Tagged: Javier Baez

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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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.

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.

WHAT’S HAPPENING

What in the world is going on this season with Starlin Castro?  I have watched the Cubs enough this year and I believe our star short-stop looks lost at the plate and lackadaisical in the field.  I don’t know if Theo & Co. have tried to change his hitting approach in order to draw more walks or if he’s trying to hit homeruns everytime up or if pitchers have finally figured him out and he hasn’t adjusted.  Whatever the case is, I am very concerned with his performance this season at the plate.  His defense has always bothered me.  I believe he is capable of much better play in the field.  His errors occur on simple plays way too often.  Whatever his problems are I want him to correct them soon.

The Cubs minor league system has me excited.  It’s mainly Daytona and Kane County that have the most talent, but Tennessee has a couple of players as well.  The number of players I have bookmarked on http://www.milb.com  continues to grow.  Two of those players have been chosen for the Futures game.  Arismendy Alcantara and Jorge Soler are the two guys.  There is also a fan vote that could put Javier Baez on the roster for the Futures game as well.  

Maybe the upcoming All-Star break will help Castro.  I think he could use some rest.  I imagine the next month Theo & Co. will be active.  Kevin Gregg, Scott Feldman, David DeJesus, Nate Schierholtz, Matt Garza and several others could be traded.  It will be interesting to see who gets traded and who the Cubs call up.  I’m betting Josh Vitters will if he can stay healthy and so will Junior Lake.  

Well, we finish our series with the Brewers today and then travel to Seattle for some West Coast baseball.  I’ll be up late tomorrow night watching the game against the Mariners.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

I was surprised last week with the Cubs first round pick of Kris Bryant.  After the initial shock of not drafting a Jonathan Gray I was able to look at Bryant objectively.  I really like what I see.  I believe he is a perfect #4 hitter in any lineup.  He has tremendous power and his strikeout to walk rate this year impressed me.  I truly believe he will end up as a corner outfielder for the Cubs.

Here’s a sneak peek of what the Cubs lineup could look like in 2015.

Leading off in CF-Albert Almora

Batting second at SS-Starlin Castro

Hitting third at 1B-Anthony Rizzo

Batting cleanup in LF-Kris Bryant

Batting fifth in RF-Jorge Soler

Batting sixth at 3B-Javier Baez

Batting seventh at C-Welington Castillo

Batting eighth at 2B-Darwin Barney

That could be our lineup in the near future.  There are other players that did not make this list such as Brett Jackson, Josh Vitters, Junior Lake, Matt Szczur, Dustin Geiger, Arismendy Alcantara and Daniel Vogelbach.  I think some of these names will be on the Cubs roster and could even be starters.  I also believe that some of these names will be used in future trades.

Any way I look at the Cubs future I get excited.  I think our lineup will be in place soon.  We still don’t have the pitching I think we need to order to win a World Series, but we are on our way.

GRAY OR APPEL

The 2013 Draft is this week and the Cubs pick second.  I would be shocked if the Cubs didn’t draft a power arm in Mark Appel or Jonathan Gray.  The Cubs have some young hitters in the minors in Albert Almora, Jorge Soler and Javier Baez to name a few.   What the Cubs are lacking in their minor league system is top of the order starting pitchers.  Appel or Gray, either one, would be a great start.  I’m undecided on which one to draft at this point.  I keep going back and forth.  I think both pitchers have high ceilings and I hope both end up having great careers. I can’t wait until Thursday to find out!