Affiliate Update – Iowa Cruising in First Place

Photo By Dylan Heuer

For several years now, the Iowa Cubs have more or less been a transient home for AAAA type players and a bed-and-breakfast stay for some of their own elite prospects. This year looks to be different as the roster contained mostly homegrown players to begin the year, especially in the starting rotation. But injuries and attrition have taken their toll and some of the more common AAAA guys are helping Iowa succeed. Manager Marty Pevey has been able to expertly handle the disparate collection of journeyman and prospects and turn them into a winning squad as they were Cubs Central’s team of the month for April.

The Surprises
Well, the surprises at Iowa all began when Ian Happ was assigned to AAA and Mark Zagunis made the big league club out of spring training. That assignment sent shockwaves through the system and created opportunities for other players. Add in an injury to SS Zack Short after the first week and next thing you know Dixon Machado was getting plenty of time to play shortstop Trent Giambrone has always been known for his approach but only has had a couple of walks all month long while hitting six dingers in April and one so far in May.

Infielder Dixon Machado has been the star for most of April. The former Tigers’ farmhand came out strong and wound up hitting .294 for the month with 14 RBI and and an amazing OBP of .455. His wRC+ was equally impressive at 139.

Outfielders Johnny Field and Donnie Dewees both made Cubs Central’s April All-Star team as their were the only other players to hit above .260 for the month that played an everyday basis. However, there were a lot of contributions across the board from Jim Adduci’s power to Francisco Arcia to Ian Happ at times.

As for the Pitching
Things didn’t quite turn out the way on the field as they did on paper. There are a lot of changes as to who was starting and who was relieving and that even flip-flopped at the end of the month. The Pacific Coast League is usually known as a hitter’s league and that held true even in the cold of April. Iowa’s starters kept their team in the game, but most of them had an ERA of over 4 except for Trevor Clifton, who had 4 short starts as he was being stretched out.

Instead,, It’s been the bullpen and its ever-changing personnel that seem to be holding the fort down. Whether it was James Norwood, Dakota Mekkes, Rowan Wick, or Matt Carasiti, there was always somebody to shut teams down for a couple of innings to seal the win.

As for me, I hope to see Zack Short return and now that Trevor Clifton is starting for awhile, I am not sure what’s going to happen. Some roster manipulations are going to be driven by the major league club, especially when it comes to the bullpen. I wonder just how much the longer the AAAA players are going to continue to get when it comes to playing time as some prospects arrive from Tennessee in early June.

And that’s the thing about Iowa this year, even though they are doing very well in games and in the standings, its main job is to develop players and provide depth for the big league club. When Nico Hoerner is ready to come to Iowa, who’s spot on the roster is he going to take? It’s a good question and one that is going to have to be answered in a month or two.

As for May, Adbert Alzolay is getting close to being ready to come back. He threw 3 innings on Thursday in Mesa and should be back after two more outings. I would expect to see him in an Iowa uniform by the 20th of May. That will be exciting as well.


The April MiLB All-Star Team Is Filled with Some Fresh and Surprising Faces

It takes a while to produce an All-Star team. I usually start culling the list about halfway through the month and I get a rough idea of who is going to be on it. Then check back a week later to begin writing it. Such was the case this month as the 2019 season saw a lot of prospects have their ups and downs including some of the top prospects not making this months list at all.

The one thing I like about doing these teams is that I never know who’s going to be on it from month to month. Players can get hot for a couple weeks and put up enough statistics to wedge their way in. One bad start or outing can take a pitcher off the list and away from the amorous affections of the masses. That happened to several guys this month.

Normally I’d start off with the hitters, but this year I’m going to do things a little different. Pitchers are going to get their just desserts first.

Starters – Trevor Clifton, Cory Abbott, Tyson Miller, Zach Hedges, Oscar de la Cruz, Riley Thompson, and Cam Sanders
Relievers – Craig Brooks,  Ben Hecht, Rowan Wick, Ian Clarkin, Jesus Camargo, Jeff Passantino, and Riley McCauley.

The theme for this month’s all star team is surprise. All the pitchers above easily earned their spot on the squad but half of them were not expected to be there, hence the surprise. Trevor Clifton was supposed to be a reliever at the beginning of spring training. He got a spot start…and another before going back to relieving and now will be starting tonight. Zach Hedges was in the same boat but both guys were outstanding. Cam Sanders was the biggest surprise as he just came out of nowhere as a starter. I knew he would be at South Bend, but not in he rotation.

The only three guys on this list that I expected to be here were Tyson Miller, Cory Abbott, and Riley Thompson. And Miller was touch and go for a while. Early in spring training, I thought it was ludicrous that Miller was slated to be in the bullpen for Tennessee. After the year he had in 2017, I don’t know how the Cubs could doubt his ability to be a starter at the AA level. Maybe it was the depth the Cubs had at the beginning of the year that caused them to make that decision, but it was not the greatest of ideas, as he has proved. Abbott was dominant for his first four starts but stumbled a bit in his last but he still had an ERA for April 2.86, under the 3.00 prerequisite. As for Thompson, I thought that he might do well in South Bend but he far exceeded my expectations.

As for relievers, Ben Hecht has been a big surprise and a key to his success is the most important meal of the day, breakfast. Pelicans announcer Zach Bigley said the following about Hecht’s turnaround:

Nutrition has been a huge thing for Hecht this season. Before this offseason, he never ate breakfast. Now, he is up to 215 pounds and feeling better than ever after “taking care of his body” and working on his breathing.

In addition, Jesus Camargo is in the middle of a nice run going from an ERA of 6.75 on down to 2.12 with an 8.2 scoreless inning streak. Jeff Passantino has the highest K rate of any South Bend Cubs pitcher at 12.74/9.

Position Players
C – PJ Higgins
1B – Jared Young, Cam Belago, Tyler Durna
2B –  Delvin Zinn
SS – Robel Garcia, Dixon Machado, Nico Hoerner, Aramis Ademan
3B – Levi Jordan 
OF – Johnny Field, Nelson Velazquez, DJ Artis, Donnie Dewees, and Zach Davis

There were several surprises for position players, too. I didn’t foresee PJ Higgins and Robel Garcia having the starts they did nor could I have possibly foresaw Dixon Machado’s Phoenix rising at Iowa. And if anyone had a crystal ball, they likely did not see Johnny Field and Levi Jordan making it at the beginning of the month.

The biggest surprise, and the biggest production, that I didn’t see coming was Garcia who I profiled last Friday. I keep waiting for him to slump at AA Tennessee. I am beginning to think it might not happen.

As for Aramis Ademan, he’s been on tear the past two weeks hitting over .400 with an OBP of over .560 and he’s driving in runs like crazy. Fatherhood seems to suit him.

It was also cool to see Nelson Velazquez get off to a good start as well as my guy, Delvin Zinn. Delvin really came on in the second half of the month as he began to play more and more. I look forward to seeing him this weekend in Clinton along with seven of his other all-star teammates.

When it comes to the monthly awards, these all came down to wire…and by that I mean last night.

Hitter of the Month

Robel Garcia just lit it up…and he missed 11 days this month. With a wRC+ over 230, 5 HRs, and 19 RBI, he is a beast no one saw coming. Just based on his bat, the 26-year-old infielder is hopefully not long for Tennessee. Then again, with the logjam the Cubs have, there’s not really a place for him to go unless someone gets released or demoted.

Pitcher of the Month

I got a good glimpse of Riley Thompson last summer at Eugene. It’s rare for a college pitcher to come out and stretch it out after signing. But for Thompson, he had been a reliever. I was impressed with his fastball velocity, his command of said fastball, and his breaking ball along with his smooth delivery. For April, he did not disappoint at South Bend. I hope to see him in action in Clinton this weekend.

Reliever of the Month

Craig Brooks put up zeroes all month long for Tennessee as their closer. I didn’t have to think too much about this award as Brooks just dominated the Southern League. In addition to an ERA of 0.00, he struck out 13 in 9.2 innings.

Team of the Month

Iowa Cubs – 14-10 – I am very much surprised as Iowa has gotten to this point because of a lights out bullpen and some timely hitting. They are in first place and don’t look to be giving up that position anytime soon. 

Cubs MiLB Pitching Thoughts – Why Haven’t the Cubs Opened the Door to Chicago?

Clifton 15 2017 Tenn
On Saturday night, I was watching AAA Iowa’s game against Oklahoma City. At the same time, I was also messaging back-and-forth with my friend John. Most of the conversation pivoted around why the Cubs don’t seem to trust their own pitching at the major league level. There are several arms who are close to being ready and are not being given the chance. John and I began brainstorming several possible reasons why the Cubs have not been able to produce long-term success at that position.

To say the Cubs have not been able to produce success at the pitching position is a bit misleading. Carl Edwards has definitely had success at the major-league level and he started out at Daytona and pitched at three levels in the Cubs’ system. Kyle Hendricks did well in Tennessee and Iowa before joining the Cubs’ starting staff. And Paul Blackburn and Zak Godley have had success elsewhere. Even James Norwood was successful along with Alec Mills last late last summer in Chicago. Still, they were not given much of a chance to earn a spot in the bullpen this spring.

Here are some of the things we thought of as possible reasons.

Drafting – The Cubs have drafted plenty of guys who can throw hard and pitch. But to break this down, I think you have to look at how they drafted arms from 2012 to 2015 and then 2016 to the present. Up to 2015, those pitchers seemed to fit into a box as to the type a pitcher they were. The Cubs did not go for the Kellogg’s variety pack of arms in getting different types of pitchers. They also tended to shy away from big-name arms, especially in the first couple of rounds.

Jason McLeod, the Cubs Director of Scouting, admitted their mistakes openly at the Cubs Convention (per Mark Gonzalez of the Trib) this past January.

“We put so many checks on guys that I feel we probably walked by some guys that didn’t meet certain criteria at the time (referring to mechanics, health and strike-throwing efficiency). That probably hamstrung us a bit.”

The thing about that quote is that can be taken in two ways. One, obviously, is looking past guys. The other way to analyze it is how they evaluate their own pitchers. There have been many times I wondered why certain guys got promoted over others. I thought Trevor Clifton should have been at Iowa after dominating the Southern League in the first half of 2017.

Since 2016, the Cubs have tended to take more risks in drafting pitchers. When you draft 27 pitchers in 2016 that’s a huge risk to the strength of your organization. And then you repeat it again in 2017. Most of those guys are now at AA and AAA.

Even the 2018 class is quite different as the Cubs look like they went for some electric arms like Riley Thompson and Cam Sanders along with guys with excellent plus pitches like Paul Richan and Ethan Roberts. It was really an eclectic mix and there are still a few guys who I haven’t seen yet like Kohl Franklin, Chris Allen, Jake Reindl, and Josh Sawyer.

Development – I distinctly remember in 2016 when Buddy Bailey started managing at Myrtle Beach that he told his pitchers that they were going to throw inside and own the inner half of the plate. Needless to say, several Pelican starters had their best year that year. Trevor Clifton was the Cubs MiLB Pitcher of the Year and the Pelicans won the Carolina League for the second year in a row.

The thing is this – you don’t hear enough stories like that about the system. Occasionally, you will hear stories about minor adjustments like speeding up the time between pitches, adding a cutter, a four seamer, or changing arm slots. There is no organizational philosophy on pitching. Add in the fact that the Cubs, at one point, had 4 different minor league pitching coordinators in 4 years. That should raise a red flag.

Adbert 07 2018 IowaTrust – When it comes right down to it, the Cubs success at the major league level doomed developing pitching at the major league level. If a pitcher is deemed ready to come up and pitch in Chicago, the Cubs major league squad does not have the luxury of time, or patience, to develop him. That arm has to earn the Cubs’ trust on day one. This is about winning and winning now. And it’s been that way since 2015-2016.

Now just who isn’t trusting these guys to come up and stay is another story. It could be the MiLB staff or Theo and Jed thinking they are not ready. It could be Joe Maddon who might be hesitant to do more than pencil them in for a spot start and to do mop up duty in a blowout.

It’s a little of both.

But here’s my take – The Cubs want arms who can get major leaguers out. Those pitchers are not going to be able to do that in AAA Iowa. They have to learn how to do it in Chicago. There’s nowhere else to do it. And, more than likely, the Cubs have shown time and time again that they don’t have the time to develop arms at the MLB level because they have to win now.

clark 99 2018 mbThe Cubs have at least 5 guys who could be in Chicago (Maybe not all at once, but you get my drift). Dakota Mekkes, Dillon Maples, James Norwood, Trevor Clifton, and Adbert Alzolay (when healthy) all are just sitting there waiting to develop in the majors. Duncan Robinson had 7 IP of 1 run ball the other night and he could be a guy as well.

Chicago is the final step in development and it seems the Cubs are not willing to take the time to finish that final step just yet. And that’s just for guys at Iowa. Tennessee has Cory Abbott, Tyson Miller, and Bailey Clark just tearing it up to begin 2019. They will be knocking on the door soon. The question for the future is, when will the Cubs open the door to let them develop in Chicago?


The Midweek Report – The Cubs MiLB “Hot Start Team”

Today, I’m writing something different. While it’s technically not an all-star team, “The Hot Start Team” sounds more like a collection. It’ll be interesting to compare this team to the actual April All-Star team on May 1 and there could be several differences as other players will heat up and some of the players listed below will cool off.

For the past 13 days, the players listed below are off to good starts for 2019. Some of the prospects are even dominating and could level up in May at some point.

The Hot Start All-Star Team…
C – Ian Rice – He looked ready for AAA last year and he’s come out of the gate strong to begin 2019. He’s hitting .304 with a .346 OBP.

Made from a pic by Rebecca Snyder

1B – PJ Higgins, Tyler Durna – Higgins also looks ready to start the year and he’s showing some pop along the way. As for Durna, I don’t see him playing for South Bend much longer. The bat is good, but the approach is even better.

2B – Levi Jordan, Carlos Sepulveda – Both of these guys are up there grinding out ABs and doing anything they can to help their team win. It could be a single, going the other way, or laying down a bunt or making a productive out.

SS – Dixon Machado, Zack Short – Short’s misfortune of breaking a finger saddens me as he was hitting almost .400. As for Machado, he’s taken advantage of the situation and is pummeling the ball all over the field. I don’t have any word on when Short will return.

3B – Fidel Mejia – The 20-year-old switch hitter was rolling along before sliding into second base awkwardly and injuring his hand/wrist.

OF – Nelson Velazquez, Jonathan Sierra, Trent Giambrone – The fact that two of these guys play for South Bend should get your juices going as both are showing great plate discipline and approaches at a key point in their development. The power will come, but maybe not until June when it gets a little warmer. Trent Giambrone is hitting above his normal mid 260-270s average at .300 with five dingers. His wRC+ is looking good at 152.

Made from a pic by Rikk Carlson

SP – Trevor Clifton, Keegan Thompson, Tyson Miller, Cory Abbott, Justin Steele, Cam Sanders, Brailyn Marquez, Riley Thompson, Paul Richan – Starting pitching is the strength of the system and for these arms, they’ve all dominated their so far in April. I really like what all the AA guys are doing night in and night out. Riley Thompson and Cam Sanders hold promise but there are still warts they have to smooth out. As for Marquez, his fastball looks electric every outing. As for Keegan Thompson, he made one 5 inning no hit start and went on the 7 day IL. He’s scheduled to come off that tomorrow.

RP – Carl Edwards, Dakota Mekkes, Ben Hecht, Ian Clarkin, Craig Brooks, Manny Rondon, Bailey Clark, Ethan Roberts, Riley McCauley, Zach Mort, Jeff Passantino
The big surprise for me here is Hecht. I didn’t see him as a back end guy just yet. He’s doing great for Myrtle Beach in that role as he has really stepped up his command. Good for him! As for Mort and Passantino, they have been lights out and shut down arms as piggyback starters at South Bend.

Who Is Missing from the List That Could Be on the Monthly All-Star Team in 2 Weeks?
Jared Young is hitting dingers at a decent clip, the rest of his hitting game is coming along slowly. His average (.256) and OBP (.289) are slowly climbing. He also has 2 outfield assists!
Nico is not hitting as well as we thought he would. He’s having good ABs, the balls were not finding holes. But he is walking at a higher clip than last year and that bodes well for his approach. On Monday night, he went 3/4 to push his average over .300.

With half a month to go, that’s a lot of baseball left to play and a lot of stats to accumulate.

Pre-Season Cubs MiLB All-Star Team – Part 2: Pitching Depth Aplenty Now

By Todd Johnson


That’s the number of spots for starting pitchers that are available when the minor league season begins on April 4. So, I sat down at the old spreadsheet trying to figure out how to take those 22 and begin to narrow it down to 6 guys for this preseason all-star team. Yeah, it was not very easy. I hit up my friends John and Cory for their top 6. They weren’t even close to each other. This was going to be tough.

At one point, I thought of having starting rotation A and starting rotation B. After I thought about it for 15 minutes, that is what I did…for 15 minutes. Just to get to 12 was excruciating and I then I realized I left out three other guys. So, I had to go back to the old drawing board on Google Sheets.

My next brilliant idea was to divide it by AA and AAA vs. A- and A+. That didn’t work out so well either as I had 13 guys. I only needed six but my brain couldn’t understand itself.

So, I said to myself, “SCREW IT!” and I went with just 5 arms. These five are head and shoulders above everyone else. The depth the Cubs have is so good, most pitchers haven’t separated themselves from each other. All the honorable mention guys have an argument to make that sixth spot.

Here is what I came up with for my first half all-star squad for pitchers.

Starting Pitchers
Duncan Robinson – Great command and control, excited to see him at Iowa all year. 1 year away..
Matt Swarmer – While his fastball is ticking up, his offspeed is other worldly. I am glad to see him start at Iowa to begin the year.
Corey Abbott – I love his tenacity on the mound in that he never gives in. Probably the most competitive pitcher in the system.
Brailyn Marquez – In terms of a pure fastball, he arguably has the best in the system. Now, let’s see him learn how to use his other pitches efficiently to get him deeper into games. He only saw the 7th inning once last year.
Justin Steele – His 2018 season was a bit awe-inspiring coming back so quickly and so dominant from TJS in late 2017. Back up to 95 mph, 2019 will see him using that fastball and a plus curve to attack hitters. Now on the 40 man roster, his first full season back should see him be even stronger than he was last year. I am little giddy to see what he can do at AA. But first, he’s going to stay in Mesa until he is fully stretched out.

Honorable Mention Starters– Yovanny Cruz, Trevor Clifton, Thomas Hatch, Alex Lange, and Keegan Thompson.
All five of these arms could very well have been the sixth man in this list and would have had a good argument to do so. Of them, Cruz currently has the most upside and has been reportedly cranking it up to 95-96 at times in spring training. If that is true, he is easily going to be the breakout arm of the first half.

Riley Thompson, Derek Casey, Faustino Carrera, and Erling Moreno.
Outside of Moreno, this should be most of South Bend’s starting staff. I am excited to watch them throw every night. Thompson is a kid who I almost put in the sixth spot.

The Wild Card – Jose Albertos – I still love his pitches. Hopefully, he can put everything back together this year and be a dominant guy on the mound. He should probably start in EXST to begin the year.

Relief Pitchers
Bailey Clark – He just has to stay healthy. He has everything he needs except experience in the upper levels of the minors. He looks like he is going to be doing piggyback starting to begin the year to keep him stretched out a bit.
Brian Glowicki – He didn’t allow a run the last six weeks at South Bend. He’s a bulldog out there.
Dakota Mekkes – I will get him a ticket to Chicago. He’s ready.
James Norwood – Just biding his time while waiting for his chance.
Dillon Maples – Samesies.
Garrett Kelly – I am pulling for this kid to get even better after an off-season in the system.
Manny Rondon – He just kills lefties and I am ready to see him do it full time from the pen.

Three Sleeper Relievers to Watch: Sean Barry, Ethan Roberts, and Riley McCauley are three back of the bullpen guys who will be doing so at South Bend. They all have experience in the past year at Eugene and/or in college. Seeing who is best fit for what role could take some time as all three adapt to the rigors of pitching in the Great Lakes region in April. 

To Be Determined – Adbert Alzolay and Oscar de la Cruz
Alzolay can’t seem to stay healthy while Oscar was suspended in an attempt to stay healthy. I will join everybody else in hurrying up and waiting for them to get it together. According to Arizona Phil, Osar is going to stay stretched out as a starter in EXST for when he returns from his suspension in late May.

MiLB Starting Rotation Roster Projections Are Just Pure Madness for Now

By Todd Johnson

It’s hard to come up with an analogy or metaphor about what it’s like to try and figure out the starting pitching rotations for the Cubs’ minor-league affiliates in 2019. It is going to be a big challenge and I have given it some thought and eventually gave it up as a futile attempt. I made a spreadsheet to make it easier to sort and move players from one affiliate to another. It did not go well, not at all.

It got to the point where I became extremely flustered and thought, “How is Jaron Madison going to do this come the first week in April? How is he going to sort them during spring training?“

The Great Backup
The reason for the backup is a good one. The Cubs are producing minor league pitching. Their own prospects have filtered up through AA and now into AAA and in short time. They are not going to filter up to the major leagues fully, so that’s creating the log jam that is going to clog up the system for the next couple of years.

There are about 10 guys who could start at AAA Iowa this year. Iowa will, more than likely, go with a five man rotation. The odds of the AAA affiliate going with a six-man rotation just to get guys work are very slim. Adbert Alzolay and Alec Mills are going to be at the top of the list followed by Trevor Clifton and Duncan Robinson. That leaves one spot for a plethora of names that include Keegan Thompson, Thomas Hatch, Michael Rucker, and Matt Swarmer.

As a result, whoever doesn’t make the AAA squad is going to be kept down at AA. And that trickles down and clogs up the system.

The Cubs have to have a pretty good idea of who they want to see at AAA. I doubt if it’s already decided, but it has to come down to just a couple of pitchers and how they perform in spring training. Maybe the pitchers have worked on something in the off-season and that could buy them a one-way ticket to Des Moines.

However, the most interesting staff might be in Myrtle Beach. There, a collection of holdovers from last year’s club and fast risers from the 2018 draft could be on display as a six-man staff. As well, Brailyn Marquez could sneak up and earn a spot in high A as a 20-year-old. I am also interested in seeing if Derek Casey and Paul Richan are good enough to basically skip South Bend.

Down in South Bend, there could be 14 guys competing for six spots. Those that don’t make a squad this spring will either end up in one of two places – extended spring training or the bullpen. It will probably be a mixture of both.

Because of the log jam and competition for spots, fans could see the best collection of pitching in the Cubs’ System in quite a while. This will be one of the main stories in the minor league camp when it begins in a  couple of weeks.

10 Things I’d Like to See in Spring Training

By Todd Johnson

I thought I would share with you some things I would like to see happen in spring training. Aside from the usual health related takes, my thoughts run the gamut from MLB players to MiLB prospects to player movement. Now that the green grass of Arizona is being cut and the sprinklers are being shut off, it’s time for real things to happen in real time.

1. Dingers Early and Often – I want to see Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, and others get into a groove and start damaging baseballs at a nice solid pace. I dig the home run. There are those who say the triple or the steal of home is the most exciting play in baseball. They are wrong, it’s the dinger. The Cubs ability is crank balls out of the yard is going to be influenced by the tutelage of new hitting coach Anthony Iapoce. I am excited to see these young hitters just be themselves again in 2019.

2. Dakota Mekkes – I could add early and often to his tag. He’s ready for his shot at the bullpen. When it comes to spring training, he should get in games early in the first few innings to see how he does against MLB hitters. I don’t want to see him against other minor leaguers in a spring training game, I’ve seen that movie. Give me something new.

3. The Pentagon of Pitching – Lester, Hendricks, Quintana, Darvish, and Hamels – That is easily the best five-man rotation I’ve seen the Cubs trot out there in my lifetime. I am looking forward to how hitters respond to being punished every day.

4. Split Squad Pitching – I am curious to see which Cub minor leaguers get starts in the split squad games. Adbert is one as will be Duncan Robinson and Alec Mills. Will Trevor Clifton get a few innings in along with Keegan Thompson, Matt Swarmer, and Thomas Hatch? It will fun to take in just exactly who the Cubs throw and value enough to test them out.

5. Arizona Phil Rosters – The man from the backfields is going to have to be my eyes and ears for a bit as he fills in who is playing with which squad this spring. It should be eye-opening to see who gets assigned where and for how long.

6. Nico at Second – This will be must see viewing when it occurs. It could take place on the backfields or at Sloan Park. I don’t care. I just want to examine how he does. I want to see how he pivots, what kind of zip is on his throws, how he tags, and how he sets up the shortstop. Strange that I didn’t even mention his bat.

7. Duncan Robinson and the Curious Case of the Scouting Reports – What most people don’t know about the minors is that pitchers don’t get MLB style scouting reports. I wonder how having a multitude of information will impact how Duncan Robinson performs. I’m pretty pumped to see how he pitches in late March rather than early March. The reason for that wish is to see him work through a MLB order a couple of times.

8. Out of the Pen – Two arms I would love to see get some MLB licks in on the mound this spring after Mekkes are Alzolay and Michael Rucker. Both are quite different pitchers on the surface. But they do share one thing in common, they both attack hitters. Neither is going to make the big league squad, but that doesn’t mean they can’t audition for a role later in the year.

9. Where Trent Giambrone and Zack Short Play – Both are very close to being ready for their shot in the majors. Both could be a utility type of bench player, but both should playing all over the infield this spring. 3B, SS, and 2B will be their spots, but with how much frequency will they get in games throughout the spring?

10. Pictures – Yeah, I am ready to make some baseball cards. In fact, I am pretty pumped about it. I have one new template this year, but that’s not going to stop me.