Does Brett Jackson have a shot at the opening day CF job?

Does Brett Jackson have a shot at the opening day CF job?

So one thing that caught my eye yesterday in the BA top prospect list but that I failed to mention was the last line of Brett Jackson's profile (subscriber link).

 He should open 2013 as Chicago's center fielder unless he tanks in spring training.

You can't just dismiss it as speculation because we know Jim Callis talks to a lot of Cubs people when putting this list together.  However, it seems that earlier we'd heard from the front office that Jackson was to start the year in AAA, though they've allowed that he has a shot to win the job in spring training.

Even if they're not going to be open about it, what if the Cubs want him to win it?  And if he did win it, how would that work exactly?

Here is how the 2013 OF looks so far..

LF:  The home of Alfonso Soriano, the Cubs one and only RH power hitter at this time.  There was some speculation earlier that perhaps the Phillies were interested but that appears to have died down. The Phillies, in fact, appear to be done per their GM Ruben Amaro, Jr., who said, "We're likely going with what we've got." The word "likely" leaves the door open, but it does tell me this: they don't like the offer the Cubs made, which was Alfonso Soriano for Domonic Brown.  If they did, why the need to bluff?  Is it a last-ditch effort to bring the price down for Sori?  Possible, I suppose. If the Cubs are going to settle for less, i.e. Darin Ruf or John Mayberry, Jr., then it's not worth it to me. While Soriano doesn't have long term value for the Cubs, neither do those guys.  They're stop gaps (yes, I know how many HRs Ruf hit, won't happen in the bigs).    The thought here is if you want to go with a stop gap, then Soriano is your man.  For all intents and purposes, this deal is dead right now.  Barring a new suitor, Alfonso Soriano is your LF'er.

RF:  Jed Hoyer recently said that the lion's share of the RF at-bats will go to Nate Schiehroltz.   It seems likely that if he does get a rest, then it will be vs. LHP.  This is where Dave Sappelt should get many of his ABs.

CF:  Here is where it gets difficult.  The default guy here is David DeJesus.  It pains me to say this about DeJesus because he's one of my favorite players.  His approach, style of play, and clubhouse presence is exactly what the Cubs need.  However, he's no longer a CF or even a full-time player.  What DeJesus is these days is a very good 4th OFer: Not enough defense for CF, not enough bat for the corners, doesn't hit LHP but on the other hand... he'll grind out some ABs, hit RHP well, and play good defense on the corners.  DeJesus can still play a huge role on this team, I just don't know if his best value is as an everyday CF'er, and with the corner's apparently filled this leaves the Cubs in an awkward spot.

Then there's Brett Jackson.

He's not going to win a Gold Glove in CF but he'll be at least average there, perhaps better, and certainly fearless.  That keeps the Cubs defense relatively strong up the middle.  His strikeout issues have been well-documented, most recently here by J.J. Cooper of Baseball America.  The Cubs think they have diagnosed the problem, but that's only the beginning of a grueling long road to actually fixing it.  I have no doubts that Jackson will put whatever work he needs and more on his end of things.

So let's say Jackson looks great in the spring.  Let's say he's making more consistent contact while keeping the rest of his game average to above average across the board.  Could he be the answer?  He'll play the defense the Cubs like and if his minor league splits are any indication (.279/.366/.574), he doesn't seem to struggle against LHP, so there's a reasonable expectation he can play everyday as long as he can hit.

I specifically like the idea of putting a better OF defense out there in the early months, when the park plays big, and Jackson can help with his defense, along with his ability to take walks and then use his legs to create runs.

So where does that leave DeJesus? I know many of you might say trade him, but why not hang on to him?  Give Soriano  a day or two off every week, give Jackson a couple of day off to work him in slowly, and perhaps even use him in RF if Shierholtz needs a break.  I think you can get him 4 starts a week, which translates to over 100 per season -- and that's not even counting the times he'll fill in for injuries.  Utilizing his versatility and giving him good match-ups as much as possible maximizes his value and it keeps Soriano rested and Jackson from getting overwhelmed, not to mention the tremendous insurance he'd provide.  I don't know how happy this would make everybody, but when you don't have a real superstar in the outfield, maybe the alternative is to use them all in such a way that maximizes their value.

That kind of set-up probably can't last forever but the Cubs can see where they're at in June and make changes accordingly, maybe a trade of Soriano is in order and DeJesus takes over in LF.  Maybe Jackson shows he needs more time in AAA, perhaps even before the season starts.  Maybe teams prefer to trade for DeJesus instead of Soriano or maybe Nate Schierholtz doesn't have the kind of breakout season the Cubs expect.

One thing you can say, there's nothing certain about this OF other than it's going to change, one way or another, over the next year or two, perhaps even sooner than that.

Filed under: Analysis

Tags: Brett Jackson

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  • That all makes sense to me. I think Dejesus has more value to the Cubs, even in a bench role, than he does as trade bait.

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    In reply to WSorBust:

    Agreed, DeJesus only has real trade value when packaged with someone like Garza.

  • In reply to WSorBust:

    He'd be a heck of a 4th OFer, I'd even call him 3 1/2. Put him in the right spots and he can give you great defense and great numbers and still get a lot of ABs. But, of course, Jackson has to prove he's ready for that to work.

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    John, great article as usual, but here is a non-thread related item that's been on my mind since this afternoon. Does A-Rod's surgery, which is expected to keep him out until after the All Star break, have implications for the Cubs? Could they suddenly become players for a major league ready third base prospect like Olt or Gyorko? Do they have anything to offer that teams might be interested in?

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Thanks Michael.

    I don't like they're farm system right now. Most of the guys are at the lower levels and still question marks. My impression was that Youkilis could play there for now.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    True enough, but I also wonder if they might suddenly become interested in Soriano, or might they find Stewart interesting because of his defense, especially if he's hitting well in spring training?

  • While I like the defense Nate S is bringing, I must say I'm a bit surprised how happy everyone was about DeJesus last year, but how sour they were on Fukudome the 3 years before that.

    Why not trade DeJesus and resign Fukudome for cheap? Fukudome had king OBP percentages and plays good defense as well.

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    Bring back Fukudome....then bring back Choi also!

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    I don't know Jon. He looked pretty cooked last year. Defense also regressing fast.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    A very fair point and noted. I noticed he signed with the Hanshin Tigers today for 3 years and 5.5 million.

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    Though it seems crazy now, there was talk that Fukudome could be a 25, 30 hr guy, which is where a lot of the disappointment came from I think. Plus Fukudome made $12mil a year in 2008 dollars, whereas DeJesus made $4.25mil last year.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    Yeah, based on Fukudome's pay and his projections, fans were hoping for a Ray Lankford, and ended up with more of a Henry Cotto.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    I remember. I was on the F-U-K-U-D-O-M-E train like everyone else, especially after his incredible debut. The money difference is sizable, but there was not much of a market for him when we signed DeJesus. I was glad to see him go, and David is a good stopgag, so I'm not really complaining. I just am always a bit astounded when I see all the big ups David gets, when Fukudome was primarily derided.

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    Please tell me you are joking....

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    Last I heard, Felix Pie is still available.

  • Putting DeJesus in CF will weaken the Cubs in two places.......put Jackson in CF, and DeJesus in RF......Jackson needs encouragement......team / front office support.........it is now or never for him.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    its not now or never for a 24 yr old guy with less than a half year in the majors, hes got time, hes changing some things around. i agree that he needs some support, but i think given the circumstances he'll be given a few chances to iron things out before anyone is ready to give up on him.

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    Jackson has to play every day that's a given. But at this point he has to show he can adjust at the major league level or he's sunk. Most young players go through the same growing pains. I say if he performs well in spring training center field is his. Then when the times get tough, he relies On his defense, ob% and speed till he turns it around.

  • In reply to Rich Cap:

    While I think there's a good chance he goes to AAA, I agree that he can win the job with a good spring. Also like those attributes in the early Wrigley games in April and May.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    A good chance? I think they will do with Jackson exactly the same as they did with Rizzo last year. Jackson will start in AAA and stay there until he forces them to bring him up. He has to prove that his revamped swing and plate approach actually does the same as Rizzo.

    That was the whole reason they brought Jackson up when they did last summer so he could fail and see it is a lot different in the Bigs as compared to AAA. So let's see what he can do beyond spring training which really doesn't showcase a person's talents well.

  • In reply to JeffK:

    I don't think they're as decided as you are. Different situation.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Good point.

  • It seems to me that BJax should start in AAA again. He actually struggled to some degree in the minors last year too. I really hope that both Jackson and Trey McNutt can both pull their act together in 2013. As they both really struggled last year.

  • In reply to Justin:

    What if he looks good and tears it up? He's already had a full year in AAA.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John - you of anyone should understand that stats and results mean nothing in Spring Training, with the possible exception of the last week.

    If he does tear it up, he should be in a good frame of mind to go down to AAA knowing that he is close to getting back up.

    My fear is if he starts in the Majors, has a terrible April, we may have lost him for good.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    I do, but I mean more along with his swing and making consistent hard contact. If he's putting up great stats with the old swing, then it means nothing.

  • I like DeJesus, hope he doesn't go anywhere. Good quality ab's. I think the Phillie's are bluffing and Soriano will be dealt before the season starts but if he isn't, I'd be surprised if we give him a couple days off a week since they'll be looking to pad his stats by the trade deadline. For the usual reasons but also to prove last year wasn't a fluke.

    My first reaction on Jackson is that they'll start him in Iowa even if he has a good spring like they did with Rizzo last year, it working out so well. But then I wonder if they would have done that to Rizzo if they weren't trying to extend his years of control and if he'd already gotten a full year's ABs at AAA, both of which are true for Jackson. Don't know the answer to that, and with Sveum being rah rah for Jackson, I guess it's a possibility he makes the team out of ST. I hope he doesn't though. Such a bad contact rate, I'd love for him to get real comfortable with that new swing at AAA before he faces major league pitching.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    It would also be a good idea to keep Soriano healthy. Those knees are getting pretty creaky, and they're going to be a little painful to play on in those first couple of colder months.

    Jackson's situation is different -- far less worries with cost control. I think if they like what they see with the swing, he may get his shot. Maybe they can keep a better eye on it at MLB level than when he's out in Iowa.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    We got a veritable college of hitting coaches on the major league team, that's for sure.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    That they do!

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    College of Coaches - what a concept!

  • In reply to SFToby:

    *ominous thunderclap*

  • That "Right Field Sucks" chant is going to take on new meaning this summer. Holy shit.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    They really seem to like Schierholtz. Have to admit I didn't have him pegged for a breakout, but I guess I can see why he's worth a flyer. Still, it's a long shot. In Theo we trust!

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Nate S. seems like one of those guys who just needs a chance to play everyday. I'll go out on a limb and declare him this years Josh Reddick. He certainly has alot of talent and athleticism.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    That would be huge for this team's chances if he can break out anything close to tht.

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    I agree john.. Hang on to Dejesus.. Guys a grinder.. And I like him and he always can give either of the 3 a off day.. More value to u then a low bargain return..

  • In reply to Colman Conneely:

    One of my favorite players last year, love his approach to the game.

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    John,

    As you know I've been sayin since day 1 that i'd rather take my chances with Jackson in CF over signing Bourn, trading for Crisp, playing Dejesus, etc. I'll take his D, power, plate discipline, speed right now and honestly feel if BJax does get his K moderately under control it's likely he ends up having a better year than any of those alternatives.

    I'd like nothing better than for him to tear it up in ST + April and take hold of that CF job for the next few years. I don't think around .270/.330/.470 is out of range for him. He has potential for 20+ doubles, 10+ triples, 20+hrs, 25+ steals even if he does strikeout alot. Add solid defense in CF to that and you have a borderline all-star......I'll take it.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I do, you've always been much more willing to roll the dice with prospects than the average fan. I think Jackson has a shot, but the odds historically haven't been great. For now, I'd like him to at least show progress and an improved swing, better contact rates...something to give me hope! If he comes to AZ and hits everything in sight and makes the team, I think we'll both be thrilled.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Lol yea. I see it this way. There are two kinds of risks you can take when it comes to your roster. You can:

    A. Spend a bunch of money on Free agents and/or trade prospects for 1-2 established players

    B. Develop your own players and ride them.

    We tried the A approach under Hendry and CO. and it didn't work. Both are risky but i'd rather take my chances on youth and cost control over expensive and aging. Letting your home-grown guys develop and play has done wonders for teams around the league and I like that we're following the B approach with a little of A mixed in.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I like that they're calling these guys up while still continuing that development. You probably could make the argument that Jackson will get better coaching at the MLB level.

  • The Cubs do need him now, but I vote for some AAA at bats first. If he is white hot in ST including low Ks then he has earned his chance.

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    That article is not encouraging. The only players in the 40%+ K club that have stuck have either been at a key defensive position (Shoppach), or have had huge power (Dunn, Deer, Kingman).

    B-Jax has neither. I hope I am wrong, but I think he's going to be a bust.

    Worth a shot, anyway.

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    In reply to Zonk:

    CF is a key position and he does have ENOUGH power to survive if he gets the Ks down to at least 25-30%. But like you said it's worth a shot. What do we have to lose? Potential payout outweighs the risk.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    History is not on his side. I'd call CF a key position, but he will probably have to make room for Almora at some point.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Here is what I hope: B-Jax is the next Drew Stubbs.

    Stubbs, other than being right-handed, is really similar; good tools, enough power and defense to be a ML regular, but the Ks have kept him from being more than average to below-average, and will probably make him gone from the league as soon as those skill erode in the slightest.

    I think the ceiling for B-Jax is Drew Stubbs

    The floor is Joe Borchard

    We'll see where he lands; I hope he is Drew Stubbs v. 2

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I'm not a fan of adhering to comps that strictly. Some similarities with Stubbs but I wouldn't limit him that ceiling, though I do agree he could completely wash out too. I tend to be optimistic, yet always prepared for the very worst :)

  • I am genuinely confused here. Dale Sveum loves to use a righty dominated lineup when a southpaw is pitching. The candidates for the final OF spot are campana, bjax, and bogusevic, all of which are lefty. Am i the only one feeling like another signing, probably just another notable spring training invitee, is going to occur involving a right handed OF?

  • In reply to elusivekarp:

    Probably, but the bargain bin has been pretty well picked over by now. Looks like we'll see 2 RH hitters and 3 LH hitters no matter what the final 5 is.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    So what lefties would you say are the most capable of hitting pitchers from both sides of the rubber? If DeJesus is deemed incapable of doing so, then that is going to be what decides the final spot.

  • Terrific post, Man. I really like BJax. he's gonna be a good player. I think he's a fringe core guy to be honest. some may disagree with that but at the very least he'll be a quality fourth of for the duration of his team controlled years. you gotta have those guys! at most he makes a couple of all star games before he's 30. Even though he has had the well documented contact issues he's still a "ballplayer". ballplayers work hard and make adjustments. also, like you said he allows the team to maximize the value of three players, the others being soriano and dejesus of course. I would also argue that spending the first couple of months alongside great teammates like sori and double d will make him a better big leaguer in the long run than at bats in Iowa. hopefully he winds up somewhere between reed Johnson and Jim Edmonds.

  • In reply to Ben20:

    if not, I told Theo I'd play center.

  • In reply to Ben20:

    I will take option A.

  • In reply to Ben20:

    Thanks Ben..

    He's become a polarizing guy. I totally understand the skepticism but I'm still cautiously optimistic. Edmonds is interesting because he did cut down his strikeouts significantly, but he started doing it earlier than BJax has. As long as he makes enough contact to allow him to play and use those other 4 tools, I'll be happy.

  • Great article as usual John. I guess the question I would have to some posters is why the rush to judgement? Jackson is still 24. What's the harm in letting him develop in AAA for another half year and build his confidence and get used to his new swing.

    I hope he's a changed player and rips it up this spring, as he would be our best fit in CF. But if there's even a question, I'd rather sit on him for a few months until he's ready. We're not exactly in win now mode. No use wasting an asset by pushing him too soon.

    Am I wrong in thinking he's still got another year to develop in the minors if nec., before we can really say how good he'll be?

  • In reply to MrBillySir:

    Thanks MrBillySir! I don't think there's any harm it all in keeping him down there. I think if I had to bet on it, I'd bet he will start the year in AAA. But I also don't think the Cubs need to be dogmatic about how they handle prospects. If they think he's ready this spring, then there's not much point keeping him down there either. You can sometimes wait too long too. It's a judgment call and in the end they have to do what they think is best for Jackson's long term. That may be to send him down to AAA, but I don't think that's necessarily so. It's the current MLB hitting coaches that have been tweaking his swing, not the Iowa guys.

  • As much as I would like Jackson to succeed I hope the FO goes into the season with a better plan for center field than a wish and a hope.
    Rizzo's revamp was an exception for how fast he was able to turn it around. Can lightning strike twice?
    If Baker can be traded so can DD.

  • In reply to RickC:

    DeJesus can be traded. The return is a different story. He'll probably land a good prospect, but not a high ceiling one.

  • If we pay his entire salary, we might get a Christian Villenueva level prospect. Which I would be extremely happy about.

    If we don't pay much of his salary, I doubt that we would get much.

  • Does Kenny Lofton still have legs?

    Seriously, I dig what is posited in this article. Here's hoping for an early-spring Sori trade, a BJax breakout ST and dude starting in center field this year. Another couple of Barney/Samardzija surprise breakouts would really hit the spot. We're due... Right?

  • In reply to Dan Bradley:

    Here's hoping Sori hits 30 bombs again.

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    In reply to Ben20:

    Yes!!!! I have always liked Sori ......I think he can be a .275/30/100 guy this year.

  • In reply to freeagent24:

    If Soriano hits 30 bombs this year and already under contract for next year, he could be within striking distance of 500. Will he be able to find a team?

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I think so, Man. Seven time all- stars usually have a job as long as they want one. If he's willing to play for a third of his current salary that is...my guess is that he plays out this contract in Chicago and shuts it down.

  • In reply to freeagent24:

    That train has left the station,given his age, I doubt he replicates his 2012 #'s.His elevator is definitely going down. I'm wondering what numbers Bill James is predicting for 2013 ?

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    In reply to TheRiot2:

    What besides his age makes you think his numbers will go down? He was a much better hitter last year after he switched to a lighter bat. Project those numbers over an entire season and he can at least match last years numbers.

  • Whether Jackson's is MLB or AAA is super simple to figure out.

    If he K's he goes down.
    If he doesn't he stays up.

    Easy.

  • In reply to eaton53:

    If it were that easy everybody would be GM. As for me, other than the paycheck, I'm glad I'm not. It's much easier shouting my thoughts from the Cubs Den stands. I love Jackson, and think he has the heart and desire to make changes and be viable. Probably won't be the exception to the list of K guys that have failed but time will tell. Not too long ago, he was right at the top of our prospect list. In fact, for as long as I can remember, if our top prospects were busts, the Cubbies were screwed. This no longefr appears to be the case.

  • In reply to Break The Curse:

    I think it is easy in this case because IMO a BJax that makes contact will be a very successful BJax. He's no Tony Campana... when he hits the ball he puts a pretty decent charge into it.

    The hard part is figuring what to do if he keeps K'ing.
    How many chances, when to move on, etc.
    That decision is why the Theos of the world make the big bucks...

  • In reply to eaton53:

    If he makes contact he will be very successful...brilliant.

  • In reply to Ben20:

    Uhh... he not only has to hit the ball but hit it hard.
    We already got a Tony Campana.and he's probably not gonna make it.

  • I hope his swing changes kick in quickly and he improves his contact in spring training. But for anyone who has tried major swing changes you need repetitions and you need confidence in the changes. For those reasons i think he will be better served going to AAA but I hold out hope he takes to the changes quickly and is ready for spring training.

  • Even if BJ has a good spring, I think he would be better served with a little more time in AAA to prove that his swing changes are locked in. I'd think he'd really have to have a phenomenal spring to get an opening day spot with the Cubs.
    I think the Cubs must be planning on adding a quality young outfielder to this mix and jettisoning some dead weight through trades. The Cubs are accumulating bodies in the outfield with a low percentage chance of full time MLB success: BJ, NS, Sappelt, DD, Campana. Just because of age, Sori and DD are injury candidates. If the Cubs trade Sori and DD gets injured, then what?

  • Rafael Palmeiro was right around the Mendoza line his first year. Wonder whatever happened to him.

  • In reply to clarkaddison:

    He went on to pump up, more than the volume.

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    In reply to TheRiot2:

    For a non juicer comp, Mike Schmidt hit .196 his first year in the bigs. He turned out to be pretty good as well.

  • Oddy enough, Baseball America online has an article on Jackon today. Basically it says that if Jackson were to cure his strike out problem, he would be bucking a trend. Previously, only players with massive power or outstaniding defense behind the plate (Kelly Shopach) have been become usefull.

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    In reply to cubman:

    Here is the link to that, it's a good read:

    http://www.baseballamerica.com/blog/prospects/2013/01/brett-jacksons-strikeout-rate-reaches-historic-level/

  • I would like nothing better than to be wrong on Brett Jackson, but I believe that he is too old and his remaining development time is too short for him to be able to make substantive changes to his swing in an effot to curb his strikeouts.

    The strikeouts don't bother me as much as his apparent inability to keep his average near .250, which he will need to do to have a ML career.

    At this point, I predict he will be unable to make enough of an adjustment to have anything other than a fringe ML career.

  • In reply to JK1969:

    True, but every once in while someone beats the odds. Lets hope for the Cubs sake and his, that he is one of the rare exceptions.

  • Seems the Pirates / Liriano deal has fallen apart.......I wonder if Liriano's agent will be calling Theo?......Lets hope Theo looks at the medical records.

  • Off topic - if anyone doesn't have the MLB tv network, they are streaming their coverage of the HOF announcement:

    http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?topic_id=6003532&content_id=25543337

  • Not the Jackson I saw last year. He didn't even look like a TripleA player , and that was in a hitters paradise league. Rework his swing at 3A, the bigs are not the place to be starting re-working his swing.

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    In reply to mutant beast:

    Not sure we saw the same Jackson in AAA....Yeah he struck out alot but he also was on pace for 30+ steals, 20+ hrs, 30+ doubles, 10+ triples with an OPS north of .800. That's an above average season for a CF.

    And he wouldnt start reworking it in the bigs, he's been doing that all offseason, its a matter of implementing it. Why put it to work against AAA pitching when the goal is hit ML pitching? Not to mention the benefit of utilizing better coaching in the bigs. Could speed up his development.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    agreed.

  • HOF has spoken.......No Juiced players!

    Greg & Frank will be their in 2014.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Frank Thomas will miss in 2014. Maddux Glavine, Biggio.

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    In reply to Ben20:

    I don't think Biggio gets enough votes in 2014. He was under 40% this year. Normally it takes several years for a guy to move up from 40% to the required 75%. Couple that with the ballot being full of guys who put up insane numbers compared to the history of baseball and it's going to be hard for anyone who isn't a clear cut 1st ballot guy to get in right away. The votes are being split up by too many candidates.

  • If he has a good ST then give him the CF job. Use DDJ or Nate in right depending on who does better in ST. The other can get plenty of time when the other 3 need a day off.

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  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Csyolvin:

    What a coincidence, I was just sitting here thinking I need a team of technicians who take care of locks. It's my lucky day!

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    Do the Cubs not realize Brett Jackson's maximum value is in LF? He is an average defensive player in Center and would be excellent in LF...that would right away increase his defensive value despite not playing a premium defensive position. If he can hit even just .250 with his standard on base variance of over .100 pts. Plus those 20ish homers and sbs. I think he could be an amazing LFer especially considering how bad LFs have slowly become over the past several seasons.

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