Last week we took a look at four areas of the Cubs’ farm system, including some areas where the organization enjoys unusual and valuable depth. Center field, in particular, had a nice pile of talent stretched all across the farm system. First base had some of the best prospects in the system, and the Cubs’ might have a gold mine in their youngest crop of catching prospects. That brings us back to the infield, to second base.
Even compared to the impressive amount of talent in center, second base is a standout position for the Cubs. The list opens with a guy whom I strongly suspect is the Cubs’ lead off hitter of the future, and then continues past several more players who are very likely to earn regular jobs in the majors. Darwin Barney is the second baseman of the present, but he will have a challenge on his hands if he wants to keep his starting job beyond the next year or so.
1 – Zeke DeVoss. Age: 21. Major League ETA: 2014
In the not too distant future, there will be no question who should be atop the batting order in Chicago. The Cubs took DeVoss in the third round of the 2011 Draft, and, after a short stint in Arizona, he was assigned to the Boise Hawks. By the time the season was over, the speedy switch hitter had amassed the improbable line of .311/.458(!)/.383 to go with his 14 steals. He also managed to walk more often than he struck out (32 BB / 28 SO). With his speed, ability to get on base, and his proficiency from both sides of the plate, he is an obvious candidate to lead off. He may never hit for much power, but, with his speed, that should not be an issue. He does have some work to do defensively if he is going to stay at second base, but there is no reason he can’t become a capable starting second baseman in the near future. The Cubs will probably let him start the season in Peoria, but I do not expect him to stay long. Unless his glove becomes an issue, the Cubs should let DeVoss climb the system just as fast as his bat will let him.
2 – Ronald Torreyes. Age: 19. Major League ETA: 2014
If for any reason DeVoss is slow in reaching the majors, he may find that the second base job has already been claimed by Torreyes. The Cubs acquired this second baseman from the Reds in the Sean Marshall trade. The good news is that Torreyes is an incredible contact hitter. He projects to hit for a very high average at every stop as he hits his way up the farm system. The bad news is that his high average is all that Torreyes is likely to bring to the table. At 5’9″ he has very little power to offer. He is not very fast and projects to be no better than average on the base paths. He is good in the field, but projects to be no better than average there as well. Fortunately, his ability to hit is probably good enough to carry him to a successful career. He will start the season with Daytona, but should he hit well there I expect the Cubs will see how he adjusts to Double-A pitching.
3 – Gioskar Amaya. Age: 19. Major League ETA: 2015
I seriously considered ranking Amaya second on this list, but gave the nod to Torreyes largely because he is at a higher level in the farm system. Like Torreyes, Amaya is a high average hitter who does not project to be exceptionally fast. The Cubs have played him as often at third or short as they have at second, and I suspect he will prove to be the best defensive second baseman on this list. Amaya should have more power than DeVoss or Torreyes, but that is not likely to be a significant part of his game. We have not gotten to see what this guy can do in a full season league yet, but I hope that will change in 2012. It is possible he will be assigned to Boise, but I think there is a very good chance he will open the season in Peoria if the Cubs think they can find enough infield at bats to go around.
4 – Logan Watkins. Age: 22. Major League ETA: 2013
This is the guy that I think will eventually be the first to unseat Darwin Barney, even though his long term future may be as a utility player. Watkins is athletic enough to play shortstop and center field as well as second base, and he has the speed to be an ever-present threat on the base paths. He is not big, but he has enough power to line doubles into the gaps and triples off the wall. I’d like to see his strikeouts come down somewhat, but so long as he can continue to draw walks and get on base I’m not too worried about him. After torching the Florida State League in the second half of 2011, he should get his first taste of Double-A in 2012. Since there is no one blocking him in Iowa, he could advance to Triple-A quickly if he gets off to a good start.
5 – Matt Cerda. Age: 21. Major League ETA: 2013
Cub fans seem to have a soft spot for undersized baseball players who play hard and have to fight for every chance they get. Augie Ojeda was a cult hero in Chicago. So is Tony Campana. In a lot of ways, Matt Cerda is cut from that same cloth. Cerda has a fantastic swing, but at 5’9″ he’ll never be able to translate that swing into significant power. He is a discipline hitter who should have little trouble hitting for average at any level. His FSL line is as notable for the 1:1 SO:BB ratio as it is for the .394 OBP. As good of a hitter as Cerda is, without some power or speed in support of his bat I’m not convinced he will hit enough to hold onto a starting job in the major leagues. I do think he will reach Chicago, though, and that he will become a fan favorite who sees time off the bench at second and third. He will begin 2012 in Tennessee.
Others To Watch
Adrian Cardenas is a good hitter who could not quite take the second base job from Darwin Barney this Spring. If he does well in Iowa, he could get another shot before the season is out. Rubi Silva was well regarded when he signed with the Cubs as a Cuban defector, but he struggled significantly in A-ball in 2011. Don’t forget about this guy, though. He could still prove to be one of the best in the system.
Tomorrow we will take a look at the left side of the infield.