CLOSE

Now Commenting On:

{"event":["prospect" ] }

MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Cubbies are coming of age, and the youth are coming

Watch out: Baez's arrival signals the latest in a wave of talent in Majors -- or soon to be

Cubbies are coming of age, and the youth are coming play video for Cubbies are coming of age, and the youth are coming

DENVER -- The evolution has begun at Wrigley Field.

No more talk about the future of the Cubs.

It's time to start showing what the excitement is all about.

Theo Epstein, the president of baseball operation of the Cubs, is quick to say there is no timetable for the talent moving up in the farm system, although it never is easy to leave the presents wrapped, sitting under the tree.

"As an organization our focus in on what [the prospect] needs to do to become a big leaguer more than when," Epstein said. "We are all human. It can be tempting to look at timelines of when you expect to be up here. … We shift the debate from when to how."

There is no more debate for Javier Baez.

Ranked the second-best prospect in the Cubs system and fifth best in all of baseball according to MLB.com, Baez joined the Cubs Tuesday and immediately was inserted at second base. His promotion comes four weeks after the call up of Arismendy Alcantara, the fourth-rated prospect in the Cubs system and 36th in baseball.

Alcantara was moved from second base to center field on Tuesday to make room for Baez.

"We would be blind to not recognize that there are nice things going on in the organization," said Epstein. "There is a light at the end."

Alcantara and Baez are just a glimpse of what is on the horizon for the Cubs, who have eight of the top 78 prospects in baseball, according to the rankings of MLB.com.

The Triple-A Iowa team that Baez just left also includes third baseman Kris Bryant, ranked No. 1 in the Cubs organization and third overall, and right fielder Jorge Soler, ranked sixth in the Cubs and 53rd overall.

Double-A Tennessee includes shortstop Addison Russell, third in the Cubs system and sixth overall; center fielder Albert Almora, fifth in the Cubs, and 40th overall; and starting pitcher C.J. Edwards, seventh in the Cubs and 59th overall.

And in the opinion of talent evaluators it is a bright light, and it comes from all directions.

Russell came in last month's trade that sent Jeff Samardzjia and Jason Hammel to Oakland, and Edwards was part of the package from Texas for Matt Garza a year ago. Bryant was the current administration's No. 1 pick last year, and Almora the No. 1 in 2012.

Soler, a Cuban defector, and Alcantara, a Dominican, are products of the Latin program.

Alcantara and Baez were both uncovered by the previous administration, which Epstein quickly lauded at the start of his discussion of the callup of Baez, the Cubs' first-round Draft choice in 2011, the season before Epstein arrived from the Red Sox to oversee the overhaul of the Cubs.

Epstein offered "a tip of the hat" to former Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, and Tim Wilken, the former scouting director who is now a special assistant to Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer, as well as scouts in the field who made the initial recommendation, and ownership.

"It was a great job by those guys, recognizing Javy's talent and making that pick," said Epstein.

Since then it has been the effort of the Cubs player development department and the commitment of Baez that has led to his big league arrival at the age of 21.

Upon his arrival at Coors Field for his debut against the Rockies, he became the youngest player on an active National League roster, not turning 22 until Dec. 1, second youngest in the big leagues to Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor, who is 20.

Age, however, is not a factor for the Cubs.

Ability is.

And so is patience. Baez is a fast learner, but he learns the hard way.

Each step on his way to the big leagues he has earned his promotion, but it hasn't been instant success, not even this year. He left the Iowa Cubs having hit .260 with 23 home runs, 24 doubles, two triples and 80 RBIs. He also hit only .172 in the first month, showed improvement the next two months, and in the last month he has hit .360 with 12 home runs.

"Historically, he has struggled at each level," said Epstein. "Historically, he has made adjustments and been dominating."

The Cubs accept that.

They also will accept the possibility that Baez's big league struggle could entail the next two months.

"We know it is difficult to make in-season adjustments in the big leagues," said Epstein.

That, however, is why this timing is so perfect. Not only has Baez been on a roll at Iowa, but he now has two months for a big league feeling-out process.

"This will allow Javy to play eight weeks and then take a deep breath this winter," said Epstein. "He can take it all in and make adjustments for the big leagues."

And then he can help show the way for the ensuing prospects the Cubs will be ushering into the big leagues in the not-too-distant future.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"event":["prospect" ] }
{"event":["prospect" ] }