Monday, April 28, 2008

The Roster of Broken Dreams

In the game of baseball, there are two ways to build a team that can win consistently each year. One way is what most refer to as the "Yankee" method, where you just throw a heaping wad of cash at every top tier free agent and stock your roster with the whores that say yes, or acquire acquire star players in trades from small market teams that can't afford them any longer. The other way is to develop young players acquired in the draft, signed as amateurs, or prospects picked up from other teams in trades. This method has proven largely successful over the last decade or so for such teams as the Oakland A's, Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, Florida Marlins, and Minnesota Twins. As far as these two methods apply to the Cubs, the first method has, up until the last few years, been largely ignored as the Cub methods regarding free agency typically involve waving small amount of cash at the top tier free agents, then signing Ron Coomer when the star players decline. As unsuccessful as the Cubs have been in the free agent game, however, their player development failures far surpass all others. The last starting quality position player the Cubs developed was Mark Grace, who made his major league debut in 1988. 1988 happens to be the year I was born. Since the jury is still out on whether such players as Ryan Theriot, Ronny Cedeno, Geovany Soto, and Felix Pie will have sustained success at the major league level, this essentially means that in my Entire lifetime the Cubs minor league system has failed to produce one successful position player.Therefore, as a testament to this glorious failure in player scouting and development, I have compiled a 25 man roster of 13 position players and 12 pitchers who have been brought up to the majors by the Cubs during my lifetime and failed horrendously. This list was compiled mostly through debate and vote over on the Hire Jim Essian! shoutbox, and is by no means a scientific or concrete list. So here I present to you the roll call of busts that has been labeled "The Roster from Hell", "Reason's to Fire Jim Hendry", "MacPhail's Navy", "The SBUCs", "The Bizarro Cubs", and so on.

Note:The statistics that you see next to each player's name are not, in fact, actual statistics they put up in their career, but a 162 game projection from Baseball Reference, which analyzes data and gives you a relative idea of what you could expect from each position player if he started for a full year. The results are terrifying. I also apologize for the length of this long, long, long article

Catchers- The catching position is interesting, as the Cubs have produced relatively few failures at this position. They've also produced no successes since Joe Girardi, thus proving that Cubs catching prospects are often bad enough that they fail to even make the majors.

Starter- Damon Berryhill- .240/11/61/.288/.368


Berryhill was the 1st round pick of the Cubs in the 1984 draft, and was envisioned as the successor to Jody Davis. Berryhill made his major league debut in 1987 and spent that season as as Davis's backup. After splitting time with Davis throughout the first half of 1988, Davis was shipped to the Braves and Berryhill was made the starter. Berryhill hit just .259 with 7 homers and a meager .295 OBP in 95 games in 1988, and would lose his starting job to the rookie Girardi in 1989. Berryhill hit .189 in back to back seasons with the Cubs as Girardis backup before being traded to the Braves like his predecessor.

Reserve-Rick Wrona - .244/6/37/.267/.345

Wrona was a fifth round pick by the Cubs in the 1985 draft, and zipped through their minor league system, making the majors in just his third year of pro ball. The rushed development showed, however, as Wrona never started more than 27 games in his major league career, and hit only 3 career home runs.

First Base- Fortunately for the Cubs, Mark Grace was a mainstay at first base from 1988-2000, thus leaving them with a mere three year window from 2001-2003 in which they had to try their own miserable prospects at first before they manged to swindle Derrek Lee from the Marlins before the 2004 season.

Hee Seop Choi- .240/18/54/.349/.437

Hee Seop Choi was signed by Cubs Far East scout Leon Lee, father of Derrek, in May of 1999. The 6'5'' Choi was sent to play for the Lugnuts and posted a stellar .321/18 hr/70 RBIs/.422 OBP/.610 Slug. line in just 79 games that year with a 1.032 OPS. After posting OPS of .902, 1.042, and .931, in various stops throughout the minors, Choi got the Opening Day start for the Cubs in 2003 after a brief 24 game call up the previous season. After a decent first half in which the left-handed Choi had 7 homers and a .379 OBP while platooning with righty Eric Karros, Choi collided with pitcher Kerry Wood during a game against the Yankees, was placed on the disabled list, and failed to recover after returning. Even before the injury, however, Choi had shown an inability to turn on an inside pitch, leaving a glaring hole in his swing which opponents frequently took advantage of. After finishing 2003 with a .218/8 hr/28 RBIs/.350 OBP/.421 slug., the Cubs were able to deal Choi to the Marlins along with pitcher Mike Nannini in order to acquire Derrek Lee. Lee has been a two-time All Star, two-time Gold Glove winner, and has won batting title in his time with the Cubs. Choi was traded by the Marlins to the Dodgers midway through 2004, wound up on their bench, and was released in 2006. Choi is now back in Korea.

Julio Zuleta-.247/18/74/.309/.466


During the 2000 season, as Mark Grace was playing out what would be his final Cubs season, the Cubs called up 25 year old rookie Julio Zuleta to the majors. Zuleta had signed with the Cubs as an 18 year old in 1993, and after toiling in the low minors with little success for several years, he absolutely crushed minor league pitching in stops in A, AA, and AAA in 1998(.331 avg./18 hr/106 RBI/.385 OBP/.509 Slg.), 1999 (.295/21/97/.342/.519), and 2000 (.311/26/94/.362/.579). Zuleta had three call-ups with the '00 Cubs in April, May, and September. He mashed the ball well in 30 games, hitting .294/3/12/.342/.544. "Zoo-Doo" then earned a place on the Opening Day roster for 2001 as the righty-hitting partner to lefty Matt Stairs. In 49 games with the '01 Cubs, Zuleta obliterated the high hopes held for him and posted a paltry .217/6/24/.288/.415 line. With the Cubs unexpectedly in a playoff race, Zuleta was sent down to Iowa in June, the Cubs traded for Fred Fucking McGriff, and Julio would never appear in the majors again. He is currently playing baseball in Japan where he has hit 137 homers in parts of 5 seasons.

Second Base- Much like Mark Grace at first, the long and successful career of Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg at second until 1997 meant that the Cubs only had a few years in which to screw up the middle infield with their own prospects. Since 2003, capable veterans (Grudzielanek, Walker, DeRosa) have mostly filled the position, so the Cubs presented just two serious prospects as possible full time starters at the position between 1998-2002. Both failed.

Starter- Bobby Hill-.262/4/38/.343/.350

If the Cubs have ever spoonfed us bullshit on any prospect more than they did with Bobby Hill, I'd be amazed. The Cubs 2nd round pick in 2001 was supposedly some kind of damn Wunderkind, and thus this justified moving him up the big league club in 2002, after only 60 games in A and AA ball in 2001. Hill had a great spring training in 2002, but Don Baylor, attempting to be smart, left Hill with AAA Iowa and went with Delino DeShields at second. Unfortunately Delino DeShields turned out to be Delino DeShields and the Cubs bowed to the pressure to bring up Hill in May. Showing the effect of his premature call-up, Hill posted a .182/2/7/.294/.284 line in 30 games before being sent down in late June. Hill was, however, called up in July and in the second half posted a .314/2/13/.358/.451 line in 29 games, for an overall .253/4/20/.327/.374 line. Hill was unable to follow up his strong second half, however, and lost the starting 2nd base job in spring of '03. Hill was unimpressive at Iowa in 2003 and was traded to Pittsburgh for Aramis Ramirez. After three mediocre seasons with the Pirates, Hill was swapped to the Padres. After one year in the Padres system in 2006, Hill was out of pro baseball at 28 years old. Latest rumors have him supposedly playing for the Newark Bears of the independent Atlantic League.

Reserve- Chad Meyers- .208/0/14/.281/.259

Before Bobby Hill, there was Chad Meyers. Before the 1999 season, concerns about aging Cubs second baseman Mickey Morandini were answered with the assurance that Chad Meyers was on the way. Meyers, the natural lead off hitter who had hit .301 and .290 in 1997 and 1998 with OBPs of .402 and .404 and stolen base totals of 54 and 60 respectively, was nearly ready for the majors. During the '99 season, the fears about Morandini's decline were realized as he hit just .241/4/37/.319/.329 and Meyers was called up in August. Meyers hit just .232/0/4/.292/.296 in 43 games with the Cubs during that call-up and stole just 4 bases. During call-ups in 2000 and 2001, Meyers hit just .173 and .118 and was released as the Cubs had moved on to Bobby Hill, thus crap lead to more crap.

Shortstop- the Cubs spent most of the 1980s and 1990s failing on just one shorstop prospect- Shawon Dunston. Since Shawon's numbers appear too respectable to appear on this list, that leaves a rather short list of candidates, as the Cubs much prefer to stock the shortstop position with untalented veterans rather than untalented rookies. But hey, we all enjoyed Jeff Blauser, Alex Gonzalez, Ramon Martinez, Rey Ordonez, Neifi Perez, and Cesar Izturis, right?

SS- Jose Nieves- .242/7/39/.278/.349

I'm not going to lie: This spot was reserved for Ronny Cedeno up until this last week. As Ronny appears to be (finally) cashing in on his talent and getting a clue, I will hold off on including him on this list for now. In the scramble to find another crappy Cubs shortstop prospect, the name Jose Nieves continued to pop up. Though never a highly regarded prospect, Nieves did make his debut with the Cubs in 1998 at 23 years old. Nieves inexplicably made into 54 games for the Cubs in 1999 and 82 games in 2000. During those two seasons Nieve's posted lines of .249/2/18/.291/.343 and .212/5/24/.251/.348. He was also abysmal in the field, as he made 16 errors in just 52 games at short in 1999.

Third Base- As I've been documenting on this website (and fear not, that list will be resumed when I have finished this roster), the Cubs have had a bit of a problem with finding good third baseman the last thirty years. Of the several prospects the Cubs have tried at third, two stick out from my lifetime:

Starter- Gary Scott-.160/7/39/.250/.240

I won't go in to too much detail on the failure that was Gary Scott, as he will soon get his own article on this website, but I'll touch on just a bit here. True, Gary Scott was just before my memory so most of what I know of the Gary Scott experience is secondhand accounts from other Cub fans. To hit just a few of the key points, however: Scott was a second round pick of the Cubs in 1989. After two solid minor league seasons, Scott had made his way up to #39 on Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list for 1991. After a hot spring training, Scott was made the Opening Day starter for the 1991 seasons. In 31 games, Scott posted a .165/1/5/.305/.241 line. Hopes that Scott would do better in 1992 were mistaken, as he hit .156/2/11/.198/.240 in 36 games and never appeared in the majors again.

Reserve- Kevin Orie- .249/11/59/.320/.389

Kevin Orie has been covered in more than enough detail on this site, so I'll just save the space here.

Outfield- The outfield is where the Cubs have produced their greatest number of flops, and the debate over who would make the four spots on this roster was quite intense. The four finalists were:

LF- Roosevelt Brown-.251/8/49/.311/.407

Roosevelt Brown was, as mentioned by Bad Kermit in his Bottom 126 entry, what one would call a AAAA player. Too good for the minors, but too bad for the majors. A once touted Braves prospect who the Cubs had acquired in the minor league draft, Brown's career seemed to be taking off with the Cubs, as he hit .312 and .338 in the Cubs system in '97 and '98. Brown Made his majore league debut with the Cubs in 1999, with a .219/1/10/.239/.391 in 33 games. Brown played more respectably in brief stints with the Cubs in 2000 and 2001, and was made the 4th outfielder for the 2002 club. Unfortunately the Third outfielder for the 2002 Cubs was Moises Alou, whose fragility gave Rosie an Opening Day start, the 1st of 111 games he would appear in that season. In those 111 games, Roosevelt hit .211/3/23/.299/.314 and was released by the Cubs in November of 2002. He has never made it back to the majors.

CF- Corey Patterson- .257/18/63/.297/.416

Corey Patterson. The utter definition of a failed prospect. The 3rd overall pick in the 1998 draft, Patterson dazzled with his combination of power and speed so much that the Cubs overlooked his glaring lack of plate discipline and basic maturity and zipped him to the majors, as he made his debut in just his second pro season. Naturally, he sucked (.167/2/2/.239/.333, 14 K's in 11 games). In 2001 he was called up again despite less than deserving minor league numbers. He sucked again (.221/4/14/.266/.336, 33 K's in 59 games). In 2002, Patterson was handed the starting job in center field. He sucked (.253/14/54/.284/.392, 142 K's in 153 games). In 2003, Patterson got off to a hot start (.298/13/55/.329/.511,77 K's in 83 games) before blowing out his ACL. In 2004 Patterson returned healthy to high expectations. He posted his "best" season, but still mostly sucked (.266/24/72/.320/.452, 168 K's in 157 games). In 2005, the strikeout prone Patterson finally wore out his welcome with Cubs fans after a .215/13/34/.254 OBP/.348 line and 118 strikeouts in 126 games. Patterson was sent down to Iowa, complained frequently, refused to play winter ball, and was finally dealt to Baltimore. He is now back in the NL Central with the Reds, hilariously hitting .224 with a .286 OBP in the leadoff spot for Dusty's team.

RF- Jason Dubois- .233/19/55/.286/.443

In 2005 the Cubs started the season without Sammy Sosa for the first time in 13 seasons, and had to replace both him and departed free agent Moises Alou in the corner outfield spots. Somehow Cub fans actually seemed pleased with the idea that Sosa's replacement would be Jeromy Burnitz and Alou had been allowed to walk in favor a platoon of lefty Todd Hollandsworth and right handed rookie Jason Dubois. Hopes were high for Dubois, as he'd hit 31 homers for Iowa in 2004 and he had homered and tripled for the Cubs on the last day of the 2004 season after getting the last second start when Sammy balked. Dubois failed to build on the expectations created from ONE F*&KING START when he hit .239/7/22/.289/.472 in 52 games in 2005 before being jettisoned to Cleveland for the Indians own failed outfield prospect, Jody Gerut. Dubois played 14 games with Cleveland after the trade and has yet to make it back to the majors. He's currently languishing in Failed Cubs Hell (Baltimore's farm system).

David Kelton-.136/0/9/.136/.227


Dave Kelton makes this team as a 4th OF and utility infielder, as he managed to fail at third base and in the outfield. Kelton, drafted one round after Patterson in 1998, had a sweet swing that was supposed to guarantee him success in the majors. The hype was obviously overstated for a player that hit just .300 once in a 9 season professional career, and who had such glaring defensive problems at third that he needed to be moved to the outfield. Kelton made just two trips up to the majors with the Cubs, hitting .167/0/1/.167/.250 in 10 games in 2003 and .100/0/0/.100/.200 in games in 2004. Kelton was granted free agency by the Cubs after 2005, signed with the Braves, played in 48 games for AAA Richmond, and was released in June of 2006.

So there you have the position players on this tragedy of a roster. How would you make out the lineups? Mine would be-

CF Patterson
2B Hill
1B Choi
RF Dubois
LF Brown
3B Scott
C Berryhill
SS Nieves.

I call it Murdered Row. As in, if all 8 of them were to wind up dead, well, I'd not say a word.

Tomorrow: the pitching staff.