I had the pleasure of talking Cubs prospects with Jason Parks, the national prospect/player development writer for Baseball Prospectus.
Parks has had much to say lately regarding the Cubs system.
Parks recently reiterated his stance that Cubs top prospect Javy Baez should remain at shortstop, and we could possibly see Starlin Castro get moved elsewhere instead. We touched on Baez, his position, and the same for another top prospect in Kris Bryant.
Tommy Cook also contributed to this interview.
TL: You have gone on record saying Javy Baez should stay put at shortstop. Do you believe the Cubs have any intentions of moving Baez around when he gets promoted?
JP: I think you get Baez reps at different spots because it gives you options in the case of opportunity. At the end of the day, I think Baez belongs at shortstop. He has fantastic actions/great hands, strong instincts for the game and a very strong arm, and with more experience/repetition, should develop into a very solid defensive player at the spot. The range isn’t exceptional, and he doesn’t bring the same confidence to the field that he brings to the box, but he’s a highly competitive player that is willing to work to improve and keep himself at the position.
TL: What is the most compelling evidence you have seen that Baez can handle the position long term? Are you concerned at all about his body outgrowing the position?
JP: Do not listen to anybody who suggests he lacks the requisite skills to play shortstop. The range will never be great, and it will be interesting to see where the body takes him as he continues to mature physically. But the bulk of his present shortcomings are fixable problems through professional instruction, repetition and experience.
TL: We recently asked who will set the table for the Cubs young power hitters? Is Arismendy Alcantara one of the biggest pieces to the lineup-construction puzzle?
JP: I really like Alcantara. I’m not sure if he develops into the table-setter that some suggest, but I don’t think that should be viewed as a disappointment; rather, Alcantara has the potential to be an impact talent in a major league lineup, whether that comes in the form of a transitional leadoff type or a down-the-lineup player with good pop in the stick, good wheels, and solid fundamental and situational hitting ability.
TL: You have pointed out the Cubs have stockpiled power, a commodity you say that is now even more rare than pitching. Which one of the Cubs power bats do you see the front office eventually turning into pitching?
JP: Dan Vogelbach is the easy answer because of the specifics of his overall profile and the organizational depth at the position. I don’t think it’s a given that the Cubs trade from surplus to enhance a weakness, but when/if the opportunity presents itself, the Cubs will have the firepower to execute a deal in order to improve the major league team. These moves don’t need to happen now in order to steady the unbalanced talent structure on the farm, and a lot can change between now and when the Cubs are ready to field a highly competitive major league team.
TL: When Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer were in Boston, they were known for lineups filled with high-OBP guys and left-handed hitting throughout; but the gems in the Cubs system are almost all right-handed hitters. Do you see this as a problem for them going forward?
JP: Not really. I’m sure every team in baseball would like to boast a lineup of high on-base types and left-handed hitting, but you have to work with the product available. I don’t think many teams will offer sympathy to the Cubs for the incredible hardship of having Baez, Bryant, Soler, and Almora in a lineup.
TL: Which players, if any, have best shot at improving their OBP skills?
JP: Hard to say. Depends on the utility of the sticks. Baez will learn to be more selective, but he’s always going to be a reactionary hitter that looks to drive the ball. But he’s also going to scare pitchers into working around him, and as a result of that he is likely to earn more free passes to first.
TL: Are there any left-handed hitters you like as dark horses to emerge, or do the Cubs need to seek help outside to obtain balance?
JP: Not really. When/If these big bats develop into major leaguers, the Cubs will be in a better position to evaluate their weaknesses in the lineup. Worrying about that now seems premature.
TL: If there is a glaring need in the system, other than arms, what is it?
JP: They have a ton of talent. It’s hard to find much fault with it. Sure, they could have more arms. But I watched Tseng pitch this weekend and he looked like a stud; Edwards and Johnson have realistic major league ceilings; and the upcoming draft should yield a blast of pitching talent. The weakness of the present could quickly become a strength with positive development in 2014 and a strong amateur haul this June.
TL: Where does Kris Bryant play once he arrives at Wrigley?
JP: I think he ends up in an outfield corner.
TL: Does any player set off more dominoes than a return to form by Mike Olt?
JP: Nope. That’s the one. First-world problem.
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