With the All-Star game, it’s been a pretty slow week news wise. I find it hard to write about big-league stuff at this time year because so many things could happen in the second half. As I look at a variety of topics within the Cubs organization, I start to see several things that interest me here in the coming weeks: 10 things, in fact. Imagine that.
1. Last night’s loss was about as frustrating as it gets. The Cubs had their chances at the plate and couldn’t get it done. Schwarber was excellent at the plate and had one bad throw from behind the plate to second. The bullpen was rusty and lost the game. It was tough to watch. As a fan, I want to see the Cubs put some separation between them and the Mets. The Cubs are still a game up in the wild card as St. Louis beat the Mets and SF beat Arizona. This is the time in the schedule where the Cubs have to find ways to get it done.
2. On Monday night, both Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo participated in MLB’s Home Run Derby. Neither made it out of the first round. I have not been a fan of the All-Star game festivities for about 15 years now. ESPN has a lot to do with that. This year, I did watch Bryant’s round right after I just missed Rizzo’s participation. However, I like the format this year where it’s timed and the incessant chatting is calmed down. It kind of rushes things along and makes it more exciting. We don’t have to listen to Chris Berman endlessly. Based on this new format I will likely watch next year’s.
3. This year is the first time since 2008 that the Cubs have been buyers at the trading deadline. I’m finding that to be really, really weird. With the Cubs off until Friday this week, I stayed off Twitter most (but not all) of the week because trades are all #CubsTwitter was talking about in the absence of games. To me, and to Clark, the Cubs will make a trade when they make a trade and nothing I say on Twitter, on this blog, or Cubs Insider is going to make any difference about what the Cubs do. I’d like for the Cubs to pick up another pitcher and a left-handed bat in the outfield, but I just don’t see them making a big splash. I think we’re going to know who the player is. It’s not going to be a big-name player. Theo is not going to go all out this year just for a rental, just as Clark has predicted.
4. Where is Eddy Julio Martinez? It’s been 16 days since he could’ve signed a contract with the Cubs and he still hasn’t. While the Dodgers and Giants have been rumored to be the front runners, the Cubs, according to MLB Trade Rumors, are considered to be a dark horse. That doesn’t mean the Cubs won’t get him, it’s just means that the Cubs aren’t a clear-cut favorite. However, don’t count out Theo and Jed.
5. So, I saw a great tweet on Sunday and I retweeted it.
For those who make snap judgements on prospects, 3 years ago today Sonny Gray was struggling to keep his ERA under 5 in the Texas League.
— Melissa Lockard (@oakclubhouse) July 12, 2015
The point I liked about the tweet was how pitchers can struggle in their development in the minors and just couple of adjustments can be the difference between being a picture with the 4+ ERA versus being an all-star. When I look at the pitchers at Myrtle Beach and South Bend I see a lot of pitchers that are struggling. Daury Torres is starting to make adjustments, same for Paul Blackburn, Tyler Skulina, Trevor Clifton, and Jake Stinnett. I think sometimes as fans we get hung up on statistics, even with minor-league players. I know I am to blame but when you watch a pitcher struggle in the minors, sometimes it’s frustrating to see them do so when they have an amazing array of pitches. I still think we as fans have to be more patient with minor-league pitchers. Things can turn quick for them or it can take 3 to 5 years. And as fans, we have to know that.
6. Cub bloggers and writers don’t often agree on the validity of a prospect. I know several times this year I disagreed with other bloggers about Ryan Williams and Zach Hedges. I thought Williams was doing a great job in April while another blogger thought his success came as a result of his age, being that he was 23 in a 21-year-old dominated league. That blogger thought that when Williams moved up that he would not meet with the same success. I disagreed. As for Hedges, another blogger thought that Hedges was not cut out for a starting role, that his pitches weren’t good enough (even for the bullpen), and that he lacked the physical structure to be a starter. In May, the other blogger looked correct as Hedges struggled to have an ERA under 5.00 for the month. But what I saw on Hedges was movement. I don’t care what speed you throw the ball, if the ball moves when you throw it, it’s going to be hard to hit. Whether it’s 88 miles an hour, or 95 miles an hour, it’s all about movement and location. He has an ERA under 2.50 since June 1. I’ve been wrong on pitchers in the past and I’ll be wrong about pitchers in the future. I just find it funny the different reasons why different writers disagree over a picture. Some like to have a cookie cutter pitcher type. In the end, though, they come in all shapes and sizes.
7. The Venezuelan and Dominican summer league teams don’t get a lot of press in the United States and right now there’s not a lot to press to be writing about. The Dominican team is struggling to hit the ball. They only have four players with an average over .250. Meanwhile, the pitching for the Dominican summer league team is their strength. Starter Junior Marte is 2-1 with a 1.42 ERA in 8 starts. He has 44 strikeouts in 38 innings, which are both good numbers, but sometimes those numbers don’t translate to the United States. In Venezuela, infielder Johnny Betancourt is hitting .312 with a .411 OBP and that’s about all the good news for the hitting. Meanwhile the pitching has been led by closer Juan Rengifo who has nine saves in 20 games. Starters Gabriel Lima and Carlos Rodriguez are also off to good starts as well as Jesus Arias. None of the recent international signees has been assigned to play in either league. Likely, those players will make their first appearance in instructional league in Arizona in the fall.
8. Right now I am obsessed with promotions. I still wonder why Chesney Young is still at Myrtle Beach (he went 5 for 5 last night). And I wonder why relievers PJ Francescon and Michael Jensen have not been moved from AA Tennessee to AAA Iowa. The next big wave of promotions will take place in early August. I suspect all for those players could be on the move.
9. I don’t know why but sometimes I think about expansion of the major leagues. Recently, there’s been a lot of talk about Montreal being given a second chance at a franchise. I could see that happening. I don’t really have a place I think MLB will expand to, but I think it would be cool to go to Vancouver, Portland, Charlotte, Memphis, San Antonio, or even Indianapolis. It’s been almost 20 years, I think it’s time to expand again. There’s enough talent and expansion and it might beef up the offensive part of the game by spreading out some pitching.
10. If Eloy Jimenez continues to hit behind Ian Happ at Eugene, look out for Ian Happ shooting up the prospect list. With Eloy in the lineup, he is now protecting Happ in the fourth spot. Earlier, before the rise of Frandy Delarosa, Jimenez hit second. When Eloy went off the grid for a week with hamstring issues, Delarosa stepped up his game in the number two spot. That is a scary first four to face if you are pitching in the Northwest League: Dewees, Delarosa, Happ, and Jimenez. If I were manager Gary Van Tol, I might even think about switching Dewees and Delarosa just to see how that lineup works.
Minor League Players of the Week
Hitter of the Week: Junior Lake, yes that Junior Lake. He went 11 for 24 with 4 HRs and 7 RBIs. I would not be surprised to see his name in a trade in the coming weeks.
Pitcher of the Week: I almost went with a three way tie between Pierce Johnson, Johnathan Martinez, and Zach Hedges. It was extremely close but Zach Hedges edged out the other two in every category. On the week, Hedges threw 15 Innings, gave up 2 ER, with 4 BBs and 9 Ks, and picked up 2 wins.
2015 Draftees Debut: Scott Effross, Casey Bloomquist, Michael Foster, Donnie Cimino, Preston Morrison, and MT Minacci all made debuts in the last ten days. Only PJ Higgins, Daniel Spingola, and Bryan Hudson have yet to debut.
The Cubs did not sign the following picks: Jake Kelzer, John Cresto, Jared Padgett, Delvin Zinn, Fitz Stadler, Cody Hawken, Tayl0r Jones, Al Jones, Rayne Supple, John Kilichowski, and Dominic DeRenzo.
That means the Cubs signed an amazing 29 players – the most in the Theo era.