Darvill, Geiger Give Cubs More Options At Third

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CHICAGOAfter getting spoiled by 14 seasons of Ron Santo and replacing him with Bill Madlock, who won two batting titles in three years, the Cubs endured a long drought at third base. They went through 17 regulars at the hot corner in the next 26 seasons, and watched hyped prospects such as Tony Woods, Gary Scott, Pedro Castellano, Kevin Orie and David Kelton fall by the wayside.

Chicago solved the problem by liberating Aramis Ramirez from the Pirates in July 2003. Ramirez has hit 213 homers with the Cubs and is still their starting third baseman eight years later.

Whenever Ramirez departs, Chicago will have no shortage of internal options to replace him. They include Marquez Smith, Josh Vitters and D.J. LeMahieu. Beyond those players are two sleepers who have yet to reach full-season ball: Wes Darvill and Dustin Geiger.

Darvill has hit just .225/.314/.241 in two pro seasons, but his numbers belie his potential. He didn't turn 19 until after the 2010 season and he has yet to full out his 6-foot-3, 175-pound frame.

Cubs scouting director Tim Wilken said Darvill reminded him of a raw version of Reid Brignac when Darvill signed for $142,200 as a fifth-round pick out of a Canadian secondary school in 2009. He has plenty of bat speed and controls the strike zone, so he should hit for power and average once he adds strength, which he began doing in Chicago's offseason conditioning program. He also has the athleticism and arm strength to be an above-average defender at third base.

"He won't come quickly. He's four years away," Wilken said. "But wait until you see what he can become."

The Cubs drafted Geiger in the 24th round out of a Florida high school last June, signing him away from a Central Florida scholarship for $150,000. He spent his pro debut in Rookie-level Arizona League, where he batted .244/.312/.358. He's already 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, and Wilken envisions him adding another 25 pounds of muscle.

"He's going to be very big and he'll carry the weight easy," Wilken said. "He plays a very good third base and we really like the bat quite a bit. He's a confident kid."


• Righthander Jeff Samardzija has yet to justify the Cubs' $10 million decision to buy him away from the NFL in 2007,  but because he's out of options, he'll likely make the Opening Day roster. He'll get a chance to compete for a spot at the back of the Cubs' rotation, but he's a more likely fit in the bullpen.

• The Cubs own a top-10 pick for just the third time in the last 10 drafts, choosing ninth. Chicago drafted outfielder Ryan Harvey sixth overall in 2003, and he's now trying to make it as a pitcher after signing with the Red Sox as a minor league free agent in December.