On Sunday we saw Luis Valbuena put on the 15 day DL and Logan Watkins recalled from AAA. With Valbuena getting the lion’s share of work at third base this season, the move to recall Watkins seemed to be a bit curious to me. In his minor league career, Watkins has never played third base. The recent acquisition of Mike Olt would normally suggest he would have been the likely call up and, should be play well, remain the starting third baseman for the remainder of the season. However, Olt’s struggles since coming over warrent further time at AAA for him. Next in line, you would think, would be Josh Vitters. In limited time this year due to an injury, Vitters is hitting .289 / .372 / .470 with 4 HR in 26 games. Note the almost 100 point differnce between his batting average and on base % and you’ll see that Vitters appears to have made some improvements in the discipline department. He went on record recently as saying he saw himself as the Cubs third baseman of the future, and that’s good swagger to have. The question is if Theo and Jed feel the same. This seems like a perfect time to recall him and see what he does. Instead, it’s Watkins who gets the call. Assuming this move stands, expect Junior Lake to see time at third.

UPDATEVitters is on the DL back to July 26th after coming up lame rounding 1st base. We’ll see what happens when he returns.

After looking so good against the Giants, the Cubs have completely wet the bed this past week, being swept by the Dodgers and almost being swept by the Brewers. Sunday was not a bad game to watch, but it wasn’t a fun result.

  • Carlos Villanueva pitched effectively, going six innings and just allowing one run. It was one of his better starts of the season from a results standpoint, but the efficiency was not really there. He routinely worked deep into counts. He was able to wiggle off the hook in the 2nd to prevent his day from being a rough one, but overall I don’t see him as a part of this rotation in the future. His stuff is better suited for the pen. In the meantime, he’ll do.
  • We saw the debut of Logan Watkins as was noted above. I thought he looked fine. I’m just curious where he’s going to play. He’s defintely not going to get every day time.
  • Len and JD noted it, and I think it bears repeating. Dale missed out on a great opportunity by not starting Darwin Barney in the game against Stephen Fife. It would have set up a history Barney / Fife matchup.
  • Hanley Ramirez took exception to a pitch that he considered up and in early in the game by Villanueva. He mouthed off a little to Dioner Navarro and when he eventually drew a walk that at bat, he placed the bat gently between Navarro’s legs just to be a jerk. As the bat boy came out to retrieve Ramirez’s bat, Navarro picked it up, slammed it against the ground to break it, and gave it back. Good for him. Ramirez would later leave the game with an injury after making a play on a ball in foul territory and crashing into the wall. If we follow the logic of a certain regular reader of this site (and frequent commenter), you would be happy about this injury because he got what he deserved.

  •  Julio Borbon was designated for assignment over the weekend after a bonehead play on the bases on Friday.
  • An update, sort of, on the PTBNL in the Matt Garza trade. Apparently the Cubs have the option of taking Neal Ramirez and the trade being final or choosing two other players. Ramirez is ranked as the # 14 prospect in the Rangers system.
  • Matt Garza did something dumb over the weekend on Twitter and had to apologize. People need to think before they tweet. Holster your tweeter.
  • Today is announcement day for the PED suspensions. The big question centers around A-Rod, and I could care less.

STATE OF THE SYSTEM
Catcher

by Rob Willer

Top prospect: Rafael Lopez (.269/.338/.403 at Daytona in 2012) (.250/.347/.427 at Tennessee in 2013). This is a position the Cubs struggle with in regards to depth and impact talent. It’s one of the harder positions to find consistent hitting throughout out the minor league levels as well as defense. When you think of catchers in the majors in relation to impact players few names come up. Those include Yadier Molina, Joe Mauer and Buster Posey who are consistently valuable to their teams in multiple ways: offense, pitch calling, framing, ability to command a staff are just a few things that catchers do for a ball-club. Back to Lopez he has shown that he can play at Double A turning in a solid season so far that includes 20 doubles and 8 home-runs over 248 at bats that also includes a .775 OPS. The problem that arises with Lopez is he already 25 and is only in Double A. He has progressed nicely after college in 2012 as he went from Boise to Peoria then to Daytona to finish the year. The problem is that Wellington Castillo is 26 and already in the majors and Lopez still needs a year or so to develop before being called up to the big leagues. In the end Lopez seems to project as a solid backup for the Cubs at the Major League level although if he were a few years younger and playing where he is today we might be talking about our future catcher. In my mind I just don’t see that happening because of the age and the unknowns of how he is going to handle Triple A. Next season will be a better indication of what Lopez’s path will turn out to be. For now his estimated time of arrival is July 2014 barring an injury where he will most likely back-up Castillo as well get few stars on occasion similar to Dionner Navarro’s role this year.

Sleeper Prospect: Wilson Contreras (.239/.309.422 at Low A Kane County in 2013) Last year Contreras played all of last year at Short Season A Boise where he batted .273/.316/.357. At first glance we can tell right away that his power has definitely increased between 2012 and 2013 as his home run output has passed last season’s total of 3 by already clubbing 10 home runs. His power numbers are encouraging as well as his increased slugging percentage but his average has taken a hit since his promotion this season. This I believe is due to the increase in competition as well as his decreased BABIP or Batting Average on Balls in Play. In 2012 when he was hitting .273 his BABIP was .337 which seemed unusually high but was consistent with his career numbers. While in 2013 that number has come down to .273 which would affect his batting average tremendously and begs the questions is it due just to increased competition or is Contreras just a .240 hitter who has finally ran out of luck. Contreras is a very intriguing prospect that I have personally seen him play at Kane County in five games this summer. Things he does well our framing pitches although he still needs to get more consistent at this but more reps will help him harness this tool. Another tool he has greatly improved is his plate disclipine as his walk rate has increased from 4.1% in 2012 to 6.9% in 2013 which is quite a significant jump. Overall he seems like a promising option for the future since he is only 22 and still hitting just as good as Lopez did the year before at Kane County. Contreras probably will stay at Kane County the rest of the season and start next season at Daytona. Since were at the point in the season where rain greatly affects Florida it does no good for Contreras to be moved there if he won’t get consistent playing time or playable conditions.  Projection wise he could turn into an everyday catcher if he can improve on the batting average while keeping his powers numbers relatively similar to this year. Contreras still needs time to develop so its hard to say an estimated time of arrival to the big leagues but I’ll go out on a limb and say September 2015 if all goes to plan and barring any injuries.

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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