If you're looking for the next big Chicago Cubs star for the organization to build around, you'll likely have to look way south to Daytona Beach, Fla., where Javier Baez got his first two hits at High A tonight.
Of course, it will be a few years before Baez establishes himself in the bigs, and major stardom will only come if he addresses an issue that almost certainly will keep two current Cubs from becoming mainstays in the middle of any championship-caliber lineup.
I pretty much gave up on Starlin Castro as a future superstar in the middle of his sophomore season, when it became obvious he was going to be the kind of player who pitchers could get out without throwing strikes. And that he wasn't going to - or couldn't - change.
I often hear what a stud Castro is, and wonder if those who think his talents are so large are watching the same player I am. He's made significant strides with his defense this year, but the simple fact is that major-leaguers who walk once every 20 at bats do not become big stars. Almost none do, and you could look it up (Andre Dawson is a notable exception).
Castro is only 22, but he's regressing. There was hope when the new regime came in talking about grinding at bats, but apparently that was just rhetoric. Castro is still young, but if he can't learn to recognize pitches just out of the zone or resist sliders off the plate, he's doomed to be a slightly better version of Shawon Dunston, who by the way, walked once every 30 at bats in his career.
And that's OK, if three years from now Castro is hitting seventh and playing a capable shortstop. But if he's in the middle of the lineup, the Cubs still won't be any good. And the same thing can be said of Anthony Rizzo. His walk ratio with the Cubs is right in that same once every 20 at bats that Castro is averaging for his career, and he shows no tendency toward being a patient hitter.
This limits the ceiling for both players, who may end up as solid major-leaguers, but not the kind of difference makers the Cubs are looking for.
And guess what? Josh Vitters belongs right with them, not that anyone has particularly big hopes for him. With his picturesque swing, however, he's a guy who could be a great hitter if he would make pitchers throw him strikes. And for the record, his career numbers in the minors are also right in that one walk every 20 at bats range.
The bottom line is the Cubs will never be winners until they address this fundamental weakness that has plagued the organization for years.
Hopefully, Baez can help turn the tide. But that's a long way off.