Oh Right, A Preview Of Some Sorts
It dawns on me that I should probably get going on a season preview. Wouldn’t want to try and hit the ground running right on Opening Day, hmm? Yeah, let’s do that.
Let’s go from inside out, and we’ll start in the infield and then eventually get to those who roam the grass, and we’ll finish off with those at the center of it all. I guess that’s inside-out-and back in. Unless you consider those in the bullpen even more outside than the outfielders. But that depends on where they put the pen in a certain stadium. Ok, that’s enough of this.
Wellington Castillo – Oh man, am I ready to shake hands with beef. You know there are going to be some prodigious homer runs, as Castillo has a scares-children violent swing and power. But there’s going to be a fuckload of strikeouts. He K’s in almost a 1/3rd of his at-bats last year, and a 33% K-rate is less than stellar for those of you scared by numbers. He’ll swing at a lot of pitches, but he only has to up his walk rate a couple percentage points to have a decent OBP around .350. Add in the power that most think is coming, you’ll take that. Some those clued in this summer are raving about the improvement in his defense and throwing out runners, and that’s nice to hear. An argument I get into a lot is whether a catcher calls a good game or not. Obviously, that’s only something you learn over time, and at the end of the day it isn’t Castillo throwing the fucking thing. A.J. Pier-asshole apparently called a great game and all his pitchers hated him anyway. I leave that to the pitching coach and pitchers.
Dioner Navarro – Your run-of-the-mill backup catcher, that joins the role of three-point shooter, 4th line center, and backup running back of guys who can do this always seemingly have a job. He’ll never be on base, he’ll catch the ball, and he’ll probably get a couple big hits early in the year that will cause morons to want him to get more starts. The Hank White Plan, as it should be called.
Steve Clevenger – I’ll put him as a catcher, but the Cubs are planning to move him all over the field to fill in where necessary. I can’t remember when the Cubs have started a year with three catchers, but here we are. You forget that Clevenger was crushing the ball in April last year, though it was only 22 AB. Then he pulled a rib cage muscle, and I can’t fathom that’s an injury that goes away or makes hitting easy. After returning from that injury, he was basically Koyie Hill II, and that’s a sequel no one wanted. Still, Captain Ugly has hit at every level in the Cubs system, so we can’t say for sure that how he ended last year is what he’s going to be. The question is will he get enough at-bats between filling in at catcher, 3rd, and 2nd to prove it. Quite frankly, as long as he doesn’t have a stroke at 3rd and makes any contact, I’ll be all for him taking time away from Luis Valbuena.
Anthony Rizzo – Because of the dearth of things to actually watch and enjoy on the Cubs this year, I think we’ve all gone gaga for Anthony Rizzo. But in reality, we’re talking about 80 really good games. That’s not a half a season. It’s not a full second cycle around the league. It’s promising, but what happens when pitchers start pounding him around the hands, which he struggled with last year? Until he adjusts to that and other things that will be done to him, we can’t fully sell out. Believe me, I’ve got a hair trigger on selling out on this guy. It’ll take a stiff breeze. Would love to see his walk rate go up a little from the 7% it’s at now. Wouldn’t mind cutting down at the offers at breaking pitches low and away. But it’s all nitpicking. Rizzo plate appearances this year might be the only time you put the beer down and watch intently.
Brent Lillibridge – I’ll warn you, I’m going to hate this guy. He’s going to get some starts at 1st against lefties. He can’t hit lefties. He really can’t hit at all. Throw out two months on acid from 2011, he’s never hit. He’ll catch the ball wherever he is. Man, will he try hard. Girls will think he’s cute in uniform. And that will be that.
Darwin Barney – Here’s a player that I’ve come around on, which sounds monumentally stupid after he’s won a gold glove. While I always thought him useful, he was someone I had pegged that had to be upgraded when the Cubs were good again. I’m no longer there, so long as he hits eighth when the Cubs are good again. And the thing is, he might get ousted if Javier Baez himself or shifts Castro to 2nd (though I know 3rd base is more likely for either). But you can’t question that Barney was the best defender at the position, as the gap in UZR to the next guy wasn’t close. And being up the middle, that’s important. Looking a little deeper on The Purple Evolutionist (sorry Obstructed View), his walk rate climbed slightly from the season before, while his BABIP sunk to a pretty unlucky .273. If Barney can continue to walk just a bit more than the year before (it was around 8% in the minors), and have his batted balls go for hits at a normal rate, his OBP could be over .320. Which is enough for what he gives you with the glove.
Starlin Castro – Well here’s the great Polarizer. Some are already asking Starlin to measure the drapes at 3rd or center to make room for Javy Baez. Some want him cashed in on in a trade. Others point out that players that make the majors and stick at age 20 generally become stars. And that’s the kind of camp I’m in. Yeah, he’s erratic in the field. Players barely of drinking age tend to. His range is better than any Cubs SS of my lifetime. The arm will calm down.
What is worrying about Castro is that his BABIP in his first two years were a pretty unsustainable .340+. Last year it came down closer to .300, which is where these things tend to end up. That’s how you end up with a sub-.300 average. It should climb up a bit. Is he going to walk more? I doubt it. Will he hit for more power? Slightly, but probably not as much as we hope. I sort of wonder what it might look like if Brett Jackson can claim CF by midseason and Castro ends up hitting like sixth. Will that be better or worse? Sweetheart spot in front of Rizzo to start? We’ll see. Yet another player in a long line of them who has to learn just because you can make contact on any pitch doesn’t mean you should.
Let’s not spend too much time on this one, I just ate after all. Luis Valbuena sucks. Ian Stewart sucks and is made of the dreams of children. They both can catch the ball. There are no answers coming from the minors this year, unless Junior Lake recovers from injury and gets his miraculous on at Iowa. Actually, considering what’s ahead of him, maybe it won’t take that much to get in the major league lineup. Oy.