Looking for Left in All the Right Places

Looking for Left in All the Right Places

With this season once again coming apart in mid-April, Cubs fans are again looking to the future.  While the offense appears to be in excellent shape with prospects Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, and Albert Almora on the horizon, the lineups look distinctly biased towards right handed hitters.  Looking at the lineups Theo built in Boston suggests that he aims for balance in his lineups.

It seems that this is something Theo will look to address in the near future.  In addition, Theo has said he wants to bring in some more veterans to help the young players adapt.  Looking at veteran players who hit left handed would allow Theo to kill two birds with one stone.

Therefore, I set about trying to find left handed options for the Cubs.  To do this, I focused on non-first basemen because replacing Rizzo with another lefty does nothing for lineup balance.  I also sought out players already in the Cubs system or likely to be attainable in the next year to year and a half.  Ergo, Oscar Taveras is not under consideration.  Nor is Robinson Cano, whose contract makes him unattractive.

Internal Options

  • Arismendy Alcantara (2B, AAA Iowa): the switch hitting Alcantara is closest to the majors and, ideally, would provide what Emilio Bonifacio is providing this year, with slightly more power.  His upper limit is in the 15-20 HR range but, combined with his speed, that would be a nice addition to the lineup coming from center field, second, or short.  The problem is the power won't play with a substandard approach and, after seeming to make gains last year, Alcantara has gone back to his swing happy ways this season, walking just 4 times in 138 PAs (2.9%).
  • Jeimer Candelario (3B, A+ Daytona): a favorite of prospect gurus coming into this season, the 20 year old Candelario has struggled mightily at high A Daytona.  Defensively, he is limited to a corner, and possibly to first base only.  At his ceiling, he would provide high average, good OBP, and 20 HRs.  This year's .170/.285/.313 line, however, is a long way from that.  While it is too soon to write Candelario off, this year makes it seem like he is a significant way away from helping the team.
  • Jacob Hannemann (OF, A Kane County): Hannemann is one of the more interesting overslots from last year's draft.  Signing out of the 3rd round for $1 million, Hannemann was a two-sport athlete for BYU.  After missing two years to fulfill his Mormon mission, Hannemann is all about raw athleticism and projection, with some comparing him to Theo pick Jacoby Ellsbury.  This year, some of that potential is on display with a solid approach (9% walk rate), good speed (12 steals in 13 attempts), and some power (.111 ISO).  However, he is still quite raw and has a lot of refinement before he can be considered for a major league position.

External Options:

  • Carlos Gonzalez (LF, Colorado Rockies): a favorite on this blog over the off-season, CarGo fills in a lot of the Cubs needs.  A left-handed outfielder with solid pop and a strong approach.  He also has a bloated contract that people speculated the Rockies may want to move.  Unfortunately, the Rockies fast start suggests that they will be buying, not selling, at the deadline to bulk up a core that will add young starters Jon Gray and Eddie Butler in the near future.
  • Jason Heyward (RF, Atlanta Braves): taken 11 picks after Cubs' whipping boy Josh Vitters, the 24 year old Heyward has had the better career by far, putting up 27 HR as a 22 year old in 2012.  Unfortunately, Heyward has regressed some since then and is hitting just .206/.307/.319 this season.  The Cubs reportedly asked for him when the Braves called on Samardzija, so the front office has some interest here.  Heyward is a free agent after the 2015 season, so he can be had on the open market then or traded for and extended ahead of time.  The downside to the free agent route is that he will almost certainly come with a qualifying offer attached and, if traded for, the Braves will want more than a qualifying offer in return.  Still, given his age and experience, he seems a likely target for this front office.
  • Melky Cabrera (LF, Toronto Blue Jays): to put it mildly, there's some risk here.  Cabrera was enjoying a breakout season for the Giants in 2012 before he was slapped with a suspension for violating league substance abuse policy.  He then signed a two-year make-good deal with the Blue Jays and had a miserable 2013.  This year, however, the 29-year old Cabrera is leading baseball with 55 hits and sports a .333/.368/.521 line.  The power numbers (6 HR) are solid for a corner outfielder, though above his career averages.  A month ago I would have said he was unlikely to receive a qualifying offer, but that may have changed this year.  A guy to watch.
  • Roughned Odor (2B, Texas Rangers): one of the Rangers' top prospects, he finds himself without a long term role with Elvis Andrus and Jurickson profar patrolling the middle infield.  He is not the strongest guy in the world, but has a solid hit tool and could show doubles power with 10-15 HR.  On the negative side, the Rangers are falling out of contention in a tough AL West and may be unwilling to let the Cubs raid their farm system for a 3rd straight year.  (Joey Gallo, owner of perhaps the best power tool in the minors, but further from the big leagues, is another possibility here.)
  • Joc Pederson (CF, AAA Albuquerque Isotopes, Dodgers): Pederson, long considered a prospect whose total is greater than the sum of his parts, has been destroying AAA pitching, putting up video game numbers of .360/.476/.655.  He probably isn't that good, but Anthony Rizzo in a corner outfield slot is not out of the question with him.  In addition, he has four outfielders ahead of him at Dodger Stadium (Kemp, Ethier, Crawford, and Puig).  The Dodgers reportedly want to get younger and have a big need for a third baseman, where Juan Uribe is the starter, and potentially up the middle, where Hanley Ramirez is reportedly on the Yankees short list to replace Derek Jeter.  Current second baseman Dee Gordon is off to an incredible start but whether that is sustainable is very much open to debate.  There seems to be a double coincidence of wants here and a possibility for a big trade.

There are some options out there.  Right now, I think Heyward and Pederson have to be considered the most likely with a dark horse to Melky Cabrera.  Jacob Hannemann is clearly a favorite of the front office, but is still a long way off.

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  • fb_avatar

    They may also wait before a trade is made, imo. You could just let this thing play out and let the pieces fall where they may. It's getting to the point where we just promote the kids as they are ready. Let them play and work towards a playoff off spot.

    I strongly doubt Theo just flips a switch over the winter and says, this is the year we "go for it." I see him developing these kids to get them to the show. Then we start to look at trades or prospects that fit in where they may.

    Positionally we really seem to be in good shape. But pitching will still have to be addressed. So which prospects get moved in the grand scheme of things. Could Mike Olt just be auditioning for a trade partner? We have many guys that could fill in quite well at 3B.

    Do we shock folks with a Baez or Castro trade?

    Does Soler ever play a whole season or does he get moved?

    Still lots of chips have to fall in place and we probably will get a better picture next winter, imo......

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    In reply to bocabobby:

    They absolutely could wait. However, I tend to think the argument that Theo won't just "flip a switch" argues for acquiring pieces as you can. If one of these pieces is available at the right price, no reason not to grab it. Add to that if you do it now either (a) they'll have another veteran in place for the kids, something Theo has spoken on the value of or (b) the prospect they get will have more time to adjust to the league.

  • What would it take to get Pederson from the Dodgers?

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    In reply to Craig:

    Really unclear at the moment. Depends on if his dominance has raised expectations or if it's just a good start in a hitter's league. The key piece of a Samardzija deal makes sense. Maybe a package deal, say Olt and Alcantara -- assuming both play significantly better in the second half of the season.

  • In reply to Craig:

    I like the idea of getting Pederson for a package built around Olt. But their #1 prospect is Corey Seeger who is listed as a SS but is 6'4" 215. Sounds like a 3B to me. Might be willing to wait it out. All LA's prospect pitchers have struggled this year and I don't think Pederson is enough for Shark.

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    In reply to DeuceBaseman:

    The problem with that from the Dodgers perspective is that Seager is a 20 year old in high A -- likely 2 to 2 1/2 years from the majors -- and they are built to win now. Someone like Olt who could step right into the starting lineup has a lot of value to them.

  • In reply to Craig:

    I don't know but I'd be happy just knowing he's on the front-office's radar. I saw Pederson play in Spring Training and was very impressed with his approach at the plate, and he's a fine fielder. I think he'd fit in with the rebuild, give us an extra lefty bat in the starting lineup, and give our offense the immediate jolt it needs right now.

  • The dream lineup in my head for the last couple of weeks

    Pederson, left
    Almora, center
    Baez, second
    Gallo, third
    Bryant, right
    Rizzo, first
    Castro, short
    Castillo, catcher

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    In reply to ucandoit:

    What happens to Soler? Traded for Gallo or Pederson?

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    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Having finally seen Soler through the magic of milb.tv, I wouldn't move him for anyone. Unbelievable approach. Such quick hands. I know there are some makeup concerns but he has all the tools to be an offensive monster for a very long time.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I agree an outfield of Soler, Almora, Bryant would be sweet. Who cares if they are all RH.

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    In reply to John57:

    Don't be so quick to move Bryant off of third.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    In reality, I have Bryant at third and Soler in right for years come.
    I think Soler will end up going to many All-Star games.

    However, Gallo is in A+ with 13 home runs and .315/.422 and I want another left handed power bat.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I agree with potentially keeping Bryant at 3rd. If we could swing Pederson for Olt + another prospect I think we pull the trigger. Solar, Pederson and Almora in the outfield and Rizzo, Baez, Castro and Bryant manning the infield. Seems to be a lineup that can produce the 17 run evenings a little more often.

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    In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    I think the most likely trade for Pederson is Shark for Pederson, Lee, and a couple lesser prospects.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Soler's one of those guys you can't help but love when you see him in action. If he can stay on the field, he has as much talent as anybody in our system (yes, anybody).

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    In reply to Matt McNear:

    I couldn't agree more, Matt. I've seen him live a couple of times and think he has the highest ceiling in the system

  • Not a lot of lefties out there or in the system is there? Seems like the Cubs are always looking for one or two of those. It is one reason that I think Alcantara is in the Cubs plans. Any chance Silva could be of help as well. It could be that the Cubs might have to mix and match similar to what they tried this year. Hope it works better in the future.

  • i dont think we do much until the core 4 get up to the bigs, then start looking at trades/free agency at that point

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    Imo lineup balance is a little overrated if you have position players who project to hit righties and lefties well, which most of our dream lineup seems capable of.

    But, if were going to be so right-handed we should have some quality LH bats off the bench that could start a few games a week. Kalish is looking like he could be that type for the future. If the NL adopts the DH that makes it even easier to slide a Vogelbach or some other LH bat in there.

    I'm not overly worried about it though. If Bryant, Baez, Soler, and Almora are as good as advertised then lineup balance will be a non issue.

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    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I think where it comes in very useful is for late inning switches. If the heart of your lineup alternates left-right-left-right you don't have enough relievers to play matchup on every hitter, so one of your best hitters gets a chance against the opposite-armed pitcher. If that swings just 3 games in a season, it could be very big in a pennant race.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Good point. I still just think that's something you worry about when the time comes. For now just get everyone to the show. I don't want to see any of the big 4 playing their first few years with another team if they develop properly. Hang on to them.

    Trade them later for a LH bat if you need to but not before we find out if they're worth keeping.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Presenting a balanced lineup goes well beyond playing matchup with relievers in the late innings. Although that's important, many quality right side starters have much trouble getting outs against lefties and have success with right hand hitters. If there is only one or two from the left side they just pitch around them. To get left handers out they are forced to use different less quality pitches that are hit hard. Finally, starters hone their command if all hit from the same side. Some really good right handed hitters will struggle and slump. Balance is a must.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I'm with Marcel on your points above and I agree with your point below - it's too early to be thinking about a "balanced" line up. Let's see who is going to make it first and do the "refining" later. We're not even close to the finishing touches that goes with ensuring that you have a balanced line up!

    Good article by Mike and thought provoking .... IMO, we don't have any in-house LH hitting candidates close to being ready. I know some have gotten overly excited about the hype around Alcantara but I just don't see him as ever being anything more than a bench guy. Yes, I'd love to see him as our starting 2nd baseman for yrs to come - it would make things really easy for us but I'm just not a believer. I hope he proves me wrong.

  • Maybe the Nats get tired of Harper.

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    In reply to Rbirby:

    So this would require a lot more luck than the Cubs have ever had, but Matt Williams seems to be the wrong manager for Bryce Harper. The situation reminds me of Sveum and Castro. If the Nats decide to stick with Williams, it's possible -- possible -- that they sell low on Harper. A lot of teams would be ready to snatch him up, however.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Harper's rookie contract is still confusing but from what I can tell it could lead to some friction over the next few years. So maybe the contract plus Harper's young annoying attitude lead to trade. It's nice to dream...

  • Every time I see this talk about needing more lefties for lineup balance, I think back to the Cubs signing Milton Bradley after getting swept in the '08 playoffs. We all know how that worked out (epic fail). I hope that this front office will not seek out lefties just for the sake of having them or at the expense of better right-handed hitters.

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    Why is Shierholtz starting over Kalish at this point?

    Can someone explain why Barney is in the lineup over Olt or even shifting Boni to 2nd, Vabuena at 3rd, and playing Kalish. Especially against a tough righty like Wainwright. Having a good game last night shouldn't change anything. Olt had a great game too and he's on the bench.

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    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I'm sure there's a reason, but it doesn't make a ton of sense to me, either. John has been saying that rookies need to take playing time, well Olt's bat is so potent right now that I would think he has earned playing time.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    I do understand John's point. But even that being the case, Barney has done nothing to warrant his insertion in the lineup against Wainwright over Olt or Kalish.

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    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    And I want to clarify that I understand Olt has gotten a lot of playing time lately. My issue is less just trying to get him in there and more not understanding why Barney IS starting. Same with Schierholtz but to a lesser extent because he does have a nice bit of trade value so you want to increase that value if you can,

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Well, he is 6 out of 12 in his last 3 games.

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    In reply to John57:

    Kalish is 7 for his last 18 and has been overall a far better hitter this year. Even if Olt shouldn't be in, why not shift Boni to 2nd and play Kalish or Lake in CF?

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Yep that looks good too. I guess you have to talk to RR to see what his logic is, but I think he is just trying to protect Olt from a tough righty. He is still trying to build Olt's confidence up.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Barney has put up some pretty good ABs and he's 5 for his last 12. Wainwright is a good day off for any RH hitter with holes in his swing the way Olt does. I would have done the same thing. Do you want to develop him and put him in situations where he can succeed early in his career or do you want to play him for the sake of playing him?

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I specifically tried stated in my later comment that it wasn't a situation of just wanting to get Olt in the lineup. If the matchup didn't, well, match up I stated that I think Valbuena at 3b, Boni at 2nd, Kalish in CF/LF would have been better.

    Puts more lefties in the lineup against Wainwright. Which you alluded to being the best approach against him. So the question still stands.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I would have started Kalish too. I just didn't think Olt or Lake would match up well vs. Wainwright. Wacha tomorrow is a different story because he relies on that change which helps neutralize lefties. I'd start Olt and/or Lake against him.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I gotcha. Agree that Lake and Olt wouldn't have been good matchups, but "are they really that much worse a matchup than Barney" is kinda what I was going for.

    I guess that's the line where development comes in. Barney may not be the best matchup but he is a vet. Olt and Lake need to be put in situations to succeed. I get where you're coming from on that. Just would have rather seen Kalish in there over Barney. I didn't articulate that well.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Probably not, but I'd rather have Barney take his lumps than Olt. With Wainwright out of the game now, maybe you bring Olt in to pinch-hit and stay in the game?

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I specifically stated in my later comment that it wasn't a matter of getting Olt in there just because.

    He is simply, IMO, the better offensive option than Barney on any day, against any pitcher. But i'll agree that sitting him was probably the best thing, which leads to my next point.

    I later stated even if Olt wasn't a good matchup then I think Valbuena at 3rd, Boni at 2nd, and Kalish(who is 7 for his last 18) in the OF is STILL a better alternative than playing Barney against Wainwright.

    Gets more lefties into the lineup against Wainwright, which you alluded would be the best approach against him. So if he's hard on any RH hitter, then the question still stands.

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    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Sorry for double post. Was getting an error message on the first one.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Wainwright eats guys like Olt for breakfast. Good day to rest him.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I would have benched Lake too, actually.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Carrie Muskat ‏@CarrieMuskat 3h
    Before you get upset about no Olt in #Cubs lineup, he's .155 vs RHP/.242 vs LHP, and has never faced #Cardinals Wainwright

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    In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    I still take that over Darwin Barney :)

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I agree with marcel, I about punched the radio when i heard barney was starting!!!

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Not an explanation, but is it possible that a new manager and new hitting coach are working with Barney and giving him some ABs before pulling the plug? With his defensive skills, even .240 or so is sustainable, if he can ever get there. Are they seeing something in practice that makes them think he'll improve at the plate?

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    It is more than in practice. Darwin is 6 out of 12 in his last 3 starts.

  • Way off topic, but what happened to Castro's speed. I remember 2 seasons ago the first series he had 4 sb, now it looks like he can't do that for the whole season. And the one all star game he stole 2nd and 3rd. He had so much speed before, but now he looks so slow.

  • In reply to jswick23:

    He has probably added 15-20 pounds since then.

  • Bryant just hit a bomb. Looked so effortless wow

  • Mike, another internal option is Logan Watkins to help out the LH balance problem. He is at AAA and his line is .295/.386/.386/.776 and he can play a number of positions.

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    Valbuena! 2-0

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    Nice job Mike. I think Cargo could be had. Rockies have young outfielders pushing their way in- it makes sense for them to cut expense, especially if they shore up a weakness. Shark for cargo + prospects going both way could be realistic.

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    Fwiw-I don't think there is any wat la trades pederson. Kemp, ethier or Crawford is who they want to trade. Have to admit, kemp is intriguing.

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    Great to see Almora break out tonight!!! Hope he can build on tonight's game

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    Castillo having a nice night. Need him to bounce back.

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    I guess I'd be shocked if the Dodgers traded Pederson. Everything I've been hearing is that that they're looking to unload Ethier and/or Crawford when the time is right and eat salary if necessary.

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    In reply to Pooch7171:

    They would need to trade both of them to get consistent at bats for Pederson.

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