Matt Shaw Named Southern League Player of the Week

Remember back in 2012-14 when the only joy we could find related to the Cubs was in their collection of top prospects and the occasional bass-ackwards tumble into a win or three? The more things change, the more they stay the same. The only real difference a decade later is that the organization is being more coy about whether or not it’s actually rebuilding.

“The Cubs want to win, but want to do it in a cute kind of way,” Laurence Holmes said on 670 The Score Tuesday afternoon.

“The hipster way,” Dan Bernstein added. “‘We’re too cool for the big power bats and the guys that throw 100.'”

While we wait to see whether Jed Hoyer is allowed to stick around and see this thing through, it’s only fair to acknowledge that there are some really fun players coming up through the system. One of those is Matt Shaw, who should be joining the uber-hitterish Moises Ballesteros at Triple-A very shortly. Shaw got off to a slow start, statistically speaking, but part of that is due to the dead-ass ball they’re using in the Southern League.

Double-A is typically the level at which you’ll find the most raw talent and it also happens to be where MLB chooses to experiment with the baseball. Ben Brown was promoted out of Tennessee quickly last year because the Cubs wanted to see what he could do without the benefit of the pre-tacked ball they were using. Now they might need to do the same with Shaw, who recently caught fire despite suppressed offensive numbers across the league.

The 13th overall pick in last year’s draft was just named the Southern League Player of the Week on the strength of a .428 batting average with four homers and nine RBI. That brought his slash line up to .245/.374/.500 with 10 homers on the season, which doesn’t seem very impressive until you realize it’s good for a 134 wRC+ because it’s so much better than his peers. Shaw is walking at more than a 14% clip and striking out less than 21% of the time, plus he’s playing third base most nights.

I’m willing to bet good money that Shaw’s line will improve at Triple-A, putting him in line for a promotion to Chicago by September. Or, and this might be a bit of a stretch, maybe he’ll just skip Iowa entirely. Christopher Morel is the worst defensive third baseman in MLB by more than one statistical measure and the Cubs have been atrocious at the hot corner as a team, so it’s not like they need a Gold Glover to yield an improvement over there.

The only argument I would make or listen to when it comes to keeping Shaw in the minors is that at least there we can continue to dream about what he could be. Unless he comes up and goes 10-for-10 with eight homers in his first two games, he’ll be labeled a bust and people will move on to the next big thing on the prospect list. But if the Cubs are going to keep playing like they have been, getting Shaw and other young guys up at least changes the topic of conversation.

For now, all we can do is look forward to that future and to arguing in vain with a certain segment of fans who will pan Shaw’s talent based solely on his current batting average.

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