As the Cubs struggle through a rough offensive stretch, fans have their eyes to the future, looking for guys like Javier Baez, Kris Bryant or Jorge Soler to contribute.
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But how long will it really be until those prospects are playing everyday at the corner of Clark and Addison?
That was the topic of debate Thursday on SportsTalk Live with host David Kaplan and guests Jordan Bernfield of WGN Radio and Gordon Wittenmyer, the Cubs beat writer for the Chicago Sun-Times.
Bryant, the No. 2 overall pick in this summer's MLB Draft, has shown no signs of struggle after jumping up to High-A ball, as he carries a .308 average and 1.077 OPS in his first four games. He may be an advanced hitter coming off one of the best college seasons in history, but he doesn't figure to make an impact at the big league level for at least another season, if ever.
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Baez just hit his 30th homer of the season Thursday night and has a .962 OPS in 37 games at the Double-A level, but at 20, he still has plenty of holes in his game and will figure to get more seasoning in the minors next season. He, too, is at least a year off.
Soler, 21, is still suffering through a stress fracture in his leg and likely won't play the rest of the minor-league season. He last appeared in a game on Jun 13, but in just Daytona. The Cuban slugger has not played much baseball over the last couple of years, so he will need plenty of time in the minors.
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2012 first-round pick Albert Almora is still on the shelf with a leg injury and has been hampered by a few minor aches this year. When he's been on the field, he's shown his enormous potential with a .329 average, .842 OPS, great defense in center field and impressive intangibles for Low-A Kane County, but he's still just 19 and is a couple years off.
Mike Olt, acquired in the Garza deal last month, is getting over vision problems and hitting just .127 at Triple-A Iowa. Arismendy Alcantara is this year's breakout prospect, but he's also only 21 years old and needs to round his game into form.
It figures to be some time until these prospects join Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro and Junior Lake in the big leagues. That is, if they all even make the cut.
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Wittenmyer and Kaplan estimate that maybe two of the Cubs' top four prospects (Baez, Soler, Almora, Bryant) will become quality major leaguers and even that might be a stretch. It's just the nature of the game. Not every premier prospect pans out.
Even if a couple of those guys crack Dale Sveum's lineup int he near future, it will be some time until they adapt to big-league pitching, meaning it will still be a while until the Cubs are legit contenders.
When Theo Epstein took over the Cubs' front office, the thought was the team could compete in 2015, but Wittenmyer warns it might be 2016 or later.