Archive for February, 2010

In the News: Cubs DL in “best shape ever”

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Well, I was going to throw a huge, PCR Day gala here on VFTB, complete with cigars, Courvoisier and corn chips. But because the whole event has been so confusing and anticlimactic this year, I’m just going to skip it. Most people seem to agree with my original assessment – that PCR Day was, in fact, yesterday. But the countdown clock on cubs.com indicates that it starts today (in three hours, as of this writing). Plus, it appears about 95% of Cubs players are already in camp anyway, so screw it. Let’s get right to the news*:

“I worked hard this off-season and want to make my presence known right away.”  No, this quote didn’t come from an aging slugger hoping to make the Cubs bench or a young fireballer aiming for the bullpen. It comes from the Cubs disabled list (DL), which showed up to camp in “the best shape of my career – hell, the best shape ever,” and looking to make an immediate contribution to  subtraction from the team. And so it did, as it was revealed that RHP Angel Guzman had arthroscopic knee surgery two weeks ago to repair a torn meniscus. Taking the extra base, the DL mentioned off-handedly that RHP Jeff Gray, acquired from Oakland in the Foxy Miles trade, has a strained groin as well. Both players are projected to be about two weeks behind schedule, but neither is expected to start the season on the DL – so, clearly, you’re not in midseason form after all, my man.

Ted Lilly mocks Phil Rogers.  At the risk of burying the lede here, the big news for me yesterday was that Ted Lilly threw a verbal fastball into the ribcage of the Tribune’s Phil Rogers. Good Ol’ Phil, who recently discovered Bill James – and Fangraphs! – speculated in a recent column that Ted could be out until June. (If you really want to know which column, let me know, and I’ll look it up. I think it was Sunday’s.) Yet, the word all along has been that Ted should be ready by late April/early May. Naturally, Ted is aiming for Opening Day. But the Cubs don’t really need a fifth starter until roughly April 19th, so I see no reason to rush the Lillyhammer back into service. Let’s just say May 1st and get on with our lives.

Update (and not a good one):  Gordon Wittenmyer tweets that Ted Lilly has a bad knee and will be visiting a doctor for an MRI.

Theriot arbritration update.  On the off-chance you haven’t heard, it looks like tomorrow (Friday, February 18) is D-Day for the team’s salary conflict with its starting shortstop. An interesting sidenote on “The Showdown in St. Petersburg” is that Bruce Levine speculated in a recent live chat  that the Cubs may be adamant about sticking to their salary figure because they’re trying to reserve some cash to sign former Phillies reliever Chan Ho Park. Veddy inte-des-ting.

Sweet Lou wants to get back on top. Ewwwwwww.  He’s talking about baseball, of course. Expect a continuing onslaught of similar cliches, punctuated by plenty of “Looks.” Here’s a more in-depth look at Lou’s future from ESPN writer Melissa Isaacson.

Bud Selig is a pain in the ass.  Or that’s what I’m guessing Tom Ricketts and Crane Kenney are saying right about now. The commish has gone on record stating that he opposes the Cubs plan to finance their new spring training facility in Mesa, Ariz. Again, I’m begging off on this story – if anyone out there has a strong, informed opinion, please do share. I just love the fact that Bud himself didn’t, in fact, speak for himself but had his lackey Bob DuPuy do so. “The commissioner is opposed to the proposed legislation,” DuPuy said. He then added, “The commissioner is also opposed to snuggies because they don’t fit right as well as nuts on his hot fudge sundae.”

Cubs sign young Korean pitcher.  The team continues its impressive and expansive reach into the Pacific Rim with this signing. When I first read that Kim Jin-Yeong throws 92 MPH, I wasn’t immediately impressed. Lots of guys can do that, right? Well, considering he’s only 18 years old and I don’t believe Korean pitchers are generally known for their velocity to begin with, it’s actually pretty damn cool. Good luck to him.

Thomas Diamond is in the house!  One of the dark horse candidates for the Cubs bullpen is RHP Thomas Diamond – a former No. 1 draft pick who the team snagged off waivers from the Rangers last year. Like Jeff Samardzija, Diamond had some excellent results in winter ball and is a name to watch out for – and an excellent name at that. I mean, come on, the guy is called “Diamond.”

*As always, bolded phrases leading off each paragraph are hyperlinks. Check back for updates!

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Update:  Big Z would’ve vetoed any trade and he’s dropping his cutter!  Bruce Miles has the latest on his blog. The trade veto thing  doesn’t surprise me – the cutter thing does. Well, to clarify, I’m surprised and a little upset that Carlos would announce something like that to the press, where other teams can catch wind of it. If it improves his control and lowers his walk rate, great. But let other clubs do their own scouting.

Update: Going to Wrigley Field to buy Cubs tickets tomorrow? Look for the Ricketts family who will be there greeting fans and passing out hot coffee and donuts.

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State of the System: Shortstop

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

After a rather encouraging edition on Monday when we looked at the 2B position, we move forward with yet another strength in the system, the SS position. We’ve seen a lot of talk recently about Ryan Theriot and his arbitration case. One of the factors that seem to be influencing the Cubs decision to take a player to the arbitration table is the depth in the system at this position. Here are some names to know in the system.

Ryan Theriot
Year   Age  PA  R 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
2006    26 159 34 11  3  3  16 13  2 17 18 .328 .412 .522 .934  135
2007    27 597 80 30  2  3  45 28  4 49 50 .266 .326 .346 .672   71
2008    28 661 85 19  4  1  38 22 13 73 58 .307 .387 .359 .745   92
2009    29 677 81 20  5  7  54 21 10 51 93 .284 .343 .369 .712   83

Expected Level: Major League Stater

How Acquired: 3rd Round Pick (2001)

Has there been any player that divides fans more on his ability than Theriot. It seems that you’re either on one side or the other. Either Theriot is overrated and average, or he’s in the upper echelon of players at his position in the Majors. Each party has their reasoning and the end result is a heated debate and stubbornness of wills. I tend to fall in the camp that Theriot is an average player. That’s not to say I don’t like him or appreciate him being on this team, but to say he’s a vital cog in the wheel is ridiculous. It’s at this point that a certain former writer will come out of hiding and pronounce that nothing is changed here; we’re still bashing the greatest SS in Cubs history. What the Theriot lovers fail to realize is that just because we feel that he’s an average SS, it doesn’t mean I don’t like him as a player. Theriot has a great attitude and he’s one of my favorite Cubs. That can be the case without him being a great player, but when you look at the numbers, it’s hard to argue that he’s middle of the road.

Take a look at these rankings among the 9 NL shortstops who qualified for the batting title in 2009

Batting Average – 5th
On Base % – 4th
OPS – 6th
Homeruns – 7th
Runs – 6th
Runs Created – 6th

The fact is, there are a couple really good SS in the NL and Theriot’s game simply doesn’t match up with them. It’s not a knock on him. He’s simply a guy filling a role that needs to be filled.

Starlin Castro
Year   Age   Lev  PA  R 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS
2007    17   FRk 253 47  6  2  2  31 13  2 23 24 .299 .371 .371 .742
2008    18    Rk 215 33 11  5  3  22  6  5 14 33 .311 .364 .464 .829
2009    19 A+-AA 509 56 23  6  3  49 28 11 29 53 .299 .342 .392 .734

Expected Level: AA-Tennessee Starter

How Acquired: Non-Drafted FA

This is going to be an interesting spring training for Castro. Depending on who you talk to, he has a legit shot at making the team out of spring training. Depending on who you believe, Castro is going to be given a shot to win the job. I tend to be in the camp that he’d have to overwhelmingly go crazy with the bat this spring to make the team outright due to his age and lack of experience. Personally, I’d like to see the Cubs be cautious with him simply due to the lack of experience. This is a kid that hasn’t had more than 125 at bats at the AA level. Why not be patient? What’s the harm in breaking camp with Theriot at short and Fontenot or Baker at second? Wouldn’t it be smarter to give the kid a chance to continue to develop without the pressure of not only the concept of being a top prospect on an opening day roster, but also being a kid who’s hyped up all over the internet in a city that hammers people who don’t perform. Call me a mother hen, but I’m sheltering this kid a little.

All that said, Castro is a kid with great speed and he’s shown the ability to play up to competition at higher levels. He’s played with, and played better than kids older and more advanced than him and shone accordingly. Keep in mind that he also made 39 errors at shortstop last year, so there is much to learn defensively for Castro. Rushing him to the big leagues could force those errors to the big stage, which could then translate to his offensive game. Give the kid a chance to slow down, develop the areas of his game he needs to work on, and get a potential look in September if warranted.


Other Notable Names

  • Hak-Ju Lee – A lot of scouts feel Lee is actually a better prospect, in terms of ceiling, than Castro. The only reason him and the other names in his section don’t get their own profile is because Castro appears to be the heir apparart right now. He’s going to be the kid that gets the pub while Lee gets the chance to develop slowly in the system under the radar. Lee figures to be a good average hitter with above average to good defense. Right now, like his counterpart Castro, he makes a lot of good plays, but misses some simple ones. He’s got great range at SS, and should supplant Castro, moving him to 2B. If all goes well, we’ll see a speedy, good glove middle infield in 2012.
  • DJ LeMahieu – Most recent 2nd round draft pick out of LSU, he figures to be developed somewhere other than SS. Potential suggestions would be 2B or 3B.
  • Darwin Barney – “a future utility infielder. He makes contact and can play the ‘little ball’ game if asked, but he isn’t a power threat and his plate discipline is only mediocre. His running speed is average, but he fundamentally sound on the base paths and will pick up an occasional steal if the battery gets lazy. Defensively, his range and arm strength are also just average for shortstop, but scouts like his soft hands are general quickness afield.” ~ John Sickels
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In the News: Happy PCR Day Eve!

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

 Twas the night before PCR Day

And all through the land

Many a Cubs player was stirring

Wondering where his roster spot might stand

Yes, ladies and germs, pitchers and catchers report this week — or Thursday, February 18, to be exact – also known PCR Day (or at least that’s what I like to call it). (Please note correction: I mistakenly thought pitchers and catchers were to report Wednesday, February 17. It’s actually Thursday. Wait, hang on, according to this site, pitchers and catchers report on the 17th but don’t have their first official workout until the 18th.)

ANYWAY, it’s been a, uh, interesting winter – at times slow (has Milton been traded yet?), at times surprisingly fast (holy crap, Milton’s been traded!). In just a couple weeks, we’ll have some spring training games to enjoy/endure and a reality show’s worth of drama to watch as Cubs bench players and bullpen dudes try to secure a spot on the big league club. Not a ton going on as I type this, but here’s a few stories* to consider:

This Friday is your first chance to buy Cubs tickets! Wait, what?  Oh, right – the Cubs kicked off a presale yesterday in which they marked up ticket prices 20% for the privilege of buying them early. Anyone out there participate? I completely ignored the promotion – even though I’m thinking of buying tickets on Friday. (A perhaps regrettable move.) Many Cubs fans are understandably upset about the presale. One interesting take on it, however, can be found here, in which blogger Adam Kellogg points out that the presale actually undercuts scalpers. Not surprisingly, the Cubs marketing department is already calling the presale a success. It runs through Thursday if you’re still interested.

The Cubs have been a .600 team since 1974! No, I’m not talking about baseball games – I’m talking about arbitration hearings. Check out Maury Brown’s handy historical chart. And, in a related story, all signs still point to Ryan Theriot testing the Cubs arb. record. Carrie Muskat tweeted yesterday  that, as reported here on VFTB a couple times now, Theriot will likely face off against the Cubs (in Tampa of all places) soon.

Andre Dawson will celebrate his Hall of Fame induction in…wait for it…SCHAUMBURG!  Yes, the home of Woodfield Mall, a ton of traffic and a few good Indian restaurants will play host to the Hawk upon his return from Cooperstown. He’ll appear at a Schaumburg Flyers game along with a few other Cubs luminaries. Y’know, I don’t live too far from there – maybe I should go and do some on-the-scene reporting.

Getting back to spring training…  Here’s a decent “general” article from SI.com, in which Sweet Lou is quoted as saying, “Spring training…sets the tone for a championship season.” Let’s hope the Cubs aren’t tone deaf. Dying to see some 2010 spring training pics? Here are the first I’ve come across.

UPDATE:  Here’s a more Cubs-specific spring training article with some, as usual, GREAT quotes from Ryan Dempster.

The Shark wants to start.  Well, of course he does. Problem is, aside from an initial bit of bullpen effectiveness in ’08, Samardzija just hasn’t been that good. But he did OK in Mexico this winter and is certainly in the mix. My crazy idea for Jeff is to have him develop a hard sinker and turn himself into a Brandon Webb-type pitcher. Just running that up the flagpole.

*As always, bolded phrases leading off each paragraph link to mainstream news articles. Check back throughout the day – I may add some updates and additional stories.

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State of the System: Second Base

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Since the last edition of the series took a look at a rather thin area of the system in 1B, perhaps we should take some time to look at the bright spots of the system, the middle IF, starting with 2B.

Mike Fontenot
Year   Age  PA  R 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
2007    27 260 32 12  4  3  29  5 22 43 .278 .336 .402 .738   87
2008    28 284 42 22  1  9  40  2 34 51 .305 .395 .514 .909  130
2009    29 419 38 22  2  9  43  4 35 83 .236 .301 .377 .677   72

Expected Level: Potential platoon at the ML level with Jeff Baker

How Acquired: Acquired from Baltimore in a deal for Sammy Sosa

I like Mike Fontenot. I like the way both he and Ryan Theriot play the game. I like his attitude with the media. What I don’t like is the idea of him as the starting second base occupant in 2010. 2009 showed he has flaws and the league exposed them. Competition with Baker and potentially Theriot if a certain prospect, who’s name we will not speak of for fear of a Corey Pattersonesque jinx, makes the club out of spring training or shortly thereafter. The best role for Fontenot right now is that of a part time player at 2B with the role of backing up someone like Aramis Ramirez in the event that rest is needed to preserve that shoulder. I thought he did an OK job at the hot corner last year and would be fine with seeing him in that role should 2B not work out for him. Look at it this way, if Jake Fox could handle 3B duties, surely Font could as well. Overall, I don’t see Fontenot being any more than a role player that will be gone in the next year or two if the arbitration price gets too high, given the depth in the system at the middle infield area.

Ryan Flaherty
Year   Age     Tm Lev  PA  R 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS
2008    21  Boise  A- 245 39 19  2  8  26  4 24 51 .297 .369 .511 .880
2009    22 Peoria   A 543 81 24  5 20  81  7 50 98 .276 .344 .470 .814

Expected Level: High-A Daytona

How Acquired: Supplemental 1st Rd (2008)

I’m a Ryan Flaherty fan. He’s a great guy to interview and comes from a good baseball program in Vanderbilt. Then again, Jay Cutler and Earl Bennett came from Vandy and we all know how that’s working out. The knock on Flaherty is that he seems to be a man without a position. He’s definitely capable of playing mutiple spots in the IF, but lacks all the tools to do any of them particularly well. His arm is suspect, which would seem to make 3B and SS a tough option. Couple that with the fact that SS is a position for the elite in this organization and you’re left with 2B, which is where Flaherty found himself the majority of the season in 2009. His slash stats all declined with the move to a higher level, but his power shone through. As a first round pick, I would have expected a little better production at the plate from a contact aspect, but sometimes it takes a little time. 2009 was his first year of full season baseball and that may have something to do with the decline. An alarming aspect of his 2009 season, and John Sickel’s points this out as well in his prospect handbook, is his sharp difference vs. LH as opposed to RH. Versus the lefties, he hit .211 / .287 / .421 whereas against righties he posted .294 / .362 / .481. What Sickels does not mention is that 2009 doesn’t appear to be the norm. In his short minor league career, his numbers look like this: .262 / .324 / .500 against LH and .287 / .359 / .479 against RH. That includes the drastic difference from 2009, so it’s clear that ’09 was probably a fluke in terms of the wide gap in splits.

I’d like to see Flaherty continue to be used primarily at 2B with the occasional spot start at 3B and SS for depth in an attempt to give him stability in the field, which should help him focus on his development at the plate. I can see Flaherty taking a big jump if that happens and liken his role with the team to a more talented Fontenot. Someone like a Mark DeRosa.

Logan Watkins
Year   Age    Tm Lev  PA  R 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS
2008    18  Cubs  Rk 107 15  3  0  0  14  2  0 20 19 .325 .462 .363 .824
2009    19 Boise  A- 318 48 14  2  0  29 14  7 27 31 .326 .389 .391 .780

Expected Level: Low-A Peoria

How Acquired: 21st round pick (2008)

Watkins is a guy I’d like to see the Cubs be patient with. There really isn’t a big reason to rush him through the system. He signed out of high school late in the draft, but there was talk of him going as high as the 4th round if only talent was factored in. The cause for the drop in stock was due to his football talent. He had committed to Wichita State and reneged on that offer after the Cubs showed their onions with their offer of big money. I can’t say that I blame the kid for signing. $500K is a lot of money to an 18 year old. So far he’s made the Cubs investment look like a good one with his success at both levels he’s played at.

He doesn’t figure to hit for much power, if any, but he makes good contact and appears to have good strike zone judgment based on his low strikeout numbers. 2009 also saw an increase in running on the base paths, though his success rate still needs work. Stealing is a skill that can be learned and it will need to be an asset for him to compensate for a lack of power. If you’re not going to hit the long ball, steal some bases and turn those singles into doubles. His fielding is just average. He’s not going to win a gold glove, but his defense won’t kill you either. What he lacks in polish, he makes up for in athleticism. Some even think that an eventual move to CF may be a possibility.

Ideally, I’d like to see Watkins working in Mesa with the coaching staff on baserunning, bunting, etc, all the little things and then start the year at Boise again with the promise that he will get a taste of Peoria midway through. We’ll see which way the Cubs go. My guess is that he’ll be placed in Peoria.

Tony Thomas
Year   Age        Tm   Lev  PA  R 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS
2007    20   2 Teams A--Rk 235 51 12 10  5  39 28  2 27  46 .296 .393 .533 .926
2008    21   Daytona    A+ 493 62 30  4  7  43 22 10 34 113 .266 .320 .400 .720
2009    22 Tennessee    AA 497 66 24  1 11  41 13 13 50 106 .251 .341 .389 .730

Expected Level: AA-Tennessee

How Acquired: 3rd round pick (2007)

Thomas frustrates the crap out of me. I follow him on Twitter, and really wish he’d start to show some of the numbers we saw as he made his debut in 2007. He’s seen his offensive numbers decline each year with a promotion, and I have to believe that the Cubs will put the breaks on the promotions until he begins to show statistical merit. His defense regressed statistically in 2009, which is another strike against him. 2010 is a key year for Thomas. It’s time for him to show some promise and progress or risk being passed up completely by others in the system.

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GirlieView (02/12/2010)

Friday, February 12th, 2010

So as we move even closer to Spring Training (and hopefully lots more conversation) I have a little survey for you on how I present the Lizzies. Those of you who have been around for awhile might remember they’ve been through some variations. I used to link to the source of each one, and I may have even credited the authors at one point. I’m not sure. Anyway here are your choices:

a.) as is … no links, no credit. You know who you are and what you said. Most of the regulars can tell who said everything anyway, names or no names!
b.) link to original article after each Lizzie in case you want to see where it came from.
c.) identify who said each quote (by screen name of course).
d.) b and c

And give me any justification you might have. I’ll probably use the justification more than the votes to make up my mind. I’m leaning a.)

Lizzies

  • Perhaps for desert you can stick spoons in cans of icing, or chilled lard lollipops.
  • I’m proud to report that I was munching on apples, pears, and bananas during the game. Very heart healthy.
  • I view the Sox as just another MLB team and really don’t attach much emotion to whether they win or lose.
  • It doesn’t provide a lot of hope and insurance if Geo falters in 2010.
  • Can’t imagine he makes too many handshake deals.
  • Wait, so that’s really your ass?
  • More correctly, that is my plumbers crack. Not an altogether picayune distinction.
  • Pet peeve- people who disagree with me, not because I am always right so much as they are obviously wrong.

Lizard

  • Good god, can you not just stand in the box and take a few pitches?

P.S. Have a great week, and enjoy the Olympics!!

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Funtastic Friday: Biggest Pet Peeves

Friday, February 12th, 2010

It’s Friday. As we wait for the Lizzies (which are the highlight of everyone’s day) to come out, I wanted to present to you a new feature called Funtastic Friday. What will in involve? I have no idea. Today’s edition presents a list of some of my pet peeves, sports related and non-sports related. Feel free to comment on this list with some of your own.

I HATE:

  • When people are late – It’s disrespectful to the people you’re scheduled to see and shows your lack of class. There really isn’t a good excuse for being late. Traffic jam? Should have left earlier. Woke up late because your alarm didn’t go off? Set two alarms. No excuse soothes my anger when people are late. I once heard the saying that said “If you’re early, you’re on time; if you’re on time, you’re late” My sentiments exactly.
  • When people are trying to talk to me while I’m on the phone – Are you that stupid that you can’t see the phone connected to my ear? Do you not realize that when it’s connected to my ear, it’s not for fun, but because someone is actually on the other end talking to me? We wouldn’t just walk up to someone and interrupt them when they were talking to someone face to face. Why do people feel it’s appropriate to interrupt just because they can’t see the other person in the conversation? This comes into play for me all the time at work. I’m on the phone with a patient and idiots come up and try writing me notes to ask me a question or just flat out just start talking. Then they have the balls to get mad at me for ignoring them.
  • When a team swings early in the count on all three outs of a 1-2-3 inning – You’re trying to beat that stud pitcher and every inning he goes is critical and what does your team do? Three straight outs on a grand total of 5 or 6 pitches? Good god, can you not just stand in the box, keep the baseball bat on your shoulder, and take a few pitches? Is it really that hard for a team to see at least 10 per inning? Absolutely mind boggling.
  • When girls complain about the toilet seat – I’ll start trying really hard to put the seat down when I’m done taking a leak if you’ll try really hard to remember to put it up for me when you’re done. Think about it. If you’re in a house with one bathroom and it’s you and a female, chances are that when one person is done it will be the other person’s turn to go next. It’s only fair, right? (Sorry Lizzie)
  • When the President is on every channel – Why can’t this be done like the Olympics and other sporting events like the Super Bowl. Networks bid for the rights to carry the event. Why can’t events like the State of the Union address be run in a similar manner? This would give me the other channels to watch while the speech is going on if I get bored with it.
  • When the idiot “know-it-all” is “teaching” his dumb friend about the game – I was in Baltimore watching the Rays play a few years ago. Side note: If you’ve not been to Camden Yards, you’re missing out. This moron sitting by us was going on and on to his ignorant buddy about the game of baseball, teaching him the ropes. Unfortunately he was spouting off so much incorrect garbage that I almost looked at his friend and unlearned him all the stuff that was just fed to him over the past two hours. Why do guys feel the need to try to impress with knowledge they don’t actually posses? Just watch the game and enjoy each others company.
  • When people talk during the previews and then the actual movie – Maybe I’m being a little anal about the previews idea, but I actually like seeing the previews to make a mental note of future movies I’d like to partake in. Why can’t people shut their yap when the lights go down. If you’ve got to, start making out if it will shut you up. This reminds me of the time my wife and I went to see Adam Sandler in ‘Click’, which is a movie my friend Ben said “changed his life”. During the movie, my wife and I sat in the back row, yet did not make out. All throughout the movie, four teenybopper girls ran their mouths and could care less about the movie. Finally, in a rather loud voice that causes quite a few folks to look back at us, I asked the girls if it was possible for them to speak a little louder because I was having trouble following their conversation over the movie. My wife proceeded to get embarrassed and question out loud (quietly) why I would do that, to which I answered her in a loud manner “because these idiots are too loud”.

OK, I’m done being a total tool and admitting my anger and frustration, but I feel better. Take the time to comment and present some of your nuggets as well. Happy Friday. Here’s hoping you win a Lizzard.

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In the News: Cuban’s sour grapes?

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Hey, all. I’m declaring this a slow news day whether it turns out to be or not. While we continue to monitor the Theriot arbitration situation (comments this week from Cubs GM Jim Hendry make a hearing seem all the more likely), here are a few news items* to chew on - y’know, like shards of ice:

Mark Cuban comments on the Cubs sale.  And he implies the Ricketts overpaid while graciously wishing them the best. Sour grapes? Maybe. Or just a competitive guy being competitive. I’m still glad the team was purchased by genuine fans and fairly happy with the moves the Ricketts have made thus far. Speaking of which, Dave Kaplan (with whom I’ve had plenty of issues in the past – especially his treatment of Carlos Zambrano) gives a nice, updated rundown of the Wrigley upgrades here.

Ted Lilly is a wiffle ball master!  Check out this great profile of the Lillyhammer’s minor league days. Oh, and another thing Hendry commented on this week was Ted’s progress – that is, he’s still on track to pitch in late April/early May. I’m sticking to my plan to NOT panic about Lilly until I have a legit reason to.

Cubs prospects work out, endure, enjoy the Dominican Republic.  Another member of the mainstream media with whom I’ve taken issue with in the past is Carrie Muskat. But, again, giving credit where credit is due: Carrie does a great job in this article describing the experiences of Cubs’ prospects Brett Jackson (centerfielder of the future, please!) and James Adduci at the team’s Domincan Republic facility.

Dirty Dancy ready to bust a move in Tennessee. Who is Bill Dancy? Why he’s the manager of the Cubs’ AA affiliate, the Tennessee Smokies, and he’s not afraid to fill the shoes of Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg. He’s ready to play some baseball! I love these local color articles.

Class of ’06 update: Jacque Jones.  I trust you remember Jacque? Killer of a thousand outfield gophers. Actually a pretty solid bat in 2006. Winner of the tough-it-out award in 2007. Well, he’s been signed to a minor league deal by the team with which he truly had his greatest success: the Minnesota Twins. Hard to imagine he’ll actually see major league action, but I get the impression he’s still pretty beloved up there and it’s nice to see him get a (probably) last hurrah shot like this. Current Twins centerfielder Denard Span even mentioned on Twitter  that he considers Jacque one of his original mentors.

*As always, click on the bolded text leading off each paragraph for more info.

****

Update: The Cubs have released ticket pricing info for the 2010 season here.

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State of the System: First Base

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Before we start with part II in the series, I wanted to present a quote from big time tool, Roy Williams from UNC in response to a question about his team struggling this season after winning the national championship in 2009.

“Our massage therapist told me, ‘You know, coach, what happened in Haiti is a catastrophe. What you’re having is a disappointment,’ ” said Williams. “I told her that depends on what chair you’re sitting in. It does feel like a catastrophe to me, because it is my life.” ~ Roy Williams

With that out of the way, it’s on to a look at the first base position in the system.

Derrek Lee
Year   Age  PA  R 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
2007    31 650 91 43  1 22  82  6 71 114 .317 .400 .513 .913  130
2008    32 698 93 41  3 20  90  8 71 119 .291 .361 .462 .823  108
2009    33 615 91 36  2 35 111  1 76 109 .306 .393 .579 .972  145

Expected Level: Major League Starter (FA at year's end)

How Acquired: Trade with Florida for Mike Nanninni & Hee Seop Choi

My Comment: Most of were guilty last year of being a hater when it came to Lee. I found myself on multiple occasions asking for more playing time for Micah Hoffpauir at first base only to see Lee going insane with the bat for the majority of the season. It’s a key year for Lee, who will be a free agent at the end of the year. Hendry has said he would be interested, if the price is right, in bringing Lee and Ted Lilly back on short term extensions. I think we’ll see from this breakdown that first base is not a well stocked position in the system. Depending on his health and 2010 performance, it may be a decent idea to bring Lee back on a short term (1-2 year) extension if the price is right.

Rebel Ridling
Year   Age  Lev  PA  R 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS
2008    22 A-A- 260 32 15  0 14  54  1 13 68 .250 .304 .492 .795
2009    23    A 586 74 34  1 16  97  2 40 95 .310 .357 .466 .823

Expected Level: Starter in for High-A Daytona or potentially AA Tennessee.

How Acquired: Drafted by the Cubs in the 25th round (2008)

What the Scouts Say: Ridling hits line drives to all fields with authority,
showing an impressive bat that projects to continue to produce high batting
averages (.310 in 2009). The main concern is that his performance was a
result of a 23 year old college hitter repeating the Midwest League, and he is
somewhat behind the typical progression. (Wrigley Bound)

My Comment: I’m a fan of Ridling. Ryan Flaherty mentioned him as a name that most don’t know, but should. That’s evident in the fact that he didn’t even get a mention in John Sickel’s prospect book for this year that featured 39 names in the system. You’re really telling me that he’s not a top 39 prospect? Really? I’m not buying that. Ridling came in as my # 13 prospect in the system as of November. I believe he’s going to figure things out even more in 2010 and make a big jump in the system. He’s a guy I’ve got high hopes for, despite the fact that he’s a little behind in the development. I can see him being a guy that puts up numbers similar in nature to Will Clark.


Other Notable Names

  • Blake Lalli – Age is not on his side (27), but he’s shown he can hit for average from the left side of the plate. Lacks the power typically needed at the position.
  • Ryne White – Familiar first name for Cub fans. Acquired in the off-season in the A. Heilmann deal. Good OBP guy.
  • Jake Fox – oh wait, we traded him for nothing
  • Albert Hernandez – Hit .295 / .397 / .440 for the Dominican Summer league in 2009
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In the News: Ricketts rehab Wrigley

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Snowmaggedon! Snow-a-palooza. The Pitchfork Snow Festival. (Wha…?) It’s snowing as I type this. I point this out because, as some point this spring, all you loyal VFTBers are going to be studying for your off-season finals by going back through all my “In the News” segments and laughing at how freaked out we all were about this snow. (What, you didn’t know you’d be graded on this stuff? We’re not kiddin’ around here.) Anyway, without further meteorological adieu, let’s get to some Cubs-related news items* from the past few days:

The old ivy-covered mare ain’t what she used to be. Yes, the Ricketts are making good on their promise to rehab, redo and otherwise refurbish Wrigley Field. This blogpost by Bruce Levine,  whom I’m feeling a little better about lately, details some of their many efforts. Of particular note is the “Executive Suite” being built down the left field line that will enable fans to buy season tickets at a cost of $300 per game. Membership brings, among other perks, food, drinks and (gasp!) parking. The total cost is pretty steep but may be a feasible option for small to midsize companies looking to entertain clients and employees.

The Saga of Spring Training is not yet over. Yeah, yeah – Mesa won and all that. But a whole new battle has erupted over how the Cubs’ new, megafantastic spring training facility will be paid for. I’m not going to lie here, folks: I’m having a hard time following the tax- and finance-related intricacies of this story – mainly because, as mentioned, I don’t attend spring training games. If you’re interested in a reading a very detailed discussion of the matter by several parties “in the know,” check out Al Yellon’s BCB post from yesterday.

Read this profile of Ryan Dempster and his family. As many Cubs fans know, Demp has faced an enormous personal challenge over the past year or so. This New York Times piece from last week details Ryan and his wife’s battle against the condition, DiGeorge Syndrome, afflicting their baby daughter, Riley.

The Brewers want to honor Bud Selig…with a statue. This may sound like a headline from The Onion, but it’s true. And I don’t get it. Should a major league team really honor a sitting commissioner in this manner? Shouldn’t they at least wait for Selig to retire? I know he used to be their owner and still lives in the Milwaukee area, but geez. This is a really odd story.

Class of ’05 update: Remember Scott McClain? Yeah, me neither. Nonetheless, this slugging 1B/3B-type dude played 13 games for the 2005 Cubs before moving on to the Giants and then…Japan. Think of him as the Jake Fox of his day. Well, this charming local piece lets us know that the Cubs have re-signed him to a minor league deal so he can compete with the 2,083 other guys trying to make the team’s bench.

Class of ’04 update: Remember Moises Alou? Of course you do! And, yeah, I realize he played for the Cubs in ’02 and ’03, too. But I always equate with him with that enormously frustrating 2004 season in which Moises put up an outstanding .919 OPS and the Cubs faded down the stretch like that pair of jeans I’ve been wearing for the last five years. In any case, check out this look at what he’s up to these days – GMing for the Dominican Republic’s Leones del Escogido. Can’t imagine he makes too many handshake deals. (<–Let me know if you get this joke.)

The new USA Today Team Report is out! The new USA Today Team Report is out! Tie up your loose ends here – taking special note that Carlos Zambrano is already in Arizona working out (crikey!) and David “’09 Rule 5 dude-man” Patton will probably start the season in AA.

Single-game Cubs tickets go on sale February 19. See you in the Virtual Waiting Room. Don’t drink the coffee and keep your hands off my favorite copy of the Oct. ’07 Popular Mechanics.

*Bolded phrases leading off each paragraph are hyperlinks.

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