There is still some depth in the system when it comes to shortstops. But after the trade extravaganza of August 1, 2021, they’ve sort of moved down the position rankings as a collective. They are still a ton of them and it was thought that some of them would move to second base. Only one has so far.
Right now, though, there are more questions surrounding them than there are answers at this point about their future. Most of it comes from the fact that they really haven’t taken off as expected whether that is individually or as a group. In other words, no one has really broken out.
It will be interesting to see who gets to play more at the position in Iowa between Luis Vazquez and Andy Weber. Will Kevin Made begin the year at Tennessee or will he stay in South Bend? And where will Reggie Preciado go to begin the year if Christian Hernandez is going to be in Myrtle Beach? And when Ed Howard comes back, where and what does he play?
Let’s get to this year’s rankings.
1. Cristian Hernandez – While Cristian Hernandez did not play up to our high expectations, he did not have a bad year. He’s got a couple things to work on and the soon to be 19-year-old will be at Myrtle Beach next season. I am intrigued as to how much he’s going to change over the course of this winter now that he will be stateside. Will he add muscle? Will he cut down on the strikeouts? Will his homers increase? Should be fun to find out!
2. Ed Howard – I am still holding out hope that he’s able to be ready for opening day. But if he’s not, I am OK with that as long as he comes back at some point. I don’t know if he’ll stick a shortstop, That’s the least of our concerns right now. When I saw him play for South Bend last spring, I was extremely impressed with every second he was at the ball park before, during, and after the game.
3. Kevin Made – Where Made begins 2023 is going to be an interesting story. Defensively, he’s ready for Tennessee. But the bat still has several things to work on which leads me to believe he could also start the year at South Bend. It’s hard to really gauge how good his arm is on MiLB TV, but he does some incredible things with that tool in practice that have not shown up in games yet. Once the bat catches up, he is going to be even more exciting.
4. Christopher Paciolla – He is 18 right now and will turn 19 before the season starts. I am really digging the size of this kid and the potential for power that he has. With Hernandez probably playing shortstop, Paciolla will get his chances at short but it’s more likely he spends more time at third at Myrtle Beach in 2023 if he opens there. However, I just want to see the bat play even if it is in the Carolina League where I think he can just drive the ball with regularity. If he sticks at shortstop, he could be number #1 in a hurry if the bat produces. Then again, he could be number one at third base, too.
5. Andy Weber – A concern for the past couple years has been whether or not he could stay healthy. The issue has never been about his talent as he showed this year as he hit over .300 at Double-A. This year he played in 76 games, the most he’s played since 2019. He will be in Iowa this year where he will play a mixture of second, short, and third, but I almost prefer to see him play more at second. He is still just 25-years-old.
6. Luis Vazquez – it’s hard to believe he just turned 23. He’s been around since 2017 when the Cubs signed him as a 17-year-old out of high school in the draft. Last year was his best season at the plate. After a rough start, he hit .271 in July and then .412 in August before he was promoted to Iowa. He should be at Iowa playing shortstop every day this year. He’s always been defensively ready to play in the majors since he hit Eugene. It’s always been about the bat catching up. This is also the final year of his contract.
7. Reggie Preciado – I am still shocked to know this but on opening day Preciado will still just be 19 years old. 2022 was a rough year for him. After getting off to a rough start in April where he only hit .122, he turned it on in May with a .284 average and then suffered a knee injury that most people would be out be for the season season. Somehow, he came back and played a little bit in August and September. Because of his age, I don’t see a problem sending him back to begin the year in Myrtle Beach where he’ll probably play a mixture of third, short, and second alongside Hernandez and Paciolla and possible Pedro Ramirez.
On the Move North
Alexis Hernandez and Jose Escobar will be arriving stateside to play in extended spring training. Either one is not advanced enough to play at Myrtle Beach in June. Alexis got off to the worst starting humanly possible last year going 0-for-19. Then hit .288 the rest of the way in. It was pretty exciting knowing that he could bounce back and just put it all behind him. I like to see a player struggle and adapt.
Coming Soon in 2023
Derniche Valdez is the top target of the Cubs in International Free Agency. He is currently ranked as the #6 prospect on MLB Pipeline. Here is what Jesse Sanchez of MLB Pipeline says of the young 16-year-old:
He’s best known as a prospect with tons of upside on the offensive side. Valdez projects to be a middle-of-the-order hitter and run producer if he continues to develop and mature physically at a normal pace. He already shows the ability to hit hard line drives to all fields and drive the ball out of the ballpark to all fields. He shows a solid approach at the plate and a feel for the strike zone.