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.