Random Notes from a Busy Week: Cubans, the DH, Dexter, Spring Training, and Prospect Lists

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Who would’ve thought the last week in January would provide a lot of excitement in the Cub universe. There were a lot of things to be excited this week about when it came to prospects, Cuban free agents, spring training, Dexter Fowler, and the 25 man roster. Here are a few random thoughts about the comings and goings in the Cubs system this week.

norge-luis-ruiz-veracruz
Norge Ruiz

Cubans
It was announced this week that Lazarito, the 16-year-old Cuban phenom, will be signing a contract on February 10. I think the Cubs have a chance, but I also think the Dodgers have a better chance to sign  him as they have more money to throw around. On the other hand, the Dodgers may not want to invest another $60 million, when you add on penalties, on what is pretty much an unknown player whose best days were in a 14 and under league.

There are still a lot of Cuban left to sign. The Cubs have until July 1 to sign most of them, but there are a few who do not fall under international free-agent signing rules because they are 22 and older. The top Cubans still left include – Jorge Ona, Norge Ruiz, Randy Arozarena, Vladimir Gutierrez, Adrian Morejon, Ronald Bolanos, Cionel Perez and Jonatan Machado. At this point if I had to pick three, I would go with Ona, Ruiz, and Morejon based upon their high floors. Guiterrez might be another solid arm to sign, too.

Prospects
underwood 68Both Baseball Prospectus (BP)and MLB.com Pipeline came out with their top prospect lists this week. BP had six Cubs in their top 101 including Eddy Martinez, Billy McKinney, Albert Almora, Jr., Ian Happ, Willson Contreras, and Gleyber Torres. The MLB.com Pipeline site differed with Duane Underwood replacing Eddy Martinez. BP had Torres at number 41 while Pipeline had him at number 28. Both sites will have their top 20 to 30 prospects lists for each team published later in February and early March.

I think as year goes on, we will see several of the top 100 prospects graduate to the pros, and several new prospects will take there place, many of whom could be Cubs. Likely to move onto the list are Dylan Cease, Jeimer Candelario, Eloy Jimenez, and Oscar De La Cruz.

Dexter and the Draft
I don’t think the Cubs should re-sign Dexter Fowler. He’s a good player, but I just think they already have what they need at the big league level. The Cubs have a couple outfield replacements who are close to ready at the minor-league level. If the Cubs do sign Fowler, then a trade will be precipitated, most likely involving Jorge Soler, which I would not like to see….at all.

When Fowler eventually signs, and hopefully by someone else, the Cubs will get a draft pick back. So, they would get a compensation pick, only to lose it, and they would get back their second round pick. That pick would probably put them somewhere between 67 and 70 in the second round for the June 9 draft.

One player I investigated today is a Division II player, pitcher Tyson Miller from California Baptist. The first thing you notice about Miller is he does have an awkward delivery. That can be fixed, but at 6’4” and 190 pounds, he looks like a very good athlete with some physical projection left, which is the kind of player the Cubs are looking for.

Spring training
almora 86Today the Cubs announcer they invited 18 none roster players to spring training. This is way down from 25 of one year ago. In addition to the 40 man roster, the following players will be at camp. They include: pitchers Stephen Fife, Brandon Gomes, Jean Machi, Felix Pena, Jonathan Pettibone, Armando Rivero, Drew Rucinski and Duane Underwood, as well as left-handed pitchers Luis Cruz and Jack Leathersich. Add in infielders Jesus Guzman, Munenori Kawasaki and Kristopher Negron. Plus, outfielders Albert Almora, John Andreoli and Juan Perez were invited along with catchers Taylor Davis and Tim Federowicz. I was really excited to see Underwood and Rivero get the call. Underwood is not quite ready for the majors, but he is close.

But for me, spring training, right now, is all about three things.
1. Can Baez play centerfield?
2. Will the 25th man be a reliever or a fifth outfielder?
3. How good is Eddy Julio Martinez?

The DH
I used to be against it. I was always a hard-core traditionalist who thought that the pitcher should hit. Now… I don’t think it really matters. After traveling around the Midwest League the past few years, I’ve gotten used to it. When I coached high school baseball, I loved the DH because it gave more kids a chance to play. But this is not about a chance to play, this is about a chance to win. I think it fits the game today because of specialization. You have specialized pitchers, why not have specialized hitters?

Tomorrow, we will be back with a profile of Mark Zagunis of Tennessee, and next weekend, we will have our first team profile – the South Bend Cubs.

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