welington castilloHappy Groundhog Day. May that furry little bugger not see his shadow, and may the Cubs not repeat the ugliness of the last few years.

  • The Cubs had three players – Javier Baez, Albert Almora, and Jorge Soler – on Jonathan Mayo’s top 100 prospects list for MLB.com, but they also had two guys who just missed his list. Mayo released his next ten prospects, and Brett Jackson (105) and Arodys Vizcaino (110) made the cut. Five prospects in the top 110 in a league with 30 teams (so each team should average 3.67 prospects in the top 110) is a pretty nice total. It could – and should – look even better by this time next year.
  • Keeping the lights on: should you find yourself in the mood to do some online gaming, you might consider checking out www.casinodino.com.
  • The Cubs’ starting catcher in 2013 is going to be former top prospect Welington Castillo, who has always offered offensive upside and a great arm, but who always needed improvement on his receiving skills (most 25-year-old catchers do). He’s been working on it this offseason, and even passed on the opportunity to play Winter Ball and/or in the World Baseball Classic so that he could focus on preparing to be the starter for the Cubs in 2013. I like to hear that, and I hope that the addition of a solid veteran like Dioner Navarro as his backup can help even further. It’s easy to forget, but if Castillo could become league average defensively, with his bat, the Cubs could find themselves with an above-average overall catcher – and for cheap.
  • The Vine Line Blog takes a look at pitching prospect Robert Whitenack, who was just added to the 40-man roster this Winter. From Vine Line: “Command and control are often the last things to come back after Tommy John surgery, and Whitenack’s feel just wasn’t there in 2012. His 2011 campaign – in which he had a 1.93 ERA and reached Double-A – won over many Cubs talent evaluators. The front office is hoping he steps up and surprises this year. Before the injury, Whitenack had a power sinker with a big hammer curve and a good change-up. He’s been added to the 40-man roster, so if he can regain his command, he could eat up innings at the back of the big league rotation.” I’ve said it before: if Whitenack resembles his early 2011 self this year, he’ll quickly enter the conversation for a second half rotation spot at the big league level. His emergence would go a long way to helping generate even more confidence about the team’s ability to be competitive in 2014.
  • Marlon Byrd had a really rough 2012 season. He slumped badly out of the gate with the Cubs, was dumped on the Red Sox, was popped for a banned substance, and ended the year with terrible numbers. He’s signed a minor league deal with the Mets to try and get things back on track. Probably not the free agent contract he’d imagined for himself just one year ago.
  • FanGraphs looks at the effect of weight loss/gain on defensive performance to try and determine if the things we generally hold as true – less weight = more range; more weight = worse defender – stand up to the statistical analysis. Unfortunately, due to sample size issues, it’s tough to say anything conclusive, but even if you took the results at their face, the results are, themselves, inconclusive. There’s a little bit to suggest that weight gain can negatively impact defensive ability, but there’s nothing in the data to suggest that weight loss positively impacts defensive ability. This is at least of some note for fans of Cubs prospect Dan Vogelbach, who has reportedly lost a fair bit of weight this offseason. He’s already been called “very athletic” by the Cubs’ development staff, but I’m sure they’d love it if he could somehow put himself in a position to be a serviceable defender either at first base or in left field.


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