Opinionated, knowledgeable, vocal, passionate. If you had only four words to describe Dave Kaplan, those would have to move their way to the top of the list.
For two decades, Kap has been bringing us his takes—and listening to ours—on all things Chicago sports, most often the Cubs. His Twitter exchanges with fans are legendary.
As host of pre- and post-game Cubs broadcasts on Comcast Sportsnet, @thekapman is as in-tune with this Cubs team as any reporter or analyst in this city—or in baseball—if not more.
When Kap agreed to an interview with Cubs Insider, I told him to expect only a handful of questions and about 10 minutes of his time. As the conversation kicked into gear and the guy got more passionate and excited about each topic, we went well beyond the promised limits and covered a myriad @Cubs topics.
In what will be a two-part installment of "Catching Up With," I talk to Kap about the Cubs' moves this week, those he expects by the deadline and over winter, the obsolescence of the Core Four (You'll understand that in a moment.) and his crystal ball lineup for the 2016 Cubs.
The following is just a taste of even hotter questions and straightforward answers that are quintessential Kap you will read in the next installment. Ladies and gentlemen, and even @DEvanAltman, I give you your Kapman.
CI: What do you think about the moves this week?
Kap: I like the moves. I like what they’ve done. Soler is just killing the ball at AA, so now you get him up to AAA, and if he plays as well as everyone thinks he is—he’s not going to hit .400 there—but as long as he doesn’t look over-matched, I promise you will see him in September at Wrigley.
Some people thought they rushed Almora a bit, but he’s been hitting the ball real well the past month. He’s never going to be a batting title type guy. He’s going to be a leader: a gritty, tough guy with great makeup. I think he’s going to be a really elite center field defender, so it is time to step it up a little bit.
He was proving in the past month by hitting the ball at high class A, so what does he do at AA? That’s where people feel the most talented minor leaguers are. You get the veteran experience facing the pitchers at AAA, a lot of whom who have pitched at the big league level but maybe for whatever reason just couldn’t stay, but at AA, that’s where you get some really top-notch athletes, and I think this will be a good challenge for him.
CI: What moves do you see the Cubs making by the deadline?
Kap: I think it started with Darwin Barney being designated for assignment. They are not going to get anything for him, but they might be able to work out a minor deal to put him in a good situation where he can go help someone as a Gold Glove defender.
If you are going to bring Soler here, because Nate Schierholtz has fallen out of favor, I wouldn’t be shocked to see a guy like Schierholtz get moved, but I don’t think there are going to be any more blockbusters. Could I see them moving Ruggiano, Sweeney and guys like that? Yes. Bonifacio? I don’t see any scenario where he is here August 1st. Those are the types of moves, and maybe James Russell, but Arrieta is not going anywhere.
I don’t think they are going to do anything in terms of a blockbuster nature until this winter.
CI: What about compensation-based or draft-pick trades?
Kap: You can’t trade draft picks with the exception of the compensation competitive balance picks. Could they make a move for one of those that come after the first round? I guess potentially that could happen, but teams are reluctant to give them up.
I think they are going to look for lower-level prospects—hard-throwing class A guys who maybe have less command—and they are going to try to develop them and keep adding to the inventory of starting pitching. You’re not going to get the next starting catcher or your number-one starter out of any of the moves you are going to make the rest of this month, unless there’s a blockbuster coming I don’t see.
Now could there be a blockbuster this winter? No question.
When you’ve got three grade-A short stops in Addison Russell, Javier Baez and Starlin Castro, then certainly somebody is probably going to get moved. Could they all play on the same infield? Yes, but at some point, you are going to have to start acquiring pitching.
CI: How do the Cubs continue to capitalize in the draft next year, with possibly their last high pick for some time to come?
Kap: The way this season is going to go the rest of the way, they are going to pick extremely high next year. The number-two pick is already gone to the Astros, because they didn’t sign Brady Aiken, who will potentially be a free agent if his grievance is upheld by MLB. If not, he will be back in the draft next year, but I would like to see the Cubs as the number-one draft pick.
Does it really matter if you win 68 to 70 games or 58 to 60 games? At this point you've traded Shark and Hammel, so you've mailed in the rest of the season, so why not be epically bad and go out and get the number-one pick, and then next year the kids are here, you crank it up and it’s time to start winning.
CI: Of the Core Four, who do you see down the line standing out as the "real deal"?
Kap: I think the core four has expanded to five. I don’t know if you call them the Fab Five or the Fantastic Five, but you have Soler, Bryant, Baez, Russell and Almora. So there’s five right there.
CI: And what about Schwarber?
Kap: Schwarber could be in there and make it your Super Six.
CI: So, who’s your impact player from the Super Six?
Kap: Kris Bryant, first and foremost, because of every single thing he brings to the table: power, strong arm, really good bat. He’s not going to hit .360 at the major league level. That's not who he is. He’s probably going to hit .275 to .285 with 35 to 40 bombs and 90 to 110 knocked in. He’s a really special kind of baseball player. I think he’s a lock to be here for a long, long time.
I like Javy Baez. He’s a little undisciplined at times, but he’s going to give you such a hot bat that it’s going to be hard to deal him unless you get major league star arms back. I think he will be here for a long time as well.
Jorge Soler, as long as he stays healthy. People kind of wrote him off because he had been out so long because of the hamstring and defecting from Cuba, but I think he is going to be a monster player for them. If that’s the case, I don’t know where you play Schwarber, because Bryant most definitely will be an outfielder.
CI: What about the logjam at short?
Kap: Somebody's probably going to go, but why couldn’t you end up having an infield of Baez at 3rd, Russell at 2nd, Castro at short, or some combination thereof, with Rizzo at first. You’re still going to have to go out to find a catcher.
If Schwarber is a 140- to 143-game catcher, I will be shocked. I think he is going to be an outfielder.
CI: I then asked Kap to look into his crystal ball and give us his 2016 lineup:
Castro, 3B unless he has been traded for pitching
CI: You forgot about the catcher.
Kap: The catcher isn’t currently in our system.
CI: How do you explain to Cubs fans what Theo and Jed are doing and why it’s working?
Kap: What Theo and Jed have done is, first of all, be exceedingly transparent. They have said, ‘Look, here’s what we’re doing. We’re going to restock the system. It’s going to take a little time, but we are trying to win by building a foundation for sustained success.’
I think for the last couple of years, people have mocked it. They have not paid attention. They have turned their backs on the Cubs. They have been apathetic. They have been angry. And they’ve just quit really caring.
All of a sudden now they see Alcantara coming up, they see Bryant number one in the minor leagues, they see Baez number eight and Russell number four and they are like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold on a second. The Cubs actually might have something going here.’ And I'm sure Theo and Jed have privately said, ‘Uh, yes, this is what we have been pointing towards.’
And it’s working.
2017 through 2024 should be a run of excellence that no one alive has seen from the Chicago Cubs.
Editor's note: It was at this point that I dribbled on my Twitter.
Well, that’s just a taste of our conversation. Stay tuned for the next installment, when Kap talks bad moves by Jed and Theo, the WGN divorce, cemeteries, Sammy, a clown and a hangover. Trust me on this, you won't want to miss it.
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