors.
9. Ben Wells, P (RH), 19, Single-A
Wells has potential as a starter, with a mid-90's fastball and a solid slider. He went 4-4 with a 4.66 ERA in Boise, so there's clearly still work to be done.
10. Ryan Flaherty, SS (RH), 26, Triple-A
The Portland, Maine, native has done well to get on base with a .344 OBP in his four-year minor league career. He has also begun hitting for power, logging 19 homers in 2011 and adding 88 RBIs.
11. Nick Struck, P (RH), 22, Triple-A
Struck is a fast riser in Chicago's farm system, having made 11 starts in Triple-A Iowa last year, though he went just 2-4. With a strong showing in Boston's farm system, he could be in competition to make starts as early as next year.
12. Hayden Simpson, P (RH), 22, Single-A
Last year's first-round pick for the Cubs battled through mononucleosis in 2011, and his stats (1-10, 6.27 ERA) suffered because of it. He has some good stuff and the potential is clearly there, but there is the fear among scouts that he could be a great talent that never materializes.
13. D.J. LeMahieu, 2B/3B (RH), 23, Triple-A
He's just an average defender, but LeMahieu is a great pure hitter with a .319 batting average and .423 slugging percentage. A little more time in the farm system could be all LeMahieu needs to make an impact in the bigs.
14. Matt Cerda, utility (LH), 21, Single-A
Cerda has done everything he's been asked. He may not be the best hitter the Cubs have to offer (.283 average) but his OBP of .394 leaves little to be desired.
15. Logan Watkins, 2B/SS (RH), 22, Single-A
Watkins has upside, with a solid .368 OBP in his four-year minor league career. His speed is apparent, as well, with 21 steals last season.
16. Casey Coleman, P (RH), 24, Triple-A
He had a bumpy start to his major league career (7-11, 5.48 ERA in 25 starts), but his work in Triple-A last year (5-2 in 12 starts, 3.65 ERA) may prove he still has the potential. A little more work could go a long way in his development.
17. Marwin Gonzalez, IF (RH), 22, Triple-A
Gonzalez's flashes of brilliance don't exactly show up in his stat line (.288 BA, .343 OBP). Still, he has shown enough to earn him looks in the minor league system and could build on those flashes.
18. Jae-Hoon Ha, OF (RH), 20, Double-A
Ha is making a quick ascention through the ranks, and though he's had his ups and downs (.279 BA in '11, .315 OBP), he is capable of becoming a consistent big league starter down the road. How far down the road is a different question.
19. Jay Jackson, P (RH), 23, Triple-A
The bright future that had Jackson eventually becoming an MLB starter has faded drastically, and Jackson went 8-14 in 26 starts at Triple-A Iowa last year. His ever-rising ERA also isn't a great sign. Still, the Sox would have a prospect that has some potential and could certainly turn things around at his age.
20. Dae-Eun Rhee, P (RH), 22, Single-A
Injuries have hindered Rhee's development, but he is finally healthy and could begin to make strides as early as next year. He showed flashes in a healthy 2008 season with a 1.80 ERA in a small sample size of 10 games, but has struggled through those injuries to ERAs of 9.35, 5.27 and 4.02.