We’ve talked pitching, we’ve talked first base, so what’s left? Not much, really. I think the Cubs look pretty much set at every other position. Some argue they need a new second baseman, and I can understand the argument, even though Blake DeWitt and Darwin Barney are respectable in that position.
So what about the rest of the Cubs farm system. What guys are down there that could contribute this season?
First off, I am ignoring pitching for this article. On Wednesday I identified the Cubs leading minor league starters, and I can’t see where there will be room in the major league bullpen to call up anyone. The Cubs bullpen should stabalize in 2011, and should improve with experience.
Second, this is not a top prospect list. Every player I list I think could be effective in the majors as an injury replacement or a utility player, but that doesn’t mean they will be taking starting at bats. At least, not necessarily. Some of them could be awfully good, we’ll just have to see. So, here’s the list.
Marquez Smith. If his professional history holds, this guy will start the year in Iowa and end it in Chicago. If he shows another season like 2010, he’ll deserve to end the year in Chicago. An average of .310 and 17 homeruns is not too shabby for a guys first look at AAA. What’s more, he can play all over the infield. He has a lot of power for a 5’10” guy, and if anything happens to Barney we could see Smith get called up into a utility roll.
Robinson Chirinos / Wellington Castillo. If a catcher goes down, one of these two guys will take the plane to Chicago, and your guess is as good as mine as to which. Castillo started last year rated a little higher by the organization, but Chirinos had a fantastic season. Keep an eye on both these guys. The Cubs may have to decide which one to keep and which one to trade within a year or so.
Brett Jackson. We’ll talk more about Brett next week, but he does belong on this list. With a good spring and good minor league campaign, he could push Soriano for playing time should the Cubs fall out of contention late in the summer. He hits left handed, has power, and you will be seeing him in the majors one day soon.
Starlin Castro. Yes, I know, he’s already in the majors and secured as the Cubs starting short stop. But don’t forget how young this guy is and how much he still has to learn. Casto has the potential to be about as good as he chooses to be. If he puts in the work, he could be Derek Jeter. I won’t bet against him. But he could as easily turn into Bobby Hill. Castro’s improvement could be the biggest Cubs prospect story of the year.