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luis valbuena cubsLuis Valbuena, who has seen his season line drop like a rock in recent weeks to just .225/.330/.372, did not play today. The Cubs were facing a lefty, so that could have been all it was. But word came down after the game that Valbuena has a strained oblique, and will head to the disabled list. A corresponding move will come tomorrow.

Since Valbuena probably didn’t hurt himself on the bench today, I suspect the injury was known before the game, and that’s why the Cubs added infielder Donnie Murphy earlier today, in place of DFA’d outfielder Julio Borbon.

If so, we might see the corresponding move include a returning outfielder – Brian Bogusevic (DL) or Dave Sappelt (Iowa), perhaps. I really doubt we’ll see third base prospect Mike Olt come up to play regularly right now, given how much he is still struggling at AAA (.249 OPS (yes, OPS), 34.1% K rate since joining the Iowa Cubs). He’s either still dealing with the tear duct issue, some post-concussion issues, or he’s got some mechanical adjustments to make. Whatever the case, exposing him in the big leagues right now doesn’t sound like a great idea.

Logan Watkins is another possibility, given that he’s already on the 40-man, and it might be time to give him a little taste of the big leagues (especially since the Cubs will have to decide whether to continue carrying him on the 40-man in the offseason). Watkins, who turns 24 later this month, is hitting .243/.333/.379 this year at AAA Iowa.

As for Valbuena, we’ll wait to hear how serious his injury is. Oblique strains can run the gamut from mild and easily overcome, to quite serious and long-lasting (see Steve Clevenger).

  • Jed Jam Band

    Time to see Watkins IMO. We’ll need to make some serious decisions about the 40-man coming up soon, so we have to know what we have with him.

    • nkniacc13

      I understand that reasoning but I think this has to be an OF.

      • Melrosepad

        Watkins has played more OF in his minor league career than Lake, so he should be able to handle both if needed.

    • Kyle

      I don’t understand why we can’t get a good idea of what we have in him in AAA. Did the video links we installed get broken? Did we stop sending scouts to Iowa? Did Hoyer accidentally delete his bookmark to MiLB.com?

      • Mick

        Actually Kyle, they do know exactly . He is an easy read as just a tough little hustling athlete. I have seen him practice and play from his first day at Fitch. He is much like Steve Clevenger as a hitter and would not embarrass the team as a fill in for awhile.

        • wvcubsfan

          So your saying he’s like Darwin Barney.

          • Mick

            Stronger at bat. Adequate on infield. Mature.

            • Kyle

              Not particularly convinced his bat is better than Barney’s. More walks, less contact, all the same in the end.

              • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

                More power as well, I think.

                Add in more speed (though I’m not sure what happened to Watkins’s base stealing this year), and I think he makes a pretty good Barney replacement or a potentially nice piece off the bench.

                • Kyle

                  More power than Barney?

                  Barney has an ISO of .112 in the majors
                  Watkins has an ISO of .136 in the PCL. That probably translates to less power than Barney.

                  I don’t think people realize how bad Watkins has been this year in AAA.

                  • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

                    I’m well aware how much Watkins has struggled in the PCL this year.

                    In Barney’s first year in Triple A (2009) he had an ISO of .067. In his second year in Triple A (2010) his ISO was .079. In both those years Barney finished with a wRC+ beneath what Watkins has now. Watkins actually posted a better SLG than Barney in High A, Double A, and Triple A (first year). All of that is relevant as well.

                    I didn’t say Watkins was going to morph into Hank Aaron and mash everything in sight – just that I think he has more power than Barney (an admittedly low bar to clear). The numbers actually bear that out.

                    • Kyle

                      That’s not a valid comparison.

                      We *know* that Barney developed almost insanely well from where he was when he first touched AAA and came out on the absolute top end of his projections. Watkins might do the same, but that possibility only makes up for a small portion of his range of possible outcomes.

                    • Mick

                      I recall Luke that he was a very good quarterback–do not want to look it up. He was muscled up big time when he showed up in Mesa years ago but I never thought he would hang around this long. Fundamentals has been his ally.l

                    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

                      So just compare their Triple A numbers. Barney gets the benefit of a lot more PAs at that level than Watkins has now, but it is also the level at which he stepped up the development.

                      In 767 PAs for Iowa Barney finished with 38 doubles, 5 triples, 3 home runs, and a SLG of .372.

                      In 472 PAs for Iowa Watkins has 18 doubles, 7 triples, 8 home runs, and a SLG of .379.

                      If we project out Watkin’s XBH% over Barney’s PA totals, Watkins beats him handily in every category except doubles (likely in part because Watkins is able to stretch some of those doubles into triples).

                      Unless you want to argue that Barney morphed into a significantly more powerful hitter over the winter before the 2011 season when he was called to Chicago, then it looks to me like the numbers (and the scouts, and my own observations) are still quite clearly pointing to Watkins having more power. Not a ton more, but still more.

                    • Kyle

                      Why not compare their numbers from this year, adjusted for peripherals and translated across one league to another?

                      Barney is a much better hitter right now than he was when he was in AAA.

                    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

                      I think we get more of an apples to apples comparison by directly comparing stats from equivalent ages/leagues.

                      And I’m not sure Barney is a much better hitter now than he was when he left Triple A. 2011 was his best year in the majors by OPS+. Unless you want to argue that he got much better over the winter of 2010/2011, I think his 2010 Iowa numbers are a very fair point of comparison.

                    • Kyle

                      Adjust for BABIP

                    • Kyle

                      But the main point is, Barney did not follow an ordinary progression curve from the minors to the majors. His numbers translated uncannily well from one to the other, meaning he either got a lot better on promotion or his skill set (probably his contact) translated better than most.

                      It may appeal to a certain sense of fairness to give Watkins a chance to do the same thing, but it doesn’t give us more accuracy.

              • hansman1982

                He’s suffering from a really low singles rate this year, otherwise his power rates are up this year. Either the defenses he has faced in AAA are markedly better than in the previous levels or his BABIP being off .030 points from his career numbers is wonky.

                • Kyle

                  His K rate is also at his career high, and I do think a .300 BABIP is more likely his true talent in the high minors/majors, compared with the .330+ he had in the lower minors.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        That all can give you a great idea. But there’s something to be said for getting to work with the big league coaching staff on a daily basis – they’re in the big leagues for a reason. Also, and I know it’s thin, but some guys do perform differently at the big league level (by which I mean they are able to sustain their AAA production without the kind of drop-off you usually expect, thus making what looked like an unimpressive AAA line a perfectly acceptable big league line).

        • http://deepcenterfield.blogspot.com Jason Powers

          Good call.

        • Kyle

          Perhaps. But I’d rather guys earn their way to the big leagues by being the best available option for the job.

          • http://deepcenterfield.blogspot.com Jason Powers

            A dozen hits, and he’s batting .270 at AAA, basically, 3/4 of a hit a week. Not great, but what pray tell do you consider earning it? .350?? .425OBP? .500 SLG?

            This guy has been in the organization his entire career, 21st rounder that has done nothing but be a consistent little player. No, he’s not a world beater, but I suspect that if he doesn’t make it to the show with the Cubs, he may not elsewhere. (This is called rewarding time and dedication as well as modest performance.)

            In short, he has earned it by his dedication to his craft; and not regressing significantly at any level. And again, what are we losing here?

            • Kyle

              If we’re giving out free hits for nothing, Barney’s probably the guy who deserves them more. He’s had a ridiculously unlucky BABIP this year. Watkins has not.

              We are losing our self-respect as an organization when we start giving out major-league jobs as attaboys.

              • Mick

                We have given several jobs this year to good old boys–time to reward attaboys.

              • http://deepcenterfield.blogspot.com Jason Powers

                Boy, you are a tough screw.

                Which is fine for most MLB seasons, if we were like, winning.

                Losing self respect??? – every MLB team has promoted someone that may or may not have “earned” it totally. Either by emergency or just the way the organization felt to run their program.

                Did Raley or Rusin really wow at AAA? No, adequate, not super special. But hey, we traded away pitchers, and needed someone. They earned it by elimination of MLB talent – not their inherent MLB readiness, aside from being older and ready as they are going to be.

                Testing players is apart of the game – sometimes you have to be given a task seemingly beyond your abilities, to stretch those abilities out.

                I suspect you’ve been given ‘at least one task’ in life where you were incapable or not up for the task. Or a promotion, whether duly earned or not, you got. It does happen in many organizations, not just the MLB. And you probably learned something, or have a story to tell because of that leap of faith in you.

                So I think Logan needs a leap of faith. Or the story of a 3-week cup of coffee in the bigs. It will not tragically alter the course of the 2013 Chicago Cubs, Kyle.

                I think you miss the entire point of this particular promotion. If he’s up in August or September, I guess “he was the best man for the job.” I doubt the last 50-75ABs in the minors made that final difference.

                EOD.

                • Kyle

                  They earned it by a job opening up (via trade) and them being the best available option.

                  If the front office thinks Watkins is the best guy for the opening created by Valbuena’s injury, fine. He kind of sucks, but it’s not like we have any good depth in the infield.

                  But just to “see what he can do”? That’s what the minors are there for.

                  • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

                    The Cubs know what he can do. That’s why he’d be decent candidate for a callup. He’d be a good defensive, versatile addition to the bench. A left handed bat with some patience and speed won’t hurt, either.

                    Longer term he remains a candidate to bridge from Barney to Alcantara (or someone else) at second.

            • Kyle

              Sorry, didn’t answer your question.

              You’ve earned it when your results and scouting report say you are the best man for the job opening that the MLB team has. Watkins does not have that. If he did, we’d be hearing more “We need to call this guy up” and not “Meh, why not?” Because what’s really behind this is a desire for a shiny new toy.

          • http://cubsdailyrecaps.blogspot.com Jason P

            Your options in AAA who can play the outfield: Dave Sappelt, Darnell McDonald, Ty Wright, Jae-Hoon Ha, and Logan Watkins. McDonald has an OPS below .600, so you can scratch him off. Sappelt’s been terrible too, especially recently — 2 hits in his last 32 ABs. Ha’s been decent in the last 10 days, but he’s just starting to get his footing in the PCL; the overall stat line is unimpressive, though his defense in center would be refreshing.

            That leaves Watkins and Wright. Watkins is the more likely of the 2 to have a future with the big club, but Wright’s playing better (albeit only slightly). Either of the 2 would be fine with me.

  • Mick

    Tough kid. Football kid. He is a gym rat type athlete who maybe deserves a little time up here. Sure deserves to be here more than 40 yr old Cody R.

  • cubsin

    Although I’m not an M.D. and haven’t examined Olt, I suspect his concussion last Winter is responsible for his poor performance this year. Young athletes tend to believe they can play through anything, even broken bones (Soler). When they’re at the age of Olt or BJax and still haven’t become MLB regulars, they probably push themselves even harder to play every day, even when they should be resting and recovering.

    FWIW, I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, either.

  • cubsin

    I think Murphy was called up to audition for Ransom’s job. I’ll be disappointed if either one of them is on the Winter roster.

  • Dude

    Wait. You’re telling me Olt’s OPS is almost 40 points below Travis Wood’s batting average? For reals? Yikes

  • Mr. P

    Olt’s OPS is .670 for the year. Not sure if the .249 that is referenced is what he has since joining Iowa. Regardless, it still isn’t good.

    • Mr. P

      Found it, the .249 is what he has since he has been with Iowa. PCL OPS is at .670.

  • http://deepcenterfield.blogspot.com Jason Powers

    Watkins is as ready as he’ll ever be. 2500 PA in the minors – he has advanced every season upward. At 24 this month, he’s as due for his last promotion as Olt isn’t. He’s probably Barney w/o the glove – but who knows (perfectly) what he is?

    He seems to understand the idea of a walk, so, that’s a plus. And doesn’t strikeout at a horrific rate. If he’s a rule 5 guy, why not? Are we playing for the playoffs or the 10 worst record? I am pretty sure we are in the “let’s see what we got mode.” And while scouts are great, they are not seers of baseball fate, always.

    He can play 2B/SS/CF – does Castro get much of rest??? (Ransom spelled him one day.)

    Watkins – yeah, why not.

    I am sure a few are tired of yelling at the current roster of players. Do we need another Sappelt or Bogusevic audition?

    • Pat

      If a front office has to bring guys up (and play them regularly, right? Otherwise it’s not a fair chance) then they shouldn’t be in their positions.

      You’re going to sit Castro even for a game to “see what Logan Watkins can do”? No. If he comes up, he will be coming off the bench, and you aren’t going to learn anything anyway.

    • jt

      “Watkins is as ready as he’ll ever be. 2500 PA in the minors”
      –Jason Powers
      *
      The BB thing somewhat depends upon power. Think Mark Bellhorn.
      Watkins increase power production in 2011 and 2012 as he was promoted each year. It was never at the Bellhorn level but was heading in that direction.
      2013 his Xbasehit rate has been close to what it was last year but his BA is off by 0.038.
      To get to the Bellhorn level the power level had to continue to increase. It hasn’t.
      Simply put, pitchers had to respect Bellhorn’s power. Watkins has not yet earned the same type of respect. His BB rate has dipped a bit this year and his K rate has risen. He has to at least increase his 2b/3b rate along with his SB success rate to get that respect.

      • http://deepcenterfield.blogspot.com Jason Powers

        Simply put, I don’t expect Mark Bellhorn power.

        Look up David Eckstein, in the minors until 25. If Watkins, could turn into that, I would not be all that upset.

        We will see.

        • jt

          Simply put, I don’t expect Mark Bellhorn power.
          –Jason Powers
          *
          Eckstein’s offense was BA dependent. I guess you believe Watkins could be the same?
          I believe Watkins’ OBP will depend upon the BB and the BB will depend upon the power he can generate.
          Yeah, it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.

  • papabear

    Ransom plays because – well – who else is there.

    This team is full of 4A player(who are getting lots of playing time) – Lots of players taken off other teams garbage heaps – Don’t count out the chances of the Cubs getting a top 5 draft pick again.

    Who was the Cubs clean up hitter today – yes Castillo at best a number7 or 8 hitter – But this team is full of number 7 or 8 hitters.

    I go to Iowa Cubs game’s – not much down there either. Watkins looks bad at the plate most of the time and not that great in the field. The thing is though he may be better than 4 or 5 players on the team right now – so what the hell, bring him up.

  • Eric

    I don’t see why Watkins is even considered for a call up. We’ve got tremendous depth in his field of expertise. It’s time to thin the heard.

    • Pat

      The only reason they would call him up is if, for some unfathomable reason, they really did believe that they could see something in him that can’t be seen in the minors.

      I just can’t see it. The only way that makes sense if they do is to play him everyday. The only way that happens is if they bench Barney. Even if they’ve already decided Barney isn’t the answer going forward, you don’t destroy his value by benching him to get a guy who hasn’t earned it at bats.

    • http://deepcenterfield.blogspot.com Jason Powers

      Well, that could be very true. Boston did the same thing with David Eckstein. Remember him?

      http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=eckste001dav

      Not a wowing minor league line until he broke out at…25. He could walk and did not strikeout much though, that helped. But he couldn’t SLG a lick. But he’s lifetime WAR: 20.8, approximately 10 years of starter level play. Amazing from a guy called “just enough.”

      • Mick

        Jason. Rick Eckstein, his brother, is an un-believable fungo hitter. Players and coaches will hang around just to see him hit moonshots for the infielders and he can place a ball anywhere he wants for the catchers. This talent alone will keep him around for awhile. I do think though he was just fired as a hitting coach though. Where else can you get info like this but B.N.

        • http://deepcenterfield.blogspot.com Jason Powers

          Good info, Mick.

    • N8theGr8

      Herd that.

  • Mick

    Thanks for the update papabear. I have not seen him play for awhile so maybe he has stalled out. Always have enjoyed Triple A ball and get to see Vegas games frequently. Sometimes I detect that some fans kind of sneer at that level but very few kids ever get to play there.

  • http://Bleachernation Lou Brock

    Watkins not in the lineup at Tacoma tonight. Speculation on the rumor he is on his way to Chicago.

  • Mick

    The toughest managerial job in baseball can be Triple A. Half the team are prospects who think they belong in the bigs now–the other half are guys who have been sent down and think they should still be there. Stir that pot day after day and you will get grey hair.

  • another JP

    Watkins on the 40 man so he’d be the most likely option to be brought up. Also, Maples and Peralta looking good again tonight, along with Rivero these guys are starting to put it together.

  • DocPeterWimsey

    The last two games have really hammered home the Cubs’ walks issue. The staff is tied with the Padres for last (or first, I suppose) in walks allowed at 357, and the batters are 11th of 15. All in all, the Cubs’ opponents have drawn 64 more walks than the Cubs: and only the Marlins have done worse (69 more walks).

    As things stand this year, there is actually a stronger correlation between net walks and winning percentage in the National League than there is between net HR and winning percentage. (Oh, to be the Braves: they are #1 in both net walks and net HR! Small wonder they are playing so well….)

    • jt

      “The last two games have really hammered home the Cubs’ walks issue.
      –DocPeter
      *
      Marmol + Gregg + Rondon = 106IP/61BB = 5.18BB/9IP
      *
      April – June 30 Gregg had 27.3 IP and 8 BB
      July 1 – Aug 3 Gregg has had 15 IP and 14 BB
      *
      Cubs are 4.3 innings lower than lg avg for IP but are 36 BB above avg for walks.
      If the above trio had cut their walk rate in half the staff would be just below lg avg.
      *
      Bowden’s rate per 9 is also high at 3.8
      Parker’s rate per 9 is marginal at 3.4 but I think that is high for a RP’er.
      *
      Feldman and Garza served to lower the rate. So they must be replace by others who also lower the rate.
      Marmol has been replaced by Gregg who it seems must be replaced
      Rondon and Bowden must each improve in a big way or be replaced.
      Parker should improve or be replaced.
      *
      BB rate by Cubs hitters really does suck

  • kenster

    Bruce miles tweeted he believes Watkins will get called up and I asked him why not Bogusevic since there’s only 4 OFs he retweeted me (yay!) Saying that the club says he’s not quite ready to come off the DL

  • another JP

    Bryant pounds a long homer to keep his hit streak going.

  • Joe

    Cue up “true colors shining through” for ol Deuces Wild tonight. Went on a great rant on twitter. Can’t imagine how terrible that clubhouse is with him AND Pierzynski. #amateurhour.

  • Mick

    Getting late–thanks for the good conversation!

  • rockin’ dawg

    Barney and Watkins both suck….bring up Alcantara!

    • wvcubsfan

      If he’s added to the 40 man roster before September (which I don’t see happening) you might just see that.

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