Hinch, Renteria get 2nd interviews; Cubs prospects thriving in AFL, is Hinch the man to lead them?

Hinch, Renteria get 2nd interviews; Cubs prospects thriving in AFL, is Hinch the man to lead them?
A.J. Hinch

UPDATE:  A.J. Hinch to get a 2nd interview along with Rick Renteria per Ken Rosenthal.  Please scroll down to see some great stuff from some smart baseball people on A.J. Hinch below.

Yesterday on Twitter we had a little fun when I made a subtle reference to an old movie, when after reading Cubs prospect continue to dismantle AFL pitching, I needed a time machine to 2015.  Apparently it wasn't that subtle.  Everybody picked up on it.

While we may see some prospects break through in 2014, 2015 is the year we expect many of the Cubs to either make their debut and/or play their first full season in the majors.  It's also the year the Cubs win the World Series in Back to the Future 2.

Maybe that's ambitious, but we can at least expect some excitement in Cubsville.  And I wonder if the Wrigley renovations will include those holographic projections.

Anyway, on with the notes...

Arizona Fall League/Winter League Recap

  • Albert Almora went 0-4 with a walk.  He's hitting .333/.371/.606.  Not bad for a 19 year old in an advanced prospect league.
  • Kris Bryant continues to feast on AFL pitching.  He went 3 for 5 with two doubles and a triple, scoring 3 runs and driving in one.  In his first 10 games he's hitting .429/.468/.905 with 4 HRs.  He's walked 4 times so he's starting to regain that great batting eye he had in college, but right now he's seeing beach balls at the plate, so he's up there swinging.  Bryant is leading the AFL in OPS by a wide margin with a 1.373 mark.
  • Jorge Soler went 2 for 4 with a walk, including a 2-run HR.  In his first 9 games, Soler is hitting .302/.318/.442.  His walk and HR were actually his first, but by all accounts Soler has been putting up some great ABs and it's starting to pay off now.
  • Armando Rivero pitched one inning and allowed a run.  He has a 7.50 ERA

Arizona isn't the only place we can find some top Cubs prospects.  The Dominican Winter League yesterday featured a game of Licey vs. Aguilas.  Those two teams are the homes of Arismendy Alcantara and Jeimer Candelario, respectively.  Only Alcantara played, however, and he he went 0 for 2 with 2 strikeouts.

Rebuilding process going well

  • Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago wrote one of his best articles since becoming the Cubs beat guys.  He takes an optimistic, but balanced look at the Cubs rebuilding process.  I know you all have read stuff like that here on this site, but it's great when someone in the media writes about the rebuilding process with this kind of long term perspective.

Does someone have a DeLorean, some plutonium, and a flux capacitor?

Some love for A.J. Hinch

Speaking of the future, is there a better candidate to lead the Cubs there than A.J. Hinch?  An interesting comment tweeted by Craig Calcaterra of NBC Hardball Talk by current Red Sox manager John Farrell,

"Farrell says his job as a farm director prepared him more for this job than anything else he's done."

Considering the Cubs front office has a healthy respect for Farrell, it has to make you think.  Hinch has been a manager of minor league operations, a director of player development, and now a VP of Professional Scouting.  No other candidate mirrors the kind of experience Farrell had the way Hinch does.

Moreover, I've heard from three individuals lately who have had the pleasure of meeting/knowing A.J. Hinch and all three have nothing but praise for him.

  • Wayne Randazzo, Kane County Cougars announcer and sometimes host of the Score, chimed in with his own opinions on Hinch.

"I really liked A.J. when I came across him with D-backs. Very smart.... I always wondered if it was only the fact that he replaced the beloved Bob Melvin that bit him."

  • Another person who knows Hinch personally, Mike Pinto (Prof Speaker & Brand Strategist for 20 yrs. Also Field Manager/Dir. of Baseball Ops for Southern Illinois Miners professional baseball team since 2007) responded,

"Worked with A.J. Hinch on a couple of things. Found him very intelligent, easy to work with, professional and a forward thinker."

  • Some of you may have remembered earlier that I asked Jason "Professor" Parks about Hinch.  I've given you some bits and pieces in the past, but here are his thoughts in their entirety...

"This is going to be a youth dependent team, and I think they need someone with playing experience at the highest level and farm director/player development experience.  I really like Hinch as a candidate.  I know him very well.  He's very bright. Ausmus is another player type, but not a lot of farm experience like A.J. I know how he was with players as farm director and with scouts as an AGM.  He can lead.  He knows the game very well; former catchers seem to have this great ability to recognize all aspects of the game.  He loves information of all kind, scouting/stats, but he's going to trust his players first.  He's an outside the box choice, but not a crazy one.  He's affable and experienced, and he really knows the game.  Not sure if Chicago is the right fit because of the microscope, but he could handle it."

I think Hinch is the real sleeper in this search.  He's a real big gamble but a guy who has a chance to make a huge impact on the Cubs prospects.   To use prospect lingo, I look at him as the high ceiling candidate in this group.

Could he be the guy who leads the Cubs back to the future?

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  • Very interesting candidate, I wonder if he does not have larger plans than field manager? Take the reins for a few years, pass the torch and move up to FO maybe?

  • In reply to peoria cubfan:

    Very possible. He must have some inkling that he wanted to manage again for the Cubs to interview him, but maybe his long term plans could be in the FO.

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    Farrell's comments refer to his own personal situation. For him, that experience helped. That doesn't mean similar experience in that position will make a person a good/great manager.

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    I just don't understand why you would go back to being a manager if your plan is to be a GM. Won't hurt, but not sure how that would benefit him more than what he's doing now.

  • One could argue that there is a lot to be said for going for the high-ceiling candidate in this situation, since a manager can always be fired.

  • Your comments about Hinsch make me feel a bit more comfortable it he's indeed the next manager. It's starting to appear the Cubs want to speak to Lovullo after the WS before making their choice, and as long as it's not Ozzie Guillen I'll trust the FO to make the prudent choice since none of the seven currently considered are an absolute slam dunk.

    I also see where Rogers is reporting the Cubs will be going hard after Tanaka... guess I'll believe that when I see it. But it's fairly apparent that the ace(s) the Cubs will need to compete at a high level won't be available from the farm system for at least another 3 or 4 years, so that's where the high $$ FA signings will likely occur by Theo/Jed.

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    John. Simple question: At the GM meetings, who do you think is the Cubs new manager. Not who you want, but who you think it will be.

  • In reply to Demarrer:

    I want Hinch and that's who I think it will be. Nothing against Renteria, but I think Hinch is exactly what they need. Renteria is an outstanding coach, but they can hire a staff of great coaches: Keep McKay, bring on Cora as bench coach.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree 100% with you on Hinch, like you say you can hire coaches anywhere. Now we'll see what Theo thinks.

  • Hey John, one player that is not getting mentioned is Christian Villanueva, he's playing in Mexico for Obregon and so far hitting .273 (6 for 22) with 2 hr's and a solen base, 1 walk and 5 K's.

    Here's a good link to track the performance of everybody playing in an offseason league.

    http://mlb.mlb.com/milb/stats/org.jsp?id=chc

  • In reply to Caps:

    Thanks Caps.

  • i think Bryant is too advanced for this level. they need to move him to AA at the beginning of the season. and hope to see this kid by June, at the very latest July.

  • In reply to lokeey:

    Bryant is becoming the talk of all the minor leagues. Could he make the leap to a top 5 prospect this off-season??... I believe he could. And I think your scenario for his promotions is entirely possible. What's more, if the kid rakes in ST next year I'd like to see him go right straight to Chi-town ala Albert Pujols. Rather than piss away a bunch of money on FA like Choo or Ellsbury, bring up guys like Bryant and Baez, don't worry about their service clock, and let them get the experience needed to play in the bigs. The extra money spent when they're eligible for arby can't be more than the $16-20M/yr. to pay FA in their 30s.

  • In reply to Paulson:

    I read a few days ago the Astros are regretting taking Appel over Bryant. John Ludhow is the guy largely responsible for the Cards minor league system, and hes apparently now rating Bryant the best player hes seen so far out of the 2013 draft. That says a lot. Its about time we see some impact players in Cubs unis.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Wow! Do you have a link?

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I looked for it. The only thing I've seen on this is this tweet from Kevin a few days ago.

    https://twitter.com/kcmgallo905/status/393851283427176448

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    In reply to lokeey:

    I don't think there's any question he starts the year at AA. Between 16 games at Daytona and 10 so far in the AFL, he's just too good for the pitchers he's seeing. I know there's a danger of rushing prospects, but there's also a danger of having him not be challenged.

    I think you want him to have at least two, and possibly three, go-rounds against AA pitchers next year, to show he can adjust when they adjust. If he's continuing to play at an extremely high level by next July, I don't see any reason not to give him a chance at the major league level. It's aggressive, but he's clearly a special prospect. If anything, he's shown himself to be better than Kevin thought.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    AA is a given for Bryant, and I think the only thing keeping him and Baez off the major league team right now is seeing how their defense will hold up. Pujols was only 20, but Bryant's numbers at the same level are just blowing Albert's away. When you consider what Trout, Harper, and Puig meant to their teams when they were promoted, I don't see where it's a stretch to have Bryant and/or Baez playing in Chicago next July. I wouldn't mind if it were sooner.

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    In reply to Paulson:

    Pujols and Jose Fernandez are examples of where a quick promotion worked. But this is a very conservative front office and Bryant still has things to learn. Theo's history suggests he would like Bryant to learn them in the minors rather than in the majors.

    And Baez -- you're being wildly optimistic. He still has things to learn. he'll start next year in AAA and pitchers will use his aggression against him by setting him up for their pitch. he has to learn to deal with that. I think he will, but he would likely be a disaster on the major league roster to start the year.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    More of a disaster than Darwin Barney with a bat in his hands? I doubt it.

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    In reply to TheMightyGin:

    Remember what Jon Garland did to him last spring training? Imagine a steady diet of that.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    No, but I really don't care. So a veteran big leaguer embarrassed him once or a few times last spring when he'd never had a AA at bat or even A+. So what? I'm thinking he could OPS .750 right now. Huge improvement over Barney.

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    In reply to TheMightyGin:

    I think he'd be lucky to hit over .200. He's very vulnerable to pitchers who know how to set up a hitter -- we call those major league pitchers. He needs development time -- this is the negative to taking raw talent.

  • If healthy, I look for Soler, Almora and Vogelbomb to make big leaps forward this year. On the pitching side, this is the year we see what we have with Pierce Johnson, Blackburn and Edwards.

  • Re:Tanaka, though it's been discussed ad nauseum , here and elsewhere, it would be such an important move for this organization for the following reasons.
    1. First off, estabilishes Ricketts' credibility as an owner who will spend for the RIGHT player at the right time.
    2. Secondly, it gives them a great deal of flexibility & comfort , in terms of how they deal with the possible Shark trade scenarios. A rotation of Tanaka, Wood, EJax, Arrieta, ML-ready arm acquired in Shark trade looks pretty interesting.
    3. Takes a ton of pressure off SP prospects in our system who, quite frankly, aren't close to ready and aren't of the caliber that many fans expect/hope they'll be.

    All that being said, I still suspect we're gonna get smoked by Yanks here. Though, blind auction works to our advantage here , as we're currently a less attractive destination than some of the other teams likely to be in the mix(NYY,TEX,LAD, BOS). If mgmt decides to go buck wild, they should get their guy.

  • Absolutely start Bryant at AA. If he fails, send him down, but I don't think he will fail. In fact, I expect to see him on the big league team sometime in 2014.

  • Great work again john. Loved the rogers article also.

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    Ken Rosenthal: Sources: Hinch, Renteria will get second interviews with #Cubs. Wedge interview will be Tuesday. Cubs already have spoken to him by phone.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    So Manny isn't getting a second Acta?

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Woohoo! I'm okay with that. No Martinez, but no Acta. But I'm thrilled about Hinch and I'd be fine with Renteria.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Too bad we can't have Hinch as Manager & Renteria as bench coach

  • Great Theo quote in the Rogers article.

    "The Cubs are coming," he said. "And coming fast."

  • Love the idea of seeing Bryant and Baez at some point next year. I think next year will be the last year we don't really expect to contend for the next decade or more. Sure they'll be down years. But I think starting in 2015, we should consistently contend for playoffs every year.

  • In reply to ddbennett34:

    I see Baez as an after the all-star break callup, providing hes doing at 3a what he did at 2a last year. I dont see why he cant, the PCL is a hitters dream league. I mentioned once before Paul Goldschmidt , who 3 years ago had Baez-like numbers in half-season at 2a and is now a top 5 MVP candidate at the big league level. I see Baez and Bryant as having similair potential to Goldschmidt, and in the same lineup.

  • In reply to ddbennett34:

    Everyone talks about our big 4 and that the system is lacking arms, but we have some serious competition on the horizon for bullpen spots next season. After Strop, Russell, and Parker you have to believe that Rosscup, Lim, Grimm, Dolis, and Cabrera will be duking it out with Guerrier... after that Fujikawa and maybe Vizcaino when they return. And I wouldn't doubt if guys like Armando Rivero, Brian Schlitter, or (here's a name nobody brings up) Dayan Diaz come up to give us some innings. Of course there's no way we put that many guys on the 40 man roster but there's a ton of talent waiting in the wings, and they're not even the top names like Edwards, Johnson, or Hendricks.

  • In reply to Paulson:

    Isn't Guerrier a FA?

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    Yeah, but my guess is he'll come back to the Cubs.

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    Hinch initially seemed like a good candidate to me, but then Kaplan and his sources started shredding him, which gave me pause. It does seem like this is the right time to take a gamble, however.

    What the Cubs need most, in my opinion, is a taskmaster who doesn't coddle young players (tough love) and a sabermetrics guy. From my perspective, the Cubs have hired too many old school managers who didn't hold the players accountable on a daily basis or did so in a passive-aggressive way (i.e., through the media). Of course, we don't know for sure went on behind closed doors.

    I agree that things like having a bilingual manager and someone with player development experience are important, but if the focus is too centered on one area it could come back to bite the FO.

  • I liked Hinch and especially liked the concept of him being promoted to replace McLeod (when he's lured away for a GM job) if he doesn't win them over as manager. I think that mitigates the "risk".

    Kind of surprised that he and Renteria (or anyone from the first 4) are considered finalists because of the way they're dragging this out and still adding candidates to the list....

  • Loving the development of our big 4...

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    It really couldn't have gone much better, up to this point. Sure, Soler and Almora have missed some time, but all 4 have performed at every level they have seen! The holes each has in their game seem manageable. The optimistic timeline would have all 4 in Chicago by 2015! I never would have bet on that at this time last year.

  • BTW, does anyone see comps between Kyle Hendricks and one Greg Maddux? In terms of stuff and command, I do. Be nice if the results were similiar.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    In terms of pitchability Hendricks seems to compare pretty favorably. Stranding guys, throwing strikes, missing a few bats. Hopefully for his sake he gets an opportunity to be in a major league rotation before he's 25. Hendricks really seems like the kind of pitcher who will hone his craft as he matures and have a significantly better career than his estimated ceiling.

  • That's a tad aggressive. Let's shoot for '10-'11 version of Shaun Marcum- great fastball command-if not great velo- and a killer change.

  • At this point Hendricks actually has better stuff than The Professor had in the minors. And like Maddux his numbers across all levels has been amazingly consistent. If he turned out to be even a solid #3 starter it would be huge for the Cubs.

  • In reply to Paulson:

    Did you actually watch Maddux when he was 22-23? He had very good stuff? Threw low-90s with great movement. He actually had a very good deuce which he essentially abandoned when he developed the ridiculous command of his fastball & change. I think he viewed the curveball as unnecessary stress on his arm. His stuff was pretty filthy when he was young.

  • In reply to Paulson:

    Maddux was definitely one of those fairly rare pitchers who's stuff actually gets better with age. I would add though that Maddux was a full time major leaguer at age 21 so his stuff didn't get as much refinement before he was thrown into the fire as Hendricks will have.

  • Enjoyed reading the stuff about Hinch. Love him as a candidate. Also love that Parks mentioned playing experience. In my view, the only reason any team, not just the Cubs should hire a guy who's a non big-leaguer is if he blows every other candidate away. He'd have to be an absolute clear cut choice. Clearly Acta hasn't blown anybody's doors off or he'd have been hired already. Any clubhouse/leadership concerns most likely stem from that. I actually see Acta as the most dangerous choice and view Hinch less as a sleeper, skewing much more towards ideal.

  • In reply to Ben20:

    Stuff from Parks is outstanding. He's seen him at work a lot and is obviously very well connected.

    I think Acta, like it or not, may have to try being a bench coach again to gain people's trust.

    Anyway, I'm glad one of my two favorites were taken.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Agreed!

  • In reply to Ben20:

    There are leadership concerns with Hinch and if he can control a clubhouse. I would go with s guy that has been in the clubhouse for the last 3 yrs not a FO.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Certainly a ding on him. Hopefully those concerns are simply due to him "following the beloved Bob Melvin" as was mentioned in the article. Ultimately, whether or not a guy can control a clubhouse is pretty much concern #1 for any candidate in any managerial search. That's a pretty ambiguous concern. I'm sure they're doing their homework on that.

  • In reply to Ben20:

    BTW I would go with the "ready to manage" guy straight out of the winning dugout in Lovullo first. They ultimately have to like a couple of guys in case their first choice takes another job. Like if Lovullo really kills it in the interview and they want him, but the Tigers do as well, they might not land their guy.

  • In reply to Ben20:

    I agree. My list starts Lovullo, Renteria then Wedge. To me Hinch is a great baseball mind and out standing evaluator but it doesn't make him a manager. I think with a veteran presence in the clubhouse I may feel better with Hinch, but there isn't. Hinch lost the clubhouse in less then a year in AZ. That scares me to death and the can say Bob Melvin all they want his record show he had lost that club house.

  • I liked when Pinella said that the team needed "swagger". We see that w/ the Red Sox and Cardinals. That "swagger" is the idea that you can always come back.

    I absolute love how Pedroia goes flying off the field when the inning is over. He is like an anxious kid awaiting his next big at bat.

    I wish we had 9 Dustin Pedroia's. I loved reading about how the Boston ballclub talks baseball day in and day out. We need gamers here.

  • Sounds like Hinch is the guy, from the quotes in the article. I like the idea of methodical brains in the lead, willing to adjust to reality and trust the fundamental wonks who are the bench coaches. As long as those coaches (and players) respect him that is the recipe for success.

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