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Friday, February 21, 2014

Theo Epstein promises to stick with Cubs through thick or thin

If that World Series pennant leaves the ground and you’re not with it, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life!

But not even Theo Epstein is claiming his baseball plan can be achieved by waiting until the kids get here to start spending on big-league players.

“We’re not saying that you can build a championship team through the minor-league system alone,” he said Thursday. “That would be extremely challenging, if not impossible.”

Is there a fear that if the business plan doesn’t come together quicker, there won’t be a strong-enough support system at the big-league level for the Javy Baezes and Kris Bryants?

“That’s something we talk about all the time,” Epstein said. “We need to make sure that when the next wave of prospects comes up, they don’t take too much of a burden. We hope to have strong players around them, hopefully an impact player or two around them on the club so that they can break in the right way. You don’t want your prospects breaking in carrying too much responsibility. You don’t want them hitting in the middle of the order. You don’t want them having to carry a club or playing an instrumental role on the club.

“That’s important and that’s something that we’ve thought about, and we’re going to have to act on it.”

...“I have faith that our situation is going to change,” Epstein said. “As the team plays better, and most significantly when the TV deal happens, we’re going to be in a position to hopefully overpower the other teams in our division financially. And if we have a strong-enough foundation built up by then, it could be really special and really sustainable.

“We’re trying to take advantage of this period in the meantime to build up as strong as possible foundation that we can.”

Repoz Posted: February 21, 2014 at 06:43 AM | 39 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. bobm Posted: February 21, 2014 at 08:03 AM (#4660108)
Round up the usual prospects
   2. Scott Lange Posted: February 21, 2014 at 08:17 AM (#4660111)
“As the team plays better, and most significantly when the TV deal happens, we’re going to be in a position to hopefully overpower the other teams in our division financially."


Overpower? Very strong word choice.
   3. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 21, 2014 at 08:50 AM (#4660115)
Given Epstein's "progress" to date, I think it's very likely he gets fired before he has a chance to quit.
   4. Accent Shallow Posted: February 21, 2014 at 09:18 AM (#4660118)
You don’t want them having to carry a club


For a second, I thought Epstein was using some old-timey flavor in describing his hitters, like we'd discussed sportswriters these days rarely do.
   5. zonk Posted: February 21, 2014 at 09:54 AM (#4660132)
That's a nice sentiment - the stands can always use another beer vendor...
   6. jmurph Posted: February 21, 2014 at 09:59 AM (#4660135)
Theo Epstein promises to stick with Cubs through thick or thin


"But mostly thin," he added.
   7. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: February 21, 2014 at 10:17 AM (#4660145)
Given Epstein's "progress" to date, I think it's very likely he gets fired before he has a chance to quit.


Well, that'd be a mistake, but I guess you can never rule out the Cubs getting in their own way.
   8. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 21, 2014 at 10:21 AM (#4660148)
Given Epstein's "progress" to date, I think it's very likely he gets fired before he has a chance to quit.


Are you kidding? They've made terrific progress on his watch. I bet the profits have been terrific.
   9. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 21, 2014 at 10:38 AM (#4660155)
Well, that'd be a mistake, but I guess you can never rule out the Cubs getting in their own way.

Are you kidding? They've made terrific progress on his watch. I bet the profits have been terrific.

Well, if his mandate is to provide the facade that they are trying to compete, while slashing payroll, and letting the Ricketts rake in the cash, then yes, Epstein has been successful.

If they're actually trying to be a contender, color me unimpressed. No team with their resources should ever get this bad.

In 2.5 years (3 off-seasons) the sum of the MLB talent he's added has been Travis Wood (surprisingly good) and Rizzo (decidedly unimpressive). Meanwhile, the one good regular they had (Castro) has completely collapsed.
   10. zonk Posted: February 21, 2014 at 10:45 AM (#4660159)
Well, that'd be a mistake, but I guess you can never rule out the Cubs getting in their own way.


It would be a mistake to fire him now. It will probably be a mistake to fire him after this season - regardless (certain exceptions, of course).

I think I qualify as part of the 'more patient with Theo' half of BBTF Cub fandom, and it's easy to nitpick moves in hindsight... but that said -

While he's not a coach, he does run the organization... and it's distressing that the two supposed gems of the youth movement, both of whom have been given (quite smartly at the time, I thought) long-term extensions that buy out the remaining arb years and a couple years of free agency, slid terribly backwards in 2013. We'll see what happens in 2014 - and I'm not despondent over bumps in the road... but if they don't recover to at least a level they were in 2012, then either he's done a poor job staffing the organization with the right coaches and personnel to have them realize their potential, or, he made rather grievous errors in talent evaluation. Either way, that's gonna be on him.

I like the talent he's imported.... and sure, prospects are always fraught with peril... but those guys need to keep climbing and graduate from prospect lists to quality major league players. I'm not expecting Almora, Bryant, Soler, Edwards, Johnson, etc to become stars or stars immediately, but they need to come out as least quality regulars (some of them, at least). This will also be his 3rd draft - and he's had top 6 picks in each of the 3. So far, Almora and Bryant both continue to rank where you'd want them to rank... In addition, some of the non-top 100 guys he's acquired via trade, many of whom I like a lot - Villanueva, Vizcaino, Olt, etc - need to contribute something. Like I said - big booster of some of them (like Villanueva), but they weren't 17 yo lottery tickets and he gave up solid value to get them. If none of them pan out - then again, that's on him.

I like the strategy of busting the foreign FA budget last year - take what you can get when you can get it. However, again - that strategy needs to pay off. This is going to take a while to bear fruit, I know, but it warrants watching.

Finally, I like the strategy of snagging cheap one year fliers on pitchers in the hopes of flipping them... Baker obviously didn't work out at all. The Cubs basically gave him about 5 million to rehab. Feldman was a nice gamble, but the return on him was less than impressive. Maholm was another nice flier, and he chose to roll the dice on Vizcaino. I don't know what kind of offers they had for Schierholtz, but that was a good idea, too. I think the Jackson signing was a mistake - a bad reaction to losing out on Sanchez - but we shall see.

More than likely - I would imagine Samardzija, Barney, Schierholtz, Hammel, Wright, Veras, and probably lots of other spare parts flotsam (Valbuena, McDonald, Sweeney, Ruggiano, etc) are going to either actively shopped or readily available... so he'll have another year of trades on the plate. Only Samardzija is likely to bring back anything exciting, I know, but we're starting to really get into the territory where Theo isn't cleaning up Hendry's mess anymore - he's dealing with the pieces he himself brought in.

Ultimately, it comes down to staffing (personnel and players) and talent evaluation... He owns it all - he's the head chief, the boss of operations. Time isn't necessarily running out on Theo -- but time is running out on the period of time where one can keep leaning on "they seemed like good ideas at the time".

In 2015, we'll be into his 4th season remaking the organization -- I'm not even saying he has to contend by then, but we definitely need to see some shiny bright spots on the field that were of his making.
   11. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: February 21, 2014 at 11:49 AM (#4660211)
We'll see what happens in 2014 - and I'm not despondent over bumps in the road... but if they don't recover to at least a level they were in 2012, then either he's done a poor job staffing the organization with the right coaches and personnel to have them realize their potential, or, he made rather grievous errors in talent evaluation. Either way, that's gonna be on him.


Correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't the Cubs discreetly shopping Castro last offseason? That suggests that their evaluation in his case was fairly accurate, and they just weren't able to offload him on a sucker before he fell apart.
   12. HMS Moses Taylor Posted: February 21, 2014 at 11:54 AM (#4660219)
Given Epstein's "progress" to date, I think it's very likely he gets fired before he has a chance to quit.

There is a 0% chance Theo gets fired any time soon. Maybe in a year or two, Hoyer might want to watch his back, but even he's not in any trouble yet.
   13. zonk Posted: February 21, 2014 at 12:12 PM (#4660231)
Correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't the Cubs discreetly shopping Castro last offseason? That suggests that their evaluation in his case was fairly accurate, and they just weren't able to offload him on a sucker before he fell apart.


I think there were rumors - but it sounds more like it was "Hey, Baez! Let's trade Castro at peak value!" blogwishcasting...
   14. if nature called, ladodger34 would listen Posted: February 21, 2014 at 01:06 PM (#4660271)
It is interesting that two of the top 5 guys on the BBA top 100 list were signed under Theo's watch. Xander was signed while he was with the Sox and the Soler after he took over the Cubs.
   15. valuearbitrageur Posted: February 21, 2014 at 01:19 PM (#4660291)
and it's distressing that the two supposed gems of the youth movement, both of whom have been given (quite smartly at the time, I thought) long-term extensions that buy out the remaining arb years and a couple years of free agency, slid terribly backwards in 2013. We'll see what happens in 2014 - and I'm not despondent over bumps in the road... but if they don't recover to at least a level they were in 2012, then either he's done a poor job staffing the organization with the right coaches and personnel to have them realize their potential, or, he made rather grievous errors in talent evaluation. Either way, that's gonna be on him.


That's pretty results oriented thinking, which is a very poor way to grade decisions that contain a great deal of natural variance.

Young players stagnate/collapse occasionally, and it's difficult to pin it on the organization or coaching. Justin Upton? Two organizations and he still hasn't fulfilled his promise or played well for any consistent length of time. BJ Upton? A steady downslide in the prime of his career across two organizations. Those are just off the top of my head, I'm sure there are better examples. But if a player shows certain skills, then backslides, I'm not blaming coaching without corroborating facts.

If the player demonstrated that he knew how to hit, field or pitch well before, that proves his coaching was successful to me. If he got worse or lazy afterwards, I'm going to blame him first unless it turns out his new coaches tried to change things that made him successful.

Epsteins prime job is to fill the roster and the pipeline with lots of useful talent, and it looks like he's done that in spades for the pipeline (BA Top 100 list is one data point), he just hasn't done it on the roster yet. But there are very good reasons why you fill the pipeline first, then the roster. Buying up free agents the last few years to be a mediocre competitor clearly makes the pipeline substantially worse. It requires foregone draft picks, substantially worse draft position, and holding on to middling value players rather than fetch more pipeline talent.

Epstein is doing it the right way to build a consistent winner over long periods, whether he will succeed depends partially on the pipeline and the remainder on whether he starts finding the right free agents to fill in the needs the pipeline can't.

And if he really wanted to move Castro, I'm sure a sexual assault complaint didn't help.
   16. zonk Posted: February 21, 2014 at 01:54 PM (#4660320)
That's pretty results oriented thinking, which is a very poor way to grade decisions that contain a great deal of natural variance.


Which is how we all get judged, one way or another... he's an executive for a for-profit, on-the-field, hoping to win games baseball team. He's not a philosopher or theorist. This is not a swipe at MBAs - but if he wants to teach a program in "Baseball organizational approaches" - hey, I like his design.

Like I said, I'm not calling for his head now and I'm not even calling for it after this season. The Cubs are probably in for another 90 loss season... and like I said, I like the talent he brought into the farm system. I also liked the talent Hendry brought in a decade+ ago and I also liked the talent Goldsberry/Green brought in a generation ago.

The top 100 list is definitely a point in his favor - but by year 4, I think it's fair to expect some on-field results. Some of that youth movement isn't going to pan out. Some of it will get hurt. Some of it will underperform... but it can't all flail and fail or you deserved to get canned. You can write bad luck all over the post-mortem in such a case if you like, but if the 2015 season is basically filled with a bunch of spare parts and one-year bridges, his job ought to be at risk.

I've been consistent the last two offseasons that I'm OK/patient with things taking a while... but the clock has to start sometime - at the big league level - and I think year 4 (2015) is a fair time to start it.
   17. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: February 21, 2014 at 03:05 PM (#4660376)
Is there any doubt Epstein is executing a plan with ownership 100% on board?

I doubt he is going to be judged by the won/loss record of the MLB product in two or even three years given the lack of spending on the big club.

He's made some mistakes (Edwin Jackson) and had some organizational failures (Castro) but if ownership is buying what he's selling as to his grand scheme this is all small potatoes compared to his theoretical victory on the farm system rankings. Firing Epstein in even two years would be a basic rejection of his plan. And isn't this the kind of cost suppression plan ownership should love?
   18. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 21, 2014 at 03:11 PM (#4660390)
There is a 0% chance Theo gets fired any time soon. Maybe in a year or two, Hoyer might want to watch his back, but even he's not in any trouble yet.

I agree, and don't think he deserves to be fired yet, or even in trouble.

But, I think zonk nails it in [10] and [16]. If 2015 rolls around, and there aren't significant pieces of a real con tender in place, i.e. 2-3 solid SP and 4-5 regulars that can play on a championship team, then he should be in trouble.
   19. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 21, 2014 at 03:12 PM (#4660391)
Is there any doubt Epstein is executing a plan with ownership 100% on board?

I doubt he is going to be judged by the won/loss record of the MLB product in two or even three years given the lack of spending on the big club.

He's made some mistakes (Edwin Jackson) and had some organizational failures (Castro) but if ownership is buying what he's selling as to his grand scheme this is all small potatoes compared to his theoretical victory on the farm system rankings. Firing Epstein in even two years would be a basic rejection of his plan. And isn't this the kind of cost suppression plan ownership should love?


So, if this crop of prospects bust or get hurt, are you going to give him another 5 years of 90-100 loss seasons?

At that point, you might as well go full Marlins and save Theo and Ned's salaries too.
   20. tfbg9 Posted: February 21, 2014 at 03:22 PM (#4660405)
Theo will land on his feet as long as Ben has the Sox gig.
   21. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: February 21, 2014 at 04:46 PM (#4660464)
So, if this crop of prospects bust or get hurt, are you going to give him another 5 years of 90-100 loss seasons?

I'm not talking about what "I" am going to give him. I'm saying ownership certainly seems to share his POV since payroll has declined in each season. In light of the continued pattern of cost cutting at the MLB level for the ostensible purpose of churning the roster and farm building, it makes no sense to expect the MLB product to be very good two years from now. Maybe if they had begun to go bananas on FAs in anticipation of the kids but they haven't. The Cubs can't reasonably expect to have a competitive team from basically two offseasons of playing the FA market (at best if they jump in next year) and a farm system with one major prospect currently above A ball.

The behavior of the front office is not consistent with a team that expects to have success in two years. So I don't think it's an expectation of ownership.
   22. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 21, 2014 at 05:00 PM (#4660472)
The behavior of the front office is not consistent with a team that expects to have success in two years. So I don't think it's an expectation of ownership.

Then that a horrible plan, and Cubs fans should be very, very worried about the future of the team.

The one counter to that is that ownership will never want to admit they're going cheap on purpose, so when they're not competitive after 4-5 years of Thed, they'll have every incentive to act outraged, and bring in new mgmt to "right the ship".

If the Ricketts are telling Epstein and Hoyer that they'll be totally safe after 5 crappy years of rebuilding, they shouldn't believe them.
   23. zonk Posted: February 21, 2014 at 05:48 PM (#4660490)
The Cubs can't reasonably expect to have a competitive team from basically two offseasons of playing the FA market (at best if they jump in next year) and a farm system with one major prospect currently above A ball.


I agree with the first -- though, and this is why I'm saying it's time to be prepared to watch the clock -- a lot depends on what you mean by 'currently'.

Both Edwards and Johnson shredded A ball last year -- and will most definitely pitch at Tennessee this year. It would be really unfair to expect both - or even either - to put up numbers like they did at Kane and Daytona - but we have a problem if both really struggle.

Soler should likewise be in AA. Again - does he hit a wall, or does he at least hold serve?

It might be tempting to give Almora a mulligan on 2013 since he missed so much time (actually Soler missed some time too) -- but I would expect Almora to play at AA too because he did manage to hit 329/376/466 in about 250 PAs, albeit at low A (Soler was at high A with less gaudy but still promtion worthy levels). Maybe you start him at Daytona and give him a month or so before moving him to AA.

Bryant's an advanced college hitter, had a dynamite fall league - and probably ought to start at AA.

Vogelbach, Amaya, and Candelario should be somewhere between A+/AA.

Alcantare and Villanueva both held their own at AA and ought to play in Iowa this year. Hendricks already tasted AAA.

In a lot of ways -- it's a critical year for that prospect list chit Theo has.... He's got some talent and virtually all that top talent should spend most of the year at AA or AAA.

Looking back at the 7 guys the Cubs placed in the top 100 -- then expanding that to look at Sickels top 20 -- we should expect all those guys to play at AA or above this year.

Like I said... 2015.... Some of those guys are going to scuffle, some won't pan out -- but they're virtually all at the point where it's time to prove they're for real. If half of those names hold their own or better at AA, then I continue to be a believer in the 'program'. If, however, most of them hit a wall and really struggle or worse have to step back and repeat a level -- then we're (and Theo) is kinda screwed.
   24. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: February 21, 2014 at 06:11 PM (#4660509)
As shown by the number and depth of the almost spectrally prescient comments regarding the matter show, this space has had the Epstein Experience pegged for years.
   25. Walt Davis Posted: February 21, 2014 at 07:00 PM (#4660541)
Well, if his mandate is to provide the facade that they are trying to compete, while slashing payroll, and letting the Ricketts rake in the cash, then yes, Epstein has been successful.

I have a lot of issues/concerns with Theo's plan but this is not a fault of his. His moves have made it quite clear that this team is not trying to compete right now and I don't recall him ever saying anything before any season about how they expected to be in the mix. The "future" message has been in place from day one. He traded every player he could and their only significant dip in the FA pool was Jackson while remaining completely out of the FA pool the other two years. There has been no "drive for 75" or even a pretense of one.

Now if his mandate is to provide the facade that they are building for the future while sucking now and raking in profits ...

Given the plan was to suck for several years and hopefully contend around 2016-17 -- as McCoy and I repeatedly and annoyingly and now boastingly -- pointed out before 2012, then I think Theo has been doing a good job of executing that plan given the roster he took over. My issues were with the plan. At this point, especially after sitting out this offseason, you're stuck with that plan.

Note, this seemed like a pretty good offseason for "average to good" FAs, many of whom did go at a reasonable price/years. The Cubs already have the young talent in the system and the high 2014 draft pick, there's not much point to keep sucking. This would have been a good offseason to start building a non-sucky team. So I'm becoming more convinced the Ricketts are either cheap or under-financed.

As to arrival times -- I was a little disappointed that Bryant, already 21, was in A-ball last year. I know it was only about a month, no matter in the bigger scheme. But still, really good young players are usually knocking on the door at 22. Freeman and Hosmer had full, solid seasons at 21, Montero, Rizzo, Myers, Logan Morrison lost their rookie status at 22. Not all of those guys worked out but I sure hope that's his age 21-22 comp group or I am underwhelmed. I hope to see him in Sept if not sooner.
   26. HMS Moses Taylor Posted: February 21, 2014 at 07:16 PM (#4660546)
Given the plan was to suck for several years and hopefully contend around 2016-17 -- as McCoy and I repeatedly and annoyingly and now boastingly -- pointed out before 2012, then I think Theo has been doing a good job of executing that plan given the roster he took over. My issues were with the plan. At this point, especially after sitting out this offseason, you're stuck with that plan.

There's nothing to boast about. Unless there's an alternate universe where the Cubs signed FAs the last few years and are contending in 2014 (while also having a similar farm system). You can always disagree with the plan, but there's no right or wrong yet.

As to arrival times -- I was a little disappointed that Bryant, already 21, was in A-ball last year. I know it was only about a month, no matter in the bigger scheme. But still, really good young players are usually knocking on the door at 22. Freeman and Hosmer had full, solid seasons at 21, Montero, Rizzo, Myers, Logan Morrison lost their rookie status at 22. Not all of those guys worked out but I sure hope that's his age 21-22 comp group or I am underwhelmed. I hope to see him in Sept if not sooner.

The only player you named in that post that went to college is Bryant. Considering Bryant is less than a year into his pro career, those comps at that age don't work in this sense.

Then that a horrible plan, and Cubs fans should be very, very worried about the future of the team.

As this would just lead to a re-hash of something that's been talked about over and over and over the last 2+ years, all I'll say is that it's a reasonable position that it's *not* a horrible plan. Obviously you, and Walt and McCoy might think disagree. The thing it has been is a consistent plan.
   27. SouthSideRyan Posted: February 21, 2014 at 07:30 PM (#4660552)
I'm totally not on board with "the plan" or "the process" or whatever PR they want to run out, but blaming Epstein for that miserable money-grubbing #### Ricketts slashing the payroll by 60M seems strange.
   28. cardsfanboy Posted: February 21, 2014 at 07:42 PM (#4660560)
As to arrival times -- I was a little disappointed that Bryant, already 21, was in A-ball last year. I know it was only about a month, no matter in the bigger scheme. But still, really good young players are usually knocking on the door at 22. Freeman and Hosmer had full, solid seasons at 21, Montero, Rizzo, Myers, Logan Morrison lost their rookie status at 22. Not all of those guys worked out but I sure hope that's his age 21-22 comp group or I am underwhelmed. I hope to see him in Sept if not sooner.


The Cardinals current management(somewhat opposite of the Jocketty years in this regards) fast track high ceiling players and it's proven to be somewhat successful. Shelby Miller took a little longer to get to the show than he probably should have, but guys like Wacha , Adams or Wong(neither of which are proven) or even Kozma were given every legitimate chance to advance themselves and the team isn't afraid to promote someone just because they are young/inexperienced(Piscotty and Taveras are both likely to see the bigs this year). There is no "we need to keep him in AA for a full year then AAA for another then promote him set in stone plan. (which was Jocketty's way) Heck there isn't even "hold him back because of arby 2 plan." They'll hold back if they don't think he'll get the playing time, but not just because of the super two rule.

I'm not sure what the Cubs plans are, and I'm not sure if we are seeing them acting as if they have any plan. But it feels to me(mind you, I'm a very distant observer on this) that they are trying to get all their talent to hit the majors at the same time. Or in a concentrated dose.... I'm probably wrong on that, but that is the feeling I'm getting with no real analysis on it. It's like they don't want to waste a good cheap year out of a player if it's not really going to make a difference in the standings. It's probably more likely that they just don't have major league ready players in the minors right now.... but man was that outfield old last year and only player under 25 getting any amount of playing time (outside of the two established players) was Junior Lake?
   29. zonk Posted: February 21, 2014 at 08:04 PM (#4660568)
Wait, wait, wait...

Bryant - after signing - hit 354/416/692 at Boise in 77 PAs. He then went to Daytona - skipping Kane Country -- and hit 333/387/719 in another 62 PAs.

He followed that up by hitting 364/457/727 this offseason in the AFL - leading the league in virtually every offensive category and winning the league MVP.

If you want to put that on Theo and the org for being overly cautious and slow moving him up - that's fine.... but Bryant mashed from the get go, hasn't stopped mashing, and the only reason he's not knocking at the door is the Cubs/Thed appear on taking it slow.

Small sample sizes all around, to be sure, but it's all we have from his professional career -- and based on them, it's entirely possible the Cubs could have plopped him at Tennessee from the get go and he'd really BE knocking at the door already. However, they already had Christian Villanueva holding his own there at 3B.

Bryant plays at the level the Cubs tell him to play at -- and he's mashed at them all. Chances are he'll start this year at AA - and his advancement to either Iowa or Chicago probably depends an awful lot on what happens with Villanueva, Baez, Olt, and probably Vitters for that matter (who hit well at Iowa and probably gets a shot at some big league LF PAs).

I hate to sound schizophrenic here -- but there's a bit of logjam in front of Bryant at 3B/LF that the Cubs needs to sort out.

Different org or different org farm complexion and I think it's entirely possible we're wondering if Bryant ought to get an outside shot at the 3B/LF job out of spring training.

2015.

I'm telling you... 2015... That's the make or break year.

   30. SouthSideRyan Posted: February 21, 2014 at 09:26 PM (#4660591)
Zonk what do you mean by make or break? The pitching market sucks next offseason and I've yet to be convinced thed can spend the money if it didnt
   31. TerpNats Posted: February 21, 2014 at 09:44 PM (#4660598)
SouthSideRyan, that was probably some "Back To The Future II" joke.

I'll give Epstein the benefit of the doubt for a year or two more in that you can't compare this situation to that of the Bosox when he inherited that job -- Boston was an organization that already was contending and needed only some fine tuning. Things were a far bigger mess on the North Side when he took over, and it appears he's instituted a consistent organizational philosophy. However, he may need some 2004-style luck to overcome the Cardinals in that division.
   32. zonk Posted: February 21, 2014 at 10:51 PM (#4660619)
I mean that in 2015, I expect to be excited at the major league level by at least some of these prospects... Not all of them, not making Cooperstown reservations but at least seeing a core performing at the major league level. During the course of 2015 - we should know if Castro/Rizzo are a mistake, we should know if Wood is for real, we should have a good idea if Efwards and Johnson have a rotation future, we should know if Bryant is a player, we should know if Baez's tools translate, we should know if Almora and Soler are 2/3 of an OF, etc.... I don't expect all those things to work out, but if none of them do, Thed's gone and probably deserves to be gone.
   33. McCoy Posted: February 21, 2014 at 11:58 PM (#4660638)
If the Cubs suck this year and then suck in 2015 with their prospects sucking then Theo and Co. are not going to be around for much longer after that. The fans simply won't allow it. 2015 isn't really the make or break year but 2014 and the ensuing offseason is the critical make or break moment. If the Cubs shed a quarter to a third of their prospects and have Castro and or Rizzo put up 2013 numbers then the Cubs are in serious trouble before they even his the offseason. If the Cubs lose some prospects in 2014 and get mediocre results out Castro and or Rizzo and Theo doesn't choose wisely in the free agent and trade market that offseason the Cubs will be in serious trouble in 2015 as well. Basically if things break badly this year the Cubs are screwed for a long time. If things only break somewhat badly this year they'll be screwed until 2016 or 2017 or so.
   34. Walt Davis Posted: February 22, 2014 at 12:13 AM (#4660640)
There's nothing to boast about. Unless there's an alternate universe where the Cubs signed FAs the last few years and are contending in 2014 (while also having a similar farm system). You can always disagree with the plan, but there's no right or wrong yet.

Actually the others in the thread were claiming Theo could make the Cubs competitive by 2015. That was the silliness on display. It was clearly a long-range plan.

I didn't say the plan was wrong, I said the Cub fans around here were wrong in not recognizing that was the plan in 2012.

The only player you named in that post that went to college is Bryant. Considering Bryant is less than a year into his pro career, those comps at that age don't work in this sense.

Who cares? A 21-year-old is a 21-year-old. If you're saying college players mature later than earlier draftees that's fine but it means you don't waste high draft picks on college players. Why draft a 21-year-old with A-ball talent if you can draft an 18-year-old who'll be playing in A-ball at 19 or 20? Why use a high draft pick who's substantially less talented than the guys I mentioned at age 21 and it's not like those guys have exactly become stars. If the Cubs didn't see Bryant as a starter in 2015, it was not a good pick.

Zonk, I didn't say he didn't hit. I didn't say I was disappointed in him. He might have been AA talent playing at A. I'm saying that if he doesn't debut this year (or start next year), then I'm disappointed -- he's even less likely to be a star. That's not on him or even necessarily on Theo (other than in the "why draft him so high then" sense) -- it's just the only way these "plans" work. We need some Longoria, Price, Shields, Upton, Crawford, Hellickson if the plan is going to work. But we've already got one Mike Olt. If Bryant isn't ready to start at 23, I'm gonna start thinking that's what he is.

Bryant was #2 in the 2013 draft.

2012: 1. Correa, HS, A ball at 18; 2. Buxton, HS, A/A+ at 19, sounds like he'll be ready soon; 3. Zunino, college, debuted 2013; 4. Gausman, coll P, debuted 2013; 5. Zimmer, coll P, AA at 21; 6. Almora, HS, A at 19.

2011: top of the draft was all pitchers (I admit they're different although I listed two above) -- #5 Starling, HS, A at 20; #6 Rendon, coll, debuted 2013 at 23 (130 days service time)

2010: 1. Harper, OK, Bryant's not Harper; 2. Taillon, HS pitcher, AAA at 21; 3. Machado, HS, debut 2012, 8 WAR through age 20; 4. Colon, college, 21 at A+, 22 at AA, 23 at AA/AAA, 24 at AAA -- this is what I hope Bryant doesn't turn into.

2009: 1. Strasberg; 2. Ackely, coll, 2011 debut (at age 23), 7.6 WAR but not hitting anymore; 3. Tate, HS, bust so far; 4. Sanchez, coll C, not good so far but Cs can be strange; then a bunch of pitchers.

I'm not writing Bryant off. I'm not saying he was a bad pick -- even if he doesn't turn out I don't expect to say that -- legit top 5 picks go awry all the time. I'm saying if he's not ready for the majors at 23, it's very likely he won't be a star (not the same thing as saying he needs to be a star at 23 -- e.g. Alex Gordon -- not the same thing as saying he won't turn out to be useful). The Cubs need some stars unless we're gonna start winning however the hell it is that the A's manage to win.

From 1990-2004, rookie year at 24 or 25, at least 400 PA in the rookie year ... 90 players. Of those 90, 69 had 1200+ PA from 26-30. 29 of them had over 9 WAR; 18 of those had 15+; 8 of those had 20+. I'll obviously be very happy if he turns into Berkman or Holliday. I'll be more than content with Sanders or Higginson not that those are difference makers. But we also know a later debut makes it more likely he's Huff (still useful), Kevin Young (had his moments), Mench, Nady or Wigginton (to pick some guys with pretty good ISOs).

Hmmm ... maybe I should have run it for rookie at 23. Some of these will be the full-season guys I want Bryant to develop into, some will have been more of a part-time rookie, but all with 400+ PA. 31 names and 29 of them made it 1200+ PA over the next 5 years (somewhat biased in their favor compared to the 24-year-olds above). 19 of them with 9+ WAR, 10 with 15+, 7 with 20+. Comps based on position/potential ranked from YES!! to sulk ... Bagwell, Tex, Carlos Lee, Burrell, Fullmer.

Rookies at 22 but the PA threshold dropped to 300 ... 30 names, only 24 had 1200+ PA (some crappy IF and speedy OF types). 16 of 24 9+, 11 15+, 6 20+. Most Bryant-like are Manny, Dye, Dean Palmer, DLee, Grieve and Ortiz if you ignore handedness. (Note, Ortiz was not productive from 23-27.) I'm assuming he's not Vlad-like.

So, "the schedule"

Bryant -- maybe as early as AS 2014, more likely Aug or Sept, starting 2015 (BA says 2014)
Soler -- AS 2015, starting 2016 (BA says 2015)
Baez -- AS 2015 or later, starting 2016 (BA says 2014)
Almora -- AS 2016-2017 (BA says 2016)
Alcantara -- BA slipped him on at #100, I'm not seeing anything in the numbers to get too excited about but I'll be happy to get pretty much anything of genuine value out of a #100-ish prospect.

Pitchers are pitchers. They can blow out an arm at 20 and recover fine; or they can blow out an arm at 20 and not recover; or they can be awesome young then blow out an arm at 24 in the majors then recover or not; or they could be on and off for years then turn into Curt Schilling. The pitchers get here when they get here or don't.



   35. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: February 22, 2014 at 12:32 AM (#4660645)
Just for the hell of it I looked up the top 20 position players in WAR over the past five years and took note of how old they were when they were drafted or signed:

18 - Robinson Cano (International)
16 - Miguel Cabrera (International)
23 - Ben Zobrist (Draft, 6th round)
20 - Evan Longoria (Draft, 1st round)
18 - Joey Votto (Draft, 2nd round)
15(!) - Adrian Beltre (International)
19 - Albert Pujols (Draft, 13th round)
21 - Ryan Braun (Draft, 1st round)
20 - Dustin Pedroia (Draft, 2nd round)
18 - Andrew McCutchen (Draft, 1st round)
19 - Jose Bautista (Draft, 20th round)
18 - Adrian Gonzalez (Draft, 1st round)
18 - Troy Tulowitzki (Draft, 1st round)
18 - Joe Mauer (Draft, 1st round)
21 - Ian Kinsler (Draft, 17th round)
21 - Chase Utley (Draft, 1st round)
20 - Ryan Zimmerman (Draft, 1st round)
20 - Michael Bourn (Draft, 4th round)
18 - Matt Holliday (Draft, 7th round)
18 - Yadier Molina (Draft, 4th round)

By the way, Mike Trout is 22nd in WAR over the past five years, despite posting a 0 in three of them.
   36. Banta Posted: February 22, 2014 at 01:02 AM (#4660649)
That list tells me that you should draft only 18 year olds, like a recovering sex criminal waiting out jailbait.
   37. SouthSideRyan Posted: February 22, 2014 at 01:13 AM (#4660650)
I'm confused here Walt, you're upset that it took Bryant 146 PAs to get to AA? You think Javy Baez is going to need 2 AAA seasons before he gets a starting job?
   38. puck Posted: February 22, 2014 at 01:48 AM (#4660656)
18 - Troy Tulowitzki (Draft, 1st round)

Tulo's another college guy with a late birthday (like Zimmerman, Bourn, Pedroia and Longoria apparently). So he was drafted in his age 20 year.
   39. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: February 22, 2014 at 01:51 AM (#4660657)
Sorry, I just ###### that one up. Yes, Tulowitzki was drafted at 20.

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