The Chicago Cubs have trotted out a revolving door at second base this year. But the team might have an answer waiting in the wings in the minors.
It has been rough seas for the Chicago Cubs this season when it comes to second base. The team has been without veteran Ben Zobrist for several months, and while they have tried to make everything work in his absence, the results have been less than suitable.
Bringing in Tony Kemp seemed like it would be the catalyst the team needed. Kemp, however, has slashed just .200/.192/.240 with a .432 OPS. In his 26 plate appearances with Chicago, Kemp has managed a .180 wOBA and horrendous 4 wRC+.
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Waiting in the wings of the pipeline is left-handed infielder Vimael Machin. Part of the 2015 draft class, the Cubs selected Machin in the 10th round and he has been working his way through the system ever since. At Triple-A Iowa, Machin is putting together a strong season, and it is time the Cubs find out if he has a potential future at the big league level.
Chicago Cubs: Flashing talent in 2019
Machin does not rank in the top 30 in Chicago’s prospect rankings, but that doesn’t take away from his breakout season this year. Before this year, Machin’s best campaign had come at Class-A South Bend, in 2017.
In 72 games, Machin slashed .320/.371/.500 with a 144 wRC+. He earned the call up to Class-A Advanced Myrtle Beach to finish off the year where he saw a drop in production, slashing .274/.341/.331. The 2018 campaign for Machin was not much better. In 112 games between Myrtle Beach and Double-A Tennessee, Machin hit a meager .217 with seven home runs and 42 RBI.
This season has been a much better affair for Machin, however. Beginning the year with Tennessee, Machin produced a robust .286/.382/.396 line with a 126 wRC+. Most impressively, Machin struck out just 10.7 percent of the time, down from 18.7 percent the season before.
The 25-year-old lefty has now spent ten games with Triple-A Iowa. In his first 23 plate appearances, Machin is slashing .316/.435/.421 while carrying a .386 wOBA and 121 wRC+. He has seen an increase in his walk rate, rising to 17.4 percent. Time will tell if Machin can continue his resurgence. However, it is a truly positive sign to see him producing so nicely.
Chicago Cubs: Earning his opportunity
The Cubs just recalled Addison Russell from Triple-A Iowa and have Kemp regularly slotted in at second base. As much as we want Kemp to be the answer, he is not playing to the level Chicago needs from him. Furthermore, Ian Happ – while a strong offensive presence – has struggled with the glove at second, raising questions about his viability.
Russell may finally be ready to return to his 2016 form yet that remains to be seen. We also do not know how much longer the team plans to stick with Kemp in the starting lineup. Regarding the defense, Kemp has played well. He carries a substantial .991 fielding percentage this season between Houston and Chicago. That being said, his bat needs to wake up.
Machin is not far behind in his fielding this season. His most reliable spot is second base as Machin carries a .981 percentage through 326 2/3 innings. He has made just three errors across that span. Being that both Kemp and Machin are left-handed hitters, the team should decide to see what they have in Machin. If he can transfer his bat and leather to the big league level, he could be the under-the-radar catalyst Chicago needs toward a playoff push.