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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Filed under: Prospect Series 2017