Cubs Notes: On feasts, juggernauts, promoting patience, and bragging about your family

Happy 4th of July everyone!  We’ll give you one big sprawling article to digest as I know some of you, like me, will be spending the day feasting with friends and family.

Which reminds me…

Sometimes parents tend to brag about their kids’ accomplishments.  Sometimes they put an honor roll bumper sticker on their car. Sometimes it’s a well-placed humble brag on Facebook.  Sometimes it’s a casual mention about their daughter’s acceptance into med school or their son’s sprawling vacation home in the country.

Sometimes they flat out exaggerate.

I can only imagine that was Marty Pevey’s state of mind when he said that Kyle Hendricks throws 95 mph 15-18 times a game because since linking that article, I have been told more than once that proud manager Pevey may have lovingly exaggerated the velocity of one of his Iowa family, Kyle Hendricks.

I’ve heard from several trusted friends and sources now that in reality he sits 90-91 and occasionally touches 93.  That is certainly more plausible and given the rest of Hendrick’s profile —  his command, his feel for pitching,, etc., that is plenty good enough to keep hitters honest.

Iowa lineup the best in MilB

Well, at least Jim Callis of seems to think so,

Help is on the way, however. The Cubs have the best crop of position prospects in any farm system, and their Triple-A Iowa affiliate has the most promising lineup of any team in the Minor Leagues…In Bryant, Baez and Alcantara, the Cubs have three potential All-Stars just a phone call away from Wrigley Field. Beyond them, the Iowa lineup also features two other players who could fill roles in the big leagues.

The Cubs aren’t as far away as we might think.  The only position the Cubs may need to address before this time next season is an OF spot or two.  The rest of the lineup could be filled with the likes of Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, Welington Castillo, Arismendy Alcantara, Javier Baez, and Kris Bryant.

Even Gordon Wittenmeyer has gotten into the act, writing about 2B-CF prospect Alcantara in his latest piece.  In that article, Hoyer states this about Alcantara,

“I feel like he’s the underappreciated guy in our system. No one talks about him because of guys like Baez, Bryant and Almora. But he has a chance to put up a pretty special year in Triple-A when you look at doubles, triples, homers and stolen bases. Guys don’t really do that at that age. We’re really excited for him. He certainly belongs in that [core] group.”

Well, we appreciate him here and have done so for the entire time this blog has been in existence.  But there is no doubt he is has reached a new level. That core just seems to keep on growing and it’s coming to Wrigley soon…but not too soon.

Promoting Patience

Just because they are in AAA and the Cubs offense is somewhat offensive at times, it doesn’t mean the Cubs will call these players up this year. As Callis states,

Because the Cubs aren’t in contention, there’s less incentive to promote their top prospects from Iowa and get them started on the road to arbitration and free agency. As a result, Bryant, Baez and Alcantara could spend the entire season in Iowa. Once they get the call to Chicago, the Cubs should find it easier to score runs and return to contention.

In Wittenmeyer’s piece, Hoyer wouldn’t even commit to Alcantara, the prospect considered to be most MLB ready, as a possible promotion this season,

He’s been playing great. He’s on a really good trajectory. He struggled a little bit in April with his strike-zone control, and it’s gotten better and better every month. … I’m not going to answer yes or no whether he’ll come up at some point [this year], but certainly he’s opened our eyes.”

Here’s the thing.  It’s not jsut about arbitration and free agency as Callis states above, though that is a big part of it.  It’s also a matter of responsible roster management.  Adding Bryant and Baezs to the 40 man roster means not just bumping 2 guys off now and potentially losing them, but it also means 3 less spots to protect Rule 5 eligible players such as Gioskar Amaya, Andrew McKirahan, and other talented young players whom the Cubs would rather keep.

It’s a different story for guys like RHP Kyle Hendricks and C Rafael Lopez, who have to be protected and are pretty much MLB ready.  They might well get those roster spots before the season is over and get a taste of Wrigley, but it doesn’t make sense for guys like Baez and Bryant, whose promotions would cost the Cubs money and possibly as many as 4 players (2 playrs waived now + not being able to protect 2 additional players from Rule 5) to promote right now.

The gain would be cookies, but it’s not worth spoiling your dinner even in the smallest way.

So what’s for dinner?

An offensive juggernaut, that’s what.

Esteemed writer Joe Posnanski writes that while other teams are building with pitching, the Cubs plan to combat that with elite hitting, and that they are building an offensive juggernaut for the near future…

“The toughest thing,” Epstein says, “is that fans here feel  — and they’re right to feel this way — they feel like they’ve already been through enough. So they are saying: ‘Why are you ACTIVELY putting us through more of this?’ And I don’t have an answer for that except that we think it’s the only way we’re going to win.”

“It really wasn’t hard to see,” Epstein says. “We took a hard look at the organization and thought that we were in difficult shape and needed to start over. We saw that we needed to take a long view because it wasn’t possible to acquire enough talent to win in the short term anyway. So, if that’s the case, why not do it the right way? Why not look for quality and volume and develop and organizational ethos.”

It’s been a long time preparing this meal but those are the ones that are often worth the wait.

Resisting to eat the desser first: On spending money and chasing free agents

Yesterday I was tweeting something to the effect that we should be glad the Cubs didn’t sign Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourn, Shin-Soo Choo, Curtis Granderson, and Ubaldo Jimenez. Per the Posnanski article, Epstein shares similar thoughts,

“That was the year Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols were both available,” Epstein said. “So we had a decision to make — do we try to get into those sweepstakes? We decided to get Rizzo. We were thinking there would come a time when their career arcs intersected. And we might have reached it already.”

We couldn’t agree more and the Cubs aggressively pursued the players they wanted, outbidding the competition for both Anibal Sanchez and Yoenis Cespedes, only to lose out for other reasons.  The Cubs were way behind in the Yu Darvish hunt from the start with Texas and Toronto having outworked the field early.  It would have been a huge upset if any other team signed him, and that is exemplified by the fact that it wasn’t just the Cubs who fell short, but also big market teams who are big players in the international arena also lost out, most notably the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers.   Why the Cubs are singled out as the failure here is beyond me.  The Cubs didn’t lose out here, Texas went out and grabbed it even blowing away their closest real competitor, Toronto, by a wide margin.

The Dodgers threw rational market thinking out the window when they dumped a ton of money on an unknown quantity in Yasiel Puig.  Yes, it turned out well, but few teams could afford to throw money on such a speculative risk and the Dodgers were the only team willing and able to do so.

Similarly, the Yankees were not going to be outbid for Masahiro Tanaka, who had made it clear on more than one occasion that New York was his preferred destination.  The Cubs worked hard on this one and put up an offer that easily beat every other team, but the Yankees weren’t going to be denied.  And with the advantages they had both in terms of money and Tanaka’s preference, the Cubs were not going to wrest him away in an open bidding scenario.

The one player who the Cubs should have realistically gotten was Hyun-Jin Ryu and the Cubs had the financials to land him, but without getting into specifics, they took a calculated risk and it did not end well, in large part because they did not count on LAD acting irrationally and bidding well abiove perceived market value.  The Cubs own offer was beyond what many perceived as fair market value too, but the Dodgers took that even further.  Still, it was a miss by this FO, a rare miscalculation, and the only missed IFA I will lay at their feet.  And I think in retrospect, they would do this one differently if they had to do it over again.

Or what if they had signed mid-level free agents just to get to .500?  Would we have had Kris Bryant to look forward to?  Would we have been able to not just draft Kyle Schwarber, but use all that extra pool money to land 6 other players who were considered 1st to 3rd round talents?

We would certainly have had less of that deliciously talented future, and all because we couldn’t resist having dessert first.

Getting back to the main course

Posnanski shares his and Epstein’s thoughts on the near ready crop of talent,

— Baez is an infielder who swings hard and hits the ball a long way. He has had some trouble this year for the first time in his minor league career, but the Cubs haven’t seen anything that changes their mind about his huge future. He has 40-homer power and 200-strikeout aggression and should get better and better with time.

— Bryant, according to Epstein, is a “freak” and “the lowest-maintenance prospect we’ve ever had.” He was Baseball America’s college player of the year in 2012, hit .336 at three minor-league levels in 2013, and this year has been, well, freakish. At Class AA, he overwhelmed the league by hitting .355 with 22 homers in 68 games that the Cubs had to move him to Class AAA. In his first 15 games in Des Moines, he hit .345 with six more homers. He will be playing third base for the 2015 Cubs.

— Alcantara has power and speed and seems adaptable to pretty much any position.

— Almora is an outfielder who has struggled a bit this year — Epstein compares his learning season to the one Castro had last year — but people in the organization say he might be the best player of the bunch.

Throw in this year’s draft pick Kyle Schwarber – who Epstein calls “a definite No. 3 hitter” – and you see the strategy. “Yeah,” Epstein says, “we’re trying to build a behemoth of position players.”

Posnanski asks Epstein if the Cubs are there yet.  Epstein smiles.

“Getting there,” he says. “Obviously we’re a long way off. But that’s the plan. … Ideally, we are trying to build the type of lineup that can change the way opposing teams think when entering series. We had that in Boston, where teams always had an extra pitcher in the pen. If we got 60 pitches deep in the first two innings of a series, I knew we had a pretty good chance to win the series.”

The feast is coming Cubs fans.  Save your appetite.

“When those young players are up here and everyone sees how good they are, that is when it gets fun,” Epstein says. And he smiles again.

“And that is also when we will ask our fans to be patient with these young players. But I think that patience will be easier to find. … People have waited a long time for this. I can’t wait until we give them a really exciting product. I can’t wait until they’re rewarded for all their suffering.”

And when that day comes, I will look down on my full belly, smile, and know that we Cubs fans won’t be hungry again for a long, long time.

Enjoy the 4th.  Eat well.



Filed under: Uncategorized


Leave a comment
  • And it will seem like the 4th of July almost every night when these guys are established. Oohs and Ahhs all season long until November........

  • In reply to edubbs:

    There you go! Fireworks coming!

  • Makes me happy that Cubs are starting to get the depth in the minors to a point where we may actually lose players because of not having enough 40 man spots for all of them. I think that will be another interesting thing to look at during the trade season as to where some of the players coming back are in reto to their Rule 5 status

  • In reply to nkniacc13:

    Sign of a good org.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    totally agree John and if you have the depth you will lose players to Rule 5. We cubs fans have to start getting use to that. Have you heard anything about cubs maybe moving a IFA slot? seems Milwaukee wants to add some $ before announcing their major signing

  • I was heartened by Joe P's article, but surprised to see nary a single mention of Jorge Soler...

  • In reply to Joe Shmoe:

    Good point.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Theo is trying to "hide" Soler.

  • In reply to Joe Shmoe:

    Too often hurt. I believe it was Hoyer who said a bit ago that he'd be in TN and AAA next year if not for all the missteps with injuries. The brain trust seems to feel he's still a top prospect.

    John... the Posnanski article was linked on BN yesterday. I thought so much of the piece I'm going to send it to all the members of my Cubs group. You piece today, naturally, is a wonderful summation of what's coming and why it's *good* to be patient.

  • In reply to MoneyBoy:

    With Soler on 40 man I wonder if that changes his timeline as well. Isnt he out of options after next year?

  • In reply to nkniacc13:

    John addressed that question earlier this week, I believe. 2 years maybe? Sorry... I have to defer to him.

  • In reply to nkniacc13:

    Next year is Soler's last option year as he was given a 4th option, i.e. he has to be with the MLB team to start the 2016 season.

  • fb_avatar

    Was wondering how long this article would take to come out after 2 days of debate here on this subject. Not that it matters but I just wanted to state my opinion again because I think some might think I am pushing for the Bryant, Baez or Alcantara promotion to Wrigley to happen immediately. Believe me when I say it is not my feeling whatsoever.

    I'm glad you brought up the issue about roster management as an issue for some of these guys. It IS a major roadblock for some of these promotions to happen. But I am of the belief that it will be after the trade deadline and in the off season that we see a major cleanup to the 40 man roster.

    The Cubs simply have more talent than there are spots for that roster! It's been a long time, if ever, we had this type of problem. So I feel we are going to lose a few guys this winter. But I say, so what? The talent bar has been raised and if you can't raise your game to get over that bar then we move on without you. This is not a bad thing!

    So back to my stance about when we probably see some young guys playing at Wrigley. I think it happens this Spring. I have a strong feeling that the Cubs are going to be one of those teams that goes from last place to the playoffs next season. We need these young guys to start producing on the big league squad.

    Then you add a pitcher and outfielder over the winter and the fun begins next April....

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    You are asking them to lose guys just so these guys can play some meaningless games. It's not a good trade in terms of value gained and lost -- and this FO doesn't make bad value trades.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    No...... not at all. I am not saying add guys for the sake of adding guys. But you yourself talk about guys that may need to be protected or lost to rule 5. But the time is near that the tough decisions are going to have to be made, imo....

    Are guys on the 40 man roster players that are really part of your long term goals for the Cubs or just guys that are still "organizational" type guys needed to field a team at Iowa or Tennessee?

    And if the FO is feels it's time to "release the hounds" and get into the playoffs for 2015, are the games really meaningless? If the truth is that the FO wants to hold these guys back for the sake of Super 2 reasons, would the same roster moves be needed next June or so?

    I guess it comes down to this winter. Does the FO feel we are ready to go for the playoffs or not. If the Cubs finish strong and are playing .500 ball for the rest of the year I'd have to believe that the time is ready.

    That's kinda what I mean....

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Heres my thought it easier to slip guys through in the season than it is during the offseason. So you protect who needs protecting now and come April you can try and get a guy thru waivers if the cubs young talent is ready there is going to be roster turnover and depending on what comes back in trades maybe a bunch but if you can keep spaces available for FA and the FO seems to want to keep spot for Rule 5 possiabity then you don't hurry prospects or unnessasry promte players that hurts your roster freedom

  • Happy 4th John. Looks like you have spent part of your holiday brain-storming about our Cubbies, just like at our house. My wife and I are heading down to Omaha on Tuesday to check out KB, Arismendy, Baez, and the gang against the Storm Chasers. It is now at the point where even Leanne knows about the minor league kids, which is so different from the way we looked at games even a couple years ago. It is people like you keeping everyone informed that has helped in that regard.

    And there is absolutely no chance that the Cubs will think about bringing up Bryant or Baez this season. Alcantara has a shot but even he might stay in Iowa while they promote Watkins- who also has been pretty good this season. With AA on the 40-man there is a good chance he is promoted next month.

  • I live in the Albany, NY area where there are many R. Sox fans. IMO opinion they are the worst there are and even make Yankee and Cardinal fans look good. The sweep of the R. Sox was such a joy and made me very proud and let me brag to my R S ox friends. I loved it. Cubs are coming out of hibernation.

  • fb_avatar

    I may be in a minority here but, the more I watch Baez and Bryant in AAA, the more I think they could use more time to develop. Baez is showing Manny-like patience of late but he's only recently started driving the ball with authority again. And even that comes and goes.

    I know the numbers say Bryant is doing exceptionally well, and maybe I'm guilty of cherry picking memories here, but he just doesn't look like the same guy who used AA as his own personal batting practice yet. He's swinging and missing more often (stats say by about 2 percentage points) and his swinging strikeouts have gone up about 4 percentage points. Maybe this is just what happens when he faces better pitching but I don't think anything is lost by letting him try to adjust to see if he can return to the guy he was in AA.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I think they both need to stay all season in iowa and then go from there tho I still think if your going to move Baez you must play him some at wherever your moving him to

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Mike Moody:

    agree 100%.

    I'm probably the extreme minority in thinking that Baez might need to wait until September of '15 to be called up.

    He is STILL the youngest regular in AAA, and "advanced approach" has never been in his scouting report. This year has shown how easy is can be to neutralize his crazy bat speed and power.

    I think mid-'15 is a good spot for Bryant, probably. Ignoring the K rate is a mistake, but the bigger issue is working on his defense if he is to stay at 3rd Base. It's easy for some to assume that he will mash so much that his D doesn't matter but this FO is not the type to be satisfied with allowing unnecessary runs.

    Alcantara is looking pretty good. IF he keeps the walk rate up and the K rate down, then September of this year looks promising.
    I do wish they'd play in CF full time until he gets promoted, though. We have a half dozen guys to play second, and very few to play CF.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    Its going to be very interesting to watch what the Cubs do with these guys you have the MLBPA that are really watching how FO play games with the Super 2 cutoff and other things. Bryant maybe defense working allows him to stay down without a bit of fuss but if Baez figures it out soo and starts going off it will be interesting to see if the FO doesn't want him to start season how they go about it

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to nkniacc13:

    I'm not sure there's enough time in the season for him to truly "figure it out."

    At least with regards to the Cubs FO needing to justify anything.

    Also, since he is the youngest starter in triple-A, the MLBPA wouldn't have a leg to stand on as far as arguing that anything suspicious is going on.

    And Bryant playing his first full year of pro ball doesn't raise any suspicion either.

    The MLBPA may be watching, but I don't see them having anything on the Cubs.

  • Was a little over a year ago around draft time that I stumbled upon this blog. Cannot begin to express the joy it has given to me to read not just the Cubs Den writers, but all the comments as well. It has become pretty much a daily reading ritual for me and my first stop for Cub news and rumors. Thanks to John, Mike, Mauricio, and NSI for all your work as well as some of the regular commentators.

    Although I'm trying to be patient, I must say it has been a somewhat exciting week as a Cubs fan: Arrieta's emergence and near no-hitter, sweeping Red Sox in Boston, 4 wins a row, and 3 articles this week by national baseball writers (Neyer, Callis, and Posnaski) discussing the Cubs' burgeoning young talent. Oh, yeah, and Jason McLeod withdrawing his name as a GM candidate because of the special things going on with the Cubs and wanting to be a part of that. For a Cub fan, a special week indeed.

    Can't wait to see where the Cubs are next year at this time. Next year, Bryant, Baez, & Alcantara will be added to Rizzo and Castro. While today is a day to celebrate our freedom, it is also a fine day to dream: to dream of next year's line-up and see how it plays itself out in terms of positions and Batting Order. I'm glad the Cubs Den will be the beacon of light leading us through the darkness into better times ahead. As someone stated earlier, the worm has indeed turned!

    Happy Fourth of July to my fellow Cub fan brothers & Denziens! It's a great time to be a Cub fan. Enjoy!


  • fb_avatar

    Does anybody really think Jason Hammel was pulled due to pitch count like he's saying. I don't.

    After an off day with a well rested bullpen, he gets pulled from the game after giving up a single. I think Ricky just really wanted to give Hammel a chance for a win.

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    I agree but most managers let the pitcher know that and apparently RR didnt

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Bush league move second guessing management to the media after the game.

  • That was a great article man. Nice work

  • fb_avatar

    I completely agree with you about not signing Pujols and Fielder, those were no-brainers. I also agree about not signing major free agents after 2012. 2012 and 2013's records got us Bryant and Schwarber and the IFA class last year. But enough. I step off the wagon when it comes to signing no one of significance last winter. Over the past 10 days you've seen Ruggiano, Schierholtz and Coghlan step it up just a very small amount, and and that small step combined with the team's excellent pitching have given us a watchable, competitive product on the field. A small push in free agency last winter (I'm not talking Cano - one or two Marlon Byrd, Rajai Davis, Mike Morse types) could have made this a wild card competitive team. Punt enough seasons, and people - or at least I for one - stop caring about draft position at some point. .

  • Nom nom nom

  • fb_avatar

    Jim Callis reporing that Dylan Cease just signed for 1.5 (we know) AND that he has TJS scheduled for July 22nd (we didn't know, but not a surprise)

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Giffmo:

    Sooner the better. Get it out of the way now.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Totally agree. I can't think of many times that situations like his don't EVENTUALLY end up in TJS.

    Considering the timing, I wouldn't be surprised if the Cubs recommended it.

    He may be ready for Boise in '15 if everything goes well, but I wouldn't be upset if they already plan to put him on the shelf for the whole year to be safe.

    Maybe he can start '16 with Kane County.

  • I kind of put signing cespedes as a mistake. He wanted a 4 or 9 year deal and 6 years was we offered. I would of gave him the 4 and tried to work an extension out later or you could of traded him for young talent.

    Losing out is also made worse by are consolation prize being hurt all the time.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Mitchener:

    I only remember him asking for 4 years, which made no sense for the Cubs when they were JUST starting a rebuild that the FO probably knew would be a five year project to start seeing progress.

    The short contract made more sense for Oakland.

  • In reply to Mitchener:

    Soler was not the consolation prize. He was the jewel of the 3 according to scouts at the time.

  • fb_avatar

    My take was always the Pevey was just having a little fun with the media when he made those statements about Hendricks. Anyone know if that fits his personality?

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    I believed it, and I've followed Hendricks very closely the past couple of years. The kid has improved every year, added pitches, and keeps working on his craft....he also has been able to rear back and hit 93-94 when he really wanted to but it was a rare thing, so it wasn't beyond reasoning (however unlikely) that he some how tweaked his mechanics and gained a tic or two this year at age 24. It's one thing to say "he's been bringing the heat" or something like that, and another for his manager to say that he is hitting 95 mph, 15 to 18 times per game...that's pretty dang specific! I was surprised to see that it was complete BS today.

  • I'd like to brag about my family since the title wife and I welcomed the world's newest Cub fan last night a little girl. She even got to watch some of today's game with me.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Holy Cattle:


  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Holy Cattle:

    That's wonderful news, Cattle. But you do realize that you still have to love her if, God forbid, she grows up a White Sox fan, right?

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Congratulations, Cattle. Maybe she'll get to go to a Cubs World Series celebratory parade before she reaches double digits. (And, yes, hopefully as a Cubs fan, not White Sox!)

  • Looks like Hammel is trying to expedite his departure with his after game pitch count speech including implicating that the Front Office is telling Renteria when to pull starting pitchers...

    "This is the most severe I’ve ever seen before,” Hammel said. “Honestly, there’s no reason for me to go back out there if I’m just going to give up a runner and then get pulled. That really makes no sense.”

    “I can understand for maybe a minor-league guy, but we’re up here trying to win,” Hammel said. “If you’re paying attention – I know it’s not Ricky’s fault – I think it’s coming from somewhere else."

    Hammel, asked if the Cubs have an arbitrary number in place:

    “I have no idea,” he said. “But it’s pretty black and white, from what you see going on. Guys get to 100 pitches, they’re done. Even today – I didn’t get to it. It’s just frustrating.”

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    Whoops. Not the Cubs' way, dude. Bush league.

  • Well, the writing is on the proverbial wall as far as Hammel and/or Shark are concerned. Rosenthal is reporting the Cubs are in serious talks with the A's with a return of Addison Russell involved. Think I want to hear more...

  • fb_avatar

    Rumors ablaze on Twitter about the A's trading Addison Russell to the Cubs for Hammel and/or Shark. I love Addison Russell but I gotta ask why would we be targeting such a great shortstop right now?

  • According to reports from Rosenthal and Morosi, Cubs and A's in serious discussion of a trade involving Hammel AND/OR Samardzija, and that top Oakland prospect Addison Russell has been discussed

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to WSorBust:

    I don't buy it. Jed Lowrie is on his way out. No chance they let go of their SS of the future.

  • I don't think Oakland would deal Russell for Hammel straight up ??

Leave a comment