No fanfare, but Caratini, Bote thriving for Chicago Cubs
One after the other they were drafted with great fanfare. When they came up to the major leagues, it was with equally great fanfare.
Javier Baez, Albert Almora Jr., Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and, to a lesser extent, Ian Happ.
Young players acquired from other organizations -- Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell -- experienced much the same thing.
All of these players have formed the Cubs' "core" of young players, and all but Happ were on hand when the team won the 2016 World Series.
Today, most of the talk of young prospects in Chicago has turned to the White Sox, who come to Wrigley Field this weekend. But the Cubs aren't done bringing young players to the big leagues.
Granted, the players we've seen this year -- most notably David Bote and Victor Caratini -- haven't come with the fanfare, and their ceilings aren't projected to be anywhere near the stratospheric heights as their predecessors, but they are contributing.
One pitcher who appears to be close but not here yet is Adbert Alzolay, who was 2-1 with a 2.91 ERA entering his start Thursday for Class AAA Iowa.
"I think I mentioned that last spring training that I thought there was some really good talent there that was not being talked about as diligently or as severely or in such a flowery manner just because of the guys who were ahead of them," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "Bote's a nice-looking player. I watched him real closely this camp. He plays multiple positions. He's got some severe pop in that bat.
"When you look at the analytical stuff, there's some stuff he does really well that's probably not obvious. He's nice. There are other guys down there who are really nice, too.
"Just the fact that we've had such a wonderful class that came out, don't be deceived. There are some other really good players coming up yet."
Bote, an infielder, was taken in the 18th-round of the 2012 draft, the same draft that produced Almora in the first round.
"It's the same game coming up no matter if you were like those guys who were first (round) picks and should be and are superstars," Bote said. "We're all confident in our abilities. No matter what other people say about us, you know what you have to do to help the team win, and you go out there and do it.
"I think that's what Victor, (Mark) Zagunis, myself and whoever else comes, that's the whole mindset and culture that's been created in the organization: Be yourself. Be confident in what you do. Help the team win.
"They're asking me to be David. They're not asking me to be somebody else. That's super comforting and nice to have the belief behind it. And I believe in myself, too."
Maddon has consistently praised Caratini for his catching ability, his playing first base and his command of the strike zone.
"Don't be surprised to see him other places," Maddon said. "Victor is a really, really good baseball player. He's outstanding."
It was somewhat of a surprise that Caratini made the 25-man roster out of spring training. Many assumed that veteran Chris Gimenez would make it and allow Caratini to get at-bats at Class AAA Iowa.
"I'm ready to play any position he (Maddon) needs me to play to help the team out and get wins for the team," said Caratini, whom the Cubs obtained from the Atlanta Braves in a 2014 trade for infielder Emilio Bonifacio and reliever James Russell.
For all of these players, they've needed a measure of patience. And more stints in the minor leagues might be in their futures.
"It took a lot of patience," Bote said. "Absolutely. It's not easy. The word 'grind' is used a lot. Six years (in the minors) and being in A-ball for so long and not giving up and persevering. Getting better every day is the key, getting a little bit better, not trying to eat the whole pie at once."
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