Fresh off a 40-man roster spot promotion, Cubs 2B prospect Logan Watkins is worth taking a look at.
Watkins has gone under the radar for a rather long time but is now emerging as a significant prospect within the Cubs’ system, thus meriting him a place on the 40 man roster and protection from the Rule 5 draft. The 23 year old from Goddard, Kansas spent all of 2012 in AA Tennessee playing a range of positions from DH, to CF to middle infield. Watkins is a true example of organic player development as he’s risen through every single rank of the Cubs’ system.
While this is a testament to his defensive skill and adaptable playing style, his home position is second base. Watkins possesses a steady glove and great speed which allow him to be an effective middle infielder. He posted an outstanding .987 fld% at 2b for Tennessee last season, committing only 6 errors in 95 games. His metrics look solid at short stop as well, posting a .972 fld% and only 6 errors in 29 games. Defense at this level of play is indicative of his future tendencies, and he seems to be able to read balls off the bat quickly, make responsible (read: not overly-aggressive) plays towards the ball and finish nicely with an arm that has more accuracy than power.
Defensively, Watkins is sound. What about the bat?
The biggest concern with the young IF was power at the plate. Watkins isn’t a terribly large human and often was snuffed for lack of strength – a problem that could have sank his overall development with the squad. This was reinforced largely by his lack of HR production in lower levels of baseball, not hitting his first pro jack until reaching low-A Peoria. Watkins also had trouble cracking anything over a .400 SLG in his early years with short and low-A ball but has since found some power posting a .281/.352/.404/ triple slash in single-A Daytona in 2011.
Even though power may have been lacking from Watkins’ bat in the early stages of his development, his steady approach and swing have made him a weapon at the plate. His batting average has never slipped below .260 at the pro level, and continues to hover at the .280 mark as he climbs through the ranks. Take note that his 2012 AA triple slash was an impressive .281/.383/.422 showing improvement in all categories from his previous season in single A. This improvement is accentuated and even more impressive as the jump from single-A to AA is recognized as one of the hardest transfers to make for young players.
To compliment his steady bat, Watkins has a great eye at the plate as well. His record of drawing walks at every level of ball has never faltered and drew 76 BB in 488 AB (15.6 BB%) in AA ball last year. This trend shows up throughout every year of activity in all levels of ball and is extremely high for any AA prospect. Having the ability to draw walks as effectively as Watkins does is lethal weapon for teams as it forces pitches to throw strikes knowing the batter wont chase any bad pitches and allows Watkins to receive more pitches in the zone, thus making it easier for him rack up hits.
Speed, maturity at the plate, and defensive skill all make Watkins a valuable prospect. He certainly is on pace to be the Cubs’ first IF call up but would require Darwin Barney to either be injured or need rest. Watkins can play many other positions, but certainly not at the major league level – not to mention that Javier Baez and Albert Almora are right behind him.
Expect to see him get some action in AAA this season at some point and maybe even get a late season “exposure” call up to the Cubs.