Cubs Prospects: The 2Bs

Cubs Prospects:  The 2Bs
Zeke DeVoss

Next up for the prospect series are the second basemen.  It's a deep position compared to the previous ones we've covered: 1B and catcher.  The position is also made deeper simply because shortstops that don't cut or find themselves blocked, as will be the case with the Cubs, could find them at 2B.  For now, though, we'll focus on the guys who actually play 2B right now.

There was no problem finding 5 good players on the list but projecting who will turn out to be the best involves some speculation at this point.  It's possible that if you ask 5 different people, you may get 5 different opinions as to who the top 2B guy is.

1. Gioskar Amaya, 19, 5'11", 175 lbs., R/R

  • Likely 2013 club: Kane County (A)
  • ETA: 2016

I could probably make an argument for any of these guys being at the top of the list.  They're all talented players with strong mental makeup.  It'll be fun to see which player emerges as the best when the smoke clears.  For now I'm going with Amaya (.298/.381/.496).  He's among the best pure hitters of the Cubs 2B group and this year added some new elements to his game.  He became a more patient hitter, nearly doubling his walk rate from 5.7% to 10.4%.  He also added power, hitting 8 HRs after not hitting any at all last season, as well as raising his ISO from .132 to .199.  He also turned out to be a faster baserunner than expected.  Defensively he has good hands and solid range at 2B, though he did get sloppy with his throws at times.  Amaya is quiet off the field, but is intelligent and plays the game with energy and intensity.

2. Logan Watkins, 23, 5'11, 170 lbs., L/R

  • Likely 2013 club: Iowa (AAA)
  • ETA: 2013

With a lot of similar ceilings, Watkins has the highest floor. He is a grinder with more speed and athleticism than incumbent Darwin Barney.  He's not a big player, but he's wiry strong.  The Cubs felt he would eventually hit with enough extra base power to be viable as a starter and Watkins has proven them to be correct, steadily increasing his ISO every season, going from .038 his first year to .141 at AA last season, including a career high 9 HRs and .422 slugging percentage.  Power isn't Watkins' game, though.  He's an on-base machine who uses good plate discipline (12.9% walk rate) and speed from the left side to get on base (.383 OBP).  Defensively, he is not at Barney's level but he's a solid defender in his own right with the arm to play SS if needed.  Like all the players on this list, Watkins has the mental makeup to figure out what he needs to improve, take coaching, and then apply it to his game.  He's going to be a big leaguer, the only question is what kind of impact he'll have once he gets there.  He has the ability to replace Barney as a starter at 2B and his floor is as a valuable utility man who can play 2B, SS, and CF while providing speed and a solid bat from the left side.

3. Ronald Torreyes, 20, 5'9, 140 lbs., R/R

  • Likely 2013 club: Tennessee (AA)
  • ETA: Late 2014/Early 2015

There are many who might pick Torreyes, partially on the strength of his age relative to the level he played at this season.  No question that playing and holding your own in the FSL at age 19 is an impressive feat, especially when you consider that Torreyes more than held his own in the 2nd half, when he hit .297/.361/.450. Torreyes is not as big as his listed height, but he has an uncanny knack for squaring up the baseball and the wiry strength to hit with some gap power at the big league level.  Most of his value will have to come from his batting average as Torreyes is an aggressive hitter who makes contact easily.  He had an unbelievably low 6.1 % K rate, and while he doesn't walk much, he did have a career high walk rate of 6.8% last season. If he can be a .300 hitter, that will be more than enough to give him a respectable OBP. Defensively, he's played some SS but his arm and range are just average at best, but they play up because of his good instincts in the field.

4. Zeke DeVoss, 22, 5'10", 175 lbs., S/R

  • Likely 2013 club: Daytona (Adv. A)
  • ETA: 2015

The speedy, switch-hitting DeVoss had something of a disappointing year at the plate (.249/.382/.370), though his tremendous eye (14.1% walk rate), more than made up for his pedestrian batting average.  The interesting split with DeVoss is that he was much better as a right-handed hitter, where he hit .287/.415/.465, making you wonder if he should scrap switch-hitting.  Other numbers of note were a relatively low .319 BABIP, especially considering his speed and the low level at which he played; and an increase in his power numbers (ISO up to .120 from .076 last season).  So, there is some hope he can rebound a bit on offense next year at Daytona.   Defensively DeVoss is still a work in progress.  He uses his excellent athleticism to make the occasional spectacular play, even making the ESPN highlights with one catch, but did struggle at times with the routine chances.  If he can't stick at 2B, he has the speed, arm, and instincts to be a good CF.

5. Stephen Bruno, 21, 5'9" 175 lbs., R/R

  • Likely 2013 club: Kane County (A)
  • ETA: 2015

Stephen Bruno doesn't have prototypical size but he can really swing the bat.  He's an aggressive hitter who makes consistent hard contact with solid gap power.  In his debut season at Boise, he hit .361/.438/.492.  That average led the NWL.  Bruno ranks a bit lower on this list because of his advanced age -- he'll be 22 and has yet to play full season ball.  He may actually make the jump to Daytona this year, but if he sticks with catching into the season, it's possible the Cubs may move him slowly so that he can adapt defensively without having to take on the challenge of the FSL offensively.  What you want to see Bruno work on is becoming a bit more selective at the plate. His walk rate is the lowest in this group (6.2%).  In fact, he had more HBPs than walks last year (20 to 18), which helped contribute to his outstanding OBP.  Defensively, Bruno is athletic with a good arm and can literally play anywhere on the field.  That versatility is going to help him get to the big leagues, likely as a super utility guy, but his hitting ability gives him a chance to start somewhere.

Position Change Candidate: Frandy De La Rosa, 16, 6'0", 160 lbs., S/R

As mentioned, there are a lot of candidates for this position change (including every SS prospect in the organization) but De La Rosa is almost certain to move, probably before he even reaches full season ball.  He just lacks the range and arm for SS right now, though he does have the good hands to stay in the IF.  The Cubs signed him primarily for his bat, however, and he has the potential to surpass all of these players in time.

Others:

The Cubs are pretty good at selecting gritty, grindy IF types with enough athleticism to make the majors, usually as utility players but some, like Ryan Theriot and Darwin Barney, wind up starting.  There are three such examples in the system now in Timothy Saunders, David Bote, and Daniel Lockhart.  Saunders has been the best hitter and even got as far as Daytona in his first season.  Overall he hit .381/.431/.536.  He'll likely start the next season in Daytona where he'll move around the infield and outfield and get his share of ABs.

 

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  • fb_avatar

    Tennessee seems like a bug jump for Torreyes, seeing how young he is and how much he struggled 3 of 5 months last year. (Though August appears to be BABIP related.) Castro did it at 19, with similarish numbers, but as much as I like Torreyes, comparing him to Starlin is unfair to both men.

    Might not be much of a choice, though. With the team this stacked with 2B talent, it's the only way for all of the prospects to play every day.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    And if he struggles offensively, you kind of shrug your shoulders and hope he figures it out.

    I have Watkins #1 because I specify what I mean by 'Prospect'. Not a knock on anyone else, but my specs are 'likelihood for a hitter to get 3000 MLB AB'. Yeah, I was kind of higher than most on Barney.

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    In reply to tim815:

    They rushed Marco Hernandez and Shawon Dunston, Jr. last year and dropped them when it became obvious. The difference, of course, is DeVoss (and Saunders and Baez, for that matter) likely starting the year in Daytona. But we know Theo likes Torreyes because he traded for him -- so I don't think Theo will just shrug his shoulders and hope he figures it out.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Hmmmmm....

    They rushed Hernandez. They sent him down just as he was starting to hit better. He was brutal early, but once 'that other guy' got it going in Extended Spring, Baez flipped with Hernandez as he started representing.

    If Torreyes struggles (like he did his first time in Low A and early at High A), there's nothing much to do. Watkins will be in Iowa. DeVoss belongs no higher than Daytona next season. If Torreyes is hitting .190 on May 1st (I would consider that struggling), it isn't like they'll bench him and insert Saunders. He'll shrug, hope he figures it out, and keep starting Torreyes, hoping he rebounds like he did in High A.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Marco Hernandez started to turn things around in May, as timh notes. He had a good run in Peoria for about 3-4 weeks. We'll never know if he could have continued that, and what made his season more perplexing was the fact that, when he was demoted, he struggled, IIRC, in XST and then at the start of Boise. That said, he also did turn it around in Boise.

    * IIRC, there were reports that he was having difficulty adjusting to the cold weather in Peoria. Granted, still an excuse, but that may explain his slow start there somewhat.

    There isn't enough of a sample to make any conclusive comments about Hernandez, but the positives of this year far outweighed the negatives. What's lost is that a lot of the positive upside/tools that people wrote about last year came true, with one exception. Namely, Marco showed an undisciplined approach at the plate in stretches. That said, he turned it around at each stop. It'll be interesting to see what he does in Peoria next year.

  • In reply to tim815:

    I really wrestled with putting Watkins #1 because there isn't a big difference in ceilings but there's a much larger difference in floors. I went with Amaya and I have to admit it was partially a "gut" feel.

  • I don't think there's room for Torreyes in Daytona and maybe his good 2nd half is enough to let him take that leap. But that jump to AA is tough for anyone, especially a AA 20 year old guy.

    A reason for hope may be to compare him to Watkins, who is not as good a pure hitter as Torreyes. Watkins struggled at Daytona early on then recovered late. watkins was older, but I think if Watkins was able to adjust, I think Torreyes, who is a more instinctual hitter, has a good shot.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yeesh. Meant to say, "especially for a 20 year old guy"

  • I would have to say that Amaya is 1A and Watkins is 1B. Amaya has a slightly better ceiling bit both are close. I have a feeling though that Amaya might break out next year , and that happens he will be the next 2nd baseman.

  • I almost wanted to name them 1A ,1B ,1C, 1D, and 1E. Would like to see Amaya break out. Torreyes and DeVoss could be candidates too.

  • Gotta like that list. Looking forward to 3b where we're deep too.

    You kind of have me daydreaming about Bruno as a catcher now. You ever hear of a team whose utility man is also their backup catcher? Could save a roster spot for an extra arm in the pen.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    Debating whether to do SS or 3B next.

    At worst Bruno can be a 3rd catcher, which is a nice thing to have as long as he can help you at other positions.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    Assuming Baez is not on the 3rd base list, I don't know if I'd go as far as to say that we are deep at 3rd. There's a lot of guys, but

    a) Jeimer might not stick at 3rd
    b) Vitters is ... well, who he is. Average, or a tick below, defensively, and ... well, his offense is still a work in progress.
    c) Villanueva is an intriguing name, but I still wonder if he's been over-hyped a tiny bit.

    I think shortstop is extremely deep, though, if we have Baez at the top, followed in some fashion by Arismendy Alcantara and Marco Hernandez, all guys that should be at full season ball to start 2013. Add in Carlos Penalver in XST, and it's an extremely deep and impressive group, and all four guys, as of now, look like they have a decent shot to make it up at short on defensive potential (granted, all three have some issues to work through defensively).

  • In reply to toonsterwu:

    the third base position is pretty deep.
    josh vitters
    junior lake
    christian villanueva
    jeimer candelario
    mark malave

    this group doesnt include baez, which it could considering that hes likely to shift there in the next 2 years.

    maybe this isnt a group of low risk guys, but each of these guys ceilings is as an everyday starter at 3rd with the possibility of becoming an allstar.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    Sure, if Baez shifts to 3rd, then there's a top dog at the spot. I guess it comes down to how you define deep. If we're simply talking about a bunch of decent names, okay, I guess there's depth. I'm looking more at quality, though. I mean, at shortstop, we've got 3 guys with the tools/potential to be starting caliber shortstops (whether or not they get there is another question), all likely slated for full-season duty to start next year. To me, that's deep. At this juncture, to me, it seems a bit unlikely that Vitters/Lake will become regulars. Here's hoping they do (I think people often underestimate Lake's raw tools, which are really good), but I don't buy it as of now. It's simply far too early on Malave and Candelario. I'm very bullish on Candelario, although whether or not he sticks at 3rd is quite debatable. People often focus on what he did this year, which admittedly, was exciting to hear about. Maybe he'll be an exception, but physically, it's hard to believe that he'll maintain the agility to be a good 3rd baseman as he physically matures.

  • After so many years of no infield talent in the minors its good
    to have so many to pick from. Since some are so young they
    can take their time developing at each level in the minors.
    Might have to play a different guy every year until we find the
    right guy.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    It is nice to have a few guys, so that if one guy doesn't work out, then maybe the next guy will.

  • John,

    With Watkins being at AAA and having the potential for more offensive upside, could he make Barney a trade candidate this winter? I like Barney, but moving him may help the Cubs upgrade at another position and speed along the rebuild.

  • In reply to supercapo:

    Because defense up-the-middle is so valued, maybe he could
    be packaged with another player (i.e., LeHair, Vitters, etc.)
    for a young pitcher or top prospect.

  • In reply to supercapo:

    This winter may be a bit soon. Watkins looks more like a level to level player. I don't know if the Cubs want him to skip AAA. That said, if there is a great offer for Barney, they'll take it if they pick up some surplus value, then worry how to fill 2B for a year.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I don't think the Cubs would mind giving a chance to Valbuena at 2B next year, until Watkins or some other of those guys is ready. Barney's value is as high now as it will ever be. I'd definitely try to move him.

  • In reply to João Lucas:

    I'm just not sure how much value Darwin Barney has. I've always been high on his defensive abilities even when people doubted his athleticism, but ... ideally, you expect a bit more offense out of 2nd base than what Barney provides.

    If you could find a team that considers him a shortstop (and I think he'd be fine at short, maybe not elite like at 2nd, but fine), then I think you might be able to squeeze a better trade out for Barney. But who? Barney feels like the type of guy whose value to his current team is always going to be higher than his value for other people.

    But that's me.

  • In reply to João Lucas:

    Sure, if it improves the team for the long term, they'll do it.

  • In reply to João Lucas:

    Small sample size, I know, but I liked Valbuena at second last year. From third, he seemed to have a gift for firing the ball into second to start the DP and that'll probably translate to him playing second where he'll have a lot more opportunities.

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    I'd really like to see the Cubs putting together a Barney-Garza package for, hopefully, a huge return this offseason. I like those guys a lot, but I feel that moving them now could be big for us.

  • Nice list John. Toying around with my Cubs Top 20 list recently, I'd go, in order, Torreyes and Amaya at the top (both in my top 20), followed by Watkins, Bruno, DeVoss, but I agree that the gap from 1-5 isn't much, and I to wonder if DeVoss could, offensively, break out a bit next year.

    Some thoughts -

    Bruno is a personal favorite, and I'll be curious what happens with this catching experiment. It's an intriguing idea to try. I completely buy Bruno's ability to hit.

    At 2nd, though, much as he's a personal favorite, to me, he holds a lot of similarities to Torreyes and to me, are "prove it at the next level" types when it comes to rankings. At times, I've been perceived to dislike Torreyes on some personal level. That isn't the case. I hope he becomes a stud and people can throw it back at me, but both Torreyes and Bruno have plus hit tools, but don't offer plus tools in other departments. There are times when guys like those succeed, but guys with limited plus tools have a tougher path (hence I want to see them prove it at a higher level before ranking them higher).

    Amaya has the best ceiling of the bunch, particularly if he can be solid at 2nd. I almost wonder if his power ceiling is a bit under-sold now. I feel like he made some very nice swing improvements this year, but like with Bruno, we have to see it play at a higher level.

  • In reply to toonsterwu:

    Thanks. Amaya's power was a bit of a surprise. It was all pull power this year but even that helps. A pitcher makes a mistake inside, you yank it out of the park.

    Agreed on Torreyes and Bruno. Especially Torreyes. A lot of ability tied to that bat and specifically batting average. That's a lot of pressure on one tool

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