Cubs News and Notes: Castro, Rizzo, Szczur, the CBA, and the MLB Draft

Cubs News and Notes: Castro, Rizzo, Szczur, the CBA, and the MLB Draft

With the Cubs off today, seems like a good time to catch up on some links.  I have to say that some of them have me in a bit of a feisty mood...but I have nothing against these guys.  I like what they do, but I don't always have to agree with them.  That would be boring, wouldn't it?  The odd thing is that one of the guys I'm agreeing with here is Steve Rosenbloom.  (Cats and dogs living together.  Mass hysteria!)

  • There have been a couple of articles recently on Starlin Castro worth noting.  The first is by Dave Cameron of Fangraphs.  The title is Jose Altuve is Starlin Castro 2.0.  Now, I respect Cameron and his tremendous work, but I'm not a comps guy -- especially when they're based on a statistical snapshot.  They're fun and it can stir debate, but for me it's hard to take them all that seriously.   Castro and Altuve are different players with different body types, long term projection and ceilings, not to mention they play different positions.  The problem with this kind of analysis is that you can take so many pairs of players and make this sort of comparison if you take the snapshot at the right time.  Cameron tried doing this just last year by declaring that Aaron Harang "was" Matt Garza.
  • The second article is by Buster Olney of ESPN, who talks about players the Cubs may have to trade, such as Matt Garza, Bryan LaHair....and Starlin Castro.  Now don't get me wrong, nobody is untouchable but it really is hard to get value for a 22 year old budding star at a premium position, especially when he is making something near the MLB minimum.  Those are the kind of guys you want to bring in, not trade away.  Moreover, Olney uses concerns about Castro's defense and OBP as his reasons.  On defense, he cites his error total.  Aside from that being just part of the defensive picture, Olney says nothing about 7 of the 8 errors coming very early in the season.  Nor does he say that Castro rates as a well-above average defensive SS so far this season when range and other factors are taken into account.  As for the OBP, I think it'll come around.  Castro will always hit for a high average, so he needs only an average walk rate to have a good OBP.   Things like OBP and walk rates miss the bigger picture.  The Cubs need talent, and they don't have a more talented player in their organization than Starlin Castro.
  • In an odd turn of events, I'm on the same page with Steve Rosenbloom, at least when it comes to bringing up Anthony Rizzo.
  • Speaking of Anthony Rizzo, ESPN's Keith Law is liking the adjustments he's made this season (including hitting LHP) and has moved him into his top 25 prospects (Insider only).
  • Kevin Goldstein has his updates on top prospects (Insider only). Among others, he lists Matt Szczur -- but despite Szczur's improvement in key areas, Goldstein remains somewhat pessimistic.  In the comments, Goldstein responds to a reader and seems to soften his earlier stance a bit, acknowledging Szczur has picked it up, but he does say that he still doesn't think he will be a star.  That is probably true, but I think most Cubs fans would settle for a solid CF'er who plays plus defense, has some extra base power,  gets on base at a solid to good rate, then wreaks havoc once he's on -- which is a realistic expectation for Szczur.
  • Goldstein also has an article on trying to find loopholes in the new CBA.  Interesting point in that some feel that if anyone can find a loophole, it's agent Scott Boras, who obviously stands to gain from such a discovery.  Goldstein's sources don't believe teams will be willing to give up picks, partly because there is no player worth that and partly because nobody wants to be the first to do it and create that kind of market for future players.
  • Here is an interesting article on the draft comparing the success rates of college players/high school players/pitching/positional players.  The skinny is that college position position players fare best both in terms of making it to the majors and making an impact once they get there.  Interestingly, although college pitchers have the higher success rate as far as making the majors, high school pitchers are far more likely to make an impact once they do.
  • MLB's Jonathan Mayo has his top 20 mock draft up.  Like many mock drafts, he has the Cubs taking CF Alberto Almora.  It's become something of a consensus at this point, which makes me wonder if it's going to happen.  I think this draft is going to hinge on what teams think of two players: Lucas Giolito and Carlos Correa.  In the case of Giolito, if he's healthy, he should go top 5.  In the case of Correa, he has a lot helium right now, Law ranked him as the second best player in the draft behind Byron Buxton.  If both of those players go top 5, which is not unrealistic, that will likely leave 3 of the following 5 players  available: Mark Appel, Kevin Gausman, Kyle Zimmer, Mike Zunino, and of course, Alberto Almora.  That could leave the Cubs with an interesting decision: college arm, college bat, or high school bat.
  • As for our own poll, it wound up a tie with Lucas Giolito and Carlos Correa each receiving 33% of the vote.  At some point, I'll put up a new poll.  Because the draft is so volatile and almost anyone can fall, with the likely exception of HS OF Byron Buxton, I'll put up a poll asking who you would pick if you could have anyone in the draft.
  • While we're on the subject polls, I added a poll question to Tom's article.


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  • I'm fine with taking Almora. I know he doesn't have as high a ceiling as some of the other names, but it seems like he has a higher floor. And given the state of the franchise, we can't afford to draft another Ryan Harvey / Luis Montanez type.

    Re: Rosenbloom. Even a broken clock is sometimes right.

    I have to admit that I've thought about what Castro would fetch in a trade. For starters, it seems like it's possible to find a team that's wild about him and willing to overpay. For another thing, I think it's fair to be concerned about his makeup. I realize he's a young player, but he seems more inclined to coast on his (admittedly awesome) natural talents than he is driven to be a dominant major leaguer. There are lapses of concentration in key situations. Some off the field troubles with that bar incident. And he has clashed with managers.

    Mind you, I'm not saying we need to get rid of him. I'm saying we should listen to offers and if someone wants to give us their whole farm system, then maybe they can have him.

  • In reply to Taft:

    Castro is driven. I can tell you that with 100% certainty. I think sometimes he makes it look easy. I've mentioned before that I think sometimes whenever Castro makes a mistake, it always seems to be about his lack of focus. I think sometimes that's the reaction -- but I think it's not always the right one. An overzealous Valentine really painted an inaccurate picture.

    He's focused out there. I liked the other day when Brenly noted how Castro hustled play to back up a play well into LF because he was aware of the stadium quirks. I always like watching him play when I go to the game, he's always aware of situations on the field. I don't think he gets enough credit for that.

    We have to be careful that just because some guys like Reed Johnson look like max effort guys, with dirty uniforms and grinding teeth, it doesn't mean they're trying any harder than talented guys. Ryne Sandberg worked as hard as anyone, yet nobody made it look so easy. With talent comes fluidity and that can make some guys look effortless.

    I don't think there's a trade to be made, teams would have to give up too much when the immediate gain wouldn't be significantly better for them. It'd be a gutsy move. I'm not against trading anyone, I just don't see how any team would be willing to give fair value. Unless it's a boatload, it'd be an incredible short-sighted move, imo.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yeah, I hope you're right about his character and focus. Time will tell. But we both agree that no one on the roster's untradeable, and that it'll take a boatload of top prospects to get Castro from the Cubs. Given the unlikelihood of that happening, I'm thrilled about watching the kid grow up in Chicago.

  • In reply to Taft:

    We do agree on that. Always willing to listen if someone asks and willing to pay up, but one thing I disagree with is Olney's reasoning as to why the Cubs would trade him. It's as if he looked at the error column and decided he can't play SS. I wonder when the last time he's actually seen the kid play in person?

    I have no worries about character or focus with him. Everything I hear is that he's a good kid who works very hard. Unfortunate that some things got a bit overblown.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Hope I didn't sign to argumentative there :)

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Haha, no worries, John. It's good to have intelligent, respectful debate.

  • In reply to Taft:

    Like the broken analogy, by the way!

  • Great article, too many articles and rumors around about what
    the Cubs should ,and should not, do. Theo/Jed are not
    going to change their long term plan just to please someone.
    They know how important this draft is ,with 3 of the top 76
    picks, and will draft the best for the club.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Thanks. And agreed. Keep thinking what's best for the franchise down the road.

    By the way, the draft is going to be even better. Off the top of my head, I think they have 4 of the first 68 picks.

  • Before the draft can you, and or Tom, write an article on the
    ins and outs of the monetary side of the draft. Is it best for
    a team, i.e., Cubs, to max their money on signing their top
    picks? If they don't sign a top pick does it affect their money
    pool next year?

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I'll try. I'm not sure even the FO has it figured out -- but even if they did, they wouldn't tell anyone :)

  • Lofty Ghostbusters reference, John.
    /This man has no dick.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    Ha! Thanks!

  • I was in the park for the Huoston series. Minute Maid is a nice place to watch a game, but the Crawford box has some blind spots. I wanted to see it while Astros were still in the NL.
    Castro looked really lost at the plate. Maybe he needs a mental rest once in a while. The Campana base running play and Castro's dive and deep throw in game two were something to see. Looks as though the Cubs will lose 100 this year.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    He did look lost. He came back with a couple of hits yesterday though, so I'm hoping it was a fluke or he figured it out. Sometimes when you're a kid you have to learn the hard way. He can't hit everything.

    Those two plays must have been amazing live.

    Hope you're wrong about the 100, but right now it doesn't look so good!

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    Hypothetically, lets say Texas, in a desperate bid to win it all now, offered to completely restock our system,to include Profar,in exchange for Castro and either Dempster or Garza, do you do it?

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Probably, but I'd be shocked if something like that happens.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Id be shocked too.

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    What wouldn't shock me is if they came calling about Dempster.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Somebody will, but I've heard Texas is a lock to sign Oswalt.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I've heard that as well, but if that falls through, I would look for the Rangers to call about Dempster. It also wouldn't shock me if the Reds called about both Dempster and DeJesus. Both would fill needs for them.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Seems to me that with Texas wanting to re-sign Hamilton, they may want a power-hitting 1B on the cheap, so maybe they'd over-pay for LaHair.

    I'm OK with moving Dempster, but I definitely don't want to give any team a Ted Lilly-like deal. That was highway robbery!

  • In reply to Taft:

    Tampa might be a nice fit too.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I think Dempster will get a lot of interest. DeJesus too, which would solve the LaHair/Rizzo problem. I'd understand if they trade DeJesus, but he's a nice ballplayer, solid D, decent speed, and a good eye at the plate. Still, he'd probably help a contender more than this team at this point.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I wouldn't do a deal with the Reds that involved Dempster unless Cingrani was coming back.

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    In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    They'd have to pay a steep price being in the same division..If Marmol ever gets his crap together I could see him going to Cincy as well.

  • In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    They paid a pretty big price for Marshall, though it really hasn't worked out well except for maybe Wood so far. Still even if Wood winds up a starter, you'll take that over a 30 year old RP, as good as Marshall is.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    John, I do like Sappelt a lot and think he'll be the future Reed Johnson with the Cubs and I think Torreyes will be fine eventually..Wood will be a fixture somewhere in this rotation

  • In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    I think that's a realistic expectation. He's a solid RH bat, can play all OF spots, can run like a younger Reed Johnson. I don't think he's a starter at the MLB level, but you never know.

  • I don't take comps that literally. When I comp, it's usually a player at the same position that will put up similar slash lines, BB and K rates, HR's, SB's. I don't care if the body type of Player A is Prince Fielder and Player B is Fred McGriff.
    I think that's why people get so argumentative about person takes all that into consideration while the other doesn't.
    I don't think the Altuve/Castro comp is all that far off. High contact, low walk, average/below average power (at least so far) and die by their batting average.
    As for the Harang Garza...the current Garza isn't even a comp to the old Garza! Garza is a completely different pitcher now than he was when the comp was made, so I don't think it's all that fair to rip on that one.

  • In reply to Norm:

    That's why I don't like these snapshot statistical comps, players can and do change, they improve, they regress... They do it all the time. It's up to a a good talent evaluator to decide if this guy is going to project to something different based on physical, mental characteristics. There probably wasn't a scout out there betting that it would be Harang who would take the step forward.

    For instance, who would Shark have comped with prior to this year? According to BP..JD Durbin and David Palmer, guys who were about 4-5 inches shorter, less athletic, and a few ticks slower on their FB. That stuff matters when you project players, you can't disregard it. Now some are comparing Shark to Josh Johnson. It's just such a transient thing that I just don't take a whole lot of stock in it either way. They're fun sometimes, but that's as far as I take it.

    As for Castro/Altuve's still a pretty crude comparison and outside of some statistical similarities at this moment, they're different players at different positions with different ceilings. Altuve is probably as good as he's going to be because his body limits him to that. Castro could continue to be the same player, but he could also get bigger, stronger...maybe lose speed. I'm willing to bet there isn't a single GM who would take Altuve over Castro right now because one player is likely maxed out while the other may still get a whole lot better.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I sure would love to have Altuve at 2B though, with him and Castro hitting 1-2. Pipe dreams are Fun!

  • Every year or so I ask myself the same question: What happened to Adam Greenberg? It led me to this:

  • In reply to elusivekarp:

    Ahhh... Adam Greenberg. Poor guy. Finally makes it and gets nailed. Glad to see he's still trying. Surprised to learn the pitcher who hit him has also struggled since then. Can't pitch inside anymore.

  • John, you wrote: That could leave the Cubs with an interesting decision: college arm, college bat, or high school bat.

    Given that for all intents and purposes we have the old Boston braintrust in place, did they have any tendencies which could be extrapolated to this situation? To put it another way, all things being "equal", did they tend to value one aspect (for example make-up) or a certain age/player type (for example college hitter) over another?

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    College hitters traditionally have the most success as far as making it to the bigs and then making an impact once they get there, so that has to count for something.

    They do value makeup but only if it comes with a lot of talent.

    They've really been all over the place but seem to have had the most success with college bats.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    McLeod is strictly a BPA guy. A lot of guys say it, but he really seems to take whoever he thinks is best regardless if it's college/HS/pitcher/position player. Wilken favored high school guys because he liked to gamble on high ceilings. Even many of the high profile college players he's taken: Tyler Colvin, Matt Szczur, Jeff Samardzija, were raw and athletic...even Hayden Simpson (small college) and Brett Jackson to an extent, at least in regards to his swing. Heard Wilken really liked Mike Trout though, but he didn't fall to the them.

  • In regard to the loopholes in the CBA, it seems to me there is a perfect loophole for the Cubs. The one scout talked about "signability." With that in mind, I think this is the perfect way for the Cubs to circumvent the new CBA.
    I make two assumptions about the new CBA: (1) The maximum penalty for going over slot is your first two picks the next year; and (2) you cannot spend over $100K on picks after Round 10. That said, the Cubs showed last year they can, and are willing to, pay over slot, if they are allowed.
    Thus, on the year you would implement this strategy (and why not in 2012?), you draft as usual through Round 4 or 5, then you choose players (to use 2011’s draft) like Maples and Shawon Jr. in rounds 5-10 or 6-10. Make aggressive offers and sign them over slot (as well as your earlier picks, if necessary). If you sign 3 first round level talents between 6 and 10 over slot, you still only lose a first and a second the next year for 3 first rounders. And you can do it again then next year.

  • In reply to Pete:

    That might work, but I think you really have to love a draft to be able to do that, and scouts don't love this draft enough to sacrifice picks in future drafts. As mentioned, they don't really want to set this precedent, because then every agent will think his guy is good enough to sacrifice picks.

    And if you're the Cubs, you might get a first round talent later...might, but is that player in the 10th round going to be worth more than a top 5 pick next year?

    I'm not sure it's worth it.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Do not disagree with anything you said but when one of your inate advantages is a deep pocket, mught as well considering using it at every level that you can, be it FA's, international signings, or the draft. And it may be more applicable next year with a possible 1, 2 or 3 in 2013 in play - but is Whitson & Co. really that much better than this year's? I ask that as I really do not know.

  • In reply to Pete:

    It's not a great draft class next year either, but you'll still get better talent with a top 5 pick then you will on a signability guy.

    I think if this was 2011, you perhaps could have tried that strategy knowing that that class was so strong -- especially if you're pick wasn't going to be as high the next year.

    I'm sure it's a thought they've entertained, but I don't know if there's a guy who slipped who is worth all that. Maybe Giolito if teams let him slide.

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