The Cubs have a lot of depth throughout the system in the middle infield. From players such as Tony Thomas, Ryan Flaherty, Wes Darvill, Junior Lake, Logan Watkins, Marwin Gonzalez, D.J. LeMahieu and Hak-Ju Lee, the Cubs have big athletic middle infielders that project as big league ball players coming through the system … and two of those players could be on the verge of separating themselves from the group.
I’m going to go out on a limb and predict D.J. LeMahieu and Hak-Ju Lee will have breakout seasons in 2011.
The Cubs selected D.J. LeMahieu in the second round of the 2009 draft. LeMahieu wasted no time signing his contract and put up decent numbers in 41 games between rookie ball and Low Class-A in 2009 … .323/.376/.384/.760 with four doubles and three triples.
The 22-year old (July 13, 1988) right-handed infielder is coming off a solid first full year of pro ball. LeMahieu posted a .314/.346/.386/.732 line (24 doubles, five triples and two home runs) in 135 games at Daytona (High Class-A). LeMahieu struck out only 61 times in 600 plate appearances last year, but walked only 29 times as well and showed little home run power as predicted by Tim Wilken when he was drafted.
Quotes from Tim Wilken, the Cubs Director of Amateur and Professional Scouting, on D.J. LeMahieu:
- “He runs average, plays the game well and is going to have some power down the road.”
- “But it’s going to be a few years. It’s going to be three to four years in my mind before you see that he has that kind of pop.”
- “He handled the bat really good in the Cape Cod League (last) summer. He hits the ball really well to the other side of the field. When you know you’ve got a guy that can hit the ball the other way that well … the hitting instructors will tell you that nine times out of 10, this guy will have a chance to pull the ball with authority as he gets older and stronger.”
LeMahieu is listed at 6’4″, 185 lbs and has already reported to “Camp Colvin” this winter to work on filling out that large frame. Once LeMahieu starts hitting with power and shows he can deliver consistently, I feel he will move up the system rather quickly.
LeMahieu spent a decent amount of time at three infield positions last year, shortstop (25 games), third base (39 games) and second base (65 games). With a .990 fielding percentage at second base, if LeMahieu can add some power he could be a very good Major League second baseman … but third base may not be out of the question.
LeMahieu is solid fundamentally and is a smart player. He will more than likely get more time at second and third next season, with even less time at short. LeMahieu is decent a shortstop but lacks the range teams would like a shortstop to possess, couple that with the likes of Hak-Ju Lee and Starlin Castro, his original position is likely not where he will end up.
D.J. LeMahieu will likely start the year with the Smokies (Double-A) and could end up in Iowa before the season is over.
More on D.J. LeMahieu
John Sickels of Minor League Ball.com gave LeMahieu a C+ in his recent Cubs’ top prospects list for 2011. I feel the C+ is a bit low …
Chicago Cubs Top Prospects for 2011 – Minor League Ball.com
Here is the link to a profile I wrote about D.J. LeMahieu last April … Chicago Cubs Prospect Profile: D.J. LeMahieu
Hak-Ju Lee is a speedy shortstop with exceptional range and a great arm … and Lee has been in the rumor mill a lot of late. The Rays are rumored to be asking for Lee in a possible Matt Garza deal. Lee had a good season in his first full year of pro ball. Lee played 122 games for the Peoria Chiefs at just 19 … the Korean-born shortstop turned 20 on November 4.
Lee did okay at the plate last year in Low Class-A ball. Lee posted a .282/.354/.351/.704 line in 551 plate appearances with 22 doubles, four triples and a home run. Lee struck out 86 times, walked 49 times and was successful in 32 of his 39 stolen base attempts.
In the field, Lee had a .939 fielding percentage last year (34 errors in 561 chances). Lee’s error total should go down as he matures.
Hak-Ju Lee is currently in Korea working with his personal trainer. The Cubs want him to add about 15 pounds to his 6’2″ 170 pound frame … reportedly, Lee has already added 10 pounds.
Lee is not projected to hit with a lot of power, but adding some muscle in his version of “Camp Colvin” could only help. If Lee is able to fill out his frame a little better, he could end up hitting around 10 home runs a year with more than his fare share of doubles and triples, thanks to his speed.
Hak-Ju Lee could end up as the Cubs’ leadoff hitter but he is still at least a couple of years away. Lee should begin 2011 at Daytona and he could end up in Double-A by the end of the season. Many feel Lee is a one-level per year guy which would mean a full year in High Class-A with the Smokies being a possible destination as late as Opening Day 2012.
The potential is there but Lee is a little raw … but I think he will make great strides in the coming year.
More on Hak-Ju Lee
John Sickels of Minor League Ball.com gave Lee a ‘B’ in his recent Cubs’ top prospects list for 2011. Chicago Cubs Top Prospects for 2011 – Minor League Ball.com
Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus recently ranked Hak-Ju Lee as the fifth best prospect in the Cubs’ system.
Goldstein’s perfect world projection for Hak-Ju Lee: Lee could be an everyday shortstop with good defense and enough bat to hit toward the top of the order.
Path to the big leagues according to Baseball Prospectus: Lee made excellent strides in 2010 but he’s still one-level-at-a-time-talent. Lee will spend most, if not all, of 2011 at High-A Daytona. ETA – Late 2013
Here is the link to a profile I wrote about Hak-Ju Lee last May … Chicago Cubs Prospect Profile: Hak-Ju Lee