With this season once again coming apart in mid-April, Cubs fans are again looking to the future. While the offense appears to be in excellent shape with prospects Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, and Albert Almora on the horizon, the lineups look distinctly biased towards right handed hitters. Looking at the lineups Theo built in Boston suggests that he aims for balance in his lineups.
It seems that this is something Theo will look to address in the near future. In addition, Theo has said he wants to bring in some more veterans to help the young players adapt. Looking at veteran players who hit left handed would allow Theo to kill two birds with one stone.
Therefore, I set about trying to find left handed options for the Cubs. To do this, I focused on non-first basemen because replacing Rizzo with another lefty does nothing for lineup balance. I also sought out players already in the Cubs system or likely to be attainable in the next year to year and a half. Ergo, Oscar Taveras is not under consideration. Nor is Robinson Cano, whose contract makes him unattractive.
- Arismendy Alcantara (2B, AAA Iowa): the switch hitting Alcantara is closest to the majors and, ideally, would provide what Emilio Bonifacio is providing this year, with slightly more power. His upper limit is in the 15-20 HR range but, combined with his speed, that would be a nice addition to the lineup coming from center field, second, or short. The problem is the power won't play with a substandard approach and, after seeming to make gains last year, Alcantara has gone back to his swing happy ways this season, walking just 4 times in 138 PAs (2.9%).
- Jeimer Candelario (3B, A+ Daytona): a favorite of prospect gurus coming into this season, the 20 year old Candelario has struggled mightily at high A Daytona. Defensively, he is limited to a corner, and possibly to first base only. At his ceiling, he would provide high average, good OBP, and 20 HRs. This year's .170/.285/.313 line, however, is a long way from that. While it is too soon to write Candelario off, this year makes it seem like he is a significant way away from helping the team.
- Jacob Hannemann (OF, A Kane County): Hannemann is one of the more interesting overslots from last year's draft. Signing out of the 3rd round for $1 million, Hannemann was a two-sport athlete for BYU. After missing two years to fulfill his Mormon mission, Hannemann is all about raw athleticism and projection, with some comparing him to Theo pick Jacoby Ellsbury. This year, some of that potential is on display with a solid approach (9% walk rate), good speed (12 steals in 13 attempts), and some power (.111 ISO). However, he is still quite raw and has a lot of refinement before he can be considered for a major league position.
- Carlos Gonzalez (LF, Colorado Rockies): a favorite on this blog over the off-season, CarGo fills in a lot of the Cubs needs. A left-handed outfielder with solid pop and a strong approach. He also has a bloated contract that people speculated the Rockies may want to move. Unfortunately, the Rockies fast start suggests that they will be buying, not selling, at the deadline to bulk up a core that will add young starters Jon Gray and Eddie Butler in the near future.
- Jason Heyward (RF, Atlanta Braves): taken 11 picks after Cubs' whipping boy Josh Vitters, the 24 year old Heyward has had the better career by far, putting up 27 HR as a 22 year old in 2012. Unfortunately, Heyward has regressed some since then and is hitting just .206/.307/.319 this season. The Cubs reportedly asked for him when the Braves called on Samardzija, so the front office has some interest here. Heyward is a free agent after the 2015 season, so he can be had on the open market then or traded for and extended ahead of time. The downside to the free agent route is that he will almost certainly come with a qualifying offer attached and, if traded for, the Braves will want more than a qualifying offer in return. Still, given his age and experience, he seems a likely target for this front office.
- Melky Cabrera (LF, Toronto Blue Jays): to put it mildly, there's some risk here. Cabrera was enjoying a breakout season for the Giants in 2012 before he was slapped with a suspension for violating league substance abuse policy. He then signed a two-year make-good deal with the Blue Jays and had a miserable 2013. This year, however, the 29-year old Cabrera is leading baseball with 55 hits and sports a .333/.368/.521 line. The power numbers (6 HR) are solid for a corner outfielder, though above his career averages. A month ago I would have said he was unlikely to receive a qualifying offer, but that may have changed this year. A guy to watch.
- Roughned Odor (2B, Texas Rangers): one of the Rangers' top prospects, he finds himself without a long term role with Elvis Andrus and Jurickson profar patrolling the middle infield. He is not the strongest guy in the world, but has a solid hit tool and could show doubles power with 10-15 HR. On the negative side, the Rangers are falling out of contention in a tough AL West and may be unwilling to let the Cubs raid their farm system for a 3rd straight year. (Joey Gallo, owner of perhaps the best power tool in the minors, but further from the big leagues, is another possibility here.)
- Joc Pederson (CF, AAA Albuquerque Isotopes, Dodgers): Pederson, long considered a prospect whose total is greater than the sum of his parts, has been destroying AAA pitching, putting up video game numbers of .360/.476/.655. He probably isn't that good, but Anthony Rizzo in a corner outfield slot is not out of the question with him. In addition, he has four outfielders ahead of him at Dodger Stadium (Kemp, Ethier, Crawford, and Puig). The Dodgers reportedly want to get younger and have a big need for a third baseman, where Juan Uribe is the starter, and potentially up the middle, where Hanley Ramirez is reportedly on the Yankees short list to replace Derek Jeter. Current second baseman Dee Gordon is off to an incredible start but whether that is sustainable is very much open to debate. There seems to be a double coincidence of wants here and a possibility for a big trade.
There are some options out there. Right now, I think Heyward and Pederson have to be considered the most likely with a dark horse to Melky Cabrera. Jacob Hannemann is clearly a favorite of the front office, but is still a long way off.
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