Prospect Watch: New Cubs Hitters

Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.

Billy McKinney, OF, Chicago Cubs (Profile)
Level: High-A   Age: 19.10   Top-15: 3rd (OAK) Top-100: N/A
Line:  333 PA,  17.4 K%, 10.3 BB%, .241/.330/.400 (wRC+ 93)

The less heralded of the hitters the Cubs’ received in the Jeff Samardzija, McKinney was a 2013 first round selection who profiles as a corner outfielder.

With the 23rd pick of the 2013 draft, Oakland selected McKinney, a Texas high school senior. Drafted primarily for his bat, McKinney excelled in his brief debut in the Arizona Complex Rookie League (120 wRC+) before a pit stop with the Vermont Lake Monsters. To begin the season McKinney was sent to the California League (High-A), an aggressive assignment for a 19 year old. While McKinney posted the above slash line, the average California League team scores 5.21 runs per game and the league average OPS is .764. After a mildly disappointing start to the year for Oakland’s #3 prospect, he was traded to the Cubs for Jeff Samardzija.

The Cubs added a balanced hitter to their farm system who, like most corner outfielders, will need his bat to carry him to Cubs. McKinney is a left-handed bat who stands 6’1″ and weights roughly 200 pounds. His a quick, steep swing which can be prohibitive to hitting for power until bat beings to travel upward. As such, presently, McKinney’s power appears on the pull side when the barrel of his bat can get out front. Hopefully, the move to the Florida State League will get him back on track.


Addison Russell, Shorstop, Chicago Cubs (Profile)
Level: Double-A Age: 20.55   Top-15: 1st (OAK)  Top-100: 8th
Line: (Three Levels, 20 games) 84PA,  21.3 K%, 11.9 BB%, .260/.357/.370

The Cubs’ shortstop logjam means Russell’s new home is crowded, but a Castro-Baez-Russell showdown shouldn’t be imminent or problematic.
Russell’s history has been detailed on these digital pages in the past, by authors Sarris, Hulet and myself. The short of it, which most avid prospect watchers know, is that Russell was drafted by Oakland in the first round of the 2012 MLB draft and made an immediate impact. At the time, the consensus ranked him as a Top 10 prospect.

Fast forward to 2014, The Lost Year. After spending the majority of Spring Training with the Athletics’ senior squad, Russell tore his hamstring prior to the third game of the campaign. Unfortunately for all, Russell missed over two months and, to date, has played in only 20 games. Then, in a somewhat shocking move, Russell was traded to the Cubs. The Athletics look destined to return to October, their a small-market club and Russell is really really good. Overkill? Maybe. But “Flags Fly Forever,” right?

Since the trade, the Cubs’ shortstop “problem” has garnered considerable press. If you were to believe the internet, Starlin Castro’s arrival in Flushing or the Bronx is right around the corner. Yet, the idea that Castro, Baez, Bryant, Alcantara and Russell cannot play on the same, at the same time, team baffles me.

For a moment, put aside the individual WAR framework. An infield defense comprised of three shortstops is likely to create more defensive outs than your average infield. The average shortstop is more skilled than the average third or second baseman. So, a hypothetical shift of Baez to third and Castro to second will change their positional adjustment, but if the effect on the Cubs’ defense is that more defensive outs are created. The individual metrics may suffer, but putting the best defense on the field is best for the team.

Positional adjustments will be important to determine whether the Cubs can get more value in a trade for one of their infielders than the value they would get from one’s performance boost at a lesser position. However, the notion that, shifting these talents down the defensive spectrum hurts their value to the Cubs isn’t beyond reproach. With the amount of infield talent the Cubs have, another trade is expected, but hardly necessary.

Formerly of Bullpen Banter, JD can be followed on Twitter.

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The Guy Who Yells First! but misspells it
9 years ago


The Guy Who Yells at The Guy Who Yells First! but misspells it but misspells it
9 years ago


9 years ago

Also, firts.

9 years ago

the cubs never ending cycle of rebuilding continues… They trade one of the best young pitchers in the game to get an unproven shortstop so they can trade a proven shortstop for a quality young pitcher… wtf ever