After a rather encouraging edition on Monday when we looked at the 2B position, we move forward with yet another strength in the system, the SS position. We’ve seen a lot of talk recently about Ryan Theriot and his arbitration case. One of the factors that seem to be influencing the Cubs decision to take a player to the arbitration table is the depth in the system at this position. Here are some names to know in the system.

Ryan Theriot
Year   Age  PA  R 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
2006    26 159 34 11  3  3  16 13  2 17 18 .328 .412 .522 .934  135
2007    27 597 80 30  2  3  45 28  4 49 50 .266 .326 .346 .672   71
2008    28 661 85 19  4  1  38 22 13 73 58 .307 .387 .359 .745   92
2009    29 677 81 20  5  7  54 21 10 51 93 .284 .343 .369 .712   83

Expected Level: Major League Stater

How Acquired: 3rd Round Pick (2001)

Has there been any player that divides fans more on his ability than Theriot. It seems that you’re either on one side or the other. Either Theriot is overrated and average, or he’s in the upper echelon of players at his position in the Majors. Each party has their reasoning and the end result is a heated debate and stubbornness of wills. I tend to fall in the camp that Theriot is an average player. That’s not to say I don’t like him or appreciate him being on this team, but to say he’s a vital cog in the wheel is ridiculous. It’s at this point that a certain former writer will come out of hiding and pronounce that nothing is changed here; we’re still bashing the greatest SS in Cubs history. What the Theriot lovers fail to realize is that just because we feel that he’s an average SS, it doesn’t mean I don’t like him as a player. Theriot has a great attitude and he’s one of my favorite Cubs. That can be the case without him being a great player, but when you look at the numbers, it’s hard to argue that he’s middle of the road.

Take a look at these rankings among the 9 NL shortstops who qualified for the batting title in 2009

Batting Average – 5th
On Base % – 4th
OPS – 6th
Homeruns – 7th
Runs – 6th
Runs Created – 6th

The fact is, there are a couple really good SS in the NL and Theriot’s game simply doesn’t match up with them. It’s not a knock on him. He’s simply a guy filling a role that needs to be filled.

Starlin Castro
Year   Age   Lev  PA  R 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS
2007    17   FRk 253 47  6  2  2  31 13  2 23 24 .299 .371 .371 .742
2008    18    Rk 215 33 11  5  3  22  6  5 14 33 .311 .364 .464 .829
2009    19 A+-AA 509 56 23  6  3  49 28 11 29 53 .299 .342 .392 .734

Expected Level: AA-Tennessee Starter

How Acquired: Non-Drafted FA

This is going to be an interesting spring training for Castro. Depending on who you talk to, he has a legit shot at making the team out of spring training. Depending on who you believe, Castro is going to be given a shot to win the job. I tend to be in the camp that he’d have to overwhelmingly go crazy with the bat this spring to make the team outright due to his age and lack of experience. Personally, I’d like to see the Cubs be cautious with him simply due to the lack of experience. This is a kid that hasn’t had more than 125 at bats at the AA level. Why not be patient? What’s the harm in breaking camp with Theriot at short and Fontenot or Baker at second? Wouldn’t it be smarter to give the kid a chance to continue to develop without the pressure of not only the concept of being a top prospect on an opening day roster, but also being a kid who’s hyped up all over the internet in a city that hammers people who don’t perform. Call me a mother hen, but I’m sheltering this kid a little.

All that said, Castro is a kid with great speed and he’s shown the ability to play up to competition at higher levels. He’s played with, and played better than kids older and more advanced than him and shone accordingly. Keep in mind that he also made 39 errors at shortstop last year, so there is much to learn defensively for Castro. Rushing him to the big leagues could force those errors to the big stage, which could then translate to his offensive game. Give the kid a chance to slow down, develop the areas of his game he needs to work on, and get a potential look in September if warranted.


Other Notable Names

  • Hak-Ju Lee – A lot of scouts feel Lee is actually a better prospect, in terms of ceiling, than Castro. The only reason him and the other names in his section don’t get their own profile is because Castro appears to be the heir apparart right now. He’s going to be the kid that gets the pub while Lee gets the chance to develop slowly in the system under the radar. Lee figures to be a good average hitter with above average to good defense. Right now, like his counterpart Castro, he makes a lot of good plays, but misses some simple ones. He’s got great range at SS, and should supplant Castro, moving him to 2B. If all goes well, we’ll see a speedy, good glove middle infield in 2012.
  • DJ LeMahieu – Most recent 2nd round draft pick out of LSU, he figures to be developed somewhere other than SS. Potential suggestions would be 2B or 3B.
  • Darwin Barney – “a future utility infielder. He makes contact and can play the ‘little ball’ game if asked, but he isn’t a power threat and his plate discipline is only mediocre. His running speed is average, but he fundamentally sound on the base paths and will pick up an occasional steal if the battery gets lazy. Defensively, his range and arm strength are also just average for shortstop, but scouts like his soft hands are general quickness afield.” ~ John Sickels
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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