Since the last edition of the series took a look at a rather thin area of the system in 1B, perhaps we should take some time to look at the bright spots of the system, the middle IF, starting with 2B.

Mike Fontenot
Year   Age  PA  R 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
2007    27 260 32 12  4  3  29  5 22 43 .278 .336 .402 .738   87
2008    28 284 42 22  1  9  40  2 34 51 .305 .395 .514 .909  130
2009    29 419 38 22  2  9  43  4 35 83 .236 .301 .377 .677   72

Expected Level: Potential platoon at the ML level with Jeff Baker

How Acquired: Acquired from Baltimore in a deal for Sammy Sosa

I like Mike Fontenot. I like the way both he and Ryan Theriot play the game. I like his attitude with the media. What I don’t like is the idea of him as the starting second base occupant in 2010. 2009 showed he has flaws and the league exposed them. Competition with Baker and potentially Theriot if a certain prospect, who’s name we will not speak of for fear of a Corey Pattersonesque jinx, makes the club out of spring training or shortly thereafter. The best role for Fontenot right now is that of a part time player at 2B with the role of backing up someone like Aramis Ramirez in the event that rest is needed to preserve that shoulder. I thought he did an OK job at the hot corner last year and would be fine with seeing him in that role should 2B not work out for him. Look at it this way, if Jake Fox could handle 3B duties, surely Font could as well. Overall, I don’t see Fontenot being any more than a role player that will be gone in the next year or two if the arbitration price gets too high, given the depth in the system at the middle infield area.

Ryan Flaherty
Year   Age     Tm Lev  PA  R 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS
2008    21  Boise  A- 245 39 19  2  8  26  4 24 51 .297 .369 .511 .880
2009    22 Peoria   A 543 81 24  5 20  81  7 50 98 .276 .344 .470 .814

Expected Level: High-A Daytona

How Acquired: Supplemental 1st Rd (2008)

I’m a Ryan Flaherty fan. He’s a great guy to interview and comes from a good baseball program in Vanderbilt. Then again, Jay Cutler and Earl Bennett came from Vandy and we all know how that’s working out. The knock on Flaherty is that he seems to be a man without a position. He’s definitely capable of playing mutiple spots in the IF, but lacks all the tools to do any of them particularly well. His arm is suspect, which would seem to make 3B and SS a tough option. Couple that with the fact that SS is a position for the elite in this organization and you’re left with 2B, which is where Flaherty found himself the majority of the season in 2009. His slash stats all declined with the move to a higher level, but his power shone through. As a first round pick, I would have expected a little better production at the plate from a contact aspect, but sometimes it takes a little time. 2009 was his first year of full season baseball and that may have something to do with the decline. An alarming aspect of his 2009 season, and John Sickel’s points this out as well in his prospect handbook, is his sharp difference vs. LH as opposed to RH. Versus the lefties, he hit .211 / .287 / .421 whereas against righties he posted .294 / .362 / .481. What Sickels does not mention is that 2009 doesn’t appear to be the norm. In his short minor league career, his numbers look like this: .262 / .324 / .500 against LH and .287 / .359 / .479 against RH. That includes the drastic difference from 2009, so it’s clear that ’09 was probably a fluke in terms of the wide gap in splits.

I’d like to see Flaherty continue to be used primarily at 2B with the occasional spot start at 3B and SS for depth in an attempt to give him stability in the field, which should help him focus on his development at the plate. I can see Flaherty taking a big jump if that happens and liken his role with the team to a more talented Fontenot. Someone like a Mark DeRosa.

Logan Watkins
Year   Age    Tm Lev  PA  R 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS
2008    18  Cubs  Rk 107 15  3  0  0  14  2  0 20 19 .325 .462 .363 .824
2009    19 Boise  A- 318 48 14  2  0  29 14  7 27 31 .326 .389 .391 .780

Expected Level: Low-A Peoria

How Acquired: 21st round pick (2008)

Watkins is a guy I’d like to see the Cubs be patient with. There really isn’t a big reason to rush him through the system. He signed out of high school late in the draft, but there was talk of him going as high as the 4th round if only talent was factored in. The cause for the drop in stock was due to his football talent. He had committed to Wichita State and reneged on that offer after the Cubs showed their onions with their offer of big money. I can’t say that I blame the kid for signing. $500K is a lot of money to an 18 year old. So far he’s made the Cubs investment look like a good one with his success at both levels he’s played at.

He doesn’t figure to hit for much power, if any, but he makes good contact and appears to have good strike zone judgment based on his low strikeout numbers. 2009 also saw an increase in running on the base paths, though his success rate still needs work. Stealing is a skill that can be learned and it will need to be an asset for him to compensate for a lack of power. If you’re not going to hit the long ball, steal some bases and turn those singles into doubles. His fielding is just average. He’s not going to win a gold glove, but his defense won’t kill you either. What he lacks in polish, he makes up for in athleticism. Some even think that an eventual move to CF may be a possibility.

Ideally, I’d like to see Watkins working in Mesa with the coaching staff on baserunning, bunting, etc, all the little things and then start the year at Boise again with the promise that he will get a taste of Peoria midway through. We’ll see which way the Cubs go. My guess is that he’ll be placed in Peoria.

Tony Thomas
Year   Age        Tm   Lev  PA  R 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS
2007    20   2 Teams A--Rk 235 51 12 10  5  39 28  2 27  46 .296 .393 .533 .926
2008    21   Daytona    A+ 493 62 30  4  7  43 22 10 34 113 .266 .320 .400 .720
2009    22 Tennessee    AA 497 66 24  1 11  41 13 13 50 106 .251 .341 .389 .730

Expected Level: AA-Tennessee

How Acquired: 3rd round pick (2007)

Thomas frustrates the crap out of me. I follow him on Twitter, and really wish he’d start to show some of the numbers we saw as he made his debut in 2007. He’s seen his offensive numbers decline each year with a promotion, and I have to believe that the Cubs will put the breaks on the promotions until he begins to show statistical merit. His defense regressed statistically in 2009, which is another strike against him. 2010 is a key year for Thomas. It’s time for him to show some promise and progress or risk being passed up completely by others in the system.

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Joe Aiello is the founder of View From the Bleachers and one of the lead writers as well as host of VFTB Radio. Growing up in Chicago, he fondly remembers attending games in the bleachers before that was the popular thing to do. Currently Joe resides in North Carolina with his wife and three kids. Connect with Joe via Twitter / Facebook / E-mail