The Chicago Cubs picked up a comeback win on Saturday, defeating the Rockies, 4-3. At the heart of it were Eloy Jimenez and Ian Happ, who each went deep to bring the Cubs back from a 3-1 deficit in the eighth. Are their performances helping them get any closer to the big leagues?
Sometimes as a writer, things just come together perfectly. The other day, I wrote about the Chicago Cubs needing to find balance with the young team of potential superstars, and the prospects that are behind them. Enter today’s game. The Cubs got a game-tying home run from Eloy Jimenez and Ian Happ hit the go-ahead shot. And these are two that the team has no room for on the roster–but they’re close.
For Happ, not as much Jimenez, it seems he’s often times referred to as a “trade chip”. The same can be said for Jeimer Candelario. The potential of these players to do anything for the Cubs is pushed to the side and this “trade bait” assumption comes to the forefront. This may have only been a Spring Training game. But it actually meant more to the Cubs than that.
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While they don’t have the Bryant’s, Russell’s and Schwarber’s on the cusp of coming up, they do have decent depth within the farm system. Happ was the Cubs first-round pick in 2015. He hasn’t followed the same astronomical path that Schwarber or Kris Bryant took to Chicago. But there’s no doubt he can hit. With each stop in the minors, there’s a small learning curve–and then he gets it.
The Cubs will need to decide where he will start the season. And how long they will keep him in camp before “cutting” him. If he continues to hit like he is, he’s going to get a chance to prove himself for the duration of the spring. And he won’t be hurt by the fact that Javier Baez is playing in the World Baseball Classic. At 22, he is ahead of the game thanks in part to his three years at Cincinnati. We’ve seen that pay off already for Bryant and Schwarber.
Jimenez made a name for himself in last year’s MLB Futures game and hasn’t stopped since. After torching pitching in the Midwest League for South Bend, it’s time for Jimenez to take the next step. He’s a strong kid, but could still add some size to his 6-foot-4 frame. But there’s a reason he’s the Cubs No. 1 prospect.
Nothing is guaranteed with prospects
Jimenez and Happ are 1-2 on the Cubs top prospects, and that doesn’t guarantee success at the Major League level. Do you recall Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters? These were two that fans were SURE would be something special. That didn’t pan out, but that was a different time and a different front office. The Cubs don’t miss often, and these two aren’t looking to be any different.
The Cubs can’t simply assume they’ll be able to sign all of these players on the roster. Or that they can afford to trade them away for pieces each year (Gleyber Torres for Aroldis Chapman). You can only do that so long before you’re out of top prospects and it’s time to try and sign all these guys. It isn’t going to work.
Trading Dan Vogelbach for Mike Montgomery worked because you have Montgomery under team control until 2022. That was a trade that was fair to both sides. The Torres trade wasn’t, but the Cubs did win a World Series. But over time, the fans will sour on these kinds of deals when they can’t build the system the same way they used to when they were losing.
These are just two of the next wave of players that will be ready soon. And today’s games is an obvious reason why the Cubs need to hold onto these assets until they don’t have a choice otherwise.