Tagged: Jeff Baker

WHAT’S NEXT?

The Cubs have had a difficult season so far and I can’t help but wonder….What’s Next?!?!  We had a lot of trouble with our defense in spring training and that has continued into the regular season to some extent.  We had Andrew Cashner and Randy Wells go on the DL in early April.  We’ve lost Marlon Byrd, Matt Garza, Reed Johnson, Geovany Soto (he’s back now) and Jeff Baker to the DL as well.  Afonso Soriano injured his quad yesterday and I don’t know if he will be the next to visit the DL, but wouldn’t be surprised if he did.

With all of these injuries, the Cubs have won 23 and lost 29 as of this post.  That’s six games under .500 and puts us in second to last in the division.  However, we are only 7.5 games out of first.

The frustration for me is that we are signing and trading for Doug Davis and Rodrigo Lopez to help our starting rotation.  I know they probably weren’t that expensive, but I would rather us go young.  We did with Casey Coleman, but he wasn’t getting the job done.  We also tried James Russell, but I believe he’s better a relief pitcher than starter and his stats prove it.  I know it may be too early, but I would love to see the Cubs bring up Trey McNutt who is pitching great at AA Tennessee.

Overall, I think we need to get healthy to see what we this club can really do this season.  And if we don’t, then I would hope the Cubs bring up more of our younger players and let them get a taste of the big leagues and see what they need to work on.  I don’t want to hinder their development, but it would be nice to see some of these young players get a cup of coffee.  They are our future, right?

 

WRAPPING UP SPRING TRAINING

With spring training almost over, the Cubs are looking pretty good believe it or not.  We are relatively healthy and have had some solid performances by key players this spring.  Here’s my breakdown of some players that impressed or even won a job in spring training and some others that didn’t. 
 
Ryan Dempster, or Dumpster as my Cardinal friends refer to him, was selected as the Opening Day starter by Manager Mike Quade early in the spring.  Dempster has posted a 2.57 ERA in 28 innings at the time of this post.  That’s what you want from a team leader and your number one pitcher. 
 
Randy Wells won the 4th spot in the rotation by having an amazing spring training.  He posted an ERA of 2.10 in 25.2 innings so far and looks more like the 2009 version when he went 12-10 with a 3.05 ERA.  I don’t know if the rumors about him partying last year are true, but it appears he is strictly business this year.  I hope his performance this spring continues as the season starts this weekend.
 
Marcos Mateo has won the final spot in the bullpen by posting a 1.29 ERA so far this spring in 7 innings pitched.  Mateo turns 27 next month and may be a surprise strength for our bullpen.  The way I see it, he came to ST and earned his spot on the team.  I wish more players would do this!
 
Tyler Colvin has had a decent spring seeing action in rightfield and first base.  I would prefer him as our everyday rightfielder, but we still have Fukudome and I foresee them splitting time at the start of the season. 
 
Starlin Castro has had a great spring batting .350 so far and leading the team in home runs and RBIs surprisingly.  I think he’s going to have a solid second year in 2011.  He’s our shortstop of the present and future!
 
Darwin Barney has won the job over Blake DeWitt to platoo
n at second base with Jeff Baker.  Baker will see most of the action against lefties and Barney should play the rest of the time.  DB is batting .362 so far this spring and brings a lot of energy to the field.  Kind of reminds me of Ryan Theriot when he first came up with the Cubs.
 
Unfortunately, Blake DeWitt has had a difficult spring offensively and defensively.  He’s only hit .193 and has played himself out of a starting job.  For now, it appears he will be a backup infielder logging time at second and third base for the Cubs.  I believe he would be better off starting the season in Iowa so he could play everyday.  He’s still young, only 25, and could use a little incentive.  I think he could be the future second baseman for the Cubs with Barney being a backup middle infielder in the near future.  However, if Barney keeps hitting then that won’t be the case. 
 
Marlon ByrdAramis Ramirez and Geovany Soto have all had a decent spring.  These are three key players for the Cubs to be successful in 2011…..especially, Ramirez!  Meanwhile, Alfonso Soriano and newly acquired Carlos Pena have struggled this spring and that’s not a good sign.  Hopefully, both of these veterans will turn the corner once the regular season starts Friday against the Pirates.
 
I like the direction the team is currently heading.  We still need to improve our defense and base running.  Our pitching may end up being our biggest strength this year.  However, we need to score some runs if we want to contend for the NL Central title.

JUST RANDOM THOUGHTS

The Chicago Cubs appear to content with the lineup we currently have.  I was kind of hoping we would trade Fukudome, but that does not seem like it will happen.  I was also a little bit interested in Michael Young to play second over the platoon of Blake DeWitt and Jeff Baker, but that is not going to happen either.  Another possible “solution” for second would be Luis Castillo if the Mets were willing to part with him.  Personally, I don’t like this idea at all.  The one move I still think the Cubs could make is acquiring Chris Davis from the Rangers.  I think it would take catcher Wellington Castillo and another high minor league player.  

I keep reading that teams are scouting Carlos Silva and Braden Looper.  I would love to see with us part with Silva no doubt.  However, I am curious to see what Looper could bring to the team this season.  
Matt Garza pitched four solid innings in his last outing which has me excited.  I think our starting five will be Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, Matt Garza, Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner.  However, Braden Looper is making a strong case to make the rotation.  The downside of this rotation is that we do not have a lefty in there.  Ted Lilly was a great competitor during his time with the Cubs and he will be missed. Our bullpen is looking good too in my opinion.  Marshall, Wood and Marmol will anchor the pen and hopefully Samardzija and a healthy Grabow will be able to help out as well.
Scott Moore is making a good impression this spring and while I don’t think he will make the team, I believe he would be a great mid-season call up if someone were to get injured.  However, I would rather have Chris Davis as our corner infielder.  No offense to Moore, but I’ve been fixated a bit on Davis this off-season.  
That’s all I have for today.  It’s supposed to be in the 60s tomorrow and in the 70s on Thursday here in southern Illinois.  I hope the weatherman is right!

RANDOM STUFF

I’ve got a few things I want to touch base on today before I enjoy some spring training baseball and college basketball.  

The Cubs rotation is beginning to take shape.  Carlos Silva seems to be pitching himself out of a job in the starting rotation.  Meanwhile, Randy Wells has looked good and stands a good chance to lock up the job as the 4th starter for the Cubs.  
I am betting on Andrew Cashner as our 5th starter at this point in the spring.  He hasn’t pitched great, but he hasn’t pitched bad either.  
Marlon Byrd is really hitting the cover off the ball this spring.  I expect this will be the best year of his career.  I know we need a big year from him along with several other players and I am encouraged by the job Rudy is doing with some of our hitters.  
Jeff Samardzija has struggled with his command in the past, but has yet to walk a batter this spring.  I know he’s only thrown 4.1 innings as of this post, but still, if he can throw strikes consistently I expect him to be a big help to our pen. 
I’m concerned about the platoon at second with Blake DeWitt and Jeff Baker.  I was hoping the one of these two players would elevate their play this spring and win the starting job.  Neither one of them looks too sharp early in the spring.    
I plan on watching the Cubs this afternoon and hopefully they will play well.  I’m not concerned with wins and losses in spring training.  Instead, I want to see players perform well and do the little things that will help them win in the season.   

TRADE IDEAS…..AGAIN

Now that the Cubs roster is beginning to take shape I think the Cubs would be wise to make a trade or two before the season starts.  I have 3 players in mind to trade away.  They are Jeff Baker, Kosuke Fukudome and Carlos Silva.  I would like the Cubs to get Chris Davis in return for any of these players.  If you’ve read my blog some this winter then you will know that this is something I have mentioned several times.  

Here’s my thoughts on Baker.  We could trade him and replace him with Chris Davis.  Davis is a true corner infielder.  He could backup Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena.  This would allow Darwin Barney to backup Starlin Castro and Blake DeWitt.  Davis has a lot of power and would be a power threat off the bench.
If the Cubs were to trade Fukudome it would open up an everyday position for Tyler Colvin.  While some Cub fans may not be sold on Colvin, I am.  Also, if we were to trade Fukudome that would allow Reed Johnson and Fernando Perez to both make the team strengthening our outfield defense and give us a lot of speed off the bench.  
Finally, trading Silva would allow one of our younger pitchers or one of our veteran non-roster invitees to make the starting rotation.  I know Silva had the blow up with Ramirez, but that’s not the main reason I would like to trade him.  He hasn’t pitched all that well this spring and I believe he will be on the DL by mid-summer.  
As long as we got Chris Davis in a deal I would be happy.  There are no other players that I have in mind at this point.  Maybe we could get some low level minor leaguers in a deal.  Plus, we could unload Fukudome’s and Silva’s contracts to a team willing to pay them.  I don’t think a trade will happen soon, but these are just a few ideas.  

GO CUBS GO!!!

A LITTLE CATCHING UP

My internet hasn’t worked right the last few days so, I haven’t been able to write any posts.  I guess I can blame it on the winter weather the midwest has experienced.  I didn’t even call my internet provider because I know they would probably give me some lame excuse.  Anyway, here’s a few thoughts I’ve had the last couple of days.

The Rangers are shopping Michael Young to the Rockies.  Why in the world won’t the Cubs make an offer?!  We could package Soriano, Jeff Baker or Blake DeWitt and Wellington Castillo for Michael Young, Chris Davis and Darren O’Day.  Soriano and Young each have bad contracts.  The Cubs would probably have to eat around $9 million of his contract during the final year of his deal, but it would be worth it to me.  It’s just a thought.

Blake DeWitt.  I read that Greg Maddux had a role in the Cubs acquiring DeWitt.  So, while I have been skeptical of DeWitt, I am willing to give him more of a chance.  I trust Maddux’s judgement.  I hope he’s right.

Carlos Marmol and the Cubs are working on a multiyear extension that will give our closer a substantial raise and avoid any more arbitration years.  I think we should do the same thing with Matt Garza and get both players locked up so we don’t have to go through this again with either of them any time soon. 

Aramis Ramirez is getting older as is probably playing for a contract this year.  (I don’t see the Cubs picking up his option for 2012)  I wonder if the Cubs will try to sign him to a multiyear deal after the season or will we let him walk?  Should we let him walk and hope Josh Vitters can replace him?  I think this summer will give us a better clue on what to do.

I’ve got more, but I wanted to get this post in before my internet stops working again.  I will leave with this thought……..WHY HAVEN’T THE CARDS SIGNED PUJOLS YET?  HE’S THE BEST PLAYER IN THE GAME!!!!!!!!!!!

 

BATTING LEADOFF????

My beloved Cubbies don’t have a leadoff man for the upcoming season.  Ideally, you want someone who knows how to get on base and has enough speed to steal some bases.  Well, we really don’t have a guy that fits those categories that will be an every day player.  We don’t have any true base stealing threats at all.  Some of the players that will have a chance to bat leadoff are Marlon Byrd, Blake DeWitt, Kosuke Fukudome, Jeff Baker and Starlin Castro.

Marlon Byrd is one of my favorite choices of the players I just mentioned.  I know he’s not much of a base stealing threat nor is he known for getting to first base by base on balls.  Even though his OBP last season was a respectable .346, it’s not what you would want from your leadoff hitter.  Here’s why I would consider him at leadoff though…..he does whatever the team needs of him and doesn’t complain.  That’s a very simple reason and something that other players could learn from. 

 
The case for Blake DeWitt is a pretty weak one.  His OBP is lower than Byrd’s, fewer stolen bases and not much speed for a middle infielder.  He did have a high of 8 stolen bases in the minors though in 2006.  But Byrd stole 41 bases in single A ball in 2000.  Why Quade is considering him at leadoff is beyond me.

Next is Jeff Baker.  I’m guessing that Baker and DeWitt will be platooning at second base.  Baker bats right and DeWitt bats left.  The only reason I see Baker also hitting leadoff is to leave the rest of the lineup alone.  Baker has never been a base stealing threat in his career.  He’s a poor option to leadoff in my opinion.

Starlin Castro has more promise than any of the other players, but I dont want to put that type of pressure on him at this point in his career.  I like him batting in the 2 hole anyway.  He’s got some speed, but doesn’t know how to use it just yet.  I think he could hit leadoff if needed to and would be as successful as Byrd if given this responsibility.

Kosuke Fukudome isn’t a bad option.  His OBP has been in the .370s the last two seasons.  However, he fades each year as the season progresses and he strikes out too much for me.  I like him better as a someone to be traded before spring training!  Plus, if Fukudome is playing everyday then that means Tyler Colvin is probably sitting on the bench.  I guess we could put Tyler Colvin at leadoff, but I would like to have him bat around 6th personally. 

Anyway, here’s my lineup for the Cubs that I think would produce the most runs this season.  And remember, the Giants proved last year that you don’t have to have a true leadoff hitter to win the World Series.

1.  Marlon Byrd-CF

2.  Starlin Castro-SS

3.  Aramris Ramirez-3B

4.  Carlos Pena-1B

5.  Alfonso Soriano-LF

6.  Tyler Colvin-RF

7.  Geovany Soto-C

8.  Blake DeWitt-2B

9.  Pitcher