Archive for November, 2009

State of the System: Shortstop

Monday, November 16th, 2009

We continue to trip through the system today with a look at the SS position.

If you’ve missed the first few editions of the series, here are some links as well as the schedule for the week:

C / 1B / 2B / SS / 3B (Tues) / OF (Wed) / Righty SP (Thur) / Lefty SP (Fri)

Age PA ▾ R 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Theriot, Ryan 29 MAJ 677 81 20 5 7 54 21 10 51 93 .284 .343 .369 .712
Castro, Starlin 19 H-A,AA,win 569 68 25 7 4 57 32 13 32 59 .312 .355 .410 .765
Barney, Darwin 23 AA,AAA 513 55 24 1 3 49 9 2 36 65 .293 .339 .369 .708
Lake, Junior 19 L-A 491 71 19 7 7 42 10 7 18 138 .248 .277 .365 .642
#Blanco, Andres 25 AAA,MAJ,win 485 61 33 4 8 57 12 4 30 50 .289 .338 .441 .779
#Gonzalez, Marwin 20 H-A,win 463 45 16 4 2 34 9 8 26 78 .242 .288 .312 .600
Mota, Jonathan 22 AA,win 397 35 19 3 2 24 3 6 38 60 .243 .332 .334 .667
*Lee, Hak-Ju 18 SS 304 56 14 2 2 33 25 8 31 50 .330 .399 .420 .820
#Alcantara, Arismendy 17 ROK 293 44 11 8 3 32 20 2 30 47 .275 .349 .415 .764
#Bautista, Robert 20 ROK,L-A 201 28 5 6 1 18 15 3 11 70 .208 .255 .317 .572
LeMahieu, DJ 20 L-A,ROK 182 21 4 3 0 34 3 2 13 25 .323 .376 .384 .760
#Disla, Rafael 18 ROK 182 25 6 2 0 15 19 4 36 34 .248 .408 .319 .727
*Darvill, Wes 17 ROK 148 18 1 0 0 15 7 1 13 31 .223 .295 .231 .525

Contract info for 2010

Ryan Theriot – Eligible for salary arbitration

Andres Blanco – Auto-Renewal

Positional Summary

The system at SS excites me more than it has in quite a while. When I look at the list above, I see three guys that I like a lot. Stalin Castro, Hak-Ju Lee and DJ LeMahieu all excite me, though LeMahieu will probably not project as a SS as he gets older because of his size. Castro is the one we’ve been hearing the most about, even as much as the possibility that he could be on the big league roster in 2010. I wouldn’t go that far yet, despite the fact that he’s playing great in the Arizona Fall League, but the fact remains that Ryan Theriot is on notice. I don’t think Theriot has done anything wrong, but if Castro is ready and can be a better player, he needs to get a shot. Theriot has value to this team, especially if he were to move to 2B. For info purposes, here are our AFL player’s stats.

Pos Age G PA ▾ R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Castro, Starlin SS 19 16 60 12 24 2 1 1 8 4 2 3 6 .429 .467 .554 1.020
Vitters, Josh 3B 19 12 52 4 18 3 1 0 3 0 2 2 7 .360 .385 .460 .845
Castillo, Welington C 22 4 16 1 5 0 0 1 2 0 0 2 5 .357 .438 .571 1.009
Brenly, Michael DH 22 2 4 1 1 0 0 1 2 0 0 0 1 .250 .250 1.000 1.250
Mesa Solar Sox Avg 21.0 .283 .349 .432 .781
win-AFL Lg Averages 22.1 .284 .362 .444 .806

Vitters and Castro are the hitters who are getting the most time and are making the most of it. I’d like to see Castro draw more walks, which would make him a viable leadoff man that would be able to take advantage of his speed at the top of the order. Arizona Phil ranks Castro at # 3 in his recent prospect top 15 list, saying:

Castro has been everything the Cubs hoped Ronny Cedeno would be, but never was. I can’t recall any Cubs minor leaguer who has developed faster than Starlin Castro. Signed by the Cubs as a 16-year old out of the Dominican Republic in 2006, Castro made his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League in 2007, where he hit .299 with 13 SB in 60 games. Then in 2008, Castro came to the U. S. and was a part-time SS-2B-3B at Fitch Park (AZL Cubs), where he hit 311/364/464 and played good defense at all three INF positions. While he showed some promise both in the DSL in 2007 and in the AZL in 2008, Castro really responded to coaching in the AZ Instructional League post-2008 (where he was easily the most-improved player from beginning to end) and at Minor League Camp this past March, earning him a “challenge” promotion all the way up to Advanced-“A” Daytona (Florida State League) on Opening Day 2009 (skipping both Boise and Peoria). And he accepted the challenge, too, hitting 302/340/391 in 96 games for the D-Cubs while earning a spot in the FSL All-Star Game and a mid-season promotion to AA Tennessee. Castro continued to hit at Tennessee (288/347/396), and helped lead the Smokies into the Southern League playoffs. Then he was assigned to the Arizona Fall League post-2009, where he presently leads the AFL in hitting while playing stellar defense at SS. Castro is still somewhat impatient at the plate (only 66/110 BB/K in 977 career PA), and seems to prefer to hit “first-ball fastball.” Although he also played 2B and 3B prior to the 2009 season, Castro played only SS at Daytona and Tennessee in 2009. He has plus-range and a strong arm, and while he made 39 errors (combined) at Daytona & Tennessee this past season, he has made only one error so far in the AFL while making several spectacular stops & throws, and he played in the AFL “Rising Stars” this past weekend. He has put on about 15 pounds over the past couple of years (and he still has room to grow) and could develop HR power as he matures (he’s still only 19). Castro is his own player, but he reminds me a little bit of a young Edgar Renteria – (Source)

At the beginning of the season, Deric McKamey said in the 2009 Minor League Baseball Analyst:

Athletic/light-framed infielder with above average speed and the contact ability to hit for BA. Lacks the strength/bat speed hit for power and will need to draw more walks. Possesses plus range, soft hands, and instincts, which off-sets average arm strength.

John Sickels of Minorleagueball.com had this to say in his 2009 prospect handbook:

A Dominican signed in 2006, Castro performed well in his North American debut in the Arizona Rookie League. He has power potential and has shown the ability to hit for average so far, though his strike zone judgment could use some work. His speed is average, but he is a good athlete, has a strong throwing arm, and can play second base, third base and shortstop without hurting you. The Cubs expect to pair him with AZL teammate Junior Lake in the middle infield at higher levels, though it remains to be seen who will play what position. Castro is a long way away, but he could end up being very good if he can develop the skills to go with his tools.

The fact that last year, coming into the season, Sickels mentioned that he was “a long way away” and his young age has me worried that we’ll rush this kid through the system and he won’t be able to make the proper adjustments to smart pitchers who know how to pitch to guys weaknesses.

As for Hak-Ju Lee and DJ LeMahieu, both are young but give me a lot of excitement and hope that in the next few years we’ll see a nice crop of middle infield talent coming through this system.


2010 Free Agents at SS
Scott Boras clients in Bold

Orlando Cabrera (35) – Type A, can’t be offered arbitration
Juan Castro (38)
Alex Cora (34)
Craig Counsell (39)
Bobby Crosby (30)
Adam Everett (33)
Chris Gomez (39)
Alex Gonzalez (32)
Nick Green (31)
Khalil Greene (30)
Jerry Hairston Jr. (34)
John McDonald (35)
Luis Rodriguez (30)
Marco Scutaro (34) – Type A
Miguel Tejada (36) – Type A
Wilson Valdez (32)
Omar Vizquel (43)
Jack Wilson (32) – $8.4MM club option with a $600K buyout

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Cancer, anyone?

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

It’s been just over a year since The World’s Greatest Cubs Fan (my dad) received a cancer diagnosis from his physician. Just over a year since the major surgery to remove that cancerous lesion. And just under a year since the catastrophic chemotherapy which really changed our lives. That’s my justification (weak though it may be) for posting this review.

“Cancer On $5 A Day” is an outstanding book, primarily for two reasons:
1. The author, Robert Schimmel is a stand-up comic, so there’s humor involved, and,
2. His first person descriptions of what chemotherapy was like helped me to understand what my dad went through during this past year.

The complete title is “Cancer on $5 A Day* (*chemo not included) – How Humor Got Me Through the Toughest Journey of My Life”, by Robert Schimmel with Alan Eisenstock. It was published in 2008.

The author describes himself as a comedian’s comic who appears regularly on Howard Stern and Conan O’Brien, who’d won the Stand-Up Comic of the Year, whose HBO and Showtime specials were huge hits, who has best-selling CDs, and whose Fox sitcom had just been picked up when his cancer was diagnosed. I never heard of him.

His chemotherapy began within 48 hours of receiving the diagnosis of Stage III non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, triggering a life-altering series of events.

Stories about the doctors, nurses, staff, fellow patients, his extended family, career ramifications, a wig salesman, treatment options (including medical marijuana and prosthetic testicles), personal reactions and first hand recollections are presented humorously.

Here’s a quote from the author’s dedication page: “Take it from me, laughter is the best medicine.”

Upon receiving his cancer diagnosis the author’s attitude parallels that of one-time cancer patient Michael Landon: “If I don’t beat cancer, I’ll die trying.” Unfortunately, Mr. Landon did die trying.

Mr. Schimmel’s treatment phase lasted about 6 months, at the end of which his cancer was officially declared to be “in remission”. It is those 6 months that this book is about.

Here are excerpts from two testimonials on the book’s back cover:
– “Robert Schimmel always made me laugh. Now he makes me laugh and cry at the same time.” Billy Crystal

– “A very important read.” Howie Mandel

It has been said that people would much rather be entertained than educated. What author Robert Schimmel has done here is to have educated me while entertaining me at the same time.

I recommend this book to anyone even peripherally involved in a cancer situation, or to anyone with a casual interest in “What happens next?” when the words “You have cancer!” are spoken.

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GirlieView (11/13/2009)

Friday, November 13th, 2009

So Zambrano won another Silver Slugger award. I kinda wish he didn’t. First: he needs no more food for his already overweight ego. Second: it has the potential to serve as some sort of validation in his mind that he’s a hitter. I wouldn’t care except that he’s such a hothead to begin with, which as we’ve seen often derails his pitching. The more interest he puts into his hitting, the more likely he is to get upset when he doesn’t come through. And we all know what happens when he gets upset. I’m so over Zambrano. Now if only he’d get over himself!

Have a great weekend!

Lizzies

  • For me personally, “A Day in the Bleachers” recreates Cubs baseball with my dad at Wrigley Field. Day games. Bleachers. The community of like minded Cubs fans.
  • Can’t say I dig the Freshlook Colorblend Hazel contact lens on Sammy
  • How about the DH versus the the pitcher hitting? We can use those as placeholders for every argument we have here.
  • Thank goodness for Lee not being a FA this year, else he’d be the cream of the crop by far.
  • Use Miles as a throw in for anyone willing to send back a bag of balls and 6 maple bats.

Lizard

  • The Cubs should pay Miles the 2.7 million to stay home.
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State of the System: Second Base

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

We continue our state of the system series with a look at the second base position. Don’t forget to follow us on

In case you missed the first two editions of the series you can go back and review: Catcher / First Base

Age PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
*Fontenot, Mike 29 MAJ 419 38 89 22 2 9 43 4 1 35 83 .236 .301 .377 .677
Baker, Jeff 28 MAJ,AAA,H-A 281 31 72 18 2 5 26 1 0 23 57 .283 .345 .429 .774
#Miles, Aaron 32 MAJ,AAA 261 25 51 11 1 0 13 4 2 10 35 .209 .239 .262 .502
Rivas, Luis 29 AAA,win 224 24 50 17 2 1 20 3 0 21 19 .253 .324 .374 .698
Thomas, Tony 22 AA 497 66 107 24 1 11 41 13 13 50 106 .251 .341 .389 .730
Samson, Nate 21 H-A,AA 441 59 102 8 2 2 47 5 5 34 29 .261 .322 .307 .629
Made, Jose 23 H-A,L-A 72 6 13 0 1 0 6 0 2 3 20 .194 .239 .224 .463
*Flaherty, Ryan 22 L-A 543 81 134 24 5 20 81 7 6 50 98 .276 .344 .470 .814
*Watkins, Logan 19 SS 318 48 91 14 2 0 29 14 7 27 31 .326 .389 .391 .780
*Henry, Carlos 17 ROK 228 22 32 5 4 1 16 8 6 21 45 .162 .254 .242 .497
#Montecino, Jose 18 ROK 210 26 46 3 0 0 15 16 7 31 28 .272 .393 .290 .683
#Rodriguez, Jesus 17 ROK 197 28 35 2 1 0 9 16 6 28 53 .213 .326 .238 .564
#Kemp, Dwayne 21 ROK 109 13 25 2 6 1 12 2 1 6 25 .248 .303 .416 .719
Gonzalez, Gregori 19 ROK 107 8 19 3 0 0 8 9 6 6 22 .190 .234 .220 .454
Springfield, Blair 18 ROK 106 12 18 1 1 0 5 4 1 14 28 .202 .314 .236 .550
*Perez, Melido 18 ROK 25 2 7 0 2 0 1 1 1 2 6 .318 .400 .500 .900

Contract Info for 2010

Mike Fontenot – Eligible for arbitration due to Super Two Status (1 option year remaining)

Jeff Baker – Eligible for salary arbitration should the Cubs choose to offer. If he’s offered arbitration, the Cubs and his agent will submit a figure to the arbiter along with their case and it’s up to the arbiter to decide. The Cubs can also release him or choose to come to a salary agreement and avoid arbitration. Baker made $414K in 2009.

Aaron Miles – Signed at $2.7 mil for 2010. Will be a free agent at season’s end.

Eligible to become Rule 55 Minor League Free Agent: Luis Rivas & Nate Spears

Positional Summary

This is an interesting position, in my opinion. We have a bad contract that was supposed to be a good addition in Aaron Miles that will essentially waste a spot on the 40-man roster unless Hendry can somehow package him in a deal to someone to save the money. We have a guy in Mike Fontenot that appears to be a bench player with above average power that can’t handle a starting job (despite being a 1st round pick). And we have a guy in Jeff Baker, who came mid-season and actually played surprisingly well. Aside from those three, do you really see anyone in the minors who could forseeably make an impact in 2010? You could make a case that with a good start, Tony Thomas might merit a call up, but I’m not really buying.

An intriguing name for the future is Ryan Flaherty, who we had the priviledge of talking to early in the season last year. He comes in at # 11 in Arizona Phil’s top 15 list and had the following said about him:

Selected with the compensation draft pick the Cubs got for losing FA catcher Jason Kendall to MIL after the 2007 season, Flaherty played SS at Vanderbilt, 2B with Team USA, SS at Boise in 2008, SS, 2B, and 3B at Peoria in 2009, and then mostly 3B in the AZ Instructional League post-2009. His future is probably as an offensive-first multi-positional IF-OF. He hit 276/344/470 with 20 HR in 131 games at Peoria in 2009 (309/372/498 post-ASB), and then he had an impressive month at the plate in the AZ Instructional League. He has plus-power, and if he can learn to play a passable corner-OF, he could morph into a left-handed hitting version of Mark DeRosa. While he mashes right-handed pitching, he struggles against lefties (hitting just .219 vs LHP in 2009), and so he could end-up as a LH platoon guy at the higher levels. Son of a college baseball coach, Flaherty is a savvy and mature player who understands how to play the game the right way. I would expect Flaherty to begin the 2010 season at Daytona and play all over the place, although a jump over Daytona to AA Tennessee wouldn’t be a big surprise. – (Source)

Overall Grade: C + (I like Flaherty a lot and I think we’ve got a lot of under achievers so far in guys like Fontenot, Miles and Thomas)

Potential Free Agents at 2B
(Scott Boras Clients in Bold)

Ronnie Belliard (35) – Type B
Jamey Carroll (36)
Alex Cora (34)
Craig Counsell (39)
Mark DeRosa (35) – Type B
Nick Green (31)
Jerry Hairston Jr. (34)
Orlando Hudson (32) – Type A
Adam Kennedy (34)
Felipe Lopez (30) – Type B
Mark Loretta (38)
Pablo Ozuna (35)
Placido Polanco (34) – Type A
Luis Rodriguez (30)
Juan Uribe (31)

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State of the System: First Base

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Before we continue the State of the System series with the first base position, I wanted to take a minute to remind you that we’re on Twitter. I would highly recommend following us, as I’m getting in the habit of posting things there a lot more often than here for the small things. It’s a great way to know when things break (including new posts) right as they go live. Just click the twitter icon to be taken to our page.

Now that that’s out of the way, here are the results for the qualifying 1B from this year, including the level(s) they played at.

Age PA ▾ R 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Lee, Derrek 33 MAJ 615 91 36 2 35 111 76 109 .306 .393 .579 .972
Ridling, Rebel 23 L-A 586 74 34 1 16 97 40 95 .310 .357 .466 .823
Fox, Jake 26 MAJ,AAA 435 67 26 3 28 97 35 78 .324 .393 .629 1.022
Rosa, Jovan 21 H-A,L-A 429 33 32 2 6 65 20 92 .251 .287 .387 .674
*Lalli, Blake 26 AA 412 49 25 0 5 52 32 50 .314 .372 .421 .793
#Craig, Matt 28 AAA,AA 412 48 24 1 11 46 33 71 .272 .333 .430 .763
*Opitz, Jake 22 H-A 405 45 21 5 2 36 39 56 .272 .347 .376 .724
Canzler, Russ 23 AA,H-A 375 41 23 1 8 49 38 65 .261 .337 .408 .745
*Hoffpauir, Micah 29 MAJ,AAA 347 40 16 1 13 48 26 58 .233 .291 .413 .704
*Bour, Justin 21 SS,ROK 269 24 17 0 4 40 25 45 .262 .335 .384 .719

Contract Info for 2010

Derrek Lee – Signed for $13 mil that includes no trade clause. He’ll be a free agent after 2010 season.

Jake Fox – Eligible for auto-renewal at league minimum due to less than 3 years of service time (out of minor league options)

Micah Hoffpauir – Eligible for auto-renewal at league minimum due to less than 3 years of service time (1 option year remaining)

Rule 5 Draft Eligible (Need to be added to 40 man roster to be protected) – Blake Lalli & Russ Canzler

Eligible to become Rule 55 Minor League Free Agent – Matt Craig

Positional Summary

This team has a choice coming up after this year and Lee’s return to glory in 2009 didn’t make that decision any easier. It doesn’t appear that there are any rising stars in the system at this position to take over for Lee right now, so you would have to imagine that either Lee will be re-signed short term (please don’t give him another no-trade) and a focus be put on bringing in talent at the position to the system, or Lee will be let go after the season and we’ll address the position via trade or free agency. As much as I like Jake Fox, he’s not the answer at the position, despite the fact that it’s his natural spot on the field.

Ryan Flaherty spoke very highly of a guy like Rebel Ridling, but with him being 23 years old and only playing his season in Low-A, I need to see a lot more this year for me to consider him a viable option to replace Lee in 2011. He came in at # 16 on Arizona Phil’s top 15 prospect list, so there is potential there. I really just need to see a big jump this year for me to take him serious enough to not worry we’ll be shallow at that position if we let Lee leave.

A name to watch, in my book, is Blake Lalli. He’s a contact hitter that plays good defense and doesn’t hit for much power. He’s not a starter, but probably someone worth a look if he doesn’t get picked in the Rule 5 draft. I don’t know that I’d protect him, but I’d be fine with looking at him for the roster in 2010 as a backup if someone like Fox or Hoffpauir under impress.

Overall Grade: C + (only because we have guys like Fox and Hoffpauir that are capable of playing at the ML level.

Potential Free Agents at 1B

Rich Aurilia (38)
Jeff Bailey (31)
Wilson Betemit (28)
Hank Blalock (29)
Russell Branyan (34)
Miguel Cairo (36)
Frank Catalanotto (36)
Tony Clark (38)
Carlos Delgado (38) – Type B
Nomar Garciaparra (36)
Ross Gload (34)
Eric Hinske (32)
Nick Johnson (31) – Type B
Adam LaRoche (30) – Type B
Doug Mientkiewicz (36)
Kevin Millar (38)
Fernando Tatis (35) – Type B
Chad Tracy (30)
Daryle Ward (35)
Dmitri Young (36)

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