Daily Cubs Minors Recap: Alcantara, Soler, Burks HR; Torrez brilliant in 8 innings; Manny debuts; Video, Photos from Iowa game

So Junior Lake gets hurt and Arismendy Alcantara continues to mash.  Could there be a connection here?  Alcantara surpassed the 300 PA mark today but the Cubs like their players to get 500 PAs at Iowa, so we may have to wait and see.  Another Iowa player, Kyle Hendricks made his 21st start at the AAA level and he is looking ready to contribute as well.  The waves are coming.

We also have some video, pics, and thoughts (in italics) from "The Sinister Urge" today who is in Colorado Springs and attended the Iowa games yesterday.

On with the recap, lots of games to cover!

Iowa 7 - Colorado Springs 3

Colorado Springs 7 - Iowa 6

All statistics combined for the 2 games

  • Kyle Hendricks went 6 innings and allowed a pair of runs, both coming on a rare HR allowed by Hendricks.  It was just the 4th long ball he has given up this year.  Hendricks also walked 2 and struck out 4.  All in all not a bad outing in a very difficult pitching environment.  Hendricks moved to 9-5 with a 3.52 ERA (3.11 FIP).  Perhaps most importantly, he isn't doing this with smoke and mirrors.  We mentioned the low HR total, it's part of Hendricks' effort to keep the ball on the ground and in the park.  He has an excellent 1.8 GO/AO ratio.  He has struck out 8.3 batters per 9 IP (23.1%) while walking just 2.2 per p IP (5.9%).  Perhaps the most amazing thing about Hendricks is that he has been better in some ways this year than in his brilliant 2013 AA season.  He continues to adapt and improve as the level of competition rises.
  • Carlos Pimentel didn't fare as well in the other game, lasting just 2 innings after allowing 5 hits and 3 walks, leading to 4 early runs and an early exit.  Pimentel is 1-4 with a 4.56 ERA.
  • Arodys Vizcaino pitched a scoreless inning as he continues to rebuild stamina.  As I've said, I don't expect to see him until September when the Cubs can better control his innings as rosters expand.
  • Arismendy Alcantara is absolutely raking since a solid but unspectacular start to the season.  He went 3 for 7 with 2 doubles and his 9th HR of the season.  Like Hendricks, he has actually gotten better as he has moved up each level.  That is the sign of a good ballplayer and it won't be long before we see Alcantara in a Cubs uniform.  He is now hitting .293/.337/.534 with 21 doubles, 10 triples, 9 HRs, and 18 SBs.  If that is not enough, he also made a great defensive play on a diving stop.  Video of his HR below, courtesy of The Sinister Urge...

  • Ryan Kalish is starting to find a rhythm with regular playing time, he went 4 for 7 with 2 doubles, 2 runs scored, 2 RBI, and 2 SBs.  Deuces wild for the lefty hitting outfielder.
  • Javier Baez is starting to pick up steam again.  After a hot streak that saw him raise his batting average nearly 100 points earlier this year, he fell back into a slump -- but it looks like he may be putting it together again.  Hopefully for good this time.  He went 4 for 8 over the 2 games with 2 doubles and 2 runs scored.  He also drove in a run.  Baez has hit .342/.390/.500 in his last 10 games and is hitting .237/.291/.435 overall with 11 HRs and 14 SBs.  Baez seemed anxious a bit early, but ended up with four hits between the two games, including two doubles.  There was a bit of a scary moment early in the second game, as the trainer had to go out to second to check on him.  My guess, having experienced it a bit before, was that he had some altitude issues, or perhaps dehydration.  He stayed in the rest of the game, though, so we won't worry too much, I think.  Javy also saved the cubs a run on defense in the first game with an excellent reaction play.  With one out and a runner on third, the infield was in.  Hendricks gave up a solid line drive, which Javy had to move quickly to his left to make the grab.  Saved a run, and Hendricks got out of the inning with no further damage.
  • Chris Valaika went 2 for 4 with a double, run scored and an RBI.
  • Kris Bryant got his first non-HR hits at AAA Iowa, going 2 for 6 with a double, single, and 2 walks.  Bryant is hitting .259/.375/.852 with 5 HRs in his first 8 games, but  Sinister Urge notes that he still has work to do before he is ready for the bigs as the numbers don't tell the whole story, "He showed a patient approach, and got his first non-homer hits of the season, but also struggled as the Sky Sox pitchers changed speeds and eye levels.  On defense, he looked pretty good, starting a double-play in the second game, but was also bailed out by Logan Watkins on a throw in the dirt to first.  He also missed a throw from the outfield that, while it bounced, looked catchable, and went into the dugout for another run."
  • Rafael Lopez went 1 for 2 with a run scored, RBI, and a walk.  He has now had just over 50 PAs at Iowa and he has held his own so far, hitting .283/.365/.348 with 1 HR.  We haven't seen a lot of extra base power so far, but Lopez should at least hit for doubles power.
  • Manny Ramirez made his debut in LF and went 0 for 4.

 Tennessee 4 - Jackson 0

  • Corey Black started a combined shutout with 5 scoreless frames in which he walked 2 and struck out 3.  Black moved to 3-5 with a 3.03 ERA (FIP 4.14).  Black has continued to show swing and miss stuff with just over a strikeout per inning, but he has also trimmed his walks down a bit, getting it under the 5 per 9 IP mark after today's start.
  • LHP Hunter Cervenka continued his excellent season with two scoreless innings in which he did not walk a batter and struck out one.  His biggest improvement has been with his walk rate, which he has at 3.45 per 9 IP.  Still a big high but he may be getting to the point where he can be a situational reliever in the majors.  Lefties have hit just .135 vs. Cervenka and he has posted a 0.88 FIP.  Cervenka has a 2.87 ERA overall with a 2.38 FIP while striking out 11.2 hitters per 9 IP.
  • PJ Francescon capped the shutout with 1.2 scoreless innings to lower his ERA on the season to 3.12.
  • Stephen Bruno got his average back up to .300 with a 2 for 5 day.  The OBP/Slugging/OPS line is at a healthy .377/.455/.832 in 200 AA ABs.  He'll be a guy to watch next year at AAA as I expect him to finish this season at AA.
  • Christian Villanueva went 2 for 5 and continues to take his demotion in stride, hitting .364 since being sent down.   He also scored a run and drove in another.

Dunedin 5 - Daytona 3

  • Justin Amlung didn't pitch badly, going 5 innings and allowing 2 walks and striking out 4.  He kept the team in the game as they wre down 3-2 when he left the game, then actually rallied to take the lead only to lose it later.   Amlung got a no-decision and his ERA is an even 6.00 since his promotion to Daytona.
  • Yao-Lin Wang returned to Daytona and immediately contributed 3 scoreless innings as the D-Cubs tied the game.
  • Michael Jensen got the tough luck loss as a throwing error by Marco Hernandez led to 2 unearned runs.  Jensen did not walk a batter and struck out 2 in his one inning, lowering his ERA to 2.60 (3.61 FIP).  He has missed bats this year (8.56 Ks per 9 IP) with his solid fastball and excellent curve, but the control isn't yet where he wants it to be (4.15 BB per 9 IP).
  • Albert Almora extended his hitting streak to 8 games with a 1 for 3 day.  He also walked, drove in a run, and scored.  Almora is hitting .254 on the year and is hitting .333 during the streak.
  • Bijan Rademacher went 1 for 3 with a walk.
  • Dan Vogelbach went 1 for 4 with a double and an RBI.
  • Marco Hernandez had a mixed bag of a day, getting 2 hits, including a double, and scoring on a run.  Unfortunately, he made a key error late in the game that allowed the winning runs to score.  It has still been a good season overall for Hernandez, particularly with the bat as he raised his average to .276.  He still has a lot of work to do but at least seems to be headed in the right direction this year.

Kane County 5 - Wisconsin 0

  • Daury Torrez isn't going to wow you with his velo or his breaking stuff but he has good run on a low 90s fastball and when he commands it, as he did in this game, that can be an above average or plus pitch for him.  Torrez did not walk a batter and struck out 7 while also inducing 12 ground ball outs in 8 brilliant shutout innings.  He has quietly had a great season at Kane County, going 8-3 with a 3.14 ERA (3.83 FIP).  He throws strikes and he keeps the ball down, which is an effective formula.  He still doesn't miss a lot of bats but there is still time for him to develop a better swing and miss offering.
  • James Pugliese completed the shutout with a scoreless inning to lower his ERA to 1.24.
  • Kyle Schwarber just keeps mashing the baseball.  He went 2 for 3 with a double.  He also walked to raise his line to .455/.538/.864 with 2 HRs in 7 games.  He also scored twice and drove in a run.  Starting to wonder if the AZ Fall League might be a nice challenge for him this offseason.
  • Ben Carhart and Jacob Rogers both nearly matched Schwarbers solid day with Carhart scoring one less run and Rogers getting 2 singles rather than a single and a double.
  • Trey Martin continues to give hints that maybe he is figuring it out at the plate but has not yet done it consistently.  He doubled today and drove in 2 runs.

 Hillsboro 10 - Boise 0

  • It's been a real tough start to the season for Erick Leal who had his second straight poor outing, though he didn't get a lot of help from his defense.  Leal gave up 7 runs in 2.2 innings, though only 4 were earned.
  • Relievers Greyfer Eguera and David Garner were able to close the flood gates but by that time this game was well under water.  Eguera pitched 3 innings of one hit, scoreless baseball while walking none and striking out 4.  Garner pitched a scoreless innings, walking one and striking out 2,
  • Rashad Crawford doubled and tripled in 4 ABs to raise his average to .243.
  • Justin Marra is one of the more reliable hitters on this team and he showed that with a 2 for 3 day, including a double, to raise his average to .325 to start the year.

AZ Cubs 7 - AZ Athletics 4

  • Adbert Alzolay had a mixed start, going 4 innings without a walk and striking =out 4.  He did give up 4 runs but only 2 were earned.
  • Gerardo Concepcion is back on the comeback trail and pitched in a scoreless inning.
  • LHP Sam Wilson threw a scoreless inning and Andin Diaz went 3 innings without allowing a run to earn a much deserved victory as the Cubs rallied to win the game.  Good performance overall by the bullpen.
  • Jorge Soler is back after a couple of days off and promptly hit a 2 run HR.  He also walked twice.  If only he could stay healthy because whenever he plays, he hits.
  • 3rd round pick Mark Zagunis made is pro debut and started his pro career with a good all-around day, going 1 for 3 with a double, walk, RBI, and run scored,  Nice way to break in and contribute right off the bat.
  • Charcer Burks saved his best for last today, hitting the go-ahead HR to cap the AZL Cubs big rally.  It was his first HR of the season and he is hitting .524 in his first 5 games.

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  • Q: "So Junior Lake gets hurt and Arismendy Alcantara continues to mash. Could there be a connection here?"

    A: Wally Pipp?

  • In reply to TheThinBlueLine:

    Now that made me smile!

  • In reply to TheThinBlueLine:

    Haha! Looks like Lake is not hurt too badly, which is good for him because it looked kind of scary. Alcantara will get his chance soon, though.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Part of me is anxious to see Alcantrara in Chicago to begin what we hope will be a wave of prospects to come in the next couple years. And part of me wants him to get those 500 ABs in Iowa. I'm fine either way. But I think the FO should stay consistent to its plan.

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    In reply to TheThinBlueLine:

    If the Cubs want to leave AA in AAA then they could pull up Kalish. While not a world beater it allows the cubs the flexibility to leave AA in AAA if they determine that is what is best.

  • John, these minor league recaps are always one of the highlights of my morning. Thanks so much for doing them, they are awesome.

  • In reply to Jimmy Greenfield:

    Thanks Jimmy. I really appreciate that. I love tracking these guys progress from the top prospects to the guys fighting for their shot.


  • In reply to Jimmy Greenfield:

    I agree whole heartedly, Jimmy!!

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    Nice update as usual!

    I am most concerned about starting pitching still. Tseng is a nice addition to our prospect ranks, but injury setbacks have hurt development in this area. Hendricks looks like a nice bottom rotation guy, but we are still lacking in this area above A-ball. Corey Black feels like a relief guy, and there isn't really anyone else healthy in AA or above that projects as anything but fringy.

    I know FO is working on it diligently, but it's a gap for us still.....

  • In reply to Zonk:

    If what I am hearing recently about Hendricks is true he maybe more of a mid rotation guy.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    I think groundball pitchers in Wrigley have a good chance for success as well, plus his spot on command makes me lean toward a mid rotation guy as well.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    I was going to say the same thing. If he can continue to hit 95, command his FB, throw 4 different pitches, change speeds, keep the ball on the ground and in the park, and be stingy with the walks, he is going to succeed whether you call him #3 or a #5 or whatever. He is going to be a guy that will out up numbers more like a mid rotation guy than a bottom.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I would take topping out at 88mph with very good command, lots of ground balls, low HR and BB totals, and 7+ K/9IP--obviously, the higher the better on this. I think our eyes light up too much with each guy we hear hits 97 on a radar gun. I try to have my measure of a pitcher be: "Does he get guys out," and Hendricks seems to be able to do this.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Topping out at 88 would be bad news. Few MLB pitchers can do that and be anything more than a 5th starter/middle reliever.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree that they are not very common but that is because usually if guys top out at 88 they DON'T get outs as often. My point is that I don't care what the radar gun says, if he gets guys out I want him on the team.

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    In reply to KGallo:

    If what I'm reading about his increased velocity is accurate, it would seem Hendricks should at least project as a MOR guy. Perhaps the deal is that he doesn't bring consistent enough velocity or sustain it well enough.

    I think it's interesting that, as far as I can tell, scouts hedge on anybody who doesn't throw mid-90s. In other words, nobody throwing 90-92 is going to be projected as a TOR guy. But obviously it happens, right? Not saying Hendricks is that guy, just saying that in some situations regarding hitters and pitchers, "the ceiling" is not really the ceiling.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Thanks. I am beginning to think the Cub can count on Hendricks to be more than back of the rotation filler. He deserves a shot. Stuff is probably as good as Travis Wood and I think we'll take another one of those. I think Arrieta, Wood, Hendricks is a nice cheap solid 3 that frees up money to buy yourself a veteran or two.

    Black is a bullpen guy, IMO.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    At least we are rich in power RH relief arms....Black I think will just be another for that stockpile. That may be an area we can trade surplus from at some point.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    They don't hold much value unfortunately. The Cubs got Black for an unwanted Soriano when there was still some feeling he could start.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I wouldn't completely rule out the possibility of Grimm or Ramirez getting stretched out to go back to being a SP over the winter either. There BP contributions can easily be replaced with whats in AAA now.

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    You're not the first person I've heard suggest Ramirez deserves a chance to start. Might happen but they'd have to be sure they could replace his contributions from the bullpen.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    He was a starter until the shoulder injury, which is what made him available in the Garza trade to begin with. Some feel he's better suited as a reliever because his change-up is meh.... He has a history of command challenges, so I'm not completely sold on it... but I wouldn't rule it out either.

    I think it's the depth we have with guys like Vizcaino, Parker, Rivero, etc knocking on the door that would make someone like Ramirez or Grimm a potential conversion.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Agree on both topics - Black and Hendricks. I really like both pitchers, and I get more and more excited about Hendricks possibilities the more I read about him. Now, if there was someway to create a Corey Hendricks or a Kyle Black, we'd have ourselves a legit ace prospect on our hands.

  • I will say this about Hendricks. He had much better command than anybody else that pitched for the Cubs last night, though most everyone showed displeasure with the consistency of the umpires. He sat 88-92, and once or twice hit 93. He seemed to have success with his off speed stuff, and got some week contact. Still, the opposition squared up some of his pitches and made hard contact. To his credit, he pitched out of trouble, and was really helped out by a stellar play by Baez with the inning in.

  • In reply to TheSinisterUrge:

    With the infield in*

  • In reply to TheSinisterUrge:

    Thanks for the added info, Sinister.

  • In reply to TheSinisterUrge:

    This was basically the Hendricks I saw a month ago. The number of 95mph pitches mentioned by Peavy the other day sounded suspicious to me. It would be nice if more folks could report from games about velo from Hendricks this season, to ground truth coach's claim. Get a ticket behind home plate and try to get a good angle on a scout's radar gun...

  • In reply to Eldrad:

    I've been told a couple times that there is a difference between the guns that scouts bring to games which are usually more accurate and calibrated as opposed to the minor league guns at different fields which are usually off by a couple ticks.

  • Any word on why Soler missed the last two days?

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    I'm guessing it was precautionary but I don't know on that.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    Jorge Soler. Dude is legit. His name induces a bacon-like salivary gland response. Question: did he have any durability red flags coming out of Cuba? Is there any reason to fear that this could be a more permanent issue? He is signed for another, what, seven years? I mean, the Cubs have all of the time in the world, and in no way do they give up on him any time soon, but muscle injuries always scare me a bit. Is it a preparation issue, or is it more of a structural issue?

    Sorry, there really is just one question in there, though it reads like a handful.

  • Love the updates. Out here in Vegas for the wsop, and there are a lot of cub fans out here. I say "CUBS" to them or they say the same back when they see my cub gear.. love the cub fan base. It's like a huge family

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    "Kris Bryant got his first non-HR hits at AAA Iowa"

    I was wondering what happened when I read the box score. I saw he had 2 hits but his name didn't show up under HR. This explains it. LOL. We finally have a BABIP for him.

    I was looking at his game log and in his first 3 games at Iowa he was 1-12 with a HR, 7K and 0BB. Since then he is 5-11 with 4 HR 5BB (31% BB rate) and 5K. While it is possible that this is subject to normal "sample size" issues it looks to me like it took him a couple of days to get used to new surroundings, new teammates, a whole different circuit of players, ballparks, cities, etc. while also getting over the inevitable excitement (and probably nerves) of getting promoted and being only a small step from being in the big leagues. If this is what the "settled in" Kris Bryant looks like then his video game numbers in AA were just a taste of what he is capable of. While he still seems to strike out a disproportionate number of times he doesn't hit a HR or BB (in 11 ABs he has 4HR and 5K--I will take a 4:5 HR:K ratio) I think it is just a matter of time before he starts to have 2-3 ground outs/fly outs in most games.

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    In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Edit: 6-15, not 5-11

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    It was definitely an anomaly. Bryant is a decent hitter as well as being a power guy.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I think that there should be a stat similar to BABIP, but would count homers, after all, an outfielder can jump higher than some fences and actually steal a homer at times. That shows that a homer can be considered in play.

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    Charcer Burks is gonna hit his way onto Boise in a hurry the way he's going. That might end up being an absolute steal. I just LOVE that prospects who weren't picked in the early rounds are making waves for this organization. Burks, Hankins, Remillard, Bruno, Rademacher. All legitimate prospects from the later rounds.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Our CF type guys are doing well right now.

    Charcer Burks .524/.524/.952/1.476 last 5 games
    Trey Martin .387/.441/.581/1.022 last 10 games
    J Hannemann .342/.432/.579/1.011 last 10 games
    A Almora .293/.318/.390/.708 last 10 games
    A Alcantara .441/.500/.735/1.235 last 10 games

  • Does anyone know if Marco Hernandez stopped switch hitting? He's listed on B-R as a LH, but I could have sworn he was a switch hitter.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    It looks that way. IIRC he started batting LH against some LHP last year.

  • John, I was looking at Vogelbach's numbers and they really aren't that far off of last year. Have you heard how he is doing defensively? Did the weight loss help his mobility? He seems to have dropped off the radar screen a bit. Thanks for the great work as always!

  • In reply to RTGrules:

    Not that far off but the problem is they aren't good enough for a bat only 1B. He is going to have to hit better to have a legit shot.

  • Solers Hammy injuries have been very frustrating. But the intriguing thing is despite playing so little and inconsistently over the past 4 years... Dude has not been overwhelmed or needed to adjust yet. While Baez, Almora, and VogelBomb struggled initially at Daytona, he did not. He would have made AA before Javier. he didn't seem to struggle with AA early this season or AFL last fall... If he can put together a consistent run of healthy AB's from here on it... he could have a similar impact to Bryant/Baez...

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    Interesting factoid about Alcantara, his ISO is way down in June compared to May, but his strikeouts are also down and BB rate is up leading to about a 60 point improvement in OBP. It wouldn't surprise me if they pulled him aside and told him it wasn't his HR power that was going to get him to the majors, it was his ability to get on base and wreak havoc in front of guys like Rizzo, Castro, Bryant, and Baez.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    if that's the case, and he can switch his approaches on and off like a light switch, then what more does he need to show? i'm all for leaving the prospects at a stage until they outgrow it, but i would hate for the front office to hinder progress by leaving a prospect in a league which the player is clearly beyond. if what you speculate is true, then i think he's proven enough and it's time to find room for him (relatively of course, not today, but by the trade deadline.)

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    In reply to RizzowiththeStick:

    Good point. I think it more likely this wasn't flipping a swith but something he's been working on all year. It explains the ice cold start. He's playing like a legit leadoff option this month. Which is good.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I don't know, with his contact rate and slugging % he is looking more and more like an ideal 2 hole hitter in my opinion.

    I'm really looking forward to the next 15 months, we could see Alcantara, Bryant, Baez and Soler all in the majors before the end of next season. Heard Bruce Levine on the score today state the Cubs are still years away. I think this team will surprise a lot of people next year.

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    Good morning everyone!!!

    There has been this constant flow of post ranting about keeping Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. I am here to be the voice of reason.

    The patient, but deadly approach.

    Why wouldn't management be setting up for the future? It seems like people get lost sticking around in the present and not salivating from thoughts of the future. Like my username indicates WERE CLOSER THEN WE LOOK!!! Sorry to scream so early, hope I didn't wake you.
    Let's take a deeper look in what the Cubs front office team, widely known as the "saviors", should be doing. Theo and Jed each are waking up and a light bulb just hits, "Wait a second. Did Hammel say he wouldn't be opposed to coming back?" They each scurry to the phone to call one another, spilling their coffee along the way. Simultaneously saying, "Ugh! Why is it always busy when i call him."
    They answer and do you care to know the big plan?
    Sustained success.
    I know, I know. Already?
    First we talk to Hammel about coming back next year and, have him whisper sweet nothings in Shark's ear. Insert Lance Stephenson joke here, and sell him on the wonders of coming back to wrigley in two years. As this is going on Theo and Jed should be working up the best pitch of their life to convince Jeff, waiting out Free Agency is best for his future and the future of the team. Trading these two will definitely bring back a solid haul of league ready to near ready talent. Couple that with the already strong system from minor league camp all the way to AAA plus the stock we get from the current trade pieces; then, lady's and gentlemen we finally have ourselves an actual baseball organization on the Northside. Wait there's more. Ricketts sees the shovels finally hitting the ground, TV deal in sight, and a team very close to finding an identity. Time to pony up. They sign Scherzer or Lester, which is indeed possible, and some how some way work some magic to get a LF vet who bats from the left side, mainly for balance, but not really a necessity.
    We have a team ready for a turn around next year, surprising some, challenging for the second wild card spot in the NL. Remember everyone has a chance once they're in.Then by 2016 we will be ready to contend not only for the playoffs, but to win the whole shebang. The likes of Alcantara (1.5) Kris Bryant (1) Javier Baez (1) and Hendricks (1) will have experience (# of years). Which will only add to an already young vet-like group. Lets view the plan in action:
    The batting order for 2015 would be Alcantara in center leading off followed by Castro at short; Rizzo at first; Baez at second, who is the prototypical clean up hitter; Bryant at third, bat's fifth to protect Baez, plus he (Bryant) doesn't need to be protected so fifth fits; next, would be the left handed veteran bat the team can really use, or Schwarber in left if he's ready, if not young Soriano I mean Lake will do; Kalish plays right; and Castillo catches. The bullpen is set and the rotation is stacked with Samardzija coming in 2016, if we even need him anymore. I am very sorry for the length of this post hopefully it's a good read. Thank you for your time and have a great day. Here is everything with a better view:

    Jackson (traded or DFA'd)

    Wood (LOOGY or traded)

    Lake (preferably a left handed veteran bat)

    With a stacked farm filtering in from all that we had and the haul from 2014 we will have achieved our goal of sustained success.

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