Chicago Cubs Prospect Primer 2012: Second Base

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.

Top Five

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.

Luke Blaize is the Minor League Editor at Bleacher Nation. He can be found on Twitter as ltblaize.

47 responses to “Chicago Cubs Prospect Primer 2012: Second Base”

  1. CubFan Paul

    I want .290/.360/.400 from 2B. Cardenas could of done that for us this year ..barney will not SLG enough to have a high enough OPS -.280/.320/.360 is weak

    1. Kyle

      That’s an incredibly optimistic line for Cardenas. He’d basically have to match his AAA performance in the majors, with no drop-off for the hardest step up in baseball.

      1. CubFan Paul

        Optimistic? Maybe, but I see Cardenas mashing against RHP & getting a lot of doubles with his speed

        His pro OBP might not be .360 but .330 is possible, so is a .400-.425ish SLG%

  2. AB

    What are some decent comps for Watkins?? the increase in SLG at offensively-oppressed FSL was a great sign.

  3. Deer

    Wow, Torreyes looks like a bat boy taking some swings in that pic.

  4. DocWimsey

    33 walks in 187 PAs? Holy BLEEP: that suggests a minimum true walk rate of 12%. Was Hendry channeling Theo when they drafted DeVoss?!?!? Seriously, if his pitch recognition is that good, then he has a good chance of developing decent slugging with the “selective aggression” approach that Theo & Hoyer espouse.

    EDIT: heheh, it turns out that Theo *did* draft this guy, 2 years before the Cubs did!

  5. Deer

    Also, I’m calling BS that Torreyes is 5’9″. Probably closer to 5’7″. Not a big fan of that trade.

  6. Cedlandrum

    The breakdowns are great. I am higher on Watkins then I think most. I would have him number 1 and slide everyone else above him down one spot, but there really isn’t anything to argue about with your list.

  7. Edwin

    I find it interesting that one of the criticisms of Jim Hendry was that he didn’t develop a good farm system, yet the current farm system, which was built almost entirely by Hendry, is considered to have great depth and is bursting at the scenes with potential. Almost all of the prospects listed on this feature (which I really enjoy) were either drafted or acquired by Hendry. Giving credit where credit is due, maybe Hendry wasn’t so bad at building a farm system?

    1. DocWimsey

      I’m not sure where you get the idea that this system is considered to be “good.” It’s constantly rated middle of the pack by analysts: its ranked 14th-20th (with the difference between these ranks being small) in different analyses this spring.

      At any rate, Hendry’s draft picks tend to have their flaws revealed in A+ and AA ball.

    2. Kyle

      The current farm system has great depth, but it’s also severely lacking in star potential. And in the farm system, quality is a lot better than quantity.

      I’m a lot more bearish on DeVoss than this article. A college bat going straight to short-season A *should* have great numbers, he’s playing kids younger than him.

      I remember another 2b prospect who came out of college and wowed with his awesome OBP and BB skills. I marked out for him pretty hard. Name of Bobby Hill.

      DeVoss has a little bit of an advantage because his speed will help him eke out a few extra hits, but we’re a long way from seeing whether he’s going to be a 290 BA/400 OBP guy or a 250 BA/340 OBP guy, and with his lack of power, he can’t be the latter and be a productive major leaguer.

      1. King Jeff

        I don’t know where you get that he has no power from. He hits for plenty of extra bases, and had 9 homeruns in 60 games as a freshman. He has pop for his size, so his obp/walk skills, and speed aren’t all he has going for him.

      2. AB

        20 is right around the median age for a player in short-season. Not sure how you figure hes playing against alot of kids younger than him.

        that being said, a similar type player in Tony Thomas put up a much better line in NWL and then stalled out at AA.

        1. Kyle

          20 is the median age, but almost everyone older than that tends to be roster-fill. The real prospects are usually teenagers.

  8. Jeremy

    I love DeVoss’ slash line, you gotta think that he is the 2b of the future with how much the Cubs FO is preaching getting on base. Hopefully, his K/BB ratio sticks as he progresses as well as that average.

  9. RoughRiider

    2014 Second Baseman. Darwin Barney

    1. TWC

      ::vomit::

    2. hansman1982

      The only way he will be the opening day starter in 2014, with this front office, is if his defense becomes Gold Glove and we have big producers at 1st and 3rd, Jackson lives up to the hype and the rotation has a true Ace in it. Oh, and the combination of DeVoss, Torreyes, Lake, Baez, Watkins, Cardenas, etc… haven’t pushed Barney out, Castro over or resulted in a series of trades for a big-time 2B.

      1. DocWimsey

        Even then, if , Theo & Jed can find a better hitting, weaker fielding second baseman who projects to create more net runs for the Cubs than Barney, then that guy is in for Barney, gold gloves be damned. (Of course, it helps that Theo & Jed emphasize range whereas the Gold Glove emphasizes highlight plays and preconceptions.) Regardless of how the rest of the team is doing, that improves the Cubs.

        1. RoughRiider

          I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You guys just don’t give Barney enough credit. I expect that by the end of 2012 you will all change your tune. Notice I said 2014 not 2015.

          1. TWC

            For what does he deserve credit?  His anemic .310 OBP?  His 83 OPS+?  Or is it his passable defense and general nice-guyness?  I’ll grant him the latter.  But — while not the Cubs’ biggest problem — Barney is clearly a substandard 2nd baseman.

        2. hansman1982

          Ya, Jeter winning a Gold Glove in 2010 (year in question) thoroughly ruined the award forever.

          I was stating that as a primer that Barney’s offensive production at 2nd would only be allowed in the lineup because they were working on the other areas of the team. Odds are, Barney won’t be the starting 2B in 2014 unless he gets his OBP around .350 without a .310 BA.

          1. DocWimsey

            Awe, how did you guess that I was thinking about Captain Clutch? (Of course, Palmeiro winning it in a year that he DHed back in the 1990′s was another tip-off……)

            And we give Barney all the credit that 6 weeks of fluke high BABiP merits.

  10. Rynorooter

    Not sure who you’ve spoken to about Torreyes’s defense at 2B, but I’ve seen “plus” flashed many times. He should be well above average there defensively.

    Also think you were too kind about DeVoss’s current 2B defense. It’s horrendous right now. Saying he has some work to do there is putting it extremely mildly.

  11. Eric

    Luke – If Marwin Gonzalez comes back to the Cubs, where would he rank on your list?

    Thanks.

  12. Noah

    I like DeVoss as well, but he was a 21 year old with significant college ball experience for most of his time with Boise playing against 18 and 19 year olds. He should have dominated short season ball. Among the many flaws with the way the Hendry regime dealt with their minor league system, they always started their college players who should have been sent straight to Peoria or Daytona to Boise. Where, of course, they look amazing.

    DeVoss would probably be behind Torreyes for me, although I think you could jumble 1-4 around any way you want and have a reasonable argument. Any of them could be number 1 on a similar list next season.

    1. DocWimsey

      Where do most teams start their draftees signed out of college? It seems that I am forever reading that Cubs prospects are older than their competitors, but that must be an illusion.

      1. Noah

        It depends on the org, but the more forward thinking ones typically send their higher round college prospects to Low full season A Ball or above. The theory is that beating up on much younger kids with very little experience beyond the high school level doesn’t benefit them. Some guys go straight to AA, but those are typically top 10 types out of college. And occassionally you’ll get the pitcher who is ready to contribute to the pen sent to the Majors right away, although I generally think that’s a bad idea unless (and sometimes even if) you’re in a playoff run.

    2. AB

      Have you looked at the list of Baseball America’s top NWL Prospects?? they were all between 19-21 last year.

      Like I said above, DeVoss is NOT old for his level.

      1. Noah

        Just because other organizations also place their high draft picks coming out of college in short season ball doesn’t mean that it’s not wasted time that could be better used developing at a better league. You won’t know anything about DeVoss until he’s in High A ball at least. The problem is that he probably didn’t learn anything at Boise, and the Cubs probably didn’t learn much anything they didn’t already know about him either.

        1. AB

          I dunno, it looks like every other college player drafted in the same round played the same pro levels he did. I’m sure for alot of these guys its their first full season of baseball if they didn’t play Cape Cod or Northwoods League the previous year or two. With the length of the year, plus having to decide whether to sign a commitment to a school or sign professionaly, that’s alot of work and learning for a 20-y/o IMO.

  13. harryddunn

    so far in their pro careers Torreyes has hit XBH’s with 50% more frequency than has DeVoss

    as he moves up, pitchers are going to throw DeVoss strikes with enough regularity to mitigate his great patience

  14. Deer

    So basically our organizational talent at 2B sucks. None of those guys project to be regulars or ML backups when considering offense and defense. Too bad we lost Flaherty, he would have been an option.

    1. Spriggs

      I disagree. I believe the top 3 on Luke’s list all have legit chances to be starters on the Cubs or prolly any other team without a very young and talented 2nd baseman already starting. We’ll have to see how DeVoss develops and whether his glove is good enough and if he keeps getting on base.
      Amaya could be the sleeper here too. It’s sort of funny, really… we finally get some guys in the system that don’t hack at everything and some are writing them off now because they aren’t big enough.

  15. CubFan Paul

    why isn’t Devoss starting the season in Daytona? How’s he looked this spring?

  16. cubfanincardinalland

    Brett, I saw Torreyes play at Dayton, you should see the kid take batting practice. As he gets older he will have better than average power for a second baseman.
    Their manager Delino Deshields had his buddy Joe Morgan come watch him play last year, and told him you have to see this kid, he reminds me of you, a little guy who can hit the ball a mile. Also heard that Deshields told the Reds brass they were crazy for trading him.

  17. ferrets_bueller

    Wow, for some reason I never realized just how good DeVoss’s line was. Although, I’d like to be a bit larger of a sample size. While his walk rate is amazing, his K rate could end up an issue- the main reason I want to see a larger sample.