The Chicago Cubs quietly added some infield depth over the past couple of weeks, signing SS Ryan Dent, 1B Shane Kennedy and 2B Tanner Witt to minor league contracts. There was a time (not too long ago) when any minor league/depth signing the Chicago Cubs made was ridiculed or joked about. Now, however, we can rest assured that every team – including good ones like the Cubs – makes signings like this to improve upon their depth in the upper minors, in case of injuries in the majors, and to roll some low cost dice on younger guys.
Ryan Dent, 26, is a 6’0”, 190lbs middle infielder who’s been in the Red Sox organization since 2007. Drafted in the supplemental first round of the 2007 draft, Dent has bounced around the minor leagues, reaching AAA in 2012. Since then, he’s been up and down the system, failing to break through into the majors. Dent definitely isn’t an offensive star, never hitting over.250 for any meaningful stretch of time, but he has taken his fair share of walks over the years. Unfortunately, though, he doesn’t really hit for any power either. What Dent does bring to the table is familiarity. The Cubs front office knows what Dent can do, having drafted him in 2007, so there was probably a bit of certainty involved.
Shane Kennedy, 21, is a 6’3”, 210lbs first baseman who went undrafted out of Clemson University last year before being signed by the Cubs. In 2013, as a junior, Kennedy had a nice offensive season, hitting .317 with a .408 OBP and 22 steals in just 62 games. 2014, however, wasn’t as kind. Kennedy hit just .218 with a .276 OBP and just one home run as he dealt with the aftereffects of an ACL tear. Kennedy will enter the Cubs’ system as a pure flyer, while trying to keep his baseball career alive.
Tanner Witt, 24, is a 5’11”, 185lbs second baseman who played in the independent Frontier League in 2014, after playing for Kansas State in college. Baseball America has a blurb on Witt here, where he was ranked as the 4th best independent league prospect at the end of 2014. A former outfielder, Witt switched to second base, where his defensive outlook is split – good hands and a strong arm, but needs practice on his footwork and turning the double play. He gets on base at a decent clip, and has gap power. So, probably not overwhelming offensively, though he runs well.
Dent likely heads to AA or AAA as emergency depth, whereas Kennedy will likely be at the lower levels, where the Cubs will see if he can be a surprise breakout after the ACL injury. It’s a little harder to project Witt, given the independent background, so we’ll see where he winds up.
We may not get a long look at any of these guys, and they may not be destined for stardom, but it’s important to bring in interesting depth, even in the minor leagues.