In the last year and a half, the Cubs have called up two shortstops – Addison Russell and Javier Baez. In early September, shortstop Gleyber Torres was named the top prospect in the entire Midwest League and on Friday November 6, he was listed as the Cubs’ #1 prospect by Baseball America. To the uneducated outsider it appears the Cubs are swimming in shortstops. In reality, the organization is pretty thin at that position in the minors, especially at AA and AAA. Here’s our look at who the Cubs have matriculating through the system.
After the All-Star break in 2015, Addison Russell replaced Starlin Castro at shortstop and the team never looked back defensively. With Russell a year wiser, we expect his bat to start coming around in 2016. At just 21 years old, Russell showed an amazing amount of athleticism at the position and his presence was sorely missed in the NLCS. With Javy Baez as a backup, the Cubs have to feel good about this position through 2021.
1. Gleyber Torres was recently named the top prospect in the Cubs organization after he had a solid first full season as he debuted at South Bend in 2015. He even got a week in at Myrtle Beach and was part of the team’s championship playoff run. He’s going to begin 2016 at Myrtle Beach at just 19 years old, but I don’t know how long the Cubs are going to try and hold him back. He has a natural right-center to right field stroke that should serve him well at Myrtle Beach and also at AA Tennessee. With Addison Russell manning the SS position for now, Torres could easily slide over to second base without much effort in the future if need be. Due to his youth and the current situation in Chicago, we don’t see the rush to get Torres to the big leagues. It might be best to take their time with Gleyber; he’ll let the organization know when he is ready.
Trying to pick a number 2 shortstop in the organization isn’t quite as simple. After Torres, it’s quite a dropoff in talent at the plate, but there is some hope in the low minors.
2. Carlos Penalvar is clearly ready defensively and will begin next year at AA Tennessee. The problem with Penalvar is that his bat lags far, far, far behind. He has okay contact skills but no power. He struggled to hit over .200 across all levels of A-ball the last three years.
3. To find the number three shortstop, you have to go all the way down to rookie league and there you will find Andruw Monasterio, who is still extremely raw as a baseball player. In 2015 Monasterio hit .252 in 42 games for the Arizona Rookie League Cubs. In his last 10 games of the season, however, he hit .324. At 6 feet and 175 pounds, there’s not a lot of projection left in him physically. He’s thin but athletic and is smooth in the field. Monasterio will be at short-season Eugene in 2016 and it will be interesting to see how he develops physically, in the field, and at the plate as he has surprising pop thanks to strong wrists.
4. Yeiler Peguero had an outstanding season for the Cubs on the Dominican Summer League team. The 17-year-old prospect was the MVP of the Dominican Summer League All-Star game (see picture). He just turned 18 in September and, at 5’10” and only 150 pounds, still has plenty of room to grow physically. In 64 games, he hit .284 with 18 RBIs and stole 15 bases. He did come over for instructs in Arizona this fall and will likely be on the Cubs Arizona Rookie League team in 2016. He may even change positions to second base for some reasons we will discuss in the next paragraph.
Last summer, the Cubs signed three shortstops who were international free agents. Two of them are 16 years old and the other is 18. Aramis Ademan, Yonathan Perlaza, and Isaac Paredas will make their organizational debuts in 2016. All three finished instructs in Arizona back on October 9th and I t will be interesting to see where all three will be placed in 2016. It will also be interesting to see whether all three stay at the position or move to second or third. It’s likely they will be in stateside rookie ball in 2016.
As you can see, there are a lot of question marks with a lot of players who are still 19 years old and younger. There are older players, such as Johnathan Mota, Ryan Dent, Sutton Whiting, Andrew Ely, and Ho-Young Son, who briefly played shortstop this past summer at different levels for the Cubs, but none of these players are seen as long-term solutions at the position.
As with first base, the Cubs don’t have to worry about the situation at short for a while. If Russell gets hurt, Baez slides right in for whatever time is needed. In 2020-21, Russell will still be in his prime years. The Cubs can take their time with shortstops, specifically Torres.
Next week we go to the hot corner.