Besides a few current Cubs like Starlin Castro and Jeff Samardijza, the plan for the Cubs success remains in the minor league system. Here’s the latest update on how the Cubs’ farm system has been doing:
In Triple A, the Iowa Cubs sit at a below .500 record of 23-27. Even though the record is not all that impressive, there is a lot to be excited about out in Iowa. As everyone knows, the Cubs top two prospects Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson are currently shaping up their game in Iowa.
Rizzo continue to destroy the Triple A pitching as he is batting .354 with 17 home runs. On Sunday, Rizzo was pulled from the game due to a sore wrist. At first, the injury was unknown and people began to speculate that the Cubs, who were on a 12 game losing streak, had called up Rizzo. But the rumors turned out to be false and Rizzo will remain at Iowa for the time being. As Cubs general manager, Jed Hoyer stated yesterday before the Cubs game with the San Diego Padres, bringing up Rizzo is not the way to solve the Cubs current struggles. The veteran players on the club have to find a way to play better ball and start getting some wins. Two other issues remain that are keeping Rizzo. First is where would Rizzo play? Bryan LaHair, despite recent struggles, is having a great season over at first for the Cubs. LaHair could be moved to left field but Alfonso Soriano has been hitting much better lately and it is nearly impossible for them to move Soriano as he still has two years left on his contract and $19 million each year. The other issue is the service days for Rizzo. If he tallies up enough days in the major leagues, Rizzo’s contract will expire in 2017. But if he does not get the days this year, his contract will expire in 2018. If the Cubs want Rizzo on the big league team and contract last until 2018, they would have to wait until late June or early July. As Rizzo continues to blow up the minors, fans will have to wait patiently for the right time for a call up.
Along with Rizzo, the call up of Jackson is much awaited. Unlike Rizzo, Jackson has had some hitting struggles in Triple A. His average is sitting low at .243 and strikeouts have become a concern as he now is up to 64 on the season. But the Cubs brass still remains confident that Jackson can be an everyday starter for the Cubs in the near future. It will be easier for the Cubs to get him playing time in the majors since he can play all three outfield positions. Also down in Triple A is the Cubs 10th overall prospect, Josh Vitters.
Vitters was selected in the first round, third overall by the Cubs in 2008. However, his developmental process has taken longer then expected. The Cubs expect that he is about two years away from being fully ready for the major league level. But with the Cubs struggles at third base this season, there is a chance Vitters could see some playing time at the hot corner later this season. Vitters is currently batting .274 with six home runs.
Away from Triple A, there is some exciting news about some of Cubs top prospects. First, Javier Baez(#3 prospect) made his season debut yesterday with Peoria. He went 2 for 4 and will continue to play shortstop there everyday. Next, RHP Dillion Maples(#5) is expected to make his season debut within the next week. And RHP Robert Whitenack(#7) will be making his first start of the season with Daytona today. Whitenack is coming off Tommy John surgery which ended his season short last year. And finally, Junior Lake(#9) has been playing well for the Tennessee Smokies. His average sits at .284 with a pair of home runs and five doubles.
It will be a fascinating time to see how all of these players turn out for the Cubs. It could be a major excitement or a major disappointment. One question that will have to be solved is what to do with all the shortstops. Of course, the Cubs plan on keeping Starlin Castro at short despite his defensive struggles. Lake used to play second when he was on the same team as Castro years ago. That could be a possibility in order to get Lake to the majors. Where Baez will wind up remains in question. Can the Cubs try to change his position in order to have him in the majors in three years? Or do the Cubs believe he could be good trade bait in order to get some young pitching which they desperately need?
While the Cubs seem to be pretty well set with hitting, their pitching remains a concern in the minors. There has not been any stand out pitchers that are almost ready to become big league starters. Theo Epstein and Hoyer will certainly be addressing pitching as their top priority in next week’s draft.