Bob Lutz: You need shades to look at the Chicago Cubs future
08/26/2014 11:49 AM
08/26/2014 11:56 AM
The Chicago Cubs, it can be argued, are the most hapless organization in professional sports.
The Cubbies haven’t won a World Series since 1908. They’re known more for curses (Billy Goat, Bartman) that winning and it feels like the earth would be thrown off its axis if one day the Cubs were to become regular playoff contenders.
Well, get ready for a jolt. Like a lot of the people who follow minor league baseball and rising prospects, I’m predicting a Cubs onslaught in the coming seasons. Get ready, Chicago. It’s about to be your time.
Until it happens, who can be sure? Yes, the Cubs probably have more good, young talent coming through their system than any other organization in baseball. Some of those players - Arismendy Alcantara, Javier Baez and recently-recalled Jorge Soler - have already arrived in Chicago to join young core players like shortstop Starlin Castro, first baseman Anthony Rizzo and starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks.
Alcantara, 22, has batted .228 with four homers and 14 RBI in 41 games with the Cubs after batting .307 with 10 homers and 21 stolen bases at Triple-A Iowa.
Baez, a 21-year-old second baseman, has been mashing homers, seven in just 20 games, since being recalled from Iowa. But his batting average has slipped to .208. He had 23 homers and 80 RBI for Iowa before his recall.
Soler, a Cuban defector, hit .338 with 15 homers and 54 at Iowa. He’s just 22 and will start to get some playing time in the Chicago outfield.
And more help is on the way.
The Cubs have the best prospect in baseball in 22-year-old third baseman Kris Bryant, who has 43 homers and 108 RBI to go with a .330 average at the Double-A and Triple-A level this season. Bryant, who has struck out 154 times, will undoubtedly be the Cubs’ starter at third in 2015.
Center fielder Albert Almora, 20, is also on the fast track, having advanced to Double-A West Tennessee. At two levels this season, Almora is batting .275 with nine homers and 59 RBI.
And we haven’t even talked yet about the two highly-touted prospects the Cubs received when they traded starting pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland in July. The A’s dealt shortstop Addison Russell and outfielder Billy McKinney to the Cubs.
Russell, 20, is a top-five prospect who is batting .297 with 12 homers in the minors this season. He’s already risen to Double-A West Tennessee.
McKinney, also 20, is batting .264 with 11 homers and 69 RBIs at the High-A level this season.
Then there’s catcher Kyle Schwarber, the Cubs’ first-round pick (fourth overall) in this year’s draft out of Indiana. The 21-year-old Schwarber is batting .352 with 18 homers and 63 RBI and has already made it to High-A Dayton. He looks like another masher.
The Cubs have an incredible amount of offensive talent in their system. Pitching, though, is another matter. Hendricks has been a find for the Cubs, with a 5-1 record and 1.78 record since his call-up from Iowa. C.J. Edwards and Jen-Ho Tseng are moving through the system, but have a ways to go.
Even so, if general manager Theo Epstein and his right-hand man, Jed Hoyer, play their cards right, the Cubs have a chance to take the National League by storm.
Until it happens, though, there is that doubt about whether it ever will, no matter how much talent the Cubs have. This is a nervous time, I would suspect, for Cubs fan as the Calvary begins to arrive at Wrigley Field. Are they really coming to save the day? Or will this turn out to be just another tease?
I’m betting that this time, the Cubs are on the right course.
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