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Cubs prospect Logan Watkins looking to make an impression this spring

Cubs prospect Logan Watkins looking to make an impression this spring
Watkins reached base 5 times today.

Cubs prospect Logan Watkins might be a long shot for a major league job this year,  but it doesn't mean he can't make a good impression this spring.  In fact, he probably already has, scoring 670 in manager Dale Sveum's annual bunt tournament.  Now I have to admit I don't follow the tournament, but I'm told that's an extremely high score.  What's important here, though, is that he has Sveum's early attention this spring.

Watkins certainly caught the front office's eye last year when he was named the organization's Minor League Player of the Year.  He's also considered to be the Cubs top 2B prospect by Baseball America.

But all of that may not even be half the battle.  There's the issue of having a Gold Glove defender at 2B starting in Chicago right now in Darwin Barney.  Despite Barney's weaknesses on offense, his defense is so good that his WAR last season of 2.5 is that of an average MLB regular.  That may not seem insurmountable, but when you consider how few prospects actually make the majors at all, you realize that making it and becoming a league average starter is a pretty daunting task for any prospect.

Then, of course, there's the fact that Watkins has yet to play a single inning at the AAA level and while the Cubs have said there are always exceptions, they want all of their prospects to play a full year at that level.  Anthony Rizzo did it as has Brett Jackson.  Jackson is likely to open up the season at AAA again as he refines his new swing.

Even without that organizational philosophy, Watkins has been a level-to-level player anyway, so there's really no reason for that not to hold true again this season.  If he were to jump to the majors this season both Oliver and ZiPS see him being similar on offense to Barney right now -- but Barney's defense puts him comfortably in front when you look at WAR.  This is not to say Watkins isn't a good defender, but Barney is an elite 2B right now.

Oliver

Logan Watkins: .243/.312/.347  line, .293 wOBA, 0.7 WAR

Darwin Barney: .267/.313/.357 line,  .294 wOBA,  1.9 WAR

Zips

Logan Watkins: .245/.315/.354 line, .295 wOBA, 1.7 WAR

Darwin Barney: 270/.308/.360 line, .292 wOBA, 2.3 WAR

But that doesn't mean he can't make it difficult for the Cubs with a great spring.  It doesn't mean he can't put himself on the short list and position himself for a call-up should the Cubs need an infielder later in the season.

Today he will lead off for the Cubs White Team in  today's intrasquad game and get a chance to build on that first impression.  There's a good chance he will -- one way or another.  We can expect Watkins to grind out ABs, play good defense, run the bases well, and -- if given the opportunity - show how versatile a player he can be.  Watkins can play 2B, but he also plays a solid CF, and can fill in at SS when needed.  He's also played well in LF and RF -- and has the arm strength to play 3B.  And he's going to do it all with an infectious, high energy style of play. Those kind of things are going to endear him to Sveum even if he goes 0-4 today.

It's hard to say what Watkins' future role will be with the Cubs.  He could certainly challenge Barney for the starting 2B job in 2014 -- maybe even Brett Jackson and/or Matt Szczur for the CF job -- but even if he doesn't start right away, Watkins can still be a valuable member of the team.  It isn't hard to envision Sveum placing high value in a lefty bat off the bench with speed, OBP skills, good defense, and the ability to play all over the field.  He can do anything Joe Mather or Brent Lillibridge can do but the difference is he has the upside to be more -- to be a starting player who can potentially fill a long term hole in the Cubs leadoff spot.

It's that upside, however, that will likely keep him in AAA for the majority of 2013.  You want him to get plenty of reps at that advanced level of competition -- and a good season will put him in prime position to compete for a job in 2014.

But that doesn't mean he won't force everyone to pay attention in 2013.

 

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  • John, you are right on about Watkins. I got to see him in AA action last season. He is versatile, upbeat, energetic, and a positive force on his team. To compete year after year, we will need Watkins and guys like him (and another "sleeper", Jae-Hoon Ha) to be solid backups, pushing or replacing our starters.
    Hats off for this profile. I hope we'll be seeing Watkins in '13 or '14 contributing to the Cubs' success.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Thanks Hubbs. I always say once Watkins is up, he's going to be a favorite among Cubs fans...lots to like from his OBP skills and defense to his style of play.

    I want to see Ha hit with a bit more power again. I like that he raised his OBP and from what I've heard, he's always been a patient hitter but it finally translated to more walks last year. If he can add extra base power and maybe double digit HRs, he could enter that CF race. His defense may be better than any other OF on 40 man roster right now.

  • John if you think Logan is as good as Lillibridge is right now but with more upside why are we even considering Lillibridge? Does Logan need more seasoning, more confidence? I would like having Logan on the team now if it doesn't somehow hurt any of his development.

  • In reply to John57:

    It's the right long term move. It's primarily to give Watkins another year of development. No need to rush him. He's better off getting playing time and ABs. Cubs like their guys to get that year in AAA -- and Watkins has always needed a little time to adjust to a new league anyway.

    Lillibridge is also RH which the Cubs need because they have LH hitters at CF and 3B.

  • Which prospects have what it takes to be a super-sub and
    play more than more position and still get there AB's

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Watkins, Lake are the first two that jump to mind. Stephen Bruno and Tim Saunders are already supersub types in lower minors. Alcantara athletic enough to play SS, 2B, and anywhere in the OF but still a lot of hope he's a starter somewhere. DeVoss can play 2B and OF.

  • Nice article. Impressive that he had a .383 on base in AA last season, and played 3 positions, all tough ones. Also showed some more power as he is getting older. Seems like the type of player that fits the Cubs profile now.

  • Yes, he can really grind out ABs and has the speed to get some IF hits and pad his average. Also impressive is that his slugging pct. continues to rise.

    He fits the Cubs profile and, like many prospects, the only question is whether he'll hit MLB pitching well enough. We probably won't know the answer until he gets there.

  • Might add, this is an example of how the prospect top lists get so goofy. They have Kolten Wong of the Cardinals as a can't miss top 100 prospect. Yet compare his year to Watkins AA year last season. Watkins had a higher OPS, more stolen bases, and better fielding numbers while playing 3 different spots. And the Southern League is not as good a hitting league as the Texas League.

  • Wong can flat out rake and has a better chance to hit MLB pitching than Watkins, but I do get your drift here. They'll never admit it but prospect gurus can be influenced to some degree by reputation, whether it's from the organization, the front office, or draft status or anything else. That's not meant as a knock. It's just human nature.

  • Wong is a year younger. That could have some effect. But don't get all bent out of shape about the lists. It is just someones opinion. What is more important is Watkins is high on Sveum's and Epstein's list and eventually the others will notice.

  • Thanks for the profile, John! I'm a big Barney fan, and think his offensive #s will improve this year. He hit for more power last year, and will continue that trend. I know, he'll never be Sandberg in that category, but his offense will be better than average for 2nd basemen this year. What brought him down last year was his batting average sunk. I have to think his batting average will be above what the projections are (in the .275-.285 range), and as a result all three of his slash #s will be better than projected.

    Another thing about Barney. We've all seen guys who tend to shrink offensively under high pressure batting situations. (There may be a few stat heads frothing at the mouth at this statement, but please, just watch the games.) Barney is not one of those guys. He can get that hit when it is crucial to the outcome of the game. That is sooo big.

    I really think the grind of the losing affected his batting last year. The Cubs will be better this year, probably around .500, and his hitting will improve as a result. He will exceed both of those projections, IMHO, or I'll wear an all-White Sox outfit for a day! Yes, I am that serious!!

  • In reply to HefCA:

    Ha! If you wear an all White Sox outfit all day than we're going to need pictures as evidence!

    Barney does have those great intangibles and he does keep showing flashes of improvement as a hitter. As it is, he's a solid starter and that alone is tough for a prospect to match. I'm interested to see if he breaks out a bit with the bat this season as well. It's a big year for him. Lots of prospects, not just Watkins, starting to line up behind him.

    And thanks!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That's doable. I'll have the wife take a pic and send it to you, if it happens. But methinks I won't have to.

    I didn't mean to ignore Watkins here, either. He looks just like the type of middle infielder the Cubs have been so good at bringing to the majors. I'll be following your updates on him when he plays for Iowa this year.

    But I do like the DarBar. Can't help myself when his name is brought up.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    I hope you don't have to do it either! Would really like to see Barney take a step forward with that bat.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Also Barney had terrible road/ home splits. The guy was an allstar at wrigley but terrible on the road. Maybe he improves on the road. Barney has a knack for making contacting and not striking out, he just needs to get in better counts and square the ball up to be a .300 hitter. I think his batting average will improve and he looks like he's going to hit for more power.

  • I like to see Barney to get on base more and steal more bases this year............

    Reds blocked one of their "key" pitchers in playing in the WBC.......I wonder if the Reds pitchers have tired arms from last year????.....

    I forgot where I saw it, but they ranked the top pitching teams in MLB.....Cubs staff was ahead of the Brewers.......but I think the Cubs could have been ahead of six more teams at least......some team pitching staff were ranked too high.....

    Besides Soriano, only Baker, Jackson, Garza and Feldman have playoff experience.....should be allot of hungry players wanting to be in the playoffs this year....

    Ian Stewart heading for an MRI......Junior Lake, I hope you enjoy Chicago this summer playing third base........

    Seems like DeJesus will have some trade value come this July.....should get a nice high prospect in return.....

    Nine teams won more 90 games last season.....Yankees, Orioles, Rays, A's, Rangers, Nationals, Braves, Reds, Giants........I can't see Orioles, Yankees, A's, Reds or Rangers winning more than 90 this year..........

    I could see Angels, Tigers, Cardinals & Dodgers win more than 90 games.........

    I could see five teams hit 100 losses this season.......Marlins, Astros, Rockies, Twins and Mets.....

    Biggest Big Name sellers at the trading deadline this year will be the Phillies........Angels will make a major deal for Lee & Halladay package.......

    Odds are the smallest Opening Day crowd will be at the Marlins game.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    I would like to see Barney contribute more on offense as well. As for Stewart if he's not healthy, I'm afraid we may see a Valbuena/Lillibridge platoon to start the year but maybe Lake by the summer, as you say.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Dang,... What's up with Stewart? The wrist again?

    Too bad - was hoping he was healthy for a change.

    I've got nothing bad to say about Valbuena,... he's more than an adequate fielder for 3B and can get on base even with the low batting averaage,.... but a Valbuena/Lillibridge platoon idea is seriously underwhemling. Would be nice if Vitters had figured out how to hit,....

  • Watkins sure sure looks like future piece at Wrigley. He and Barney are both the type player that have more worth than the stats would suggest. Barney will be hard to displace, but I think it is a good bet that both he and Watkins could be major contributers.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I think they're both going to be in the big leagues for a long time.

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    The main question with Watkins that I have is this: How is his defense at SS? At 3B?

    Because he is a grinder at the plate, but will make the majors sooner if he can play multiple positions. And it would be tough for him to be a backup without defensive versatility. I know he played some SS last year, would like to see him play more SS this year at Iowa.

    Without that versatility, he has to live on his bat; if he doesn't hit enough to be a ML starter, then he has little value without the ability to play multiple spots

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Defensively, he's adequate but I don't think he'd be a full time starter at SS and his bat may not carry 3B, LF or RF as a starter. I do think he can play all of those positions part time however. If he starts it would almost have to be at 2B.

  • John, thanks. Good food for thought. I empathize with John57. It would be nice to see some home grown talent up in the majors on a regular basis.

    Sure would like to see some of these guys make roster decisions difficult this spring. If not before the season then by tearing up AAA and forcing their way on to the MLB club at the first opportunity.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    Your welcome and I agree with both of you guys, but I also understand taking their time to develop guys rather than rush them to get them into backup roles.

    I hope we'll see Watkins, Lake, Jackson, and a few others find some sort of roles, whether it's starter, platoon, or sub by either mid-season or 2014.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I am fine with playing Watkins, Lake, Jackson, Szczur and whomever in the minors until they are ready. I don't want to rush them and have them fail. But I am anxious to see how they do in the majors. Obviously John has a better feel for that time than I do so he is very likely right on this. I trust the FO to do a good job. I have been extremely pleased how things have gone so far.

  • Well, if can play CF, 2nd and fill in at SS and 3B as well, he will get a lot chances to grind out at bats.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    He should get a fair amount of playing time moving around.

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    I think if Watkins has a good spring he can be packaged in a trade as a starting 2nd baseman, which is obviously more valuable than a utility man. Baltimore comes to mind as a potential destination.

    I also think with Ian Stewart and Vitters already injured, the FO could act quickly on another 3rd baseman. I could see Clevenger being traded as well.

  • In reply to Dale Miller:

    From what I gather most scouts aren't ready to assume Watkins is a starting 2B yet. Cubs are better off keeping him in AAA, there is no pressing need to trade him nor will they get much back in a trade anyway.

  • In reply to Dale Miller:

    Trade Logan Watkins and a package for who? Shouldn't be stockpiling players like Watkins instead of trading them?

    I think Watkins is more valuable playing for us than trading him... And I hear you about 3B, but the market out there is just really bad... I think our best hope is for Stewart to bounce back and/or Vitters to pan out.

    As for Clevenger... He could get traded, but not now, we don't have any other option as our 3rd catcher and after Navarro leaves, Clevenger could become the backup C.

  • In reply to Caps:

    I agree here. These guys are cheap, cost-controlled for 6 years and at the least should make good reserves. I don't see the value in trading them considering they aren't likely to bring anything big in return.

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    In reply to Caps:

    He may be more valuable playing for us then trading him but I'm not seeing where he's gonna play. I thought the Cubs might seriously consider trading Barney over the winter but it appears now that they're committed to him. Depite having a much improved prospect pipeline, I think we have some surplus in some areas and holes in others. Same with Clevenger. Yes we need 3 catchers but having one that could contribute at the major league level would allow us to trade him for another that may have more upside but is not ready now. I think those are legitimate market conditions. It's no different than the 40 man roster crunch-we couldn't keep all the outfielders so we traded today-Campana for tommorrow-two 17 yr old pitchers.

  • In reply to Dale Miller:

    Barney is not a sure thing yet... Barney is great defensively, but if he doesn't improve his offense, then I don't see him sticking for the long term... Watkins might not be as good defensively as Barney, but he's good enough to be a solid 2B defensively, so, if Watkins can outhit Barney, then he's got good chances.

    I mean, Watkins is already a smart player, like Barney, with sound work ethics and some scouts think his approach at the plate is already more advanced than Barney's, although he needs to cut the K's a little bit.

    Now, in the case that Barney does improve offensively and becomes our long term option at 2B, then Watkins could become a very good utility man that could provide even more versatility than Valbuena.

    The Clevenger part is debatable and I'm not saying it can't or shouldn't happen, but I don't think it'll happen right now, especially when Navarro is only signed for 1 year... Maybe once Rafael Lopez or Chad Krist are ready for the bigs... Thing is... After Clevenger, our options are JC Boscan or Michael Brenly... Not very good options at this time.

    Either way, you bring up good points and Watkins can only become a good problem for the Cubs, they really like him and has impressed Sveum so far this ST.

    That's how I see it anyway.

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    In reply to Caps:

    Thanks Cap-you get my drift-just exploring all the options...

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    John-that's cool, I trust you and your sources. I was just under the impression that he was pretty close to being major league ready.

  • In reply to Dale Miller:

    You're right. He is very close, but lots of debate as to whether that will be as a starter or utility guy -- so that brings down his trade value.

    I do agree with your general sentiment. At some point the Cubs will need to deal prospects to help the club, much as we've seen a few contenders do this offseason (i.e. Nats, Jays).

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    Obviously phase one of the rebuilding plan was to move the low hanging fruit-veterans for prospects, while evaluating the entire system. I think we're getting close to the end of phase one. Once we move Soriano, Marmol and Garza, I think we're officially at the beginning of Phase two.

    In phase two we'll continue to covet prospects but we will be more focused on developing the core team on the field. Moving parts that don't fit for parts that do fit. Whether that's moving guys who are blocked-be it Watkins or whomever, I think we'll see a lot more trading of youth for youth. This is where the FO emphasis on scouting and development will give them an advantage in the market. The crystal ball should become clearer here, using sabr data and scouting. The increased spending in this area vs. team payroll still has to produce a return on investment like any other business. It's a complete reversal from the Hendry administration and I think its the right move. I thought it was telling when Sveum said that Travis Wood is done with his development as a starter. That tells me how quickly they're going to respond to their (FO) timeline on development. Now that they have a better handle on their inventory, I expect them to move much quicker because of the confidence they have in their "system".

  • I think Watkins is a going to be a good major league player, at worst a utility type. There is no reason he shouldn't be to the bigs in 2-3 years if not sooner.

    I don't think the Cubs are going to want to break up Castro and Barney. They have a real chance to grow together and give excellent up the middle defense for years to come, of which, Theo and Jed value highly.

    And, I would hate to see them waste Watkins as a utility guy, or backup, unless it's for a playoff run. He should make for excellent trade bait if he keeps it up.

    On that note, I was reading a bit more about Giancarlo Stanton today, and absolutely love his makeup. There are not too many position players in the bigs I'm crazy about, but this guy could be the finishing piece for the Cubs.

    It might be fun for John to do a piece on what it might take to acquire Giancarlo. You would think he is up for grabs, though the price would be quite steep to be certain.

  • What is the front office opinion on a balanced lineup between right- handed and left-handed hitters?

    If the top prospects work their way up and you put Baez at third then you have two spots (left field and second base) where you need left-handed hitters.

  • Anyone updating about today's game?

  • In reply to Caps:

    I just started a thread. Jackson 2-2 with a double, single, SB, and run scored.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Way to go!! Thank you!

  • It appears that Dale is finding out which players were in shape for the rigors of ST. I wonder if Stewart or Vitters did much 'leg work' in the off season? Their dedication fingered here? BTW, these leg injuries generally did not heal quickly.

  • In reply to TobaccopouchinIvy:

    It's a day to day thing, some of these guys wouldn't have missed time if it was the regular season... We know that Stewart worked with Rod Carew during the offseason and Vitters at least played a couple of games of Winter ball

  • In reply to Caps:

    Thnx. Caps---good to see 'ya:). If the MRI on Stewart reveals a muscle-tear, or micro-hematoma in the muscle, these types are difficult to heal w/o rest & time.

  • In reply to TobaccopouchinIvy:

    Let's hope it's not any of that and he remains day to day LOL

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    I think the first priority is a power lefthanded bat in the middle of the order. I think Rizzo fits that bill. Ideally a lefty in the six or 7 hole as well. I would think one of their outfielders would hit lefthanded. I don't think the lineup needs 4 leftys and 4 righties plus a pitcher.

  • I like three at least. It depends on the hitters, but it is harder to keep right handed pitches from getting into a good cruve with less. Looks like the Cubs will have four against righties this year.

  • Had to step out for a second...

    Started game thread. Jackson the star so far and our man Watkins struck out.

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    Always nice to hear about the kids during spring training, but realistically, we're talking about 2014 until we start to see a real influx of kids, correct?

    2013: BJax, Vitters, Vizcaino (maybe)
    2014: Watkins, Lake, McNutt, Villanueva, Baez, Soler, Szczur, Ha??

    Am I wrong? Missing anyone from 2013?

    Looking forward to seeing who we could get for Garza, Marmol, Soriano, Dejesus, and other vets this year. Hoping they are ML ready prospects. Also #1 pick could be ready by 2015 if he's a college pitcher.

  • Assuming Watkins continues his path upwards towards being a ML player. I am hard pressed to recall the last time a Cubs minor leaguer was blocked due to better player at the ML level.

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