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Cubs Prospect Series: 2B

Second base is that other position in the middle infield.  We often think of it as the position guys migrate to when they can't play SS.  But that is not necessarily the case anymore.  Second base is increasingly becoming a position where a lot of teams have a good all-around player.  You no longer see the all glove-no bat guys of the 1970s and pre-Sandberg 1980s.  You also aren't stashing Jeff Kent or Todd Walker type bats there like we saw around the 1990s and 2000s.  They've evolved into something of a hybrid, guys like Javier Baez or the recently traded Gleyber Torres, who seems destined for 2B as a big leaguer.

The Cubs are set at 2B for the present with the Zobrist/Baez combo and for at least a big part of the future in Baez, but there is always room for guys that can play 2B and somewhere else on a regular bases.  2B has become some of the keystone position in a more modern way.  It is becoming the central spot for the kind of versatile player every team seems to want these days.

The Top Prospects

Ian Happ

  • Age: 22
  • Ht/Wt:  6'0", 205 lbs.
  • B/T: S/R
  • Last Level Reached: AA Tennessee

Some teams see Happ as a 2B, some as a corner OF'er, and some as a multi-positional reserve.  We'll list him here even if we think he fits best in a corner OF spot.  He'll probably play everywhere in 2017 simply because that is his quickest path to a spot on the Cubs roster.  You can read about him in our Top Prospects Series.

Chesny Young

  • Age: 24
  • Ht/Wt: 6'1", 180 lbs.
  • B/T: R/R
  • Last Level Reached: AA Tennessee

The first time I saw Chesny Young, he went 0 for 4.  My conclusion by the end of that game?  This kid can hit.   That's the thing about trying to evaluate these players.  You can't scout the results.  The first thing you notice about Young is his tremendous bat control. hand/eye coordination, and hands quick enough to make late adjustments.  He seemed to have a mature approach even as he didn't walk all that much early in his career.

When we're talking about Young, however, the results are also pretty indicative of who he is.  He has always made contact easily but as he has gained experience and faced more advanced pitchers, we are getting a better understanding of his strike zone awareness in terms of results.  He has walked just over 10% of the time in the past two seasons.  Last year he struck out just 11.% of the time at AA while increasing his power output slightly (084 ISO), though it is still below average.

Like Happ, 2B may not be Young's best defensive position.  He may be better at 3B -- but again like Happ, it's that versatility that is his ticket to the majors.  Young is a solid athlete.  Aside from 2B and 3B, he has played the OF and can even fill in short term at shortstop.

His main weapon is his bat.  He just has an uncanny feel for contact, similar to current MLBer Tommy LaStella.  Young is going to give you a good AB and put the ball in play often.  He projects as a multi-positional reserve and dependable bat off the bench -- at least on the Cubs roster where his positions are taken by young, cost-controlled stars.

Potential sleepers/role players

Carlos Sepulveda

  • Age: 20
  • Ht/Wt: 5'10", 170 lbs.
  • B/T: L/R
  • Last Level Reached: A ball (South Bend)

The Cubs must like 2Bs with the ability to give you a good AB and put the ball in play.  Sepulveda was one of the Cubs many under the radar signings out of Mexico in recent seasons.  He was unheralded coming into camp two years ago and then surprised everyone as an advanced 18 year old, nearly bypassing the AZL and jumping straight to Eugene out of spring.  It turns out it didn't matter as Sepulveda skipped Eugene and still made it to full season ball in his 2nd year of pro ball.

Sepulveda is a little shorter and thicker than Young and hits LH, but has similar hand eye coordination and bat control skills.  He also lacks power but understands that is not his game.  Sepulveda is younger and thus not as advanced in terms of overall OBP skills, but he does understand the strike zone.  I expect his walk rate to rise (7.1% last year) as he gains experience.

On defense, he is not particularly quick or athletic, but is fundamentally sound and make the plays he is supposed to make.  He's an average runner but does get out of the box quickly.  The biggest question for Sepulveda is whether he can provide the kind of versatility he'll need to find a niche with the Cubs.  That's not something they're likely to worry about this point.  Just let him hit and see how far his bat takes him before they start thinking of longer term plans.

Yeiler Peguero

  • Age: 19
  • Ht/Wt: 5'10", 150 lbs.
  • B/T: 5'10", 150 lbs.
  • Last Level Reached: Short Season A (Eugene)

Peguero is yet another advanced player for his age.  He jumped from the DSL to Eugene and held his own, especially when you consider the nature of the two leagues.  The DSL is a rookie complex league with a lot of raw pitchers.  The NWL is often a destination for recent draftees, which includes more advanced college pitchers.

Peguero isn't a physical player but makes good contact with a quick, slashing swing that he can shoot through the gaps.  He wasn't challenged in the DSL in terms of his approach but got a good test in the NWL -- and again, he showed his relative polish and did reasonably well, walking 8,4% of the time to go with a solid 15.1% K rate.  I think both numbers can be better once his experience level catches up.

Where Peguero is a notch above the others mentioned so far is on defense, though like every other young player, he prefers to hit right now,  He played SS in the DSL and instructs that following fall, but he has since moved to 2B and has been a solid performer with some defensive upside left to tap into.  He has decent footwork and quick hands around the bag.

Peguero long term hopes will also likely rest on his ability to become versatile on defense.  He's not an elite athlete, but he should be good enough to develop into a multi-positional role.

Yonathan Perlaza

  • Age: 18
  • Ht/Wt: 5'10", 195 lbs.
  • B/T: S/R
  • Last Level Reached: Rookie Ball (DSL)

When you see a lot of players, you develop certain preferences.  I can appreciate the polished Chesny Young/Carlos Sepulveda/Yeiler Peguero type players as much as the next guy -- and you're likely much safer betting on guys with good natural instincts like  Aramis Ademan for the long term, but there's something about quick-twitch, explosive athletes that hijack my attention.   These guys tend to be higher risk in exchange for higher upside.  You have to understand you are seeing an unfinished product and evaluate with that in mind.  You also have to understand that the product may never be finished, could completely drop out of sight, or may develop in a different direction than you originally expected, but you file those names away upstairs and track their progress.  There are many more misses than hits, but Willson Contreras  comes to mind as a success stories.  I'd put DJ Wilson in this category and, though he has a much longer road and I wouldn't put him anywhere near the category of Wilson, much less Contreras, Perlaza has that kind of raw, explosive baseball athleticism as well.

He has quick, explosive hands and a strong lower half.  When his swing is balanced and he gets that good weight transfer, Perlaza will surprise you with his loud pop.  He's listed here at 5'10" but that seems generous.  I would have guessed 5'8".  But he packs some dynamite in that short, muscular frame.  I like his offensive upside better than anyone on this list other than Happ.  His floor, however, is also lower than anyone else we've listed so far.  Despite the intriguing tools, Perlaza is raw in terms of his approach and he'll need to find a way to balance discipline with his natural aggression.  He is not going to be the zen-like Zobrist up there, but you hope that Perlaza can at least find a selectively aggressive approach that works for him.  He showed some signs of finding that balance in the DSL, but it will only get tougher as he moves up the ladder.

As well as those quick, explosive hands work for him with a bat in his hands, they can be a detriment in the field.  He has enough ability, but Perlaza needs to slow things down and let the game come to him on defense.  He'll play 2B and some SS now, but he needs to soften up those hands if he is going to stick at 2B...or even the infield at all.  He certainly has enough speed, athleticism, and arm strength should a move to the OF become necessary.  He does have the bat to potentially carry those positions on offense, but obviously the greater value comes if he can stick in the infield somewhere, so he'll get some time to hone those skills.

There are a lot of variables here but also a lot of raw talent.  If you bet on him now and he makes it, you get your prospect hipster badge.  If he fizzles out early, you can conveniently develop a case of temporary amnesia.

Others to Watch

Stephen Bruno was the original prototype for the kind of 2B we see on this list today.  Unfortunately injuries have slowed him down and robbed him of some athleticism, perhaps hampering some of that versatility.  His ticket has always been his bat.  He'll have to stay healthy and try to recapture some of the success he had earlier in his career. For the past 2-3 seasons, David Bote seemed to toil around as your anonymous great makeup, versatile organizational type infielder without much fanfare, but he broke out a bit (.337/.410/.518 in the tough Carolina League) with more consistent playing time at one level.  A solid all-around player with a rather stocky build and no standout tools, Bote exemplifies the value of perseverance.   Keep working hard, keeping hanging around, and maybe if you do that long enough, stuff falls into place and you get that opportunity.  Andrew Ely is a lot like Bote in that he's versatile, he does whatever the org asks to the best of his ability, and he too got an opportunity to play everyday at South Bend when Sepulveda got hurt.  He played well there and earned a promotion to Myrtle Beach.  The Cubs liked Delvin Zinn so much they drafted him twice.  Zinn has a live, loose frame, excellent athleticism with good, fluid infield actions, and a bit of flair out there,  He always makes me feel like he's on the brink of making an acrobatic play.  Zinn has a strong arm, strong enough for SS or 3B, which enhances his chances of finding a role as he moves up.  The biggest question is whether he'll hit.  There are some holes in that swing and his approach needs work, but the potential to be a good, versatile defender gives him one edge over a few of the more advanced hitters on this list.  He may not have to hit as well as others might, but it will certainly help his chances if he can improve with the bat and close the gap that exists right now.  I didn't see Zinn enough to put him on the sleeper portion of this list but his skills make him worth watching,  If Steve Bruno was the first in the line of somewhat undersized 2Bs with advanced bat skills, maybe Trent Giambrone is the latest incarnation.  The 23 year old had a solid debut at Eugene (.293/.404/.433, 4 HRs, 6 SBs, 14.3% walk rate) and always seemed to be one of those guys who just gets the big hit.  Edgar Rondon is a good defender with some athleticism.  He'll grind it out at the plate and on the bases, always gives a good effort.  The 21 year old will fight for a spot on the Eugene roster but will have to hit better to get regular time.  Luis Diaz is a 2B oriented around speed and defense.  He got off to a poor start stealing bases but turned that around as the season progressed.  He's not going to hit for power, so he is going to have to develop OBP skills to utilize his speed on offense while continuing to provide good defense.  Speed isn't an abundant tool in the Cubs system, so Diaz can perhaps carve out a niche for himself.

 

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Filed under: Prospect Series 2017

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  • John, I just really started following the prospects in 2013. Now it has become kind of my hobby. Especially since I found your blog here with all the information. Seems like the infield at AAA could be getting real crowded by mid season with with Candelario already there, the signing of Kawasaki and Happ and Young being promoted. How do you see that shaping up? Thanks.

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    In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    The big club seems to want versatility. We can get that best, possibly, by making these guys play multiple positions.

    The other thing to remember is that the cubs will probably be fine sacrificing some W-L record at AAA to get guys PAs and reps in the field at specific positions. And having a bevy of young talent in AAA is nice to make them "shuttle" players and also, if they have success at AAA they can become trade bait along the lines of Vogelbach. I think that is the destiny of Chesny Young. And I say that as someone who greatly admires his ability to play baseball. I just think his best opportunity to play will come elsewhere. If he were LH or a switch hitter I might be more interested in him as a TLS replacement. But as a RHB with little power and OK defense but a good batting eye I think he will likely be more valuable to another team than to CHC.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Thanks, Candelario at 3B for sure, Muni at SS, Young at 2B, and I think Happ returns to AA. When Happ is recalled, remember that Young can also play 3B, Happ will play some OF, and Candelario might play a few games at first.

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    I am excited to see some LH and S on this list. The ability to get a LHB in the line-up out of an "unexpected" position can be very valuable. I am personally not as concerned with handedness of batters as some. I like about 2-5 LHB in the line-up on a regular basis and don't worry too much if there are 5-6 RHB in the line-up on a regular basis. Mostly it just isn't a demographic I put to much stock in. I would rather have an additional good RHB in the line-up than a less apt LHB in the line-up.

    Where I really like the LHB is when making switches and pinch hits to have something like that in Maddon's back pocket is almost unfair.

    I'm also looking forward to hearing more about Yeiler Peguero's 5'10" bat and 150 lbs throws. ;)

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Seems that is the goal, Many players down here move around. Some exceptions (Ademan, Paredes come to mind), but generally everyone plays more than one position,.

  • John, I look forward to these ratings each and every year. I used to use it to get an idea when the club would be competitive, but after last year, I am simply greedy.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Thanks, It's fun. Organizational depth and a great MLB club at the same time. Great times!

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    I heard some talk on the MLB network that they felt that Happ will never play for the Cubs--that our infield is set and he is a much better bargaining chip and valuable trade candidate. Since he's as old as Russell and a year younger than Baez it could be true. I do like his makeup and power and desire and would hate to see him go, but it sounds like we are grooming successors, but again no one stands out, but maybe with another year of playing and coaching we'll have a different view of them.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    It would seem he'd be an excellent replacement for Zobrist. Hold Happ in the minors the next two years, and bring him up for Zs last year.

    Let him be a super utility in the corners and second. Can he learn 3rd? 1st and add those to the arsenal?

  • In reply to Gunga:

    I love Happ as well, even more than Torres when I consider the entire package. But I'm not sure he can play Cubs-caliber defense at the ML level (my whole life I've used the term "championship-caliber". Now I say "Cubs-caliber". I'm loving life.). If the Cubs FO views him more as a corner outfielder long-term, he gets jumbled in with many other players. Happ could be up as early as late 2017. We've got all our core players, and when I say "core players" I mean all-stars at every position, locked in through 2021. That offseason may be a turning point. But as much as I love Happ, and fancied Torres, the immediate need is covered. You mentioned keeping Happ in the minors for a couple more years to coincide with Zobrist's departure. I'm not a fan of that, and neither are the players, or the player's union. We've built an incredible, WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP organization, and we are in the sustainability phase. I did not mind the trade of Torres or Soler, and I've commented often that I hate trading prospects, because that used to be all we had to look forward to. Now we have a legitimate franchise, and as much as we love our prospects and want to hold them in Iowa until needed, I'm cool with dealing to fill needs on the big club, trusting completely the system will be reloaded.

    The entire posisional field of the Cubs team is under control long-term. After 2021, things are going to get dicey. Rizzo, Baez, Russell, Bryant, and Schwarber could all possibly be free agents after the 2021 season, followed by Contreras and Almora in 2022. I hope that TV money hits, we're going to need it. Depth is great, but I think many of these position prospects can continue to be used to obtain pitching. That was the plan in drafting and signing bats, and dealing money and redundant prospects for arms. That plan has come to full fruition.

    I've got some strong opinions of who should be kept and who we can do without. These are going to be hard choices. We're set positionally for years. Of our top prospects, Jimenez may be the biggest story, but that depends on Heyward's decision on whether or not to opt out. Again, I love Happ, and think he personifies the new "Cubs' Way", but unless baseball makes a rule change, we can only play 9 guys at a time.

    I've long professed my love of Javier Baez, but I wanted to take a moment, since we're talking about the next several years, to give a shout-out to Kris Bryant. I just read a story a couple days ago that said Bryant amassed more WAR in his first two seasons than anyone in history. I don't have the link or the numbers, but I remember guessing when I saw the headline, and I was right in my guesses: Ted Williams, Frank Robinson, etc. Kris Bryant surpassed them all. I've mentioned this before but I'll say it again. I'm a "small-hall" guy. I think only the absolute elite should be inducted. I've been a Cubs fanatic since 1977, and during that time, I knew I was watching two hall-of-famers: Greg Maddux and Ryne Sandberg. I can say now, as surely as I knew then, that I'm watching a third. Kris Bryant is a hall-of-fame baseball player.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    I agree with everything you said BP. Happ is or could be a very good player but he can't beat out Russell and Javy and if we could trade him for a top minor league pitcher or starter I'm for it. As for as I'm concerned my practically untouchables are Eloy and Cease and to a lesser extent DJ Wilson. These are difference makers.
    As for the HOF, it is for the best. I still don't understand why Lee Smith isn't in, but on this team we have KB, possibly Russell on a path to the HOF. Rizzo is very very good, but he's got to put another 8 or 10 years of superior baseball together to have a chance. Kyle S might be that kind of player too but right now is a SSS. Let's win a few more WS and talk about who else might make it.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I think a lot of these discussions assume that positions lie on one extreme or the other. The Cubs can do both -- trade prospects but still want to be reasonable about who and how many. And they certainly have to be particular about who they get. They have a lot of currency but they can't squander it on non-difference makers. And they don't want to squander too much on short rentals.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    When Soler was traded, Theo said that the plan all along was to draft hitters, get a core (which they now have), and trade the ones not in the core. The idea of drafting hitters and not pitchers was that hitters are less risky than pitchers. Theo said some of the current prospects might make the team, but it sounded unlikely, and that most will be traded to help the Major League team. How exactly it plays out can't predicted exactly, obviously. But I personally think it's unlikely Happ plays for the Cubs.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    I think there is always a need to address a trade when it's a popular homegrown player as Soler was with many fans. I think the situation with Soler (no options, no way to increase value barring injury to either Heyward or Schwarber) is different than trading Jimenez or Happ (which is more likely) I do think they're going to continue to make trades, but unless they get good cost-controlled starting pitching, I don't see the urgency right now. They'll figure this out. They have needs and they have the currency to get it, but I don't think that means they'll pay Mercedes Benz prices to get a Toyota Camry.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Never say never, but he would certainly be a guy a lot of teams would be interested in acquiring. And the Cubs are going to deal prospects and not current core players. They also have long term pitching needs, so add all those things together and it certainly makes sense that he's a trade candidate.

  • I wish the Cubs & WS could match up with each other on a trade for Q. A deal of Happ, Martinez, Candelario, Young, & Zagunis would be a nice haul for the Southsiders. The Cubs farm would take a hit, but those spots are all blocked anyway. That would give them several bats close to being MLB ready. The Cubs could then either move Arrieta to restock the farm or ride him hard this year & let him walk in the offseason.

  • Arizona Phil had a write up about players that needed to be added to the 40 man or risk being exposed to the rule 5 draft next season. There are a lot of talented players that will probably have to be added or they'll get picked up by some of the rebuilding clubs. I have a feeling we will start seeing several guys moved in deals. The list includes Young, Jimenez, Zagunis, Williams, de la Cruz, Clifton, McNeil, Stinnett, Tseng, Paulina, Paniagua, Farris, & Hedges.

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    In reply to Bamacub:

    There's no way the WS would take that. We'd have to include at least one of our top pitching prospects--Cease or/and De la Cruz or even Thomas Hatch. It's an intriguing idea though. Most of the trade projections are entirely one-sided, but this has merit.

  • In reply to Bamacub:

    That's quite a list.

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