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?
So the first “measuring stick” is over, if that’s indeed what it was. While Desipio is right and series in May don’t really matter any more than any other, and this Cubs team still has a lot of growing and moulding to do before it’s the finished product, I think a lot of Cubs fans like myself were at least more curious as to how the Cubs would look against the team playing the best baseball in the league right now (and yes, I just barfed typing that, so any typos from here on out are vomit-related as opposed to my usual idiocy).
And the answer we basically got what was Busch Stadium remains the Bermuda Fucking Triangle to the Cubs.
In the midst of a three game losing streak nothing seems fun. Blowing a lead to the division stud St. Louis Cardinals puts 5 1/2 games between you and them in early May with two games left in the series. The nice start that was April has slowly started to fade into the past. The great news is you have a long season left to play. The other great news is Joe Maddon will keep things fun.
We’ve already seen pictures of the Cubbies dressed in their red Blackhawks jerseys. We’re going to see the team dressed like cowboys, indians and maybe even have a disco dance trip. The dance parties after victories will continue to take place in the clubhouse. The young kids will sprint to their positions and run a “hard 90″ to first base day in and day out. The bleachers will open and the sun will shine. Win or lose the Cubs will have fun that day.
Baseball is a grind. The flights, buses and hotels will take their toll. Yes. These guys are paid plenty to deal with these “luxuries” but that doesn’t mean they won’t have their mental lapses and tired swings. Watching Rizzo throw the ball around the other night made me laugh more than it made me disappointed. It’s nice to see major leaguers look like little leaguers every once in awhile.
So when the Cubs endure a little three game losing streak here in early May it doesn’t make me too worried. You’re going to lose games. The Cubs are still going to lose a few series here in the coming months. Heck, they may even take the next two from the Cardinals and win the next ten games. You never know with baseball and that is the great thing about the sport. The Astros are the best team in baseball. Now let’s see them do that for another 100 games before I anoint them the West crown.
Maddon is going to keep this grind fun. He’s going to have his special tricks up his sleeve for when he needs it. Maybe a magician. Maybe a live rhino in the clubhouse. Maybe even a trip to a children’s hospital or two. That’s what makes him unique. He has his way of going about keeping this game interesting. The game itself can make even the most focused athletes lose interest for an at bat, a few games and maybe even weeks. Maddon keeps it fresh. He makes coming to the ballpark fun. The atmosphere around this team has never been better. The play on the field will not dictate whether they are having fun or not. Their winning will only make the fun atmosphere even better. This game is about dealing with your failures. Maddon may not be the best at helping his players with that but he may well be the most fun and unique.
What a dizzying few weeks. I hadn’t even come down from watching Bryant crush that double that turned into a homer last night when word came that Addison Russell was getting the call. You’d be forgiven if you passed out. I nearly did.
And what I couldn’t help thinking after hearing the news, is this is the complete Cubs team. At least for now. Because it all seems set now. There isn’t a hole to fill. Alcantara’s struggles and La Stella’s injury opened up 2nd. I don’t know if Bryant can stick at 3rd, but he certainly will just rotate into left to get La Stella at 3rd. There aren’t any more big pieces coming.
Quite the week for Chicago sports when Patrick Kane comes back for the playoffs a full five weeks early than the timetable set out, and Kris Bryant is called up the minute after he was basically eligible to be. You could almost get dizzy.
I almost shudder to think what will happen if he even goes 2-for-4 today, much less homers or drives in the winning run. Will all those who couldn’t comprehend what would happen if he wasn’t up for the beginning of the season (when the Cubs went 5-3 which is far above the top end of what we thought they could do all season, as that’s a 101-win pace) be excited? Or will they point out that this should have been happening all along and now they have proof it was a crime?
It shouldn’t matter. It’s yet another exciting day to be a Cubs fan, and there have already been a few and there are certainly many more on the way.