ST. LOUIS – The Cubs are preparing for the day “The Core” isn’t such an abstract concept.
By next summer’s trade deadline, the front office hopes some of these elite prospects will be pushing through the upper levels of the system, with 2015 viewed internally as a potential breakthrough year. That’s when games against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium should really mean something.
[The Foundation: Dan Vogelbach ready for ascent]
No. 2 overall pick Kris Bryant is forcing the issue at Class-A Boise, showing why he emerged as the most polished hitter in his draft class. He’s coming around after a long layoff, ending his University of San Diego season on June 2 and having the Wrigley Field press conference to announce his $6.7 million deal on July 12.
Bryant is hitting .294 with four homers, 12 RBI and a .990 OPS through 14 games with Boise. There are signals he could skip Class-A Kane County and go directly to advanced Class-A Daytona.
“He’s played really well over the last couple weeks,” said general manager Jed Hoyer, who on Friday declined to say where Bryant could be heading next. “That’s something that we’ll probably be discussing in the next week or so.”
Jorge Soler – who has been sidelined since mid-June with a stress fracture in his left tibia – will be examined on Monday in Chicago. That will give the Cubs a better feel for if the $30 million Cuban outfielder can return to Daytona this season and/or play in the Arizona Fall League.
Albert Almora is also viewed as a strong candidate to play in the Arizona Fall League. The sixth overall pick in the 2012 draft broke his hamate bone in spring training and went on the disabled list this week with a groin injury. In between, the 19-year-old outfielder has hit .329 with an .842 OPS in 61 games at Kane County.
[The Foundation: Cubs prospect Almora provides 'stabilizing' presence in organization]
“He’s been unbelievable,” Hoyer said. “We can push him a little bit. He’s proven that. He’s obviously handled himself very well in Kane County, especially over the last month. His walk-to-strikeout ratio has been really good (12:11 in July). So he’s made a lot of strides there. (The) more at-bats he can get, the better.”
If Bryant (6-foot-5, 215 pounds) outgrows third base, the Cubs project he can move into a corner-outfield spot. They don’t have that kind of depth behind the plate.
Dioner Navarro didn’t need to go on the disabled list after an MRI revealed a mild/grade one right ankle sprain. But the Cubs were still scrambling after their backup catcher got run over by Philadelphia Phillies All-Star Chase Utley, calling up 33-year-old J.C. Boscan from Triple-A Iowa.
[RELATED: Cubs think Samardzija will block out all the noise about contract]
“I stare at our minor-league system,” Hoyer said. “You look out and at almost every position on the diamond you can find a pretty good prospect. But catching is an area where we’re thin and we know it. We talk about it all the time: How do you acquire catching? It’s going to be a priority for us over the next couple years.”