Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 09/26/13

Position Analysis

This off-season the CCO will run a series of articles to summarize and project how the Cubs’ minor league system looks on a position by position basis.

The first report took a look at the hot corner and today, the CCO will look at a position which will probably have most fans and media members talking about this off-season: Shortstop.

Shortstop

The 2014 season appears to be the start of Javy-Mania, as the CCO Minor League Player of the Year Javier Baez advances one step closer to Wrigley Field. However, Baez is just the beginning, and not the end, to the system’s prospects at the position.

For better or for worse, the front office has already made a commitment to Javier Baez opening the 2014 season as Triple-A Iowa’s shortstop, eschewing their publicized “100 games” policy. Baez has only played 57 games at Low-A and 54 games at Double-A, while playing a combined 99 games at High-A Daytona over the past two seasons. Offense has never been a problem for Baez, as he hit a combined .282/.341/.578/.920 with 34 doubles, four triples, 37 home runs, 111 RBI, and 20 stolen bases between Daytona and Tennessee this past season. His RBI total and 75 extra-base hits led all minor league players this past season. What has been a question is his defense. Baez committed 44 errors and had a .932 fielding average between both levels this year. Supporters argue that Baez showed defensive improvement after his promotion to the Smokies. Critics say that even with defensive standout Christian Villanueva and “toolsy” Arismendy Alcantara flanking him, he still fielded a below average .948. A plan to look at Baez at both third and second base in the Arizona Fall League was scuttled when management withdrew Baez due to “physical and emotional exhaustion” after the past season.

Exactly who lines up at short for Double-A Tennessee next season remains a mystery, with “system” players Jonathan Mota and Elliot Soto the usual suspects. The 26-year old Mota needs to only add centerfield to his résumé to claim the distinction of playing every position, including pitcher. Mota spent the bulk of his playing time in 2013 substituting for an injured Justin Bour at first base for the Smokies, but has 302 starts at short over his nine year career. Mota played well for Tennessee, hitting a career high .276 (.348 OBP, .757 OPS) with seven home runs and 40 RBI. Soto, now 24 years old, is the quintessential defensive specialist. The Carpentersville native sports a .971 career fielding average at short while posting a .987 average at second base. Hitting has always been a problem, especially at the Double-A level where he has a combined .178 average over the past two seasons. Soto did provide a steady influence both in the field and at the plate as the starter for Daytona’s 2013 Florida State League Championship team.

If there is a darkhorse candidate for shortstop at Tennessee, it could be Tim Saunders. Selected in the 32nd round of the 2012 draft, Saunders tore up the minors in 2012. Saunders hit a combined .381/.431/.536/.967 with 13 doubles, one triple, five homers, 33 RBI and 17 stolen bases between rookie, Low-A and High-A ball. The 23-year old returned to Daytona in 2013 and was moved around to several positions to accommodate Javier Baez. However, Saunders injured his elbow while playing outfield and tried to play through it. The result was a .226/.316/.321 slash line with eight doubles, two triples, three home runs and 27 RBI in 62 games before being shut down for surgery. It will remain to be seen if Saunders will have the arm strength to return to short or the outfield. One of Saunders best attributes is his speed, as he is one of the fastest and best base runners in the organization. Saunders stole 21 bases in 24 attempts this past season. Saunders has the same “if I’m on, I’m gone” mindset shown by former Cub Tony Campana.

The frontrunner for the Daytona starting shortstop position appears to be 2013 18th round draft pick Giuseppe Papaccio. The 22-year old is scheduled to attend the Fall Instructional League in order to convert to catcher. However, most observers feel this is just to add versatility in preparation for a future reserve role. The Seton Hall product hit .279/.331/.364 with four doubles, one triple, two homers and 13 RBI in 37 games with Kane County, while fielding .969 and displaying sound fundamentals. Also on hand could be 23-year old Brad Zapenas. Known as a good glove man, Zapenas is one of several infielders in the system that have recently dealt with arm issues. Playing only 27 games in 2013, Zapenas batted a combined .222/.367/.264 with three doubles and four RBI in stops at Tennessee, Daytona, and Kane County. Zapenas is a quality “system” player that provides solid defense at short, third and second base.

It remains to be seen what exactly will happen Marco Hernandez. The 20-year old switch-hitter appeared on several Top Twenty Prospects lists after posting successive batting averages of .333 and .286 in rookie ball and Short-Season A the past two seasons. However, Hernandez was a huge disappointment both offensively and defensively in his first full season. Hernandez batted only .254/.287/.338 with 17 doubles, three triples, four home runs and 34 RBI while fielding only .939. The lone bright spot was his 21 stolen bases. Hernandez has all the tools to become a two-way shortstop, but there are some questions about his concentration. Whether he will be given a “social” promotion to Daytona, remain at Kane County, or be given looks at second base and in the outfield are all options on the table.

Part of the reason for dilemma surrounding Marco Hernandez is the play of Carlos Penalver. The 19-year old displayed defensive prowess much better than his .946 fielding average would indicate. The Venezuelan has been likened to countryman Omar Vizquel, and many believe he is the best defensive infielder in the organization, majors included. Penalver struggled out of the gate offensively, but a quick trip to the rookie league when he could not travel out of the country was the reboot the switch-hitter needed. Penalver went onto bat .261/.338/.359 with 16 doubles, two triples, one home run, 21 RBI, and nine stolen bases in 68 games. Returning back to Short-Season A Boise at his age is not the worst thing, however, his defense may be his ticket to the next level.

After being a hitting star in Extended Spring Training, Francisco Sanchez found the pitching a little more difficult in the rookie league as he managed only a .208/.242/.369 slash line but led the AZL Cubs with 22 RBI. The 19-year old also has some work to do on defense after fielding only .902. When a back-up was needed, Trevor Stevens was signed as an undrafted free agent. The switch-hitter batted .257/.388/.329 with one double, two triples and seven RBI in 26 games, but it is unclear what the future holds for the 24-year old Northwestern product. Little is known about Alex Sanchez, who was signed late in the season. Sanchez is a 21-year old switch-hitter who hit .267/.353/.333 in 15 games, but only played in the field five times.

For the past few years, Varonex Cuevas claim to fame was his unique name, but it now appears that the 20-year old has started to surface as a prospect. The starting shortstop for the DSL Cubs, the switch-hitter batted .260/.374/.358 with 11 doubles, three triples, one home run, 20 RBI, and 13 stolen bases in 60 games while fielding an encouraging .938. Over in the VSL, 20-year old Bryant Flete looked like an offensive force but a defensive liability. The lefty hit .271/.383/.356 with 11 doubles, five triples, 23 RBI and 17 stolen bases as their lead-off man, but fielded only .891. A move to the outfield to better utilize Flete’s offensive ability may be in the cards.

Seeing his first professional action in the Fall Instructional League will be Gleyber Torres. The soon-to-be 17 year old (December 13) was considered the number two international prospect this past signing period. According to the scouting report of Ben Badler of Baseball America:

Torres is a savvy player with present skills and the potential for five average or better tools. He has a clean, compact stroke, hits in games and shows good power projection, although he mostly works the gaps right now. He has good bat speed and hand-eye coordination to put the ball in play, although he can be a bit of a front-foot hitter and tends to pull off the ball at times. Some scouts believe Torres is a true shortstop, while others think he’s not athletic enough. He could end up being a guy who splits time between shortstop, third base and second base, with a skill set that draws comparisons to Freddy Sanchez. He has good hands and a strong arm, but he doesn’t have the classic wiry shortstop frame and is already fairly filled out. Back in November, Torres showed above-average speed, but more recently he’s been running closer to average.”

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO and @TheCCO_Minors

Quote of the Day

"Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome." - Arthur Ashe
Share on Fancred
  • Tony_Hall

    The 100 game thing always seems to come up when people talk about prospects. Theo, Jed, Jason have never said that EVERY prospect has to play 100 games at AAA before being called up to the majors. They have said many, many times, that players have individual player development plans and that when they have accomplished their plan to move to the next level, they do. Baez has obviously moved fast, and may still play 100 games in Iowa. But the old adage of if you can hit, we will find you a spot is still true today. If he keeps hitting like he has, he will be in Wrigley next year and very likely in June.

  • Tony_Hall

    It is also amazing that the SS depth seems to not be there anymore. At the lowest levels we have the next wave, but with Alcantara moving to 2B and Baez skyrocketing through the system, there is not much real prospects at the A and AA levels.

    • paulcatanese

      SS must be the easiest position to play:)

      • 07GreyDigger

        Duh. It’s catcher. All he does is sit there.

  • Ripsnorter1

    Best deadline pickup of 2013–

    Jon Heyman of CBS Sports ran down the best in-season pickups of the year, starting with Alfonso Soriano. “This is the top summer acquisition and I don’t think anything’s close,” one GM said of the 37-year-old, who owns a .261/.325/.541 slash line in 54 games for the Yankees.

    • cubtex

      Did you also see that Cashman has back pedaled and said he was not against aquiring him. Cashman is now saying he wanted to wait to closer to the deadline so the Yankees could have given up a lesser prospect.

    • CubbyDenCritic

      Did Soriano get the Yankees into the Playoffs?
      Lets see how Edwards & Black turn out…..the “Summer Trades of 2013″ might belong to Theo & Jed.

      • paulcatanese

        The point being, the Cubs would have been more palatable to watch if he remained.
        I am one of those guys that will probably never see the Cubs win a World Series.
        I was born before they won one and will be on the short end before they do it now.

        • SuzyS

          Maybe, Maybe not my friend.
          You’re playing on God’s Diamond there.
          When it comes to that…no stats can predict the individual outcome of playing on God’s diamond.

        • John_CC

          Your 106 years old Paul? Holy cow! ;)

          • paulcatanese

            Yep, and still running track. No, 80 this coming year:)

          • John_CC

            110 hurdles?

            You said you were born before they won, which would put you pre-1908.

          • paulcatanese

            Got me, meant before they won one, they haven’t won one.
            How do I know, when you reach my age, nothing goes down on paper correctly:)

          • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

            Paul you will see a World Series victory. Mark it down… I just feel it. At almost 80 I think it’s reasonable to think you have a minimum of 10 years left if not more. You will see it…

        • CubbyDenCritic

          At least you saw the South Siders get a title.

          • Ripsnorter1

            And that is supposed to make a Cubs’ fan happy?

            LOL

      • Ripsnorter1

        Soriano did not get the NY Yanks in the playoffs. The Yanks had a
        lot of injuries this year, and they weren’t deep enough in the MiLs to overcome
        the loss of so many stars.

        That doesn’t change this fact: of all the deadline deals, Soriano had
        the best performance in 2013. Personally, I was glad he got the 30 HR/100 RBI
        marker again. I hope he does it next year, too.

        • SuzyS

          Rip, I totally agree with you regarding Soriano. He’s a classy guy…and I’d like to see him go out productively and happy.

  • 07GreyDigger

    I think one thing we forget with minor league guys is that although we talk about our big four a lot, is that it’s rare that you have guys like that in your system. Baez, Bryant and Almora are first round picks. Of course, they’re going to put up eye popping numbers.

    What I’m saying is that of course a lot of other minor leaguers don’t put up those numbers or put up prototypical numbers for their position. Doesn’t mean they won’t turn into serviceable guys.

  • cubtex

    Great! Hit em where it hurts!!!!!

    It’s no secret that attendance was down this year for the Chicago Cubs. In fact, attendance was way down. The Cubs drew just 2,642,682 in paid attendance (not necessarily actual attendance),
    down almost 10% from last year (2,882,756), which was itself down
    almost 5% from the year before. Indeed, 2013 was the 5th consecutive
    season of attendance declines (from a peak of more than 3.3 million in
    2008), and it marked the Cubs’ lowest paid attendance since 1998

    • CubbyDenCritic

      I believe the stadium gate counters were juiced up back in 2008….similar to being on steroids….producing high numbers……..maybe too much lubrication in the turn-style mechanical system…..just a thought.

    • paulcatanese

      And deservedly so.

      • SuzyS

        Yes, deservedly so…Paul.
        Here’s the thing…we’ve considered the FO to be a pretty smart bunch…so they and Ricketts must have factored in some decline in attendance during the rebuild.
        Ownership must have identified a point where they have to stop attendance losses….are we at that point yet…I hope not….because that may lead to abandon ment of the overall “plan”.

        • paulcatanese

          Yes they are pretty smart. But there’s the fine point with the decline, and if it reaches that point as I remember it takes a
          long time to build back up (attendance), been thru the 1500, 3000 a game.

          • SuzyS

            Yes, there was a point, years ago…where the upper decks were always closed off…and you could always get game day tickets extremely cheap.

            I don’t see it getting to that point…too many young tourists want to see Wrigley.
            But I do expect some splashes in the off season to keep fannies in the seats.

          • 07GreyDigger

            I don’t.

          • SuzyS

            Why???…Money???

          • 07GreyDigger

            Exactly. I don’t think until money starts coming in from ad revenue or the TV deal that Ricketts starts making any splashes. Besides, their aren’t really any splashes to make this offseason.

          • SuzyS

            2 moves:

            1) Trade Shark…(to me, he’s proven that he does not have the capacity to be a number 1)
            IMO he’s a # 3 on a good team.

            2) Land Tanaka.

            Tanaka will be expensive…but he’s exactly the type of player Theo/Jud have espoused.

            We will probably need 2 aces to win it all…and right now we have none.

            The rational last year to land Jackson was “we can’t build a staff in one year”.

            I believe they will have one huge move this off season…and Tanaka should be it.

          • 07GreyDigger

            Based on the money thing, IMO I don’t think Ricketts would want to pony up all that cash.

          • TheWrongGuy

            I agree. I don’t see the CUBS dishing out much cash on Tanaka not with what is already known with regards to our needs for next season.
            catching and catching
            and more catching depth between AA/AAA/MLB teams catching depth is a BIG concern for next season. Then to fill the holes that are in the system between AA/AAA/MLB team… I don’t see spending $$$ on Tanaka and paying for the arbitration eligibles as being something that is possible this off-season.

    • cc002600

      That’s still pretty amazing when you consider that everyone in the world knew they would be terrible again, going into the season. Only the cubs could draw like that.

  • CubbyDenCritic

    Cubs will see another field celebration……Dale said “at least gives our players the “experience” of how to celebrate when their time comes.”

  • TheWrongGuy

    I had a thought of note and sorry Neil/TomU to be off-topic. But I was checking out the potential available managers during the off-season IF the front office decides to release Sveum.
    1) Mattingly- “Donny Baseball” he is from the midwest Evansville, Indiana is closer to home for him than LA. He is a very infamous hitter in baseball also is well known for hitting.
    2) Girardi- He is from Peoria, Illinois he will be coming home as well. Yet I would like him back in Chicago… I do remember Theo Epstein mentioning something along the lines of not having a former player(Sandberg) manage for a team he played for. Girardi has a nack of doing his best managing and getting the most out of his roster.
    3) Gardenhire- The CUBS current record for 1 run games is horrible. The CUBS small-ball game is also very bad. Gardenhire is a baseball mind of getting the most out of his players and a magician in the small-ball or one run ball games.

    I posted about this before but I voted for Sveum to go and Bosio to stay. I believe though that they are connected.. in that I believe if Sveum goes so does Bosio.

    • SuzyS

      Traditionally, a manager is fired due to win/loss record…and as a pr move designed to sell seats/improve attendance.
      A Sveum firing/Girardi hiring would fall into the PR move category…possibly, you could include Gardenhire in that category as well.

      But the Cubs FO has to tread lightly here…firing Sveum could be viewed as an admission of a major mistake in judgement by the FO.

      While I don’t pretend to know what’s going to happen…and how they truly evaluate Sveum…I believe they will retain him for at least another season….and start out fresh…with win/loss accountability beginning in the 2015 season.

      • DWalker

        on the other hand, it can also be viewed as a shift to win mode. None of those guys will come to a team with the game plan of another 1 or 2 of planned loosing years. The first thing they will want to know before ever sitting down to an an interview will be if the FO is planning on winning with the. Dale was a stop gap and supposed to be a developmental manager. To a lot of fans, he’s failed in that aspect looking at rizzo, castro, and shark. I don’t think a lot of peopel really expected Dale to be the manager to take the team to a WS, and if the right manager is available and is willing to come here, then thats one step farther along. No established manager was going to take the job knowing the FO was planning a couple of years of midseason selloff.

        • SuzyS

          DWalker, Yes…it could be viewed as a shift to a win mode.
          But I really believe the win mode doesn’t really start until the 2015 season.
          Girardi & Gardenhire’s possible availability now is pushing the issue early…(IMHO).
          While I expect next season to be a loser…it will be very different the second half…as I believe any trades at the deadline will be to make room for upcoming, (hopefully core), prospects that will be with the team for years to come.
          I do believe that we have switched from a tear down mode to an early stage building mode at this point.

          $$$ not withstanding…I expect to see moves made now with an eye to winning in the near future…as opposed to rebuilding the farm system.

          Unless they consider Sveum to be a detriment to that process…I don’t really see them releasing him…UNLESS…Girardi/Gardenhire

          or another unknown target candidate has already indicated their interest in managing the Cubs.

          • paulcatanese

            Giradi would be at an advantage coming to the Cubs, as they have already torn down and are in the stage of becoming competitive, whether or not they will be is up in the air.
            But the Yankees are about to go the direction the Cubs have for the last two years, time wise they are ahead of the Yankees.
            That may be the thing (if interested) that could bring Giradi here to the Cubs.
            Again the Yankees may choose not to bring him back, that opens up another angle.
            But I am with you on Sveum, I don’t see the Cubs letting him go just yet, as the FO has spent a lot of time convincing the public with what they are trying to do, and correct it would be admission of failure with the plan they have put into place.

          • SuzyS

            Agreed….But it’s going to be really interesting to watch how the Yankees retool. Yankee fans are spoiled and won’t stand for the type of rebuild we’re going through…even though it might be the best thing for the Yankee’s to do.

          • 07GreyDigger

            I disagree in Gardenhire being a win now manager. When’s the last time the Twins were relevant? If anything, Gardenhire knows how to develop young guys and knows how to win. He’s the perfect fit here.

          • TheWrongGuy

            I agree and disagree. Gardenhire would be a good fit, but is he the guy that the CUBS FO has targeted. Who knows…. They do and we will know Monday.

          • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

            And I believe Girardi or Gardenhire make a ton of sense.

      • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

        I don’t think Theo has any problem admitting a mistake if it’s the best move to make. Theo is a passionate baseball guy and I don’t think his ego would get in the way of a sound decision. He may try to justify any mistake and turn it into a planned event but reading about what others that have worked with him (mainly Francona and the Sox days crew), Theo wouldn’t let his ego get in the way.

    • John_CC

      I just do not believe that Gardenhire would be viewed as the manager that will take the Cubs to promised land.

      The only way they will fire Sveum is if they can hire the manager that they believe is The One. Maybe that is Girardi, maybe it’s Mike Maddux their original first choice, I don’t know.

      But to fire Sveum because the Cubs have had two terrible seasons with teams that were constructed with spare parts would be an awful move from a PR standpoint..

      Firing Sveum may appease some of the most vocal, impatient fans in the talk radio faction, but the FO has already shown that they are not in it to appease the short term desire of some fans. Finally, firing Sveum would simply reflect poorly on the FO and their reputation.

      Epstein et al are not going to do that.

      • SuzyS

        John, I basically agree with your take on Sveum and the Cubs FO.

        I believe Gardenhire to be a good manager…one that could lead us to the WS….but probably not one that Theo/Jed would pick.

      • TheWrongGuy

        Who for sure knows? Hopefully the FO does. Maybe they view the current coaching as bad and are going tell them of a change and bring in Donnie Baseball as the hitting coach. The hitting development is the most glaring need of a fix area.

        Gardenhire would be a good manager will he take the CUBS job who knows we are in the same phase as his current club. Well maybe we are 1 step in front of them or maybe not. (close call there)

        Girardi knows the Yank’s doomed really bad next season. He also has a very good track record for doing great with teams that on paper should not do well… Marlins/current Yankee team.

        • 07GreyDigger

          Why would Mattingly be the hitting coach after getting the Dodgers to the playoffs as a manager? Seems backwards.

          • TheWrongGuy

            Mattingly isn’t much for being in the spot-light. His contract is also up at the end of the year. He might want get away from the LA scene that’s developing there. Who know’s?
            Myself being from Indiana know that he’s never been one for being in the lime light. A move to coaching might be in play vice a return as manager.

          • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

            I thought the same thing. He lives on the beach and coaches a team full of all-stars. Why would he leave and why would he be demoted?

        • John_CC

          I do believe the FO knows exactly what they want. I have confidence there, and I am one of the guys that still have faith in their decision making.

          I don’t see Mattingly giving up managing a team with unlimited resources and poised for perennial contention in the NL W to come be the hitting coach for the freaking Cubs. No way.

      • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

        I don’t think they care about their reputation. They want to build a perennial winner and put the Cubs in a position to win. That’s it…

        As soon as the get a title, Theo will be the engineer behind 3 rings. His reputation is beyond reproach.

        • John_CC

          I don’t mean reputation as a personal vanity (though I’m do think that is also a important to him) I mean their professional rep as a FO to work for. How does it look to prospective managers and free agents if they fire Sveum a year short of his contract with the two squads he’s had to work with?

    • MarkleMcD

      Magician in 1 run games? His teams average 2 games over .500 a season in one run games. Magically, each year his record in one run games goes up and down and has been as bad as 8 games under and as good as 10 or more over.

      There is no such thing

  • SuzyS

    Selig has formally announced his retirement after the 2014 season.
    It wouldn’t surprise me to see Reinsdorf do the same on the southside without his Buddy being around.

    • CubbyDenCritic

      Baseball Commissioner…..great job for Dale Sveum to step into…..not much “thinking” to it.

    • Tom U

      I’m surprised no one has nominated Neil yet

      • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

        Thanks Tom, very long day … made me laugh.

        • Tom U

          Save the Director of Minor League Operations position for me.

          • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

            Will do.

  • CubbyDenCritic

    Cano wants $305 million contract.
    Imagine what Joe Morgan or Ryne Sandberg would get in this era.

    • John_CC

      About the same. Cano is every bit as good in terms of his era that Ryno and Morgan were in theirs.

      • CubbyDenCritic

        Top Five Second Basemen that I saw…
        1 – Morgan
        2 – Sandberg
        3 – Biggio
        4 – Alomar
        5 – Whitaker

        • John_CC

          All great players, to each his own but I’d take Cano way ahead of Whitaker and Biggio. Neither are close to the offensive production of Robbie.

      • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

        Cano is a special player…

  • CubbyDenCritic

    Just saw that C.B. Bucknor call in the Phillies – Marlins game last night…..what a disgrace to have this guy as an umpire….not the first time he missed calls.

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    MLB Public Relations

    1m
    Video of the what some are calling the greatest pitching change in baseball history: http://atmlb.com/1atDELj

    • SirGladiator

      That was an incredible moment, so moving, he deserved that kind of awesome sendoff. The only thing I saw wrong with that, is that what would’ve been better is if they were the Yankees of old. The Yankees of old wouldn’t have taken him out there, they’d have let him get the 3rd out and then made him the winning pitcher by getting 5 in the bottom of the 9th, and then carried him off the field in sweet victory, the way he truly deserved to go out. But given that they were completely incapable of a 9th inning rally and they knew it, they did it the best way they possibly could. Mo will be missed, maybe the greatest closer of all time.