Where’s The Power

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While the Cubs have a greatly improved farm system that shows a fair amount of depth in terms of potential every day players, it is oddly lacking in power. Average, speed, on base percentage, all of that the Cubs have. Power, however is oddly lacking. Hopefully the Cubs can correct this trend with draft picks or transactions in the next few seasons. In the meantime, let’s take a closer look at the issue.

The Cubs have a farm system with a lot of depth up the middle. Castro and Barney have already arrived, and I’ve mentioned roughly half a dozen other middle infield type players that look promising. I’ve mentioned that the Cubs have an impending log jam in the middle infield with players who rank highly on the organization’s rankings. And in a nutshell, that is the problem. The Cubs best position players are clustering around the middle infield.

Looking at the conventional power positions (1B, 3B, C, RF, LF), the Cubs are more thin. They do have two catchers at the top of the system, but neither has impressive power. Brett Jackson has the promise of power in center field, but I doubt he’ll reach Soriano type power numbers.

In fact, looking at the Cubs top players by slugging percentage across the minors, the scope of the lack of power becomes evident. One player is Marquez Smith who might disappear in the Rule V Draft, and another is Bryan LaHair, a career minor league hitter who isn’t likely to have much of a career in the majors.

Of the remaining three, Brad Snyder and Brandon Guyer both have major league potential in the outfield, and may represent the best two shots at producing a power bat the Cubs had in the full season minors in 2010. They aren’t Adam Dunn by any means, but with time and muscle they could consistently push for 40 HR a year.

The remaining player, Russ Canzler, struck out 95 times in 355 ABs playing first base at AA Tennessee. Those are certainly power hitter strikeout numbers, but either his power has to go up or his strikeouts have to come down before he has a shot to move into Wrigley. But, after Snyder and Guyer, he might be the best power bat the Cubs have.

So, how did we get here? By drafting with a plan. In recent years the Cubs have drafted a higher percentage of athletic hitters than is probably typical. While cost of drafting this type of player is that they have less power in the system, the significant advantage is that a fairly high percentage of these players will make it to the major leagues. That, in turn, translates into trade bait that can be used to acquire what the system isn’t producing, namely hitter with an excess of power.

I don’t see this as a bad thing, necessarily. So long as the best hitters in the system are consistently arriving and producing in the majors, a pipeline of quality athletes is an excellent problem to have. Over the next few years we will see how well the Cubs are doing at maximizing the potential of their athletic bats as steady stream of young players should arriving on the big stage.