Sunday, November 29, 2009
Although the Cubs as a team had a respectable relief ERA of 4.11, the team had two pitchers finish in the top 10 in the NL in blown saves: Kevin Gregg (7) and Aaron Heilman (6). The good news is that neither pitcher is expected to return in 2010. The bad news is that Carlos Marmol, who finished with 4 blown saves, is expected to be the closer in 2010.
Here's a look at how the bullpen appears to be shaping up for 2010.
Closer - Carlos Marmol (signed through 2012) - Marmol was expected to be the Cubs closer for all of 2009, but the Cubs went out and acquired veteran Kevin Gregg as "insurance". Lou Piniella then ended up handing the closer job to Gregg in spring training and the rest is history. Now, with Gregg leaving and Marmol apparently in line for the closer role again, there are rumors that the Cubs are interested in Takashi Saito. Sounds like Piniella still isn't convinced that Marmol is the man for the job and considering Marmol's control problems this year, who can blame him. However, until the Cubs actually go out and sign a veteran to "backup" Marmol, he is penciled in as the Cubs closer for 2010.
RH Setup - Angel Guzman (signed through 2012) - Guzman had a good year for the Cubs in 2009, posting a 2.95 ERA and a 1.05 whip. He was second to Marmol in holds with 15 (Marmol had 27) and should continue to fill the righthanded setup role for the Cubs. If the Cubs do not pick up a veteran reliever, Guzman could be first in line should Marmol fail in the closer role.
LH Setup - John Grabow (signed through 2011) - Grabow was recently signed by Hendry to a 2 year $7.5 million contract and is expected to serve as the lefthanded setup man to Marmol. There has even been talk of Grabow becoming the closer should Marmol fail. However, Grabow is not a dominant type of reliever and I cannot see him closing games. However, he can be a useful pitcher for the Cubs in 2010.
Long Relief/Spot Starters/Lefty specialists - Tom Gorzelanny (under team control through 2012) and Sean Marshall (under team control through 2011) - With Lou Piniella hoping that Jeff Samardzija wins the 5th starter job in spring training, its likely that Gorzelanny and Marshall will end up in the Cubs bullpen. I can see Piniella using Marshall more as a long reliever/spot starter than Gorzelanny. Gorzelanny has not proven that he can effectively get righthanders out, but he is effective against lefthanders, making him likely to fill the LOOGY role. So, if Samardzija does not succeed as the 5th starter, look for Marshall to fill in for him (at least until one of the Cubs up-and-coming prospects is ready).
Middle Relievers - David Patton, Esmailin Caridad, Justin Berg, John Gaub, Blake Parker, Jeff Stevens and Rafael Dolis - with 5 relief spots being taken up by Marmol, Guzman, Grabow, Gorzelanny and Marshall, the Cubs will fill in the remaining two spots with a couple rookies. None of the pitchers listed above have thrown more than 30 innings in the majors, however Caridad and Berg had some success late in the season. As the Cubs already have 3 lefthanders in the pen, its likely that Piniella will fill the remaining two spots with righthanders, making Caridad and Berg the likely choices. However, as often happens, the Cubs will probably shuttle the others back and forth from AAA Iowa as the need arises.
2011 and beyond
None of the pitchers listed above will be free agents after 2010, so the 2011 bullpen could look the same as 2010. There has been some talk that Cubs prospect Andrew Cashner is better suited for the bullpen as he has yet to develop a third pitch to go with his fastball/slider combo. If so, Cashner has the stuff to become a late-inning reliever for the Cubs, possibly as early as 2011. However, the Cubs are going to keep him as a starter until he shows he cannot handle the role.
After 2011, the Cubs could lose lefties Grabow and Marshall, but they have a good lefty relief prospect in Gaub who can fill in and could potentially fill the setup role vacated by Grabow.
So, here are my projected bullpens for the Cubs:
2010 - Marmol (CL), Grabow (SU), Guzman (SU), Gorzelanny (LOOGY), Marshall (LR), Caridad (MR) and Berg (MR).
2011 - Marmol (CL), Grabow (SU), Guzman (SU), Gorzelanny (LOOGY), Mashall (LR), Caridad (MR) and Berg (MR).
2012 - Marmol (CL), Guzman (SU), Gaub (SU), Gorzelanny (LOOGY), Cashner (LR), Caridad (MR) and Berg (MR).
Next up: I will take a look at the Cubs infield on Tuesday.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Starting pitching was a strength for the Cubs in 2009 and it looks to be again in 2010. The only starting pitcher who is a free agent for the Cubs is Rich Harden and although he is interested in returning to the Cubs in 2010, it appears that the Cubs will let him walk.
With Harden's likely departure, the Cubs are left with a rotation of Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, Randy Wells and a 5th starter to be selected from the group of Tom Gorzelanny, Sean Marshall and Jeff Smardzija. Here's a look at what each of these pitchers brings to the table.
Ted Lilly (signed through 2010) - Lilly joined the Cubs in 2007 and has been stellar ever since, with 2009 being a career year for him. He posted a career best 3.10 ERA and gave up the fewest walks/9 in his career (1.8), which led to the lowest whip of his career (1.06). He tied for the Cubs lead in wins with 12 and would have had more wins if the Cubs offense hadn't gone AWOL all season. Although he was limited to 27 starts due to a bum knee and a sore shoulder, I would still consider him the staff ace for 2010.
Ryan Dempster (signed through 2011 with 2012 player option) - Dempster followed up a career year in 2008 (17 wins and a 2.96 ERA) with another strong year, posting a 3.65 ERA and 11 wins in 31 starts. He led the Cubs in IP (200) and strikeouts (172) and seems to have gotten over the wildness that plagued his early career (4.66 walks/9IP through 2007) to average just over 3 walks/9IP the last 2 years.
Carlos Zambrano (signed for too long (2013) and too much ($73 million)) - the former ace of the staff has not pitched like an ace since 2006 (the year before the Cubs signed him to a 5 year extension). There are concerns about his fitness, health (back issues) and whether the extensive workload he endured from 2004-2006 is coming back to haunt him now. He has gone from a dominant pitcher (3.14 ERA, 1.18 whip and 8.3 K/9IP from 2004-2006) to a slightly above average pitcher (3.89 ERA, 1.33 whip and 7.2 K/9IP). These are still good numbers for a pitcher, but not one making $18 million a year.
Randy Wells (under Cubs control through 2014) - despite struggling at AAA Iowa the last few years, Wells pitched well in 5 starts with Iowa at the beginning of 2009 and earned the call when the Cubs needed another starter. He took hold of the 5th starter job and never let go, ending the season tied with Lilly for the lead in wins (12) and posting the lowest ERA of all the starters (3.05). Wells was certainly a breath of fresh air for the Cubs and has earned the 4th starter job for 2010.
5th Starter - The 5th starter job is up for grabs for 2010 and will likely come down to one of Tom Gorzelanny, Sean Marshall or Jeff Samardzija.
Jeff Samardzija (signed through 2013) - Lou Piniella has come out and said that he hopes Samardzija wins the job. Samardzija has the best stuff of the candidates, but it remains to be seen if he can harness it. He has bounced back and forth from the rotation to the pen and from the minors to the majors the last two years, but the Cubs seem intent on making him a starter for 2010. He pitched well in 5 starts in the Mexican winter league in October (2.25 ERA and 22 K's in 24 IP) and is probably the favorite to become the 5th starter.
Tom Gorzelanny (under Cubs control through 2012) - Gorzelanny also split time between starting and relieving after being acquired from the Pirates in July and did not fare well in either role (5.40 ERA as a starter, 6.75 ERA as a reliever). However, he did show some improvement in September, posting a 3.21 ERA in 14 IP. If he doesn't win the 5th starting spot in spring training, he could give the Cubs another lefthander out of the pen.
Sean Marshall (under Cubs control through 2011) - although he has fared well as a starter for the Cubs in the past (7-8 with a 3.92 ERA in 2007), Marshall was used primarily out of the pen in 2009. He did make 9 spot starts for the Cubs, but was much more effective as a reliever (3.23 ERA as a reliever, 5.24 ERA as a starter). He'll likely begin 2010 in the bullpen.
So, that's how the Cubs rotation should stack up for 2010, with Lilly, Dempster, Zambrano, Wells and Samardzija the likely starters and Gorzelanny and Marshall backing them up. Lilly will likely open up 2010 on the DL, so either Gorzelanny or Marshall will fill in for him until he's ready.
2011 and beyond
For 2011, only Lilly will become a free agent after 2010. As a lefthanded starter who appears to be getting better with age, Lilly will probably command a big, multi-year contract on the free agent market and the Cubs will probably have to let him walk as well.
However, that might not be such a bad thing as the Cubs probably do not want to lock up another aging veteran to a long-term contract and they have some good pitching prospects on the horizon. Its likely that one of Andrew Cashner, Jay Jackson or Chris Carpenter will take Lilly's spot in 2011.
After 2011, its anybody's guess what might happen. Dempster has a $14 million player option for 2012, which he'll probably turn down in hopes of getting one last multi-year contract out of someone before his skills go downhill. If he jumps ship, the Cubs will probably plug one of Cashner, Jackson or Carpenter in to fill his spot.
Also, its possible that the Cubs might use one of their pitching prospects to acquire a player this offseason (Granderson, perhaps) or the next. The Cubs now have some depth at starting pitcher and should not be afraid to use it.
So, to sum up, here's how I see the Cubs rotation stacking up over the next few years:
2010 - Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, Randy Wells and Jeff Samrdzija
2011 - Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, Randy Wells, Jeff Samardzija and Jay Jackson.
2012 - Carlos Zambrano, Jeff Samardzija, Randy Wells, Jay Jackson and Chris Carpenter.
Next: I'll take a look at the Cubs bullpen on Sunday.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Monday, November 23, 2009
Paul Sullivan put together a nice summary of all the recent rumors involving the Cubs, including Roy Halladay, Milton Bradley, Curtis Granderson, Marlon Byrd, Matt Holliday and Mark DeRosa.
Although the 3-way deal involving Milton Bradley, Luis Castillo and Kevin Millwood has been shot down, it sounds like the Cubs are interested in Castillo but still would need to find a taker for Bradley, as the Mets don't want him (if he can't handle the Chicago media, how's he going to handle the New York media?)
Halladay, Holliday and DeRosa are unlikely to happen, but I can envision the Cubs acquiring Granderson via trade or signing Marlon Byrd to play center field. However, its likely that the Bradley situation will have to be sorted out first.
So, with the rumor front pretty quiet (for now), I am going to start a new series that will take a look at the Cubs current roster, what to expect for 2010 and what to expect for the future.
Here's how it will break down:
Tuesday, November 24th - Starting Pitching
Sunday, November 29th - Bullpen
Tuesday, December 1st - Infield
Thursday, December 3rd - Outfield
As always, I will also keep you up-to-date on the latest news an rumors as they happen, including the increasingly important winter meetings December 7-10.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Next, John Heyman of SI.com lists the Cubs as a potential suitor for Matt Holliday. Again, this seems highly unlikely due to his high salary demands.
Also, just in case you thought the above rumors indicated the Cubs could be looking to add payroll, Paul Sullivan says that large contracts are limiting the Chicago Cubs strategy. He even suggests that the Cubs will trade some more arbitration eligible players to try to reduce salary.
Finally, for those craving Milton Bradley rumors, here's the latest:
- Phil Rogers reported this morning that the Cubs were exploring a 3-way deal with the Mets and Rangers that would net them second baseman Luis Castillo.
- However, MLB's T.R. Sullivan talked to a Rangers official who said bluntly "Not happening".
- Carrie Muskat also reported that Cubs officials had denied the rumor and that "four to six teams have expressed interest in acquiring Milton Bradley...in varrying degrees".
So, the Milton Bradley trade watch continues with only 16 days left until the winter meetings.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
So its likely that if Bradley is traded, it will be as part of a bad contract swap, suggesting that the Cubs will receive one of Pat Burrell (Tampa Bay), Lyle Overbay (Toronto) or Kevin Millwood (Texas). However, if the Cubs were to receive Burrell or Overbay, they will likely have to move them in a three way deal, as the Cubs need a centerfielder, which Burrell can't play, and they already have a first baseman in Derek Lee.
Bob Nightengale tweets that "The Tampa Bay Rays have become the clear-cut favorite to acquire Milton Bradley from the Cubs". However, take that for what its worth, as the Cubs were the clear-cut favorite to acquire Jake Peavy last offseason.
MLB.com's Carrie Muskat says that "Hendry and the Cubs were expected to try to make some deals to tinker with the roster rather than do much shopping". She goes on to say that, despite their interest in returning, Rich Harden and Reed Johnson are unlikely to be resigned by the Cubs due to budget constraints. Paul Sullivan reports that you can rule out seeing Pedro Martinez in a Cubs uniform.
The Cubs really don't need Harden or Pedro as they have pretty good pitching depth. Reed Johnson, although a good reserve, is replaceable.
So, other than the Grabow signing and the Heilman trade, there's not much to report on the Cubs front. I expect things to pick up prior to and during the Winter Meetings December 7-10. However, chances are we are going to see a quiet Thanksgiving.
According to John Paul Morosi of Foxsports.com (via Twitter), the Cubs dumped Aaron Heilman on the Diamondbacks today for minor leaguers Scott Maine (LHP) and Ryne White (1B).
Heilman earned $1.65 million in 2009 and was probably going to get a raise through arbitration, so this move helps to make room for John Grabow's bloated contract.
Stay tuned for more hot stove news and rumors.
I COULDN'T AGREE MORE.
Back on November 10th, I said that Grabow was a decent reliever but that the Cubs should not overspend on him, suggesting around $1.5 million per year. Perhaps that was a bit low, considering Grabow made $2.3 million in 2009, but I don't think he's worth $3.5 million per year.
Hendry would have been better off waiting out the market and signing a lefty around the time spring training opens or going with an internal option (John Gaub, perhaps).
Spending $3.5 million on a middle reliever is a waste, even if the Cubs, as Wittenmyer suggests, consider Grabow a late inning reliever and possibly a closer, should Marmol implode.
When (not if) Grabow's luck runs out and he starts getting lit up like a Christmas tree, Hendry is going to be stuck with yet another bad contract and will likely be out of a job.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Could it be happening to the Cubs again?
Donald Tyrone Veal was a 2nd round pick (No. 68 overall) by the Cubs back in 2005. A lefthander with a 92-94 mph fastball, a plus curveball and an decent changeup, he immediately became one of the Cubs top prospects. After a 2006 season in which he split time between Peoria (A) and Daytona (A+) and posted a 2.15 ERA with 174 K's in 154.1 IP, he was named the Cubs co-minor league player of the year and was rated as the 2nd best Cubs prospect by Baseball America.
However, like Rich Hill before him, Veal was plagued by command problems. During his 4 years in the Cubs minor league system, he averaged 4.9 walks per 9 IP. He was able to succeed in the low minors due to the inability of hitters to get hits off him (he only allowed 5.4 H/9 through high A ball).
Once he reached Double A Tennessee though, the advanced hitters were able to hit him (9 H/9) and combined with his command issues led to some poor results. He posted a 4.97 ERA in 2007 and a 4.58 ERA in 2008.
The Cubs left him off their 40 man roster after the 2008 season and he was selected by the Pirates in the Rule 5 draft with the 4th pick. The Pirates, starved for pitching, kept him on the major league roster for all of 2009.
Due to various injuries, he only pitched 16.1 innings for the Pirates with 20 walks and an ugly 7.16 ERA to show for it. However, he spent a lot of time working with the pitching coaches in the bullpen and in the classroom.
Now it appears that things are finally coming back together for Veal. Assigned to the Arizona Fall League, he has been downright nasty. Through his first 5 starts, he pitched 16.2 innings giving up only 10 hits and 2 walks while striking out 17.
After a hiccup in his 6th start (2.1 IP, 5 hits, 3 walks and 3 ER), he got to face Mesa tonight in his final start of the AFL season. (Mesa, by the way, is where the Cubs prospects, including Starlin Castro, are playing). In his 2 innings tonight, Veal gave up 2 hits, 2 walks, 1 ER and struck out 4 (including Castro once). Thus, Veal's overall line for the AFL is 21 IP, 15 hits, 5 ER, 7 BB and 22 K's.
Has Veal finally turned the corner? Its hard to say, as we're dealing with a very small sample size. However, it looks promising. If Veal can keep the walks in check, he could become a potential ace for the Pirates. If he doesn't, he could become the next Rick Ankiel (except that Veal can't hit).
Monday, November 16, 2009
- Starlin Castro
- Brett Jackson
- Josh Vitters
- Andrew Cashner
- Jay Jackson
- Hak-Ju Lee
- Logan Watkins
- Chris Carpenter
- Ryan Flaherty
- D.J. LeMahieu
- Josh Vitters
- Starlin Castro
- Andrew Cashner
- Jay Jackson
- Hak-Ju Lee
- Tyler Colvin
- Ryan Flaherty
- Chris Carpenter
- Brandon Guyer
- Steve Clevenger
First of all, I completely had a brain freeze when it came to Brett Jackson. He is certainly one of the Cubs top prospects and deservedly ranked high by Baseball America. If I had not forgotten about him, I probably would have included him in my top 5 (probably around 4 or 5).
Second, my rankings are based on the players stats and scouting reports of others (such as Baseball America), so some players with more minor league experience got the benefit of the doubt over others (e.g. LeMahieu and Watkins) who have limited experience.
The lists are pretty close. With the exception of Brett Jackson, we both have the same top 5 with only minor differences in order. The bottom 5, where things become more subjective, is where we have the most differences.
So, overall, not too bad for a non-scout "stathead". However, for those of you who are in Dynasty Leagues and are constantly looking for the next hot prospect, I would recommend suscribing to Baseball America. They are the true experts when it comes minor league baseball.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
In another article, Rogers says that, according to Jim Callis of Baseball America, the Cubs have the talent to land Granderson, even more so than the Yankees or Angels.
What kind of talent are we talking about? Well, currently the names being thrown around include minor leaguers Starlin Castro, Josh Vitters, Hak-Ju Lee, Andrew Cashner, Jay Jackson or Chris Carpenter, as well as major leaguers Jake Fox, Micah Hoffpauir, Tom Gorzelanny, Aaron Heilman, Mike Fontenot and Aaron Miles.
So, what do we make of this? The Cubs definitely have the talent to land Granderson, but is he worth it? Well, over the last 4 years, Granderson has averaged 23.5 HR's and 16.5 SB's and is a career .272/.344/.484 hitter. He has a career .993 fielding percentage and The Fielding Bible rates him as the 8th best defensive center fielder in MLB from 2006-2008. On the negative side, he is a lifetime .210 hitter in 619 AB's against lefthanders (including .183 in 2009) and ESPN's Keith Law (pay site) says that Granderson has effectively become a platoon hitter as a result of his struggles.
The Cubs have been in "Win Now" mode for the last several years and this kind of move would fall into line with that philosophy. However, at some point you need to be able to call upon your minor leaguers to replace the fading talent in the bigs.
Unless you are the Yankees and have gobs of money to throw around, you cannot always go the free agent route to fill holes in your lineup and if you use up all your best minor leaguers in trades, you have nothing left to rebuild with.
On the other hand, the Cubs do have an excess of middle infield prospects. If they could acquire Granderson for a package built around Hak-Ju Lee, Josh Vitters and perhaps a pitcher, they could still have a good nucleus of talent to build their future upon (namely Starlin Castro).
So, if I were Jim Hendry, I would definitely go after Granderson, but I would not bet the farm on him. Here's what I would offer:
- Hak-Ju Lee (a good prospect, but Castro is better and further along),
- Josh Vitters (Ramirez is signed through 2012),
- Chris Carpenter (the Cubs have a few good starters in Cashner, Jackson and Carpenter, so trading one away won't kill them), and
- Jake Fox (who's better suited as a DH anyway).
If that is not enough to get Granderson, then move on.
What do you think? Would you make that deal? Would the Tigers go for it?
Let me know your thoughts.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
That's not to say that Jim Hendry did not lay the groundwork for a potential Bradley Trade. In an article by Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald, Hendry was quoted as saying the meetings went "kind of the way I anticipated it. You feel like hopefully there's some business to be done in the next few weeks. Hopefully, you can do something before you get to Indianapolis (next month for the winter meetings)".
So, if you read between the lines, Hendry's goal is to move Bradley in the next few weeks before the Winter Meetings start (December 7-10 in Indianapolis). Once he does that, he should have a clearer picture as to how much he has to spend on free agents (such as center fielders Mike Cameron or Marlon Byrd).
Another interesting tidbit: According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, Curtis Granderson is being made available by the Detroit Tigers. Phil Rogers says, if he's available, the Cubs should go after him hard, offering up Starlin Castro and Carlos Marmol.
What do you think? Is Granderson worth Castro and Marmol?
As always, I will keep you up-to-date on the latest Hot Stove news and trade rumors. Stay tuned.
You can find the archived interview at the following link (I come on at around the 47 minute mark):
Please check it out and let me know what you think.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Leading off, the Milton Bradley trade rumors:
- It was reported by Ken Rosenthal that Milton Bradley was being discussed in a 3-way deal involving Toronto and the Mets.
- However, Paul Sullivan was quick to shoot this down saying "Toronto wants no part of Bradley".
- Jim Hendry, in an apparent effort to try to improve his trade leverage, indicated that the Cubs have not given up on Bradley and Hall of Famer Billy Williams echoed those comments. However, Jon Heyman of SI tweets that "He has to go somewhere. Word is many Cubs stars won't even talk to him".
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Rangers would be willing to trade for Bradley, if the Cubs ate a significant portion of his remaining contract. However, Paul Sullivan indicates that they Cubs don't want to do that.
- Phil Rogers of the Tribune tweets that the "Cubs are trying hard to trade Milton Bradley in the next 36 hour...hard to believe anyone will take him but TB, Texas are listening, anyway".
- Finally, John Heyman, in a separate article, confirms a lot of the above, adding that Texas may want the Cubs to pay $16 million of Bradley's remaining $21 million contract. The other option is for the Cubs to take on a similarly bad contract.
Mark's Remarks - Its obvious that Hendry is trying to find a taker for Bradley without having to pay a large chunk of his remaining salary. There is definitely some interest out there, but it sounds like teams don't want to take on both Bradley AND his large salary. In my opinion, the best case scenario is that the Cubs trade Bradley for Aaron Rowand of the Giants and Rowand has a resurgence in Chicago.
Not everything is about Bradley though. Paul Sullivan also has the following tidbits:
- Rich Harden is hoping to resign with the Cubs with his agent Arn Tellem expected to meet with Hendry this week.
- The Cubs are hoping to resign John Grabow to a 2 year deal.
- There's been no talk of a Carlos Zambrano trade.
- Its possible that Starlin Castro could play short for the Cubs in 2010.
- The Cubs are in the market for a center fielder so they can move Kosuke Fukudome back to right.
Mark's Remarks -
- If Harden is willing to take a discount to return to the Cubs, I'm sure Hendry would consider it. However, that seems unlikely.
- Grabow is a decent reliever, but the Cubs should not overspend on him. I think around $1.5 million per year is sufficient.
- At least we know that one headcase (Zambrano) will be with the Cubs in 2010.
- As I said before, I would not be surprised to see Castro in a Cubs uniform by May 2010.
- There are not a lot of center fielders available in the free agent market, so the Cubs will need to acquire one via trade.
I'll keep you up-to-date on the rumors as the GM meetings wind down tomorrow.
Monday, November 9, 2009
The Tribune's Paul Sullivan outlines three areas that they Cubs will look to improve this offseason: Leadoff batter, Center Field and Middle Infield. I addressed some of these issues back on September 30. Sullivan's article contains a poll asking what the Cubs most important offseason move should be. Not surprisingly, "Getting rid of Milton Bradley" is receiving the most votes, followed by "Finding a leadoff hitter".
If the Cubs can trade Bradley and get a centerfielder in return (such as Aaron Rowand), they could kill two birds with one stone. There is surprisingly high interest in Bradley. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports quoted a source as saying "You would be shocked at the level of interest." Gordon Wittenmyer of the Sun Times says that "three more interested parties contacted the Cubs in the last week or so."
So, there is interest in Bradley, but just how far are they willing to go. One thing about trade rumors is that they can get pretty ridiculous at times. The most outrageous rumor I've seen involving Bradley is that he could be traded for Roy Halladay. C'mon, I know that Toronto GM, Alex Anthopoulos, is new but I don't think he is naive enough to trade the best pitcher in baseball for a headcase and clubhouse cancer.
So, Jim Hendry will be spending this week rubbing elbows with the other GM's and trying to find someone to take Bradley off his hands without eating a large part of Bradley's contract. Hopefully he can get it done quickly so that he can address the other issues.
Finally, on a lighter note (pun intended), Sammy Sosa is apparently turning white. Sosa's friends are downplaying it, saying its due to some skin rejuvenation process, but if you look at the pictures, the change is pretty dramatic. I guess one could say that now that Sosa's retired and off the juice, he's a ghost of his former self.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Leading the list is Starlin Castro. This kid is making a major push to make it to the big leagues in 2010. He is leading the AFL in hitting with a .424 average and made the AFL's All Star team, which was played last night, and went 2 for 3 in the game. He could soon surpass Josh Vitters as the Cubs top prospect (if he hasn't already). If he doesn't make the Cubs out of spring training, he could be up by early May (as a lot of teams like to defer service time to avoid "super two" status).
Josh Vitters has also had a nice run in the AFL, posting a .360 average in 50 AB's. He hasn't shown much power (0 HR's), but its good to see him continue his hot hitting into the fall.
Andrew Cashner continues to impress in the AFL as well. After a rough first start, in which he gave up 3 runs in 2 IP, he has settled down and pitched 11.2 innings while giving up only 1 run. Overall, he has a 2.64 ERA with 11 K's in 13.2 IP.
James Russell also bounced back from a poor first outing (2 ER in 2 IP) to pitch 8 straight scoreless innings. Overall he has a 1.80 ERA with 9 K's in 10 IP.
Blake Parker has excelled, but hasn't pitched too poorly and currently has a 4.00 ERA in 9 IP, with a 6/5 K/BB ratio.
John Gaub has been roughed up a bit (8 ER's in 7 IP), but does have 11 K's, so it hasn't been all bad. Still, he has to start fooling more hitters (11 hits allowed), if he is going to be successful.
Finally, Wellington Castillo played in only 4 games before leaving the league. While he hit .357 in 14 AB's, its not really enough to go on.
Overall, you cannot place to much emphasis on a player's performance (good or bad) during the AFL. However, for a player coming off a good minor league season (like Castro and Vitters), a strong performance in the AFL can improve their status even more and help accelerate the promotion to the majors.
Also, the big league club sometimes uses the AFL to get a player experience at a new position (such as Castro playing second), if they have a potential hole to fill on their major league roster.
Both of these things bode well for Castro. So, make sure you keep an eye on him in spring training.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
So, first things first, here are my picks for the Top 10 Prospects for 2010:
- Starlin Castro - He has been playing second in the AFL and only has Jeff Baker/Mike Fontenot ahead of him, so its certainly possible that we see Castro by mid-season, if not earlier.
- Andrew Cashner - with Ted Lilly having shoulder surgery and possibly missing April, the Cubs will need a starter to fill in during his absence. Cashner is arguably the Cubs best pitching prospect and could break camp with the big club.
- Jay Jackson - if Cashner doesn't get the call to replace Lilly or if he falters, Jackson is the next logical callup. In any case, since its rare for a starting rotation to survive a season intact, I can see both Cashner and Jackson having an impact in 2010.
- Tyler Colvin - if Bradley is traded and the Cubs cannot find an alternative via trade or free agency, Colvin could be called upon to play rightfield. At the very least, he should be called upon should any outfielder be injured during the season.
- Esmailin Caridad - the Cubs need to rework their bullpen and have several options in the minors. Caridad tops the list of candidates and should begin the 2010 season in the Cubs pen.
- John Gaub - a power lefthander, Gaub could also break camp with the Cubs. He has the stuff to potentially work as a setup man to Carlos Marmol.
- Steve Clevenger - Clevenger will likely be the first catcher the Cubs call upon should Soto falter or get injured. Its also possible that he could become part of a platoon with Soto, however that's unlikely.
- Jeff Stevens - As mentioned above, the Cubs need bullpen arms and Stevens proved capable at AAA. He should get an extended look with the big club in 2010.
- Blake Parker - see Jeff Stevens.
- Chris Robinson - another catching option for the Cubs, Robinson is a good hitter and could get a shot should Soto get injured. Clevenger is still first in line though.
So, there you have it. In terms of fantasy impact, I think Castro, Cashner, Jackson and Covin could all have an impact in 2010. The other players will not help you win your fantasy league, but could fill in for your injured regulars.
With the General Manager meetings starting next week in Chicago, I fully expect a deal to get done involving Milton Bradley (there are a lot of bad contracts out there that teams want to shed). So stay tuned for updates.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Also, note that these lists only represent prospects who have not exhausted their rookie eligibility. Therefore, players like Jeff Samardzija, Jake Fox and Micah Hoffpauir, who have exceeded the rookie limits for AB's or IP are excluded from these lists.
So, without further ado, here they are:
- Josh Vitters - regarded by many as the Cubs top prospect entering the 2009 season, Vitters has done nothing to change that opinion. Although he hit only .284/.314/.456 between low A Peoria and high A Daytona, it was his .316/.351/.535 line at Peoria that really impressed. As he learns to adjust as he moves up the ladder, the promotions should come more quickly. Vitters will probably need at least 2 more years in the minors before he's ready for the show. Coincidently, Aramis Ramirez is signed through 2011, with an option for 2012, which gives the Cubs time to let Vitters progress at his own pace. ETA: late 2011
- Starlin Castro - Castro has been turning heads all season and his performance in the Arizona Fall League (where he is currently leading the league in hitting with a .423 average) is earning him comparisons to a young Alfonso Soriano. Scouts believe he could be an All-Star shortstop and Cubs fans may not have much longer to wait for his arrival. He reached AA Tennessee this year and with his strong AFL showing, he could start 2010 at AAA with an outside chance of making the opening day roster. He has been working out at secondbase in Arizona and could be the Cubs answer at that position. ETA: mid 2010
- Andrew Cashner - the Cubs 2008 first round pick is on the fast track to the majors, moving up to AA in his first full minor league season in 2009. After a rough first start in the AFL, Cashner has pitched back-to-back quality starts, including 4 no-hit innings in his last start on October 28. Cashner should begin 2010 in AAA and could be the first starter called upon should one of the Cubs starters falter. ETA: mid 2010
- Jay Jackson - Jackson was promoted quickly in 2009, playing at three different levels and ending at AAA Iowa. If Cashner is the 3rd best Cubs prospect, Jackson is 3A, as they both put up impressive numbers and could battle for the Cubs "6th starter" position at AAA. ETA: mid 2010
- Hak-Ju Lee - Lee showed off his hitting ability (.330 average) and plus speed (25 SB's in 68 games) in his first year in the minors. He still has to fill out his tall frame a bit (6'2", 170 lbs) and is still at least a few years away from the majors, but the Cubs have to be pleased with the early results. ETA: late 2012
- Tyler Colvin - a former first round pick, scouts were comparing him to Steve Finley and and Shawn Green after his first full season in the minors (.299 with 16 HR's and 17 SB's in 2007). However, a bum elbow led to a down year in AA in 2008 (.256 and 14 HR's) and his ranking within the organization took a hit. He bounced back well in 2009, hitting .300 with 14 HR's in AA and earned a late-season promotion to the majors. Its possible that he could replace Milton Bradley in rightfield in 2010, but its more likely the Cubs will give him another year to develop and use a stopgap option in right (assuming Bradley is traded). ETA: late 2010
- Ryan Flaherty - Originally drafted as a shortstop, Flaherty was moved to second to ease the Cubs shortstop logjam (see Starlin Castro and Hak-Ju Lee). Flaherty showed some pop at class A Peoria this year with 20 HR's and should be able to hit 10-15 HR's in the majors. His experience and polish should allow him to move up faster, now that he's established himself in his first full year in the minors and he could be only a couple years away. ETA: mid 2011
- Chris Carpenter - another one of the Cubs up-and-coming young pitchers, Carpenter dominated at class A Peoria and Daytona (combined 2.19 ERA and 93 K's in 98.2 IP) before hitting a wall at AA Tennessee (4.78 ERA). He has a mid 90's fastball and hard curveball to go along with an improving changeup. He will need to prove he can handle AA before moving up, so he's at least a year away. ETA: mid 2011
- Brandon Guyer - Guyer has plus speed and raw power, but only his speed showed up in 2009 (30 SB's and only 3 HR's). He did hit 14 HR's in 88 games at Peoria in 2008, so the power potential is there. Like Carpenter, Guyer dominated A ball (.347 average with 23 SB's at Daytona) before hitting the wall at AA (.190 average). He will also need a year to consolidate his skills at AA before being considered for the majors. ETA: mid 2011
- Steve Clevenger - Clevenger has proven he can hit for average (.290 in 2009), but has yet to show much power (only 1 HR in 307 AB's). Still, he is a solid catcher with an above average arm and could compliment Geo Soto well while also filling in at other positions. He reached AAA in 2009 and has little left to prove in the minors and should reach the majors in 2010. ETA: mid 2010
Honorable mention - Darwin Barney, Esmailin Caridad, John Gaub, Blake Parker and Jeff Stevens.
Overall, the Cubs are blessed with a good group of middle infield prospects (Castro, Lee, Flaherty and Barney, as well as others who did not make this list) and some good young pitching (Cashner, Jackson and Carpenter). Chances are that a couple of the Cubs infield prospects will be traded for other areas of need, but that the Cubs will hold on to Castro and either play him at second or move Theriot there. If Theriot's skills start to diminish, the Cubs could replace him with Flaherty down the road. Thus, its not hard to imagine the following potential lineup for 2012:
C - Geovany Soto/Steve Clevenger1b - Aramis Ramirez/Jake Fox/Micah Hoffpauir2b - Ryan Flaherty/Ryan Theriotss - Starlin Castro3b - Josh VittersOF - Alfonso Soriano, Brandon Guyer and Tyler ColvinSP - Carlos Zambrano, Jeff Samardzija, Andrew Cashner, Jay Jackson, Chris CarpenterCL - Carlos Marmol(If we could only trade Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano)
Coming up next, I will close out my review of the Cubs minor leagues and prospects with a look at the top 10 prospects for 2010 on Thursday.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
However, their pitching was pretty impressive, finishing second in ERA and K's at 4.14 and 1043, respectively. They had the lowest Whip of any team at 1.36 and gave up the fewest runs at 631 (they lost the ERA title as Memphis gave up fewer earned runs).
As with most AAA teams, the roster is filled with major league and minor league veterans to provide depth for the major league squad, so a lot of the best prospects are down at AA. However, they was still some young talent at Iowa.
Top Hitting Prospects
- Jake Fox - Although his stay at Iowa was short, Fox was definitely the best hitter on the team, hitting .409 with 17 HR's in only 164 AB's. The man-without-a-position hit well on the major league level also, with a .259 average and 11 HR's in 216 AB's. Lou Piniella was looking for a righthanded power hitter last offseason, perhaps they should have filled the position from within instead of signing malcontent Milton Bradley.
- Steve Clevenger - a 7th round pick in 2006, Clevenger has impressed with his ability to make contact and hit the ball to all fields. He hit .364 in 26 games at AA before being promoted to AAA, where he hit .265 in 230 AB's. He hasn't shown a lot of power so far (only 1 HR in 2009), but scouts believe he can hit 10-15 HR's as he matures and gains more strength. He's knocking on the door to the majors and if Geo Soto doesn't turn things around in 2010, Clevenger could be called upon to provide an offensive spark.
- Micah Hoffpauir - Although he didn't hit well in his short stint in AAA (.217 in 86 AB's), Hoffpauir is still one of the Cubs top prospects. He was promoted to the majors early in the year when Ramirez went down and showed off his power hitting 10 HR's in 234 AB's. He hit only .239 in the majors, but he hit .362 with 25 HR's and 100 RBI's in only 290 AB's at AAA in 2008, so hitting should not be a problem. He played mostly in the OF with the Cubs in 2009, but may give the Cubs the option of letting Derek Lee walk when he becomes a free agent after 2010.
- Chris Robinson - acquired from Detroit in 2006 (for waste of roster space, Neifi Perez), Robinson had his best season in the minors this year, hitting .326 with 9 SB's in 307 AB's. While he probably profiles best as a backup catcher, he won't hurt you at the plate (career .279 hitter in the minors).
- Darwin Barney - promoted from AA midseason, Barney continued to hit well at AAA (.264 in 212 AB's). You can read more about Barney in my review of AA Tennessee.
Top Pitching Prospects
- Jeff Samardzija - Jeff was named the Cubs second best prospect by Baseball America heading into the season and if the Cubs can just figure out what they're going to do with him once-and-for-all, he may still turn out to be their best pitching prospect. He has bounced back and forth from the bullpen to the starting rotation, both in the minors and the majors. Maybe the Cubs have finally made up their mind, as Lou Piniella has said that he wants Samardzija to compete for a rotation spot next year. With a fastball that touches 98 mph and a splitter and slider that can both be plus pitches, Samardzija can succeed in any role, the point is to pick ONE.
- John Gaub - also making the list for AA Tennessee, Gaub makes the list here as well, thanks to his 1.72 ERA and 40 K's in 31.1 IP. He shows the stuff to be a reliable late inning reliever.
- Jeff Stevens - a minor league veteran of 5 years, after being drafted in the 6th round in 2005 (by the Reds), Stevens enjoyed his finest season in the minors in 2009 and finally earned a promotion to the majors. Pitching solely in relief, Stevens posted a 2.03 ERA with 61 K's in 57.2 IP. Although he didn't fare as well in the majors (7.11 ERA), he should be in the bullpen mix in 2010.
- Blake Parker - serving as the closer for Tennessee (10 games) and Iowa, Parker had a combined line of 2.70 ERA and 25 saves to go along with 77 K's in 63.1 IP. Parker features a sinking fastball that can reach 96 mph, as well as an improving changeup and slider. He another to keep an eye on as the Cubs try to fill their bullpen vacancies.
- Esmailin Caridad - Used as a starter at AAA, Caridad posted a 4.17 ERA with 114 K's in 131.2 IP. However, some scouts believe that he is best suited as a reliever, and his 1.40 ERA and 17 K's in 19.1 IP in relief in the majors supports this theory. He has a leg up on Gaub, Stevens and Parker in earning a spot in the Cubs bullpen and could possibly start 2010 in the Cubs pen. However, he will have to keep pitching effectively to hold off the others.
So, there you have it, the last of my minor league team reviews. I will be compiling my list of the Cubs top 10 overall prospects for posting on Tuesday as well as my list of the top 10 Cubs prospects for 2010 on Thursday.
You can check out the remaining schedule and the links to all of my other reviews HERE.