A year ago, I thought second base might have been the deepest position in the Cubs’ system. They had Ian Happ, followed by Chesny Young, Carlos Sepulveda, Trent Giambrone, Yeiler Peguero, and Jonathan Perlaza. Things did not work out well for anybody on that list except for Happ, with some of that disappointment based on performance and some because of Injury.
Sepulveda was injured early but did finish the year in the Arizona Rookie League. Young was up and down all year (more down than up). It took Giambrone some time to adjust to high-A after skipping South Bend and he took off in June and July before settling back to earth in August.
Despite the poor performances, the Cubs are still loaded and even added two more second basemen in the 2017 draft. Here’s a look at how the position stands heading into 2018.
1. Carlos Sepulveda played in 28 games for Myrtle Beach at the beginning of the year before an injury robbed him of most of his season. He came back at the end of August and played nine games plus the playoffs for Mesa. After watching him hit .310 at South Bend in 2016, I was really looking forward to seeing what he could do and how much he could improve at Myrtle Beach. That didn’t happen, but he is still ahead of everybody else at the position when it comes to hit hit tool. I’m not sure where he will begin the year, but he should end it AA Tennessee.
2. David Bote began to turn his career around in the middle of 2016 when Happ left Myrtle Beach for Tennessee. Bote has been a holy terror at the plate since then, showing a mixture of power and the ability to hit for average. He can also play almost every position in the field, but will most likely play second or third with maybe a little outfield in the future.
3. (tie) Jared Young got off to a rough start in Eugene after being in the 15th round in 2017, hitting only .131 in 16 games in July. In spite of that average, I really liked his approach at the plate. It did not pay off that month, but did in August. Young hit .323 for the month and helped lead Eugene into the playoffs. There’s a lot to like about his 6-2 frame and his smooth left-handed stroke and he will be at South Bend to begin 2018.
3. (tie) Austin Upshaw, another 2017 draft pick, hit from the get-go in Arizona. He skipped Eugene and then hit almost .300 for a two-month span after arriving in South Bend. What I really like most about Upshaw is that he seems cool under pressure, as illustrated by his .293 averaged with runners in scoring position. The left-handed hitter drove in 29 runs in 52 games and showed a solid approach with a .339 on base percentage. That should improve more in 2018, though I wonder what position he will have going forward – first or second base. He was also one of my favorite interviews of the year, for what it’s worth.
5. Chesny Young worked through a series of adjustments in 2017 as he played all over the field for Iowa and had a roller coaster season. That may cause concern for some, but when you start to dig deeper you see that the approach is there, just not the results. His monthly batting average splits went .224/.357/.220/.300/.188. When Young was ahead in the count in 2017, he hit over .500; when he was behind, he hit under .200. Those are some alarming differences that he is going to have to correct next season.
6. Trent Giambrone not being near the top of the list is not a knock against him, as I love to watch him play and hit. I think he could have a great year at AA, but he needs to be more consistent at the plate in order to make that happen. He had an up-and-down year at Myrtle Beach after skipping South Bend and I think he will adjust back in 2018. There’s a lot to like about his game, his leadership, his intensity, and his potential for power.
Honorable metion – Delvin Zinn, Jhonny Bethencourt, and Christian Donahue
Zinn played a mix of shortstop and second base last year for Mesa while Bethencourt played all over the infield for Eugene. Both have potential to be outstanding bats, but I think their positions need to be a little bit more settled. Zinn should be at Eugene to start the 2018 season, while Bethencourt should be at South Bend. The problem is where Bethencourt is going to play, as he is not very solid defensively. He probably fits best at second base versus third, and especially over short.
At the end of the season, the Cubs signed undrafted free agent Donahue out of Oregon State. He was dismissed from the team right before the College World Series, which is a bit of a red flag, and it’ll be interesting to see how he does and where he does it. Donahue, who played both outfield and second base for the Beavers, is known for having a high motor and being an excellent baserunner.