Posts Tagged ‘Javy Baez’

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?