The Chicago Cubs are heading to their first World Series since 1945. It’s an exciting time on the North Side.
But the Chicago Cubs’ front office have been planning for this. They have drafted high-end talent over the last few years or traded for top prospects with the thought of being in this position. It has certainly paid off.
When you look up and down the Chicago Cubs lineup, you will find a mix of young players and veterans. Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, and Addison Russell to name a few, are all prime examples of high-end talent they drafted or traded for and developed in their minor league system.
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The Cubs struggled for many years. The Wrigley faithful never gave up on the team, though, with many fans seeing the talent they were drafting. Last year the team started to show promise, earning a wild card spot and eventually losing to the Mets in the National league championship series.
This year it’s been a different story. With the addition of a few veterans, and some serious productivity from the young talent, it’s all came together. They’re only four wins away from a world title. Let’s look at some of the players they have developed over the last few years.
Javier Baez has led the way for Chicago this postseason. Javy has played unreal defense at second base, making highlight reel plays on a weekly basis. The bat is what he’s always been known for. Bat speed and power.
He really possesses a combination of all five tools. He can run, he can hit for average and power, has an extremely strong arm, and very quick hands at second base. Baez has hit .342 in the postseason, earning co-honors for NLCS MVP with Cubs ace Jon Lester. But as a teenager when he was drafted, he was very raw.
Baez was drafted in the first round in 2011 by the Cubs (ninth overall). One of the top prospects in the country, Chicago knew they were getting a five-tool player. He soared through the minor leagues in just over three years, boasting a .287 average in the minors.
Javier would make his debut in 2014, making a splash immediately with his power. But a problem he had was being selective at the pitches he swung at. In 213 at bats in 2014, he struck out 95 times.
2016 was his first full major league season, and it was very obvious he was developing into a mature hitter. He cut his strikeout rate down to 25% in 2016, hitting .273 in the process. As I mentioned in my last article, Baez is keeping it simple at the plate.
He’s stepped away from the big hacks he’s known for, where he seldom was just trying to hit home runs. Letting his natural bat speed take charge and getting base hits is exactly what he’s done this postseason. Because of this, he’s been one of Chicago’s best hitters heading into the World series.
Kris Bryant has been the Cubs next best hitter in the playoffs, hitting .333 heading into game one of the Fall classic tomorrow night against Cleveland.
Bryant has been “the guy” for the Cubs. In only his second full season in the big leagues, the third baseman are almost a sure candidate to win the National League MVP this year.
Drafted second overall by the Cubbies in 2013, it took Bryant under two years to make the major leagues. He’s showed flashes of being a franchise type player for Chicago, hitting 39 homers this past season and hitting .292.
A prototypical third basemen with long limbs, he’s one of the major keys to a Cubs lineup who has many weapons.
With Bryant, he came out of a solid division one college program at the University of San Diego. He won the golden spikes award in his draft year, labeling him as the best amateur player in the nation in college baseball.
Unlike Baez, he faced legit college pitching at the highest level and tore it up. That’s part of the reason he fast-tracked to the big leagues so quickly. When he was drafted, he was already a very mature hitter.
It didn’t take him long to get used to major league pitching, almost immediately making an impact at the big league level when he was called up in 2015. He ultimately won rookie of the year that season in the National league.
Bryant has been solid at third base this postseason defensively, and at the plate. He is 100 percent a franchise player for the Cubs, and at only 24 years of age, it’s scary how good he is already.
A first-round pick by the Oakland Athletics in 2012, Russell tore up the minor leagues instantly, hitting .301 in his minor league career. The Cubs made a blockbuster trade to acquire him from the A’s in exchange for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.
It has certainly paid off, as Russell has been the Cubs’ everyday shortstop for the last two seasons. He has been flat out amazing at short for Chicago as he holds a .976 fielding percentage in two seasons in the show.
His bat has struggled at the major league level, but his defense is so good, that it hasn’t been too big of a deal. He’s still very young at just 22-years-old, but the maturity at the plate will come. Having a legit shortstop is one of the most important things for a team, and he’s been nothing short of amazing.
This postseason he has struggled at the plate, but began to slowly heat up in the championship series against the Dodgers, hitting two clutch homers in back-to-back nights.
The productivity at the plate will come as he gets more at-bats at the major league level. But he’s certainly been a mainstay for the Cubbies defensively.
That’s just a few of the guys the Chicago Cubs have drafted/signed and developed in their minor league system. Jorge Soler, Willson Contreras, Anthony Rizzo, Matt Szczur, are all more names that come to mind. But there isn’t time to talk about all of them.
They boast a ton of experience on the mound which has been talked about many times this year. With the combination of a solid pitching staff, and some very talented young and older players. The Cubbies are built to be good for years to come.
They are that close to winning a World series. Whether it happens or not, the Wrigley faithful should be pleased with the draft picks the front office have made, along with some vital trades that have built the 2016 powerhouse Chicago Cubs.