Hollandsworth: Kris Bryant and Javy Baez Should Be With Cubs in 2014

Hollandsworth: Kris Bryant and Javy Baez Should Be With Cubs in 2014

Comcast SportsNet Cubs analyst Todd Hollandsworth made some waves recently when he insinuated that there may not be much more for some of the Cubs top prospects to learn down in the minor leagues.

I spoke to Hollandsworth this week, and he explained his thoughts on the subject further. And just in case you need a reminder of his credentials when it comes to young talent, he won the 1996 National League Rookie of the Year.

It’s not that Hollandsworth doesn’t believe in the process of fully developing players within the minor league system; he tells me he spent at least one season at each level, A, AA, and AAA respectively. He just doesn’t feel every player should follow the same path to the majors. He doesn’t subscribe to the idea there is a blueprint; if someone is crushing AA pitching like Bryant is these days, maybe it’s time to give him a real test.

“Learning at the big-league level is very, very important. I think the sooner you get your young players here, the sooner they start learning what it’s all about,” Hollandsworth said.

Both Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have said on an occasion they would like to see the Cubs prospects accumulate x amount at-bats (~500) before advancing to the majors. Hollandsworth has an issue with that premise.

“Reps, AB’s, competition are all very important. But there is a big leap from AAA to the Bigs. Minor league success does not guarantee your Major League success. It’s a step in the process, but the Big Leagues is a whole other ball game.”

“If these young men have performed well enough in the minors, challenge them,” he said.

Hollandsworth also points out that in a lot of cases, players have had to stay down on the farm a little bit longer due to their path being blocked by a productive veteran. That isn’t the case at all when it comes to most of the Cubs top prospects. If and when these players are ready, they should have a clear path to a position. Javy Baez for instance, would easily commandeer second base, while Kris Bryant could slide into third base or a corner outfield position without much resistance.

Hollandsworth is also fully aware of the control game that is played off the field now with front offices and prospects. Back when Hollandsworth came up through the Dodgers system, that wasn’t as much of a concern as it is now. Teams are now desperate to try and lock up their young talent earlier, or delay their clock for being eligible to go to arbitration or free agency.

“You want your young players to have the clearest path possible to the Big Leagues with no road blocks other than development and performance being the determining factors in my opinion. Today’s game has many more [obstacles] with super two status and player control,” he said.

“The Dodgers believed in me more than I believed in myself some days. But once I learned how to fight for what I wanted, which was the Big Leagues, they pushed me hard and gave me every opportunity to climb quickly.”

For players such as Baez and Bryant however, Hollandsworth feels the Cubs will be quick enough to lock them up as soon as possible if they establish themselves.

“Look towards the Cardinals, recently having success at locking up young, home grown, productive players like Matt Carpenter, and look at the Braves as well. They have locked up a young nucleus,” he stated.

Hollandsworth looks forward to the time when either Bryant or Baez come up and supply a jolt to the Cubs, much like George Springer has done for the Houston Astros or Oscar Taveras has for the Cardinals on a much more brief note.

“My personal opinion, I’d love to see these young kids get up here and get a chance to play…You gotta learn it up here, you gotta play up here, you gotta see if you can stand on your own two feet at the major-league level. So the sooner you get these guys going, that’s when the process really starts,” he said.

Recently, Hoyer mentioned bringing in a Scott Rolen type to help insulate his younger players in the clubhouse and on the field. I asked Hollandsworth how important protection from a vet leader like that could be for young players with a ton of pressure potentially on their shoulders. Holly agrees wholeheartedly, and recalls a vet that had an initial impact on him early on in his Dodgers career.

“When I first got to the big leagues, Tim Wallach told me: “Holly, be seen, not heard. Your job is to play your tail off for us and help us win. The vets will handle the media stuff,” Hollandsworth said.

That could be huge for players being swarmed by media like Bryant or Baez would be.

At the end of the day, Hollandsworth believes in the Cubs’ development process and its early-stage success. He just believes everything should be based on the player, not a predetermined process.

“Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Tavares, Springer…all the stories are different. There is no perfect landing in the Bigs. There’s no perfect set of circumstances.”

“I love it when players like Baez and Bryant force the conversation. It means your system is working.”

Also check out Hollandsworth on “The Ballyard” with Connor McKnight. They talk baseball 8-11am every Saturday on 87.7FM @gamechicago.

Follow Hollandsworth @Hollytime28


Thanks for reading; if you enjoyed it, please share with others.  And if you’d like to be updated on my future posts, and those from the rest of the Cubs Insider team, you can subscribe below.

Type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.

And be sure to like Cubs Insider on Facebook.


Leave a comment
  • fb_avatar

    If we had a Wallach type of leader on this team now I would be totally on the same page as Hollandsworth. With out the veteran presence, that some of us were asking for this last off season, you are just setting the kids up to fail. Chicago is a major media market with out anyone to set the tone as far as what the sports conversation dynamic is. If Bryant or Baez would get promoted this week there would be a feeding frenzy. There are very few 20-25 year olds that can get dropped in to the deep end of that shark tank and survive let alone flourish.

    That being said I also think that Bryant should be getting his boarding pass for the trip to Chicago. I know that some will say he needs to go to AAA but why? Let him get some AB's in a situation where he can have a chance to succeed. Do not just assume he can make it in Iowa against junk pitchers when he also needs to get looks at someone that can light up a gun. His AB's this year against Latos and Kershaw at least shows that he can make adjustments to the level of competition.

    Sounds like I am trying to be on both sides of the fence doesn't it.

  • In reply to Richard Hood:

    Yeah kinda but it makes sense. They do need to bring that type of vet in.

  • I am sure his opinion changes how theo and co will handle things.. or was his opinion just to stir the pot a little to keep this pointless conversation going?

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    Question is whether a CSN analyst has any influence on the front office. My bet is 98% no.

    And on the "control game," Matt Speigel just suggested that a bargaining chip vs. the bonus slots could be "we'll start the clock earlier, and the draftee will get to free agency earlier." Doesn't appear that the Cubs think that way, though.

  • In reply to jack:

    Your second paragraph is what the Sox did with Sale, and what they may try with Rodon.

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    I think analysts are allowed to state actual opinions. Even if they differ with everyone's darlings. It's ok, really.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    oh I do too.. regardless of how meaningless they are. I get why CSN put it out there. I mean stating the opinion that agrees with the FO's outlook wouldnt really get any ratings for em..

    i mean ESPN does it too.. publicize those controversial remarks = ratings.

    that was my point.

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    The essential point is that other than games, each sports network has about 10 hours a day it has to fill.

    Somehow, a large number of exjocks can find remunerative employment as analysts, instead of having to paint houses, as in the old days. It isn't just Lou Boudreau sitting next to Jack Brickhouse.

    And, as the Sterling episode points out (with respect to whether he will sue or not sue), ESPN must find some value in "some source just told ESPN...," whether the substance is true or not.

  • fb_avatar

    CSN's not putting this out there; this was Tom talking with Holly. But analysts are separate from announcers and get paid to have an opinion on the team(s) their station broadcasts. I don't think he's saying stuff to get ratings; I mean, you're talking about a guy who was NL ROY and understands the ins and outs of playing baseball better than any of us ever will.

    The issues with bringing kids up now are far more nuanced than in the past though. Used to be that if a kid could play, he'd be brought up to take his hacks. There was no worry about arb clocks and Super 2 status and so on. Plus, the Cubs really suck right now and bringing a kid up into this atmosphere might not be the best idea in the world, either for the player or the team.

    If this team had some strong veteran leadership or a shot at being good, I think the story is different. But Holly's speaking as a highly competitive athlete who wanted a challenge, and I'm sure that's what Bryant and Baez want too.

  • In reply to Evan Altman:

    You didn't read the post closely enough. The first paragraph had a link to csnchicago.com, where Hollandsworth was quoted as saying something on CSN about this topic, and then, in the second paragraph Tom Loxas said "I spoke to Hollandsworth this week, and he explained his thoughts on the subject further." Note "further."

    Obviously CSN Chicago was promoting Hollandsworth's remarks, made initially on CSN.

  • In reply to jack:

    Yes it's true. Holly initial comments made me want to ask him to explain further. He did that IMO.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to jack:

    Yes, I guess I was referring primarily to Tom's talk with him, so that does make sense and my foot doesn't taste good.

  • fb_avatar

    Its nice that we can have this conversation, because of the talent of our system, but I disagree with Holly. Its true that no two prospects are alike, but as we have seen from past Cubs position prospects that were rushed, the results were not all that great. I do think Bryant could probably step in and play this year, but I also don't see the hurry to have him play in Chicago right now. To me the ideal path, would be to get them up sometime late in the year to get some exposure to the big leagues and then let them compete for a job in the spring.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Richard Madsen:

    I am for that as well Richard but right now is Bryant really being rushed? He was asked to dominate AA ball and then what do you know he has. He was asked to work on his defense and he has been staying at 10 errors for what seems like a month now so it is getting better. The only thing that was wanted to happen that has not yet is for him to struggle. I do not think that is going to happen.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Richard Hood:

    And he may not struggle, but there is nothing wrong with him playing a full season of Minor League Baseball even if he does dominate all the way through. This year will be the most games he has played in his career, so it would be nice to see how he handles that come Late July in AA, than it would be in front of everyone in Chicago and the media expecting him to be a savior for a team that isn't going anywhere anyway.

Leave a comment