Cubs News and Notes: Prospects, MLB draft, and thoughts on yesterday's game

Cubs News and Notes: Prospects, MLB draft, and thoughts on yesterday's game
Dan Vogelbach

It's a day off so no preview.  Starlin Castro is expected to play tomorrow and Ian Stewart will play on Thursday.  Depending on what happens with Italy in the WBC, the Cubs will finally see their projected starting lineup soon...

Cubs Minor Leagues Updates

  • AZ Phil of the Cubs Reporter has a few interesting observations from minor league camp.  The first is that Dillon Maples appears to have hurt his right shoulder or elbow.  No specifics at the time but if we hear anything we will update.  Maples has already missed significant time and only has 10+ innings of organized professional experience.  I expected the Cubs to jump him to Kane County to make up for missed time, but anything serious pushes his timetable back even further.
  • Also noted in the same update is that Dan Vogelbach was taking grounders at 3B.  I'm not sure if this is just getting a look or this is something the Cubs are serious about.  Vogelbach, of course, faces a major roadblock at 1B with young budding star Anthony Rizzo entrenched there, but 3B is home to a lot of minor league talent, including teammate Jeimer Candelario and possibly top prospect Javier Baez.  Vogelbach has trimmed down and it's nice to see it pay off with at least an opportunity to prove he can handle another position.  I'm still skeptical but I'm hoping the big guy can prove me wrong.
  • Jim Callis looked into his crystal ball and predicted the top 10 prospects in baseball for 2014Javier Baez was #3 on the list.
  • Baseball Prospectus has a best tools series out and yesterday it was top infield arms.  I'm not sure which pleased me more -- that Junior Lake was rated the prospect with the best arm or that they picked ex-Cubs Shawon Dunston as the player with the best infield arm of all time.
  • Speaking of the minor leagues you can catch my Iowa position player preview here and you can click this link to view preview pieces in the series.

MLB Draft Updates

  • Kevin Gallo, Dan Kirby, and I are holding a round robin mock draft that I will publish a bit down the road when we finish.  We'll go all the way down to the Cubs 2nd round pick.  We'll all chime in on who we think the Cubs will select with each of their first two picks.  I'm also considering doing one on my own and a mock draft with the readers using our polls for each pick.
  • Chris Crawford of MLB Draft Insider is contributing to ESPN during draft time and he has some good stuff out on some top draft prospects (insider only).  The focus on the piece is LHP and while Sean Manaea is clearly the top lefty, Crawford reports that his stuff is down this year. The velo is in the low to mid 90s and his slider has gone from plus-plus to above average and a plus change now looks average.  It's early and it's still cold in the midwest, so Manaea has time to heat up -- but Crawford thinks that while it's still good stuff,  it could drop him out of the top 5. When you consider his agent is Scott Boras, teams may be even more wary of taking that risk.
  • Other LHP mentioned are Marco Gonzales, a very advanced finesse type who many think is the 2nd best in the draft, and Thomas Windle, who is not as polished but has a higher upside.  Windle seems to be closing the gap.  Kevin Ziomek is just outside that group.  He needs to develop a 3rd pitch and scouts may need more time to make sure that improved command is for real.  The top two lefty preps appear to be Stephen Gonsalves, a tall (6'6", 180) and highly projectable pitcher who is in the low 80s and high 90s with plus breaking stuff and Ian Clarkin, who throws in the low 90s but with a change that's not as far along as Gonsalves'.
  • Phil Rogers pointed out that Friday's scheduled pitching matchup is Sean Manaea vs. Thomas Windle -- arguably the top two LHP in the draft.  You can catch the game on ulive (h/t Harry Pavlidis).
  • If your philosophy is for the Cubs to use the Astros strategy and try to sign a top talent to an over-slot deal later in the draft, an interesting candidate may be Kohl Stewart.  Many feel Stewart is the best pure high school arm in the draft but two things may cause him to slip.  He was injured in the offseason and missed the start of this season and he is an excellent QB with a scholarship to Texas A&M.  He reached 94 mph in his first game back and that may well improve as he regains strength.  He's a top 10 talent but probably won't go that high because of the questions surrounding him right now -- if he doesn't go top 10, he could free fall as teams get concerned about his signability.

Observations on yesterday's 7-5 spring training victory over the D'Backs...

  • Jeff Samardzija made a few bad pitches but pitched pretty well overall.  I was encouraged he threw strikes, he just needs to fine tune for the season.
  • Javier Baez went 0-4 but made two very good defensive plays showing range to his right and a powerful arm at SS.  I was also impressed that he worked the count a little bit again.  We all know that if Baez can harness that aggression at the plate and swing at more strikes, he's going to be a monster.  So good to see him making some progress on that front, though he still has a ways to go.
  • Jorge Soler not only got another hit, but showed he has some pretty good instincts by taking 2nd base on a play at the plate.  Nice heads-up play for a rookie.
  • Steve Clevenger is mashing the ball all spring and has hit even better than his .348 average would indicate.  It's likely going down to the wire for him and, even if he doesn't make it, he'll probably be among the first in line to get called up should there be an injury.
  • Brett Jackson has cooled off and is batting .231 but went two more PAs without a strikeout.  He has 5 Ks in 21 PAs for the spring (23.8% rate).
  • Christian Villanueva continues to sparkle with the glove.  He made the play of the day defensively when he fielded a ball that deflected off the pitcher.  He has drawn raves from both Cubs announcers Mick Gillespie and Len Kasper for his glovework this spring.
  • Hector Rondon appears to have come up with a breaking ball that has been a legit out pitch this spring.  Rondon was known primarily for his fastball and change-up, but if he can add a breaking ball to go with it, he may be able to do more than just be a mop-up guy.  He throws strikes and the breaking stuff has helped him get by when is velo wasn't up to usual standards.
  • Rafael Dolis threw strikes and lo and behold....he pitched a scoreless inning.  Dolis is going with a different delivery this year that I am anxious to see.  His stuff is too good -- he just needs to trust it and throw strikes.
  • You can see the final results of the Javier Baez prank we caught in progress yesterday on my Cubs Den Facebook page.

 

 

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  • Vogelbach @ 3B,.... now that could be interesting assuming he can adapt to the position.

    If for no other reason - ability to cover that position in a pinch increases his long-term value with the Cubs or elsewhere.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    If Vogelbach is playing 3B, I'm laying down a few bunts his way. I think he can handle some plays but footwork and throws where has to range to any direction and throw all in one motion are going to be tough.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Agreed John - haven't read anything to this point that convinces me he would be a 'good' fit at 3B, but if he were to work at it, improve his footwork and reactions,.... it would add to his potential in flexibility.

    Especially if Rizzo really is entrenched for a while as the 1B-man for the near future - it adds to his value IF he can play passable defense at the other corner.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Assuming Vogey continues to be a beast at the plate, I'm willing to settle for a little less D on the hot corner. And, given the work ethic and determination evidenced by the fact that he's lost a lot of weight, I guess I wouldn't be too surprised if he develops the skill to be a serviceable 3B. And if so, imagine:

    3B Vogelbach
    SS Castro
    2B Baez
    1B Rizzo

    Wow! I'm lovin' it.

  • Should spend what ever it takes to sign the 1st and 2nd picks.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Would you go best player available on both picks or do you try to get a deal on first pick and hope a guy like Kohl Stewart falls?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    BPA in the first for me. I really disliked the Astros strategy and was glad the Cubs didn't try it last year. Would be really disappointed to see them try it this year. The vast majority of the value in a draft is in the top of the first round. The rest is just playing the lottery. Getting the first pick right is the most important thing.

  • In reply to Kyle:

    Totally agree with you Kyle. I think the majority of the value is at the top and you have a rare opportunity when you pick in that top 3.

    The only way I ever try the Astros strategy is if I think there's very little difference between 2 or 3 guys, then I might look for the best deal. But if you have a clear favorite, as the Cubs did with Almora last year, you need to go with that decision or you'll regret it if that player turns out to be an impact player.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I think the Astros 100% did the right thing last year. I also think the Cubs 100% did the right thing last year. The difference is they were picking in 2 different spots. With the #1 pick, Mark Appel seemed to be the logical pick, but he was not Stephen Strasburg. They Astro made Appel/Boris an offer and Boris advised his client to play hard ball. The Astros moved on, made an offer to Correa (Who happens to look like an outstanding pick as well) agreed to a deal well under slot. I remember before the draft I was hoping Correa would fall to the Cubs although I now think they still would have taken Almora. My point is I believe either player was a solid #1 selection last year and the Astros chose the easier player to sign which does not mean they chose the lesser player. This worked to their advantage. The Cubs on the other hand had clearly targeted Almora and when their pick came, they got their guy. In the end, they had to pay over slot to sign him, but in their mind he was clearly the best player available. Right now it looks like Appel might be distancing himself from the rest of the draft and if he does, don't be surprised if Houston drafts him. I think they will do what they believe is best regardless of what happened last year. The Cubs will follow the same philosophy. If there is a player they feel like is clearly the best player available, they will draft him. And if that player is viewed as the 2nd or 3rd best player available, they might be able to sign him for a discount. My guess is they won't show their hand early and they very well could negotiate with more than one player. Bottom line is they are in the best position to negotiate a deal before they draft the player... I would take advantage of that leverage.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    No, pick and sign the best 1st pick talent available for what ever it takes

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    If it weren't for injured arms Dillon Maples would have no arm at all.

    Talk about snakebit.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    It's really too bad. Two of the best raw talents in the system -- Dillon Maples and Reggie Golden can't seem to stay on the field. I hope Maples is just minor. Golden still healthy last I heard.

  • Vogelbach - I'm all for trying out new positions with him, especially in the spring, but I'm surprised they wouldn't focus more on LF. Seems that if he doesn't go to first, LF would be the second choice.

    Draft - It's early, but it almost seems right now that there's Appel and everyone else. If trends keep up I'll be disappointed if the Astros take Appel ahead of us, because it seems like there's a drop-off after him.

  • In reply to mosconml:

    It seems that way with the draft right now. You have to wonder if Astros will go BPA or try to save money on that first pick. Rumors are Boras isn't going to go cheap with Appel and won't sign early -- so if Astros want to re-allocate money like last year, they'll have to look elsewhere.

    If they do take Appel, then I might want to see the Cubs go with top college bat (safest bet) in Kris Bryant and then use any saved money to go big in the 2nd round -- perhaps gamble on a guy like Kohl Stewart if he's there.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I think there's less than a 5% chance Astros take Appel. They are in a position where they'd rather have 5 good picks over 1 great pick and 4 decent ones. They want to spread the slot money all over the draft and Appel/Boras won't allow that.

    I think they take Manaea or Frazier. Appel is the guy for me.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Manaea also represented by Boras. Astros could go with one of the top 3 position players -- Frazier, Meadows, or Bryant. Bryant probably saves the the most money.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Even though Manaea is with Boras too I think he'll be reasonable when it comes to getting him signs to slot value, like Almora last year. Don't know why he seemed to see Appel as his meal ticket last year. Trying to get overslot from whoever drafted him.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I can just hear Boras now. "He's the top lefty pitcher in the draft. Power lefties are a rare commodities. He's a front of the rotation guy with the 3 plus pitches..."

    I don't think he can miss that kind of opportunity to cash in.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Marcel, I'm not sure why you think Boras was more reasonable with Almora than he was with Appel. Almora got paid well over his slot value after being drafted by the Cubs. He threatened to go to college and in the end Boras did his job and got every dime he possibly could out of the Cubs for his client. He attempted to do the same last year with Appel and it backfired while Appel fell in the draft. Again if Appel is drafted 1st or 2nd, Boras will make sure he gets his client every possible dime. And the way Appel is pitching right now he should be able to demand that. Boris is just giving his clients the advice that he believes will earn them and himself the biggest paycheck. Teams drafting Boras clients need to be aware of that. One of the downsides to drafting Almora assuming he becomes an All Star caliber player is that we will once again have to negoiate with Boras who doesn't understand the meaning of hometown discount.

  • In reply to Ibleedcubbieblue:

    I suppose "well over slot" is a nebulous term, but as I remember it, Almora only got less than a million over slot.

    Does anyone know the exact numbers?

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Almora's slot was 3.25M and he got 3.9M. 650K over, which is more than most 1st rd picks. Giolito had 800K over and I believe that was around the highest for the first round.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    My understanding was that the Cubs signed all their top 10 picks and any money that they saved went to Almora. They even signed some high school seniors with like the 9th and 10th picks who they signed very cheap so that they could pay Almora even more. Boras got pretty much every dollar he could short of the Cubs losing a draft pick which I'm sure they were unwilling to lose.

  • In reply to mosconml:

    One of they anyone else throws 100mph. I am not a fan of Appel because of his makeup. Normally you will hear things about players sending letters if I am not picked by this pick I am not going. We never heard that about Appel, but yet he dropped all the way to the pirates. Come on people the Cubs passed on him last year what makes you think they would pick him up this year. It about makeup Cubs picked the player last with the best combination of Talent and Makeup. I am will to say it will happen again this year?

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    In reply to KGallo:

    While I agree with this statement, I feel the situation is a little different. Word is Cubs would have taken Almora #1 overall if they had the pick, They clearly liked him above everyone else.

    This year I don't see that Almora-type who the Cubs feel is head-and-shoulders above Appel. Almora was the BPA for them last year in a stronger top 10, Appel might just end up being the BPA at #2 so Cubs may take him on that merit.

    I believe Appel fell because once you fall out of the top 3 and your agent still wants top 3 money it's going to make you free fall because of all the new restrictions on going overslot, not sure mental makeup made him drop to 12.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Appel wanted $6 million or he was going back to school. Because of the slot system, only the two top picks could really afford to offer him that. Once he dropped past that, nobody was going to be able to take him with the intention of signing him. The only reason to take him would be to essentially pass your pick on to the next year.

    This year, with a top-2 pick, the Cubs can afford to sign him.

    Right now, it's Appel, Manaea and everybody else, although a couple of the HS bats could easily join them in that top tier.

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    In reply to Kyle:

    Agreed. Were in a position to give Appel what he wanted and still not go overslot. Everybody should be happy. I honestly don't blame him for trying to get as much as he could. Your lucky if you get 10yrs in this game, hell a good amount of top draft picks don't even sniff major league grass.

    Sometimes you have to take some risks and it seems like his will pay off for him. Gotta go big or go home.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Cubs didn't have the slot money to give him anything near what he was asking for last season. Only Astros and Twins did. Astros wanted to spread money and Twins liked Buxton -- who was the one player consistently rated as highly as Appel last year, so can't say for certain Twins passed him up based on money issues -- and once they passed it was a free fall.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    And if what I am hearing is right they don't have the slot money this year either.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    No team has that slot money. It's just Boras bluster.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Or he is trying to pick Appel's team. Which I am hearing that what he is trying to do.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    He can't pick too a team too far down or he won't get the kind of money he wants. Nobody is going to pay the penalty and go too far over. The difference in slot between the 2nd and 6th picks was $3M. He can't make that up with overslots because the system prevents you from going anywhere near by that much.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I think he is looking for the BoSox and he maybe asking different prices for different teams to get his client the team he wants.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Math won't work. Boston's slot will be a bit over $3M. He can't make up the difference in over slot. If he wants to get at least $6M, he'll have to go top 3. In fact, without any comp picks to add to the total, Boston will probably have only about $8M total to spend for the entire draft.

    He may be trying to scare Houston off, if anyone, but he can't go much lower than that. If he wants, say $6M, the Cubs could give him that. The Rockies could probably pay that too -- but not sure why he'd want to go there. Boras/Appel can't have both. He can choose a lower team and accept less money, but if he wants to get paid he'll want to go top 3.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    The Cubs passed on Appel last year because it would have taken almost their entire pool money to sign him. This year their pool money is substantially higher.

    Their first round slot was 3.25 million. Appel had already turned down much more from the Astros. This year the slot money is about double that amount. That gives them a much better chance of signing him.

    But I hope they take a position player.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    I'm leaning toward a position player too. The cubs passed on Appel once and they signed one of his clients still in Almora. Wouldn't be surprised if they went in a different direction this draft, still take best player available but not one that is going to stick it to your whole draft strategy, the cubs can't afford to do this at this stage of their rebuilding, they are still building the first wave of players in their minors and then they will need to look toward another wave etc. You can't do this if you keep making each wave top heavy in salary structure, not going to get to the beach that way.

  • Unless I hear otherwise, I'm assuming Vogelbach taking grounders at 3b is more of a "lol, it's spring training and let's break up the boredom" than anything serious.

  • I love seeing them give VogelBOMB a look at 3B. Of course, I seem to be in the minority that believe he is more athletic than people give him credit for. Still, if he proves serviceable at 3B & 1B, his value increases. Also, they can move him to LF if/when they need to.

    I'm with ya on the small ball, John. But let's hope Dale would maximize his potential and not play him there against the likes of team Japan, but nothing wrong with him there against someone not as versed at bunting for base hits....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I agree he's more athletic than people give him credit for but whether it's enough to play 3B is a different story. It's not just small ball, it's slow rollers, grounders to his left where he needs to cut off the SS and make a throw on the run and making the throw when he ranges to his right. 3B requires a lot more athleticism and skill than 1B. I'm a big fan of Vogelbach, but he's a 1B to me.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm not disagreeing with you, though I wouldn't rule out a conversion to LF at some point. But to me, he's more than "1 step and a dive" type of defender at 1B. I respect and admire Law's work, and know I am NOT a scout. But I have seen him move laterally to both sides in game situations....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I saw Vogelbach a lot in instructs. Struggled a bit with his footwork on plays where he had to range further. May have changed this spring with practice and loss of weight could have helped, but the last time I saw him his range was still very limited.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    How much of that was the weight & lack of conditioning vs "athletic ability"? That's the question.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Is he less athletic at 3rd than ramirez was? We' re in a walk before you can run situation - if we can get more than last year's slash line out of thd 3b position with not-embarrassing defense, I'm all for it.
    Draft - I was 100% anti- Appel, but the more he pitches this spring the more he looks like he could be at wrigley by next September (2014). But you have to have a deal with boras before you draft. Once you've picked, he has you by the eustachian tubes. If he tries to jack you around, go for the Best position player available.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Yes. He is worlds less athletic than Ramirez.

    The "Vogelbach isn't that bad of an athlete for his size" thing gets repeated a bit too often. It's technically true, but that's an incredibly strong curve to grade him on. His body makes him look like the worst athlete imaginable, but in reality he's merely a very bad athlete.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Yes. Vogelbach is much less athletic than A-Ram was, especially in their primes. He's less athletic than Soriano, Fielder and Sandoval too, as others have asked.

    He's a hitter -- and a very good one but realistically he'll have to be a 1B or DH. I'm hoping he becomes a good 1B and continues to hit at AA and beyond. That will give him value. Otherwise, it's hope for the DH, which many NL fans don't like.

  • Rondon = steal of the rule 5 draft.... Does that 3rd pitch makes him a candidate to convert back to the rotation for 2014?...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    It's a step, but durability and stamina might be the bigger concern. Even when healthy biggest issue was sustain velo late in games.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    When he was drafted, it was reported that the Cubs hoped to limit his innings as a reliever this year, and convert him to a starter next year. So far, this doesn't seem unreasonable.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    I remember seeing that. So if we hit on just one of these "back of the bullpen converted back to SP" candidates (Cabrera, Vizcaiano, McNutt, or Rondon), we've struck gold.

    Either way, Rondon cost us nothing in the grand scheme of things and is a potential impact arm, whether it be in the BP or rotation later on. We need more of these!

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    In my opinion, Rondon is not your typical rule 5 draft choice. He was injured for 2 years, and suddenly returned to health (and returned to performance) too late for the Indians to protect him. It was rumored that the Indians tried to get the Cubs to draft him and trade him back to the Indians, but the Cubs would have none of it. He was considered to be on track to be an excellent starting pitcher before being sidelined by injury.

    They may still remember that Josh Hamilton was a Cub for a short time.

    I wouldn't call Vizcaino a converted reliever. I suspect that the Cubs had every intention of his ending up a starting pitcher when they traded for him.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    I agree about the Rondon sentiment, but we had scouts that saw him playing winter ball... So while he was off the grid for most teams, and Cleveland was hoping he'd slip through, our scouting department scores one for the good guys.

    While I agree the Cubs brass seems to see Vizcaino as a Starter, there are those who say he is a back of the bullpen guy. I think the questions with both of these guys will be durability/stamina, not stuff.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I just looked at where Kieth Law said Rondon doesn't look anything like he did when he was healthy and an upper-tier Indians prospect. Says his FB is 3-5mph less than several years ago and his breaking ball lacks consistency. I don't know, his numbers look awfully good, radar gun is showing 93-96 FB and his slider has been fairly good for pitching in the desert. Im wondering which Rondon Law is thinking about.

  • For What It's Worth Department:
    --Bowden has come out with an insider column about "red flags for the Cubs' top prospects". I have a red flag for the opinions of a failed GM.
    --Bruce Levine, in today's chat, declared that the Cubs will draft a pitcher with the #2 pick. There you have it.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Haha! Sounds like Bowden is being nitpicky more than anything. We'll see.

    As for drafting a pitcher, I think it's very likely at this point. I still think it's a long shot they pick one of the top 3 position players (Meadows, Frazier, Bryant). Note that Bowden said a Cubs evaluator said Appel won't get past Cubs.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    also in the For What It's Worth (ESPN writers) Department; Keith Law has his tidbits from yesterday's game up (insider). he was not as sold on Rondon and did not have much praise for Soler, Baez or Bjax. Not terrible but more of a downer than I would have liked.

  • In reply to DoubleM:

    Velo still down in the low 90s, I see. I haven't seen that slider yet, but I've noticed he's been getting a lot of swings and misses with it this spring. Gameday calls it a curve, though.

    Not much specific info in that piece and it looks like he was feeling a bit snarky. Law was on with Waddle and Silvy and said that he's "cautiously optimistic" about the swing. Said he's shorter to the ball but it's no guarantee to work. That was more optimistic than his previous article on his swing.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree, my first thought was it was high in snark content today, short possibly rushed article with not as much analysis as some of the past articles. Just a small snapshot so can't put too much into it and readers of this blog understand we need to do a lot of waiting and seeing on these guys, let the year play out and let them grow. I know that is not what every Cubs fan understands and any negative is just more ammunition for the naysayers and the expect the worsts...

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Rondon throws a slider. Indians actually had him junk his curve in favor of a slider because of his arm slot.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Bowden also said the Tigers were trading for Garza last year.

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    In reply to KGallo:

    My thoughts exactly lol

  • In reply to KGallo:

    He quoted a "Cubs official" on the Appel line. Then again, not sure why any Cubs official would divulge draft plans. Certainly not one involved in the decision making process.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I think the "Cubs official" was the guy in the George Mitterwald jersey who was parking cars at HoHoKam Park.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Haha!

    I'd be afraid of anyone with a Mitterwald parking cars. Would probably find some empty cans of Hamm's inside.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    He quoted an inside source on a lot of things for a while that haven't happened and to make that statement now is against everything the Cubs say they are about. Unless they are trying to throw off the Astros. If that is the case why scout any of the other 1st round talent it?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Cubs "official"? Crane Kenney??????

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    I might take what Levine has to say with slightly more than a grain of salt once Marmol is traded before opening day... Until then I'm going to pull a George Costanza and assume the opposite of anything Bruce Levine has to say.

  • In reply to Ibleedcubbieblue:

    Old Russian proverb: "To truly know a man, you must eat 10 pounds of salt with him."
    Old Cubs Den proverb: "To truly know Bruce, you must take 10 pounds of salt with what he says."
    I have lots of salt for Bruce's prognostications.

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    while I'm not in favor of the Astros strategy, I definitely don want to break the bank for a high round pick.

    the Cubs payed Almora more than fairly, but if their next draft wants to play tough and demand so much that it impairs the rest of the draft, i'll pass.

    With exceptions to be made for a player that is a clear ace pitcher, it'snot worth the sacrifice. Look at all the prospects from the last draft who were picked in the later rounds with a lot of buzz around them. The draft may seem like a crap shoot past the top 10-12 picks, but thats why we currently have a FO with people like Epstein/Hoyer/McLoed.

    I don't believe last draft or this draft has a can't miss prospect that's worth sacrificing your ability to have a full draft.

    Although, much of this is relative to the team's status. We are in the early stages of a major rebuild that featured a fairly embarassing farm system when it got started. We need as much positional depth and high-potential prospects as we can get right now.

    2-3 years down the road, though? then yeah, If the system is more stacked then it's less of a gamble to sacrifice signability in later rounds.

    Also, did anyone see Jim Bowden's awful article on ESPN about doubting the Cubs prospects? His main contention is that Soler and Baez have holes in their plate approach. Which might be a valid article if these guys were in AAA or even AA last year. But for guys who started off in short-season ball and went up to A ball, really whats the point? How many A ball prospects don't have things they need to work on? I think, by definition, if they didn't have things to work on, they'd have been moved up already. The article, to me, read like "The Cubs prospects whom are not believed by the team to be big league ready, do not appear to be big league ready."

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    If I feel there's a player head and shoulders above the others and a much better chance to be an impact player, I'm going to pay for it. Can't mess around too much with the second pick.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    ...would like to add that you have to play it by ear. If I'm between 2-3 guys and I very little difference in value, then I might employ Astros strategy...

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    I think what you consider pointless *is* the point. You have to temper your enthusiasm for A-ball guys, because we still don't know if they can make the adjustments as the professional pitching becomes more serious.

  • In reply to Kyle:

    True. But that can be said for every A ball prospect. It isn't restricted to Cubs A ball prospects.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    Jim Bowden has holes between his ears. No wonder the Reds fired him. Well, ESPN did just hire Ray Lewis as a football "analyst" , so maybe Jim has a new partner in "crime".

  • Italy up 4-1 Bottom 6. 3 run homer by Collabello in big first inning for Italy. Rizzo had a bad strikeout in 5th with runners on 1st and 3rd with 1 out.

  • In reply to mcneilscot:

    Cano just hit a bomb. 4-2 Italy.

  • In reply to mcneilscot:

    Thanks for the updates!

  • John, Rondon looks like a keeper. His stuff certainly seems to play well as a B/P arm. Right now, Rusin looks like he has a legit shot at making the team as a 2nd lefty out of the pen, particulary since both Garza and Baker will be on the DL to start the season. Its the position players that I worry about. Clevenger is having a good spring, but hes w/o a position unless he can play 3b. Sappelt doesn't seem to be able to play CF.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    I haven't seen Sappelt enough in CF, I only know the reports I've read and they've been lukewarm about his ability to play CF. Not sure if it's changed with tutelage from McKay without having seen or heard much on it.

  • I asked Jason McLeod whether Vogelbach could transition to the OF at the Kane County event earlier this winter. That was an emphatic 'no', softened with plaudits about his hitting and his character. Is 3B any easier to play than LF?

  • In reply to Eddie:

    No, if anything it's harder but it does depend somewhat on your skill set. I'm sticking with my assessment that we should all be thrilled if he becomes an average 1B.

  • A bit off topic---Just recieved a surprise letter in the mail. Enclosed was a $10.00 straight bet for the Cubs to win the WS from Ceasars Palace....50/1 odds

  • In reply to carolinacub:

    I'd say go for it!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Actually one of my business contacts bought it for me. So now I'm set for the year. It won't come off the corkboard unless we are mathematically eliminated.

  • In reply to carolinacub:

    Drinks are on you if you win. If not, we'll all have one for you as we mourn another Cubs season without a ring ;)

  • If Vogelbach hits enough the Cubs will find at bats for him and a position.

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    In reply to 44slug:

    While that's usually the case, Vogelbach isn't the kind of guy you can even hide in LF just to get his bat in the line-up and be alright. I think it's literally 1st base or DH for him. Both highly unlikely on this Cubs team. He biggest contribution might just be to bring back impact talent at a position of need.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    That will work.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Agreed.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    which would be a real shame. Id hate to see Vbomb hitting long balls in Yankee stadium wearing pinstripes.

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    Who would have thought Travis Wood would have the lowest ERA and the most strikeouts in camp.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Looking forward to his season. Looks like he may be putting it together.

  • Draft fans...Clint Frazier just hit a huge HR in front of about 80 scouts. Solidifying his top 5 status...maybe top overall.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    He was impressive at that UA game @ Wrigley. I know Meadows seems to have the more ideal size & tools, etc... but this Opie Taylor look a like stood out to me.

    Does he still have projection left, or is that why some scouts prefer Meadows over him?

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    It's more of a matter of position value. Some doubt whether Frazier can play CF while most think Austin Meadows will stick there.

    Frazier may have changed some minds tonight though, CF or not.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    He's my pick. Though Sean Manaea is closing the gap with some good outings so far this year.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    I'm sure they're both in the mix.

  • If I were running the draft for the Cubs. I would take Jonathan Gray and here is why. Elite power arm that could get stronger as he matures. Very good Slider and show a potential plus CU. He will cost less then Appel and you can use that money on an over slot HS pitcher like Stewart or Salazar.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Is JG a high school pitcher or college? For some reason I don't recall off the cuff his name being mentioned.

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    He is College Pitcher from Oklahoma who hit 100 this weekend a few times.

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    We talked about him on Saturday in this piece.

    http://www.chicagonow.com/cubs-den/2013/03/cubs-notes-updates-on-mlb-draft-candidates/

    One of the fastest risers in the draft right now. We'll do updates on MLB draft every weekend from here until the draft, by the way.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Sorry, I think my memory isn't what it should be sometimes. Thanks!

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    No problem...my memory isn't what it used to be either, so sometimes it's easier for me to link an old piece!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    My memory isn't the greatest either, but I just try and forget about it. This pitcher sounds Ok too, I'm counting on the scouts to have their "guy" like they did last year and for the organisation to stick to their plan and build around this scouting info, you know just like the grown up teams do! It's a great time to be a cubs fan!

  • Entirely off topic, but go Team USA.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    USA! USA!

  • awesome to hear about the kids John. Wondering what has happened to Almora this year - havent heard anything about him it seems, hope he is ok. also with Christian Villanueva - how close is he to MLB? i thought when we traded for him he was a long shot but its sounding more & more like has a good shot - just wondering his time frame. Thanks again for all the great info!

  • In reply to mditka:

    Thanks mditka! Almora is fine. He's just in minor league camp which is just getting started as far as games, and there really is no coverage at that camp anyway.

  • John: Any word on the outcome of the Grayson/Loganville HS Baseball match-up today?

  • In reply to Upstate NY Cubs Fan:

    Frazier's team destroyed Meaows 14-4. Frazier hit 2 HRs.

  • im starting to come around on mark appel. not only because of his stellar performance so far, but also because he could really be part of a 2015 cubs team that could make some serious noise.

    By drafting Appel at number 2, the cubs could be getting a guy with a justin verlander-like ceiling who probably ends up being a number 2 guy if things work.
    If you add him to a group that at that point might include any of the following guys: Samardzija, Masahiro Tanaka (the guy from japan who is probably posted next winter), E. Jackson, Vizcaino, P. Johnson, T. Wood, and whatever the cubs end up possibly getting at this years trade deadline, that rotation could be outstanding, young and cost controlled for years.

    The team in the field will also start to look full of allstars because Castro, Rizzo, Baez, Soler, and Almora all project to be in the lineup at that point.

    i have a feelign the astros are going to go with the same strategy they had in last years draft and pass on appel. and im starting to think the cubs should take him because he could factor into the equation a lot sooner than later.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    i also left out paniagua and alberto cabrera (although if this spring is any indication it looks like hes destined for the bullpen, but with this rotation made up of most of the guys i listed that probably wouldnt be a bad thing.)

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    I think Appel could certainly be up by 2015. That definitely has to be part of the incentive.

  • I've been saying for some time that you take Appel and then underslot him. He has almost no leverage. If the Astros pass on him in 2013, they'll pass on him again in 2014. The Cubs would have the #3 pick if he doesn't sign with them. That means Boras and Appel would be banking on the #2 team in 2014 taking Appel, a player that has gone unsigned 2 straight years. And that's assuming he stays healthy and doesn't get hurt.

    2012 slot for the #2 pick was $6.2M. 2012 slot for the #3 pick is $5.2M. If I'm the Cubs, I offer Appel about $500K underslot. If Appel doesn't take it, what's his upside? Getting picked 2nd next year after the Astros pass again and likely take Rodon? He'd have even less leverage then.

    Anyway, at least 1 national guy is on the same page I am. Jim Callis in ask BA this week makes reference to Appel and thinks Appel will get underslot.

    http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/prospects/ask-ba/2013/2614838.html

    I agree with him. I think people are underestimating Boras' willingness to cut a pre-draft deal. If money is all that matters here and the Astros offer Appel $6.5M to be the #1 pick, he'd be a moron not to take it. But maybe Appel is Boras' sacrificial lamb and Boras is willing to run Appel into the ground in order to prove a point.

  • In reply to TulaneCubs:

    History says Boras won't cut a pre-draft deal. He probably will eventually sign under slot if it's a top 2 pick, but I don't think he'll do it early in the process. Boras went to the senior year with Jason Varitek -- and beyond. Even signing with an indy league before the Mariners inked him.

    So while you may get Appel underslot, I don't think it will be easy to use that as a strategy because there will be uncertainty throughout the process.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    "History" only includes 1 year in the new CBA. Different landscape now.

    And whether or not he signs a pre-draft deal, the Astros would still have him by the balls. If the Astros take Appel and offer him $6M and then he doesn't sign, they're likely going to have the top 2 picks in 2014. So the highest Appel could go is #3 (2012 slot of $5.2M). Again, Boras can keep holding out for $7M or whatever number his little heart desires. But, eventually, he's going to have to face the reality of the new CBA.

  • In reply to TulaneCubs:

    I don't think the new CBA will change it much, if at all. He's still looking to get maximum value for his client. His philosphy has always been that he has the right to negotiate. Giving that up over a system is admitting defeat. I can't even fathom he'll give in that easily. Boras has been a shrewd negotiator for a long, long time. You don't think he'd back himself into a corner and leave himself with no options, do you?

    I also don't think teams are as willing to punt this year's draft for next year as you imply. There's a lot invested and teams do not like to do it -- and no team plans a strategy around it.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree, Boras wants maximum value for his client. But what if that maximum value for his client involves cutting pre-draft deals? Now, I have no doubt that if/when this ever comes along, Boras will make the team wait to say they signed their pick so that it doesn't look like a pre-draft deal. But at some point, Boras can't take his ball and go home. He's going to have to play by the new CBA rules.

    And I agree, I don't think he'll back himself into a corner and leave himself with no options. Refusing to sign unless Appel is given slot or over slot is leaving himself with no options. Which is why I expect Boras to find the nicest way possible to show his underslot Appel contract.

    And it's not that teams are extremely willing to punt this year's draft. It's that the ability for them to do so completely screws Appel. By picking Appel #1 and being completely horrific this year, the Astros force Boras' hand. They'd basically be saying to Boras: Play ball or Appel is screwed and will be, at best, the #3 pick in 2014. And I don't see a team like the Marlins, should they get the #3 pick, digging deep into the piggy bank and going overslot.

  • In reply to TulaneCubs:

    I think we generally agree but the part I don't see happening is a pre-draft deal, and that potentially hampers things for a team like the Astros, who want the flexibility to negotiate freely with other draft picks.

    Word is they didn't want to give Appel $6M last year as reported and that the actual offer was closer to what Correa got.

    Here's what I would do if I were the Cubs and I really wanted Appel. I make it known that I'm willing to pay what the Twins did for Buxton, perhaps a bit over that. That forces the Astros to pony up and pay significantly more than they wanted to pay last year for the same pitcher. If they're going to want to do the same strategy as they did last year, they won't want to pay that much. If they do decide they want to match that, then Boras can call that a win because he can say he won the negotiations. He's likely already started that game by floating figures out there for teams to chew on.

    Still...I don't think he'll sign early. At best I can see him agreeing to certain parameters but will continue to use the negotiating time he's allotted. That works if you're a BPA team, but not necessarily if you intend to spread your money around.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I think the cubs will be a BPA team and I hope that that player isn't Appel or another Boras client. Nothing against signing a Boras client, fine last year at 5 but this year I don't think it is a good idea. Would also have to think about regsigning both guys if they both are good players down' the road. I think you can go a different direction with your top pick and still do just as well overall if not better. Any one of a HS posittion player, a college Power arm or even some other not mentioned yet option can really help the team and step in as the best Prospect the team has from day one. Not a bad position to be in, no need to deal with signing and contract games and headaches at all.

  • In reply to eddie35:

    If you truly want the BPA, you have to sometimes deal with those headaches. If you think Appel is the best player but you avoid him because of Boras, then it's really not a true BPA strategy. If you choose someone else, then you have to make sure that you really believe that player is as good or better than the headache guy.

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