The organization may be nearing a dignified end to the Cubs careers of former first-round outfielders Josh Vitters and Brett Jackson. With space needed on the 40-man roster for rapidly developing prospects, both could be designated for assignment with little to no worries of them being claimed. At this point, Vitters is batting .212 and Jackson .215 for the season. Despite their pedigree, at 24 and 26 years old respectively, even teams with no chance of making the playoffs would have a hard time giving up a Major League roster spot with their declining numbers. Most likely, Vitters and Jackson would pass through waivers and be outrighted to Iowa for the rest of the season. Following the season neither would end up unprotected by organization and would then be eligible for the Rule 5 draft. It would be there that a team could take a chance in claiming one of them, when a player can become sole property of another team free and clear.
The absolute logjam the system has at middle infield has led to speculation that either second baseman Gioskar Amaya or shortstop Marco Hernandez will be the “player to be named later” to Boston in the Felix Doubront deal. With about three weeks left in the minor league season, management seems to be reluctant to promote Tennessee shortstop Addison Russell to Triple-A Iowa, preferring to go with minor league veterans Logan Watkins, Elliot Soto and Jonathan Mota. Russell will most likely open the 2015 season with the I-Cubs at short, being joined by his current double play partner Stephen Bruno. The void at Tennessee next season would be filled by Mota, Soto, and Wes Darvill until more promising players are ready. Both Amaya and Hernandez are eligible for the Rule 5 draft and can be further protected by being placed on the Triple-A reserve roster. That would mean that any team wishing to select Amaya or Hernandez in the draft would have to carry them on the Major League roster for the season. That may be a gamble some team might take on Hernandez, but probably not Amaya.
One of the reasons backing up the idea of Amaya or Hernandez leaving is the meteoric rise of Chesny Young. The 14th round draft pick from Mercer University may have an outside shot at being selected to participate in the Arizona Fall League. In 28 games with the rookie league, Boise, and Kane County, Young has batted .367/.436/.449/.885 with 13 RBI and three stolen bases. Two years ago, this management team failed to capitalize on a similar hot start by INF Tim Saunders, who has since dealt with injuries. Let’s see whether they consider that as lessons learned, as an assignment to the AFL could possibly leap-frog Young to Double-A next season.
The infield glut is also affecting 32nd round pick Andrew Ely, who is currently destroying rookie league pitching. The 21-year old second baseman is batting .351/.363/.614/.997 with four home runs and six RBI in 16 games, but has nowhere to go. That’s because there is sparse playing time at Boise with David Bote, Bryant Flete, and Jason Vosler vying for at bats, while Young, Carlos Penalver, and Danny Lockhart are splitting time with the Cougars. Ely’s production also means less developmental time for teammates Gleyber Torres, Varonex Cuevas, and Ho-Young Son.
Finally, although most fans can see the tangible loss of Jeff Samardzija, last month’s trade with Oakland is looking better and better for the Cubs. While the focus has been on shortstop Addison Russell, it seems as if the coaching staff may be working a turn-around with RHP Dan Straily. In his last start, Straily gave up an unearned run and struck out nine in seven innings. Also quietly producing has been OF Billy McKinney, who has hit .330/.424/.464/.888 with a home run and 26 RBI in 28 games with Daytona. McKinney is another possibility for the Arizona Fall League.