The Chris Volstad Story Doesn’t Change and Other Bullets

Tim Tebow turned 25 yesterday, and ESPN thinks we were supposed to care for some reason. A lot. I can’t really figure it out.

  • The short version on Chris Volstad’s bad outing last night: didn’t keep the ball down, didn’t have good sink on his fastball, and got hit hard on his offspeed stuff. That’s literally the same story it’s been for him all year, save for the two starts before last night. I’m not sure what else there is to say when a 6’8″ guy can’t get his fastball down, and can’t consistently get good sinking action. The combination of the body and the theoretical skill set is so tantalizing, but if he can’t actually DO it, how long do you allow yourself to keep dreaming on what might be? I guess this is where I’m supposed to say he’s still just 25.
  • We’ve reached the point in Brett Jackson’s struggles where his manager and executives are forced to say things like “even Hall of Famers have struggled like this when they first started,” “the struggle is a good thing,” and “you have to hit rock bottom before you can come back up.” Maybe that’s all true, but none of this – and by “this” I mean Jackson’s terrible performance so far thanks to the avalanche of strikeouts – can be coming as a surprise to the Cubs. So, maybe those platitudes are actually right in this instance? In other words, if the Cubs knew he was going to struggle like this, and called him up anyway, maybe they wanted him to struggle. Maybe they wanted to get his head in a certain place going into the offseason (while evaluating him and coaching him at the big league level, of course). Now he’ll really, really know what he’s got to work on if he wants to make it in the bigs.
  • (An aside: in making his point about Jackson’s early struggles, Theo Epstein was the one who pointed to Mickey Mantle’s and Willie Mays’ struggles when they first came to the bigs. Two thoughts immediately popped into my head, as much as I might love Epstein: (1) Mantle was 19 when he debuted in MLB, and Mays was 20 – Jackson is 24; (2) dude, you gotta know your own organization’s examples – if you want to grab a Hall of Famer who struggled when he first came up to the big leagues, look no further than Ryne Sandberg, who had exactly 2 hits in his first 40 big league plate appearances, and whose numbers were actually pretty bad for his first two full seasons in the bigs.)
  • More on Albert Almora’s promotion to Boise, including a quote from Theo Epstein: “He’s done a real nice job the last week to 10 days. I think for him it was really a matter of getting his timing down. He’s got [a] pretty significant leg kick and sometimes those guys have to see a lot of live pitching to get their timing locked in. He’s really been driving the ball all over the field recently. We think he’s pretty advanced for an 18-year-old, so it’s a good time to move him.” Assuming a successful offseason of development, it’s a fair guess that Almora will start next season at Peoria, with a chance to reach Daytona at age 19. From there, he could be pushing AA and maybe even AAA in 2014 at the ripe old age of 20. Obviously that would be a best case scenario.
  • Chris Emma at Scout interviewed Dan Vogelbach yesterday about his breakout season, and got some great quotes. Among the best? Vogelbach isn’t worried about Anthony Rizzo or the future, and he’s got the perfect attitude: All I can do is play, all I can do is worry about what I can control; that’s how hard I play every day and how I go about my business. The Cubs have Anthony Rizzo and he’s obviously a franchise player, an awesome guy, and an even better player. I can’t worry about that. I just have to play.” Right on, Dan.
  • Some background and a writeup on pitching prospect Pierce Johnson, who just joined the Boise Hawks after being taken by the Cubs in the supplemental first round of the Draft this year. His Hawks pitching coach called Johnson one of the best prospects in the country.
  • Koyie Hill just signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, which you can safely assume has something to do with Ryan Dempster’s presence there (the two are good friends).
  • The MLBullets at BCB look at the dissension in the Red Sox clubhouse. A bunch of players apparently want Bobby Valentine out. I’m sure it can’t be easy for Theo Epstein to watch this happen to his beloved former franchise, but I’m also sure he’s glad to have some distance from it this year.
  • A few days left to join the fantasy contest on Friday. Do it!

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

50 responses to “The Chris Volstad Story Doesn’t Change and Other Bullets”

  1. notcubbiewubbie

    gee and i thought all along hill had compromising pictures of jim hendry? figures it was dumpster.get your notcubbiewubbie head out of the past.

  2. tom

    just as BAD as Jackson and Volstad is VITTERS !!!!!!!

  3. TWC

    So what was Sandberg’s batting average during his first two seasons? (*ahem*)

    1. 100 Years of Tears

      Almost identical to Barney’s last two seasons across the board.

      1. 100 Years of Tears

        Sorry, was having a flashback to the other day…

  4. Papi

    Even wunder-kid Bryce Harper is looking more and more over-matched against big league pitching everyday. Hopefully the parallels with Brett Jackson mean they both will benefit working on adjustments whether its back in the minors or rest of season.

  5. ssckelley

    Of course the Red Sox want Valentine out, no beer or fried chicken allowed in the bull pen or dug out during the game would tick off any player.

  6. hogie

    Vitters has needed nearly a full year at every level to make the neccesary adjustments. This year in Iowa was the exception. I think he should get a lot of patience because that is just the way he has consistently developed, and let’s not forget the kid is only 22!

  7. Fastball

    None of the 3 should be on this 25 man roster plain and simple. They are not ready and with regard to Jackson and Volstadt they simply are not good enough. Vitters he may not be a 3rd baseman but could be an outfielder. I can’t believe they thought a kid who struck out 65% of the time at AAA was going to be anything less at the ML level. Volstadt – how much more do you have to see before you don’t even waste your time writing articles about him. He is going to pitch the rest of the way because there is nobody else to pitch. The only games I really care to watch are the ones with Shark and Wood pitching. These other guys won’t be on this team next year and it’s a waste of time getting upset by there performances. They would have never gotten ML starts if it weren’t for the dire straights of the Cubs pitching staff.

    1. Drew7

      “I can’t believe they thought a kid who struck out 65% of the time at AAA was going to be anything less at the ML level.”

      -Which “kid” would that be?

  8. Fastball

    Brett Jackson needs and eye exam and a new box full solid wood bats. The kind without gaping holes in them. And a few of those training aids that they used in the movie Tin Cup. There have to be training aids for hitters like an electrode that zaps your nuts when you swing at 58 foot curve balls in the dirt. Or the funky glasses that you can only see out of if your head doesn’t move. The boy needs something.

  9. ssckelley

    Have to give Volstad a little credit. Not to many pitchers can go 5-22 with an ERA of about 5.50 in a 2 year period and still be pitching at the MLB level.

  10. art

    I’ve said it twice here, maybe Cubs wanted the fans and Jackson/Vitters to see for themselves what they are/have. kinda like they did with Dempster with the dodgers. “here these kids are not ready or good enough”. what better time to show everyone what these kids can or can’t do? hope i’m wrong. if jackson hits, great.

    1. Can't think of a cool name

      I think its reasonable to think they were brought up to guage where they are. If they begin next year in AAA again they should be motivated to work on their weaknesess to get back to the majors.

  11. ssckelley

    With all the attention given to Vitters & Jackson not much has been said about Castillo. I think he is playing well and has a good shot at being the starting catcher next season.

  12. steve

    Vitter has barely gotten a real chance to play, so no one can really complain that he’s struggled. He hasn’t gotten the consistant time to play to try to work thru some of the issues he may be having, whereas Jackson keeps getting run out there and struggles extremely badly. Vitters should at least have been given the same chance that Jackson’s had. It’s not like this offense can’t live without Valbuena’s bat in the lineup.

  13. MoneyBoy

    six foot eight with the heart the size of a caraway seed might be the worst pitcher to wear a Cubs uniform in a long time

    1. stillmisskennyhubbs

      What do you know about his “heart”? With a 6’8″ kid, it could be mechanics. Please refrain from nickel psychology.

  14. Randy

    I think what needs to be addressed is the future of Starlin Castro. At some point he is going to be shifted to CF. He doesn’t have the concentration to be a SS and where will that leave Jackson if he can even stick. He is not a corner outfielder with that much power in his bat. I have no problem with them playing the kids the rest of the season to see how they shake out but I do have trouble when you continue to trot Volstad out there. Bring up someone from AA and give them some time if you dont have anyone at AAA, which I dont think they do. Money will have tobe spent in the off season for some starting pitching and maybe a postion player or 2 or people or frustration will really start to settle in. WE can all say we are willing to go through a youth movement BUT not being competitive is not going to fly for 2 or 3 years. You talk about empty seats, it will only get worse. I sometimes think they brought jackson and Vitters up to fill some seats as hope for the future.

    1. Carew

      Why do people think he’ll be moved to the outfield. He is either gonna stay a SS or *gulp* traded

    2. Drew7

      “At some point he is going to be shifted to CF. He doesn’t have the concentration to be a SS”

      Defensive metrics have him in the top-10 in baseball in runs saved. The kid is a very solid SS. Again, most 22 yr olds are busy kicking the ball around in the minors.

      Fans who think he should just up and move to the outfield are missing a huge point: while his bat is above-average (way above average in ’10 & ’11), it wouldn’t be nearly as valuable in CF. It isn’t about having enough power to play certain positions, its about each of your players creating and saving more runs than the other team’s player at that same position.

    3. DocPeterWimsey

      You need better concentration to play CF than you do to play SS. Castro is progressing well at SS and he has a plus bat there. There is no reason to think that he’d be a particularly good CFer (or that he wouldn’t: CF is about instantly reading flyballs, and you cannot tell whether a guy has that from watching him at SS) and Castro would not have a plus bat at that position.

      And I do not buy that Cubs fans will suddenly stop showing up just because of a non-competitive team. The Cubs have had long stretches of non-competitive teams in the past (most of the 1970′s, 1980′s and 1990′s comes to mind) while still regularly filling seats.

    4. Tom

      Castro again played bad in the field yesterday. Whiffed on at least two potetnial chances, had two errors even if official scorer gave him just one and simply looked bored or not into the game. Is all of this losing starting to wear him down ?

      What is Dale doing to help this kid ? Why bat him after Rizzo and Soriano, where he will see even less pitches to hit ?

      1. Drew7

        Why would he get more/less pitches to hit depending on where he bats? He swings at non-strikes, so pitchers are throwing him non-strikes – whether it’s Ruth or Campana in the on-deck circle.

  15. Randy

    Just wait you will see Doc. They always had a draw. Who is the draw..Tickets werent through the roof in the 70′s and so on.. You check the TV ratings… Thats a good start… We both know the ratings suck..

  16. jim

    ONLY time will tell “whether or not” this team will
    REALLY compete next year or the year after.
    In the meantime, I am concentrating on the
    MOST exciting sport, FOOTBALL.

    p.s. GO IRISH! BEAT NAVY!

    1. stillmisskennyhubbs

      Goodbye, adios, farewell…..and enjoy the game of “violence and committee meetings” –(George Will)

  17. Fastball

    Castro is the least of this teams worries. I would say that we are pretty well set at short stop, second base and first base.

    1. BeyondFukudome

      For a team with a ceiling of “mediocre,” yes, we are pretty well set.

      1. Randy

        good call…

  18. Fastball

    Jim, Agree with you buddy. Football is on our door step. Thank God. Soon we will have the Irish and Big Ten Football and DaBears! This misery will be left in the weeds.
    Big Ten Football – We have a divided family. 1 MSU grad, 2 IU grads and 3 OSU grads. Since my Hoosiers suck I pull mostly for the Buckeye’s. We are a catholic family so Notre Dame is a family favorite.

    1. stillmisskennyhubbs

      Baseball here, please.

      1. Leroy K.

        Go Northwestern!!!!

  19. Cheryl

    I can’t really see Castro in CF. There have been a few negative comments about him from Sveum but he keeps playibg him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he;s traded

    1. Cheryl

      Remove comment

  20. ichabod

    the FO knows these players better than any of us. they must see something they like. expose some players weaknesses and they will fail and crumble. others will see a challenge, and i am hoping thats what they see in these kids. a work ethic that is worth the risk of exposure. i am willing to wait and see, and ido believe that in time this experiment will work
    for both player and organization. they all have talent but some will not work at said weaknesses, ie strikeouts or defense, those are the ones that stay in the minors. i dont see these kids as career minor leaguers.

    1. cubmig

      ichabod: Finally, a point made that directs this whole player discussion where it should be pointed: at the Front Office’s doorstep. I realize this is a forum to air views and opinions, but when the “rubber-hits-the-road” the FO is the driver with “the map” leading to where they want this team to go developmentally.

      This is the most painful season I’ve witnessed as a Cubs fan. It tests my faith in those at the helm, because I have no idea what they’re thinking, going or how they are measuring their moves to get “there”. We see change, but still left with uncertainty. It’s all very frustrating.

      I know we were almost “there” in 2003 and have the villains we can blame for the disappointment that followed. I know that. But the fact that we had someone to blame gave closure to the futility at the time. No small comfort, but finding ourselves in the middle of an auditioning process that has triggered questions and doubt about the future——that “small comfort” didn’t let us sink into the quicksand we find ourselves struggling to survive today. Things are different now.

      All those brought up have the right to fail on their own terms. It’s audition time. I hate it, but what alternatives are there that signal guaranteed success? The FO is the driver. We are just along for the ride. The question we are left with is: Do we trust the driver?

  21. BluBlud

    Why would the Cubs trade Castro, coming off of his worse offensive season, with nobody in the system ready to take his spot, while they still have 3 or 4 years of control on him. That makes no sense at all. Unless the Orioles are picking up the phone and offering Manny Machado(not happening), I think its a safe to bet that Castro will be here for a while.

    1. Drew7

      Umm…duh, BB – don’t you know the fan’s version of the “Cubs Way”? ALWAYS buy high, sell low. After all, why would we want to get rid of someone when they are doing well? You wait until they suck, THEN trade them for another teams entire top-5 prospect list.

  22. Cheryl

    Hi all, Just want to say I”ve learned a lot from you guys but am knee-deep in other things so will not be commenting at least for the seeable future. Wish the cubs well. Thanks ffor everything Brett and Luke.

    1. TWC

      Cheers, Cheryl. Best of luck to you. Come back soon.

      1. Scotti

        Cheryl = Fleita!!! Now for the pics… J/k. Come back soon!

    2. stillmisskennyhubbs

      Thanks for your thoughtful insights, Cheryl. Be well and come back soon.

    3. MightyBear

      Come back soon. Best of luck. Go Cubs!

    4. MichiganGoat

      Best of luck my friend you’ve been part of this site since it was like 10 of us you will be missed and we await your return.

  23. art

    what kind of bats have we had in CF/RF the last few years? so IF Castro was moved to CF, what would they lose? they moved Soriano out of the IF to LF so he’d have less to think about, less screw ups. i believe Castro can play SS and CF. he’s still only 22. i also believe you have more to think about at SS. a good SS may not be able to play a good CF, a good SS/athlete can play a good CF. Castro is a good athlete with speed, arm, quickness. JMO from playing both.

    BBQ sunday.

    1. Drew7

      “a good SS/athlete can play a good CF”

      That’s a baseless assumption. A good athlete MAY be able to do it, but this isnt slow-pitch softball – reading a flyball is a whole different can of worms.

      “what kind of bats have we had in CF/RF the last few years?

      That has nothing to do with it. IF we were to assume Castro could save the same number of runs in CF as the guy he is replacing (unlikely, given the amount of very promising defensive OF in the system), you would then have to look at a couple of things:

      1) How much more production will we gain by replacing said CF (player A) with Castro.
      2) How much net production do we lose by replacing Castro at SS with Player B.

      The fact that Marlon Byrd played CF for the last 2 years has absolutely no bearing on the decision.

    2. DocPeterWimsey

      Castro is a good athlete with speed, arm, quickness.

      To add to what Drew7 wrote, this leaves out the key trait that a good CFer needs: the ability to tell where a ball hit 250′ away from him is going to land in a fraction of a second. Good OFers do not chase flyballs: good OFers run to where the ball is going to land.

      A lot of good athletes lack that talent.

  24. Ogyu

    I know this is not a Cubs topic and it’s late for celebrating Tebow’s birthday, but I wanted to share this anyway: http://www.theonion.com/articles/ground-emerges-as-tim-tebows-favorite-target,29210/