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.
- Bonifacio LF
- Murphy 3B
- Schierholtz RF
- Rizzo DH
- Castillo C
- Olt 1B
- Barney SS
- Almora CF
- 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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