Game Notes: Brooks Raley up. Theo speaks on Javier Baez and Starlin Castro. Plus Dioner Navarro, Henry Rodriguez, and other notes

Game Notes: Brooks Raley up. Theo speaks on Javier Baez and Starlin Castro. Plus Dioner Navarro, Henry Rodriguez, and other notes

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.

Today's Lineup:

  1. DeJesus CF
  2. Valbuena 3B
  3. Rizzo 1B
  4. Sweeney LF
  5. Schierholtz RF
  6. Castro SS
  7. Castillo C
  8. Barney 2B
  9. 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.


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  • Meanwhile, out in Dodgerland last night....headhunting was in season.....what a fight.......and Mark McGwire was in on was Matt Williams......nice to see coaches who were players back in the 80's & 90's still have the fight in them.......but I did see Davey Lopes walk away from it.......he didn't want anyone touch his mustache.

    That is one heck of a All Star list of coaches in that game.....Baylor, McGwire, Lopes, Mattingly, Gibson.......

    How long will Dale put up with Castro's slump?........or Barney's?.......when the Cubs do win the World Series, Castro will not be on this team.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    If he had some backup players that could play SS he would be sitting Castro, but he only has Barney to play SS (who is also slumping badly). So I see Castro playing thru it until he figures it out.

    Personally, I don't think it is a slump per se. I think he is seriously messed-up mentally right now and this is affecting his whole approach at the plate. this could take a while to straighten out.

  • Sveum has little authority in Castro's case, I'm pretty sure. I see very few games, but what I've seen is a kid with no plate discipline at all. He would not be on my ML roster at this stage of his career. He needs a load of experience and coaching. I'm not sure he is listening.

  • In reply to BLOOMIE1937:

    On what grounds? You can't judge his willingness to take coaching on a whim, because he can't get out of a slump right now. That's quite a leap.

    I happen to know that he does take coaching well, so the point is moot.

  • fb_avatar

    If I am on the training and conditioning staff for Cubs pitchers, I'm not feeling so secure in my job right now.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Lots of injuries but a lot of these guys weren't exactly paragons of arm health either.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    You can probably explain them by bad luck -- and certainly bad luck is an explanation here. That will be part of the evaluation process. But taken as a whole, you have:

    -Kyuji Fujikawa's first elbow injury in his career, coming after being shut down with an injury that is a warning sign.
    -The abortive Scott Baker comeback. Clearly, that did far more harm than good.
    -Allowing Josh Conway to injure himself on a bad mound.
    -Whatever is up with Ryan McNeil.
    -Add in Rafael Dolis and Zach Putnam.

    Not saying they're absolutely the cause, but the body of work is troubling.

  • John is there a systolic issue brewing?

  • In reply to 44slug:

    No, I'm just working on some things and I may have messed some stuff up. I'll fix it.

  • In reply to John Arguello:


  • Could a possible reason for Castro's slump be that he has no one else hitting around him. If you look at the teams with the best record in the league their 1-7 hitters are all hitting around .280 and up it with 3 or 4 different players well above .300. All pitchers have to do when they face the Cubs is attack Rizzo, Castro, Soriano, and DeJesus and they don't have to worry about the rest of the line up per se. If they can get those 4 out then the rest of the line-up is really poor and are somewhat easy outs, and Castro is the easiest to attack because of his free swinging nature.

  • In reply to rlh21:

    I think the slump is just on Castro. He needs to make adjustments pretty much for the first time in his career. Some of it is probably that they messed with him too much. too.

  • I'd buy a Cubs Den T-shirt. Just saying...

  • In reply to CGunz:

    Awesome! Thanks.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to CGunz:

    Me too!

  • In reply to CGunz:

    Count me in as well

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    Awesome guys. Thanks. Now I have to come up with a design. I can draw a bit, but hoping there's someone out there who is a more talented artist than I am (not that it would be that hard)

  • In reply to CGunz:

    And I!

  • Its funny that media and fans want to bench castro, not to let him get his mind right but as punishment. A few days ago jesse rodgers said dale should bench him to teach him a lesson. If thats the case then the whole lineup should be benched.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to seankl:

    I'm amazed everyday that Jesse Rogers is employed...

  • Castro's problems are his alone IMO and not the coaching staff's. Not only is his BA 50 points under his career average, but his K rate is up, BBs are down. He's not driving the ball either as his .337 SLG indicates. Has stolen only 3 bases this year- far off pace from his career best of 25. Kid might be only 23, but he should be improving instead of regressing in all areas. I realize he's been hitting into some tough luck lately, but the regression in his BABIP over the last two years also is a bit disconcerting. He's not the same player that came into the league in 2010.

  • In reply to Paulson:

    Too many people in his ear. He has temporarily lost his Mono.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Its "Mojo"...Not "mono"......

  • In reply to CubsTalk:


  • In reply to Paulson:

    You are aware that the Cubs have basically been f'ing around with Castro's plate approach since 2012 right? Last year Jaramillo and then Rowson were trying to get him to hit for more power. Now they're trying to get him to be more patient at the plate. The deep stats are all there if you look for them on this website and others. Last year Castro did hit a career high 14 hrs but this year he's not getting the same results for plate patience.

  • fb_avatar

    OT: John was there a layout change for the home page of Cubs Den? I only see 2 buttons to click now, home and archive.....

    Just wondering.....

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Nah, I was actually trying to add a couple of things and I think I botched it up. We'll get it back.

  • Off topic...

    I see the White Sox are using weather as an excuse to postpone their game tonight that was going head-to-head with the Hawks game. Sure they were praying for rain so they can reschedule it for a time when a few more people may show up.

  • In reply to cowboy2024:

    Are you telling us that there is another MLB team in Chicago besides the Cubs!

    Go Blackhawks!

  • Living in Az I'm in for a few Cubs Den T-shirts! Can't wait to see some cool designs! A little Cubby Bear in a Den? With all the main staffs names on it?

  • In reply to Cubs26:

    I hear it is 105 in Phoenix......instead of giving a Cubs Den t-shirt to your old lady who might be hot during those long summer Phoenix nights, maybe someone should design a Cubs Den sexy nightie for the female fans........that would fly off the shelves......maybe a Cubs Den thong to match!.......colors could be Baby Blue or Soft Pink.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Um, no.

  • In reply to John Arguello:


  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    John, I'm going to apologize in advance but....Cubs Talk, you're an idiot!

  • In reply to Cubs26:

    Thanks and thanks for the ideas!

  • Fangraphs now has Starlin ranked as the worst qualifying shortstop in the majors. They have him at -.5 War.

  • John, would like to thank you for the awesome job you do for this blog. There is no other place to get the latest and greatest Cub info. The draft coverage was second to none! Your followers are also well informed as well, with little or no mean spirited responses. The selfishness person in me is hoping some headhunter doesn't pick you up and leave us with no Cubs fix . Thanks John and go Cubs!

  • In reply to Scheider:

    You're welcome and thank you Scheider, appreciate the kind words.

  • Other t-shit design logo sayings by Cubs Den.....

    "I Tweet With Ian"

    "Lone Member of Milton Bradley Fan Club"

    "I Saw Rolling Stones With Felzz Dad"

    "Beaz, Soler, Almora, Bryant......The Four Horsemen"

    "Mrs DeJesus Is One Hot Babe"

    "Student Pilot of Kenny Hubbs Flying School"

    "I Am One Of Those So-Called M***** F***** Unemployed Cubs Fans"

    "For God Sake.....Can The Cubs Win One World Series Before I Die"

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    The last line is awesome Cubs Talk!

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    "Other t-shit design logo sayings by Cubs Den....."

    I'd rather wear a t-SHIRT.

  • I have to keep coming to this site to get me off the Starlin Castro ledge

  • In reply to Mikethoms:

    Haha! It's frustrating even for me. But I still think he'll be fine.

  • first time poster here: love this blog.

    everybody talks about Castro's slup - and it is cause for concern, but i am beginning to be more worried about Rizzo; he did not put together a decent AB in the last couple of games. today he is 0-3 with 1-2 pitch ground-outs... it is very fustrating to see two key players struggle at the same time. but i just dont get Rizoo's issue - he has no problem with the swing, he just turns on the fist pitch he sees... why not work the count? leake is averaging 10 pitches per inning...

  • In reply to Csanad:

    Yeah, I also don't get why no one is talking about Rizzo's horrible year. He also just signed a big contract so you'd think he'd have the same "target" on his back as Castro.

  • In reply to Csanad:

    Thanks Csanad. Rizzo is another guy who is going through some growing pains. He's inconsistent with his pitch selection still. Sometimes he's very patient and sometimes he seems to go up there swinging. I think he'll be fine too, but I don't think he's going to be a .300, 35 HR guy. More like .270, 30...which I'll be very happy with.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    Let's assume Rizzo does profile as a .270/30 guy. If Vogelbach develops such that you think he can be .300/40 with a below average glove, which one would you trade?

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Mike, you pray Theo gets his wish and the DH soon so we can keep both..

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I really like the way Rizzo carries himself struggling or not.

  • More Suggestions on future Cubs Den T-Shirt (I hit the "r" this time) Logo Sayings.....

    "Future #1 Cubs Den Draft Pick According to Arguello"

    "Cubs Den Spelled Backwards is ...Ned Sbuc"

    "Dummy Test Pilot For Kenny Hubbs Flight School"

    "I Saw My First Cubs Game....Yeah, That's Right, They Lost"

    "Its Not the Goat or Bartman's Fault"

    "Only Cub I Was In Love With Was Cubs Ballgirl Marla Collins"

    "From Barney....To Castro......To Over The Head of Rizzo in the Stands"

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    First time posting here.
    Those Hubbs "jokes" in your posts --- How is making fun of the tragic death of a Cubs Rookie of the Year supposed to be funny?

  • In reply to Cubfucius:

    Don't worry about him, Cubfucius. He means no harm. He's just... different.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    I prefer the word "special".

  • In reply to Quedub:

    From what I see, he airs grudges for some reason. Too bad, the vast majority of posters here have worthwhile things to say instead of dumping their junk or attacking other posters.
    Too many blogs are full of "I know what's right and if you don't agree with me, you're a #$@&!*". Cubs Den is refreshing and full of info. Keep it up.

  • Getting swept at home by a division rival stinks.

  • I do not like the Reds at all...mostly because of Philips and Brennaman. They're right down there with the Cards.

  • Don't get that broom out more game with Dusty & his gang tomorrow.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:


  • Sounds terrible, but I'm almost root for a loss to the Reds / Pirates when we are this far out of contention - just so they have one more win when factoring in the likelihood of a tight divisional race against the Cards. I hate the Cardinals with a passion. I'd rather have the Reds win the WS than the Cards make the playoffs.

    Why do have the sinking feeling that the Cardinals will be the team that benefits from the 2nd Wild Card spot more than any other team? They consistently 'sneak' into the playoffs and then rip off a bunch of wins. So far, they are 1 for 1 in the 2 Wild Card team era....

  • And better news, Kris Bryant named BA's college player of the year. Great write up on him. Yes, it's fluff, but after the last three games, it's good to have something to dream about.

    (No John, you won't have to redo your top 4).

  • In reply to djriz:

    Haha! I'm calling all 4 as a tie for first.

    And nice problem to have!

  • John, you should update your top prospect list again and move Baez down to #5 just to see what happens...

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    I'll move him down to #19.

  • Any early reports on how Geiger looks at 1B defensively?

  • I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Navarro moved at the deadline. With him hitting so well right now, his value doesn't get much higher. Plus think about who we moved last year - a starting pitcher, a 4th outfielder, and a catcher. And who did we pick up on short term deals this offseason? Starting pitching, 4th outfielder types, and a catcher.

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