Cubs moving toward fielding a younger, more athletic team

Cubs moving toward fielding a younger, more athletic team
Travis Wood's all-around athleticism is an asset for the Cubs

We are all quite aware the Cubs would like to improve their pitching and their OBP numbers.  In today's market, that is easier said than done.  Pitching has always been a valued commodity and OBP is no longer the  market inefficiency it was during the Moneyball days.  Yes, OBP still is and always will be very important, but the problem is that just about everyone knows that now.  You can't just find a David Ortiz or even a Chris Denorfia laying around on the scrap heap anymore.  The current top position player on the market is Shin-Soo Choo, who is highly valued and will be highly compensated, but it's not for the traditional reasons -- he doesn't have the power to hit 30 HRs, the speed to steal 30 bases, or the ability to win batting titles or even win a Gold Glove.  He's highly valued for one primary reason:  He gets on base at an absurdly high rate.  In fact, his value is so high that he felt confident enough to rejected a reported 7 year, $140M offer.

So much for that market inefficiency.

In absence of being able to easily and cheaply find the OBP commodity on the open market, the focus has to turn inward.  The Cubs have to develop those kinds of players in house.  Players like Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Arismendy Alcantara, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, Jeimer Candelario, Dan Vogelbach, and Mike Olt all have the potential to provide OBP skills at cost-controlled rates over the next 5-10 years.  It's something the Cubs haven't seen in their system since the days of Mark Grace, Rafael Palmeiro, and...Jerome Walton and Dwight Smith.  I mention the last two to point out that not everyone will work out long term, but at least the right idea was in place.  We remember Walton for his rookie year and 30 game winning streak, but few are aware that Walton walked 91 times and put up a .452 OBP in Class A ball just two years prior to that MLB debut.

I think  most -- if not all -- of you knew that increasing the Cubs OBP skills was and will always be a big part of the plan, so I don't think we need to rehash that again.

But I also think the Cubs are moving in a positive direction on another front -- increasing the overall speed and athleticism of the team.   A sort of negative connotation has developed when we say "athletic" or "toolsy" since those Moneyball days when Billy Beane eschewed such players for lumbering, somewhat un-athletic guys who were cheap but could get on base.  He was right and still is to some degree.  That was a time when athleticism was way overvalued, to the point where teams believed they could take raw athletes and turn them into ballplayers.  Many of you may remember former Cubs "phenom" Earl Cunningham, who was faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive -- and completely unable to hit a breaking ball.  You can't really be baseball's Superman if just about every professional pitcher possesses the kryptonite to render you powerless.  So...so much for that.

But I'm not talking about that kind of athlete.  I'm talking about baseball athleticism.  That is the direction the game is moving and even Beane knows this, having acquired athletic players like Coco Crisp, Yoennis Cespedes and Josh Reddick in the last couple of years.  The good news is that the Cubs are ahead of the curve when it comes to acquiring those kinds of players, though most of them are still a couple of years away. There is plenty of baseball athleticism in their system -- and many of them are the same prospects we mentioned earlier.

Albert Almora is one player I would describe as having great baseball athleticism.  He may have average speed, but his ability to read the bat off the ball makes him an outstanding defender with great range.  He doesn't possess a Junior Lake like bazooka for an arm but a quick release and great accuracy make that arm a legit weapon for him.  He is not physically imposing but outstanding timing, hand-eye coordination and a fluid swing with good plane allow him to make hard contact consistently.

But it's not just Almora.

Alcantara's speed, instincts, and ability to read pitchers makes him a more efficient base stealer  than his raw speed would indicate-- and he has the pitch recognition skills to take pitches and get on base to utilize that weapon.  Javier Baez's tremendously quick hands and wrists give him as much in-game power as the mighty Cunningham could only show in batting practice.

We could go on, of course, but I think you get the idea by now.  Athleticism in baseball is more complicated than just raw strength and speed.  It also involves a high level of kinesthetic intelligence, timing, hand-eye coordination, and more nuanced natural abilities and strengths.  It also takes players who are willing to devote a lot of time, focus, and effort transforming tools into baseball skills -- and the staff to guide them there.

So while the Cubs have focused on developing a better approach, they've also been focused on taking better athletes.  Rather than focus on specific positions, they are focusing on just getting the best athlete with the best approach to the game.  At times it seems, this seems like it has resulted in a glut of infielders and CF'ers -- but the other thing you get with good baseball athleticism is versatility and as you move from the center of the field to the corners, the infield to the outfield, and from the infield to catcher, you not only fill organizational needs, but you increase the value of that player's athleticism.

Kris Bryant may not be a top shelf athlete as a 3B, but if you have to move him, his solid speed and strong arm potentially make him a very good corner outfielder.  Baez may not be as fluid at SS as Francisco Lindor, but put those same abilities at 3B and you have yourself an above average athlete at the position.  Arismendy Alcantara may not have the footwork to play SS, but his quickness, range, and arm are all plus assets at 2B.   Further down the ladder, the Cubs are moving Mark Malave, who was athletic enough to have played every infield position, to catcher where he is an above average athlete.  Wilson Contreras went from a 3B and outfielder with average to above average athletic skills to a catcher with great athletic skills.  We have already seen how Welington Castillo's athleticism as a former infielder translates into his tremendous agility behind the plate, making him among the best in the game at blocking pitches.

What the Cubs may wind up with is a team that has athletes all over the field, which can help their range and overall defense as well as their ability to occasionally take an extra base and creating runs where a slower team may run station to station and require that one extra hit to score, better base-running could help the Cubs score more efficiently.  Athleticism even extends to the pitchers, not just because they have to bat and run the bases in the NL, but it also helps when it comes to things such as repeating their delivery and developing consistent command.

So while I'm not into creating future lineups, this does make me think of what the most baseball specific athletic lineup the team could put together with the current players in the organization.

So here goes...

  1. Arismendy Alcantra, 2B
  2. Albert Almora, CF
  3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  4. Kris Bryant, RF
  5. Javier Baez, 3B
  6. Jorge Soler, LF
  7. Starlin Castro, SS
  8. Welington Castillo, C

Bench: Junior Lake, Logan Watkins, Mike Olt, Willson Contreras, Marco Hernandez -- all players who could play multiple positions.

Rotation

  1. Jeff Samardzija
  2. Pierce Johnson
  3. C.J. Edwards
  4. Travis Wood
  5. Edwin Jackson/Paul Blackburn

I'm not even going to get into the athletic guys that could wind up in the bullpen because there are so, so many,  but guys like Dillon Maples, Arodys Vizcaino, and Duane Underwood would probably top the list.

Combined with a good approach, good baseball-specific athleticism is rapidly becoming a more valuable commodity in today's game.  It affords the team flexibility and the ability to create and save runs efficiently on the bases, at the plate, on the mound, and in the field.

And it won't be long before you see these kinds of players all over the Cubs roster.

 

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  • Hi John, have not commented for some time, but check in everyday. In a nut shell, Cubs are gathering good baseball players. In addition players that are athlectic enough to travel around the diamond if needed. Got to love the Cubs!

  • In reply to Wild Bill:

    That's it in a nutshell. Athletic players with good approaches and good makeup. I like where this team is headed.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Great article John, I watched Jerome Walton come thru "A" ball here with Grace, Maddux, Palmeiro and quite a few others in the mid 80's. Out of that cast of characters everyone agreed Walton was the can't miss prospect, goes to show you never know who's game is going to play in the Big Leagues.

  • In reply to peoria cubfan:

    Thanks. I went to Bradley at the time Walton was there so I caught quite a few Peoria games back then -- and he was my favorite player from that 1987 team.

  • In reply to peoria cubfan:

    I got to watch a lot of those guys too. Lived about a 5 minute walk away from old Meinen Field.

  • Wow, I'd never have guessed that Walton walked that much in the minors ... what caused him to lose that skill in the majors? I remember in his ROY '89 season he exhibited little power and rarely walked.

  • In reply to Jim Hickman:

    Yep, he had something like a 5% walk rate in his rookie year. One explanation would be that they rushed him. He was in low Class A in 1987 and in the majors by 1989 without having played a season at high class A or AAA

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That's exactly what happened, that's why I admire this FO for taking it's time and fully developing players before moving them along.

  • I've read in more than one place they have the best top 4 prospects
    (not pitchers) in the minors. By Aug. 1 we should start seeing some
    of these guys. I hope they don't bring them up to soon.

  • One of (the many) things I've always loved about Baez is he is a very efficient base stealer. He's fast enough, though he won't win many foot races; but he is very efficient at it and likely profiles as a 20+ SB guy with a few peak years @ 25-30+

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Johnny Bench-I seem to remember he had a very high sucess rate for stealing bases, even if it was only about 10-15 per year. If i remember correctly, he had 2 seasons where he was 13-13 in SBs. Shows you what a good baserunner he really was.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    I remember JB saying he stole on the infielders. He felt if he couldbeat the infielders to 2nd base he'd go. At least thats what I think I remember.

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I think his SB totals will have a lot to do with where he hits in the order. He certainly is fast enough to be an opportunistic base stealer.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    I think that's how I would describe Baez for the future -- an opportunistic base stealer. Could maybe say the same about a lot of these guys: Almora, Soler, Bryant, and Castro would be better off if he tried to pick his spots better. He's not as fast as people seem to think.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Opportunistic is a good description. I've had the chance to see a lot of his games (HS, Daytona, and TEN @ JAX). He is excellent at reading and anticipating the pitchers first move. So in a sense, he creates a lot of his SB opportunities.

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    Excellen article! That was one of the more enjoyable reads I've had on here. I agree completely with the new philosophy and am very encouraged by the trends we're seeing. Great athletes also give you realistic options both on and off the bump too. It's a total win-win IMO.

  • In reply to Andrue Weber:

    Thanks Andrue!

  • John, this is a brilliant analysis. You've said what I believe better than I can. I bow to you.

  • In reply to tommy:

    Thanks Tommy. Appreciate the kind words.

  • I think the point about being athletic is extremely important.

    Take the case of Daric Barton of the A's. Had a year where he had 110 walks. However, despite this, he only scored something like 70 runs.

    Other than those walks, he had decent doubles numbers, and really low homerun totals.

    Thus, an example of a guy who can walk, but is clearly not athletic. If you look at Daric's numbers for his best season, what are you really getting?

    The walks look flashy and nice, but what did he really provide if people can't knock him in or if he is too slow to make it to home plate?

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    Barton was used incorrectly. He should have been hitting leadoff with his OBP numbers. Of course, the problem with those As teams he was on is nobody drove anyone in.

  • I will amend quickly and say that he certainly "worked" pitchers more, which could have helped, turned the lineup over, yada. Which is why I think John noted that "Billy might not be wrong" in using the slow high OBP guys.

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    I think there's value in guys who get on base even if they don't possess great athleticism, but just better if you can have both. I think athleticism has become a dirty word for some because people think of the Earl Cunninghams (or even the Junior Lakes) and assume that just because they are athletic, they cannot have a good approach. I also think there is too specific a definition of athleticism that exists out there. People equate that strictly with speed and strength but that limited scope of athleticism is not what I'm talking about. That won't cut it in baseball.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree. It's a lot like how people see me and just because I'm incredibly good looking they assume I'm not also very, very smart.

  • In reply to supertecmo:

    That's the burden you have to bear.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    It also didn't help that Cunningham put on about 30 pounds the last year of high school, and added about 50 pounds to that his first pro year. His athleticism was a thing of the past by the time he hit 20.

  • Exactly why I am liking the direction this club is going.

    When was the last time you could envision a Cubs lineup (c~2017) featuring a couple of guys who could concievably steal 20+ bases (Alcantra, Almora, and possily Beaz), and who could concievably hit 20-25+ HR with regularity (Baez, Bryant, Rizzo, Soler), with OBPs higher than 0.320 for many of those guys.

    AND trot out a rotation and bullpen and defese that can keep other teams low enough score-wise to very beatable levels?

    The teams built around a projected rotation of Pryor/Wood/Clement/Zambrano back a decade or so ago would have been jelous for that kind of offense to back it up.

  • Good to hear you use the term athletic baseball players, John. Think about this, Dion Sanders might have been one of the greatest athletes of his generation, but he was not a top-shelf baseball players. Larry Bird or Magic Johnson werent great athletes, just great basketball players. The Cubs seem to be moving towards that mentality of athletic players who happen to be good baseball players.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Yes, thanks for taking note of that. I definitely wanted to make that distinction because I think people get nervous when you mention athleticism with baseball. I wonder if some looked at this headline and thought the worst (which I embodied with the Earl Cunningham example).

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    And Carmen Fanzone.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Magic Johnson was 6'8", 220 lbs and could run and jump like a gazelle, I'd say that's pretty athletic.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    True - But Larry Bird was primarily a gym-rat. Not fast. No real vertical jump. Not overwhelmingly tall or bulky. Just out-practiced and out-worked everybody else.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Oh, I agree 110% on Bird, he is a great example.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Of course when you have an athletic player like Jordan who was willing to work just as hard, you get an even better player :)

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That's the Holy Grail. Jordan's drive was unequaled, he is probably the most competitive person on earth, combine that with his natural talent & athleticism and it made for a deadly combination. The best ever in my opinion...but that's another blog.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Agreed - Jordan was fun to watch. And he worked harder than just about anybody on top of his ability. Although I remain a bigger fan of Pippen overall.

    All of the things that Pippen did, especially in combo with Horace Grant or with Dennis Rodman (depending on which 3-pete) made it possible for Jordan to focus on being Jordan.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    Magic, by his own admittion, was not a jumper.

  • In reply to Oneear:

    The average NBA vertical leap is 28" - Magic Johnson's vertical jump was 30" which compared to leapers like Jordan (48") or even Kobe (38") is not great but it's still above average in the NBA which has some of the best verticals in the world. Magic was also pretty damn fast and agile, and for his size he was off the charts. So if you want to believe that Magic wasn't a good athlete, than that's fine, I don't want to keep going back and forth about this as this isn't a basketball blog.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    Actually Magic as great as a player he was was not very fast. As an athlete he was closer to Larry Bird.

  • In reply to kansascub:

    Is that your opinion?

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    pretty much everyone but you. Don't get me wrong Magic was a GREAT player. Like you said not a basketball blog/

  • In reply to kansascub:

    LOL! My point was that if you want to disagree on a subject how about adding something to the discussion to back it up such as a reference or a data point...otherwise opinions are like elbows, everyone's got two. However if it makes you feel any better, I will concede that Magic Johnson was the slow, athletically challenged player that say he is was and only managed to overcome and rise to strardom through sheer will & determination... it's like basketball's version of Rudy.

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    In reply to kansascub:

    Johnson was a 6'9" point guard, running a fast-paced NBA offense, that could guard 4 positions...to describe him as unathletic seems pretty ridiculous to me.

  • In reply to Matt McNear:

    Any one who plays in the NBA has to be a good athlete even Larry Bird. What made Magic and Bird so great was their uncanny court awareness and basketball smarts. I don't have any data points to add just what I remember being said about these guys when they played.. Magic was always one or two moves ahead of everyone else.

  • John: This could be your best!!!! I think that alot of the athleticism, also goes with your mental aspects/toughness of the game. You need that to win ! We are also gaining in that issue also. Merry Christmas to all the DEN COMMENTATORS.

    KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK CUBS DEN STAFF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • In reply to Cubs26:

    Thanks Cubs26! Appreciate the kind words and Merry Christmas to you as well.

  • In reply to Cubs26:

    Agreed. I have total faith in the Cubs front office in building a long term winning franchise.

    I believe they are making smart choices based on a well thought out plan. They need some type of plan to keep a long term quality product on the field.

    Posts like this are a relief versus the usual negative dissatisfaction I read daily.

    Losing sucks, but having a bright future doesn't.

    Keep up the good work John!

  • Great stuff, John! Since athletic players are almost always plus defenders, is there any chance a piece on defense is on the horizon?

  • In reply to Ben20:

    Thanks Ben. I will probably write something up like that. Would probably focus more on the current team because there's more data.

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    I think you could even make a B list of guys that will end up in the majors. Andreoli, Szczur and Villanueva come to mind. Maybe if Villaneuva took a few more walks.

  • In reply to Colin Benson:

    I think both Andreoli and Szczur could be useful players. Villaneuva has to start to stick because so much value comes from his 3B defense.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    So if Villanueva doesn't earn the starting job the Cubs should trade him to get full value out of him?

    I had a question for you John, after reading a bunch of scouting reports on Villanueva, a few of them said that he had the abilty to play a very good 2nd base and 1 report even said SS.

    Any chance CV could make the switch to 2nd base, where his size (5'10") and his power 41 doubles, 2 triples, 19 homers in AAA would play much better?

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    last part should be AA

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    From what I've seen of him, no. IDK how to say it, he seems "squat heavy". Not fat, but not particularly nimble or agile enough to play the middle infield. He could play it in a pinch perhaps, but you're getting the kind of range we have with Castro/Barney from him.

    He can be a plus (possibly GG caliber) defender at 3B though.

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    oh and Zeke DeVoss, his speed+OBP is just ridiculous.

  • In reply to Colin Benson:

    Yes, he's a player I like and I think he has a shot at being an interesting player if he can hit enough to supplement the walks. It's all about the hit tool with him because if he doesn't show he can hit, he's going to find MLB pitchers can hit the strike zone with far more frequency and with far better stuff than they do in Class A.

  • John A. finally got over not having Tanaka....was not on the list above.....but Samardzija should be removed and in his place, add three Blue Jay prospects.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    The Cubs don't have Tanaka. Also, read the commenting policy. Don't troll.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Where's the "like" button on this thing?

  • I love this article's distinction between baseball athleticism and the rawly athletic 5-tool player Hendry kept drafting. (As if finding the next rare Willie Mays or Griffey Jr was just a matter of volume drafting.) This distinction shows the evolution position player evaluation toward something more sophisticated and applicable to baseball. Perhaps some day the same thing will happen with pitching, and today's obsession with raw "power arms" gets replaced with a finer appreciation for also drafting advanced command and mound craft.

  • In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    Thanks. I think a combination is always ideal, which is why Pierce Johnson and Paul Blackburn are such good prospects. They have athleticism, power, and they have that feel for pitching.

  • And then there's Daniel Vogelbach.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    Now he would have fit the original Moneyball profile perfectly -- well, except for the part where he got that $2.5M bonus. A's probably would rather have drafted him if it was in the 2nd round out of college.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    In fairness to Vogs, if he can hit with power, patience and contact, his defense (or lack thereof) simply won't matter.

  • In reply to JasonB:

    Definitely, I'm just saying he would have been a steal in the Moneyball era because people would have passed him over because of his body shape.

  • Nice read.
    One of the guys who really impressed me with OBP last year is Vogelbach. I'm thinking he could put up some big numbers next year. I'm hoping he gives the Cubs FO a tough decision in a couple years.

  • In reply to couch:

    Thanks. Vogelbach has a nice approach and some good raw power. Learned to become a better hitter last year which brought his power numbers down, but might pay off in 2014.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Is there really much of a chance that Vogelbach plays for the Cubs in the majors? Unless something happens to Rizzo or the NL picks up the DH, I don't see it happening.

  • In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    It could happen - if he pans out, and if the NL doesn't have a DH by then, the FO can always opt to trade Rizzo and keep Vogs. Depends on what Rizzo could bring back.

    I think this FO can be flexible.

    Plus, Rizzo isn't exactly a slam dunk yet either

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    In reply to JasonB:

    I think some of it has to do with the state of the team too. Assuming both are doing well, I think if the Cubs are in contention, Vogey gets traded for MLB help. If the Cubs are looking up and under .500, Rizzo may be dealt for prospects. I'm hoping for scenario A.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Certainly - when the time comes, I think guys like Vogey and Candelerio will be the first minor leaguers that the FO ultimately trades for win now pieces.

  • In reply to JasonB:

    Could probably put Villanueva in that camp as well.

  • John: I realize your article centered around younger, athletic players in our organization, but something I was thinking about last night before your article really jumped out at me once I read your lineup-the lack of lefty bats. Big deal-not to some, but the sense I've gotten is that the FO would like to add another impact lefty bat for the middle of the lineup. Could it ultimately be Volgelbopper? Perhaps, but looking at this makes me wonder about the long term status of a few righty bats-specifically Soler and Castro. I think Renteria will prove to be a very positive addition for Castro's turnaround; and if it's me-what is the harm in letting Castro get back to being Castro in 2014-especially on a team that is not likely to contend. Perhaps Castro will even develop more of the specific traits the FO is looking for-but at the very least if he gets back to being comfortable and producing like he is capable of-he will look very attractive to numerous teams this time next year. Sorry to take this on a tangent, but I'm looking forward to seeing how this plays out over the next 12 months or so!

  • In reply to Upstate NY Cubs Fan:

    No worries on the tangent. It's a legit question and yes, definitely an article for another day. I think the organization will address it at some point through trade or free agency. Vogelbach would be ideal if you could play anywhere except 1B but he really just can't. It's not for lack of effort, he just lacks the athleticism to play anywhere but first. Perhaps if the DH ever comes to the NL.

    Castro is one spot but lefty-hitting SS (and at 3B if you move Baez to SS) is not easy to find. Of course, I suppose you could try to trade Castro and/or Soler for a lefty hitting outfielder. I think the Cubs will add at least one lefty to the mix at some point.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Great article, John. The only way I would address the righty heavy projected lineup is to find another team who has the opposite situation, even though it's way too soon to even consider that, IMO. And, I rather doubt any of us would be willing to trade Bryant or Baez for anybody straight up. But let's say somebody (or two teams) has two of their own "can't miss" outfielders that hit from the left side. Would we move Almora and Soler for them? Even at that, however, we would have to be very careful in that I'm thinking righty hitters do better against righty pitchers than do lefty hitters vs. lefty pitchers, generally speaking. Someone correct me if I'm wrong about that. If we did indeed make a move like that, we'd then have 4 and 4 in the lineup (projected, of course), assuming Alcantara is @ 2nd and Baez is @ 3rd. And we'd still have 5 righties and 3 lefties vs. lefty pitching. That 4 and 4 would be a menace to right handed pitchers.

  • In reply to cubs1969:

    Thanks. I'm sure it gets addressed. I wrote that lineup/roster as an example of the kind of team the Cubs could have in terms of athleticism but I don't think that is their future lineup. I'm pretty sure they'll make trades.

  • True story: when my uncle, a fellow Cub fan, watched the Clint Eastwood/Amy Adams (yum) movie "Trouble With The Curve" last year, he only half-jokingly asked me: "Was that a true adaptation of the Cubs' experience with Ryan Harvey?"

    I suppose if you turn back the clock a decade and a half, Earl Cunningham fits the bill too. Man, that was a bad pick.

  • In reply to notcarlosdanger:

    I actually thought about using Ryan Harvey too but eventually went with Cunningham because I remember them talking about his 40 yard speed and ability to hit 500 foot HRs -- in batting practice, of course.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Interesting article: who were the five worst first round picks in Cubs history? It would be surprisingly hard to pick just five.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I think I wrote an article like that a long, long time ago.

  • In reply to notcarlosdanger:

    Being a cubbie lifer, when i watched that movie i couldn't help but think the Braves always catch all the breaks. They whiff on a big time draft pick, and end up finding a diamond in the rough. If it were the cubs that pitchers arm woulda fallen off first pitch.

  • It takes more then being a good athlete to play this game.

    You need a good baseball mind & instincts, leadership skills, and a desire to win.

    I rather take my points over any player who just is a good athlete.

    Baseball Brains wins over Baseball muscle any day.

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    In reply to CubsTalk:

    Did you even read the article?

  • In reply to Matt McNear:

    Took the words right out of my mouth...or off my fingertips, as it were.

  • In reply to Matt McNear:

    lol why read the article when you already know all the answers.

  • John looking at the projected lineup really gives us something to look forward to. Good combination of speed power and defense. Little RH heavy any chance to sign M Bradley.(KIDDING). Great article. keep it up.

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    I'm not sure what happened, but Patrick Mooney has gone from being one of the bigger optimists about the Cubs future to subtly -- or not so subtly -- pessimistic:

    https://twitter.com/CSNMooney/status/414181987495067648

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    That has caught my eye of late as well. Mooney had been one of the bright spots in Cubs journalism.

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    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    You know, I'm not even sure I want to criticize the journalism here. The change was so sudden it makes me wonder if he heard something from an impeccable source (like Jason McLeod or Jaron Madison impeccable) that made him re-evaluate his position.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    He has a bit of a different tone since the Boras comments. It's still quality stuff but I have noticed he's not buying into the rebuild as much. I think I am going to be the last holdout.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Don't worry John. I didn't buy season tickets for the first time thinking the rebuild wasn't going to work.

    To use a phrase I am getting sick of "I'm all in".

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Cool..and congrats. I will clarify my statement and say that it will be the Cubs Den community that will be the last hold outs.

  • "People equate that strictly with speed and strength but that limited scope of athleticism is not what I'm talking about. That won't cut it in baseball."

    Which is why baseball is a sport and everything else is just a game.
    ;-)

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    In reply to GAHillbilly:

    Hilly, you are one of my favorite posters of all time.

    In other sports, the stars usually look like athletes. Some look like freaks. Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Walter Payton, Brandon Marshall, etc. If "random person" didn't know who they were, they'd say, "Sure, they look like great athletes."

    But if someone showed you a photo of Babe Ruth, Greg Maddux, etc and said they were Hall of Fame athletes, they'd laugh. Or if someone said Terry Forster and John Kruk were all stars, the response might be, "What sport, bowling?"

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Kruk,.... classic 'beer builds better body' baseball shape,....

    Also - as an addendum (and for Cubs fans of my formative era),..... See Rick Reuschel. The more lopsided that man looked,... the better he pitched.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Reuschel was an athlete. He fielded his position we'll and could also hit. He sure didn't look athletic though!

  • If Castro returns to form enough for the Cubs to move Baez to third, then he is hitting 7th, this team will be scary.

    I am guessing this is a 2016 team at the earliest, so we would be talking about signing Samardzjia to a longterm deal. What would that look like for a 31 year old? I guess we could go pretty high considering the rest of the team would be still working off of their early contracts.

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    In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    I think if Olt does well, Baez moves to 2B and Bryant goes to right. He may later move to left to make room for Soler. Either way, good problems to have, right?

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    The good thing about a kick ass farm system from triple a to rookie league will be the flexibility for FO bring in a championship caliber team year in, year out. They could trade the veterans who are in declining stages or overpriced to open up a spot for the hot shot rookies or turn around and trade a handful of prospect for that one or two players that will bring a World Series ring the year a trade is made. And to have that flexibility year in, year out. I'd rather struggle for the first three years or so so we can develop the farm system and win for 20 or so years! I believe in Epstein and hoyer!

  • In reply to Cubsforlife:

    I think this is exactly right. Big name, expensive free agents are going to be rare. There will be lots of trading.

  • Funny that you mention this, John... I think some players were also victims of the market's inefficiency back then... For example, Hee Seop Choi was a bust, but yet, his career line is .240/.349/.437 and his last line in his last season was .253/.336/.453 with 15 hr's in 368 PA at age 26... In this current market, if he was a FA, that would've led to another MLB job.

    Well, in fact, Paul DePodesta, who used to be an assistant to Billy Beane was the one who suggested to pickup Choi when DePodesta worked for the Dodgers... Then when the Dodgers waived him, Theo Epstein picked him up with Boston and sent him to AAA where he had a down season and that was the end of him.

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    In reply to Caps:

    I like Julio Zuletta too. Reminded me a bit of Tony Clark.

  • In reply to Caps:

    I think Choi was eventually done in due to injury and perhaps some physical shortcomings. Teams eventually learned they could bust him inside because, though he was strong, the bat speed was a bit questionable.

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    John,
    Do you think Brian Schlitter (2.42 ERA, 22 Saves b/t AA/AAA last yr) gets a look for the already crowded bullpen? Could he be a Blake Parker, late-bloomer type? Does he have options and if not, would he clear waivers?

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Marcus Hatley is my Blake Parker. I could be wrong but I don't know if Schlitter's stuff is good enough to be honest and the peripherals weren't special. I think he can possibly help a team, but I see it more as a middle relief guy.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Very good. Thank you, sir.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Haven't heard the name Barrett loux in a while. Where does he fall on the depth chart?

  • In reply to SKMD:

    I'm thinking he could be a middle reliever at this point. Looked good when I was in Iowa, was in the 92-93 range with avg. breaking stuff and solid command.

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    On another note, one minor league free-agent I had hoped the Cubs would pick up was Jake Smolinski, an OF/Jack of all trades. He has since signed with Texas and has been assigned to AA Frisco, at least for now.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Boylan grad!

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    In reply to nmu’catsbball:

    Yes sir! As was former Cubs MiLB pitcher Matt Weber and my son, who, I believe, is about your age and you might know him. In fact, you might know a lot of my former players, because many went to school with you, I think.

  • Since you have Willson Contreras and Marco Hernandez on the list, this lineup won't be for a while. In that timeframe I would also add Jacob Hannemann. He is very athletic, fast, and left handed.

  • In reply to John57:

    Not really a lineup, just how I would fit the best baseball athletes currently in the organization on one roster.

  • John,
    Earlier in the comments when some of the guys were going back and forth on basketball guys and it was mentioned Jordan's athleticism and his competiveness, it made me wonder, we know the players you listed are very athletic, but how competitive are they? Do they have the desire and work ethic to continue to get better on a day today basis? As that guy in Green Bay said, "The will to win is nothing without the will to prepare to win." Hope they have that "it" factor. In your opinion, do they?

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    John, I liked your lineup and rotation, man.
    I feel like at the very least, Alcantara's floor is a utility man. And I agree with the alphabetic start to the lineup. Except, I like 3. Baez 4. Bryant. I like Castro at SS, too. Bryant in RF.
    As for Olt. Even if he wins the job. And he provides great defense and enough pop to warrant a full time role (20 HR/80 RBI)
    I still trade him. There's a surplus at third. A healthy, productive 3B with years of control is a nice piece. It's a nice alternative if we decide to re-sign Samardzija.
    Olt/Russell/Veras at the deadline may bring back that top of the rotation pitcher we need. Especially, if it's a ballclub with a limited window to contend.
    I'm also not penciling in Rizzo. I really like Vogelbach. If he can rake, hit to all fields and provide 35+ bombs. While at least be adequate at first base(that is the main question)...I may consider utilizing RIzzo's team friendly contract and trading him for pitching.
    As unpopular as that may be.
    We have a few good options to acquire a couple more impact pitching prospects.

    I like Tanaka as a Cub. It's a gut feeling. But I still feel like he's a #2-3 on a championship caliber team. We need that real ace.
    1. Unknown Ace 2. Tanaka 3. Edwards 4. Shark 5. Wood
    I've said it a million times, but I like an arm with the #4 pick.
    And I still like Vizcaino/Cabrera in the rotation for 2014-15. I want Arrieta in the rotation. But I feel like he'll be a closer, when we're winning. Or trade bait.
    I'm really excited about the level of talent we've acquired and continue to pursue.

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    And unless Olt is more towards 30 HR a year, I know he wouldn't bring that kind of return. I'm not that crazy!
    And I don't see that in Olt, at all.

  • No only practice, practice, practice, but the right approach

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Agreed.

  • What a great article! A perfect example why this site has become my go-to site for Cubs information since I found it just over a year ago. Really good insight. Thanks, John!

    As I was reading the article, Michael Jordan was the first person that came to my mind as an example of a great athlete. Probably one of the greatest of all time. But even he didn't have enough of the baseball athleticism you're talking about to succeed as a major league ballplayer. It's really good to see this Cubs front office looking to pick up as many of those athletic baseball skills as they can.

    You say "So while the Cubs have focused on developing a better approach, they've also been focused on taking better athletes. Rather than focus on specific positions, they are focusing on just getting the best athlete with the best approach to the game." But what I really like about the current regime is that they're not just gathering good players, they're also focusing on getting the best development people they can find, and putting them in place throughout the minor league system. So maybe more of these athletes will actually be ready to succeed by the time they reach the major leagues. One of the biggest disappointments for me over the years has been how few of the players the Cubs have drafted made it to the major leagues and were successful. Things were much better when Dallas Green was running the show, but before he came and after he left, the Cubs were terrible at developing players. I am much more encouraged about that process now, from what I have seen from this organization over the past couple of years.

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    I think had Jordan not given up baseball at 15, only to resume at 31, he may have been an all-star. If he dedicated his life to baseball, he would have been awesome. After a 16 or so year layoff, he was thrust into AA (not rookie or A ball) and still drove in 51 runs, stole 30 bases and had 6 OF assists. That's incredible, given the circumstances

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    You may be right. Given Jordan's competitive drive, and how hard he worked to be the best, maybe he could have been. I guess we'll never know what kind of hitter he might have been, had he not given up baseball.

  • I think they'd like Olt to be a core piece if he can return to '12 form with the stick. I think they value D & makeup. Although, I think there is some divergence of opinion about his D. John, any thoughts?

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    Absolutely he can. He fits their profile well. He's a good defender though I think it gets exaggerated at times. He does have the tools to be a very good 3B in time. It's all going to depend if he can hit, which is the biggest question mark.

  • Choo to Texas.........will Tanaka follow to join up with Choo & Darvish?

    Texas is all in for Tanaka now.

  • John - Thanks for another great article. The comments about other sports and athletic baseball players reminds me of one of my pet peeves. When I watch Puig play for the Dodgers, I think if he was born 200 miles north, he would be playing for Nick Saban rather than the Dodgers. The best US born athletes are not directed to baseball at a young age. This week in the Chicago area, the local high schools will begin their holiday basketball tournaments. The running and jumping skills of these young athletes is remarkable. But the professional basketball chances are slim for any athlete shorter than 6'03". I wish MLB did more to financially support and encourage these young athletes to play baseball.

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