Hi folks. Welcome to our weekly Cubs chat. I'm back from Az for a few days. Will return there this weekend..Cubs hired Ted Lilly as special asst. Like the fact they've brought in a couple of recent retirees like him and Eric Hinske..always easier to connect to players that have played recently..anyway, fire away with questions! Plenty to talk about.
What will the Cubs lineup look like opening day? And what could their lineup look like at the end of the year?
Right out of the box with a biggie..lets go with Castro, Lake, Rizzo, Ruggiano?? Schierholtz, Murphy/Valbuena, Castillo, Barney?? Start with April lineup for now...Lake could be further down and maybe Barney up...hard to know with new manager right now...BY day 2 Bonifacio could be in there anywhere from CF to 3b to 2b...so plenty of options even if they arent hall of fame type ones..
Hey Jesse love the chats..Is there any player(s) that really has the team/staff excited from these first few weeks of spring? Biggest surprises?
I think Bonifacio has fit right in. As you can imagine, there's a talent hole at the major league level so he might end up being pretty important...of the young guys, a few have looked good like Bryant and Baez but no one is going nuts..Hendricks today should be interesting against big league hitters...Matt Szczur in the OF has flashed some leather that the coaches have noticed..
I know its only been a few games but who do you think will win the last outfield spot? Do you think Bonafacio will be the fifth outfielder/backup infielder and they go with Olt to play 3b/1b?
It is too early to know. Have to see if Olt can hit nd if they project him as a starter rather than a role player...if he's a starter and doesn't win the 3b job outright then he should play every day at AAA. That's where I think he starts but that's a guess...As I just wrote, Bonifacio is def on the team...but there is one more spot open..Not sure where it goes right now..
I understand Theo & Co. have a very specific plan for Bryant, Baez, Almora, etc. but do you think that the failures of Jackson and Vitters are making the front office a little gun shy? I know to take Spring Training ABs with a grain of salt, but they seem to look comfortable at the plate.
To a small degree, yes. They said as much at the convention. Maybe they rushed those guys. But they mostly aren't in a huge rush because they know they can't win right now...as I've said in the past if they are ready then they will dominate in the minors and be up soon enough..it's not like we're talking years and years...it's months in Baez case and maybe even Bryant's. Worst case Bryant is opening day 3b next year, in my opinion. He finishes this season at AAA then he's here..so a little more pateince!
What's ur realistic expectations for the cubs this year
Win/loss? Not very good at all...Still kind of a transition year (the last one) with some vets leaving and young guys coming up and so it won't show up in the standings..But if all goes well, Baez is here in July, maybe Bryant in Sept or else knocking on the door..Hendricks takes that step, etc. But again, win/loss wise I really think we see a jump from 90 losses to 90 wins in 2016..something like that...maybe a gradual thing next year but then there will be a jump and people will be smiling again in Wrigleyville. (MAybe) 67 wins this year
Who is best trade partner for teams trying to get pitching from cubs?
Toronto or Atlanta in my opinion...maybe Az still but they moved some this offseason so unless they move their top guy, they're out I think..
Hey Jesse, with all of this hype around guys like Baez, Bryant, Almora, and Soler. Who is someone that is kind of flying under the radar in their farm system that might be able to come up and have an impact on the big league club?
Well people know about Alcantara, he's pretty slick..Like I said Szczur has impressed...Still think you shouldn't doubt Hendricks..Trying to think of a real diamond in the rough and it's not hitting me right now...
Kris Bryant is a college prospect that in some regard reminds me of Ryan Braun in the sense that the kid can flat out hit. His game including his approach and plate discipline seem more or just as mature as Castro and Rizzo no? And I know you probably dont have an answer but any clue on exactly what goals they want kb to accomplish in minors before they give him a shot?
I'm mostly with you. In fact, Carlos Villanueva compared him to Braun pre-roids..I can't say for sure he's more mature than Castro/Rizzo. MLB pitching is TOUGH. Until you see it every day you can't know how tough. And Bryant realizes that. I think he'll need to work on his defense and still adjust to breaking stuff down and away. It's a tough pitch for him to hit. Remember, once they find a weakness at this level, they will hammer away at it..And all of a sudden he'll have 50k's before you know it. Anyway, I think the kid is a stud and when you go with "can't miss" knowing that they still can, he's at the top of my list. I DO believe he COULD start opening day up here and survive but nothing wrong with destroying some AA pitching first..
Will mike olt win the 3rd base job? Your prediction
As I've said many times, I'll go with a default position of no simply because he bascially missed a year and needs to find himself again. Already a little behind in spring in terms of defense with a little sore shoulder. If he lights up AAA then he'll be up here soon enough. I don't have a crystal ball but I think it would take a lot to win the job. I'm pretty sure the Cubs front office isn't expecting it.
Mr. Rogers, from what you've seen how does the "core four" stand as far as skill set and ability with some members of the current roster? Would you say that in some cases they could help us immediatley?
What I mostly like about the Core 4 is that they are physical/athletic specimens..In diff ways of course.. Soler and Bryant are big and strong but still can move..Almora is slick..Baez not your classic beefy power hitter but can crush it...they are right there in terms of raw ability
Who in your opinion will be the surprise stand out during this years camp?
What the heck..I'll say Hendricks...smart, knows how to pitch, Maddux his idol..can't throw 98 but can paint it..I'll go with him...ya know, a diamond could be pitcher Eric Jokisch..thre yesterday..neither will make the team out of spring
Jesse, lots of fans complain there's nothing to see at the major league level this year, but I feel Shark, Wood, Arieta, Strop, Castillo, Castro, Rizzo and maybe Lake could be part of the core moving forward. Anyone you would add to or delete from that list?
That's pretty much it right there... Maybe Blake Parker or Rondon but bullpens change all the time..I know Bosio wants Rondon to take the next step..working closelt with him..But you nailed it.
With Mike Trout signing only a one year deal, will the Cubs try their hardest to get him next year now that we'll have money to spend? He would be such a solid addition....a hard nosed player that can keep us all on the same page...
He's Angel's property for a while still..Just because you sign a one year deal doesn't mean you're a free agent the next year..players are property of their original teams for 6 years once they get to the majors (or 6 years in the minors). Can't get him unless a trade.
What do you think Rizzo can realistically put up this year? .275 with 30 HR and 100 RBI's??
I think he might sacrifice a little power to raise that avg. That would be the natural inclination of a player..the RBI's can be a product of people getting on ahead of him so hard to gauge HOWEVER he hit so poor with runners on last year, that's got to go up..I think. Maybe he can't hack the pressure but it's too early in his career to make that assertion. So I think he's still 25 HR guy but maybe does hit .270 or higher..
A friend just asked me about the improvement in wins for the Cubs this year. Realistically, what would you say the improvement would be? 5? If the cubs are hanging around .500 early, does that mean they flip players like Hammel early? I can't imagine that there will be more than a 5 game improvement, you?
This is the biggest misnomer about the Cubs...You can't rebuild AND expect incremental improvement. After the rebuild is basically over, that's when the improvement begins. Point is when you are flipping players then you have no chance to get to that win total you're talking about. Theo said it to me in an interview. You can't serve two masters. I think it's physcially impossible for them to be .500 this year. The talent has a ceiling and it's not a matter of IF flipping it's a matter of when. Schierholtz is gone, Hammel, Veras, mayube Shark...so .500 can't be done. It just can't.
Cubs are 60-1 to win the World Series out here. At what odds would they have to be to throw your $$$ on them?
Lifelong Cub fan, which will be confirmed by the following... It would take more "IFs" coming true than can be comprehended, but what if the Cubs are close to .500 ball come July? Still have a sell off? My "Ifs" include improvement/reversion of Castro, Rizzo, and either Barney/Bonifacio; breakout by Olt; decent outfield play/batting; Castillo continuing improvement; SP decent/good; and MUCH improved RP. I don't expect this with tough early schedule, but I can dream!
They would still sell. Being close to .500 gets you nothing. They were like within 7 of .500 in July last year right? They could be within 7 again but they will sell.
Who do you think is more likely to play in LF, if it came to it, Bryant or Soler? I'm imagining a scenario in which everyone pans out (ha ha ha), and Olt plays third, Lake keeps CF warm for Almora (who theoretically is still a couple of years away), a reborn Castro stays at short, Baez takes over second, Rizzo stays at first, Castillo stays at catcher, and then Bryant and Soler play either right or left. That leaves Barney and Alcantara as the odd men out. When Almora's ready, maybe Lake moves back to left, Soler is in right, Bryant goes to third, and Olt becomes the odd man out. Sorry, I know this is silly crystal ball stuff, but we Cubs fans need our fantasies.
No, it's fine to project. Soler probably has the better arm, etc and has been playing right so may as well leave him there. Maybe Lake becomes a 5th OF, wouldn't Barney be a great back-up? He'll probably be somehwhere else by then but anyway, you're on the right track. Olt holds a lot of the cards because he's probably the best defensively of the group so if he wins the long term job that pushes everyone around. All I know is Bryant is going to be a player..I believe that more than Baez not that I don't believe in Baez but Bryant is more of a sure thing right now, in my opinion.
Will the Cubs start giving Vitters and Jackson more at-bats to try and win a spot or will they have to do it in the minors this season?
I think they will get the at-bats that everyone gets. They are no longer at the top of the list so they have to earn it with the chances they do get. Nothing more, nothing less.
If Donnie Murphy, valbuena and olt all have a bad year and kris Bryant tears up AA could he be called up skipping AAA I've heard AAA is just to put finishing touches on players an I think he's ready today any chance of that?
Just like with Castro's injury, I don't think it matters what happens at the major league level in terms of the prospects.
Jesse, when you talk to Ricketts or the FO do you see any sign they're beginning to sense the fans' impatience with the rebuild and the lack of activity on the stadium renovation? Will a lot of empty seats change their plans in any way?
Oh yeah, they sense it. For sure. But it won't change much. Too late now, gotta see this thing through. They rightly know if the Cubs are contenders for years to come and go deep in the playoffs even once, most of this will be forgotten. A title? They'll own the town. 5 years later be damned
Hey Jesse, if Javier Baez has a monster Spring, is there any conceivable way he ends up on the 25 man roster? This guy is a star and feel like he could contribute right away.
Never say never but no. If he's that good, he'll go down and prove it during the reg season and be up in late June and the Cubs will save a year of arb and FA, etc. Still think he could use some polishing anyway. Read my blog from yesterday on all this..
Thanks for the good work you are doing! Jason Hammel has been talking about a different vibe this year. How is the vibe different this year than last year?
It's not. It's the same. All players are hopeful in spring. Plus Hammel wasn't here last year so how diff can it be for him?!?!? There's just hope and prayer. And when the players are honest with themselves they know that.
Do you think Dodgers would be interested in Darwin? Might work out for both teams, just curious.
Yes, it's possible. But I don't think the Cubs should just give him away. A gold glove second baseman is worth something. And he WILL hit better. I believe that. Already looking better now. But sure, the Cubs will listen
I haven't heard much about Arismendy so far this spring. I know he's slated for AAA no matter what but how does he look?
Pretty slick. Not many AB's so far. Def think he needs more time, prob the full year at AAA. Or close to it. Need to see him at the plate more in games.
Jesse, the light at the end of the tunnel is getting bigger. If in 2015 the Cubs have Castro, Baez, Bryant, Rizzo (and maybe Olt if he impresses), the offense looks to be much improved. I know your gut is saying 2016 for real Central Division contenders, but improvement is in the nearer future, correct?
Yes, except you have to expect young players to have some struggles. Now maybe I'm wrong, and they have 3 rookie of the year candidates or something. But more than likely they'll have some ups and downs, to me that's what 2015 will be about...then they start to take off. I hate to write this again, but even with a trade or two and FA signing, the peak of this team is like 2018/2019..yikes.
When Will Baez see some action at 2B and 3rd?
Good question. Maybe when Castro comes back later next week? Not sure.
What are the expectations on Junior Lake? What would you guess his season line would look like by end of year?
I think it's a little unclear. He's already shown more than many thought in terms of speed and some power..he may not be a HR guy even though he has some size. He's def not as strong as, say, Soler. Let's go with .261, 12 HR, 61 RBI...decent but not eye popping..
Just following up a question from last week. Has Baez fielded any position other than shortstop in Spring Training? (I know via your posting he prefers second after shortstop)
Yeah, I haven't seen him do it yet. Maybe he did and I missed it. Will follow up when I get back there..
Do you think Matt Szczur will be on the big league roster this year? He is going to be 25 this year, it seems like it's now or never with him.
I think it's possible he wins the last job..with Bonifacio in the mix they aren't tied down to an INF or OF so it's possible.. He plays D like a late inning replacement should
Hey Jesse, I was reading a column by Keith Law about position prospect who are blocked and he brought up the name Jaimer Candelario. Who is blocked at Third base by some combination of Olt, Bryant, or Baez. Who is Jaimer Candelario?
Single A guy but one that's gotten some ink..and yeah, with Christian Villanueva, Bryant, Olt, etc there are a few ahead of him so that's where Law is coming from.
Jesse, how long is it going to take before I start seeing castro at 2nd. With all the talent coming up at SS, and castro as injury/error prone as he is why are we not moving him to 2nd asap. Could it be that we want barney to excel this year so we have more barganing power when we look to move him at the trade deadline?
1) Castro is not injury prone. And 2) Baez made 44 errors last year..so let's see how it plays out.
I understand that none of the prospects will make the team out of Spring Training, but can they play well enough where they start at a higher level? Could we see Kris Bryant at AAA?
Not a bad question. I'll still say no. One level at a time. Right or wrong.
How often do you get questions about the ST games being televised that you don't repost? Be honest.
PLenty. I don't mind helping people but I just want them to know I don't work for the team nor the station that is broadcasting..there are people that do and other places to find. But I'm never going to come down on people that come to me with questions. As long as they read my stuff and listen on the radio!!! Or else, no job. :(
What roles are the top 5 Cubs pitching prospects projected to have?
Several will be at AA like CJ Edwards, etc. Adn a few at AAA like Hendricks and maybe Vizcaino if he doesn't make the team.
How has Ruggiano looked so far this spring? Haven't gotten a chance to see the Cubs yet.
All or nothing. Big swings and results or K's..That's generalizing but that's my feeling so far.
Any chance we get a treat and see Almora, Baez, Bryant, Soler, Castro, and Rizzo on the same field before they break up for the season?
I would think so..already seen close to that on the field with the prospects but at some point a few will start with Rizzo etc. Might not be all though..
Some goof has sent me like 100 questions about Ryan Roberts making the team. Not going to answer.
It sounds like Baez is playing SS in Iowa to start the year...why? Shouldn't they get him ready to play with the hope of late a June or July call up? Are they keeping him there to keep his trade value high?
I've posed that question and I'll buy their answer. If you play short you can learn to play anywhere and they just want him where he's comfortable. When you get to the majors all bets are off..I don't think it's trade value at all. He made 44 errors there. Not like he's Ozzie Smith. I think they did a dis-service with Junior Lake last year but that was going from INF to OF. I guess it's fine but I kind of agree with you..at this point he's at AAA so you need to prepared.
Jason McLeod question: I know I'm getting ahead of myself but could you see him becoming the cubs' gm eventually after his prospects are up and doing well? Kind of makes sense from a continuity standpoint with Jed taking another senior exec title within the org.
What, are they going to fire Jed? Or bump him up? Prob not. But yeah, Jason will get his chance somewhere I'm sure.
That's it for today folks. Going to keep an eye on Hendricks today against a playoff team like the A's. Haven't seen who is starting for them but it will be a good test...Keep checking the blog daily as I'll have new stuff in there even though I'm not in Az again until Sunday. In fact, Hendricks will have a diary entry on Thurs about his start, etc. I have a piece on CJ Edwards for tomorrow. Follow me on twitter @ESPNChicubs. Now I'm going to eat some bday cake! Talk next week back in Az.