I haven't done a news and notes in a while so let's catch up on some interesting links...
- The Wall Street Journal did an analysis on which teams improved themselves the most this offseason. The first team, the Blue Jays, probably won't raise any eyebrows considering how they acquired the likes of R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, and others. The second team, however, may surprise you. It's our own Chicago Cubs. They calculated that the Cubs have added 8.2 wins with their offseason moves -- though it helps that the Cubs had no key losses. Still, the WSJ only figures it will make this rebuilding year "somewhat less miserable".
- Christina Kahrl of ESPN wrote a nice article on teams maximizing offense with platoon shifts. It does not include the Cubs but when I asked her, she did say the Cubs are among teams employing this strategy this season. As you well know, this is something I've been talking about all offseason. The Cubs have made some calculated additions this season that have improved the pitching staff and perhaps the defense behind them -- but the offensive additions are less obvious. Players like Nate Scheirholtz, Scott Hairson, plus holdovers David DeJesus and Dave Sappelt can be used in situations where their strengths are maximized and their weaknesses minimized through less exposure. I wrote about one possible arrangement for the outfield here. The Cubs may still need a platoon partner for Ian Stewart or Luis Valbuena at 3B.
- Bernie Pleskoff writes an interesting article on scouting, particularly during spring training. He focuses on mechanics and not performance. Good information for those who want to learn more about the scouting side of the game.
- The Arizona Diamondbacks are very impressed with Starlin Peralta. Manager Kirk Gibson said he had "electric" stuff and GM Kevin Towers said that Peralta is "the kind of arm you like to keep in your system." The problem for AZ is that there is no room in either their rotation or their bullpen. Unless a spot opens up through injury, the Diamondbacks may look to make a deal. It's something they've done in the past with their rule 5 picks.
- Baseball Prospectus came out with their top 101 prospect lists and there are two Cubs in the top 20--Albert Almora (18) and Javier Baez (20) -- and two more in the top 54 -- Jorge Soler (36) and Arodys Vizcaino (54)
- A curious top 100 list of MLB Draft prospects by Matt Garrioch of SB Nation. I say curious because it's different from many lists we've seen. It starts at the top with Ryan Stanek at #1 and 3B Kris Bryant at #2 -- and you'll see quite a few more unusual names throughout the top of the list. I have to say my philosophy toward the draft is different. While I like Bryant's bat, for example, there is no way I can put a guy who has a good chance of winding up at 1B that high. In fact, 3 of the top 6 players may end up at 1B. The concerns about Stanek -- high effort delivery, command, and lack of a 3rd pitch -- make me think there's a reasonable chance he winds up a reliever and I'd be uncomfortable placing him at the top. But I suppose that's what makes these things fun -- people look at players differently with different philosophies.
- Keith Law reviews some draft eligible players who have disappointed thus far. Top 5 candidate RHP Jonathan Crawford was at 89-92 and, coupled with his mechanical issues and the lack of a 3rd pitch, could drop all the way out of the top 20. RHP Karsten Whitson is out for the year after undergoing shoulder surgery and Stanford OF Austin Wilson is also injured. Top rated SS Orlando Mercado turned in a poor performance in the early going.
- As for players who have done well early on, RHP Mark Appel rebounded from a shaky opener to go 7 innings with just 3 hits allowed, one walk, and 11 strikeouts. Sean Manaea also started strong with a 6 scoreless innings of one hit ball. He struck out 10. OF Clint Frazier has hit 3 HRs in his first 2 games.
- We'll have our own draft piece coming up in the next couple of days. We will also roll on with our minor league preview. We left off with the Daytona hitters and we'll go with the pitchers next.
Filed under: News and Notes