I thought about doing this later but there's a lot of questions regarding this particular topic, so I figured I could at least give an early peek.
This is early in my research process and this is undoubtedly an incomplete piece, so feel free to chime in with some suggestions if you have them. I'll take a look at some interesting names that the Cubs may consider taking with their 2nd pick in the Rule 5 draft, starting with 2 organizations they know all too well..
Boston Red Sox
- If you need a guy who can help right away and a cheap way to fill a bullpen slot, RHP Josh Fields is an intriguing candidate. Fields showed an incredible ability to miss bats with about 12Ks per 9 IP between AA and AAA last year. He features a 92-93 mph fastball that can reach the mid 90s when he needs it. Also flashes a plus, 12-6 curveball. Command isn't where you'd like it to be but Fields did a reasonable job of at least holding down the walks to 2.8/9 IP between the two levels. There's no question to me that Fields can make the Cubs opening day bullpen.
- A bit more raw is CF Jeremy Hazelbaker. He has plus speed (36 SBs) and some pretty good pop (19 HRs, .206 ISO, .479 slugging at AA). Overall he hit .273/.338/.479 in AA last season. Despite the plus speed, Hazelbaker needs work in CF. He has plus raw range but needs to learn to read the ball better and take better routes. Enter defensive guru Dave McKay. He did a lot with an aging, sore-kneed player in Alfonso Soriano, perhaps he can translate Hazelbaker's plus athleticism into plus defense in CF. Hazelbaker has shown the ability to take walks in the minors but his overall plate discipline is inconsistent. Furthermore, his ability to make contact at the MLB level may be a concern, though he's trending in the right direction. His 23.4% K rate at AA last season was a career low. If the Cubs think he can improve in the spring, he fits the profile of a potentially plus defensive CF with good range in CF.
San Diego Padres
- The Cubs lack a utility player that can play SS and Jonathan Galvez can do that, albeit not very well on the defensive side. He can also play 2B and possibly 3B as well, however, and may be an offensive-minded complement to the more defensively oriented Darwin Barney and Luis Valbuena. Galvez put up a .292/.364/.426 line at AA last season.
- If they want a more defensive oriented utility man, then Beamer Weems may be the better fit. Said current former Padres scouting director and current Cubs Sr. VP of Scouting Jason McLeod, "“Defensively, Beamer is a major league shortstop.” He had been a switch-hitter but struggled with consistency and so has recently become exclusively a RH hitter. The early results were encouraging as Weems got off to a good start and showed some pop in 2011, prompting McLeod to say, “It’s great to see Beamer swinging the bat like this” , but he tailed off as the season went on. Overall he hit .246/.331/416 at AA. Last year he hit just .241/.305/.351 in AAA.
Other names of note...
The Cubs front office is also very familiar with the Diamondbacks system and you also have to account for teams with whom they've recently had trade talks. In that vein, here are a few other names to consider...
- Marc Krauss was recently traded to Houston but is originally from the Diamondbacks system. His stats look very enticing, as he put up a .280/.416/.506 line at AA. He also hits left-handed. If you were to look purely at his numbers, you'd wonder why Houston would leave him unprotected. Here's your answer: Krauss is sort of thick and not very fast. He's a below average defender who can maybe play LF but probably is best suited for 1B (or DH). He also hits righties much better than lefties. In other words, he's a younger version of Bryan LaHair. Tough to keep that kind of bat-only player on your roster, especially when Alfonso Soriano still blocks the only realistic position he can play on the Cubs.
- When news first leaked about a possible Cubs trade of Sean Marshall to the Reds, we speculated here on who the return might be. One of the names that came up was J.C. Sulbaran, a RHP who is now with the Kansas City Royals. Sulbaran drew attention because his once fringy fastball jumped in 2011 when he was suddenly hitting 93-94 with some consistency and flashed a good curve, striking out 10.2 batters per 9 IP in high A ball. As he moved up to AA, the K rate went down slightly (9.64) and the walks rate rose to 4.64, up from 3.28 in 2011. He has some upside. He may not be as advanced as Fields, but he has a chance to be a starter if he makes progress.
- Last trade deadline, the Cubs worked furiously to try and get Ryan Dempster to the L.A. Dodgers, who played coy knowing that the Cubs were limited in their options. In those talks, it wouldn't surprise me if the Dodgers offered a guy like Aaron Miller, a LHP who was once a first round pick (2009) but has since lost velocity (now 86-90) and consistency with his slider. Last year at AA, Miller went 6-6 with a 4.45 ERA with a solid K rate of 8.16/9 IP, but his 5.27 walk rate is a concern for a pitcher who doesn't have a lot of margin for error anymore. The Cubs can now likely get him at the cost of $50,000 and a roster spot, but the feeling here is that they'll pass anyway.
If I come up with some more interesting names in the future, I'll write more pieces like this so consider this a preview/early look for now.
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