June 28, 2013


Peter Gammons was on the radio this morning. He made the point that many teams, including the Cubs and White Sox, are pushing hard to trade their players before the July 31st deadline.

The reason is simple: you can sell (and therefore receive) more value to a trade partner if you complete a trade in June rather than the end of July. The team acquiring a pitcher like Matt Garza will get an extra 5 or 6 starts with his new club. Five or six quality starts could mean the difference between a wild card or a division title. A team acquiring a hitter to fill a need will get an extra 20 games or approximately 80 more at bats.

This is why the Rays have been actively shopping starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco, who is in a similar position as Garza being in the last year of his deal. If a team is looking for a "rent a pitcher," the first one to go to the team in need will have the best chance to play two or more teams off each other.

But the trade market may be soft this year. Teams have been concentrating more on the signing draft choices by the July 12th deadline and the international signing period which starts July 2nd than constructing mid-season trades. Even if a major league team needs a veteran, most teams now guard their top ten prospects as valuable assets.

June 27, 2013


The front office has touted Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler as a near "can't miss" prospect. He started his pro career at the Cubs Class A affiliate. He was supposed to move quickly through the system.

Soler was doing well, hitting 8 HR, 35 RBI, .281 BA. But his development has come to a halt.

On the day after he was named to play in the Futures Game, Chicago Cubs prospect Jorge Soler has been diagnosed with a stress fracture in his left tibia, which could end his first full season in North America.

Soler, signed to a $30 million contract in 2012, is expected to be in a walking boot for four-to-six weeks, which could mean that he won't play again until he's assigned to the Instructional League or possibly the Arizona Fall League. He had been sidelined with an ankle injury but it wasn't known to be so serious.

The severity of the injury was learned before the Daytona Cubs’ doubleheader Thursday.

“It’s a huge blow for him, a disappointment for us because everyone wants him to do well,’’ Daytona manager Dave Keller told Sean Kernan of the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Soler has had some other small injuries, but is most known for charging an opponent's dugout after an on-field altercation. Keller said at the time Soler was dealing with some "emotional issues."

This injury will set back Soler for at least a year. He will probably return to Class A next season, with the hopes of a promotion by mid-year to Class AA. But since the Cubs front office wants all their players to have at least a full season in Triple-A before going to the majors, Soler's projected Wrigley debut is now mid-2016 at the earliest.

June 26, 2013


Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said the team DFA's Carlos Marmol because he was becoming a "distraction" to the team. Since no team is willing to trade for Marmol or his contract, it is expected that the Cubs will shortly release Marmol.

However, one must beg to differ on the reason why Marmol was dismissed: how was he a distraction?

From all press accounts, Marmol was a professional. He sat at his locker and took all questions from the reporters, after good outings or bad outings. He never lost his composure to the media. He was like by his teammates. There were never any reports of being a disruptive person in the locker room.

So why was he now a distraction?

Distraction is defined as a thing that prevents someone from giving full attention to something else; or an extreme agitation of the mind or emotions.

There is no evidence that Marmol never gave his full attention to pitching or had emotional issues.

In comparison, Ian Stewart was a distraction. He went on twitter rants and blasted the Cubs for letting him "rot" in Iowa, even though he was only batting .168. After his rehab time in Iowa, he took three days off when he was outrighted there after clearing waivers. The Cubs released Stewart after he served a 10 day suspension for cause.

Marmol was never such a headache. Marmol was just a bad pitcher. But the Cubs staff is filled with bad pitchers. Edwin Jackson has a 5.84 ERA; Hector Rondon has a 6.23 ERA; Shawn Camp has a 6.53 ERA; Zach Putnam had an 18.90 ERA.

Perhaps, Hoyer misspoke when he said Marmol had become a distraction. Instead, Hoyer needed to create a distraction by releasing Marmol to divert the fans attention to how bad the Cubs team had become under his leadership.

June 25, 2013


Pual Sullivan of the Tribune tweets that the Cubs have designated for assignment Carlos Marmol and released Ian Stewart. The Cubs also promoted left handed hitting outfielder Brian Bogusevic to the major league roster.

Bogusevic is hitting .319, with 10 HR, 32 RBI at Iowa this year. In 146 games last season, he hit .203 for the Astros. His promotion can only mean that it is a showcase promotion to add to any future trades.

Marmol could only really handle 7th or 8th inning duty. He was a two pitch pitcher who could not throw his fastball for strikes to keep batters honest. In 2013, Marmol was 2-4, 5.86 ERA with 1,699 WHIP. For his Cub career, Marmol was 23-32, 3.50 ERA with 117 saves.

The amazing aspect of this report is that the Cubs basically decided to eat $5 million in dead money without even the hope of getting any return for either Marmol or Stewart.

Marmol was a former closer who had lost his command. Apparently, the Cubs coaching staff of "teachers" could not fix Marmol's problems. Just as it does not bode well for Marmol, it does scream staff failure.

Stewart was a front office disaster from the beginning of spring training. He was a malcontent who was injured last season and failed to produce as a starting third baseman. Instead of cutting ties this spring, the Cubs rewarded Stewart with a $2 million contract. Stewart reacted by immediately getting hurt, then disruptively sulking in Iowa.


MLBTR cites a report by baseball writer Peter Gammons that the Padres may be interested in Cub starter Matt Garza. The rumor has the credibility because Gammons is reporting it. But it really does not make too much sense for San Diego.

The Padres are a small market team. It rarely goes for big contract free agents. Garza is in the last year of his contract. Unless the Padres think they can extend Garza with a favorable long term deal, San Diego is no position to rent a starter for half a season.

The Padres are one game over .500 for the season, but in second place in the odd NL West. The defending champion Giants and the better than expected Diamondbacks are clear favorites to separate from the pack. The Padres are not the type of team to mortgage the future for a one year shot at a division title.

The Padres have a current $65 million payroll. It is doubtful that they would want to add a top line $15 million per year starter in the mix with Garza. The current rotation is filled with ex-Chicago arms: Jason Marquis (9-2), Andrew Cashner (5-3), Clayton Richard (2-5) join Eric Stults (6-5) and Edinson Volquez (5-6). So, yes, the Padres are in the market to upgrade their rotation, but so is every other team still in contention. But the Padres would probably prefer to add a starter pitcher under their control for a few years (like the Rizzo for Cashner deal).

Gammons thinks the deal is Garza for Class AA outfielder Reymond Fuentes and two minor leaguers that Cubs GM Jed Hoyer drafted when he was with San Diego. Fuentes, 22, had a down year in 2012 at Class AA: .218 BA, 4 HR and 34 RBI. He has had a comeback 2013: .332 BA, 5 HR, 26 RBI. Fuentes is not on the Padres 40 man roster, or listed on the team's Top 20 prospects. A scouting report indicates that Fuentes is not an elite prospect.  Fuentes thin frame is like his famous cousin,  Carlos Beltran. Fuentes is a superior defender who makes great reads and uses his plus plus speed to reach even the deepest outfield gaps but has a weak throwing arm.  Fuentes has compact line-drive swing but  lacks power.

A deal to trade Garza makes sense for the Cubs who have little interest in keeping Garza after this season. Fuentes would add another outfielder to the system (who should be in Iowa/AAA for 2014) who may progress faster than Jorge Soler who is at Class A. But Fuentes projects to be a fifth outfielder/defensive replacement player.

June 24, 2013


The Cubs told the world last week that the team was ready to wheel and deal their players well ahead of the trade deadline. Another lost season means the front office is going to reshuffle the roster deck.

One would have thought that meant "major league" talent on sale. But the omnibus sign is that teams are not interested in the talent on the major league roster.

The Cubs first traded utility infielder Brett Lillibridge to the Yankees for a player to be named later or cash. Lillibridge had been in Iowa. His claim to fame so far this season was the third choice at third base to keep Ian Stewart on the bench.

Next, the Cubs traded relief pitcher Hinsanori Takahashi to the Rockies for a player to be named later. Takahashi is a lefty who got hurt. He spent most of his time at Iowa.

So the early interest in Cub property is at the Triple-A level. Could Blake Parker be the next Iowa Cub to be traded? It really does not matter. More than half the bleachers were empty yesterday on a hot summer Sunday at Wrigley Field. Most fans have already checked out of this season. The front office is trying to split early, too.

The Cubs may designate for assignment Henry Rodriguez, the flame throwing ex-National who has more command issues than Carlos Marmol. Rodriguez's stay in Chicago was a short blip on the radar. The Cubs must want to show case a pitcher or make room for a potential two-for-one trade.

June 21, 2013


The White Sox have fallen to the level of the Cubs. A review of the team's current Wins Over Replacement (WAR) values may be more disappointing than the previous Cubs post.

The White Sox as a team have a NEGATIVE 2.8 WAR on offense.  Keppinger himself contributes a NEGATIVE 2.0 WAR. Does that mean he is two times worse than a AAA replacement?

Only two White Sox hitters have a WAR more than 1.0. Neither reaches "starter" level.

Rios (1.8)
Ramirez (1.1)

It is better on the pitching side. The staff has a combined 11.9 WAR. The top pitchers are:

Sale (3.5)
Crain (2.7)
Quintana (1.8)
Alexrod (1.2)
Peavy (1.0)
Santiago (1.0)

There are a few young pitchers on the cusp of becoming long term contributors. And you can see why Crain will be a highly prized trade asset in July.


If one looks at the Cubs season so far, it has been disappointing to say the least.

If one tries to find a silver lining in the dark cloud, one will also find disappointment.

The team is so bad that marginal players appear to be playing better.

If one looks at Wins Above Replacement (WAR) as an objective factor on how well individual players are doing, we would find that only ONE Cub player has a WAR of more than 2.0 (which equates to being a major league starter).

Just one.

So far, the team batters have a combined 6.1 WAR. The only players with a 1.0 WAR on the team are:

W. Castillo (1.5)
DeJesus (1.3)
Rizzo (1.2)
Schierholtz (1.2)
Ransom (1.1)
Valbuena (1.0)

This is not surprising since Schierholtz, Ransom, and Valbuena have been career bench-utility players. What is disturbing that the two long term contract "core players," Rizzo and Castro, are below 2.0 WAR.

The pitching staff has a combined 6.4 WAR. Six pitchers have a WAR over 1.0:

T. Wood (2.6)
Samardzija (1.8)
Feldman (1.1)
Gregg (1.1)
Russell (1.1)
Villanueva (1.0)

Only one starting pitcher is of starting caliber. The bullpen is led by three relievers barely above AAA level.

Based on this information, the one Cub All-Star by default would be T. Wood, at 5-6, 2.74 ERA, 1.000 WHIP.

June 20, 2013


About 42.5 percent of the season is now over. The Cubs are bad. The White Sox were expected to be better. Much better.

The Sox are 9.5 games behind Detroit, which still has not solved its bullpen woes. The Sox are winning only .420 percent of their games. They have a winning record at home; but have played 9 more games on the road so far this season. The second half schedule will balance that out, but the Sox may be too far in the hole to make any comeback. Injuries, poor defense and the total drought on offense has killed the White Sox chances this season.

The Cubs are roaring along with a .414 winning percentage, tied with the Brewers at 16 games behind the Cardinals. Injuries, poor defense, a total drought on offense and a frustrating bullpen have been the keys to the Cubs poor showing.

So it will be a very long summer for Chicago baseball.

The highlight of their seasons could be the trade deadline. But rational folk will acknowledge that neither team has anything major to offer another club. A relief pitcher for a marginal Class A prospect? A spare outfielder for a marginal Class A ballplayer?

Could you even merge the two Chicago teams roster to have one competitive team?

Not really, because the squads are both playing terrible. I mean, what is the real difference between a Valbuena or a Keppinger? A Barney or a Beckham? A Flowers or a Castillo?

The best Cub player so far was not even on the roster until recently, closer Kevin Gregg, who has 10 saves.  The best White Sox player so far may be Alex Rio, but he is still underperforming his massive contract.

The trade season should mirror the regular season: boring for both clubs.

June 18, 2013


Dale Sveum is on the hot seat. The fans are on his case for the Cubs poor record.

But GM Jed Hoyer is defending his manager.  “He’s kept the guys really upbeat. He continues to relate really well to the players,” Hoyer said to CSN Chicago.  “I’ll say the same thing I said at the end of last year: The talent on the team – we’re not up to par right now with the Cardinals and the Reds. Those are really strong, mature organizations and that’s what we’re trying to get to.

“In the meantime, he’s doing his best with the product that we have and that’s on Theo and on me – the talent,” Hoyer admitted.

It is indefensible to think that having a career platoon player in Nate Schierholtz batting third, or a player who was not on the opening day roster, Ryan Sweeney, to bat fifth against the first place Cardinals. Or having newly acquired relief pitcher Henry Rodriguez show up as the bad Marmol on acid. No wonder Sveum got ejected; he may have been unable to take watching his team anymore.

It is Sveum's team to manage, but it is Theo Epstein and Hoyer's team. The front office built this ship from scrap parts and it shows. The constant tear-down of good parts for more salvage parts has led to great inconsistency and solidified the culture of losing.

The front office continues to say that it has "a plan."  But it may not be a "good" plan.

It seems that the Boston boys are trying to build a new Red Sox lineup for Wrigley Field. That means a line up heavy on left handed hitters. But I recall Billy Williams saying a long time ago that the only reason he has success at Wrigley was that his power was to left center field. If not, he said he would have struggled mightily.

It seems that the front office is also fixated on pitching. However, they are also in the mode to trade any quality pitcher for more prospects. In all their pitching moves, only one panned out (Travis Wood.)

But Sveum is not blameless. He has done nothing tangible to manufacturer runs or shake up the offense. The Cubs are still collectively hacking away at the plate. It is rare to steal a base. It is rarer to employ a hit-and-run. And it almost fossilized to call for a bunt single. As a result, the Cubs do not put any added pressure on a defense.

But the most indefensible comment Hoyer made was his tone about the Cubs in general. He called it a "product" and not a team. A product is a consumable commodity, like soap or paper towels.  A product is a stationary item that is something sold while a team is an athletic machine that is admired by its fans. The default tag of "product" to describe the Cubs means management is more concerned with marketing the franchise (like Disney brands everything it does) than putting a viable team on the field. The entire Ricketts redevelopment plan for Lakeview is all about the same concept: expanding the Cub "brand" to hotels, restaurants, office buildings and street fares.

June 17, 2013


People are up in arms over Dale Sveum's use of Carlos Marmol in the Mets series.

Sveum put Marmol in the game in the 9th. The Cubs were leading 3-0.
Marmol has a Marmol moment, flushing the lead and game away by yielding a walk-off three run home run to a AAA batter just called up to the majors.

The Mets are bad. The Cubs are worse.

It may have been a directive to "show case" Marmol to prospective East Coast teams. Most general managers know by now whether they will be trade deadline buyers or sellers. There is going to be a demand for closers at the deadline.

Marmol probably solidified his ticket to play out his contract with the Cubs.

The Cubs have blown 15 save opportunities so far this year (second only to the Dodgers.)  The Dodgers are in need of a closer. It would be ironic that the best available closer may be Kevin Gregg, the same player the Dodgers cut in spring training. One analyst thought the Dodgers would not trade for Gregg, because that would be a screaming acknowledgement that the ream screwed up its original roster.

The Tigers are in need of bullpen help, so the rumors are starting to bubble that Detroit could kick the tires on Gregg. Beat reporters have indicated that the Tigers have had no interest in Marmol.

June 14, 2013


Most major league clubs have begun to sign their top prospects.  However, the Cubs have been quite silent.

The Cubs have $10,556,500 to spend in draft bonus money. The number two pick, Kris Bryant, is slotted a bonus of $6,708,400 (in comparison the No. 1 pick is slotted at $7,790,400).

The slot value for the Cubs’ second round pick is $1,361,900, the third round pick is $736,200, and the fourth round pick is $477,300. By the 10th round, that figure has slid down to $139,000.

The bonus pool slot values are critical stops because if a team exceeds its bonus budget, it is subject to severe penalties. If a team fails to sign a player, the slot value from that pick is removed from the bonus pool. This is why most teams heavily taking college seniors in rounds six through ten because seniors have little leverage. Picks after the 10th round have no slot value (and you don’t lose any bonus pool money for failing to sign them), but any amount given to them in excess of $100,000 counts against the bonus pool. Any team that exceeds its pool by 0 to 5% must pay a 75% tax on the amount of the overage. Any team that exceeds its pool by more than 5% but less than 10% must pay a 75% tax on the amount of the overage AND loses a first round draft pick. No team needs to pay a penalty or lose a draft pick.

So why are the Cubs perceived to be slow to sign their picks. The problem is that there top four picks may ALL want to be paid more than slot value.

For example, agent Scott Boras may think Bryant, the best hitter by far in the draft, deserves No. 1 pick money. That would go contrary to what a team wants - - - it needs to underpay for their top picks in order to overpay for later round selections.

In addition, the Cubs drafted several college juniors who have the option of returning to school. By not signing a junior, the team does not have the option of reallocating that slot money to other picks.

In the fourth round, the Cubs took Kent St. junior pitcher Tyler Skulina at #108 overall. Baseball America had him ranked as the No. 73 prospect, so his draft stock fell two rounds. Skulina may believe he is worth $1.3 million instead of $477,000. Likewise, fifth round pick Trey Masek at #138 had been  ranked the 49th best prospect by Baseball America. He also may think he is worth $1 million more rather than the slot value.

If true, the Cubs would need to shave a million dollars off Bryant's bonus number in order to sign Skulina or Masek, and underpay for their third round selection, the 22 year old BYU freshman outfielder Jacob Hannemann. 

If Mark Appel's example rings true with other top college junior pitchers, one can go back to school at double your bonus. Appel fell to the Pirates in 2012 and he was offered $3.8 million to sign. He refused. This year, as the Number One pick, he is expected to sign for the $7.7 million value. 

So the Cubs are probably at a stalemate. If they sign Bryant first, then they will have less money to pay for the junior pitcher class. If they attempt to overpay for the junior pitchers first, they may not have enough money to pay for Bryant. 

The priority would be to sign Bryant, because he projects to a middle of the order power bat that may only be a season and a half away from the big leagues. But the front office may need to accelerate their rebuilding by trying to steal a few junior pitchers with first round talent at fourth round prices.

June 13, 2013


There is a metaphoric sink hole opening up at Wrigley Field. The Cubs offense has turned comatose.  Cub manager Dale Sveum has become frustrated by the fact his team cannot get hits.

One of the foundational players, Starlin Castro, is now at a career low .238 BA.

The Cubs have lost 20 games when they had the lead.

The Reds have won their last 12 games played at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs have scored only 11 runs in the last 6 games. Quality start after quality start has been wasted.

"It is getting frustrating," Sveum said. "It is almost the same game (everyday): Starting pitchers getting into the seventh inning with quality starts and we are not having quality at-bats. We are not getting enough quality at-bats from everybody on a daily basis."

Sveum does not define what he considers a "quality at bat." It takes a hard, fast and enforced organizational rule of how hitters should approach their at bats that seems to be lacking with the slumping Cubs.

A "quality at bat" can mean different things to different players. For a lead off hitter, a quality at bat would mean taking many pitches, drawing a walk or getting on base by creating offense by bunting. A quality at bat for a middle of the line up hitter  would mean driving in runs by pulling shots down the line, or rocketing pitches into the gaps, or even making sure to hit long sacrifice flies to score runners. Each batter in a lineup should have a clearly defined role to play, a gear in the offense machine.

"We are just not getting aggressive swings," Sveum added. "Until we start getting more aggressive in fastball counts ... we can't keep swinging the bats the way we are in hitters counts."

Being "aggressive" is not the same as having an hitting philosophy. Theo Epstein has told us that his theory on the game is to have a lineup of high OBP players. A lineup of guys who consistently get on base will push across a steady stream of runs. However, the normal high OBP player is a disciplined hitter, willing to take a strike to work a hitter's count, defend the plate with any contact (foul balls), and the baseball IQ to out-think the pitcher in situations.

The Cubs batters seem to be on their own when they reach home plate. Early in the season they were jumping on first pitches time and time again. There has only been one recent game where the batters coaxed walk after walk from an opponent (because the opponent pitcher had no strike zone control.)  But more often than not, the Cubs batters don't help themselves by wearing down the pitcher.

"We just have to get these guys going," Sveum said. "We just aren't getting any solid contact or slugging percentage out of them at all."

Contact and slugging percentage are two different concepts. Contact means putting the ball into play. Moving a runner into scoring position by hitting to the opposite field would be considered a good situational at bat ("a productive out.") Slugging percentage is total bases divided by at bats. It is a comparable measure of power of hitters.

The Cubs rank 13th in team slugging percentage at .403. However, the Cubs rank 26th in OBP with .298. The Cubs rank 24th in team batting average at .241. The Cubs rank 21st in runs scored with 251 (the NL average for team runs scored is 267 and 276 for all teams).

There is a disconnect between what the front office is saying in how they want their players to perform (high OBP) and the actual performance on the field. The "do you own thing" approach at the plate will cause more inconsistency and frustration for everyone. But the Cubs approach to offense has not changed at all from Piniella, Quade or Sveum. Batters in slumps don't try to bunt for base hits. Batters don't like to work counts by taking many pitches. Batters go fishing in "their out zones" all the time. But since there is no player position competition on the major league roster, there is no sense of urgency to change any approach. And that is the true philosophy of bad that has creeped into the Cub culture.

June 12, 2013


We are seeing more trades after a player has been "designated for assignment."  A team needed space on their 40 man roster has to DFA someone in order to activate a disabled player or promote a minor leaguer. It does not always work out well.

The Cubs acquired right handed reliever Henry Rodriguez from the Nationals in exchange for Class A pitcher Ian Dickson.

Rodriguez, 26, has a 4.23 ERA with 9.3 K/9 and 6.1 BB/9 across parts of five big league seasons with the A's and Nats. In 18 innings in relief for Washington this year, he had 4.00 ERA with eleven strikeouts and 16 walks.   Rodriguez claim to fame is that he has a 100 mph fastball.

Dickson, 22, was a 35th round selection in the 2011 draft.  Dickson has a 6.88 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 in three starts and eight relief appearances for Class A Kane County this year.

From one viewpoint, Rodriguez could be considered the 40th best player on the Cubs roster. But his control issues have had him released by two clubs already in his career. It may be a long shot but it only cost the Cubs a marginal Class A pitcher. But this continues the bad band-aid approach of the front office to gather up the releases of other teams to try to fashion a bullpen.

June 11, 2013


The Cubs web page ranks its top prospects.  It does not include recent draft choices.

The top fifteen are:

Javier Baez ss
Albert Almora cf
Jorge Soler rf
Brett Jackson cf
Arodys Vizcaino sp
Dillon Maples, sp
Pierce Johnson sp
Christian Villanueva 3b
Junior Lake ss
Matt Szczur of
Dan Vogelbach 1b
Jae Hoon Ha of
Jelmer Candelario 3b
Josh Vitters 3b
Duane Underwood sp

We can assume that at least three of these prospects have fallen out of favor with the front office:

Jackson, continues to struggle with strikeouts;
Szczur, who does not have the offensive production to be a starting outfielder; and
Vitters, who just got by-passed by the Kris Bryant pick.

One prospect may be a perpetual injury. Vizcaino came to the Cubs in trade injured, and he has not recovered to the point of even a potential re-entry date to the majors. Maples has also had injury set backs in his development.

So one third of the top fifteen Cub prospects are suspect at this point in time.

But what is the "vision" for the team come 2015?  The front office must picture in its own mind who would be on their roster then:

LF: Vogelbach, converted from first base because of his power potential
CF: Almora, #1 pick will quarterback the outfield
RF: Soler, a lot is riding on front office international signee to be the next Sosa
3B: Bryant, #1 pick will solidify the infield
SS: Baez, who may have the rare power numbers for a shortstop
2B: Lake, converted from shortstop to add offense to second base position
1B: Rizzo, projected long term solution at first base
C: Castillo, because he may grow into the position over the next two seasons

1. Samardzija, if you can re-sign him
2. T. Wood, because lefty starters are hard to find
3. P. Johnson, because it would be the end of minor league service
4. Rob Zastryzny, second round lefty pick
5. Tyler Skulina  or  Trey Masek, college players with something to prove if signed, and
6. Scott Frazier, if he can develop consistent control.

The last four pitchers came from this year's draft. If signed, they would be the fast track solution to shore up the rotation, which will probably be dismantled again this July.

If this is the goal, then the Cubs will justify not spending money on free agents or truly being competitive until 2016.

However, the expected turnover of 11 prospects into major league starters would be an anomaly for the Cubs. One could only expect two or three prospects in a system to make the starting role with the club.

What is also noted in this analysis is the absence of Starlin Castro. As this season progresses, Castro regresses. There is some rumbling that the Cubs could trade Castro because of the potential of a Baez or Lake at shortstop. It is also possible that Castro will become Soriano 2.0, and be moved to the outfield so to negate his infield defensive woes. But as a corner outfielder, Castro still does not project to be a 30 HR 100 RBI candidate. It will be interesting to see if the Cubs sour on Castro or stick with him to justify the $60 million contract they granted to him.

June 10, 2013


There were a couple of general trends from this year's baseball draft.

First, the teams have a better understanding of the new CBA. Instead of taking the best pick, teams now are more focused in on how to maximize the signing bonus pool and how to sign prospects who fall down the board. The general consensus from draft bird dogs this year was most teams used their first round pick for the best player available on their board. But after the second round, the teams took players they thought they could sign for less than allocated slot money. The players in rounds 3 to 10 fit into this category. Teams that drafted college seniors in this area are the ones with the most leverage to sign a player who does not have the option not to sign and return to college to play. Then some teams would draft harder to sign players by paying them more in rounds 11-15. The draft in some respects has turned into a chess match between clubs and between player agents.

Second, some teams continued to focus in on high school players with high picks because they are generally cheaper to sign. Those motivated athletes do not want to go to college so they want to start their careers earlier with the hopes of reaching the majors quicker.  Teams have to be more patient with these picks because this talent is raw.

Third, some teams drafted college juniors with the expectation that those players may not sign with the clubs. The Cubs went through an early stretch of drafting college junior pitchers. A few of them dropped down the board because of injury, signability or control issues. If the player believes he can rebound with another year of college to spring to the top two rounds, he will go back to school because that could mean more than a million dollar signing bonus pop. However, a few of them were drafted two or so rounds ahead of pundit expectations.  Those players must think that they may never be drafted that high again, so they are motivated to sign this year.

Fourth, some teams are looking more toward international camps to find new talent. The Cubs are investing heavily in a Caribbean baseball academy to get the inside track on young talent. Many teams are using their professional scouts to review international games in Asia. The expansion is reasonable because less American boys grow up playing baseball with the other sports such as football and basketball being so popular.

Then, there was a short discussion during the weekend game about what this all means. There are some teams that historically draft well, and train their talent to get them to the big leagues. The Royals are a prime example of drafting and development blueprint. Some teams have the knack of getting their prospects to play the game the right way. However, it was mentioned by Jim Deshaies that once the minor league talent is promoted, their development and production drops. He said that teams need to continue coaching players, especially young rookies, at the major league level.

We see that problem with the Cubs all the time. The players make the same mistakes over and over again. Players like Starlin Castro seem to be regressing instead of progressing as each season passes. Some managers believe that once you make it to the big leagues, that means the player is ready. If the player is a professional, it is up to him to refine his skills and be prepared for each game. Dusty Baker was a proponent of that hands off approach to managing his teams. It probably works better with a veteran team like Baker has had during his career.

But for a team like the Royals, who are in a constant rebuild mode, that is a disaster. One basically gets a steady inventory of AAAA players making it to the major leagues year after year. The results are that your team stays at the bottom of the division.

One of the other story lines from the weekend was the open question when first pick Kris Bryant would make his major league debut. It was thought that the Cubs are very fixed in their promotion markers, like all position players should have at least 500 AB in AAA. Some believe that Bryant will start out in Class A ball, and once he hits his production markers, he could be quickly promoted up the system. That seems to be a low starting point for the best power hitter in the draft. The problem is starting him too low which may actually impede development. Bryant himself thinks he is ready now. Some other scouts believe he could be in the majors by next spring.  But there has been no word from the Cubs on how they will deal with Bryant.

June 8, 2013


The Cubs continued their plan to draft heavy on pitchers. In the second day of the draft, the Cubs selected 6 pitchers with their 8 picks. The key philosophy was taking college pitchers. One could assume that college pitchers are closer to the big leagues than high school pitchers, based on just experience alone.

But the Cubs started the day with a slight surprise when they drafted 22 year old BYU "freshman" Jacob Hannemann. He is an "old" freshman because of his two year Mormon mission.  He was a cornerback on the BYU football team. He started slow this year in baseball, according to the Cubs web story, batting only .111/.179/.139/ in his first 40 plate appearances -- but finished .344/.415/.553 with five home runs and seven triples en route to garnering West Coast Conference Freshman of the Year and Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American honors. Hannemann also was 14-for-15 on steal attempts. This selection of an multi-sport guy is out of the Kenny Williams playbook, where he liked to draft athletes first and foremost.
This overdraft choice at #75 overall may have been done because Hannemann is probably and easy and underslot bonus sign.  "It's exactly what I wanted," said Hannemann, said.  He stated he and the Cubs will begin negotiations next week. "The opportunity's there, so it's a much better road. BYU was a great opportunity to play both sports I love, but now I'm able to be a professional. I'm a baseball guy now, and I'm a Chicago Cub. I'm real, real excited for it."

The scouting report on Hannemann is vague because he really had not played baseball for two years. MLB.com states  "He has the chance to hit and run well and could be a solid center field prospect for a team willing to be patient." Baseball America ranked Hannemann the No. 214 best prospect in the draft which would be a mid-7th rounder.

In the fourth round, the Cubs took Kent St. junior pitcher Tyler Skulina at #108 overall. Baseball America had him ranked as the No. 73 prospect, so his draft stock fell two rounds. 

Skulina played a key role in Kent State’s Cinderella run to the 2012 College World Series and has taken on an even bigger role this spring as the Golden Flashes ace. The right-hander was 6-4 with a 3.36 ERA in 15 starts this season, striking out 102 batters in 93 2/3 innings.  He relies on his fastball-curveball combination to attack hitters and isn’t afraid to challenge them. Skulina’s fastball sits in the low-90s and runs in on right-handers. His curveball has good break and should be a Major League average offering. He uses his 6-foot-5, 235-pound frame to create a good downhill plane for both pitches. Skulina needs to develop his changeup to reach his potential. As such, he does not project to be a front line starter in the majors.

In the next round, the Cubs took Texas Tech junior  pitcher Trey Masek at #138 overall. Masek was ranked the 49th best prospect by Baseball America, so he dropped from the early 2nd round to the 5th. The concerns were injury and signability (since he was a junior). 

Masek put up strong numbers at Texas Tech, going 5-2 with a 1.82 ERA in 11 starts and tossing three complete games. He missed time because of a rotator cuff injury. Masek told SB Nation last week the injury is not an issue. "There's been no soreness since I got over that so if any team has asked, I've been very open about it," Masek said. "I'm just looking forward to getting out and to showing that I'm healthy and ready to go."

MLB.com notes that Masek had a very strong summer in the Cape Cod League and it carried over as Texas Tech's Saturday starter (usually #2 man in the rotation), though some arm soreness in late March kept him out of action for a spell. Assuming health, the slightly undersized right-hander will show three pretty good pitches. He can run his fastball up to 94 mph, throws a solid curveball and has a good feel for a sinking changeup. His funky delivery adds deception to his stuff, though his command can be inconsistent. He gets high marks for his aggressiveness and poise on the mound. That, plus Masek's size and injury history, have some thinking his future might be in a big league bullpen.

In the sixth round, the Cubs selected another right handed junior pitcher, Scott Frazier from Pepperdine, with the #168 selection overall. Baseball America ranked him the No. 160 player in the draft, while MLB.com ranked him much higher at their No. 77.

The reason for the varied opinion was Frazier's inconsistency. Frazier, at 6-foot-7 and 215 pounds, was seen as a potential first- or second-round talent with a fastball sitting 91-94 mph and he backs it up with a curve and changeup. But his numbers this season -- 5-5, 4.06 ERA, 83 strikeouts and 40 walks in 88 2/3 innings -- didn't stand out as Pepperdine's No. 1 starter.  He's shown gradual improvement over time with the Waves and while his results as a junior have been up and down, he's the kind of college arm that caught the attention of many scouts. With his uneven career, it is hard to tell whether Frazier can be a back of the rotation starter.

In the next found, the Cubs again picked another college junior pitcher, David Garner of Michigan St. Baseball America had him ranked as the No. 248 prospect, but the Cubs selected him at #168.

Despite being 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, Gardner racked up 192 strikeouts in 217 2/3 career innings at Michigan State thanks to a fastball that's reached 95 mph. Garner's hard-breaking slider is his primary out-pitch. He has a free delivery and aggressive approach, and his electric stuff to be strike out pitcher. However, Garner can lose his control, as he walked 27 batters this year, while also hitting six and throwing 10 wild pitches. In his first two seasons at Michigan State, Garner was in and out of the rotation, but he made all 14 appearances as a starter during his junior year. He went 4-5 with a 4.10 ERA, lifting his career numbers to 15-12 and 3.97, respectively. Garner stood out in the Cape Cod League each of the past two summers, especially in 2012, when he was named to the West Division All-Star Team. In 43 1/3 innings for the Hyannis Harbor Hawks, Garner registered 41 strikeouts and a 3.12 ERA, both of which were good for top 20 in the league. Based on his history, Gardner looks to be trending toward major league bullpen duty if he can gain full command of his pitches.

In the 8th round, the Cubs selected LHP Sam Wilson from Lamar CC. Wilson was drafted by the Rangers in the 20th round in 2010, but he chose to attend New Mexico. He was a two-way player as a freshman, but academic issues forced him to redshirt last season and he ultimately transferred to Lamar Community College this year. Wilson has continued as a two-way player for the Runnin’ Lopes, but his professional future is on the mound. He throws his fastball around 90 mph and he has touched 94 mph in the past. He also throws a curveball and a changeup, both of which have the potential to be Major League-average offerings. He fanned 109 in 87 2/3 innings this past season. Wilson is athletic, has good size (he’s listed at 6-foot-1, 205 pounds) and repeats his delivery well.
He seems to project as a fifth starter-long reliever.

In the 9th round, the Cubs broke their streak of college pitchers by selecting Texas high school center fielder Charcer Burks with the #258 pick of the draft. Not much was stated about Burks. Research indicates that he has played 3B/SS/2B/OF at Travis High School in Houston. He was ranked the 31st best high school player in Texas, and nationally by scouting bureaus at #399. He is 6' tall, and lean 170 pounds. He may be plugged in as a multi-position utility player.

The final day 2 selection was RHP Zack Godley, a senior from Tennessee. Baseball America ranked him No. 487, so the Cubs at #288 thought more highly of him. At 6'3" 235 pounds, Godley was 5-7 this season with a 3.49 ERA and 98 strikeouts in 108.1 innings. He had six complete games. As a senior, the Cubs should have no signability issues with Godley.

On Day 2, the Cubs trended toward junior college pitchers who either fell down the draft board because of injury knocks or overdrafted players in the hopes of getting them signed easier (instead of losing leverage by going back to school).

The Cubs top ten selections will tell us how well the front office is at talent evaluation and development. This draft will be remembered for Kris Bryant, who should be fast tracked to the majors. The Cubs second selection should also be telling. Since the Cubs claimed the high minors were devoid of pitching, would Rob Zastryny be ready sooner than later?

MLB.com reports that  Zastryzny is the latest in a long line of talented Missouri pitchers. He is described as a "crafty" pitcher because his fastball typically sits in the upper-80s, but he has been able to add and subtract velocity as necessary. His fastball velocity typically ranges from 86 mph to 94 mph. which is not what most scouts view as major league star material. Zastryzny, a left-hander, uses his height – he's listed at 6-foot-3 – to create a downhill angle for his fastball, which has late action. Zastryzny also throws a changeup and slider. MLB.com concludes that if he commands his whole arsenal well and all three of his pitches have the chance to be at least Major League-average offerings. Average pitching is not what the Cubs need from their minor league system.

June 7, 2013


The Cubs continued with last year's blueprint of selecting a pitcher with their second pick. It also continues a trend of finding players with unpronounceable names. Many assume there will a another run on pitching to stock pile the system.

With the 41st pick, the Cubs selected Rob Zastryzny, a left handed pitcher from Missouri. MLB.com remarks that he has a good feel for the craft of pitching. His fastball typically sits in the upper-80s, but Zastryzny has the ability to add and subtract velocity as necessary. His fastball velocity typically ranges from 86 mph to 94 mph.However, some scouts were impressed with a 95 mph radar gun blast during the SEC tournament.  Zastryzny uses his height – he's listed at 6-foot-3 – to create a downhill angle for his fastball, which has late action. Zastryzny also throws a changeup and slider. He commands his whole arsenal well and all three of his pitches have the chance to be at least Major League-average offerings.

With the move to the SEC, his record went down  to 2-9 with increased league  competition. The explanation was run support. Zastryzny put together a solid junior season in which he tallied a 3.38 ERA in 13 starts, but his Tiger offense averaged just 2.5 runs per game in his starts. He had 82 strikeouts in 90.2 innings as he moved his career total to 228, tying him for eighth all-time in Missouri history.  He allowed just 34 earned runs with one complete game shutout, coming on Friday night at Georgia.  He pitched three complete games on the season and walked just 24 batters in 90.2 innings. 

 If Zastryzny is the "crafty" lefty as his bio indicates, that may be a longer road to the majors than most hard throwing fastball pitchers like Strasberg, Gonzalez or recently Gausman. The Cubs do not have a lot of left handed starters in the minor leagues. I would expect the Cubs to sign Zastryzny easily and assign him to Class A.


It was mildly surprising that the Astros took pitcher Mark Appel as the number one pick. Appel was the consensus number one last season, but he wanted more than first position slot money to sign. So he slid down to the Pirates, who could not sign him. Before the draft, his agent Scott Boras was making noise about the leverage the senior still had if he slid down the board. Last year, Houston drafted a high school player below slot and used that extra money to overpay later picks who were perceived to have had signability issues (i.e. money demands). But the choice of Appel does make some marketing sense to the Astros, since Appel is from Houston. It is clear that the Astros had to have agreed on a bonus number with Appel before the pick was announced in order to save face.

That left the Cubs with a choice between college pitcher Jonathan Gray or power third baseman Kris Bryant.  Many pundits thought the Cubs would pick Gray (even over Appel). Most pundits thought the Cubs would pick the best available pitcher. Gray's 2013 season stats were very good:

2013 Stats: GS: 16, W-L: 10-2, ERA: 1.59, IP: 119.0, ER: 21, BB: 22, K: 138, AVG: .188

But Bryant's offense numbers were far superior to anyone else in college baseball:

2013 Stats: G: 58, R: 78, H: 73, 2B: 13, HR: 31, RBI: 62, AVG: .340, OBP: .500, SLG: .860

The debate comes down to a philosophical and empirical question. How can you compare a top line pitching prospect to a top line hitting prospect. If you go backward to the basic element of the game itself, a top line pitcher is expected to pitch 210 innings per season, or be responsible for 630 outs. That is 14.4% of a team's total season out number. A top line batter is expected to drive in 100 runs per season. The world champion Giants scored 718 runs in 2012. That would equate to about 13.9% of total runs scored. In 2012, the Cubs only scored 613 runs. Adding a run producer would get the team closer to the Giants' run total.

So it comes down to a fairly even analysis. An top line pitcher is expected to get around 14% of the outs while a top line hitter is expected to generate approximately 14% of the total team runs.

Then there is debate on who is more valuable. A top line pitcher who averages 7 IP per quality start can keep a team's bullpen fresh, stop losing streaks and dominate short series. However, he only gets the ball 30-33 games per season.  A starter fielder could be expected to play 150-160 games per year, or five times the amount of actual on field time as a starter.

There is a philosophical principle that some scouts have that pitching wins championships. It is said that good pitching will eliminate good hitting. On the other hand, in order to win a team needs to generate enough offense to score runs, even against good pitching.

The final review is that it is easier to project field position players than with pitchers. Position players have a larger body of work to look at; their fielding and batting mechanics are easily understood. Pitchers are harder to project because of the hidden wear and tear on their arm and shoulder mechanics. Pitchers are more suspect to injury during development.

In the end, I tend to fall on the side of picking a position player (especially one at an organizational need) over a projected "star" pitching candidate.

The Cubs were in the almost the same position during the Mark Prior selection. Prior was the "can't miss" kid, the "most major league ready" prospect in the draft. Prior was expected to be the No. 1 pick, but the Twins instead selected Joe Mauer. Prior "fell" to the Cubs. This year, it seems that vibe has been reversed in that the Cubs took a prized hitting prospect over a stud pitcher.

But the story is not over quite yet. Bryant was the best selection for the Cubs. Now the Cubs organization needs not to screw it up. Jason McLeod told the media that Bryant projects as a third baseman and that is the position he will play. That needs to remain true. A player's comfort and routine helps with the transition to professional ball. Too many teams are moving players from position to position early in their development, which in many ways hinders the player who does not know what the organization wants of him. If the Cubs sign Bryant quickly, they should assign him to Double A Tennessee for the rest of the summer to get his feet wet. They should not mess with his swing mechanics. They should let him continue to play ball like he has done at San Diego.

June 6, 2013


Tonight is the annual baseball selection draft. The Cubs have the second overall selection. The consensus is that the Cubs will select a college pitcher, either Mark Appel or Jonathan Gray. I have lobbied for third baseman Kris Bryant or Colin Moran (if Bryant is taken by Houston at #1).  I believe the Cubs glaring need throughout the organization is at third base. Scouts believe there is a huge drop off in talent after the first round for position players.

The last time the Cubs were in this position (#2 pick), everyone thought Mark Prior was the best player in the draft. Prior would be drafted by the Twins. But the small market Twins went with their homegrown guy, Joe Mauer instead (to save money), which led to the Cubs selecting Prior. How did that work out?

Each team will have its draft boards of the best available player, ranked by skills and by position.
But the smart teams will also have their organizational rosters to cross check where those potential picks will be assigned once they are signed by the team.

Teams are drafting raw talent. Teams use their minor league system to develop that raw talent into major leaguers. The chances of making a major league roster are slim;. Only 5.6 percent of high school athletes and 10.5 college players drafted will make a big league roster in their careers. SI notes that of the top picks from 1990-2010, the #1 pick had 18 of 21 selections make the majors, #2 pick had 20 of 21, and the #3 pick had 17 of 21. Of those picks, #1 pick included 11 All-Stars, #2 picks, 8 All Stars, and #3 pick, 3 All Stars.

It makes common sense that college players should be more polished than high school players. College players have more competitive experience. They should have played against a higher caliber of competition.

The Cubs have been rebuilding with high school, college and international players. However, the Cubs have put all their recent signees into Rookie and Class A ball. On a normal promotion path, players at that level today will take four years to get to the major leagues. That means  2016-2017 for the Cubs.

A different way of seeding the minor league system is give credence to a drafted player's past experience.

If you have a high round college player from a big baseball conference (Pac 12, Big Ten, SEC, ACC) or baseball school, one would look to slot them in Triple AAA.

If you have a high round college player from a small baseball conference or lower division, but has 3 or 4 years of college experience, one would look to slot them in Double AA.

If you have middle round college player or a junior college athlete, one would look to slot them in High A.  If you have a lower round college or very skilled high school player, one would look to slot them in Low Class A.

The rest of the picks would be allotted towards Low Class A or Rookie ball.

One should expect that if the Cubs drafted Appel, Gray, Bryant or Moran, that pick would be assigned to AAA Iowa. If one is truly concerned about something in their current make up, an argument could be made to start them in AA Tennessee. (But if you have that concern, why draft him at #2?) To slot such a high pick any lower is like a hoarder guarding old  pizza boxes in a dank low income apartment. It impedes the development track to put a player below what he should be placed at (some would say if you do that to boost a young player's confidence, where he would blow away the competition, that is fine but you destroy those talents if he begins by underperforming or being average.)

The Cubs need to look to fast track their selections since they have made the decision not to be big players in the veteran free agent market.

June 5, 2013


The Miami Herald reports that the Cubs are down 10 percent in attendance from last year (which was itself down 4 percent from 2011). The Cubs have drawn 148,378 fewer fans during the first 29 home games (35.8% of the total home games this year). That is approximately 5,117 fewer fans per game in 2013 than in 2012.

The Cubs could blame the weather, but the weather is always dicey in April and May in Chicago. The Cubs have to consider that the team started off badly, but they were bad last season, too. The Cubs marketing department expected the full season of Castro and Rizzo to pull fans back into the park. In May, the Cubs had the weakest draw for a weekend series in a decade. The Cubs also had the worst Sunday home crowd in almost 40 years.

The disappointing White Sox are actually drawing 3 percent more fans in 2013 than in 2012.

The Marlins have lost 21 percent in attendance, but that is mainly a protest against the owner selling off his entire team during the off season. The Phillies are down 13 percent to date mainly because of their poor start and injuries to star players. However, surprising teams with winning records like the Orioles have seen double digit increases in attendance.

The bottom line in baseball continues to be that winning turns the turn styles.

It has become apparent to the casual Cub fan that the team is not focused on winning for the next few years. Wrigley Field may be a charming place to spend a day, but so is the local water park, beach, forest preserve picnic grounds, IMAX theater, museum or a mega-mall.

The Cubs management has spent so much time and effort trying to sell their vision of the new Wrigley Field real estate redevelopment projects that they forgot how to sell the Cubs to the average baseball fan. Most of the stories about the Cubs that gather large headlines are the fights between city hall and the neighbors about renovation plans. Even today, the bigger story is that the city council subcommittee passed a compromise ordinance that both the team and the neighborhood dislikes over the Cubs-Angels game story.

The Cubs are on pace to lose 414,435 in attendance in 2013. That projects to a final gate of only 2,468,281 fans, the lowest total since 1997.


ESPN reports that the league office is putting together a case to suspend 20 major league baseball players for illegal use of performance enhancing drugs. The suspensions will not be for failed drug tests, but secondary evidence obtained from a closed "anti-aging" and wellness clinic in Florida called Biogenesis. The operator of the clinic has denied that he did anything wrong. There is a pending criminal investigation of the clinic and its operations but no one has been indicted to date.

In the past, Congress pressured MLB to clean up its sport during the home run happy steroid era. Teams took a blind eye to their players using steroids or HGH or other designer drugs created by chem labs like BALCO. The sport grew as offensive production grew. But one of the fall outs of the steroid era was that those same illegal drugs began to work their way into college and high school locker rooms. A serious public health issue resulted in government investigation and criminal prosecutions.

Today's athletics are all chasing the massive big money contracts of professional sports. Human nature is to find whatever edge there is out there to get to the top of your game. Teams expect their big money contract players to perform at the highest levels so they can get a return on their investment (wins and championships).  Even when MLB got the players to agree to a testing program, it was watered down and weak. Until the requirement of random blood tests (to screen for hard to find human growth hormones and synthetic PEDs), the program was more for show and trapped only the real stupid player.

But now MLB is using the supplier (Biogenesis) to gather documentary evidence that major league players asked for and received banned substances which avoided MLB testing. Athletes and their legal counsel will challenge MLB's under the table evidence gathering as a violation of player's state and federal (HIPPA) medical privacy rights. They will also argue that such hearsay evidence is outside the scope of the CBA and the drug testing program so it cannot be used as means of suspending a player.

The problem of athletes using illegal drugs still persists at all levels. It was reported this week that potential number one draft pick Jonathan Gray allegedly tested positive for a non-perscribed Adderall, which is a ADD stimulant, that many athletes now use like players in the 1960s used uppers. There are a million (dollar) reasons why PED use could enhance the draft position of a player since the new CBA has a strict bonus cap program slotted to draft position.  Even if true, many scouts believe that report would not affect Gray's draft status or position.

However, any time a player is connected to PED use, it should raise a red flag to ownership. Is it worth the risk to sign or draft a player with a PED past? Are you paying a contract based upon drug inflated performance numbers? If a player has used an illegal substance in the past, will he be likely to use it in the future (which could cost the team millions of dollars and the loss of the players services for 50 or 100 games)?

Then it gets down to the integrity of the sport itself. Baseball prides itself on its long history. It is the one sport whose basic rules have not changed over time. Baseball records are cherished comparisons between generations of fans. But as the steroid era sluggers get on the Hall of Fame ballot, there appears to be the some backlash from the voters. However, at that point, most players may not even care - - - they made tens of millions of dollars during their career so they do not need the validation of a HOF plaque to supplement their retirement income.

The cat and mouse, hide and seek nature of the drug use and drug testing in professional sports will be a never ending scandal because of the big money surrounding the athletes. The game rewards performance and cheating rewards performance.

June 3, 2013


You can only be judged by the outcome of the decisions you have made; what was good or bad depends on the results.

By far, the Cubs decision makers have not been doing well.

1. The Ian Stewart trade with the Rockies was a total bust. The Cubs traded two major league ready prospects for a veteran who had lingering injuries.

2. The trade for Arodys Vizcaino for Paul Maholm & Reed Johnson appears to be headed toward total bust. Vizcaino is now deep into the second year after arm surgery with no time table, if ever, of returning to the majors.

3. The signing of injured pitcher Scott Baker, who is having a slow rehab and no clear return date, is heading toward the Vizcaino trash bin.

4. The long term extension of Starlin Castro has some people concerned that the Cubs rewarded a young player under team control who has not improved since his rookie season.

5. The decision to sign Edwin Jackson, a career .500 pitcher, to a long term $52 million deal looks bad. Jackson is currently 1-8, the worst pitcher in the Cubs rotation.

There may be a few plus moves like Anthony Rizzo, but he is just in his first full season and the league will adjust to his swing. But again, the Cubs made the decision to sign Rizzo long term when they could have waited to see if Rizzo becomes the next D. Lee or Hoffpauir.

The Cubs also have a growing public relations problem. Ricketts and his business minions are trying to bully their vision of Lakeview redevelopment to meet their own goals and the expense of the adjoining businesses and residents. Further, the same mistakes and frustrating on field play continues to gnaw at fans who are showing their displeasure by not attending games. The conga line of marginal replacement players donning the Cub uniform for the last two seasons needs to stop.

June 1, 2013


We have stated our preference that the Cubs pick a college third baseman with the #2 pick in the baseball draft. The reason is simple: the Cubs have no ready third base prospect to anchor the infield with Castro and Rizzo.

If the Astros pick UNC 3B Colin Moran first, then the Cubs could select the best power hitter in the draft in SD 3B Kris Bryant. The Cubs also lack consistent power on their major league roster. There is a glaring need to fill at third base.

But the sexy pick is always the hard throwing potential ace starting pitcher. But selecting pitchers are more prone to boom or bust. Besides, the Cubs stockpiled 17 pitchers in last year's draft and only one, Pierce Johnson, has made some progress in low Class A.

Besides, the Cubs claim a lack of depth in their pitching inventory. However, the major league roster is filled with under 30 pitchers who have a real major league track record of success: Garza, Samardzija, T. Wood, Feldman and Villanueva.  If pitching is so hard to find and develop, why are the Cubs poised to trade off their most prized assets, starting pitching, for more prospects who may years away from reaching the majors (if at all). It would make more sense in "rebuilding" the franchise is to kept your quality starters, sign them to extensions, and shore up your position weaknesses.

Another critical reason why filling third base quickly with a long term solution is that third base is the anchor point for the infield. It is a power position. It is a key defensive position. You want to lock in a infield corps for long term success like the Dodgers did in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

The Cubs need to solidify their infield immediately. A college third baseman playing at a high level of competition can finish this year in AA and play part of 2014 in AAA and be ready for major league duty by next year's trade deadline. The only way to speed up the rebuilding process is the draft quality college players who are ready to make the next jump in competition.

The final reason is that it appears that there will be a run on third basemen in the first round of the draft. It is projected that Bryant will be selected by the third pick. Moran should be gone by the fifth pick. Power hitting New Mexico third baseman D.J. Peterson is projected to be selected in the 11-21 range. Notre Dame third baseman Eric Jagielo will go from 24-32.  The best high school third baseman, Travis Dementte will go between 34-37. Finally, Stephen F. Austin third baseman Hunter Dozier will go by the end of the supplemental first round, between 35-39.

By the time the Cubs pick next in the second round, there will be no "ready" first round talent at third will be left to choose. The next two third basemen project to be third to sixth round selections.

Chad Pinder is a 6'2" third basemen from Virginia Tech. He is leading his team through the NCAA tournament, recently hitting 2 HRs and 6 RBIs in an ACC tournament game. He hit .325 this year with 22 doubles and 114 total bases. A converted shortstop, he is known for above average defensive tools and leadership skills. Some scouts question is batting skills at a higher level. He is a junior, so he has the option of not signing, but most scouts believe that should not be an issue. He projects to be a third to 5th round selection.

Drew Dosch is also 6'2". He plays for Youngstown. His slash line is .338/.434/.488. He is classified as a hard nose, blue collar type player with a high baseball IQ. However, he is only an average defender. Many observers think his ceiling is that of a utility infielder. Also a junior, but he plays at a small school so if drafted he will probably sign. Scouts project him to be selected from the fourth to seven rounds.

Because of the drop off of third base talent after the first round, if the Cubs want to rebuild quicker (and there is a now a glaring need with yesterday's low attendance for the Diamondbacks opener) the Cubs must draft Byrant or Moran with their first draft pick.