View From The Bleachers

March 12, 2014

Spring Training 2014: Five Burning Questions

Filed under: Featured,General — Chet West @ 6:00 am

I rarely watch Spring Training games.  I usually watch one to get my baseball fix and read the box scores from there.  However, this year has been a bit different as I have watched every game televised, which up tip now has been about three, but I digress…

I am attributing this new-found viewing interest to the prospects.   I actually don’t even look at the stats linked to the regular MLB level guys.   Some of these guys are keeping a seat warm and I find it difficult to get too involved.  Plus, it’s hard to get attached to guys like Luis Valbuena and Darnell McDonald.  Valbuena is a fine third baseman but not the spiciest option for the fan base.  McDonald is, well, not that fine.

My recent viewings have generated a few questions and I was wondering what the VFTB faithful think……

1)  Will Brett Jackson or Josh Vitters ever see extended time in the majors again?

– I am going with no on both counts, at least not in a Cubs uniform.  Unless something amazing happens for Vitters then Brett Jackson has the better chance, if any at all.  A rather sad story for two guys who were once the pride of the Cubs farm system for multiple seasons in a row.  These guys locked up the top spot from 2007 through 2011, or something like that.  Pretty sure both were top 50 prospects on somebody’s list somewhere.   Injuries have taken their toll but it is just another reminder that sometimes, even the highly touted ones don’t pan out.

2)  Who will get the majority of starts for the Cubs at Third Base in 2014?

-Kevin Orie. Whoops, speaking of highly touted prospects that didn’t pan out, wrong decade.  I am going with Mike Olt.  Something tells me he may just hit about .245 this season.  Actually, lets go further and say 13 HR’s , 43 RBI’s and a .241 average.  Here is the best part, if Valbuena gets his starts instead, the stat line won’t be much different.

3)  While everybody is wetting their collective pants over Javier Baez, I want to know when we will see Kris Byrant?

-Does Bryant make it to the big club in 2014?  Every bit of me wants to say yes, in September, but there is a part of me that thinks he spends the whole year in the minors at one level or another.  It’s the smart part of me, the part that is usually right, and it is a small part.  I feel as though Theo and Jed go out of their way to make sure these guys are not brought up to the big club one day before they are beyond ready.  I respect that, I am okay with that.  Drives me crazy as a fan because the product on the field is, in a wishful world, a .500 team.  Will these guys make the team better this year? maybe not.  Will it destroy them as ball players? It could.  Would it still make things more interesting? Yes.

4)  If you had to choose from one of the following prospects, which one is most likely to not make a Big League appearance in their career?

(A) Jorge Soler

(B) Albert Almora

(C) Arismendy Alcantara

(D) Kyle Hendricks

You don’t even have to have a reason, just let your gut speak.

5)  How many wins do the Cubs get this year?

I am going to sit right around 70.  If Shark is dealt then it could go lower.  Couple in the fact that we may assemble one of the worst outfields in the history of baseball and the 2014 high point could very well be spring training and the prospect talk.  That being said, on a more positive note, this could be the season we start to see the team turn a corner.  Some young pitching pans out and a few young position players start to pick it up and we could be in for .500 plus with a lot to look forward too down the road.

So, turning point or another lost season?

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Chet West is an IT professional living in Minneapolis, MN with his wife and two daughters. He has a pug named Banks and loves photography. Follow him on Twitter @chetwest19

  • Eddie Von White

    “Multiple seasons in a row” in the minors – that’s why Jackson and Vitters won’t make it – you can’t be down there that long.
    Good observation in your #2 question in comparing Olt and Valbuena. Good post.

  • Jerry in Wisconsin

    1) No, 2) Totally agree 3) In September if he hits well in AAA for over a month, 4) Soler, 5) 72

  • Seymour Butts

    1 No
    2 Olt
    3 hopefully not this year
    4 Soler
    5 82 come on we are Cub fans.

  • PLCB3

    1. No
    2. Olt, hopefully he can be the long-term answer. 3B was a revolving door for 30 years until we got Ramirez, it’s become a revolving door since he left
    3. September call-up most likely
    4. Hendricks
    5. 77
    Speaking of question #2, what does everyone think about Ramirez. Should we have kept him on the kind of deal he got with the Brewers to be a placeholder, or was it right to let him go?

  • Chet

    Interesting answers so far for question #4…..I asked the question to see how many people feel bad about Soler’s chances ….something about him raises a red flag or two.

  • Mark_from_Toronto

    1) No
    2) I’d like to see Olt, but I have a feeling things won’t pan out and it will be Valbuena’s job again
    3) not until 2015
    4) Alcantara
    5) 79

  • jswanson

    1) Yes*
    2) Valbuena
    3) Aug / Sept
    4) Alcantara
    5) 83, because I’m a better fan than Seymour

    * in Japan

  • PLCB3

    With Murton and LaHair fighting ham?

  • Seymour Butts

    It was the right thing at the time.

  • Seymour Butts

    I’m changing my #5 answer to 84. (Emoticon with tongue sticking out)

  • PLCB3

    That would be :P

  • PLCB3

    Why do you feel that it was the right thing to do then? Was it because the expectation was we would have had our answer at the hot corner by 2013 and Ramirez wanted too many years?

  • jswanson

    A financial burden like that would have kept us from bringing in studs like Kevin Gregg.

  • Seymour Butts

    No it was because we were going to suck with or without him. might as well spend the money getting less sucky.

  • Doug S.

    1) Disappointing about these guys. I fear them fading fast
    2) I’ll jump on the Olt bandwagon here
    3) I’m hoping that Theo and Jed can stick to their word and not fold due to fan pressure or injuries
    4) Hendricks is the most unknown to me in this group
    5) 85 – why do I feel like I’ve just put in the losing bid on the Price is Right?

  • PLCB3

    But what do you do if your hand is forced due to injuries? Sign filler off the street?

  • Jerry in Wisconsin

    Think about for a minute, Ramirez would at best get us to forth place in any of those years. Also at that time, we had Castro in the Majors, and Vitters and Baez in the Minors. One of those three at the time looked to be the third baseman by the time we would be competitive again. With the extra money the Cubs hired a few more scouts, and now we have Bryant, Olt, Candaleria, and Villaneuva. Clearly the Cubs will have a third baseman once they are competitve again.

  • PLCB3

    Fair enough. I just want to get people’s opinions on the matter since some people thought we should have kept him. I am in the same boat as you and Seymour, because I felt that the money he would have gotten could be spent better, and because we would have had our answer at 3B by now. I too like how it has turned out. But there is no denying Ramirez solidified the hot corner for the 9 years he was here.

  • Jerry in Wisconsin

    But you have just proved to be a better fan than either Seymour or jswan. :)

  • Doug S.

    Yeah, I hear you. But what’s better? Street filler or possible damage done to a top prospect?

  • PLCB3

    I don’t disagree with you, I’m just trying to play devil’s advocate/trying to figure out what you’re getting at. Do you want to keep him down until September for roster and financial reasons as well? I don’t know about damaging him. If he shows he can hit in the minors, he should be playing with the MLB team. But if there are other motives such as roster and financial reasons, then I am all for keeping him down and signing filler off the street.

  • jswanson

    Are you saying we need a filler off the street?

  • PLCB3

    If our 3B gets injured or is ineffective and the Cubs don’t want to call up Bryant.

  • Jerry in Wisconsin

    I think that a fifth of the roster is filler off the street.

  • shammai

    1) I think Vitters could see extended time in the majors, but it won’t be as a starter (barring multiple long term injuries to the current starters)
    2) I think Olt, but I’m not sure if he’ll start the season in the majors. By June though I’d expect to see him starting regularly.
    3) I think Bryant gets a September call up at the least, maybe even comes up for August if he’s really lighting it up in the minors.
    4) I’m tempted to go with Almora, just because he’s the furthest away and he had some injury trouble last year. But I think I’ll say Soler, because he’s also had some injury trouble, and given his limited competitive experience over the last few years, he’s kind of still somewhat of an unknown.
    5) I’m on the optimistic side of things. I think they could go .500, so I’ll say 81.

  • Buddy

    1. No
    2. Donnie Murphy
    3. September
    4. Hendricks. Just because he is a pitcher.
    5. 72

  • Noah_I

    1) I’ll say yes to both. I think Vitters gets the next shot at Junior Lake’s spot in the outfield once Lake falls off. And I’ll say yes on Jackson at least performing well enough to get a second cup of coffee.
    2) Olt.
    3) Sometime between opening day and early June 2015, depending on how much the Cubs feel like they’re contenders heading into next season and how that affects service time considerations.
    4) Hendricks. Back end of the rotation ceiling means that one major injury could reduce stuff or command enough that he can’t get hitters out at high levels anymore, or he could just miss his turn as better pitchers move up the system and enter into it.
    5) 72

  • Sherm

    Problem is that we have too many players already whose loftiest aspiration should be to one day graduate to street filler.

    1. I don’t care
    2. I thought I cared, but re-read the question and realized I don’t. If we are really preparing for 2015 and beyond, it should probably be Starlin Castro.
    3. Too early for me to care
    4. Which one is the eye doctor, again?
    5. 74

    Here’s my question: Which Cub will be the only one to represent the Cubs in the All-Star game?

  • PLCB3

    Travis Wood

  • jswanson

    Any one of the 5’9″ utility men would make a fine representative.

  • Lizzie

    Indeed. I’ll choose Darwin Barney just because I haven’t pissed off the stats guys lately so I’m sure I’m overdue. Besides that he’s got moxie. ;-)

  • jswanson

    Castillo and I find this shocking.

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