Daily Cubs Minors Recap: Addison Russell has a huge day; Albert Almora 2nd half surge continues

Daily Cubs Minors Recap: Addison Russell has a huge day; Albert Almora 2nd half surge continues
Addison Russell

"You just got Barry Larkin."

- Billy Beane to Theo Epstein after the deal for Adam Russell was completed.

So far Russell has been a mystery to us, a guy we have heard great things about but we had yet to see it for ourselves in a Cubs uniform.  Well, Russell showed us what all the hype was about today and we owe an assist to pitcher Pierce Johnson.  He pranked Russell and got him out of his routine, perhaps exactly what he needed to relax and start smashing baseballs again.

Let's get on with the kind of recaps that we are starting to get used to around here...

Round Rock 4 - Iowa 3

  • LHP Chris Rusin gave up 10 hits today but he threw strikes and kept the ball in the park, so he was able to limit Round Rock to just 2 runs in 7 innings.  He walked just one hitter while striking out 5.  No decision for Rusin as the game went into extra innings, but he did lower his ERA to 3.79 on the year.
  • A much needed scoreless performance from Arodys Vizcaino, who had hit the first bumpy road on his rehab the past few appearances.  Vizcaino was back to his old self, throwing fire and mixing in knee buckling curves.  He struck out 2.
  • Armando Rivero kept the heat coming with 2 more scoreless innings, striking out 3.  He did walk 2 batters but his control has been better overall since joining Iowa.
  • Marcus Hatley wasn't able to hold the lead, first allowing a game tying HR to Brent Lillibridge (yes, that Brent Lillibridge) in th e11th and then giving up the winning run in the 12th.  Hatley fell to 2-4 with a 3.38 ERA.   He has cooled off a bit since a brilliant first half, but Hatley is still throwing strikes and missing bats, so he should be able to right the ship again.
  • Javier Baez got 3 hits in his first 3 ABs and ended up going 3 for 6 overall.  He stole his 16th base but was also caught later for the 8th time when he slid past the bag.
  • Kris Bryant has been held down the last 2 days but finally broke through for a double in the 11th then proceeded to score the g0-ahead run.
  • Rafael Lopez, Lars Anderson and Logan Watkins each drove in a run.

Tennessee 10 - Huntsville 3

  • If there is such a thing as a "utility pitcher", LHP Jeffrey Antigua is it.  He is a veritable supersub on the mound.  He filled in today as a starter and gave the Smokies 4 innings of 2 run baseball, more than enough for the Smokies to pull out a win.
  • PJ Francescon was the man on the spot again, getting another decision and moving to 9-5 on the season with 2 innings of work in which he allowed one run.  He got past the 5th inning threshold so he gets credit for the win.
  • LHP Andrew McKirahan pitched 1.2 scoreless and did not walk nor strike out a hitter.  He lowered his ERA to 1.93 in 9.1 AA innings, walking 2 and striking out 8.  The lefty with the good slider and solid low 90s fastball has a 1.18 overall in 45.1 innings this year.
  • After a shaky start in terms of his control at AA, Zach Cates has settled down of late and pitched his 3rd straight game without a free pass.  He still has 12 walks in 19 innings overall but that number has been trending downward.  He has struck out 17.  Cates reached as high as 96 last year and mixes in a pretty good change and an improving slider.
  • Emilio Bonifacio has been quietly doing his rehab at Tennessee.  I say quietly because he hasn't really done anything.  Today that changed as he rapped out 4 hits in 5 ABs.
  • Addison Russell started his day with a HR in his first AB and then a grand slam in the 6th.  In between he drew a walk,  The sum total for the day is 2 HRs, 2 runs and 6 RBI.  He is now hitting .262 since joining the Cubs and his overall numbers are starting to look like what you would expect from him after just over 100 ABs.  He is hitting .283/.361/.453 with 4 HRs and 5 SBs.
  • it seems that pitchers have figured out that it might be a good idea to stay away from Jorge Soler, he drew another pair of walks and also hit a single,  He scored 2 runs.  Soler has now played 20 games at Tennessee and is hitting .397/.493/.862 with 9 doubles, 6 HRs, and 12 walk vs. 14 Ks.
  • Christian Villanueva hit his 4th HR as a Smokie and is hitting .272/.355/.494 in 22 games since being reassigned from Iowa.
  • Jonathan Mota went 3 for 5 and drove in 2 runs.

 Daytona 9 - Palm Beach 1

  • Felix Pena started the year with unsustainable ERA numbers and it has predictably caught up to him, but he has pitched well of late, the gap between his ERA and FIP is starting to close.  Pena is a guy with average stuff across the board and when he commands it he can be tough, as he was tonight.  He made just one mistake, a solo HR, in 7 innings while walking one and striking out 7.  He improved to 3-6 with a 3.16 ERA, though his FIP is closer to the high 3s right now.
  • Zach Godley's improvement continued at Daytona a 1-2-3 inning in which he struck out one.   After a disastrous start in the FSL, he has lowered his ERA to 4.28.  Godley is a big bodied pitcher who is in the 92-93 range with a high 80s cutter (or slider, hard to tell sometimes) and has a chance to make it as middle or 7th inning reliever type in the bigs.  He will need to show more consistent command.
  • Austin Kirk has pitched quite well of late as well.  The LHP has a 2.84 ERA in his last 10 games and a 1.86 ERA in July so far.  He pitched another scoreless inning to lower his overall mark to 4.23.  Kirk is a former 3rd round pick who pitched a no-hitter as a member of the Peoria Chiefs.  He mixes in a high 80s fastball with a big curve that can be  a swing and miss pitch when he commands it.
  • SS Marco Hernandez continues to make strides working under Mariano Duncan.  He doubled, singled, scored 2 and drove in 2.  Hernandez's OPS has crept over .700 (.706) with a line of .285/.332/.374.  A big improvement has come in his walk rate.  The 6.4% mark is nothing to scream about, but it is almost double last year's rate and his 21 walks so far this year is his career high.
  • I think if you would have told me at the beginning of the year that a 20 year old Albert Almora would be hitting .281 with 6 HRs and 20 doubles in a tough league for hitters, I think I would have taken it.  That is exactly where he is at after a 4 for 5 day in which he scored twice Almora still has work to do, specifically with his walk rate, but his overall line of .281/.306/.398 is pretty solid considering his early season struggles.  I would not at all be surprised if this year wound up helping Almora in the long run.
  • You can put Kyle Schwarber anywhere you want: LF or C, Boise, Kane County, or Daytona.  It doesn't really matter.  He is going to hit.  A 2 for 5 day (1 R, 2 RBI) put him at .35o/.458/.500 with 1 HR in his first 5 games.  It will be interesting to see what they do with Schwarber in the offseason.  They could give one big look to see if he can stick at catcher and perhaps is a candidate for the Fall League to get some work in.  On the other hand, he has been playing non-stop since the beginning of the college season, so the Cubs may just decide he is better getting off some rest.
  • C Willson Contreras has cooled off since his hot streak but he had a solid game today with a double, walk, run scored, and 2 RBI.  He is hitting .239, however, and hasn't added much in terms of power or OBP.
  • OF Bill McKinney has just one hit but it was a bases clearing double.
  • 2B Gioskar Amaya singled, walked, and stole his 9th base.  He also scored a run.

Great Lakes 9 - Kane County 5

  • Tyler Skulina hasn't been 100% healthy (knee) and his stuff isn't quite where he would like it to be, but he has been pretty resourceful this season,  Unfortunately today wasn't one of this better days as he got knocked around for 8 hits and 5 runs in just 2.2 innings. He fell to 4-6 with a 3.38 ERA.
  • LHP Michael Heesch came through with 3.1 clutch innings in which he did not walk a batter and struck out 6.  He allowed just one hit.    Heesch has a 2.66 ERA.
  • 1B/DH Jacob Rogers has been one of the Cougars most productive hitters the past  2 1/2 months and he had a pair of hits, including his team leading 10th HR.  He also walked, scored twice and drove in two.  He is hitting .269/.371/.439 on the year.
  • Cael Brockmeyer has also been a nice addition since returning from injury.  He went 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI.  We've got a solid in-season sample size now with Brockmeyer in that he has over 150 PAs.  He has hit .315/.387/.476 with 4 HRs.

SalemKeizer 6 - Boise 1

  • Tyler Ihrig pitched 7 innings but allowed all 6 S-K runs, though only 4 were earned.  It was his first loss of the season as he fell to 4-1 with a 4.50 ERA.
  • Ryan Williams remained unblemished after his 3rd pro appearance.   Another 2 scoreless inning performance (3 Ks) for the 10th round pick now gives him 6 innings with no walks and 7 Ks.
  • Not much offense for the Hawks who got 3 hits, one each by Jeffrey Baez, Danny Canela, and Jason Vosler.  Canela also walked and drove in the Hawks' only run.
  • The name noticeably absent from that list is OF Rashad Crawford, who had his hit streak snapped at 19 games, though he did score Boise's only run.

AZL Angels 8 - AZL Cubs 2

  • This wasn't a good day for highly regarded HS draftees.  Dillon Maples pitched 3 innings and allowed just one hit, but he also walked 2 batters, hit 2 batters, and threw 3 wild pitches.  All told it added to 2 runs.  He struck out 4.  Maples is 0-2 with a 348 ERA in 10.1 innings this year,  He has walked 6 and struck out 10.
  • LHP Carson Sands got thumped for 4 runs and 4 hits in 1.1 innings, though only one of those runs were earned because of an early inning error by RF Shamil Ubiera.
  • Kevonte Mitchell has moved to the top of the lineup and the Cubs have to be encouraged that the rather raw ballplayer has held his own so far.  Two more hits put him at .263 with a .333 OBP.  He has not hit for any power, but that will come in time.
  • SS Bryant Flete hasn't played much with a talented group of middle infielders at AZ but he has some talent of his own.  A pair of hits in 5 ABs (1 run scored) put him at .298 for the year (14 for 47).  Flete has also shown a good eye so far, walking 6 times to put his OBP at .389.


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  • I really like how Russell comes across in that interview. I read it as him having a cool confidence, and baseball acumen beyond his young years. He seems to be able to perceive the bigger picture of himself, the organization, and the business of baseball.

    I'm really trying to contain my expectations on Soler's promotion timeframe, but the fact that pitchers are now pitching around him makes me believe he should be moved up after this month. Am I being too hasty? Would it be the worse thing if he spent only July in AA, moved to AAA for August, and then hits the big show come September...even to get a taste of what he needs to work on in the "offseason"... ?

  • In reply to SymposiumX13:

    If Baez is going to play 2B, then there isn't much keeping Russell from moving up, except his own performance. It would be pretty cool to see an Iowa playoff lineup with CF Alcantara, 3B Bryant, 2B, Baez, RF Soler, SS, Russell, 1B Olt and of course, Manny Ramirez. Oh, wow, that was fun just to type.

  • In reply to nukee:

    It would be very exciting and provide a great gelling situation for the boys in blue.

  • In reply to nukee:

    I agree. Olt would be a nice 1B for that team.
    I would like to see Jackson and Vitters get a platoon look at the MLB level in left in September as well.

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    In reply to Kodak11:

    I believe you should actually EARN your promotions. Jackson is hitting .213, Vitters .207. It is time to jettison those two and clear roster space for someone with actual baseball talent and a future with the organization.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Both have had productive seasons at that level in the past. I'm sure they're being asked to work on things. I would like to see that platoon throughout September. If that doesn't work out, you can go from there but it doesn't cost anything extra to look at it.

  • Has there ever been a team this bipolar between the major league team and the potential in the minors?

  • In reply to wastrel:

    The calm before the storm. Oh, to be a fly on the wall of rival FOs' offices. "The Cubs are coming! The Cubs are coming!"

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    In reply to SymposiumX13:

    How long have we been saying that about the royals and padres?

  • In reply to SymposiumX13:

    My guess would be that every one else in the division is talking about this year's chances not what the Cubs may do in 2-3 years.

  • In reply to wastrel:

    I don't think so. Not that I can remember. I don't know how long the gap was between the bad 50s Cubs teams were and then the young guys like Williams, Banks, Jenkins, and Santo. etc.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John look at Schwarber compared to Bryant after 150 PA:

    Bryant .336/.390, K rate 23%, BB rate 8%, HR rate 6%.
    Schwarber .398/.479, K rate 17%, BB rate 12%, HR rate 6%.

    Across the same levels Schwarber has actually better numbers than Bryant I can see why they are fast tracking him I think they are counting on him in LF sooner rather than later. Suddenly outfield is getting potentially crowded.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    Interesting. It appears everyone, except our FO, underestimated this guys bat.

    Going off of what you read on the internet and a few scouting buddies that share some tidbits with me, it didn't appear he could stick at catcher and the bat (while very good), didn't appear to be elite at the same level of Bryant's.

    But so far so good. Let's see if he can maintain it as he moves up. That's what has been most impressive about Bryant (and Soler) is that never need to adjust or fight through a slump. Given Schwarber's advanced approach; he may not either (fingers crossed).

  • That lineup at Daytona is really something. There doesn't seem to be an easy out anywhere on it.

  • I believe Hoosier a while ago brought up some personal problems Almora had, perhaps with his father in the hospital. That seems to be cleared up now and Almora has been raking this past month with that clear mind. If that was the case, certainly understandable that he started slow.

  • What would happen if the Cubs finish with the 10th worst record this year, and wind up with what would be the 10th pick in the draft next year. However, because the Astros are well the Astros, the Cubs would then drop down to the 11th pick in the draft. If we were to sign a type A FA this offseason, would this pick still be protected since the Cubs should have had the 10th pick? Or since the Cubs would actually have the 11th pick, would they have to forfeit this pick if they sign a type A FA?

    The team is certainly looking like its going to have a top 5 pick, and this issue won't matter, but I'm still curious as to how that would work.

    Anyone know?

  • In reply to nukee:

    I believe it would be forfeited since it would be pick #11.

    So whoever finishes with the tenth worst record better be furious at Jeff Luhnow and the Astros organization.

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    In reply to nukee:

    In the scenario you laid out, the Cubs 11th pick would not be protected. Which is part of the reason I hope the situation in Houston blows up in their faces.

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    In reply to Matty Wilkinson:

    For a similar situation the Pirates couldn't come to terms with Mark Appel, which then gave them the 9th pick the next year, dislodging Toronto from the 9th to 10th.

  • In reply to Matty Wilkinson:

    I think it was the Mets who had that that 10th pick move to the 11th pick and lost the protected pick.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Thanks John, for finishing what was supposed to be my last sentence before my laptop died. It was indeed the Mets who were bumped from protection..

  • In reply to Matty Wilkinson:

    are u sure compensation picks count in the formula? the whole point of protecting picks is to not disadvantage poorer performing teams when it comes to signing QO FAs.

    wouldn't at all be difficult to draw the line after the 10th place team and say "before this point, the draft pick surrendered for a QO FA will be a 2nd round pick," irrespective of how many compensation picks happen to occur in the top 10.

    to take it to an extreme: if every team in the top 10 in a given draft failed to sign their 1st pick -- after making at least a 40% of slot offer -- then they'd all get a comp pick in the 1st round the following year. in the following year, that would leave only the worst FIVE tms getting a pick in the "top 10." can't imagine MLB would execute their rule in such a ham-handed way.

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    In reply to ratay1:

    It is absolutely only the first 10 picks. The year the Pirates got the extra pick for Appel, the Mets appealed to the commissioner's office because they wanted to sign Michael Bourn, but didn't want to give up the #11 pick. They argued they should be #10.

    Commissioner's office said "too bad", and the Mets took a pass on Bourn. Probably worked out for them anyway, because Bourn's is becoming a negative value contract.

    So there is an established precedent.

  • In reply to nukee:

    It would be an unprotected pick, which would be a downright shame. I doubt the Cubs will be that "good", though.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    As of end of day Sunday the Cubs sit in 3rd.(.412) behind TEX (.398) and COL (.408).

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Apparently, that's not the case and the rules have been changed to protect the top pick for the worst 10 teams from the preceding year.

  • In reply to brs2:

    I saw that at some point afterward. I think that is an excellent change to the rules. Thanks for pointing it out.

  • Regarding Kevonte Mitchell, not only was he moved up to the leadoff spot, but played CF in this game. Interesting.

    And everyone should check out the pic Rob Zastryzny tweeted of a catch Bijan Rademacher made a couple days ago. Pretty impressive looking.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    It shows what a good athlete he is, but at 6'4" with plenty of room to fill out, I am not betting on him staying there.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Anyone find a video of this catch? Saw the tweet, but wanted to see the video.

  • If we could trade some of our veterans then we might draft 5-7th

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    The schedule toughens up the rest of the way. That, in itself, may be enough to drop them to a higher draft position.

  • In reply to xhooper:

    Uh, we're 2-11 since The Trade, and sinking fast. I'm thinking 100+ losses is now a lock and No. 1 pick is likely.

  • In reply to TTP:

    It's tough to out-tank the Houston Astros. Unlike the Cubs they are built to be a 100 loss team even before they trade anyone.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    True, though some of the young blood inspired the Astros, at least for a short period. I agree that it may be tough to be worse than Houston, but I also would have never predicted that on July 21st the two worst records would be Colorado and Texas.

  • Lets hope that don't receive to many gift wins along the way

  • Ha! I was at that game and it was an incredible catch by Rademacher. Saved a HR. The Ft Myers team was hitting balls all over the outfield Saturday night and Schwarber, McKinney and Rademacher got a workout. A lot of hustle and a lot of great plays!

  • Great to all that young power in the future

  • Just learned that Arrieta has been battling a stomache virus and hasn't been able to keep solid food down for 3 days; and still goes 6 2/3 quality IP?

    We need 3 or 4 more just like him!

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    I drove from Dallas to Round Rock Saturday to see the Iowa Cubs edge the Round Rock Express 5-4. The only disappointment was that Kris Bryant and Javier Baez, who had each homered in the first two games of the series, failed to go deep. What slackers! Chris Valaika, Eli Whiteside and Logan Watkins all homered, but I didn't drive three hours each way to see them.

    Prior to the game, Baez and Manny were inseparable. Manny really seems to have taken Javier under his wing. I talked with Dallas Beeler before the game, and he had good things to say about the influence Manny has had on Baez. Beeler also said that regardless of whether he's with the Cubs when they win, it's exciting to part of the team's growth now. Really good guy.

    As far as the pitching, Blake Parker looked razor sharp in the ninth, while Marcos Mateo looked pretty good, as well.

  • Small Sample Size alert (and heck, misleading data alert), but in the Tribune's "Future Five report", Baez's "trending" numbers look better than Bryant's.

    Probably the first time we've seen that this year.


    "'s Buster Olney speculates that the Cubs could end up being pulled in as a key cog in any deal that the Tampa Bay Rays might end up pulling off involving David Price. "If the Rays and Seattle Mariners discuss a Price deal, the Cubs are the perfect third team to help deliver the position prospect(s) Tampa Bay wants and needs. The Rays could send Price to Seattle, the Mariners could delivery pitching to the Cubs (hello, Taijuan Walker), and the Cubs could send a young infielder to the Rays."

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    In reply to npinzur:

    Thanks for pointing that out again. I believe Mike Moody may have already spoke of this rumor. The Rays already have Hak-Ju Lee at AAA ball. If this were to come true I think the Cubs would probably be asked to give up Baez. The Cubs better be getting a whole lot more than Taijuan Walker to get this deal to even be considered, imo.

  • In reply to npinzur:

    Baez or Alcantara you choose, would any of you make that deal?

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    In reply to rnemanich:

    Aclantara for Walker would work. But would Tampa let Price walk for Alcantara? I doubt it.

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Cubs had their eye on Walker but also if the Modus Operandi was also other pitchers in the Mariner's system.

    Now think Price has to be one step higher than Samardzija who brought Russell, so it would have to be Baez plus another, could be Vogelbach, but the offer could also be Castro, which would have to engineer at least Walker and Paxton (PTBNL) plus Gohora and/or Pike.

    Also Cubs could trade Alcantara, Strailey and Villaneuva or Vogelbach where Seattle throws in Pederson and keeps Villaneuva or Vogelbach

    This would entail many more names, if a 3 way were done, but Cubs would want to get at least two starters, one a TOR potential.

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    Can anyone tell me who the best defensive catcher the Cubs have in the system? I was just wondering because with all of the power bats that we have coming wouldn't a defensive specialist back there be a luxury we could afford? Someone that handled the pitchers well and kept the running game in check would be great. We wouldn't need to worry about the Billy Hamilton's of the league disrupting the game.

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Contreras probably has the best toolbox, but he isn't a finished product back there. Remillard would probably be the most advanced defensively that I have seen this year. Honestly, Castillo has as good of a chance as any of them to be plus defensively. Its been kind of a lost year for him, and his pitch framing still leaves a lot to be desired, but he still has good pitch blocking skills and a plus arm. If he can improve his receiving over the next couple of years he could become that kind of guy.

    Zagunis and Malave are supposed to be good athletes at the position down in Boise as well, but I have not seen them play, and I have seen reports that Zagunis does not have a great arm and Malave has bounced between IF and C and is apparently still really raw behind the plate.

  • This is a thought for some you to get a handle on prospect without the personification that often clouds the thoughts.

    If you look at just position by position slash lines of 2014 to date performance without names and place them in a batting order you can see what the Cubs system potentially has,

    *CF/LH: 307/.353/.537/ OPS=.890 21/24 SB/CS (ETA 2014)age 22
    SS: 283/ .361/.453/ OPS=.814 5/8 SB/CB (ETA 2015-16) age 20
    1B:.281/ .384/.522/OPS=.907 13/24 SB/CS (MLB stats) age 24
    3B: ..346 /.441/.705 OPS=1.146 11/13 SB/CS (ETA 2015) age 23
    RF: .397/.493 /.862/ OPS=1.355 0/0 SB/CS (ETA 2015) age 22
    DH: .398/.479/.707 OPS=1.186 2/4 SB/CS (ETA 2016) age 21
    2B: .252/ .313/.473 OPS=.785 16/24 SB/CS (ETA 2015) age 21
    *LF/LH: 282/.383/.425/OPS=.808 4/10 SB/CS (ETA '16-'17)age 23
    *CF/RH .281/.306/.398 . /OPS=704 6/9 SB/CS(ETA '16-17) age 20
    *C/LH .287/.385/.402/OPS=.787 0/0 SB/CS (ETA 2015-16) age 26
    *C/RH 319/.431/.473/OPS=.904 5/6 SB/CS (ETA 2016-17) age 21

    IF/SS/2B .281/.348/.405/OPS=.753 5/7SB/CS (ETA '15-16)age 23
    OF/LF/RF:.246/.338/.396/OPS=.733 0/0 SB/CS (ETA '16-'17)age19

    Got to say that 2016 is the year, of course that depends on pitching. Next year would be grand to have one FA pitcher that is superior lefty, (age 30 or 31) then the following year sign another lefty who in 2016 is 30, incorporate them with a pair here now of 29 & 30 year old's and possibly competing power young starters coming up from the system or acquired through trades. Got to think if the Cubs are smart and fortunate that they have at least two more likely three left handed starters going along with two power right handed starters.

    Couple that with a potential power armed bullpen of mid 20's year old's and this might be a juggernaut.

  • I found this quote from Addison Russell a telling reminder for all of us:

    "It's a new organization, a different ball club, different coaches. You try to soak everything in, but you just have to perform. I'm normally confident, but it's a completely different atmosphere. I really don't know anybody, but I'm starting to get to know the guys here, whereas I knew everyone in the Oakland organization."

    As much help as sabermetrics/video analysis can provide a front office and prospect junkies like us, baseball is still played by human beings. Albert Almora's self-proclaimed hero and role model, his father, was diagnosed with prostate cancer this spring and underwent surgery for it shortly thereafter. My father also went through the same process last year. It's not to be taken lightly. It's uncertain whether or not that played into Almora's early season struggles or if Russell's slow start with the Tennessee was affected by the culture shock of joining a new organization, but I deeply appreciate this front office's emphasis on a player's make-up and their understanding that baseball isn't played by algorithms but by living, breathing human beings.

  • Any word yet on Bobby Hill?

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