The Cubs beat the Cardinals (GASP!) mere seconds ago, and while I recognize 2010 to be a lost year, I’m going to take time out to stop ripping on the team for their woeful hitting, lack of trading usable players to contenders, and their sleepy manager and actually praise them for something. The Cubs’ minor league system this year has produced stellar rookies Tyler Colvin, Starlin Castro, and Andrew Cashner, who have all turned on-the-job training into major league production. And there are more exciting prospects on the way.
For all the hype Castro’s received, no conversation about the young Cubs can begin without Colvin. The talented 24-year-old outfielder spent much of the first two months of the year relegated to pinch-hitting duties for inexplicable reasons, as he’s outhomered everyone on the team except Alfonso Soriano — Colvin’s second leadoff shot in two games has his total up to 15 — but now he’s playing every day at one of the outfield spots. He hasn’t been the most patient hitter, as his .318 on-base percentage shows, but that’s partially because he had to deal with getting one at-bat a game until June, and he is getting better.
The other young gun in the Cubs’ everyday lineup is 20-year-old shortstop Starlin Castro, a Dominican phenom who just won’t stop hitting. He, too, added his third home run of the season today, but he’s not expected to be a power threat. Castro’s game is batting average, speed, and defense, and he’s done well in two out of three of those categories. His defense has been at times spectacular, but he also has a tendency to make boneheaded mistakes on routine grounders or throws to first. However, with the hitting tear he’s been on this month, raising his average from the low .250s to .305 as of the sixth inning today, and his daily defensive work with coaches Alan Trammell and Ivan De Jesus, he could very well end up in Rookie of the Year discussions.
While young bullpen pieces like Justin Berg and James Russell have performed well, it’s Cashner, the team’s 23-year-old 2008 first round pick, who has been the standout of a group that’s turned one of the National League’s worst early year bullpens into less of a late inning nightmare. Cashner’s brisk fastball and dominating slider have led him to a 2.28 ERA and a position as the team’s go-to eighth inning set-up reliever for closer Carlos Marmol.
With all those good young players on the team, one could reasonably expect the Cubs to quickly start contending, but with the talent on the way, they could become an NL Central powerhouse, with guys like last year’s first round pick, centerfielder Brett Jackson (.308 with eight homers between High-A and Double-A ball), speedy middle infielder Hak-Ju Lee (.352 OBP and 24 steals at Single-A Peoria), and top pitching prospects Jay Jackson (77 strikeouts at Triple-A Iowa) and Chris Carpenter (7-4, 3.07 ERA at Double-A Tennessee) all coming up the pipeline very soon.
Cubs fans can expect to see some or all of them when rosters expand in September, or sooner if the front office gets their heads out of their asses and decide to trade away Ted Lilly and anyone else.
And, of course, should the team complete some trade deadline deals, I’ll be able to add more prospects to this list. I guess I do have a little optimism for the future. But then again, I am a Cubs fan, so I guess that just goes with the territory.