For the past few weeks, we’ve been checking out each position in the Cubs organization. So far, first base and shortstop were a little low on depth while second base provided much more. Third base has the potential for some high end players. In fact, third-base breaks the bank.
Currently, the 2015 National Rookie of the Year, Kris Bryant, is playing third base. He will be a Cub for a while. However, depending on moves made this winter, Bryant could move to the outfield. So, the current status of the position is fluid. As Javy Baez waits in the wings, along with Tommy LaStella, Manager Joe Maddon could plug whoever’s name into the lineup card and it wouldn’t come as a shock. For now, though, this is Bryant’s job until someone says it isn’t. When you hit .275 with 26 HRs and 99 RBIs with 13 SBs and an OBP .369, you are not going anywhere.
Top End Prospects
Leading the wave at AA is Jeimer Candelario. The switch hitting corner man had an outstanding 2015 across two levels in Myrtle Beach and Tennessee. He displayed that he could hit for average and power (.291 with 5 HR and 25 RBIs at AA) in the middle of the lineup. And I think the best is yet to come for Jeimer in 2016. Considering that he only had 46 games at AA, he will likely start at AA pending what happens to Christian Villanueva at AAA.
Christian Villanueva continues to hang around the Cub organization. In 2015, he displayed a lot of power at AAA while playing a mixture of first base and third-base. Being blocked by Kris Bryant hampers where he can go in the Cubs’ organization. Still, you need to remember he’s only 24 and he just hit .259 with 18 homeruns and 88 RBIs at AAA. If somebody’s going to want him, they better act soon. He may not have long term plans as a Cub, but he can still be an asset to the organization moving forward.
Chesney Young had a 44 game on-base streak while hitting .300 in a league where he was 24 points higher than the second place hitter. That difference gives you an indication of the kind of talent he has with the stick. He played all four infield positions last year for Myrtle Beach as well as the corner outfield and the DH. Young’s inability to fly up prospect charts has to do more with his lack of power than his hitting tool. He began 2015 at South Bend and was promoted to Myrtle Beach where he hit .321 with a .394 on-base percentage in a pitchers league. It’s going to be interesting to see what he can do at AA Tennessee in 2016, which is more of hitter’s league than the Carolina League. Rumor has it than Young is hitting the weight room hard to add more mass to his slight frame.
Before a wrist injury sidelined him for most of the summer, Wladimir Galindo was an RBI machine in rookie league. In just 19 games, he drove in 15, he hit .358, slugged .522, and had a .922 OPS, and still, he did that without hitting a single homerun. He will turn 19 this November and at 6’3” and 210 pounds, he has a solid frame for the future. I think long-term he might be the best prospect for third-base in the minors, but he’s not even played A ball yet. He did take part in instructs in Arizona last month and was able to hit, play in the infield, and do all the activities the other players did, which is a good sign.
Kwang-Min Kwon is a bit of an unknown. He was signed in the summer of 2015 as an International Free Agent. In instructs, he won the Home Run Derby and was mobbed by his teammates. At just 18, Kwang will likely start out in Arizona in the spring and his play will dictate where he goes. He has good size at 6’2” and 194 pounds, but he also played some first base in the fall session.
Other third baseman in the Cubs organization include Jason Vosler, who we profiled as a first baseman, Jesse Hodges, who played sporadically for South Bend, and Adonis Paula, who played third base for Eugene. Vosler showed more power at Myrtle Beach then I thought he would. He hit 6 homeruns in 38 games after clubbing only 4 HRs in 69 games at South Bend. For Hodges, he occasionally showed some pop but actually had a low average. Adonis Paula hit .261 with two homers in 47 games. PJ Higgins, who we profiled at second base, also played some third-base this year as well.
The Cubs have a couple of high-end prospects in Candelario and Galindo. Here’s the thing though: Bryant is not sliding to the outfield full time anytime soon unless it’s take make room for Javier Baez. It won’t be until 2017 when Jeimer could be ready. By that time, things could shakedown a little differently after another year of development. I’m sure Galindo, who I see as having high ceiling, will be ready in 2019. The issue for him might be is just what kind of player Galindo is going to be and whether he sticks at third.