Things aren't going particularly well for the Cubs right now. They are now 11-21, and have actually done worse than the woeful 11-20 start I had hoped they could top this year, so the attention turns to the young core, the minor leagues. and the draft.
More support for Rizzo
Apparently I ruffled some White Sox fans feathers when I dare suggested Anthony Rizzo is having a year on par with their shiny new toy Jose Abreu -- and may even be the better 1B in the years ahead.
- "But he has more RBI!"
- "Did you change your mind now (after he had a 3 hit game against a pitcher that was clearly struggling that night)?"
- "You're just a biased Cubs fan!"
I've addressed all of this and I stand by my objective analysis of the two 1Bs, but it's always nice to see an outsider support your view-- Especially when it is an intelligent media personality like Dan Bernstein, I have had many differences of opinion in the past with Bernstein but we are an agreement this time as Bernstein wrote a very similar analysis to mine. You don't have to like him, but nobody in their right mind can say he has a bias toward the Cubs.
Sorry Sox fans, but facts and objective metrics are stubborn things. And to ignore them in order to favor your team's player (or to take a shot at the Cubs)...well, that's what I would call bias.
Minor League Promotion Candidates
One thing I get asked about constantly when it comes to prospects is, "When is (fill in name here) going to get promoted?" Here is my quick breakdown.
This won't be an exhaustive list, but instead candidates who fit a certain pattern with the Cubs front office. Promotion candidates have had one or more of the following characteristics...
- They are old for their league or at least age appropriate for the next league
- They are repeating a league
- They are dominating 0r at least very productive at their current level
That was the case with the latest promotions, Arodys Vizcaino and Zack Godley.
Other guys who fit all three benchmarks are...
- Tsuyoshi Wada, SP
- Chris Rusin, SP
- Chris Valaika, utility
- Marcus Hatley, RP
- Alberto Cabrera, RP
- Rafael Lopez, C
- John Andreoli, OF
- Armando Rivero, RP
- Bijan Rademacher
- Pin-Chieh Chen
- Zach Cates
- Justin Amlung, SP-RP
- Jose Arias, RP
- Gerardo Concepcion, RP
- Nathan Dorris, RP
- Tyler Skulina, SP
- Ben Carhart, C
Again, this is not exhaustive and there can always be exceptions, but these are the most likely promotions in near future. There are players like Arismendy Alcantara and Kris Bryant who could move up later in the season once they gain more experience, as age isn't as much of a factor with your elite talent.
Re-Thinking the MLB Draft
I think the Jeff Hoffman injury really put a monkey wrench in the White Sox plans. I'm told that he was likely in the top 3 of their draft board. They must now re-consider going with plan B -- I think they'll take a high school pitcher (Brady Aiken, Tyler Kolek) if available, but I'm not sure they'll wrangle with Scott Boras (Carlos Rodon). In the latter scenario, they may go to the next guy down on their board. Of course, those plan B scenarios may affect the Cubs pick as well and then trickle on down the draft.
So let's look at the Cubs Plan B options...
If Rodon, Kolek and Aiken go 1-2-3
Stock down on Beede?
I think in this scenario the choice comes down to a high school bat -- Nick Gordon, or the next high ceiling college arm -- Tyler Beede. The Cubs, like many teams out there, may have cooled a bit on Beede because of inconsistency with his command leading up to the draft. A couple of months ago, I would have called this a slam dunk but now I am not nearly as certain. One thing going in his favor is his ties with the Cubs and the fact that he has a long track record. The latter is something the Cubs look for early in the draft. Of course there is also the great stuff, size, and mental makeup that profiles as top of the rotation. The only thing holding him back is that command -- but honestly, I'm a little down on the Beede possibility right now based on some things I've heard of late from a couple of different trusted sources, but I'm not going to completely rule him out at #4.
Stock up on Gordon?
The other choice that has grown quickly on me is SS Nick Gordon. There are just so many things to like: the bloodlines (former Cub Tom Gordon's son), the strong makeup, the athleticism, the ability to play SS -- plus the much needed speed and left-handed bat. The only question is whether Gordon can hit, but he has allayed many of those concerns with his excellent offensive performance this season. Per our friend Dan Kirby at Through the Fence Baseball,
Gordon has been displaying all five tools this season and is the best all-around shortstop in the class. The 6’-2”, 190 pound left-handed hitter is hitting .507/.620/.870 through 27 games with nine doubles, five home runs and 17 stolen bases. He has drawn 18 walks to just three strikeouts, showing his advanced approach at the plate. His canon arm, glove and instincts will allow him to stick at short, and he has all the makings of a superstar at the next level.
And in a worst case scenario if he doesn't hit, Gordon can hit the mid 90s off the mound and would be a first round candidate if he chose to stay on the mound. He has enough size, arm strength, and athleticism to make that transition if necessary.
White Sox Alternatives and the Rodon to Cubs scenario
The Sox could go with prep OF-3B Alex Jackson or Aaron Nola, RHP from LSU. Jackson fills a need for power (especially with Hawkins struggling) and a 3B in their system if he can stick there. The idea of Nola to the White Sox is growing on me because he's the closest to being MLB ready, perhaps as soon as 2015, and the Sox are shifting to win-now mode. A cheap, cost-controlled #4 pitcher is a nice asset for a team that will have to pay Chris Sale and is still paying for John Danks. What's more, the Sox might be able to save a little money and invest in one of the high ceiling prep arms expected to be available in the 2nd round -- or possibly still take a shot at Hoffman if he's there. If I were a Sox fan, that scenario is awfully intriguing to me.
As I've said many times, I'm not sold the Cubs will pick either player at the #4 spot
Patrick Mooney also says the Sox may be interested in Nola, but seem to be scouting prep pitchers Tyler Kolek and Brady Aiken heavily. I think the Astros will take either Rodon or Aiken and the Marlins will take Kolek. But right now I'm leaning toward the Astros going with Aiken, who is beginning to look like the consensus top player in the draft because of his mix of polish and raw stuff -- and the fact that he's lefty is a nice little bonus. In that scenario, the Marlins go Kolek and the Sox may avoid Rodon (whom Mooney suspects is just a smokescreen for the Sox). I've heard whispers on my end as well that Rodon may be available for the Cubs.
In that case, the draft could go something like this...
1. Astros: Brady Aiken
2. Marlins: Tyler Kolek
3. White Sox: Aaron Nola
4. Cubs: Carlos Rodon
So, to sum it up, I don't think the prep arms make it to the Cubs, so that leaves them with a choice of Nick Gordon and possibly Carlos Rodon. I don't think they'll reach for a pitcher given that they are a BPA team that favors position players all things being equal. That to me rules out Nola right now (but no so much Beede because of the higher ceiling) and while I like Alex Jackson a lot as a hitter, I think Gordon has the higher floor to go with the similarly high ceiling and is the better fit for the organization.