The First Hundred
Dogma is a system or set of rigid beliefs or a movie by Kevin Smith I am not terribly interested in finding out how well it holds up today. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have certainly expressed a clear vision from the very beginning of how they saw the organization being run, and these beliefs at times caused the team to be a bit inflexible in its approach. The Cubs front office has shown a consistent ability to adapt and that is why the pejorative use of the word doesn't truly apply to them. Still there are a few of these stated beliefs worth examining.
To Promote or Not to Promote
That is the question looming over the break. Oh, the front office could surprise with another All-Star Break headline grabbing deal. However, it seems far more likely that the Cubs will once again be hoping from a jolt from a first round position player draft pick. The conversation was truly jump started by the front office. The script could not be more patently telegraphed. The pattern has been a prospect moving to a different (almost always easier) defensive position that is open at the Major League roster currently. And Hoerner has now played back to back games manning the keystone after playing a grand total of 2 in his first 54 professional starts.
Nico Hoerner represents something besides just another bat in the lineup, however. Hoerner provides that much vaunted top of the order bat that has been missing. That is a lot of pressure to put on a kid. Asking Nico to step in as the leadoff hitter on a team with championship is lofty aspirations. There has been precedent for this working within the recent past. Willson Contreras' arrival was described as being like oxygen by Joe Maddon, and Hoerner might provide a similar level of relief if he is the real deal.
Hoerner provides the bat to ball skills that have been lacking from the Cubs lineup since Ben Zobrist's metaphorical and then actual absence from the lineup. Baseball Prospectus also mentioned Ben Zobrist directly in the comp with this year's top 10 Cubs prospects. The full line is "another dude who gets comped to Ben Zobrist who is not as good as Ben Zobrist." And that is fair. The next Ben Zobrist has been a favorite pastime of amateur prognosticators for a decade now, but it is also true that Ben Zobrist might not be as good as Ben Zobrist anymore as well.
The counter argument of course is the long term development of Nico Hoerner. There have been concerns about the regression experienced by a number of these post-hype position players that have regressed since their impressive debuts. The long term cost is both unknowable and therefore inmensurable, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. And the Cubs can only sacrifice long term assets for present success. Doubly so since the Ricketts family apparently aren't willing to open the spigot any further.
The risks are real but the Cubs are also in the final years before the roster will need a drastic shakeup. The stated window has three years left in it counting this one. And the odds are a lot higher that Nico Hoerner is what this lineup needs than Robel Garcia, no matter how great the story is.
The Bullpen Flux
The Cubs only have two pitchers on the staff right now that weren't on the opening day roster. That number is lower than it has been recently, but the two missing arms loom large when one of them is Cole Hamels. The bullpen has the chance to be solidified if the big add in Craig Kimbrel can shake off the rust to emerge back into a dominant closer. The Cubs at least need a very good closer which even 75% peak Kimbrel probably checks in as.
However this really just describes the past fortnight or so of the bullpen. The Cubs front office has forced Joe Maddon to MacGyver his way through many a May and June ballgame due to the bullpen options. And the biggest cause of that has been the poor drafting dogma the front office had. They were stubborn in selecting polished, selective college hitters in the first round, but their central casting call for pitching talent couldn't be more off as the large number of middle and late round arms chosen failed to produce anything meaningful in the first few Theo drafts.
The Cubs bullpen situation looks vastly different if they don't strike completely out on the Tyler Skulina, Trey Masek, Scott Frazier, David Garner, Sam Wilson runs of picks in 2013. The Cubs have made a shift in drafting philosophy that Michael has noted a number of times. One of the more recent occurrences was in this recap of draft day 2 this year. This quote in particular jumped out at me.
These are the types of arms the Cubs have been reluctant to double up on in previous drafts. They did pick the Carson Sands-Justin Steele-Dylan Cease trio several years ago, but since then have settled for a lone prep pitcher, including last year, when 6th rounder Kohl Franklin was the only prominent prep arm they selected.
The 2014 draft stands out for producing some of the better pitching talent in the departed Dylan Cease and the intriguing relief option James Norwood. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have never truly been dogmatic in any of their beliefs, and over their nearly two decades running Major League teams have adjusted philosophies a number of times. However, this is one example in their Cubs regime where they were a little slow to evaluate their beliefs.
Cubs Common Denominator Lineup
Well there were no guesses for yesterday's puzzle which means I win by the sweetest two words in the English language. This one may have been slightly trickier than usual. The players all share a surname with a famous method actor (according to Wikipedia).
|Player Name||Position||Method Actor|
|1||Larry Hoffman||3B||Dustin Hoffman|
|3||Bill Nicholson||RF||Jack Nicholson|
|4||Hee Seop Choi||1B||Choi Min-sik|
|5||Vic Harris||2B||Ed Harris|
|8||Charlie Newman||LF||Paul Newman|
|9||Dizzy Dean||Pitcher||James Dean|
Here is the next installment of the Cubs Common Denominator Lineup.
|9||Claude Passeau||Pitcher||2.96 ERA||754 K||474 BB||124 Wins||94 Losses|
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