Archive for August, 2013

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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Take It With A Grain of Salt

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

Now that the trade deadline has been over for more than a week, and life has restored to some sort of normalcy, let’s discuss the elephant in every chat room/message board, “The insider”. Everyone knows of one or has seen one posting as an insider. It is the guy/girl who has the scoop based on their tenuous relationship with someone who is connected to the organization. Don’t take my condescending tone as a message that all of these folks don not have some type of connection—just take it as my skeptical nature not believing a good bit of what I read. This is infinitely important to Cubs fans right now because we are left clamoring for the next big move as Theo and Jed reshuffle the roster again in hopes of making the team competitive.

After time to reflect on the deadline and the weeks leading up to it I decided that I may have fell victim to the internet insider guy. This is the guy who tweets or shows up on message board with the “I’m hearing x is of interest to A, B, C and the Cubs are listening.” To some this may seem like earth shattering news with immediate responses of “who are you hearing in return, what does the package look like, when will it be done?” I’m not trying to sound preachy but the insider guy has done some basic deductive reasoning and for the most part hasn’t committed to anything other than speculation. This is not an insider.

Next you have the guy/gal who take it up a little. This is the one who posts “I am hearing the Cubs are in talks with team X for Cubs player A and they are looking at team X player B plus more.” Wow, he must have an inside source to know all of that information. Matter of fact he must be talking to someone in the room with Theo or Jed as they discuss over the phone with other GMs. This is very unlikely. This again is more of deductive reasoning and speculation. Again nothing is really committed to because, well, if it falls apart there is no harm.
Finally you have the hero of the message board. This is the guy everyone looks to for solid insider information. This is the guy that the message board posters flash the bat signal for. A guy, who in all honesty, gets insider information the runs to an obscure message board to tell all of his friends what he has heard. Take a moment and step back from what you are doing. Yes the guy/gal is probably right every so often. (They also likely point back to this when showing how they are insider). Let’s look at this year’s deadline.

I could have told you Soriano was going to be traded to the Yankees and Garza was going to the Rangers. My only source was the internet. I could have dropped that nugget and picked some prospects from each team that made sense and….BOOOOOOOM…. I am now an insider. Take what you read with a grain of salt and a little bit of a light heart.

There are legitimate sources on the internet who probably do have some tenuous connection to an organization that allows them to hear things others aren’t privy too. I am sure that some of those folks enjoy being clamored over on message boards and websites as legitimate internet hero. As with the factual information that they present it is likely they are often over swept with confidence in presenting their predictions as fact.
Nothing is wrong with the internet inside source guy/girl. Just don’t let yourself get caught in the nonsense and become the unintelligent fan, spitting out vocal garbage like “Did you hear that the Cubs are in talks with the Padres for Chase Headley in exchange for Darwin Barney and Luis Valbuena.” One, no. Two, you don’t want to look like that big of a fool.

My only caution is not to believe everything you read. In fact, take my opinion above with a grain of salt because I don’t know any of these posters personally. They could be Jed and Theo sitting in their office laughing and having fun with the Cubs fans.

Game Notes

  • Who is Donnie Murphy?  Two games.  Three home runs (two of the three run variety).  One go head in the 9th inning.  Move over Supper Joe, Super Sam, and the like…  I present to you Demolishing Donnie.  Coming to a ball field near you.
  • Cubs won on the efforts of  Travis Wood, Junior Lake, and Donnie Murphy.  Wood was dominant only giving up two runs in 6.1 IP.  Junior Lake had another nice day at the plate and continues to be impressive in his game.  Murphy as mentioned above is going to earn some major playing time.
  • Bad news- Thomas Neal left the 7th inning with a dislocated shoulder after a strong throw from left field where he didn’t quite have his feet or a grip.  I had a similar injury in rec league softball.  It was one of the most painful things I have ever experienced.  I was just trying to win a spot on the team too.
  • More Bad News- Dioner Navarro took a monster hit from Chase Utley in the same 7th inning when Utley was trying to score the plate.  Cole Gillespie unleashed a cannon of a throw from right that one hopped in to Navarro’s glove a split second before he was trucked by Utley.  He held on to the ball and got the out but rolled up his right leg underneath him.  It wasn’t a dirty play at all, just good hard baseball.

MLB News

  • Twitter is awesome.  First it was the Rays and Red Sox twitter war now it’s the Braves and Nationals.  The Braves official organization tweet out “Clown move, bro.” after Bryce Harper was enraged from taking when off the hip in his second at bat on Tuesday night.  Then the Nationals released Bryce’s fury with the was the homer the clown move or the 20 year old getting beaned the clown move.  For the record Nationals you don’t get to use the 20 year old excuse anymore.  I could read lips from the broadcast and he was speaking like a grown man… a very mad grown man.
  • Dodgers are playing out of their mind and it appears that they saved Don Mattingly’s job by going 32-8 in their last 40 games.  I would reflect further on that and their payroll but the stat speaks for itself.
  • Tampa still hates their stadium.  Still not having much luck getting out of it.  That is all.

STATE OF THE SYSTEM
Shortstop

by Rob Willer

Top Prospect: Javy Baez

Bio: Javier Baez was the ninth overall pick in the 2011 draft getting selected ninth overall in the first round by the Chicago Cubs. Baez has been the Cubs top rated prospect the past two years and will be the first of the big four to reach the majors. The big four includes Jorge Soler (International Free Agent Nine Year Contract), Albert Almora (2012 First Round Pick Sixth Overall) and Kris Bryant the Cubs 2013 First Round Pick who was picked second overall. He has the natural power and raw bat speed to hit for average and power and the defensive tools to be at least average at shortstop. The Cubs probably won’t move him to third until he is a few months away from the majors, but that could be as soon as sometime next year. His first real game action started with Low-A Peoria after some additional time in extended spring training last year he hit .319/.385/.560 in 39 games despite being just 19-years old. Had four doubles, three triples and eight home runs as well as 16 stolen bases.

The Promotion: In 2013, Javy has taken big strides to getting the call to the majors by performing well at two levels this summer. Through his first 76 games at High A Daytona Baez chipped in 17 home-runs and 54 runs batted in while batting .274. The more impressive number is his OPS which combines slugging percentage and on base percentage. Javy’s OPS at Daytona was .873 which used his .338 OBP and his .533 slugging percentage. Things that still worry are his plate discipline that included 78 strikeouts to 21 walks. His plate discipline is getting better but we would still like to see the number of strikeouts go down a little bit as overall across both levels he is striking out at 32% while only walking at 8.5%. After Javy’s gaudy season at Daytona the Cubs called him up to Double A Tennessee where he has spent the rest of the summer up to date. Baez’s season totals for Tennessee include a .273 batting average 11 home-runs and 27 runs batted in only 132 at bats. This reflects highly on his slugging percentage at Tennessee where it’s an unreal .612. Overall his OPS is.945 which exemplifies a great season to an MVP caliber season when your lurking around a 1.000 OPS.

Final Thoughts: Incredibly talented hitter with a potential plus-plus bat in every respect.  Most scouts believe he could hit 25-30 home runs with .290+ batting average. In retrospect, for the 2013 season through 105 games he has already hit 28 home-runs and driven in 84 runs while batting .274. This resembles the exact thoughts of scouts on his incredible bat speed and potential power mentioned above. I have alluded throughout this piece, that Baez’s plate discipline will tell us if he reaches that MVP caliber player scouting potential in the next five years. Only time will tell as Baez looks to start at shortstop for the Iowa Cubs next season and will probably earn an extended look at Spring Training after his already great 2013 minor league campaign. There is a great chance that he makes the switch next year to third base to better harness his arm strength and to shadow his limited range abilities at shortstop.

Sleeper Prospect: Marco Hernandez

Hernandez was signed out of the Dominican Republic and started playing professional baseball with the Chicago Cubs in the Rookie League. As a 17 year old in 2010 Hernandez hit .286 across 255 plate appearances. Those numbers also included 21 doubles and a.736 OPS. Regarded more as a defensive shortstop he proved in 2010 he can hit for average. The jury is still out whether he can consistently hit at the big league level and he has a high ceiling just like Baez but not to that extent. Hernandez then moved on to Boise in 2012 where he hit .286/.310/.416 while also hitting 12 doubles, five homers and four triples. This year Hernandez has played exclusively at the new Low A affiliate for the Cubs the Kane County Cougars. Hernandez is part of probably the best infield lineup the Cubs field throughout the minors that also includes Dan Vogelbach, Gioskar Amaya and Jeimer Candelario. Overall he is still adjusting to the Midwest League only hitting .241 on the season with only 16 extra base hits on the season. If Hernandez can end up being a .250 to .270 hitters throughout the minors I could see him getting a call-up in late 2016 barring any injuries.

Final Thoughts: Hernandez has a chance to be the best all-around shortstop not named Baez in the farm system, but he is still several years away. Look for Hernandez to continue to harness his full potential over the next two to three years. Hernandez probably will get the call-up to Daytona to start next season if he can finish this year at a .260 batting average or better. There seems to be no reason to rush him since he is only 20 years old and would only benefit from the full season at Kane County this year.

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What do the Cubs Need to do to Compete in 2014

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

With the July 31st trading deadline come and gone, and the Cubs bereft of the type of players that would make it through waivers, we have a very good idea of what the Cubs will look like the rest of the way through 2013. This also means that we have a pretty good idea of what the Cubs will look like in 2014.

Despite the record, the Cubs are a significantly better team this year than last year. This is largely due to the Cubs not trotting out starting pitchers that just are not good enough to get by the in Majors, are not ready for the Majors, or both, 4 out of 5 games. While this is somewhat related to injuries and innings limits last season, the Cubs are also just deeper as far as starting pitchers are concerned this season. Whereas the Cubs were flawed in all phases of the game a year ago, they are now just largely a team that does not score enough runs. They have a good starting rotation, and an ok but inconsistent bullpen.

The Cubs have some big time prospects in the minors, and there is a legitimate argument that 8 Cubs farmhands will be in Top 100 lists next year. Yet only one of those prospects is in Triple A (Mike Olt). In other words, the big influx of high ceiling talent probably is not coming until 2015, although I will be discussing when you can expect to see those eight prospects in the Big Leagues on Friday afternoon.

Considering the Javier Baez and Kris Bryant types in the farm system are not coming to save the day, what can the Cubs do to compete in 2014? For the sake of this article, my definition of “competing” is being at least within 5 games of the division lead for most of the season. It would mean that at the All Star Break and trade deadline the Cubs would be in the division hunt. I am not going to reference things that need to continue, so the Cubs’ strong starting pitching won’t get a reference. These are the things that need to change.

The Cubs Need Better Luck Part 1

The Cubs -31 run differential is better than the Washington Nationals’ run differential (-35). The Nationals are 4 games under .500, pretty much right where their run differential says they should be, the Cubs are 13 games under .500. The Cubs have been terrible in 1 run games this season, but that is due to two things: (1) poor bullpen performances, particularly early in the season; and (2) a lack of clutch hitting. Here’s the thing: do you know what are two of the biggest things in baseball that are not predictive of future success or failure? One is bullpen performance, which can vary greatly from year to year. Relief pitchers have among the highest early flameout rates, and the way they are used leads to small sample sizes in any given year. And the second is clutch hitting, which is something that no one has been able to show is a skill as opposed to just plain old randomness.

But the Cubs Also Actually Need a Better Bullpen

This is especially true at the start of the season. Now, the Cubs will have an advantage at the start of 2014: they will not be trying to showcase Carlos Marmol. The Cubs have also put together a pretty solid collection of young hard throwers who are MLB ready, at least as relievers, but they are going to have be very good in 2014 for the Cubs to compete.

Rebounds and Improvements

The Cubs have gotten nothing offensively from the middle of the infield this season.  No, really, they’re below 0 WAR offensively in the middle infield. Starlin Castro has been among the most disappointing players in baseball this season, although he was much better in July (.292/.339/.442). Second base has been a complete offensive black hole for the Cubs, although that is largely due to Darwin Barney’s .228 BABIP. While Barney has never been a good hitter, his elite defense at the position at least made him survivable at the bottom of a lineup. At first base, Anthony Rizzo has been pretty good this year, but has not yet become the ideal middle of the order force many think he can.

Legitimately, for the Cubs to compete in 2014 Castro and Barney will have to at least revert back to their 2011-2012 form offensively. This means that Castro will have to become an above average offensive shortstop, and Barney just has to not be a complete black hole in the 8 hole.

However, I think Rizzo is going to have to become a stud in short order for the Cubs to compete in 2014. If anyone in that lineup is going to become a .900 plus OPS force, it’s going to Rizzo.

Someone Will Have to Surprise

I’m looking at you Brett Jackson and Mike Olt. One of you is going to have to get past your strikeout problems and become an average regular at least. I’m also kind of looking at you Junior Lake, but you just have to prove that you can continue to be a productive major leaguer. Other candidates: Logan Watkins, Alberto Cabrera, Chris Rusin, Brooks Raley.

The Cubs Will Have to Make a Move or Two

I think the most likely move the Cubs will make is for David Price, but Price will not improve the club enough on his own in 2014 alone to make the difference. Over this year’s rotation, adding Price would add 4 wins at most. Getting Price now would be to sign him long term, so he’ll be heading a rotation that the Cubs expect to make the playoffs several times between 2015 and 2020.

But I do not think the Cubs can trust the left field role to Junior Lake and expect it to work, so they will need to get someone. My top choice would be Carlos Beltran, if he is not tendered a contract by the Cardinals. On the down side, Beltran’s walk rate has gone downhill this year and he should only be playing in left field. On the up side, Beltran still hits for average and power and the Cubs should only need him to play left field.

The Cubs Will Need Some Better Luck, Part 2

This part of the better luck scenario is that the Cubs will need some help from their division mates. The NL Central is too strong for the Cubs to reasonably compete if the Cardinals, Pirates, and Reds play up to their potential. The Cubs will likely need one, if not two, of these teams to have rough 2014s to compete.

 

  • Edwin Jackson had what may have been his worst start since April, giving up 7 runs in 5 innings on 10 hits and 2 walks, only striking out 2. Jackson had clear issues with location throughout the night.
  • The Cubs attempted a comeback, scoring 3 runs in the ninth to make it close. They were aided by a Domonic Brown error that scored the 8th run, but the game ended when new Cub Thomas Neal flied out to Brown.
  • Anthony Rizzo and Donnie Murphy both homered. Wellington Castillo stayed hot, going 3 for 4 with a walk.

  • Julio Borbon cleared waivers and was assigned to the Triple A Iowa Cubs. It is unlikely we’ll see him back with the big league club this season.
  • Double A Tennessee Smokies’ pitcher Eric Jokisch came back from the DL last night, and promptly threw a no-hitter. While Jokisch’s ceiling tops out in the back of a MLB rotation or middle innings relief, he is a legit prospect (anyone who can contribute in the Majors is a legit prospect, and Jokisch can), who is also a Northwestern alumnus (go Big 10). A great night for the young lefty.
  • Top prospect Javier Baez added 4 hits in support of Baez. To get an idea of Baez’s potential, even before last night’s performance Baez had a .909 OPS as a 20 year in Double A, despite striking out in more than 30% of his plate appearances. Imagine how good he could be if he gets the Ks under control.

STATE OF THE SYSTEM
Second Base

by Rob Willer

Top Prospect: Arismendy Alcantara

Background Info: Signed by the Cubs in 2008, shortly after his 17th birthday, Alcantara has had an unremarkable, quiet start to his career. Alcantara’s double play partner also has a bright future ahead of him who would be Javy Baez. Over the past two years we have seen the Cubs stockpile this system with talent. Most of the talent is Low A to Double A so 2014 should be a fun year as many players will be promoted to Double A from High A or even Triple A from Double A.
Nineteen players from the 2012 Futures Game already are in the big leagues, including All-Stars Manny Machado, Jose Fernandez and Jean Segura. Alcantara, who played second base last month and at 21 has just as big a future as the players mentioned above.

Season Stats: Alcantara hit .266 with 15 home runs and 25 stolen bases for Double-A Tennessee. Alcantara has great skills with the bat and the glove something that definitely has improved is his walk rate which is around a very solid 10%. The strikeout rate still worries me at almost 22 percent but the walk rate is encouraging so will keep an eye on both for the rest of the season as well as the future. If he can get his strikeout rate closer to 15 percent I see no problem with his development and we’ll likely see him in Chicago by 2015 at the latest.

Prediction: Alcantara gets promoted to Iowa to start next season at second base for the Iowa Cubs. Has an opportunity by the end of the 2014 season to win the job if Javy Baez plays third base at the major league level. Darwin Barney will be an interesting name over the next few years as he might be a trade candidate if Alcantara plays at high level in the major leagues.

Sleeper Prospect: Gioskar Amaya

Amaya has been an intriguing prospect to watch, he played both 2010 and 2011 at rookie ball for the Cubs. In 2011 Amaya, turned in a ridiculous season batting .337/.417/.510 for an impressive OPS of .927 which resembles an MVP caliber player in the majors. Yes rookie ball is completely different on the talent level than the majors but it was great to see Amaya breakout in 2011. After his promotion the following year to the Boise Hawks (Short Season A Affiliate of the Chicago Cubs) he still kept on hitting as a young nineteen year old. Through 272 at-bats for Boise Amaya hit .298/.381/,496 while clubbing eight homers, six doubles, 12 triples and 15 stolen bases. From the above mentioned stats we can see that Amaya gives the Cubs something of everything at a young age he has shown increased power which translates into a better slugging percentage. One also has to look at the 12 triples and get excited to see that speed in action in addition to the 15 steals which gives him a well rounded makeup as a hitter.

Finally we got to see Amaya get the call to Kane County to start the season in 2013 where in 97 games he is batting .265/.335/.394 which is to be expected as he keeps moving through the system there will be adjustments to be made. Personally I have seen Amaya play this summer and he is just a fun player to watch whether it be with the glove or the bat he puts on a show. We have to keep in mind he is only 20 years old just like his fellow third baseman Jeimer Candelario who is only 19 these kids need time to develop. If all goes to plan I see Amaya progressing to Daytona next year to start the season with a shot at being called up to Double A by the end of the season in 2014. In the end, Amaya should be in consideration for a call-up to the Cubs in 2016 barring any injuries.

Interview Alert: Be on the lookout next week as I’m scheduling interviews with some of the Cubs prospects across the lower levels. So far I can confirm Jeimer Candelario I am interviewing Jeimer Candelario after the game on Sunday.

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The Newest Cub, the Science of Sports Performance, and Biogenesis

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Thomas Neal is the newest Cub. Neal is 25 years old, big (6’2’, 225 lbs.), and he throws and bats right-handed. He was recently DFA’d by the Yankees, and was hitting .325/.391/.411 over 297 plate appearances with AAA at Scranton Wilkes-Barre (a nice line, for sure, but he only hit 2 hr – that’s a little worrisome). He was a former top 10 prospect in the Giants system, but he’s had a few injuries. Hopefully, he’s healthy and can assume an upward trajectory. It would be nice if he could be the Cubs 4th outfielder or assume a platoon role in 2014 – although the fact that he’s been let go by three teams (Giants, Indians, Yankees) within the last two years is definitely a red flag. Rafael Dolis (remember him?) was added to the 60-day DL to make room for Neal on the 40-man roster.

I heard an intriguing interview with Sports Illustrated’s David Epstein today on NPR’s Fresh Air. He has a new book, The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance, which sounds so good that I think I’m going to buy it. Anyway, Epstein has dug into the research on genetics as it relates to sports performance. He spends a good deal of the interview discussing how major league hitters are able to recognize a pitch, decide to swing, and finally make contact. A few of the highlights: 1) “reflexes” are largely mythical in this context – in fact, baseball players often don’t score that well on tests of reflexes, 2) visual pitch recognition out of the pitcher’s hand is the real key, 3) baseball players might as well close their eyes once the ball is halfway to the plate, because all of the mental processes and mechanical actions must be in motion by then, 4) the average pro baseball player has 20/12 vision – so, a good way to tell if a kid might be a good hitter one day is to get his/her vision tested (good vision won’t make him/her a good hitter, but poor vision would probably prevent it), 5) talent is being redefined as the genetic predisposition to respond well to training. Overall, it’s a highly interesting interview. Best of all, you can listen free here:

http://www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air/

Ugh, I suppose I should comment on the biggest story of the day, the Biogenesis scandal. I’m sure you’ve read about this from the 349382749837 sources covering the story today. The short version: 12 players were suspended 50 games (included the Rangers’ Nelson Cruz, the Padres’ Everth Cabrera, and the Tigers’ Jhonny Peralta) and suspending Alex Rodriguez through the end of the 2014 season. Apparently, A-Rod intends to appeal, blah, blah, blah. Does anyone care anymore? Is there anyone who isn’t completely sick of A-Rod’s act? Guys like A-Rod and Lance Armstrong just need to go away. We can debate on the actual effects of steroids on performance (considering the information from the interview above, Lasik surgery might be a more effective way to “cheat”) and the moral/ethical issues. That debate aside, it is against the rules of the sport, so these players knowingly did something they knew was wrong and hoped to get away with it. The great thing for all of us is that no Cubs players were involved (insert joke about how obvious that should have been).  Honestly, 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.

STATE OF THE SYSTEM
First Base

by Rob Willer

Top Prospect: Dan Vogelbach who was the second round pick by the Cubs in 2011. Vogelbach played in just six games after signing, hitting three doubles and bombing his first professional home run. Played in 24 games with the rookie-level Arizona Cubs, hitting .324/.391/.686 that season. After those 24 games he was promoted to rookie-level Boise and hit at a very similar line .329/.391/.696 in 20 games at that level. Vogelbach has the type of offensive tools in approach, hitting ability and legitimate power  but that set of skills has to fully mature for him to be an impact player at an offense-oriented position. For the 2013 season we have seen Vogelbach play at Kane County which is the Cubs Low A Minor League Affiliate. His stats continue to be great as he moves through the system which includes 16 home-runs and 68 runs batted while having a line of .283/.360/.450. Vogelbach seems to only project as a designated hitter/first baseman due to his lack of speed and defense which raises questions since Anthony Rizzo just signed a seven year contract who also plays 1st Base for the Cubs presently. Most scouts say that he has the potential to hit 30 home-runs in a season consistently and also hit for average as well. The problems that arise with Vogelbach are his defense which becomes limited with his lack of range and athleticism due to his size. His speed is below average which is what you would expect but even for first base his speed is way below average. I have personally seen Vogelbach at Kane County this summer and have seen him do wonders with the bat which makes him a very intriguing prospect over the next couple years. Considering that the Cubs are replenishing their system I definitely could see him being a throw in to a deal to acquire a Top Pitcher/ Impact Bat in the near future.

Sleeper: Justin Bour was highly touted in 2012 after completing the year at Double A Tennessee. In 506 at bats he clubbed 17 home-runs and 110 runs batted in while having a slash line of .283/360/455. After Anthony Rizzo got called up last year to the Cubs most people believe Bour would get a chance at Triple A after he proved through out the year he was ready. Bour didn’t get that chance and ended up back at Tennessee this spring where he has struggled hitting for average as his batting average has dropped 53 points since 2012. A positive to take away from this season is his slugging percentage went up 50 points to .493 and he has hit 15 home-runs in 300 less at bats than last year. He is a big first baseman at 6’4″, 250 lbs he finally seems to be harnessing that power that some what alluded him in 2012. If you take a look at Bour’s advanced stats on FanGraphs something that jumped out to me was that he lowered his strikeout rate while increasing his walk rate which is tremendous. Bour’s story relates to Rafael Lopez in yesterday’s post about how they have talent but are still stuck at Double A and they’re not getting any younger. As long as Bour get’s called up Triple A by the end of the summer I see no reason for him not to get called up in the summer time of 2014 barring any injuries

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Does The Logan Watkins Promotion Tell Us Something About Josh Vitters?

Monday, August 5th, 2013

On Sunday we saw Luis Valbuena put on the 15 day DL and Logan Watkins recalled from AAA. With Valbuena getting the lion’s share of work at third base this season, the move to recall Watkins seemed to be a bit curious to me. In his minor league career, Watkins has never played third base. The recent acquisition of Mike Olt would normally suggest he would have been the likely call up and, should be play well, remain the starting third baseman for the remainder of the season. However, Olt’s struggles since coming over warrent further time at AAA for him. Next in line, you would think, would be Josh Vitters. In limited time this year due to an injury, Vitters is hitting .289 / .372 / .470 with 4 HR in 26 games. Note the almost 100 point differnce between his batting average and on base % and you’ll see that Vitters appears to have made some improvements in the discipline department. He went on record recently as saying he saw himself as the Cubs third baseman of the future, and that’s good swagger to have. The question is if Theo and Jed feel the same. This seems like a perfect time to recall him and see what he does. Instead, it’s Watkins who gets the call. Assuming this move stands, expect Junior Lake to see time at third.

UPDATEVitters is on the DL back to July 26th after coming up lame rounding 1st base. We’ll see what happens when he returns.

After looking so good against the Giants, the Cubs have completely wet the bed this past week, being swept by the Dodgers and almost being swept by the Brewers. Sunday was not a bad game to watch, but it wasn’t a fun result.

  • Carlos Villanueva pitched effectively, going six innings and just allowing one run. It was one of his better starts of the season from a results standpoint, but the efficiency was not really there. He routinely worked deep into counts. He was able to wiggle off the hook in the 2nd to prevent his day from being a rough one, but overall I don’t see him as a part of this rotation in the future. His stuff is better suited for the pen. In the meantime, he’ll do.
  • We saw the debut of Logan Watkins as was noted above. I thought he looked fine. I’m just curious where he’s going to play. He’s defintely not going to get every day time.
  • Len and JD noted it, and I think it bears repeating. Dale missed out on a great opportunity by not starting Darwin Barney in the game against Stephen Fife. It would have set up a history Barney / Fife matchup.
  • Hanley Ramirez took exception to a pitch that he considered up and in early in the game by Villanueva. He mouthed off a little to Dioner Navarro and when he eventually drew a walk that at bat, he placed the bat gently between Navarro’s legs just to be a jerk. As the bat boy came out to retrieve Ramirez’s bat, Navarro picked it up, slammed it against the ground to break it, and gave it back. Good for him. Ramirez would later leave the game with an injury after making a play on a ball in foul territory and crashing into the wall. If we follow the logic of a certain regular reader of this site (and frequent commenter), you would be happy about this injury because he got what he deserved.

  •  Julio Borbon was designated for assignment over the weekend after a bonehead play on the bases on Friday.
  • An update, sort of, on the PTBNL in the Matt Garza trade. Apparently the Cubs have the option of taking Neal Ramirez and the trade being final or choosing two other players. Ramirez is ranked as the # 14 prospect in the Rangers system.
  • Matt Garza did something dumb over the weekend on Twitter and had to apologize. People need to think before they tweet. Holster your tweeter.
  • Today is announcement day for the PED suspensions. The big question centers around A-Rod, and I could care less.

STATE OF THE SYSTEM
Catcher

by Rob Willer

Top prospect: Rafael Lopez (.269/.338/.403 at Daytona in 2012) (.250/.347/.427 at Tennessee in 2013). This is a position the Cubs struggle with in regards to depth and impact talent. It’s one of the harder positions to find consistent hitting throughout out the minor league levels as well as defense. When you think of catchers in the majors in relation to impact players few names come up. Those include Yadier Molina, Joe Mauer and Buster Posey who are consistently valuable to their teams in multiple ways: offense, pitch calling, framing, ability to command a staff are just a few things that catchers do for a ball-club. Back to Lopez he has shown that he can play at Double A turning in a solid season so far that includes 20 doubles and 8 home-runs over 248 at bats that also includes a .775 OPS. The problem that arises with Lopez is he already 25 and is only in Double A. He has progressed nicely after college in 2012 as he went from Boise to Peoria then to Daytona to finish the year. The problem is that Wellington Castillo is 26 and already in the majors and Lopez still needs a year or so to develop before being called up to the big leagues. In the end Lopez seems to project as a solid backup for the Cubs at the Major League level although if he were a few years younger and playing where he is today we might be talking about our future catcher. In my mind I just don’t see that happening because of the age and the unknowns of how he is going to handle Triple A. Next season will be a better indication of what Lopez’s path will turn out to be. For now his estimated time of arrival is July 2014 barring an injury where he will most likely back-up Castillo as well get few stars on occasion similar to Dionner Navarro’s role this year.

Sleeper Prospect: Wilson Contreras (.239/.309.422 at Low A Kane County in 2013) Last year Contreras played all of last year at Short Season A Boise where he batted .273/.316/.357. At first glance we can tell right away that his power has definitely increased between 2012 and 2013 as his home run output has passed last season’s total of 3 by already clubbing 10 home runs. His power numbers are encouraging as well as his increased slugging percentage but his average has taken a hit since his promotion this season. This I believe is due to the increase in competition as well as his decreased BABIP or Batting Average on Balls in Play. In 2012 when he was hitting .273 his BABIP was .337 which seemed unusually high but was consistent with his career numbers. While in 2013 that number has come down to .273 which would affect his batting average tremendously and begs the questions is it due just to increased competition or is Contreras just a .240 hitter who has finally ran out of luck. Contreras is a very intriguing prospect that I have personally seen him play at Kane County in five games this summer. Things he does well our framing pitches although he still needs to get more consistent at this but more reps will help him harness this tool. Another tool he has greatly improved is his plate disclipine as his walk rate has increased from 4.1% in 2012 to 6.9% in 2013 which is quite a significant jump. Overall he seems like a promising option for the future since he is only 22 and still hitting just as good as Lopez did the year before at Kane County. Contreras probably will stay at Kane County the rest of the season and start next season at Daytona. Since were at the point in the season where rain greatly affects Florida it does no good for Contreras to be moved there if he won’t get consistent playing time or playable conditions.  Projection wise he could turn into an everyday catcher if he can improve on the batting average while keeping his powers numbers relatively similar to this year. Contreras still needs time to develop so its hard to say an estimated time of arrival to the big leagues but I’ll go out on a limb and say September 2015 if all goes to plan and barring any injuries.

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Cubs Top 20 Prospects – Midseason Update

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

It’s that time again, time to rank prospects after an influx of talent from the rule 4 draft, international draft, and trade deadline. These rankings are compared to my pre-season rankings.  The Cubs headed into the season with a top 10 farm system and I would be shocked if they’re not top 3 next year after adding some premium talent this summer and seeing some development from the top guys in the system.

Note: To make things easier, If a player is on the major league roster right now he will be excluded from this list. Also, per normal rules if a player has lost rookie status in a previous year (that mean’s he has (a) exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues; or (b) accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the period of 25-player limit) they are not being considered for this list either.

Off the list: Junior Lake (Previously 16th, on MLB club would have been #11), Dillon Maples (Previously #19), Duane Underwood (Previously #12), & Ronald Torreyes (Previously #14, traded).

20. Jae-Hoon Ha (Previously #20) – Has struggled since his promotion to AAA. Don’t think he’s going to be much more than a 5th outfielder type.

19. Gioskar Amaya (Previously #17) – Everything has taken a little dip after being promoted to A ball but he has the skills to be a consistent bat at 2B.

18. Brett Jackson (Previously #8) – Swing change didn’t change much and he’s been injured most of the year. Looks like his contact issues will always plague him, and if that’s the case, he’s a bench player.

17. Josh Vitters (Previously #13) – Has performed well at AAA when healthy, but that’s been a rarity this year. Hopefully he gets healthy soon and is called up, there’s not much left for him to prove at AAA.

16. Jeimer Candelario (Previously #7) – Did not take the step forward I expected and his numbers while still good are nothing special. I have some reservations about his defense and ability to make consistent contact against experienced pitching.

15. Christian Villanueva, 3B, Double-A Tennessee Smokies
Previously #10
Grade: B-

Why He’s Here:  One of the pieces we received at last year’s deadline, Villanueva is another one of our prospects that has seen his stock drop this year. A third baseman with power and great defense are still rare these days so he still has potential.

What’s Holding Him Back:
 Contact issues are the major problem but the power is still there and with good defense he’s still a valuable commodity. There’s also no room in Chicago for him as there’s a long list of left-side infielders ahead of him , so I’d expect his value to be used in a trade.

#14. Shawon Dunston Jr., CF, Low-A Boise Hawks
Previously: Not ranked
Grade: B-

Why He’s Here: A legit 4 tool outfielder with good plate discipline, a rarity in the Cubs system. He won’t hit for much power but all of his other tools should be above average, or plus.  He cut down his K% which has seen a huge jump in walks and is currently hitting .328/.411/.422 at Boise. He’s a ways off, only being in Low-A right now,  so he ranks a bit lower but this is one of those highly interesting names to keep an eye, and it’s not because of his pedigree.

What’s Holding Him Back: Time. Dunston Jr. just needs to continue to develop. He’ll start next year at Kane County but I am worried about two things, first he’s a little old for Low-A (turned 20 in February) and second his BB% might not be sustainable as he moves through the system – low power guys have a hard time walking at the major league level.  We won’t get a good feel for him until he hits High-A but he’s a guy that should be on everyone’s radar.

#13. Arodys Vizcaino , SP, 60-Day DL
Previously #4
Grade: B

Why He’s Here: Still the most electric and most advanced major league arm in our farm system.

What’s Holding Him Back: Injuries. After Tommy John Surgery last year, Vizcaino had arthroscopic debridement in his throwing elbow.  He might not pitch at all this year, which has dropped his stock significantly. He’s going to be a good major league pitcher, but with the injuries mounting, I’m less optimistic about him starting than I was last year when we acquired him.

#12. Dan Vogelbach  1B, A-ball Kane County Cougars
Previously #15
Grade: B

Why He’s Here: Can hit, and hit for power with good plate discipline. His numbers aren’t as eye-popping as last season’s limited appearances in rookie ball and low-A, but they’re still good across the board.

What’s Holding Him Back: Lack of athleticism. A lot of Cubs fans want to bring up Prince Fielder or Frank Thomas types when they talk about Vogelbach, but those guys were/are actually athletic for their size. Vogelbach on the other hand shows no agility whatsoever. He’s worked hard to shed weight every year but that hasn’t helped; in fact, it probably sapped some of his plus-plus power. He’s won’t be passable even at first base; his range, stretch, ability to field ground balls and cover the bag are all prohibited by his lack of athleticism. Unless the DH comes to the NL, he’ll be valuable trade bait in the future.

#11. Paul Blackburn, SP, Low-A Boise Hawks
Previously #11
Grade: B

Why He’s Here: Cubs drafted Blackburn last year in the first round at 56th overall. He’s a very athletic pitcher with good command of his 3 pitch repertoire. He throws a low 90s fastball, that usually sits at 92 but can touch 94 with good movement, a curve and a changeup which both project as above average. He’s only 19 and in low A but is more advanced than most pitchers his age.

What’s Holding Him Back: Blackburn just needs to gain experience.  Should be a solid mid-rotation starter once he reaches the bigs, and due to his skill set, I don’t think it will take all that long.

#10. Matt Szczur, CF, Double-A Tennessee
Previously #6
Grade: B

Why He’s Here: Continues to improve plate discipline while hitting for a high average, playing a solid CF and swiping a good number of bases. 

What’s Holding Him Back: Lack of power. Szczur, as noted by Keith Law many times, has a very slappy swing. It’s built to put the ball in play and use his legs to reach base. Against major league defenses, he’s going to see a drop in batting average on balls in play and as I mentioned with Dunston Jr., not having some threat of power, will hurt his OBP at the majors. Pitchers don’t fear singles hitters, and he won’t be able to carry as high of BB% rates as he’s shown these last 2 years. I think he’s at worst a 4th OFer, and if he can maintain a high BABIP, while utilizing his speed on the bases he could be a starting caliber CF.

#9. Juan Carlos Paniagua , SP, A-ball Kane County Cougars
Previously #5
Grade: B+

Why He’s Here: Has the most raw talent out of any pitcher in our system. Has 2 plus pitches already with a mid-90s fastball that can hit 96 and a hard slider with lots of movement. His change-up is solid and he occasionally mixes in a curveball.

What’s Holding Him Back: Uncertainty. Paniagua, finally got his visa to come to the US a few weeks ago, but he’s shown the rust of a guy who hasn’t pitched in a meaningful game in over 2 years. Needs time to shake off the rust and he still has many questions about his age after being turned down for a visa, twice; but he should move very fast through the system, now that he’s finally here.

#8. Mike Olt, 3B, AAA Iowa Cubs
Previously Not ranked
Grade: B+

Why He’s Here:  Olt was rumored to be untouchable last year at the deadline given his combination of plus defense, plus-plus power, and ability to draw a high number of walks.

What’s Holding Him Back: Vision and contact problems. Contact problems have been a problem, but there’s plenty of optimism that with more experience he could fix these issues. This year his numbers have been derailed by vision problems, that may have been concussion related after getting hit in the head during winter ball.

#7. C.J. Edwards, SP, High-A Daytona Cubs
Previously Not ranked
Grade: B+

Why He’s Here:  The real centerpiece of the Garza deal; Edwards has two plus pitches, with a chance for a third. He has plus velocity with late life on a mid-90s fastball. He also utilizes a plus 12-6 curveball, and is working on a changeup that could potentially be above average.  He has dominated the lower minors these past 2 seasons with Texas and the Cubs moved him to High-A Daytona immediately after acquiring him. That puts him on pace to be in Chicago’s opening day rotation for 2015.

What’s Holding Him Back:  Other than developing the changeup, his size is worrisome. Edwards is 6-foot-2 and weighs only 155 pounds so there’s quite a bit of concern he won’t be able to handle the stress of a starting pitcher but he has the potential to be a number 3 starter, and has shown excellent results in the lower minors.

#6. Pierce Johnson, SP,  High-A Daytona Cubs
Previously #9
Grade: B+

Why He’s Here: Johnson has the upside of a #2 starter and is very likely to make it there. Recently promoted to Daytona, Johnson has continued to pitch well showing his advanced command and ability to set up hitters. He’s not going to overwhelm anyone with velocity as his fastball only sits in the lower 90s, but he commands it well keeping it down in the zone where hitters can’t do much with it.  His fastball isn’t an out-pitch as much as a setup pitch for his off-speed especially his hard curve.

What’s Holding Him Back:  His third pitch. Since being drafted Johnson has worked on developing a changeup which he never really used in college. It’s still a work in progress but he’s shown the ability to locate it, and get batters to swing and miss.

#5. Arismendy Alcantara, SS/2B, Double-A Tennessee Smokies
Previously #18
Grade: B+

Why He’s Here:  Alcantara’s stock has skyrocketed this year while at AA and he’s one of my personal favorites in the system. He has a simple repeatable swing that results in a lot of hard contact. He sprays hits to all fields and has much more power than you think despite his smaller size. Also a plus runner, Alcantara is a threat on the bases and could steal 30 bases a year at the majors.

What’s Holding Him Back: Defense and consistency. Alcantara has been playing 2B since Baez moved to Double-A . He’s still a work in progress at short but out of the two, I think Alcantara has the better chance to stay there than Baez. This should figure itself out when Alcantara moves up to AAA (which could be soon) and takes over SS again.  He needs to work on his consistency in each at bat- sometimes he works the count into his favor, takes pitches he shouldn’t swing at, and forces the pitcher to give in to his strengths and others he’s up there to swing as hard as he can at whatever he sees.

#4. Javier Baez, SS, Double-A Tennessee Smokies
Previously #1
Grade: A-

Why He’s Here: Since I wrote an in-depth scouting report recently about Baez, I won’t go too far into specifics. He’s very athletic, has amazing bat speed, huge power potential and a very strong accurate arm.  

What’s Holding Him Back: Defensively, he’s going to have a hard time being an average SS, but it could be passable given his offense. If he moves to 3B, which is what I expect, he’d be a plus defender there, and could turn himself into a gold glover. Offensively, if he can just cut down on his aggressiveness, I’d bet on him being a superstar, but that’s a big if.

#3. Kris Bryant, 3B, Low-A Boise Hawks
Previously: Not ranked
Grade: A

Why He’s Here: The Cubs drafted Bryant #2 overall in this past draft, and paid him the highest bonus of any player.  He has a great approach, knows how to work counts, and this type of plus-plus power from the right side of the plate is a rarity.

What’s Holding Him Back: Questions about his effort defensively. There’s concerns Bryant will have to move to RF but he has the athleticism to stay at 3B, it’s a matter of putting in the work to do so. He should be on the fast track and could see a call up as soon as next year.

#2. Albert Almora, CF A-ball Kane County Cougars
Previously #2
Grade: A

Why He’s Here: If there was one prospect the Cubs would deem untouchable, rumor is, it’s Almora. Almora is quickly showing why the Cubs were so high on him in last year’s draft. He has a quick swing that produces excellent contact and surprising power given his thin frame. He’d be an above average defender in the majors right now, with plus speed and he’s making strides with his plate discipline.

What’s Holding Him Back:  The front office. It seems the Cubs are taking it slow with Almora, who I thought would have been moved up to High-A by now. He’s got all the tools to move quickly through the system, but the organization doesn’t seem to be in a rush with him.

#1. Jorge Soler, RF, High-A Daytona Cubs
Previously #3
Grade: A

Why He’s Here:  I’m a big fan of Soler. He’s got superstar potential and is the most likely to reach it out of all the Cubs prospects.  He’s the prototypical 5-tool outfielder, with quick hands, a smooth swing, plus running speed, should hit for a high average with above average power, and a strong throwing arm. He has an excellent approach at the plate.

What’s Holding Him Back: Injury. He’d be in AA right now if it wasn’t for his injury as he was right there with Baez in terms of production in Daytona. He should be back to get some at-bats in AA before the minor league season ends, and I’d still expect him to be up for good, by the end of next year.  But if the Cubs want to make up for lost time, they could call him up in September since he’s already on the 40-man due to his contract. With his skills at the plate and experience with the Cuban National team, I’m not worried about putting him against MLB pitchers as long as he gets back for a few weeks to face live pitching in the minors beforehand.

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Will the Cubs make any more trades this season?

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

Hello! It’s great to be back after a few weeks away.

Although the Cubs were inactive at the non-waiver trade deadline on Wednesday (making for an anti-climatic day), let’s not forget that they were quite active on the trade market last month. Reflecting on all the moves, it appears as though the front office was quite shrewd to jump on moves ahead of the deadline, since the market seemed to have cooled quite a bit at the end. Perhaps the new CBA (which removes some of the compensation for teams that lose big-time players (it’s too much to go into detail here)) has led to the trend of teams holding onto their young talent rather than making a risky trade for a veteran that could help them down the stretch (although, I still can’t believe the Pirates stood pat with a chance to end their 2347382468-year playoff drought staring them in the face).

Rumors always fly on non-waiver trade deadline day (Twitter is awesome/insane/infuriating), and a few Cubs players were mentioned by all the national media folks. Nate Schierholtz was most often mentioned as the most likely trade candidate, followed by David DeJesus, Kevin Gregg, and James Russell. Obviously, none of them were moved, but could the Cubs still make some trades this season?

Maybe. Although it’s typically referred to as the trade “deadline,” Wednesday was just the non-waiver trade deadline. Most of you, being baseball blog readers, probably know what this means, but in case you don’t, here’s a VERY brief overview:

Teams can still make trades this month, but in order to do so, they must place any players they wish to trade on waivers. Essentially, the waiver process works like this: every team (in reverse order of standings starting with the team with the worst record in the same league as the waived player – then moving to the other league) gets an opportunity to claim that player of waivers. If a team claims a player, one of three things can happen: 1) the two teams can work out a trade (obviously, with no other teams bidding, the return would be much weaker than in July), 2) the team that originally waived the player can just let the claiming team have them (and their contract), 3) the team that waived the player can simply pull that player off waivers and keep them. If a player “clears” waivers (e.g., no team claims him), the team that waived him is free to trade him to any team – just like before the non-waiver deadline. There are a few other details, but those are the basics. The Cubs will probably place almost all their players on waivers, but we won’t hear anything about it unless trade is worked out one way or another (if a player the Cubs don’t want to trade is claimed, they’ll just pull him off waivers and keep him).

So, the Cubs could still makes some trades this season, but will they?

Probably not.

In order to get any kind of value in return in a trade, the Cubs will want their potential trade candidates to clear waivers first (the return on a player traded as a result of a waiver claim will be super low, since no other teams could bid). Players that clear waivers typically have big contracts. Last year, Soriano and Marmol were guaranteed to clear waivers, because no other team would claim them with those contracts (remember, teams that claim a player must take on his contract and place him on the 25-man roster (if the waiving team takes that option)). Since the Cubs have shed all their big contracts (at least on players they don’t want to keep) – yay Jedstein – I don’t see any Cubs players that wouldn’t be claimed. The only player I can really see being traded at all is Kevin Gregg. Although he would probably be claimed, the Cubs might elect to try to work out a trade with the claiming team – even if it’s for a hot dog and a souvenir Coke Zero – just to try to squeeze some value out of him. Then again, they couldn’t get enough for him at the trade deadline, so maybe not. I suppose players like Julio Borbon could clear waivers and get traded, but who cares?

GAME NOTES

I was all ready to use the (what I thought was) clever line “Lake out-Puiged Puig,” but my dreams were crushed with Puig’s homerun in the ninth. In any case, Junior Lake and Anthony Rizzo each hit two homeruns, which was great (Rizzo is looking FANTASTIC lately, and seeing future pieces perform is one of the few reasons left to watch this team), but that was the only offense the Cubs could muster. Once again, Chris Rusin forgot that he was Chris Rusin, and hey, he actually pitched a nice game against a tough lineup.

The Dodgers are now the Yankees of the National League, and I’m going to have fun rooting against them for years to come.

Minor League Recap August 1st

by Rob Willer

Iowa Cubs

Loux struggles as Iowa gets bested by Salt Lake 9-3

Barret Loux struggled once again going 5 and 1/3 innings while allowing seven earned runs on eleven hits. Alberto Cabrera wasn’t much better giving up two earned runs in 1 and 2/3 innings. The final Iowa Cubs pitcher of the night Marcus Hatley rebounded from yesterday’s performance pitching a scoreless inning.

The Cubs’ offense had 10 hits but was only able to get three runs across. Donnie Murphy turned in a decent going 3 for 5 with a double. The Iowa Cubs left nine men on base and went 3 for 7 with runners in scoring position on the night. Another Iowa Cubs player who broke out was first baseman Edgar Gonzales. Gonazales went 2 for four with a two run homer driving in two of the Cubs three runs.

Tennessee Smokies

Tennessee clipped the Barons 2-1.

Kyle Hendricks pitched well once again going six strong innings only allowing one run. Hendricks struck out four and allowed seven hits also lowered his earned run average on the season to 1.85. His night got even better getting the callup to Iowa Cubs. He has really broken out this year and should be fun to watch at Iowa not sure what the corresponding move will be should be announced later on today. Hunter Cervenka took over for Hendricks pitching the final three innings only allowing a hit and a walk picking up the win which improved his record to 3-1.

The Smokies offense was kept in check for most of the night only mustering four hits over 29 at bats. Justin Bour homered again for his 15th of the season it was a solo shot in the seventh. John Andreoli knocked in the winning run in the ninth with a run scoring single to score Javy Baez from third.

Daytona Cubs

Corey Black was excited to get on the mound Thursday night but the Daytona Cubs were rained out so his debut will be pushed until Friday.

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Cubs 6, Brewers 1 – Game Notes

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

At the beginning of the game, JD mentioned how important it was to win this game after the first three games in the series resulted in not only a loss, but heartbreaking losses. Coming off the high of a sweep of the Giants to cap off a successful road trip, it was a good time to get the momentum flowing even more against the Brewers. Instead we wish them off with our tail between our legs. Thankfully no sweep.

  • The game was delayed for over an hour in the 6th and we surprisingly saw Edwin Jackson come back to continue pitching after the delay to finish the night with an 8 IP outing. It was one of his better outings this year and probably a lot more representative of what the Theo / Jed regime were hoping for when they signed him.
  • I don’t understand the decision to give the ball to Blake Parker in the 9th. He’d thrown the previous two days (3o pitches the day before) and both Hector Rondon and Eduardo Sanchez were rested and available. Stuff like that remind me that managers have no clue how to use a bullpen sometimes.
  • Junior Lake got the night off from the starting lineup, though he did make a pinch hit at bat late. With Luis Valbuena struggling lately, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mike Olt recalled from Iowa. Rob touched on his night a little later in the post. The key is that he’s going to have to show something down there to warrant the recall.
  • For you Len Kasper haters, you missed a groaner of a joke early in the game when introducing Wily Peralta. He mentioned that him and Wily Mo Pena were forced to share “L’s”.

by Rob Willer

Iowa Cubs

The Iowa Cubs again were bested by the Salt Lake Bees (Angels), 6-3.

Justin Grimm got the start for his second time with the team and pitched five innings allowing two runs and four hits while striking out five. Grimm pitched better than his first outing with the Iowa Cubs although control was his problem once again as he walked three batters raising his pitch count. Casey Coleman journeyman between Iowa and the Cubs these past few years pitched in a scoreless inning. The bad news of the night was the performance of the reliever Marcus Hatley struggled mightily giving up four runs (four earned) in 2/3 of an inning also giving up five hits. Marcos Mateo was lights out in the ninth pitching a perfect ninth registering three strikeouts and keeping his earned run average at 0.00. Former Major Leaguer Chad Cordero pitched for Salt Lake obtaining a hold but struggled as he gave up three runs on four hits over 1 and 2/3 innings.

Mike Olt continued to struggle as he went 0 for 4 on the night with a strikeout. The bottom of the Cubs lineup went a combined 6 for 10 on the night with two runs batted in. Jae-Hoon Ha continued a hot streak by going 2 for 3 as he was batting seventh on the night. The Iowa Cubs overall went 3 for 7 with runners in scoring position just wasn’t enough as the top of the lineup struggled to get anything going.

Tennessee Smokies

Tennessee squeaked past the Birmingham Barons 3-2.

Matt Loosen pitched for the Smokies turning in a solid night on the bump with 5 and 1/3 innings only two runs allowed on three hits. Loosen starred at Daytona for most of the season and even tossed a no-hitter on July 8th. Jeffry Antigua struggled with his command giving up three walks over 2 2/3 innings only allowing one hit but blew the save as the inherited runners scored. Frank Batista worked out of trouble in the ninth to lock down the save for the Smokies notching his 14th.

Shortstop Javy Baez had the big hit of the night with his 11th home-run at Tennessee a two run shot and his 28th across Daytona and Tennessee.

Third Baseman Christian Villenueva hit his 27th double on the season which was his 43rd extra base hit on the season.

Daytona Cubs

The Daytona Cubs grabbed another victory against Ft. Myers Miracle (Twins), 2-1.

Ivan Pineyro who was aquired in the Scott Hairston trade pitched for Daytona and continued his impressive start in the Cubs organization. So far with Daytona Pineyro is 1-0 with a 1.96 earned run average through 23 innings only allowing five earned runs. The most impressive thing is his strikeout to walk ratio which is a whopping 21 to 1 absolutely unheard of.

First baseman Anthony Giansanti turned in another solid night going 3 for 4 with a double raising his average to .268 on the year.

Pin-Chieh Chen who filled in for Bijan Rademacher after he left due to injury went 3 for 3 with three singles and scoring a run.

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