Tyler Colvin had a decent half season at Tennessee (AA) and got called up in September. Starlin Castro had a good half season at Tennessee and is expected by many people to join the Cubs soon. (He’ll be twenty in March.) It’s hard to predict the future of any prospect but we can say with certainty that a Cub prospect who thrives at double-A can get Lou’s attention and earn a shot.
I’m not sure who the top Cub position prospects are, but I think I can identify the ones who are on the fastest track: Castro, Hak-Ju Lee, Brett Jackson and D.J. LeMahieu. Lee has the farthest to go, but he’s also the youngest. He hasn’t been to Peoria yet. If he skips Peoria, as Castro did last year, he can play at Tennessee in the second half of the coming season–as Castro did last year. Lee, remember, was recently voted the #1 prospect in the half-season Northwest League. (Jackson was #3.) At Tennessee, Lee will join Jackson and LeMahieu, assuming that they earn mid-season promotions from Daytona. So far, they have been very promotable.
Assuming, then, that all three players succeed at two minor-league levels next season, a year from now there could be four prospects making a claim on major-league jobs in 2011. In that case, there will be at least a temptation on the part of Cub management to free up second and short for Castro and Lee, and third for LeMahieu. They will want to make room for Jackson in center, where a “vacancy” sign has been hanging for too long.
Vitters, of course, will want to claim third base himself, but may be forced over to first. I’m not saying LeMahieu is a better prospect (I really can’t judge), just that he will ripen sooner.
There are other good prospects in the mix, but these are the four who seem to have the most upward mobility. I would be surprised if one of them had a problem at Daytona, as Vitters did, or a problem at Tennessee, where Guyer stumbled early last season. Guyer somewhat redeemed himself later, but the point is he lost momentum, which my four phenoms still retain.
Again, I’m not predicting stardom or even ordinary success in the long run for these players. I am predicting that in one year, the Cubs will have four very young position players vying for full-time jobs, compared to the one player, Castro, in that situation today.
Wait till next year, that’s my current motto. I don’t mean the 2010 season, but the offseason following, when the Cubs will not feel the usual pressure to (A) find a centerfielder, (B) find a second baseman, (C) find a leadoff hitter and (D) bid aggressively for outgoing free-agent Cubs.
Meanwhile, I’ll keep my fingers crossed that when Hendry is done trading prospects for dollars in a Bradley deal, a few of the big-four prospects are still with the Cubs.