2013-2014 TO DO LIST

I do this every year.  I come up with a “TO DO LIST” for the Cubs.  Each year, I am a little ambitious in my list.  This year, will be somewhat similar.  So, let’s do this!

1.  The Cubs need to hire a new manager.  Some of the names that have been floated around are Dave Martinez, Rick Renteria, A.J. Hinch, Mike Maddux and Manny Acta.  I would prefer Mike Maddux, but I have a feeling the Cubs will go with Rick Renteria.  Just think, we could have had Ryne Sandberg a couple of years ago, but Theo & Jed went with Dale Sveum.  We see how that worked out!

2.  The Cubs have a lot of holes on their roster.  Free agency cannot fill all of them realistically.  Yet, there are some potential moves that could happen.
Jacoby Ellsbury or Shin-soo Choo are both viable options to sign and become our new leadoff hitter.

3.  As much as I like Welington Castillo the idea of signing Brian McCann is enticing.  His bat in the lineup as a catcher would be an upgrade.  Yet, no matter if the Cubs make a big splash in free agency, we do not have the depth at pitching needed to compete with the Cardinals, Pirates and Reds in the NL Central at this point and time.

4.  Trade options.  Trading for David Price would cost the farm…..literally!  But it is an option.  Heck, trade Starlin Castro and Jorge Soler in a deal for him.  I know it would take more than just those two, but it is a start.  Don’t trade Javier Baez or Albert Almora though.  Those two have too much talent to lose.

5.  Stay patient and wait til our younger players arrive.  Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant all have high ceilings and are not that far off from playing in the big leagues.

Basically, the Cubs have a lot of money available to spend.  It’s hard to believe that the Cubs were 3rd in payroll in 2010 at just under $150 million.  Since then the Cubs no longer have to pay the huge contracts for Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Aramis Ramirez, Kosuke Fukudome, Carlos Silva, Alfonso Soriano, Ted Lilly and Derrek Lee.  The farm system has been restocked with hitters at every level.  Pitching is still a little bit thin, but it is improving.  I truly believe the Cubs are not that far off from competing.  But it’s going to take some work.  The Cubs have too many holes to fill in free agency this off-season.  I say let the young players earn their way to the big league roster and get their feet wet.  Our infield could have Javier Baez at SS or 3B, Rizzo at 1B, Barney at 2B and Castro at SS or OF.  The outfield could consist of Almora CF, Bryant LF or 3B and Soler in RF.

Whatever decisions are made I’m still a Cubs fan.  First things first though.  Let’s hire a manager.  I want Maddux but am predicting Renteria.

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THIS IS THE END…..

Okay, the season is not over just yet, but it’s almost there.  The Cubs have avoided a 100 loss season but will finish last in their division.  It appears they will have a top 5 pick in next year’s draft as well.  Unfortunately, it appears the Cubs may be looking for a new manager as well.  There are rumors that Joe Girardi, among others, is a potential target.  Too bad that Philly already landed Ryno for their job!  

Anyway, the Cubs had another rough season on the surface.  They traded away several players including Matt Garza, Scott Feldman and David DeJesus.  The Cubs have continued to cut payroll and strengthen their minor league system during this rebuilding process.  

The future of the Cubs may not be built around Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro after the disappointing season they each have had.  I really believed at the beginning of this season that these two youngsters would be the cornerstones of the future.  Instead, they have had difficult years with few bright spots.  I’m hoping they can rebound next year.  With the Cubs having Javier Baez in the minors I could see Starlin Castro being traded or moving positions unless he plays better next year.

The season is not over yet.  I’m rooting for the Pirates.  Sentimental pick I guess.  I like the Reds as well.  As long as the Cards don’t win…..spoken like a true Cubs fan! Anyway, I am going to watch as much of the playoffs as I can.  It’s a long winter without baseball.   

LIARS, CHEATERS AND THIEVES

I’ve been debating if I wanted to write anything on the latest round of PED use in Major League Baseball.  This latest revelation of users involved with BIOGENESIS is sadly not very surprising.  It’s also makes me sick!  Having to explain to my 6 year old son about all of this is something that I was forced to do.  I had to explain that players like Ryan Braun and A-Rod are liars, cheaters and thieves.

I cannot stand a liar.  I know that everyone lies at one point or another, but that does not make it right.  If you lie to me and I find out it causes me to have little trust in you.  When raising my children, I have caught them in lies on multiple occasions.  I have tried to teach them that no matter how bad the truth is it is always better than lying.  I want them to trust me and know that I love them no matter what.  However, when it comes to professional athletes I have no personal relationship.  Most of us fans don’t.  Yet, they still continue to lie to us as if we are peons.  We see our elected leaders lie to us constantly as well.  Lying has become more than accepted by some in today’s culture and it’s not surprising that these players did as well.  BUT IT’S STILL WRONG!!!!!

Then you take into account that each of these men are cheaters!  Here are just two definitions of the word cheat.  CHEAT-verb-Act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage.  CHEAT-noun-A person who behaves dishonestly to gain an advantage.  Both of these definitions are appropriate.  I have little trust in a man who would lie and cheat.  It says a lot about a persons character in my opinion.

Finally, it is my opinion that these men that lied and cheated are also thieves.  I feel that they should be forced to pay back all of the money that have stolen from the fans and the organizations they have played for.  I know this will not happen, but it’s how I feel personally.  They let their bank accounts continue to grow and grow.  They continued to lie and cheat.  That’s a thief to me!

It comes down to the fact that these men are not making moral choices.  Instead, their greed for money, fame and performance outweigh integrity and truth.  It is a moral choice to cheat and they should be held accountable.  I feel all cheaters should be banned from the game!  I know it’s harsh for some to hear, but that’s how I feel.  Especially, when I have to explain it to a 6 year old who doesn’t understand why a grown man would do such things.

FUTURE AT THIRD BASE

The Chicago Cubs haven’t filled the hot corner since the departure of Aramis Ramirez.  We’ve used a platoon of Luis Valbuena and Cody Ransom this year.  Valbuena is hitting .225 and Ransom .215 as of today.  Last year we used Valbuena, Ian Stewart and Josh Vitters.  Valbuena led those three players with a .219 average for 2012.  So, it’s pretty obvious we haven’t had much production at the hot corner.

However, the future at third is bright…..but who will it be.  Here’s some of our minor league players that could end up being our future at third.  

Josh Vitters will turn 24 later this month.  He was the third overall pick in 2007 out of high school.  He has been plagued with injuries this year and that really has hurt his chances despite hitting .289 in triple A Iowa.  Last year he had a successful year in Iowa batting .304 with 17 HRs before getting called up.  After he was called up, he struggled to hit big league pitching.  He finished with a .121 average in 99 at bats.  His best chance is to get healthy and have a strong spring training in 2014.  Even then I’m not sure if he is our long term answer.

Recently acquired Mike Olt, from the Texas Rangers, is next on the list.  He is exactly one year older than Vitters and will turn 25 on August 27th.  He was drafted in 2010 in the first round by Texas and has some amazing raw power and a good glove at the hot corner.  Unfortunately, he has not hit the ball well in the minors this season despite putting up great numbers in double A in 2012.  Supposedly, he has been battling a problem with his eyes that has contributed to his hitting woes this year.  I’m hoping this is true because he could be our starter at third next year.

Christian Villanueva, 22, is another third baseman that the Cubs acquired from the Texas Rangers last year.  He’s in double A Tennessee this year and has hit 14 homers in 404 at bats with a .260 average.  He shows quite a bit of promise, but is a little farther away than Vitters or Olt.

Next on this list is 20 year old Javier Baez.  He is currently playing shortstop but could projects as a power bat at the hot corner or a corner outfield slot.  He started the year at high A Daytona and earned a promotion to double A Tennessee.  He has unbelievable power and bat speed.  The 2011 first round pick by the Cubs has hit a combined 28 homers this year between Daytona and Tennessee.  He also possess the most speed of any of the players on this list.  One concern is his high strikeout rate.  That’s something he needs to work on.  Also, his glove at SS has been shaky.  He’s committed 38 errors so far this summer and that is another reason he could shift to third.  One thing is for certain though…..it’s his bat and unbelievable power that will get him to majors.

Finally, this year’s second overall pick is the last player on this list.  Kris Bryant, 21, is currently assigned to short season Boise.  He’s batting .292 in 48 at bats with 3 homers as of today.  He’s another power bat that could end up as a corner outfielder or stay put at third.  Either way, there is a lot of promise with Bryant.  Also, he won the Golden Spikes Award this year as the best amateur player in the country.  

So, there it is.  Vitters, Olt, Villanueva, Baez and Bryant.  One of these guys will hopefully be our future at third base and be a long term solution.

MORE JUNIOR LAKE & MORE

I am feeling ecstatic over the arrival of this young man!  He is a breath of fresh air.  He’s making it hard for management to consider sending him back to Iowa when David DeJesus returns.  I’m betting he stays!

As I was watching last night’s game against the D’Backs, I saw something encouraging to me with Starlin Castro.  He struck out and hit his bat on the ground breaking it.  I normally don’t like players showing their frustrations on the field, but this was a little bit different for me.  Too many times this year I have felt that Castro was too indifferent or didn’t seem to care.  So, when he broke his bat last night I was happy.  It made me believe that he still cares and that competitive fire is still there.

Who’s next to get traded?  Soriano, Gregg, Schierholtz???  We will just have to wait and see.  I’m looking forward to it though.  The minor league system is getting rebuilt in a hurry under Theo & Co. which is a good thing.  We still don’t have an ace in the making in our system yet, but that could change soon.

 

JUNIOR LAKE

While I expected Junior Lake to be called up this season I did not expect him to be called up as soon as he was, but he did an excellent job last night.  He doubled in his first MLB at bat and finished the night going 3 for 4 and even stole third base.  He was aggressive at the plate and on the base paths.  A breath of fresh air for this team!

I know Lake is not going to be an everyday player at this point.  Heck, he may get sent back to Iowa once David DeJesus returns which looks to be any day now.  But watching him play last night was refreshing.  He looked excited to be playing the game and was playing hard.  I was worried when he collided with the wall chasing after Dexter Fowler’s homerun in the 4th inning.  He was running full steam and never gave up on the ball even though I believe his lack of experience in CF was a contributing factor.  Thankfully, he was not injured and finished the night with a solid performance.

 

 

SOME MINOR THINGS

I began writing this post on Sunday, but was not able to finish until this morning.  I’ve been busy with work and family.

The Cubs minor league teams are beginning to take shape under Theo & Co’s regime.  Javier Baez has played well this year and earned a promotion to AA Tennessee.  He even hit a home run in his first game with the Smokies.  Baez has the power of a corner infielder but is still playing shortstop for the time being.  Centerfielder, Albert Almora, who got off to a bad start this year in spring training with a broken hamate bone in his left hand is in single A Kane County.  Since recovering from his injury, Almora has hit .351 in 168 at bats.  I look for him to get promoted to high A Daytona in the near future if he continues to play this way.
Cuban outfielder, Jorge Soler, was playing well in Daytona until injuring hi left tibia.  The injury is a stress fracture and it’s uncertain when he will return.  Hopefully, he will be back by August.
21 year old middle infielder Arismendy Alcantara was playing shortstop until Baez’s arrival in Tennessee.  Since then, Alcantara has shifted over to second base.  He’s stolen 22 out of 25 bases so far this year and has decent power even homering in the Future Games on Sunday.  For the record, Arismendy was signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2008 by former GM Jim Hendry.
Two more Jim Hendry players are Centerfielder, Matt Szczur and shortstop Junior Lake.  Szczur is going to turn 24 next week.   The speedy outfielder is playing well for the AA Smokies and could see a promotion to Iowa by the end of the summer.  Junior Lake is a 23 year old playing well for the triple A Iowa Cubs.  After starting the season on the DL, Lake has put up decent numbers and a September call-up is possible.
There are two more players I want to mention.  Both are in Kane County right now.  Daniel Vogelbach at firstbase and lefty relief pitcher Nathan Dorris.  Both players made the  Midwest League All-Stars this year.  Vogelbach is a big man with a powerful bat and the ability to draw walks.  Dorris is a lefty reliever who continues to get guys out.  Both players may be considered for promotion to Daytona this year if they continue to produce.
These are just a few of the players I have book marked on the Minor League Baseball website.  There are more players that I will probably write about soon. Until then, I recommend keeping an eye on this short list.