Logan Watkins working his way to Wrigley

Logan Watkins working his way to Wrigley

A little more than five years ago, Logan Watkins was more known as an all-state quarterback and defensive back at his high school in Goddard, KS.  Most assumed he was going to Wichita State.  Because of his athleticism, the 5'11, 170 lbs. Watkins was considered by many to be an intriguing prospect, but his baseball skills were still a little raw.  In general, teams were willing to let him go to college to hone those skills rather than meet his reported bonus demands.

The Cubs liked him more than most however and they selected him in the 21st round, then surprised the baseball world by signing him to a bonus of $500,000 to lure him away from his strong commitment.  They saw a diamond in the rough with the mental makeup to translate raw talent to productivity on the baseball field.

But don't get me wrong.  He wasn't just some speedy ex-football player dabbling in an offseason hobby.  Watkins is a legit prospect, not just an athlete playing baseball.  One reason the Cubs thought he was worth the risk was his innate ability to make contact, something that then Cubs amateur scouting director Tim Wilken can spot as well as anyone in the game.  It didn't take long for Watkins to prove Wilken right.  After hitting .325 at Rookie Level Arizona after signing in 2008, Watkins duplicated his success at Boise with a line of .326/.389/.393.  That immediately put him on the prospect radar and if you've read this blog regularly for the past couple of years, you know he's been there ever since.

Today, the 23 year old Watkins is playing in the Arizona Fall League, a springboard for many a big leaguer, and he's continuing to play like, well...Logan Watkins, though it is a version that is even better than the one that burst on the scene at Boise 4 years ago.

If there was a big question about Watkins as an amateur, it was whether he had the size and strength to be anything more than a singles hitter, and thus some saw his ceiling as a utility infielder.  The Cubs, however, saw extra base potential in Watkins wiry frame and, combined with his work ethic, the thought was that he could continue to add strength as he matures physically.   Watkins has done exactly that, attending a weight program in Arizona for the past 2 years.  He will be there again this year.

The results so far have been extremely encouraging.  Watkins has improved his ISO numbers every single year since he was drafted.

  • AZ: .038
  • Boise: .065
  • Peoria:.077
  • Daytona: .123
  • Tennesee: .141

So far in 6 games at Arizona, he has continued to improve those numbers with an ISO of .190.   He slugged his way to a  percentage of .422 at  AA Tennessee last season, hitting 20 doubles, 11 triples, and 9 HRs.  All but the triples were a career high.

The improvement is a tribute to Watkins mental makeup and intelligence.  He knew exactly what he needed to improve and went immediately to work.  What's more,Watkins understands the new regime and what they are looking for.  He grinds out ABs, walking in 12.9% of his plate appearances (yet another career high) and put up an OBP of .383.  While Watkins has improved his power, he knows his role will be to get on base and utilize his plus speed, a tool that he parlayed into 28 stolen bases in 35 attempts last season.

As far as his future holds, Watkins will be added to the 40 man roster and will start the season in AAA Iowa.  The Cubs currently have Gold Glove winner Darwin Barney at 2B and they don't need to rush Watkins right now, but it won't be long before he'll start pushing Barney for that job.  They are similar players but, with the Cubs rebuilding, they may decide that Watkins can offer similar production at a fraction of the cost.  While he may not be the defender Barney is, he is a good 2B in his own right, possessing more natural range and a stronger arm than Barney, though he has yet to learn the same nuances of the position.  Offensively, his speed and superior minor league power and OBP numbers provide the potential for an upgrade.

Even if Watkins manages to someday wrest the job from Barney, he won't be able to rest easy, not that anyone who knows him thinks he would anyway.  The competition from Watkins is not just in front of him.  It's behind him as well.  The Cubs are stacked with 2Bs from Ronald Torreyes (AA in 2013) to Zeke DeVoss (Adv. A) to Gioskar Amaya and Stephen Bruno (A).  That's not to mention potential position change candidates such as Marco Hernandez and Arismendy Alcantara.

Watkins has an advantage over all of those players, however.  He has performed at the higher levels and has already proven he can improve as he moves up the ladder.  That's what separates a player with potential from a major league ballplayer, something Logan Watkins will be in the very near future.

Filed under: prospects

Tags: Logan Watkins

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  • Glad to see all these infield prospects. Maybe by the July trading
    deadline Darney can be traded if Watkins is ready.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    i think barney will be traded this offseason while his vlaue is sky high (1 more pre arb year at $500K & 3 more cost controlled years for a gold glover)

    Watkins looks like a guy that can win the 2B job in spring training if given the opportunity

  • In reply to CubFan Paul:

    I look at Watkins as a level at a time kind of guy. He's a good ballplayer, but he's more of a grinder than an elite talent. That's not a knock, most players aren't "elite" talents. I think if the Cubs trade Barney, the 2B will be Luis Valbuena while Watkins puts the finishing touches on at AAA.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    that makes sense. i'd have no problem with Valbuena holding down 2B til Watkins comes up, I honestly think Valbuena would be a better defender at 2B than Barney (speed, arm, athletism, & experience)

  • In reply to CubFan Paul:

    I also think Valbuena is a better hitter than he showed last year.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I could live with a stopgap at 2B like Valbuena for at least 3-4 months if we traded Barney for Casey Kelly like it was proposed once... I love Barney, but Kelly could be a lock in the rotation for many years, if he pans out.

  • In reply to Caps:

    It would take more than Barney, but I think the Padres would be interested in a player like him.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Please, no.

    Nobuena has proven he can't get it done. If Watkins doesn't make it the Cubs are screwed unless they get lucky with another guy.

    I keep Barney until Watkins shows he can compete at the MLB level.

  • In reply to eaton53:

    I think it's too small a sample size to say that definitively. Valbuena had a low BABIP and while that doesn't necessarily mean he'll bounce back, I think he deserves the benefit of the doubt.

  • Thanks, John, for this article and its insights. I saw Watkins in AA last year and he passes the eye-test as a Ballplayer With Intangibles. His numbers add to that assessment.
    Don't forget that he has played other IF positions and also CF. Those skills add to his resume and versatility.
    Looking forward to seeing him continuing his progress and being part of the pipeline of ML talent the Cubs are building.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    That versatility makes him a certainty to reach the big leagues. He can play SS and CF pretty well, so at worst he's a utility player.

    He's really going to be a fun to watch at Iowa this season. He's an exciting player who plays the game the way you want to see it played.

  • Way to go John! Great article!!

    If Watkins replaces Barney, I think Cubs fans and Barney fans alike will be a bit upset, but Watkins won't take too long to win the hearts of those fans, he has very similar make up and style than Barney, except that he has already shown a superior ability to work the count and get on base.

    Thank you for the article!

  • In reply to Caps:

    Thanks Caps. Was thinking I hadn't written a prospect profile in a while and Watkins seems to be gaining momentum with his good play at AA and in the fall league.

    Totally agree on Watkins winning fans hearts (but only if he hits, of course). He plays the game with a lot of intensity, yet he shows patience at the plate and understands his role.

  • Off topic, but Sahadev Sharma has a nice piece on Soriano over at baseball prospectus:

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=18894

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to SFToby:

    That is a really nice article, thanks for the link.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to SFToby:

    Good piece, thanks for sharing! It's telling that he never really received any OF coaching.

    2 years for $36 mil, while not fabulous, now doesn't look all that bad. I personally think the Cubs should keep him until he is blocking someone young; that's not now.

  • Testing

  • Barney is the best defensive second baseman the Cubs have had since Kenny Hubbs. Valbuena is a better than average defensive second baseman, but comparing his defense to Barney's is like comparing Keith Moreland's hitting to that of Babe Ruth.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    I agree... say No to Nobuena.

    He doesn't cut it at all and sending Barney packing before they know they have a legit guy to replace him would IMO be a huge mistake.

  • Cubs just signed Scott Baker to a one year deal!!

  • fb_avatar

    MLBTR is reporting the Cubs have signed SP Scott Baker to a 1 year deal!

  • Scott Baker - Pitcher #1 this offseason.

  • Sorry this is non-thread but pretty pleased about the Baker deal. I heard (and posted) about this last week, and basically was told that Theo has always liked Scott Baker and got involved with the negotiations personally. Also heard the deal is in the 5-6 mil range, and I love that it is only a one year committment type "prove-it" deal.

    Very nice signing, and I know there were other interested teams.

  • fb_avatar

    Cubs signed Baker.

    great signing. love his command.

  • fb_avatar

    Cubs signed Baker.

  • Scott Baker, I like it.

  • Scott Baker to sign with Cubs, one-year deal. MLBTR.
    First domino.....

  • Off topic #2 but MLB TradeRumors is saying the Cubs just signed Scott Baker to a 1 yr 5.5M deal.

  • fb_avatar

    Am I really the first to break this news on here?? lol

    Cubs signed Scott Baker to one year deal. John and co called it.

  • fb_avatar

    Cubs signed Scott Baker to one year deal

  • Cubs have signed Scott Baker. I like it.

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    If Watkins goes bananas in Mesa this Spring, is there any way he can play his way onto the team as a backup IF/OF. Since he will be added to the 40 man prior to the R5, it's not like the Cubs will have to open up a roster spot. Or, if Hoyer can't get a deal done to adequately fill RF or CF on a full time basis, could he platoon in CF (as well as spelling Barney and/or Castro on occasion) while signing a Pagan or trading for someone like Bourjos?

  • ESPNChicago is reporting the Cubs signed Scott Baker.

  • fb_avatar

    If Watkins goes bananas in Mesa this Spring, is there any way he can play his way onto the team as a backup IF/OF. Since he will be added to the 40 man prior to the R5, it's not like the Cubs will have to open up a roster spot. Or, if Hoyer can't get a deal done to adequately fill RF or CF on a full time basis, could he platoon in CF (as well as spelling Barney and/or Castro on occasion) while signing a Pagan or trading for someone like Bourjos?

  • fb_avatar

    I personally love Watkins and hope he's a Cub for a very long time, but I read someone the other day who expressed concern about his ability versus lefties. I looked it up, and that appears to be a legit fear -- he's pretty awful against lefties. But, worst case, he looks like he could be a super sub against righties providing a nice bat and reliable defense at multiple positions. So it's always nice to have a cost controlled one of those.

  • fb_avatar

    The Cubs signed Scott Baker.

  • Scott Baker signed a one year deal. Good pickup. I'd like Liriano to go with him. We'd have a nice rotation then.

  • What happened to the Scott Baker post?

  • Some trouble with server today but things seem to be working now.

  • Scott Baker signed a one year deal with the Cubs. Nice pickup. I saw him live once and he's not overpowering, but no one could get good swings on him. I'd like Liriano to sign now. That'd be a nice rotation.

  • Scott Baker just signed with the Cubs. 1 yr contract, of course. Congratulations, John, on identifying him as a likely target.

  • fb_avatar

    Why hasn't Watkins rated higher on any prospect lists? BP and Fangraphs have released lists that don't include Watkins at all. He has never rated more than a mention on anybody's lists. While that's not gospel, it does speak to the fact that scouts don't think he has a high ceiling.

    What he probably does have is a high floor, in that he'll make the majors. But with his defensive profile, if he doesn't hit enough to start at 2B, what is he worth? Can he play SS? Does he have the arm for 3B?

    Anyway, I would like to know why Watkins doesn't receive more prospect love

  • fb_avatar

    Scott Baker just signed with the Cubs. The first shoe drops.

  • fb_avatar

    Just saw Cubs sign Scott Baker. The first move is made.

  • In reply to Hal McCarty:

    Article up! Some site issues earlier.

  • Have you heard any thought of giving Watkins a shot at 3B? I'd like to see Feldman too, along with a solid SP who could help for the next 3 years.

  • In reply to rsanchez11:

    Defensively he can play just about anywhere because of his athleticism and good arm, however, I think Watkins bat will only play in the middle infield or possible CF. He does have the arm to play there. At any rate, I don't think he'd be up this year to help at 3B anyway.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Thanks John, I neglected to mention I have enjoyed your insight on the Cubs, spot on!

  • When it comes to trading Barney I have said 'not so fast', but I see the logic. What return would be a good one for Barney?

  • John, what do you think the chances are that Barney gets traded, and what could we expect for in return for Barney if he were to get traded?

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