Cubs Organizational Depth: The Second Basemen

Cubs Organizational Depth:  The Second Basemen
Gioskar Amaya

Second base has drawn a lot of attention lately.  Part of it is due to the frustration with Darwin Barney's offense, but it also has partly to do with the emergence of some pretty good minor league depth at the position.  We will only talk about the guys who are primarily 2Bs today, but there is also depth at SS, and some of them could slide over if no solution arises from the 2B prospect pool.

We are also using this position as more of a catch-all for utility prospects, of which the Cubs have several at the up-the-middle infield positions.  As always, this is not an exhaustive list and that's not to say there aren't other players with a chance, but these are the players that are further up the depth chart right now in terms of level and/or upside.

Current Cubs starter

Darwin Barney, 27, Chicago (MLB)

.211/.258/.320; wOBA .251; RC+ 51

Barney has had a nightmarish year at the plate, hitting just and the clamoring has begun for his replacement.   While Barney is never in the lineup for his offense, this level of production is hard to carry in any offense.   Like all stats, you have to be careful not to get wrapped up in any snapshot photo as the defining moment of value on a player.  Many of Barney's peripherals are the same and a dismal .224 BABIP has played a role in his poor season.  Part of that low BABIP may be from Barney himself, who is hitting more fly balls this season, something he can't really afford to do with his lack of natural power.  At his best Barney likes to go the opposite way and shoot line drives and gaps through the right side.  Even at his best, however, Barney is a .260-ish hitter with little power, mediocre OBP skills, and average speed on the bases.  He is in for his stellar defense and while it isn't up to the historic standards he set last season, Barney is still an elite 2B.  His UZR/150 is at 15.5, not far off from the 17.2 mark he put up last year, so we are still talking about a tremendous asset for a team that teaches it's pitchers to pound the lower part of the strike zone and induce groundball contact.  But Barney does have to hit better to be able to hold off the incoming wave of 2B prospects.

Top Prospects

Arismendy Alcantara, 21, Tennessee (AA)

.269/.345/.441, wOBA: .356, RC+: 125

We've had our eye on the quick-twitched, live bodied Alcantara for a while now but he's surpassed my expectations as a hitter so far.  As a hitter he has quick hands and strong wrists and makes easy hard contact consistently.  As he continues to mature physically, much more of those hits are going for extra bases and some are even leaving the yard.  His 13 HRs are more HRs than he's had in the rest of his career combined and his ISO is at a very solid .173 for a middle infielder.  Another facet of Alcantara's game that has developed is plate discipline.  Alcantara has nearly doubled his walk rate from last season -- from 5.3% to an even 10% this season.  It's actually a process he started last year and it began to show up in July last season at Daytona, but an injury cut his season short.  Getting on base makes Alcantara all the more dangerous because of his plus speed, something he has used to steal 26 bases in 29 attempts.  Alcantara is a hard worker with strong instincts for the game -- two traits that have helped him to learn a new approach quickly while seamlessly adapting and adjusting to each level.  There are a couple questions Alcantara needs to answer.  The first is defense where Alcantara has great range and a strong arm (it was voted the strongest infield by Southern League managers in Baseball America's Best Tools survey), but he tends to get sloppy with his footwork and rush throws.  That problem should be abated somewhat with the transition to 2B, but Alcantara needs to continue to slow the game down before he's ready for the big leagues defensively.  He also needs more reps as a RH hitter, a side from which he's only hitting .228/.307/.342.  When he improves on those two things, he will be a dynamic offensive player with a solid glove at 2B.

Other Prospects of Note:

Gioskar Amaya, 20, Kane County (A)

.269/.344/.399, wOBA: .344, RC+ 110

Amaya is an intelligent, instinctive player with a quick bat that sprays line drives from gap to gap with occasional power to his pull side.  He's a natural hitter who is learning plate discipline despite being one of the young players at each level he's been assigned.   His walk rate is a respectable 8.4% this year.  Amaya doesn't stand out in anyone area, nor is he going to wow you from a physical standpoint, but he's a good athlete with solid tools across the board.  He runs fairly well (13 SBs) and he's a good defender with good range at 2B.   He needs a little polish defensively and he'll learn to finish plays better with experience, but he has shown flashes of being a plus defender down the road.  The upside isn't as high as it is with Alcantara, but Amaya is just as good a bet to keep succeeding as he moves up the minor league ladder.  His ceiling is a solid starting 2B in the big leagues.

Logan Watkins, 23, Chicago (MLB)/Iowa (AAA)

.243/.333/.379. wOBA: .324, RC+ 89

Watkins is the current understudy to starter Darwin Barney and he's getting a taste of MLB life while Luis Valbuena is on the shelf.  He's likely to return to AAA if and when Valbuena returns in August but Watkins will be up in September regardless.  Watkins is another athletic player but he's more of a grinder and not as fluid as the two players above him on this list.  Like Barney, he has struggled with the bat this year at Iowa despite playing in the hitter friendly PCL but when he's right, Watkins is a line drive hitter with surprising pop for a player his size.  He has filled out physically and doesn't run as well as he did at the lower levels, but he is still an above average runner.  Defensively he can make all the plays and projects as an above average defender in the big leagues, though not at the level of Barney -- but, of course, very few are.  Watkins won't hit for high average but he has the plate discipline to supplement his OBP with walks.  One pattern with Watkins is that he has struggled a bit early at each level, which may be part of the reason the Cubs are giving him an early taste of the big leagues.  I don't know if he can overtake Barney by Opening Day next season but if Barney continues to struggle on offense, it's not hard to envision Watkins beginning to steal some ABs as the year goes on.  He'll have to impress quickly, however, if he gets the chance.  Alcantara is right on his heels and will likely start the year at AAA next year.  One scenario is the two splitting time at 2B next season as both are smaller-framed, high energy players who could wear down over the course of a long season as everyday players.

Stephen Bruno, 22, Daytona (A+)

.362/.436/.478. wOBA .424; RC+ 166 (78 PAs)

Bruno is a natural, instinctive hitter who hits line drives and makes contact very easily.  He was picking up right where he left off in Boise where he put up very similar numbers as the ones above over the course of the short season.  Bruno suffered a UCL injury and required Tommy John surgery and may not make it back this season, but he'll be ready to go next season where I assume he'll repeat the FSL.  In addition to being a good hitter, Bruno is an underrated athlete with good instincts who can play all over the baseball field and was even briefly tried at catcher last fall.  If he can remain healthy, he's a good bet to move up through the ranks and get to the big leagues in some capacity.

Tim Saunders, 23, Daytona (A+)

.226/.316/.321; wOBA .304; RC+ 86

Saunders was a surprise last season as a 32nd round pick out of Marrieta College, a small school in Ohio.   He's an athletic player with good speed that can play at a number of up the middle positions.  He started off well then sustained an injury running into the CF wall and never quite recovered.  He has been out again recently and his season has been limited to 226 PAs.  When healthy, Saunders is a line drive hitter with an improving approach at the plate.  The ceiling for his future role is that of a utility player who can play SS, 2B, 3B, and CF and offer some speed and a decent stick off the bench.  His mental makeup is off-the-charts and I think we'll see him rebound next season.

Wes Darvill, 22, Daytona (A+)

.244/.331/.385; wOBA 332; RC+ 104

All the injuries at Daytona have given Darvill an opportunity and he is starting to take advantage of it.  Drafted as a gangly 17 year old in 2009, Darvill has seemingly been around forever but hasn't come close to fulfilling the promise that the Cubs scouting staff saw in him.  He has filled out and is closer to 190 than his listed weight of 175 and has shown flashes of being the kind of player the Cubs envisioned early on, but he's been inconsistent.  He's another athletic player capable of playing multiple positions but has the size to perhaps have a bit more pop than the previous two players on this list.

Daniel Lockhart, 20, Boise (A-)

.303/.356/.333; wOBA 336; RC+ 109

You should start to see a pattern here as Lockhart is yet another athletic player with strong makeup/instincts who can play multiple positions on the field.  It's the type of player the Cubs scout well and often draft in the mid to late rounds.  Lockhart has a nice line drive stroke and makes contact easily.  He has a decent approach but he's aggressive in the strike zone and makes contact easily, which may be part of the reason his walk rate is a bit low for now (6.6%).  Lockhart is the son of former MLB player Keith Lockhart and it shows up in his instincts and feel for the game.  The Cubs thought enough of Lockhart to give him brief taste at Iowa when a shortage of middle infielders arose and Lockhart more than held his own, getting 4 hits in 9 ABs.

David Bote, 20, Boise (A-)

.239/.323/.371; wOBA .334; RC+ 107

Another kid with athleticism, strong mental makeup, and versatility on defense, it's difficult to say that Bote can play 2B on an everyday basis, he  had some issues with errors in the infield and has been playing more OF of late, but he definitely qualifies as a guy who projects as a utility type player.  Bote has solid plate discipline and isn't the biggest guy but he's shown some surprising pop at Boise with 5 HRs and an ISO of .132.  That kind of offense isn't going to play in the OF, but if Bote can play some 2B and 3B as well, the combo of versatility, patience and pop give him a chance to move up the ladder.

Frandy De La Rosa, 17, DSL

.077/.136/.077

De La Rosa has not played much this year and I don't know if that is because of injury or that the Cubs decided to hold him back after he struggled early.  He is a switch-hitting infielder who has a polished swing and he can square up the baseball consistently, often making hard contact.  It's been a struggle so far in his first season but the Cubs also liked De La Rosa's strong mental makeup, so he should be able to adjust in time.  He's not going to stick at SS because his arm strength is fringy, but 2B is a possibility and he should have the bat to carry the position.

In case you missed it, we also did catchers and first baseman earlier in the series.

Comments

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  • fb_avatar

    Should we also consider Baez @ 2b? He's been linked just about everywhere else.... lol

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    I wouldn't completely rule out Baez sticking at SS just yet.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Or OF, or 3B, etc...

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Ya, I hear ya. I'm open to anything that gets us to a WS win! But I'm greedy and want a Cubs Dynasty! lol

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Only going with players who are primarily 2Bs right now. Not going to project position changes except maybe within each individual analysis. It's what I will do for the entire series.

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    Question on Darwin Barney; how is his defense at SS? I ask, because I can foresee him losing his job at 2B, but if he is a good defensive SS, he'll have a long career as a bench guy anyway. He seems to have the arm, and has shown great range at 2B, so I can't see why he wouldn't play a decent SS at least

  • In reply to Zonk:

    He was the SS @ AAA when Castro was at AA, then Castro leapfrogged him. So when Barney got called, up he moved to 2B. One would think he can play plus Defense in the 6 spot, but he has maybe 6 games at SS (going from memory) in the last 3 years? Ironically, one of his 2 errors last year happened at SS, that's what kept his streak alive....

  • In reply to Zonk:

    He's a good SS. Arm is enough, range plays up with instincts, positioning. He can play there on a part time basis.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    For what they're worth, the advanced metrics don't seem to like Valbuena's defense at 2B too much, from his career numbers

  • Any chance we see Valbuena at 2B if/when Olt comes up? To me that's an upgrade over Barney right now.

  • In reply to Matt Mosconi:

    Didn't Valbuena primarily play 2B throughout his career until coming to the Cubs? I'd be for that..Honestly anything is an upgrade over Barney

  • In reply to Matt Mosconi:

    I think if both are playing in September, we could definitely see some Valbuena at 2B.

  • fb_avatar

    Alex Rios to the Rangers for a PTBNL (reportedly Leury Garcia) or cash.

    How good does that Scott Hairston deal look right now?

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Wow. I can't believe the Sox made this trade. And they're also sending $1 million to Texas!

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Utility guy with some speed and versatility, but they freed up a TON of money. I think all things considered, they did well. Garcia is a useful player and if they reinvest the savings, I'd say it's a nice deal for them since they're tearing down anyway.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    In itself, I can understand the deal for the Sox. I just thought they would've received better offers at the trade deadline. Apparently they didn't, at least money-wise.

  • fb_avatar

    Was just looking at some team stats. I was surprised to see that the Cubs are 2nd in the NL with HR's just behind the Braves.

    But they are 13th out 15 teams in OBP! Those same Braves are 3rd in the NL with OBP.

    There's a big reason that the Cubs are now stressing taking pitches in an effort to get on base!

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    At one point, they lead the League in extra base hits.

    Just goes to show the importance of drawing walks and getting on base. Do that and those XBH's turn into runs.

    What is amazing is that these XBH's are coming in spite of the fact that Castro and Barney really haven't given you anything in that category.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    While no one can deny that Castro is having a down year, people are stretching. Just how much he's struggling.
    He does lead the team in hits, after all.

    More on subject, I don't even get how Barney is still a starter. His bat is so bad that even if he was leading the league in DWAR again, it wouldn't be worth it, but he's not even top 50 this year.

    Waive & trade him. Give Watkins the job.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Giffmo:

    He leads the team in PAs, too, with 10 more than Rizzo, and 100 more than #3, Soriano.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    And which means he leads the team in outs as well.

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    In reply to bocabobby:

    The top 3 teams in the NL in runs scored are STL, ATL, and CIN in that order. Cubs are 9th.

    We have 125 HRs to only 91 for STL
    We have outslugged CIN, .403 to .395
    We have more stolen bases than all 3

    All 3 have a much higher OBP than the Cubs do (.335 and .327, vs. .302 for Cubs)

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Yes, put OBP and slugging together and you're going to win a lot of ball games. Cubs have half of the equation right now.

  • Any word on why Amaya was pulled from the game yesterday?

  • Rosscup to AAA, by the way. Makes me think they're going to get a good look and are leaning toward protecting him. Might be bad news for Raley if that's true.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Good move IMO... Rosscup & Hendricks were lights out in TN and deserved the promos. Would think Zych should go to IA too. Seems to be plenty of shifting of prospects lately and an underachiever from the Hendry era ought to be very nervous. Raley, McNutt, Sappelt could all be 40 man casualties at Y/E.

  • In reply to Paulson:

    And of course Brett Jackson. That will be an interesting decision.

  • In reply to Paulson:

    Zych doesn't need to be protected so he won't take anyone else's spot. Not missing enough bats for me, though. Hard for me to get too excited right now. I think he's a middle reliever.

    Sappelt has been passed over twice now for a promotion. I'm starting to think the writing is on the wall for him. With Torreyes already traded, It looks like in the end that Theo's Sean Marshall trade may end up being a straight up deal for Travis Wood. Still a win, though.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    Saw a tweet from Badler the other day that the Cubs thought it was going to be much easier to trade for IFA space than it wound up being -- they didn't want to go over like they did. Makes me wonder if Theo would like to have Torreyes back as everything shook out.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I don't know, Mike. $209.7 + 5% comes to about $220. I know it's real money ... but ...

    $5.796m without Torryes money, $6.016m with it.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Mike Moody:

    IFA money is obviously valued by clubs. Maybe we can sell some next year for prospects, because we're going to be limited to 250K per guy, and we figure to have a pretty large pool

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    Not sure. There could be other teams out there willing to give Raley a LOOGY role. Perhaps everyone is better off.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I am sure Raley is a wonderful guy, but quite frankly haven't seen a lot of of him. Russin has clearly passed him by and Rosscup has done well at AA. He deserves the promotion.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Rosscup.....Rosscup.....Rosscup

  • I don't know if anyone else had mentioned this or not, but ESPN Chicago has a story from Jesse Rogers where he quoted Jed Hoyer that the Cubs would be discussing this off season as to what to do with Baez.

    In the article, it stated that this was level where you start to have a player take ground balls at 2B, 3B and get some OF play, much like they did with Junior Lake.

    So it should make for an interesting Spring Training next year as to what happens with Baez.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    I read that !!

  • Delmon Young DFA'd

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    In reply to Bryan Craven:

    Makes you wonder what Philly was thinking when the signed the guy. They could have made a deal to get Soriano last winter. But then again the Cubs were asking for Domonic Brown.....

  • Again, we need another lefty in the pen before Russell's arm falls completely off. Have not checked his splits, but I'm for trying Raley in the pen if we are sold Rusin in a starter.

    I am though, against DFA'ing, waiving, or trading anymore lefty arms, even soft tossing finesse guys, as we have last several the last couple years playing the 40 man roster roulette.

  • Nice job John......seems like some close contenders for 2B. Hopefully Alcantara's defense will improve. I turned the game on MILB last night just in time to see him boot a very routine grounder.

  • At what point do minor leaguers need to be put on the 40 man roster to protect them from rule 5? Is it based on age? Service time? Is there a way to look up a players status or eligibility?

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