What do you do when one of your franchise cornerstones is a 22-year-old shortstop and your top prospect plays the same position?
Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein doesn't see a dilemma in potentially having to find a way to have two-time All-Star Starlin Castro on the field at the same time with shortstop Javier Baez, who is ranked as the 31st-best prospect in baseball by ESPN's Keith Law.
"That's the problem you want to have. Give me nine shortstops. If you give me nine shortstops we'll field a team," Epstein said Tuesday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN Chicago 1000. "You look throughout baseball history, the great players are the ones who come up in the middle of the field and then move to a corner or move further along on the defensive spectrum. Gary Sheffield came up as a shortstop. He stayed there for awhile and then he went to third base and then left field and right field. That's typical.
"We're going to draft and find as many middle of the field potential impact players as we can and nine times out of 10 it naturally sorts itself out."
Castro, who signed a seven-year contract extension for $60 million in August, enters his fourth season as the Cubs' starting shortstop. A career .297 hitter, Castro, who will be 23 on March 24, was the youngest player in history to lead the National League in hits with 207 in 2011. He hit .283 last season after two .300-plus seasons to start his career, but had increased power numbers with 14 home runs and 78 RBIs, both career highs.
The 20-year-old Baez, who was the ninth overall selection in the 2011 draft, batted .294 with 16 home runs and 46 RBIs at Single-A Peoria and high-A Daytona last season. A non-roster invitee to major league spring training, Baez likely will start the season at Daytona where he struggled with 21 strikeouts in 80 at-bats while batting .188 to close out last season.
Many scouts believe third base might eventually be Baez's best position, but the same has been said for Castro.
"There's no need in the foreseeable future at all to move Starlin off of shortstop, and Javier Baez will continue to develop as a shortstop," Epstein said. "If he pushes the timetable, and he's up here sooner than one might expect then sure, before he gets to a position and a point where he's ready to make his major league debut then it's our job to develop him as a versatile player who can make an impact on a Cubs team that has an everyday shortstop."