Buddy Bailey discusses Felix Pie

DES MOINES – In and around Principal Park on Friday, it was obvious who everyone had come to see. Those throughout the stadium buzzed about the potential of Felix Pie, and questioned exactly how much longer the Cubs' consensus top prospect will be playing for Triple-A Iowa.

This year, Pie has been dropped in the Iowa batting order from first to third. He has responded well to the move, batting .444 in his first eight games.

"I think Felix is a good enough player that it doesn't matter where I put him in the lineup," Iowa Cubs manager Buddy Bailey said prior to his team's home opener against Round Rock on Friday. "We had a meeting out in Spring Training and we talked about where to hit him. Some suggestions were to hit him leadoff or second, but (Iowa hitting coach) Von (Joshua) saw him play all last year and he suggested batting him third.

"We looked at all the pluses and minuses of hitting him first and third, and we decided on third. We also looked around the room and decided that no one else would provide the same kind of production there, and so we gave him a shot.

"When he saw his name penciled in the three hole, he wanted to keep leading off because it was what he was used to. But he hasn't said much else about it now that he's gotten acclimated to it."

This season, Pie has hit safely in each of his first eight games. Dating back to last season at Iowa, he's hit safely in 14 consecutive games.

After finishing up strong in 2006, Pie played winter ball for the Licey Tigers in the Dominican Winter League. His work there helped translate into strong numbers this spring, as the 22-year-old put up a solid .352 average with six runs scored, a double, a triple and five RBI.

It's not just Pie's bat that has drawn rave reviews from scouts aplenty; his defense is often mentioned as one of the finer points of his game.

A season ago at Iowa, Pie finished tied atop the Pacific Coast League in assists with 18.

"He's played really good defense and he's got a really high ceiling," Bailey agrees.

When asked just how high of a ceiling, Bailey didn't hesitate.

"He's a great entity. There aren't very many players that I've seen who can play the game like Felix," Bailey said. "I compare him to a young Bernie Williams in that he's a guy that has the potential to be a leadoff hitter or a three hole hitter in the big leagues. I've been impressed with him so far in that he's had a lot of questions, hasn't missed any signs, and he's been right on top of things.

"And more important than that is he gives 100 percent all the time. Guys who play hard all the time will learn the game quick and learn what they can and can't do."

What hurdles stand in the way of Pie heading to the majors?

"To me, a guy has got to grow up to be a man first before he can be a solid baseball player," Bailey said. "He's got a big kid's heart to play, and I tell all the guys that we're trying to take that kid's heart and put a man's head on it that loves to play baseball. When you've got that, what you've got is a special big league player."

Perhaps Bailey said it best when discussing Pie's future within the Cubs organization.

"The way he's played these first seven or eight games, he's going to make people take notice," Bailey said. "If he keeps it up, he's going to end up taking someone's job."

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