kid-watching-tvThe level of interaction between players and fans is much higher in the minors than we typically see in the majors. Some players never quite become comfortable with that (which is understandable), but some seem to embrace and thrive in that environment.

Just ask Justin Bour and Chad Noble. Not that they would give you control of the interview.

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bopper and Nobski Show. I have no words for this. Just watch and enjoy.

I should note, though, that this is not faked, at least not in the case of Bour. Go to a Smokies game a few minutes early and you will see that Bour is one of the most relaxed and enjoyable baseball players to be around. This guy understands the importance of that fan-player connection at the minor league level, and no one does it better. I strongly suspect Chad Noble is cut from that same cloth.

It is possible that we will get another episode of this by season’s end. Noble has been returned to Tennessee from Iowa. Maybe we can get a Bopper and Nobski Playoff Edition?

Or… if we’re going to dream… a Bopper and Nobski edition of the Bleacher Nation Podcast?

Scores From Yesterday

Iowa – It was an ugly blowout loss to the Redbirds. The depressing final was 7-1.
Tennessee – This game got wild in the late innings, but Tennessee held on for a 10-8 win.
Daytona – The game started, but was suspended after the first inning. It is scheduled for completion today.
Kane County – Kane County scored five times in the late innings to force extras, but ultimately lost 8-5 in ten.
Boise – Boise needed some wins over first place Salem-Keizer, and they got one in this game. The final was 5-2.
Arizona – The offense was effecient but Arizona still lost 4-3.

Performances of Note

  • [Iowa] Ty Wright walked and hit his first Iowa triple. That pretty much concludes the highlights from this game.
  • [Tennessee] Javier Baez finished 4 for 4 with two home runs (he is up to 16 with Tennessee) and no strikeouts.
  • [Tennessee] Arismendy Alcantara walked twice and doubled as part of his 2 for 3 game. He also stole his 28th base.
  • [Tennessee] Matt Loosen pitched one of his better Double A starts. Over 5.2 innings he allowed 3 runs on 5 hits with 2 walks and 5 strikeouts.
  • [Kane County] Nathan Dorris pitched 4 very good innings of relief to give the Cougars a chance to tie it up. He struck out 4 and allowed just a hit and a walk over 4 scoreless frames.
  • [Kane County] A double from Marco Hernandez and a triple from Giuseppe Papaccio were the only extra base hits in this one.
  • [Boise] Jose Arias struck out 4 over 3.2 scoreless innings of relief. Jose Rosario (5 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 5 K) had a pretty decent start himself.
  • [Boise] The Hawks managed the win despite not having an extra base hit and drawing just one walk. Yasiel Balaguert, Danny Lockhart, and Lance Rymel did the heavy lifting with a pair of singles each.
  • [Arizona] Trevor Graham struck out 3 and allowed a run on 4 hits in his 2.1 inning start.
  • [Arizona] Jeffrey Baez stole his 25th base for the desert Cubs.

Other News

  • The Smokies had more extra base hits (seven) and walks (four) than they did strikeouts (three). An offense like that will win quite a few games.
  • Only Jackson and Birmingham remain alive in the Smokies’ division, and the magic number is down to four. Huntsville is still technically not eliminated, but it is all but impossible to see them making that kind of a miraculous run at this point.
  • Daytona’s magic number is 10, and they still have a comfortable five game lead over second place Lakeland.
  • With yesterday’s win Tennessee manager Buddy Bailey has compiled 1700 career minor league victories. That’s impressive.
  • Eric

    I know Baez is at Tennessee until next year but where then? Outside shot of breaking camp with Chicago?

    • EQ76

      If he keeps this pace up, i’d say really good chance of breaking camp with Chicago.. I know most people on here don’t agree, but Baez is the real deal and if he keeps destroying minor league pitching at every level, why keep him down there.

      • gocatsgo2003

        Millions upon millions of dollars in arbitration.

        • cms0101

          Exactly. They’ll put him in Iowa, like they did with Rizzo, and make him force his way up to the big club. I will say this though… I fully expected him to return to Tennessee next year, at least to start out, but now I can’t see a reason for that at all. But they will find things for him to work on in Iowa. It’s certainly exciting to consider the possibilities though. A September call-up next year is almost a guarantee, provided he doesn’t move up sooner than that.

    • Cubbie Blues

      Nope. There is no need to lose a whole year of control. He can go to AAA for a couple of months ala Rizzo last year.

      • Luke

        This is what I expect as well. The’ll send him to Iowa and let him run through his adjustment period there, and once he’s put together a stretch of 100 or so good looking PAs they’ll look for an opportunity to move him up.

        There really is no rush, though.

        • Eric

          Maybe this is what is making Castro nervous…

        • cub2014

          plus baez has to get some reps in at 3rd. so AAA
          to start makes sense. which means if Olt shows some
          glimmer rest of this year or spring training he will get
          his shot at 3rd to start 2014.

        • Jp3

          Yeah here is the problem I have with keeping him in AAA to start the year for an additional year of control. Are we already flushing the toilet on a potential crappy year next season? How many more games would we win with his bat in the lineup versus Barney or Valbuena? I believe the high A, and double AA jumps are huge and cannot be skipped but AAA is filled with fringe major leaguers and just don’t think that league is absolutely necessary. I’m just tired of the next year business and ready to put the best product on the field and try to win some f’n games.

          • On The Farm

            Well being as I don’t think Baez is going to be the next Trout, so he wont be putting up a 9 WAR, ROY season. I don’t think the added value of having Baez in the MLB lineup for April is going to change our team for 2014. Baez is not a good enough player to have that much impact on a team.

          • Cubbie Blues

            Is a month or two at the beginning of next year worth $20-30M?

            • Jp3

              Meh, if there was a FA entering his prime that played 3rd available this offseason even at $20 million we’d be all over it. Tell me I’m wrong, if Pooholes or Cano were in their prime we’d be considering it so I understand the save money and a year of control I don’t like it. I’ll tell you why because the 1st 2 years at least he won’t be available for arbitration. If he’s studly after that we’d be wanting to sign him to a huge deal anyways, and he’ll be 23ish. What does it matter for that one year, I’d rather go into the season with some optimism outside of the minor leagues

              • Cubbie Blues

                OK, you are wrong. We would not pay $20M for a month or two of any player. On the extend him front, there is no way to force someone to sign. Some just want to test the FA market.

                • Bill

                  Yes, but worst case scenario, if he wouldn’t sign an extension, is you trade him for a huge haul like the Rays do with their players who become too expensive. I’m not disagreeing with you that they should wait a month before they call him up but if he’s really worth $20-30M you could trade him before he becomes a FA and get a HUGE return.

                  • ssckelley

                    I hope in 6 years the Cubs are buyers not sellers at the trade deadline. The worst case scenario is he walks after 6 years and the Cubs take that money and spend it on a different player that keeps the team in playoff contention.

            • ssckelley

              If it is at the expense of a playoff run next season then yes it is worth every bit of 20-30 million. If the Cubs are serious about making the playoffs in 2014 they will put the team on the field that give them the best chance to win.

          • gocatsgo2003

            Because if we have already conceded that 2014 is a throwaway year (which may be the case — we will most likely be able to tell by how aggressive the front office is in free agency this winter) to hopefully be followed by a string of competitive years, why would you throw away a year of control of a potential superstar during that string of competitive years?

            • ssckelley

              How do you know that 2014 is already conceded? They put together this season to compete and only tore it apart after they determined a playoff run was not feasible. At the beginning of the year a few lucky breaks and this team would have been a .500+ team.

              • willis

                The control is important, winning is more important. Saying that I don’t think there is a shot in hell that Baez starts next season right off the jump in the bigs. The FO do not want to lose any $$ or control for about anything so don’t count on seeing him. He’ll be in AAA for 30-45 games then probably be up.

                • ssckelley

                  If he finishes this year hot and he tears it up in spring training, making it clearly obvious that he is ready, then I would be pissed if the Cubs sent him down strictly for control & money. If Baez puts himself in a position of making a crapload of money when his arbitration years end then he will have been worth every dime and we are in for some fun seasons. In 5+ years the Cubs will be oozing with money and that should be the least of their worries, wasting seasons should be.

                  • On The Farm

                    Be prepared to be pissed then because that’s how baseball works now.

              • gocatsgo2003

                Like I said, we will probably be able to tell the mindset toward the 2014 season depending on how aggressive we are in free agency. If it is a bunch of “flippable” guys instead of long-term assets, it seems pretty safe to assume that Baez starts at AAA to maintain maximum team control.

                • ssckelley

                  About all the Cubs need in free agency is a right handed hitting outfielder and maybe another starter. The rest of the positions are either settled or have enough talent coming up.

          • Luke

            Don’t forget that Baez tends to struggle badly when he first hits a new level. His first month in the majors would probably not result in a positive WAR.

            Letting him get adjusted at the intermediate step of Triple A could (arguably should) smooth out his transition to the majors and shorten the amount of time it would take him to adjust.

            If the Cubs were convinced they were going to win it all in 2014, they would probably be smarter to still start Baez in Iowa for just that reason.

            • ssckelley

              The step to the major league will be the biggest step for him. I doubt anything he does in AAA will cushion that. When he first gets to the majors I expect him to struggle.

  • illinicubfan

    And in not great news, I saw on Twitter that Mike Olt was pulled from the game for not running out a ground ball.

    • Jon

      Didn’t like the move, it’s not Olts fault he couldn’t see it was a fair ball

      • Cubbie Blues

        OK, that was funny.

        • willis

          Heehee, nice.

          As not the biggest Olt fan, this is annoying. You suck at baseball, at least try dude.

  • Wester

    So ridiculously happy that I ponied up the $9 a month for so I can watch Baez and the rest of the smokies. It has been a really fun month or so (outside of birminghams terrible camera angle) watching these guys. I cannot wait for the playoffs! Playoffs? Playoffs?? Am I talking about playoffs???

  • itzscott

    I’m completely puzzled by Olt’s nosedive from previous years. Going from one level to the next shouldn’t result in the decline he’s experiencing. The guy has always been too good of a hitter to suddenly see him struggle the way he is.

    I have to assume that it’s either his eyes or remaining a bit hesitant about stepping into the batter’s box after being beaned and the consequences of concussion.

    If it’s his eyes, you’d tend to sit him.

    If it’s trepidation about being hit by a pitch again you continue to trot him out there hoping he gets over it.

    I’m beginning to feel it’s the latter.

    Maybe hypnosis would work?

  • Mike S


    Any news on the Cubs being interested in 24 year old Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka? Some scouts project him as a No. 2 starter…

  • Frank

    Does anyone remember how gun shy Marlon Byrd was when he came back? He’d back away from inside pitches that were a foot away from him. I watched him a couple of weeks ago and it looks like he got over it, but it took a good year or better.

  • Cheese Chad

    Baez was 4-4 with no strikeouts. I will need to see game footage to corroborate.

    • Kyle

      And a hard-hit sac fly as well.

      His K rate continues to drop. Down to 27.8%

      • Wester

        A sac fly that at the time retook a lead that they had just blown the previous inning, and it was in the ninth, with two strikes. That sac fly was humongous.

    • pete

      If was 4 for 4 with a K, I would want to double check the box score.

  • John C.

    I like that video, maybe I’ll start watching the Smokies. At least they look like they’re having some fun!

    • gocatsgo2003

      Agreed — two young dudes who are clearly comfortable around the fans and willing to have a little fun while they’re at it.

  • JB88

    To give a true measure of how ungodly Baez’s TN numbers are, he is currently sporting a .360 ISO. With a .314 BA. Just sick.

    • Cubbie Blues

      He’s also 2nd in HR in the minors. One guy is ahead of him that was also taken in the 2011 draft as a college player who is in AAA.

  • Ian Afterbirth

    Hard to strike out when you go 4-4.

  • RD

    Optimistic June 2014 Lineup:
    1.Ellsbury CF
    2.Castro SS (.300 Castro)
    3. Baez 3B
    4. Rizzo 1B
    5. Schierholtz RF
    6. Lake LF
    7. Castillo C
    8. Barney 2B
    9. Wood P (because he is an awesome hitter)

    Optimistic September 2014 Lineup
    1. Ellsbury CF
    2. Alcantara 2B
    3. Baez 3B
    4. Bryant LF
    5. Rizzo 1B
    6. Castro SS
    7. Lake RF
    8. Castillo C
    9. Wood P

    Both lineups are more than capeable of winnings some games next season which should make for a really exciting team especially if the pitching remains good and our bench improves because of new guys taking current starts spots!

    • On The Farm

      I understand it is a really optimisitc lineup and all, but if I was playing along I would say that Bryant would be 5, Rizzo 4 in September.

    • ssckelley

      You have Schierholtz traded next September?

      Also, I doubt we see Ellsbury in a Cubs uniform. If you want to be really optimistic in the Cubs going after a big name outfielder then insert Choo in his place.

      • RD

        I do think they will go after one of the two and Sheirholtz has had a really nice season as a somewhat starter. I think we trade him for high upside pitching at somepoint in 2014.

      • Nate

        I think Choo would be a consolation prize. Two tears older could have a huge affect on the future.

    • Jim L.

      I think I’ve read this a few places but if Bryant can’t play third, most think he will be able to play RF.

  • jt

    Seems like we see Yasiel Balaguert’s name in the updates quite a bit. Should we be at all interested?

    • Brett

      Legit prospect, if not a top one.

      • jt

        thanks and thanks to ssckelley… it seems hard to read the competition at the lower levels.
        you guys are making it pretty interesting though

    • ssckelley

      An improving walk rate, a declining strikeout rate, increase in power numbers, only 20 years old so, yeah, I would say he is worth keeping an eye on. Should see him in Kane County next year.

    • Nate

      Was about to post the same question. Glad I read this first. Can his bat make it? At center yes but it doesn’t look like he has a lot of power for the corners. Anyone know his projections/20-80 numbers?

  • FastBall

    I am not a big fan of making him play at AAA just to avoid arbitration. This kid will never see arbitration. He comes and produces he will be signed to a long term deal better than Castro and Rizzo’s contracts. I think you can only play that game with this fanbase for so long. The kid could come up right now and hit a lot better than 80% of this 25 man roster. Who are the 20% he couldn’t out hit right now. Um I’m not sure. I was being conservative. Rizzo had a hot hand last night but he has struggled. He in essence would only have Schierholz as competitor besides Rizzo as a producer. Maybe Lake but we don’t know that. Baez is performing every bit as good as Harper and Trout were when they got called up. This organization has a roadmap with policy for AB’s etc. You can’t become so beholden to that policy when it makes no sense.
    I am not saying bring him up now. I am saying if he does well in ST and his performance says he should be on the 25 man roster then do it. That is all I am saying. I don’t believe in holding a kid back because of $$.

    • gocatsgo2003

      Even if Baez never actually gets TO arbitration, the number of arbitration years will still play a role in determining the amount of money he gets in a contract because they’ll have to be “bought out.”

    • Cubbie Blues

      Kind of like Harper right?

    • TheDondino

      Harper and Trout both spent time in AAA before being called up. With Baez’s proclivity for the strike out, you need to test him at each level prior to a promotion. Get him adapted to another stage of advanced pitching. There is a big difference between MLB and AA pitching, giving him a taste of AAA pitching will help. Hopefully the transition is smooth and he doesn’t need much time (Harper and Trout only spent about 20 games in AAA). Giving him time at AAA to start next year isn’t all about the arbitration clock.

      • Cubbie Blues

        That is the point I was going to get to with Harper. They kept him down long enough to get an extra year of control out of him even though they were wanting to make a push for the playoffs that year.

  • FastBall

    Okay even so. These contracts that get signed save a franchise a lot of money. Tell me the Rizzo and Castro deals don’t save the Cubs a lot of money. Ya maybe this year they are struggling. I believe next year they will be back to having seasons that out perform those contracts. Teams like the Rays have proven this out.

    • Kyle

      Well, IF they bounce back, they’ll save the team money.

      If they suck or get hurt, they’ll lose the team money.

      That’s the risk/reward.

    • gocatsgo2003

      1) Using the correct reply button really isn’t that hard.
      2) We don’t know whether they will actually save the franchise any money. To raise a hypothetical, let’s say that neither Castro nor Rizzo show marked improvement over the next five years and are league-average players in 2018. Are we really going to be all that thrilled in paying Castro $10MM and Rizzo $7MM that year? Or $11MM each in 2019?

      • FastBall

        I don’t have the time to engage folks in debates on here. I just read and make a comment when I have the time. Sorry. I don’t care to really converse 1 on 1 with folks on here I don’t have time in my day for it. Hope you understand. I’m just and easy going guy who breaks away from a busy schedule to chime in when I have a second. :)

  • FastBall

    It’s risk / reward I agree. Can look at the glass half full or half empty. I remain optimistic for both and believe they will be far above league average. The FO must have felt that way as well. There team of experts have proven to be pretty good evaluators of talent and how it will project long term. My belief is that these two especially are just having a bad year. Even in a bad year a player can learn a lot of lessons. With both I believe this off season will give them time for reflection on how they improve themselves. Castro especially just needs to get away and clear his head. Sooner he learns to drop the heavy bags he is carrying this season in the middle of the road the better. It’s hard to drop a burden and move on at his age. I am sure he feels he has the weight of the world on his shoulders right now. That’s not going to really go away until this season is over unfortunately. Last night after he struck out I saw him in the dugout with his face buried on top of a cooler. He was probably saying to himself WTF is going on. Nothing is working for him right now. This will come to pass.

  • On The Farm

    So.. Just watched the Bopper and Nobski Show, pretty good stuff out of those two. I like how Baez had to come in and translate.

    • Carne Harris

      Strawberry and milk. Cracked me up. Like that it said episode 1, maybe we’ll be getting more.