Cubs position-by-position analysis: CF

Cubs position-by-position analysis: CF

The team has much more organizational depth at CF than in the corners.  The team is building from the middle out.  There is more value in up the middle positions and it's easier to move a player from CF to the corners than vice-versa, so it makes sense philosophically.

The problem is that most CF'er aren't built to hit like corner OF'ers.  There are some players we'll talk about where it's CF or bust (or at least 4th OF'er) while others may develop the power to move if necessary.

Offensive outlook (Bill James projections):

  • David DeJesus: .264/.345/.389 with 9 HRs, 9.6% walk rate, and .319 wOBA
  • Tony Campana: .276/.321/.322 with 21 SBs, .288 wOBA

David DeJesus is the current starter though the Cubs haven't ruled out picking up a full-time CF and moving him back to RF.  James predicts a similar season as 2012 but with a slight regression in terms of power, bringing his wOBA down to a fringe average .319.  A bigger concern with DeJesus may be his increasing struggles with left-handed pitching.  Last year he hit .149 without a single extra base hit against southpaws.  He hit .174 the year before with just 4 doubles and 1 HR, so this isn't a fluke  It's getting harder to justify DeJesus as anything more than a platoon player.  Against RHP, however, he has great OBP skills with occasional power.  He's a great presence in the clubhouse and one of the team leaders, so DeJesus has a lot of value to the Cubs off the field and on.

We mentioned that it's possible that Dave Sappelt may get a look in CF but for now the only true CF on the roster is Tony Campana.  Unfortunately, he's a lefty hitter as well and hit just .229 against LHP -- also without an extra base hit.  To increase his chances of playing, or even staying on the 40 man roster, Campana has to improve his OBP skills.  He has to stop trying to hit the ball in the air and he has walked in just 5.5% of his ABs as a pro, which is a prime reason why he has only hit for a .306 OBP.  For a guy who's only plus tool is as a runner and thus needs to get on base to have any value, that just isn't good enough.

Defensive Outlook

DeJesus was once a  good CF'er but those days are behind him.  Right now he's penciled in at the position because of necessity.  He's still a good corner OF'er, despite the negative UZR rating last season, but he hasn't really been an asset in CF since for several years now.  Unless the Cubs acquire someone before the season starts, it's the one position where the Cubs will play a below average defender on opening day.

Campana played plus defense in 2011 but regressed somewhat in 2012.  He's inconsistent with his reads and jumps but his outstanding speed covers a lot of his mistakes.  Overall he's been above average over the two years, but he needs to be more consistent with this CF defense.

Depth/Outside help

We've talked about Campana but beyond him, the Cubs have Bryan Bogusevic, who is a capable CF on a part time basis but is more suited for the corners.  Bogusevic is another lefty hitter,however, and doesn't solve the Cubs problem of who can step in and help out vs. LHP in the OF.

The Cubs could really benefit from the emergence of Brett Jackson, whom we'll talk about more in the prospect section.  He's yet another LH hitter, but he hit lefties well at Iowa (.279/.366/.574), so there's every reason to expect he can be a full-time player -- if he can solve his contact issues.  The Cubs are hoping a revamped swing will help him make better contact without losing any of his average to plus power.

The Cubs could really use a full-time CF with good defensive skills and may have to acquire a stopgap from the outside.  There's much talk about Michael Bourn but I really don't see him as a worthwhile risk.  He's an elite defender but an average hitter and it seems to me the Cubs can get a similar type of player for a lot less than 15M/yr and a 30-40 pick in the 2013 draft.

Coco Crisp is another option we've talked about but the A's seem reluctant to deal him, or at least seem to want something more than salary relief.  Crisp would be a nice band-aid for the situation, but only if he doesn't cost the Cubs a good prospect.

Franklin Gutierrez would be a nice fit but with the Mariners fielding a softball team (Montero, Ibanez, Morales), they're going to need someone to pick up the slack on defense.  The Cubs tried unsuccessfully to pry Peter Bourjos lose from the Angels in exchange for Carlos Marmol but with the deal of Kendry Morales, it now appears that the Angels have solved their OF log jam with Trumbo, Trout, Hamilton, and Bourjos.  They can DH Trumbo and, occasionally Hamilton, while finding a taker for Vernon Wells.  Gerardo Parra is an excellent defender who may be available.  He's another LH hitter but holds his own against LHP.  Other names could surface and the Cubs may need to get creative to fill that CF void.  To me it's the biggest remaining hole on the roster.

Prospects

Most MLB Ready: Brett Jackson.  The Cubs really didn't expect Jackson to be ready last year but they did get a long look at him and think they may have found a flaw in his swing.  There have been encouraging reports this offseason with his progress but I'm anxious to see him against live pitching.  If he can cut down the Ks to a manageable rate and hit, say .250, then you can live with it as he'll supplement that average with a good walk rate, provide good defense, power, and speed on the bases.

Top MLB prospect:  The one player that all the Cubs brain trust agreed on last year for the 6th pick was Albert Almora.  The 18 year old has a sound, fundamental swing  (albeit with a high leg kick).  He has good hand-eye coordination and should hit for average while hitting anywhere from 10-20 HRs.  He's not a burner but superior instincts make him a plus defender in CF with an above average arm.  Almora has all-star potential in CF with his all-around skills and is one of the Cubs top 3 prospects.  Apart from his great baseball skills, Almora is lauded for his work ethic and mental makeup.

Others to watch

Matt Szczur,23, is sandwiched in between Brett Jackson and Albert Almora and he'll have to play well to move Jackson to a corner.  Like Jackson, Szczur is working on his swing this offseason.  Szczur, however, doesn't have problems making contact.  The concern with him is whether he'll hit with enough extra base power at the MLB level.  From what I've seen, he needs to use his lower half better. He's already improved his defense, baserunning, and plate discipline tremendously in just one season, so   given his work ethic and athleticism, I'm optimistic he can make the adjustment.  If Szczur can't make it in CF, he may make a very good 4th OF'er, though starting in a corner is less than ideal given his lack of power right now.

Similar to Almora, Jae-Hoon Ha, 22, makes up for a lack of top shelf speed with good athleticism and outstanding instincts defensively in CF.  He has a plus arm and is capable of playing all 3 OF positions.  Last year in AA, Ha improved his plate discipline and more than doubled his walk rate.  What's holding Ha back is his bat.  He looks to have an average hit tool with below average power right now.  It may relegate him to extra outfielder status.

Trey Martin, 20, was one of the players that impressed him this season at Boise.  He's an athletic player with good speed, though it doesn't translate to basestealing.  He's more of a long strider and eats up ground in CF.  He's capable of making highlight reel plays in the field.  At the plate he needs to work on his pitch selection an shorten his swing but he excelled in AZ and held his own in Boise, showing good gap power at times.  He's long and lean right now and it remains to be seen how he fills out.  If he fills out, gains strength, and develops some power, I won't rule out him being able to move to a corner if necessary.

Shawon Dunston, Jr. , 19, is a quick twitch athlete like his dad.  He was a bit overwhelmed in Boise but regrouped in AZ, showing good plate discipline and the ability to make solid contact.  Dunston has a ways to go yet and should get another crack at Boise.  He works hard and has strong makeup -- as evidenced by how he responded after his demotion to AZ.  I'm looking for a bounce back year.

Jeffrey Baez is one of the youngest in this group at 19 ( 6 months older than Almora and 8 months younger than Dunston) and shows an intriguing combination of speed and gap power.  He's shown a decent eye at the plate, though that was at the lowest levels (DSL), so we'll see how he responds as he moves up the levels.  He'll probably be at AZ, so he's not nearly as advanced as Almora.

Others: Pin-Chieh Chen, Rubi Silva, John Andreoli, Oliver Zapata, Evan Crawford

 

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  • fb_avatar

    Good rundown on the CF candidates John and this looksee at our regular position players was well done.

    There are intriguing pieces to work with in CF,however there's a bit of a wait on the promising Almora.Szczur should get a chance before AA
    to grab the spot,but the rest of those mentioned have so far to goto be counted on.I was on board for picking up Bourn for the immediate time but if more than 3 years at 15 M per year then I wouldn't do it.

  • In reply to TheRiot2:

    Thanks. I'm just not a big fan of picking up Bourn because I think even if he signs a short term deal, it's going to be in a way that makes it hard for the Cubs to pick up long term value for him.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I would like to see Bourn return to ATL for LF. Then we could approach them about taking McCann off their hand s for salary relief. We'd have to give them Castillo too, but ask for Delgado or Teheran back.

  • In reply to Louie101:

    Bourn doesn't hit enough for LF and his defense would be wasted there.

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    But they could use a leadoff hitter badly. They get additional power from Upton in CF and Uggla at 2B to make up for lack of power production in LF.

  • In reply to Louie101:

    Atlanta allowed Bourn to leave and signed Upton to take his place, he's not going back.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree after taking a good look at the draft class. I believe it be a big mistake to lose their 2nd pick for Bourne. It is much deeper then people believe. I will get into it more during the HS season.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Jason McLeod said the team is excited about the players that might be available with that 2nd pick. They should get what in the past was a 1st round supplemental talent and there is some depth, as you say -- mostly when it comes to college pitching or even the high school pitching that might get pushed down because of the college pitching depth. Catching is also a strong point and it's possible a good high school/high ceiling catcher slides to that spot, especially if there is some uncertainty about signability. If the Cubs are going to give up that pick, they better be very sure they can recoup that value in a Bourn trade. Given the Cubs luck lately in making deals (injuries, the Demp situation, etc.) can they really be that certain it's a good gamble? Too many variables. The 2nd pick, which may or may not turn out, will at least have value early on through the minors when the player is likely to be a well-regarded prospect.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I believe there are a few HS players that have some nice tools and I am excited about the up coming season.

  • Excellent look at where we are at, and as we have seen throughout most or our help is 2015 or farther. I dont trust the swing changes B Jax made so I would let him prove it for 1/2 a season in AAA before bringing him up. If Bourne priced himself out of other teams plans give him 2 years 25-30 mil. We are counting on defense to help our pitching and he would be a step up from what we have.

  • In reply to cbbiefun2014:

    Bourn has priced himself out of most teams plans that is why he is still available. He will cost around 15M/year and a very high draft pick. For the teams that highly value their high draft picks, like the Cubs now, that cost is too high. I hope they do not sign him. With that Cubs pick, between 30 to 40 overall, they will be able to get a very good pitching prospect. Cubs need pitching badly, much more than good CF defense for a couple years when they are not serious contenders. I would rather live with a DDJ and Sappelt platoon with the hope of BJAX or Ha coming up in July.

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    In reply to John57:

    Notice that many of the remaining top FAs (Bourn, Soriano, Lohse, Laroche) have draft pick comp tied to them. The market is valuing those picks much more highly than it used to; before the new CBA, you could just spend overslot further down the draft to make up a lost choice, but that's not possible anymore. Plus, without a big sandwich round, even 2nd round picks are more valuable.

    I think agents and players were slow to realize this, but are waking up to it now. Particularly Soriano, who may not even get the same total dollars that he turned down with the qualifying offer

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Yep I 100% agree with you. I am thinking those top FAs are going to have to crawl back to their previous teams with their tail between their legs and accept what that team wants to pay them. Either that or be willing to accept a serious cut in pay from another team because they also have to give up a top draft pick.

  • In reply to cbbiefun2014:

    Thank you. I don't think anyone can feel confident when a player revamps his swing until we see it against live pitching.

    I'm having trouble understanding why Cubs should sign Bourn and give up essentially a supp. 1st rd pick for a two year stopgap. And at any rate, I don't think Bourn signs a 2 year deal. It's either 1 or at least 3.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Exactly.....I can't see signing Bourn. If he didn't have draft-pick comp, a one-year pillow could make sense for both parties. But giving up a draft pick for a 1-year contract makes sense for a contending team only. Not for the Cubs.

    Edwin Jackson was younger and had no draft comp; this is why we signed him, and if he cost a pick, I bet we would have stayed away

    LIke I said, draft picks are now a much larger part of the calculus

  • In reply to Zonk:

    They are. And as John57 pointed out, the Cubs aren't the only team that feels this way. Teams are no longer able to recoup picks by letting their own marginal free agents walk way under the old type A,B system -- and they're no longer able to take a flyer later in the draft and spend without limits. Those higher picks have higher value than ever before. In that sense, the new CBA has worked.

    I think if Bourn signs a one year deal, it will be similar to EJax where the team makes an implicit promise not to make a qualifying offer. That would force the Cubs to trade him to recoup long term value and there are too many variables in that scenario for my comfort.

  • fb_avatar

    Maybe the lack of movement so far in CF indicates a level of confidence in Brett Jackson....let's hope.

    Good piece, just goes to show the depth at CF. We have a legit prospect at virtually every level going into next year, including a bit of a logjam with Ha, who will likely have to play a corner in deference to B-Jax and/or Szcuzr, at lease to start the season

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I tend to agree Zonk - I think that the staff is viewing Jackson as at least the medium-term answer at CF. He may still start out at AAA ball, unless he just goes on a tear with the bat (and has actually dropped his K-rate) in Spring ball.

    I actually think comparisons to Drew Stubbs are fair with Jackson at this stage,... although I really hope he doesn't approach anywhere near the K-rate Stubbs does. If the Cubs can get a couple of good years out of Jackson until one of the other prospects with a higher ceiling is ready - then he becomes a valuable trade item.

    I still like DeJesus - but the guy is past his prime, and was only a short-term veteran solution anyway.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I think Ha starts prepping for a 4th OF'er type role but his defense at CF might be better than Jackson and Szczur. If he's hitting in AAA and OF defense is a problem, who knows? Maybe he gets a shot.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I hope that's the reason. Maybe they think Jackson will be ready in a 1/2 season or less and don't want to block him with a FA.

    In all honesty I think the Cubs will get a 4th OF'er type who's a good defensive CF'er and will be able to move if Jackson is ready.

  • I wonder with the Rangers needing to replace some pop from Josh Hamilton's departure & having a logjam of talent in CF (albeit young) if the Cubs can snag Craig Gentry (not as a centerpiece) in a deal for Soriano (or Garza). If Bourn goes to Tex, I certainly think he could be available? Just pondering...

  • In reply to Cub Fan Dan:

    Oh & Happy New Year John! Thanks for the great analysis & coverage in 2012. Hopefully you can analyze the Cubs winning in 2013.

  • In reply to Cub Fan Dan:

    Thanks. Happy New Year to you as well and to everyone. Looking forward to writing a piece on how and why the Cubs are winning more than expected!

  • In reply to Cub Fan Dan:

    I like Genry as RH stopgap in CF. He can go get it out there. Won't give you a ton of offense but he won't hurt you out at the plate either.

  • I could live with Bjax in cf K's or not because the rest of his game is what we need. He has had his time on the farm other than maybe a few swings early in the year to hone is revamped corrected one. Time for him to sink or swim. The Cubs need him now!

  • In reply to 44slug:

    If Jackson was ready, CF would be a non-issue. I really do think they're going to give him some time in AAA to start the year.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, Based on the track record of the FO since they have been in Chicago, it is hard for me to believe that Jackson won't be at AAA for the first half of the season.

    Thanks for a great year of reporting! Have a great holiday. Les

  • In reply to les561:

    I agree on Jackson and thank you Les. Happy New Year!

  • Has there ever been a major leaguer who fixed a strikeout problem as severe as Jackson's? I've looked, and I can't find one. Mark Reynolds is the modern era's most prodigious whiff-master, but he's never struck out in half his official at-bats. Nor did he K at the rate that Jackson has in the minors. I realize that Jackson's 142 PAs is a small sample, but it's not insignificant. And Jackson isn't a 20-year-old who's been rushed through the minors; he's 24.

    The other issue is that Jackson doesn't have nearly the power to justify a high strikeout rate -- Reynolds or Adam Dunn can hit 40 - 50 HRs in a full year, but Jackson's unlikely to hit more than 25. In short, you have a lot of famine, with a feast that consists of more singles and doubles than HRs.

    I was happy to hear offseason reports about Jackson's swing being fixed, but it's pretty hard to take Jackson seriously as a fixture in the Cubs' future lineup, given the odds against him.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Taft:

    This is why I am a skeptic; I can't find any instances either, but I can cite you dozens of players who were ultimately done in by lack of ability to make contact. I'll give you 2 toolsy CF prospects less than 10 miles away: Joe Borchard and Brian Anderson. Both good CF with power, both ranked prospects, both washouts due to lack of contact.

    I hope I'm wrong, but next year will be telling

  • In reply to Taft:

    I'm not sure if there were many examples of guys going from a 4 strikeout/9 walk per 9 IP, and an 8.25 FIP relief pitcher to a starter with a 9.27 K rate and a 2.89 walk rate and 3.55 FIP...in just two years.

    I think statistical trends are hugely important, but if you limit yourself to that box, then you'll miss out on a lot of opportunities too. There will always be guys who buck trends, and perhaps the next edge teams can find is finding the guys who are most likely to do that.

  • In reply to Taft:

    Also, Jackson's bar as a hitter isn't as high as Dunn or Reynolds because they can't do anything on the field except hit for power. Jackson can provide value in terms of good defense at a premium position and the ability to add runs on the bases with his speed.

  • I'm one of the few that think they should try sticking Campana out there everyday. DeJesus will give you a lot of singles, but Campana will give you a lot of "so called" doubles and triples via the stolen base.

    And, Campana seems to absolutely disrupt the defense, and there are likely going to be a lot of one run games with this new pitching staff. Not only do I think Tony can save a lot of run, but I think he can create a lot of runs if he gets a shot.

    I wrote an article called "Making the Case for Tony Campana" recently here:
    http://www.givejonadollar.com/2012/11/making-case-for-tony-campana.html

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    He just doesn't get on base enough. Speed is nice but if he's only getting on base at a .300 rate, he can't really utilize it.

    I don't think it will be easy for him to draw walks, simply because if I'm a pitcher, I'm going to throw him strikes and let him get himself out.

    Defense is inconsistent. Great speed but some bad reads, routes, jumps cancel it out at times.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    In 1984, Cubs won with speed at the top of the batting order....Dernier and Sandberg....

    1989, Cubs won again with speed at the top with Walton & Smith...

    Campana is not the same hitter as these past players....but Jackson should be.....speed in the outfield is a must......Cardinals had guys like Lonnie Smith and Willie McGee take away gaping doubles with their speed....but may I also add that a strong arm is also needed with that speed.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Cubs also won with speed at the top of the order in Juan Pierre... and Corey Patterson... Umm, actually, no they lost. A lot!

    There is almost always speed at the top of the order -- that's where it belongs on ML team. But there are plenty of teams who've won quite a bit without speed at the top. There is ZERO evidence that BJax can be the same hitter as Dernier, Sandberg or ROY Walton.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Speed is a nice weapon. My concern is still if Jackson will hit.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    Speed is also overrated. IIRC, the sabermatics guys will say that if you are not stealing at least 75% rate, you are actually costing your team outs, and doing more harm than good. Juan Pierre always had alot of steals, but also alot of CS.

    Campana does have a high steal % in the majors, but he didn't as much in the minors, so I wonder how sustainable that is

    Also, he strikes out WAY too much for a guy with no power at all; not sure why

  • In reply to Zonk:

    That is true, though I do think Campana is a good enough base stealer to consistently surpass that threshold.

    Even with that, I agree, it's not enough considering his other flaws.

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    I think the excitement that Campana brings to baserunning creates the illusion of more value than is really there. To make up for his lack of power, his weak arm and his low average, he has to steal a LOT of bases -- and he can't very often steal home. Usually, you're willing to accept all of the above flaws in the case of a power hitter, who drives himself home and anyone else on base. Campana doesn't offer that tool. I actually think the Cubs have handled Campana just fine. When he gets hot, put him in the lineup, and let him generate some enthusiasm on the team and in the stands. But when he cools off, he's a pinch runner, or a AAAA player, nothing more.

    That being said, Campana could be a valuable player to a team that has more offensive punch in the corner OF and IF positions. Those teams have power hitters who can drive Campana home, and his lack of slugging isn't nearly as detrimental as it would be in the Cubs' lineup. So I see him mainly as a sweetener in a trade, going along with someone like Soriano or Marmol.

  • New Years Resolutions for the Cubs......

    A World Series Title in 2013.......
    Not having Lenny Castillo anywhere near a MLB mound.....
    Castro focusing on the game at his position....
    Sweeping the White Sox.....
    Sweeping the Cardinals....
    Sweeping the Brewers.....
    Having a third baseman who can hit and play 150 games....
    Having Cubs Alfonso Soriano being MVP .....
    Having our pitchers do more brush back pitches!...
    Time to stop those Celeb 7th inning stretch singing.....
    No more trades that fall apart after getting reported by the media.

  • I think he should be a full time (fake or real) bunter (except for in clear low out, RBI situations) and draw the corners in on every at bat he can. If they get too close, he swings. If not, he doesn't.

    One thing to remember about Tony is that like any player, he needs at bats as well. I think a lot of his low average and OBP have to do with the same rust that any player experiences.

    I do firmly believe he could steal 100 bases in a year, and when full year is said and done, I would like to see what his final WAR would end up being.

    But, again, I realize I'm in the minority on this, so let the criticisms come. ;)

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    Campana stealing 100 bases ?.......someone is starting early with the drinking.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Happy New Year! ;)

  • The odds of Brett Jackson curing his strikeout difficulties are not high. But I can see why the Cubs want to give him every possible chance to do so, for a number of reasons.

    First, Jackson has every single attribute that the Cubs front office is looking for in a player. He is an excellent defensive center fielder, with better than average speed, very good instincts and a strong accurate arm. And he is a grinder at bat, with a very good eye. (A fair portion of his strike outs come from taking called strikes rather than lack of contact, and are compensated for by a high number of walks.).

    Second, Jackson's strike out problem seems to be stemming from one single flaw - he does not follow the ball all the way to the plate, but is staring off into space at time of contact (or lack thereof). This is not easy to fix, but if it CAN be fixed, it would improve his performance substantially.

    Third, reports from Mesa indicate that Jackson is taking the coaching seriously, and has been showing improvement. I would not rule out the chances that the coaching staff that turned Soriano into an adequate fielder might turn Jackson into an adequate contact hitter.

    As I said above, the odds are against Jackson ever reaching his ceiling. But this front office has shown a willingness to take high risks for high rewards. The odds of Vizcaino every reaching his pre-surgery ceiling are not high. The odds of Pierce Johnson reaching his pre-injury ceiling are not high. Nor are the odds of Stewart returning to the form he had before his injury.

    But the rewards from success with ANY of those projects are high enough to make the risks worth taking. If Jackson can bring his strike out rate down below 30%, they will have an All Star center fielder for years to come, and one with enough power to move to the corner if Almora makes it big.

    It is extremely likely that, regardless of his performance in spring training, the Cubs will keep Jackson at Iowa for the first half of the season. By July, they should have a much better ability to decide if center field needs an upgrade through trade or free agent signing.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Well put. The Cubs will give him every chance to become a better contact hitter because he embodies everything else they want in a player.

    Fixing someone's swing at this stage is difficult. No question. That said, if you had to do it with anyone it would be with a guy like Jackson because you know he's going to put everything into it. That doesn't mean it's going to be enough, but Jackson has the kind of mental makeup to at least improve the odds. It's probably not a great gamble but if you're going to roll the dice on someone, Jackson would be a good choice.

    Interesting too that they're trying to fix Szczur's swing. Different issue, but he's another guy you know will put the work in.

    In a different way, the Cubs have been impressed with how Welington Castillo has improved behind the plate while still becoming a better, more disciplined hitter. Or how Soriano improved defensively.

    Jeff Samardzija yet another example.

    The game and information has gotten to the point where you can only get so much advantage from statistics. I think you have to find the guys that are capable of making the kind of adjustments that give them a chance to be positive outliers from the normal trend.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Yes, much of what baseball FOs do is weigh the relative probabilities of a player turning out. I see your point about Jackson "taking the coaching seriously" and he has the work ethic and attitude that the Cubs like, but the cruel irony is that this makes it even harder to believe that he's fixed his contact problem.

    For instance, if Jackson was a stubborn player who had raw talent but insisted on doing things his way, like Corey Patterson was, by some accounts, then you could persuade me that Jackson had finally conceded that management was right and he should do things their way -- voila, he's making significantly more contact as a 24-year-old! But by all accounts Jackson is a humble, diligent player who has been committed to taking management's advice -- and yet the K problem has persisted. And the only hope we can cling to is the kind that's taken hold since Jackson has disappeared into a batting cage. Are you going to believe the Cubs' PR staff or your own lying eyes?

    Of course there's a chance he's fixed his swing. But there's also a chance that DeJesus hits .290 with 20 HRs this year. There's a chance that Campana hits .300 and steals 75 bases. Frankly, I think both those scenarios are more likely than Jackson reducing his ML strikeout rate by 20 percentage points. Admittedly, we have nothing to lose by giving Jackson a shot; it's just a matter of what is realistic to expect.

  • In reply to Taft:

    I agree that front offices look largely at statistical probabilities. But they don't confine themselves to that either. I know for a fact that the Cubs look at intangible factors in players. Sometimes, as I said above, it's about knowing which guys have a chance to make the kind of internal improvements that can result in results that vastly outperform statistical projections.

    Changes, even when they work, take time. It's not going to necessarily happen overnight. It took Jeff Samardzija about a year and a half to start to defy every statistical projection in 2012 -- even by the second half of 2011, really.

    And who's to say the Cubs previously asked Jackson to change? He was doing just fine through AA and even in his first stint at AAA. The old FO seemed fine with letting players stick with what worked at the lower levels. I seriously doubt anyone asked Jackson to make any major adjustments prior to this season.

  • In reply to Taft:

    I see what you are saying and I agree that it is a daunting task to change your approach after years of practice has made it become engrained. One thing that I think you are missing is that the FO has complete revamped the teaching process given throughout the minors. Players now are given much more instruction and support in making those adjustments than they were under past GMs. I think that the approach and the coaching that the minor leaguers are getting now would make it easier to make the adjustments successfully. Under Hendry a player was told to cut back on his strike outs, but how much coaching and instruction were given to help them be successful? I would think that it was minimal at best, considering that Soriano said that this past year was the first time that anyone had ever tried to teach him how to play the outfield.
    The biggest difference that I see in the approach of the current FO (and there are many big differences) is the commitment to giving all players every opportunity, through detailed instruction and strong coaching, to improve the skill set that got them drafted in the first place.
    I also tend to think that some of Jackson's high strike out totals were in a small part due to his trying too hard to make a strong first impression, and to prove that he was ready for the majors. His numbers should become a little, I emphasize little as I am not expecting huge improvement overnight, better just by relaxing and playing his game, not trying to impress the FO, the coaches, his teammates and the fan base.

  • In reply to Taft:

    Jackson spent his entire career under a front office that had the philosophy that you shouldn't curtail a hitters "natural agressiveness" On a practical basis, this translated into "leave the guy alone, regardless of the flaws".

    To assume that this front office will fail, because the last front office never tried, doesn't seem rational to me.

    As John said, there is a strong likelihood that Jackson will not succeed. But to be honest, there is also a strong likelihood that Almora, Soler, Vizcaino or Vogelbach will fail. MOST prospects fail, to the extent that they never reach their projected ceiling. That is why you can never have enough top prospects. And that is why it is foolish to give up too early on one that could well succeed.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Amen, There are always players who become all-stars for thier 2nd team. I love the fact that we coach guys "up".
    No most of the players on every teams top 10 list will not reach thier ceiling, our FO looks at the players makeup it seems. They want players who work.

  • I like Jackson's desire and work ethic, etc. I do not like, however, that we talk about a guy who is likely to hit around .250 being our CF for the next X years. With our woeful corner outfielders, in terms of BA and OBP, we need a CF who can hit for average and get on base. Jackson does not seem to be that guy. Unfortunately, I don't see any other kids n the oganization who are better than him for the next few years. : (

  • In reply to INSaluki:

    I think corner OF is one spot where it's less costly to acquire through the FA or trade markets if the Cubs can't develop one on their own. If Jackson hits .250 with a 10-11% walk rate, then I think his OBP will be acceptable given everything else he brings to the table.

  • In reply to INSaluki:

    a CF who hits .250 with a .330 OBP and .425 SLG that will hit 15 HR and 20 SB to go with very good defense is the kind of CF I want for the next 6 years.

  • Thank you for the in-depth positional analysis, John.

    After the 2012 season mercifully concluded in October, you wrote that our biggest positional holes were CF, 3B, and backup catcher. And, it was no secret that our record against LHPs was awful.

    Your analysis shows that we've taken care of the backup catcher, but have done almost nothing to address the other holes. At 3B, we're going with the same triad (Stewart, Valbuena, and Vitters) who combined to hit all of 0.195 last year. Our CF is a better RF. And the only real newcomer (Schierholtz) is a LH batter.

    Me? I'm hoping that 1) Junior Lake has a monstrous spring and forces the Cubs to put his RH bat at 3B and 2) Brett Jackson REALLY has reworked his RH swing and steps in at CF for the next 10 years.

    Looking forward to more of your articles in 2013!

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    Thanks DTP! Cubs also really patched the holes on their pitching staff too.

    Biggest hole to me right now is CF because at least Stewart and Valbuena can add defensive value.

    I think Lake is a nice wildcard because he can potentially help fix holes at 3B and/or the OF. Want to see how he hits in AAA before i get too excited though.

  • Interesting comments about Szczur and Jackson reworking their swings. Since Szczur just finished his 3rd season and Jackson just finished his 4th, one wonders why these flaws are just now being addressed.

    You've recently written several articles about changes in the Cubs minor league staffs, instructors, coordinators, and directors. I'm looking forward to a mid-season follow-up article on how the new minor league regime has improved on the old.

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    I think that would be a good idea. Maybe one approach would be to take several players who are making adjustments and see how many of them get better. I know that Jackson, Szczur, Soler at the very least have been working on their swings. Trey Martin is likely working to shorten his a bit. Junior Lake would be an interesting follow as the Cubs have been trying to get him to change his approach. Vitters too. Oh...I can think of quite a few. Will have to check on them at midseason.

  • I heard a report that Rod Carew is working with Ian Stewart in the batting cage.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Every little bit helps. Hope Carew can help him make more consistent contact.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Now that would be something,... if some of that old Carew 'magic' could rub off a bit on Stewart,... that would be fantastic.

    I'm just old enough to remember Rod playing - that man could hit!

  • Great stuff as always, John. I really appreciate your insights and the insights of the posters here. I have been reading this site for about a year now, it is the best Cubs site on the web.

    Happy New Year everyone.

  • In reply to supercapo:

    Thanks supercapo! Happy New Year!

  • Jackson maybe as good of a stop gap as can be found. He already is a Cub and does not cost money or prospects.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Cubs may decide the same thing in the end. Play DeJesus in CF for a couple of months and then cross their fingers on Jackson.

  • Could Lake play CF at all?

  • In reply to cbbiefun2014:

    I think it's worth a shot. He's a big kid but he runs well.

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    John, just curious, how are you going to do pitching? I ask, because an article on starting pitching would be VERY long, since you're breaking down like 20 guys at this point.

    Break it up by level, perhaps?

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I actually meant this to be position players only as a response to where the Cubs stand there after all the improvements in their rotation/bullpen.

    Pitching gets messy for this kind of breakdown because of all the SP prospects who will probably end up in the bullpen. There's so much crossover.

    If I do decide to do something on pitching, I may have to change the format.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Hey John, Happy New Year. With all the highlights type of recaps going on with the onset of every new year, maybe a recap of the Cubs moves is in order, beginning with the most recent July trade deadline deals and continuing thru the off season moves to this point. Maybe a chronological list and then an Arguello's top ten Cub moves list Dave Letterman style?

  • Late to this conversation, but my 2 cents here....

    Please, do not sign Bourn. Giving up a 2nd round pick is counter to what this FO is trying to do and given the current state of the team, we do not need an aging CFer at this point.

    I agree with others that thinking BJax can make a major swing change with success might be a reach. IF he could hit to .250/.340/.430 and play great defense, sign me up right now. A lot of his K's come because he works the count. Should he become more aggressive at the plate? Would cut down on K's but would also cut down on BB's.

    If he could show some success with hitting, might pitchers become less aggressive when facing him? Meaning, if the P falls behind 3-1, are they less likely to throw a get-me-over-fastball for a strike or might they be willing to just throw some junk and give up a BB and go to the next hitter.

    I really like BJax. He is the type of player the FO wants and the fans would love this guy. I hope he is up and contributing come July 1.

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