RHP Robert Whitenack to Double A Tennessee after just four starts in Daytona. Granted,..."/> RHP Robert Whitenack to Double A Tennessee after just four starts in Daytona. Granted,..."/> RHP Robert Whitenack to Double A Tennessee after just four starts in Daytona. Granted,..."/>

Whitenack Promoted to Tennessee

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The Chicago Cubs have promoted RHP Robert Whitenack to Double A Tennessee after just four starts in Daytona. Granted, they were four very impressive starts. In his brief stay in Florida Whitenack went 3-0 with a 1.17 ERA with 25 strikeouts and just one walk. He had a WHIP of just 0.522, and hasn’t given up a home run yet this season. His performance in Daytona was good enough to earn one Cubbies Crib Minor League Line of the Week for himself, and a share of a second one alongside his Daytona teammates.

More on Whitenack’s promotion and other Cub news after the break.

In his first start in Tennessee, Whitenack gave up just three hits over six innings, taking a no decision in an eventual Smokies loss. Double A is a much more difficult level of play than High A. Some argue that Double A is actually more difficult than Triple A for a variety of reasons. That Whitenack made the jump to Tennessee so effectively is very impressive. I’d like to see if he can maintain this level of performance over a few more starts before I get too excited. He has already tremendously improved his stock as a prospect this season, but it is a little early to be rewriting the Cubs Top 10 list just yet. Regardless, I am certain we haven’t heard the last of him.

A few Cub prospects came up in a recent chat with Baseball America’s Jim Callis. Jim Callis is one of the most respected analysts for amateur and minor league baseball in the country, and I highly recommend that anyone interested in the minors read his columns regularly. In this particular chat, he was asked about three players who figure prominently in the Cubs system.

"Virgil Dahl (Waterloo, Ia.): Jim; it must be spring; baseball is back, as are Jim’s chats! Who, in your opinion has the greater upside, Brett Jackson, or Matt Szczur? thanksJim Callis: Szczur has a higher ceiling but Jackson is a better prospect. Jackson has a good ceiling and is closer to reaching his. I could see Jackson becoming a .275 hitter with 20-20 potential, playing a solid center field but maybe fitting better on a corner. If Szczur puts everything together, he could be a .300 hitter with gap power, a ton of steals and Gold Glove potential in center."

I agree with Callis’s assessment of Jackson, except I see him hitting a little better than .275. I don’t know if he will be quite a .300 guy, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all. Jackson is just a few months away from being ready for the majors now. Szczur is at least one or two years behind Jackson. If Szczur has a higher ceiling than Jackson, I think we can go ahead and pencil Szczur into center field by late 2013. Given the character and work ethic we’ve seen from Szczur already, I’m not worried about him putting in the necessary effort to maximize his potential. I think Szczur will go just as high as his talent can take him.

But let’s look into this a bit further. If Jackson is going to get pushed into a corner slot by Szczur, then the future Cubs have all three outfield positions filled without getting to Tyler Colvin, since Soriano will be in left for another four years yet. By the time Soriano leaves the team or moves to the bench, at least one of Jae Hoon-Ha, Michael Burgess, or Rubi Silva will be ready to step into his job. So where does that leave Colvin? Maybe the Cubs would be better off moving Colvin to first base full time. Of course if the Cubs can sign someone like Prince Fielder they absolutely should, but there is guarantee of that happening. And in the case of Fielder, Colvin would almost have to be significantly better on defense anyway. The only way Colvin could get regular innings at first base right now is if he were sent to Iowa. If he went to Iowa to get some practice at first base, that would create the opening the Cubs need to promote Brett Jackson. That is certainly a scenario worth thinking about, especially as we head into June.

The other Cub prospect question was on the pitching side of things.

"Ben (Iowa City, IA): Where does Trey McNutts curveball rate on the 20-80 scale?Jim Callis: When it’s at its best, a 70."

70, of course, is very good. We already knew McNutt projected as a top of the rotation starter, but it is good to hear another affirmation of this guy’s ability. The Cubs are not likely to rush McNutt, but even so he could be in Chicago in September and fighting for a rotation slot next spring.

That Jim Callis chat contained a lot of questions on the draft that affected the Cubs as well. I haven’t gotten into potential Cub draft picks yet, but rest assured the Cubs should get a very good player in the first round, and are very likely to get several more in later rounds. I’d encourage you to read through the entire chat, though. The draft will be on us before you know it.