Posts Tagged ‘Brett Jackson’

by: Mauricio Rubio Jr.
email: mr@99sportsproblems.com
twitter: @MRubio52

You should read yesterday’s opening post to get an idea of where I’m coming from with all this. Also, before we continue on, check out the Chicago Cubs prospect tracker over at Prospectus, keep it in mind when you’re reading the rest of this. If’ you’re looking for Rizzo, he’s still listed with the Padres.

Cub fans seem acutely aware of both the farm system and the MLB draft this year. What we’ve been told ever since the arrival of Theo Epstein is that the Cubs will build a winner from within. A new emphasis has been placed on the draft and player development. It’s something that was set in motion with last year’s draft which impressed Theo Epstein for its approach, even if he didn’t value the players the same way the Cubs did.

I do understand the excitement about the farm hands, the Major League club has been awful and really hasn’t given much reason for excitement. Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson have been top of mind for Cub fans, ditto with Javy Baez and Josh Vitters. The problem with the Cubs farm system is that it lacks impact talent that can help the big league team. Jackson’s ceiling is “good player.” Rizzo can be an above average 1B. Baez isn’t going to stick at short, and he’s so raw no one knows what he’ll do. Vitters lost a lot of stars off his prospect status and no one knows if he’ll ever be ready. And then there’s the thin pitching depth…

It’s not good, it’s not close, and it’s not going to happen soon. Know this, let it sink in, understand there is no savior that is coming in to save the Cubs. It’s a long process TheoCo is undertaking, and it’s all about drastically changing the very infrastructure of a franchise that was slow to adapt to the new way of doing baseball. This isn’t add a few pieces here and there. The Cubs aren’t in “just add a free agent 1B mode.” We’re talking a complete and massive overhaul of a system. I think it could be fun. All the people dressed as green seats at Cubs games are telling me that most don’t think it’s very fun at all. That’s ok. That’s expected.

So, while you’re watching the draft, keep this in mind.

  • You can’t trade draft picks. Can’t stress that enough. Teams aren’t allowed to trade picks at all. Don’t ask for it.
  • This isn’t the NFL draft. In several respects. The Cubs are probably going to take a SS with their first overall pick. I would put money on it, actually. The talent selected here is a huge unknown, and it’s not a sure shot that any of the 50+ players selected will be a contributor at the Major League level in even 3 years. Think about that for a moment, 3-5 years from now you still might not see any of these cats up with the big league team.
  • Theo does a blend approach. Numbers/scouting eyes. That’s his M.O. That’s how he builds, and that’s the right way to do it in my humble opinion.
  • AAA isn’t really a proving ground anymore. AA is where it’s at. AAA is full of old Quad A players who are filling out rosters. Young kids with stuff to prove will go to Tennessee. Guys waiting for a spot to open end up at Iowa.
  • Good young prospects don’t go to Peoria, they end up at Daytona. You’ll be able to tell what the Cubs think about a guy depending on where they send him. Daytona is advanced A ball, Peoria is A- ball. The players they value early will end up at Daytona.
  • Watch the plan of attack. The draft is meh this year. Watch what they acquire though, this is the first year the CBA is in effect and it will affect who they draft and why.

The Cubs have the 6th overall pick, so let’s get straight to that. The reports are small because, well, I’m not going to project too much there. I can tell you what I like, what I don’t like, and what I think they end up being. Honestly, that’s all you need too. No “if he” bullshit. These are 5 guys I would target with their pick, in no particular order.

Kyle Zimmer – RHP University of San Fransisco

[youtube http://youtu.be/GB1KG-ZDeQo]

What I like

Easy gas. Has been clocked at 96-97, but recently sitting at 93-95. Good action on his two seamer. Decent offspeed offering. Stats show that he misses bats. Has a solid body, looks like it can carry some extra good weight. He can handle the SP load. Decent delivery…

What I don’t like

…right up until the follow through. Falls to the 1B side, compromising some control. Stats say he only issued 17 BB’s, but I can see him having control issues once he hits pro ball. Conference record, which is usually against better competition, was meh. Loss in velocity is a concern.

Synopsis

I like him, quite a bit. Scouts are a bit put off by his dip in velocity. Just as likely to go 1-1 as he is to fall even beyond the Cubs. I would take the flyer on his arm, it has good action and it pitches an above average fastball, sometimes an elite fastball. That’s big. The rest you can learn, the fastball is the framework for everything. If he’s there, that’s the guy I take.

Carlos Correa – SS Puerto Rico Baseball Academy

[youtube http://youtu.be/xxkCTTe-4m0]

No stats I could find.

What I like

He’s clearly been taught the game of baseball by professionals. Small hitch in the swing when he loads, but what he does to create leverage is outstanding. He’s an athlete, solid body, looks like it’ll fill out well. He’s really short to the baseball, creates good batspeed, flashes good power. He’s a refined baseball player, which is rare in a kid this young.

What I don’t like

I don’t think he sticks at short where his bat potential is special. He has the arm to play third. He’s not fast/quick enough to survive at short with a bigger body. Don’t know how he’ll handle some of the breaking stuff he’ll see at pro ball. I don’t like the hitch at all, and sometimes he can swing from his front leg more than his back.

Synopsis

Raw. His bat is obviously much more tantalizing at short, I don’t think he sticks there. I think he’s a 3B, and he’ll have to hit better than I think to justify him being an everyday player. Worth the risk, but it’s a big one.

Mike Zunino – C Florida

[youtube http://youtu.be/W67frV4rCyE]

What I like

Mean swing. Great balance, simple load, quick to the ball. Great bat speed. Generates a lot of power. Stout body, well-built, looks the part. From what I’ve read about him, he’s improved as a catcher by leaps and bounds. Frames pitches well, good arm. He looks like he can be a solid catcher for a long time.

What I don’t like

That’s a lot of strikeouts, too many for that type of swing. It’s not a hole, so it’s likely pitch recognition/bad command of the strike zone. Obvious risk factor for a catcher.

Synopsis. 

I would consider taking him above Zimmer, I would probably take him over Correa too. His bat looks like it can play in the Majors, his strike zone command needs improving. Defense is key, and it looks like his is good enough.

Kevin Gausman – SP LSU

[youtube http://youtu.be/NCelzHSiPjE]

What I like

Great fastball. Great frame, good quick delivery. Quick, athletic, misses bats. Fastball has good movement on it, slider shows potential. Changeup looks like the fastball.

What I don’t like

He’s really raw, has issues with command, likely needs to scrap a middling curve and pick up a new pitch so he can develop the slider. High risk guy because he may never figure it out. Bad control.

Synopsis

He has #1 potential, which makes him so tantalizing. He’s also really far away from MLB at this point. He flashes a good slider and his fastball-change combo will be good enough to get him through High-A ball. I don’t know if the slider will develop enough to survive AA though. If I were the GM, I’d pay to find out though.

Byron Buxton – OF Appling County HS

[youtube http://youtu.be/_jEOvrNoBlE]

Dark horse candidate. I don’t think he falls to the Cubs, but at least there’s an outside chance of it, unlike Appel.

What I like

All of it. He’s a 5-tool guy. Great athlete, good repeatable swing, good arm, solid fielder, can probably play CF/SS/2B, bat projects well to all those positions. Stays on balance with his swing and he has really easy speed. I’d be surprised and ecstatic if he fell to the Cubs.

What I don’t like

Obviously raw, power potential might be overstated. Fundamentally lacking in the field.

Synopsis

It would take a cascade of events for the Cubs to get him, but if he ends up there, be it because scouts are turned off by…something I dunno, or Scott Boras shenanigans, the Cubs should take him.

Overall

This is an important draft. My twitter handle is up at the top, I’ll be doing some live tweeting during the event. I’d love to talk with you guys and see what you think about the picks. See you guys June 4.

by: Mauricio Rubio Jr.
email: mr@99sportsproblems.com
twitter: @MRubio52

Growing up is hard. There are expectations that must be met as you grow older, society expects X from you, and you must provide X. Everyone goes through growing pains, some go through them more harshly than others. There are a select few, however, that go through the maturation process in front of millions of people. We call them athletes.

Watching a player struggle through his early years is all part of the game. We saw Griffey and A-Rod grow up before our eyes on the national stage, ditto with Michael, LeBron, and currently Toews, Kane, and Rose. They all went through/are going through growing pains. What I’ve noticed around Chicago is that while we don’t expect much from other cities young kids, we place impossible expectations on the rookies that come up through Chicago. This is specifically true in baseball.

Beckham and Castro

Gordon Beckham had an .808 OPS as a 22 year old rookie. He was brought up as a reactionary move to an offensive black hole that occurred when Josh Fields failed to produce. White Sox fans were anxious to see the Georgia kid at the major league level as they expected the Sox to repeat the surprising year they had in 2008. Ozzie famously said that if the White Sox had to call up Beckham it showed that they were in trouble. Well, they got into some trouble during the season and Kenny made the call to the farm.

Beckham’s start was good enough to earn him the Sporting News’ Rookie of the Year award.

‘‘I wish that kid was a two- or three-year veteran in the big leagues because he has that attitude,’’ Guillen said. ‘‘He has that right frame of mind. He was a leader his whole life from when he was in high school, college. I think he wants to be the face of the franchise, and we need something like that. When a player thinks like that, doesn’t hide in the weeds, you don’t see many players come up from the minor leagues and think that way. It’s a big challenge. But I don’t have a doubt in my mind that he has the right tools to be one. Obviously, it has to come from help from myself, Ken Williams and the staff to make him a great leader.’’

-Ozzie Guillen

Expectations were pretty high from there on out. When his offense cratered over the next two years, fans were puzzled. His rookie year was so outstanding, how could he not build on that and improve?

Starlin Castro has been a hit machine since he debuted with 6 RBI’s. With the bat in his hand he has been stellar. The major knock on him is his defense. He goes through lapses of concentration that are as baffling as they are infuriating. There isn’t a player in the majors that makes me go “that’s a great play,” to “that was a dipshit play,” in the same game quite like Starlin. As of writing time, he has twice as many errors (8), as walks (4). This makes a lot of Cubs fans irate.

And gives some ammo to Sox trolls

I’m pretty sure this guy is a White Sox troll

This invariably leads to a lot of talk of moving Castro to 3B, 2B, a corner OF spot, or 1B. The “Castro isn’t a SS” movement is gaining a lot of traction locally, and while it has quieted down some over the past month (He hasn’t committed an error in 16 games), you can bet that discussion will start cooking again when he commits another error.

I think it’s obvious that both Beckham and Castro are going through growing pains, albeit in opposite aspects of their respective games. Beckham plays sublime defense at 2B, he’s smooth, has range, and can make all the throws. He has an ugly hitch in his swing right now though, and he just can’t hit consistently. His minor hot streak has his average up to .204 with a paltry .627 OPS. Castro is still prone to lapses in the field, he’s flashing better leather lately, but he’s going to have to continue to play solid defense to shed the “butcher” tag. His defense is still a violent game, with flashes of smoothness. Both players are trying to make adjustments in the glare of the public eye. Both had the savior tag applied to them when they were brought up. Both need to be given time to properly show you what they are before you pass judgement. Beckham’s time is shorter than Castro’s because he’s older, but Cubs fans need to relax on the “Move Starlin off SS,” movement too.

Which, you know, brings me to Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson.

Superkids

Anthony Rizzo is still destroying AAA.

Geez, settle down

Brett Jackson…not so much

Cubs fans are eagerly anticipating the arrival of both players at the Major League level. Rizzo has a cute little twitter dedicated to him, @FreeRizzo. There are a few things that Cubs fans need to keep in mind when it comes to both players, and the Cubs in general.

  • Neither Rizzo nor Jackson are going to save the Cubs in the short-term. This is a full on dedicated rebuilding that will look a lot like the Royals rebuild had a baby with the Nats rebuild. It’s going to take time. I hope the Cubs will be much better in 3 years, but much better is 80-85 wins. That could potentially be 20-25 wins better than the hypothetical 2012 record.
  • The Cubs are ridiculously devoid of talent at the Major and high Minor League level. This past draft was the first one the Cubs have had in a while that impressed people around the league. There is zero pitching help at AAA.
  • Trading Soriano is going to be really hard. He’s gimpy and people already know what kind of hitter he is. Why do I bring this up? Well, how else are you going to make room for Rizzo? LaHair to left, Rizzo at first is the aim.
  • Speaking of Rizzo, I haven’t heard any respected talent scouts call him the second coming of Albert Pujols. I think that his ceiling is Paul Konerko level production, and he’s likely to simply be an above average 1B. That’s awesome, trust me, but it’s not a franchise changer. He shortened his swing, and I do think he’s ready for MLB, but he’s not likely to turn into a perennial MVP candidate.
  • Jackson will be lucky to be Curtis Granderson pre-Yankees. Again, that’s awesome and I’ll take it, but we Cub fans need to stop pretending that he’s more than what he is. He’ll be solid, but I doubt he is ever considered an “impact” player.

Cub fans need to check our collective reality meter. We need to understand what this team is now, and what it will be in the future. This is a deep and real rebuild.

Speaking of reality checks

If the White Sox make the playoffs, and that’s a huge if, it’ll be because the other teams in the Central failed. Don’t start pretending like this team is good because they won 5 of 6 against the two worst teams in MLB. I would get pissed as a White Sox fan if Kenny Williams sees this squad and starts trading prospects for vets because he sees fools gold. Let’s look at a few things.

  • The White Sox pitching staff is the best component of this team, but it’s schizophrenic at best and average on the whole at worst. The White Sox have a slightly above average staff ERA that is buoyed by Jake Peavy and Chris Sale.The other three starters all have ERA’s over 4. The enigmatic John Danks keeps alternating between good start and bad start. Phil Humber is similarly quizzical, as it looked like he had figured some things out with the perfect game, only to regress to “inconsistent” status over his next 5 starts. His walk rate is close to double what it was last year, and I think that’s a symptom of nibbling that could lead to future trouble. Gavin still lives in Gavin world, where sublime stuff is permanently married to a low pitching IQ.
  • That offense is putrid, and Orlando Hudson will only help it so much. You can’t survive in the Cell with 3-4 offensive black holes. Eventually other teams will come into town and hit the HR’s that you aren’t. This is reflected in their 8-13 record at home.
  • Jake Peavy is a ticking time bomb and you need to trade him for value. Seriously, he’s not going to sustain a .249 opponents BABIP. He’s stranding 79% of baserunners, which is similarly unsustainable, and his GB rate is at 31.1%.That flyball rate is asking for trouble in the Cell. The xFIP number is also pointing at a big ole regression to the mean. You can’t pitch on the margins like that and survive in a homer haven. It’s damn near impossible.
  • Addison Reed is likely the only reliable reliever the Sox have in the pen. I have no idea what happened to Matt Thornton, but he’s been inconsistent the past two years. Will Ohman is still Will Ohman, and Hector Santiago is still trying to figure it out.

What the White Sox look like to me is a mediocre team in a mediocre division, it would be foolish to sell off parts of an already thin farm system when they declared this year to be a transitional year. White Sox fans have already spoken with their wallets what they think about this team so far, the empty seats are telling me that you don’t think they’re for real, so don’t be mad if they sell at the deadline.

At the end of the day

Both fanbases need to settle down. The Cubs shouldn’t rush Rizzo, the White Sox aren’t poised for greatness as currently constructed. The Cubs have awhile before they are true title contenders. The White Sox might seem closer, but be wary. Depending on the moves they make this year, their championship clock could be moved back by years.

by: Mauricio Rubio Jr.
email: mr@99sportsproblems.com
twitter: @MRubio52

“…I do think it’s fair to say we have to spend some time rebuilding the pitching staff. I look at what happened last year from the outside with them losing two starters the first week of the season. It’s very difficult for any team to survive that, but the Cubs didn’t have the depth to do that. Even though we have confidence in some of the starters, we have a need to add more …. Injuries can never be an excuse for a bad season. You have to make sure that you have depth to avoid the inevitable and survive.”

-Jed Hoyer

Heading into the season I doubt many people would be surprised if the Chicago Cubs ended up trading Matt Garza for prospects at the deadline. The overwhelming feeling at the outset was that the Cubs were too far away to build a competing team while Garza was still effective. Garza is 28 which puts his window of being a good major league pitcher at 5 years, give or take. It’s fair to say that the Cubs felt they would be in competition outside of that window.

What is the reality, and what comes as a bit of a surprise, is that the Cubs are looking to extend Garza this year as it would appear they intend on keeping him. As the story indicates, Garza’s people wouldn’t be shocked if a trade happened, but the feeling is that he stays with the Cubs for quite a while.

The question this leaves me with is; Do the Cubs think they are closer than everyone else thinks they are? Do they believe they can build a contender within five years? Or is this just a ploy to drive up his trade value and the Cubs still feel that they are too far away to keep Garza. I can see both sides of it. Garza is eligible for free agency in 2013, it would be prudent of the Cubs to drive up his value for prospects by threatening to tie him up long term. However, the feeling I’m left with when I consider what it all means is that the Cubs think they aren’t too far away from competing.

Shark

I’ve been impressed with Samardzija since the spring. Since I wrote that article Shark had the expected uptick in BB/9, but he’s increased his K/9 rate and kept the other gains he made over the past few seasons.

What you’ll see there is a continued ability to suppress hits. Some of this may or may not be attributed to the defensive shifting the Cubs are employing, that’s another article for another time. Shark, it would seem, has turned himself into a solid #2-3 starter, depending on your definition of those labels. He’s done a remarkable job of keeping the ball on the ground and suppressing fly-balls. Some of these gains are unsustainable, but still bear watching over the long term:

The main knock on Samardzija have been his ability to miss bats, which looks like it was fixed last year, and his ability to command his pitches, which looks like it’s in the process of being adjusted this year. Remember when it was a surprise that Shark made the rotation this year? I don’t think that TheoCo was anticipating Samardzija’s progress this year.

Bryan LaHair

This is a major surprise. Bradley Woodrum over at Fangraphs (great site, go check them  out) posited that LaHair’s success might be sustainable. What’s important to keep in mind with LaHair is that while his BABIP has been crazy this year, it’s not insane to say that he can be an above average 1B or corner OF. If that seems like a massive step down from his current production, that’s because it is.

However, what it should be looked at is a massive step up for any projected production from a career minor leaguer who failed spectacularly in his previous auditions. He managed to keep improving past the age when such improvement is expected. He’s an anomaly and he’ll have a fairly long career crushing balls, but he’s not a 1.000+ OPS guy. I can see LaHair being the 25-30 HR guy with a decent average. He’s still striking out a lot, but his walk rate has also increased. It looks like LaHair got legitimately better, and when the Cubs can get rid of Soriano, they have the next LF on their squad. Rizzo will move LaHair off first. Speaking of which.

The Kids

Seriously, that’s stupid good. The BB-SO ratio is a little concerning, but the man is destroying AAA pitching. When he comes up there will be a lot of expectations placed on him. His swing looks different by all accounts, it’s shorter and more capable of handling MLB pitching, but there’s really only one way to test that out.

The rest of the known kids, Brett Jackson, Josh Vitters, Junior Lake, Javy Baez, etc etc, are a mixed bag. We know that the Cubs lack any type of pitching at the minor league level, which is why the Cubs were entertaining the possibility of trading Garza in the first place. Josh Vitters started hot, but has cooled considerably. Brett Jackson’s defense is ready, but his bat is dragging a bit. Junior Lake is killing it, but his upside is limited and he’s still pretty far away. McNutt is having a good rebound year, but he’s the only pitcher of note in the minors that is doing anything.

Synopsis

The biggest factor in what the Cubs do with Garza will be the farm system. This year’s draft is important for the Cubs as they try to infuse a thin minor league system with some talent. There are some good pieces on the major league squad, the starting pitching has been a good surprise, but the Cubs biggest need is offense. I know the bullpen has been awful, but ‘pens are a funny thing to put together. You don’t build a good bullpen as much as you just fall into one. What’s more common is what the White Sox did in 2005, find live arms to stick in the pen and hope for the best. In that case, the best happened, despite running through 3 closers. The Cubs need a real CF, a better 2B, a 3B who can hit, and a younger catcher.

The fact that they are considering pulling Garza off the table suggests that they think they can acquire the pieces via other options. They can trade Dempster for a decent haul, and they will be looking at Latin America for a boost in player production. I think certain surprises this year have the Cubs front office moving up their timetables a bit, and that’s a good thing. The current squad is competitive, but not good enough to be a serious player. With shrewd management and smart maneuvering, they can be the real deal quicker than we all expected.

by: Tony Leva
email: tonytrucker1969@gmail.com

Junior Seau, CTE and where this all may lead

On Monday, future NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau put a gun to his chest and pulled the trigger, ending his own life at age 43. This is eerily similar to how former Bears defensive back Dave Duerson took his own life in February of 2011. Duerson left a note saying he intentionally left his brain intact so it could be studied for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, commonly known as CTE. It’s a degenerative brain disease that has been linked to violent contact sports like football and hockey. Repeated blows to the head in these, and other, sports are suspected to directly lead to CTE, which in turn causes the victim to suffer from memory loss, depression, confusion and aggressive behavior. Obviously, suicidal tendencies are also a symptom and unfortunately, sometimes the last symptom.

With the recent deaths of hockey players considered “enforcers”, Rick Rypien, a CTE victim who committed suicide, the possible suicide of Wade Belak, a depression sufferer, and the overdose of Derek Boogaard, also a depression sufferer and CTE victim, the hockey community has been seriously questioning the role of enforcers in the game as its becoming apparent the constant punches to the head may be directly linked to CTE. Considering the relative youth of these 3 players…Rypien was 27, Boogaard was 28 and Belak was 35…the crippling effects of CTE manifesting itself in such young men is truly frightening. If getting into fights on the ice is linked to CTE, what the hell is the game of football doing to others?

Virtually every play in football ends with a high-speed collision between at least two people…at least one of which is moving at full speed. From the first time a youngster puts on the pads and taps into that neanderthal gene that says “RRRAAAAAHHHHHRRRRRR!!!! HULK SMASH!!!!” they are subjecting themselves to the very real possibility of injuring their brain on a constant basis until the day they stop playing the game, be it one play later or when they retire from pro football. The damage done to a brain from a violent concussion can never be trusted to fully heal and the medical data supporting that conclusion gets bigger with every study done on the brain.

When do parents around the world finally say, “Not my child” and refuse to allow them to participate in sports where the risk for brain injury is so great? I’m not advocating one side over the other here, just asking that very important question….”When”? I’m certain that many parents out there won’t give a shit about anything that’s come to light and will keep enrolling their kids in these sports and will continue to scream encouragement from the stands when little Johnny plants a crushing hit on the son of another set of parents. They’ll yell “SHAKE IT OFF, RUB SOME DIRT ON IT AND GET BACK OUT THERE” even when it’s their kid on the sideline, woozy and nauseous from receiving a similar hit, even when their coaches insist they watch from the sideline until they’re cleared by a doctor to return to game action. I’m not sure where this is leading for the future of these sports, but I’m sure controversy will abound.

The Cubs and the Farm System

On a lighter note….Yeah, the Cubs suck hard this season and probably will in 2013 as well. While this is nothing new for us Cubs fans, what is new is there’s an actual plan to improve via the farm system. Let’s take a look at my top 5 prospects…

1. Anthony Rizzo, 1B The prize of the Adrian Gonzalez to Boston deal, the Cubs somehow heisted The Riz (That’s MINE and I expect royalties when he wins his first MVP and everyone calls him that) from the Padres for Andrew Cashner. Only 22 years old, he’s tearing it up at AAA to the tune of a .372/.422/.638 slash line and is only being held back by the issue of service time (free agency eligibility begins after 6 major league seasons and teams sometimes try to delay the eligibility clock by bringing young players up in June or July) and the fact that Bryan LaHair is playing well at the major league level. He’s a Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor, so you know the kid is a fighter, too. I think he’s the most big league-ready of our youngsters and will give the Cubs a big run producer for a decade or so. ETA…June 2012

2. Brett Jackson, OF Jackson is a big, left-handed hitting OFer with superb defensive skills, is faster than rent in the ghetto and actually has the ability to draw a walk, something the Cubs haven’t stressed in the past. He’s prone to the strikeout, but so were plenty of other difference-makers with a similar tool set. I’m hoping he can be Jim Edmonds with more speed and less power. I don’t expect 40 homers from him, but 40 steals per season are in his sights. He’s excelled at every level he’s been at and at 23 is ready to hone his craft in Wrigley. There’s an available OF spot for him, but he’s in the same service time boat as The Riz. This kid is going to get every chance to be the dynamic leadoff hitter we have lusted after like we’ve lusted after a video of Kate Upton doing the Cat Daddy.

God help the rest of baseball if Jackson exceeds that level of awesomeness. ETA….June 2012

3. Javy Baez, 3B The last 1st round pick of the Jim Hendry reign of terror, he’s from the last MLB draft where overslotting and overpaying those players was possible. Drafted 9th overall in 2011, he’s 6′ 1″, 205ish, and still filling out since he’s only 19 years old. Scouts raved about how the ball jumps off his bat to all areas of the field. Defensively, he’s already a plus player and has the ability to play SS as well as 3B. Attitude may be an issue, though. He was recently scolded for admiring a home run and responded, “I can do whatever the fuck I want!” He’d better hit about 35 homers with a .300+ average in Wrigley if he’s going to be a cockbite. Hey, they can’t all be saints. ETA….2015

4. Matt Szczur, OF
Pronounced “Caesar”, Szczur is a super athlete who played both baseball and football at Villanova before choosing baseball after being drafted in the 5th round of the 2010 draft. He probably would have chosen baseball anyway, but the Cubs gave him $100K to sign and another $500K to skip the NFL scouting combine. For $600K, I shudder to think what I’d do. He’s struggling a bit at High-A Daytona, but he was a project with a high ceiling when we drafted him and we can afford to let him learn his craft at his own pace. He’s athletic and was very durable in college while playing two sports. He’s gone from 5th round future to fast-track prospect making a name for himself in the organization. ETA….2014, maybe 2015

5. Trey McNutt, P The top pitching prospect in the system, McNutt, only 22, has two outstanding plus pitches…an overwhelming fastball and a big ol’ power curve that are almost major-league caliber as it is. Refining a 3rd pitch and sharpening his control a bit will be the keys for McNutt (yeah, you love that name) to make it as a starting pitcher in The Show. He is thought so highly of that the Cubs refused to include him in the Matt Garza trade and laughed in Boston’s collective faces when they wanted McNutt (don’t act like you’re not giggling) in compensation for Theo. Standing 6′ 4″, he’s an imposing figure on the mound and may even put a few more pounds on his 205 pound frame. We need more home-grown arms to compete, but McNutt is a good start. ETA…2013

Rocky Horror Live Cast Showing

Ok, off sports for a second. This past Friday night, I took my girls and two of their friends to the Arcada Theatre’s live cast showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. If you’ve never seen this, it’s a Bucket List thing, especially if you like rude, vulgar, offensive and colorfully dressed people who worship a movie that bombed like it was dropped on Nagasaki in 1945. These goofs (said lovingly, of course) dress up in costume and act along with the movie in it’s entirety. But that’s not the fun part!! The fun part is the audience callbacks. During the whole movie, the dialogue in the movie is “answered” by the in-the-know members of the audience. Here’s a decent example of this. Gotta listen kind of close, but you can make out the callbacks.

The enjoyment level for virgins (Oh yeah, first-timers are called “virgins” and are marked with a lipsticked “V” on each cheek and some offensive words or artwork on foreheads or bald heads. Then, the cast tries to offend them pre-show. The guy who tried to offend me had the tables turned on him. Silly cross-dresser!!) depends on how good the audience is. It’s much more fun to hear everything crisp and in-time (My name is Janet. “SLUT!!”) rather than a bunch of people who aren’t into the flick. It’s very audience participatory-dependent for fun, because the movie itself pretty much sucks, which is why it bombed years ago. After the show, the cast is more than happy to pose for pics and shoot the proverbial shit with you. This is me and my boy, Frank. I think it’s a boy. I didn’t have the sack to look under it’s panties…

Bring your kids if you don’t mind taking a chance on scarring them for life. How can you, really, when it’s just a bunch of grown-ups prancing around in drag?

 

This right here is pt. 2 of the Chicago Cubs names to watch for series I’m doing. OF is slightly less scary than the IF, the one true prospect does live out here in Brett Jackson. The names aren’t as raw and there are some legit Major League contributors in the bunch, but some of these guys should be gone by July.

-Mauricio Rubio Jr.
Follow me on twitter, @MRubio52 

Outfield

Right Field. David DeJesus – His wife is pretty hot, and she’s a big Cubs fan. As for David, he’s an ok option in Right. His slash line will look a lot like Fukudome’s but it’ll come without the extreme salary and latent racism that Cubs fans seemed to start. He’s a guy that doesn’t do anything a lot, if that makes any sense. He doesn’t walk a lot, he doesn’t strike out a lot either. He doesn’t drive in a lot of runs, nor does he score a lot of runs. He’s above average in most categories, but his slugging percentage is low for a corner outfielder. He’s a solid signing, cheap and mildly effective. He’s not a difference maker, but he is a decent stopgap.

Center Field. Marlon Byrd –  It will be a bit painful to see him go, as he should at some point this year. Byrd is a hustle player with tangible talent. He was at his peak value in 2010 and since then has slid into “decent player” territory, which is fine for a contender, but it really isn’t what the Cubs need at this point. Byrd has always been solid but unspectacular throughout his career. He can help out a team for a stretch playoff run, he does well against both righties and lefties and plays a decent Center, but he’s not going to be a massive difference maker over an extended period of time. The projected haul he brings back should reflect that.

Left Field. Alfonso Soriano – His contract is an albatross and his production has been slipping ever since he put on the uniform, but Alfonso Soriano does get his fair share of unfounded criticism. Let’s be clear about this, Sori was never the player that the Cubs paid for in 2007, he wasn’t a stolen base machine and he couldn’t play Center under any circumstances. Hendry wildly overpaid for Sori hoping that an eventual championship would relegate his later years with the team as a victory lap instead of a painful slow death. Soriano is still due 54 mil through 2013 and he’s not going to be getting any better. All that said he works on his craft and his teammates love him to death. It’s not his fault that Hendry overpaid, we would all take that money if it was offered to us. What was he supposed to do, decline? Soriano is not a sure bet to post a + .300 OBP this year, nor is he a sure thing to slug +.470, which is an awful combination. He is a bad fielder and he doesn’t run anymore, so of course people will label him as lazy. He isn’t. He’s overpaid, but that isn’t his fault. Soriano is likely to be on the team in one form or another for awhile. His dollars will be incredibly hard to trade, but that won’t stop the Cubs from shopping him around and potentially paying the lion’s share of his contract to play elsewhere.

1. Brett Jackson – There are legit reasons to be excited with Brett Jackson the prospect. He’s been climbing the Baseball America top prospects list for the past three years and enters the 2012 season as the #32 prospect in all of Baseball. This also makes him the best prospect in the Cubs system. Jackson has handled the relatively aggressive promotion pattern well. His ceiling is up for debate, none of his tools are eye popping, but he can be a Mike Cameron/Curtis Granderson type at the dish. His defense projects well, some see him being an eventual gold glove winner. Jackson does strike out a lot, but he has a decent walk rate which mitigates the k’s somewhat. He should get half a season of Major League pitching under his belt this year. Anything less will be seen as a disappointment.

2. Reed Johnson – Remember when Reed Johnson was gone for a year and it was fine because the Cubs weren’t going to compete this year anyway and he isn’t a difference maker? Johnson struggles to OPS over .800 most years, when his BABIP isn’t insanely high he struggles to hit over .300, and he is adored by Cubs fans for some reason. He has his uses, mainly against lefty pitching, but he’s perfectly tradeable, and he should be moved to a contender by the trade deadline for a decent haul. He’s a guy that can help a contending team, and the Cubs aren’t one yet.

3. Tony Campana – I want to root for this guy. He has legit speed as evidenced by his 24 for 26 stolen base performance last year. But he needs to play center in order for him to have any offensive value and that’s where Brett Jackson lives. He looks like a prototypical 4th outfielder, but Theo loves guys that can burn and play good OF defense, so he’s likely to stick around and get some playing time. He needs to find some gap power quick to stick in the lineup, but that’s not too likely.

4. Matthew Szczur – He’s behind the curve thanks to his football playing days at Villanova. He’s raw and it shows. He’s not major league ready and his ceiling is up for debate. I think his ceiling is a moving target, he’s obviously fast (80 on the traditional scouting scale for speed), but his future depends on what he learns at the lower levels. He has time on his side, so if he learns how to command the strike zone a bit he can be a more interesting prospect.

5. Dave Sappelt – He’s a meh. It looks like he’s destined to be a fourth outfielder, he never really wowed down on the farm. He has no outstanding skill, and most of his tools are merely average. He has some pop in his bat, but not enough to justify regular playing time. He has some speed but not enough to crack a lineup. He plays good defense which should be enough to carry him on most Major League rosters, but that’s about it.

Pitchers tomorrow