I feel like I’ve spent a great deal of time, both here and in my own forums, writing about there are a lot of firsts (or return to things after a long hiatus) this season. Or preparing for firsts, or trying to remember how things go when your team is actually competitive again and trying to head things off before they happen. And so it is again this week.
We knew with a team this young that there would be bumps and stretches where they looked like utter garbage. That’s what young, incomplete teams do. It’s rather amazing that it took this long, which is probably why most of us are so bummed. That it took place in yet another trip into hell down I-55 makes it particularly sting.
This is this week’s editorial from The Ivy Drip.
Now that the Hawks’ dust has settled, and it becomes clearer to more and more people around town that there’s something going on on the Northside, the arguments and scrutiny around the Cubs are going to get more and more intense. This is just a fact. I noticed it already this week.
The debate on Twitter, after Kyle Schwarber was done tearing the Indians into chewed up paper bits, was why the Cubs had to have David Ross and whether or not Schwarber should stay with the Cubs longer than this past weekend. That’s not the part of the debate I’m most interested in, as I’m pretty sure he’ll be back up around the end of August and probably splitting time between left and catcher, depending on injuries and the development of Baez and Alcántara or the lack thereof.
No, the side of the debate I was most piqued by was the discussion of David Ross. Most Cubs fans, from what I can tell, are not enamored with Ross. Let me say at the top that most teams’ backup catchers aren’t very good, which is why they’re backups. Rare is the team that can evenly split starts between two receivers and not see a drop in production. So that’s established.
From this week’s Ivy Drip Editorial. Get the whole issue here.
I guess it’s going to take a little longer than we all would like to change the atmosphere around the Cubs, at least based on what I’ve seen so far.
I attended my second game of the season on Friday, only to arrive at Wrigley to find it filled with Royals’ fans. But that’s fine, the Royals hadn’t been to the Northside in 14 years and if I were a fan of an American League team in another city I would of course make the trip. Hell, it wasn’t so long ago that any Royals fan would have never thought they’d get to watch their team in Wrigley.
Friday’s loss was a tough one, and one of the many games this year where it felt like the Cubs left one out there. We’ll see if that comes back to haunt them or not. And of course they boned it themselves, with Dexter Fowler misplaying an easy fly for the winning run. From there, Edwin Jackson threw one into right field, leading to a couple tack-on runs and there you go.
Here is a look at some of the names we will or will not see in the coming years at Wrigley Field. This isn’t a top 10 list. These are a few guys making some noise early on this season. Names we know and names that aren’t as familiar.
Javier Baez – We all know that he was sent down to work on making contact. He’s currently hitting .311 at Iowa but has struck out 25 times in 90 at-bats. That is still an alarming rate. His 5 dingers show he’s still swinging for the fences. His OBP sits at .388 which is really good for him. I still cannot help but think Javy will be the first person out the door for help at the Major League level. My gut tells me Theo sees him as trade bait even if his numbers stay solid at Triple A.
John Andreoli – The 17th round pick out of UCONN has been quietly working his way through the minors. With so many high picks throughout the past few seasons making headlines, he’s been a name that has flown under the radar. He is an on-base machine that brings zero pop. He steals bags at a pretty good success rate. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him get a cup of coffee if he stays healthy. These are the type of guys that hang on for their ability to get on base and play at a cheap rate. Keep an eye on him.
Arismendy Alcantara – Yes he’s been with the big club but I still see him as a bit of a project. His versatility keeps his name around most lists but there are a few holes in his swing that still need to be figured out. He’s going to get his chances but he needs to get on base more and make better contact. I’ll take more singles and less at-bats swinging for fences and striking out. He may also be on his way out for help on Clark and Addison.
Blake Cooper – It’s not often you like 27 year old minor leaguers that haven’t made it to the bigs but I like Cooper. He competes in the zone and makes hitters beat him. Nothing special but someone I would not be shocked to see in the pen for a chance. Not a long term solution but the type of “kid” I like to cheer on.
Kyle Schwarber – Keep hitting young man. This guy was drafted early because he could hit and hit for power and he’s showing nothing but that. I know they want to push him to the outfield eventually but I wouldn’t give up on him behind the plate. I haven’t seen too much of his defense but guys that can hit like him from the left side and catch don’t grow on trees. He played LF in college and in the minors so his bat should get him to the big leagues soon but getting at-bats against some veterans at the next levels will be key to his development.
Dan Vogelbach – I wouldn’t tell him this but Dan may be too big for his own good. The young man can surely hit and get on base. Anthony Rizzo stands in his way for any chance at playing time in this organization. He is better suited for the AL. Can you say trade?
Carl Edwards Jr – Perfect for the bullpen. He’s showing that he is lights out back there. We all know his frame is in question but his stuff is not. I see a future late innings guy that can wipeout lineups on 9 pitches. With all this excitement I still want to see him do it for a whole season before we get too excited. Arms break down fast you know.
Billy McKinney – 20 year old on the fast track to the majors. He’s hit at every level and I think he was an absolute steal from Oakland. His maturity is beyond his years. I love his left handed stroke. He’s going to be a corner outfield because of his arm but he barrels a lot of balls. I do not expect a bunch of power in his swing to develop but doubles are fun to watch, as well. I’m really excited about this kid.
Albert Almora – The kid can play CF. He runs down a lot out there. His arm plays out real well and is good enough for the majors now. His ability to adjust his aggressiveness is key to me. Watching him a few times online, I must have seen most of his strikeouts. I’d like to see him have a more toned down approach and take some walks. He barrels balls but I see him walking back to the dugout too much without making contact.
Corey Black – This kid can pitch. Brought over in the Soriano deal, he can be a closer in the making as long as he can get his control under wraps. He’s a small framed pitcher that gets everything out of his delivery. The fastball (mid to upper 90’s) sets up a slider that is a swing and miss pitch. He will continue to start at the minor league level but I cannot imagine him staying there. Much like Edwards, he’ll likely be at the end of the bullpen, and much like Edwards, he must stay healthy (which he is not right now).
Ivan Peneyro – Not an overpowering starter but competes in the zone. He has good control and makes hitters beat him. If you get a chance to see him watch him compete. This is the type of kid that makes it even though he wasn’t a household name. Still only 23, this RHP from the Dominican is one to watch.
If you’re like my home blog, TheCommittedIndian.com and our readers, it would probably mean that most of you would be surprised to learn I listen to the Afternoon Show on The Score 670. But I’m the same kind of smartass they are, so it kind of hits me right between the eyes. On Thursday, Dan Bernstein mentioned something I had never thought of before. He was commenting on how quickly and how easily Anthony Rizzo became the focal point of the Cubs, and trying to figure out another athlete in town who so seamlessly became a team leader despite his lack of age or experience. When put in those terms, the name you’d land on is pretty simple.
That would be Jonathan Toews.
Seeing as how I come from the land of ice and wind, I thought about it for a minute and it seemed like a really apt comparison. There’s obviously a couple difference. Toews was a Hawks draft pick and Rizzo was acquired. But considering it was just about Theo and Jed’s first move, the excitement level of each organization about their prospect was the same. The other difference is that Toews arrived the same year as Kane did, and Keith and Seabrook and Bolland and Brouwer and Byfuglien and Hjalmarsson and Sharp were already here. They all got to grow together. When Rizzo arrived it was… um… Samardzija? Castro I guess, but it’s getting to be a hot debate just how important he’s going to be long-term. So certainly there was more of a massive hole that Rizzo could step into.
Read the rest at CubsDen…
There is no such thing as “statement games” in any sport really. We like to put that label on some to highlight or peak certain games in regular seasons that always turn into a slog at some point. Except for football obviously, where every game is one because there just aren’t that many of them and there’s a difference between 9-7 and 10-6. If they do exist, they most certainly don’t in baseball, which varies far too much from day to day and things can hinge simply on how your pitching matchup lined up for that day. Even full series really don’t qualify.
But that doesn’t stop us from looking at them that way, especially this year with the Cubs as we try and figure out just how good they are and just how good they can be. And if you were doing that like me, you were probably driving yourself just a little too crazy for this early in the season, and probably overall.
If you viewed anything as “a test,” the Cubs hadn’t really passed any of them. They lost two of three to the Padres, another playoff contender for sure. And then they kind of infuriatingly teased us from there. They took the first two games on the road against the Pirates, and PNC Park was not a place that they’d played well in a very long time. But then they lost the next two. They then lost two of three at home to the Brewers, which wasn’t a test but certainly frustrating. They then cuffed around the Cardinals’ pitching staff for most of a four-game series, but got creative to lose three of those. And then lost two of three to the Brewers, which is like walking into a wall after you biff the SAT or something.
So when the first-place Mets rolled in with their glitzy pitching staff, while you didn’t consider it a benchmark you certainly were interested on how the Cubs’ lineup would deal with this power staff.
Well, that one they passed, huh?