When you consider the Cubs’ organizational depth in the middle infield, you would think this would be a strong position. However, it is not. The Cubs lost three prospects over the last year who played both short and second, with Nico Hoerner getting more time in Chicago while Zack Short and Pedro Martinez were both traded. All told, there’s a little bit of a vacuum in the system for the time being.
Depending upon what the Cubs do with their surplus shortstops, though, second base could probably be the most improved position in the minors a year from now. As Ed Howard and Cristian Hernandez enter the fold and presumably establish themselves as legit prospects, players like Andy Weber, Luis Vasquez, Rafael Morel, Kevin Made, and Luis Verdugo could move to second or even third.
In the interest of simplicity, we are just gonna roll with returning prospects who played second last year.
There is no bigger name at second base in the system than Chase Strumpf, the 2019 second round pick out of UCLA. He displays a quick bat and the ability to hit in situations, but his calling card is his ability to turn on a pitch and drive it out of the ballpark. In his brief tenure as a Cub, he’s also shown the ability to go the other way and give himself up in an at-bat if it will help score a run.
Being left off of the alternate site roster was a little surprising, but his power performance at instructs put him right back on the map again as he led the team in home runs in Mesa.
Strumpf could begin the 2021 season at high-A for a brief spell or the Cubs could get aggressive and have him start out at Double-A Tennessee. Regardless of where he starts next spring, it is where he finishes that matters. Iowa is clearly the destination of choice for August. Considering the Cubs roster concerns for 2022, he could be ready at some point early in that year.
While second base looks like his main position for now, he was a stud shortstop in high school and played mostly third during instructs this past October.
Chase Strumpf first pitch swinging exit velo of 100 pic.twitter.com/3l0T0PNGi9
— Todd ⚾️🐻 (@CubsCentral08) August 18, 2019
During spring training in 2021, a group that should include some combination of Ildemaro Vargas, Hernán Pérez, Abiatal Avellino, and Max Schrock will all be competing for a bench spot. Only one of them is going to make it and the others will head back to Iowa with Trent Giambrone. There is no clear-cut favorite, so it might be more about who is hot at the moment.
Most of these guys are clearly not in the running to be a long-term everyday option for the Cubs. They are, however, going to be needed at some point over a 162-game season.
Then you’ve got everybody else. Delvin Zinn is one of the most athletic players in the system and is always a fun watch. I thought he should’ve started the year at Myrtle Beach in 2019, but instead he put his head down and did his job at South Bend to earn a promotion to the Carolina League for the second half of the summer. Not exactly a hitter’s league, Zinn held his own most days and hit .242 with a .297 on base percentage. At just 23 years old, he has plenty of time to develop over the next year or two. That could even mean moving to the outfield, where his speed would play well.
I love Delvin Zinn's swing. I have the feeling this kid will go far. pic.twitter.com/3W704IfKT6
— Ikhnaton and Itsacon (@thats_so_cub) August 7, 2019
Reivaj Garcia will be 19 years old when 2021 starts. After breaking out with a .302 average in rookie league in 2018 at the age of 16, he had a bit of a setback in 2019 in Eugene. He was clearly overmatched every time he stepped in the batter’s box for the Emeralds, then went back down to Mesa and put together a nice August hitting .278 with 9 RBI.
Garcia was slated to be heading back to Eugene for 2020, but the Ems will no longer be part of the organization by then. While he is still very young for low-A, it’ll be interesting to see how he’s developed over the past year. A switch hitter, he’s known for his ability to put the bat on the ball and use all fields.
The curious career of Aramis Ademan should continue next year as well. Unless he gets taken in the minor league portion of the Rule Five Draft next week, Ademan will probably be at second playing next to Andy Weber in Tennessee. The first half of 2019 saw Ademan hit .269 with .376 OBP, big improvements from 2018. But things fell apart and the 20-year-old hit just .172 in the second half. He will be 22 for the whole 2021 season, so it is still a bit early to give up on him.
Undrafted free agent Matt Burch continues the Old Dominion-to-Cubs pipeline of the past five summers and could be an interesting find. He was able to get on base at ODU at almost a .400 clip the last two years and may start at high-A South Bend next year.
Bot 3 | The little fella has some pop! Matt Burch blasts one into the trees in right field for his 2nd home run of the year.
ODU 2, Herd 2 pic.twitter.com/VhB7bY88Jg
— Old Dominion Baseball (@ODUBaseball) May 12, 2019
Just like third base, second is going to benefit from the fact that you can only play one shortstop at a time. That should allow some players to develop at a new or more consistent position and could lead to a very different outlook a year from now.
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