I caught only bits and pieces of the Oscars last night, in part because ‘The Walking Dead’ was a priority, and in part because I saw approximately zero movies last year. From what I saw, though, Seth MacFarlane was pretty good.
- Dale Sveum is already pretty sure that Starlin Castro will be his number two hitter going into the season. “I really don’t look too far down the line, but the way things stack up he will probably be my two-hitter this year,” Sveum said, per ESPN. I don’t love Castro’s offensive skill set in the two-hole (high contact, but not a guy you want to see giving himself up; relatively low power, low on-base, low pitches-per-plate-appearance), but I do think he’s the right guy for the spot. Not only is his skill set evolving (in theory, he’s going to be seeing more pitches this year, getting on base more, and hitting for more power), but he’s also clearly one of the Cubs’ best hitters. Generally speaking, you want your best hitters near the top of the lineup, so they get the most at bats. For his career, Castro is a .302/.335/.431 in 728 plate appearances in the two-hole. He’s been better in the leadoff spot (.319/.362/.459) and the five-hole (.298/.359/.440), but those sample sizes are relatively small (343 and 209 plate appearances, respectively), and the stats are subject to things that were going on at the time wholly unrelated to where he was hitting in the batting order at the time. In other words, it doesn’t bother me that Castro’s going to be hitting in a spot that isn’t his “best,” according to the splits.
- Castro has said this Spring that he will have better focus this year, that he plans to win a Gold Glove, that he wants to be the best player in baseball, and that he’s taken Jorge Soler under his wing. Don’t forget: Castro hasn’t yet turned 23.
- Jeff Samardzija undoubtedly knows that he’s now a pretty strong favorite to get the ball on Opening Day for the Cubs, but he’s keeping things humble and passing the praise. “I haven’t had a conversation [with manager Dale Sveum] at all,” he said, per the Tribune. “We’re still waiting to see what happens with ‘Garz’ and see how he comes along. Obviously they know where I stand on it and how I feel. It’s nice to have a few guys who are capable of doing it. Hopefully it gets decided out on the field instead of in the training room, but it’s more important to have Garza ready for one of those first five games than rush him along now and see what happens. He’s really a key part to this team, and we all know that.”
- Here’s a quote I don’t like from Brett Jackson: “I’m playing every day like I belong. I’m aware of what they told the media but that doesn’t deter me from playing the way I want to play and thinking that I deserve to be on this team. A lot of that is out of my hands but I’m going to do everything in my power to play the way I know I can play.” Why do I not like it? No, it’s not because Jackson wants to prove he can make the team right now – I like that. What bothers me is the “I’m aware of what they told the media” part. Is he saying that the Cubs have told the media something different than what they’ve told him about his immediate future? The front office has been quite clear with the media that Jackson is going to start the year at AAA Iowa (barring, I assume, a rash of injuries). And I’ve always gotten the sense that they always discuss these plans with the players to keep them in the loop. So … did they not in this case? Or was Jackson just being coy? I’m thinking it’s gotta be the latter, but it unsettled me just a bit. Of course, it’s also possible that he was simply responding to a question that included the media reference (i.e., “So, Brett, the Cubs have told us that … “). Actually, yeah. That’s probably it. Nothing to see here.
- Dale Sveum, dropping praise bombs on top prospects Jorge Soler and Javier Baez: “They did a nice job. Soler, like I keep saying, he just shows more and more poise every day at the plate. He’s not a pre-meditated swinger for a young guy. He gets a good look at the ball before he swings the bat. And Baez, getting the guy over, hits a missile to right field and did a nice job at shortstop. So far they’re living up to the hype a little bit.”
- More on the most popular minor league camp invitation in recent memory, Dontrelle Willis.