By Matt Nestor
The Chicago Cubs have a plan in place. If things work out, the future could be bright.
When that future is, is anybody’s guess. Originally, the Cubs, under Theo Epstein, pointed to 2015 for when the future would arrive. As the team suffers through losing season after losing season, however, the future seems delayed. 2016 is often the year you hear now for when the future will come.
There are prospects galore down in the minors for the Cubs. Arismendy Alcantara, Jorge Soler, Albert Almora, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez are all names you can find all over the place when you look at the top prospects list, and all reside in the Chicago system.
Prospects are an iffy proposition, maybe 50-50 at best. But if you hit on three of those, to add with Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, you have the makings of a great lineup.
The question now, as you look around baseball and recent trends, is why does the future have to wait? Do you still need the old-school seasoning of three to five years in the minors before you can play every day in the major leagues?
Jose Fernandez was 19 years old and had played a year at Class A ball in the Miami Marlins’ system. The Marlins took a chance on the youngster, starting his 2013 season with the MLB team in Florida. He won Rookie of the Year and became one of the top pitchers in baseball.
A chief Cubs rival, the St. Louis Cardinals, made another trip to the World Series in 2013. They did a lot of that with Michael Wacha, drafted a year earlier, pitching in the rotation, and another youngster, Carlos Martinez, firing pitches out of the bullpen.
The Cardinals just called up young top prospect Oscar Taveras this season. He promptly hit a home run in his second at-bat and looks to be everything that was advertised.
The Washington Nationals hit gold with a 19-year old Bryce Harper, who was rushed through the minors, won Rookie of the Year in 2012, and is now an established All-Star. That was on the heels of rotation ace Stephen Strasburg being rushed through the minors and becoming an instant star.
Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels became an instant MVP candidate from the minors. Yasiel Puig did the same with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Gerrit Cole rushed through the minors to help pitch the Pittsburgh Pirates to their first playoff appearance in 20 years.
The point is, teams all over baseball are moving younger players up faster. And they are finding out that talent plays. You have some growing pains, but you can bring these guys up, get some excitement, and compete on a daily basis.
The Cubs have a plan, though. 2016, everyone will be ready, everything will gel and they will dominate baseball.
But as they prepare to again be among the worst teams in baseball (and get another top pick and more talent that comes with it), fans are getting restless, and who can blame them?
It just may not be the losing that is causing the natives to be restless. It could just be trying to figure out why their young talent has to languish in the minors while everyone else is quick to bring up the kids.
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From the June 4-10, 2014, issue