Cubs keep eye on new wave of young studs

Front office hopes to repeat method of using homegrown talent to win World Series

Cubs keep eye on new wave of young studs

PHOENIX -- On Tuesday, manager Joe Maddon took a good look at the Cubs' future. He spent a lot of time during the workout watching Ian Happ and Eloy Jimenez, Nos. 1 and 2 on MLB.com's list of the Top 30 Cubs prospects, who are in big league camp for the first time.

"Everyone thinks our talent is already here," Maddon said. "Time out: there's other guys coming."

The Cubs had to rebuild before becoming World Series champions last year, adding players such as Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, Addison Russell and Kyle Hendricks either through the Draft or via trades. That emphasis hasn't changed now that they finally reached the pinnacle in 2016.

"It's something we have to be mindful of, to continue to put focus on player development, and the same focus that we put on it when we were rebuilding," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said Tuesday during the Cactus League Media Day at the Arizona Biltmore.

Happ ranks third at second base

Winning will make it difficult to do that. After losing 101 games in 2012, the Cubs had the second overall pick in the 2013 Draft. They took Bryant.

This year, they'll pick 27th. Hoyer doesn't want to return to those days, but he said a player like Albert Almora Jr., 22, who was the Cubs' first-round pick in 2012, is now part of the next wave of young talent in the organization.

Hoyer said the Braves always did a good job of bringing up young players in-season.

"I think there's benefits to trying to break in a guy every year, try to add new blood every single year," Hoyer said. "Young guys are great for a veteran team -- they provide a spark, they provide new energy. I think Willson [Contreras] was a big part of that last year and provided a great spark. Maybe one of these guys can provide that spark."

Outlook: Contreras, C, CHC

When the Cubs are playing at home, television sets in the front-office suites are tuned to the Minor League games in Iowa, Tennessee or Myrtle Beach.

"That's one of the biggest challenges is determining whether the future is bright or not depends on what's happening 1,500 miles away," Hoyer said.

The current crop of young Cubs who helped end the longest championship drought in professional sports definitely has an advantage.

"Never again will they have a moment where they ask if they can do it," Hoyer said. "They know, they've done it."

The Cubs did dip into their talent pool and traded top prospect Gleyber Torres to the Yankees last July to get Aroldis Chapman. Happ and Jimenez also could be trade bait.

"The reality is we traded Gleyber last year -- we didn't want to trade him, but we felt we needed to do it," Hoyer said. "The way we think about [Happ and Jimenez] is they'll have a big impact on the Cubs one day, and I think they both have the makeup to do it."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.