Prospect’s Progress: Watkins and Struck

The Prospect’s Progress series will take a look at the improvements (or lack of improvement) made by a number of Cub prospects during the 2012 season. Each of the articles will highlight two players, one hitter and one pitcher. It seems appropriate to start things off with Logan Watkins and Nick Struck, the Cubs Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year.

Nick Struck, RHP

Pre-Season Evaluation

Struck has put together a pretty good minor league career. He first came to the attention of Cub fans when he tossed a five inning, rain shortened no-hitter for Peoria in 2010. In 2011 he rocketed from Daytona at the start of the season all the way to Triple A Iowa, ultimately starting eleven games at the highest level of the system. Along the way we learned that Struck projected as a decent back of the rotation option for the Cubs one day, but before that could happen he had some work to do. In particular, he needed to show that he could put in a full work load as a starter, he needed to do a better job of keeping runners off the bases, and he needed to show enough improvement to keep his name in the hat for a possible look in spring training.

Post-Season Verdict

Mission accomplished. Struck earned his Pitcher of the Year accolades by throwing a career high number of innings and cutting his BB/9 and his H/9, all while raising his K/9. All 155 of his innings came for the Tennessee Smokies where he was a reliable, if unspectacular, fixture in their rotation. He finished the year with a respectable WHIP of 1.182 and an equally respectable K/BB of 2.80. It isn’t hard to project those number forward into a major league rotation job as a fifth starter in 2014 or so.

Future Prognosis

Unfortunately, I still think fifth starter is his ceiling. His best path to the majors is as a reliable, cheap, back of the rotation option who keeps the game close and consistently pitches into the seventh inning. To reach that target, I would like to see him cut back on his 2012 0.8 HR/9 rate and increase his workload into the 180 innings range next season. If he can do that while keeping his WHIP under 1.300 or so (remember, he’ll be in the PCL, a notorious hitters’ league) and his K/BB no worse than the 2.80 neighborhood, he could be in line for a September start or two.

If he is still in the farm system when spring training roles around, I think he will get some chances in spring training. I do not expect him to break camp on the Cubs roster. Long term, his future may be in the bullpen, not the rotation, but, so long as he can keep runners off the bases and avoid the long ball, he could have a nice career as a middle reliever.

Logan Watkins, 2B

Pre-Season Evaluation

Watkins had a very strong finish to his 2011 Daytona campaign. His finish was so strong, in fact, that there was reason to doubt that he could maintain those offensive improvements over a full season. We knew he projected as a potential plus defender with the arm to play in center and the range to play at short; what we didn’t know was whether or not he could hit enough to force himself into the Cubs plans. In 2012, he needed carry his hot finish to the 2011 season into Tennessee and maintain it all year long. He needed to prove at the plate that he was a project with all around major league potential.

Post-Season Verdict

He made it look easy. Watkins not only maintained his progress, he did so while setting career highs in SLG (.422), walks (76), and stolen bases (28). Suddenly, Watkins is not just a potential defense-first utility prospect for the Cubs bench, he is a legitimate second base prospect with a chance to see his name at the top of the Cubs’ order on a daily basis in another year or two.

But the news is not all good. Against right handers Watkins hit a robust .301/.406/.440. Against lefties, he slumped to a line of .221/.314/.369. That lefty split needs to improve if he is going to make the Cubs find a place for him in their daily lineup.

Future Prognosis

At worst, Watkins projects as a very useful left handed hitting utility player for the Cubs’ bench. He has the tools and athleticism to fill in at any position on the diamond, the speed to be useful in a pinch runner role, and the high OBP that should ensure him of plenty of at bats in a part time role.

At best, he’s the Cubs second baseman and lead off hitter starting in 2014 and continuing for some time to come. Watkins has the potential to be one of the league’s better defenders at second, and while he may not quite match Darwin Barney with the glove, he should have little trouble eclipsing Barney with the bat. Watkins has the combination of SB speed and OBP patience that Barney just doesn’t; at some point we may get to see these two battle for the starting second base job.

Look for Watkins to put up some very nice looking numbers in the hitter friendly PCL as a member of the Iowa Cubs in 2013. I would not be surprised if he turned in an OPS north of .900. The key number to watch will be his numbers against lefties; we need to see improvement in that department. He should get a long look from the Cubs in spring training (if he is still in the organization), but he is still at least a year away from being a serious contender for a major league job.

written by

Luke Blaize is the Minor League Editor at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @ltblaize.

more cubs news

Oh, Come On: Cody Bellinger Lifted Mid-Game with an Apparent Injury (UPDATE: X-Rays Negative)

The Cubs cannot catch a break this year, man. They've already dealt with injuries to Jameson Taillon, Justin Steele, Kyle Hendricks, Drew Smyly, Julian Merryweather, Seiya Suzuki, and Ian Happ (did I forget anyone?). And tonight, it seems maybe something...

Enhanced Box Score: Cubs 7, Astros 2 – April 23, 2024

Well there was one big thing not to like about tonight's game - Cody Bellinger was lifted with a right rib contusion after colliding with the outfield wall - and about a million things that were great. And since we...

Mike Tauchman Did it AGAIN – Second Oppo Homer of the Game!

Nothing like a little insurance late. Mike Tauchman, who already hit his first home run of the season earlier in this game, just hit his second home run in the 8th! Another opposite field blast for Tauchman, who's been hitting...

James Triantos Homers TWICE for the Smokies

It really is a Cubs homer party up and down the system. In Chicago, Cody Bellinger and Mike Tauchman have gone deep. At Myrtle Beach, Christian Hernandez and Jefferson Encarnacion each homered. At South Bend, Yohendrick Pinango homered. And at...

Kevin Alcantara Led Off Tonight’s Game with a Bomb (UPDATE: And Then Did It Again!)

Kevin Alcantara wasted no time giving the Tennessee Smokies the lead on Tuesday night (or maybe he just wanted to be a spiritual part of the homer party going on at Wrigley Field). Facing off against the Rocket City Trash...

Mike Tauchman’s First Homer of the Year Caps Off a 5-Run Cubs Ambush!

I don't like to use "ambush" lightly. But what would you call it when the Cubs put five balls in play over 100 MPH, including a single, a double, and two home runs en route to putting five runs on...

Ian Happ Hit Missed a Homer by a Foot, So Cody Bellinger Launched One into Space to Pick Him UP

Ian Happ was back in the Cubs lineup tonight after missing a few games with a sore hamstring. And in his first at-bat back, he sent one 412 feet to dead-center field for a VERY long double (Statcast says it...

Pre-Gamin’: Astros at Cubs (6:40 CT) – Lineups, Broadcast Info, Game Thread

CUBS LINEUP — The Chicago Cubs are back in action tonight for the first of three games against the Houston Astros at Wrigley Field. Here's a look at the Cubs lineup for Game 1. Chicago Cubs Lineup: Nico Hoerner, 2B...

Jefferson Rojas Has the Longest Active Hitting Streak in High-A

I know what you're thinking – what the heck is this basketball junkie doing over here on our turf!? He normally only shows up when he accidentally puts his Bulls articles in the wrong category! I need a little palate cleanser...

MLBits: Jared Jones Made Brice Turang Look Ridiculous, Dylan Cease Dazzles at Coors, More

If you're familiar with me/my writing, you know how much I love good pitching. To that end, Jared Jones has been one of my favorite stories of the young season. And on Monday, he gave us one of the best...

Latest News

Diamondbacks vs. Cardinals Prediction: Expert Picks, Odds, Stats & Best Bets – Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The Arizona Diamondbacks (12-13) are -122 favorites to take Game 3 of th series from the St. Louis Cardinals (10-14) Wednesday at 1:15 PM ET. The teams enter the matchup with the series record tied, and the underdog Cardinals are...

Diamondbacks vs. Cardinals Probable Starting Pitchers – April 24

The Arizona Diamondbacks (12-13) go on the road against the St. Louis Cardinals (10-14) on Wednesday. The matchup is set to begin at 1:15 PM ET.The Diamondbacks will give the ball to Jordan Montgomery (1-0, 1.50 ERA), who is eyeing...

Pacers vs. Bucks Prediction: Expert Picks, Odds, Stats and Best Bets for NBA Playoffs Game 3 – Friday, April 26, 2024

The Indiana Pacers are 4-point favorites in Game 3 of the opening round of the NBA Playoffs against the Milwaukee Bucks at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on Friday, beginning at 5:30 PM ET on ESPN. The series is tied 1-1. The over/under...

Suns vs. Timberwolves Prediction: Expert Picks, Odds, Stats and Best Bets for NBA Playoffs Game 3 – Friday, April 26, 2024

The Minnesota Timberwolves are slight 3.5-point underdogs for Game 3 of the opening round of the NBA Playoffs against the Phoenix Suns at Footprint Center on Friday, starting at 10:30 PM ET on ESPN. The Timberwolves hold a 2-0 lead...

Mavericks vs. Clippers Prediction: Expert Picks, Odds, Stats and Best Bets for NBA Playoffs Game 3 – Friday, April 26, 2024

The Dallas Mavericks are slight 3.5-point favorites in Game 3 of the opening round of the NBA Playoffs against the Los Angeles Clippers at American Airlines Center on Friday, tipping off at 8:00 PM ET on ESPN. The series is...

Thunder vs. Pelicans Predictions, Best Bets and Odds: NBA Playoffs Game 2 – Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The Oklahoma City Thunder take a 1-0 series record into Game 2 of the opening round of the NBA Playoffs. The Thunder are favored by 7.5 points in the contest, which airs on TNT at 9:30 PM ET. The over/under...

Predators vs. Canucks NHL Playoffs First Round Game 3 Prediction: Live Odds, Stats, History and Picks – Friday, April 26, 2024

The bookmakers prefer the Nashville Predators at home (-130) over the Vancouver Canucks (+110) when they meet on Friday, April 26 at 7:30 PM ET.Predators vs. Canucks Favorite, Moneyline, TotalFavorite: Predators (-130)Underdog: Canucks (+110)Total: 5.5Best Predators vs. Canucks Promo Codes[lasso...

Avalanche vs. Jets NHL Playoffs First Round Game 3 Prediction: Odds, Picks, Best Bets – Friday, April 26, 2024

The Colorado Avalanche are -166 on the moneyline against the Winnipeg Jets (+140) on Friday, with this matchup being played at Ball Arena in Denver.Avalanche vs. Jets Favorite, Moneyline, TotalFavorite: Avalanche (-166)Underdog: Jets (+140)Total: 6.5Best Avalanche vs. Jets Promo Codes[lasso...

Braves vs. Marlins: Free Live Stream, TV Channel, How to Watch

On Wednesday at 7:20 PM ET, Marcell Ozuna and the Atlanta Braves (16-6) play Luis Arraez and the Miami Marlins (6-19) at Truist Park.If you're intending to watch this game, keep reading for streaming and TV options for the Atlanta-Miami...

Pirates vs. Brewers: Start Time, Streaming Live, TV Channel, How to Watch

Josh Fleming takes the mound for the Pittsburgh Pirates (13-11) when they host starting pitcher Bryse Wilson and the Milwaukee Brewers (14-8) at 6:40 PM ET on Wednesday.Keep reading to see how to watch the Pittsburgh-Milwaukee matchup below.When is Pirates...

more cubs news