Yesterday I wrote about the possibility of the Cubs finishing .500 and that it would bring a smile to my face -- because to me it would mean the core of young players took a big step forward. I just don't see how the Cubs can even sniff .500 if they don't a lot of production from players such as Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Mike Olt, Wellington Castillo, and Jeff Samardzija,
And while the idea of the Cubs finishing .500 may seem outlandish to some, at least one other writer believes they can and it's one of the brightest analysts in the game today: Dave Cameron from Fangraphs. Cameron believes it's the prospects who could make a difference this year,
Given early enough call-ups, I could see some combination of prospects adding three to five wins to the Cubs total this year, and I don’t think a .500 season is completely out of the question.
I agree. I don't know if this team is good enough to be .500 on their own, but they may be good enough to move in that direction this year and the prospects call-ups could give them that added boost they need to reach that level.
Kane County: The Rotation, the Defense, and Injury Updates
Last year was the first season since college (I was in Peoria and went to plenty of Chiefs games back then) in which I attended more games from another team than I did the Cubs. That team was the Kane County Cougars.
That is not going to change this season.
Whereas last year we all salivated at the lineup, this year it's going to be the rotation. The Cubs two best lower level pitching prospects, Jen Ho Tseng and Paul Blackburn, highlight a rotation of promising young arms that also includes Tyler Skulina, who was identified as a sleeper by more than one scout with whom I spoke, Daury Torrez, who has been very productive and has #3 starter type stuff, and Juan Carlos Paniagua.
You don't often see a Class A rotation with 5 legitimate pitching prospects -- but that's not even the whole story. There is also Duane Underwood (forearm) and Dillon Maples (broken rib) who will start the season rehabbing at extended spring training in Arizona. Maples injury is the more serious one and will keep him out 6 to 8 weeks. So by the time Skulina and others are ready for a promotion to Daytona, the Cubs will be able to replace them with a couple more good pitching prospects. They are simply loaded on the mound.
They'll get help on defense where the outfield will include Yasiel Balaguert, Trey Martin, Shawon Dunston, Jr., and Jacob Hanneman. In particular, on the days when Dunston, Martin, and Hanneman are starting, pitchers can be pretty sure that anything that can be run down, will be run down.
But it's not just the OF, the Cougars had a nice DP combo last year in Marco Hernandez and Gioskar Amaya but this year's may be even better. Carlos Penalver is the new SS and he may have better range than Hernandez while the fundamentally sound and athletically underrated Daniel Lockhart will likely man 2B.
We've pretty much focused on the pitching in this draft and rightfully so. Carlos Rodon, Jeff Hoffman, Tyler Beede, Tyler Kolek, and Brady Aiken make an interesting quintet and make it likely that this year, the BPA will be a pitcher.
Alex Jackson has received some early buzz with his reported good start to the season and we know the Cubs will gamble on a high school bat with long track records, as we saw with Almora. But we also know they prefer college bats, all other things being equal. Up to now, we've pretty much ruled that out in what has been a relatively weak crop of college hitters. One hitter, however, could change that line of thinking.
His name is Bradley Zimmer and he has already been drafted by the Cubs in their last Pre-Theo draft. That was 2011 and the Cubs selected Bradley in the 23rd round but did not sign him. He is the brother of Royals pitching prospect Kyle Zimmer, whom the Cubs scouted extensively prior to the 2012 draft. Like his brother, Bradley is very athletic. The younger Zimmer is playing CF this season for the University of San Francisco, though some doubt he can play the position at the MLB level -- and probably fewer still believe he could play it better than current Cubs prospect Albert Almora, so if the Cubs were to select Zimmer, they'd have to believe his bat can carry a corner OF position.
So far he's showing that he may just be able to do that. He's hitting .430/.492/.701 with 6 HRs and 11 SBs. He's more of a solid across the board player than Kris Bryant, who had a standout tool in terms of power. Here is what one NL Central scout said about Zimmer (ESPN Insider Only),
"[Zimmer] is the one true five-tool player in this class," an NL Central scout said. "He's not going to hit for massive power numbers, steal 40 bases and hit .330, but I think he's going to provide above-average numbers everywhere. My only question is at 6-foot-5, is he going to be able to stay in center field. The bat plays wherever he ends up, though."
Also of particular interest to Cubs fans is that Zimmer bats left-handed, which, like pitching, is an area in the system that the Cubs would like to address. I wouldn't say he's a top 5 player now, but he's almost certain to get consideration in the top 10. But he's a player to watch, especially considering that the Cubs previous two picks, Albert Almora and Kris Bryant also rose into top 5 consideration relatively late in the draft process.
- If you're looking for the next installment in our Top 35 Prospect Countdown, it's been pushed back a day. The opening of the baseball season has us all scrambling to find time.
- A pretty cool note: Cubs Den was among the Twitter selections on CBS Sportsline for the Cubs opener. Hopefully I'll be on there again tonight.
- Our stuff about Francisco Liriano's dominance vs. the best LH hitters in the NL was mentioned by David Kaplan on Chicago Sports Live. Thanks for the shout out Kap!
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