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Catching Up

Matt Swain

Illinois engineering student, way too emotionally invested in the Cubs.

I've had a busy last week or so and haven't been able to find much time for blogging, but it's time I catch up with some of the news and notes I haven't written up in the last two weeks.

Draft Projections

With just a few days left before the draft, mocks are picking up and most of the main draft experts have weighed on how they see things falling.

Keith Law at ESPN and Andy Seiler at MLB Bonus Baby both see the Cubs going in the same direction and taking high school catcher Justin O'Conner from Indiana. O'Conner has burst onto the scene this year by displaying impressive power and defense, and the Cubs could do a lot worse in this spot. I've come around to him and while I don't necessarily think catcher is a need position, I generally trust that the Cubs have seen Midwestern guys enough to make an accurate estimation of their abilities and if they feel he's the best available, I say go for it.

Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus went public with his first mock draft recently, where he projected the Cubs to take Ohio State RHP Alex Wimmers. That would be a very limited upside pick, as it's hard to picture Wimmers as more than a 3 or 4 starter down the road. He is pretty polished and should be a safe and fast-moving pick, but I personally would be very disappointed to use the 16 pick on a guy who has trouble breaking 90 mph with his fastball at times.

Jim Callis at Baseball America stuck with Florida high school RHP Karsten Whitson in his latest draft, and it still seems like an illogical prediction to me. Would I like them to spring for the ultra-high upside Whitson, who is one of the top HS pitchers out there? Absolutely. Is there reason to believe they will? Not from where I'm standing.
Andrew Cashner to the Cubs Bullpen

This didn't make nearly the waves that Castro's promotion did, and my hunch is that it's because people don't realize how good of a prospect he is. Armed with his mid-90's fastball and excellent slider, he could be a top level relief pitcher right away, and right now if I need one inning of scoreless work, he's behind only Carlos Marmol and Sean Marshall on my priority list.

I'm not opposed to breaking in an SP prospect in the bullpen, but the one concern that I keep coming back to is how long it took him to develop the stamina to pitch deep into games. He was cruising as a starter finally, looking like a top 30 or so prospect in baseball, and I have to question whether it's worth the risk of moving him now.

Long term more value lies in starting, where he can give you more innings, but would you really complain if he went the way of other converted starters like Billy Wagner and Mariano Rivera? Obviously you can't expect that, but should he stick in short relief he does have the potential to be one of the top back-end guys in the league.

In the end, it's not a surprising move, but with the team seemingly out of contention it's not one I would have made. I'd let him bide his time in Iowa starting, and when a rotation spot opened up eventually have him fill it. But I'd do a lot of things differently than Jim Hendry.

Jay Jackson to Iowa Rotation

This deserves a separate heading than the Cashner move, because while that one is somewhat defensible, this one is borderline offensive. If you move Jackson to the bullpen, you'd better have a plan. If your plan was to keep him there for two weeks and then move him back regardless of what he does, you are an idiot. I went into it assuming the plan was for a major league promotion, which would have made some sense. But to just screw with a kid by jerking him around like that? It doesn't make any sense at all.

My favorite part was a comment made by the I-Cubs pitching coach, something along the lines of "he passed his bullpen test", as if there is some kind of new test being instituted in the system to see if you can throw two innings at a time. The kicker to all this would be if Jackson found himself in the Cubs bullpen later this year, struggled, and went back to Iowa to start, which is actually fairly probable. His season path would look like SP-RP-SP-RP-SP, which is ridiculous for a 22 year old kid.

Will Brett Jackson remain in centerfield?

I'm hearing that the Daytona Cubs' coaching staff is not convinced that Jackson will stick in centerfield defensively, questioning his reads and jumps. His speed is maybe a 55 on the 20-80 scouting scale, so he doesn't have the ability to make up for misreads by turning on the after-burners like some guys do. If he is forced to make the switch eventually, it could seriously hurt his stock, as his bat doesn't play nearly as well in a corner outfield spot. Now that's not to say he isn't a good prospect still, since he has been fantastic at getting on base this season and still has a lot of raw power, it just probably knocks him down from top 50 to to 75 or so.



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