Anyone who has followed the Chicago Cubs, especially during the Epstein/Hoyer era, know of their affinity for shortstops. The thought process is that the shortstop position requires a unique set of physical attributes. If the prospect develops to the point where he no longer can project defensively at shortstop, then he may be able to fit at other positions.
The current Cubs Top 50 prospect list has 11 players listed as middle infielders. Almost all of them are shortstops. Nine of the eleven range in age from 17 to 20 years old.
So, it is completely possible that the bulk of these prospects can be ready for the majors at nearly the same time. It is acknowledged that not all prospects will develop as expected, and some may be used in trades. But, this is a fun look at that outside possibility that they are all there, all develop, and all are ready within a relative short span of each other. Which of these prospects will actually end up at the shortstop position?
First Base: Reginald Preciado
This was a fairly easy prediction as the 17-year old switch-hitter is already 6’4″, 185-pounds. The largest target out of group, Preciado also has a frame that projects to add up to 25 more pounds. While scouts like his defensive skills, many of his counterparts are rated higher in that area. Although he doesn’t have the power projection that is usually part of the position, that could change as Preciado physically matures.
Second Base: Fabian Pertuz
Despite the fact that the 20-year old Pertuz has played short more than twice as much as any other position, a move to second appears to be in the cards. The next most frequent the native of Columbia has played is third base. But, at only 6′ and 156-pounds, Pertuz doesn’t project there. What Pertuz has always shown is the ability to make contact; the offensive profile that the Cubs prefer at this position.
Third Base/Right Field: Cristian Hernandez/Ed Howard
Two almost equal prospects, how each matures and develops will determine where they may finally end up. Both are 6’2″ and have projected power. Howard is a little more physically mature at 19-years old and 215-pounds, while Hernandez is only 17-years old and 175-pounds. Each one rates as a plus in arm strength, agility, and baseball IQ. Look for the more mobile of the two to make the move to right, leaving third to the other.
Centerfield: Rafael Morel
In a position that values athleticism, 19-year old Morel may be the most athletic of the bunch. The younger brother of Cubs Top 10 prospect Christopher Morel, Rafael is a little shorter and heavier than his sibling. Yet, the 5’11”, 165-pounder has the same over-the-top athletic skills. While he is still a work in progress defensively, Morel has an incredible power/speed combination. In 2019, Morel slugged .448 and had an .821 OPS while stealing 23 bases in 60 games.
Left Field: Kevin Made
Almost a forgotten prospect, the 18-year old Made falls into a similar category as Hernandez and Howard. The biggest difference for Made is that he may not be as advanced at this point. Made is a little more of a mystery at this time, but is around the same size as Hernandez and Howard. He has an uppercut swing that will need work. Made got a lot reps at second base in the Cubs’ Fall instructs. However, a plus arm makes him a better fit in the outfield than Pertuz.
Catcher: Luis Verdugo
The Cubs have converted a number of infield prospects to catcher over the past few years (Gioskar Amaya, P.J. Higgins, Cam Balego, to name a few). But once that happens, the Cubs seem to lose interest in the player as a prospect. Further, the Cubs tend to gravitate to shiny new objects. And with Chicago acquiring a number of bright new shortstop prospects, Verdugo may end up lost in the shuffle. The 20-year old from Mexico has played mainly short, but also second and third over his career. Verdugo does have the frame to hold up at the position.
Shortstop: Yeison Santana
Out of all of the the candidates, Verdugo and the 20-year old Santana are considered the best defensively at short. The investment the front office made in Santana as part of the Yu Darvish deal projects him here. Scouts feel the Santana has physically matured and is driving the ball more. But after experiencing power-hitting shortstops in Addison Russell and Javier Baez recently, will Chicago embrace a contact-oriented/defense-first shortstop like Santana?
Utility: Andy Weber
Older than the others on this list at 23-years old, Weber nonetheless deserves consideration. Drafted as a second baseman, Weber has shown the ability to handle the shortstop position well. Weber has also played third base, and has the athleticism to play both in the outfield and first base. Part of the contact-first draft that also produced Nico Hoerner, Weber brings a change of pace at the plate that can make him valuable off the bench.
The Cubs also have Chase Strumpf and Reivaj Garcia in their Top 50. While both are mainly second basemen, Strumpf has had some reps at third base. Garcia has seen brief action at shortstop in the winter leagues.