Logan Watkins on front line of Cubs' rebuild

CHICAGO -- If anyone can speak to the quality and depth of the Chicago Cubs prospect pool, it's newly demoted utility man Logan Watkins.

Watkins, 24, has been in the Cubs system since being drafted in 2008. He has played with All-Star shortstop Starlin Castro -- in the minors and at the major league level -- and next to Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Jorge Soler. He had a cup of coffee with the Cubs in 2013 and was needed last week as Castro was dealing with a death in his family and played well, batting .300 in four games before being sent down Sunday.

"Like I said when I first came up, it's one of the most talented teams I've played on," Watkins said Sunday of the Cubs' Triple-A Iowa team this season.

Many of those talented Iowa Cubs were with him in the majors, save Bryant and Soler. Major league sources indicate the Cubs might not be done making trades this month, which could open a roster spot for either player, although the Cubs have already indicated Bryant isn't coming up. After a five-hit Saturday, plus three more including a home run on Sunday, Soler could be close.

"He's a freak but has a good approach at the plate," Watkins said. "He's not just up there just swinging."

Baez has shown a propensity to swing at anything -- see his 41.9 percent strikeout rate -- but Watkins believes Baez might be the most dangerous because he says pitchers will end up "pitching not to make mistakes."

Like outfielder Matt Szczur, Watkins' only chance to stick with the Cubs in the future likely is as a utility player. Nearly every time the organization wanted to look at a more highly touted prospect at a new position in Iowa, Watkins was moved around the diamond. When Arismendy Alcantara was moved from shortstop to second base at Triple-A, Watkins went to the outfield.

When Alcantara started playing more center field, Watkins went back to second base. And when Baez was preparing for his final promotion and moved to second, Watkins switched places with him and took over at shortstop.

"I feel like I've increased my value this year because I played everywhere," Watkins said. "I want to make myself a luxury for the manager. They're building a championship team here. I want to be a part of it."

Whether fans believe in the Cubs' rebuilding plan or not, the young talent believes in itself. The players think something special is on the way even if they can't see every detail of the plan yet.

"I think we're pretty much set up the middle if those two guys stay healthy," Watkins said of Castro and Baez. "Kris [Bryant] is a polished hitter. He goes pitch-to-pitch. He's going to play the game a long, long time."

But it's Soler who's next up. Even if the Cubs don't make a waiver deal between now and Sept. 1, rosters will expand for the final month and fans will get to see the best pure athlete of the group.

"He can do it all," Watkins said. "Obviously there are things he has to work on, but that's a freakish athlete."