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[Ed. - Bleacher Nation's Minor League Editor Luke Blaize joins the team with an early take on some of the Cubs' notable prospects ... and their trade value.]

Prospects are a great commodity for a team to have, and not just for what they might do as a member of that team’s roster in the future. A good general manager knows that sometimes a prospect has more value in a trade than he ever will on the field. It isn’t always dependent on talent, either. For example, if Anthony Rizzo breaks out this season and solidifies himself as the Cubs’ long term answer at first base, then Dan Vogelbach is probably more valuable to teams lacking first base prospects than he is to the Cubs. If that happened, I would expect Vogelbach to be made available in trade down the road.

We saw an example of this thinking in the Matt Garza trade. The Cubs had a good young shortstop in the Majors, so Hak-Ju Lee was tradeable. They had two catchers with Major League potential who were both going to be in Triple A, so one of them (Robinson Chirinos) was tradeable. Both players were dealt to Tampa (along with a few others) for Garza.

It also makes sense to trade prospects when a particular position at a particular level is becoming very crowded. To use the Garza trade as an example again, trading Lee allowed the Cubs to free up some badly needed middle infield at bats at Double A. To give you an idea how crowded the Tennessee Smokies were at second and short last season, consider that D.J. LeMahieu now has a chance to be the Rockies starting second baseman, Ryan Flaherty was taken in the Rule 5 draft and has a great chance to stick with the Orioles, and Marwin Gonzalez was taken in the Rule 5 draft and has a great chance to stick with the Astros. The Smokies were loaded, and someone had to be traded to clear some at bats. That someone was Hak-Ju Lee, and the rest is history.

So, with all of that established, what players in the Cubs farm system are the most likely to be traded in the next twelve months? Here are the four names I think top the list.

Junior Lake

Scouts love five tool players, and Lake is one of the most toolsy. He also does not have an obvious position with the Cubs. Offensive oriented shortstop prospects are among the most valuable a team can have, and thanks to his AFL performance Lake’s value has never been higher. In this case, that value might be better used in a trade than as a part of the Cubs future. I expect to hear Lake’s name quite a bit in July.

Scott Maine

Hard throwing, left handed relievers are always valuable to any team, the Cubs included. In fact, as we saw in the Marshall trade, sometimes they can be valued so highly that a team can get a very nice haul in exchange for them. Maine, although he is no Marshall, is as ready for the Majors as a pitcher can be, but he will have a tough time cracking the Cubs’ bullpen. James Russell is locked in as one lefty, and Jeff Beliveau and John Gaub join Maine as young lefties looking for a break. One of those three could easily be moved, and I think Maine is the most likely. Like Lake, I expect to hear Maine mentioned as part of several potential packages in July.

Alberto Cabrera

Cabrera is one of those pitchers who is younger than a lot of fans seem to realize. He has struggled in Triple A, but alongside those struggles have been flashes of success. At this stage he is probably a bullpen arm. Unfortunately for Cabrera, the Cubs are crowded with bullpen arms who look more promising. Cabrera won’t be a big part of any trade, but I do think there are a number of teams who would be happy to have a 23 year old, hard-throwing right handed pitcher to develop in Triple A for a year or two.

Welington Castillo / Steve Clevenger

I really should throw Geovanny Soto in here as well, but he isn’t a prospect. If Soto is extended, I think Clevenger will eventually be his backup and Castillo will be traded. If Soto is traded, I think Castillo will be the starting catcher in Chicago and the Cubs will look to pair him with a veteran backup. That would lead to Clevenger being traded. Of the two prospects, Castillo looks more like a potential starting catcher while Clevenger is almost the ideal guy to have on the bench. Personally, I have no problem with the Cubs having two young catchers on the roster, but it is not something you see very often. And, with the depth the Cubs have at catcher in the farm system, keeping one and dealing the other just makes sense.

This list will change as the players break out or regress and as the needs of the Cubs and of other teams evolve over the course of the season. I will probably revisit this topic as we get closer to July and the rumors start to fly. Feel free to nominate future names for the Most Likely To Be Traded List here, on the Message Boards, or send them to me on Twitter @ltblaize.

  • North Side Irish

    Good stuff, but I’m a little confused on why the Cubs would be trading any of these players. Isn’t the plan to acquire long term assets rather than trading them away?

    • DocWimsey

      Whether or not Theo & Hoyer view these guys as assets has to be part of the equation. It’s a tired drum, but it still bears beating: Theo & Hoyer value batting eyes. They didn’t teach guys to recognize pitches in the Sox system: they signed guys that could do that. A couple of guys on this list have shown very poor pitch recognition skills, and as Cub farmhand history shows, that spells trouble for an MLB batter’s career.

      (There is one fewer team on the trilobite wagon with Hendry gone, but there still are teams out there with his philosophies.)

      Similarly, Theo & Hoyer covet pitchers with command over guys with raw “stuff.” There are some farmhands with “stuff” but no command that might interest other teams.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      You acquire long-term assets so that you can either (1) watch them play for your club, or (2) trade them to fill other needs. There are only 25 roster spots on the big club…

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      The overall goal is to acquire assets, but assets that can’t be used don’t benefit anyone.  As a result, a good General Manager will trade from his excess to shore up a weakness.

      In the case of the Cubs, they have a serious lack of left handed, hard throwing starting pitching prospects, and slugging from the corner outfield.  They have an abundance of catchers and infield prospects.  Since they can’t play all those catchers or infielders, it just makes sense to trade some of them away for slugging outfield prospects, for example.

       

  • TWC

    Luuuuuuuuuuuuuuke.  Welcome to the big board.

    I know it’s only been a couple of spring games, but Beliveau has been cold.  Considering how much Theo & co. like him, I hope he can shake it off and find the strike zone.

  • MichCubFan

    Nice article…the prospect world is an interesting one, isn’t it?

    Do you think that Josh Vitters could also be a name that could fit on this list?

    He has less upside than Lake, but is at a crossroads where he is either at his peak value, or he will do something that not very many hitters can do… which is changing his hitting approach.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      I think the Cubs are going to give Vitters a shot.  He isn’t a super high OPS guy right now, but he has all the physical tools to become a very good hitter nonetheless .  According to the scouts, he sees and recognizes pitches just fine and has the ability to lay the barrel of the bat on any of them.  He just lacks that patience to wait for one he can hammer.  If that is right (and I have no reason to doubt publications like Baseball America), then Vitters has a potentially bright future.  Given his age, I think the Cubs want to see how he responds when placed in a system that prioritizes plate discipline.

      If he Ian Stewart does well at third in the majors, then Vitters might go on the list.  On the other hand, if he can learn to wait for pitches he can hammer (and there is no reason he can’t; the scouts say he recognizes pitches extremely well), then the Cubs will find a home for his bat somewhere.  He may yet wind up in left field.

      • DocWimsey

        If Vitters does turn into a disciplined swinger, then he will represent a major exception to the general pattern. As a Cubs fan, I hope that he does. However, I wouldn’t bank on it. Indeed, I have to wonder why scouts think that Vitters can recognize pitches: if he could, then he wouldn’t be swinging at pitches out of the strike zone so often.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          Vitters is an odd case in general.  From all accounts, the kid can literally hit anything in the strike zone, and a lot of stuff outside it.  And he knows it.  Until he hit Double A in 2010 he had never really struggled at the plate, ever, so he had never had to learn to wait for a pitch he could drive.

          In 2011, he started working on that part of his game with some small signs of progress late in the season.

          Looking just at the numbers, I agree that he looks like a typical case of a guy who swings at everything because he has no idea what’s coming (except his K% is lower than typical for those guys).  If it weren’t for the scouts and the analysts who have seen him in person continually praising his ability to recognize pitches, I’d probably have written him off.  Instead, I think he may benefit more than anyone else from the change in leadership in the Cubs.  If the Cubs can infuse some discipline into a guy with his natural ability, then it should prove well worth the effort.

          It is possible that scouts are wrong and he can’t recognize pitches… but I doubt it.  In his case, I think the problem are mental and correctable with coaching, not physical.

  • Cliffy

    At this point i don’t see the Cubs Moving prospects. Unless we are trading prospects for other prospects in areas of need where we are weak. i don’t relish the thought of giving up Junior Lake but i will keep an open mind.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I think Luke is looking out far into the future, not right now – he mentions mid-season a couple times.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        Exactly.  These are names we’ll hear in July.  They may not be dealt, but I don’t think for a minute that Theo and Jed are going to be on the sidelines as we approach the deadline.

  • TC

    Awesome stuff, Luke

  • Andrewmoore4isu

    I would have liked to see vitters on this list for various reasons. Hopefully lake can handle 3B

  • Cheryl

    I would hate to see Dan Vogelbach traded at this point. Until we see how it shakes out at first base I’d wait on him. Suppose LaHair is the one with a breakout season, does that mean Rizzo could be traded? To me LaHair would be the ideal interim first baseman until Vogelbach is ready. However, a lot depends on Vogelbach. If he does not do well in the minors, then that scenario will have to be revisited. Rizzo has been given a lot of glowing reports, but his value is still a questionmark.

    • Billy

      Even with a breakout year I doubt LaHair is the long term answer at first base. He is 29 entering this season and Cubs are moving towards a younger team. Unless he hits 40 HR’s I doubt he sticks past this season

      • Cheryl

        Note I said interim, not long term. If he hits well he probably has four years.

  • Noah

    I don’t think much anyone in baseball views Junior Lake as a legitimate shortstop prospect. He’s a guy nearly everyone has between 8 and 12 in what is viewed as a pretty average minor league system (at this time). I think everyone views him as a very raw but talented future third baseman who, if worst comes to worst, you could move to the mound because he has a huge arm.

    I just don’t think any of the guys you listed would be a “big prospect piece” in a trade if the Cubs were surprisingly contending and looking to add a big time Major Leaguer in July. If the Cubs moved Soto or Soto was injured, Castillo could potentially fit that bill. But if that were the case, the Cubs would probably need Castillo to contend.

    To add a big piece, I’d think the Cubs would have to be willing to trade at least one of their Top 6 prospects, who I’d say are generally viewed as B-Jax, Rizzo, Baez, McNutt, Szczur and Maples. And once you get beyond the Top 3, you might need two of them.

    Thankfully (or perhaps regretfully), the Cubs are unlikely to be in a position where they have to make that sort of decision.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      The Cubs aren’t going to land any stars with any one of these guys, but I don’t think any of these guys would be dealt singly.

      For example, let’s say the Cubs have a deal on the table to trade Marlon Byrd for one Top 150 type prospect, but there is a Top 50 guy in that farm system the Cubs would love to have.  Could they add Junior Lake to the deal and make that Top 50 happen?  Probably not.  What about Lake and Maine?  Depending on the team in question and what they need… maybe.

      • Noah

        First, the Cubs aren’t getting a Top 150 type prospect for Marlon Byrd. They’ll get a C to C+ prospect or two: guys who are either low ceiling but close to the Majors and guaranteed to contribue (think Dave Sappelt), or a guy who is far away but has a higher ceiling (looking at the same trade, think Torreyes).

        Second, 27 year old LOOGYs with 20 innings of major league experience with Scott Maine’s numbers are a dime a dozen. He adds nothing of value to any trade. He could be a throw in to perhaps get a similar right handed reliever, if the Cubs felt they needed that more.

        If you combined all four of the guys not named Welington Castillo listed here into one trade right now, you MIGHT be able to get a back of the rotation starter who lacks upside. And that’s only if someone really likes Junior Lake’s upside.

        I will say, though, that if Junior Lake does happen to show, to paraphrase Kevin Goldstein, that he has learned to play baseball in Tennessee this season, his value would probably skyrocket and he could be a consensus Top 100 prospect next season. I just sincerely doubt that is going to happen.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          As an aside, it was Law who said that Lake needs to “learn how to play baseball,” not Goldstein – though Goldstein pretty much feels the same way.

  • Eye Roller

    Purposely missed out on Darvish, then looking to trade, trade, trade — looks like we won’t contend until 2020…(maybe).

    • TWC

      “Purposely missed out on Darvish…”

      Do you care to elaborate on this?  Or is it just speculation?

      • Brian

        Please don’t invite anymore speculation!

      • DocWimsey

        Well, I’ll bet that I can fill in the logic! The Cubs are Hamlet. The other teams are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. If the Cubs try, then they succeed: nothing the other teams do is relevant. If the Cubs exit the stage, then some random stuff happens like…. (spins wheel) this team from “Texas” getting the guy. (We know that’s silly: they only play football down there!)

        Really, it’s quite an easy game to play and fun, too!

        • VanSlawAndCottoCheese

          “I don’t believe in it.”
          “What?”
          “The MLB.”
          “Just a conspiracy of sports media, then?”

          • King Jeff

            You wouldn’t happen to be the original Bleacher Nation “VanSlaw”, would you?

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              He’s the one and only VanSlaw.

              • TWC

                Well a hearty “Welcome back” is in order!

                • VanSlawAndCottoCheese

                  It appears I went out and got virtually married. Mrs. CottoCheese and I decided against hyphenation. If you run into CottoCheeseAndVanSlaw somewhere on the interwebs, fingers off; she’s my gal.

                  Thanks, all. This place keeps growing–a testament to Brett’s talent and charm, no doubt. And all the free drugs, sure; gotta be the drugs.

                  • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                    Not everyone is privy to the drugs. Thanks for spilling the crank, as it were.

          • hardtop

            is that a parody of a line from rosencrantz and guildenstern are dead? oh my, we are in good company here at bleacher nation.

            (you forgot “anyway”)

            • VanSlawAndCottoCheese

              Ugh, an “anyway!” An “anyway!” My commentdom for an “anyway!”

    • ferrets_bueller

      Well, I’ve now read my intelligence lowering post for the day.

      • JasonB

        ^This

  • FINNER

    Good read Luke. I look forward to reading may more in the near future. Congrats!

  • DowntownLBrown

    I think they should give Castillo some decent time in the majors before thinking of resigning Soto. Everytime Castillo plays he seems to do something right offensively, unlike Soto, who hasnt really been extraordinary.

  • FromFenwayPahk

    Reading takes on catchers here and in Brett’s main board post today gives me binocular vision. Quantum improvement for BN. I can sort of see the Cubs in 3D. Great work, Luke. Great move, Brett.

  • Dave

    It will be important for the Cubs to know their prospects inside and out and have a good feel for which will and will not develope regardless of how they are viewed outside the organization.
    For example, Lake may be seen by the Cubs as a high upside guy who will never develope the baseball skills needed to be an everyday player and they could trade him while his value is preceived to be high.

  • Joker

    You would think, by reading this board, that most of us Cubs fans think that Josh Vitters might merit a spot on the list but for entirely different reasons.

  • Tobias

    Luke’s reasoning about the Garza trade should be read by those Cub fans that opined that they gave up too much for Garza, but if you look at the Latos/Gio trades earlier this year the Cubs might have given up market value for Garza. Hoyer might be getting to the point of identifying which of their prospects are going to make-up their core and which prospects are going to be in a group that will be used as trade chips. The surplus of prospects might actually come from the outfield, especially if the Cubs sign Soler, which is rumored to happened.

  • cubsin

    Luke, I’d be very reluctant to trade Lake right now unless I was convinced he’s going to fail. If he has a good season in 2012, he could easily double his trade value.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      It’s true that, with a great 2012 season – one in which he shows a consistent approach at the plate, for example, plus good numbers – Lake could catapult into the top 100 overall prospects. He’s that physically gifted.

      The problem, though, that we’ll have to remember is that the leap forward for Lake is not particularly likely. And, since he’s already on the 40-man, the Cubs are on the clock (as in, this will be his first of three option years).

  • Richard Nose

    Fantasmic stuff. Not that it needs to be agreed upon, as it’s more logic/fact, but I agree with that catcher outlook 100%. Makes perfect sense.

  • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

    I don’t think Vitters has the trade value that makes it worth trading him. He’s at an all time low in value, not going to get anything good for him.
    The non-zero chance he has at fulfilling all that “pretty swing” potential makes it worth it for me to hang on to him until he is out of options.

  • Noah

    I don’t see how Hak Ju Lee being traded freed up any plate appearances for middle infielders at Double A last season. Lee spent all of 2010 in Low A Peoria. He spent all but a month of 2011 in Tampa’s High A affiliate. Even had he put up similar numbers with the Daytona Cubs, all he would have done was pushed Junior Lake to 3B or the outfield, which is going to happen eventually anyways. LeMahieu, Flaherty and Gonzalez would all have been in AAA by the time Lee would have been promoted.

    Beyond that, if Jim Hendry traded one of his best prospects and a consensus Top 100 prospect in baseball with even one iota of the reasoning being to clear up playing time for inferior prospects, that would have been up there with the Milton Bradley signing as some of his worst reasoning in history.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      The Cubs promote more aggressively than Tampa.  Had Lee been in the Cubs system, I think he would have been in Tennesee by mid June at the latest.

      And keep in mind that I am not suggesting the sole reason to move Lee was to free up at bats.  But heading into the 2011 season, the Cubs had a serious logjam on the middle of the diamond and someone had to go.  When Tampa made Garza available and showed an interest in Lee and Chirinos, the Cubs were able to add a very good young starter entering his prime by dealing from the areas of depth in the farm system.  With Castro in Chicago, Lee was the perfect example of a player who was more valuable to another team than he was to the Cubs.

      • Noah

        I’m sorry Luke, but I just don’t buy it, for a couple of reasons. To start, even last year a lot of people had concerns about Castro being able to stick at the position. Hak Ju Lee was at least two years away (he’s still a year away at least unless pushed VERY aggressively), at which point the Cubs would have a better idea of if Castro would be able to hold down shortstop or not. Moreover, presuming Lee’s performance in Daytona had been similar to his High A performance last year, he would have vastly increased his trade value for this offseason and beyond.

        I’ll agree with you on a rephrase of your statement that Lee was more valuable to the Rays than the Cubs: Lee was more valuable to Andrew Friedman than Jim Hendry. Jim Hendry needed the Major League team to succeed in 2011 to save his job. Hak Ju Lee wasn’t going to help him do that. In a different world where Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner survive the first week of the season, Matt Garza might have. Andrew Friedman didn’t need Matt Garza to save his job, and in fact needed to shave his salary off the payroll.

        But if Castro eventually has to move off of shortstop, we’re going to greatly miss Hak Ju Lee. We don’t have another middle infield prospect with his combination of defense and offensive ability that is likely to stick at the position.

        • Richard Nose

          I’m with Luke here. Lee had the most upside of that group hands down, but with that much going on in the middle infield, an alternative would have been to sub LeMahieu in a package with someone like Chirinos and Archer. Then you don’t get Matt Garza in return, you get Wade Davis. Traded 2 solid ‘prospects’ (along with 3 other toys) for an already proven horse, who might have just taken a step toward ace-dom during the last couple months of last year. Maybe I just can’t help being positive about Garza, love him hope Cubs lock him up. I might just be an optimist, but I love that move.

          • DocWimsey

            Again, this gets back to what different people consider to be an asset. HJLee has a great batting eye and takes walks. Friedman considers this to be an asset. (The Rays are not the Yanks or Sox, but they are no slouches at drawing walks, either.) As we all know, Hendry does not truly do so.

            Conversely, LeMahieu consistently bats 0.300+ with an OBP just barely higher. Hendry values BA over OBP, whereas Friedman does not.

            It’s come up before, but at the time, HJLee was not universally acclaimed. To his credit, Keith Law thought that HJLee was a stud: but a lot of other people were skeptical that HJLee would ever hit enough to make it in the bigs.

            • JasonB

              I don’t remember hearing anyone say that they didn’t think Lee could hit enough to play SS in the bigs. The knock I’d always heard on him is that he doesn’t have the power to profile as an impact bat, which is still true.

          • Noah

            I’m not saying that the Garza trade was a bad one from the Cubs’ perspective, or that Lee should not have been included in it. I’m merely saying that I disagree with the idea that Lee was included or expendable because there weren’t enough plate appearances to give to inferior prospects or because he was blocked by Starlin Castro. Lee was included because the Cubs couldn’t get the deal done without including Lee in it.

            Let me put it this way: Dave Sappelt should be able to play CF based on his speed, but apparently takes really bad routes to balls. I’m sure the Cubs would like to get him some reps in Iowa at the position so he can work on that. But Brett Jackson will clearly, and correctly, get the vast majority of playing time in Iowa’s center field until he is called up, barring injury. But let’s say the Nationals went crazy and decided they wanted to trade Bryce Harper, and one of the big name prospects the Cubs included in the trade was Brett Jackson. The Cubs could all but wipe out their Top 10 prospects for Harper and it would still probably be a good deal for the Cubs. A side effect of the trade is that Dave Sappelt will get a lot more reps in CF in Iowa. In that case, would the Cubs have included Jackson because he was necessary to get the deal done? Or was he included so Dave Sappelt, a vastly inferior prospect, could get more repetitions in CF?

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

              The point is not that Lee himself was expendable or that the Cubs had set out deliberately to trade Lee.

              The point is that the Cubs had too many middle infielders with major league potential clustered at about the same level, and someone needed to be moved.  Had it not been Lee in the Garza trade, it could just have easily been Flaherty or LeMahieu in a different deal.  The Cubs’ need to thin out that log jam was entirely independent of Tampa’s interest in Lee in the Garza swap or the Cubs interest in trading for Garza.  That the Garza trade allowed the Cubs to kill multiple birds with a single stone was a small plus for the Cubs, but it was by no means any kind of a dominant or motivating factor in the trade.  The Garza trade happened because the Cubs wanted Garza.

              On the other hand, had the Cubs not had a glut of major league potential infield prospects or a young shortstop with an immense amount of promise playing well in the majors at shortstop, there is no way they would have traded Lee.  That wasn’t the case, and as a result the Cubs were willing to deal Lee.  Castro was undoubtedly the larger factor in deciding to let Lee go, but again, had Lee not been moved someone would have had to be.

              • Noah

                First, I’ll agree with you that had Castro not existed at all, the Cubs would have been less likely to include Lee. I can’t positively say that they would not have included Lee, because Hendry knew his job was on the line and Lee was too far away to help him.

                But I still have a problem with this idea that the Cubs front office thought there might be some additional bonus in that inferior prospects would get more playing time. First, the main guys who actually would have been displaced by the Lee trade were not LeMahieu, Flaherty and Gonzalez, who were a level above him, but instead Junior Lake, who should be moved off shortstop anyways, and potentially Matt Cerda if Lake was moved to 3B.

                And let’s even say Hak Ju Lee would have come up to Tennessee by the end of June. Both D.J. LeMahieu and Marwin Gonzalez were already in AAA (LeMahieu had his brief stint with the Cubs) by then. And Flaherty can’t play shortstop. I just don’t see how the logic connects to a logjam with minor league players he never would have been on the same team with in 2011.

                If the Cubs thought process was that they had Starlin Castro, so they could in fact afford to trade Hak Ju Lee over the only other position prospect the Cubs had with similar value, Brett Jackson, that’s one thing. But if the Cubs then followed it up with, “and hey, as a bonus we can give a lot more plate appearances to a bunch of lesser prospects whose probable upside is bench player, so that makes losing Lee hurt less,” then Jim Hendry was an even worse GM than many thought.

                • Bric

                  I think you guys are both jumping around some good points but with a little woulda, coulda, shouldas. The reality is that Hendry went all in for one more good pitcher to support a team that he put together and considered a winner. Too bad that didn’t happen for a number of different reasons. The biggest was his “win now, whatever it takes” attitude.

                  We all have two ears but only one mouth which means people sholud listen a lot more than speak. Hendry didn’t and now he’s gone. What’s left? A player he totally overpaid for if you consider the investment was to get to the post season again.

                  If you look back at the reaction at the time, the guys who were in favor of the trade were because they thought it meant another post season. Those that were opposed were equally adament because they didn’t see it happening. And they were right. The rest is just more stats to poor over in meaningless fashion. The only thing I remember is Hendry saying “McNutt is untouchable”. Wonder how he feels now. I know I wish it had been McNutt and I said so at the time.

                  • Noah

                    Bric- I completely agree with you as to why the trade happened.

                    And if the trade could have happened with McNutt and Archer instead of Archer and Lee, I would have preferred to give up both the pitchers. But I think both Archer and McNutt had disappointing 2011s, so I’m not concerned about the Cubs keeping McNutt over Archer. I’ll be interested to see if the new regime can get McNutt to better repeat his delivery.

    • King Jeff

      There are a lot more middle infield prospects that Lee would have been getting playing time over other than Junior Lake. Logan Watkins, Eliot Soto, Matthew Cerda all saw more time for Daytona and in effect, Alcantara, Pierre LaPage, and Rubi Silva all got more at bats. There are guys behind them too, Zeke DeVoss and Javier Baez. The point was that the Cubs are loaded with middle infield prospects, which made Lee expendable.

      • Noah

        And, as I’ve said before, if the Jim Hendry regime was concerned about a vastly superior prospect “taking plate appearances away” from vastly inferior prospects, he was an even worse GM than most thought. Of all the guys you listed who weren’t drafted in 2011, two have more than extremely limited odds of ever seeing the Majors: Logan Watkins and Matthew Cerda MIGHT be able to make the big leagues. All the rest are extremely unlikely to.

        Saying that Lee’s playing time would have effected Zeke DeVoss or Javier Baez is just based on nothing. First, Baez played all of four professional games last season. DeVoss was a high enough draft pick that his playing every day at 2B was a priority.

        Taking plate appearances away from marginal prospects or org guys in exchange for giving them to better prospects just isn’t an issue.

  • oswego chris

    the dearth of starting pitching prospects last year is where the last regime’s ineptness was exposed….what’s odd about that is that when Hendry first started we were busting with them….Big Z, Juan Cruz, Guzman, Lohse, Willis, Prior….it was a strength….the back half of the 2000′s…..poof!….none…..

    • ferrets_bueller

      Man, Juan Cruz….that one still pisses me off.  They ruined that kid’s career.

      • DocWimsey

        If memory serves, wasn’t Cruz on the roster but never used in the 2003 playoffs? If so, then that made Game #2 more criminal: Dusty could have yanked Prior 35 pitches earlier and let Cruz get broken in for the series.

        As for the more general problem, Cubs pitching prospects had a lot of arm troubles. It turned up at MLB level, but also in the minors. I guess that the Cubs Way (“pitch counts are for wusses; oh, and winning teams.”) was to blame…. :-)

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          I can barely think about Dusty leaving Prior in Game 2 without my blood pressure rising. I’m still so very angry about that (and so many other things, of course).

          • ferrets_bueller

            I still want to punch Alex Gonzales.

            • TWC

              In.  The.  Throat.

              • DocWimsey

                That error hurt, but if Prior had not been left in Game 2 to throw 2 or 3 more innings than necessary (remember, the Cubs had a huge lead early), then he probably does not get hit so hard late in the game. It’s forgotten now, but Prior got out of the 7th inning on hard hit balls: but if he’s yanked after only 80 pitches in game 2, then he probably has more left in his arm.

                But, then, we all know that it was just attitude problems with Prior all along….. ;-)

                • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

                  Didn’t the Cubs have Clement warmed up and ready to go in the pen for the eighth inning of Game 6 anyway?  Oh well.

                  There is a tiny part of me that feels sorry for Reds fans.  They have such a good team on paper, and so many promising arms in that rotation.

                  • TWC

                    Can we PLEASE stop talking about that game?

                    • DocWimsey

                      OK. Let’s talk about Game 4 or 5 in San Diego in 1984 then!

                      :-D

  • ferrets_bueller

    I really, really, really hope they do trade Lake while he still has value.  Unlike Pie, the Patterson brothers, etc….

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      The general consensus on Lake is that he will have to move off of short (though there are a few who argue differently), and third base is his most likely destination.  His arm would be wasted at second and his bat would be no better than average in right, so third is probably his best spot.

      But his defense isn’t the issue.  Like Brett said, it’s his offense that needs work.  If he can polish up his game at the plate, some team will find a spot to put him.  If he can’t, like Noah mentioned, the Cubs will probably try his arm out on the mound.

      Lake will start this season in Double A.  If he does well there I could see him moving to Iowa in the second half of the season, but I don’t expect it.  If all goes well we could see Lake up for a September cup of coffee this season (he is already on the 40 man), but I don’t see him having a chance to earn a starting job with the team until late 2013 at the earliest.  By then, it is entirely possible that Javier Baez will be right on his heels, and I’m not sure Lake could hold third base away from Baez for long even if he was able to take it.

      I really don’t see a long term position for Lake on the Cubs, except maybe as a pitcher.

       

      Edit: Stuck that reply in the wrong spot.  That should be in reply to Coldneck, a little further down the page.

      • Richard Nose

        He took a walk today…hot route!

  • Coldneck

    Would Lake not make a good replacement at 3B should Ian Stewart continue to struggle? He’s only 21 and most seem to think his size will prevent him from playing middle infield. I’d guess that his lack of power may concern people, but perhaps that will develop given his age and size (6’3″, 215 lbs).

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      It’s definitely possible, but Lake’s real problem isn’t the lack of power (which could develop) – it’s the lack of a consistent approach at the plate. He’s just kind of all over the place, and many folks don’t believe he’ll ever be able to hit at the Major League level.

    • Noah

      Perhaps eventually, but not for this year and unlikely for 2013. I’d be surprised if Lake is ready before 2014, and I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he’s been converted to pitcher by then.

      If Stewart flops this year, the Cubs will probably need to give the job to Vitters or look out of the organization for a replacement.

  • Cheryl

    Have the Cubs learned anything from the injuries that have taken out some of their better draftees? Hayden Simpson wasn’t in shape to really play in 2011 and the arm problem he suffered seems like it could have been avoided. Then there’s Dusty’s mismanagement of Prior, etc. It would seem with this past history they should have top notch conditioning and health support in the minors and the majors.

  • mark

    Re Hak Ju Lee, if I recall, there was never a knock on his fielding, but there WERE doubts whether he had what it would take to be a MLB hitter. Check out his AA numbers last year–he did nothing to disprove those concerns: 100 AB, .190/.272/.310. So far he’s a good hitting A level player with still a lot to prove. Neither Guyer nor Archer contributed at the MLB level last year. The Garza trade could still end up looking good.

    • Noah

      The issue with Lee is he’s probably never going to hit for more than doubles power. Everyone thinks the average will be there. The real questions regarding Lee’s offense will be: (1) will he continue to walk at a near 10% clip as he moves up; and (2) will he in fact hit for double’s power? If he doesn’t do either of those, the average will probably be pretty empty.

      Even if he doesn’t, though, his combination of average, defense and speed should make him at least a league average player at shortstop. Envision a Darwin Barney who hits 10 to 20 points higher and steals 30-40 bases a year. But if he does continue to walk and hits for significant doubles power, he’d be similar to Elvis Andrus, perhaps a little better.

    • JasonB

      Isn’t he 20 years old? He wouldn’t be the first 20 year old in the history of baseball to struggle at AA.

  • AB

    Considering the lack of high-level arms in the system and how high some analyst rate Junior Lake’s arm, wouldn’t the Cubs try to convert Lake to a pitcher before trading him since he’s still only 21??

    • Noah

      That depends on where his value lies. Has he shown he’s a legit position player prospect that the Cubs just end up not having a spot for? Then you could trade him for pitching that is far more advanced than Lake would be as a 21 year old just coming to the mound as a flame thrower who would have to be taught a breaking ball and change up. If he busts out as a position player prospect, then he’ll essentially have no value and the Cubs should convert him to a pitcher.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      I’m not so sure the Cubs lack high level arms in the system.  There are number of promising arms in the low levels to keep an eye on this year.  They may all ultimately flame out, but I tend to doubt it.   I think we’re going to find six months from now that the Cubs are in a better situation pitching wise than a lot of us suspect.

      • AB

        “I think we’re going to find six months from now that the Cubs are in a better situation pitching wise than a lot of us suspect.”

        I like Beane’s rule, if (a big IF) you’re lucky one of out three pitching prospects will actually contribute in the MLB. Just look at how far Carpenter, Cashner, Rhee, and Jay Jackson dropped from potential top to middle of the rotation candidates in just a few years.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          Rhee and Cashner are still mid-rotation starter candidates (#3 for Rhee, #2/#3 for Cashner).

          But to a great extent, Beane is on the right track.  One aspect of developing pitching talent (in particular) is quantity.  Fortunately, the Cubs have no shortage of high quality arms in the lower minors.  They don’t have anyone quite in the Trevor Bauer or Matt Moore category, but they have an army of guys with ceilings as high #3 starter/ set up man.

          • When the Music’s Over

            I tend to believe when people say high level/impact arms, they are referring to #1/#2 starters and closer types, not guys with #3 ceilings and setup men.

            While the latter are still very valuable, especially in high abundance, I think Cubs fans are frustrated that this organization has been unable to internally develop a #1/#2 starter since Zambrano.

  • Steve

    I like how Brett is acting like a momma bear to Luke, deftly deflecting even the mildest of criicism in an attempt to foster his success. It’s kinda cute!

    • TWC

      Yeah.  Or they agree.  Whichever fits your narrative, I guess.

  • daveyrosello

    Actually, I’ve heard multiple references about turning Lake into a pitcher, including Sickels or Law, one of those guys I forget which. Pretty much everyone agrees Lake has an 80 arm for an infielder, so the pitcher talk makes a lot of sense. He could be the power arm in the bullpen that the Cubs are looking for.

    If Lake doesn’t hit well in 2012, I think it’s guaranteed the Cubs get him on the mound for 2013. For a recent example of the same, look at Kyler Burke.

  • djriz

    It’s beautiful to have Baseball back!
    This is fun to speculate on, but I just don’t see this group actively looking to trade prospects.

    If ,by some miracle, they are contending in July, I don’t see this FO trading good prospects for a 36 yr old pitcher. That would be the old gangs MO. This group says they want to be in it for the long run.

    Teams don’t typically trade their top prospects for other teams middlin’ prospects. Maybe trading organizational types to shore up a positions in your system, but that’s it.

    Lastly, if your a prospect geek like I am, you’re always afraid of ‘the one that got away”. I say keep all of the ‘HIGH’ upside guys and see how they adapt to the new ‘CUBS WAY’. They’ll either get it …..YEAH…or can’t change their way….BOO…then you really know what you have

  • MikeW

    Luke -

    Good article. Don’t see Maine being dealt. The Cubs already are hurting with legitimate options for lefties in the pen (Beliveau has zero experience above AA and is struggling this spring, who knows with Gaub, and then there’s old man Trever Miller…). Plus he’s not really a prospect. He’s a 27-year old lefty. Theres a lot of those kicking around most squads.

    I could easily see Clevenger dealt, however.

  • TeddyBallGame

    Great read Luke!!! In my opinion, it gives you instant credibility. It’s gonna be great to have continual updates throughtout the season on minor league players. Your article brought a few questions to mind…do teams often trade minor leaguers for other minor leaguers?? Also, is the minor league deadline July 31st as well?? I hope these names are coming up as the trade deadline approaches because that’ll most likely mean we’re competing for a playoff spot. Not likely, but it’s baseball, you never know…

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