CINCINNATI – The saturation coverage of Cubs prospects glosses over the reality that all these kids aren’t going to make it.
But who cares? It’s perfect for the Internet/Twitter age. Anything on Javier Baez and Kris Bryant gets clicks. Jorge Soler and Albert Almora give the talk shows something to help fill the airtime. The two daily newspapers in Chicago sent writers to cover the playoffs with advanced Class-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee.
[RELATED: Javier Baez, Edwin Jackson and how Cubs GM Hoyer looks at 2014]
Theo Epstein’s front office, the Ricketts family and Crane Kenney’s business side like the narrative. They won’t complain if the media turns its attention away from the on-field product and the major-league payroll.
Last winter, one Cubs staffer looked at Baez, Soler and Almora and put it this way: An optimistic yet realistic scenario would have one developing into an All-Star, another contributing as a major-league regular and the other one being a bust.
Too much hype? Some of these guys can’t even legally buy a beer in Wrigleyville yet. Will they be able to handle it?
[MORE: Sean Marshall believes Cubs will win (someday)]
“That’s the nature of the prospect business,” general manager Jed Hoyer said this week at Great American Ball Park. “There’s going to be attrition and some of it’s through injuries and some of it’s through talent as you go up the ranks. But as far as the scrutiny goes, it’s part of the job when you’re playing for a big-market team.”
Florida State League championships don’t translate into parades down Michigan Avenue. But Baez has answered a lot of questions for this front office.
Set aside the overall numbers: 37 homers, 111 RBI, 98 runs scored, 20 stolen bases and 44 errors in 130 games split between Daytona and Tennessee. Look at how Baez produced in 54 games at the Double-A level: 20 homers, 54 RBI, .983 OPS.
[RELATED: From Travis Wood to Daytona, Cubs see pieces of the puzzle coming together]
“What he did once he got to Tennessee was really special,” Hoyer said. “We had a list of guys that at 20 years old slugged north of .600. It’s a pretty special list.”
During his age-20 season in 2003, Miguel Cabrera posted a .609 slugging percentage with 10 homers and 59 RBI in 69 Southern League games before breaking hearts on the North Side and helping the Florida Marlins win the World Series.
Injuries forced Soler, the $30 million Cuban, and Almora, the first player drafted by the Epstein administration, to miss huge chunks of development time while dealing with injuries this season. The outfielders will try to play catch-up in the Arizona Fall League.
Bryant – the No. 2 overall pick in the June draft – will be there and the feeling is he will be able to move quickly through the system. After hitting 31 homers as a junior at the University of San Diego and getting a $6.7 million bonus, he put up a 1.100-plus OPS in 34 games split between Class-A Boise and Daytona.
[RELATED: Cubs' gamble on Nate Schierholtz paying off]
One team official believes Bryant can stick long-term at third base, saying he’s light on his feet, willing to work and flexible enough to handle the position. While conventional wisdom made comparisons to Troy Glaus, a scout saw more of a Jayson Werth body type in the 6-foot-5, 215-pound Bryant.
“I think he’s a major-league talent, for sure,” Hoyer said. “Is he ready right now? I don’t think so. He’s got work to do. I think the Fall League is going to be good for him, seeing some more advanced pitching.
“It’s important guys get their at-bats. As they go up through the levels, pitchers are going to set you up more. There’s obviously going to be more velocity, more command and we’ll see how he handles it. Obviously, so far, he’s handled these first two exceptionally well.”
Hoyer doesn’t want to look at Daytona and make it all about the Big Four: “There were lots of guys people don’t talk about every day or tweet about.” But this comes with the territory.
[The Foundation: Trevor Gretzky paves his own way]
“The scrutiny in Daytona is a lot less than it’s going to be when you get to Chicago,” Hoyer said. “I think with moderation you want some of that scrutiny. You don’t want too much of it. You want to be able to protect those guys a little bit and let them grow. But I think some of it is natural and some of it is probably good for their development as well.
“Learning to live with expectations is important.”
Especially inside the Wrigley Field fishbowl.