PCL notes: Watkins quick to shed label

Cubs prospect rising above his classification as 'slow starter'

By Chris Jackson / Special to MiLB.com | July 8, 2013 6:00 AM ET

No prospect wants to be labeled with the phrase "notoriously slow starter."

Chicago Cubs farmhand Logan Watkins has been stuck with that label, yet as last season proved, it does not have to be the sole thing that defines him.

The 23-year-old second baseman caught fire as the summer went along and ended up as the Cubs' Minor League Player of the Year for 2012.

"That's an award from your own organization," said Watkins, now a member of the Iowa Cubs. "It's a big boost to your confidence. It just helps you realize that the front -office guys like what you do, they like the way you play. So it helped me know that I didn't need to change anything, just keep being me and hopefully things are going to happen."

Iowa manager Marty Pevey said "you don't look at numbers till the end of the year" in his assessment of Watkins.

"Leadoff hitter, good eye at the plate, gets into the count," Pevey said. "Notoriously slow starter. Can play shortstop. He's got gap power with a chance to hit for some legitimate home run power in the future."

Watkins has hit .254 (81-for-319) with eight home runs and 25 RBIs while posting a solid .349 on-base percentage this season. He batted .253 in April, .211 in May and then began to heat up in June with a .297 mark.

"Like (Pevey) said, unfortunately I don't like to be a notoriously slow starter but I am," Watkins said. "I've picked it up a little bit lately. I hate having to put pressure on myself each season to get hot. I'd rather just stay consistent every single month. It is what it is.

"This is my first time in Triple-A and I feel like I've battled and competed almost every at-bat. I've been a tough out. As a leadoff hitter, that's what you've got to do."

Watkins has also showcased his versatility again this year. He has played 68 games at second base, 12 at shortstop and three in center field.

"I feel like it's really important to have your manager always wanting someone like that on your team," Watkins said. "Ultimately someday if I get to the Major Leagues and I'm not an everyday player, hopefully on the bench, I'll get a lot of shots to come in and pinch hit, go to a lot of different positions. I'll be a valuable piece anyways. Obviously I want to be an everyday player, but being versatile is going to help my value to any team."

For now Watkins will continue to focus on helping Iowa stay atop the American Northern Division of the PCL. He did help his team rally to defeat the Isotopes on Thursday, marking the Cubs' first win in Albuquerque since June 19, 2011.

"That's news to me," Watkins said with a laugh. "I'm glad we could finally break that."

In brief

Zack is back: Former Memphis third baseman Zack Cox returned to the PCL on Thursday, this time with New Orleans. A 2010 first-round Draft pick, Cox was traded from the Cardinals organization to the Marlins and was promptly sent to to Double-A Jacksonville last summer. After batting .281 with one homer and 17 RBIs there this year Miami's No. 6 prospect earned a promotion to the Zephyrs.

Marshall plan: Slowly but surely, D-backs' No. 13 prospect Evan Marshall has put an awful April behind him. Marshall had a 9.28 ERA in relief that month for the Reno Aces. Since giving up 11 earned runs in 10 2/3 innings to start the season, Marshall has a 2.88 ERA (8 ER in 25 IP) in 22 appearances.

Conversion in progress: The transformation of Arnold Leon from relief pitching prospect to starter has reached Triple-A. The A's No. 15 prospect had just seven non-rehab starts to his credit before this season, but has made the switch with good results. Leon went 4-5 with a 3.84 ERA in 13 starts for Midland to earn a promotion to Sacramento, where he allowed just one run in seven innings against Tucson on Wednesday.

Chris Jackson is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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