Logan Watkins and Nick Struck Are the Cubs’ Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year

Yesterday the Chicago Cubs announced that AA second baseman Logan Watkins and AA pitcher Nick Struck are their 2012 Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year, respectively. The awards are given for overall performance throughout the year, which is not always reflective of prospect status. Watkins, 23, and Struck, 22, are legitimate prospects, to be sure, but they aren’t going to be showing up on any of the Cubs’ top ten prospect lists.

Still, each had an excellent year, and was worthy of the honor.

From the official press release:

Watkins, 23, hit .281 (137-for-488) with 93 runs scored, 20 doubles, 11 triples, nine home runs and 52 RBI in 133 games for the Double-A Tennessee Smokies this season. He led the Southern League in runs scored, was second in triples and walks (76) and was fourth in on-base percentage (.383). The left-handed hitter had a .301 batting average (110-for-366) against right-handed pitchers and posted a .308 average (33-for-107) with runners in scoring position.

In his first season at the Double-A level, Watkins batted .302 (74-for-245) in the second-half of the campaign, 43 points higher than his .259 average (63-for-243) prior to the All-Star break. He hit .352 (31-for-88) in June, a month in which he recorded a team-high 13-game hitting streak en route to earning Cubs Minor League Player of the Month honors.

Watkins played 95 games at second base, recording a .987 fielding percentage (6 E/465 TC), 29 games at shortstop and 17 games in center field.

Originally selected by Chicago in the 21st round of the 2008 Draft, Watkins owns a .285 batting average (493-for-1,728) with 67 doubles, 33 triples, 15 home runs, 170 RBI and a .372 on-base percentage in 475 career minor league games. He has drawn 225 walks compared to 341 strikeouts in 2,035 plate appearances.

Struck, 22, went 14-10 with a 3.18 ERA (55 ER/155.2 IP) in 28 games (26 starts) for Tennessee this season. He led the Southern League in victories, ranked third with 155.2 innings pitched and fourth in ERA. He led the club with 123 strikeouts, walked just 44, and limited opposing hitters to a .238 batting average (140-for-588).

From May 29 through the end of the season, Struck went 10-5 with a 2.29 ERA (26 ER/102.0 IP) in 18 games (16 starts). All told, Struck allowed three or fewer earned runs in 20 of his 26 starts while he issued two or fewer walks in 21 starts.

Struck was named the Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Month for June, going 4-1 with a 2.45 ERA (8 ER/29.1 IP) in five starts, and finished the campaign by going 3-0 with a 1.47 ERA (6 ER/36.2 IP) in six August contests (four starts). The 1.47 August ERA led all Southern League pitchers while his .202 batting average against ranked seventh.

Chicago’s 39th round selection in the 2009 Draft, Struck is 32-27 with a 3.50 ERA (168 ER/431.2 IP) and two complete-game shutouts in 84 career minor league games, including 73 starts. He has struck out 330 batters while walking 134, and has surrendered just 28 home runs in 431.2 innings pitched.

Of notable import here is the fact that both Watkins and Struck are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this Winter if they aren’t added to the 40-man roster. Although the 40-man is currently full, a great many names are going to fall off of it in the coming weeks, and there will undoubtedly be a great deal of turnover that we can’t anticipate.

That is to say, there will be spots for Watkins and Struck if the Cubs (1) like them well enough to believe they can contribute at the big league level within a year, and (2) sufficiently fear that they’d be grabbed in the Rule 5 if they weren’t rostered. Keep in mind that every team in baseball has a number of borderline cases like Watkins and Struck when it comes to Rule 5 protection. You hope that, if there just isn’t room, they are passed over, unlike Ryan Flaherty and Marwin Gonzalez last year.

Even if they are rostered, it’s unlikely either breaks camp in 2013 with the big club. Instead, they’re likely bound for a promotion to AAA, and most of a season there, assuming health issues don’t demand a call-up.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

59 responses to “Logan Watkins and Nick Struck Are the Cubs’ Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year”

  1. fortyonenorth

    “Nick Struck” – great name for a pitcher – like “Outman” for the Rockies.

    1. ETS

      balfour

      1. fortyonenorth

        Yeah, you don’t want that name. Then there’s Homer Bailey and, as my kids like to call our very own Travis, Homer Wood.

  2. ETS

    i put either of these two ahead of flaherty on my “want to keep” list. Marwin was tougher to gauge at the time. I understand leaving him off the 40 man, but that kind of hurts, and had it been anyone but the astros, I doubt he would have stay on the 25 man long enough.

    You are correct about not breaking any top ten lists, but I’m hoping to see them on some top 25 lists.

  3. Chris

    Both of these guys will be contributors in Iowa, and I even expect Watkins might get a looksee with the Cubs by September. Maybe even sooner, if a Gold Glove increases Darwin Barney’s value significantly enough to trade him for something more equal to the value he provides the Cubs. His versatility won’t hurt either. Struck will most likely be the 8th or 9th starter on the depth chart. Depending on what he does in AAA in 2013, maybe he gets a sniff post trade deadline, when all the veteran starting pitchers are traded away again. It would be hard to imagine the Cubs calling these guys the minor leaguers of the year, and then not protecting them on the 40-man roster. But I guess it’s possible…

  4. cubchymyst

    It be upsetting to lose Watkins in the Rule 5 draft. I’d like to see what he can do in AAA especially with his high OBP and he seems to have decent power for a 2nd basemen. His numbers in AA are an improvement from high A it will be interesting to see if he can keep them up next year.

  5. MightyBear

    Watkins kind of reminds me of a DeRosa type. Very valuable because he can play a lot of positions well and balls to the wall hustle all the time. Please Cubs, don’t lose either of these prospects.

    1. JulioZuleta

      I like Watkins. Struck not so much. My guess is that Watkins will be 40′d but Struck won’t. He doesn’t have the upside of a guy like Lendy to waste a roster spot on for another team.

      Don’t ruin Watkins for me by comparing him to DeRosa. DeRosa played a lot of positions and was averageto below average a all of them. I’m probably the most anti-DeRosa person you’ll ever know. I know the media loved him, but I’m pretty sure 90% of his RBIs came when the Cubs were either up by 8 or down by 8. Never clutch

      1. Chris

        Lol… That guy for me is Scott Servais. Couldn’t hit. Couldn’t catch. Couldn’t throw a runner out to save his life. But Riggleman trotted him out there every day. He must have called one hell of a game though… Struck might be worth keeping around over some other garbage on the roster though. Castillo’s got a good arm and will get more innings in AA or AAA next season. I hope they start him, at least at the beginning of the year, to get those innings in bunches. I’m more interested in seeing the other potentially available players for the Rule 5, as the Cubs will have such a high selection. Might as well stash a couple of those guys on the roster. Probably a pitcher or two, like Castillo.

        1. calicubsfan007

          @Chris: Did Servais then change his name to Koyie Hill? (=

    2. Scotti

      Flaherty is the better DeRosa comp.

  6. Chris

    Taking a look at the 40-man roster, I expect there will be at minimum 5-7 spots opened by Rule 5 draft time. Scanning the list of potential Rule 5-eligible guys in the Cubs system, I would hope they could try to protect Watkins, Struck, LHP Austin Kirk, RHP Trey McNutt, RHP Starling Peralta, RHP Jose Rosario, 3B Christian Villanueva. There are several other guys that I’d hate to lose, but they have to protect as many good arms as they possibly can, as well as Villanueva. And being that they will actually draft high in Rule 5, it will be interesting to see if they leave a roster spot or two open to take someone.

  7. Brandon - AA Correspondent

    As a huge TN Smokies fan and full season ticket holder, I believe it is critical for the Cubs to protect Logan Watkins. This kid has shown the poise, talent, skills and awareness that make me believe he is a big league cailber player. Protect Logan Watkins by adding him to the 40 man roster. If the Cubs don’t do that, I believe he is likely to be taken in the Rule 5 draft.

    Ryan Flaherty was the player in 2011 that I felt the same way about, and I believe the Cubs will remember losing him inthe Rule 5 draft for many years. Flaherty has done a pretty decent job given his sparse playing time on a winning ballclub. I believe the Orioles like him a ton, and I do not expect him to be sent to AAA next year. I think Flaherty is a big leaguer to stay. He is a good utlity player with some pop.

    It is important to note that Logan Watkins has power. He hit at the top of the lineup most of the year and understood that his role was getting on base and stealing bases. But I have seen him hit some deep HR’s in clutch situations when the situation called for it. I believe this kid has 15+ HR power in AAA (hitters league).

    I like Nick Struck; but believe he is not necessarily someone who would get drafted via Rule 5 if left unprotected. He is primarily a starter, and his stuff was not necessarily dominant in AA. He was good…just not someone who you immediately assosciated with the word “dominant”. (Belliveau, Cabrera and Dolis all have better stuff. ALso, I personally like Brooks Raley and Dallas Beeler’s stuff a little better). I know pitching is thin, and the Cubs need to value their pitchers…..but I think Struck is pretty safe to leave unprotected.

    Between Flaherty (2011), Gonzalez (2011), Watkins (2012) and Struck (2012)….I believe if the Cubs had to rank them for purposes of protection it should have been: Flaherty, Watkins, Gonzalez and Struck.

    Bottom Line: Watkins is protectable…….PROTECT HIM.

    Just my 2 cents!
    Brandon

    1. Drew7

      Thanks for the insight, Brandon.

      I find it interesting that you rank Flaherty before Watkins at the bottom of your post. Watkins seems to be a way ahead of where Flaherty was at the same age.

      1. Brandon - AA Correspondent

        I have Flaherty ahead of Watkins because of positional versatility. I personally saw Flaherty play every position except catcher and pitcher in AA. He was very good at all of them. He also has a more power than Watkins. But Watkins clearly has more speed. Watkins played primarily 2B was held his own at SS and even had a few appearances in CF this year at AA. He is NOT an outfielder, but in a pinch, he was a good late inning double switch guy to put out there to keep his bat in the lineup.

        Don’t get me wrong…I like Watkins a lot, and at a position like 2B……I think he has a solid future.

        I believe the Cubs blew it on Flaherty……I hope they don’t make the same mistake with Watkins.

  8. Dave

    I would think that Cub fans would be excited if they could get a Derosa type career from Watkins.

    1. JulioZuleta

      That’s true. Any time you get a serviceable major leaguer out of a 20th round pick, that’s a huge win. I’m just not a DeRo fan. He did more talking than producing.

      1. Stinky Pete

        Sure was pretty though. It’s okay. We have DD now.

      2. TWC

        More talking than producing? Really? I mean, I loathe the “We should have never let DeRosa leave!” crowd, but he was plenty productive, especially in ’08. I’m just very, very glad they cut ties when they did.

  9. MightyBear

    Can’t lose Struck simply because of lack of pitching for the Cubs especially at the AAA level.

  10. BluBlud

    Berken, Germano, Volstad, Recker, Mather, Soriano, Barney, Cardenas, Camp, Corpas.

    These are all the names that I can see not being on the 40 man next year, for one reason or another. If Cubs can’t find a way to protect both of these guys, i think I would be pretty pissed.

    1. cubchymyst

      Barney and Soriano?

      I know Barney bat is nothing to be desired but his defense is excellent and for that reason he has some trade value. Soriano also has trade value so I see no reason in removing either of them.

      1. Chris

        I think what he was trying to get across was that maybe both players are traded before the Rule 5. I don’t think they will be, but he was factoring in potential openings based on trades that happen prior to that date.

        1. cubchymyst

          That makes more sense then.

      2. João Lucas

        I believe BluBlud means they might be gone next year via trade. (But I don’t think it’ll happen.)

        1. João Lucas

          Oops, didn’t see Chris’s response. I had this page open for a while, forgot to refresh it before I replied.

    2. Chris

      I looked at it a little closer, and I think that there are 34 current players that will be protected going into the offseason. Now that includes Garza and Vizcaino, who are both currently on the 60-day DL. I’m not clear on the rules for guys on the 60-day, when it comes to Rule 5. Do they have to be added to the 40-man, or can they be left on the 60-day through that draft? I would appreciate a response from anyone that knows the answer. My list keeps Soriano, Barney, and Cardenas on the team, for now. I’d love to see them move Soriano and Marmol before the Rule 5, but I don’t think it’s highly likely.

      1. dabynsky

        Unfortunately there is no DL in the offseason so all those guys on the 60 day DL count against the 40 man roster for the rule 5 draft. We are going to lose some guys with just the sheer number of guys that have to be protected.

        1. Chris

          That’s kind of what I thought. I’m resigned to the fact that they’ll probably lose a guy or two. My hope is they protect the arms they have and lose an offensive player.

          1. Kyle

            I really wouldn’t worry about it. People get too worked up about Rule V stuff. It’s just shuffling around some marginal prospects that won’t make a difference to anybody in the long run 99.999% of the time.

  11. lou brock lives

    I would definitely protect Watkins on the 40 man & invite him to spring training with the initial idea of trying him out at 3B & batting him in the leadoff spot. I believe he will be better than Vitters or Valbuena in filling that hole & can keep it until Baez or Lake are ready to play it for the long run in a couple of years.

    1. Brandon - AA Correspondent

      In my opinion, Junior Lake should not be on your radar as a MLB difference making prospect.

      Undisciplined. Lazy. Can’t hit a breakingball. Coaches and teammates don’t like him.

      He has raw talent. He has power. He has speed. But…..he is missing something, and having watched him for a year and a half at TN I simply don’t see this kid as a difference making big leaguer. If I had to guess….I think the Cubs will capitalize on his “hype” and “tools” and spin him off in a trade before the black curtain gets pulled back and he gets exposed.

  12. calicubsfan007

    Hey Luke or whoever would know this,
    What about the guy the Cubs acquired from the Rangers, Christian Villanueva? The guy is currently playing third, but everyone is projecting him to play second base. Are the Cubs going to give him a legit shot before Watkins?

    1. cubchymyst

      Vallanueva still hasn’t played above high A according to his stats so he probably is still 2 to 3 years away from making a debut in the MLB.

    2. King Jeff

      If I had to choose between the two, I’d choose to keep Villanueva, he’s a recent top100 prospect, so he’s got a pretty big upside advantage over Watkins. Although, Watkins is probably the Cubs closest-to-ready-for-the-majors prospect aside from the guys on the MLB team now.

    3. Chris

      He’s well behind Watkins in the system right now. Part of why the Rangers were willing to give him up was because he’s in High A ball and would be Rule 5 eligible going into 2013. They would have had to make a tough decision on whether or not to keep him. Still, given that he’s so low, they might be willing to take a chance on exposing him to Rule 5. It’s typical for teams to reach for a pitcher that throws hard from the low minors. It’s less typical to take a position player, unless he’s a slick fielding SS or CF that can play all over as a defensive replacement.

    4. Luke

      Actually, I expect Villanueva to stay at third until he is pushed off the position by someone else (likely Baez or Candelario). Between Villanueva and Watkins, I strongly suspect Watkins will be the clearly superior second baseman.

      Watkins could be as good as Barney at second, and that is not a comparison I make lightly.

  13. Pete

    I am not entirely sure if these awards mean a whit. If you want to get depressed, look at the orgainizations Minor League Player/Pitcher of the Year since 1997.

    http://wiklifield.thecubreporter.com/Cubs_Minor_League_Players_of_the_Year

    1. MightyBear

      Right there is your answer to the question why the Cubs haven’t won anything in 100 years. Pathetic.

    2. calicubsfan007

      @Pete: My favorite is 1997 (=

      1. King Jeff

        Mine too. “Missing” has to be the best of the list in my opinion.

    3. Tommy

      That is one pitiful list. I think Carlos was using an alias in 1993.

      At least Kerry Wood was on there or that list would have been a complete loss.

  14. Richard Nose

    This may be the dumbest question ever!!!!!! But I need an answer! The 40 man roster sets the high-side of the players who can’t be selected in Rule 5, but what’s at the bottom end…why couldnt Javier Baez be taken? Age? Level of organization? Service time?

    1. TWC

      Yes.

      1. TWC

        And if had added the link like I intended to, it would have looked something like this:

        http://www.thecubreporter.com/rule-5-draft-eligibility

    2. Ogyu

      Players are eligible for selection in the Rule 5 draft who are not on their major league organization’s 40-man roster and:
      – were signed at age 19 or older and have been in the organization for four years; or
      – were signed at age 18 or younger and have been in the organization for five years.

      Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_5_draft

      1. Ogyu

        Javier Baez was selected at age 18 in 2011. So, regardless of whether he is on the 40-man roster, he will not be vulnerable to being selected in the rule 5 draft until 2016. After that, he will be vulnerable unless he is placed on the 40-man roster.

      2. ssckelley

        If this is true then Struck cannot be taken since he has only been in the minors for 3 years.

        Watkins could be taken and I think he needs to be protected.

        1. TWC

          No, Struck is eligible for the Rule 5. The full (current) list is at the link I posted above.

        2. AB
        3. AB

          Stuck was signed in 2009, and was above 18, thus is eligible in his 4th Rule V draft (09,10,11,12)

    3. Richard Nose

      I was hoping I wouldnt have to read all that shit in that link. Thanks for hacking it out, you guys are the best! Still, that was enough reading to make me need to get intoxicated.

  15. die hard

    Excuse me..both of these kids deserve a bona fide chance to be on the 25 next year…after losing 100 games nobody is protected…yeesh!

  16. frank

    Pure class.

    1. Richard Nose

      doesn’t he post on here regularly?