Cubs' Lee, Watkins Turned Heads In Boise
CHICAGO—One player is from Jeonju, South Korea. The other is from Wichita.
Sure, there is a bit of a cultural difference. But when shortstop Hak-Ju Lee and second baseman Logan Watkins played together at short-season Boise in 2009, they worked in near-perfect harmony.
"It doesn't matter where you're from, if you can play, you can play," farm director Oneri Fleita said. "We're fortunate to have two guys like that up the middle. Everyone wondered how they would communicate, but baseball is a universal language. They played well together and had fun together.
"I'm sure over the course of the summer, the lad from Wichita learned a few words in Korean and the kid from Korea learned some words so they could communicate."
The two lefthanded hitters spoke clearly with their bats, too, carrying two of the organization's top three batting averages last season. Lee, 19, hit .330/.443/.398 and led the Northwest League in runs (56) and stolen bases (25) in his first professional season.
"Our scouts followed him for a year," Fleita said. "I don't care where you are in the world, when you can find a shortstop who is 6-foot-1 and has a lean body that projects to be big, strong and physical who can run, you have a good player. He's also very flashy with the glove."
Watkins, who was also considered a decent quarterback in high school, hit .326/.389/.391 with 27 walks and 31 strikeouts. The 20-year-old, who was a 21st-round pick in 2008 from Goddard (Kan.) High, had hit .325 in the Rookie-level Arizona League in his 2008 debut.
"He has a knack for hitting," Fleita said. "He could be a shortstop as well as second base. He can play center field. He can run. He showed he is a real tough kid. You don't see a lot of kids come out of high school and put up the numbers he did in the Northwest League."
• After hitting well everywhere he played in 2009, shortstop prospect Starlin Castro finally hit a tough patch. He succeeded in the minors and Arizona Fall League but hit just .182/.280/.182 in eight games in the Dominican League.
• A pair of players without major league service time, righthander Andrew Cashner and outfielder James Adduci, participated in the Cubs Caravan, a two-day tour around sites in Chicago and Peoria.