Chicago Cubs: INF Gleyber Torres gives club options moving forward

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Chicago Cubs 18-year-old prospect Gleyber Torres is an up-and-coming middle infield talent within the minor league system. However, the position that he plays makes his long-term future with this club uncertain.

Does the Chicago Cubs current logjam at the middle infield positions give Torres a future with this ballclub?

Or will the Chicago Cubs allow him to continue to develop in their minor league system ultimately to flip him for an asset at a future trade deadline? No matter the answer to this question, Torres’ talent solidifies an already strong group of Chicago Cubs middle infielders and gives this team options moving forward.

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The Chicago Cubs signed the Venezuelan-born shortstop as an international free agent during the July 2013 international prospect signing period The then 16-year-old Torres ranked number three on MLB.com’s list of the top thirty international prospects of that season. He signed with the Chicago Cubs for $1.7 million.

Through 148 minor league games, Torres slashed .304/.374/.413 with four home runs and 88 RBIs in 642 plate appearances. Although he has tremendous upside defensively as a shortstop, his defense has been a bit of an issue over his minor league career. He has a 95.1 percent fielding percentage and has committed 21 errors already this year in 98 games.

Over his minor league career, he has committed 40 total errors. If he continues to play shortstop as he progresses through the Cubs organization, he will have to compete  with a number of young players that play the same position as he does.

Addison Russell and Starlin Castro have covered the middle infield positions for the Chicago Cubs for the majority of this season. However, because of his poor offensive production and mental lapses in the field, Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon has taken Castro out of the starting lineup in favor of veteran Chris Coghlan.

Long-term Russell is the option at short while Castro will likely become a trade asset or move to another infield position (second base?). Regardless, the presence of both players on the Cubs roster is a detriment for Torres’ chances of making the Majors with this team.

Utility man Jonathan Herrera isn’t necessarily a long-term option for this team, but he has done a good job defensively at several infield positions. In over 220 innings of work this season, he committed two errors. He becomes arbitration eligible in 2016 and could be part of the Chicago Cubs roster moving forward.

In addition, the Chicago Cubs have a wealth of talent in the upper echelon of their minor league system. In 2014, Baseball America ranked shortstop Javier Baez as the top prospect within the Chicago Cubs system. Later that season, he received a Major League call-up with the Chicago Cubs although he struggled slashing. 169/.227/.324.

However, this season with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs he has redeemed himself to a degree, slashing .293/.364/.534 in 214 plate appearances.

Tommy La Stella is a lesser known middle infielder option for the Chicago Cubs. He currently plays for the Chicago Cubs Double-A affiliate Tennessee Smokies where he is batting .296/.387/.407. Before coming to the Cubs, he played 93 games with the Atlanta Braves where he slashed a respectable .251/.328/.317.

Although he doesn’t have top-end potential like some of the aforementioned players, if he continues to play well he could earn playing time with the Chicago Cubs in the future.

Some scouts believe that Torres can rival the success of any of the other young middle infielders within the Chicago Cubs system. In a podcast entitled ‘Effectively Wild’, Baseball Prospectus writer Chris Crawford said that Torres has star potential.

"I think that kid (has) got star potential as much as any prospect in the system [since]the big three … He’s really good … I personally don’t understand why he hasn’t gotten as much hype as some of the other guys. What he’s done as an 18 year old at the professional level … His approach is excellent and he has above average to plus tools pretty much everywhere but power and that might come too … and he’s going to play shortstop.—Courtesy of Baseball Prospectus writer Chris Crawford"

SB Nation writer John Moore recently had the opportunity to see Torres play in person. Based on his scouting report, he liked what he saw.

"What stood out most to me in the game I saw was his defensive ability at short. In the game I saw he didn’t make any highlight reel plays, but he just made everything look so smooth and easy. The most difficult play he made in the game I saw was where he had to range to his right and make an off balance throw to first to nail the runner. He showed off impressive arm strength on this play and it looked like an arm that should play as a shortstop.–Content initially published by SB Nation writer John Moore"

Offensively, Torres has a smooth and level swing which leads scouts to believe that he can hit for a high average moving forward. His swing isn’t particularly quick nor powerful, so his power game will likely not be on par with his contact.

However, at 18 years of age he has a lot of growing to do, and as he adds healthy muscle his power potential can increase substantially in the coming years. His athletic ability will come in handy offensively as well. Some scouts believe that he can steal 30-40 bases per season in the Major Leagues.

Torres’ performance has already received attention from the national media. MLB.com ranked him as the number two overall prospect within the Chicago Cubs minor league system which is still regarded by many as the best in all of baseball.  Overall, MLB.com ranked Torres as the 36th best prospect in baseball in their 2015 rankings. 

In 2014, Torres made his professional debut with the Arizona League Cubs, an affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. Later that season, he played for the short-season Single-A Boise Hawks, a Chicago Cubs affiliate from 2001-2014 before the team switched over to the Colorado Rockies.

In 2015, the Cubs promoted him to Single-A South Bend where he has slashed .307/.367/.403 in 99 games and 431 plate appearances. So far he is on track to swiftly move through the ranks of the Chicago Cubs minor league system, however; can he compete with the other young talented middle infielders in the Cubs system?

Admittedly, the 18-year-old Torres is several years away from a Major League call-up, so at this point in time it is unfair to concretely label him as trade bait or a future Chicago Cubs star. However, having another quality middle infielder within their minor league system gives the Cubs options moving forward.

If Russell and Baez develop into stars and/or Castro is able to resurrect his career, Torres becomes a valuable trade piece that the Cubs can use to make a splash before future trade deadlines. If one or more of these players don’t pan out, then Torres stays in the Chicago Cubs system and gets his chance to contribute with this team down the road.

If Torres doesn’t pan out, the Cubs still have three or four other young middle infielder options.

The beauty of the Chicago Cubs minor league system is the depth. The fact the Cubs have a surplus of middle infielders is a good problem for them to have. Options that will allow this team to continue to build into a perennial championship contender.

Next: Chicago Cubs top Giants again

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