cactusThe Cubs turned it on today, winning each of their split-squad games, and doing so in convincing fashion. But what you really want to talk about is …

  • Spring Training is just Spring Training, and two games are just two games. But, man, Javier Baez has been ridiculous the last two games. Not only has he homered four times over that span, at one point, he’d homered on three straight pitches. He was already a very well-regarded prospect, but this ain’t gonna hurt his claim to a top 20 spot in baseball.
  • Jeff Samardzija had his first truly dominant outing of the Spring (which makes me wonder if it was also the first Spring outing in which he was actually trying to be dominant): 5 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 WP.
  • Hisanori Takahashi also had a successful start, going four innings of one-run ball, giving up five hits and one walk, with a strikeout.
  • Michael Bowden continues to look like a strong bet for the bullpen, going two scoreless innings and striking out two. He gave up two hits.
  • Carlos Marmol threw a completely uneventful scoreless inning. Good, good.
  • Bruce Chen played the part of the pitching machine in Mesa, giving up homers, in addition to Baez, to Alfonso Soriano, Alberto Gonzalez, and David DeJesus.
  • Brent Lillibridge had another couple hits today, and his spot on the roster feels as solid as ever.
  • Jorge Soler has fallen behind Javier Baez in the irrational Spring overreaction train, but he still displayed a lot of strength (lots of warning track power) today, and some good instincts in the outfield. He also had a single in his four at bats.
  • Scott Hairston had his second homer of the Spring in the game against the Rangers.
  • Zach Putnam threw another scoreless inning and struck out two, but he also gave up two hits. His candidacy for the bullpen is an interesting one, because he has the background of a legit, quality reliever. But he’ll have to beat out Michael Bowden or force the Cubs to carry only one lefty in order to make the pen (or a Carlos Marmol trade might do it). Long odds, even if he’s been effective.
  • Speaking of long odds in the pen, Jaye Chapman also threw a scoreless frame, and struck out one. I just don’t know that there’s a spot for him right now.
  • Gergő

    I know that the main story is Baez today (and rightfully so, he was amazing with some encouraging quickness at his position as well), however that was the first time I saw Soler in game situation, and I just loved him. Showing better approach at the plate than expected, looking calm and collected (he does not look goofy at all which in my opinion is a very good sign), with quite good 2-strike hitting. The guy is just a physical specimen.

    • cubzfan

      The ball goes hard to right field off his bat a lot. He was having fun on the bench, too, didn’t seem at all tight.

      • Gergő

        Of course. Maybe I’m just trying to read too much into it but i liked the way he acted out there.

    • tim815

      I listened to the opposing call of his first road game for Peoria. The announcer (with a slight trace of dejected in his voice) “The progran says he’s 6-3. He’s bigger than that. The program says he’s 220. He’s bigger than that.”

      He is a very smart player as well. I look forward to Daytona games with Baez and Soler. Yay internet radio.

  • Rcleven

    ” Carlos Marmol threw a completely uneventful scoreless inning.”

    That’s two in row following a not so uneventful start.

    Timing right for the big trade (tongue in cheek).

  • Patrick G

    Of course the Cubs were on MLB network today and NOT the game where Baez had a day. I need to find WGN quick!

    • Gergő

      or subscribe to, it’s great.

    • CubbiesOHCubbies

      According to my tv listings, it is stating that MLB network is re airing the cubs royals game tomorrow (Sunday) at 8AM if your interested in either watching or DVRing it

      • Patrick G

        I see that as well, thank you. I will have to set the alarm!

  • cubchymyst

    Baez was swinging for the fences the whole game, his second plate appearance he ended up on one knee after he hit the ball to the outfield. Still ridiculous power and bat speed, the second homer run was off of a breaking pitch according to the announcers.

  • Coach K

    Brett, I have videos of Baez on both of his home runs today if you want them. I was about 8 rows up, even with first base.

    • Brett

      Coach – for sure. I’m at brett AT bleachernation DOT com. Would love to see and share ’em.

  • Mike

    I had and still have the Angels/A’s on my MLBN

    • Dude

      Me too. Got all excited to see the Cubs (well, kinda) in action for the first time today too.

  • Mike Taylor (no relation)

    I’m excited about our bullpen. We need to clear at least one (Marmol) roster spot to get Wade or Takahashi in there. You’re right about Putnam, very little chance; especially with the AL East experience of Wade (1 ER in 4 games / 5.0 IP).

  • daveyrosello

    Name me even five more exciting hitting prospects in all of baseball than Baez. I’m serious. This kid is the real deal. He’s the best hitter we’ve had in our system since Palmeiro.

    • db kyle

      Pure hitting? No defense or position taken into account?

      Oscar Tavares, without a doubt. That guy is as studly as studly gets.
      Wil Myers, also without a doubt.

      There’s maybe half-a-dozen other guys who you could have a good argument over whether to take them or Baez. Boegarts, Profar, Sano, Yelich, Soler probably belong in that conversation.

      • Luke

        Zunino and Hamilton are probably in that arena, depending on how we define exciting.

        If we let pitchers into the party, then five names wouldn’t be any trouble at all.

        • Mike Taylor (no relation)

          I’d have to agree that Zunino has been playing above and beyond all expectations right now. We can only hope that Chadd Krist can keep up 😉

        • daveyrosello

          Right, but I’m talking hitting-only, and like I said, I think he’s easily one of the five best hitters in the minors. Kyle points out Tavares and Myers, those are legit names I’d take over Baez. And then a good half-dozen on par with our guy, but hard to say they’re definitely better. Kid is one exciting prospect, you bet.

          My question is, given the way he’s looked this spring, do the Cubs start him (and likely leave him all year) at Tennessee? I think they should. It would challenge him, give him a full year to play in one place and hopefully excel, and it provides a launch point for a possible 2014 arrival in Chicago a-la the Castro fast-track.

          A Tennessee start also has a side benefit for the organization. It frees up a starting job in Daytona for Alcantara, and a starting job in Kane County for Hernandez. Granted, neither is anywhere near the prospect that Baez is, but both are legitimate prospects on their own, it would be a good thing to give each kid a full-time open slot at an appropriate level and not have their development stunted by being blocked by a superior prospect in front of them.

          • db kyle

            I’m not going to raise a fuss if they do, but the kid didn’t fare so well in his quick exposure to Daytona last time around.

            What’s really important here isn’t that they put him the highest level he can get by at. His raw skills would probably help him hold his own at AA or maybe even AAA.

            But he needs to work on one specific thing: pitch recognition. I almost want to leave him at a level where the pitching is a little less intimidating, so he won’t be afraid to fall behind in counts by taking borderline pitches.

            • DocPeterWimsey

              And this is the real problem: to date, nobody has ever successfully devised a program for guys to work on pitch recognition. BP pitching is completely useless for that: it’s nothing like what real pitchers throw. The only solution I can envision will be something along the lines of what Theo might have been talking about: actual computer simulation where batters see MLB-quality fastballs, curves, sliders, etc., and where the goal is to trigger “swing/don’t swing” responses by the time the ball is 10′ from the World-Of-Warcraft Pitcher’s hand.

              And that is why Baez also is not one of the five best miLB hitters: pitch recognition is one of the two most basic hitting tools, and there are lots of guys who have much better pitch recognition skills than Baez does. That will more than make up for Baez’s superior hit skill.

              • TheDynastyStartsIn2016

                Not denying that Baez has a ways to go, and yes, pitch recognition is important, but can’t agree with “That will more than make up for Baez’s superior hit skill.”
                With his bat speed, and hand/eye coordination, he can make up for swinging at mistakes. Take today’s first homer. It looked to me he was out in front of a outside fastball, yet he still hit it out.
                Baez’s problem may be mental. At this point in his career, he thinks he can hit anything. It is possible he’ll meet his match pitching-wise, and he’ll stop swinging at everything.

      • daveyrosello

        BTW, I’d include Puig in that second grouping. Dude hit a Baez-esque moon shot for the Dodgers today. What’s really frustrating is that Team Theo came this >-< close to having all three of Cespedes, Puig and Soler. Damn.

  • another JP

    He hit his homer in the ninth yesterday on a slider- wonder what he was thrown today when he went deep. If he’s sitting on fastballs pitchers will start throwing him Sori-style breaking stuff to see if he’ll fish.

    • cubzfan

      Fastball in the first inning. Offspeed pitch, maybe a changeup on the second homer. He grabbed it off the low and away corner and whacked it out of the park. Literally.

      • another JP

        Niiiiice. If he develops the discipline to not hack at everything Baez might just wind up hitting like Sheffield.

  • Cooper

    At the Vegas game today I spilled beer (twice) on a nice lady. Her husband was from St. Charles, IL. Shark looked good. Hairston made a tater. Vegas fans are quiet.

  • Still Love the Cubs

    Did anyone hear the Theo interview on WGN? He said the Cubs are using proprietary software to teach “selective aggressiveness” by doing something with training your brain.

    Fascinating stuff!! This FO is really out in front of the game and it will pay off in the farm system in a big way!

    • db kyle

      I’m intrigued.

      My big hobby is chess, and what’s fascinating when you start to get deep into it is that the vast majority of it is brain training for pattern recognition. Even though you see chess players doing a lot of deep thinking, the vast majority of the difference between chess players of different strengths is how much they recognize instantly when they look at the board, and you can train your brain to improve dramatically in that regard.

      An interesting direction this could end up going is that the human brain is at it’s most susceptible to improved pattern recognition at a young age. If you aren’t a master-level chess player (top 1% of serous tournament players) by the time you are a young teenager, you will never reach the top levels.

      I can imagine someone branching out from what Epstein is talking about and develop a training program for pitch recognition to be administered to young players. Some uberkid is going to be drilled in it by his dad from the age of 4 and break the game.

      • Hansman1982

        So….Ted Williams with his career BB rate that was higher than his career K rate just that this new kid used a video game to teach him?

        • jt

          I was born in ’48 outside of Boston. We all tried the Williams nervous nanny hitch. Not many could do it. Some athletes have a flow.
          Some tried the quite Joe D. swing. Not easy either. Some athletes have perfect mechanics (Ryno).
          Good athletes just figure out what they can do and figure out the best way they go about doing it.
          Heck, if there were a formula we’d be doing it.

      • jt

        yes, yes, yes!!!!!

    • DocPeterWimsey

      There is a simple reason why they need highly advanced software to do this: the only place guys see game-level pitching is in games. BP is fine for working on contact mechanics, but that is only half of batting: the other half is pitch recognition, and BP pitches are nothing like real ones.

      The last technological advance (computerized “red” vs. “blue” zones) gave pitchers a huge leg up. Instead of the old “doesn’t hit fastballs up and on the inner half well” reports, they get an actual target showing where batters fare poorly on different pitches. THat works great in 2D: pitchers are always aiming at a static target. The best batters can do is watch videos shot from a different vantage point than they see: and that is nowhere near as effective. So, if the batters want to keep up, then they will need some really advanced 3D computer help.

      • Rich H

        When I was younger one of my coaches came up with an interesting way of teaching pitch recognition for at least location. He called it ” opposite ball”. Where if you were hitting right handed everything on the left side of the field was an out. Your ss, LF and 3rd baseman were basically doing drills on that side.
        It taught a lot of us to recognize pitch location that we could take the other way and also how to balance our stances to be able to hit to all fields. Not a great idea at any other level but it shows that trying to figure out a way to get guys to stay on the ball and use the whole field as well as being able to recognize what you see is not really a new concept.

  • Mike Taylor (no relation)

    Selective aggressiveness is nothing new… it just means swing away on a 2-1, 3-1, 3-2 count with extra authority because the likeliness of a breaking pitch in those counts are less than 10%.

    • Still Love the Cubs

      Right, but what is new is using “proprietary software” to train their brains on swinging at good pitches on 2-1 and not a pitch that is low and away.

      • TheDynastyStartsIn2016

        Theo basically called it a video game.

    • Andrew

      Ya the concept is not new but if they are using some kind of special brain training hypnosis, that’d be pretty cool and innovative.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      That is *not* what “selectively aggressive” is. One, being selectively aggressive applies to all counts *except* for 2 strike counts. Two, and more importantly, it’s about looking for pitches in a particular part of your hit zone (the part that is “red” on your hit chart), and then swinging at that zone as if the ball is on a tee. It’s not just about swinging at only strikes: it includes taking the strikes that you don’t hit well. (And if you hit some non-strikes well, then more power to you: but that’s not common.)

      This also applies to all situations: you do this with guys on 3rd and less than 2 outs, or with guys on 2nd with nobody out; you do it with the bases-loaded and with the bases-empty; you do it with a speedster on first or with a ground-sloth on first. In a way, it’s a simplifying view: one approach for all scenarios. (Again, some batters and coaches change it with 2-strikes, but others do not.)

  • Kramden

    Castro & Baez…..

    Unless Theo is intending to trade one of them, then one of them will need to change positions. Looks to me like maybe Baez will be ready sooner than Theo expected, so why wait starting to play one of them in ST at 2nd or 3rd or OF to see which may be able to make the transition quickest or at all?

    • nkniacc13

      Baez has atleast a year to go before hes ready. Once teams start to get a book on him hes going to have to adjust and struggled at times in Daytona last year doing that

    • Jim

      Len and JD were talking about this during the game today. Shortstop is a premier position. Right now the Cubs have two very young, very good shortstops in Castro and Baez. Maybe one will have to move to 3rd base, but right now you don’t want to devalue that player by moving them off shortstop in case you instead need to trade that player.

      If a guy like Vitters, Villanueva, or Candelario were to step up and be that 3rd baseman, you could then trade Castro or Baez for a huge return. That said, I would love to see Castro and Baez in the same infield and batting order. Looks like Soriano and Baez are very close as well, so it would be nice to see him come up while Soriano is still there.

  • @cubsfantroy

    I was excited watching Soler and Baez in the game today. Both looked great. Baez’s second home run was an absolutely crushed. I was in awe of that one.

  • Hansman1982

    Remember, that one time, in spring training, when Soler was everyone’s top prospect?

    Ya, that was an awesome two days.

    • db kyle

      I still think that’s pretty defensible. Two awesome days in spring training don’t really change much, no matter how fun they are.

      • TheDynastyStartsIn2016

        Actually, those two good days in spring training don’t mean ANYTHING. And I need to keep telling myself that….

        • cubfanincardinalland

          Your right, spring training practice games can be misleading. That said, please give me some examples of 20 year old shortstops hitting four homeruns, one of them 470 feet, in two games, while playing solid defense in previous spring trainings. For any team. That is one in a million bat speed we are seeing.
          Don’t kid yourself, the Cubs are doing backflips over what they have seen this spring from Soler and Baez. They have both shown they have legit major league skills, all they need is time and experience to develop them.

          • db kyle

            Can I find you that specific set of circumstances? No, partially because spring training records aren’t well kept.

            But I’ve seen players be excessively exciting before. I remember Kevin Orie getting the nickname “Orbit” for his long home runs one spring, which caused a Cubs coach to say “Well, it’s about time we had a Rookie of the Year.”

            I remember Corey Patterson being so exciting that Don Baylor started demanding him on the roster despite having only played in A-ball.

            I remember Kerry Wood getting sent down and an opposing manager saying “If they have five guys better than him, then you can just put them in the World Series right now.” (To be fair, that one was legit).

          • TheDynastyStartsIn2016

            You’re right, Cubsfan. Baez does have huge talent. I don’t know if you caught today’s Theo interview, but he went into a huge dialogue about how much Baez and Soler had so much to learn and had a ways to go before they were ready for the Bigs. I had the feeling he was trying to convince himself.

  • JulioZuleta

    Sure most of you saw this, but here’s video of the HRs. The second one is ridiculous.

  • NCMoss

    Anybody else notice the MLB logo on Baez’s neck?