Minor League Notes: Myrtle Beach, Instructional League, OBP and future lineups

It seems like a news and notes sort of day.  This time instead of focusing on veterans and free agency, we’ll look at the players and teams within the system…

Cubs goal: Make less outs

One of the things that is often discussed around here is how the lineup will be comprised in the future.  We concern ourselves with OBP, strikeouts, walks, power, and speed but Theo Epstein simplifies it even more –– just don’t make outs.  However you are going to do that is up to the individual player.  Epstein said you can live with the strikeouts if a player works counts, walks, and hits for power.  He almost seemed to directly address Kris Bryant in that respect.   The Cubs seem to be set in the middle of their lineup for years to come with Jorge Soler, Anthony Rizzo, and Kris Bryant.  Theo Epstein talked about those players and the possibility of other players joining the lineup in the future, players such as Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell.

Those two players represent two different approaches: Schwarber is very patient while Russell is an aggressive hitter but both should limit their outs.  Schwarber will likely walk more often but Russell is the kind of player that is expected to hit around .300.  Combine that with an average walk rate and you may have both players getting on at about the same rate.

Epstein also addressed  Arismendy Alcantara, saying he expects he will walk more as he gains experience.  We’ve said similar things in the past in that Alcantara doesn’t have a naturally patient approach and that it is something he consciously works on.  That being the case, he may just need more time to adjust and get comfortable with how pitchers are approaching him.  Epstein went so far as to say that Alcantara does a better job of grinding out ABs than some of the other Cubs young hitters and has a better chance to walk more in the future.  Sounds to me like they consider him a keeper and expect him to continue to improve over the next few years.  He even mentioned as a guy who can get on base in front of the big bats — but don’t mistaken him for a slap hitting table setter, Epstein thinks Alcantara can hit 20 HRs a year in the big leagues.

Addison Russell: “Wherever they need me…”

By midseason we should be recovering from the effects of Kris Bryant fever.  Not that he isn’t going to do well — I think he will, but you know how things go.  We go bananas for awhile for the new guy, it lasts for awhile and whether he does well or not, we soon start moving on to, “Ok, who’s next?” mode.

“Who’s next” is Addison Russell.

We know who, but we don’t know where.  Starlin Castro is the incumbent and the front office continues to say he is their shortstop, most recently 3 weeks ago.

“He’s our shortstop,” general manager Jed Hoyer reiterated. “And there’s a reason why we have Javy [Baez] playing second base right now.”

So where does that leave Russell?

“Just kind of wherever they need me,” Russell said. “I’m a person that if you put me in a new environment, I’m going to try and learn about it and just get the job done. They haven’t said anything about me moving or anything like that. But if that’s the case, then so be it, I’ll take on that role and put something new on my resume.”

I was just saying today that Addison Russell is a 30 year old man in a 20 year old body, just wise and mature beyond his years.  He is, however, the Cubs best shortstop right now, so that leaves the Cubs with an interesting decision, though it’s one that I don’t think they will address this offseason.

Wherever Russell plays, he is going to hit.  As good a defender as he is, it’s his bat that stands out first.  Here is what one player said about him,

 “One of the things that I noticed most about him is when he made outs, they were really loud. I mean, off his bat they were just incredible. He’s a great shortstop. Really good hands. Strong arm. Really good kid, too.

“He’ll be great. He’ll fit right in. I’m excited to see him again.”

A player who is great, makes loud outs,  is a good kid and fits right in?

The player who said that was Kris Bryant.  I guess it takes one to know one.

Instructional League

Speaking of Kyle Schwarber, he will headline the list of players heading there this fall and he is presumably heading there to work on his catching.  There was some earlier thought to Schwarber going to the AZ Fall League but it makes more sense to bring him somewhere where the Cubs can control how much time he spends catching.  Besides, we already know he can hit and doing it again in AZ isn’t going to tell us anything new.  Another factor is that he has basically played non-stop since he started his junior year at Indiana.  This has already been the longest season of his young career by a wide margin.

The Cubs will also get a longer look at midseason acquisitions OF Billy McKinney,  C Victor Caratini, and RHP Jonathan Martinez.  Carrie Muskat also lists the 2014 draft picks who will attend…

Jake Stinnett
Mark Zagunis
Carson Sands
Justin Steele
James Norwood
Tommy Thorpe
James Farris
Ryan Williams
Tanner Griggs
Kevonte Mitchell
Chesny Young
Jeremy Null
Jason Voster
Michael Knighton
Austyn Willis
Charles White
Zach Hedges
Jordan Minch

I have some hopes of attending this year but with our travelling budget used on a wonderful trip to France, the spring seems more likely at this point.  Still fun, but the instructional league is my favorite place to watch these guys.

Myrtle Beach’s TicketReturn.com Stadium rated as top ballpark in the Carolina League

So, the Cubs had pretty good reasons to move to Myrtle Beach.  Theo Epstein has called the Carolina League the best league for prospect development.  Now, Stadium Journey ranks Myrtle Beach as the best stadium in the best league — at least as far as fans are concerned.

The Pelicans have done an amazing job of catering to both local die hards and casual tourists. With the massive variety of food options and many entertainment options, TicketReturn.com Field is easily a premier minor league venue.

I didn’t need any incentive to plan a Myrtle Beach vacation but this certainly doesn’t hurt.

Today’s Lineup

  1. Alcantara CF
  2. Baez SS
  3. Rizzo 1B
  4. Soler RF
  5. Valbuena 3B
  6. Castillo C
  7. Valaika 2B
  8. Szczur LF
  9. Hendricks P

You could make a case that all of those players will be on the roster next year, so this one will be fun to watch.

Hoping I can confidently say, “You better get used to it!” after this game is over.

 

 

 

 

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Comments

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  • Thanks, John. One question: Who made the glowing Addison Russell "fits in" quotation?

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Kris Bryant. How the heck did I leave that out?

  • One of the down sides about Myrtle Beach is that there are a ton of distractions. I'm glad about the move - can watch them when they travel to Winston-Salem.

  • In reply to dumbass:

    I'm not sure there would be much more than any of the distractions in Florida or California ;)

  • such a great article, give me those warm fuzzies that I miss after reading the minor league recaps!

  • In reply to IowaCubbie:

    Thanks. I miss the minors too. We will have instructs and the fall league soon -- but then it's another long wait. Hopefully these new teams will bring us more news to keep us happy.

  • fb_avatar

    I still have confidence that Baez will figure things out but boy does he look lost up there.

  • In reply to Restless:

    Agreed on both counts.

  • Great article.

    RE: "Kyle Schwarber... is presumably heading there to work on his catching."

    It sounds like Schwarber is going to go through an intense catching boot camp at fall instructs.

    Per Hoyer:

    “The other thing is we really wanted to spend instructional league working on his catching with (field/catching coordinator) Tim Cossins and the other instructors,” Hoyer said. Schwarber can work hard with Cossins and it probably will be exhausting, but there’s no stats associated with it.”

    ..and Schwarber sounds like he is ready for it...

    "They're giving me an opportunity to catch because I have a real passion for it," he said. "I feel I have the traits for it, and if I can clean up some things I'll be just fine. Trust me, I know I have some things to work on catching-wise and there's always room for improvement offensively. I just want to go down there and attack defense, defense, defense. … Bear down on defense and make it happen, because that's what I really want to do."

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    Thanks.

    Time will tell if Schwarber can stick at catcher but if he doesn't it won't be for a lack of effort.

  • Cubs win!!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That was fun. Let's do it again tomorrow.

  • In reply to John57:

    Agreed!

  • TicketReturn.com? Sounds like that should be the Marlins stadium name.

  • In reply to Cash Considerations:

    Haha! Definitely doesn't seem to fit Myrtle Beach, but naming rights are naming rights, I guess.

  • If Schwarbs is able to demonstrate that he can make it as a catcher, what does that do to his approximate prospect rank? how about where the 'experts' would have placed him in the draft?

  • Great article as always! Made me wonder how Russell would fair in LF with Bryant at 3B. I might be wrong but I have to imagine that Russell would have more speed in the outfield.

  • In reply to good4you:

    Bryant actually has good speed. Not sure there would be much difference. 3B is the far more important defensive position so the team would prioritize that and put the best defender there and then send the other guy to LF.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I hope they bring in a veteran left-handed hitter for left field then that gives the Cubs; Bryant, Olt, Baez & Russell to fill two spots in the infield. I think the odds are good we find two of these four to be stars.

    Regular lineup:
    alcantera
    castro
    Rizzo
    Bryant
    Cabrera
    soler
    schwarber
    baez or russell

    With a bench of Valbuena,Olt,Coughlan,Ruggiano & Castillo that would give a very good idea of how good the regular lineup could be. I could see this lineup by the end of 2015.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to bleachercreature:

    Span the best fit for the Cubs. Alcantera not a lock for CF,or if he's set there, then Span in LF. Cabrera likely gets a qualifying offer from the Blue Jays anyway.

    That would mesh well with a veteran bat added to the 25 man roster in Span, and a front of the rotation starter be it Lester or Shields or even Scherzer tho in his case not likely.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    Schwarber is not going to be up by the end of 2015

  • I also have a question about Kris Bryant's service clock. Do you think that the Cubs would/should wait until June next year to call him up. If not, what are the ramifications.

    Ultimately what I'm getting at is if Bryant is at Wrigley in April 2015 what difference would it have made if he were there now?

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to good4you:

    I may be wrong (and I know there are others more knowledgeable than me who can correct me in that case) but I think service time literally counts "days" on the major league roster. Until you reach 1 full year of "service time" you do not start your Pre-arbitration years (of which there are 3). Followed by 3 years of arbitration eligibility. So if we don't pull him up until the start of next year then, in effect, the 3 years of pre-arbitration start in 2016-2018. Then this is followed by 3 years of arbitration eligibility (2019-2021). If we pull him up now in what is, truly, a "lost season" he will start accumulating time and, unless we leave him in the minors longer next year (when we might have a shot at actually playing games that matter) his pre-arbitration years would be 2015-2017 followed by arbitration years 2018-2020. In 2020-2021 he will be in his late 20's or so and likely in his "prime" years. I would rather have control over him (even with a likely high arbitration cost) before we have to enter FA discussions with for 1 more full season than pulling him up now so that he could pose for pictures at Wrigley Field.

    The only thing I am worried about with this plan is that there is a possibility that he could take an attitude of, "You want to play business? Fine. We will play business. I don't care what you offer me I am going to leave in FA just to spite you!" Though I presume that Hoyer/Epstein have considered that and made their decision based on far more information than I have about the specifics of the situation. I believe that if the Cubs are perennial contenders and offer him a market value amount of money he will likely stay and forget about this "slight."

  • Has the entire Instructional Lge roster been released?

  • I'm so excited to have a cubs affiliate here in Myrtle Beach! I have a guest room when you want to head down John.

  • In reply to MyrtleBeachHoosier:

    My son lives in Columbia with his mother, but he summers with me on beautiful PELICAN LAKE in northern Minnesota. Today I am proudly wearing to work and up to the lake my new Myrtle Beach Pelicans t-shirt and baseball cap that came in the mail yesterday. I got them for my son too!

    Go Pelicans!
    Go Cubs!

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