Archive for August, 2013

Opponent OPS and Why It Should Be Used For Pitcher Evaluation

Saturday, August 17th, 2013

by John Dewan

Over the last several years, it’s been clear that pitching in Major League Baseball has become more dominant. In fact, it has been over 20 years since the league ERA has been as low as it has been so far this year. This year’s MLB ERA is 3.88, the lowest since the 3.75 mark in 1992.

Some of the high points in ERA in that time were 4.71 in 2000, 4.77 in 2001 and 4.53 in 2006. Since 2006 ERA has been trending downward as seen in this chart of MLB ERAs:

Season

ERA

Opponent OPS

2006

4.53

.768

2007

4.47

.758

2008

4.32

.749

2009

4.32

.751

2010

4.08

.728

2011

3.94

.720

2012

4.01

.724

2013

3.88

.714

ERA is a useful summary statistic, but my favorite stat for pitchers is Opponent OPS. For MLB, overall, Opponent OPS is pretty consistent with ERA, but for an individual pitcher, it is much more indicative of his true pitching performance than ERA. ERA has many biases that Opponent OPS does not have. For example, ERA rewards pitchers who allow most of their home runs with no runners on base or are able to strand runners at the end of innings, even though those events are generally believed to be random and out of the pitcher’s control. Another example is the effect a relief pitcher has on his predecessor’s ERA when it comes to stranded runners.

Here are the MLB leaders in Opponent OPS in 2013:

Best Opponent OPS (qualified starters)

Pitcher

Opponent OPS

Clayton Kershaw

.502

Matt Harvey

.509

Jose Fernandez

.534

Max Scherzer

.564

Madison Bumgarner

.566

And here are the MLB leaders in ERA this season:

Best ERA (qualified starters)

Pitcher

ERA

Clayton Kershaw

1.88

Matt Harvey

2.23

Felix Hernandez

2.28

Hiroki Kuroda

2.33

Jeff Locke

2.43

As you can see, the OPS leaders are bit different. Clayton Kershaw and Matt Harvey have been tremendous by any measure. However, that is where the similarities end. Opponent OPS prefers the rookie phenom Jose Fernandez, major-league win-leader Max Scherzer, and Madison Bumgarner while ERA prefers Felix Hernandez, Hiroki Kuroda, and Jeff Locke.

Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®, www.statoftheweek.com.

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Bullpen Fodder

Friday, August 16th, 2013

I started to write this as part of The Hypothetical 2014 Chicago Cubs but I think it deserved its own article since the bullpen is in such a state of flux. Bullpen arms have very little value to most analysts and fans – outside of the closer – which is a discussion for another day – but they are still a highly important piece to the contending puzzle. I haven’t cared about fixing the bullpen; mostly  because I didn’t expect us to compete so the more losses the better these last two years.

Next year is different. I do expect us to be solid so the bullpen is something that needs to be addressed.  But I also know bullpen arms are volatile, and performance year-to-year is unpredictable minus the handful of elite late inning arms scattered across the league. Many fans still think we should be spending money on veteran arms to sure up the bullpen for next season but I am not a big fan of spending money on the bullpen, yet I understand the thought behind it.

Looking at the Cubs’ bullpen performance this year, they rank 2nd worst only trailing the Astros in terms of fWAR and SIERA and they’re 5th worst via ERA. They’ve blown the most saves this year, have struck out the lowest number of hitters while walking the 9th most. Any way you look at it, the bullpen as a whole has been atrocious. If the Cubs even had a league average bullpen, they’d have about 10 more wins.  This is definitely an area the Cubs could improve their record drastically with an overhaul.

Dumping Carlos Marmol and Shawn Camp at the end of June were major steps in the right direction but they only accounted for 6 of the 24 blown saves. These two combined were worth -1.5 fWAR, had an ERA of 6.54, and drew the most ire from Cubs fans.  The bullpen has improved since, especially due to the production of Pedro Strop and Matt Guerrier, who have been excellent for the Cubs since being acquired. Unfortunately Guerrier is having surgery on his throwing elbow due to a flexor mass buildup and is now lost for the rest of the season. The bullpen’s ERA has went from 4.37 to 4.16 since the end of June but even with that noticeable progress, that doesn’t improve the team – a 4.16 bullpen ERA is still 5th worst in baseball, a 4.37 bullpen ERA is only one spot worse, not much of a difference.

Kevin Gregg, the replacement closer after Marmol was dumped has accounted for 4 of the blown saves, but his save conversion rate of 86% is actually about 10% above league average over the past decade. He’s been a stabilizing force for the bullpen, and if it wasn’t for a swoon in early July, he would’ve been traded. He’s still an option to be traded by the waiver deadline but the team that still needs bullpen help the most is the Orioles, and they’re they team that waived him earlier in the year.

The pitcher who has been most valuable in terms of fWAR, James Russell, has accounted for 7 of the team’s blown saves. His numbers are actually very good, which made me think he was misused before I even looked deeper at the numbers. Russell is an excellent LOOGY, allowing a .165/.216/.244 triple slash line against left-handed hitters in 26IP. However against righties, he’s giving up .309/.395/.567 and has actually faced 17 innings worth of right-handed hitters – that’s about 17 innings too many. In fact, his only blown save against a left-handed batter was on 7/1 against Jason Kubel.  As long as Russell is used in the correct situations, he’s been dominant.

Some of these mistakes weren’t entirely on Sveum; during a season you’re going to have to use bullpen in matchups that aren’t favorable and in a couple of the cases, Russell was used to try to rest the bullpen; like the first game of the doubleheader vs Milwaukee on 6/30. Cubs up 5-2, with 1 out and 2 on in the 7th, Sveum tried to keep Russell in there to escape with a lead, but Russell gave up a game tying 3 run homer to right-handed pinch hitter Khris Davis. Another reason to defend Sveum’s use of the bullpen is the lack of talent on the bullpen roster, and we’ve heard that from our front office many times this season. For instance, rule 5 pick Hector Rondon has been the worst pitcher still on the roster. Rondon isn’t a bad pitcher, he’s just not ready for the majors; he should be sitting in AAA right now refining his command and developing his repertoire after only pitching 7 innings the past 2 seasons for the Indians, instead Sveum is stuck with him on the 25-man so he has to use him. It’s also been a revolving door with the rest of the bullpen spots. We lost Fujikawa early, we’ve claimed nearly every arm that has been sent to waivers, and we’ve used a bunch of young guys from our farm trying to piece it together for the season.

Nevertheless, I am not letting Sveum entirely off the hook, maybe this is something that improves with more experience, but the area he needs to work on the most is how to handle the bullpen. He’s late with the hook with his starting pitchers (this could easily be related to a lack of trust of a terrible bullpen though), he gives very little slack to young bullpen arms and trusts veterans to figure it out too long even when it’s clear they’re struggling.  Overall, I think Sveum is an solid enough manager with some areas he’s excellent in but bullpen management is critical for a contending team, so he must improve if the Cubs are going to win under him.

Looking at next year, after looking at this free agent market, there’s not much there either for relief pitchers. I like 3 names, Jason Frasor, Jesse Crain and Joe Smith – all 3 guys have contender experience in the AL, with an excellent track record, so all 3 should be highly sought after by contenders. I don’t think the Cubs will spend a big amount on a top tier free agent reliever so it looks like internal options may be our only choice.

Internally, barring any unforeseen trades, Villanueva looks to be the swing man, Russell as a LOOGY and Strop as the late innings righty are locks. I would assume Fujikawa is the closer if/when he is healthy.  Those 4 should be very good in their respective roles, but after that is where it will be interesting. I don’t expect the Cubs to tender an offer to Gregg. The team will also lose Guerrier who is in the last year of his deal, and with his injury I don’t think the Cubs will be interested in bringing him back. We’ve had a lot of auditions this year and we’ll have more these last 6 plus weeks. Many younger arms with potential like Putnam, Bowden, Dolis, Rusin, Raley, Rodriguez and Parker will be in the mix for next season and if they don’t make it, some will have to be outrighted off the 40-man completely since we’ve hit a point where we have too many prospects that need to be protected and we’ve also got quite a few guys out of options, so expect to see the Cubs make long-term decisions on a lot of players in the near future.

One important name for instance is Jake Arrieta who will have to be on the 25-man one way or another. I expect him to get a rotation spot, but if he struggles the rest of this year (he’s being called up today), he may end up a late inning reliever next season.  A side note on Arrieta, the Cubs gained an extra year of control and avoided super two status by waiting to call him up until August.

As I mentioned last week, I have Arodys Vizcaino penciled into the BP, and after listening to Jason McLeod yesterday on the Keith Law’s podcast, I feel a little more confident expecting Vizcaino to be ready. The short take, Vizcaino was throwing especially well in Spring Training before his setback, and the Cubs expect him to throw multiple innings each outing in the Arizona Fall league to rebuild arm strength and get back into the routine of pitching to be ready to pitch for next season.

That leaves 2 spots. I like Bowden but he’s really struggled lately and could be on the chopping block, again. Raley and Rusin both still have options and are lefties so unless something happens with Russell, I expect them to be at AAA. Rusin pitching well enough to stay in the rotation mix and is probably our best internal option if there is an injury so I’d be shocked if he’s not starting at AAA next year. Dolis has the stuff, but I think he’s the first guy outrighted off the 40-man due to his health. Putnam is probably outrighted as well since he’s returning from an elbow injury. Blake Parker has pitched extremely well and is deserving of a spot right now but that can change by next Spring and he also has options left.  Rodriguez could also be outrighted if he continues to struggle.

Down on the farm, we have a couple intriguing options including Alberto Cabrera, Justin Grimm (recently acquired in the Matt Garza deal), Barret Loux (replacement for Jake Brigham, as part of the Geovany Soto deal), Kyle Hendricks (part of the Ryan Dempster trade) and Tony Zych (2011 4th round draft pick). Most of these guys are being groomed as starters but I’m a believer in the theory that it’s smarter to let a rookie pitcher start their career in the bullpen to get them acclimated to the majors and to also keep their innings down as long as it’s not an instance where the role keeps changing back and forth. If the Cubs don’t want to take that route, Zych is a definite BP arm, that is close to being ready for the majors. He has a 2.52 ERA in 50IP with 36 strikeouts to only 20 walks but with the 40-man issues the Cubs are facing, adding another player who doesn’t need to be there just complicates matters more. And then there’s service time/player control to consider and this option works best as a midseason call up, not to start a season.

So out of all the internal options right now, I’d lean towards Bowden and Parker getting those spots. Other than getting back Fujikawa, that’s basically the same bullpen minus the 3 worst pitchers this year while also losing Guerrier and Gregg, who were 2 of the best albeit in limited time and with major questions marks going into next year.  On paper it’s not a terrible BP, and like I said earlier, an average BP would have been worth roughly 10 more wins this year. But I thought this year’s BP was going to be solid and look how far off I was then.

Who do you guys want in the BP? Is removing the 3 worst performing pitchers plus hoping for some progression from young arms going to be enough of an improvement? Is adding Fujikawa and Vizcaino, two very high upside arms to the BP going to replace the production lost from Gregg and Guerrier?  Is free agency our best course of action? As always drop your thoughts and questions below.


  • The Cards took 2 of 3 from the Pirates, moving them within 2 games. The Reds beat Milwaukee, putting them only 2.5 games back. I think all 3 end up making the playoffs, but it’s going to be an exciting 6 weeks in the NLC even if the playoff teams are pretty much locked down. I really hope the Pirates don’t end up a wild card and then get bounced after 1 game.
  • The AL on the other hand is still wide open with Detroit, Boston, Texas, Oakland, Tampa, Baltimore, and Cleveland fighting over divisions and/or wild cards.
  • While the Yankees lost and see their playoff hopes drop each day, Alfonso Soriano did his part to win going 4-5 yesterday. He’s got 10 hits including 4 HR and a double with 14 RBI plus a walk in his last 15 plate appearances.  I don’t think he’s going to even make it past the first ballot, but he’s a fringy Hall of Famer for me. We’ll see what he does these last few years but there’s only 4 guys in the 400 HR + 300 SB club (A-Rod, Bonds, Mays, & Dawson) and he’s going to be joining that list soon. He at least deserves some serious consideration especially since he’s one of the few power hitters who we think did it clean this era.
  • Jayson Stark wrote yesterday that Miguel Cabrera is one of the greatest hitters ever, and I agree. He’s probably going to run away with another MVP, which I think he actually deserves this one over Trout. Last year I thought (and still do) that Trout was the MVP. But this year Trout has slipped a bit, while Cabrera has increased his offensive production across the board. The only real threat is if Chris Davis carries Baltimore to the playoffs.

STATE OF THE SYSTEM
Starting Pitcher

by Rob Willer

Top Prospect: Pierce Johnson

Bio: Johnson was born in Colorado and was originally drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 15th round of the 2009 Amateur Draft. He bypassed the offer by the Rays and attended Missouri State University instead where he played the next three years. After his junior season Johnson established himself as one of the top college arms in the draft. Finally after 42 picks in the first round the Chicago Cubs selected Johnson 43rd in the 2012 Amateur Draft becoming their top pitching prospect. He measures at 6 foot 3 and 170 pounds which seems to be the pitcher’s build of today’s game. Overall he has had a great story bypassing the first draft after high school to attend college and get rewarded for his choice.

2012-2013 Season: Overall Johnson has pitched for four affiliates of the Chicago Cubs including Rookie Ball Cubs in the Arizona League, Boise Hawks (Short Season A Affiliate), Kane County (Low A) in the Midwest League and Daytona Cubs in the Florida St League. Over his 2012 season he combined to go 11 innings between both affiliates while allowing five runs (four earned) and striking out 14 in six games. Next he moved to Kane County at the start of the 2013 season where he started 13 games for the cougars. Johnson’s season stats include 69 and 2/3 innings pitched while registering a 3.10 earned run average. Some other stats of note are 74 strikeouts to 22 walks which is good for a 3.36 SO/BB ratio. The Cubs felt their second pick of the 2012 draft behind Albert Almora deserved another challenge so they called up Johnson to Daytona. The Daytona Cubs play in the Florida St. League which is regarded as pitchers friendly league where most dominate their opposition on a nightly basis. So far through seven starts in eight games he has completed 41 and 2/3 innings and put up a minuscule earned run average of 2.16. Johnson will most likely finish out the year at Daytona as they are headed for the playoffs which will be very important in Johnson’s development (playoff pressure). I believe if he keeps up this pitching we could see him start at Tennessee next year and have the chance for a mid to late season call-up to Iowa.

Sleeper Prospect: CJ Edwards

Bio: Edwards was one of the three pieces in the Matt Garza deal last month which also netted the Cubs 3rd Base Prospect Mike Olt and Starting Pitcher Justin Grimm. The most shocking thing about Edwards is that he was a 48th round draft pick by the Texas Rangers in 2011. He attended Mid Carolina High School in South Carolina and is considered to be one of the biggest steals in the draft after being drafted so late. Edwards got his start with the Rangers system at the age of 20 where he followed the same path as Johnson mentioned above. They both spent their first season in each system at Rookie Ball and then got called up to Short Season A Ball. Edwards combined to go 5-3 with a ridiculous low earned run average of 1.48. Some other key stats to know about his 2012 season include 85 strikeouts in 67 innings pitched and no home-runs allowed while having a KK/BB ratio of 3.40.

2013 Season: Before the trade Edwards pitched at A Ball Hickory where he turned an impressive 18 starts registering an 8-2 record. Edwards pitched 93 and 1/3 innings and struck out 122 batters with yet again you guessed it giving up a home-run. After the trade with Texas, Edwards reported to Daytona to join the High A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. Due to the rain in July and August, Edwards only has gotten in three games where he has went 9 and 2/3 innings and struck out 17 batters while walking just 5. CJ Edwards features three pitches–a four-seam fastball that comes in anywhere from 90 -95 mph, a big curveball at 75-80, and a fading changeup at 82-86. Right now, he generates a lot of his strikeouts by changing hitters’ eye levels with high heat and low curves. Most scouts have said that Edward’s best pitch is his curveball as already at only 21 years old its a plus pitch. He should start the season next year at Double A Tennessee and be on the same path as Johnson mentioned above. Should be fun to watch this system develop and start to build depth. Other possible candidates include Dillon Maples, Ivan Pinyero and Kyle Hendricks.

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Soriano’s Binge & Name That Child

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

First off, apologies to our blogfather, Joe – it looks as if he was shouldering the burden of posting for a couple of weeks. In fact, being either 15 or 17 hours ahead (of my usual Pacific time) while I was gone, it would’ve been quite simple to post after the events of the day here in the States had long been put to bed…if I’d had a free moment.

I did, however, have reliable internet capability through one method or another for most of the time I was away. And it was thru these random, brief updates that I would hear of yet another Cub being dumped on a team who fancied themselves in the pennant race. I’ll admit, when I first saw that the Yankees were maneuvering to reclaim the player they’d used to acquire A-Rod – I thought for a second that being nearly a day ahead of the US had given me a portal into some alternate version of the internet.

It seemed too clean…and too easy. And not at all in accordance with the fact that the Tigers need another bat (and another bullpen arm).

But a few weeks later, and for those Cub fans who remember when Soriano would routinely propel the Cubs to a win streak seemingly on his own – the Yankees are getting a taste of that too.

The last two nights, Soriano has piled up 13 RBIs on the strength of 4 home runs. Tuesday night he was a measly 3-for-6 with 6 RBIs, so he followed that up with 3-for-3 and 7 RBIs last night. Ridiculous. The last player to have that many total RBIs in successive games was Sammy Sosa in 2002 (who actually had 14).

It’s actually only happened 8 times since 1920 – so it’s rarer than a no-hitter, a perfect game, a 4-HR game; a 20-strikeout performance is about the only thing that happens less frequently. A couple of good nights for Alfonso, made me wish I really was looking at an alternate internet and his 13 RBIs came in a Cubs uniform.

And Now For Something Completely Different…

That was really just half of a post; the other half is like nothing you’ve seen from me before – but my wife and I are at an impasse. Our third son is due in mid-October, and he’s yet to be named. We have two sons already, Ray & Max. It’s not that we can’t agree, it’s that neither of us has stumbled upon another name that we like. Soon I’m going to start dropping by the hospital on the way home from work to see what other people are naming their children, so give me some help. (There’s no reward because let’s face it, it’s the third child and ‘hey you’ or ‘stop that’ will probably suffice until he’s 14 anyway).


STATE OF THE SYSTEM
Left Field

by Rob Willer

Top Prospect: Oliver Zapata

Bio: Zapata was born in the Dominican Republic and started with the Cubs organization at the young age of 17. He got his start with Dominican Summer League where he batted .241/.328/.333 where he also got 14 extra base hits and 33 runs batted in. In 2011, Zapata age 18 spent the season with two minor league affilates with the Cubs (AZL Cubs and Boise Hawks). He combined to hit .278/.383/.412 where his walk to strikeout rate was almost even since he had 32 walks and 33 strikeouts over both affiliates. As with mentioned below Ty Wright he struggled with the second level in the 2011 season after being promoted to the Boise Hawks. His stats at Boise really tell the story .224/.287/.388 compared to the .324/.453/.431 at the Arizona Fall League. Surprisingly after Zapata’s poor season at Short Season Affiliate Boise he still got promoted to the Peoria Chiefs.

2012-2013 Season’s: Once Zapata got promoted to Peoria to start the season he ended up playing the full year there where he put up a sub par line of .225/.302/.282. The batting average worried me at first glance as I would like to see him hit somewhere around the .250 to .260 mark where he can realistically hit. When looking at Fangraphs.com I found that his BABIP or Batting Average on Balls Put in Play was surprisingly elevated at .286 which begs the question is Zapata really struggling this badly. Usually the numbers are flipped where a certain player has an elevated average due to a higher BABIP or a lower batting average due to a low BABIP. Zapata becomes an intriguing case as he fits in neither of those categories. Presently Zapata is at Kane County the Low A Affiliate of the Cubs refining his skills and playing a solid left field for the club. His line has greatly improved since last year where he is now hitting .243/.316/.378. Most likely Zapata will finish out the year at Kane County and be in the discussion for a call-up to Daytona next year. If his average creeps up to the .260 mark I can see him being moved up although with Almora being on the watch list for Daytona we’ll have to keep an eye if their is room for Zapata to play everyday.

Sleeper Prospect: Ty Wright

Bio: Wright was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 7th round of the 2007 amateur draft. Over the course of 2007 Wright jumped right into Short Season A Boise where he contributed a line of .317/.408/.529 which adds up to an OPS of .937. He was able to register 60 hits over 189 at bats, 22 of those went for extra base hits. Another impressive stat Wright had at Boise was his walk to strikeout ratio where it was 23 walks to 22 strikeouts which is unheard of in today’s game at any level. After Wright’s impressive start to his career he earned a call-up to Low A Peoria. Wright played 19 games there and had the line of .284/.329/.378 while stealing 5 of 6 bases.

2008-2009 Season’s: Wright continued his impressive run through the Cubs system as for the next two years he went from Daytona in (2008), Tennessee (2009). In comparison to Wright’s season at Boise he performed just as well producing a line of .300/.371/.411 while contributing 30 extra base hits. Wright also knocked in 72 runs. In 2009, Wright got the call to Double A where he did what he always did just plain hit. The line at Tennessee was .290/.349/.412 while achieving 34 extra base hits and 58 runs batted in.

2011-2013 Season’s: Iowa Cubs left fielder Ty Wright has had an amazing story throughout his six years with the organization. Wright is a loyal player, who has been in the Cubs system since 2007 and still hasn’t got up to the majors. For the past four seasons, he’s bounced between Tennessee and Iowa, filling in where he’s needed and not complaining. Moving on to the 2011 season Wright split the year between Double A Tennessee and Triple A Iowa. He combined on the season to hit .322/.382/.487 also getting 24 extra base hits on the season. The numbers really don’t tell the story as Wright tore it up at Tennessee after getting the second year of experience while he did struggle a bit at Iowa only hitting .240/.284/.309. His 2013 season has been just like his past four season splitting the time between Tennessee and Iowa. The line at both clubs is .260/.319/.396 where he has 28 extra base hits and 48 runs batted in.

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Chet Chat, Vol. 2 – Let’s Discuss…..

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

I have three topics of discussion for this fine hump day.   I am sure there are varying degrees of opinion on each one and I am hoping we get to hear them all.  The first two are baseball related and the last one is not.  Here we go…..

Topic #1

I think we should trade Starlin Castro.  Now before you fry me for even mentioning this, take a few things into consideration.  First and foremost, I want to see Starlin do well.  The Cub fan in me wants Castro to beat all this negativity surrounding this season and come out a hall of fame player.   I am hoping he is just young….still, which in theory he is, but he is in his fourth season.  We are bordering on what might be called crafty veteran stage soon.

The realist side of me wants to break down Starlin as a player.  Lets start with defense, shall we?  The only two categories that have Starlin sitting atop the league are games played and errors.  His zone ratings are all in the negative.  His dWAR is negative, I know I am reaching here, but I wanted to try to find something positive about our supposed shortstop of the future.  It is almost impossible.  Some say he has improved….he has not.  Throw out all the wonderful stats and just watch the games.  The errors are still there.  The ball gets past him and sometimes he takes a rather pedestrian play and makes it, well, challenging.  It also seems to happen at all the wrong times.

Then he gets a bat in his hands.  This was a strength for Starlin but the strikeout totals and the walk totals are just two far apart.  Not too mention he swings at a lot of bad pitches.  Basically he is a free swinger who does not hit for power.

Yes, there is talent there but something is blocking it from shining through.  Is it his mental game? Is he not mature enough yet?  I don’t know.  Sometimes Starlin’s overall demeanor just strikes me as that of a student trying to get through a boring class.

I look at young shortstops like Jose Iglesias or Elvis Andrus and see an elite fielder with a decent bat.  Their fielding brings confidence and their bats are at the very least good enough.

The cupboard is not bare at Shortstop either.  The Cubs of yesterday did not have the depth that the Cubs of today have.  Sure this year is still a bit thin on Big league ready options but going into next year things could get interesting.  Theo and Jed have been stockpiling and Starlin may not be the only option in the next year or so.  If you need an example of trading depth look no further than Theo’s old team.  The Red Sox dealt the previously mentioned Iglesias to the Tigers for pitching.  Why would they deal such a bright young star?  Well, they have the number one prospect in baseball in Xander Bogaerts waiting in the wings!  This is what depth can do and the Cubs are going to start reaping the rewards.

The trick is, the Cubs must deal Starlin while he still has top value.  If he starts the season off hot next year…lets just say, if we are in the same position we are in now, then they should get what they can for him.  Don’t wait to sell at the bottom!!!  We have depth now!

Discuss…..

Topic #2

I found this while surfing the web today. Basically, it is a homegrown player roster for each team in the majors.  You probably guessed that the Cubs roster is pretty lean, thanks Jim Hendry/Tribune and crew.  It takes the best of every current player and puts him back with his original team.

Back to this depth concept, I kind of wonder what it will be like to be a Cubs fan and see more then one good option creeping up the minors at a given position, other then pitcher of course.  Will I be able to detach myself from ever seeing that player realize his potential in a Cubs uniform?  I mean, I really want to see Dan Vogelbach make the bigs and crush balls in a Cubs uniform, but I love Rizzo!  What will give in the end?  As I said above, Castro, for reasons of insanity apparently, had me at hello as our shortstop of the future.  Yet, what happens with Baez? How can you not want to see what Javier Baez can do?  Maybe Baez will be a third basemen but I have longed to see Mike Olt in a Cub uniform.  Also, don’t forget, Kris Bryant is looking like he is on the fast track to the bigs too?  There is only so much room in the boat. Some of these talents that we have been reading about and waiting on may never see Wrigley.  They may turn into a new starting pitcher or reliever.

It is better to have depth but it will take some getting used too.  Long gone are the days of sitting on Corey Patterson and waiting for him to blossom as our only outfield prospect.

Discuss….

Topic #3

I am a big Bill Simmons fan. I have been since he started his page 2 stuff for ESPN.  I am also a big Rockumentary fan.  Basically any Documentary on a rock band can suck me in for hours.  Talk about a time suck, sometimes I manage to stumble on a random “VH1 – Where Are They Now?” bit and can’t let go.  The bad part is that it usually doesn’t matter who they are featuring.

Bill wrote a rather long piece about the recent Eagles Documentary on Grantland. Here is the link.  Bill is leveraging his sports writing to breach other topics and music and entertainment are his big hot spots.  I read this whole thing.  I feel like I already saw the documentary it got so in depth.

I am looking for recommendations for Rockumentary’s …does anybody have a suggestion?

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Cuban Invasion Continues, Bryant Promoted, Tseng Signed

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

In news that I think is only tangential to the Cubs, yet another Cuban über-prospect, 26-year-old Jose Abreu, has apparently escaped Cuba has plans to defect, and will subsequently break the bank of some MLB team. Check out his stats from the last three years:

2010-2011: .453/.597/.986 (37 HRs in 77 games)

2011-2012: .394/.542/.837

2012-2013: .382/.535/.735

Kids playing Wiffle Ball in the back yard think those numbers are ridiculous. Here’s a link to a Grantland story in which Jonah Keri says he “might be the best hitter in the world.”

He even compares Abreu to, gulp, Miguel Cabrera. Abreu is huge (6’2” 260 lbs.), and is, by all accounts, a 1B/DH-only type (his glove is apparently well below average). That’s the main reason that I don’t see the Cubs going all out for him (and going all out is going to be what it will take to sign him).  We have a good, young, 1B signed long-term, and I don’t think a team can afford to have a defensive liability at first base, even if he is a great hitter. If the FO had some insight that the NL was on the verge of adopting the DH, I think we’d have a different story. It would be an exiting move, though, and I wouldn’t be disappointed in the least if the Cubs made a serious run at the guy. Either way, with his numbers, and the recent success of fellow Cubans Puig and Cespedes, Abreu is going to demand HUGE dollars.

We’re in the deep doldrums period with the major league club right now, but there’s actually a few interesting things going on with the organization.

I was about to write a blurb about the rumors of the looming promotion of Kris Bryant. Well, as you’ve probably heard, Bryant was just promoted from Boise to Class High-A Daytona. Several writers had speculated that he would skip Low-A Kane County, and that turned out to be what occurred. Bryant was absolutely destroying the Northwest League, so I really like the move. However, I am concerned about the amount of rain-outs in Daytona. I really hope Bryant can get enough consistent at-bats to keep his rapid development rolling.

In news that has been rumored for a few weeks, the Cubs officially announced the signing of Taiwanese pitcher Jen-Ho Tseng ($1.625 million signing bonus). Tseng, a veteran of the World Baseball Classic, is 6’1”, 200 lbs. and features a 4-pitch mix with a 95-mph fastball. He was ranked 23rd on BAs international prospects list, making Tseng the 4th Cubs signee this year ranked in the top 23.

There’s not much to say here. Mat Latos dominated the Cubs, who were shutout for third straight game at home – the first time that has happened since 1924. Travis Wood pitched well again…but he might as well have given up 100 runs, since he got exactly zero run support. Also, Aroldis Chapman throws baseballs really fast.

STATE OF THE SYSTEM
Center Field

by Rob Willer

Top Prospect: Albert Almora

Bio: The Cubs number one pick in 2012, outfielder Albert Almora projects to be a Cubs star one day soon. Signed when he was only 18, he’s a couple of years away from full development, but he’s already got most scouts checking up on his progression from high school. Its crazy to think that Almora is only 19 years old but you wouldn’t notice it on the field for how well he shows leadership and poise. Almora was the Cubs’ first round draft pick going sixth overall in the 2012 draft becoming Theo Epstein’s first draft pick.

2012 Season: He’s a good athlete with off the charts instincts and mental makeup. Almora started off his Cubs career at Rookie Ball in 2012 where you guessed hit over .300. Almora hit .321/.331/.464 to be exact over 145 at bats across Rookie Ball and Short Season A Boise while scoring 27 runs. It seems the only thing in his development that hasn’t come is the power in relation to home-runs where he only had two homers on the season. For now we’ll take his production and ability to get on base over the home-runs and tendency to strikeout.

Projection: Almora has good pitch recognition skills, so that should eventually translate into an ability to grind out ABs and take walks. Most scouts have him pegged as hitting .300 as an everyday center-fielder in the major leagues. The projections of home-runs varies but in my mind I would say 15 home-runs would be a solid estimate when he finally gets the call to the big league club sometime in 2016.

2013 Season: Almora has played at Kane County for all of this year after recovering from his injury early on in the season. Through 61 games Almora has 82 hits in 249 at bats which is good for a .329 batting average. Some other key numbers to remember are his 17 doubles, four triples and his .842 OPS. Overall Almora has done everything the Cubs’ have asked since returning from injury. Recently Almora went on the seven day disabled list with a groin injury which is probably the only reason he is still at Kane County. In my mind I believe he gets the call-up to Daytona by the end of the month baring any setbacks from the groin injury.

Sleeper Prospect: Trey Martin

Bio: Trey Martin, 19, signed an over-slot contract in 2011 as a 13th round draft pick out of a Georgia high school. Martin played the 2011 campaign at Rookie Ball where he turned in a decent season .243/.289/.357 with only four extra base hits in 76 at bats. After playing the 2011 campaign at Rookie Ball he reported back there to start the 2012 season. Looking at his vast improvement at Rookie Ball in the 2012 season it looks like the Cubs did the right thing by sending him back there to start the season. He finished his Rookie Ball campaign with a line of .448/.515/.690 through seven games going 13 for 29 with six extra base hits. Finally Martin made the move to Boise Idaho to join the Boise Hawks where he would play the rest of the season (57 games) with a line of .270/.318/.377 including 12 extra base hits and six steals in 11 attempts.

2013 Season:  Martin batted .200 in 11 games with Class A Kane County this year, but the 13th-round pick in 2011 injured his left shoulder, and needed surgery. He began the year 20th on the top 20 in the MLB.com ratings of the Cubs system. Since Almora is due for a call-up very soon Martin should get the regular at bats in center unless the Cubs move Oliver Zapata there. Martin most definitely will start the season again at Kane County after playing in only 11 games this year. Hopefully his shoulder will heal in time for spring training and he can return to his pre-injury status of projecting to be a very solid major league outfielder with above average defense. Stay Tuned as the Outfield Projections conclude with Left Field tomorrow morning.

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Book Review: The Art of Fielding

Monday, August 12th, 2013

Fun weekend all around for the Cubbies. As nice as a sweep would have been for the boys in blue, taking two out of three against the Cards while playing with a lineup full of dudes I know nothing about is impressive.

I haven’t watched a Cubs game since the final day before the All-Star break—not because I don’t want too, but because I’ve been in between moves once again—and my daily glances at the box scores have provided many a “who in the world is (insert player name)? I caught a few glimpses of the game yesterday peeping in the windows of local bars, while parading down a long stretch of road in my new place.

The series win was not only sweet because of the opponent, but also because it provided the somewhat lovable Pirates a chance to put a few more games between them and the redbirds. Unfortunately the Buccos decided it was a prime weekend for them to get swept by the Rockies in Denver.

Since topics of the offseason and next year’s prospective team/lineup have already been rehashed a bit, I thought it would be a good change of pace to talk a little “bookworm.” Some of my favorite pieces on the blog over the years have been reviews, critiques or observations from baseball/sports books and it may be fun to get back into that business.

Once every month or two, I’ll try and get something out about a baseball book that I’ve recently read. Reading is one of my favorite pastimes away from work and it doesn’t happen nearly enough considering my weekly workload. In the few weeks between finishing my last job, moving 1,300 miles and starting a new job, I was able to finish “The Art of Fielding” by Chad Harbach.

The novel is the first for Harbach and it was published in late 2011, so I’m a little late to the game—so to speak. The book was recommended to me by a friend who is a baseball lover and a high school English teacher—he told me that this is one of the best sports books he has ever read.

So I took his word for it and did a little research about the book beforehand. I’m a little weird when it comes to picking books in a bookstore, because there are so many good things to read. Most of my reads come from personal recommendations or being force fed by close friends—an idea which I will incorporate into the post later.

“The Art of Fielding” outlines the story of a small-school college baseball team, who stumble into an unknown, but incredible baseball prospect. The book’s hero is a shortstop who challenges for the NCAA record for most games in a row without committing an error—a record that is currently held by the boy’s childhood hero.

The story is told through the eyes of three important characters in an interesting weave of differing emotions and ideals. The topic of baseball is the front door of the book, but the story outlines the complexity of human relationships and how we deal with different personalities. Tragedy and joy are prevalent throughout, in a roller coaster that toys with your own emotion.

While the book is long-ish, it basically reads itself from cover to cover.

For the sake of being cheesy, I’d give the book 4 ½ gloves out of five. Definitely worth the read if you enjoy good baseball fiction, especially if you like a reasonably priced e-book.

I want to give YOU, VFTB fan club, the choice to pick my next read: Francona or The Summer of Beer and Whiskey. Vote in the comments.

  • Starlin had a day that was normal for him over the past two years—3 for 4 with an RBI. He’s managed to      creep that BA over .250 finally, but 2013 cannot end fast enough for the guy.
  • A month without the Mr. Hyde version of Edwin Jackson officially ended, as the Cards tagged Jackson early. Only three more years (maybe) of miserable starts.
  • What’s the point of coming back in a game if you are going to give the lead back?

STATE OF THE SYSTEM
Right Field

by Rob Willer

Top Prospect: Jorge Soler, 21, RF  Jorge Soler the prize of the international free agent pool for the Cubs signed right out of Cuba for 9 years and 30 million. Soler has a patient approach at the plate and a rare combination of big, raw power with a quick, short swing. He profiles as the prototypical corner outfielder who slots into the heart of a strong lineup.He stands 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, Soler runs better than one would think for his size. Due to his athleticism most scouts believe he will last longer even with his great size compared to the likes of big power hitters that eventually run out of gas. Coming into this season Soler was ranked the 34th ranked prospect by Baseball American and the 42nd by MLB.com.

2013 Season: So far this season at High A Daytona Soler has contributed a line of .283/.383/.467 while hitting eight home-runs and driving in 35 runs. Soler’s walk to strikeout ratio is surprisingly very good as he was at 38 strikeouts to 21 walks through 55 games. The big issue is that Soler was injured on June 14th for what is being described as a fractured left tibia. Initial reports suggested that Soler would be out four to six weeks. This in turn would have placed his return to be late July/Early August but the fracture hasn’t competently healed yet. According to Carrie Muskat the MLB.com beat writer for the Cubs has reported that Soler will undergo tests Monday to decide whether or not if he can play in the Arizona Fall League. Albert Almora of the Kane County Cougars also is being reported as a candidate for the Arizona Fall League. We’ll keep you up to date later on in the month on who will be on the roster for Arizona in the fall.

Sleeper Prospect: Rubi Silva, 23, was the Cubs top position player prospect out of Cuba before Jorge Soler came aboard.  Silva is a great athlete who can play all 3 OF positions and 2B. Silva started off his Cubs career by skipping Rookie Ball and Short Season A jumping right into Low A Peoria in 2011. 2011 was a mixed bag for Silva as he absolutely tore up Low A Ball by producing a line .300/.319/.400 while contributing seven triples three homers and 16 doubles. After 95 games the Cubs thought Silva was ready for Advanced A Daytona where pitchers are more refined and the competition jumps considerably. Silva played the final 29 games at Advanced A Daytona where he chipped in a line of .229/.250/.362 not the numbers Silva was looking for on the season. There weren’t many positives at his stint at Daytona in 2012 as he only walked three times but struck out 22 times showing poor plate discipline.

2012 Season: After his struggles at Daytona Silva spent 111 games at Daytona and boy did it make a difference after his line turned in a .302/.322/.412. Silva really worked hard that off-season to get back to where he was pre-promotion to Daytona in 2011. Some other note worthy stats for Silva include 15 doubles, 11 triples and three home-runs while driving in 61 runs. From first glance it seems Silva has great speed due to the double digit triples and his power seems non existent as he only hit three home-runs. After he turned in a successful season at Daytona they promoted Silva to Double A just like they did in 2011 when promoting him to High A after a hot start. Silva did fairly well at Tennessee in the 20 games he played for the Smokies. He had a line of .263/.277/.413 while also hitting three triples in less than 80 at bats.

2013 Season: Silva continued to develop this year at Double A Tennessee picking up where he left off at the end of the 2012 season. Silva’s up to date stats include a line of .294/.313/.493. We see first off the dramatic change in slugging percentage as he jumped 80 points from last year. In his first two seasons Silva combined to hit 10 home-runs over 253 games across 995 at bats. In 106 games and 402 at bats Silva already has hit 13 home-runs to go along with 27 doubles and seven triples. He has turned in all-around great season and seems very deserving of his third call-up in three years. Stay Tuned as I move across the outfield to center for tomorrow’s piece.

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The Waiting (for the Top Prospects) is the Hardest Part

Friday, August 9th, 2013

The Cubs have done little to hide their focus on building up their farm system since Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer took over the front office. For the most part, they have been successful, turning a system that was in the middle of the pack a year and a half ago into a unanimous top three system in baseball. But when can we expect these prospects to hit the Majors?

For the sake of simplicity, I am listing the top 8 prospects, who I view as the top two tiers of prospects. There is a fairly strong consensus on who the top 8 prospects in the system are, but beyond there it gets a bit fuzzy, and you have guys who are significantly less likely to contribute in a meaningful way to a MLB roster.

Also, it is likely that at least a couple of these players will bust at some point, whether that happens in the high minors or in the majors. Guessing who will bust and who won’t, though, would just be a guessing game, so the presumption behind this list is that this is what would happen if they at least reached the Majors intact.

Javier Baez (SS)
20 Years Old
Currently at Double A Tennessee

Expect to see him in the Majors: Between late 2014 and mid-2015.
Will be late 2014 if: (1) Baez continue to hits for a ton of power while getting his strikeouts under control; (2) the Cubs are competing for a playoff spot near the end of the season; and (3) Starlin Castro or Mike Olt struggle next season.
Will be mid-2015 if: Baez continues to struggle with strikeout issues and the Cubs need to find him a position because everyone else is playing well.
Predicted starting point in 2014: Double A.

Kris Bryant (3B)
21 Years Old
Currently at Short Season A Boise

Expect to see him in the Majors: Between early 2015 and mid-2016.
Will be early 2015 if: He isn’t seriously challenged in the minors until he hits Double A, and even then the hiccups are minimal. The concern with Bryant is strikeouts, so the question will be if he can limit them at the higher levels. The power should carry him through the low levels of the minors quickly.
Will be mid-2016 if: He gets stalled at High A or the strikeout problems become Brett Jackson like at the higher levels of the minors.
Predicted starting point in 2014: High A.

Albert Almora (OF)
19 Years Old
Currently at Low A Kane County

Expect to see him in the Majors: Between mid-2015 and mid-2016.
Will be mid-2015 if: He stays healthy, which has been a bit of an issue for him so far. Honestly, that is the only limitation I’m seeing on Almora, who I think will spend half of 2015 in Double A.
Will be mid-2016 if: Injuries derail his progress.
Predicted starting point in 2014: High A.

Jorge Soler (OF)
21 Years Old
Currently at High A Daytona

See everything I wrote for Almora? Push the dates up six months, and that’s Soler. The issue will just be if he can stay on the field. The shin issue he is dealing with right now is more of a freak thing than a chronic concern, though.
Predicted starting point in 2014: Double A.

Arismendy Alcantara (2B/SS)
21 Years Old
Currently at Double A Tennessee

Expect to see him in the Majors: Between mid-2014 and early 2015.
Will be mid-2014 if: Aside from Alcantara himself continuing to play well, (1) Castro or Barney need to miss significant time any time after about June 1; (2) Barney struggles offensively to the same extent as he has in 2013; or (3) Barney is traded.
Will be early 2015 if: (1) Castro and Barney both play well; and (2) Barney is not traded.
Predicted starting point in 2014: Triple A Iowa.

Pierce Johnson (RHP)
22 Years Old
Currently at High A Daytona
Expect to see him in the Majors: Between late 2014 and early 2016.
Will be late 2014 if: (1) Johnson is pitching well; (2) the Cubs are competing for a postseason spot; and (3) the Cubs think Johnson could help the bullpen.
Will be early 2016 if: This is really independent of what Johnson does. Of course if he hits a bump in the road, that will slow him down, but the Cubs may be solid enough in the mid to late part of the rotation to be in no rush to bring Johnson up, particularly if the bullpen improves as well.
Predicted starting point in 2014: Double A Tennessee.

CJ Edwards (RHP)
21 Years Old
Currently at High A Daytona

Edwards is on a very similar trajectory to Pierce Johnson, with one caveat, in that he’s much slighter than Johnson. That just means that scouts think there’s a bigger risk he won’t be able to hold up to a starter’s workload or could face an injury somewhere down the line. Edwards being pegged for the bullpen could actually speed up his ascent to the Majors, since he’ll become a two pitch guy at that point. However, he’d undoubtedly be more valuable as a starter.

Mike Olt (3B)
24 years old
Currently at Triple A Iowa

Expect to see him in the Majors: Between September 2013 and mid-2014.
Will be September 2013 if: He goes on a bit of a hot streak between now and the end of Iowa’s season.
Will be mid-2014 if: He doesn’t, and he doesn’t claim the starting spot in spring training. Or the Cubs just want to delay his arbitration clock.
Predicted starting point in 2014: This one is a coin toss between Iowa and Chicago, but I’ll guess Chicago.

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The Hypothetical 2014 Chicago Cubs

Friday, August 9th, 2013

Since Theo and Co. have taken over the Cubs front office, I pegged 2014 to be the first year the team is competitive, and 2015 to be the first season they’re playoff contenders. The team this year has been a fringe .500 team if you put stock into run differentials or their Pythagorean winning percentage.  Luckily, at least in my mind, we’ve had a terrible bullpen blow plenty of games to keep us out of the 76 to 83 wins range which is too good to get high draft picks and too bad to make the playoffs.  I think we’re pretty close to schedule but this off season will be very interesting, as it’s the first time this front office has significant money to spend, and it’s going to be very telling on where they think the team is.

First let’s take a look at the payroll so we have some idea what the Cubs can spend.

Position Players Already Signed:

Player

Position

2014 Salary

Year Current Deal Expires

David DeJesus

OF

6,500,000

2014 Can be bought out for 1.5M

Starlin Castro

SS

5,857,143

2019 + Club Option for 2020

Anthony Rizzo

1B

1,535,714

2019 + Club Options thru 2021

Jorge Soler

OF

2,667,000

2020

Welington Castillo

C

520,000

2018

Junior Lake

OF

500,000

2020

Estimated Total

17,579,857

Pitchers Already Signed:

Pitcher

Position

2014 Salary

Year Current Deal Expires

Edwin Jackson

SP

13,000,000

2016

Carlos Villanueva

RP

5,000,000

2014

Kyuji Fujikawa

RP

4,500,000

2014

Gerardo Concepcion

SP

1,200,000

2014

Michael Bowden

RP

520,000

2018

Arodys Vizcaino

SP

520,000

2018

Estimated Total

24,740,000

Arbitration Eligible:

Player

Position

Estimated Salary

Year Cubs Lose Player’s Rights

Nate Schierholtz

OF

4,000,000

2015

Darwin Barney

2B

1,200,000

2017

Luis Valbuena*

3B

1,350,000

2017

Jeff Samardzija

SP

4,200,000

2016

Travis Wood

SP

1,600,000

2017

James Russell

RP

1,500,000

2016

Pedro Strop*

RP

1,050,000

2018

Jake Arrieta

SP

1,200,000

2017

Estimated Total

16,100,000

 * – Designates player has Super 2 Status.

That’s 18 of the 25 players on the major league roster minus Soler and Concepcion who will both still be in the minors to start the year. That puts the team at an estimated payroll of $72,419,857, after adding in the 14M going to New York as part of the Soriano trade.  If the team can spend 110M on the major league roster again next year, that gives the Cubs somewhere around the neighborhood of 37.5M to fill 7 roster spots.

The bench will need to be filled out with a couple of outfielders, a backup catcher, and another infielder to go with Barney, but most of that will be cheap internal options and none should cost more than a million for next year.  If they spend 1M each on a RH bench bat for the OF to split time with Schierholtz and another 1M to sign a backup catcher, then use internal options for the 5th OFer and 2nd IFer, that’s only 3M total.

As for the bullpen, Russell, Strop, Bowden, Villanueva and Fujikawa are in. After that, I’m penciling in Vizcaino which leaves 1 spot open.  I’d assume it’ll be whoever pitches best in the Spring out of all the internal options from the long list of pitchers already on the 40-man: Raley, Rusin, Dolis, Cabrera, Rondon, McNutt, etc. So that’s only another 500K unaccounted for.  We’ll say we’re at 76M with 23 of 25 spots filled giving the team about 34M to match this year’s payroll.

So let’s shift to the important parts of the roster.  As of right now here’s what the Cubs have controlled and should be penciled in for next season:

C: Castillo
1B: Rizzo
SS: Castro
RF: Schierholtz
CF: DeJesus

That leaves 2B, 3B, and an OF spot open for debate in my mind.  Lake could be an option at any of these positions, and I’d expect him to be in one of those spots given his production since being called up this year. Also, one of our left side infielder prospects will force their way to Chicago next season, be it Olt, Baez, Alcantara, Bryant or whomever, but the Cubs will play the service time game with these guys so they won’t be called up until June at the earliest.  Vitters is a possibility at 3B or LF but he has to get healthy, and show he can play at the major league level when he gets called up later this year.

That means we could be looking at the exact same roster on opening day as we have right now and I just don’t think the front office is going to let that happen with so much money available.  Looking at the free agent market, it’s beyond pitiful and 2015 will be even worse. There’s a couple pipe dreams in Robinson Cano & Brian McCann who are going to get 100M+ deals. I don’t think the Cubs are ready to drop that kind of salary on any player over 30. Then on the second tier there’s Shin-Soo Choo, Jacoby Ellsbury, Curtis Granderson and Hunter Pence; but I also think these guys are also out of the Cubs price range. There’s also the option to go after an aging vet like Beltran but I’d rather not sign a 37 year old with diminishing skills and health.

There is one interesting name left on my list who shouldn’t cost too much and won’t be receiving a long term deal, and that’s Nelson Cruz. He just accepted his 50-game suspension from the Biogenesis investigation so he’s going to be back for the playoffs (if the Rangers make it) but he’s going to go into the off season with a lot of uncertainty.  Would Cruz look to sign a 1-year deal with a player option for a 2nd year to re-establish his value for next off season and have some security if he doesn’t perform? Or would he take a higher priced 2-year deal with a vesting/club option for a 3rd to give him a moderate deal in length with a higher pay to surrender a team option? I think that’s the type of high reward contract the Cubs will be fishing for in the free agent market next year. Cruz could give the Cubs a middle of the order power bat that the team desperately needs and fill an OF spot for a couple years until our prospects are ready; and as always it would give the team a potential trade chip for next deadline in case the Cubs are sellers again. I’d expect Cruz could be signed in the 10-14M per year range depending on contract length.

I’d go aggressively after Cruz, let Lake play 3B, shift Valbuena to 2B, bench Barney, and we’ll figure the rest out later when prospects are knocking at the door during the summer and the team has a grasp on how close they are to contention heading into the deadline.

The rotation is currently set as:

SP: Samardzija
SP: Jackson
SP: Wood
SP: Arrieta

The first 3 are givens, and Arrieta is out of options so he will be on the team as well. That leaves one rotation spot open. It could be Baker on a team friendly deal after we gave him 5M to rehab all this season.  However, there’s also a couple options in free agency.  Our friend Matt Garza and Ervin Santana are both #2/3 types. I don’t think the Cubs front office likes Garza’s asking price, so I don’t see a fit there. Santana will be tied to compensation but if the Cubs are one of the 10 worst teams (and they should be given that they’re 5th worst right now), their first draft choice would be protected.  Santana is having a breakout year for the Royals and I’m always a fan of bringing a guy who has been on contending teams in the AL to the NL. I’d expect Santana to get better than Edwin Jackson money, but not quite Anibal Sanchez money. That’d be something like 4 years/64M or 16M each year.

A rotation of Shark, Santana, Jackson, Wood, & Arrieta on paper is just as good as what we had this year and has much higher potential if Arrieta ever figures it out how to control his stuff.

A lineup of something like:

CF DeJesus
SS Castro
1B Rizzo
LF Cruz
RF Schierholtz
3B Lake
2B Valbuena
C Castillo

could be pretty potent if Rizzo and Castro take a step forward next year and we get solid production from the veterans. This doesn’t block any of the top prospects, and we retain excellent flexibility when we need to make space for one, or a few of them. Lake’s ability to play 2B, 3B, and in the OF, make it easy to find him a home if Mike Olt, Javier Baez, or Kris Bryant are ready. Schierholtz and DeJesus are free agents after next year so they are expendable if the Cubs need to make room for Soler, Szczur, Lake, or even Bryant. Valbuena is a solid stop gap, until Baez or Alcantara are ready.

Those 2 signings would spend 30M of the estimated 34M available and put the Cubs at about 106M-pretty much exactly where the team went into this season at. It’s also important to note that the Cubs will have more money to spend on the major league payroll if they choose to, since they cannot go crazy in the international market due to their punishment for this year’s spending spree which after the tax penalty they spent about 10M.

As for trade options, that’s much harder to gauge; who knows what other teams are thinking. David Price should be available since the Rays probably won’t pay him and they have plenty of internal options to replace him. Trading him with 2 years left will net them the biggest return and trading their pitchers early is business as normal. Giancarlo Stanton’s unhappiness stemming from last year’s fire sale will continue to fuel rumors around him. Yovani Gallardo and Rickie Weeks were heavily shopped by the Brewers at this year’s deadline (in my opinion, no thanks on both). And there’s a few interesting pitchers that are impending free agents in 2015 that could be potential trade targets like Clayton Kershaw (#notgoingtohappen), Homer Bailey, and Justin Masterson if they can’t reach deals with their current teams.

The Cubs are going to be in a lot of rumors this off season so it will be fun. We’re also going to get a glimpse of what this regime is going to do with a big amount of cash to spend for the first time and that should give us some insight into the timetable they are expecting.

Game Notes

  • Samardzija had the worst outing of his career going only 3.1IP while allowing 11 hits, 9 ER, and striking out 3.
  • Schierholtz continues to crush righties with another HR moving his SLG over .550 vs RHP on the year.
  • Cubs selected JC Boscan’s contract today from Iowa in case Navarro misses more than a few games after his home plate collision with Chase Utley 2 nights ago. Boscan had played in a handful of games with the Braves at the major league level over the past 3 years and has a career 263/300/263 line in 20 PAs.
  • Matt Guerrier went to the 60-day DL with a sore right elbow.
  • Thomas Neal went to the 15-day DL after dislocating his right shoulder on a throw 2 nights ago.
  • Cubs recalled Eduardo Sanchez who pitched 2.1 innings, giving up 1 hit, 2 walks, 1 run on a solo homer and striking out 3.

STATE OF THE SYSTEM
Third Base

by Rob Willer

Top Prospect: Kris Bryant

Bio- Kris Bryant was born January 4, 1992 in Las Vegas, Nevada, US (Age 21). On that day a star was born, Bryant attended Bonanza HS in Las Vegas and continued his baseball career there. The Toronto Blue Jays actually drafted Bryant in the 18th round right out of high school in 2010 but Bryant decided to go to college first. Bryant, a 6-foot-5, 215-pounder hit .329 with 80 runs scored, 13 doubles, three triples, 31 home runs and 62 RBIs in 62 games as a junior at the University of San Diego. He also led the nation in home runs, runs scored, walks (66) and slugging percentage (.820). His 54 career home runs are a school record. Pretty sure Bryant made the correct decision on going to school first to harness his ability and become one of the most talked about draft picks this year in the class of 2013.

2013 Season- After Bryant signed his record bonus of 6.7 million this summer he reported to Arizona where he went to shake off the rust of not playing in a month. It was a short stay for Bryant as he only played in two games going 1 for 6 with a double. The Cubs first round draft pick also added two runs batted in during his short stint in Arizona. The next chapter in Bryant’s baseball career was a call-up to Boise, Idaho to play third base for the Boise Hawks of the Southern Division. Through 14 games so far Bryant has hit .294/.362/.627 while putting up an insane OPS of .990. He also has kept up his power surge by hitting four homers this season while driving in 12 runs during only 51 at-bats. Another stat to keep an eye on is his hit streak which has reached eleven games with his 1 for 3 last night where he homered.

Looking Ahead- After two weeks in Boise, Bryant has earned deep consideration for a call-up to A Ball. The problem is that Kane County already has a young third baseman in Jeimer Candelario who might become a great prospect as well. Most people think the Cubs wouldn’t want to move up Candelario to Daytona as he hasn’t fully developed yet at Kane County. In my mind Bryant will play out this season at Boise and then start next season at either High A Daytona or Double A Tennessee. The Cubs don’t want to rush Candelario as he is still a raw prospect at nineteen years old with great potential to be an above average third baseman at the big league level in time.

Sleeper Prospect: Jeimer Candelario

He is one of those names in the Cubs system you don’t hear enough. Candelario was born in New York and at 17 he started play in the Cubs system at the Dominican Summer League. 2011 was a great year for Candelario as it showed us that he was ready to move to Boise after tearing it up in the Dominican Summer League. Candelario’s stats included a line of .337/.443/.478 for a total OPS of .921. To think that Candelario went into the 2012 season only 18 years is mind boggling. He played the whole year at Boise where he hit .281/.345/.396 that also included six homers, 12 doubles and 47 runs batted in. John Arguello who is the Editor in Chief for Cubs Den a prominent blog on the Chicago Now network gives us a great view of Jeimer Candelario’s swing http://www.chicagonow.com/cubs-den/2013/04/photos-and-breakdown-of-jeimer-candelarios-swing/#image/12.

2013 Season- After two years in the Cubs system Candelario has joined the Kane County Cougars of the Low A Midwest league where he has played third base regularly and batted either four or fifth in their lineup. Through 105 games he has 104 hits which 39 of those are for extra base hits. Candelario has shown us the power with 30 doubles and 8 home-runs this year. These stats reflect greatly in his line .256/.343/.394 for a total OPS of .738. In my mind I believe Candelario deserves a call-up next year to Daytona as he has played well every step of the way since age 17. As I mentioned above since third base is one of the positions the Cubs have a lot of depth at there will be a lot of interesting decisions next summer on where Candelario starts.

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GirlieView (08/08/2013)

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

GirlieView Definitions

  • Lizzie = A funny, timely quote made on the VFTB site by our writers or commenters.
  • Lizard = The best Lizzie.
  • MVL = Most Valuable Lizzie’er: The person with the most Lizzies in the period under review (usually the past two weeks.)
  • Top 10 of 2013 = The folks with the most aggregate Lizzie points YTD (1 point for every Lizzie, 3 points for every Lizard.)

As you already know, this is all completely subjective and according to my whims.

Lizzies

  • Ervin Santana, of the Royals, is now following me on Twitter. I’m not sure why, but I’m not gonna complain.
  • On an unrelated note, KC Royal Ervin Santana tweeted that he had no idea how to work this damn new phone thing.
  • Watching the Dodgers/Jays while waiting for the Cubs game. Marmol came in. 4 hits, 3 runs (1 HR), a walk and a wild pitch. It was beautiful.
  • And yet somehow the Jays still managed to blow that game and get Marmol off the hook. If only the Cubs were as fortunate when Marmol was crapping the bed for us.
  • if you didn’t say anything to your kids and just stood there blankly staring at them with an unshaven face spitting tobacco juice every now and then, I’d say you need to get riled up a bit.
  • That or grow a better beard.
  • she cries every night that she did not throw you in the quarry in a pillowcase as an infant.
  • I’m against giving Jeff Samardzija # 1 or even # 2 starter money when it comes to contract time.
  • If we use just this season as our sample, [we have what] I’d equate to a footlong with ranch dressing amount of position player injuries, but only a few bites from a 6″ with no ranch worth of pitcher injuries.
  • And where do the white chocolate raspberry cookies come in?
  • On the bench, next to the Gatorade.
  • We should name it the Slammed Door Law, if you fail to walk through an obviously wide open opportunity that door will slam shut on you quickly with disastrous results. The Cubs have walked into the Slammed Door too many times to list.
  • Apparently Shark used to play college football at Notre Dame.
  • You have caused me to do some internal soul searching as to why I am skeptical of Smardjgdrwtc. Is it his pitching that upsets me or his ugliness?
  • I don’t like my pitchers pretty. I like them frightening small children during charity visits and having butch girlfriends. But to each his own.
  • Oops. My bad. I forgot you don’t get sarcasm.
  • It’s not that he doesn’t get sarcasm, he just has no use for it.
  • He is just a few Bazinggas short of being Sheldon
  • Read the post again. She did it again the next day. It was the only way she would learn.
  • You are missing the point…the neighbors…it was about the neighbors.
  • Dick move. Being nice to your mom is grown man 101.
  • There will come a time when you are your parents. What goes around will come around.
  • When the wife’s back is turned, I am watching the wife’s backside.
  • A Scuba trip to the Caribbean in late October. I figured I would not miss any important games then.
  • You won’t.
  • No important games until 2014 at the earliest.
  • You may want to steer clear of the mayo at the Cozumel Subway.
  • As long as it is not moving, it’s ok.
  • On a prior trip to Cozumel Big Z threw his no-no whilst I was gone. I’m hoping the internet access improved in the interim.
  • Well, we know Big Z hasn’t.
  • It’s nice to have Sherm back.
  • The only thing relevant about the Cubs at this time of year is which of their players can help a contender.
  • I’m kind of sad to see him go, but it’s for the best. I was just yelling at my mom about not understanding that last night. I fear I may have to do so again tonight.
  • We’ve tried to keep our relationship on the down low so as to not upset my unhealthy obsession with Carlos Villanueva’s facial hair.
  • I decided to pull a Mark_from_Toronto and go to bed at the end of the 8th inning full of optimism. I slept well and my day wasn’t ruined until I got up.
  • Unfortunately I wasn’t able to to do the same for the afternoon game as it’s not really appropriate to go to sleep while driving home from work.
  • It is similar to how we say nice things about somebody after they pass on
  • I was following the trade rumors today, hoping to see Ronnie Woo-Woo shipped for a pitching prospect. Maybe Ronnie and the visor gal for Stanton…
  • it’s too bad we couldn’t unload him at the deadline, even a sack of used baseballs might have been worth it.
  • Can Olt really be recalled to the Cubs from Iowa if he’s never been there before? Wouldn’t it just be called?
  • Google
  • Bruce is Hector’s aunt.
  • Anyone else notice our Johnsons have gone missing?
  • I’m sure you’ve read about this from the 349382749837 sources covering the story today.
  • these players knowingly did something they knew was wrong and hoped to get away with it.
  • I see this as a failure of baseball: the sport turned a blind eye to the issue for years, and now this “harsh justice” seems disingenuous.
  • I’m looking forward to the day when the most reported baseball stories are positive – it seems like we’re a long way from that point, though.

Lizard

  • I’m honored that so many of you have adopted my game watching strategy.

Shout Outs

Many thanks to Chris and Sean_in_Blue who logged their first Lizzies of 2013. We’re happy to have you here!

MVL

Congratulations to Seymour Butts, the Most Valuable Lizzie’er this time around! Imagine that!

Top Ten of 2013 (one point for each Lizzie, three points for the Lizard)

1. jswanson
2. Seymour Butts
3. Eddie von White
4. Doc Raker
5. Jedi Johnson
6. Joe Aiello
7. Chuck
8. Doug S.
8. Jeremiah Johnson
8. Jerry in Wisconsin
9. Buddy
10. cap’n obvious
10. Noah Eisner

Chit Chat

If you could play professional baseball (and play it well!) what position would you like to play?

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