Welcome to part three of our look at the depth of the Cubs’ system. Today is all about second basemen.
This position is a little unclear right now. Last year’s rankings were based on the premise that either Ed Howard or Kevin Made was going to slide over to second base, that Chase Strumpf forever moved to third base, and that James Triantos would also be at second as the Cubs focused on developing Reggie Preciado at third. Needless to say, a lot of things changed in just one year.
For this year’s rankings, I decided to not assume anything about who’s going to play where and just base the rankings on who played second base in 2022
1. Pedro Ramirez – Ramirez moved over to second base last spring to make room at shortstop for Christian Hernandez. While everyone was focused on the young shortstop, Ramirez turned in an All-Star season in the Arizona Complex League and was the only Cubs representative on the squad. He also earned a late promotion to Myrtle Beach where we got to see a little glimpse of him. It’s still a little early to fully realize what his potential is going to be as he is just 18 right now. But the hit tool looks to be there, the speed is definitely there, and the ability to switch hit and play multiple positions on the infield gives him a leg up.
2. Chase Strumpf – All in all, it looks as if Chase Strumpf sold out for power a lot last year. The situational hitter that I fell in love with at Eugene is probably still in there, but he hit 21 home runs Double-A. He hit a measly .234, he had a .379 on base percentage, slugged .461, which put him over an .800 OPS, which is outstanding. He should start 2023 at Iowa and he’s probably not that far away from Chicago. He was not protected in the Major League portion of the upcoming Rule Five Draft but he should slide through.
3. Andy Weber – I am not sure where to slot Andy Weber this year. 2 years ago – shortstop. Last year, shortstop. This year…I will probably stick with him here partly because of Luis Vazquez and partly because he will probably play all four infield spots this year. 2022 was a decent year for Weber. After only playing in 44 games in 2021, he got in 76 in 2022 and hit exactly .300 for the year. He played 6 games at first base, 28 at second, and 36 at short, most of those were because Vazquez was in Iowa. Now, what will happen with both Weber and Vazquez in Iowa? Strumpf will be at 2B, Slaughter at 3B, Levi Jordan and Bryce Ball will be there so Weber will probably be playing a little at every position. Just remember my old motto…have bat, will play. Weber certainly does.
4. Fabian Pertuz – I really enjoyed watching him play for South Bend last year. He spent most of the first half at shortstop after Ed Howard went down and then moved back to second base when Kevin Made arrived. He’s a really good defender but he needs to be a little bit more consistent at the plate. He will be in Double-A on opening day in 2023. As for his bat, it’s going to determine his future. He’s still relatively young at just 22.
5. Jefferson Rojas is going to the one 2B to really watch in 2022. Signed as a shortstop last January 15th, he moved over to second to make room for Alexis Hernandez in the DSL. He had an up and down 3 months where he was on fire in June, struggled in July, and caught fire again in August. That’s always good to see. He should be in Mesa to start 2023 at the age of 18. For the year, he hit .303 with a .391 OBP. Add in a 120 wRC+ and there’s a lot to like in that profile for a second baseman.
The Man Without a Position
A lot of things are unclear about Reggie Preciado, In between a knee injury he miraculously came back from, the now 19-year-old played in a total of 28 games at SS and 16 at 2B. In 2021, he got in 16 games at 3B. He is likely to be back at Myrtle Beach to start 2023 and with Cristian Hernandez and Pedro Ramirez on the roster, Preciado could wind up at 3B. No matter where he plays, he’s going to have a lot to prove after a rough 2022 at the plate.
The jury is still out
Yesion Santana looked to be all world in April, May, and June and then he fell off the face of the earth the rest of the summer. He started out the year at Myrtle Beach and looked much improved and carried that over to South Bend in May and June when he hit .300 in each month. With the arrival of Kevin Made in July, his playing time was cut and he only hit .173 that month. He only played 11 games in August but he did hit .273 and was part of the championship team at South Bend. It’s likely that he goes to Tennessee to start in 2023 if he has a good spring training. If not, he’ll be back in South Bend competing for a spot.
One to Watch
Elizaul Chalas played really well in the second half of the DSL hitting .387 in July He could make his way north to start 2023 in Mesa.
Not quite sure yet
When Ed Howard returns, it’ll be interesting to see where the Cubs play him. It’ll be interesting to see what affiliate he starts out at to begin the year. My fingers are crossed that he sticks at shortstop. If he doesn’t, he will do just fine at second base if he is healthy and fully recovered from his hip injury.
When I got to see Howard play in person in the Quad Cities, there were so many things I loved seeing from him that the camera doesn’t cover in a minor league game and it’s hard to take your eyes off of Howard when he’s on the field. To see him work hard before the game and to hear his teammates talk about him, you would think that he just graduated from college. That’s how mature he is. He’s still only going to be 21 years old next year. That’s still pretty young in the system to be at High-A.