Chicago Cubs: Three prospects who could make an impact this year

At 18-30, it goes without saying the Chicago Cubs could use a makeover. It nearly took three of four from the San Diego Padres, but lost on Sunday 4-3, resulting in a four game split. It’s not to say this Cubs team is not talented, it just isn’t consistent. Most Cub fans probably cannot stomach another season without winning the World Series. Yet the team is still looking for its first winning season since 2009, and first playoff berth since 2008. The club hasn’t even won a playoff game since 2003. Still, the team has a slew of prospects which could get a call up soon. If there was ever a time for fans of the North Siders to be optimistic, they may have their best hope in years, with seven prospects rated in the top 100 in 2014. Some of them could possibly make their mark this year.

Chicago Cubs

Javier Baez is the No. 1 prospect in the Chicago Cubs organization.

Javier Baez: Of course, the top prospect in the organization. The second highest rated shortstop in the top 100 behind only Xander Bogaerts of the Boston Red Sox. One should keep in mind this was a list which had shortstops ranked rather highly.

Just behind Baez was Carlos Correa, whom the Houston Astros took No. 1 overall just two short years ago. Not too far behind Baez are Francisco Lindor in the Cleveland Indians organization and Addison Russell, the prized prospect of the Oakland Athletics.

At first glance, the big problem surrounds Starlin Castro, who is in the middle of a 7-year, $60 million contract. Castro is having a better season from a year ago, and while he still isn’t living up to the big deal, he’s the future at short. There may be a solution, however, to the Baez problem.

Darwin Barney likely won’t be around for a great deal longer. The idea of Luis Valbuenba as the second baseman of the future doesn’t appear to be realistic. Baez, however, has played second base and was at the position in Spring Training. That would then leave Arismendy Alcantara, one of the seven in the top 100, as the odd man out. Realistically speaking, Baez could get called up sometime this season, according to CSN Chicago’s David Kaplan when I interviewed him back in February.

Kris Bryant: Though Baez is the top rated prospect in the Cubs’ system, it could be argued Bryant is the most decorated.

The 22-year-old holds the record for most home runs in a season at the University of San Diego. He is the reigning winner of the Golden Spikes Award, which is awarded annually to the best amateur baseball player in the nation. Bryant also won the MVP of the Arizona Fall League in 2013.

The question is if Bryant actually gets the promotion or not. However, there may be a movement or wishful thinking by the fans that he does get called up.

There may not be a player in the game today who is more polarizing, more controversial, than Yasiel Puig is. Yet whether he is somebody’s favorite player or gets under a person’s skin like no other, it’s hard to dispute what he has done since his debut June 3, 2013. It’s Puig that proponents of Bryant’s promotion may use to justify such a move.

Puig skipped AAA Albuquerque last season. The Los Angeles Dodgers brought him straight up from AA Chattanooga. Bryant has yet to experience AAA Iowa for the Cubs, but all someone has to do is look at Puig’s numbers from AA in 2013 and compare them to Bryant’s this year at the same level and they may be impressed with what they see.

In regards to current third baseman Mike Olt, he seems to have become a home run threat, but doesn’t appear to be the complete player Bryant has shown to be before. He can give one a ride, but he’s also a good candidate to strikeout. There have been those in baseball history like Dave Kingman. Some of them are playing right now, like Adam Dunn, Mark Reynolds and Mark Trumbo. They can all go deep, but none of them have stayed in one place their entire career. Olt is already on his second different Major League squad and it’s unlikely to be his last. Regardless of how many Olt hits out, if his low batting average continues, it may not be long before Bryant gets some action at the big league level should he continue to swing the bat like this.

[Kris Bryant gives Cubs reason to be excited]

Kyle Hendricks: Though not a top 100 prospect, Hendricks is the incumbent Minor League Pitcher of the Year in the team’s organization. There’s good reason for that, too. In 2014 at AAA Iowa, he has struck out 54 batters, walking just 11 and he has yet to surrender a home run this year.

This team could use pitching. With the way Jeff Samardzija has pitched, the team is likely to get something good for him. After all, he does have a 1.46 ERA despite an 0-4 record. It’s his contract year, he’s 29 and probably won’t be part of the team’s future. If the Cubs sell high on him this season, it may create a possible window of opportunity for Hendricks to take Samardzija’s spot in the rotation. Not that that’s absolutely going to happen, but it’s something to ponder.

Should any or all of them get called up this season, it could indicate that the present is the past and the future is the present.

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