2014 Cubs Questions

2014 Cubs Questions

Let's do a quick recap of the more popular Cubs questions I've seen posed in various formats. I'll be around all day to answer anything else in the comments as well.

Q. What does Starlin Castro do in 2014?

I don't know, honestly. I know what my heart says. I'm a big time believer in Castro which in a way stems from the traits I see in him as a reflection of what I am. I get inside my own head and over think things too, and sometimes my trepidation in doing something or my attention lapses are seen as #slack. It's an issue we both need to correct for different reasons but I digress.

Castro has real, obvious talent. He's got the type of swing you can hang .330 AVG on. The issue will be the walk percentage. It's pretty well known that the Cubs tried to tinker with his approach and it blew up in their faces real good. Perhaps there are some mechanical issues and he's out of sequence. Maybe he's letting the ball travel too deep into the zone because he's trying to be more selective. Maybe he's been figured out.

There are a lot of maybes and not a lot of answers. I think this is a very important season for Castro. My heart says he breaks out, my head is leaning that way too but I've been led astray when the heart leads before.

Q. Fine, what about Anthony Rizzo?

Oddly enough, I feel very comfortable that he will see an improvement across the line in 2014. The contact issues will always be there but Rizzo had a fairly poor showing in the BABIP category (.258) last year. Some of that is due to shifting but I think there will be a bounce this year. His .189/.282/.342 line against LHP in 2013 is a concern but I have faith in the player. At his peak I think he's a .260/.340/.500 guy. You take that at 1B.

Q. Which prospect comes up first? When will Baez get here?

Mike Olt will, in all likelihood, get the first call. Of the big four, however, my money's on Bryant. I do think they'll play Baez and Bryant together at AAA a lil bit but it feels like Bryant will be up by June.

Baez is an interesting guy. I don't believe in "Can't Miss" but even if I did he's far from that tab. There's a lot of "Miss" potential with Baez. However, what he can do is beyond obvious and hints at a future that's totally irresponsible to project on the kid. I tabbed him as the #unicorn in a joking manner but...the bat speed is real and it's easy to fall in love with Baez.

I think he would benefit from a full year facing pitchers who know how to pitch. There's no rush with him, the Cubs should want to get this one right. I ascribe to the theory that you're aggressive with Pitchers and less so with Hitters as a general rule. I think it applies in this situation.

Q. Will the Cubs get Masahiro Tanaka? Will he be worth the investment?

I don't know if he'll land with the Cubs but I do know they plan on being aggressive with Tanaka. Will he be worth it? I think in the short term he will be but depending on length of contract it might be bad dollars on the back end. Doug Thorburn tackled some of the Tanaka mechanical issues in this post. If you don't have a sub the gist of it is that Tanaka will encounter some consistency issues and his walk rate is likely to shoot up. Thorburn isn't too big on Tanaka.

Q. Will the Cubs contend in 2014?

No, and I'm ok with that.

Filed under: Rebuilding

Tags: 2014, Baseball, Cubs, mlb

Comments

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  • Mauricio, when do you realisticly think Baez will be called up to the show then? July? August? I personally think he should stay the entire year down in triple AAA regardless of how he handles the competition.

  • In reply to JLynch2247:

    September at the earliest. I do think he needs a full year at AAA too. More realistic that he gets called up in 2015 around June/July.

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    In reply to Mauricio Rubio Jr.:

    I'm all for being conservative with these guys, but a year and a half at AAA for a top 10 prospect?! I can't get on board with that.

  • In reply to Matt McNear:

    Agreed. I think we see him in September for sure, if not a bit earlier.

  • In reply to Matt McNear:

    Full year this year and I think they'll want to stash him until he passes his super two date.

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    In reply to Mauricio Rubio Jr.:

    Unless he struggles mightily, or gets Iinjured, there's just no reason for that. He hasn't spent anywhere near a full season at any level, and his numbers improve drastically month to month at each level. You don't "stash" consensus top 10 prospects for a year and half unless they're not producing. A prospect with his ability will be up when his performance dictates it, no later.

  • In reply to Matt McNear:

    Money is the reason for that, Castro is another reason to wait until next year.

    If Castro flops again then the path is quite clear. If he doesn't then they need to figure out where Baez will play.

    There's a very real possibility he does struggle in AAA as well. In my opinion he does need to face those guys a few times through.

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    In reply to Mauricio Rubio Jr.:

    I don't disagree that he needs reps at AAA, but if he continues on the same trend as he has at the lower levels there is no way he's not up by August or September, imo.
    On the other hand, Hoyer has stated the "plan" for Bryant is to keep him in theminors through 2014. They've made no such comments, that I've seen, regarding Baez.

  • In reply to Matt McNear:

    They've expressed an interest in seeing where he could play. There's been talk of him moving around to 2B from them and while it's been unsaid I've talked to talent evaluators and scouts who say he can benefit from staying in AAA a full year. I don't think that's a tragedy at all.

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    In reply to Matt McNear:

    I would think the talk of moving him speaks to him coming up sooner rather than later. It says, to me, they are not waiting to see what happens with Castro. I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on this, but keeping him down, IF he is producing, stunts his development, IMO. I believe he needs 300-400 PAs, but if he keeps the Ks down, he will be up! I really enjoy your work, BTW, thanks and keep it up!

  • In reply to Matt McNear:

    I like strong opinions and this was a good discussion. Thanks man!

  • In reply to Matt McNear:

    oh man it pains me to disagree with my dear friend matt. sorry though, buddy, i am going with mauricio on this. i'd love to see javi win a ML job in spring training in 2015, however i see no reason not to give him a full season at AAA.

    also, if the cubs are doing good with an infield of rizzo, valbuena/murphy at 2b, castro and olt at the end of the year, i am more than ok with keeping javi at iowa for a few more months in 2015 to ensure another year of club control at the major league level.

    i want a decade dominating the central for this team.

    mauricio, you are doing an awesome job on this site by the way

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    In reply to Matt McNear:

    No way, James! You can't move a kid two levels a year and then let him stall out for a year and a half for arb clock purposes. Don't forget, when they stashed Rizzo, it was after he struggled mightily in the bigs the previous year. Javy could play a full year at AAA and still be up in September. Maybe if he struggles after rosters expand they would make a move like that, but no way they keep him in Iowa for 700 PAs just to push his clock back!

  • In reply to Matt McNear:

    heh! you'll probably end up being right!

    side note, i'm already counting the days down until we can go see albert play somewhere here on the west coast!!!

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    In reply to Matt McNear:

    For sure, brother!

  • In reply to Matt McNear:

    I think all the signs are there for a Jorge Soler promotion to the 25 Man Roster once they weed through the potentials in Jackson, Vitters, Ha, Lake and so forth. The FO will do everything in their power to ensure they find out what they have in Olt because they have been watching him for years. He is their kind of hitter Power and onbase at 3B would really give this team stability. So Olt at 3B and Soler first to the Majors from among the Big 4.

  • In reply to notownlikeChicago:

    I disagree with your prediction. My prediction on order of the big 5 coming up is: 1. Olt 2. Baez 3. Bryant 4. Almora 5. Soler With Almora and Soler coming up sometime in 2015. Soler was still not 100% from the shin stress fracture in the Fall league.

  • In reply to John57:

    Olt we agree on ok. Now Soler is already being paid like a Big Leaguer, is on the 40 Man Roster, and he is the oldest of the four. At the latest he will be up by August 1. He will be our Yasiel Puig. They are only getting him accustomed to the environment of Baseball in America. Book It!

  • In reply to notownlikeChicago:

    I hope he's a better driver than Puig.

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    In reply to GAHillbilly:

    Ha! That happened about 30 minutes from my house!

  • In reply to notownlikeChicago:

    This FO doesn't care how old you are, how much you make or anything else for that matter. You get a promotion because you earn it. Period.

    If Soler is healthy and produces like he was before getting hurt, he will rise quickly through the system.

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    In reply to notownlikeChicago:

    I agree Soler will move quickly, when healthy, but I still think Baez gets up first, and Bryant close behind.

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    In reply to JLynch2247:

    I think if he is average (.260-275), he will be a September call up. If he is successful and plays very similar to last year, his call up will be decided by the play of Barney, Wakins, Viluenbrea, Olt, Murphy. Bryant will start at AA, move quickly to AAA and play in August/September call up. I can see Silvi/sczer/Brett Jackson moving up before Bryant if OF is needed due to OF defensive experience.

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    In reply to Cubsforlife:

    I heard Hoyer in a radio interview say that Bryant is the type of player that may skip AAA altogether. I was surprised when I heard that because this FO doesn't usually say such things.

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    In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Interesting

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    In reply to Cubsforlife:

    That is very interesting on Bryant....hmmmmm

    It's certainly true that A+ and AFL didn't present a huge challenge.

    It will be interesting to see where he lands from a defensive standpoint; scouts think he is an ideal RF, and given the plethora of options the Cubs have at 3B, that seems like where he will go

  • In reply to JLynch2247:

    Regardless of how he handles the competition? That's crazy. Every prospect's promotion or demotion is based on exactly that and whether he is meeting the milestones in his development plan. So let's say the Cubs are hovering around .500 on July 1st, and Javier has met the milestones the Cubs set out for him and he has been crushing AAA pitching. You wouldn't want them to bring him up?

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    I am with you on the theory of not rushing hitters as well as calling up pitchers early. Big believer in the TINSTAAPP theory, which is why I am hoping they give Hendricks every opportunity to make the rotation.

  • In reply to Adam Miller:

    Pitchers always be breaking. I want to see Hendricks at some point in 2014 and I'd similarly love it if he replaced Rusin in the rotation. I mean, this might be Hendricks at his best for all we know.

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    In reply to Mauricio Rubio Jr.:

    Exactly. No reason to waste the arm in the minors. Plus, Bosio seems to think he is ready.

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    In reply to Mauricio Rubio Jr.:

    I totally agree with you Mauricio! The cubs are in position to start trying prospect s in the. 4 and 5 spots.

  • I agree like your questions and agree with your answers. Here is another question for you:

    Does Olt make enough of an impact to move Bryant/Baez off 3rd base?

    If he can return to the type of player he was pre-injury and we get Tanaka, I think we are looking at a fun 2015! If we don't have a couple things like that fall our way, I am thinking 2016 (or even 2017) will be the Cubs breakout year. Thank for the great article Mauricio and I can't wait to read all the comments that come from an article like this!

  • In reply to IowaCubbie:

    That's an interesting question. His glove is advanced from what I've heard. If he hits he won't be an impact bat but it'll be enough to carry the glove.

    If they don't have plans on trading Olt and he hits well then 3B is his because he has GG potential from the stuff I've read.

    I want Bryant to be a 3B but we'll see.

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    I do think, however, there are certain position player types that can be rushed. Guys like Buxton, Correa and Almora have advanced feel for the game and it may possibly assist there development to be challenged more. This was certainly the case with Harper, imo.

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    In reply to Adam Miller:

    **their**

  • Mauricio, any feel at what point-dollars will outweigh value for Tanaka & the Cubs pull out of the bidding?

  • In reply to TobaccopouchinIvy:

    Honestly it's a tough read. They say "all in" but we'll only really know once it's all over.

  • Otto is only 26 and should be given a real chance to win the job.
    Rushing hitter up to the majors to soon most of time does not work

  • I think the Cubs pitching is in much better shape than last year, mainly due to the improvement of the bullpen. I don't see how we can do any worse offensively than we did last year, so I think this club can win 75-80 if they play well.

  • In reply to hawk1943:

    80 might be too aggressive but there should be an improvement. hinges a lot on Castro/Rizzo.

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    In reply to Mauricio Rubio Jr.:

    hawk1943 and Mauricio,

    I highly doubt marginal improvements to the bullpen (the least valuable piece to a team) will add 9 to 14 wins.

    I think 70 wins is a fairly realistic goal, though I wouldn't be surprised with another mid 60-win season (barring a Tanaka signing).

  • What are the chances they let Baez/Bryant team up in AAA (when Bryant gets there) and move them up together. I think they would benefit from not being "the man" when they head to wrigley.

  • Pretty high on them pairing up, pretty low (I think) on them moving to the show together. I think Bryant is on a faster track and Baez needs to learn some things still.

  • In reply to Mauricio Rubio Jr.:

    Baez started out poorly last year in both A adv and AA. When he left A adv and when the year ended in AA, he was dominating. He seems to be a quick learner to me. I see him starting the year at AAA and dominating by July and being promoted to the majors.

    June/July is when I am guessing Olt comes up too. He needs some time to get his confidence back up to where it was in 2012.

    Bryant and Alcantara could come up in Sept. when the AAA season ends.

    These are all just my guesses. I could be wrong, it wouldn't be the first time.

  • In reply to John57:

    I think Arismendy is a darkhorse candidate to come up quick as well.

  • In reply to Mauricio Rubio Jr.:

    I am giving him a full year at AAA. Do you think he needs more than a year there? I don't know, you may be right.

  • In reply to John57:

    You know, I would see how he responds to AAA. If he takes, I think he's lower risk to get exposed up at MLB.

  • Arrieta seems like a pretty important question that needs answering this season.

  • In reply to supertecmo:

    I think he'll be a reliever. Very comfortable with being wrong on this.

  • We all want to see the top prospects reach the Cubs as soon as
    possible, but history has shown us that bring them up to soon
    can ruin them

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    K-orey Patterson.

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    In reply to Eddie:

    Eddie, I honestly don't think Patterson's problem was being rushed, I think to this day he still believes he's Ken Griffey Jr. That said, CPat had a rather nice career as a 4th OF'er.

    He had a couple of very good seasons with the Cubs that people seem to forget. In 2003, he posted an .839 OPS with a .298 AVG, 13 HR and 16 SB. The next year Patterson batted .266 with 33 Doubles, 24 HR and 32 SB. I'd be thrilled if one of our current outfielders had a year like that.

    Over all or parts of 12 seasons, Patterson collected 197 Doubles, 118 Home runs, 218 Steals and 48 OF assists.
    CPat catches a lot of crap because he never lived up to the billing, but overall, he had a decent MLB career and was well liked in Baltimore.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Corey's issue was he never improved his glaring weaknesses. He could hit eye-high fastballs at the high school level and never figured out that he couldn't do such as he climbed the ladder. Of course, he came up in a system That didn't seem to have a grasp on development.

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    Bingo! No development. A guy with star potential having "a nice career as a 4th outfielder" is still quite a disappointment in my eyes.

  • In reply to Matt McNear:

    Remember the days when the Cubs would say about their top hitting prospects, "Hey, the guy can hit, we're not going to get in there and mess him up". That's almost a direct quote. Man, there was no developmental plan at all back then.

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    In reply to Matt McNear:

    Very good post, Matt. I'll agree with that. My point is that Patterson seems to get lumped in with the total busts of the world like Gary Scott, when in my opinion he's closer to Shawon Dunston, another tremendous athlete with star potential who was also his own worst enemy at times.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    That is a great comp, I never thought of it like that.Patterson had some good years in the majors, thats something that a lot of former cub great prospects can't say.

  • This is more of an all MLB question than a Cubs question: When will the commissioner impose that long-rumored global amateur draft on us?

  • In reply to Eddie:

    I think there will be a big push in the next CBA and there might be a reward for current players thrown in there to help pass it through. MLBPA has gotten soft over the years.

  • In reply to Mauricio Rubio Jr.:

    The owners have just gotten smarter since 1994. A salary cap would impact current players. Practically all of the new wage suppression rules (Qualifying Offers excepted) impact amateurs, who are not MLBPA members by definition. It's pretty cynical, but why should current players care about the next generation?

  • In reply to Eddie:

    There's not a next Marvin Miller around either. I'm a fan of the players way more than the owners, so this all kinda sucks in my book.

  • I am always interested in other people's definition of "contend".

    Is it contend for a Championship? A Pennant? A playoff spot?

    Maybe that definition varies from year to year based on expectations. For instance - lets say the Cubs hover around .500 all season which could happen if Tanaka is signed, Castro and Rizzo improve and we see Olt/Baez/Bryant come up and make some impact.

    Now a .500 record isn't all that impressive, but it would put the Cubs in the hunt for that last wild card spot. Being 6-7 games out of a playoff spot on September 1 would be "contending" though quite a bit of a long shot, but nonetheless it is contending.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    For me 5 GB is the cutoff for "contending" Until you get there it's all a dream. Shrinks as the season winds down obviously but I like 5GB as the line.

  • In reply to Mauricio Rubio Jr.:

    History tells us that contending for a playoff spot is the same as contending for a WS. The best team, more often than not, does not win the WS. You just need to get in the tournament to be in contention for a WS. 85+ wins has you contending in my book.

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    In reply to dgedz27:

    dgedz27 I totally agree. It's normally the hot team with the best pitching that wins it all. I think we should bring up the "Killer Bs" after the break and let them settle in and then see where everything falls out. Worst case they get us off to a fast start in 2015...IMHO.

  • In reply to Chi City Classic:

    i think one of the basic tenets of the moneyball movement is that once you get to the postseason the sample size becomes small enough that random fluctuations, read luck, begin to take on a disproportionate role in the overall outcome. the maximum sample size is 7 games which is tiny. ask any braves fan who lives through the 90s and they can tell you this.

    the goal of a contender should be to make it to the playoffs - and really as a divisional winner not a wild card because the impact of luck on one game is MASSIVE, as cubs fans who lived through 2003 we should all know that in our gut - year in, year out, maximizing your chances of winning a WS.

    it's one of the reasons i love this front office. it is abundantly clear that their game plan is not building to a swell for one season to try to win THIS YEAR, rather to build an organization that is capable of contending year in, year out. it's the only way to give yourself a shot at the world series that is more than placing a bet on one number at the roulette wheel, if you'll pardon the mixed metaphor.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    If we are contending for a .500 record in 2014, I would chalk that up as a big success. I would be very happy to see Bryant and Baez blocked by Olt and Castro in 2014 as well. We would be in a very good position if that was the case.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    IMO - "Contend" means that the team is not mathematically eliminated until at least the last week or two of a season. Ideally - I would like to see that begin to be consistently achieved starting in 2015. And then consistently achieved and exceeded for a decade afterwards.

    IMO real success for this rebuild would be a team that is playing meaningful games in mid September nearly every year. Ideally - meaningful games in October most years.

  • Let's hope that the new baseball commissioner has more sense
    that Selig. The new CBA should change the way draft picks
    are lost for signing a free agent. If a team does not sign it pick
    then sorry but no pick should be given to them

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Free Agent compensation is pretty dumb, it only hurts the current crop of players.

    I doubt it goes opposite though.

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    Cubs fans, have faith in Renteria, I really believe he is going to be special. The cubs will surprise this year and be competitive. It's a feeling I got that.
    Is it just me or are others feeling/seeing it too: Renteria keeps reminding me of Tommy Lasorda!

  • I look forward to the day when Rizzo, Castillo and Castro hit in the 6, 7 and 8 spots.

    Then, the Cubs will be contenders.

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    Hey John love what you do thanks for the great articles.
    If we get Tanaka, wouldn't it be smart to sign Garza?
    I think it would put our rotation in a very good and competitive position.

    1. Garza 2. Tanaka 3. Shark 4. Wood 5. Jackson/Arrieta

    I say this would keep us in a majority of games with a much improved pen. Plus the presence of Garza coming back could light a fire under Shark having his old friend back.

  • In reply to Jorge Soler:

    Garza,... now that would be an interesting signing. Don't see it happening though. We know he can pitch successfully in Wrigley.

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    In reply to Jorge Soler:

    That's a nice competitive pitching rotation to have. I would like to see a second lefty in the rotation and maybe flip flop wood and shark so the two lefties won't pitch back to back. Maybe keep the opponent batting lineup out of synce, especially those that platoon.

  • In reply to Jorge Soler:

    I like the thought of Jackson as our number 5. I like Garza but I wouldn't pay him number 1 money.

  • Mauricio, I love your writing and think you are a great addition to the best Cubs blog but to say you are OK with the Cubs not contending is a joke. We as Cubs fans should never be OK with them not contending. Are cardinal or yankee fans ever OK with not contending? I don't understand this suck at the major league level so we can "hopefully" be good in the future.

  • In reply to Joshnk24:

    I think that if this were an NFL team or if the free agent market (and by extension the CBA) were different I would be on board here but it's not and I'm not.

    When the regime stepped in I bought into the fact that this team would not contend for at least three years and likely not for five. Situations are fluid, but I understand what the Cubs are doing here given the restrictions put in place by the owners.

  • In reply to Mauricio Rubio Jr.:

    I completely agree Mauricio. No fan wants another season without contention, but baseball is a different type of sport. It takes a lot of time to develop a winner or a lot of money to hack one together. There really is one one team in existence that is consistently committed to the latter.

  • Agreed completely on two of your Qs:

    The Cubs will absolutely NOT contend seriously in 2014 - this is not a team designed & built for contention,.... yet. With the Reds, StLouis & Pittsburgh built to contend now in the division, and with the strength in other divisions (Atl, the Nats, Dodgers, and maybe Arizona) sucking up the wildcard spots - that ain't going to happen unless some really whacky things fall the Cubs way.

    Olt is the most likely prospect to come up. He may still in fact break camp with the ML club if his vision problems are fixed. We won't see any of Baez, Bryant, Soler, or Ancantara until mid-season at the earliest.

    I'll reserve judgement on Castro and Rizzo. I'll agree with your assessment of Castro's potential,... if he can get back out of his funk. I worry about Rizzo's splits Vs. lefties though. That might be harder to fix. I don't doubt that the Cubs will be all in on Tanaka,.... but will they win?

    Nice summary Mauricio. Love your thinking.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Dodgers will be heavy on Tanaka, I think.

    Thanks man!

  • Hopefully Olt can show well in the spring. I like Valbuena but can't ever see him starting at 3B for a team playing on October 4th. And if Olt does show well....the Diamondbacks just got a young closer for a 3B prospect, didn't they?

  • My predictions for prospects reaching Wrigley this year:
    Olt - starts in MLB
    Baez - AAA, MLB in August
    Bryant - AA, AAA by June, MLB in September
    Alcantara - September call-up
    ----
    I think Olt and Alcantara are basically competing for an infield spot in 2015, I dont think both can fit unless they trade Castro. As for Olt, I am worried if he starts in AAA he will mess up Bryant/Villanueva/Candelario development. I think his shot is the first half of 2014, and will be passed by others if he doesnt capitalize on the opportunity.

  • You picked the exact 4 guys I picked to make it this year. And the time frames were pretty close too. Olt and Alcantara can both stay in the IF if Baez goes to LF. He can play almost anywhere.

  • Yea, contention seems to be a contentious issue. Depending on the rest of the division a .500 record could be considered contention. I think that is absolutely within the realm of possibility. Maybe even more. I know the Cubs have always left me hanging out at the alter in my 40 plus years as a fan, but there are so many things that could go well. If we land Tanaka? If Olt comes in healthy and hits? If Baez and Bryant force their way up to the MLB roster by mid-season? If the bullpen becomes all it can be? I could write a country song, "stuck at the altar again". Maybe she will show up this time? Happy New Year everyone!

  • The managers most important job is to help all the young players
    reach there potential. As with the new crop of prospects that
    will come up later in the year.

  • Here's are a couple other key questions:
    1.) What will be Renteria's style in the clubhouse and on the field, and how will that influence the many young players?
    2.) Where will the Cubs get its veteran leadership from? Or is it just Renteria and whatever the young guys can figure out on their own?
    3.) Will Barney's offense return enough (say .265 BA) to make him a flippable player at the deadline for a prospect?

  • In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    1) His ability to communicate with the Latin players is being played up, I think that will be a big time factor.
    2) I think Nate Schierholtz will be a Vet guy, but other than that it's gonna be tough to find.
    3) I don't think so. I think he's headed towards a UTL role very quickly and that has limited value.

  • In reply to Mauricio Rubio Jr.:

    Regarding #1 -- but communicate what. That is what I mean by his style.

  • In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    Mainly instruction and how to comport oneself as a professional. The clubhouse will be young I think.

    Managerial style is really open for me. I don't know if he's a platoon guy or anything like that. I would anticipate shifting but that's about it.

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    I would love to see Olt win the job in ST and push Valbuena into a platoon with Barney. If Olt can't win the job immediately, or by mid-season, there is a strong possibility that Alcantara is brought up to platoon with Barney, while the Cubs find the flavor of the month to pair up with Valbuena at 3B. I think unless Baez and/or Bryant are hitting .300 and tearing up the minors, both need to come up together in September. I also believe that Vitters may finally take a spot as the shortside platoon in LF. I have always been a huge fan of Brett Jackson, but this FO will likely deal him before AS break.

  • I cant see the rest of the division being very improved. Reds lost Choo and Phillips is starting a downhill slide. Cards lost Beltran and Molina isnt getting any younger. Taveras had better be as good as advertised, or they fall off some. The Pirates can be the scariest team in the division if the kid pitchers become whats the scouts think of them.

  • The seasons of Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo will go a long way toward determining how the Cubs perform this year and where they go from here.

    Like Mauricio, I want to believe Castro will come back strong. In some ways I see him as a kid, still like a teen in some ways.

    When I was a teen people told me I should do all sorts of things and for the most part I either ignored them or did them reluctantly to either please people or get them off my back. I also did some things people told me not to do.

    Years later as I grew up I found out everybody was pretty much right. But as a kid, there is a strong impulse to find out for yourself.

    I get the sense that Castro is a little late to the party when it comes to maturation and went through a lot of things we do as we grow up, wavering between wanting to please and wanting to rebel and do things your own way.

    I hope that Castro, like me, understands what everyone was trying to teach him and that it sinks in eventually. I think the Cubs tried to teach Castro a more disciplined approach, he listened at first, failed, and then grew frustrated with the process.

    He now says he wants to go back to his old self. i think he will, but my guess is it won't be to the same degree. I think he retained more of those lessons than we think and as he matures as a person and a hitter, I think he'll begin to understand the more disciplined approach and learn to incorporate it with his own style. That probably means he won't ever walk a whole lot, but just being a little more selective might be enough to take him to that next level.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    I hope you are right, but there are reasons for pessimism.

    1. Once a hacker, always a hacker. Players very rarely make big improvements in plate discipline.

    2. His BABIP first two years: .346 and .344. It could be he was a little lucky when he was good. He's fast and should be well over .300, but he needs alot of hits to provide value, because he doesn't with BBs, alot of power, or a slick glove

    I hope I am wrong. As I posted below, I have alot more faith in Rizzo; he'll be fine

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I didn't say he will make a big improvement. I pretty much went out of my way to avoid saying that. I only said that he learns to become a bit more selective, and that is far more common than huge improvements in things like walk rates.

    I think we want to be careful not to assume everyone's norm BABIP is .300.

    I think when Castro is right, he'll always have a higher than average BABIP because of the bat control, spreads the ball around, and how he barrels up so frequently.

    On the flip side, I actually worry about Rizzo's BABIP reaching .300 consistently because of the shift, the more soft flyballs/popups he hits, and his lack of running speed.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I wonder if Castro's 2013 was just product of practicing while playing, rather than just going out and playing the game. I agree that he needs to improve his approach, but I wonder if that really should be a change of habits rather than a change on mentality. I believe that over time he would have improve his pitch selection simply by better understanding himself and his strengths. He came up so quickly in the system that he really never had the opportunity refine his game. Anyone know what he did this winter for training?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I kinda want to see John Arguello the trouble maker.

  • In reply to Mauricio Rubio Jr.:

    For the most part, he's been retired since I got married :)

  • fb_avatar

    Rizzo and Castro are often lumped together in terms of disappointments last year, but I don't think they are the same. If you scratch the statistical surface, it becomes obvious that Rizzo was unlucky, and Castro was truly bad at the plate.

    Rizzo BABIP: .258 overal, .222 with RISP. Just normalize those, and he hits .260, with close to 100 RBIs. I still think he can do better, but that's still pretty good.

    Castro BABIP: .290 overall, and .284 RISP. He should normalize a bit higher than Rizzo due to footspeed, but the big problem is the 129Ks. That's not good for a player with limited power. Not good at all.

    These two guys are different; Rizzo will bounce back. Castro, I have my doubts. At least Castro's defense improved in the 2nd half.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Zonk:

    I feel just the opposite, I believe Castro will have a better 2014 than 2013, but with Rizzo what you saw is what you'll get.

  • The thing that most concerns me is Rizzo, and not just his lefty splits. He was horrible with runners on base as well. As a season ticket holder I saw all too much of him failing to get the runner in or move him over for my liking. Was it a case of him putting too much pressure on himself since he had no protection as I have read on multiple sites or is it the real him? This year will tell a lot. V-Bomb better keep improving in my opinion. The good news is I have been wrong before.

  • Here is my question: Do the Cubs currently have a championship caliber No. 1 guy in their system?

  • In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    Guy = Starting Pitcher? Probably not.

  • In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    No, but the top of this years draft has some great possibilities.

  • In reply to Lee Smith HOF:

    Agreed. The Cubs have the 4th pick in the draft and between Rodon, Hoffman, Beede, and Newcomb, the Cubs should get their Ace this year.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    The first three guys probably do have a ceiling of an ace or at least a #1, but does Newcomb? I'm less familiar with him, but from what I've read, he doesn't sound like he's on the same level as the first three.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    We will just have to wait until June and see how they do. Might even add Kolek to the list too. Not too many 6'6" 250 lb 17 year olds who can hit 100 mph with a FB.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Although Newcomb is from a smaller school (Hartford, the same school as J. Bagwell) he is a beast. A lot of scouts have been raving about him from the Cape and Team USA, a lot like Indiana St. LHP Sean Manea before he ran into arm trouble.

    Kiley McDaniel of Scout.com has the 2014 Pitchers ranked Beede - Rodon - Newcomb ranked 1-2-3 ahead of Hoffman and had this to say about him in May - 2013...

    "The 6'5, 240 pound lefty hit 95 last summer in a very short stint on the Cape and has hit 97 this spring with comparisons to Jon Lester, if you're into that sort of thing. His upside is right there with Rodon and if he can show it with positive results over the summer, he could easily enter the spring as my top college pitcher, which is exactly what Manaea did before his current troubles."

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    Also this...

    "Even though the fastball is eye-catching, the slider is Sean’s out pitch and will be his biggest asset as a professional. Already flashing plus potential, with some refinement and consistency it could be plus-plus. A potential monster pitch that will be death to lefties and a weapon against righties as well."

    And..

    "Sean Newcomb is a big college LHP who plays for Hartford. He has not gotten a lot of press, but you will probably start hearing a lot more about him after the college season starts and the 2014 draft approaches. Newcomb takes the mound at 6'5", 240 lbs and brings a FB that sits in the mid-90's and gets up to 97 MPH. On top of that, he has a wipeout slider that is a plus pitch now and has potential to be plus-plus. His changeup is currently average, but it gives him a 3 pitch mix. "

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    Thanks, GD. Great info!

  • I think the FO has created a fairly young competitive team. A team that will play together and grow together with a few seasoned veterans if/when needed. For example, they could have easily traded for Dexter Fowler and signed a few FA's but they will never now what they have in the Minors particularly the assets they've inherited. We have seen them trade away assets on the MLB club so I'm sure they want to get value for the young players in AAA. Prospects like Ha, Sczur, Lake, Vitters, Jackson, Watkins, Cabrera, Rosscup, Alcantara, Rondon, and more. Are we realistically going to compete this year? I don't think so but you never know... My point is lets see what we have so we will know what we need.

  • Sorry Mauricio your off on Baez, he has the biggest cieling and will be up way before Bryant. Bryant has not played AA yet.

  • In reply to sringh5:

    The highest ceiling doesn't really mean the fastest call up. Baez still has a lot of work to do on his pitch selection and defense. It is very difficult to work through that on the major league level. I think that Mauricio is on point here because Bryant is closer to his ceiling right now. A lot of his future growth will be in his physical maturity and strength training, which may be done best at Chicago.

  • In reply to sringh5:

    Slow down guys, Baez just turned 21. Bryant is a year older, played 3 years d1 college ball. More polished player at this point. Both will be very good for a long time.

  • In reply to sringh5:

    As others have stated here, there's a lot of other things that go into a call up as well. Baez has the polish and the reputation and a higher basement than Baez.

    I think he's a fast mover.

  • While I agree that we could live with a run producing .260 / .340 / .500 first baseman, Rizzo's .191 RISP has got to improve or he'll be hearing Vogelbach's thundering footsteps.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to DropThePuck:

    I do agree Rizzoneeds to step it up these next two years if he wants to play for the cubs the next 12-15 years. The female fans loves him for his looks, the city loves him for his personal approach and community involvement . He is humble and immensely talented, no doubt about that. He is a modern day Mr. Cubs. If he can consistently hit .275 with 22-30 home runs and 100 plus ribbies and be at least average with runners in scoring position to go with his gold glove defense, his position is etched in stone. But two more years of last years type of batting, then the FO is gonna have to reconsider if Vogelbomb lives up to the standards that feeds Epstein and Hoyer. Personally, I want Rizzo to succeed!

  • I hope I'm wrong here, but I really don't think Castro or Rizzo are ever going to reach their ceilings. I think Castro is at best a 280hittter with a low OBP and average defense. I think Rizzo is at best a 250-260 hitter that struggles against lefties. Like I said I hope I'm wrong, but that's how I see it.

  • In reply to JLynch2247:

    Not sure how you can say Castro is a 280 hitter "at best" when he has already had two seasons (before the age of 23) of hitting over 300...

  • Nice article Mauricio, I think some other big things go watch.
    Rick Renteria-team needs a positive influence leader so players are always improving.
    Ryan Sweeney-I think he has a chance to break out and be a solid cf with a good stick.
    Bullpen-front office has collected some very nice young flamethrowers, could develop into a real plus.

  • A bit off the topic, but has Tanaka been posted and have the teams who will bid been identifed ( at least by MLB as they have not been known to the public). My understanding is that there is 30 days for the teams posting $20M to bid - has the thirty days started? If not, when will all this be known?

  • In reply to cubman:

    Deadline for him to sign is Jan 24th. Expect the tour to begin next week.

  • Thanks, I thought it was the end of January. We will ever know what teams are in the running, or will it be speculation until he signs?

  • I enjoyed hearing Rizzo compliment Castro as being very supportive, and trying to keep him positive when he was mad in the tunnel and dugout. Castro gets this rep as a bad attitude and a head case, and it is baloney.
    Randy Wells told me that he really liked Castro, and said he was always studying video and trying to become better, when he played with the team.
    I think Renteria will be a godsend for starlin.

  • We can't under estimate the value of Renteria speaking Spanish
    to his Hispanic players. Be Mexican myself I know the difference.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I think there is some truth to that. Most of these players speak some English and many coaches speak some Spanish, but there are nuances in language. It's always easier to communicate in your dominant language.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to emartinezjr:

    I agree with EMart, I'm a restaurant mgr. and speak some Spanish. Even though I don't speak well, Hispanic employees have always seemed to be pleased when I try to communicate with them in their primary language, helps foster trust and mutual respect.

  • In reply to Rick Pagni:

    Sorry, its not the same

  • Thanks for the chats guys. I'll be back on later tonight!

  • I just have so much confidence in this FO that it makes me never question their decisions. Not all decisions that they make will be successful we all know that. What I have always admired most in Sports other than the actual Players themselves are Organizations that have a plan/system that works/worked and they stick to it such as the Ravens/Steelers/Patriots in football, Spurs in basketball, now the Blackhawks in hockey, and Cardinals, Rays, Athletics and so forth. I'm just glad we have a solid FO now they just have to keep trying to find those players that fit into their system. I hate unnecessary spending which lead to Dead Money.

  • In reply to notownlikeChicago:

    Agreed. I just hate it when these billionaires have to eat a few million in Dead Money here and there, even if there still making millions and millions each year.

  • My pick for winning Tanaka is ... Seattle.
    I want the Cubs to get him but I just see him in a M's jersey next season.

  • In reply to Lee Smith HOF:

    Are there any good SP FA's than don't require losing a draft pick?

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Only Garza. Unless you consider Baker "good".

  • fb_avatar

    My 2014 predictions:
    Olt takes the 3B job out of spring. Can't hit the ball, though.
    Baez takes 3B from him in June. Rough adjustment period for a couple weeks. But that bat speed. The newfound approach. He rakes in AAA. I think Baez will be a downright special hitter.
    Bryant learns to play RF. Called up in August/September.
    Alcantara platoons at 2B by August.
    Castro bounces back big. He starts to put it all together.
    Rizzo never figures out how to hit lefties. But still manages 15-20 HR/70 RBI in 2014. As well as a really nice glove.

    Regardless of Tanaka- I think we begin to fast-forward this rebuild quite a bit, next season.
    OPTIMISM.

  • Eric, I like the optimism. It is fun to have multiple legitimate
    prospects ready to come to Chicago. Hopefully a few of them
    will make it big. What I like is the "waves and waves" of talent.
    I am also excited to see where the 16 yr olds are going and how
    well they do this year.

  • Excellent article and a late welcome to CD, Mauricio. Very thought provoking.

    My answers to your Q's are: 1) Castro will go back to being the old Castro, but probably with a little more power. I'd love to see .440 - .450 slugging pct. from him, and think it's doable. 2) Little more worried about Rizzo, only because we have seen Starlin put up very respectable hitting #s before, for a whole season. Hoping for .250/.335/.475 #s from the future GGer. 3) Like your answer regarding Olt. I hope the same from him. Our FO still has some faith in him, which makes him an intriguing break-out candidate, along the lines of a Schierholtz-type season. But I'd have to go with Bryant being the first of the mega-two, simply because the FO seems to be saying (if you read between the lines) that he is ready. 4) They will get Tanaka if no other team throws crazy dollars at him. I do think they have a reasonable bidding ceiling, but it is very high.

    Now, a Q of my own. Is it truly reasonable to expect 4-5 years in a rebuilding process before the team is any good? I know in the NFL, you have two years, and some good coaches turn their teams around in a single year. Yes, apples to oranges comparison. But I've got to admit, that going into our 3rd year with this FO and our team still looks like a pile of horse dung. A little harsh, but I'd have thought we'd be looking better by now. I do love me the Epstoyer clan, by no means am I bailing on them. But I want to see a little more pressure on them to improve the team in a quicker fashion. I don't like to hear comments like "They said it would take 5 years, what's the hurry?" What if they said it would take 7 years? Or 3.5 years? Or whatever #? The whole 5-year thing just appears to me to be a self-serving statement, to take pressure off of them, give them an excuse for fielding a suckworthy baseball team early on, and not taking responsibility for the awful results so far.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    I think they said it would take 4 to 5 years because that is how long they believe it takes to fix a major league team with several old declining high paid veterans and a farm system that has little to no impact talent. They are simultaneously fixing both problems. I think the results so far are fantastic, not awful.

    From what I see they are on schedule. If we somehow snag Tanaka, we are ahead of schedule.

    They are the experts. Look what they did in Boston. Are you saying you could do a better job faster? I think they are going as fast as they know how. I am willing to give them 4 to 5 years. More importantly the Ricketts family is willing to give them 4 to 5 years because they are paying the bills.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    Yeah I think that's still responsible. Baseball teams do take time to fix correctly and I think the influx of talent they have and are cultivating on the lower levels will be good.

    This was never going to be a quick fix.

  • In reply to Mauricio Rubio Jr.:

    I don't disagree entirely with either you or John57, and admittedly was too down on the team. I like the farm rebuild going on. It looks promising, however, let's see how many prospects actually succeed at the MLB level before pronouncing victory even here.

    My source of discontent is mainly with the MLB Cubs. There is a lot of other things going on that I like. But I think even the Hendry regime had a top 5 farm system at one time. Most of those players were simply over-rated, or not developed well enough, whichever prevailing theory you favor. I'd like a little more urgency to make the MLB team "playoff-capable".

  • It's hard for me to imagine that it makes much difference to those who view themselves as players being concerned about any Spanish/English language barrier.

  • Has anyone figured out the progress that Albert Almora is doing, and how far is he from getting up through the Minors?

  • In reply to LRCCubsFan:

    His biggest obstacle is going to be staying healthy. I don't think A+ or AA are going to be anything he can't master with 200-300 PA's at each level.

  • I'm hoping Castro can loosen up, when all the pressure to be great is spread across the big 4. Then he can stop getting in his head and let his natural ability take over.

  • John & Mauricio, with two of these questions - Castro and Rizzo - so critical to the Cubs' ability to be 'competitive' in 2014 and 'a contender' in 2015, a poll utilizing the collective wisdom/speculative ability of the Denizens could be fun. A poll on each player, with 4 or 5 scenarios to choose from concerning their 2014 season reaults?

  • John, are you hearing anything about the Cubs
    adding an outfielders or are we going with Lake,Sweeney,Schierholtz,Ruggiono & Vitters?
    If so I think they are leaving room for Bryant later
    in the year.

  • Aside from Castro and Rizzo making definitive strides this next season, what I would relish is B. Jackson finally "getting it" and forcing his way to the bigs. I know it's unlikely, but if he did, we now have a Jim Edmonds type player and what a terrific "dilemma" for the front office. Given all the rest of our "stud" prospects make it, one of three players become expendable, imo. Bryant in RF and Olt at 3rd would allow Soler to be expended. Soler in RF and Bryant @ 3rd allows the expending of Olt. Baez about makes everyone expendable, but I want Alcantara @ 2nd, so it would be Castro. Then we'd have that 3rd leftie in the lineup without having to trade for one and we could trade for a SP prospect instead. One can dream, so come on, Brett. Figure it out.

  • In reply to cubs1969:

    Yes B Jackson finally getting it would give the FO a nice problem. Then there is Logan Watkins too, a left handed on base machine. If he figures it out another problem. If the NL goes DH, they can add Danny V to the mix. Hannemann and Candelaria are two more guys who can hit lefty. I guess there are some LH hitters in the system. Not a problem to worry about. It will work itself out.

  • In reply to John57:

    I like Watkins, too. The other three you mention are further away time wise, but point well taken.

  • In reply to cubs1969:

    I'd love to see this, too. There aren't many true CFs in the mix for the Cubs. It's tough to see a way for that high a K rate to get fixed, but if he could hold it to even the 34% he put up in AAA in 2012, one can squint and see a mirror-image Drew Stubbs. That would be an adequate holdover until Almora is ready.

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