It seems like a good day to round up some of the more interesting Cubs-related links...
- TheFielding Bible rates Darwin Barney as the best 2B in the NLbut predicts Brandon Phillips will win the Gold Glove anyway because he does things that get more attention, namely having a good overall season and making highlight worthy plays. As for Barney, they had this to say, "At second base, it has been all Darwin Barney this season. After a couple of neutral defensive seasons in 2010 and 2011, Barney exploded in 2012 with 27 Defensive Runs Saved for the Cubs, behind only Brendan Ryan at all positions. In particular, he has really improved his range on ground balls to both his left and right. Barney is a heavy favorite for the Fielding Bible Award, but he may struggle to beat out three-time Gold Glove winner Brandon Phillips for the NL Gold Glove".
- Fangraphs had a nice Q and A session with Cubs prospect Albert Almora. The first thing you'll notice is his great feel for the game and how willing he is to be coached and work hard. Among the things Almora wants to work on is his plate discipline. We talk about mental makeup a lot, and Almora's responses in the interview pretty much show that his makeup is off the charts.
- Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus tweets that "#Cubs 3B prospect Christian Villanueva was impressive w/ the bat yesterday for Obregon. Showing off his + bat speed; squaring solid velo" and "Villanueva doesn't have a crazy ceiling, but he has a good defensive profile at 3B, some legit pop in the bat, and ++ makeup." Villanueva is considered the Cubs top 3B prospect (at least until Javier Baez moves there) and a top 10 prospect overall. He should start next season in AA with a chance to join the Cubs by 2014.
- Carrie Muskat notes that Josh Vitters and Tony Campana have been asked to play winter ball. Given their struggles this year, it's a pretty good idea if they agree to go. Both need ABs and Vitters needs a lot more work on his defense and approach.
- Patrick Mooney of CSN says the Cubs are in wait and see mode with both Matt Garza and Ian Stewart. Garza hasn't started throwing yet but the speculation is that once he's healthy, the rumors will probably start up again. As for Stewart, Mooney says the Cubs may give Stewart another chance but says it's hard to see them giving him another opportunity and the benefit of the doubt.
- This is a couple days old but BA ranked the top prospects in the AZ Rookie League and Albert Almora and Jorge Soler ranked #2 and #4 respectively. Dan Vogelbach was 14th. The Cubs pitchers didnt qualify but they did get mentioned in the chats. Dillon Maples and Duane Underwood were both impressive with Maples reaching 96 and showing a good curveball. Underwood and Juan Paniagua both touched 97. Ryan McNeil and Paul Blackburn were also mentioned but both seem a notch below the big 3.
- A very interesting article in SI by Joe Lemire on the A's finding new market inefficiencies with defense and platoons. He also notes the complete restructuring of their pitching staff around rookies, only one of which was taken within the first 10 rounds (Jarrod Parker). The A's resourcefulness in building their team around pitching, defense...and even speed, could be a model for the Cubs until they're ready to add those final pieces through trade and/or free agency.
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