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james russell cubsAnother intrasquad game is on tap for later today, before the Cubs’ Cactus League schedule kicks off tomorrow.

  • James Russell is happy to pitch wherever he’s used, but Paul Sullivan says the lefty has closer aspirations. Although it doesn’t seem likely to happen for him any time soon, if Carlos Marmol is traded and Kyuji Fujikawa is injured or ineffective, Russell could get a chance to fill in the role. Long-term, though, Arodys Vizcaino might be the Cubs’ closer of the future, if he comes back healthy but can’t stick in the rotation. For Russell, I’d be plenty content if he could simply continue repeating his 2011/2012 bullpen success. And Spring seems like an appropriate time to remind folks: when Russell came to Spring Training in 2010, not only was he not expected to make the team, he wasn’t really much on the prospect radar, frequently showing up in the “other” section of prospect lists. He was a future middle reliever, at best, and it wasn’t going to be for another couple years even if it did happen. And then he really impressed the coaches and management that Spring, and he’s been a part of the big league team ever since. It’s a reminder that, even though we don’t expect it, someone random like a Zach Putnam could surprise everyone this Spring and claim a bullpen job … and then become a fixture for years.
  • Or maybe it’ll be non-roster invitee Jensen Lewis, whose odd delivery is noted here. I guess we’ll have to see what he’s talking about this Spring.
  • Each of Ian Stewart and Josh Vitters are dealing with minor quad injuries. Vitters’ kept him out of yesterday’s game, and Stewart’s forced him from the game early. Neither injury is expected to cause any serious issues, and it’s still not out of the question that they could play in today’s intrasquad game – they’re in the early lineups (though I wouldn’t look for Stewart to ultimately play unless it was literally nothing yesterday).
  • The Northwest Herald spoke with Scouting and Player Development Chief Jason McLeod, who said that, although nothing is set in stone yet, it looks like both Jorge Soler and Javier Baez will start the year with High-A Daytona. Given that the Cubs had their organizational meetings earlier this week, I suspect it’s as close to stone as it’s going to get.
  • Dale Sveum on Javier Baez’s performance yesterday at the intrasquad game: “A little shaky today. It’s kind of young stuff that’s still there that has to be cleaned up, obviously. A lot of stuff, even stuff behind the scenes that everyone else doesn’t see that we have to see, some instinctive stuff.”
  • John Sickels looks at the three guys who could be the “next” Yoenis Cespedes – which is to say, which Cuban prospect could have great success in the bigs – and puts Jorge Soler just a touch ahead of Yasiel Puig and Leonys Martin.
  • Speaking of Soler, Tim Sheridan of Boys of Spring has more video of that bomb he hit yesterday, which you can see from a different angle. Speaking of Tim, we spoke with him on this week’s episode of the BN Podcast. You should listen to it.
  • Cubs players on steroid and HGH testing – they’re in favor of it, so every Cub must be clean. Whew.
  • Patrick Mooney on the efforts to make Welington Castillo into an excellent receiver behind the plate.
  • Vine Line previews Junior Lake, noting his physical maturity over the last couple years, but the wait for that big, breakout year that matches the physical tools.
  • Tim

    Good lord. Watch Ian Stewart on solers home run. Just stares at it. That man has some insane raw power. Someone mentioned it yesterday it’s nice to see it in a 3-1 count. Hopefully he continues to have at-bats like that.

    • KidCubbie

      Stewy is a beast. Just hope he stays healthy and gets a chance to display it.

      • KidCubbie

        Soler is obviously a beast as well.

    • Jeff R

      It was actually at 4-0 count! Soler got umpshow’d…he started to go to first before the ump made the call. As he took a step toward first, the ump called strike. So it was pretty impressive that he wanted to take a walk and didn’t get rattled because of the late call.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        It’s a side note, but one thing that I will *not* miss when we replace umps with robots is the 3-0 automatic strike, and the 0-2 automatic ball.

        • hansman1982

          It is pathetic how terrible the umps are in those cases. Unless you miss by more than 6″ or groove one down the center of the strike zone, it is RARE that umps will give the call to walk on 4 straight or K on 3 straight

          • DocPeterWimsey

            I do wonder if this is part of what elevates modern pitch counts: I might have on my rose-colored cataracts, but it seems to me that 3-pitch K’s and 4-pitch walks were once more common. Of course, the whole strike zone was a lot bigger 25+ years ago (with the trend towards its shrinking beginning in the late 1960′s), so maybe the “condensed” 0-2 strike zone was still pretty big relative to the modern one.

        • davidalanu

          Friggin’ robots wanting to take over everything. Can’t trust ‘em I tell ya.

          • ETS

            I hear ya, but between you, me and my lab – I love my roomba.

            • davidalanu

              Yeah, all fun and games until it eats your cat. Sure, you’re all happy sitting at your computer posting on BN one day, and before you know it your roomba is coughing up a furball. And don’t EVER get two roombas (roombi?). They’ll turn on you in a heartbeat.

              • TWC

                If Roombas actually ate cats, I’d buy millions of those little robots and set them loose in the streets.

                • ETS

                  [img]http://images2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20080801232535/alf/images/6/62/ALF.jpg[/img]

          • DocPeterWimsey

            Well, once we get rid of the humans and the other relatively smart primates, then you won’t need to trust us!

            • Stinky Pete

              Thanks for the fish!!

  • Ryan

    Brett, Carrie Muskat tweeted about two days ago that the cubs are going to start negotiations with WGN on a new TV deal. I have heard nothing since. Any news?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      You’re not going to hear anything on it for a long time. They’re negotiating with WGN, sure, but they’re going to want a feel for what others could offer. It’s not a situation where they’re “negotiating” in the sense that they’re just about to complete a deal.

  • Sebastian

    Bullet four makes me very excited that I live in Florida and have relatives in Daytona. Can’t wait for their season to start.

  • Patrick G
  • Jim

    If Stewart and Vitters miss too much time, it could give Lake a chance to move right in there. If his defense is better than advertised, I wouldn’t mind that at all.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      The problem is that it could be a bit better than advertised, and still not very good. The sad fact is that I think that MLB pitchers are going to make mince-meat of Lake with sliders and changeups that get him swinging at a target half a foot from where the ball crosses the plate.

  • cedlandrum

    Vizcaino could be the closer of the future, but I think Dolis or Cabrera could be that guy as well in the future. They both need to work on consistent deliveries and getting control of their sinker. Both have such good stuff at times that it is hard to throw it over. Now the upside for Cabrera is that he went to more of straight heater at times last year and he has plenty of heat.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Sounds like Cabrera’s going to be starting this year, at least.

      • cedlandrum

        I think that is great that he is going to be starting. It will give him a chance to pitch more in the immediate and refine his delivery and control. I could see him as a good starter, but I ultimately see him as a reliever. In truth I wish they would move Rafeal Dolis back to starting for the immediate as well.

        Should be noted I am as big a fan of Cabrera as you can be. Probably irrationally so, but I love the build, his smooth delivery and the movement on his pitches. He reminds me of Z at times when Z had so much movement he at times didn’t know where it would end up.

        • ETS

          I thought Dolis never developed secondary stuff required to start, hence moving to the pen. Plus, all his downward movement on his pitches should play out nicely in the pen. If Dolis makes it, I cannot see any way it’s on in the pen (unless he develops some + pitch between now and then).

          • cedlandrum

            Not thinking long term, rather just to give him more innings to refine his delivery. It may be a moot point because he of course could make the pen to start the year, but if they send him down, I would love to see him start again.

        • ETS

          I like the comments on Cabrera though. Never thought of Z similarities but I’ll be looking for that, now.

          • cedlandrum

            Just want to be clear that he only reminds me of Z in that he can’t always control his sinker because it moves so much. He doesn’t throw as hard a Z used to at the same age. Cabrera is much more fit then Z but he is a tall guy as well.

    • ETS

      Is there something I don’t know about Vizcaino? My understanding is that he is a starter who had TJS and now people are wondering if he won’t have to turn to relieving. Obviously, with TJS you should adjust your durability expectations, but so many pitchers have come back and still be successful starters. Is there something else with Vizcaino that everyone seems to think he is destined for the pen?

      I know in the BN podcast with Jason Parks he seemed to believe the pen was V’s destination, but he didn’t elaborate much beyond – sometimes you need to take what value you can get and a healthy closer has more value than a hurt starter (paraphrased).

      (on a side note, Parks was alot higher on Maples than I expected and that excited me a fair bit.)

      • Edwin

        I think it’s the fact that he’s had multiple injuries, not just the one TJ. He had some elbow injury as well. The fact that Atlanta was willing to part with him for just Maholm tells you that Atlanta thought of his ceiling as a RP.

        I think his situation is similar to Andrew Cashner.

      • frank

        As I understand it, part of the reason for the speculation about the pen is his size–he’s not very big and the question is how well he’ll hold up physically.

  • http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/653cc0c5f0eded621ab13b4f631de7da.png Cizzle

    First comment on Sheridan’s video: “Soler hit it well,but have to say I wish Campana was still here with the Cubs.” Bwahahaha

  • SVAZCUB

    Thanks for the story on Russell. It really is true that there are some guys who are atrocious as starters but excellent as relievers, and Russell is one of those guys. There was no way of knowing he would thrive out of the pen the way he has, but I’m glad he did.

    I, for one, really hope that no Zach Putnam types make the team, because it would mean that they would have to lose a better, more talented pitcher permanently–unless there is a rash of injuries.

    My number one complaint with the new management is the way they handled the bullpen last year. Yes, they did lose a bunch of good pen arms in the offseason, but they also brought a lot of trouble on themselves through their mismanagement of the pen.

    To cite one example: they made room for Dolis on the roster out of ST even though he had never pitched an inning of AAA ball and isn’t the type of elite prospect who is likely to succeed by skipping levels. If he had been their only option, it would be excusable, but they had a bunch of guys like Gaub, Parker and Maine who had succeeded at Iowa already, some of whom were already on the 40-man. They could have given Dolis a look later in the year, but instead, they DFA’d Gaub to make room for a guy who had very little chance of succeeding, and then they wasted a year of Dolis’ development by jerking him up and down and putting him in situations (MLB closer!) where he was clearly in way over his head.

    They also made a lot of other bad little moves, like DFA’ing Scott Maine (a perfectly serviceable LH pen arm) to make room for the likes of Alex Hinshaw.

    All in all, I would have preferred if they had not needlessly treated the pen like a revolving door, and instead chosen the guys who had the best chance of succeeding, then given them regular work in a particular role for a couple of months.

    You can see in Bowden’s season how the instability hurt the guys in the pen. When they first acquired him, there was no rhyme or reason to their patterns of use of their bullpen pitchers. Bowden struggled to get established because he wasn’t in any kind of role and he would pitch two days in a row and then not get in a game for a week. Then he went to Iowa, got regular work in a regular role, was lights out, came up to the parent team, got regular work in a regular role, and was lights out at the MLB level for the rest of the season.

    Unless Marmol is dealt, there is very little wiggle room on the roster. If they carry an NRI, I hope it’s Takahashi, because he would be a second lefty and he’s pretty good, but if they carry Rondon, there’s no room for him unless there’s an injury or Marmol is dealt. Bowden deserves to be kept after the season he had last year (especially the second half), and they’re going to need that depth over the course of the season, just like they need starter depth over a season.

    As far as guys like Putnam, keep them off the 40-man, let them pitch at AAA, and bring them up in mid summer if they’re pitching well, after attrition from trades and injuries hit. There’s no reason to make room on the roster for those guys until then.

  • Jp3

    I’m not suggesting that Soler is Albert Pooholes but with a red hot spring, say ending up .400+ BA and with a decent amount of walks does anyone think we’ll start him in high A? I thought this before yesterday and am not putting that bomb he hit into the equation at all. I’m talking about when the cactus league gets fired up and IF he’s raking do we really think we’ll put him in high A??? I’m not buying it, if he’s tearing it up no way he starts the season below AA, that way if he continues raking there we could always call him up with an injury or trade of Soriano (one of which is probably going to happen this year).

    • DocPeterWimsey

      If the decision has not already been made based on Soler’s performance last year, then it will not be influenced by his stats, but instead on his general mechanics and performance. The BA isn’t important: how frequently is he squaring up the ball? A good proportion of line drives that get caught is better performance than a lot of grounders and bloops that sneak through. The walks are not important in and of themselves: instead, when facing good pitchers (or even just good pitches), how selective is he on pitches in the strike zone, and how good is he at laying off MLB-quality (or even AA/AAA-quality) breaking stuff?

      In the end, the sample size is so tiny and the competition is so heterogeneous, it’s probably best to just stick with the plan that they had: anything unusually good or bad is probably luck, not revelation.

      • http://thenewenthusiast.com dw8

        The jump from playing 20 games in the MWL to start the year in the FSL is already a HUGE jump. There is absolutely nothing wrong with starting him in Daytona, regardless of his performance this spring. I wouldn’t be surprised if he struggles at A+ at the beginning and spends the whole season there, especially considering the pitching and parks in that particular league. He’s had less than 100 PA’s above rookie ball. Let’s not canonize him yet.

        • Blublud

          I agree. I think he starts in Daytona also. I highly doubt he finishes the year in Daytona though. I suppose by May he’ll move up to Tennessee. I thought Baez was more advanced then Soler. I have now changed my mind on that. Soler is much more advanced. I suspect he’ll see Iowa or Chicago, more then likely Iowa, Chicago very unlikely, at some point by the end of the year.

    • truthhurts

      I don’t think a month of spring training stats should change the teams plans. If he goes to Daytona and it’s not challenging him enough they can always move him to Tennessee after a month. Plus, he may get better weather in Florida than Tenn. Remember, the guy hasn’t played much competive baseball over the last few years.

    • Blublud

      I definitely think Soler could force his way onto the major league roster. But thats the point, he would have to force his way. If he Rips ST, he could start in AA. I think thats where the, “nothing is set in stone” comes from. If he starts in AA and tears the cover off the ball, why not move him up. He is a rare exeption where his contract, as we believe is constructed, doesn’t present the service time issues that a normal player’s contract would present. So he doesn’t face the issues that Rizzo faced last year and that Baez or Jackson and several others will face going foward. The only threat in moving Soler up would be towards his development. Its not impossible that he could force his way to Chicago this year. Unlikely, but not impossible.

    • Rcleven

      Doc and DW8 are right. Don’t take these camp numbers as gospel. The pitchers are tuning up too. Soler is still very raw.
      There is no reason to rush him to the majors. He still has a lot of baseball learning to do.

  • MichCubFan

    Soler will come up sometime in 2015. If he really moves along quickly, then he could start off the 2015 season in the majors. Same with Baez.

    There is no reason at all to rush them. They have a lot of development ahead of them and don’t forget that they are going to play a full season worth of ABs in triple-A once they get there.

    So lets end this now. It is fun watching them in spring training and all, but they are a few years away.

    • BluBlud

      The full season at AAA is BS. Don’t. Believe the hype. It is rare that a star quality prospect spends a full season at AAA and several make the jump straight from AA.

      • BluBlud

        Dont believe the hype I mean.

        • Jp3

          hmmmm, how long did Castro play at AAA? There are always exceptions.

    • cub2014

      if solar has a great spring against big league pitchers. I think
      he starts in AA. Maybe due to weather spends first month in
      daytona then to tennessee. If he excels at these levels he will
      be up this year, why wouldnt he? if he doesnt tear it up then he
      wont. i think the FO is expecting him next year, but if he is ready
      he will be up.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Even then, what are the circumstances? Is it against MLB guys working on game form? Or is it against MLB guys working on their 3rd or 4th best pitch in a sort of reverse batting practice? Or is it against the cannon fodder that most teams call middle relief?

        Good management is keeping track of this, but it’s really tough for us to do so: we aren’t watching the games, and we aren’t following closely what the other teams’ pitchers are doing from one day to the next.

  • Dan

    Brett is there any job openings at BN? Also, on the Solar note, I think Solar starts at high A Daytona if he continues to kill pitching at every level i see him at Wrigley around August. But that is only if he absolutely hammers minor league pitching. If not, I see him up next year to start the season.

  • http://www.survivingthalia.com Mike Taylor (no relation)

    Think about where we are and where we’re going…

    I’ve said this before about Soler, he’s further along in his development than Baez. He should definitely see action in 2014, if not starting in RF. The biggest hole is still at 3B, but we have a lot of options (that are taking up roster space) in limbo: Stewart, Valbuena, Vitters, Lake, Villanueva.

    2013 is the year for Barney to breakout offensively, or he gets traded. Baez should be a midseason-to-Sept. call up in 2014 and he’ll play either 3B or 2B depending. Since there were reports that we had a trade in place for Mike Olt, I suspect 3B will be filled via trade and Baez will end up replacing Barney.

    • Edwin

      I would think the earliest you’d see of Solar would be a Sep 2014 callup, even if he crushes at every level (which is rare).

    • Rcleven

      After what I have seen of both, Soler’s bat is further along and is a lot more selective. Both are still very raw in their development. Soler still has to learn better routes and learn to hit the curve. Baez has to learn to be more selective. Still a lot of development for both.

  • Rcleven

    Jesse Rogers ‏@ESPNChiCubs

    Edwin Maysonet with a 3 run walk off…highlights at 10

  • Rcleven

    Carrie Muskat ‏@CarrieMuskat

    Luis Valbuena hit 2R HR and Edwin Maysonet hit 3R HR to help White beat Blue 6-3 in #Cubs intrasquad game at HoHoKam

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