View From The Bleachers

June 4, 2013

The Second Most Important Selection of the Draft

Filed under: Featured,General — Holden Clark @ 8:00 am


What happens after the first pick is called- The Cubs either have an electric arm with dominating power and great breaking movement or they have an electric arm with great power and dominating breaking movement or they have a power hitting slugger that makes Dan Vogelbach look like a little leaguer. With any of the options the consensus remains among draftniks, barring any incredible off the wall move, the Cubs are poised to take a can’t miss impact talent with their first pick. The only caveat being the recently announced failed drug test of Gray, which I believe is a non-issue for the Cubs organization if they believe he is the top talent available and he is on the board when they pick.

What I am more interested in discussing is the Cubs draft strategy and who they may target with that second pick at number 41.  Last year we saw the Cubs take the best player available approach with their first pick, selecting Albert Almora and then go on a streak of selecting high upside arms.  Do the Cubs take a similar style approach this year?  I would believe based on the state of the organization that they very well will.

Here is why: the Cubs top 25, when looking at various different rankings, has one thing in common.  The pitchers that are found in the Top 25 are injury ridden (Vizcaino, McNutt) high ceiling guys (Blackburn, Pierce), bullpen only type arms (Vizcaino, McNutt, Cabrera,) or long ways away guys (Underwood, Panigua, Maples).  The fielding positions seem to be on a continued pace of success, with the exception of Brett Jackson who is sliding.  The Cubs will likely be looking to add impact talent again to the pitching staff.

The Cubs have a great starting staff this year but have two expiring contracts in Matt Garza and Scott Feldman. Should the Cubs not be able to sign Jeff Samardzjia to an extension then the talent blows out the door quickly.  Let us not even get in to the catastrophe and revolving door of the bullpen that could really use some sure fire young guns, the like of the type that the Atlanta Braves consistently produce.

Who may be there with that number 41 pick?  Well it is going to be a hard pick to guess because with the competitive balance picks come some risk taking and it is hard to predict what teams will do late in the draft, some will reach way up to sign a guy to a cheap contract under slot.  What I can tell you are here is five names that you should look for the Cubs to take a hard look at if available at number 41.

Hunter Green­- LHP Warren East (Bowling Green, KY)

Green has a legitimate chance of being available at 41 because of the bevy of LH high school arms that is available near the top of the draft.  Looking at several different resources, Green is consistently ranked in the top LHP arms available. He stands 6-4, 190 pounds, and imposes in large frame on competition striking out 110 in 51.2 IP.  He has touched 95 MPH and is expected to reach back for a little more as his frame continues to fill out a bit more. He has a good feel for his curveball and changeup with good command.  He played for a week team and although he is projected by Baseball America as the 31st best prospect, he may see a tumble

Aaron BlairRHP Marshall

He is in the same wagon as Gray in that he tested positive for the stimulant adderall in predraft testing.  This may make him slip a bit because he doesn’t carry the same can’t miss pedigree that Gray has.  The one the thing about Blair is that he is another big body pitcher.  He has the frame of a big body work horse and will be a safe pick for the Cubs as a relatively high floor and the potential to be an excelent 3-4 starter.  He throws a low 90’s fastball and high 70’s curve, but his best pitch is his swing and miss mid-80’s changeup that he confidently throws at both lefties and righties.  Consider this the safe pick if he is available and the Cubs are looking for a guy that can go through the system rather quickly.  Overall he gets rave review for his makeup and the positive test shouldn’t blemish him too much.

Bobby Wahl­- RHP Mississippi

Standing 6-3 at 200 lbs, Wahl continues to get good reviews for his arm side running fastball that some have reported tops out at 97 MPH, but generally sits around 93 MPH.  He also offers a slider with plus potential and a wipeout changeup.  The young righty offers repeatable mechanics and again is high floor type pitcher who would be a positive addition to a struggling are of the minor league system.

Crazy Wild Card-

Cord SandbergCF/OF Mantee High School- Florida

Signability concerns may drop him all the way to the Cubs third pick at number 75.  The two sport athlete is committed to play QB at Mississippi State.  He is a physical specimen at 6-3, 215 with great outfield instincts.  Some are concerned that he may move off to a corner position but his bat will play fine there.  The knock on Sandberg is that he is incredibly raw, thing Bubba Starling, and just like Starling he has an incredibly high floor.  The only way I see him dropping this far is if he commands a high price to sign.  Maybe you see the Cubs save some $$$$ at the second pick with the hope he makes a slide.


These may not be the picks but these are guys I think you should have an idea about.  They will definitely go somewhere close around where the Cubs pick in the 2nd round, either a few picks before or right after.  These are educated guesses based off the reading I have been doing and looking at the draft strategy from last year that I believe the Cubs will follow again this year.  If you have any other suggestions of players that you think would make for a good selection with the Cubs second pick throw a name out and some info.  I’d love to hear what others are thinking for this spot.  This will be the second most important pick they make afterall…

follow me on twitter: @hclark717

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June 2, 2013

Game 55- Is Edwin Jackson Really Bad?

Filed under: Featured,General — Holden Clark @ 10:45 pm


Star of the Game –  Scott Hairston – .279 (WPA)

The Cubs got beat again today.  This time it wasn’t the bullpen who opened the flood gates.  It was the starting pitcher who let the game get away in the 6th.  Maybe, Dale Sveum should have brought on a reliever in the top of the 6th with 2 outs and the bases loaded, but with Hector Rondon being the guy you warmed up, is that really the best option you set yourself up with? Rondon doesn’t get enough pitching time to be put in a jam like that. If they would just let him loose and learn to pitch he would be a useful pitcher.  When looking at the way our bullpen already is choking on winable ballgames, what’s the worst that could happen?  Let’s talk about what got us there.

Edwin Jackson (1-7) continues to see his pitches deposited throughout whatever little hole on the diamond there may be. Watching him pitch,  you see a pitcher who looks to be missing spots, getting dominated, and not able to put men down in order.  If he qualified based on innings (which he doesn’t because of ran shortened games) he would have the WORST ERA among NL starting pitchers.  The worst.  Does that mean that he is really as bad as his record?  Could the advanced stats clue us in to something different?  Here’s the run down.

  • 8.83 K/9
  • 3.34 BB/9
  • .85 HR/9
  • .341 BABIP
  • 56.4% LOB
  • 6.11 ERA
  • 3.69 FIP, 3.67 xFIP

What do all the fancy stats tell you?  He is having a really really really bad series of events happening to him.   His strike out rate it currently the best of his career.  His walk rate is a touch higher than career average.  The thing that is killing him is BABIP and LOB%.  His current BABIP is extremely high and more than 30 points higher than his career .310 marks.  His LOB% is 15 points lower than his career average of 70%.  He is having more unlucky balls get down in gaps which is leading to more men scoring, leaving less on base.

Now, I don’t understand how ZIPS works too well but they have him projected to finish the season 7-8 with a 3.97 ERA.  I would say, that is what you expect out of Edwin Jackson.  Yet, they also only have him ticketed for 128 IP, that is not what you would expect.

I understand that often times there are pressures that come along with getting paid and getting that first big contract.  Jackson is definitely feeling the pressure and luck just doesn’t seem to be on his side.  I could tell you that he looks like he is throwing strikes and his strikeout rates say he is. He is hitting the zone and pounding it pretty hard as evident by the following heat maps.

Ejax vs LHP   Ejax vs RHP

Although the ERA is terrible, and we shouldn’t forget that it is leading to the “L” flag flying, Edwin Jackson is not really bad.  Unlucky? Yes!  The seeing eye test may make you think how can he dominate some innings and get smashed others.  That is just the way of unfortunate series of events.

Jackson will get better.  He has some things to work, namely that LOB%.  When the season is over he will be what we expect, an innings eating horse.  Not the lame donkey taking the mound every fifth day now.

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May 31, 2013

Game 52 – The Wind is Finally Blowing Out in the Cubs Favor

Filed under: Featured,General — Holden Clark @ 7:34 am

Box Score / Highlights

Star of the Game – Travis Wood – .267 (WPA)

As a fan base, often we find ourselves deep in conversation about what is wrong with the Cubs roster. We constantly seek answers and yearn for something different.  With a team that has been haunted so long by infinite obscurity, we- Cubs fans- often have only next year to look forward to. Often we find ourselves in a twilight zone of looking for the next scapegoat for the unlucky roller coaster that many, much longer than I, have been stuck on for so many years.

When the team is playing bad we look to the advanced statistics and say that team just continues to be unlucky.  When the team is on a hot streak you’ll often find the pessimist calling the troops back and tempering expectations because they say we are outperforming.  Look at any comment, most bloggers, and many in the press and you will find those that will constantly state that the team isn’t supposed to be competitive this year.

So why even put a team on the field?

The past three games show why the Cubs field a team.  Games like today show why the game of baseball is so great.  A pitcher, who many thought would be an afterthought this year, belted his second HR of the year; a grand slam for that matter.  Travis Wood, the aforementioned afterthought, also continued his hot streak dominating on the mound.  What were my favorite parts about this game?  It wasn’t the win (that was great and everyone loves to raise the “W” flag).

It was watching Wellington Castillo skipping home with excitement after Wood hit his bomb.  It was watching the guys in the dugout smile, have fun, and build and rally around each other.  It was David DeJesus screaming from first base to second where Wood was standing just to do some sort of gunshot animation.  That’s what winning teams get to do.  They get to exploit the joy of the game and squeeze out more wins.

So although the past three games the Cubs have been dominating a not so good team in the White Sox, you may find yourself asking why is all of the talk of fun so important?  When you are team with a positive run differential and all the advanced stats say you are losing based solely on an unpredictable series of events, maybe fun is the thing that will change it.  I’m not advocating that the Cubs haven’t had fun in the past, but you’ll remember recently when Alfonso Soriano discussed getting tired of losing.  You can remember just the other day when Kevin Gregg got upset about all the talk about deadline deals.  Soriano and Gregg’s comments show that the team wasn’t enjoying what was going on.

Is having fun going to change things?  No, probably not too much.  Yet, when the series of events begin to line up in your favor and pitchers begin to hit grand slams something might be changing. Maybe enjoyment and continuity are the nonrecordable and unaccounted for statistic that may make a difference in a team like this.  A Cubs team that has been dominant with their starting pitching, had a bullpen (although in flux) that has seemed to settle in recently, and had hitters that are driving the ball with authority.

The best thing I found about being a Cub fan is that you will never find more real, diehard fans, who believe in a team.  No matter the situation or naysayers maybe will soon see the year of the Cubs.

The Cubs won this one 8-3 today. They beat a very good pitcher in Jake Peavy.  Maybe, just maybe, the lake wind is changing in our favor.

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May 27, 2013

Game 48 – A Warning To Johnny Cueto

Filed under: Featured,General — Holden Clark @ 8:17 am

Box Score / Highlights

Star of the Game – Wellington Castillo – .380 (WPA)

The Cubs won a good game in 10 today beating the Reds 5-4 on Wellington Castillo double that drove home Scott Hairston. On top of doing to a good team what so many good teams have done to the Cubs this year, things seemed to get out of hand pretty quickly today.  The Cubs kicked the clutch in when it was needed and they may have lost an important piece again in the midst.

Soriano hit a clutch 2R HR in the 8th to bring the game even after Garza was only able to last 4 innings, throwing 96 pitches but striking out a bunch.  Yet, with the game turning out favorably for the Cubby fans, thing did escalate rather quickly.

So today I have two topics that really need discussion:  1) How broken is Fujikawa; and 2) Is Matt Garza going to fight Cueto?

Fujikawa left the game again in the ninth shaking his arm in apparent pain.  This begs the question: How broken is Fujikawa?

48 games in to this tenderly young season we have seen Fuji take a step off the mound, breathe deep, shake his arm, and the trainer sprint out to the mound. That is not good.  Typically with forearm strains, as we have learned over the years as Cubs fans, the prognosis isn’t good, after the first one.  Here we are, number two in the books and looking down the barrel of a significant injury.

I would say regardless of a diagnosis of mild (which at the time of writing the diagnosis hasn’t been made yet) it is cause for concern with the Japanese product.  The scouting report on him coming out of Japan was that he had great command, break, and was an excellent closer, in fact the best in the league over the last few years.  He had a consistent tract record and the only knock on him was that he had some mileage on his arm for a youngish reliever.  I hope that this is something that is caused by him just getting used to a new training program here in the States  If not, the investment, although not huge in dollar amounts, still leaves a glaring hole in an already unstable weakness on the team.  Here is to hoping he turns it around or that the Sanchez kid claimed off waivers from the Cardinals last week figured something out in his one appearance with AAA Iowa.

To tackle the second question: Is Matt Garza going to fight Johnny Cueto? Perhaps.

Matt Garza was hot after the game because of Cueto throwing at DeJesus’ head.  One thing can be said about Matt Garza and that is that he is undeniably one of the best teammates of all time.  He basically said if Cueto wasn’t going to come to talk to him about it he was going to go find Cueto’s locker to talk to him.  The pitch was uncalled for, as any pitch at the head, and Garza wasn’t going to let it go unnoticed.

Garza made statements that would allude to the fact that next time he has Cueto at the plate he would settle the score.  The unwritten code of baseball would say that the next time the Cubs and Reds play, one of the Reds star players gets plunked in the hip and the game goes on, the score settled.  Garza didn’t seem like that is how he intended to settle this one.  Matt made it known that it was a chump move made by Cueto and he took issue with Cueto personally.

This is something to watch for in the future.

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