So I Know This Guy...

...who dates this girl who has a brother who is a hot pitching prospect for the Phillies and who has been invited to Spring Training. The guy I know--let's call him "Steve," since that happens to be his name--was telling me the other day how excited the kid is to be going to Spring Training and that the kid's family is beside themselves with joy and planning to be down in Florida as much as they can, watching their boy try to pitch his way into the Major Leagues.

I share that because I've never personally known a professional athlete, and it was fascinating to hear Steve talk about this young pitcher as if he were a three-dimensional human being with a mother and a father and a sister and aspirations and fears just like other people, which, of course, he is.

It made me realize that, though I'm long past the baseball card-collecting years, I still relate to these players as if they're nothing more than snapshots glued to pieces of cardboard. In honor of this epiphany, I hereby pledge to say nothing caustic about the 16 non-roster Cub players who, like my friend's girlfriend's brother, were invited earlier this week to Spring Training.

Here are the 16:

Pitchers Jason Anderson, Sean Gallagher, Adam Harben, Ben Howard, Ryan O'Malley, Carmen Pignatiello, Les Walrond, John Webb, and Randy Wells; catchers Jake Fox and Koyie Hill; infielders Mike Kinkade, Casey McGehee, and Eric Patterson; and outfielders Tyler Colvin and Chris Walker.

O'Malley and Walrond, of course, played with the big club last year. Among the others, the names of Gallagher, Patterson and Colvin stood out to me because they appeared on the Top 10 Cub Prospects list Baseball Prospectus ran back in November, a list I believe I've plagiarized about four times now.

Here goes five:

Of Gallagher, #3 on the list, BP's Kevin Goldstein writes, "(He) has a 91-93 mph fastball, and with his hard, biting breaking ball, he has two plus pitches." On the other hand, Goldstein points out that Gallagher struggled last year with his control and his change-up is "no better than average."

The speedy Patterson, a secondbaseman and the #4-rated prospect, is Corey's younger brother. He stole 46 bases between AA and AAA in '06. Goldstein characterizes him as an "athletic second baseman with leadoff tools and skills, hitting for average, drawing walks, and utilizing his plus-plus speed on the base paths. Fundamentally sound defender with dependable hands and arm."

Colvin, finally, is #5 on the BP list and was the Cubs' #1 draft pick in '06 out of Clemson. He put together a .268/.313/.483 year at short-season Boise in just under 300 at-bats. Goldstein says in a perfect world, Colvin will grow into "a corner outfielder with 20/20 potential, maybe even 30 home runs."

I'm sure all of the players' parents are very proud of them. As they should be.


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