by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Just because you are a team’s top prospect doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be the first one called up should a need arise. With that in mind, we are going to try to keep you up-to-date as to who the closest at each spot is for each Major League franchise:
Catcher – Nothing of Note
For all the impressive prospect depth the Cubs own, a young catcher close to the Majors is not among it’s assets. Luis Flores and Eli Whiteside are currently at Triple-A, though neither would make much of an impact if forced into duty.
Corner Infielder – Kris Bryant
He’s currently playing at Double-A, but you could easily argue that he will leapfrog someone like Christian Villanueva (who is struggling) should a need arise. The 2013 first round pick is certainly trying to force the Cubs’ hand early on, hitting .273 with 3 HR and 2 SB over his first 33 AB.
He is striking out a lot (11 K), but also has been drawing walks. I wouldn’t expect this to be an immediate callup, as the Cubs should continue to piece things together with Mike Olt and Luis Valbuena at the hot corner. That said, there is little ahead of him on the organizational depth chart so he should get an opportunity at some point.
Middle Infielder – Arismendy Alcantara
He has experience at 3B (including 8 games in 2012) so you could easily argue that he could be a short-term fill-in there if needed as well. With Javier Baez banged up, there’s little doubt that he will be the first call should the team need a 2B/SS, though (at lest until Baez returns).
At Double-A in 2013 he showed an intriguing mix of power (15 HR, 55 total extra base hits) and speed (31 SB). The strikeouts were a bit high (21.9%), and have also taken an additional jump after reaching Triple-A. That’s going to bring his average into question, but the power/speed potential far outweighs that risk.
Outfielder – Josh Vitters
Often a forgotten man on the prospect map, the former top prospect has moved to the outfield and is making quite an impression at Triple-A. Through 33 AB he’s slashed .303/.378/.545, including 2 HR and 2 doubles.
A first round pick back in 2007, could he just now be figuring it all out? He certainly appears to be healthy and is still just 24-years old. With Bryant and other top infield prospects in the mix, it’s also good to see the Cubs move him to the outfield. It shows that they still have him in their plans.
Pitcher – Tsuyoshi Wada
Talk about your forgotten men, Wada was signed by the Orioles out of Japan prior to the 2012 season but was ultimately forced to undergo Tommy John surgery. While he did pitch at Triple-A last season, he never reached the Majors. Now healthy, he’s thriving at Triple-A for the Cubs and should soon force a look in the Majors.
He owned an 8.3 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 9 seasons in Japan, though he’s looking even better right now (18 K vs. 1 BB in 13.1 innings). Obviously he’s far from a lock to produce once promoted, though right now he has to be piquing our interest.
The Cubs do have some pitching on the horizon, but Wada (who is no real prospect at 33-years old) is pitching his way into an opportunity.
Sources – Minor League Baseball, Baseball Reference, Minor League Central