Timetable for Cubs’ prospects hasn’t changed
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter June 10, 2014 10:27PM
Updated: July 12, 2014 6:42AM
PITTSBURGH — The Pirates called up one of the most exciting prospects in baseball Tuesday, scheduled a news conference for the kid, sold an extra 5,000 tickets for the big day and watched their prized talent get a standing ovation on the way to the plate for his first big-league at-bat.
The Cubs didn’t.
Not that the Cubs should jump off a cliff just because somebody else does.
But outfielder Gregory Polanco’s long-anticipated big-league debut, after months of clamoring from fans and media, charged PNC Park with a buzz and energy that wasn’t there for the series opener Monday.
It also completed the so-called “Dream Outfield” of Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and Polanco that the Pirates have sold as part of their plan even before last year’s 94-win breakthrough.
The Cubs got a front-row seat for the festivities that also sent a buzz through their dugout and clubhouse, if only as a reminder of the kind of potentially energizing impact players they have raking in the minors and scratching at the big-league door.
The kind of players many in the clubhouse would like to see help their cause sooner rather than later.
Class AAA shortstop Javy Baez has been one of the hottest hitters in the system for nearly a month, and nobody this side of Troy Tulowitzki has been hotter anywhere in baseball all season than Class AA third baseman Kris Bryant, who leads all Triple Crown categories in the Southern League by big margins.
Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija stopped short of urging the front office to call up either of those top two prospects — both ranked ahead of Polanco by Baseball America heading into the season.
But he stands by what he said in spring training about the value of boosting the big-league roster with young players who perform that well at high minor-league levels.
“If there’s people that can help you out, you’ve got to have all your bullets,” he said. “I think you see that every day. Every team we play and our own team, you see depth is important. And fresh life’s always important, too.”
The Cubs’ front office, however, has made it clear it’s taking its time with Bryant, who was drafted No. 2 overall barely a year ago. At this point, the Cubs have no intention of promoting him to the big leagues this season, especially when it means starting the service-time clock at this non-contending point in the Cubs’ rebuild.
Baez looked like a 2014 candidate for promotion before a miserable six-week start to his season, which might have pushed his debut from midseason to late-season, if it comes this year.
“Everybody’s path is different,” manager Rick Renteria said. “We have to make sure we’re more concerned and aware of how our guys are doing. We tip our hats to everybody else who’s doing what they’re doing, but the only ones I have to concern myself with are my guys.”
Don’t try to tell players that the path requires a lengthy, deliberate tour in the minors if you’re doing what Bryant is doing — or that it even requires a stop at AAA.
Starlin Castro made the jump from Class AA to the majors in May 2010, hit a homer with six RBI in his first game and led the National League in hits by his second season.
“Those prospects can help us a lot,” Castro said of Baez and Bryant, “like the prospects with the other teams, too. A lot of teams call up a lot of young guys.
“It would be good. Those guys, when the time comes and they come here, we’ll be better. But I don’t make that decision. The general manager and president and those guys, they [decide] when they come up.”