Logan Watkins Takes A Big Step





CHICAGO — Darwin Barney has proven himself as a big league second baseman after winning back-to-back NCAA titles at Oregon State. With an amateur pedigree that led only to Goddard (Kan.) High, Logan Watkins has had to make a name for himself climbing the ladder within the Cubs farm system.

He has done that, and should be rewarded with a spot on the 40-man roster this winter. It may not be too long until he is providing the Cubs with another Wrigley Field option at second base or as a utility man, if Barney's fielding is judged invaluable for a team that is struggling to build its pitching depth.

Watkins, a 21st-round pick in 2008, was the Cubs' minor league player of the year after a strong season with Double-A Tennessee. He doesn't have standout tools and wasn't among the Southern League's Top 20 Prospects, but he's a guy who consistently gets the job done.

Cubs vice president of player personnel and scouting Jason McLeod says that Watkins does all the things that are in the Cubs Way, the organizational handbook assembled by Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, among others. He says Watkins plays above-average defense, controls the strike zone and runs the bases with controlled aggression.

The lefthanded-hitting Watkins hit .281/.383/.422 with nine homers and 52 RBIs in 2012. He led the league with 93 runs and was second with 76 walks. He stole 28 bases in 35 tries. This marked the fourth year in a row that he improved as he advanced a level at a time through the Cubs system.

Watkins, 23, has primarily played second base as a pro but moves to shortstop and outfield on occasion, including stints in center last year. As strong as Barney is defensively, he is a limited hitter and baserunner. Watkins should push him, and could do so next spring.

CUBBYHOLE

• Following the team's instructional league, the Cubs sent $30 million Cuban prospect Jorge Soler home for the winter rather than assigning him to the Arizona Fall League. They feel it's important to let him have some time to rest before reporting to Arizona in the spring.

• Righthander Kevin Rhoderick, who experienced an alarming bout of wildness in the second half of the season, appears to have made an adjustment that has helped him in the AFL. He had seven strikeouts and no walks over his first four outings. Rhoderick walked 47 in 58 innings for Tennessee last year.