Cubs Game Notes: Prospects showing patience

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.

Today's Lineup

  1. Emilio Bonifacio, CF
  2. Starlin Castro, SS
  3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  4. Justin Ruggiano, LF
  5. Ryan Sweeney, DH
  6. Welington Castillo, C
  7. Nate Schierholtz, RF
  8. Donnie Murphy, 3B
  9. 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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  • I am curious as to why Renteria said that Castro would hit leadoff and in the games where a lineup has been posted, Castro has batted 3rd and 2nd.

    Why not let him bat in his spot and leave him there, even in meaningless games like Spring Training.

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    Another interesting thing about the lineup: SRLRLRLRR

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I noticed that as well, and that balance makes it a lot tougher on the opposing pitcher and allows hitters to be more successful.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Balance always helps -- we found that out in 2008 the hard way. I'm really eager to see how this lineup performs.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Agree totally in the importance of balance in the line-up. Steve Stone, when he was Steve Stone, educated me on the pressure this puts on a pitcher. It always seemed to me a no brainer from a team building stand point. Especially when you are facing 3,4,5 pitchers. Anything you can do to effect a pitchers rhythm helps. Easier said then done for sure, but from a sabermetrics stand point, i'd be interested to see some #'s. Maybe an article from Mike or the new guy would be enlightening.

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    In reply to 44slug:

    It's preseason, so it really doesn't mean as much in terms of what it does for reliever use and the like. However, it can't be a coincidence, either. As John points out, these are all guys who figure to get significant playing time over the course of the season (even if we sub in Mike Olt for Donnie Murphy it doesn't change things), so this could well be something he's thinking about as a regular lineup.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Yeah, good point. When have the Cubs had that kind of balance?

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I've always thought lineup balance is really important just for the matchup problems it forces on opposing managers later in the game. I like that Renteria seems to looking for lineups that combine pop and balance.

    More interesting is what happens as the right-handed brigade in the minors gradutes to the majors. Particularly if Trea Turner is the pick in June.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I think the Cubs will look outside the organization for LH hitters if one doesn't emerge. If they have surplus, they can always make trades for needs.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Totally agree. I'm more excited to see who goes and who stays. Do they go "small" -- say Jorge Soler for Joc Pederson -- or do they go "big" and move, say, Starlin Castro for CarGo. (I know that exact trade won't happen because the Rockies have Tulo, but think along the lines of establish ML talent for established ML talent.)

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Mike, I think that is the way to go, established ML talent for established ML talent. Trading prospects for established ML talent costs too much in prospect currency. I still have my fingers crossed for a Castro/Price trade. I know the stars aren't aligned right now but you just never know. We need LHs in the rotation too.

  • Edwin had his 2nd best career year last year judging by FIP. He may be due for regression.

  • In reply to LVD24:

    FIP is rather constant because those are the things pitchers can control. When we talk about regressing to the mean, we're talking about his results (which are more variable because of environmental factors) matching those peripherals. In EJax's case, that would be a good thing.

  • I was really impressed with Bryant's at bat... But it's hard not to be impressed by his swing... He basically poked the ball on a swing that you'd think was going to result into a lazy fly ball to shallow CF, but the ball kept carrying and landed 420 ft away... It was a great at bat and tremendous display of power.

  • Any thoughts on at what level in the MiL system Soler starts out?

    Is he more likely to start in AA, or AAA in light of the lack of PT last year?

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    More likely at AA. He was being considered for a promotion at the break before he got hurt. Going to AA will pick up where he left off.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I think he handled AZ Fall League pitching pretty well considering he was not at 100%.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Agreed. I think he's ready for AA. He may not light it up but I think he can handle it.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    If Soler spends the entire year at AA, If hes the real deal, Id have to imagine his numbers will improve month-by-month, sort of like the improvements Baez made as the year went along.

  • I agree there are a few bright spot to watch. Those young guys are fun to follow but once they get assigned to a team. The rest if spring training will be boring. I know wins and loses and bad play normally doesn't matter but in this case let's face it is a direct reflection of what we r gonna see this summer. But as long as Castro, rizzo and Wellington improve it will be somewhat successful season.

    What will the cubs do if olt isn't ready? Where do you assign olt, Bryant, Candelario and Villanueva ?

  • Castro came out of the game after getting hit by a pitch then getting thrown out stealing.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Bright side is that Javy Baez is in.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    All I've heard is that he was shaken up after attempting to steal... They have downplayed it as possibly something minor, hopefully it's a day to day thing.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    With our luck his tear duct is broken.

  • Re Caps: Bryant's swing was no lazy fly ball, I was behind home plate and was a blast, basically the only question was if it was going to hit the hitters background or not.

    We might have gotten rid of Garza at the right time (and best haul). He's getting lit up today...4 in the first, with a DP to help him.

  • In reply to Buzz:

    I guess you misunderstood me... I meant his swing was so smooth you'd think that coming out of his bat it was going to be a lazy fly ball, but it traveled 420 ft... It was an effortless 420 ft shot... I was actually complimenting Bryant.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Gotcha and ya, smooth power. This kid is going to be special, 31 hrs in 62 college games...with BBCOR bats, and obviously what has done since then. Also, he was one of the few spending time with fans before the game.

  • In reply to Buzz:

    Indeed, I also think he didn't look too bad at 3B in that game... But I still hope Olt pans out and pushes Bryant to RF because that would be a good problem to have.

  • In reply to Buzz:

    Buzz, the folks that compare him to Kong Kingman need to wise up. Even now Bryant is a more advanced hitter than Kingman was his entire career. If Bryany stays healthy, Im betting he easily surpasses Kongs power bumbers with a better OBP/BA and fewer Ks. Bryant is a special talent.

  • Castro: Mild harmstring strained... I'm guessing that's about 1 week out or so.

  • It's hard not to be excited about the Cubs young guys, but Bryant is more fundamentally sound at the plate than anyone including major leaguers.

  • Casto strained the hamstring last ST as well. Sat out 10 days. Had a terrible year.

    Lets hope it isn't a repeat.

    Always seems that guys "come to camp in the best shape of their life" and then promptly pull a muscle.

  • more javy Baez for this week. woot woot

  • Is it just me, or is the chemistry between Hughes and Ron. Coomer. Already apparent? Thumbs up. I like Ron's easy delivey and knowledge of the game. And for all that is said about having a Cubs connection. His local connection also carries some weight. His memories as a child of Bedford Park outdoor ice rinks was apropo.

  • I agree. They are going to make a good team. If the snow ever melts, I'll have them on while doing yard work.

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    This will make everyone smile.

    Best quote: "There's no field at all safe for that man. I'm glad he's in our organization. He's a great kid. He goes about his business the right way. You can see it in his eyes. He's determined and has come a long way."

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I've been saying that since I saw him play on a 15U travel team.... He's always been a "Man among boys" so to speak...

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