Oneri Fleita Drops Some Minor League Knowledge and Other Bullets

I wonder how you deliver the news to a guy that he’s been designated for assignment (as Blake DeWitt was yesterday). It’s not like a full-on release or a trade. A DFA comes with a number of possible outcomes that range from a we-don’t-want-you-at-all release to a we-want-to-keep-you-at-AAA assignment to the minors. Interoffice memo? “To: Blake DeWitt, Subject: We Wanted This New Guy More Than You, But Might Kinda Still Want You, Too.”

  • Chicago Cubs VP of Player Development Oneri Fleita was in Tennessee yesterday to help present the Smokies – the Cubs’ AA affiliate – with Minor League Baseball’s President Award, given to the most “complete” franchise in MiLB. There, he noted a number of very interesting things about the expected, initial makeup of the Smokies. Fleita said he expects starter Dallas Beeler, reliever Kevin Rhoderick, and outfielder Jae-Hoon Ha to be back at AA next year. Daytona first baseman Justin Bour will move up to AA, together with shortstop Elliot Soto.
  • Fleita also said that Junior Lake, who will be back at AA to start the year, has “grown another couple inches.” If true, it’s going to be even harder for Lake to stick at shortstop (perhaps that’s why Soto is getting the bump up to Tennessee). Might he slide over to third to start the year?
  • In a bit of a surprise, Fleita said he also expects top pitching prospect Trey McNutt, who struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness at AA last year, to be back in Tennessee this year. I suppose that’s fair, given his struggles last year, but I’d be surprised if McNutt is in Tennessee all year.
  • Fleita also mentioned that he thinks Tony Campana will stick with the big club in 2012 after adding 10 pounds of muscle in the offseason. I have no problem with Campana on the Cubs’ bench, given his uniquely valuable speed. But with Reed Johnson signed, Campana would have to beat out Dave Sappelt for the 5th outfielder job (assuming he could justify the Cubs carrying an extra outfielder, when Jeff Baker could back up at the corner outfield spots already).
  • Relatedly, here’s a random note: Paul Weaver, who’s been with the Cubs since 2006, working under Fleita, is the Cubs’ International Scouting Director. He’s been in that role for some time, apparently, but folks always seemed to think of Fleita as the real director of international scouting (because he was in charge of international scouting operations – still is). This isn’t really news, but Weaver hasn’t really been discussed here much, so I thought it worth a mention.
  • Speaking of Campana, the Legend of Sam Fuld continues to grow in Tampa Bay. We can joke, but the guy is a pretty great role model for a lot of kids (the article is about Fuld’s Type 1 Diabetes). I have no beef with that.
  • Can Theo Epstein make curling look cool? You tell me.
  • It looks like newly-signed Ryan Rowland-Smith will not get a non-roster invite to Spring Training, if Carrie Muskat’s updated list is to be believed. The lefty pitcher will likely hang out in AAA this year, hoping for a shot.
  • So that’s why Phil Rogers had the Reds all the way down at number 12 in his power rankings – the Cardinals come in at number 11, which means Rogers just thinks the NL Central sucks. That might well be the case, but, a year after sending two teams to the playoffs, including the eventual champion, it’s hard to believe that there are an average of two better teams in every single other division than the best team in the NL Central. Well… then again…
  • Speaking of rankings, the Cubs come in 26th in SI’s first preseason rankings. Thank God the Astros haven’t yet moved to the AL – they come in dead last.
  • Chris Jaffe at the Hardball Times continues to write interesting, quirky, factoid pieces. The latest installment looks at one-hitters throughout history, with a number of Cubs connections. Jaffe also notes the Cubs’ current record streak of not being no-hit since 1965. At least we’ve got that.
  • The Cubs are clearly missing out on a new revenue opportunity: the fragrance market. The Yankees have already beat them to the punch. This is not a joke, apparently.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

31 responses to “Oneri Fleita Drops Some Minor League Knowledge and Other Bullets”

  1. Justin Koehneke

    Whatever happend to Ryan Harvey?

  2. TongueInCheek

    Junior Lake . . .Junior Lake. With all the talk about Junior Lake and his high ceiling .and low expectations I had a hard time shutting my brain down so that I could sleep last night. So much of the low expectations were because of his clumsy foot work. If that is all that is holding him back I have the perfect solution. Ballet would do it. He could be a man of grace and fluidity around SS, 2nd, 3rd and even in the dugout. It has been used in basketball before. Ballet I am confident would do it!
    But who am I, Mr. Average, to suggest this. There is no doubt that our FO genius brain trust would have been on to this already.
    I hope, as a long time Cub fan, that I am not giving up any secret brain trust strategy. It may be that our FO already has a secret location, for athletes like Junior, who are working at this undisclosed location. The truth will come out eventually if we see dramatic change in the footwork over this next year.
    As a worrier, I hope I am not outing Junior, for if he is taking Ballet and he doesn’t want teammates to know. I would be sorry if Junior were teased just because macho men may not understand the athletic connection with ballet and graceful footwork.

  3. Cliffy

    What does that make Lake, 6’4″ or 6’5″? In AFL they were saying he was 6’3″. I remember seeing him stand next to another AFL player who was 6’2″ and he was noticeably taller. If his body fills out more he could be a monster.

    1. baseballet

      On Cubs.com he’s listed as 6’3″ so assuming that hasn’t been updated he’s now 6’5″. He also turns 22 in March. Who grows two inches when they’re 21? Junior, that’s who. He’s so bursting with talent that he keeps growing.

  4. Stan

    Brett, that opening sentence is not a question. Tisk tisk.

  5. baseballet

    The best line from the Chicago Curling Club newsletter: “Theo Epstein threw two perfect draws which scored to win his game.”

    He even wins at curling!

    1. Kyle

      When I did my stint as a small-time reporter in the frozen wastelands of North Dakota, I spent two seasons in a curling league. It was so much fun.

      My claim to fame was throwing a perfect third-rock knockout and then brooming my team the rest of the end as we took an early 2-0 lead against a former U.S. club championship team. We ended up losing like 17-3 or something, but still.

      1. baseballet

        You lost the match, but they can never take that perfect third-rock knockout away from you.

  6. die hard

    As to Campana, adding muscle could impair bat speed, affect arm and slow him down on bases. Cant imagine his value if strikes out more, throws bounce more and cant run as fast. Wonder who advised him to bulk up? Now his bunts will be soft liners to pitcher. What he needs is to be on diamond with hard surface so he can hit down on the ball, slapping grounders past infielders. If thats why he bulked up, to get them past infield, maybe it works. But bat speed is key to hitting no matter where you are trying to place the ball.

  7. Cory

    I’d have to think Lake’s foot work will drastically improve once he stops growing that’s probably the only real explanation for why he’s been so clumsy looking even if it takes him 2 or 3 years his balance and foot work should improve ten fold. This is almost always the case fo guys with such late growth spurts but he will most definitely need a position change.

  8. Luke

    I’m not too surprised that both Beeler and McNutt are starting in Tennessee. I think has as much to do with the sheer number of starters already ticketed for Iowa as anything. Remember, at least a few of the Cubs starting rotation candidates are going to be be in Iowa. That does not leave a lot of room for prospects.

    Elliot Soto jumping to Tennessee does surprise me a bit (and makes me wonder who is ticketed to play short in Daytona… Alcantara?). Soto may not seem like much on paper, but he looks better in person. I think he’s got major league backup infielder potential.

    1. hrubes20

      Agreed about Soto. Very Cesar Izturis-ish.

  9. Dante Hicks

    Won’t the fragrance be a disaster? Single men should not wear it…”103 years of being rejected by women (even ugly ones) at bars?”

    Not so much.

  10. RoughRiider

    I listened to that 1965 No-hit game on a little radio. It was a great pitching duel between Kofax and Bob Hendley allowed 1 hit and 1 unearned run. In no way was Hendley an Ace but for at least that game he was exceptional. Sweet Lou Johnson a future Cub scored the only run in the game. I’ll remember it as long as I’m on this earth.

  11. CubsFanatic

    You know, I’m intrigued about what a Cubs fragrance would smell like…In all honesty I am. The smell, scent choice, bottle design, color, notes, top notes, dry down, what weather it would be best in, best situations…..I kinda want a bottle already, if the do go that route…

    1. ogyu

      Goat.

      1. RoughRiider

        Old Joke.
        Have you heard about the new male body fragrance called “UMPIRE” ?
        It’s for foul balls.

  12. JulioZuleta

    I’m not one of these age conspiracy theorists, but if there was one person that I had a little bit of an uneasy feeling about it was Lake. He just had an older body type and a mature looking face. The fact that he just grew two inches makes me feel a lot better.

    1. Jay Anderson Jr

      That is exactly the first thing that popped up in mind when I read that.

  13. JulioZuleta

    So with Bour at AA, Rizzo at AAA, Ridling plays left I guess. Ridling to Boston?? A guy can hope, can’t he?

  14. Ivy Walls

    Not giving up on the anything but I actually have a hard time thinking that Soriano is starting this year in LF. Not that a trade is worked out, though one might still be had with the Cubs eating more than they wanted ($42M) and now possibly ranging up to $48M (leaving $6M over 3 years), to a club where the deal could involve Cubs getting $4M in relief for ’12, $2M in ’13 and zero in ’14.

    That would mean LF is open and Cubs slot Byrd over to that spot for April and May. Campana earns a start in CF platooning with Sappelt where Reed is the designee 4th OF.

    Campana starts the year off as the lead off hitter against RH pitchers and does very well where the Cubs find a new home for the lighter Byrd by early June in that they recall Jackson who takes over in LF and then by July they move him to CF after they recall Rizzo near July 1. LaHair is moved to LF and Campana is the platoon OF’er starting 3-4 games a week as they rotate between Jackson, DeJesus and LaHair. Johnson is also moved for a consideration and thank you.

    1. yield51

      Soriano is worth more than that. Maybe if a team included a decent prospect that deal would make sense. He is from all accounts a good clubhouse guy, and can still swing the bat. If the Cubs were only going to receive 6M in relief, I would prefer the team keep him and play on his streaky hitting. One thing that would help, and past management refused to do was to rest his old legs. If he plays into the 6th or 7th inning 3 times a week he could still be useful. The Cubs are going to need some power, and he is one of the few deep threats on this team. I would only start him against favorable matchups (weak breaking stuff, and good fastballs).

      1. CubFan Paul

        Soriano is old. No team wants to pay more than a one year price for him ($6M over 3 years)

      2. Luis Salazar

        I would be shocked if another team would even pay 6Mill. over 3 yrs at this point. Everyone hates Soriano’s game in mlb.

  15. ferrets_bueller

    Curling is by far the best part of the Winter Olympics that doesn’t involve hockey.

  16. hardtop

    “Can Theo Epstein make curling look cool? You tell me.”

    no, but curling can sure make theo look like a bigger dork than he already appears to be.