Infield Logjam Looming for Cubs
The Cubs may have a classic “nice” problem in the near future. Several of the team’s top infield prospects will either be on the major league team coming out of spring training – or will be pounding at the door. There’s not enough room on the team for all of them in the future, so something will have to give. Obviously, it’s nice to have a plethora of good, young talent. If a player doesn’t help your team directly, he can be a big part of a trade package that brings something back in return (such as pitching).
Here’s the promising group of players that I’m considering:
Starlin Castro – The incumbent starter at SS, looking for a bounce-back season. Jed Hoyer has recently restated his confidence in Starlin, and he will definitely be the opening day starter at SS, barring an unforeseen complication with his recovery from a mild hamstring issue.
Mike Olt – Once a top-25 prospect in all of baseball, Olt fell off last year, apparently due to eye issues. Reportedly, those issues have been resolved, and Olt is seeing the ball well again. He’s hit for some nice power so far this spring. He’s been prevented from playing third base so far due to some shoulder soreness, but reports have him returning to third soon. Before the eye issues, Olt was projected to have 25-homerun potential with an above-average to excellent glove at third.
Javier Baez – We all know what we have here. One of the top prospects in all of baseball with an all-world power tool. The major question is whether he will stay at SS or be moved to 2B or 3B (he’s been working out at both positions). Some scouts say that Baez’s upper body will fill-out more, which may make him more likely to play third (he certainly has the arm for it), but he may play more 2B in the near term. His power will play well anywhere on the field. His glove probably projects to above-average to excellent at 3B.
Kris Bryant – Again, we all know what’s up with Bryant offensively, but recent reports indicate that the FO is optimistic that Bryant can stick at 3B (at least for now). Many have assumed that Bryant would eventually be moved to the outfield, but his bat (which is good enough to play anywhere), would be even more valuable in the infield. Epstein has said that there’s no hurry to move Bryant off the position.
Arismendy Alcantara – One of the more popular prospects in the system among fans who follow MiLB closely, Alcantara is a switch hitter with excellent speed and good pop. He projects as a top-of-the-order hitter who can get on base (and steal a few). Jason Parks of BP has described him as “Jose Reyes lite.” Alcantara brings several things to the Cubs lineup that are currently missing – speed and pop from the left side. He’s likely to play 2B at the major league level.
Christian Villanueva – Perhaps overlooked, Villanueva had a great season at AA Tennessee last year, posting a .261/.317/.469 line with 19 HRs and 41 doubles, and scouts say he has gold glove potential at third. He’s apparently been impressive so far in camp.
For the purposes of this exercise, we’ll assume a couple of things: 1) Anthony Rizzo is locked-in at first base (the Rizzo/Vogelbach question is something will address at another time), and 2) All of these prospects pan-out to be viable major leaguers (this almost certainly will not happen, but since this can’t be predicted, we’ll just go with this for now).
So, what do you do? For the short term, do you give Olt the shot this season at third? What does that do to Valbuena, Murphy, and Barney? Who do you want/who do you think plays on the big league club in the future? Where do they play? Does anyone get traded? Does someone come off the bench? Is that the best way to get value from that player? I have my own thoughts, but I’d love to hear yours first.
- Have you seen that ridiculous interview with Ken Griffey Jr.?
- Cubs single-game tickets go on sale TODAY at 10 a.m. central on Cubs.com. I’m planning to attend my first opening day at Wrigley this year. It’s the 100th anniversary of the park, so I’m pretty excited about it.
Have a nice weekend!