Posts Tagged ‘Home Runs’

Baseball is all romance, no fucking.

Robert Bykoski

This was a scary list to compile. For a few years I had read and heard about the bare cupboard that the Cubs farm system had become. Now, there are some gems here, but it lies mainly in the outfield. The Cubs have compiled a batch of CF prospects, but that’s just one position. Indeed the Cubs depth is pretty thin on the infield, and it’s going to be a growing need if Darwin Barney and Josh Vitters don’t pan out. This is more or less a list of players that you should pay attention to this year. There are some real young bucks in there, but their progress can yield more prospects or they could become future pieces of the hopeful Cubs championship puzzle. 

So without further adieu, he’s the fuckless romance.
-Mauricio Rubio Jr.
Follow me on Twitter, @MRubio52 

Catcher:

1. Geo Soto – Soto is once again coming off a season where his offensive production cratered. Soto was an older prospect when he finally broke through in 2008 and won Rookie of the year honors. In 2009 his offense fell flat and there were legitimate concerns about the bad weight he put on during the off season. Those questions were back again last year as he appeared to be heavier than he was in 2010. Soto was finally healthy but he was unable to properly square up the ball and his swing looked off. A .228/.310/.411 slash line sunk his value as he never possessed a cannon behind the plate. When he’s right, his stick is legit. There are two prospects that are legit threats to take serious playing time away from him, and it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see him dealt this year if he re-establishes his value at the plate. Decent power stroke, good eye, and he doesn’t kill you at the plate, he could bring back a decent haul.

2. Welington Castillo – The Cubs are noticeably thin at catcher, their other prospects are fairly far away from the major league level, but Castillo is ready now. He’s a bit like Soto in that his offense completely bottomed out in the minors before having a renaissance with the stick. He has a strong arm, but in a more stacked organization he would start the year in the minors to work on refining his catching skills. In 2011 he hit .287/.359/.516 across three levels, and his career minor league OPS is .753. He projects to be a good defensive catcher that can hit at an above average rate for the position. The Cubs will need to figure out if Castillo can hit Major League pitching sooner rather than later.

3. Steve Clevenger – This is why the Cubs are thin at catcher, he’s 3rd on the organizational depth chart because he bats lefty. Clevenger did well at AA, but it was the second go-round for him, and repeating a level usually skews numbers. By all accounts his defense is far away from Major League ready, and he’s a year older than Castillo, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him travel north with the team in place of Castillo to allow Welington to get regular AB’s.

First Base

1. Bryan LaHair – If you’re going to be a Major League First Baseman you’ll have to slug. There are rare exceptions to this rule in the modern game, Daric Barton is one, but there is no doubt that First Base is a power production position. LaHair has obvious power, but there are several examples of players that slug in their youth down on the farm and can’t figure out Major League pitching. Matt LaPorta comes to mind. A 1.070 OPS is no joke, but consider that LaHair was 28, old for the level, and hasn’t really flashed that power consistently at the Major League level. He did well in an extremely limited sample size with the big boys last year, but he’ll have to do it consistently in 2012 to keep a hold of the starting job.

2. Anthony Rizzo – Jed Hoyer claims that he promoted Rizzo too early last year, and owns up to that mistake. I would caution him to not let a past transgression affect his decision making for the current team. Rizzo might be ready sooner than Hoyer thinks, When he was in the minors last year he absolutely destroyed minor league pitching. The problem there is the deep chasm separating the two parks he called home in 2011. PETCO is a cavernous stadium that kills flyballs. Tucson’s park is a bandbox by any measure. While his numbers are a bit skewed, the power is truly a plus-skill. He can be a legit 35+ homer guy if he can ever put it all together, and he’s the future of the Cubs at the corner.

3. Daniel Vogelbach – Vogelbach is rawer than raw, he’s a 19 year old that flashed decent power in extremely limited playing time in rookie ball, but he bears watching. Scouts are praising his ability to drive the ball to all parts of the park, he has plus-plus power and has started to creep into top 10 Cubs prospect lists. His conditioning a concern, he’s a big boy at 6’0 and 250 elbows, but he’s a name to pay attention to.

Second Base

1. Darwin Barney – He’s pretty much all effort. His offensive value is strictly tied into his batting average, which usually spells death for most prospects. Barney drew 22 walks in 570 PA’s last year, which is pretty awful. He has a high baseball IQ and he knows how to be aggressive on the base paths while still being smart, you know, kinda like the inverse Theriot. What he brings to the table is shortstop range and arm to second base. He’s a tremendous fielder and his glove will justify his fairly anemic bat for his career. If he’s hitting .280, he isn’t killing you. If he falls below that, it’s trouble. That usually spells UTL instead of 2B, but given the limited options at the keystone, he’s going to get another 500+ PA’s with the Cubs.

2. Jeff Baker – Baker struggles against right-handed hitters (.200/.229/.263) and his defense is only so-so. He’s a decent platoon backup at 2B, but it speaks more to the lack of depth the Cubs have there than any of the meager positives that Baker brings to the table. He’s 31 and clearly at the end of the road. He’s been in a decline phase for 3 years now and his willingness to play every position is a clear signal of that. His trade value is in the basement right now, so he’s likely to stick around on the club, but it’s looking like he’s limited to facing left-handers from here on in.

3. Zeke DeVoss – He’s pretty far away at this point, but I don’t feel like writing about Blake DeWitt in this space, so let’s talk about this kid. He doesn’t profile to have much power, but his main tool is a good eye at the plate and good speed. He’s going to have to show that patience again, the worry on DeVoss is that he’s too passive at the plate and that his lack of power will show itself as he progresses through the system. His ceiling looks like Luis Castillo, so make of that what you will.

Shortstop

1. Starlin Castro – Here are Castro’s statistical comps through his age 21 season. That guarantees nothing, but it’s usually a good thing when you’re putting up numbers similar to 4 Hall of Famers. Castro needs to work on his defense, he doesn’t set his feet when he throws and it makes him wild, but he started to cut his error rate last year, and that’s a positive sign. Tulowitzki and Jeter were making errors at a higher rate in the minors than Castro in the majors when they were 21, but that didn’t move them off the position. Castro should remain at short, his bat is maximized there and he has the tools to be a good defensive shortstop. Castro can hit the ball, he has incredible bat control. He can add power if he adds good weight, and he’s on the track to be a star. He doesn’t walk at a high rate, but his consistency with the stick more than makes up for that. For now at least.

2. Junior Lake – The man is solidly built and has climbed the prospect totem pole. He’s 21 and had a solid showing at High-A ball before struggling in Double-A Tennessee. Depending on how big he gets he can actually move to 3B and still project well enough with his bat. He’s very raw and has bad plate discipline (running theme with the Cubs ORG, it would seem), but his power is real.

3. Javier Baez – Baez is here over Bianchi because he’s toolsy and that makes people excited. Truth be told, he’s a long shot to develop into the player everyone wants him to be. Baez has concerns about his makeup. He’s immature, which is to be expected for a 19 year old, but he’s going to make people drool over his tools. He had a meh showing on the farm, but he has tremendous upside.

Third Base

1. Ian Stewart – He never really took advantage of Coors. He was a decent prospect and a startable 3B, but he won’t be replacing the sum of Aramis’ production. All that said, Ramirez did need to go and Stewart is just a stopgap en route to a better 3B. Hopefully the wait for the next one won’t be as long as the time gap between Santo and Ramirez. The Cubs hope that the fabled “change of scenery” will help him out, but I’m not seeing it.

2. Josh Vitters – It seems like he’s been in the organization forever, but he’s still only 22. Vitters has the habit of struggling after a promotion and adjusting fairly well the following year. That’s fine for now, especially since he was making solid contact in 2011. Youth will only be on his side for so long (ain’t that the brutal truth), and with Ian Stewart likely to struggle on the Major League level, the time for Vitters to show that he is the legit future at third is now.

3. Marquez Smith – He’s old and he’s hit his ceiling, so at this point he can contribute as a solid if unspectacular right-handed bat off the bench. He’s not a star anymore, and at this point he’s waiting on guys like Jeimer Candelario to pass him up in the organization. He’s a Bobby Scales type guy at this point, great minor leaguer, but he’s never going to develop into an everyday Major League Player.


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I’ve been there before, down that path, feeling that same sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. It’s the feeling you get deep within your being when you have so completely failed to live up to the expectations of people that support you. The sensation is truly nauseating. You begin to realize that people put their faith in your ability to perform a task, or to get a job, or to be special.

Yes, I’ve failed miserably before, odds are that I will again.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Adam Dunn. He is the type of slugger that I appreciate nowadays. Low average, walks a lot, hits monster home runs, strikes out quite a bit as well. I’ve drafted him to every fantasy team I’ve owned since 2006. There are three true outcomes when it comes to Adam Dunn, and I can appreciate that.

Last year was painful for me as well.

When you fail, when you fall down, it’s usually not in front of 20,000 people. To watch Adam Dunn last year was to watch the slow death of a confused animal. One who is not completely sure why it is dying, but one that is certain of it’s fate. Dunn knew he was going to fail towards the second half of last season. He looked lost in a mire of his own personal doubts and the pressures to perform a duty that used to come so easy to him before.

Perhaps that is the issue, it was easy before. There were little to no expectations for Dunn in his previous stops. Cincy was never in contention with him, Arizona had a brief stint as a contender when he was traded there, and the Nationals weren’t ready to contend when he landed there. His destiny as Sox DH was predestined, it’s a home run happy park, one where Dunn could exercise his prowess and become something more. He was traded to a team that was supposed to contend.

And then 2011 happened.

Historically, there has never been a full season collapse like this in baseball history. Think about that, baseball records have been reliably kept since 1885. Since then, no one has fallen on their face harder than Adam Dunn.

Dunn’s bat looked slower, and statistical evidence seems to back that claim up. From 2007 through 2010 Dun averaged 536 AB’s and struck out on a fastball 87 times pers season. In 2011, Dunn had 411 AB’s and struck out on a fastball 100 times. Pitchers threw fastballs to Dunn 62% of the time from 2007-2011, but in 2011 Dunn saw fastballs 69% of the time.

Pitchers aren’t afraid of Dunn, and that’s an issue. Adam Dunn needs to figure out if he truly loves baseball, because he didn’t just fail to live up to expectations, he set a record for failing.

There is one silver lining in his numbers.

Despite being historically bad, Dunn saw an uptick in his BB ratio. You can take this as a sign that his patience could help in 2012, or that he is too afraid to swing at anything and he lucked into a few walks. Either way, it’s something positive that he did.

Dunn wasn’t alone in failure on the south side. Rios and Beckham were supposed to be two very good hitters for the Sox. Rios was claimed off waivers by Kenny Williams in 2009 and had a respectable 2010 year. Beckham was a first round pick with a hitting pedigree from Georgia. He was a College World Series hero and many argued that he should have been the rookie of the year in 2009.

Both players were expected to have good years for a contending team in 2011, and both failed to meet expectations. Here is a graph of the trio’s wOBA

Or if you want more traditional stats:

Those three players had 1623 combined PA’s and severely under performed last year.

Rios looks like a gifted athlete. He patrols centerfield with grace and speed, he makes it all look so easy. His tools are apparent and that’s what makes his struggles so infuriating. He can be a good baseball player, but there is this odd mental block with him that is impossible to describe. He should be a 30 home run guy, but he isn’t. He should hit .300, but he doesn’t. He should be a gold glove centerfielder, but he never will be. Perhaps it is lapses in concentration that leads to his poor play, but he needs to play better.

Beckham looks like a lost cause. He was a stellar fielder at second base in the first half, but his fielding dipped as his bat never really got on track. He has regressed every year he’s been in the league, and that’s a terrible sign for a rookie phenom. Beckham collapsed in the second half last year, but the dip wasn’t as visible because he wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire in the first half. He struggled to hit .213 after the All-Star break as his K-rate shot through the roof.

Beckham will never be an OBP machine, he doesn’t walk enough and his swing looks lost, but he can be somewhat valuable since his glove could theoretically justify his bat. He needs to be around .270-.280 for that to happen.

The White Sox have an outside chance at competing in 2012. The Tigers IF defense will be awful and there is a slight chance the the Sox will pitch enough to stay in the race. The mitigating factor will be the bats. 3 of the 4 times the Sox have made the playoffs in New Comiskey the team has belted 200+ home runs. That’s the magic number, if the Sox can hit, the pitching might hold up enough to stay relevant into September. For that to happen, these three players will have to play well.

Dunn is the wild card, if he can return to form, the Sox will do well. The question with him will always be about his love for the game. Picking up a bat this offseason was a healthy start, but he’s going to have to mash for the Sox to compete.

Episode 008 – ALEXEEEEIII! YES, YES, HISTORY!

Posted: February 6, 2012 by Mauricio Rubio Jr. in Podcast
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In this episode, we forget football ever happened, we review Soxfest, interview Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo, review a great Chicago brew (not Ronnie Brewer), discuss a lot of baseball, and reveal our favorite sports books of all time.