3 Chicago Cubs Prospects That Are Taking Steps Back in 2014 so Far
The good news for the Chicago Cubs is that most of their top prospects have been true to form to start this season with very few hiccups in the first month. The bad news, which is normally inevitable in baseball, is that some have still gotten off to some disappointing starts. As an organization, the Cubs' top 20 prospects have performed well, but three out of their top 15 have been particularly disappointing thus far.
All prospects go through struggles at different times in their minor league careers, and the ones that shake those struggles off quickly are usually the ones that go on to have long and successful major league careers.
The three players on this list are hoping to reach that success at the big league level relatively soon, but unless they turn around their early performances, their arrivals in the big leagues could be delayed.
SS Javier Baez
Baez, the Cubs' top prospect and the No. 6 prospect in baseball, has not been seeing the ball well so far this season. He lit up opposing pitching during spring training this season, which led many to call for his placement on the Opening Day roster.
He's still a couple months away from reaching the big leagues, and if his struggles continue, it could be longer than that until management is convinced he is ready to face major league pitching everyday.
The top middle infield prospect is batting a paltry .167 and has struck out in almost half of his at-bats this season (25 strikeouts in 66 at-bats). Either he's not seeing the ball well, he's only swinging for the fences or both. Either way, he has to settle down and have a better plate approach. As long as he's hitting for power and a decent average, the Cubs will take the high strikeout numbers.
For now, Baez hasn't shown he's ready for the big leagues, and only time will tell when he will take that next step.
3B Jeimer Candelario
Candelario is the Cubs' No. 9 prospect, even though he is relatively unknown compared to some of the team's other top hitting prospects. Even though he plays a position of great depth within the organization, the Cubs have high hopes for him. So far this season, he hasn't exactly lived up to those expectations.
This season, Candelario is batting .213 while hitting extra-base hits in just 10 percent of his at-bats. He needs to improve his power and ability to drive in runs as he moves closer to the next level. There is still plenty of time for Candelario to turn things around, but he's supposed to be getting on base at a relatively high clip, and he's just not doing that this season.
3B Christian Villanueva
Another relatively unknown Cubs' prospect, Villanueva hasn't excelled this season. He's one of the club's top 20 prospects, per MLB.com, and also plays third base. With a couple third basemen in the organization struggling, the decision to call up top prospect Kris Bryant later this season or early next season should be easier. Even though Villanueva has a much lower ceiling than Bryant, his output so far this season is disappointing.
Villanueva, getting a taste of Triple-A Iowa, is hitting just .193 this season and is striking out more than three times as much as he is walking. This lack of efficiency is becoming far too common in the Cubs organization, and Villanueva needs to join others in bucking this trend before it plagues them.
It's only one bad month, but Villanueva needs to turn it around in the coming months if he doesn't want to be passed over by the rest of the Cubs' top third base prospects coming up.
Prospect rankings courtesy of MLB.com.