A look at the sometimes conflicting goals of minor league stats and development paths: Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora, and Mike Olt

A look at the sometimes conflicting goals of minor league stats and development paths: Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora, and Mike Olt
Almora's numbers have taken a tumble, but it doesn't mean he isn't developing.

We hope that his fate changes with the Diamondbacks, but the ultimate failure of Brett Jackson as a prospect in the Cubs organization highlights a significant difference between the current development staff and the one led by the Cubs past regime.

The examples are numerous.  Jackson, Josh Vitters, Corey Patterson, and Felix Pie immediately come to mind.  Starlin Castro's immense natural talent masked some flaws early in his career as well.  He is just now beginning to overcome them.

But we'd also be making a mistake if we didn't acknowledge that the current Cubs staff isn't learning along the way too.  They have acknowledged that they called up Anthony Rizzo too early when he was with San Diego.  They likely called up Mike Olt before he was ready as well.

Now we are all watching Javier Baez and we can see that he isn't truly MLB ready, but that was by design.  The Cubs expected this kind of inconsistency and felt he would be better served by having his flaws exposed now to give them a head start heading into 2015.  Time will tell if that was the right decision but it seemed that Baez had AAA figured out already.  He needed the challenge of MLB pitchers who were more capable of exploiting him than AAA pitchers were.  At Iowa, Baez had adjusted to the point where he could feast on mistakes with regularity, but in order to take the next step as a ballplayer, the Cubs felt he needed to learn that even those adjustments won't be enough at the MLB level.  There is still work to be done and there is no better way to tell him that than to let him experience it.  In the end, it's a judgment call.

There is a difference between Baez and Jackson, however.  Whereas the latter didn't have his flaws addressed properly until late in his career, Baez has made adjustments along the way.   That is the difference between this development staff and the last one.  With each new level, Baez faced better pitchers who could get him out early and often but he eventually adjusted each time.   He has seen his walk rate rise from 3.8% (A) to 6.1% (A+) to 7.9% (AA).  He held that percentage at AAA but it was trending upward at the time of his promotion.  The Cubs have a development plan that was both consistent and tailored specifically for him.  Baez knew what he had to do to get to the major leagues and he has worked hard at meeting those goals.  The promotions were aggressive, but they were earned.

The Cubs are doing the same for other prospects, though their development plans are different.

The most frustrating example from a fan's point of view is that of Kris Bryant.  In the end, we are fans and not in professional MLB development.  It's fun but also a little hard for us to see Bryant cruise through the minors this year with a jaw-dropping line of .336/.431/.685 with 40 HRs between AA and AAA.  The wOBA at AAA is .456 and the RC+ is at 175.  Those are MVP type levels.

Behind the fun of watching him mash, the question nags:  Why isn't he up yet?

Before I answer that we should address another player who was putting up ridiculous numbers at AAA three years ago.  The line with that particular player was .331/.404/.652 with a .438 wOBA and an RC+ of  156.  Not quite the same level but this player also had a much lower K rate: 21.5% to Bryant's 27.4%.  He also had more experience both at AAA (413 PAs to Bryant's 230) and overall (1656 minor league PAs at the time to Bryant's 673).  If anything this player, judging by the stat sheet and experience, was more ready for the big leagues then than Bryant is now.

But the catch is he wasn't ready.  This player had some holes in his swing that MLB pitchers exploited without mercy.  He hit .141/.281/.242 in his first 150 MLB ABs.  And no, that player is not Mike Olt.  That player was Anthony Rizzo.  As we mentioned earlier, the front office admitted they made a mistake calling him up when they did.  They should have first addressed holes that they knew he had.

That brings us back to Kris Bryant.  The Cubs know he has holes.  Bryant knows he has holes.  And, most importantly, the league knows he has holes.  They attack Kris Bryant in those spots all the time (i.e. up and in in the strike zone).  Despite Bryant's gaudy numbers, AAA pitchers who had the stuff and command to execute those holes, did so frequently, getting Bryant to swing and miss quite often.  In the majors, there will be many more pitchers who will be able to consistently execute that plan of attack against Bryant.

And while, yes, there are financial considerations involved, it isn't the only reason Bryant is still in AAA.  Another poor season has afforded the Cubs a luxury -- that is the luxury of patience.  There is no need for him to come up to the majors now and have MLB pitchers exploit a hole everyone knows he has.  There is nothing to learn from that aspect at the MLB level, so why not shore up those holes now against a more appropriate level of competition?  This is especially relevant since the Cubs don't need Bryant in the sense that they are not going to the playoffs, with or without him.

That is exactly what he is doing and Bryant has made progress in regard to closing up the holes in his swing, a frightening thought for pitchers at any level.  In his last 25 games covering 108 PAs, Bryant has struck out 23% of the time.  A significant drop from the 30% rate he had in his first 25 games at AAA.   Some of that can be chalked up to making those adjustments now.  From an observation standpoint, I have seen Bryant recently turn on an inside 97 mph fastball and hit it a mile just foul over the LF wall.  Then on the next pitch he took a 95 mph pitch on the inner half and hit it out to left, that time fair for a HR.  He has shown he can do it, now it's just a matter of doing it consistently.  When Bryant comes up, I expect a very short learning curve as compared to the one Anthony Rizzo had.  Could Bryant be productive at the MLB level right now?  Absolutely.  But if they get a more MLB ready from the get-go with Bryant next year (when it may actually mean something) -- and it also saves them money in the long run, then that's just icing on the cake.

Looking deeper down the system, we find Albert Almora, who is also struggling at AA after struggling early on at Daytona.  In between those struggles, Almora seemed to have it figured out.  Between the FSL all-star break and his promotion to AA, Almora hit .313/.340/.486 over a period of 44 games (188 PAs), so it is a rather significant sample size.  He turned it up another notch in the couple of weeks preceding the promotion.

Almora has been making adjustments of his own.  He is working on getting more pitches he can drive, something that has yet to pay off in terms of walk rate, but it is paying off in terms of his slugging prowess.  What you don't realize until you see Almora live is not that just he makes contact frequently, as his low K rates imply (11% range before reaching AA), but he is capable of making loud, hard contact.  I have seen (and heard) it in instructs and I have seen it in games, but Almora makes contact so easily sometimes that he settles for putting the bat on the ball rather than consistently looking to drive it.  That is changing this season.  Almora is making a lot of hard quality contact this year, though it admittedly has come sporadically.  But the fact that Almora has struggled doesn't mean he isn't making progress.  As we so often say here, good process precedes good results.  The results will follow but it doesn't always show up right away.  I have little doubts that it will with Almora once he settles in at AA.  I look for him to have a strong season in 2015.

Lastly, I made an allusion to Olt earlier in the piece.  One of our readers ("Jorge Soler") suggested there could be some parallels between Rizzo and Olt, so I decided to look into it a little bit.   Olt's MLB numbers are surprisingly similar to Rizzo's early numbers.  We gave you Rizzo's earlier in this piece (.141/.281/.242).  Olt's career MLB numbers so far are similar, though with about 100 more PAs (.141/.226/.327).  Olt, of course, is almost 5 years older than Rizzo was when he put up his numbers, so that must be taken into account.

Still, the early results are encouraging.  Olt has become less pull-happy and has become willing to take the ball the other way.  That has helped  his contact rate (his K rate has dropped to 28%).  Just as importantly it has enhanced the quality of his contact -- and by extension, his BABIP numbers.  Yes, we know he won't sustain a .411 BABIP, but that's pretty obvious.  Nobody is under the illusion that Olt is a .333 hitter.  But what's important here is the quality of contact.  We talked about Rizzo earlier and I think the parallels fit, at least from a statistical standpoint.

  • In his first 23 games back after his MLB debut, Rizzo hit .374/.424/.637 with a, 268 ISO, .423 BABIP, and a 7.1% walk rate.
  • In his first 23 games back at AAA, Olt has hit .333/.375/.667 with a .333 ISO, a .411 BABIP and a 6.3% walk rate.

I am not saying Olt will become Rizzo based on that rather small sample size, but the trends here are interesting.  Less walks than their previous career minor league norms, more hard contact, and an equally unsustainable BABIP.  Both players even made a similar adjustment -- and that is to consciously take the ball the other way when pitcher's work them outside.  Rizzo was not and is not a .374 hitter.  Olt is not a .333 hitter, so the BABIP concerns are valid in terms of the long term impact on their batting average.  But if Olt shows a similar drop off in average with the accompanying increase in walk rate, he could still be a solid ballplayer, albeit more of 3-outcome type hitter.  That is, he could be a player who will hit for a low average (.240ish?) with a lot of strikeouts,  but who compensates for that with a lot of walks and HR power.  I don't think that scenario is unrealistic for Olt and if he can do that with average to slightly above average 3B defense, that player still has value and a viable future in baseball.

The bottom line here is that we are looking at development when it comes to players like Baez, Olt, Almora, and Bryant and sometimes those numbers can be deceivingly good or bad.  It's why, even at the upper levels, most modern front offices look at statistics as just half of the picture.   Behind the scenes there is player development and each player has their own unique path to MLB success -- and sometimes that conflicts with what we see on the stat sheet.

Comments

Leave a comment
  • fb_avatar

    Recently I decided I needed a more hectic life so I decided to listen to some sports radio out of Chicago. I did so because of an ongoing debate with family I have back home over the prospects we have and what should be done with them.

    I have always argued that this FO has taken a different approach to developmet of their prospects over what has happened in the past. I have an advantage I think because I am disable (Muscular Dystrophy) and can spend way more time doing research on the net and going to minor league games. My family members have said that since they live in Chicago and read the papers and listen to local radio they have the inside track to information.

    Thus, I bit the bullet and tuned into hear some sports radio. I gotta tell you, I was shocked at the amount of 1/2 truths and the way they lead listeners and callers down the murky road of sports reporting. I can see why so many "casual" fans are misinformed.

    I thank God for Cubs Den!

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Thanks bocabobby! I'm equally thankful for the readers we have here!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Loved it! Issues like this are where I really need the education.

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    Thanks Quasi!

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    The only sports radio person I can listen to is Les Grobstein. All of the rest are very hard to listen to.

  • In reply to JLynch2247:

    The Score has made the decision they want their hosts to be shock jocks and present their material in arrogant and controversial manners. They think that is what generates ratings. IMO they are catering to the meathead mentality and turning off most listeners. Its too bad. Terry Boers is knowledagable and funny. But paired with a doofus in Bernstein he tends to stoop to his level and they come across as arrogant jackhats. I love the days when Boers is paired with a regular host when Benstei is off..
    But at least Mike North is gone.

  • In reply to Behn Wilson:

    I'm a fan of Matt Spiegel, Wayne Randazzo, and others. Not all of them are like that.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Interesting that Dan McNeil, one of the worst sinners of shock jock radio, is not coming back to the Score. agree that Spiegeleisen is the best and plays it pretty straight.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Those guys are really good, I also like Lawrence Holmes. I like guys that are positive like that and not trying to be the smartest guys in the room.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Behn Wilson:

    never heard Boers without Bernstein, but between the two of them I'd have to say the larger intellect is Bernstein. Boers is mostly a yes-man to him, who likes to keep repeating his own point just to hear himself talk. Bernstein comes up with literary and historical references you don't hear from sports talk guys, makes you think he actually has something between his ears - or was taught well. And contrary to perceptions about them on this blog, they are fully on board with Theo's re-build and they get the benefit of losing games this year and not bringing up guys early just for the sake of feeding the fans.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Bernstein is an idiot. He tries to over intellectualize even the most simple of situations and is nothing but a blowhard IMO. And he ridicules anyone mercilessly that disagrees with him. You are right though they are in the Theo rebuild. Like I said Boers Is eally knwowledable. Was on all the beats for years and knows the ins an outs. I like when Bernstein is out and he gets paired with another old timer like Hanley etc. Those days are usually pretty pleasant listens.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Behn Wilson:

    What do you expect? After all it's the White Sox station. ;-)

  • In reply to Behn Wilson:

    I stopped listening to the Score a few years ago. All of the hosts are pretty terrible, but it was really Boers/Bernstein who got me to switch the channel. Both of them are arrogant jerks. They both have their moments of being really good, but instead of running a decent show they more often to dumpster dive into shouting down their callers and calling Coach John Doe a meathead, and it provides no information to the listeners or even any entertainment.

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    I would recommend listening to 87.7 The Game. They have a lot of great people and a lot of great shows. Jarrett, Harry, and Spike are entertaining. Kap and Haugh are always good too, but my favorite show for baseball is actually The Night Game with Mark Carman and Connor McKnight. Very good station overall.

  • Hi Jake,

    I won't listen to 87.7 during the evening drive time because of Harry. I couldn't stand him when he was on WMVP and he hasn't gotten any better on the Game. I'm also surprised that they pulled Spike out of mothballs, too.

    I'll take your advice and make a point of giving Mark Carman & Connor McKnight a listen.

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    "I gotta tell you, I was shocked at the amount of 1/2 truths and the way they lead listeners and callers down the murky road of sports reporting."

    Hi bocaobby,

    I listen to sportstalk radio in Chicago everyday and couldn't agree with you more. I really do appreciate WSCR and WMVP but like you I am truly surprised at just how uninformed many hosts and callers are when it comes to the Cubs. It peaked for me earlier in the year when the hosts didn't understand the distinction between Samardzija's value as a player and his future contractual value (largely dictated by the fact that he was still under control for another year an a half at the time of the trade). They didn't understand why the Cubs were asking for a king's ransom on a guy that they wouldn't give a $100 million contract to. Even though this is their profession there have been many other instances like that (i.e. the Bryant vs. Soler and Baez promotions) where they are just not informed any more than the casual fan.

    As you said, thank goodness for sites like Cubs Den where the staff digs much deeper and provides us with well thought out and reasoned analyses of the Cubs.

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Amen.

    And not just sports radio, but also so called sports reporting in the newspaper.

    The lack of analysis, the dredging up of old stories (see the constant references to Cubs
    prospects of the past, the smarmy cheap shots (see Rosenbloom) and so on.

    Compare to the well informed commentaries in the Cubs Den.

  • Very good article.
    Other than the results, can you explain the difference between how the new staff approaches prospect development compared to how they were handled before? Also, how does Soler fit in, or given his approach is he more of a finished product?

  • In reply to Rob Richardson:

    Thanks Rob. I think these are questions better served for another article, but I will answer it as concisely as I can. Soler is an exception because of his contract situation. They have to make do the best they can given the circumstances, but Soler has made that easy by working hard of late and making startlingly quick progress.

    As far as what goes into development, each player is identified with a set of goals and benchmarks. It's different for each player. In Baez's case it could be pitch selection, In Almora's case one thing was to gradually tone down his leg kick. With Bryant it's too handle the way certain pitcher's have approached him. With Olt, it has been about becoming less pull-conscious. What's important is that the basic plan is the same and consistent throughout the organization (i.e. all fields approach. good pitch selection, etc.) but certain aspects are emphasized or modified based on the individual player.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    I would add that in the past the Cubs had a bit of a hands off idea to development. Sure they had a coach or two that may have suggested a thing or two. But, for the most part if you were hitting well in A ball or AA ball that just promoted you. Even if there were issues with pitch selection, leg kick, etc., you got moved along.

    The result were players that were "hyped" up and may have had initial success in the majors. But once their weaknesses were discovered, they were exploited mercilessly! Our players coming through the system have much more development and learn to play this difficult game.

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Good point... Reminds me of Samardzija... He was mightily rushed through the minors and posted decent numbers and by the time he got to the bigs he didn't know what worked and what didn't and had to reinvent himself a couple of times.

    Others were moved up without even looking that dominant in the minors, like Colvin, Vitters, Pie, Patterson... Without looking it up, I think they had some promotions based on the hype and not because they dominated.

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    I don't think we can overlook the change in drafting strategy in the development process. Today's FO seems much more in tune with making sure prospects have the character to be teachable. Patterson used to infuriate me with his "I gotta be me" comments to the press after he stank up the stadium, striking out on pitches in the neighboring ZIP code. All the coaching in the world won't help a blockhead that won't listen.

  • This is why it is great that the front office looks for great makeup guys. It is so much easier to mold them and the great work ethic will carry them to a higher success rate. This is why it gets very frustrating when people are calling guys to be called up thinking they are ready just because someone is struggling on the major league team. Front office will buckle some, but for the most part will stick the course and succeed for it.

  • In reply to Cubs Future:

    Excellent point. Those things often go hand-in-hand.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    And you can only mold a player so much so they are drafting the kind of players they like. Work the pitch count, take walks etc. Its next to impossible to change a hitters basic approach so once we se the guys they drafted hit the big leaguers we are likely to have a lineup more full of patient hitters.

  • In reply to Cubs Future:

    *Really* a great point, Cubs Future!! If they think a guy has top baseball skills, then his makeup will make it easier to adjust when they ask him to work on specific things, in the short term, even when it will result in declining results for a while!!

  • Since 2015 might not be our year we should give our top prospects
    all the time to develop. We don't want them to fail and be hitting
    .150 after 100 AB's. Lets hope we learned from the failure of past
    top can't miss prospects.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Agreed and to add to that, I think this is something front offices are always learning more about. It is difficult because every player is unique. The Cubs current FO certainly seems to be adapting and adjusting as more info becomes available and I'm not sure that was always the case with the last regime.

  • I agree that Olt could become a good 3B in the majors. Rizzo had 2 failed MLB attempts before succeeding and now Olt has failed twice. But Olt definitely is adjusting down in AAA. He is doing better in AAA than he ever has. Whether he can improve enough is the question. I believe the FO will give him more chances to succeed. Look how many chances Vitters and BJAX have gotten.

  • In reply to John57:

    HOW MANY HAVE THEY GOTTEN

  • fb_avatar

    This article explains exactly why it is important that, at least from a value perspective, we cannot merely forget about Mike Olt. Regardless of whether he goes on to play a long, productive career with the Cubs, he has the potential to hold value to this team. If there is the potential for a 3B with a .240's avg, 20+ HR power, and solid defense, that pretty much describes a 3B that is better than any other 3B on the free agent market. It also describes a 3B that is better than any other 3B available via trade without completely emptying a teams's minor league system.

    Before we anoint Bryant as the 3B of the future, there will be some time between then and now that the Cubs will need to cover. Also, with the chance that he does not stick at 3B long term, it is even more critical for the Cubs to not give up on Olt. Either as a player on the team, or as a trade chip, Olt can turnout to be very valuable to the Cubs.

  • In reply to Drinkin Olt Cola:

    Very much agreed. Good points all around.

  • Very educational, as usual, JA. I think, just through the process of osmosis from reading these articles and the ensuing comments, that it sinks in with us folks that stats don't tell the whole story of a player, particularly during the development stage.

    Regarding Olt, I wonder if the sporadic playing time he received while on the Cubs had a negative affect on his hitting. Only allowing him to hit against lefties gave him no consistent starts at all.

    Now that he gets to play every day, he seems to have righted the ship.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    Thanks. I may be preaching to the choir to some degree :) You are all very knowledgeable on this stuff.

    That is a good point with Olt that I did not address. It certainly fits with the overarching theme. It makes sense that if you are trying to make adjustments, that you also need reps in order to perfect them.

  • Great article, John. Sometimes I think that reading Cubs Den is like taking a college class in smart baseball management (and, for that matter, smart business principles in general). So here's my question: have good teams been taking this approach to development for years, and the Cubs are just now catching up? Or are the Cubs breaking new ground in how they're developing their players?

  • In reply to October:

    Thank you. I think there is a little bit of both. The statistical revolution had front offices looking at players from a different perspective for quite some time now, but I think the better front offices have taken a more human approach to players in that they have blended in scouting and intangibles such as mental makeup to make better decisions. Theo, Jed and the Cubs are at the forefront of this more well-rounded movement.

  • In reply to October:

    If reading this excellent blog is like a college class, I am glad there are no tests! If you say the wrong thing you will be graded though.

  • Interesting read John.

    I'm not really worried about Almora. I expect him to establish himself at AA next year and fly up prospect rankings.

    Any idea when we will know what positions the Cubs have been assigned for the AFL rosters?

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I am worried about Almora.

    I am worried about Bryant.

    And I am worried about Baez, Castro, Olt, Rizzo and Arrieta.

    Anyone, MLB player or prospect can fail next year, regardless of how they produced this year. But the odds of Rizzo failing, at this point, are probably much less than the odds of Baez failing, which is probably less that the odds of Olt failing.

    Certainly, the odds of Almora failing after the poor year he has had are greater than the odds of him failing if he had put up greatly better numbers this year. Doesn't mean he is washed up, but it DOES mean that there is more reason to worry now than there were last year at this time.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    I am not worried about Castro. I think his game is suffering this year because their is no one to hit behind him. Hopefully he will see better pitches next year with the lineup filling out

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Behn Wilson:

    He's arguably the best offensive SS currently on an active NL roster. Why did you phrase your post as if he were struggling?

  • In reply to DaveP:

    I think you need to go back and re read what John wrote about WHY Almora's numbers early in Daytona were what they were. Once you grasp that meaning, you will understand why he is actually in a better position to succeed at the upper levels now. MiLB stats do not tell the whole picture. Below AA level, they're of very little importance compared to the developmental things going on.

    So in effect Amora's "poor year" as you described it, lessens the odds of him failing because of the adjustments made making him a more advanced and better hitter.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Almora's time of success in Daytona was pretty small. I'd say we might even chalk it up as SSS or a hot month. His overall season at A+ was pretty meh.

    I'm not so sure Almora got called up because Theo/Jed were convinced he had mastered A+ ball as they wanted to make sure he got consistent at-bats. With all the Daytona rainouts, my belief is they called Almora up to make sure he was getting regular at-bats in Tenn, where there are a lot less rainouts in late Jul-Aug.

    BTW, I don't disagree with this decision. Almora has missed enough time in the minors and he needs lots of PA's. While the hot month/month and a half probably made the decision easier to be aggressive with promotion, I think the rainouts in Daytona played a role in their decision to promote him to Tenn.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Thanks Hoosier. Don't know about the AFL right now.

  • I have had first person conversations with MiLB scouts about the discernible difference between the hands on development approach by this Cubs regime and years past. Actually they point to Alcantara as someone developed by the system and coaching. Baez I saw it from April to June, and Bryant was always a mistake hitter where they are working to make him a complete hitter as you noted. This is what is done in college BB and FB by coaches who actually coach. More than merely talent it will be the difference between playoffs and WS

  • In reply to rnemanich:

    Agreed.

  • fb_avatar

    It hurts to think how much better Castro could be if the developmental philosophy wasn't "He seems pretty good, just send him up and hope for the best."

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    Sorry, Giffmo, I disagree. So does it hurt to think how much better Baez would be next year if they left him in AAA the rest of this year? Or how much better Trout would be if he'd gotten more than 77 AAA at-bats? We can go on and on with this. We'll simply never know, but you cannot assume the cause and effect conclusion implicit in your comment. I believe Castro is what he is and whatever he would have learned with more seasoning in the minors, he's had plenty of time to learn in the majors. In fact, one can make the case that he is a better ball player now, at this moment, because of his early MLB experience.

  • In reply to TTP:

    TIP, I totally agree. Every player is different and some are ready earlier than others. I am glad the front office is being somewhat flexible and recognizing this. Otherwise Baez would not be up her yet. Its more the players skill set that determines his success than development by coaches. I think some people over estimate how much coaching can do. It is important but they are not magicians and it more comes down to the individual player.

  • fb_avatar

    John I read everything you post (sometimes multiple times.)

    This is one of the best posts this blog has ever published. That is no easy feat. The amount of knowledge that you showcase and the ability to draw connections on the development of four different prospects was outstanding.

    I know nothing about these prospects except for the raw stats and your insights. I am more optimistic after reading this article especially about Almora but it is frustrating with a low average and an insanely low BB%.

    I read a comment several weeks ago that said Almora's ceiling is Hunter Pence and his floor would be Reed Johnson. Would you agree? At this point I think Johnson is far more realistic but lets hope he has a big 2015 and gets to experience some on Manny's magic.

  • In reply to Daniel Rosenberg:

    Thank you, Daniel. I appreciate that.

    As far as numbers maybe Hunter Pence. I have trouble reconciling that one in my head, though, because I have such a kinesthetic bent to my perspective. I imagine Hunter Pence's awkwardness and the fluidity of Almora and it's hard for me to link them. If I think of it statistically, I can say that is plausible.

    I am more inclined to see him as a David DeJesus type. Not the Cubs David DeJesus but the early version, with the Royals that hit around .300, had an average walk rate, average power, and played great defense and averaged out to about a 3+ WAR player between 2005-2009. I think the baseball-specific athleticism is similar as well.

  • I know the 40-man roster is a problem, but I think we should keep Olt

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    It's not, and they will.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Unless something very unusual happens between now and next April - very little would be a big enough problem to displace Mike Olt from the 40-man roster.

    You just don't drop or trade for a pittance a solid defensive 3B/1B/Corner OF guy who has the potential to hit 20+ HR 80+ RBI and who could carry a 0.230-0240 BA when you can pay him a pre-arbitration level contract.

    You have to give him a chance to NOT fail.

  • Great article, well explained there is definatly something different with this FO as alot of prospects are succeeding now versus past. Probably both selection and developement.

    What do we do with Junior? Going to Iowa seems to have helped Olt, As you mentioned each player is different.

  • In reply to less disappointed:

    Thanks!

    Junior is a tough question. I think in his case, a change of scenery might work best.

  • I hope Lake is going to play in Winter ball full time to get his AB's

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to emartinezjr:

    NEW ARTICLE!

    http://www.fangraphs.com/community/the-chicago-cubs-and-the-terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad-junior-lake-season/

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Giffmo:

    As bad as I thought Lake was, according to this article he is actually MUCH worse.

    It's like he's a bizarre combination of Vitters' and BJax worst qualities.

    No approach, impatient, can't make contact, and awful make-up.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Giffmo:

    Cliff Notes: He couldn't hit a slider with a boat oar.

  • fb_avatar

    I'd like to suggest that if Olt can improve his walk rate he might have more value to us as a bench player than anything else. Yes, it would suck for him but you've got a guy who can play all four corner spots respectably. If you use him as a right handed complement to Luis Valbuena you could get them both 300-400 PAs over the course of a season, have two good bats on the bench for critical places late in games.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I've always thought that this would be his role. A guy that can cover for you at the corner IF and maybe some corner OF and provide right handed power off the bench. Valbuena and Olt are my preferred IF bench next year (Baez and or Alcantara can slide into SS for a couple of games when Castro needs a day off like Barney did).

    Olt, becuase he was a little older when he first came up in comparison to other top prospects is going to be cost controlled all throughout his prime years, so if he does become something useful we will never have to pay a premium to have it. He won't become a FA until he is like 32 IIRC.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    But - using the same logic - you could fairly easily work Olt in & out of a lineup by moving him around defensively among the corner positions and giving the other guys a day off now and again if you can get him to buy into that role.

    Get him a start 3 or so games a week, first guy off the bench as a PH or when you have to swap out pitchers, and get him a solid 400 or so plate appearances,.... He gets you some decent & reliable defense, a day off now and again for the other guys (all also going to be young or roleplayers) to work on things, and some solid power,....

    Couple Olt, Valbuena, Ruggiano, Vailiaka and a back up catcher - and you have a very solid, fairly versitile bench.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Great observation Mike. Totally agree.

  • Great piece, John. Glad to see someone else in my corner on Olt. I still think he is a player worth developing. How about that Garza trade last year? Olt, Everyday Grimmy, Regular Ramirez, Edwards. Pretty good haul IMHO.

  • In reply to lblegacy:

    Thanks. Some nice players. Maybe not that starter but cheap guys potentially filling important roles.

  • The 40 man roster is a problem, but not really for Olt. There are very few that the Cubs want to protect that are more valuable and have more potential than Olt.

    Sending Lake to Iowa right now would be a big mistake. Olt will still have an option year next year, and can be sent to Iowa next year if necessary. Lake has only one option year left, and if they send him down now, that uses it up, and next spring he must be kept on the team or waived. The experience he would get in the next two weeks at Iowa would hardly be worth it.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    excellent point

  • In reply to DaveP:

    According to AZ Phil (who is usually spot on in these matters):

    If Junior Lake spends less than 20 days on Optional Assignment to the minors in 2014 he will not burn his last minor league option, and the Cubs will be able to send him down next season for an extended period of time. So Lake might get optioned to Iowa on August 13th and then get recalled on September 1st when rosters expand (for a total of 19 days on Optional Assignment in 2014, so his last option would not be spent).

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Actually, I don't believe that's true. AZ Phil mentioned the other day that at some point in the teens of August Lake could be sent down without affecting his 2015 option year. But at this stage I don't know what a few 2014 games at Iowa could do for his development anyway.

  • In reply to Eldrad:

    Agreed. Have been wanting to mention that for awhile now. It was my understanding that if you don't use the option in a given year, you lose it anyway.

    Otherwise, Mike Trout would still have 3 options, wouldn't he?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I don't think that's right, John. If you look at Ariz. Phil's site, Starlin still has 3 options left. Rizzo, one. It appears that no option years are lost as long as a player is on the 25-man the entire year. (With caveat to the 20-days discussed above.)

  • It may well be that Olt came up too early but that is only obvious after the fact. He clearly struggled, but also showed some promise as well. The fact that he is much improved at the AAA level this time seems to say his time in the majors was not a waste. It actually seems like it helped and when he went back down and got to play every day something started working really well. Definitly think he should be back in September.

  • I think it would be a big mistake to trade Lake before July 2015.
    Even if his is in AAA he needs more AB's and develop before
    we give up on him

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    He is not as good a player as Alcantara, Soler, Bryant, or probably even Chris Coghlan, all of whom may factor in the outfield next year. I am not sure he will ever be good enough to be a starter on a good MLB team and he doesn't handle coming off the bench well. Lake needs an opportunity to play everyday for an extended period if he has a chance to succeed and I just don't see how that happens in Chicago. There is better talent on the way.

  • Outstanding work again John.
    Your ability to not only articulate what many of us think, but then provide excellent analysis and research to back it up is what makes Cubs Den elite.

  • In reply to KSCubsFan:

    Thanks KS!

  • fb_avatar

    John,

    Since there seems to be a bit of a love fest going on in this post, I would like to add that I also enjoy this blog tremendously. It completely fills a need that has been missing. However, it is the best because of all the commentors. There is real conversation, little, if any hate posts and none of the bickering that drove me away, far away from the Cubs Message Board. Keep up the good work!

  • In reply to Randy Michelson:

    ^^^

  • In reply to Randy Michelson:

    Thank you, Randy. And there is no doubt the commenting community adds a lot to the blog. Every piece gets added insight from many of our readers -- and I also enjoy how people can disagree here without resorting to mudslinging, and then come back the next day and move on and even agree with the person they disagreed with the day before.

  • In reply to Randy Michelson:

    I couldn't agree more Randy. I'm here everyday, all day reading John's insights, as well and all of the commenters. There's rarely any snarkiness, and John professionally rids the blog of it. I've said I'd never pay to read Keith Law, or any insider articles, but if ;push came to shove, I'd easily ;pay for this.

  • In reply to copinblue:

    Thanks copinblue!

  • John, if we can't sign a FA pitcher which prospects besides Lake
    can we package in a fair deal to get a good pitcher. Prospect
    or current pitcher.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I think the Cubs will try to hang on to their top guys like Russell, Bryant, Soler, and Almora. There is enough depth that I think the Cubs can get a find without selling out the farm to get a pitcher. It may not be a top of the rotation guy, but it could be a solid veteran pitcher.

    Circumstances may change that later, especially if the Cubs compete, but I don't see that kind of deal going down this offseason unless the Cubs get a great offer.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to emartinezjr:

    Lake has little to no value in a trade.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Giffmo:

    Since May 30th, Lake has drawn one walk (on June 19th), covering 95 ABs. Currently, he has the worst K-BB ratio of any qualifying hitter for a season, ever. EVER. He also has more OF errors than any player except George Springer, and currently has the lowest fld % of any non-pitcher on the team. His .608 OPS is one of the lowest in baseball, but it's not even bad luck; his BABIP is .297. He's just that bad.

    It's time to move on.......

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Zonk:

    *clapclapclap*

    my sentiments exactly.

  • Great read, John. But, with all due respect, I can't escape the feeling that are have gone out of your way to rationalize things in defense of the FO. Seems like just about every word you wrote about Bryant in defense of the FO not calling him up, you could have also written about Baez exactly one day before it was announced he was coming up.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to TTP:

    I don't think so at all. Baez has very different and distinct problems.

    A lot of people felt that Baez would struggle when he reached the big leagues, and need to adapt. So they are hoping to get much of that struggle out of the way now.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    But don't a lot of people feel that ALL good, even great, players (including Bryant) will struggle when they reach the big leagues and need to adapt so might as well get that out of the way now? In other words, can't you say about Bryant the same thing you just wrote about Baez?

  • In reply to TTP:

    Yes, that argument can be made, but what is best for one player's development is not the only concern when making these decisions.

    For instance, is the added experience equally as helpful to Bryant as it is for Baez? My view is that Baez is far better served by early exposure than Bryant because Baez needs to have his limits tested. Baez strikes me as a guy that learns through failure while Bryant is a guy that learns through preperation. It's two different mindsets and there are different levels of benefit for each guy by getting this experience.

    Also, While the 40 man roster has plenty of filler on it right now, that doesn't mean that guys should be discarded without weighing the consequences. Baez, Bryant and Rivero are three guys that were talked about by a lot of fans as guys that were not on the roster that should be brought up to get experience and because they are better than guys currently holding those spots. But there is a always a balance that needs to be struck. Adding all three means removing and potentially losing three guys and also diminishes roster flexibility in the offseason.

    And while service time is not an issue for a guy like Rivero, it is for a guy like Bryant. If the Cubs were competing for a playoff spot right now then Bryant would be here without a question. He certainly is a better player than guys currently playing and playoff opportunities are precious. But in a losing season like this, other considerations become more of a factor because they can impact future playoff seasons.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to TTP:

    I'm not saying Bryant WON'T struggle. The big leagues are the big leagues. There's a good chance he will struggle but there's also a decent chance he will hit the ground running.

    Bryant has hardly struggled for more than a week thus far and has yet to struggle with a promotion.

    My point was that Baez was virtually guaranteed to struggle. He has an established precedent and because he's so naturally aggressive, it can lead to being taken advantage of.

    Based on how their minor league histories worked out, it appears that Bryant can become prepared for a promotion before he receives it while Baez needs to get a promotion, struggle a bit, and overcome it. So this FO figured that letting him struggle to finish off a season was an opportune time for that to occur.

  • In reply to TTP:

    Thanks, but I knew and even wrote about Bryant's issues before they became public. I also wrote about reasons to call up Baez two weeks before it happened. If what I write sounds like rationalizing the front office, keep in mind that I would have written this exact article about keeping Bryant down if Hendry was in charge -- and we know he didn't care enough about development and long term cost control. That was obvious. He would have called up Bryant just like he called up Castro too early. I am on the side of rationality, not rationalizing. Huge difference. It just so happens that being on the side of rationality also means being on the side with a rational front office.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Damn it! There you go again with you're intelligent, rational thinking. I hate it when you do that! ; )

    But seriously, John, can we not say pretty much the same thing about Baez and Bryant in terms of when they are/were ready for the bigs? Putting aside who they have as their respective agents and their likely willingness to sign extensions, what is the difference between the two?

  • In reply to TTP:

    Haha :) I would argue that Bryant is actually more ready than Baez, but that a call-up is more beneficial to Baez's development. The Cubs would know more than me on this but to me Bryant is a more cerebral player. That is not to say that he is more intelligent, but he is more of a guy who thrives on verbal/visual instruction. Baez is intelligent but he seems to learn more by direct experience, a sort of trial and error type guy. I think it helps Baez to be in this situation but I don't think it would have nearly the same impact on Bryant.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I too believe, as I suspect most others do, that Bryant is more ready for the call up than Baez and so that is in large part the source of my initial consternation. And, yes, the call-up may be more beneficial for Baez, but a Bryant call up would have some benefit to him as well in terms of getting that ML adjustment period out of the way sooner, but I agree that benefit (and I understand that there's no empirical evidence supporting any benefit) may not outweigh the losing the year of control.

    But the bottom line is, I am one happy, satisfied fan. This current lineup is worth watching and rooting for everyday -- especially Baez, Rizz, Castro, Coghlan, Alcy, Jimi, Arrieta, and now Turner, among others. I have come to accept that we won't see Bryant even in September. But knowing Bryant and Soler will be here early next season, is exciting (and, finally, soon) enough and waiting to see if we sign a TOR FO gives us something to look forward to this winter.

    As you wrote a few day ago: "It's Happening." Indeed, it is!

    Go Cubs! The darkness is over; dawn is upon us!

  • In reply to TTP:

    I think the line that the benefit may not outweigh cost really nails it here. Everything must be weighed and sometimes tough choices have to be made.

  • In reply to TTP:

    I don't mean to speak for John, but it seems that a great deal of his posts are not meant to be taken as criticism (positive or negative) but rather as an exmploration of the methodology involved in the decisions that are being made. Attempting to understand why a person makes a decision naturally leads to empathy but that is not the same thing as rationailzation.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Yes, that is a good way of putting it. Thanks.

  • During the next 2 years we may have problems with our 40-man
    roster. We should try to trade of prospects for very young top
    pitching prospects that will not have to protected during the next
    2 years.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Over a quarter of the 40 man roster is still filled by place holders or fringe guys. The roster will begin to get more crowded in the 2015 offseason, so they shouldn't need to start making those types of deals until then at the earliest, and at that point they may be in a better position to determine what their long term needs are going to be.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    There is some logic to that thinking emartinezjr,..... but I would argue that it's too soon to do that during this phase of 2014.

    The landscape will change some come the middle of next year when we have a much better idea what it is 'we' have among Russell, Bryant, Baez, Alcantara, Castro, Rizzo, Soler and Olt.

    Fact is - some of those pieces (if they all develop) are going to be surplus value - but you trade now, before you have a chance to assess them all - how do you decide which to move? And it gets even more complicated when you look at the position player guys the next level (wave) behind. McKinney, Almora, Schwarber, Zagunis, Bruno, Volgel'bomb' - some of those guys are going to find their pathway blocked,.... but again - guessing which one(s) is iffier if it is done now.

    And - 40-man roster wise - it doesn't have to be done now.

  • fb_avatar

    Good article. Without seeing the players and seeing them alot you don't really have a feeling for any consistent problem they may have. Just imagine if they had worked on Sorriano and his low and outside hole.

  • In reply to Theodore Anderson:

    Thank you. I think that's the part many of us don't see. These guys are always making adjustments, learning things -- and a good development staff is constantly monitoring and evaluating. Maybe we just aren't used to that in Chicago.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    We must have the best overall staff, top to bottom, to develop and
    get the best from these very young players

  • In reply to Theodore Anderson:

    "Just imagine if they had worked on Sorriano and his low and outside hole."

    You think the Yankees, Nationals, and Cubs didn't work on this with Soriano? I can guarantee you they did just like great pitching coaches have tried to teach Edwin Jackson how to throw a decent offspeed pitch.

  • fb_avatar

    I think if you asked the FO now they would say bringing Olt up to start the year was a mistake. I get the reasoning behind it, and I admit I liked it in April. He was 25 and had a strong spring training and Bryant was moving fast at 3B. But on the other hand he had never had success at AAA. I know that success at AAA isn't always needed to succeed in MLB but I think Olt needed to rebuild confidence. The Rangers had given him a brief stint in 2012 but that seemed way too fast. The jump from AA to the majors is a lot bigger than people sometimes think. I know some people have done it well. I remember Stanton having little to no AAA time and succeeding at the MLB level but it isn't common. Not only is this Olt's first success at AAA ever it his first at any level since 2012. I think sometimes the mental aspect is more important than actual swing adjustments. Olt wasn't ready approach wise but succeeded on pure talent at lower levels. The combination of better approach and good results at AAA will make Olt much better next time he heads to the MLB level. Sometimes numbers don't matter but I think for Olt seeing results will help his confidence grow.

  • In reply to Sean Holland:

    I had a feeling at the beginning of the year that Olt started in Chicago for the wrong reasons (at least for his development). It seemed like the decision was built around what was best for other prospects. Bryant was in AA so Villanueva went to AAA, then later they traded places - I think John wrote pretty early on that Villanueva would have been better off starting at AA, but Bryant was there, so... And with them at AA and AAA the only place to stick Olt was on the big league club. On a better club, or a club that hoped to contend, that thinking would be bass ackwards, for the rebuild, maybe not. But it was not the best thing for Olt. (And no, I do not think I am smarter than the FO, or very many other people).

  • In reply to Sean Holland:

    Why was bringing up Olt a mistake? He saw exactly what he needs to work on for him to have success in the majors. It hasn't hurt his confidence as he's crushing AAA. He is 25 years old. How long do you wait to bring a prospect up? Now, if Olt was 21 or 22 years old, I might agree they brought him up too soon. Still, he got exposure and saw his weaknesses. When you are in AAA a guy like Olt can't feast on the bad pitchers or the mistake pitches, but your not going to find as many of those in the majors.

  • I am headed to Smokies' Park in a short while to see Almora take his game to the next level! I will try to get a pic or two to share with you.

  • In reply to Tennwolfeman:

    Awesome! Thanks. Look forward to it.

  • [clap] [clap] [clap] [clap] [clap] [clap] [clap] [clap] [clap] [clap] [clap] Great article John!

    This is why I visit the site several times a day. Thanks for your hard work and insight.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Thanks Toby.

  • fb_avatar

    You hit another grand slam with this piece John! A very good read indeed! I especially enjoyed the comparisons between Rizzos initial struggles and Olts. Great stuff!

  • In reply to Andrue Weber:

    Thank you Andrue!

  • Good piece. The only thing with bringing up Olt early, is it seemed like the right move, because we have a small glut of capable 3B's in the minors, thus, he might have had to play LF, or 1B, and Christian Villanueva would have had to stay in Double A.

    In hindsight, it might have made sense to keep (V) down earlier, and Olt is most likely playing 1B now, (I don't know, you guys probably do), but I'm still impressed with the power potential Olt showed in the Majors.

    I still would prefer to see Olt get some more time at 3rd, as I do believe he can be valuable at that position. That's why, again, in hindsight, I don't think it was a bad move for him to start the season in the Majors, and it may benefit him long term.

  • Alright, this has been all I've been able to think about since reading this piece John (others) since reading this today. Message from Cubs to mlb! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0ndsXVaPwc&feature=youtu.be

  • In reply to KSCubsFan:

    Haha!

  • Another great piece John. I've been watching the Cubs since I was a kid in the late '80s, but I had no idea of what FIP or XYZ meant until I started coming here a couple years ago. I've learned so much here about player development, roster construction, sabermetrics, etc., and of course the minor league recaps have helped us get through the dark days of the past couple years. Such a great resource for Cubs/baseball fans.

  • In reply to Ricardo:

    Haha! Thanks. I was hoping to introduce stuff like FIP without beating people over the head with it. It's useful stuff, makes the game a little easier to understand once you get the hang of it.

  • Nice piece. However, I'm not convinced it was wrong to promote Olt -- either for him or for the organization. A case can be made either way. For the organization, they knew he'd already had succeeded at AAA before his eye issues. This was a lost year to begin with. So why not see if he could surprise. He certainly did with his power, but not his contact. You never know how a player will react to failure until he faces it. To Olt's credit, he returned to Iowa a more experienced prospect and appears to be taking advantage of the regular ABs to force people to not forget about him. Given our infield prospect logjam, it seems unlikely he'll have a long term spot on the ML roster, but who knows. Maybe if things click right for him, he starts at 3B next year until they bring up Bryant. If Olt shows major improvement, they can always put Bryant in the OF, or cash in on Olt's rebuilt trade value.

  • In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    Olt had failed miserably in AAA before his current time spent there. So he was brought up this spring with no success in AAA. Olt had a very successful year before his eye issues but that was in AA.

  • This is the finest baseball blog article I've read anywhere. The only writer as enlightening for me is Tom Verducci. Thanks, John!

  • In reply to wastrel:

    Thank you wastrel! That is high praise. Very much appreciated.

  • These would awesome numbers for Olt...
    .240 25 HR 97 RBI
    Who is this? Ron Cey in 1984.

  • In reply to hoffpauir6:

    I think we'd all take that from him.

  • In reply to hoffpauir6:

    I was actually thinking of Cey earlier as well, nice comparison. There's still hope for Olt if he can cut down the Ks.

  • I tried to post a comment earlier about Olt, and it did not get posted. When I refreshed the page, it said the post had "posted again" as it thanked me for posting, but I did not mean to do that.

  • I think keeping Olt on the major league roster so long was by design. I think the front office wanted him to work with the major league staff, get in a few ball games and then send him to Iowa to put the changes into action. Why else would they have keep him on the ML roster for so long.

  • fb_avatar

    "Jorge Soler" Read my mind... I was beginning to make the same comparison in my mind (Rizzo/Olt), but then I tuned myself out and thought it was me just being the Cub fan I am, wanting more.

    So thank you both for making me realize I'm a lot more into this team than I thought. This is a very refreshing website to go to, I recommend it only to true Cub fans for the sole purpose to maintain its integrity. Now with a shout out all of you give me the courage to do...Onward....with my quick thought.

    Does anyone get that feeling that were all being fooled?? I sure do. It feels like this front office have not been very coy with this rebuild. Theo and company have set the attack year from the moment they grabbed hold of this team. 2015 (insert Back to the Future conspiracy here) Seriously though; do people not realize all these "prospects/young MLB talent" know about each other and that they exist? Of course they do!!! They can't wait for the chance to finally play with people of their true caliber. Theo must have already let them know to focus on development (not being bored) while years don't matter. Well, it's arrived. Coghlan, Alcantara, Rizzo, Baez, Castro, Soler, whoever at third until Bryant comes up for the push, and Castillo/vet opening day. Not bad, mind you, they been waiting to play with equal talent their entire lives. I know, I know the rotation well lets look at that. First and foremost stop kidding ourselves with suspense, this is Theo and the guys, of course Lester is coming here, if he wants to win. Ok, opening day rotation; Lester, true ace no explanation; Arrieta, always had the stuff and seems like he figured it out; Hendricks, people are comparing this kid to Maddox; Wood, I'll take a number 4 pitcher with numbers in-between this year and last year for this hitter, I mean pitcher; Wada, hello people this guy just got himself an ESPN article, you know he just might be in between Hendricks (not electric stuff) and Arrieta (another Oriole who figured it out under Bosio). I'm sure any ball club would be ok with that at number 5. Jackson DFA or bullpen. You can reference this sight for the amount of depth in this bullpen. Oh, and the "vet" bench is already in place Ruggiano, Valbuena (believe it or not, vet), and whoever else this team wants to have a ring. The front office has to have communicated, with the group of talented hitters that they get a shot together 2015 and beyond, that's what their working for. It's believed development continues in the Majors, and it sure does, however a key component is passion, and I believe this group senses it coming and in 2015 Cubs nation is going to be cruising on floating boards while the naysayers run into a pile of dung. IMHO
    (sorry it's long, I vent here sometimes)

  • When Theo came in initially he said it would take 4 to 5 years to become a consistent playoff team. That would be 2015 or 2016. Looks like they are on schedule.

  • Meanwhile, on the Farm:

    Kane County putting on a bit of an offensive fireworks display.

    For Kane county, Rogers and Brockmeyer showing power skills, depositing pitches over the outfield wall. Trey Martin showing his speed burning skills with an initial inside the park HR off a misplayed lollipop to center field.

    Zagunis is showing good strike zone judgment, talking a walk. also, he's not afraid to turn on a pitch, having pulled 2 pitches to the 3rd baseman for ground outs in his previous 2 ABs.

    Martinez attacking the strike zone through 3 innings (22 of 29 pitches for strikes). No Ks to show for it so far. But I like seeing pitchers with command and a desire to pound the zone.

  • I once called Vitters the worst Cub I ever saw.

    I come from a time where a guy hitting .220 was completely terrible and not major league worthy.

    I'd say Olt is worse.

  • In reply to Jimmie Ward:

    I disagree. Olt plays a much better 3B, walks more, and has way more power. It is not even close.

  • We saw this coming, but still strange that the Cubs would wait so long to send Lake down considering they just spent his last option (could have used it next year and had a full year in the minors)... So no AAA for Lake next year to work on his plate discipline, he will have to find at bats in the Majors. This move likely hastens Lake's exit from the Cubs organization, in my opinion.

    Carrie Muskat @CarrieMuskat
    #Cubs option Lake to Iowa to make room for Straily

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    To quote Graham Chapman, "No, no, no, no, no, no..."

    From Az Phil, a few weeks ago:

    "If Junior Lake spends less than 20 days on Optional Assignment to the minors in 2014 he will not burn his last minor league option, and the Cubs will be able to send him down next season for an extended period of time. So Lake might get optioned to Iowa on August 13th and then get recalled on September 1st when rosters expand (for a total of 19 days on Optional Assignment in 2014, so his last option would not be spent). "

  • In reply to Eldrad:

    ah, good to know. That makes much more sense. I didn't realize that you had to spend 20 days in the minors for the Option to be spent. Thanks for the info, although it would have been much more appreciated if you hadn't started it with this:"To quote Graham Chapman, "No, no, no, no, no, no..."

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    Sorry, I though you might get the joke. No harm intended.

  • While I disagree with much of the article, I have to give an A for effort. John, what your argument boils down to is Bryant needs development, because, well, the front office says he needs development. What is being worked on? Who knows, but if they say that's the reason we should believe them and not believe it's primarily about control.

    Everyone continues to develop as a player, even when they are in the majors. That is a very loose term. Every player has holes in their swing. If they didn't then their hot/cold zone would be all red.

    It's a game of adjustments. Pitchers used to be able to bust Rizzo inside and get him out. Now, he's killing them on that pitch so the pitchers have figured other ways to get him out.

    What gets Bryant out now might not be what gets him out next month. The pitches he's crushing right now might not be the pitches he crushes next month.

    Rizzo was a great callup. Actually, very much like Baez. He took that experience and made adjustments and became better. Until this year RIzzo couldn't hit the weakest humpty dump pitcher who threw left-handed. They didn't keep him down in AAA until he could hit lefties. He struggled at the plate last year with lefties and pitches inside. Rizzo changed his stance, where his hands are placed, etc, and this year he's killing lefties and inside pitches.

    Castro was very good his first two years. Then the Cubs tried to develop him into a patient hitter and he was god awful. They finally ended the failed experiment and Castro is back to hitting like he did the first couple seasons before the FO messed with him.

    The Brett Jackson example is a poor one. His problem wasn't a development one as even this FO hasn't been able to do anything with that lemon. The problem was drafting him in the first place. The previous FO placed too much emphasis on "5 star tools". Theo would have never drafted Jackson because he's a player who strikes out too much and walks to little. The guy strikes out 30% of the time and he's not a power hitter. Not a chance in hell Theo would have ever drafted him because he's not the type of player Theo wants. You can't develop what is never there (his K rate is actually much higher since Theo has been with the Cubs).

    The closest player to Jackson that Theo drafted early is Almora. He doesn't look to have much power, good glove, suspect bat. However, Almora always projected as a guy with a better hit tool, higher contact guy. Almora strikes out about a third of what Jackson does. Still, even at that I'd say Almora has the best chance of being a bust of the big 4-5.

    To summarize: Bryant needs further development (as does every player), but there's little doubt that he's being held back for the extra year of control. If Bryant had a Soler like contract, or an agent not named Boras, I'd wager the farm Bryant would be in Chi.

  • In reply to Bill Oliger:

    Who knows what he is working on?

    I do.

    that's why you read box scores and narrative and I give you the info you can't read from them. I don't need you to repeat the narrative over and over again. We have heard it all well before you have commented with the same basic canned response about a half dozen times now. Nothing you said is new, it's been said many different places by many different people.

  • In reply to Bill Oliger:

    "Everyone continues to develop as a player, even when they are in the majors."

    Development and adjustments are not the same thing. You seem to be erroneously equivocating the two. Furthermore, your argument fails to hold water. If what you said was true, there'd be no point of minor leagues. Just put every player on the Big League team and let them develop that way. Except that doesn't happen. Ever.

    I'd argue players are a lot less willing to work on what they need to work on once they reach the majors. Baez and Bryant are different, IMHO, because Bryant either has the self-awareness and/or humility that Baez didn't. Baez' confidence and/or lack of self-awareness pretty much necessitated him coming to the Bigs and finding out he won't be able to rely solely on his physical talent. He needs to further develop that mental ability to go with it. But whatever the case, there are plenty examples--especially in the last decade of Cubs minor leaguers--that say your argument is wrong: Corey Patterson, Felix Pie, Eric Patterson and pretty much every other youngster that was drafted and expedited to the Big Leagues by Hendry and Co.

    Save your hindsight bias arguments. They don't mean anything to me. You can tell us all that these players didn't develop because Hendry drafted the wrong kinds of players. Most of them were highly rated by scouts and "experts." You make the argument using hindsight bias of their career trajectory. I'll turn around and counter-argue that they were never developed in the minor leagues (something very apparent to anyone watching Cubs baseball; there was never a systematic emphasis--or much of any emphasis--on player development over the past decade).

    "To summarize: Bryant needs further development (as does every player)"

    Again, you're equivocating "development" and "adjustments." That's like equivocating macroevolution with microevolution. Not the same thing...

    Lastly, " If Bryant had a Soler like contract, or an agent not named Boras, I'd wager the farm Bryant would be in Chi."

    Maybe, but if Bryant was up, would it be about furthering his development or about appeasing fans and increasing revenue the rest of the season? With the Trib Co as owners, we'd easily say it would be the latter. With this FO, we know it isn't.

    The front office has shown that they will strategically--for developmental reasons--advance players up the ranks.

  • One other thing. Say the Cubs were in the hunt for the division this year. Say Valbuena was our starting 3B and struggling as he currently is at the plate. Does anyone honestly believe Bryant wouldn't have been up a month or so ago? The holes would still be there in his swing but they would roll the dice that Bryant would still provide a higher WAR than Valbuena in the final 2-3 months of the season. Theo wouldn't be talking about development.

    Since the season is lost there's no need to call him up. It's about getting the extra year of control. Does this mean Bryant does need some development? Of course not. However, if we were weighting the reason for not being called up, it probably is 90% control, 10% development.

  • In reply to Bill Oliger:

    I think it's funny that you write every single time with the same stubborn consistency about how it's "only" about the one year of cost control.

    And then add a bunch of "ifs" "ands" and "buts" to it. Well, obviously if you have to add these things, then it is NOT the only reason. It's a contradiction from the start.

    You argue for the sake of arguing but say nothing that hasn't been said here many times.

    If the Cubs were contending...
    If Bryant had all his holes patched up....
    If it the benefits outweighed the cost...
    If, if, if...

    If we got rid of those "ifs" then cost control is indeed the only reason. Brilliant, but there is a problem here -- we can't get rid of the "ifs"!. They exist and they are part of the equation! You cannot make them disappear because you want it to only be about cost control.

    The difference is that I am acknowledging the ifs and the big picture, you want to talk about hypotheticals where they don't exist. One argument is based on reality and based on the current state of facts, the other argument is yours.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree with this. I don't think the debate is whether Bryant can succeed or fail at the big level "now", it has more to do with "ifs" above.

    Certainly, he can learn on the job on the big leagues. But, it is a business, and he can benefit on working on his holes without the intense media pressure of Wrigley.

    One would have to argue hard that the experience he would benefit in the next couple of months would outweigh the numerous factors in play here.

    It clearly doesn't.

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    I think he can succeed to some level but if he can improve and be even better and there is no need to bring him up, then why not leave him down there? He can be even more prepared than he already is.

    But also bear in mind that instant success is no slam dunk....it was not with Rizzo three years ago. You can make mistakes evaluating from stat sheets because all it takes is one good sized hole in your swing and MLB pitchers will exploit it all day. We saw that with Rizzo and he had to be sent back down to fix it. The Cubs know Bryant has a hole or two in his swing, so why go through the experiment of calling him up to send him back down later if it isn't necessary? Let him learn it now while the big league team is still irrelevant in terms of W-L record -- and while that happens, you save a little in cost control. Nothing exists in a vacuum, it's all intertwined, so for someone to say it's strictly about cost control is patently false. Cost control is undoubtedly a big factor -- you can say that all the other factors combined have to outweigh cost control for the Cubs to promote Bryant, but they don't. If it were strictly about cost control, then nothing else would matter: not the quality of the team, not what's best for Bryant's development, and on and on. All of that would take a back seat to one year of cost control. That is an extreme viewpoint and just not supportable. That is why Bill O. must always add conditions to his argument, because it doesn't work on it's own.

  • " Olt's career MLB numbers so far are similar, though with about 100 more PAs (.141/.226/.327). Olt, of course, is almost 5 years older than Rizzo was when he put up his numbers, so that must be taken into account."

    That finally sentence can't be glossed over or taken lightly. Age is a huge factor when comparing MiLB numbers. In AA Olt put up a slash line of.288/.398/.579 (24 years old). He was terrible in AAA last season. The eyes have been used as an excuse for his terrible season, but does that explain all the struggles?

    Rizzo put up a AAA slash line of 331/.404/.652 (22 years old). So, 2 years younger than Olt, he had more success at a higher level than Olt. In other words, Rizzo had a pretty darn good track record to make us feel safe he would do well in the majors. Not to mention Rizzo had much better BB/K rates. I just don't see this with Olt to warrant all this excitement about a guy hitting well in AAA at 26 years old and still striking out at around 30%. It's the Bryan Lahair story Part II.

Leave a comment