Javy Báez is the leading NL vote-getter at shortstop for the All-Star game and David Bote is having a solid season playing at second and spelling Kris Bryant at third. It’s been a rough season for the rest of the middle infielders, though, and their lack of production may force the Cubs to go and get another bat that could produce off the bench.
Or, stay with me here, the Cubs might have their own internal options for reinforcements. Two of the hottest hitters in the organization this month are situated just a phone call away in Iowa.
Robel Garcia has hit three homers in the last 10 games and now has a total of 20 dingers on the season. He is slashing .286/.356/.636 with seven home runs and 15 RBI on the month and his K rate, which was 35.5% a few weeks ago, is slowly trending down while his BB rate is slowly going up towards double digits.
Garcia probably shouldn’t play short in the majors, but he can handle third on a limited basis. The right side of the field is a much better. That bat of his is a big blinking light that the Cubs could give a hard look to see if it fits. The fact that he is a switch hitter has to help, too.
Middle infielder Trent Giambrone is also having a pretty good stretch, batting .297 with five dingers and 11 RBI over the last 10 games. He has been getting a lot of time in at shortstop this summer, more so based on need, as he played mostly second and third the past two years. After a hot start, he had a bad six-week stretch and has really turned on the jets the last two weeks.
Giambrone can also play some outfield, which could be a need for the Cubs as at least two members of that rotation have failed to hit well over the last several weeks. The big concern about Giambrone he would more than likely not face a lot of right-handed pitchers, against whom he’s only hitting .197 this season. He is fine against lefties, hitting to a .267 and collecting 10 of his 15 homers.
Dixon Machado is not as obvious a candidate, but he looks to have rebounded since he came back from an IL stint. He’s a very good defender — easily the best of the trio mentioned here — with a great approach at the plate, though he has only played three games at second base this season.
Another pair of longshot options are currently in Mesa rehabbing injuries. Did anyone else find it it completely strange that two of the Cubs’ top middle infield prospects have missed the better part of two months after being hit by pitches early in the year?
Zack Short began playing in rehab games late last week for the Cubs 1 team in the Arizona Rookie League. In addition to playing shortstop and walking a lot, he has also been playing some second base. Short provides outstanding defense at three infield positions, has an excellent plate approach, and has the power to hit 15-20 home runs a year.
Nico Hoerner will be playing in games in Mesa later this week, so watch to see what position(s) he handles. Will it be strictly at short, where he’s been featured so far in his young career, or will the Cubs start moving him over to the other side of the bag more frequently? It’s clear the Cubs love what Hoerner can do at the plate and they’ve been very aggressive with his development, from the Arizona Fall League to skipping Myrtle Beach.
Hoerner is a guy who could play every day in Chicago here in the near future, but the wrist injury certainly complicates things. He will probably get a week to 10 days of rehab games then Mesa, maybe playing 5-6 innings a night before coming out. Then he’ll work up to a couple whole games before heading back to Tennessee.
After that, the Cubs probably want to see 4-6 more weeks of excellence at Double-A. He already had three great weeks in April before he went down with a hairline fracture, and that’s the level of the system at which you typically see the best raw talent. While it’s conceivable that he could make the jump, the timing really doesn’t line up with the hard July 31 trade deadline. Think more mid-to-late August for any potential promotion.
Again, expecting anything from Short or Hoerner in Chicago is a stretch. The others mentioned here have longer track records and are playing fully healthy right now. Garcia is the best hitting candidate and would be a great feel-good story after spending several years playing in Italy, but his hitting profile doesn’t exactly complement the Cubs’ needs.
That said, it would not surprise me to see the Cubs give Garcia a test run in Chicago before making a final decision on what to do about adding some depth for the middle of the infield. The end of July will be here soon, so be ready for some activity one way or the other.