Future watch: An early look at a pair of Cubs prospects

Kevin Goldstein, who covers the minor leagues and player development for Baseball Prospectus, joins Vine Line as a contributor in September. He brings decades of experience distilling scouting reports from scouts and front-office types all over the game. Here’s an excerpt from his first Future Watch column:

Interest in prospects continues to grow, and we’ve reached the point where even the casual fan knows something about players like Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney and Andrew Cashner by the time they arrive at Wrigley. So while known quantities like Brett Jackson get closer to the big leagues, here are a couple players who are years away but could become more recognizable names if their development continues as planned.

Hunter Ackerman, LHP

A 2010 fourth-round pick out of a North Carolina junior college, Ackerman doesn’t have the kind of velocity that lights up radar guns, but he gets as much movement on his 88-91 mph fastball as any pitcher in the system, and has been a groundball machine for the Cubs’ complex-league team in Arizona. He has a surprisingly advanced change-up, and could be in line for a full-season debut next year at Low-A Peoria if he can refine his breaking ball.

Reggie Golden, OF

A second-round pick last year, the Cubs knew that the 19-year-old Golden would be a project when they signed him, as he’s arguably the best athlete in the system but doesn’t have much baseball experience against top competition. After being held back in extended spring training this year to refine every aspect of his game, he’s been one of the most pleasant surprises at Short-Season Boise. His .253 batting average might not impress, but scouts see big progress in the translation of his tools into baseball skills.

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