Cubs Notes: Third Base, Draft Thoughts, Bonifacio

Third base

As it stands currently the Cubs are slated to break camp with Luis Valbuena as the starting 3B and Mike Olt might be relegated to AAA Iowa. Olt's shot at winning the job out of Spring Training took a serious hit with his shoulder fatigue issues which limited the reps he was able to take at the hot corner.

We've previously talked about what the long term future at 3B holds for the Cubs moving forward, there are a ton of moving pieces that abound, so let's just concentrate on Olt vs. Valbuena for now.

The biggest advantages that Valbuena has are his positional flexibility and batting eye. He has a patient eye that is severely undercut by his inability to make good contact consistently. A .331 OBP is slightly above average for a National League third baseman. In 2013 NL 3B slashed .258/.324/.404. It's a crude measure but for contrast Luis Valbuena slashed .218/.331/.378. He was, overall, a slightly below average player on a bad team. The interesting issue with Valbuena becomes future projection. If you expect the BABIP to regress towards a more normal range and he hits .250 while maintaining similar walk and power rates he becomes an above average player at a position lacking depth league wide.

Valbuena isn't an exciting nor long term package for the Cubs. He does some things well but there are obvious and glaring weaknesses in the player's game that don't exist to the same degree with a healthy Mike Olt (in my opinion). Valbuena will remain in the stopgap role until the Cubs' bevy of infield prospects sort themselves out. After Olt there's Kris Bryant (if you believe he can play on the infield dirt), Christian Villanueva and Jeimer Candelario. We'll see how it all shakes out in the end.

Draft Thoughts

We recently ran an article full of college draft notes which you can read here. There's a lot of interesting takeaways from that conversation. Tyler Kolek is an interesting name to bring up in that drafting Kolek would indicate a longer term focus than drafting a guy like Tyler Beede for example. I happen to think it's far from a forgone conclusion that the Cubs need to draft a pitcher this year as well. Teams tend to role with "best available" rather than draft for need in these spots. Trea Turner is a very, very interesting name who is getting rave reviews from a few different sources. I would not be upset at all with drafting Turner over a pitcher if that's what the decision came down to.

Emilio Bonifacio

Neither here nor there, but I'm really pulling for Emilio Bonifacio to make this roster. There are tangible baseball production reasons to root for him; he's shown an ability in the past to get on base and steal bases at a high percentage and he has a lot of positional flexibility. Bonifacio is also a Spanish speaking professional player who knows how to handle himself in a clubhouse. That sounds a lot like what got Rick Renteria hired. The Cubs key position players will likely be Spanish speakers; Starlin Castro, Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara at some point, the list could go on. I think Bonifacio could have value on the field and off it.

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  • I find it totally unacceptable that Olt doesn't win the starting job, regardless of how little he's played there. First of all, he has played the position before. He's a third baseman! If he were switching positions, I would totally get it. But he's not, so he needs to be the opening day 3B. I don't care how great Valbuena has been in spring training, it's just spring training. He's not the future, Olt is.

  • In reply to Mikethoms:

    I don't see it so much as that his bat (at least) hasn't earned him a starting 3B job (it has IMO) - as it is that until that shoulder is 100% or so, how big is the risk of re-injury or complications if they don't take it slolwly?

    I'm no medical Dr. - so have no basis to make a diagnosis - we'll have to trust that the trainers and on-staff medical guys know what they are about on that front.

    I'll be shocked if Olt isn't the guy come May (or sooner) if he's 100%. Hope to see him make the Opening Day roster as (if nothing else) a good bat off the bench, possible DH on some of the interleague games, and a guy to give Rizzo a day off against tough lefties.

  • In reply to Mikethoms:

    I have to agree here and add that it is not as if Olt is some 21-year old who has never seen more than A ball. He is 25 with a MLB-cup-of-coffee on his resume.

  • In reply to Mikethoms:

    Olt is a third baseman and from what everyone has heard, he is a good one. Only problem is that he has looked terrible in the two games he played there (or at least the two I watched). Apparently it isn't quite like riding a bicycle.

    He may have been working on some stuff, but he was trying to backhand routine ground balls and his throws were completely offline. On Sunday he started an inning with two consecutive errors. Luckily he followed that up with a solo shot to lead off the next inning.

    I would love to see him start at the MLB level, but I don't see a huge downside to putting him at AAA for a two weeks to a month to let the infield situation pan out.

  • In reply to Mikethoms:

    Shoulder is a serious concern defensively, if he goes down it will be to knock the rust off, not because of super 2 stuff.

  • In reply to Mauricio Rubio Jr.:

    He's not eligible for super-2 status. His MLB Arb clock started in 2012 when they first brought him up in TEX. He has 2 more option year left and then 4yrs of Arbitration. He's not eligible for FA until his age 31 season.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Yeah that's the point I was trying to make but rushed through it. They aren't keeping him down for money, it's to get reps.

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    In reply to Mikethoms:

    What's the rush? I think Olt needs to show that his bat is back by dominating Triple A as much as anything else. Part of it is confidence, part of it is making sure his shoulder is right. As of fan, I do want something to be excited about to start the season, but it makes more sense to me to give Olt a month or two at Triple A.

  • In reply to Mikethoms:

    He has a bum shoulder, so his future needs to be protected.

  • It might be good for Olt to spend a month down in Iowa to knock the rust off. Let's not rush him so he can be prepared before he is thrown in the fire.

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    The only way Olt should not break camp with the Cubs is if he is physically unable to handle third base. A lack of reps at third is not a sufficient reason not to play him. If he is healthy, he has earned the right to be the third baseman.

    Also, while the Cubs have the right NOT to take a pitcher with their 4th pick, undoubtedly there will be a fourth pick worthy pitcher available when they draft no matter what happens with the first three picks. They will be picking a pitcher. They just won't tip their hand, which is why the FO leaks info about them possibly taking a position player.

  • In reply to the real alman:

    They will take the best player available. That may be a pitcher, it may not. Just because a pitcher merits that high of a pick, doesn't mean they won't value a position player higher and go that route. After reading John's article on the injuries and failures of top ten pitchers vs. position players, I kind of am hoping for a position player.

    Agreed on Olt. If healthy, he needs to be there. If he needs a day off every two days, he needs to be in Iowa though where he can DH or slide in at first to keep himself in the line up every day. Until he can play 3b nearly every day, there's no sense in having him on the major league squad. He's 25, and sending him down is not a knock, and won't be detrimental to his development. I think he's ready for the majors, but playing every day is really important.

  • In reply to Break The Curse:

    It's the draft. One i athousand ever sees the majorsd. My concern is the team we have now. The draft is for the FO, and guessing is dumb, regardless of how closely one follows children playing games..

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    I thought John got the impression from a source, that Olt has basically made the club, provided his shoulder holds up. I may be mis-quoting, but alot of folks think Olt is going to be our 3B to start the season, provided he can make the throws.

    If Olt is sent to AAA, he won't get a ton of work at 3B because of Christian Villanueva's presence, so it really behooves the club to have him start at Wrigley if he's ready.

  • This is a tough one but why would it hurt to send him down? When he proves he ready just call him up.

  • I do think that Olt has won the third base position with his bat, but he has looked terrible at third so far. It hasn't been just his throws (which haven't been good), but his footwork and fielding have been terrible. He looks like a outfielder trying to take ground balls.

    Additionally, we have a tremendous number of infielders that are respectable at the MLB level. Cementing Olt at third means that Valbuena, Barney and Bonificio would all split time at second. It also leaves Murphy off the field, for the most part. In reality it would probably be multiple platoons between the 5 of them.

    I think that our best scenario would be to work a trade somewhere and our best option would be Barney. If Olt is an everyday player at third, Barney would be splitting time with at least Valbeuna and Bonificio and potentially Murphy as well. We may be able to protect him and pad his stats that way, but a small sample size may hurt his value as well.

    Ultimately, starting Olt at AAA may be the best scenario for the first two weeks to allow us to sort some stuff out at the MLB level.

  • In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    Terrible ? He has played 16 innings or so at most and had maybe three plays. If was going to triple A he would be there already with the cuts.

  • In reply to Rbirby:

    yeah, terrible. I believe I saw 4 plays at third over two games. In the first game he knocked down a playable, albeit difficult, ball...runner was safe. In the same guy he had a routine grounder and almost pulled the first baseman off of the bag with the throw. In the second game he had an two errors (one fielding and one throwing). If you make 0 out of 4 plays, that would be pretty terrible.

    By no means am I saying that he is bad over there. I just think he is rusty and needs some work there to get comfortable. He could get that during this week or starting at AAA, but I am pretty comfortable with that description of his play in the field to this point.

    Again, not saying it is an indication of his future performance or ability.

  • Mauricio, you have a great point about Bonafacio and his leadership in the clubhouse amongst spanish speaking players. It might even help after his career is over, like it did with Renterias.

  • John, you mentioned that Trea Turner is getting some rave reviews from some scouts that you know. My question to you and them is how is his poor start this year affecting the outlook on his future. Is he still top 5 or is he dropping?

  • In reply to Lee Smith HOF:

    Too early to tell, I think. Rondon is having a rough go of it of late as well.

  • In reply to Mauricio Rubio Jr.:

    I really hope the cubs pass on Trea Turner. I think he is average & not worthy of a top 4 pick.

  • In reply to gator19:

    Agreed regarding T. Turner. He is a "No" for me with the Cubs at pick #4. He is an average defender at SS not plus and could even move to 2nd long term. He has VERY little power. Yes, he has Elite 80 speed, their is no question, but he doesn't use it to reach base like he should (ala bunting for hits, etc) because he has too much loft in his swing right now (which is not a good thing for a player like him). I do think he should hit enough to utilize his speed in the majors but I don't see an all-star. I could be wrong, but regardless I think their are better choices for the 4th pick, in my opinion.

  • Since they didn't spend money to upgrade the offense to a level in which they could compete this is yet another rebuilding year. That being the case, there is no good reason (outside of injury to Olt) to give valuable major league AB's and third base reps to players who will not be part of the future or are never going to be significantly better than a utility/bench player. It makes NO sense to send Olt back down to the minors (where there is a logjam of talented youngsters competing for playing time at 3B) so you can start Murphy and Valbuena at third.


    Heck, it makes no sense to start Barney (who has securely established his ceiling) at 2B when you could give a guy like Logan Watkins a shot to play everyday. If he fails, you have lost nothing since he is only projected to be a depth guy anyway. Same thing with Junior Lake in center.

    I have no problem establishing a policy of not rushing a guy past AAA (Baez, Alcontara etc) to the majors, but Olt is 25, played multiple seasons in AAA and you will never know if he can play 3B at the major league level unless you let him try it everyday. Better to do it now when you arent competing for playoff spots than to do it next year when you may need to give Baez or Bryant everyday AB's.

    Does anyone seriously believe this team is a playoff team with Murphy/Valbuena/Boni/Barney at 3B and 2B? Then you have nothing to lose by letting Olt play there til he establishes he can't.

  • In reply to 104YearsofGlory:

    Yeah, I think I kinda agree with this. I watched Olt over the weekend and I agree that he looks a little rusty at third. But what do the Cubs gain by him shaking the rust off in Iowa versus Chicago? Let him gain the reps at third in Chicago. We clearly aren't going anywhere this year so why not?

  • In reply to 104YearsofGlory:

    I agree with you in context, except for the Logan Watkins comment. he hasn't yet mastered AAA so he until he does, he hasn't "earned" a MLB roster spot.

    fwiw, Olt has only played at the AAA level last year. While struggling with injuries he got a total of 420 PA's at the AAA level last year. While he was unsuccessful at that level, all he had to do was prove he was healthy. I think he's earned a MLB roster spot now "IF" he is healthy. If not, he needs to rehab in AZ or play 1B/DH in AAA until he is healthy.

  • In reply to 104YearsofGlory:

    No I don't believe this is a playoff team with Murphy/Valbuena/Boni/Barney at 3B and 2B. I don't think it's a playoff team with Olt at 3B, either. That is so not the reason to keep Olt up or send him down. The reason is his health and effectiveness. If they do send him down and it is because he needs to shake off the defensive rust from not playing 3B for most of the spring due to a shoulder injury, then it will likely be a short stay, so I don't see this as a big deal.

    There is one other reason to send him down if he's not healthy/ready, however. The message it would send to the team. Every manager's job is to prepare the team he has to win and create a winning culture for the team. What message does it send to play a guy who is struggling defensively at the moment just because he's a possible piece of the future? Here at the Cubs, we don't reward performance nor do we care about putting the team with the best chance of winning that day on the field. All we care about is using our major league team as an extended tryout for next year's team.

    If Olt truly isn't ready defensively, Renteria has a choice. He can send that message to a team immediately after spending 6 weeks getting them pumped up to start the season and prove the naysayers wrong or he can send Olt to AAA for a few weeks until he's fully healthy and the rust is knocked off. Pretty easy choice if you ask me.

  • In reply to 104YearsofGlory:

    There seems to be little doubt here thatBarney is getting short. THis is threal weak spot on this roster No teanm is likely to ber competitive without a fisrt class 2nd baseman. I like Barney's intangibles, but he's just not Joe Morgan.

  • Sad to think all it takes to make this team as a player or manager is the ability to speak Spanish.

  • In reply to peoria cubfan:

    Vehemently disagree with this assessment.

  • In reply to peoria cubfan:

    Oh, peoria. You nut. Probably best to steer clear of racial jokes around here. Another less serious Cubs site perhaps...

  • In reply to peoria cubfan:

    Awful thing to say Peoria. You should be ashamed.

  • In reply to peoria cubfan:

    I haven't read all the posts, but in the ones that I did read, there was no mention that an ability to speak Spanish was ALL it took to be a player or manager.

    I did read a couple that said that that ability was a plus in the decision making process. With so many young Latinos on the team, that would seem self evident.

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    In reply to peoria cubfan:

    You give Peoria a bad name.

  • In reply to Phil James:

    I think Peoria was trying to point out that it should be about how one plays or manages baseball, not ethnicity. On that he has a point.

  • In reply to Phil James:

    um, no peoria needs no help. it is a dump.

  • In reply to peoria cubfan:

    Now that's really unfair!

  • I agree Olt is the guy, if healthy. I'm not worried about his skills as a 3B. I'm worried about his shoulder being 100%.

    If Olt makes the squad, I don't see room for Barney, Bonafacio, Valbuena, and Murphy. I think Bonafacio brings things the others don't and will make the squad, regardless of Olt. I think Barney is still the starting 2B, but will Lose some AB's to Bonafacio/Valbuena. I think Valbuena is ideally a stop gap 2B until Baez arrives. 3B is not his natural position and even though he was a platoon player there last year, he was still slightly below avg on a weak team. Murphy is a mediocre utility player too.

    The problem is none of Barney/Valbuena/Murphy have any real trade value right now. Barney, with his GG defense may have some around the deadline, "IF" he can hit closer to his career #'s vs last year. That's still not much offense. But it's enough to take him to 3+ war which will net us 'something" back in return.

    If it was my call, and I had certainty from Olt & the medical staff that his shoulder was good to go, my position players on opening day would be:
    Rizzo -1B
    Barney - 2B
    Castro - SS
    Olt - 3B
    Beef - C
    Lake - CF
    Schierholtz - RF
    Kalish - LF
    Ruggiano - Bench
    Sweeney - Bench
    Kotteras - Bench
    Bonafacio - bench
    Valbuena - Bench

    An argument could be made for Ruggiano starting and also, Nate's arm is weaker than all but Sweeny's of the OFr's.... Not sure why we haven't moved him to LF.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Totally fine with this roster. Its the most talented group they could reasonalby bring north (Baez excluded).

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I like your picks. I'd have the same, although both Ruggiano and Sweeney probably get more starts than Kalish. I don't see much benefit having Murphy on the roster, because I think last year was a fluke for him. Give Bonafacio the at-bats instead, and if Valbuena can hit anywhere close to his ST #s, he'll get infield starts as well. I kind of think Valbuena plays better when his roster spot is not guaranteed. Luis "light a fire under his keester" Valbuena may be a better player than last year's Luis "happy and secure" Valbuena. But time will tell.

    I have to disagree with the comment that speaking Spanish gives Bonafacio any kind of edge in making the team. C'mon. Yes, Renteria being bilingual is a positive, because he easily can communicate with both native English and native Spanish speakers, but saying Spanish speaking players are preferred over English only? Maybe that wasn't the real intention, but leave that alone. You are inviting unwanted controversy.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    IDK what you're talking about. I never mentioned any preference of Spanish speaking players preferred over English speaking. In fact, my post immediately below this one time stamped 2hrs and 4 minutes before yours I specifically say that the language issue was a non issue for coaching candidates. Never mentioned anything about Spanish speaking players though....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Sorry for the confusion. I am referring to the comment in the original article, not your specific comment. I didn't do a good job of explaining that.

  • Technically, Spanish is Javier's native language. But he speaks English fluently, and has for years. There's no communication barrier with him. He went to HS here and all his classes were in English so...

    I think the whole language issue has been blown out of proportion by the media. If that was really the detriment, none of the long line of Spanish speaking ball players would have excelled in the game with only English speaking coaches.

    The real issue they hoped to resolve in replacing Sveum was to have a clear and consistent message communicated from the FO through the manager/coaches to the players. Being Bi-Lingual was ONE of the boxes that they wanted to mark off on candidates they were considering. But as evidenced by them interviewing non Spanish speaking candidates too, it wasn't absolutely critical.

  • So far as the draft commentary, I do believe that they will take the BPA, regardless of position. IMO, the best 4-5 players happen to be pitchers. But I do know one scout who is very very high on Trea Turner. The knock on him is his lack of power. He told me he isn't worried about his hit tool and that even though he won't slug much, he's not just a slap hitter. He squares the ball up well and hits it hard. He thinks the slugging will work itself out and that he'll also be able to bunt for hits more in pro ball as he does very little of that now.

    IDK, Kevin Gallo sold me on Beede last fall and the concerns everyone had that kept him from #1 or #2 overall was consistent command, which he has improved significantly this year. Regardless, of which one, I'm hoping we get a very high ceiling TOR-SP with Rodon/Hoffman/Beede/Kolek, so it'll be up to DJ & Bosio to help them get there. Then again, we may not go pitcher at all, IDK... But I trust the Epstoyer/McLeod brain thrust is much better at this than all of us combined....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Your statement of "But I trust the Epstoyer/McLeod brain thrust is much better at this than all of us combined...." is very true. I don't think any of us has any experience putting together a major league roster. But with that being said, it sure is fun to think about it and give an opinion. My favorites are still Beede and Turner.

  • In reply to John57:

    Yeah, just my way of saying "I want what I want, but I'm confident they know more about this than me"

  • Kalish/Sweeney is a quite a battle right now. not sure who makes it

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    Kalish is on a MiLB contract so he can be sent down. Sweeney would have to consent to a MiLB assignment.

    I think they both make the opening day roster and their level of play will dictate playing time.

    The NRI's that haven't done enough to win a spot like Bonifacio & Kalish are Roberts & Coghlan whom I hope we can keep at Iowa for a few months... I like Roberts better than Murphy. but again, it's a MLB vs MiLB contract thing. Coghlan was the NL Rookie of the year in 09. He's struggled with injuries in 2011 & 2012. Not really sure how much that played into his season last year... but if he's healthy and get's his swing back, he's potential keeper like Kalish. Definitely worth keeping in Iowa for now.

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    Sweeney is struggling and Kalish is on a roll. Can Sweeney go to IA to get it together? We don't need to give up on either so why not bring up the hot hand for now?

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    They made a point to lock up Sweeney at last season's end, so I'm not sure that's even in the equation right now.

  • In reply to nmu’catsbball:

    so Kalish is going down then most likely

  • April is not a good time for 3Bmen with a rehabbing shoulder to play everyday. Valbuena and Murphy may also be more productive small ball contributors when it's hard to score runs in Wrigley. Olt's day will come as it warms and his shoulder is 100%. I like Bonafacios' leadoff triples.

  • I think the last roster spot comes down to Kalish or Murphy (unless Barney is traded). As far as leadoff goes, I have to think Kalish or Bonafacio (if he starts at 2nd) has to occupy that spot. So my bet is Murphy is out if Barney isnt traded. But when Baez comes up Murphy is gone then anyway (I would think Murphy has some trade value; can play 1B,2B,SS,3B & OF and has some power).

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    Murphy is a Baker share part type right hand batter and most likely goes north. Also, he is a savvy vet and a good game situation hitter.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    Interesting, what is greater? Murphy's bat + glove or Barney's glove + bat?

  • In reply to travelguy:

    Barney is also one of those veteran leader types in the clubhouse so you have to take that into effect. I think Barney is worth more in a vacuum but that's a tough sell on a team with bad offense.

  • In reply to Mauricio Rubio Jr.:

    Your probably right Mauricio, but like you said, in a vacuum it seems pretty close, doesn't it?

  • In reply to travelguy:

    It is very tight.

  • I feel like Luis V is very underrated. Give him 500 or 600 at bats and I think you get around .250 average, with around 20 homers, a whole lot of walks, and maybe average defense. I think he could make a great trade candidate at the deadline if we give him ample playing time. There is time for Olt and the others if the guys on the team do their job and create surplus value for us.

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    I don't know if he's able to alter his approach enough to get to .250 consistently tbh. I think it could be an outlier season but he swings hard all the time, never shortens up and he doesn't have the talent to sustain that.

  • In reply to Mauricio Rubio Jr.:

    I respectfully disagree. I think some players bloom later than others and Val-B is one of them.

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    He's played all or part of 6 MLB season and has recorded 1331 MLB AB's and slashed a career line of .222/.302/.352/.654

    for 2013 he slashed: .218/.331/.378/.709 which is marginally better than his career numbers. In his 596 AB's as Cub 2012-2013 he has a total of 16 HR's. Not sure where your basis for a .250 hitter with 20 HR's is coming from....

    He is what he is... a decent utility player that will give you quality AB's, hits with a little power, good glove, keeps his nose clean, etc... but none of that warrants 500 or 600 AB's even on this team, and maybe not even a roster spot on a legit contender.

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    Respectively disagree. If Olt isn't healthy, send him down. Otherwise he needs to play.

    IMO, getting Olt acclimated to the major leagues is FAR > whatever you can get for Valbuena in a trade.

    I understand not rushing prospects, I understand not starting the arb clock, I really do, but at some point prospects need to play. We built up this great farm system.....we need to use it.

  • Bryant to LF/RF

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    I think he can stay at 3B, though he may move when he gets older. But if Olt claims that position and can OPS .800+ with 25+ HR's, Bryant will move to RF. He & Soler are both protypical RF'rs. But Bryants arm is actually a tick stronger so he bumps Soler to LF.

    Soler is already on the 40 man roster wit ha MLB contract, and if he can dominate at AA, should get a cup of coffee this Sept. So he could conceivably lock up RF before Bryant even gets there, if the stars align for him.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Maybe they both come up at the same time, but I'm going to bet that Bryant beats Soler to the show.

  • In reply to KSCubsFan:

    From a pure Baseball Skills standpoint, I'd say Bryant is further along. But when you look at the business side of it, Soler is already on a MLB contract. They can bring him up in Sept w/o releasing anyone or worrying about an arbitration clock.

    With Bryant, they'd have to clear roster space. So unless we have a wholesale sell off, there's not room for him until next year. Plus they're probably going to want to get Villanueva some AB's to showcase him for an off season trade (assuming Olt sticks).

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Bryants arm is stronger than Solers? From what Kieth Law has said, Soler has a better arm than Puig, whose arm is excellent, just scattergunned.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    I don't have access to any of my reports in front of me. Going from memory, they're both prototypical RFr's with 65-70 grade arms. Those grades are tricky and very subjective as accuracy is also factored into it. So we are probably splitting hairs as to who is a stronger arm...

    I had a discussion with Kevin Gallo (you can probably find it in the archives on here) post draft and even though he was adamant Bryant could stick at 3B, he indicated he would move to RF if needed and when I asked about Soler he felt Bryant was a GG RF'r and would move Soler off.

    As to who ends up in RF, it really may come down to "who gets there first". FWIW, I think Solers' fellow countryman, Cuban National Rubi Silva probably has the strongest throwing arm for the entire organization. With Junior Lake a close 2nd.

  • From what I've read there's really one position player roster spot left and it's down to Olt, Kalish and Ryan Roberts. Olt will obviously start if he makes the team.

    The rest seem to be considered locks barring a trade or injury: Castillo, Kottaras, Rizzo, Barney, Castro, Bonifacio, Valbuena, Murphy, Lake, Schierholtz, Ruggiano and Sweeney.

    Pitching-wise it's Villanueva vs Rusin for the 5th starter's job and likely Rondon vs. Alberto Cabrera for the last bullpen spot.

  • As far as the draft goes, I'm still of the the belief that Jason McLeod has an Albert Almora sized crush on Alex Jackson. Make-up off the charts, has been playing on major prep all-star teams for a long time and they've gotten a good look at him. He's a natural born leader apparently. Has a bat that can play anywhere and the skills to be a very good catcher but like most catchers, may not stay there, but then again he might.

    Does this prospect crush mean McLeod will want him drafted at #4? Only if he's BPA. But with some of the college pitchers faltering lately,..

    Getting a Jorge Posada-type to man the catcher position for a decade would be a great get. I'm still hoping the pitchers in this draft are good enough and plentiful enough that the Cubs get one picking 4th, but if not, word is Alex Jackson is playing very well this season.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    I'll buy it. Color me as one who is more comfortable taking the best position player and if Jackson fairs well with Almora, bow can we go wrong?

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Thanks for that Q. Alex Jackson may well be the guy since there are no college bats looking like a 4 over-all pick. Interesting you have heard McLeod thinks highly of him. Its going to be interesting to see how all the prospects perform through the draft.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Word has it, Jackson doesn't want to catch. That matters. It doesn't mean he shouldn't be #4, but it does matter.

  • In reply to djriz:

    Thanks, dj. Hadn't heard/read that anywhere. Not that I don't believe you, but do you remember where you read that?

  • In reply to Quedub:

    I heard that once too but it was just her say at the time.

  • In reply to djriz:

    His most recent scouting video at Big league futures lists him as a 3B/OF. Makes no reference to catching.

    I think you guys are neglecting the fact that Almora was a special case. His make-up and intangibles are off the charts. I haven't heard anything like that with Jackson. I don't think he's got as much international or team USA experience as Almora. At least, I haven't heard about that like we did with Almora. Those things are what lead to him having such a high floor.

    I'm not saying we will or won't (or shouldn't) take him. But I think this FO looks for the high ceiling/high floor combo. HS Position players typically have a much lower floor than college players. I just haven't read anything on Jackson that would indicate his floor is anywhere near where Almora's was.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    John also posted a nice article referencing Kevin Gallo:

  • In reply to Break The Curse:

    I remember the article. Kevin also does work for Big league futures, which I referenced for the video. Here's the link:

  • In reply to Quedub:

    I think you're right about Jackson being the best position player available. Now whether that beats the best pitcher available at 4 is the million dollar question. Funny, we have to see what the Sox do prior to us picking. They could very well take Jackson & leave us with Kolek or Beede. I could live with that too.

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    If Olt gets 3rd base, which I think he will either now or within a month. I would rather have Bonafacio and Valbuena at 2nd. Nothing against Barney but I think a platoon of Bonafacio and Valbuena would be good at 2nd. They provide better offense and their defense while not as good as Barney is not bad. Bonafacio seems about average and Valbuena actually provides above average defense. Also Valbuena can spell Olt against tough righties at 3rd. I just think Barney is the odd man out.

  • In reply to Sean Holland:

    Sean, if you look at their whole MLB body of work, Bonafacio's offensive numbers are marginally better than Barneys. BA, OBP, SLG are all roughly 20pts +/- better than Barneys.

    Basically Fangraphs has them rated as 0.6 WAR (Banafacio) and 0.4 WAR (Barney) from 2013. If you look at 2012, Bonafacio was 0.4 WAR and Barney was 2.2 WAR. See what a nominal improvement just a little bit of Offense can do to Barney's Value?

    We are much better team with Barney's glove on the field and Bonafacio (and his wheels) and Valbuena in bench/utility roles. I think the odd man out of Olt makes the roster is Murphy. Unless we can trade one of them.

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    That is true. I don't think Valbuena or Bonafacio could come close to matching Barney's defense. Actually if I had a choice I would start Valbuena at second base. He has above average defense at 3rd and could be solid at 2nd too. Honestly I think Barney has some trade value for teams like the Yankees that desperately need defense. I just feel having the power that Olt and Valbuena provide will help the offense and the defense offered at least from Valbuena and hopefully Olt will offset what Barney offers almost entirely on defense. Not that I have hatred or anything for Barney. But I see your point Hoosier.

  • In reply to Sean Holland:

    IDK that Barney would bring us anything other than a low level lottery ticket or two ala Tony Campana. "IF" he shows a marginal improvement in his offensive stats from last year, back up to his career marks, he becomes a 2+ WAR player. At $5-7MM per win, he has some real value on a $2.3MM salary. That kind of Surplus will net us a decent prospect or two.

    I'm just as tired of seeing him hit a weak grounder or pop up as everybody else. Trying to understand that rather than just give him away in a meaningless season, holding out and possibly getting another AA/A+ version of a legitimate prospect in July is how I accept watching him for now... I don't expect Valbuena or Bonafacio to be around in 2 years anyways so their PT is insignificant for now.

  • Just a thought but maybe the Cubs can rotate Olt in and still have Valbuena up. Have him start against all LHP and maybe a couple of RHPs while Valbuena slides over to 2B 2-3 times a week.

    What do you guys think?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I think it's going to be impossible to get Olt/Barney/Bonafacio/Valbuena enough AB's with just 2B & 3B.

    Are we ready to start resting Castro & Rizzo vs tougher match-ups?

    With Lake/Ruggiano/schierholtz/Sweeney/Kalish, there aren't many more available in the OF either...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Why would we be worried about getting ABs for Valbuena, Bonifacio, Sweeney, Ruggiano? They are backups. The young guys should get the starter ABs, rest get whatever is left over.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I didn't say I was worried about it. John asked about Valbuena playing a couple of days a week at 2B and 3B. My point was there's not that many AB's for the back-ups.

    Unless we make a trade, I don't see that many AB's for Valbuena or Bonafacio with Olt & Kalish on the roster and I think we want them on the roster... Imentioned the OFr's because Bonafacio might get a day or two pt out there, but there's not many extras for him out there either.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I guess I don't get what you are trying to say then. They are all veteran players with little upside at this point in their careers. They don't need ABs for development purposes. And its not like they are so good that the team would need to find a way to get them into the lineup as much as possible in order to win games. Whenever Olt, Lake and Kalish (hopefully Opening Day) are ready they get the priority and the other guys get the scraps.

    The more I look at it, a bench consisting of Valbuena, Bonifacio, Sweeney, Ruggiano is actually not half bad. It has some speed, power, defensive versatility, a nice R/L balance. There are contenders with worse benchs. Now we just need to get better starters...

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I think we're saying the same things.

    My point in saying there wasn't enough AB's was when he suggested Valbuena playing a couple times a week at 3B and then a couple at 2B, that left none for Bonafacio. Which I wouldn't care about, but he has previously mentioend getting him 3-5 games a week, and even when you add in his ability to play OF, I just don't see that many AB's with Olt on the team. If we trade Barney, then fine. But we can't get anything for him right now...

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Sure, if Olt is healthy and seasoned 3b.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I was thinking that.. if they dont feel Olts shoulder is serious.. and he can be 100% soon.. just play Valbuena until Olt is ready.. I think Olt goes north.

  • Little OT folks, But a glimpse into the future tonight. CJ Edwards is starting and slated to pitch the first 3 innings tonight, with Jokisch scheduled to pitch behind him and Baez playing ss and Almora Dhing. Heard Mike Olts comments on Edwards and he said his Fastball "disappears".

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    In reply to mutant beast:

    Does anyone know if this game will be on the mlb channel?

  • In reply to Cubsforlife:

    It will not.

  • Loved this quote from Jon Daniels. TEX GM the other day:

    "I thought way too short-term with the Garza deal last year," Daniels told Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic. "That one's got a chance to haunt us and haunt me."

    Sorta says it all...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    That's what coming so close, but failing to win a WS a few years in a row will do to some people. We like to think all these guys are cold, calculating robots but their passion can get the best of them sometimes.

    Maybe he should think about getting rid of his bunt happy manager, that would be just as benificial as incrementally improving his roster.

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Even if CJ's a back-end guy or a late innings reliever, it's a great haul even without Olt, Grimm and Ramirez.

  • In reply to Phil James:

    Really, we only need 1 of those to contribute meaningful innings at the MLB level to be worth Garza. There's a decent chance that 3 or 4 of them will.

    13 starts in a Rangers uniform, Garza was 4-5 with a 4.38 ERA in 84 1/3 innings.

  • It doesn't feel right when one team gets burnt in a trade. Better them than us, but in short term/long term deal, I think it's better if both get what they need.

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    Oh, man - Almora! In a meaningless game!!!!

  • In reply to SKMD:

    I would believe all games are meaningful to a developing prospect. I understand your point though.

  • Almora injured making a nice catch in left center, sliding and crashing into the wall.

  • He's jogging off. Good news. Phew...

  • It's fun to watch Olt, Vogelbach, Villanueva and Almora on TV today. Voggy with 2 sharp pull singles so far.

  • And hilariously, Vogelbach is picked off first. That is something that should probably never, ever happen again.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    they hit and run with him on barney's RBI single earlier...

  • My prediction for the Top 5 picks in the MLB Draft in no particular order..

    Tyler Kolek
    Alex Jackson
    Carlos Rodon
    Tyler Beede
    Jeff Hoffman

    I think any of the 5 would have to really struggle or somebody else would have to light it up the rest of the way to knock them out.

    With that said my two contenders would be:

    Jacob Gatewood: White Sox or Twins could go with "Tools" and take the future 3rd baseman with tons of "projection" that scouts love.

    Micheal Gettys: The Trout clone is starting to mash the ball which is the only question regarding the 5 tool talent, i.e. can he hit enough to let his tools play. Same as Gatewood, scouts rave over his Tools, with a 6.4 second 60 yard dash and 100 mph throws from centerfield.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    I like your 7 guys and I would add Turner, Newcombe and Aiken to form a pretty impressive top 10. This draft is loaded. I wouldn't mind any of them if our FO picks them. They know what they are doing.

  • In reply to John57:

    That's a solid top 10

  • you guys nearly gave me a heart attack. lol. so almora is ok?

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    Don't know long term yet, but he jogged off the field. It's doubtful if there were any chance of him hurting something worse by putting weight on it much less jogging that they would've let him do that, so chances are he's fine, but no official comment yet from the Cubs.

  • did Lake just go deep again? lol

  • i am very interested in seeing the real lineup play together. I think they only have 4 ST games left so, ah whats the hurry.

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    Looks like the Rangers are looking at Kottaras.

  • In reply to Ray:

    Who backs up Castillo then? Whiteside or Baker? That's a terrible idea.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    Baker had a few good seasons offensively a couple years back - but defensively he is a bit undewhelming.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    when baker has got 150 AB or more he actually has done pretty well.
    I assume he isnt a good pinch hitter and I know little of his defensive ability.

  • Lake with a runner on 2nd gets down 0-2. Works the count back to 2-2 and then Ks. That's better than similar situations last season though he didn't appear to cut down on the swing. Would have liked to see him go the other way or just get some wood on the ball as the OFers were very deep. His earlier HR was crushed, as were 2 of the 3 yesterday. It's easy to get a little HR happy when you've got his ability. He turns 24 in a couple days. If he can learn situational hitting and improve his pitch recognition, the Cubs could really have something. At this point, however, those are two pretty big ifs.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    He's fun to watch, but I think he's always going to be a little like Soriano. What I mean by that is he will strike out a lot when you just need to move the runner, make routine mistakes, constant get beat with a breaking ball outside, in the dirt, etc but will wow you with the power/speed combo and make highlight reel plays on occasion.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    i think some of lake's issues are maturity. some AB he takes
    a lot of pitches sees the strike zone well. then his next AB it seems he steps in ready to hack and ends up striking out.

    based on his history and according to scouts reports he
    does make adjustments on a year to year basis. if he makes
    these adjustments then the results may match the skill set.
    if not could he be another; dwight smith or jerome walton.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    which wouldnt be bad as a 4th outfielder and spot starter.

  • John Baker acquitted himself nicely this spring and hits from the left side so Kottaras could be expendable without too much of an impact on the big league club considering Welly will get the vast majority of the starts.

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    In reply to Quedub:


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    In reply to Quedub:

    Looks like Texas might be looking at Barney, too.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Trade Kotteras to Texas, who just lost Soto. We get another chance to pilfer Jon Daniels again. Besides hitting better, Baker is handling the staff better.

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    Almora - "bruised knee."

    Someone remind me - our bullpen is better this year, right? Anyone? Anyone? Beuhler?

  • Instead of sending Olt down to AAA, any chance Murphy doesn't make the big league club ?

  • I want to see Roberts go north. Let Olt play everyday or so at AAA, while the Cubs are playing cold-weather games. Then when they go play the Yankees, bring him along. Cold weather does bad things to shoulders.

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    In reply to LRCCubsFan:

    You know they play AAA in Iowa, right? Just as damn cold as Chicago.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    As an ex Iowan, I can attest that there are only two types of weather :frigid and hot. If the shoulder isn't healthy they should not play him in AAA

  • The most alarming thing in st so far is the bullpen...

  • Let Olt play everyday in the majors. He's 25 years old. I see no reason other than injury he shouldn't be there. We know what we have in valbuena. This team isn't going anywhere. Olt has the opportunity to be a plus defender and a 25 Homer 100 RBI guy. There is a good amount of swing and miss but he is a former top prospect that adds something to this lineup we are missing.

  • Vogelbomb looks like a runt standing next to Hinske.

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