We've waited patiently all winter for baseball and just when we're starting to get into the swing of things, yesterday's games rained out. The Cubs haven't played well so far -- but spring training isn't about stats or wins and losses. It's about preparation and getting ready for the season. But that's not to say there's no evaluative value here.
We're not about to tell you that it matters if a player hits .500 or posts a sub 2.00 ERA. It really doesn't. What does matter, however, is how these results are being produced. In the case of Cubs hitting prospects, it was great to see that Albert Almora doubled and Kris Bryant hit a long, long HR. Of greater importance is how they got there. Is the player showing a good approach at the plate? Are they making hard contact?
In the case of both Almora and Bryant on Friday, the answer is yes -- but they weren't the only ones. Javier Baez's last AB was his best. He worked the count, laid off some borderline pitches and then ripped a line drive. Unfortunately it was right at the 3B. Jorge Soler showed discipline in his first AB as well, laying off some tough pitches. Unfortunately the umpire was a bit generous with his strike zone and Soler fell behind in the count -- but the Cubs OF prospect did show the discipline to lay off of pitcher's strikes and wait for one he could drive. He never got that opportunity on Friday, but chances are if he continues to show that kind of patience for an entire season, he will get plenty of those opportunities.
Teammate Kris Bryant showed what a powerful hitter can do if he patiently waits for his chance. It was Bryant's AB that had a lot of Cubs fan buzzing. After working the count full, Bryant fouled off a couple of tough strikes, forcing the pitcher to try and repeat those good pitches. He could not and Bryant launched it deep beyond the CF wall, a HR that was well over 400 feet.
The HR is what will get some excited. Results are always the end goal -- but its that approach that will get Bryant and other prospects noticed by the Cubs brass,
"He had a great at-bat," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "A lot of those kids did. ... They showed well and we're glad that they showed well. It's obviously a confidence-building moment for all of them. Certainly Bryant put a charge into that particular pitch."
Results come and go in small sample sizes like spring training -- but process is process. That part is repeatable. That's what made Friday's performances so encouraging for those watching Cubs prospects.
- Emilio Bonifacio, CF
- Starlin Castro, SS
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B
- Justin Ruggiano, LF
- Ryan Sweeney, DH
- Welington Castillo, C
- Nate Schierholtz, RF
- Donnie Murphy, 3B
- Darwin Barney, 2B
What to watch:
- The Cubs clearly are looking at Bonifacio as a super utility player at this point and his ability to play CF, 2B, and SS will give him a huge edge. The Cubs also seem to like his skills in the leadoff spot and he could see time there early in the season when it's difficult to score runs in the cold Chicago weather.
- This is the best lineup the Cubs have put on the field so far. Every player figures to get significant playing time with the big league club one way or the other.
- Edwin Jackson looks to take the first step toward a rebound season.
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