by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
On the surface you would think that Dexter Fowler heading to Chicago shouldn’t have such wide ranging effects. In fact, Fowler’s projection is virtually unchanged, he’s still likely slotting atop a burgeoning young lineup with the potential to plummet down the order should he struggle.
However the newest member of the Cubs is going to have a significant impact on the players around him. Most importantly, the rope for both Arismendy Alcantara and Javier Baez just became significantly shorter.
Expectations were that Alcantara would play CF, Baez would be at 2B and Luis Valbuena would man 3B until Kris Bryant was deemed ready. Suddenly the potential spots for these two players have been reduced by one long-term (Valbuena was sent to Houston in the trade). It’s possible they could both still open the season in the Majors (Alcantara as the 3B place holder), though the Cubs also have Tommy La Stella who can man the hot corner. If/when Bryant is ready? Alcantara could move to a utility role… Baez or Alcantara could end up back at Triple-A… In fact, neither player is guaranteed a job at all.
Obviously both have been sent spiraling down our rankings, because it’s not like wither were a guarantee to begin with:
2014 Statistics – .205, 10 HR, 29 RBI, 31 R, 8 SB (300 PA)
There’s no questioning his potential power and speed as he hit 15 HR with 31 SB at Double-A in ’13 and had 11 HR and 21 SB in 366 PA at Triple-A prior to his recall last season. The problem is clearly the average, but is he really as big of a risk as some of the other young Cubs? He did have contact issues in ’14, but that hasn’t been the story of his career:
- Double-A – 21.9%
- Triple-A – 22.7%
- Majors – 31.0%
Of course an improvement there is only half the battle as he also owned a meager 12.0% line drive rate and 11.8% IFFB. Again there is hope, given his 21.3% line drive rate at Triple-A prior to his recall (league average was 18.8%), so maybe he just needs time to adjust to pitching in the Majors.
Time will tell, but given his skillset he shouldn’t be completely written off. The question is going to be his playing time, which may or may not be there.
2014 Statistics – .169, 9 HR, 20 RBI, 25 R, 5 SB (229 PA)
We all know there is power in his bat, but the strikeouts are highly alarming and could torpedo any value he could bring:
- Double-A – 28.8%
- Triple-A – 30.0%
- Majors – 41.5%
Sure we can say his Major League mark is unsustainable, but how many players do we see post a Triple-A number of 30+%? Last season there were six who did so while qualifying for the batting title (Wilson Betemit, Matt Davidson, Carlos Peguero, Matt Fields, Bryan Peterson and Baez). That’s hardly a who’s who of top prospects.
If he doesn’t show that he can reduce that number, it seems like a given that he finds himself back at Triple-A (and possibly for a lengthy period of time).
Are Baez and Alcantara worth investing in? Absolutely, and long-term they are still going to be considered high ranking options. For 2015, however, the risk is starting to outweigh the rewards. The Cubs suddenly have ample depth for both positions that they play, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see both ultimately end up back in the minors to further their development. Maybe the Cubs really go outside the box, playing Bryant in LF (over Chris Coghlan) and fitting all three in the lineup but we wouldn’t bank on that.
It’s not to say that Bryant is a given to produce (he had a 28.6% strikeout rate at Triple-A), and he can almost be lumped into the same class for redraft formats (though that’s a discussion for another day). At this point think about them all more as high upside depth options rather than players to depend on.
Source – Fangraphs, Minor League Central
Make sure to check out all of our early 2015 rankings:
- First Basemen
- Second Basemen
- Third Basemen
- Starting Pitchers
- Relief Pitchers
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