starlin-castro-batI’m braving the challenging today: I’m taking both kids (two years and two months) on a trip to visit grandma and grandpa, and I’m doing it solo. It’s a 1/1.5-ish hour drive, so wish me luck.

  • Meant to mention it with the EBS last night, but Kyuji Fujikawa’s return with the Cubs was successful, with a scoreless frame. He used all of his pitches, it appeared, and his fastball touched 94. That’ll play just fine.
  • It doesn’t sound like Jeff Samardzija feels his outing last night was all that bad, despite the seven runs allowed. “I thought I had good stuff today, fastball location was good,” Samardzija said, per “There’s a couple pitches I’d like to have back, like the hanging slider to Desmond [on his homer in the fourth], and a couple here and there. It’s a tough one.”
  • Yesterday’s lineup, with Starlin Castro at the top, and Ryan Sweeney in for David DeJesus, is likely to be the against-lefties lineup going forward, Dale Sveum said. Julio Borbon might also get some of those center field starts, but the plan to play DeJesus against righties only will continue. That’s fine with me: when marketing him in trades, teams know about DeJesus’s platoon splits, so you’re not hiding anything by playing him every day. Might as well put him in the best position to succeed.
  • The Cubs’ batting average with runners in scoring position, thanks to seven doubles last night that somehow yielded just three runs, remains an hilariously low .181. At some point this year, the Cubs are going to start scoring a ton of runs because they’re going to go through a regression in that stat, and people are going to write things like “the Cubs have figured it out with runners on.” For now, they haven’t “figured it out,” and they are reaching historic levels of weakness with runners on second or third.
  • Today is Matt Garza’s next rehab start – he’ll throw this evening for AA Tennessee. Last time out, he went a touch over 50 pitches, so you’d like to see him approach 70 in this one.
  • The Dodgers have lost 8 in a row. That’s not really tied to anything, but I do enjoy it.
  • Patrick Mooney on the Carlos Marmol/Dan Haren trade that wasn’t. This will be a season-long storyline, especially if Haren’s recent success continues. The Cubs, you’ll recall, backed out of the deal after reviewing Haren’s medicals and determining that a hip issue was just too risky to take on (for the money involved in the deal, at least). If the Cubs make that deal, who knows what follows? Which pitchers do they sign? Which ones do they not? It’s a tough what-if game to play.
  • Jesse Rogers wonders if the Cubs could just keep their current rotation together for next year, and if that would be a good one.
  • Well, as I too often do, I finished yesterday’s fantasy contest in the middle of the pack (33 out of 50 – I’m being generous with my “middle”). At least that means 32 of you got the bonus for beating me, and Fin With DeJesus, Blue23, santinello31, thedeej34, inkastad, and lukobravo won some big money. Good on them, bad on me. Keep your eyes peeled for the next contest, which should come soon. Not sure of the form yet, but it’ll be fun.
  • Die hard

    Let the debate begin as to what to do with Castro

    • Ken

      Castro will never get to the “Next level” until he learns to be more selective. He gets lots of hits because he can make decent contact on just about anything near the strike zone. He needs to recognize the pitch he can DRIVE!!! Unless he does he is not one of your “Core” Players….Also, Jeffy when you give up 7 runs and make an error to boot(pun intended) you sucked. You’re the OPENING DAY starter…Act like one

  • Cubes

    Castro is the best 8 hole hitter ever!

    • hansman1982

      WWTD (what would Tidrow do?)

  • Cheryl

    Leadoff for Castro? Hasn’t really worked so fa. Keep him in two or drop him to 8th.

    • Die hard

      Saw it coming last night when predicted a good game and then move to lead off — I think will hurt defense as by 7th inning he will be tired

      • Timothy Scarbrough

        What? Really, what?

        • Die hard

          He will hit more often and likely better as shown in past– however as shown in past his defense lapses will increase — not saying good or bad — just what is — if they can score 6 a game and give up 5 with more hitting and scoring then that’s the trade off — more errors

          • Timothy Scarbrough

            He might get one more Plate appearance a game. If I remember correctly, it is about 20 extra PA’s per spot over the course of a season. Castro will not be tired by the 7th inning. He plays defense with plenty of mental lapses, but it isn’t because he is tired.

            • Die hard

              But since he likes lead off and does better he will be on base more often and running bases more than now batting lower and will take a toll

              • Chad

                Or it could make him more focused if he likes hitting there better and maybe it will translate to more focused defense. It’s a stretch, but so is the “a 23 year old will get tired running the bases more” angle.

              • Chet Masterson

                He’ll also be walking to and from the dugout a few extra times with those extra PAs, so that’ll spend some energy. However when he looks at the lineup, he’ll be first, so his eyes won’t have to travel real far down the lineup card. That should save some energy, amirite?!

                Maybe limiting a guy’s steps per game is the new market efficiency. The Cubs could have guys take naps when they weren’t in the game and have a hired person handle every in-game errand like getting drinks and putting their gloves on.

      • RoughRiider

        “I think will hurt defense as by 7th inning he will be tired”

        What? He’s 23 years old. Let’s face it, Baseball, unless you are a pitcher or catcher is not that strenuous.

    • jay

      What are you on? Crack? Castro’s only the second-best hitter on the team. There’s half a dozen guys that deserve to bat 8th but Castro ain’t one of them.

  • Timmy

    Brett, you have the hardest job in baseball. :)

  • Ron

    Last summer I drove 14 hours with my 3 little ones, 6,3 and 18 months! I agree 2 months has disaster potential though good luck!

    • Internet Random

      This is more impressive than an Iron Man triathlon to me.

  • jt

    “when marketing him in trades, teams know about DeJesus’s platoon splits, so you’re not hiding anything by playing him every day. Might as well put him in the best position to succeed.”
    The level of performance of the right side platoons of niether Valbuena nor Schierholz have been any better than one may expect if they hit LH pitching. I’ve been wondering if the above quote from Brett may apply to them as well?

  • cooter

    At this point as far as Castro goes… what ever. I guess just try him all over the place. He doesn’t seem to change his approach where ever he is and I thought they already tried him in the one hole last year or the year before. One game this year in that spot and he goes 2-5 and Sveum thinks it’s the answer. What a tool.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Like all players, Castro’s numbers batting 1, 2, 3, 5, etc., all fit the same rates for hits, XBH, K’s, etc.. You really need a few times more PAs than we ever see for the usual differences to be at all meaningful.

  • David

    I totally agree with Jesse Rodgers’ column. The bullpen can be fixed by putting some $$$$ into it – 2 solid arms for $10 mill?? Then add one or two guys from minors? This will add 10/ 12 wins over the course of the year. Pitching wins!

    • King Jeff

      Free agent bullpen arms don’t usually do very well. I hope that the Cubs avoid this strategy.

      • jay

        Yes and no. Starting pitching is a lot harder find and keep. A bullpen can be fixed in a month in the offseason if you have some money to throw at it. Not that it’s the best or most efficient strategy but it is effective.

  • Eternal Pessemist

    I thought the cubs would have to eat additional salary (possibly another year too?) with the Haren trade making it of questionable value to me at the time. I may be mistaken. Hindsight makes the trade that wasn’t look better now, but I wasn’t disappointed at the time it fell through.

  • Inkastad

    5th place, even though I had Barney :)

  • Internet Random

    “I’m braving the challenging today: I’m taking both kids (two years and two months) on a trip to visit grandma and grandpa, and I’m doing it solo. It’s a 1/1.5-ish hour drive, so wish me luck.”

    If you make it back alive, you deserve a medal.

  • ruby2626

    Just looked at one list of the top 10 Cub prospects for the year. I think our 3 year plan may be 5 or 6 if this is any indication. Almora, Vizcaino, Maples, Lake and Jackson have barely played, if at all. Baez is hitting .244 with 14 errors and a ton of strikeouts. Soler is doing ok but the maturity issues are a concern. Villanueva is hitting in the low .200’s with one HR. Sczur has shown no power and has a mediocre batting average. Only Pierce Johnson seems to be having a good season and really what is his ceiling, #3 starter. Really nothing to get excited about in AAA and AA has no one hitting over .305. Now that I think of it kind of interesting that Vogelbach isn’t on the list I was reading from

    Read where Josh Conway is now out for the year, not one of our top prospects but still don’t like to see this. Stress fracture in arm while in AZ according to Trib.

    • willis

      So far this season it has been a boat load of crap between performance and injury. Some of that is luck, some of that is just that they aren’t that good. I would argue that Soler is doing pretty damn good in his first go around in high A. He’ll get bumped soon to AA.

      Other than that I agree with your post. For this “we’re going to build from within” jargon, it sure hasn’t been looking too good so far. Hopefully the rash of injuries heal up and some of these guys can get some work in this season, to give us a touch of hope.

    • King Jeff

      Conway slipped on a poorly conditioned mound while pitching and heard a loud pop the other day. Hadn’t heard the update on what the injury was but it’s very disappointing. He had been pitching very well, it’s tough to see a kid go down like that because of poor field maintenance.

    • Dustin S

      Still early but I’d agree it’s been a little disheartening. That’s why I’ve been saying for a while that we need to be careful about assuming a high % of the prospects will pan out. I’m thinking back to posts a year or 2 ago saying I can’t wait until Vitters/Jackson/Sczur/McNutt/etc. are here and penciling-in theoretical future lineups. For every Castro there are so many “future stars” that are in other careers now. Hard to say how long it will be yet, But if many/most of the big prospects continue to struggle the whole year, we might have to adjust the window out a bit until some more draft classes make it through the system.

      My hope going into this season that 2013 might show the start of the upward swing with 2014 at least having a glimmer of wild card hopes. A month and a half into the season though, I’m having a hard time not thinking 2015 might be more realistic as the earliest complete non-rebuilding season.

    • Edwin

      Kyle Hendricks has been pretty good so far. He’s always had great control, and if his K% surge is sustainable, he could wind up being a decent starter. He’s 23, and doesn’t have great velocity (sits in the 85-89 range, last I heard), so I assume that his ceiling is probably similar to a 2009-2010 Randy Wells. And obviously, as with any pitching prospect, a lot could still go wrong. Still, it’s at least one Cubs prospect who’s actually showing positive signs, instead of taking a step backwards.

      • #1lahairfan

        Too bad about Conway. He was a likely second rounder until his TJ. Now he has another elbow problem.

  • Frank F.

    I’m all

  • Frank F.

    Assuming that he starts getting on base, as was a big part of why he was called up as young as he was, I’m fine with him at lead off. I don’t think he’ll ever profile as that heart of the lineup hitter, but lead offs as good a home for him as the 2 spot.

  • Patrick W.

    Hey 33 out of 50 is not too shabby … says the guy who finished 34th.

  • jt

    At season start all thought that 3B was a bottomless pit, there was much doubt as to catching and there was 1 keeper as a SP’er.
    Now it seems that Castillo will be at least avg, Wood will be functional for a while and Valbuena is at least capable as the strong side (left hand hitter) of a 3B platoon.
    When added to the 23 y/o’s (Rizzo and Castro) and Shark, imo, that is a surprising step forward.
    Adding Soler to that mix by 2015 would establish a nice core.
    Sure, there is lot that has to be improved. But that is something with which to work.

  • Rcleven

    Castillo is not average. You could go as far as saying he is defensively challenged. From what I have seen from him he has potential to be average. A core player he is not.

  • Lukobravo

    Brett this is the only website I care to read and I think you do an amazing job. I totally forgot about the fantasy baseball league and today when I say that Shelby Miller had that one hitter my jaw hit the floor. I immediately scrambled to log into the draft website to see $32 in my winnings… I simply cant believe I placed. It was a good day!