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Andruw Monasterio and trend spotting in the Cubs system

The Cubs have gotten quite good at developing middle infielders.

Andruw Monasterio
Larry Kave/Myrtle Beach Pelicans

On Tuesday, the Cubs traded Andruw Monasterio and a player to be named later or cash to the Washington Nationals for Daniel Murphy. It shouldn’t have been a surprise. When the name Monasterio popped over the information device in front of me, I was the furthest thing from surprised. I was a Monasterio follower, and had been for awhile. The Cubs have been developing shortstops for awhile. It’s become a trend.

Once a trend is established, it’s rather foolish to fight it. In the early 1960s, the Beatles hit the musical scene. After a presumably short period of objecting to this new and infuriating musical trend, music recording companies quit fighting the trend. They sought out their own version of The Beatles. Whether it was Herman’s Hermits, The Byrds, Status Quo, Badfinger, or any of a hundred others, The British Invasion had begun.

Groups that sounded like The Beatles descended on the music scene, and transistor radios. Like it or not, music had changed. Radio had changed. For the music industry, an easy way to make a spigot of interest had been turned on. It wasn’t being turned off, until the water stopped. It hasn’t yet.

Back to baseball. They both hit American soil the same day: Junior Lake and Starlin Castro were the Cubs’ next big things at shortstop. They jockeyed for position in the pipeline, along with the similarly timed Hak-Ju Lee. All had their relative runs of success in the Cubs system, and were eventually traded away, each in their own separate trades, creating their own ripples.

Similarly, other Cubs shortstops had been dispersed, in one way or another. Marco Hernandez. Marwin Gonzalez. Frandy De Le Rosa. Gleyber Torres. Isaac Paredes. And now, Andruw Monasterio. Why do teams turn to the Cubs for shortstops? It’s a spigot. It spews shortstops.

***

I was watching Venezuelan League box scores in 2014. When they would post online, I would look. As a current pop music fan checks the Top 40 list when it releases. And, for the same basic reason. I wanted to know what was next.

Sadly, the VSL statistics have been purged from the MiLB site, as the VSL no longer exists. However, as now, I was looking at the box scores the same day they became available. On June 21, Monasterio’s name first appeared. As is my protocol, I checked to see where he was from. Caracas. He replaced Danny Gutierrez midway through a game where the Cubs surrendered 11 runs in the first inning. Ouch.

Monasterio started most of the rest of the season, sporting an OPS of .711, quite acceptable for a young first-year player. He wasn’t anything more fresh or promising than anyone else. He was another name to know. He wasn’t specifically the next in line. He wasn’t reeking of “He’s going to be traded for a former All-Star in a pennant chase”. He was another name. Another wash of water from a spigot. Another 2:40 pop song.

As the Dominican League concludes for the season this week, I’ve been treated to quite a few new names this season. Fabian Pertuz was the first of the most recent wave. Pedro Martinez has been another. Rochest Cruz, a third. All three figure to follow the standard path. Do well for the Cubs in the Dominican League, then head to the states.

Other teams sign international infielders. And some do rather well at it. However, the Cubs locate a string every signing season, as well. They do so far better than some teams. However, keeping a steady baseline of middle infield talent incoming is a key. Why? Because the Cubs have become rather proficient at developing middle infielders.

It isn’t just about locating them. It’s about continuing the trend. Coaching the talent is as important as locating said talent. Monasterio was getting better every season. Markedly. Offensively and defensively. He got along famously with his team mates. He graduated from the Cubs Minor League English Classes sooner than anyone else had. His parents had instilled in him the importance of “Baseball As A Pathway To The English Language” from an early age. This off-season, he helped them move to a better neighborhood after a robbery. As much as fans want to paint things as “about baseball” only, it isn’t like that at all.

Monasterio won’t be the last Cubs middle infielder traded. Teams buy the trend. Especially teams that have been a bit negligent about the trend, themselves. Some teams are more about the youngster that looks like he might be 6-2, 220 as a 25-year-old, bopping 30 homers a season. In general, the Cubs hunt up the middle. Smaller and quicker players, with less likelihood for pop.

However, not just in the Boca Chica facility, but in Mesa, the Cubs have become rather adept at developing middle infielders. Will the next batch produce a Cubs middle infielder? Or perhaps a trade piece down the line?

Monasterio had chosen his preferred seat in the back of the team bus for the trip from Myrtle Beach to the site of Monday night’s game against the Winston-Salem Dash. He was summoned to the front of the bus by Pelicans manager Buddy Bailey to be informed he had been traded. On his way back to his seat, he had a moment with everyone on the bus. Whether a college draft pick, a foreign signing, or an equipment manager, it was a hugline back to his seat. With everyone on the bus.

Being a baseball player is about getting better every single day. Whether that means taking extra grounders, getting the swings in the cages, or the personal conditioning from weight room work to running, those that do the work become as good as they can be.

Sometimes, the other guys are better than yours are. However, they can’t prevent you from working hard. Whether in baseball, or whatever your chosen field is. Or, even, as a baseball fan or aficionado. The Cubs have become rather good at developing middle-infielders, and a team that is in the process of turning in for the season can do worse that tapping the Cubs spigot. Long may that continue.