Success on farm doesn’t necessarily mean bright future for Cubs
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter September 10, 2013 10:51PM
Updated: September 10, 2013 11:19PM
CINCINNATI — Even as the Cubs beat up on the playoff-bound Cincinnati Reds 9-1 on Tuesday night, the buzz around the team continued to be from some of the top prospects in the system who finished strong in a year that produced three minor-league playoff teams for the organization.
But as Lou Piniella used to say, be careful of getting too giggly just yet.
The pitchers the Cubs acquired in July trades looked exceptional in advanced-A Daytona’s Florida State League championship run. And general manager Jed Hoyer said that Class AA shortstop Javy Baez had, “personally, in my career, as good a minor-league season as I’ve seen.”
But none of the Cubs’ top prospects — even Baez — will be in position to make the club out of spring training next season, Hoyer said. And the predictive value of minor-league championships on eventual big-league success is roughly zero.
As recently as two seasons ago, the same three affiliates (along witho Class A Boise and Class AA Tennessee) went collectively as far in their postseasons as this year’s, with rosters that created little buzz then and less recognition now.
In fact, Peter Gammons tweeted Tuesday that the last time an organization had six affiliates reach the playoffs — as the Houston Astros had this year — it took 10 years for its parent club to have a .500 season.
That was the Pittsburgh Pirates, who finally got there this year.
That’s not to say the Cubs don’t have some good-looking prospects who have a chance to succeed in the big leagues.
More than anything, it just means this process continues to be painstaking, long and uncertain.
“There’s going to be guys that miss,” Hoyer said.
If not, rebuilding teams wouldn’t need to sign $52 million stopgap starting pitchers like Edwin Jackson, who earned his first victory since July with seven strong innings.
Or start making 2014 roster plans in September of 2013, as the Cubs are doing now by culling season scouting reports and meeting with staff to determine short-term needs and long-term gaps in the system.
“I think you start that process in September, and because we’re not going to play October baseball, we’ll really grind on the offseason and get a feel for exactly what the budget’s going to be, get a feel for what our evaluations over the whole season are,” Hoyer said. “But one of the hardest things with 2014 is I think we all see players coming, and we’re excited about our future and where those guys are. But we also realize that likely none of those guys are going to start the season in the big leagues. So as we make out the lineup card and the 25-man roster for next year, that’s not going to be part of it.”
Scott Baker, who impressed in his return from Tommy John surgery Sunday, will get two more starts this season, Saturday at Pittsburgh and the following Friday at home against Atlanta. It gives the Cubs a temporary six-man rotation through Baker’s Atlanta start while assuring that the three guys in the rotation all season — Edwin Jackson, Travis Wood and Jeff Samardzija — don’t give up a start this season to accommodate Baker.
◆ Welington Castillo hit two homers for the first multihomer game of his career, and Jackson hit his second career home run. Eight of the Cubs’ 11 runs in their two wins this series have come via homers.