I'm not sure there is going to be a game today but here's the preview. There's some interesting things floating around the net and some things going on here at Cubs Den as well.
Bullpen shuffle continues
It's LHP Brooks Raley's turn as Zach Putnam is going on the DL after feeling like "his elbow was on fire" yesterday. The explanation yesterday was that perhaps it's a recurrence of some bone spur issues he's had in the past. The newly acquired Henry Rodriguez has not yet arrived and may not do so until Friday so the move may only be temporary. As for why Brooks Raley, the most obvious answer is that he is already on the 40 man roster, so it doesn't require another move by the Cubs. Raley has been more successful vs. LH hitters in both his major and minor league career so it seems to me that right now the bullpen, perhaps as a specialist, is his most likely role for now.
More Javier Baez buzz
You may have remembered I ranked Javier Baez 4th on the Cubs list of prospects the day before he hit 4 HRs. The big day has the buzz re-started with the Daytona shortstop after a bit of a slow start. I do want to say that there is little difference between 1-4 and that you could make an argument that any of the big 4 could be the top prospect. I'm sticking with Almora, but now I'm wondering if I would have been better off labeling the top 4 as 1a, 1b, 1c, and 1d. It'd be more accruate because the distance between 4 and 5 on the list is greater than the distances between 1-4.
Anyway, Theo Epstein chimed in his thoughts on Baez yesterday,
“It was quite a show,” Epstein said. “He sprayed it around, covered different parts of the strike zone, different pitches. His swing is really under control and that’s the great thing about Javy and his bat speed. He doesn’t have to swing for the fences. He can take a nice, normal under control swing, the type that would normally produce a line drive or a ball in the gap, and in his case there’s plenty of carry over the fences.”
“A lot of his errors have been extreme plays at the end of his range or weird things on rundowns or trying to do too much,” Epstein said. “He needs to polish that up. We actually feel better at this moment about his ability to play shortstop every day in the big leagues than we did on Opening Day because of the way he’s playing shortstop. He needs to clean it up but I have no doubt he can play shortstop at the big league level.”
Dale Sveum was also impressed,
“I wish I could’ve seen where they landed,” Sveum said Tuesday. “The swings were pretty good. I’ve been watching the video anyway, but one good thing about it is he’s calmed down. He’s cut down his movement [on his swing] about 40 percent, 50 percent. It’s a lot more calm and controlled.”
It seems that Baez is back at the top when it comes to prospect buzz, even if he didn't make the top of my list.
Theo on Starlin Castro
As for the Cubs present day shortstop, Epstein said that Starlin Castro is just "in a slump". That's exactly what we've been saying here.
“I just think he’s in a slump and he’s going to turn it around pretty soon,” Epstein said Tuesday. “It’s tough, and I feel bad for him that he’s going through this and obviously, we’d love better production, and hopefully we will get better production going forward. In a way, it shouldn’t be unexpected. Baseball is a game of failure and adjustments. You’d like your players to fail in the Minor Leagues so they see what it’s like and come to terms with that and make their adjustments. Starlin is so talented that he has never really failed before, so this is the first extended stretch of failure that he’s had.”
“In the long run, I think this will be good for him,” Epstein said. “He’ll find his way out of it, and be a better player for it, and the next time he falls into a slump he’ll know how to get out of it quicker. I think Starlin’s approach will evolve over the years as it does for most players when they get a few thousand at-bats under their belt.”
I've been on board with this idea from the beginning, but I sure miss seeing the old Starlin Castro at the plate. We've seen glimpses of that of late, and hopefully he starts hitting like we all know he can soon.
Dioner Navarro and Luis Valbuena
Bradley Woodrum of Fangraphs talks about two of the Cubs biggest surprises, Dioner Navarro and Luis Valbuena. He admits he was wrong when it came to forecasting their seasons. But hey, forecasting is a tough business and even the best in the game are frequently wrong, so no need for Brad to apologize. And to his credit, he was spot on about Navarro's defense which, despite a strong arm, has been erratic and inconsistent at best.
He also mentions that Navarro worked with Joey Votto this offseason and picked his brain. I don't know if it actually helped or it's just coincidence. Either way we'll take it.
There is also talk on Luis Valbuena's surprisingly good season, though we're less surprised here than Bradley is. Valbuena had some encouraging numbers behind the mediocre results. His pitch selection was getting better but he was also incredibly unlucky in balls in play. He now projects as a 2.2/2.3 WAR player, which is essentially an average regular for the position -- which is even more than many of us hoped for.
Theo has Cubs moving in the right direction
ESPN's Dan Szymborski writes that many of the moves Theo has made and the rebuilding of the farm system into one of the better systems in the game has the Cubs moving in the right direction.
Analysis on why Henry Rodriguez has failed so far
Clint Hulsey of IR Fastball took a shot at explaining why fireballing new acquisition Henry Rodriguez has failed to this point in his career. As you might expect it boils down to control but Hulsey goes into a bit more detail. Like many of us, he feels that if Rodriguez can throw strikes, he's going to be awfully tough.
Menu Changes and Cubs Den T-Shirts?
I apologize for the changes in the appearance with the menu but right now we're looking to add features, including a prospects list tab that can take you directly to lists. The site will otherwise work as normal.
We've also discussed a few ideas we've received from readers, including a podcast, phone apps, and t-shirts. For various reasons, we're not going to do a podcast for now, but T-Shirts are possible if you are all interested. And if there are any T-Shirt designers or artists out there, feel free to submit ideas! We're open to your suggestions.
- DeJesus CF
- Valbuena 3B
- Rizzo 1B
- Sweeney LF
- Schierholtz RF
- Castro SS
- Castillo C
- Barney 2B
- T. Wood SP
What to Watch:
Felzz: Dave Bolland- Bolland's return to "Rat" status and getting Krejci off his game will be essential if the Blackhawks want to.....Oh what? Oh umm the Cubs....Umm....well, Ryan Sweeney is hitting cleanup.....which.....umm.....says something. Not sure it's good. Anyway, Sweeney has showed good discipline and might get the right couple at-bats hitting after Rizzo....
John: Felzz has hockey on the brain, so I'll stick with the theme. Since he picked Sweeney, I"m going with the other guy with Boston ties, former Red Sox farmhand Anthony Rizzo. The deal is that only former Boston players are allowed to play well today.
Filed under: Preview and Game Thread