All Cubs talk is prospect talk these days. Even the trade deadline focuses on making roster space for current prospects for this year and beyond. Let's round up some of that talk and chime in with our own thoughts...
The Keith Law Top 50 and the Javy Baez makeup question
Kris Bryant tops Law's Top 50 while new acquisition Addison Russell ranks #4. Considering we are talking about Bryant, Byron Buxton, and Carlos Correa at the top, that is some really high praise. He is ahead of fellow shortstop Francisco Lindor and organization mate Javier Baez, who ranks at #8.
Curiously, Law brings up the Baez makeup questions again and I can only say that I have not heard the same concerns when talking with teammates and scouts.
Nobody thinks Baez is a choir boy but nobody I talked to questioned his work ethic, his relationship with his teammates, his drive to become a better player, or his aptitude for the game.
I even talked to one scout who was more than willing to talk about these things and even gave me 3 players on whom he had makeup questions (one was with a different organization, another is no longer with the Cubs organization, and a 3rd was one where he had mild concerns but they appear to have subsided now), but when we switched the conversation to Baez, the issue never came up.
Again, I am not saying Law didn't hear something, I am just saying I haven't heard it in my own conversations. And makeup can be a pretty subjective thing, Jason McLeod admitted to having some questions from outside the organization, but has had no concerns now that he has had a chance to see Baez up close. McLeod has said he underestimated Baez's drive to succeed and become a major league player.
"What we probably underestimated a little bit was how much Javy loves to play the game, and how much he loves to compete. In the end, we simply missed on him. We wouldn’t have taken Javy had he fallen to our pick. Thankfully the Cubs did.”
He also said this to Patrick Mooney of CSN,
“He wanted to come in and show like: ‘OK, that might be the plan. I’m fine with it. But I’m going to show you guys just how serious I’m taking this.’
“He’s done that. He’s played very well up here in major-league camp. I’ve been really happy seeing how he is interacting with his teammates and (becoming) much more comfortable dealing with them and dealing with questions from the media. He’s been great. That’s been really a joy for us to see.”
Brandon Hyde also had praise for the young shortstop,
“His mindset’s different,” Hyde said. “I think he realizes how close he is. He is playing with a lot more confidence than he did last spring and with more determination. (He’s) a pro now. He understands what it takes.”
Both of those statements hint at improvement, so perhaps there was some level of concern in the past. But if those problems have resurfaced, it certainly doesn't appear that way based on what his manager and teammate are saying about him or how much work he has put in to get better, as you can read here.
Lastly, here is what one of Baez's former teammates had to say about him,
"In my opinion he is a natural born leader. He shows that on and off the field. I can't speak for others but... I loved watching him go about his work. He is a guy that understands what needs to be done and does just that. I cannot think of one negative thing to say about him."
Again, I'm not saying Law doesn't have info which led him to make this opinion, but there seems to be a lot of information out there that contradicts that opinion too.
The Madness of Crowded Infields
Jeff Sullivan wrote a piece in Fangraphs that addresses the Cubs sudden crowd in the infield, particularly at shortstop. There is no crowd yet, opines Sullivan, until these players move up the ladder, succeed, and make it a crowed, Until then Sullivan writes,
At the moment, though, it’s a crowd that doesn’t exist. It’s a crowd that exists only in theory, in some possible future out of infinite possible futures, and therefore the Cubs aren’t facing any kind of urgency.
We got the impression the Cubs feel the same way when we heard through a source that the Cubs asking price for Starlin Castro was basically this: "Make your best offer and we'll get back to you and let you know if we think it's good enough."
That certainly doesn't seem to convey any sense of urgency to deal. It's a way of them saying "serious inquiries only", but so far nobody has taken the Cubs up on that challenge. This means that teams A) were trying to buy low thinking the Cubs wanted to relieve a perceived logjam and/or B) they have some idea that the Cubs asking price is going to be extraordinarily high. Probably prohibitively high. In other words, it's a way of saying no without actually having to use the word.
With regard to A, the sense that the Cubs would want to make a deal early stems from the idea that they would like to so before the players have to move off of shortstop and possibly lose value. JD Sussman thinks that this isn't necessarily so,
Positional adjustments will be important to determine whether the Cubs can get more value in a trade for one of their infielders than the value they would get from one’s performance boost at a lesser position. However, the notion that, shifting these talents down the defensive spectrum hurts their value to the Cubs isn’t beyond reproach. With the amount of infield talent the Cubs have, another trade is expected, but hardly necessary.
We ourselves talked about the possibility of moving the players around, perhaps Russell to 3B and Baez to 2B. Or perhaps you keep Russell at SS and you ask Castro to move. Whatever the case, the Cubs have 3 players who can not only play those positions defensively, but have enough bat to carry those positions on offense as well. And having 3/4 of your infield made up of shortstops who can hit is by no means a bad thing.
Sullivan wraps it up nicely here,
So the Cubs should be more than content to sit back and see where these talented players go. They don’t need to rush to diversify, because they don’t have too much of the same things. They might eventually have too much of the same things, but that’s not the same dilemma, and in fact it’s not a dilemma at all. If anything, it’s a blessing. You don’t draft for need because you don’t know what your needs will be by the time the draft pick is ready. And you don’t preemptively make a point of trading from system depth, because system depth and actual depth are two distinctly different things.
I think we should be careful not to get ahead of ourselves here. There is too little (and sometimes conflicting) information to be basing decisions and making big trades at this point in time.
When you have multiple athletic prospects who can move around and are still not quite ready for the majors, you have the luxury of time and flexibility. The Cubs should use that for as long as they possibly can -- or until some team compensates them heavily enough that they are willing to give up that luxury.
But don't hold your breath there. Just enjoy the ride with this amazing group of prospects and let things shake out. If they do all become on the verge of transitioning to an amazing group of players, then the Cubs can deal with it at that point.
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