Minor Leaguers to Watch in Arizona
At the beginning of Spring Training last season the Cubs were supposed to have Blake Dewitt as their starting second baseman, but then there was this kid named Darwin Barney. He came in and wowed everyone with his bat, hustle, and at times his glove. The veterans loved him and Mike Quade gave him the starting job. Barney carried his momentum into the regular season before slumping in the second half.
There is usually one player a year who comes in to have a big Spring Training and almost forces the manager to give him a shot. As I look at the Cubs roster I see quite a few guys to break into the Major League roster. With Dale Sveum looking on, some of these kids have an opportunity.
Let’s start with someone who could replace Darwin Barney: Adrian Cardenas. At one point Cardenas was the seventh ranked prospect in the A’s system, so there is potential there. He is a line drive hitter who hit .314 last season in AAA. He has a good glove for second base and okay speed on the base paths. If Cardenas does better than Barney in the spring then I think we can see Cardenas in the Opening Day lineup. I think either way, Cardenas makes the team.
The next player is Trey McNutt. The Cubs value him very highly and have made sure he stays in the organization (could have been in the Garza deal.) He has a great fastball and a decent curveball, but his fastball can flatten out. At this point I don’t see him; no matter how good of a spring he has, breaking the starting rotation. I think there is a chance with a big spring that he can be a setup man in the bullpen, maybe the seventh inning guy in front of Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol. The problem with this is the Cubs might prefer to leave him in the minors so he can develop as a player more, even with a good spring.
Next up is Matt Szczur. I think he has a very small chance of making the team, but the chance is there. He does everything the new “Cubs Way.” He is fast, hustles and has dedicated himself to winning. He was a two sport player in college and could have gotten drafted by the NFL. His defense needs a little bit of work, so I think it is more likely he goes to Daytona High-A to start and ends the season in AA or AAA. He has a better shot of being a September call-up.
The final two are the big prospects in the system. First, we will go with Brett Jackson. I think Jackson has a great shot at the Major League team. I would be shocked if he didn’t play with the Major League team at all this year, but he could be there out of spring. He has great defense and projects as a middle of the lineup bat, but has the speed to hit leadoff or second. I think he can make the Major League team with a great spring and give the Cubs the flexibility to trade Soriano or Byrd.
Finally, we arrive at Anthony Rizzo. I like Bryan LaHair a lot so this one I had to get creative for. If Rizzo has a great spring he can be the starting first baseman for the Cubs, but not at the expense of LaHair having a job. With Rizzo at first, LaHair can move to his other position, third. Then Ian Stewart can move to second base, where he’s played, but been below average on defense. If this situation does happen, the Cubs might have a good lineup this season. Even if the Cubs don’t want Stewart at second, Cardenas or Barney can hold it down and be a bit of a slight offensive downgrade from Stewart.
The “Cubs Way” may actually help these guys get to the majors soon. The Cubs are all about hustle, defense and the will to win. If these guys are able to bring all of that in Spring Training then the Opening Day lineup could be filled with young talent.
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