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Cubs Game Preview and Thread: Javier Baez learning discipline; Details on Armando Rivero signing

Cubs Game Preview and Thread: Javier Baez learning discipline; Details on Armando Rivero signing

Hope you all got to watch the Javy Baez show this weekend.  If not, here's a close look at his swing in case you missed it.  Although he and fellow top prospect Jorge Soler have been assigned to the minors they will be in the heart of the Cubs lineup today...

News and Notes...

  • We'll keep the Javier Baez theme going here.  ESPN Chicago's Jesse Rogers asked Baez what he learned this spring, he didn't hesitate to answer: "Take pitches."  This is great news and we saw Baez effectively work counts in Sunday's game.  Of course, he did take 3 straight first pitches deep in the two games prior to yesterday, but I'm good with that too.  You don't want to take away his aggressiveness.  As Theo has said, it's about pitch selection, not taking pitches for the sake of taking them.  If a pitcher wants to challenge Baez with a first pitch fastball in the strike zone, then I'd much rather he take him take that pitch deep than fall behind 0-1.
  • Meanwhile Jorge Soler said he learned that he isn't always going to get a 2-0 or 3-0 fastball at the major league level, where pitchers generally have better command and confidence in their breaking pitches.  Additionally, Alfonso Soriano gave Soler some advice, “You have big money but that s not enough. Money will come but you have to work and be better."
  • The signing of  Cuban fireballer Armando Rivero is now official and it's for a much higher amount than I expected: $3.1M. That is undoubtedly due in large part because of the premium placed on Cuban players.  They are a rare commodity and their prices will always reflect that, even more so now that the CBA limits what you can give to younger international players. Rivero is 24, so he was not bound by the CBA, but he undoubtedly benefited from teams getting the rare opportunity to bid openly on an international player.  It's not just the market, however, Rivero is advanced and possesses a fastball that can reach 96 mph, however.  He projects as a middle or possibly late inning reliever, though he does have 3 pitches and may get a shot at starting.  Here's the story and scouting report by Baseball America's Ben Badler.  One note on Badler's article:  We all got that information via AZ Phil at The Cub Reporter a day before Phil Rogers reported it, so I'm giving them credit for breaking the story.
  • Here's a nice story passed along by Cubs denizen "Breaking the Curse".  As much as we talk analytically about getting value for players, it's good to know that the game can be more than just a cold business.  The Phillies traded right-handed reliever Mike Cisco to the Angels on Sunday for "no compensation," even though he posted a 1.80 ERA in 40 appearances in the Minors last year and is said to be healthy.  Why?  Because the Phillies didn't have room for him on the roster and wanted to give Cisco a chance to pitch somewhere.
  • In case you missed it, we talked about Cubs Opening Day Roster scenarios.

Today's lineup...

  1. Sappelt, CF
  2. McDonald, LF
  3. Soler, RF
  4. Baez, SS
  5. Clevenger, C
  6. Maysonet, 3B
  7. Lillibridge, 1B
  8. Gonzalez, 2B
  9. Jackson, P

5 Things to Watch for...

  • Let's see if Javier Baez builds on Sunday's game and continues to practice what he is starting to preach -- be more selective and put himself in favorable counts.
  • Jorge Soler has no problems with pitch selection and getting ahead, but we'll see if he can adjust as well to that 2-0, 3-0 breaking pitch.  It's better to look for a certain pitch in the certain part of the zone at that point, and if it doesn't come, Soler is better off taking it -- even if it's a strike.  He may just end up with a few more walks also as a consequence.
  • Dave Sappelt played a solid CF and though he's not going to win a Gold Glove there, I didn't see any real drop off from starter David DeJesus.  He's getting a lot of starts in CF, which tells me it's more about preparing for his regular season role than trying to earn a job.  He looks to have that 5th spot sewn up right now.
  • Steve Clevenger is my favorite right now for that 25th man spot on the roster.  I like the idea of his versatility there and ability to pinch-hit -- and saving the roster spot.
  • Edwin Maysonet, Alberto Gonzalez, and Darnell McDonald also have outside shots of getting a roster spot, so it appears they'll get at least one more good look before the Cubs have to make their next roster cuts, which should be coming this week.

 

Filed under: 5 Things To Watch for

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  • The reports today are that he's actually 25. That's an awful lot of money for a guy whose scouting report reads like a poor man's Dolis.

  • In reply to Kyle:

    Looks like they were just getting a good arm and seeing if they can develop him. Thanks on the age, I had a report from just over a year ago that said he was 23. Either he was just about to turn 24 or that info was off.

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    In reply to Kyle:

    It's alot based on the scouting report, because that $3.1 mil is "Free". It doesn't count against any pool or any limits. I'm not sure it even counts vs. Luxury tax, I don't think it does.

    The best place to be if you are a amateur in terms of money, is to be over 23 and Cuban......

  • From all the prospects that they have picked up, one way or another,
    which might be the most promising

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Out of which group of prospects?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Sorry, I should have said of all the young pitching prospects.
    Which ones could help the team in the future

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I think Pierce Johnson is the closest to making an impact other than Vizcaino. Those are your top two.

    The other two who could move quickly are Paniagua and Blackburn. Blackburn is kind of the forgotten man but if he projects like the Cubs think he can, I wouldn't be surprised to see him get some quick promotions.

  • Does that mean we have control for 5/6 years?
    Maybe somebody thinks they see something that makes him more valuable than others see him. Maybe it's part bigger foot in the door in the Cuban market. Either way, it's a lot more than I thought it would be.

  • In reply to Bill:

    Yes it doesn't not with any player.

  • In reply to Bill:

    They do have normal cost control, which makes the deal nice in that they'll have him through his prime.

    At the very least it's a good arm.

  • I have heard that Soler and Baez are getting pretty close. I wonder if Soler is helping Baez with his approach?

  • In reply to KGallo:

    At the very least he's had to have noticed. It's also part of Baez's individual development plan. He did a nice job yesterday working counts and taking the ball where it was pitched. Had a nice overall approach. I've seen him do that in spurts in the minors. Hopefully he keeps doing it more and more.

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    In reply to KGallo:

    That's good, because they're probably going to be seeing a lot of one another as they move up the system.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    I think this started when they were in Chicago for the "Cubs Way" training they went through back in January (during the convention).

  • I was out and about and on 670, Spiegel gave your breakdown of Baez swing some love on the broadcast. Good to see this blog getting some recognition on the airwaves John.

  • In reply to Teddy KGB:

    I heard. That's awesome. I'll link the podcast later.

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    Slightly OT, but Fangraphs has a good series on positional power rankings by team. The rankings are based on Projected WAR, and teams are ranked 1 to 30 vs. peers. So, Pirates are #1 in CF because of McCutcheon, etc.

    Only some positions have been released, but Cub rankins:

    C: 21
    1B: 5---This seems VERY high, but projections love Rizzo
    2B: 19
    3B: 29
    SS: 4--They also love Castro
    CF: 23

    We didn't finish dead last at 3B....Yeah! Marlins have Placido Polanco and Chone Figgins there, that will do that to you.

    Astros are in bottom-5 almost everywhere except 2B, but even Altuve isn't a very good fielder (didn't know that)

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    In reply to Zonk:

    Disappointing to see catcher that low. Hopefully Castillo takes the step forward this year and it rises.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    They basically had Castillo as average and Navarro bringing it down, iirc.

    Also, for some reason catchers had a much higher average WAR than 1b.

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    In reply to Kyle:

    WAR is higher for catchers, because the "Replacement Level" bar is set higher for 1B offensively, than it is for C.....because there are lots more bats available at 1B.

    If Castillo was a 1B, his offense would be a negative WAR for that position.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    The offensive replacement bar is set higher, but in theory that should be balanced out by the more difficult defensive standards for a catcher.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    I mis-reported Catcher; it's actually lower, 24th.

    Castillo, based on his minor league numbers, has limited upside. I personally think he'll struggle to hit .250. Navarro and Clevenger don't add anything in terms of ceiling.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Good stuff. I saw the 1B piece.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I guess I can beleive it, Rizzo is behind "The Big Four" of Votto, Pujols, Fielder, and A-Gon. It should be noted that those 4 guys all have a salary of $20mil +.......a smidge higher than Rizzo.

    I think it's a little optimistic on Rizzo, but we'll see. I think he'll be good, just #5 in baseball seems like a stretch

    I beleive in Castro at #4: I think he'll have a monster year

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Yes 5 for 1B is a little optimistic but 19 for 2B seems a little low if it based on projected WAR.

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    In reply to John57:

    The article pointed out how it got there though: Barney adds Zero WAR with the bat, he's basically replacement level. He has crazy-good defensive metrics. It's an interesting blurb on Barney, writer thinks he is a ML starting 2B based on his defense alone...it's that good.

    But 19th for WAR is about right; I think defense is rated a little high in the WAR ratings to be honest.

  • Making a point to mention that AZPhil had the scoop on Rivero is a classy move, John. You're a gentleman and a scholar!

    And that's great to hear about Baez and Soler emphasizing approach. We've always had prospects who were toolsy -- Corey Patterson, Ryan Harvey, Felix Pie -- but this is the first time in a long time I can remember that athleticism combined with an intelligent approach at the plate. That's been even more encouraging than their spring statistics, or their tape-measure home runs. Makes me more optimistic they'll make good on their potential.

  • In reply to Taft:

    Speaking of Corey Patterson -- I just looked it up -- he had 506 PA at AA at age 20 in 2000, and he had 403 at AAA at age 21 in 2001. So I don't think he was rushed to the majors for his first full season in 2002. Interestingly, he hit .261 at AA and .253 at AAA. So he wasn't a high average guy to begin with. But I do remember he lit it up in the first half of 2003 and looked to be on his way to stardom when he blew his knee out and never seemed to recover from it.

    Pie, BTW, had nearly 900 PAs in AAA at ages 21 and 22, and hit .362 in his 2nd season at Iowa before his call-up in 2007.

    Others refer to Patterson and Pie as guys the Cubs "rushed" to the majors, but doesn't look like that's accurate. Nonetheless, their stories should surely temper the excitement about Baez and Soler -- but I just can't help wanting them up ASAP!

    Let's Go Cubs!

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    After those 506 PAs in AA, Patterson was given a call-up to the majors. He went from A to AA (skipping A+) then from AA to MLB (skipping AAA).

    In 2001, he was demoted back to AAA, called up, sent down again, then called up again.

    Pie definitely wasn't rushed, but Patterson definitely was.

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    I agree. I think it's more accurate to say that the time wasn't well spent. Cubs didn't do a good job of developing players then.

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    Right, but I don't think it was Patterson's knee injury that screwed up his career; it was his refusal to adopt a more patient approach. That was so frustrating, because here was a guy -- even after knee injury -- who had speed to steal 40 bases / year, but he went up there swinging from his heels and rarely put the ball in play. So he didn't have a chance to pad his batting average with infield hits. Now I'm not necessarily saying we should have groomed him to be a leadoff hitter, but if someone had taught him a thing or two about pitch recognition, how to work a count, then he'd have made more contact, not only getting more extra base hits but home runs. The team's approach just seemed very hands-off, until he got to the majors and Dusty's telling him to bunt all of a sudden. Corey should have stayed in the minors, then proved that he can consistently put together quality ABs before earning a promotion to the Chicago.

  • Thanks. I think bloggers don't always get their proper due, so sometimes we have to speak out for each other.

    It's a good start for those guys - acknowledging what they need to work on. Getting it done is a different story, but I like that they seem coachable and they obviously have the ability and instincts to make adjustments. So I'm hopeful.

  • I hate the idea of a MLB draft.

    Rivero get a lot more money because his services are bid in a free market. Aroldis Chapman gets $30M while Strasburg got $15M.

    Get rid of the draft an just a signing day for some excitement. Things would naturally sort themselves out. If I was a SS, I wouldn't sign with the Cubs. However, if I was a catcher or played third I definitely would.

  • In reply to ucandoit:

    Yes, let's have those with the most money get the best players. That will be really interesting to watch...

    Of course, then only people who could afford to watch games would care because the pay TV rates and ticket prices would have to go up to pay for the tremendous expense of amateur talent. Eh, who needs the ability to watch baseball and root for a team that actually has a chance of winning.

  • Baker woke up with a sore elbow this morning, is getting an MRI.

  • Uh-oh.

  • Why would you believe that Baez is learning to take pitches in spring training when he has just 1 BB in 40 PA in spring training?

    It's very easy to say but rather difficult to master.

  • In reply to Buford:

    It is easier said than done, but it's good to know he's aware of it and needs to improve. He's ot swinging at so many pitches off the plate lately. Walks will come if he continues to lay off of those.

  • In reply to Buford:

    I wouldn't worry too much about walks with Baez. He is very much see the ball, hit the ball. We just want him to pick pitches he can drive vs trying to drive every pitch. Watching this kid on TV the other day, he is light years ahead of where he was last year in his pitch selection.... the walks will come because eventually the only pitches he will get that he can drive will be mistakes by the pitcher....

  • Scott Baker with some elbow soreness... Will have a precautionary MRI.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Oh, I was late lol.

  • I think you're definitely right... Sappelt did cement his name in the 25 man Roster.

  • In reply to Caps:

    I think that he came into ST with his name cemented. He had nothing left to prove in AAA and raked this winter. He just got off to a slow start, so his rebound prevents the FO from re-thinking his spot....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Agreed.

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