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Cubs Notes: Garza throws pain-free bullpen session, Feldman, Vitters, Fleita, International Prospects

Cubs Notes: Garza throws pain-free bullpen session, Feldman, Vitters, Fleita, International Prospects

Some great discussion yesterday on prospects and that theme is going to continue today with a couple more articles, one of which will be Keith Law's top 100, which will be out later today..

There are a few news and notes to catch up on, though, so we'll start the day with those.

  • Pitchers and catchers don't officially report for another 5 days, but there's already great news from Arizona.  Matt Garza threw a pain-free bullpen session.  He threw 30 pitches in front of GM Jed Hoyer and pitching coach Chris Bosio.  “Matty looks like he is in great shape,” Bosio said. “It looks like he worked hard in the offseason. His legs are in great shape and I believe he is ahead of where he was last year when he reported.  He has been on his program all winter and has not had any hiccups at all. The ball was coming out of his hand great today. He should be pretty happy and it was good to see him pitch with no concerns at this point.”  Per Bruce Levine's article, Bosio said the plan will have Garza throwing every other day at the beginning of camp . After two or three bullpens the starting pitchers throw live batting practice every fourth day with a side session in between. Garza and the rest of the Cubs’ rotation pitchers will then pitch every five days when the Cactus League season begins Feb. 23.  It seems Garza is very much on target to start the season healthy and in the starting rotation.
  • Mattthew Leach of MLB.com considers the Cubs signing of RHP Scott Feldman as one of the 5 best bargains of  this offseason.  Leach acknowledges that pitchers like Anibal Sanchez, Ryan Dempster, and Edwin Jackson are better pitchers, but says "Are they all much, much better than Feldman, so much so as to justify the difference in salary? No way."  Leach cites Feldman's ERA+ of 96 as one reason.  He won't be a star but he'll give the team solid innings -- and perhaps bring back a prospect or two at the deadline.
  • Jim Callis of Baseball America talks a bit about Josh Vitters in his latest chat.  There's still some mixed opinion in the Cubs organization as to how good Vitters will be, but his supporters think he'll be able to play 3B and hit .275 with 20 HRs.  Callis, however, considers that more of a ceiling and has doubts whether he can be an everyday 3B because of concerns about his defense.  If he has to move to LF or 1B, it puts even more burden on his bat.  He also speculates he may end up being a platoon player.
  • Oneri Fleita is back in baseball as a consultant with the Cincinnati Reds.  The hire of Jason McLeod marginalized Fleita's role in the organization.  Theo Epstein tried to find a reduced role for him, according to Patrick Mooney, but was unable to find a fit.  Fleita took the dismissal well.  "“(Theo) could have put me in a cubicle and let me rot,” Fleita joked. “You get the keys to the buildJiing, you have to make tough decisions. In this business, we all know change is inevitable (and) you just understand it. You respect it.”
  • Ben Badler writes an interesting piece on the challenges of scouting young international players.
  • Some quick thoughts on the Astros-Athletics deal which saw SS Jed Lowrie and RHRP Fernando Rodriguez go to the A's for prospects RHP Brad Peacock, 1B Chris Carter, and C Max Stassi.  Peacock is the highest ceiling prospect in the group with some thinking he could  be as much as a #3 starter if he makes some adjustments after struggling mightily in AAA last season.  Chris Carter was once considered a top prospect but has struggled to make contact.  Still, he offers a cheap, cost-controlled three outcome  (HRs, Ks, BBs) style of DH.  Max Stassi is a solid catching prospect as both a hitter and a receiver, but injuries have slowed his development and he remains at the Class A level.  Some talent there but he's at least a couple of years away.  It's a good return for the Astros considering that they've pretty much thrown 2013 out the window anyway.  They're trying to add talent they can use 3-5 years down the road.  On the flipside, I do this trade if I'm the Athletics every time.  They expect to contend and Lowrie gives them a solid average player at a premium position -- one in which they had a huge hole, so it's a big upgrade for them.  They had soured on Carter and have a young staff that would have been tough for Peacock to crack if everyone were to stay healthy.  In the end, its a good deal for both sides as both teams got what they needed given the states of their respective organizations.  The A's traded players/prospects from depth while Houston is in a position to give 2 of those players significant roles right off the bat.  I particularly like the fact that they got a couple of ready or near ready MLB players in this deal.  The Astros traded away a solid player, but when you're looking at another 100 loss season either way, does it really matter?  Lowrie doesn't figure to be around whenever the Astros start winning.

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  • fb_avatar

    Good to see Garza throwing pain free. Raises my projection of him getting traded before ST to about 50/50.

    I feel Feldman and Baker will surprise some people this year. Baker especially has a chance to have been numbers than Sanchez for a fraction of the cost IMO

    I'm of the side that believes the ceiling suggested for Vitters isactually the middle ground between his ceiling and his floor. I still have his ceiling at a .290 hitter, 20-23hrs, low strikeout-rate, and ok-solid D. He can still be very good offensively if he improves his selectivity at the plate. I must admit i'm intrigued at the possibility of a platoon with Stewart to maximize both players value. But that's only if both prove to not be everyday players, which neither have yet.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I'm really looking forward to seeing this pitching staff in general: Baker, Feldman, Jackson...and Samardzija. If Garza sticks around, it's a pretty good top 4, though I agree there's a good chance he gets traded if he's healthy.

    I'm not as optimistic on Vitters, but he's young. Then again he's got some competition coming up pretty fast behind him in the system, so he doesn't exactly have a lot of time either.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, I happen to believe Spellcheck can end up being a TOR arm. The pure stuff is there, his football background makes me believe he has a bulldog-type mentality that any top tier arm must have. Spellcheck surprised me last year with the strides he did make(became a pitcher rather than a thrower) and this year is when we find out what his potential truly is.

  • FIVE MORE DAYS!

  • I'm hoping Ian comes back healthy, strong and ready to play. It was a big let down last year, but I think he'll do much better.

  • In reply to lokeey:

    The Cubs need Ian Stewart to break through this year. Could add another dimension to that lineup.

  • In reply to lokeey:

    If we get the 2009 version Of Ian Stewart we become at least a .500 team, providing everyone else plays to form. Be nice to see him get back to 270/25/80 or better.

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    I think the Astros-A's deal is a good deal for both teams, and if you're Lowrie, you have to be happy about going to a contender.

    It's great news about Garza. I still think that, if he is going to be traded, it will be before opening day. I think, if Garza starts the season with the Cubs, the chances get greater that the two sides work out an extension.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    If I'm Lowrie I'm thrilled. He's still in his prime and he's going to play it on a competitor instead of that AAAA team.

    I'm just interested in general to see how Houston's plan works. A lot of people are giving them praise for their approach of tearing it down completely without address the MLB team, but I'm not as sold. If prospects don't plan out as hoped, they could wind up being Kansas City.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, I know it's fashionable to pick on KC, but this is the year that people may have to find a new analogy for dead-end teams. KC's prospects are maturing at the same time, and they have added some missing parts through FA. p.s. Watch Salvador Perez. If healthy this year, he may be the next top catcher in baseball.
    KC now is kinda the Cubs model in the near future....

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Agreed about KC in a lot of ways. Pitching has been their weakness the last couple of seasons. But with Cain (if he can stay healthy), Moustakas, Hosmer (assuming he can advance to what he was like his first full year), Gordon, Perez, Escobar and Butler all looking like hitters,... they are going to score runs. David Lough is one to potentially watch as well.

    KC's Starting pitching is still their weakest link,... but their bullpen is one of the better ones.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    I actually like KC. They are my favorite team in the AL Central. They've just been the poster child for a rebuilding process that seems to run in place.

    I think they're the Cubs model in the sense that they're going to try and build a strong farm through the draft and free agency, but I think the way they gather and evaluate information is very different from KC. And unlike KC, I think the Cubs will try and pick up some MLB players along the way rather than sit back and hope all the prospects work out.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, with there move to the AL west, I can see the Astros threatening the Mets 1962 mark for most losses. There GM is a good one who helped build the Cards system,but he inherited a huge mess.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    I think if they struggle with their young pitching, they've got a shot at it. I don't know if I like just neglecting the team entirely. You have to get some MLB ready talent too and do this in stages. Well, that's just my philosophy. I don't like putting all your eggs in one basket. Especially when that basket is as speculative and risky as prospect performance.

  • Garza's health will be the biggest story this spring imo. I believe if healthy, he will be traded. I think he was as good as gone last year and his injury had the biggest impact to date in slowing down the Cubs rebuilding efforts. Imagine where the Cubs farm system would have been ranked this offseason had Mike Olt and another top pitching prospect been a part of it as well... Whether Garza is traded or kept, as Cub fans we all need to just pray he is healthy this spring.

  • In reply to Ibleedcubbieblue:

    I think you're right in that there's a good chance he's traded if he's healthy. Not because they don't like him, but because they don't think they can keep him beyond this season. When you have a rebuilding team, you can't afford to lose those kinds of assets without getting something long term in return.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    John, what am I missing in all this incessant Garza trade talk?
    Why is he the one player that everyone constantly talks about...when will he be healthy enough to trade? Who needs him more? Will it be ST or at the deadline?
    I don't get it. He's almost the same age as all the other SP's the Cubs went out and signed (Feldman, Jackson, Baker, Villanueva), and to me he is clearly the best of the bunch.
    The only other factor would be that the Cubs couldn't afford to extend him, but I don't believe that's the case either.
    Garza has also shown himself to be a great team guy, the head cheerleader, AND he has stated his love for the Cubs and Chicago.
    The biggest question is one you really documented well last year: the chances of getting true big league talent in return for proven SP is at best a very risky proposition.
    Now that I got that off my chest...can't wait for Monday!! Go Cubs!

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    I think if he proves healthy, Texas not having traded any major pieces from their system is gonna be his destination..I hope he's lights out

  • In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    That seems like the place hes most likely to go.

  • On the topic of Garza possibly getting traded in the spring, the following is from a write-up on FanGraphs ranking the Rangers top prospects. On #2 Mike Olt, Marc Hulet goes on to say this:

    "Olt isn’t afraid to take walks but he strikes out a lot, which will drag down his batting average. He struggles with pitch recognition at times and his swing can get long. He has a chance to be a .260 hitter with 20 home runs and above-average defense at third base."

    Sounds a lot like Ian Stewart. I am really hoping the Cubs sign Garza to a John Danks-like extension if he shows he's healthy in the spring.

  • In reply to kylejo:

    I have seen similar earlier reports and agree that as of today, Olt is an interesting prospect w/ some potential issues. He is not the "can't miss" prospect many appear to ascribe him and IMO would himself represent adequate return for an apparently "healthy" Garza.

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    I meant an inadequate return, sorry.

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    Cap-Olt alone for Garza isn't enough. Throw in Martin Perez or one of there other young arms, then were talking.

  • In reply to kylejo:

    I'm not sold on Olt either. If we trade Garza (against my feeble protests) let's get someone special.

  • In reply to kylejo:

    Olt is a very good, but flawed player, which is something I've been trying to bring to light a few times. The hype machine can get going when we fall in love with prospects we haven't seen regularly. Your comparison to Stewart isn't all that far off base. He's a good athlete. He defends well. He has a good eye but he strikes out a lot. And, of course, he has power. And here's the kicker. Olt has never been as highly rated as Stewart was when he was still a prospect.

    That doesn't mean I wouldn't take him. Rizzo had his flaws too. But we can't say we're getting an elite prospect who can't miss when we talk about Olt.

  • In reply to kylejo:

    No. Sounds a lot like Josh Vitters minus the plate discipline.

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    When you said that Carter offered a cheap DH option my first thought was, "How does getting a DH help the Astros?"

    This is going take some getting used to

  • In reply to Ken Roucka:

    Me too. When I first went to take a look at their roster, first instinct was to check the NL side.

  • I thought Houston had Pena for DH. If Carter bats righty ( I'm not sure), they may platoon because we know Pena can't hit lefties.

  • In reply to cubman:

    They have Pena, Brett Wallace, and now Chris Carter who are going to have to split time between 1B and DH.

  • Keith Law is releasing his Top 100 prospects today, but he already released his Next Ten list of players who just missed out. Jeimer Candelario came in at #106…which helps explain the Cubs ranking #5 on his list. Have to figure the Cubs have at least four on the Top 100 list, if not five.

    “He’s an offensive third baseman with great rhythm at the plate and a smooth swing, showing just enough to make you think he can stay at third base. I’d just like to see the offensive skill set translate into a little more performance before buying in all the way, because the defense will never be a plus. If you squint, you might see a Pablo Sandoval future here.”

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    And now Law's Top 100 List is out...Baez at 31, Almora at 33, Soler at 42, and Vizcaino at 64. Surprised to see Baez that low, surprised to see Almora that close to Baez, and happy to see four Cubs on the list.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    Baez - ”He’s one of the highest-beta prospects on this list — he could be a 30-homer shortstop, or he could stall out in Double-A because pitchers exploit him and he can’t adjust.”

    Almora - "The joke in scouting circles last spring was that Cubs President Theo Epstein didn't just want to draft Almora, he wanted to adopt him."

    Soler - "At just 21 this year, he should be able to get to Double-A with the upside of an above-average regular in right who should peak in the 25-30 home run range."

    Vizcaino - "Vizcaino has electric stuff, a top-of-the-rotation arsenal with a lightning-quick arm, needing work on command and refinement on his changeup a little further to reach that potential,"

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    Ironically, the projections for Olt don't sound as good as for Vitters, except maybe the defense. With Vittters, Lake, Vill and even Baez, it makes you question whether the Cubs should sign Garza. Now if you add a SP-that changes things...

    I think the keys to this spring training are: (in no particular order)
    Bjax
    Stewart
    Garza
    Vitters

    Another thought on Vitters-if he could spell Rizzo at first, spell Sori in Lf and start some games at 3b-he'd be a perfect fit for this current team. Maybe using him as a platoon player will help him get over the yips.

  • In reply to Dale Miller:

    To me, the question on Vitters starts with 'did he get the message based on what happened to him in Chicago' and ends with 'how well he answers that question at Iowa'. I just don't see him gaining the consistency he needs being on the bench and moving from position to position.

    I am excited to see how BJax looks in spring training and especially in Iowa early in the season. He did get the message and seems to have been working his butt off to get back to Chicago.

  • The Cubs could use both BJax and Vitters right now, but neither is ready. So they must get by until they know more. The biggest issue is cf defense.

  • One thing about Feldman-when he was in Texas and starting regulary, he pitched quite well in a tough park for pitchers, especially with that jet stream that blows out to Right-center there(ask Dempster about it,he got smashed his first 2 starts there because of it). Feldmans periphreals weren't that bad either, he had close to a 2-1kk/bb rate and about a 45%gb rate when he had his 6 game win streak there last year. Coming to the NL and into a better pitchers park(Wrigley actually ranked dead in the middle of ML ballparks for HR allowed last yr, 14th out of 32-Texas ranked 3rd) should improve his numbers.

  • Theo and Jed have said before regarding trades that you need to maximize the value you get in return for players. You do not maximize the value of trading Garza in Spring Training. You minimize the risk of trading him early and that is not what the Cubs are about right now.

    He appears to be strong and if he comes out pitching well in April/May, I would love to extend him. I think he really wants to be here too....

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    I'm not sure the front office wants Garza here long-term, no matter what they say publicly. I see him being traded in Spring Training or before August 1st, or being made the qualifying offer after the season. I don't see the Cubs extending him.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    How can you be certain he'll have more value after the season starts? Teams know what Garza is at this point and if they see his old stuff this spring: mid 90s fastball, sharp slider, solid change then I think they'd rather get him early (more time on the team = more value) and have the option of a comp pick if they can't resign him.

    If you wait, maybe he shows he's healthy...but maybe not. Maybe he gets off to a slow start. And no matter what, whichever team trades for him mid-season will get him for less starts and no comp pick.

  • I'm in the minority, I know, but lets hang onto Garza. John has illuminated how trading a known product for unknown products has a surprisingly low success rate for the latter.

    1) He's 29 and in his prime.
    2) He wants to be in Chicago. He just got Jackson to sign here. A guy doesn't go out of his way to help the club if he thinks he's gonna be moved.
    3) He's a good club house influence and a leader on our team on a team short of veteran leaders
    4) I think he'll be a (at best) a solid #2 or (at worst) #3 for the next four-five years.

    I don't see many downsides to keeping him...

  • In reply to svelocity:

    Gotta agree with that assessment svelocity. I wouldn't be looking to trade Garza early,... and if 'we' could get him to resign with a relatively friendly contract, and the dude is healthy,... he could be as usful rotation guy for a few seasons at least. Long enough that he would be here through 2015 at least when IMO this team is going to be a consistent contender.

    I would rather see Baker or Feldman moved before the trading deadline and (all other things being equal) try and keep Garza. Baker's contract (in particular) seems like it was designed around the idea of moving him (if healthy) during the season.

    The most likely suspects in the farm system now (other than Vizciano) are a couple of seasons from being impact starting pitchers. A rotation top of Garza/Spellcheck/Jackson for 2-3 years could be a very good top to add on to.

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    In reply to drkazmd65:

    I think the catch in your thinking is that Garza's not looking for a team-friendly contract. If he were, we might have signed him already. Or it could be as simple as the front office wants to wait and see him in action, just like everyone else has. But I think, if we resign Garza, it will not be at a discount. And that may be fine. I'm definitely in the keep-Garza camp unless his contract demands are just ridiculous.

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