According to Patrick Mooney, the plan is to install Starlin Castro in the leadoff spot in the hope that he can "get his swagger back." It seems pretty clear that one of the goals this spring is a new start for Castro. Indeed, the firing of Dale Sveum last winter could be read as a consequence of a poor relationship with the shortstop. The description of a meeting with Starlin being happy and talkative is good to hear after watching the morose and depressed version struggle through last year. This is still extremely early but we can at least say that things are starting as well as could be hoped.
Didn't the Cubs have Another Core Piece Struggle Last Year
We're going to take a brief break from the stories about Starlin Castro -- I'm just the messenger here, folks! -- to bring an update about another young Cub. Anthony Rizzo sat down with ESPN's Jesse Rogers and emphasized that he's looking to be more consistent this year. It's a good piece, though Rogers talks about Rizzo's struggles with runners in scoring position. It appears to be a Rogers question and not something Rizzo brought up but, personally, I'm hoping he's looking to have better at-bats against left handers instead of RISP situations.
Update on the January Car Crash
In a very sad story, Cubs prospect Kevin Encarnacion -- who had a strong year in Boise last summer -- is still recovering from a car crash in the Dominican Republic this January. At the time, it was reported that none of the injuries were serious. However, Encarnacion is in a Phoenix area hospital with burns to his throwing arm and torso. The Cubs actually flew him out of a hospital in his native Dominican Republic to the Arizona Burn Center to help his healing. The link includes an interview with Encarnacion.
Top international signees Frandy De La Rosa and Jefferson Mejia were also in the crash, as well as pitcher Jose Zapata. No word in this report on how those three are doing.
Needless to say, everyone here at Cubs Den wishes Encarnacion a speedy recovery.
More on the Cubs Prospects from Baseball America
Baseball America's prospect gurus had a chat on the Top 100 Prospects. These responses, in particular, may be of interest to Cubs fans:
CW (Houston): Why did you place Baez in front of Correa?
Ben Badler: They’re back-to-back on my list. The edge for Baez is in the power and the more advanced track record. They should both be stars.
Kevin (Chicago): Who do you think has the best chance to make a big jump for the Cubs this year, similar to what Arismendy Alcantara did last year?
Ben Badler: Jeimer Candelario has the potential to make that kind of leap this year. Mature hitting approach for his age (and no age questions here), good bat speed, 20-25 homer potential.
Christopher (Chicago): What are your thoughts on Edwards for the Cubs? What is his ceiling?
Ben Badler: An athletic power arm with a plus breaking ball, throws strikes, misses bats, gets ground balls. Everything’s there for him to be a No. 2 starter if it all comes together.
Jackson (New York): Who has fallen the farthest in the rankings (obviously not including being promoted to The Show) ???
Ben Badler: Mike Olt and Bubba Starling probably had the biggest drop-offs from last year. Could throw Courtney Hawkins into that mix too.
Mark (Ohio): In the last 25 years there have been a lot of Cubs misses on the BA top 100. Is this class different?
Matt Eddy: I would look much more favorably on this group of Cubs prospects based on the precedent that Epstein, Hoyer and McLeod established with the Red Sox system, turning them into a player-development machine. With Chicago, that group has had access to much higher draft picks than they did in Boston. Expect good things.
Cal Guy (Cal): In five years, who is a major league shortstop from the group of Baez, Bogaerts, Correa, and Russell?
Matt Eddy: Research conducted by J.J. Cooper suggests that nearly three-quarters of elite minor league shortstops who face questions about their ultimate position eventually shift to another spot. A pessimist would conclude, then, that Russell would be the last shortstop standing. I’ll double that and say Correa also sticks at the position.
Max Fried Shut Down
This really belongs in the Saturday column but, as you may have noticed, that's taken a bit of a back seat with me picking up some of the slack with John out. This is an excellent reason why using high picks on pitchers is so risky. Padres top prospect Max Fried has been shut down for two weeks with soreness in his elbow. Fried was taken #7 by the Padres in 2012, one pick after Albert Almora. Obviously, an elbow issue is not something to take lightly. If this is serious, it's a major hit to the Padres system. That would make the decision to go with Almora over the talented left-hander look even better. It does make you wonder if the Cubs front office will go for Trea Turner if he's available at #4.
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