Cubs Notes: Barney wins fielding bible award, Baez HRs, Castro, roster moves, and more on Otani

As many mentioned yeterday, we can officially cross Mark Grace off the list and, though it's unlikely, he could get up to 4 years after getting his 2nd DUI in 15 months.  Right now, baseball isn't a priority,  you hope he gets the help he needs and gets his life back together.

On with the rest of the notes...

  • Miguel Socolovich, Marcos Mateo, Adrian Cardenas, and Jason Berken all passed through waivers and were assigned to AAA.  That worked out well.  The Cubs were able to make some room on their 40 man roster and retained everyone except for 3rd string catcher Anthony Recker, who was lost to the Mets.  That gives Cubs some veteran depth at AAA Iowa should the Cubs run into an emergency situation.
  • Darwin Barney won the 2012 Fielding Bible Award for 2B.  For those unfamiliar, these awards take a more analytical approach than the Gold Glove and have an intelligent panel that includes Bill James, Joe Posnanski, Peter Gammons, and Doug Glanville.  The Fielding Bible only awards one winner for MLB, so the picked Barney as the best in all of baseball.  This doesn't mean he'll win the Gold Glove Award, which is often shaded by reputation and politics, but if he doesn't, I think this award is more meaningful, if less glamorous.
  • We haven't done a Fall League update in a while but Javier Baez hit his 4th HR yesterday and had his best day overall, drawing a walk and stealing 2 bases.  For the most part, the Cubs have struggled down there with the exception of Tony Zych (1.50 ERA), but there are some encouraging bits.  Kevin Rhoderick is working on his approach and his control.  Despite a 5.40 ERA, he has still shown a general ability to miss bats (2 walks/10Ks in 6.2 IP), but has given up 2 HRs in 6.2 IP. Matt Szczur is working on his swing.  He's holding his own at .250 with an OBP of .357, stealing 6 bases but only has one extra base hit so far.  Nick Struck has struggled with his control (6 walks)  but he's also been tougher to hit and has struck out 6 in 7 innings.  Both Rhoderick and Struck are battling for 40 man roster spots but both have shown mixed results so far.
  • Down in the Domincian, Venezuelan, and Mexican Leagues, there hasn't been a lot of playing time for Cubs prospects but Junior Lake has made the most of it so far, batting .316 with 2 HRs in 19 ABs.  He has also walked twice.  On the pitching side, Yoanner Negrin is 1-1 with an 0.75 ERA and 10Ks in 12.1 innings.  Here are the stats for all the Cubs playing in the various leagues, including Arizona.
  • Here is a look by Cubs Vine Line at Starlin Castro's changed approach.
  • The Cubs made some roster moves but none were unexpected.  They removed RHPs Miguel Socolovich, Jason Berken, and Marcos Mateo and IF Adrian Cardenas off the 40 man roster.  Meanwhile, the Cubs officially lost Anthony Recker when he was claimed by the Mets.
  • For those gung-ho on blowing the Cubs budget for Shohei Otani, consider that scouts think he'd be a late first round pick if he were in the MLB draft.  He has great velocity but there is some mixed opinion as to it's movement and many questions with regard to his command.  The slider has movement but command with it is non-existent.  In fact, many scouts are saying he isn't even the best amateur pitcher in Japan right now.  That distinction goes to Shintaro Fujinami.  Otani is getting the hype because he is breaking ground by making himself available to MLB teams before he turns pro, but Fujinami, who has made no such indications, may be the better pitcher when all is said and done.

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  • Christian Villanueva homered last night for Obregon. After riding the pines the first week, he's getting to play now.

  • In reply to tim815:

    He's also done well with his very, very limited opportunity. Hopefully he keeps on playing.

  • Congratulations to Darwin Barney. Here's hoping he wins the N.L. Gold Glove as well.

  • Agreed. I think we all know who the best defensive 2B was last year, but it would be nice to see MLB recognize it. Phillips has the edge as far as reputation and the penchant for making plays that wind up on ESPN. Unfortunately, sometimes that's enough.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    You're on target as usual, John. Hopefully MLB gets it right. While they're at it, it would be nice if the 3 OF Gold Gloves actually were awarded to a LFer, CFer and RFer rather than to 3 CFers.

  • They actually do give the Gold Gloves out by LF/CF/RF and not just any OF.

  • In reply to Clark n Addison:

    You are right. Thank you. They just changed that last year.

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    To clarify on Mark Grace, he wasn't sentenced, he was formally charged yesterday. He doesn't have another court date for two months.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    meant to say he could get sentenced up to 4 years...haven't had my coffee yet.

  • Nice job keeping us up-to-date on the various prospects.
    Once the FA period begins what kind of pitchers should
    the Cubs really try to sign? If he is under 31 then 3 years
    are ok. Who on the 25-man roster can we really trade?

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Thanks. I think they'll be signing guys who could factor in both the short and long term, whether it's a guy they can keep or flip long term, but I don't expect anything more than 3 years, as you say, and that may rule out those big names.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I don't believe the Cubs should only consider trading players who would be on the 25-man roster. If another team is interested in someone in the Cubs minor league system, the front office should not rule out trading "prospects" if the return is something that can help long-term.

  • That's true. If it makes sense for both sides. You can trade from a position of depth/strength for an area where you need help. Right now the Cubs aren't very deep as far as having two top young players at any position except for maybe SS and 1B, so it may prove difficult, but it's certainly an option, especially as they continue to build the foundation to where they have some surplus.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Agreed. If Headley's still on the market, the Cubs should give San Diego a call. As for FA pitchers, maybe Zambrano's learned his lesson. He might come cheap.

  • They may give them a call, but the price may be prohibitive. I'm guessing it starts with Baez and Cubs not in position to do that yet. I don't look for this front office to repeat the Garza deal (top prospects for young vet) until they actually look like they are ready to win for the next few years. It may make more sense to do a prospect for prospect deal or something along the lines of the Rizzo/Cashner deal, but those trades are kind of rare.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    You might be right, John. Here's hoping the front office does make some trades and doesn't just rely on the addition of free agents.

  • I think Junior Lake could go for a not-yet-regressed 2011 High Round Pick.

    If only some kind team would offer Team Theo one in exchange.

  • Grace has to realize that being a celebrity, lots of people know his problems and if he goes out he's a target. Someone who doesn't like the sound of his voice on the broadcasts can and will alert the cops. In some states he violates his probation by just having too many beers and walking home or to a cab. Plus he's not allowed into Canada for 10 years because they view DUI as a felony.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    I know this isn't what you mean, but his drinking and driving problem goes beyond his celebrity status. He needs to deal with that problem first and then he won't have to worry about who is targeting him.

  • Again, and well said above by you, John, let's hope that Gracie finds the help he needs to turn things around. It can be done.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Thanks. It's becoming obvious it's something he can no longer control and while I'm saddened that things happened this way, you hope it's a wake up call for him and that he puts his life back in order.

  • Seems like many minor type pitchers are being, and will still be,
    put on waviers. Can you mention any such pitcher as they
    become available, only if the Cubs might be interested.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    If I see one I really like and I think is worth a roster spot, I'll mention it.

  • I have hard time believing that any team would claim Volstad off of waivers, but the KC Royals have done so.

  • I feel bad for Grace, he seems to be a okay guy, just a guy who let things get out of control. He needs to get his life in order before he thinks about getting back into baseball. I'm beginning to feel that Eric Karros is the favorite for the analyst's job. I can live with him and he wants the job.

  • The Japanese press have been reporting on Otani and Fujinami in tandem. Both are extremely tall for Japanese and power pitchers not seen since Darvish was in High school. Fujinami was drafted locally yesterday and intends to stay in Japan. We probably won't hear his name mentioned in MLB circles for years. In a surprise move, Nippon Ham, Darvish's former team, drafted Otani - probably wasting their 1st round pick. My guess is they'll try to convince him that he'll be a top NPB player right away, and maybe promise to post him in 5 or so years, like they ended up doing with Darvish (and making a lot of money on). But all indications are that Otani is headed to the US.

  • From MLB Trade Rumors:

    The Cubs appear to be players for 18-year-old pitcher Shohei Otani , but Theo Epstein recently expressed trepidation about plunging back into the Japanese market. Otani was recently taken with the first-overall pick in the NPB draft and the Nippon Ham Fighters have until March to try and sign him. A major league club can still sign him at any time, but it would likely irritate Japanese baseball officials.

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