Cubs Prospects: Where Will The Baserunners Come From?

Cubs Prospects: Where Will The Baserunners Come From?
Could Arismendy Alcantara be the table-setter the Cubs have longed for?

It’s been over a decade since Moneyball was published, so I don’t think I need to educate anyone here on the importance of on-base percentage (unless any Votto-hating Reds fans are here, in which case, I’m kinda surprised you’ve figured out how to use a computer – welcome!). Teams that put players on base for their middle-of-the-order mashers score more runs. Otherwise, your sluggers finish with end-of-season numbers like Giancarlo Stanton in 2012 – 37 (enormous) home runs and only 86 RBIs.

(Yes, RBI totals quoted seriously on the internet in 2014. Crazy!)

The teams Theo Epstein put together in Boston all got on base, a lot, so it must be killing him and the rest of the Brain Trust that under their leadership the Cubs have managed an OBP of just .301 (.309 excluding pitchers).

With most quality OBP guys locked up by teams into the distant future, the Cubs are going to need to develop their own table-setters.

It’s no secret that the Cubs have as impressive a set of hitting prospects as anyone in baseball, but few profile as top-of-the-order hitters, not in the traditional or sabermetric sense anyway. Is there anyone in the system currently who projects to get on base at a well-above-average clip?

(Also, to be clear: I’m not saying that having sluggers with low-ish OBPs (Rizzo, Baez, Bryant probably all fall into this category) is a bad thing. Rather, I’m saying that they’ll need people on base ahead of them in order to do the most damage; balance is key.)

In the upper levels of the system, Arismendy Alcantara looks like the best bet for a high-OBP player atop the future Cubs lineup. Alcantara walked at a 10.9% clip and posted a .352 OBP in AA last season, a huge improvement over past seasons. As a speedy hitter who could potentially walk at an above-average rate, Alcantara could be the prototypical leadoff hitter that the Cubs have been searching for for ages.

Further down in the system, the Cubs’ Kane County affiliate showcased numerous hitters with good approaches at the plate. A player with excellent feel for contact and the strike zone, Albert Almora could settle in as a traditional #2 hitter down the road. He doesn’t walk much yet, but from what I’ve seen that’s only because no pitcher in the MWL could throw a pitch he couldn’t hit.

Though he’s not very fast, Jeimer Candelario has an excellent approach at the plate. Despite being just 19, Candelario still managed to post an OBP of .346. He’s got the potential to post a decent average in the future, and with it, a very strong OBP.

There are other players in the system who have had posted strong OBPs (John Andreoli, Dustin Geiger, Matt Szczur), but none profile as starters on a good MLB team. Which we all think the Cubs will be...eventually.

The Cubs appear to be relying on Alcantara and Almora to fill out the top of their order once they’re good, and while I love both of them as prospects, it’s a little concerning how few players in the system project to hit at the top of the order. And with Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury getting as much as they did in free agency, it’s difficult to see the team going outside the organization to bring in a leadoff hitter any time soon.

How big a deal is this? Probably not a huge one, and the Cubs still have one of the best farm systems in all of baseball. I guess it’s nice that this is one of the biggest knocks on the system that I can think of.

We should probably root a little harder for Arismendy Alcantara to figure it out than we would have normally, though.

@TommyECook

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  • fb_avatar

    Nice write-up.

    Almora and Alcantara make the most sense to me at the top of the lineup, too. I see Almora able to easily fit into the #1 slot, though, if Alcantara can't make it. He has shown the early ability to be able to hit most pitches, and I certainly imagine his walk rate will rise once he climbs the org ladder. And sense Almora has the lowest floor of any of our top tier prospects, I'd imagine we'll see him in either the #1 or #2 spot as soon as mid-late summer 2015 (depending on the progress of the higher risk Alcantara).

  • In reply to Chris Trengove:

    Thanks!

    And I think Almora could fill the #1 hole as well, but I'm still wondering if he ever walks at a league average rate. If he doesn't, he's going to have to hit .300+ to have a leadoff-worthy OBP on a good team. I think he will, but he's far enough away that I don't feel super comfortable saying that.

  • Bruno has an OBP in the high 400s and a .360 average across A- and A+. If you want OBP, there it is.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    Bruno has also only been able to play 86 games and none above A ball. I think there is some questions about his OBP abilities if his over .400 career BABIP doesn't carry over to higher levels and a full season of ball.

    He is definitely a guy that will be interesting to watch when healthy though.

  • In reply to Gunther Dabynsky:

    Yeah, the lack of health is why he's not mentioned. We just don't know enough about him yet to have a good feel for who he is.

  • fb_avatar

    *And since Almora...

  • The lack of speed and OBP guys is one reason Trea Turner would be a tempting pick in June if the college SPs go 1-2-3. I wish he was showing a little more with that bat this season, but he definitely has a good eye and the speed is unquestioned. Turner and either Alcantra or Almora leading off would make for some excellent table setting.

    I'd still hoping for a SP at 1.4, but the FO has shown they feel college bats are the safest option and they could get the top one two years in a row.

  • Alcantara will have a lot to say about the future of the infield. Parks has given him the Reyes lite treatment.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Interesting how earlier today on Twitter Parks suggested he expects Castro to be moved this next offseason in order to accommodate Alcantara at 2B and Baez at SS. Of course this all assumes that Castro rebounds in 2014 and both Baez and Alcantara prove ready to start in the big leagues.

    Still, interesting. I've certainly thought about it myself for a while now.

  • In reply to Chris Trengove:

    It makes sense on many levels. Only if they feel Baez can play SS long term.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Boy does parks love his prospects. I'm sorry but if alcantara is not better than baez or castro then he is a bench player or trade bait.

  • In reply to seankl:

    Better isn't always what you need sometimes its the type of player you needs.

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