Archive for February, 2010

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
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, 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.)


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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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