Can Cubs Kids "Rig" a Title?

Can Cubs Kids "Rig" a Title?

Heady, composed, brash.

These are just a few of the adjectives that have been used to describe some of the top Cubs prospects and their mental makeup.

You regularly hear the chorus of doubt from the oft-burned Cubs fans and skeptical media. Many have trouble being convinced this group won't fail as many (top Cubs prospects) have before. However, there is something different about Kris Bryant, Albert Almora, and Javy Baez that makes you feel just a little better about their chances.

The mental makeup.

I have mentioned on many occasions my level of concern regarding the mental pressure the future of the Cubs are going to have to endure. Oh, who will think of the children? Yet, most every time I talk about this group to a scout or hear from an analyst, you get similar things.

These kids are hungry; they respect the game and they are eager to learn.

When it comes to Almora, he is already getting names like Derek Jeter or the Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews associated with him. What does a hockey captain have in common with Almora?

They both demonstrated obvious leadership qualities at an astoundingly young age (20 in April). Gordon Wittenmyer (yes he can write something positive) featured Almora and those very intangibles in a recent piece, complete with these thoughts from Theo Epstein:

‘‘He seems mature beyond his years,’’ said Cubs president Theo Epstein, who made Almora the No. 6 overall pick in the 2012 draft not long after he and ranking execs Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod visited Almora and his family at their home in Miami.

‘‘He carried himself like a college kid. He had a real clear idea of his goals. He thought he was the best player in the draft and wanted to get his career started and prove that".

‘‘I remember him looking at us in the eyes and saying: ‘I’ve won everywhere I’ve been. And not because of me, but because of the teams I’m on. And I want to do that for the Cubs.’ ’’

The comparison to Jeter comes up often, and it makes sense; neither player had tools that jumped of the page, yet they excel at everything, including demonstrating vocal leadership.

When it comes to Bryant, there isn’t much that has rattled this kid thus far. Soon after his first Cactus League AB, which featured a 400ft blast, Bryant spoke about this as if he were a 10-year vet.

"It was a good one," said Bryant, who fouled two 3-2 pitches before ripping a slider off Jarrett Grube that landed over the wall just left of center field.

"I felt good up there. I wasn't nervous at all. I saw a lot of pitches, which was good.

"Home runs don't mean anything if you don't win the game. It's a little disappointing. But for myself, it was a good performance. "It's just a game," Bryant said. "You have to have fun and don't put pressure on yourself. Go out there with a smile on your face, and good things usually come from that.''

Bryant’s inherited some of his cool from his father, a former Red Sox farmhand. Bryant’s dad was tutored in hitting by none other than Boston legend Carl Yaztremski (insert your own Hawk Harrelson joke here).

The senior Bryant passed on some of those tips to his son, who flashed leadership skills at San Diego both on and off the field. Bryant led quietly, but I am told when he speaks, teammates listen.

When it comes to Baez, he has a different type of aura than Bryant or Almora.

Here is what one scout told me about the Cubs young shortstop:

“He is supremely confident a little brash but, it works for him. He doesn't rub players the wrong way, he is a very good teammate. The biggest thing with Baez is he doesn't like to lose, and he is one of those players the can light a fire under a team”.

Recently, ESPN prospect guru Keith Law created a bit of a “thing” in regards to the makeup of Baez. If anything, some have said Baez can tone down the brashness a bit. I can live with that, if that is the only knock.

This is all really no mistake. This front office is placing a premium on strong mental makeup. Normally, that would be prudent; in Chicago, its essential.

These kids already would eventually feel enormous pressure of the major leagues. The weight of 100-plus years the Cubs haven’t won, notwithstanding. Add in the recent failures of Cubs top prospects, the ugliness in the win-loss columns, increased media attention, and things get much hotter.

Oh, let us not forget that they are the only subject the front office can point to, and the business side can sell, these days. Sigh. I’m getting anxious for them just writing this. Yet, I’m actually not worried.

These kids have it. They have that something extra I’ve always thought the team to break the drought would need. Baseball Prospectus prospect expert Jason Parks calls it "Rig", a certain swagger.

It is something I thought Mark Prior exuded during the 2003 playoff run before it all came crashing down. In the end it was the same old song. Yep, it’s going to take more than just talent to overcome the demons that live at Addison and Clark.

Maybe this time the song will be "The Kids Are Allright"?


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  • So these guys are Hall-of-Famers before they even play one Major League game? Keep dreaming.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Hall of Famers? Not really what I wrote. However, I do think they have what it takes on many levels to get there.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    I was heading in the same direction. At 19, Toews was already with the Blackhawks, not waiting to be called up to the Rockford Ice Hogs. We don't know if any of the Cubs prospects are different than Pirri, if one wants to make an anology.

  • In reply to jack:

    Yeah, baseball minors a bit different. Plus this FO wants them to be fully seasoned.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Send them to the Rochester Amerks, then. Basically, I don't think that hockey and baseball minors are that different, compared to basketball and football. Players entertain the small towns (including Rosemont) until they are ready by some standard selected by the general manager. Toews was able to bypass the OHL and AHL.

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    In reply to jack:

    Wayne Gretzky played in Indianapolis for a short time before becoming The Great One. I do think there's something to be said for getting some seasoning, but some guys are simply transcendent and are born leaders. But I like the idea of keeping them down until they've got nothing left to prove. If the team was a little better and the incremental improvement they could provide would be noticeable, call 'em up (see Yasiel Puig last year). But as it stands, the extra few wins these kids can bring aren't worth the potential psychological, and certain financial, ramifications.

  • In reply to Evan Altman:

    But that doesn't mean that they proved any leadership ability, just because they might be able to get promoted to AAA this year.

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    In reply to jack:

    I wasn't indicating that they'd be promoted based on leadership abilities. Based on what I've heard, from media and scouts alike, several of these guys already have leadership qualities (hence me saying they're born leaders). What I'm saying is that they might be held up on their way through the system simply because there's, at best, a very small incremental value that the promotion(s) would add to the Cubs. This might sound counter-intuitive, but a better team would probably see a bigger boost from the promotion of a young guy than would the current Cubs roster.

  • In reply to Evan Altman:

    And I didn't say "that they'd be promoted based on leadership abilities" like you seem to have read into what I said. What I said was that AA or even AAA doesn't show major league leadership ability. Let's see if they have anyone on the 40 man roster that shows any leadership ability.

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    In reply to Aquinas wired:

    I didn't read it as Tom saying they were HOF'ers, but rather than they have the intangibles that one needs to succeed at the highest level. You can get by on skill alone at lower levels, but that all changes in the Bigs. It's the difference between getting a cup of coffee and owning a Starbucks. More on that later.

  • In reply to Evan Altman:

    Or having a Starbucks in a closed Dominick's. I was at Mariano's grand opening, and they now have a Vero.

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    I do think that you are right Tom. Rookies in Chicago need that chip on their shoulder to take the criticism that is going to happen. Especially when there is no one else on this team to talk about.
    The Cubs at this point have no one that moves the needle so to speak. The closest thing they have is Shark and he is only in front of a microphone every 5 days. They do not have that personality that the media craves so these kids are going to take that role whether they want to or not. So the mental makeup is a little more important right now than say with the Cardinals who seem to groom generation after generation of guys to be that guy.

    From Mac to Pujols to now Molina and Wainright there always seems to be that one guy that the media and fans resonate with and lets the kids just play. For them it seems to work well that is for sure. Could you imagine having Wacha and Adams in the Cubs clubhouse this spring? Geez it would be a circus.

  • In reply to Richard Hood:

    Yeah had to remind me again of another thing the Cards do so well.

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