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On prospects, cookies, and marshmallows: Temptation looms, but patience still the key. Plus notes on Olt, Vizcaino, and today's game

On prospects, cookies, and marshmallows:  Temptation looms, but patience still the key. Plus notes on Olt, Vizcaino, and today's game
Albert Almora

We'll have an interesting lineup with some interesting subplots to watch (or listen to on MLB.com for those of us not lucky enough to be in Arizona right now).  Until then, here are some thoughts on items in the news...

On prospects and marshmallows

A couple of days ago, Theo Epstein talked about not giving the fans a cookie and that if they wait, they'll get the whole meal.

It reminded me of the old Stanford "Marshmallow Experiment" in the 60's and 70's.  In a nutshell, what researchers did was offer the kids a choice: They could have one marshmallow now before the tester left the room, but if they waited until the tester came back they would get two.  Those kids were tracked as they grew up and it was found that the kids who waited did better in school, health, and life in general.  In other words, they were more successful in the long term, even if they were slightly hungrier in the short term.

As we see prospects like Javier Baez succeed, the temptation is to take that marshmallow now, but the plan is to wait. There are various reasons as to why we should.  The financial/Super 2 aspect has already been discussed at length in our comments section in Mauricio's post earlier today.  A few noted that there is also the development aspect.  This front office has a tremendous track record of success for developing prospects -- both in Boston and San Diego.  Players are given specific individualized goals for getting to the next level.  They need to stick to that, not just because their process has been shown to be effective in the past, but also to remind prospects that there are no shortcuts.  They need to develop the kinds of skills that will make them successful major league players.  Cubs fans should know better than anyone that what works in the minors (or in small spring training sample sizes) doesn't necessarily work in the majors.  We don't need to rehash the list of failed prospects who came up to the majors unprepared.

Still, with the top prospects getting close and performing well, it's going to be more tempting than ever to gobble up that first marshmallow -- but patience is still the key.  Good things may come now, but better things come to those who wait.

Update on Mike Olt

Yesterday we wrote about Mike Olt, his chances of making the team, and what it would mean for the Cubs rebuilding process.  After writing that article, I learned that the buzz from team officials in Arizona is that Olt indeed has a realistic shot of cracking the Opening Day Lineup.  It may depend on health more than anything else and the Sun-Times reported today that Olt could be playing 3rd base by the end of the week.  The article also includes encouraging news on Starlin Castro and Jake Arrieta.

Vizcaino still drawing buzz

Patrick Mooney has an interesting piece on Vizcaino who is healthy for the first time in a long time.  When asked about the last time he felt this good, Vizcaino responded,

“I can’t remember, man. For real...“I feel comfortable right now,” Vizcaino said. “No pain. Nothing in my arm. I feel happy. That’s why I’m dancing.”

Yesterday we talked about how it's easy to forget Mike Olt was once the 22nd rated prospect in the game by Baseball Ameriac just a year ago at this time.   Vizcaino was ranked as the 12th rated prospect in all of baseball by ESPN's Keith Law.  That was before he lost two seasons to elbow troubles.  But it appears that Vizcaino, like Olt, is healthy and on the verge of recapturing those skills that made them such highly regarded prospects in the very recent past.

The Cubs understand his potential, but again, patience is the key with Vizcaino.

“We’re going to be bringing him along slowly,” pitching coach Chris Bosio said. “There’s just so much potential in that arm. He’s so excited. This guy wants to win a spot.

“We’ll see what happens with him. We just got to be very careful. He’s going to get ample rest in between side sessions. We’re not going to overdo it. We’ll watch his pitch count closely. But he’s been a pleasant, pleasant surprise this spring already.”

It makes sense that they can limit him best in either the minors or extended spring training where the pressure to win takes a back seat to proper development and keeping players healthy.  But as long as he stays healthy and regains his command, then there seems little doubt that Vizcaino will be up at some point this season.

Optimistic look from BP

If you subscribe to BP, check out this optimistic look at the 2016 Cubs.  Can't give too much away since it's for subscribers but it involves prospects working out and the Cubs getting Price and Scherzer.   I believe it's possible the Cubs could pursue such high-level, high salaried options.  It depends on how much the Cubs progress in the next couple of years.  And with the payroll flexibility they've saved by not overpaying for free agents the past couple of years, the Cubs should have the financial means to make such a move when the timing is right.

Today's Lineup

  1. Bonifacio LF
  2. Murphy 3B
  3. Schierholtz RF
  4. Rizzo DH
  5. Castillo C
  6. Olt 1B
  7. Barney SS
  8. Almora CF
  9. Alcantara 2B

SP: Travis Wood

What to watch:

  • Yet another position for Emilio Bonafacio as he starts in LF today.  One thing that hasn't changed is that he continues to lead-off whenever he's in the game.
  • Mike Olt gets a start in the field today but it's at 1B as the Cubs continue to be cautious with his shoulder recovery process.  Another big game by Olt and the buzz about him cracking the lineup will get even louder.
  • Darwin Barney gets the start at SS today.  We can read a lot of things into this: Are they increasing his value? Are they preparing him for a utility role?  Honestly I don't think it's that big a deal.  At this point, it's really just about finding an adequate backup for Castro.  The Cubs have also looked at Bonafacio and Jeudy Valdez in that spot while Chris Valaika is scheduled to start there in one of the split squad games on Friday.  My guess is that Bonafacio wins a spot and the Cubs are trying to determine which one of them plays SS and which one plays 2B when Castro gets a day off.
  • Albert Almora gets his first start and as I expected, he hasn't been intimidated in big league camp.  Almora has the same kind of confidence in his ability that Baez has -- that he can compete on any level against any pitcher.   Almora is one of the best pure hitters in the organization and this spring it appears he is trying to add a new dimension to his game -- working the count and putting himself in good hitting situations.  I've remarked in the past how Almora is not a hacker despite a below average walk rate.   He does show good pitch recognition and as pitchers get tougher and Almora needs to get more selective, I believe we'll see his walk rate continue to improve.  Another thing to note about Almora is that he looks visibly bigger -- in a good way.  Almora has always made hard contact -- which is why I and some of the scouts I've talked to believe he will someday hit 15-20 HRs.  Adding physical strength makes that power projection even more likely.
  • Travis Wood makes his first start of the spring.  His first scheduled start was washed out by a rare Cactus League rainout.

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  • Love the Marshmallow analogy John!

    There's actually a lot of positive things with today's line-up. You mentioned Almora and the Barney/Bonafacio, but giving Olt more looks at 1B isn't just about his shoulder as he may be the primary back-up to Rizzo as we can slide Valbuena/Murphy etc over to cover 3B if something happens to Rizzo. But you're right about the buzz with another strong outing or two. Same can be said for Vizcaino.

    Makes you wonder where our farm would have ranked if the guru's knew how Olt/Vizcaino were going to look in ST?....

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    Looking forward to seeing Alcantara at 2B today.

  • Thanks for this excellent post! Five years from now I believe the Cubs' Major League roster will benefit greatly from the patience and wisdom of this front office. Making each prospect work and dominate each level is the way to go in my opinion. It keeps each prospect level-headed when they arrive (harder to be a prima donna when you had to work your tail off at each level) and the character they'll develop by doing it the right way without short-cuts should have long-term benefits. I know this is hard to measure, but there are countless prospects who were rushed and then ruined. If only more patience was shown towards them....

  • In reply to David23:

    Thanks David!

  • In reply to David23:

    I especially agree with your caution about prospects. I go back to Roy Smalley who looked like anHOFer when there were no fans in the stands., but couldn't field a roller in the game. Our famous keystone was Miksis to Smalley to Addison St.

  • renteria just walked by and signed an autograph or two. I'm sitting five rows from the field. kiddie corner from the end of the cubs dugout

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    Sounds like good seats.

  • I really like watching Almora hit.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    That makes two of us -- and probably a whole lot more!

  • In reply to 44slug:

    When I watch Almora, he makes me think of the hitter I want Starlin Castro to be. They both make consistent hard contact. Both have great plate coverage. But Almora is better (and apparently is continuing to progress) at waiting for a better pitch to drive. Too often Castro has to "settle" for a single up the middle or into RF becuase the pitch he swings at is at the corner or just off it, instead of waiting for a pitch over the plate that he drive into one of the gaps.

  • Great marshmallow analogy.

    I think to continue the analogy, it'll likely be particularly tough for Cubs fans because they've been sitting in the room for hours without any marshmallows whatsoever, so to speak.

    It's still the right course, but it's tougher to handle now after the past two years (not to mention the 100 before that).

  • In reply to Matt Mosconi:

    Thanks. Years of frustration make it tougher, but from the perspective of these particular prospects getting close to being ready, it's still very new.

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    I continue to believe if we trade Shark early in the season this team has an excellent chance at the worst record in baseball. However, if Olt (3B) and Vizcaino (bullpen) both start the season on the big league club, it could be a lot better than that. The most optimistic result would place us around 9th or 10th in the draft but I would be ecstatic with that because it would be all young talent leading the way.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Even if we trade Shark, I honestly think we can/will get enough out of Vizcaino/Olt/Baez/Hendricks. I know expecting young guys to perform at a high level as rookies is foolish but I think those 4 guys have either enough raw talent (Vizcaino/Baez) or enough polish/experience (Olt/Hendricks) that they will be able to contribute enough whenever they come up to the big club to prevent a total 2nd half collapse like we have seen in years past.

    Honestly, I am more worried about Hammel/Arrieta being able to match the performances we've seen from the likes of Maholm and Feldman to keep us in games in the 1st half.

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    In reply to mjvz:

    I'd be shocked if Hendricks comes up before September. He's had just a handful of AAA starts and strikes me as a guy who could benefits from a full year of AAA experience.

    Baez? Who knows. I'd guess he'd come up in July and have his now typical horrible month, meaning he'll heat up in August.

    Olt/Viz I agree. Olt would give the Cubs another plus player to go with Rizzo and Castro and a lineup that actually could start putting some rallies together. And Vizcaino would really help hold down leads -- a perennial problem.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    I have on other sites said that I think the win total could be as high as 75 this year. When I made that statement I was and am convinced that Olt should make the team out of ST.
    If Olt is healthy enough and can be a 250/320/450 player this year Chicago tickets may be hard to come by in July when Vizcaino is our 7/8 man, Strop is closing and Baez is knocking on the door for 2nd base.
    I am still holding out hope that we get an extension done with Shark. Because then we have a solid top 3 with a Jackson rebound. If Arrieta becomes what his stuff has always said is possible then we are definitely building towards a very solid rotation. Hammel doesn't have to be as good as Feldman last year or Maholm the year before for us to be very solid. He just has to eat innings.
    The bullpen stacks up pretty good without Vizcaino if Russell is healthy enough to go (BIG IF). With Wright and Veras the front office has definitely bought some time for Strop, Parker and some of the kids to step up.
    Even if there is a mass sell off at the break I would bet that our days of falling off a ledge in August and Sept are over. The future is bright for sure and I am of the thinking that we are just about ready to take the next step. So I can really expect Team Theo to be looking more at major league talent at this deadline.

  • I'm sorry but any further discussions involving marshmallows must center around The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

  • In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:

    LOL! That should have been my picture for this article.

  • john. you have an email address.i can forward you some pics

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    You can email to arguello425@yahoo.com.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That's a bit pretentious to include your batting average into your email address.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Haha! That was my little league OBP. But .420 of it came from walks.

  • They aren't going to try to make Vizcaino a starter are they?

  • In reply to Ike03:

    Not right away. Perhaps in the future.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I could see Vizcaino getting the Medlen treatment in 2015. That is, bullpen to start the year, and stretched out to the rotation eveeventually.

  • Eventually I think it's possible. Not sure if it will be this year -- at least at the MLB level.

  • That makes 2 of us at the game. Good game to see the young talent for more than 2 innings.

  • beef swang for the fences in that bases loaded situation. swing out of his shoes. lol

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    Got to be mindful of the situations. Flyball would have scored of a run.

    Sounds like Almora just made a great catch.

  • almora with a great catch!

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    Kind of troubled by Olt: other than the home run, a lot of weak contact.

  • Masterson got the better of Almora that time. FB outside corner, swinging check swing on an inside pitch, swinging strike on a slider way out of the zone. But his defense lived up to the hype. Ran down a 400' shot almost dead center, sliding catch on the warning track. Great jump, catch, etc.

  • wood looks good

  • Murphy's foul ball could of hit me lol.

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    Sounds like he's making hard contact today.

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    Another solid hit for Rizzo. He's having a great spring.

  • Grimm is all over the place

  • stadium announcer can't pronounce alcantaras name correctly. lol

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    I would have enjoyed hearing Harry pronounce Alcantaras backward.

  • These spring games remind me how much better baseball is when the pitcher isn't forced to hit

  • 2 on. no out. let's go guys

  • Trevor Bauer is bringing it

  • Brett Jackson didn't score on a base hit to center. he waited on a no doubt line Drive base hit. bad

  • 'cubs come up short yet again' ughhh

  • In reply to rsanchez11:

    Frustrating game.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I was just about done with Jackson last year, after seeing this, I am done.

  • In reply to Buzz:

    Doesn't look great so far. Feel bad for the guy. He works hard. He may be on his last chance this year.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I feel like you should probably macro that phrase for this season.

  • Bryant in at 3rd.

  • Bauer..I can see the potential but the dude is quirky, but he will drive a manager crazy. Threw one strike in warm-ups, made Rizzo look silly on strike 3, walked one gave up 2 hits, of which Jackson should have scored.

  • well, all that talk of improving hitting with RISP... we are at 25 Left on Base - i must admit i was not following very closely - but at least 10-15 must have been RISP

  • In reply to Csanad:

    They've blown a lot of opportunities today. Bad situational hitting today.

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    Since it's NPR pledge week, let me give a plug to RadioLab from WNYC - this is a fascinating report about that marshmallow experiment( hope the link works, otherwise google it) - if you like it, think about donating to NPR.

    http://50.31.154.45/radiolab/radiolab101510.mp3?downloadId=531759a8c8dc4aa2_oRZk3soX_00000000vHY

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Which one of these kids do you feel like? I know that resisting that marshmallow is the right thing to do, but as you can see in this video, it's really, really hard for these kids.

    And these Cubs fans.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x3S0xS2hdi4

  • In reply to Morgzie:

    It's particularly funny to watch it thinking about all of us talking about these prospects and how hungry we are for the Cubs to win something.

  • In reply to Morgzie:

    Ha! No doubt it's hard to resist that marshmallow, especially for us Cubs fans, but it needs to be done.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Interesting timing!

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    No, it's an old episode of RadioLab, I just remembered it and dug it up for this occasion.

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    Condolences to Rich Hill and his family.

  • In reply to Ray:

    Its really sad, condolences also.

  • Not saying that Wood is the next Tom Glavine but if you compare the 1st 4 years of MLB anyone can argue that Wood was the better pitcher. If you don't believe me you should check the stats. Although some experts say he will he will not be as good as last year, I got a feeling he will be better. Big year for him!

  • "Hill reports to Red Sox after death of newborn son" http://boston.redsox.mlb.com/news/article/bos/pitcher-rich-hill-reports-to-red-sox-after-death-of-newborn-son?ymd=20140306&content_id=68799794&vkey=news_bos

  • In reply to JoePepitone:

    Damn,.... that sucks. I would be a mess in that circumstance.

    I wish him and his family peace.

  • I have yet to see Logan Watkins' name in any of the starting lineups.
    Has he already been written off?

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    Hill was pedestrian at AAA last year and played so little after being called up. He needs to start hitting with some authority every chance that gets or his window will close. Too many young guys behind him to just be marking time.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Of course I mean Watkins. I had Rich and his family on my mind.

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