Cubs Prospects Need Protection

Cubs Prospects Need Protection

There was Cubs president Theo Epstein out in front again, on day one of Cubs camp.

Unfortunately, when a Cubs official is out there lately, so are the kids. For me, that is kind of an issue. Let's face it, here in year three of a five-year plan, that's really all there is to talk about.

On one hand, Epstein and Jed Hoyer should be very proud of the transformation they have overseen regarding the system. Epstein spoke mostly about those kids Thurday. They are receiving accolades everywhere you turn.

On the other hand, isn't this front office supposedly desperate to protect their young players from unneeded pressures or expectations?

No one should doubt this rebuilding process was the right move. Some just wish it could have been supplemented for many reasons. One good reason would be some protection on and off the field for their younger players.

There has to be some concern regarding the amount of attention focused on a bunch of kids yet to see a major league at-bat. Some more established yet younger talent would be able to run some major interference for these future Cubs.

Let's imagine camp opening with the Cubs brass able to introduce someone like Masahiro Tanaka to the media instead of James McDonald.

In that scenario the kids get the day off, maybe even the year. Am I the only one who it pains to watch Epstein uncomfortably defend his program repeatedly?

This is a guy who has won two World Series titles; he really shouldn't have to explain himself. Yet, Epstein alluded to it. The last two ugly seasons make it necessary to point to something that is working.

“The people in this organization really believe that we’re on the verge of something special,” Epstein said. “We understand that we’re perceived otherwise, and that’s our fault, because we’ve been a last-place club. We’re not protesting, but we need to earn our way into a position where we’re championship contenders on an annual basis. We feel like that is certainly moving in the right direction.”

Epstein is convinced the system has its share of impact players. That is reassuring. It had better be. The other teams within the division have already executed this sort of thing.

Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and the ever-meticulous Cardinals are loaded with young talent, and their systems still promise more. At some point, the front office will need some help from the business side or ownership to help protect their investment, and give the Cubs their edge back within the division.

How will this origination protect these kids once they are here? One source has asked who among this roster will teach these young players how to be winning players.

Some tell me the system Crown Jewels like Javy Baez, Kris Bryant, and Albert Almora are mentally tough and won't let a little pressure crush them.

Let's hope that is true, because at this rate , we are going to find out for sure.

@TomLoxas

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  • I wonder if they view Castro and Rizzo as protection and hope they rebound this year. If they are playing well it becomes easier to bring up Baez and Bryant, maybe at the same time? Someoone, maybe in the Jesse Rogers ESPN chat drew the Kane/Toews parallel and how it was helpful that they both were up at the same time. Of course the Hawks seemed to have a slightly better roster when those two debuted.

  • In reply to Mikethoms:

    Sure, I think Rizzo develops into a leader. As far as Baez/Bryant, the timeline should be similar. However, seems Baez will be up this year and Bryant next.

  • Who would you have had them sign? Tanaka just wasn't coming here, period, nor did the opt out really work "that great" for us all things considered.

    I had my own share of moans and groans watching top notch players sign with other teams, but really, who should have we signed? I think the Cubs are analytical, they might be stockpiling a bit of cash, and they are going to go all out when they feel it's right.

    They are not a small market team that must languish if the plan doesn't pick up steam in a couple of years. It's building up nicely and I imagine that it's going to come together quicker than people think. 2 big trades, 1 or 2 shrewd signings, 1 or 2 kids coming up, all of a sudden the complexion changes quickly. All this could happen over a matter of years or a couple of weeks.

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    I agree. I didn't see a good fit. All the free agents where overpriced in years and money. The Cubs settled for Renteria and Mueller for protection.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I think that is ultimately true. However, think public protection as well.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Point taken.

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    I think there are trades and other avenues as well.

    Im also thinking past. I would like a vet player as well to have snagged any of those IFA like Cespedes or Darvish to take heat off the kids.

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    John, I agree for the most part. Its not really a criticism of the FO. Just saying unfortunately FO has to push these kids out there. Its not fair for either party.

  • Essentially, the problem is that Theo has to cover up that there is no baseball reason to go to Wrigley Field this year (unless you are a Cards fan). And as far as jongive is concerned, the Cubs are crying that they can't spend money until they renovate the ball park, and despite what you predicted last week, the supposed logjam with the rooftop owners has not been resolved, giving management another excuse.

    Then when you have stuff like Valpo Jeff last night essentially saying he has to build up his trade value so the Cubs can get more prospects (e.g. here, there is not a light at the end of the tunnel.

    On the other hand, the Sox got some players late last year who will actually be on the field at We Don't Sell Cell Phones Here or at the Sea Shore Park, including inking one deal with an international star. Do the Cubs have a major league outfield for 2014?

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    I do think this is an angle that hasn't really been explored all that much. I mean, sure, we've all looked at big-time players and wished the Cubs had them. But in all the talk of the prospects, it seems as though we're all expecting that they'll be MLB-ready from the start. While I believe it's true that Baez, Bryant, and Almora have the confidence to handle the jump, I'm not sure how good it is to have the young guys also be the leaders. Who knows, maybe someone on the roster will step up and be that guy. Because of his huge contract, Soriano was always resented; but his veteran presence was a benefit that never showed up in a box score.

  • In reply to Evan Altman:

    So, when are they going to be ready? 2017?

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    In reply to jack:

    Well, two of the three I mentioned should be up this year, so I'd be looking more at 2015.

  • I'm not too concerned with the attention on the prospects. Rushing them is of course the bigger issue. If getting praised for actual accomplishments in the minors becomes an issue for them, then it probably only exposes weaknesses in their make-up. Because once they hit Wrigley, oh will the back-patting start before they ever start proving themselves.

    Look at Mark Grace who was our beloved Mayor of Wrigleyville (day and night), but it must be said was not the greatest professional influence on many a young player here or in Arizona. (With all the acclaim Grace got as the sweet-swinging lefty, you'd think he'd have at least finished at least once in the Top 3 in batting average.) Look at Samardzija, who has the double burden to haul of pre-hero worshipping from also Notre Dame crowd, but still remains mostly a portrait in potential. Then there is Kerry Wood, our long-time demi-god. You'd think for all the acclaim showered on him over more than a decade with the Cubs, he'd have managed more than just 71 career wins as a starter, but he never even managed one 15 win season. The point is not to criticize him for his injuries, but the tendency to fast hero-worshipping from the Wrigley faithful.

    That said -- and perhaps this is a contradiction -- lavishing too much praise on our major league players before they achieve much has always been a problem at Wrigley. You see that currently in many corner with Samardzija. It was a problem with Kerry and definitely with Mark Grace IMO. These players are worshipped for their potential and not for delivering in post-season.

    So who knows, maybe this is good preparation for the off-the-charts cart-before-the-horse praise they will probably see once they hit Wrigley.

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    In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    Jeff, I totally agree with you when it comes to premature hero worship. This is a franchise starved for legit star power, particularly considering that all the most recent "heroes" fell from grace (no pun intended) for one reason or another. However, I would caution against holding up single-season stats as a measure of a player's worth. Grace never led the league in average, but he had more hits than any other player in the 90s. But he was playing alongside several other players who could balance his free-wheeling antics. A loose cannon is actually a great part of a team...if you have sufficient level-headed influence. But there's also something to be said for a player who has the supreme confidence to know that he's damn good and that he's going to make it.

  • In reply to Evan Altman:

    A lot to agree with there, especially your point about "if you have sufficient level-headed influence." When Grace was subordinate to Dawson, Sutcliffe and Sandberg, he and Dunston had a loosening effect that added nicely. But when Grace became the tenured veteran, a void of professionalism certainly pervaded. I personally cringed when I heard Grace was taking a young Kerry Wood and Turk Wendell under his wing and out on the town regularly. Of course, one can't lay the Cubs futility during his years all on his lap. The FO never traded for that a dominant level-headed clubhouse voice like Dallas Green did with Gary Matthews. But the easy adulation from Wrigleydom (in part for Grace's legendary partying) sure made it easy for him to be a league-wide Good Time Charlie. One wonders how much more he could have achieved with the Cubs if he had found sobriety back then and not until just recently after his jail time. But you are right to not overly beat up a good player for not being a great player.

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    In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    Dead on, man. I'm beating a dead horse when I say this, but please don't let that make it less of a compliment: I really appreciate being able to write/post on here and have people either call me out or reply to my thoughts in an intelligent, adult manner. I spent a little time freelancing for another outfit where the comments were trollish and downright mean-spirited, so this is refreshing. As a writer, it's actually pretty inspiring to know that people will not only read my work, but provide meaningful input on it; this piece, of course, was Tom's, but I speak in general terms there.

  • I'm not so certain our prospects need that much "protection", or veteran leadership, as is suggested. Soriano and Dejesus provided this the last several years and it didn't exactly help our younger players perform any better. But I do think the optimism of Theo in our prospects is well justified and there's plenty of other scouts/evaluators that share those thoughts.

    After Hulet posted the Fangraphs Top 100 Prospects last week, I took the opportunity to analyze Oliver's 5-year projections for those prospects to get more of an unbiased take on where the Cubs prospects might stand in relation to others. The results are quite striking and a real positive forecast for Cub fans. Of all positional prospects in the top 100, Miguel Sano was the clear #1 evaluated by Oliver with an average estimated WAR value of 6.7 per year for 600 PAs. Second was Javy Baez at 5.8 WAR/year and tied for third was Kris Bryant at 5 WAR. It's no wonder that Hulet had both Cub prospects in his top six, since Oliver only has five other position prospects with projected annual values over 4 WAR.

    The pitching prospect estimates by Oliver were even more interesting... 5 year averages per 100 IP indicate that the top prospects like Gray, Meyer, or Bundy are estimated to contribute 1.3 WAR/year, and Appel is at .9 WAR. The clear #1 pitching prospect according to Oliver is C.J. Edwards at 1.6 WAR/year per 100 IP. Now I understand these are just computer projections, but it's just more confirmation that there's some serious talent coming to the Cubs in the next couple years.

  • In reply to Paulson:

    Im certainly in the thinking these prospects are worth the hype. My concern is the hype itself, less the MLB roster protection.

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    In reply to Tom Loxas:

    I agree that the hype is merited. The fear I have is that the Cubs' fanbase seems to be somewhat divided; on one hand you've got the googly-eyed hero worship crowd and on the other the hand the skeptics who will accept nothing less than All-Star performance before screaming "bust." Of course, most people in the middle are a bit more tempered in their views. I like reading the lineup projections from fans that have all prospects; but hey, at least they have optimism. I'm just interested to reach a point where we're no longer speculating about what these guys can do.

  • In reply to Evan Altman:

    I like that categorization of most Cubs fans. It's either "how could you ever think of trading ____" or "trade the bum" once he seems to bust out and is of course worth litter in trade. I'm glad we have a FO with a track record of knowing when/how to pull the trigger on such trades. And ideally, all the prospects prove out so we have more of a wealth of players to leverage in deals in a year or two to get that right mix on the major league roster. Because even the best minor league system never fully provide that perfect mix.

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    In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Seems like you're just trying to dig up some dirt or get fans into a tizzy. This whole article is much ado about nothing. For Cubs fans starved for information you just offered some more "stuff" to waste our time reading.

    Next......

  • I would be more concerned of the pressure on the prospects if there were less of them. It's got to help that all the pressure isn't on just one or two guys.

  • In reply to Holy Cattle:

    Very true. Corey Patterson and Felix Pie come to mind. Wonder if Joe Carter would've flourished here?

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