JAY DAVIS: There might be something to cheer about soon
There hasn’t been much to cheer about in Wrigleyville over the last three years. Maybe that is all about to change.
When Theo Epstein took over as president of operations for the Cubs in 2011, there was a lot of work to do. And I do mean a lot. As soon as Epstein and new executive vice president and general manager Jed Hoyer took over, they began what was called a five-year rebuilding plan.
It has been hard to find any tangible progress, as the Cubs have been cellar dwellers since the rebuilding process began. They were 61-101 in 2012 and 66-96 last year. The team is again mired in last place with a 48-63 record so far this year.
But, progress is being made. The Cubs have been trading their best pitchers and rebuilding their minor league program, which was in shambles. Along with trading Matt Garza last year and Jeff Samardzija this year; the Cubs have been picking up tradable pitchers and veterans and then unloading them to teams in the playoff hunt.
The result has been that the Cubs now have a vast stockpile of talent in the minor leagues. They have eight players (all 22 or younger) rated as top 100 prospects. Even more impressive is that they have three of the top 10 and five of the top 40.
Those kids are about ready to hit the big show. It started a couple weeks ago when second baseman/outfielder Arismendy Alcantara made his big league debut. Alcantara is the 36th-ranked prospect. He has done fine and looks like a major leaguer.
The big move came Monday when the Cubs promoted 21-year-old Javier Baez to the big leagues. The number five-ranked prospect made his debut last night in Colorado. After struggling and going 0-5 with three strikeouts, Baez jacked a 414-foot home run in the 12th inning in the Cubs’ 6-5 win over the Rockies.
All indications are that this kid is a stud. Playing second base, he joins an infield that features three-time all-star shortstop Starlin Castro, who just turned 24, and NL home run leader and first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who turns 25 on Friday. The infield should be complete next year when their 2013 number one draft pick, third baseman Kris Bryant (22) hits Wrigley Field. All Bryant has done this year is hit .337 with 36 home runs and 92 RBIs.
The outfield has help coming soon. Jorge Soler (22) is about reading to bring his .360 average to the parent club. Albert Almora (20) could be ready next season. Almora is ranked 40 and Soler 53 on the top 100 list.
The list is a lot deeper with position players who are expected to make an impact in the bigs. They have depth at positions. Addison Russell is just 20. He is the shortstop the Cubs got from the A’s in the Samardzija deal. Russell is ranked 6th. They have two catchers in Kyle Schwarber (21 and a hitting machine) and Victor Caratini (20 and a switch hitter).
The one place the Cubs have not found a lot of pro prospects is in the pitching department. That could change, depending on how good the scouts have been. Every trade made the last three years has included a pitcher or two who throw the ball 93 to 97 mph. If some of these kids pan out, then the team will be well rounded with live arms in the near future.
All of baseball has been saying for two years that the Cubs are coming. The kids I mentioned above are really good baseball players. The promotion of Baez shows that Cubs’ management is ready to start making a move.
It won’t change things this year, but hey, we are Cubs fans and there is always next year.