Update 3/13: Castro in, Lake out 4-6 weeks; Baker to start Sunday; Garza progressing

Update 3/13: Castro in, Lake out 4-6 weeks; Baker to start Sunday; Garza progressing
Will McLeod follow in the footsteps of Epstein and Hoyer and become a GM in his own right?

The Cub take on the Colorado Rockies today at 3:05 CT at HoHo Kam and you can listen to it free today on MLB.com.  Tonight we'll have the final installment of our preseason minor league preview series.

For now, let's start things off with some news and notes...

UPDATE: 12:00 PM

 

  • Jim Bowden of ESPN created quite a buzz yesterday when he suggested that there were doubts creeping in about Cubs prospects.  Javier Baez and Jorge Soler are A ball prospects with less than a year's worth of full season ball experience.  My question is "Why wouldn't there be doubts?"
  • What was lost in that piece, however, is Bowden's suggestion that Jason McLeod is emerging as one of the games top GM candidates.  McLeod has undoubtedly been on radars for quite a while because of his successes in Boston and San Diego.  However, coming to the Cubs was a shrewd move for him at this point in his career.  This is the third farm system he has helped rebuild and now has the combination of diverse experience and the visibility of a big market, high profile team.  I don't want to see him leave, but it's the sign of a successful organization when teams start raiding your front office.  I just hope the Cubs have a chance to build for a couple more years before it happens.
  • A nice piece by Carrie Muskat on Cubs minor league pitching coordinator Derek Johnson, who puts a lot of value into a pitcher's mental makeup.
  • Despite a bumpy outing, Keith Law was impressed with Jeff Samardzija's stuff Monday and declares him ready to start the season.
  • Great stuff from AZ Phil of The Cub Reporter, who reports that Scott Baker pitched 3 innings yesterday.  The good news is he threw strikes, but he did get knocked aroud a bit, including a HR by Rock Shoulders.  Generally I'm happy because my guess is that Baker's intention wasn't to go for the knockout punch on every hitter.  He was just trying to get some work in and throw strikes.
  • Also in that game are many top Cubs prospects such as Albert Almora (1-1, double), Dan Vogelbach (0-1), Jeimer Candelario (1-1), and Gioskar Amaya (1-1 with a walk).  Also a good performance from OF prospects Garrett Schlecht (1-2, walk, 2 RBI) and Dong-Yub Kim (2-3, run scored).
  • Congrats to Team USA, who beat Puerto Rico 7-1.
  • Lastly, your latest draft update.  Clint Frazier and Austin Meadows high school teams squared off and it was Frazier who stole the show in front of around 80 scouts.  He hit two HRs including a bomb.  Although our guy Kevin has always liked him better, Frazier may have moved ahead of Meadows on draft boards overall.  Here's a video of that HR, courtesy of Baseball America,

Today's Lineup:

Valbuena, 3B
Barney, 2B
Castro, SS
Soriano, LF
Hairston, CF
Navarro, C
Soler, RF
Maysonet 1B
E.Jackson, P

5 Things to Watch For...

  • Starlin Castro returns to the lineup and he's at SS today.
  • Jorge Soler-- the clock is ticking and this is probably one of the last times you'll get to see him in a Cubs starting starting lineup...for now.  Javier Baez is also scheduled to play SS.  Other prospects who should play include Brett Jackson (CF), Johermyn Chavez (LF) , and Christian Villanueva (3B)
  • Edwin Jackson hasn't had a great spring but it's early.  Like Samardzija, I expect we'll start seeing something closer to what we'll see in the regular season today.
  • Brent Lillibridge is on the bench and should play 2B today.
  • Luis Valbena tries to put together one last good start before Ian Stewart returns.  It probably won't change anything, but manager Dale Sveum seems pretty confident in his backup, so Valbuena can continue to put pressure on Stewart to perform all season.

Filed under: News and Notes

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  • I'm really starting to like Frazier with that #1 pick. He was hands down the best player on the field last summer at the Under Armour All American game. I also like the the blueprint the Cubs created in last years draft of grabbing a impact hitter in the first round and then loading up on arms later. Pitchers are such a gamble and with Boras as his agent, I can only imagine how many other picks the Cubs will be forced to draft under slot in order to sign Appel.

  • In reply to Ibleedcubbieblue:

    I continue to be amazed at how Frazier can generate such great power from an average sized body. It's like watching videos of players in the 70s and, like Mike Schmidt and Ryne Sandberg, when you look at how much more slender they are compared to most athletes today -- yet they could hit with so much power. That's Frazier, he's old school, he would have fit right in.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yeah it's funny I've taken a while to buy in even after seeing him dominate last year because of his size. But I keep seeing videos like this and then remember back to how good he looked and think to myself this kid is a ballplayer who just has that something special going on.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, I read somewhere where some scouts have said Appel will not get past the Cubs at number 2, especially since hes essentially out of options. Do you sense the same thing?

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Was it some scouts or Bruce Levine? Either way do you honestly think Theo and Jed are done doing their homework and have committed to Appel in March when the draft doesn't happen til June and the Amateur season has just began. Sounds pretty stupid to me.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Hank Aaron-5'10" 170lbs. Most of his career Babe Ruth was 6'2" 210 lbs. Sandberg and Schmidt were both 6'2" and about 200 lbs. its all about bat speed, not what the steroid addled Brady Andersons and Ken Caminitis were doing.

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    John, i'm of the mind set that Jim Bowden is a tool...and a pompus creep at that, I lost all respect for him as a person when as the Reds GM he sent crap to the M's for Junior because they had the M's over the barrel .His opinion means nothing to me...I'm sure McLeod will be an incredible Gm one day but I have a feeling he's not going anywhere till they see the Cubs thing through

  • In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    I don't think he was too popular as a GM either, if I remember correctly.

    As for McLeod, I'd have to think he'd take an opportunity if it came. His legacy will be felt with these two drafts, Anthony Rizzo (who he drafted with Boston), and the way he improved player development. Even if he leaves after this year, he'll have already have had a hand in their success.

    That said, it isn't easy to jump directly to GM from a top scouting position. Usually you look at guys who have been Asst. GMs, so maybe he sticks around awhile.

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    What strikes me as odd about the Bowden piece is that it comes out concurrently with Jim Callis saying he expects Baez to be the #3 prospect in baseball at this time next year. Doesn't seem like his impression of Baez is dropping.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I think sometimes these things are just about grabbing attention and response. In the article he questions little things about their swing mechanics. You can do that about practically every player in baseball, while some guys with practically flawless swing (i.e. Josh Vitters) can struggle.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    a little off topic, but from the world of ESPN...Jerry Crasnick has a nice piece on the Cub's resident Italian who could be back with the team after tonight's elimination game.

    (http://espn.go.com/mlb/worldclassic2013/story/_/id/9047018/wbc-chicago-cubs-anthony-rizzo-real-deal) - free for a change-

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    I looked in the dictionary under "Jim Bowden," and it said, "Those who can't do talk." I listen to MLBNR at work. Casey Stern is one of the best sports talk hosts Sirius/XM has. He speaks intelligently whether doing baseball, football or hockey, but when on MLBNR, I feel sorry for him because he has been paired with Jim Bowden. Other than having some good stories to tell about Marge Schott, Bowden is lacking. He is a blow hard who openly poo poos statistical analysis, and his evaluations of players and teams borders on the unintelligible sometimes, and some of the stuff he throws out there as rumors you just know is made up. If it weren't for Stern, I'd have to turn the radio over to another channel. Bowden is just that hard to listen to.

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    In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I met Casey Stern with Kevin Kennedy a few years ago at Spring Training. We had a few beers together. I liked him alot but he thinks the Cubs are a joke.

  • In reply to Dale Miller:

    The Cubs were easy to make fun of a few years ago.

  • In reply to Dale Miller:

    They were a joke back then. Id bet his opinion has likely changed some in the last year or so. Lets not forget, the Steelers were a longtime laughingstock in the NFL, until the Rooneys hired Noll and drafted Mean Joe and Bradshaw.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Bowden can definitely rub people the wrong way and I think some of that is the way he presents himself. For example, innstead of saying there are doubts, he could have said "Hey these guys are talents, but they're not finished products...here's what they still need to work on". Of course, that won't grab so much attention for himself.

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    I think I saw last night that Dillon Maples threw a bullpen session and felt good afterwards. So that's good news it it's true.

  • In reply to Zachary Myers:

    That's very good news. Where'd you see that?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    AZ Phil posted it.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Submitted by Arizona Phil
    on Tue, 03/12/2013 - 8:50pm Permalink
    Dillon Maples threw a bullpen session this morning and looked good. I doubt that he will be held back too much longer,

    Also, Hayden Simpson (Cubs 2010 #1 draft pick) threw "live" BP today and his curve ball was really exploding. I don't know what the velocity was on his fastball (and that is an issue), but at least he was throwing free & easy.

  • In reply to Zachary Myers:

    Thanks. I missed that one.

  • In reply to Zachary Myers:

    Simpson was throwing in the mid 80s most of last year. He needs to get back to a 90plus FB to get back to the promise he held before he was drafted.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    That would be huge for us if Simpson could battle his way back on to the prospect lists.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Also, interesting that he has Dan Vogelbach on Daytona's roster instead of Kane County's.

    http://www.thecubreporter.com/03122013/2013-cubs-minor-league-camp-rosters-312#comments

  • In reply to Zachary Myers:

    Those rosters are very fluid -- much like the 40 man roster at the MLB level. It will be shocking if he doesn't start in Kane, but he's advanced enough as a hitter to get to Daytona this season.

  • In reply to Zachary Myers:

    OMG! @ the thought of Baez, Soler, & VogelBomb, in the Daytona line-up at the same time......

  • In reply to Zachary Myers:

    It's standard for guys to be a level above where they'll actually play at this point in ST. He'll get bumped down as there are more cuts.

  • Frazier's swing looked compact and easy -- but oh, the tinny ping of those metal bats!
    Has he (or any of the other top BPA candidates) played well in a wooden-bat league? Some guys' hitting ability drops as they adjust to using real bats. Be nice to see how they hit with wood before the draft.
    Good roundup as always, John.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    I know most, if not all the HS coaches around here have the kids take BP with wooden bats. I'd imagine Frazier is at least doing that, but I'm speculating.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    I'm sure scouts would agree and there are showcases with wood bats. Frazier's bat speed should translate well.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    I have one name for you-Ty Griffin-an aluminum bat king in college who absolutely busted when he had to switch to wood bats.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Thanks for the example. I think there are more.
    As a fan and a prospect-watcher, it alarms me to see talented teenagers on traveling teams who have never even swung a wooden bat.
    It's like learning to play basketball with an 8-foot rim and a midget ball. Ain't the real thing....

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    And when Buster Posey was drafted there were concerns he would not take to a wood bat either. The kid can hit. I'm not worried about the bat.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Last summer Frazier used a wood bat at the Under Armour All American game and crushed the ball.

  • Up goes Frazier! (sorry)

    Anyway, if he keeps it up, Frazier will be wearing an Astros uniform, and we'll be glad that Houston moved to the AL. But it may be just as well. Trying to deal for a future ace is a total crapshoot, and signing one in free agency has potential for disaster, so you almost have to draft him. I'll support the idea I read a few threads ago about picking Jonathan Gray at No. 2.

  • In reply to Taft:

    He's a legit candidate for #1 though some thought he was worthy already. Gray has an incredible arm but behind Appel and Manaea as far as having 3 plus pitches. His change lags behind. More of a risk but upside huge, obviously.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    You can't teach that kind of arm Strength though.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    True. It's that picking him requires a higher tolerance for risk. Depends on your philosophy. If you prefer to gamble on high risk/high reward, you can pull the trigger early on this guy. He's going to go high anyway, but not sure you want to make those kind of gambles with a #2 pick. There's some high reward guys out there with lower risk, however. I'd say he's put himself at Stanek level, maybe higher but hesitate before I go over top 2 arms...for now.

  • Will the Cubs show any interest in Boesch?

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    I would assume they could trade Marmol for Boesch. Since they've decided to keep Soriano for now, the FO will probably wait.

    For what it's worth, I like Boesch.

  • In reply to Dale Miller:

    Boesch has been released by the Tigers.

  • Just read that. Guess if the Cubs management wants him now,.... they can just make him an offer & see if he has to clear waivers first.

    They don't really need another OF like him at the moment though. Seems to have a lot of overlap with the Hariston/Schierholz/Sappelt combo.

  • I don't think so unless they trade Soriano or Hairston flops -- but each would take time.

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    I met Bowden at the winter meetings a few years ago. He's really full of himself. At the same meeting, I was able to meet Frank Robinson. Mr. Robinson had all the time in the world for me. I'm not sure of Bowden's background but I don't think he played or has a true baseball background. We all know that all prospects don't make it. I don't know the percentages but I'd assume only 3-4 out of most teams top ten actually make it to the show. That said, the difference I see is that the new regime has far more quantity-thus improving the odds. Comparing it to Corey Patterson or Felix Pie just isn't accurate. Those were cases where we were pinning all our hopes on one guy. Not the case this time.

  • I have worried about that hitch in Baez's swing. It seems like that would have to go once he plays everyday against MLB pitching. And I am not sure how easy it would be to get rid of...

  • In reply to Justin:

    It's tough to say how much it will affect. It hasn't affected him too much so far and he's turned around some pretty big fastballs. Bat speed is elite. Coincidentally, have seen reports that Clint Frazier, this draft's top bat speed guy, also has a hitch in his swing. Elite bat speed can cover up some flaws.

  • What the heck happened to Junior Lake?

  • In reply to apalifer:

    Not sure. News came out of nowhere.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    By chance did he go on a hunting trip w/ the manager and Robin Yount? ;>)

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    Haha! Seems like a bad idea to go hunting with Robin Yount or Dick Cheney.

  • Don't know which incident caused the damage. Didn't realize he is on the 40-man. So he will start the year on the major league DL. Does that count as service time for him? Do we care about his service time?

  • In reply to Rob Letterly:

    It doesn't count on his service time, but it does count on his option years unless he's out for a signficant portion of the season, which seems very unlikely.

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    John. Are there still a ton of players who were just invite to camp on non guaranteed deals with the Cubs? Would like to see Baez stay longer and play some third and second while Castro gets back into it at SS.

  • In reply to Demarrer:

    Not sure if Baez stay longer. Cubs will probably look more at Maysonet, Gonzalez, and Lillibridge at SS.

  • Junior Lake out 4-6 weeks and Josh Vitters rehabbing... I think Ian Stewart got pretty lucky... These injuries could be a break for him to go north with the team.... I mean think about it... If Valbuena goes down, the team can't rely on a rehabbing Vitters or injured Lake... The position got way thinner in the depth charts all of a sudden.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Yep. Great point. I think Ian Stewart is locked in now for that 3B job.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I think Villannueva gains the most from Vitters and Lakes down time. He is a solid and hardnosed 3Bman who may be hard to dislodge if pushed to duty.(Barney)

  • In reply to 44slug:

    You could be right there. Seems like the type that will be hard to upgrade because he'll do a lot of things well (though probably nothing outstanding).

  • White smoke at the Sistine Chapel.

  • Be funny if a White flag with a Blue "W" was raised!

  • John,
    Why do you think there are so many players getting inured this early in the spring? Seems like someone goes down every other day or so...

  • In reply to peoria cubfan:

    Wish I knew. I think if I had the answer for that I'd be hired by the Cubs!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    A lot of ST injuries are handled a lot more carefully than in the regular season. If the games meant something I'm sure they'd just walk it off and be back at their positions quickly.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    No doubt you would be FO brass.

  • Solid outing by EJax today. 5IP 3H 1R 1BB 2K

  • In reply to SymposiumX:

    Very good to see. Really like the one walk. He and Shark look like they're ready to go.

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    Hey guys, asking for a colleague. Do any of you have links to information on how the salary arbitration panels make their decisions?

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    This is an interview on arbitration with one of the best in the business, John Coppolella.

    http://www.squawkingbaseball.com/?p=573

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Thanks very much, John.

  • Put up a video on Amora in BP for anyone interested.

  • Season tickets were delivered today…they have really improved the past few years. Each book is personalized with my name and account number. Also got a set of the Topps cards they are giving away this year (plus gum), a W flag replica with my name on it, and a STH card that gets me some discounts at the stadium. Sadly, no pair of Cubs Zubaz

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    Nice!

    Sorry about the Zubaz, though :)

  • John Sickels released his Top 150 prospects today, including five Cubs…no real surprises. Javier Baez (18), Jorge Soler (25), Albert Almora (44), Dan Vogelbach (98) and Arodys Vizcaino (112).

    http://www.minorleagueball.com/2013/3/13/4095252/minor-league-ball-top-150-prospects-for-2013-john-sickels

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    Vogelbach ahead of Vicaino is new.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Sickels is about as high on Vogelbach as you can be -- comparing him explicitly with Prince Fielder. I think that's a stretch (so do their Northwest league numbers), but it explains the placement.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    It does. I also think it's a stretch in terms of athleticism. But hey, I'll take it.

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