The CCO’s off-season series of articles to summarize and project how the minor league system looks on a position by position basis continues today. Last week we took a look at third base and shortstop, today, the CCO looks at a position that has been one of the strongest in the system recently: Second Base.
The 2014 season will be an interesting one for the Cubs’ 2012 Minor League Player of the Year Logan Watkins. In his first season at Triple-A Iowa last year, Watkins was miscast as a leadoff man, which was reflected in his career low .243 average (.333 OBP, .711 OPS). The 24-year old also had eight home runs, 26 RBI, and ten stolen bases. The left-hander is more of a contact hitter than a catalyst, and has been more productive batting second, or lower, in the lineup. Watkins remains a solid defender at second, fielding .970 for the I-Cubs. Watkins is also very good in centerfield and can be used at shortstop. Even with his somewhat deflated offensive numbers, Watkins was promoted to the parent club at the beginning of August. There, Watkins basically sat as he saw action in only 24 games and had 33 plate appearances. Just what the plan is for Watkins going forward is unclear.
Unless you are a diligent follower of the CCO, chances are you feel that Arismendy Alcantara “came out of nowhere” last season. Faithful readers know Alcantara was profiled as a player to be watched as far back as 2011. In his first full season at Double-A, the 21-year old switch-hitter was all over the Southern League offensive leader board. Alcantara was second with 36 doubles, third with 31 stolen bases, seventh with 69 RBI, tied for tenth with 15 home runs, and 14th with a .271 batting average (.352 OBP, .804 OPS). With those numbers, Alcantara was selected to be the Cubs’ representative to the 2013 Futures Game, where he hit a home run. Although Alcantara lined up at shortstop for the first half of the season, he moved over to second to accommodate Javier Baez. Blessed with great defensive tools, Alcantara has always seemed to play better defensively at second as he fielded .954 there this past season. The front office has already gone on record saying that Alcantara will be at Iowa in 2014.
With Arismendy Alcantara moving on to Iowa, it is a mystery as to who lines up at second for Double-A Tennessee next season. System players Jonathan Mota and Elliot Soto, along with Tim Saunders (all three profiled in the shortstop section) and Stephen Bruno (profiled at third base) are all in play. What is not clear is whether Wes Darvill is also in consideration. The 2009 fifth round pick has been a slow developing prospect, but has seemed to turn the corner after splitting his time between Kane County and Daytona last season. The 22-year old hit a combined .267/.339/.380/.719 with three homers, 40 RBI and 11 stolen bases. Darvill has always been defensively sound, fielding .984 at second base, .977 at short, and 1.000 at third base this past season. What is uncertain is if 79 games at High-A Daytona is enough to promote Darvill to start the season. The front office should have more information to go on now that Darvill has been added to the Mesa Solar Sox squad in the Arizona Fall League.
One of the overlooked members of the 2012 Boise Hawks squad, Gioskar Amaya had a much better 2013 with Kane County than his numbers may indicate. The 20-year old Venezuelan hovered between .250 and .280 for the season before finishing at .253/.329/.368/.698 with 26 doubles, six triples, five home runs, 28 RBI, and 13 stolen bases. Amaya seemed to bat better when he was in the leadoff spot, and struggle elsewhere in the order. Considered a decent fielder, his 22 errors and .959 fielding average were a little out of character, Amaya is attending the Fall Instructional League and is one of several players also getting a look at catcher. With all that, Amaya may have done just enough to see Daytona next season.
Selected in the tenth round of the 2011 draft, Danny Lockhart had been a light hitting but good defensive infielder prior to this past season. In 2013, the son of Cubs’ scout and former Major League infielder Keith Lockhart exploded offensively. Lockhart hit .290/.346/.331/.676 with eight doubles, one triple, 23 RBI and seven stolen bases in 67 games. While the 20-year old had to play both third base and shortstop in a pinch, his best position is second base, as he fielded .968 and pushed teammate David Bote off of second base and to the outfield.
The Cubs picked David Bote in the 18th round of the 2012 draft as an infielder, but he has played every position (including pitcher) with the exception of catcher during his career. The 20-year old opened as Short-Season A Boise’s second baseman, but moved to the outfield when injuries hit those positions. Toward the end of the season, Bote was the default third baseman when Kris Bryant was promoted. Bote didn’t distinguish himself at either second or third, fielding .908 and .902 at those positions. He did much better in the outfield, fielding 1.000 in 21 starts. However, his offense does not project to the outfield as he hit .250/.337/.366/.703. But Bote did end up tied for eighth in the Northwest League with six home runs and was tenth with 31 RBI, while stealing six bases. Bote is an emerging offensive player, and if he can clean up his defense he could be a real asset.
The bulk of the playing time at second for the AZL Cubs in 2013 went to 20th round pick Zak Blair. Blair started out well but tailed off after a few games and ended up at .226/.297/.283/.580 with four doubles, one triple, 17 RBI and three stolen bases before winding up on the disabled list. It is uncertain as to what the future holds for Blair, as he will turn 24 years old in December.
Coming in second in the DSL in hitting with a .343 average was switch-hitting Dalfis Ortiz. Ortiz had a further line of .416/.506/.922 with seven doubles, nine triples, one home run, 26 RBI, and 14 stolen bases in 47 games. However, unlike most other players in the foreign leagues Ortiz is a little older and will turn 22 years old prior to Spring Training. In the VSL, 19-year old switch-hitter Humberto Garcia batted .246/.310/.314/.624 with seven double, three triple, one home run, 17 RBI, and a league leading 31 stolen bases while also seeing time at short, third and the outfield.