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— Cubs Baseball for Thinking Fans

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Cleaning up on loose ends

Assorted thoughts/comments as Spring Training winds down.

- Cubs have said their rotation will start the year as Lester, Arrieta, Lackey, Anderson, Hendricks.  I saw a few places try to say Hendricks is the “5th starter”, but it sounds like the order was set mostly on matchups for the first time through, and not having Lester/Anderson pitch in consecutive games

“Everybody’s always concerned about pecking order regarding who you perceive to be best or least best,” Maddon said. “It’s just more or less balancing it out. I don’t even know how important that is either. Some teams only have righties—you see righty, righty. Is that a benefit to the other side? I don’t know. We’re just going to do that to break it up a little bit.”

- Maybe the most impressive hitter this spring has been Ian Happ.  In 51ABs, Happ is hitting .392/.458/.762, with 5HRs.  He’s played at least 2B and LF.  While we shouldn’t take much of anything out of spring training stats, based purely on the amount of talk I do wonder if he’s passed Candelario as the first bat option to be called up (60ABs, .233/.292/.350).  Perhaps is just matters who they’re replacing, although Maddon did say he thought Happ could play some 3b (though he hasn’t yet with the Cubs).  Both will start the year in AAA.

- Schwarber has gotten a few starts in RF recently.  He played there some in 2015 (notably the WC game in Pitt).  Considering Heyward is still struggling (.152/.264/.326), it could be we see more OF time for Zobrist than the Cubs have led on.  Zobrist is better than Schwarber in both corners, but we know Maddon will put Schwarber in the easier corner depending on the park. 

- Almora has had a really nice spring, offensively (.322/.328/.627) and defensively.  He hasn’t magically learned to walk yet, but I’m pretty confident he won’t be starting the year in Iowa, which we had speculated was a possibility.  That means it’s very possible Szczur is out of a job, and in fact, I’ve seen a couple of rumors suggesting teams are interested in him. 

- Wade Davis hasn’t pitched much, but has been pretty bad.  Maddon publicly has said he’s not worried, but the little I’ve seen of Rondon hasn’t been super encouraging either.  I guess the bullpen is one area to keep a close eye on.

- Eddie Butler (subscription):

Of late, he’s been sitting at 95 and 96 mph with his heater, inducing ground balls on a regular basis. He’s also shown a plus changeup that’s a bit higher in velocity (88-89 mph) than what’s ideal, but has the type of sink and tailing action that makes it a more of a ground ball pitch rather than a swing-and-miss one. Because Butler’s gone back to a lower arm slot that he’s more comfortable with, he’s more confident in himself and is seeing the results that made him a top-tier pitching prospect four summers ago.

 

- Both Russell and Zobrist have been banged up off and on all spring, so hopefully they’re healthy come this weekend.

Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: March 28, 2017 at 11:09 AM | 22 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: March 28, 2017 at 11:28 AM (#5424700)
Oh, watched the Cubs/Indians game on MLBN last night. I enjoy hearing other teams' announcers take on the various Cubs players. Anyway, Salazaar had a great game, striking out a bunch of Cubs. But Contreras took him deep twice; pulled an inside changeup down the line, and then went the other way on an outside fastball. Both were really impressive swings.
   2. zonk Posted: March 28, 2017 at 12:25 PM (#5424748)
Yeah - Davis and the bullpen have very quickly become my primary concern. The health of the rotation still lingers in the background - but I think we all know that we'll be lucky to get 10 starts from Anderson.

I hope some of the younger guys - Grimm, Edwards, maybe Monty - can really step up because it's increasingly looking like the big name vets at the backend are gonna need some help.

I absolutely agree, too, on Happ... and cannot help but wonder what the longterm plan is for him. Do the Cubs see him as a legit starter somewhere? I'm not sure where he fits, so grooming him as the next Zobrist would be my plan for him at Iowa. Indications increasingly seem to be that he may not have the arm for CF (and, I assume, it's long been assumed he can't really play SS for the same reason) - but I'd still like to see him get some work all over the diamond in anticipation of filling that role... unless the bat forces the issue.

I would hope that in any Candelario trade discussions - and clearly, the guy just doesn't have a future in Wrigley -- Thed is looking at some rebuidling team who might be interested in BOTH Candy and Szczur in order to max the return. Of course, rebuilding teams are rarely all that interested in dealing prospects... but - one possible area... What more would it take to pry Teheran loose from the Braves? I might even consider Eloy as a part of such a package.
   3. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: March 28, 2017 at 01:15 PM (#5424798)
Gordon Wittenmyer‏ @GDubCub 2h2 hours ago
Russell (back) says shooting for Wed return. Admits short DL possible if lingers but doesn't expect that.

Mark Gonzales‏ @MDGonzales 1h1 hour ago
Zobrist plans to play today & Wed, also will get extra ABs in minors Wed.
   4. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: March 28, 2017 at 01:18 PM (#5424801)
I hope some of the younger guys - Grimm, Edwards, maybe Monty - can really step up because it's increasingly looking like the big name vets at the backend are gonna need some help.

Definitely. Strop has looked better than Rondon, in what I've seen. So while I worry some about Davis and Rondon, I think my specific worry is more about the "need" to trade for yet another elite reliever type and thus leave less depth to trade for that starter.

What more would it take to pry Teheran loose from the Braves? I might even consider Eloy as a part of such a package.

I feel like the window to get him has closed. Not that the Braves are really playoff contenders today, but they sure look a lot closer than a year ago and it seems like they're fighting back a little bit on the PR side so moving their ace now would be counter-productive to that.

I find myself looking at Tampa again, maybe Archer is more gettable now. And yes, moving Eloy for someone like that is definitely ok IMO.
   5. Nasty Nate Posted: March 28, 2017 at 01:25 PM (#5424808)
Has Koji been pitching? If Davis goes on the DL in April, who gets the saves?
   6. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: March 28, 2017 at 01:30 PM (#5424815)
I guess Rondon is first in line, then Koji. Or Maddon will just go all match-uppy. Maybe Edwards gets the first crack if Rondon is still shaky.
   7. zonk Posted: March 28, 2017 at 01:40 PM (#5424823)
Definitely. Strop has looked better than Rondon, in what I've seen. So while I worry some about Davis and Rondon, I think my specific worry is more about the "need" to trade for yet another elite reliever type and thus leave less depth to trade for that starter.


Yeah, this would anger me greatly. I mean, I know we sometimes go overboard with the whole "relievers are so damn fungible, why trade value for one" - but the last thing I want to do is trade yet more prospects for a reliever. I think we've paid a hefty price already for a half year of Chapman + 1 year of Davis... I'd like to take a break from that, at least for a season.

I'm as high as anyone on a couple of potential future rotation members - but Cease is almost certainly at least two years off (to say nothing of the fact that he needs a good year at full-season ball to really 'arrive' as a future rotation piece) and while I think Clifton may be an option as soon as 2018, that's obviously not guaranteed and in any case, it's not like I expect him to immediately settle in.

It's silly to be looking ahead to 2018 when we haven't even hit opening day 2017 yet, I guess -- but Lackey is probably gone after this year, and I increasingly suspect Jake won't be getting an extension (something I think I'm OK with, BTW... unless he reverts to 2015/1st half 2016 Jake).

Anyway, I suppose it's funny for defending champs to look at the next season as a 'bridge year' -- but pitching-wise, I do see 2017 that way... Barring injury or disaster, I kind of feel like the roster/lineup is pretty much set for the foreseeable future... but big changes are coming for the pitching staff within the next calendar year and that's gonna take either a truckload of money, some really nifty dumpster diving, or another prospect haul (and maybe all three) to adequately fill.
   8. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: March 28, 2017 at 02:01 PM (#5424837)
Just like most of you, I like reading and hearing about the Cards looking up at the Cubs, or having to respond to the overwhelming talent/money/brainpower, etc. Can't say I've ever thought of it from the Giants perspective before.

---

Barring injury or disaster, I kind of feel like the roster/lineup is pretty much set for the foreseeable future... but big changes are coming for the pitching staff within the next calendar year and that's gonna take either a truckload of money, some really nifty dumpster diving, or another prospect haul (and maybe all three) to adequately fill.

Yep. And the Cubs do have the money/prospects/talent to fill it out. I have no idea what it'll look like, but I'm excited to see. Not as excited as watching this team again, but a little bit on the side.
   9. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: March 28, 2017 at 03:10 PM (#5424887)
Today, the Cubs have Zobrist in RF (leading off), Heyward in CF (hitting 2nd), and Jay in LF. I feel like Heyward has played a little CF this year, but this is the first I remember with another CF playing. If that's the OF during the season, I'd expect Zobrist/Jay/Heyward LF to RF.
   10. zonk Posted: March 28, 2017 at 04:04 PM (#5424915)
I think the Giants ought to concern themselves with the Dodgers - with the Dodgers' young talent coupled with what would seem to be a good front office, finding yourself forever chasing the WC isn't where you want to be.

Not that I ever expect the Cardinals to go away -- but honestly, I think it's (at least as much) the Pirates who ought to be the main competition for the Cubs the NLC. I think Josh Bell is gonna hit a ton and they've got a nice collection of young talent. Probably depends most on their young arms (Cole, Taillon, Glasnow, etc) staying healthy and on track -- always a dicey proposition -- but if Cutch picks up where his late summer/fall left off and gets back to being Cutch, I think they'll be a WC contender this year.

Come 2018, if the pitching continues to progress - I could see them being the primary challengers.

Obviously, I'd be fine with the Cardinals being buried for a nice, long period of irrelevance -- but it's probably the Pirates I feel worst for... I think that org has done a really nice job (for the most part) identifying, developing, and acquiring talent. I think they've planned well and they have a nice young organization... If we should happen to take a year off from dominance :-) - I'd be fine with the Bucs going places... especially with Redass Rodriguez no longer being on the team.
   11. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: March 28, 2017 at 04:25 PM (#5424922)
Totally agree - on the Dodgers and Pirates. The Dodgers are easily the team that scares me the most. Assuming both teams make it to October - which seems likely - running into them again seems likely, if not inevitable. I'd have to guess Roberts has grown some and will be better tactically this year. Also, either those prospects are going to make a huge impact, or will be moved for someone that will. If their lineup takes a step forward, that's about as scary of a playoff matchup as you can get.
   12. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: March 29, 2017 at 11:28 AM (#5425262)
Arrieta had another poor start yesterday. Hopefully, that was all just ST stuff.
   13. zonk Posted: March 29, 2017 at 11:47 AM (#5425274)
BA writeup on the baby Cub pitching prospects... focused entirely on the teenagers, so no Trevor Clifton sightings, but still a good reference list for the young power arms that are due to get their first taste of full-season ball this year.
   14. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: March 29, 2017 at 12:59 PM (#5425343)
Thanks. I saw an article recently - but didn't get around to reading it - about the Cubs pitching framework in the minors. I need to find it again...

Mark Gonzales‏ @MDGonzales 26m26 minutes ago
Russell (not in lineup) says he's 109 percent, will take more swings today.


Is that a typo, or Russell's way of saying he's still not totally healthy?
   15. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: March 29, 2017 at 01:05 PM (#5425352)
Mark Gonzales‏ @MDGonzales 8m8 minutes ago
Duensing on DL


Mark Gonzales‏ @MDGonzales 8m8 minutes ago
La Stella, Szczur on club


All things being said, that's the preferred roster, and not a bloated pitching staff. Plus Duensing isn't that good.

I'm pleasantly surprised.
   16. zonk Posted: March 29, 2017 at 01:06 PM (#5425354)
Well, the baseline is giving 110%... so he's still a bit short.
   17. Andere Richtingen Posted: March 29, 2017 at 06:03 PM (#5425618)
Yeah, I am pretty satisfied with the roster at the end. Based on what they have, I have no quibbles at all. This should be a really good team. I don't expect 103 wins, and I think the division fight will be tough, but I feel good about this team being successful. If the Cubs can manage to field a roster this good on opening day year after year -- that's a lot to ask for, but it's what I ask for.
   18. Moses Taylor, Unwavering Optimist Posted: March 30, 2017 at 11:05 AM (#5425880)
I guess I wouldn't say I *expect* 100 wins, but I'll sure as hell predict they'll win 100, and win the division by 10 or so again. I see no reason to try and do false modesty...

...I do think the Dodgers and Nats and Indians and Red Sox all also look like really good to great teams, though with different margins for error than the Cubs (or maybe I mean smaller, so more of a variance range for them).
   19. zonk Posted: March 30, 2017 at 11:07 AM (#5425883)
With Opening Day now blessedly just a few days away, should we do predictions here?

I'm gonna go with 100 wins on the nose and a back-to-back.

Other bold predictions...

- Anthony Rizzo wrests the MVP from KB
- Kyle Hendricks wins the CYA
- Jake scuffles, Lackey falls apart, and Candelario + more fetch a nice SP heist at midseason
- Addison Russell breaks the 30 HR mark
- Schwarbs makes - and deserves - an ASG nod
   20. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: March 30, 2017 at 11:16 AM (#5425891)
You guys probably like the pitching staff a lot more than I do.
   21. Andere Richtingen Posted: March 30, 2017 at 11:19 AM (#5425894)
You guys probably like the pitching staff a lot more than I do.

Same here.

I will put up a prediction thread.
   22. Brian C Posted: April 02, 2017 at 05:35 PM (#5427631)
Some roster notes:

Of the 25 players to make the Opening Day roster this year, 16 were on the Opening Day roster last year:
Arrieta, Bryant, Grimm, Hendricks, Heyward, Lackey, La Stella, Lester, Montero, Rizzo, Rondon, Russell, Schwarber, Strop, Szczur, Zobrist

10 were on the Opening Day roster in 2015:
Arrieta, Grimm, Hendricks, La Stella, Lester, Montero, Rizzo, Rondon, Szczur, Strop

Only 4 were on the Opening Day roster in 2014:
Grimm, Rizzo, Rondon, Strop

Only 2 were on the Opening Day roster in 2013:
Rizzo, Rondon

Zero were on the Opening Day roster in 2012. Everyone on the Opening Day roster for that team is long gone. Rizzo came up later that year, but from the Opening Day guys, it looks like Starlin Castro hung around the longest.

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