Cubs Prospect Notes: Sappelt, Soler, Jackson, winter ball

Cubs Prospect Notes: Sappelt, Soler, Jackson, winter ball

Time to catch up on the progress of some Cubs prospects and young players...

  • Dave Sappelt has been coming around the bat but his baserunning blunder really didn't sit well with manager Dale Sveum.  When asked if it was a coach's decision, Sveum said, “It’s not a coach’s decision. That’s a player just not being very smart.”  As for those media members who would blame Starlin Castro (again), Sveum responded to the question of whether Castro was going hard all the way, “He must have been, because they both have the same speed and one guy (Sappelt) was thrown out by a little bit and (Castro’s) foot was in the air when he was going to touch home plate. Not the brightest thing I’ve ever seen in baseball.”  Personally, I think the fixation from some media members on Castro and every little imperfection has gone way too far -- especially since we often see other players get a pass.  I, for one, was glad to see Sveum defend Castro on this one.  How do you blame Castro on a play where Sappelt had no business trying to take 3rd base with2 outs?  Only in the Cubs media culture of scapegoating and finger-pointing does the blame go to Castro on this one.
  • Anthony Rizzo had a horrific collision but appears to be okay.  Rizzo escaped with some minor injuries after being catapulted into the air on a close play at first base.  "No major problems, except his right shoulder is pretty sore where he came down on it," manager Dale Sveum said. "Might have got some whiplash stuff, but his head is fine now. No leg (injury) and he ended up being OK, after what it looked like. Thank God for that."  The Cubs deemed that x-rays weren't even necessary and Rizzo said he feels 20 times better. I like these kids playing hard but do they need to give us a big scare every other day?
  • Sahadev Sharma wrote an excellent piece on Jorge Soler and why he's not going to winter ball.  As I've speculated in the past, it has more to do with with Soler not ready for that level of competition and the Cubs preference for him to go to instructs and work on basic fundamentals.  I'd be surprised if Soler doesn't go next season.  He's also generating a lot of praise from the Cubs and rivals alike, drawing comparisons to former Cubs Sammy Sosa.  Sharma talked to one rival scout who said, "The strength and swing really jump out at you. He's quick to the ball but he's long in the zone, the ball jumps off the bat real well and he shows a pretty good feel for the strike zone as well. He's going to be an impact offensive threat." 
  • Brett Jackson doesn't sense that he'll be playing winter ball.  Instead he will be spending some time in instructional league this offseason working on some of the holes in his swing.  Jackson is well aware of this. "“The focus is going to be on more drill work and improving some habits with my swing,” Jackson said. “I’m looking forward to a lot of hard work because I do have -- in my opinion and Dale and J-Ro’s opinion -- some habits that need to be altered and adjusted.  That’s going to take a lot of almost tedious drill work. It’s going to take a lot of little stuff. [Breaking] down a lot of swings would be good and doing a lot of drills would be more beneficial. I think that’s the focus as of right now. “I also want to improve some strength in my top hand. I’m a right-handed athlete and I swing left-handed, so a challenge for me is always using my top hand more. [If] I have more coordination and more strength in my top hand, I think only improvement can come from that. That’s going to be one of my biggest goals this offseason.”  Jackson's development will be a key for the Cubs as he is the type of player the Cubs want to build with, but his ability to be an everyday player hinges on improving his contact rate.  We know one thing for sure, Jackson will at least make every effort to fix his flaws, and while it's not easy to improve contact rate, Jackson is one guy I wouldn't bet against making the necessary adjustments.
  • One player who may be going to play winter ball is OF Tony Campana, who has been given permission to negotiate a deal with Leones of the Venezuelan League.  More names should start to trickle in and if Campana does go, he really needs to take advantage of the opportunity by finding more ways to get on base.  He can be a valuable bench member if he can do that and learn to get better jumps on defense.


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    There is not a doubt in my mind Brett Jackson will have a big year in 2013. For all his flaws he has that "IT" factor that i'd say about on 50% of the players in this game have, that Bryce Harper mentality. Any new notes on Vizciano and lower level guys like Paniqua, Johnson, Maples, Underwood, etc in the works?

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I'm guessing all of those guys go to instructs and I'm trying to make room for a trip down to AZ where I should be able to see them first hand and hopefully talk to some scouts.

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    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I am more skeptical on B-Jax. It's very tough to correct the contact hitting flaw. Many players have tried, few have succeeded.

    It's not just the fact that B-Jax's swing right now is too long (which it is), but he seems to have lost his feel for the strike zone. He strikes out way too much looking, and even when he gets a ball, it's alot of time on very close pitches that a veteran would swing at. I don't see B-Jax shorten up with 2 strikes much either.

    I hope I am wrong, and B-Jax can strike out alot and still be successful, with the other tools he has. But he's got to get the K-rate under 33%, or he won't make it, no matter what he brings to the table.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I completely agree that contact rate is one of the hardest things to fix. We can at best hope that he improves it to a tolerable level.

    I respectfully disagree, however, on the long swing. I don't see it. I'd like to try and get some quality video from the 3rd base side and try and break it down. Such as it is, I have so-so video and my naked eye to rely on here. Anyway, from what I've been able to see, it's more about his head movement and a tendency to pull off the ball. It's easy to lose sight of the baseball that way. I'm wondering if that's why he wants to work on his top hand this offseason, so that he can rely less on that right hand, which is the pull part of the swing.

  • John, thanks for the article and for calling out the scapegoating mainstream media.
    There's more anti-Castro nonsense going on in the "Dinosaur Media" than there was during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
    For example, the MLB recap was full of "fans" blaming Castro, when his own manager, and the replays I saw, confirmed that he was going all out. Don't know why I bother to even look at those ignorant comments.
    Keep up the great work....we need sanity and balance these days !

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Thanks! We've all seen it get out of hand and I'm really getting sick of it. What purpose does it serve? How does it help Castro? Do they really expect the Cubs coaching staff and front office to take their knee-jerk reactions seriously?

    It's self-serving as it draws in those looking for scapegoats and simple solutions.

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    This is getting borderline rediculous on the Castro-bashing! The replay clearly showed him busting it down the line. This is all on Sappelt, yet even MLB Network calls it "yet another instance where lack of focus" costs the team. The Bobby V. karma is still at work for everything that guy touches!
    On Rizzo & Jackson: for me, the all-out desire these guys show is something that goes way beyond the flaws currently in their game. Mechanical flaws can be improved if not corrected but the attitude and desire they show is an intangible you just can't teach.
    I can see them becoming the team leaders with Shark over the next couple of years. That is, of course, if we can all stomach the inevitable media-bashing they will have to get through in Chicago.

  • In reply to AdolphoPhillips66:

    Completely agree. It's amazing to me how these things start. That self-serving rant by Bobby V. really appealed to people on an emotional level and that image has stuck, then it's perpetuated by those who now want to fixate on Castro and then obsess on every error he makes. The irony is they become so fixated on Castro that they consistently miss other players doing similar things.

    It starts to become a cycle, those people see what they want to see and then selectively recall that which confirms what they've chosen to believe beforehand. In other words, hypothetically they can watch Castro hustle, put himself in position to make a play, or make smart decisions 99 times in a row, but they'll remember the one time he makes a mental mistake and it justifies what they already believe to be true while ignoring any evidence to the contrary. This isn't all the media, of course. There are many media guys who are above that, but unfortunately it seems like a select few who harp on the negative tend to garner a disproportionate amount of the attention.

    I guess that was my turn to rant :)

    Agreed on your potential leadership trio there, too. Really like the mix there and I think guys like Baez and Almora have potential to add to that down the line.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I think the Chicago media (and a certain breed of Chicago sports fan in general) has an severe love of schadenfraude and they love, love, love to tear down athletes... especially the ones that don't fit the "Chicago mold" of athlete (the Urlachers, Butkus, Pierzinski (sp.), etc. The no-nonsense roughneck type). It's sort of sad and seems to reveal that more people love to hate and root against and then say "See! I was right! They suck!" than to support and root for. I'm not saying I'm totally immune to this myself, but I have to say that the way the Chicago media has fixated on Castro is a little myopic and pathetic.

  • In reply to Pura Vida:

    Good point on the "Chicago mold" and to extend the football analogy, it's probably why some Bears can't seem to accept Jay Cutler while they continue to embrace Jim McMahon. There's no question who's the better QB. They've been asked to play different roles. Cutler is asked to carry the team while McMahon was more of a caretaker/occasional playmaker for one of the best teams of all-time. It doesn't make one more of a "winner" than the other.

  • I'm excited about seeing Baez & Soler together in Daytona next year.

    So far as the Castro bashing, give me a line-up with 9 "Castro's" in it any day!

    I have noticed that "Bryce Harper" (I hate calling it this) effect in B-Jax. Though he's inconsistent with "it". Rizzo is a bit of a "Budha like" calming force (seriously, he never gets rattled), which I think this young team needs. Definitely a 180 degrees from Zambrano.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    The Cubs need more talented players so it beats me why they need to relentlessly criticize one of the few they have. Well, let me amend that. He should get criticized but it should be constructive. I don't see anything constructive about hyper-focusing on him and publicly announcing to the world whenever he makes a mistake.

    Jackson definitely has a quiet, competitive intensity and it's a great complement with Rizzo, who I see more as that "rock" that every team needs.

  • Agree that contact issues are hard to fix, but BJax does seem to have that mental makeup that could allow for some progression. Right now he's only making contact on about 63% of his pitches if he can get that up to about 70% (basically Adam Dunn, Soriano, Carlos Pena level contact) that should help to decrease his K's swinging. (Right now his KS% is almost identical to his rate in the minors at 26%)

    As far as the K's looking, I think that's more of a matter of BJax just being cautious in the zone. Trying to figure out how they pitch at the big league level. And really striking out looking on 18.4% of at-bats that's like pretty unheard of, most tend to have KL% around like 7-8%.. I think that'll improve next year, as he learns the zone and learns to identify pitches better.

    Also last year Rizzo was mentioned a bit for having a long swing and some contact problems in San Diego he made contact on 69% but upped it to 80% this year for the Cubs. So it's not too unheard of.

  • In reply to Furiousjeff:

    Great stuff. Those numbers really put things more into perspective.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I also would like to see where all those strikes are because it seems to me he rarely gets borderline calls..

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    not only does he NEVER get borderline calls, he gets caught looking on balls way out of the zone constantly! You see this happen with guys who develop a reputation for striking out so its almost like the umpire comes to expect it at some point and they never get the outside corner pitches for balls. Not to say that's the entire problem with Jackson but if you go back and look at alot of his strikeouts you'll be amazed at how many aren't even legit. Not even just strikeouts but times where he's 0-2 when he should have been 1-1 etc

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Bring in the robots! Umps are human and while they'll never admit it they have biases, I think sometimes they anticipate based on who is up.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    The umpiring throughout both leagues has been noticeably poor this season.

  • Agreed. I don't know if I've paid more attention to it but I"ve also heard other people say it, so we're not the only ones.

  • john, I have missed a few games due to the passing of my grandmother. I saw the end of the last game and I like bob and casper but the the way bob was reacting I thought castro walked down third base line. I have been saying this for most of the season, castro gets blamed for almost all of the things that happened. Doug padilla who covers the cubs has what looks like a rap sheet on castro. Castro does things wrong, but it is getting out of hand when media and fans throw away baseball common sense just to bash a player to have a story. Bob brenly should know that Dave Sappelt should not be running to third on a shallow fly ball to center field when there is two outs.Instead brently said at castro's last at bat castro has to make up for the play. I am glad dale set it straight after the game. Let castro answer for his own mistakes not everyone elses.

  • In reply to seankl:

    My condolences Sean and glad to hear from you again.

    I think Brenly has been a huge factor when it comes to the average fan's perception of Starlin Castro. It's unfortunate. I think he's great and it's a good broadcasting team. I really respect his knowledge of the game but I can really do without his tendency to fixate on certain players.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    thanks john, I didn't see the play but when I got home I heard what brenly was saying that castro was not hustling down the line. I do agree that castro makes mistakes from time to time but so does everyone else on the team and in baseball. If castro was in the wrong for that play trust me dale would have said something after the game. Again I like Brenly but Like you said when fans hear brenly say those things about castro it becomes reality to the fans. I don't want to sound like I am bashing rizzo because I really like rizzo and believe he is a future building block but I do notice the difference light brenly and casper put on rizzo and castro.Castro's negatives gets talked about for two innings straight but let rizzo not get to home plate in time, brenly would not harp on rizzo's mistakes.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    BB started on him last night over this. Len read Sveum's comments and he said that he agreed with Dale, however that doesn't excuse Starling for not running hard all the way through the base...... I muted the game at that point and watched the last 5-6 innings in silence.

    Your right about him. He's likable and has a great knowledge of & respect for the game. But I could do without the constant hard-on for Castro, etc...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    How many players do you see sprint across home when there is no play? As it was he got there quickly so he was running at least close to full speed.

    Agreed. It's getting real old. Good for Dale to defend Castro on this one.

    Castro can't assume his teammates are making stupid plays behind him. Maybe he should have looked over his shoulder and....wait, can't do that either.

    I guess according to Brenly Castro should have been at a full spring across home on a no-play sac fly because he should have been under the assumption that his teammate would make an incredibly stupid decision.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    "I guess according to Brenly Castro should have been at a full spring across home on a no-play sac fly because he should have been under the assumption that his teammate would make an incredibly stupid decision."

    exactly.... I agree Castro is not 100% matured yet... hell I'm not either and I'm 46. Granted, the Cubs can improve their base-running as a team.... but for some reason, BB is fixated on Castro and the teams base-running.....

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    Good read, John.

    I too blasted Starlin last night for Sappelt's base running blunder. Then I read Sveum's comment after the game (the one used in your article) and thought better of it. Castro's a guy I've strongly defended, but it's clear his maturity, at times, remains an issue...more so than his fielding.

    BJax's work ethic is awesome and will play a huge factor in whether or not he's on the Opening Day roster in 2013. I want to believe he will be.

    As long as Tony Campana is talked about as a regular bat in the Cubs' lineup we'll know this team is heading nowhere.

  • I do think Castro has not matured yet. In many ways he's still a kid and it takes some longer than others.

    As for Campana, I guess the best you hope for him is that he gets on base enough to be a role player off the bench.

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    My apologies if you have put these numbers up before John, but it bears mentioning. While people are beating up on Castro (Lord knows, I've engaged in that pastime), he has been incredible this month. His career strikeout rate is 14.2%. This month, it's dropped to 9.4%. (5 in 53 PA's.) That's increased his OBP to .377. His walk rate is down from August (5.7 vs. 9.0), but some of that has to be attributed to him being more aggressive again. He may still be maturing in parts of his game, but all the signs are that offensively he has turned a corner and is ready for a huge year next year. If his power develops as it could -- Sandberg was a late bloomer there -- he seems more than capable of replacing Anthony Rizzo as our 3 hitter and holding that slot for a decade.

    And sorry about the snark yesterday. It was a crappy day and I shouldn't have taken it out on you.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I have not mentioned those numbers, thanks for posting it!

    That is very, very encouraging. I always say progress comes in fits and starts so a drop in walks isn't too surprising. If he ends up settling in between, say a 7.5% walk rate, I'll be happy assuming he hits .300 with extra base power.

    No worries about snark. We all have those kinds of days. I never take it personally and I think we actually agreed on about 99% of the stuff we were debating!

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