No Surprises in the Cubs Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year Races and Other Bullets

kyle hendricks iowa cubsThe packing process started a couple weeks ago, but The Taylor Family Move, itself, starts today. We’re doing what we can today and tomorrow before the movers come on Monday. Hopefully our Internet service switches over flawlessly on Tuesday, and you don’t notice any significant interruptions.

  • In an announcement that surprised absolutely no one who’s been paying attention this year, the Chicago Cubs have named Javier Baez their Minor League Player of the Year, and Kyle Hendricks their Minor League Pitcher of the Year. You know the story with Baez – the 20-year-old shortstop split time between High-A and AA, and had one of the most productive seasons of any player in minor league baseball – and you probably also know the story with Hendricks. The righty is not considered a top pitching prospect in baseball (though he’s still right up there in the top five or so, among pitching prospects in the Cubs’ system), primarily because he’s not a hard-thrower or a huge strikeout guy (*generally-speaking,* future MLB starters are much more likely to come from the ranks of minor leaguers who throw hard and strike guys out at huge rates (usually when young for their league)). But the numbers were fantastic for the heady Hendricks, with a 2.00 ERA and 1.058 WHIP over 166.1 innings at AA and AAA. He struck out 6.9 per 9 (not terrible) and walked just 1.8 per 9 (outstanding). Moreover, the numbers were fairly consistent with what Hendricks, who turns 24 in December, has done all the way up the ladder in the minors. There’s little reason to think he’s not a legitimate back-of-the-rotation option in the big leagues by the second half of 2014 or the beginning of 2015, assuming health and continued effectiveness.
  • Jesse Rogers writes – both fairly and accurately – about Dale Sveum’s bad decision to have Donnie Murphy bunt in the 9th on Thursday against the Pirates with men on first and second and nobody out (Cubs down two). Rogers’ pieces breaks down why it was a bad decision … and why we don’t really care all that much right now.
  • The Cubs might be grooming Justin Grimm for a reliever job in 2014, according to Mark Gonzales, rather than having him continue developing as a starter at AAA to begin the year. He’s got the stuff to succeed as a reliever – maybe he flourishes there – and I’m reminded of successful organizations that have broken in young starters as relievers in the big leagues before allowing them to later transition back to the rotation as needed (Cardinals, Rays, etc.). I still like Grimm’s upside as a middle-of-the-rotation starter long-term (assuming he can bring his secondary pitches along – he was rushed to the big leagues with the Rangers), but I’d have no problem with him breaking camp in the bullpen. He’s an experienced pitcher, and he might get just as much development out of being on the big team in the bullpen as he would in the rotation at AAA, regardless of his future role.
  • A great read from Cubs.com on Junior Lake’s experience in the outfield in the Dominican Winter League last year, with thoughts from his coach on that team, Pirates coach Dave Jauss. It turns out, it was Jauss who asked the Cubs if it was all right to move Lake into the outfield for a handful of games in that league, rather than the other way around. That may have always been the Cubs’ plan for Lake, given his limitations in the infield, but it’s interesting to learn that’s how it all started.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

77 responses to “No Surprises in the Cubs Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year Races and Other Bullets”

  1. ACA

    Regarding Baez:
    “The shortstop is the first Minor League player in 17 seasons to reach 30 doubles, 30 home runs, 100 RBIs and 20 stolen bases in the same season since D.T. Cromer did so in 1996 for the Class A Modesto A’s.”

    1. Jimbotron

      Are you trying to say even prospects who do well I the minors aren’t a sure thing

      1. ssckelley

        I think it is safe to say the Cubs will handle Baez a lot better than the A’s and Reds did with Cromer. The Cubs were smart enough to promote Baez during the season while the A’s kept a 25 year old Cromer in high A the entire year and then in AA the entire following season. When he finally got a chance to play in the majors at the age of 29 he did really well. I doubt you will see the Cubs sending Baez back to the minors if he comes up and hits with a .904 OPS.

      2. ACA

        No, just thought it was an interesting fact.

    2. ruby2626

      The obvious question is who the heck is D.T. Cromer? Since we live in the computer age not to difficult to research. As a rookie in his late 20′s he hit .305 with a very nice 7 hrs in only 105 at bats. Played parts of 2 seasons with Cincy and then he refused a demotion to AAA and went to Japan. Kind of hoping for more than 7 career home runs from JB although if he hits .305 for his career they should start making room in Cooperstown.

  2. Stevie B

    I’ll try this one more time, and see if I get the same attitude from the masses.

    I say we are 3 years away from the playoffs…minimum.

    Next year we infuse some farm talent, maybe one high end FA piece
    Year 2 we add more youngsters or trade a couple for a big name
    Year 3 the kids have matured and become acclimated and are producing and the FA signings pan out.

    Is this “crazy”, as I’ve been told?

    1. Kyle

      It’s crazy to be that absolutist. Baseball’s a weird, high-variance game. Anyone who states with confidence what will happen next season, let alone two or three down the road, is misunderstanding the sport.

      1. arta

        Kyle, I agree with u.

    2. CubsFanSaxMan

      Stevie, you are not crazy. I totally agree about next year. I see nothing special happening. If things go well with the youngsters, and that includes Castro/Rizzo, the team might excite a few people in year two. As you predict, it might be better in year three. But don’t hold your breath, as I see little free agent spending in the future. A front line player will need to come via trades. And I have been told many times by Brett/Sahadev, that prospects are a ‘crap shoot,’ so who really knows what will happen with the youngsters – maybe trade bait. So Stevie, you don’t need a padded cell in the Looney Bin, maybe just the opposite – a seat at the house of Oracles.

      1. jt

        The Cubs now have the depth to make needed changes.
        I’m looking forward to 2014

    3. ACA

      I think they have a shot of being playoff competitive in 2015 and championship competitive by 2016-2017. The 2015 FA pitching class could be ridiculous if some of the big names hit the market (Kershaw, Scherzer, Bailey to name a few). Assuming Bryant and Baez hit the majors sometime in 2014 to gain experience and with a key pitching acquisition (or two) that offseason, I think they make a playoff run in 2015.

    4. Dustin S

      Kyle’s right, there’s just too much variance in baseball. There was a season about 5 years back where the Cubs were essentially penciled in by all the national writers as guaranteed to win the Central in Spring Training before the season even started. They all thought no other teams were close. The Cubs ended up about 5th if I recall. Look at the Giants and Angels this year. Some even thought the Brewers might be decent this season. In baseball there is just so much roster churn and turnover and player performance varying year to year. So it’s a lot more unpredictable than football where for the most part you have a better idea what you have going in.

      The only educated guess I think we can make is that the front office isn’t really expecting to make the playoffs next season. That’s just my humble opinion based on trading DeJesus and listening as much as they did on Samardzija, plus just looking at the current roster situation. But even then they won’t just write off 2014 out the gate, they’ll give it a shot to get lucky like they did this year. Looking at what’s coming up from A-AA (and keeping in mind there’s plenty of trade value there too, not just call-ups) I’d be disappointed to not be in the wild card hunt in 2015.

      1. Headscratchin

        This line of thinking (about being a few years off) also fits in with the comments you hear from Theo, Crane, and the Ricketts about the revenue streams, business plan, renovations, etc all coalescing at some point in the future. I think we could have looked at maybe 2014 and possibly 2015 as the target had everything sailed through the legal process, the renovations were done this off season, and the whole “new Cubs” were up and running for 2014. BUT, since that has all been delayed until after the 2014 season, the 2015/2016 time frame seems more realistic.

      2. MightyBear

        Kershaw will NOT hit the FA market.

        1. ACA

          I would agree with you as I believe just about everyone will but there is still the slight chance Kershaw wants to test free agency because he has that right. Regardless, I think it more likely the Cubs make a trade to acquire a TOR (Toronto?) rather than sign one. The Tanaka kid has me intrigued though. Hopefully the Cubs are players if he’s posted.

      3. MichaelD

        “So it’s a lot more unpredictable than football where for the most part you have a better idea what you have going in. ”

        This statement is completely backwards. Football is much more unpredictable. Last year the Vikings, Colts and Redskins all made the playoffs. Almost everyone would have had those three in the bottom ten if not bottom five in the league. A similar list for MLB would have had some combination of the Cubs, Astros, Marlins, Mariners, Twins and Padres. They won’t be the bottom six teams in the league but none of those teams will break 75 wins either.

    5. praying the cubs get ready to win

      I think u r right on. I hope they bring one to FA in this year, definitely a big bat in the middle of the lineup to protect Rizzo so we can attract free agents the following years as we won’t be so bad next year and free agents will clearly see the Cubs vision. I also wouldn’t mind a top pitcher for the long term vs AJAX and maybe a couple of our young players not top 10. These moves could put the Cubs in place to be buyers at the trade deadline or if sellers, trading some experienced players who won’t be in our 2015 plans.

  3. HCS

    Any opinions on Lincecum as a FA reclamation project? I realize that he’s had a few down years in a row. Is he just done for, or is he due to return to dominance? Would it take big money deal, or does a short-term (2-3 yrs), mid-range contract let him rebuild his value? I suppose a big part of it depends on whether SF extends a qualifying offer, but I personally wouldn’t mind seeing him in Wrigley.

    1. BWA

      I believe the general consensus among scouts is that he is done for. His stuff just doesn’t move like it used to and he’s lost some velocity. For a guy whose always walked a lot of people, that is not a good sign.

      1. HCS

        Right on, thanks. I enjoyed watching him pitch years ago, Guess it’s just time to let it go.

      2. Cubs_Questions

        Somebody will take a chance on him. Even in the past two years, he’s still striking out 9 per nine innings. He’s giving up slightly more H/9 but nothing super significant, and this season he’s walking about as many as he ever has per nine.

        The major difference I see in his numbers is that he’s been going less innings and giving up more homers. This can all be attributed to losing something on his pitches. Giving up more mistakes and going deeper into counts, leading to exiting games earlier.

        And still, in 2013, he has an ERA below 4.50. Someone will try and fix him.

    2. chrisfchi

      I think he will demand way too much money.

  4. rockin' dawg

    You’ve gotta sign the FAs when they’re available. With all the talk about this year’s crop (Ellsbury, Choo, Pence, McCann, Cano, Lincecum, etc.) I’d be disappointed if the Cubs didn’t sign 1-2. The players around age 30 could still fit the long-range plan even with a 4-5 year deal. But no more Soriano-type deals, please.

    1. jt

      I’m thinkin’ there may be more value in the trade market this year.
      Maybe they trade somebody like Schierholz and sign somebody like Pence…
      who knows?

      1. praying the cubs get ready to win

        That makes a lot of sense.

  5. Jackalope

    I like Kevin Slowey a lot as a comp for Kyle Hendricks. Good, not great K rate and excellent BB in the minors. Slowey had a couple decent 2-3 WAR seasons before struggling with injuries the past few seasons.

  6. Spoda17

    No need to sign a FA this off season… 2015 is realistic to think the Cubs would be in a position to make a run at the playoffs. If we don’t have at least two top of the rotation pitchers (I just don’t see Shark as a top of the rotation guy), we will never be in a position to win in the playoffs…

    1. another JP

      Finally someone who gets it. I’ve been saying the same thing, and the only FA the Cubs will consider are Sweeney, Navarro, Gregg, or another cost effective player that makes the team incrementally better. And by that I mean $2-4M AAV for a couple year contract. The young players will have to improve and get the team to .500 level before mgmt. decides to pull the trigger on guys like Choo or Price.

      1. Eternal Pessimist

        I hope they are able to find at least 1 top of the rotation pitcher…two would be great, but consistently saying that they need to pitching ignores the fact that they can win with pitching…consistently saying they need the bats to win ignores the fact that they can win with pitching.

        The Cubs seem poised to bring some very good bats up soon, and may be competing for the big one by outscoring their opponents w/ dominant hitting. Their are also a couple prospects in the Cubs minors with a chance of becoming #1 or 2 pitchers to add to a FA #1 or 2. Then we could win with very good pitching and very good hitting.

        1. Eternal Pessimist

          “consistently saying that they need to pitching ignores the fact that they can win with pitching”

          second pitching should be hitting.

      2. marc

        I just think its tough to ask developing young guys to develop and adapt to the majors while also being the best players on the club. I just look at the royals team who I think is fairly similar to what we are looking the next few years with our young core but not much top flight pitching(pre shields). A number of their young guys (moustakas, hosmer, gordon…) struggled for a few years before putting it together and making the playoff hunt. And even with the year their pitching as a whole has had they, they could still be on the outside looking in of the playoffs. Expecting baez, bryant, rizzo, castro, etc to handle the middle of the order, while all under the age of 26, is going to be a lot. I dont want to bring in vets who arent any better than the young guys, but I think in professional hitters like a beltran, choo, or cano type guys who produce strong at bats has it value. I would prefer not to bring in guys like granderson and soriano who tend to have some swing and miss to their game. But a couple of professional hitters could really help with the development and protection of our young guys. Im not saying that we should spend more than 15 mil on any of these guys, but to pass on all the free agents this offseason would do more harm than good i feel.

        1. wilbur

          The cubs aren’t kansas city, even the royals aren’t the royals with the niew tv money coming in to all the teams from mlb contracts. Even the small market teams will be more able to resign and keep their home grown free agents and not have to keep losing them and trying to replace them with prospects. See the pirates for example.

          This also means there will be less talent available and more competition for it from larger market teams who were used to skimming midlevel free agents from small market teams. See the pirates for example.

          For the cubs in the near term this means there will be less opportunity to help the team via free agency ( a double whammy for rebuilding teams with the new CBA) . So teams with homegrown streams of talent will have an advantage, and if you have suffered through a losing season and gotten a top pick you don’t want to have to give it up as a compensation for a mid level over priced free agent that is most likely going to be a stop gap before you are ready to win. The value just isn’t there for the free agent. The value is in the draft pick.

          Of course there will be exceptions and some free agents that don’t cost a pick that can act as stable ponies and provide some leadership. I think the Jackson signing is a good example of this, he’s probably been more of a stabilizing influence in the lockerroom than people realize. And the heat he has taken and how he has handled it are what you’d want an experienced pro to provide.

          So if you can find a free agent that doesn’t cost you a draft pick then jump on it it helps the team like you describe. But don’t undervalue the draft picks at this point, it may be a long time (lord willing) before we pass this way again, so don’t jump the gun on the free agent dance. Right now most of the prospects would probably jump at the opportunity to get to the bigs on the cubs, getting the opportunity can be a great motivator too versus being blocked by some free agent you thought you needed for some vague sheltering of the young players.

          What is needed isn’t more free agents, it’s getting more of the kids on to the big league team so you start to have a critical mass and the team starts to improve that way. Going with rash free agent signings now would be changing course, saying you wanted to rebuild the farm system but just didn’t want to wait around for it to produce any players for the big league team. That is abandoning the plan for a wander back through the wilderness and we been there.

  7. Steve

    The catching duo of Castillo-Navarro and the development of Wood were two of the few positive aspects to come out of of the 2013 season. Until the Cubs get 2 to 3 more decent starting pitchers the team will never be in the playoff picture. Without top flight pitching the Cubs will never be in the playoff picture.

    1. willis

      Right. If they stay with what they have in the rotation expect more losing. The rotation isn’t awful, but there needs to be one more very good arm in there. Right now its a bunch of 4s and 5s with maybe a 3 in Wood. Adding a 1 is preferable, but that’s going to be hard. Adding a 2-3 type would boost things quite a bit.

  8. mreverything

    You heard it here first! All our minor league studs (Bryant, Almora, Baez and Soler) will be great players, hopefully with the Cubs. The last part of this decade is when it will be obvious to everyone that this prediction will be accurate.

  9. ETS

    Is it fair to compare Hendricks and T Wood?

    1. Jacob

      Meh. It really depends on what you’re comparing. Type of pitcher (command, control guy) sure, you can make that comparison. But, with Wood being a lefty, that plays a lot better for him. It’s unfair to compare Hendricks to Wood and expect him to have the same success Wood has had.

      1. jh03

        ha, apparently my computer wanted to use my old username for that one. Should be fixed now.

      2. Eternal Pessimist

        Not sure how Wood being a lefty helps him more. Seems like most line-ups will be heavier in right-handed batters giving the left-handed pitcher a relative disadvantage. Lefties used situationally (relief lefty-lefty match-up) is where they get their advantage.

    2. Kyle

      Wood has better stuff.

      1. Cubs_Questions

        Through his minor league success though, it should be clear that Hendricks knows how to use his stuff. And Hendricks’ numbers have been better than Wood’s were at every level so far. I hope for good things from both in the near future.

  10. MightyBear

    1. I think Hendricks is going to be a front end rotation guy and a star. I love guys that don’t walk people.

    2. Putting Grimm in the bullpen is a terrific idea. Worked for James Russell, why not Grimm?

    1. Jason P

      I like Hendricks, but how many front of the rotation guys are there in the game today that can’t consistently hit 90 with their fastball? I can’t even think of one.

      And Grimm brings nice velocity out of the bullpen. He was sitting 95-96 the other day.

      1. MightyBear

        Kyle Lohse

        1. Jason P

          I wouldn’t call Lohse TOR. The past few years he’s produced like a 2, but throughout his career, he’s been mostly a 4/5. Plus, early in his career, he constantly sat in the 91-92 range with his fastball (he’s lost a tick or 2 as he’s aged), while Hendricks already sits around 88-89 as a 24-year-old.

        2. Jason P

          If you look at the top 15 starters in baseball — Kershaw, Hernandez, Price, Scherzer, Sale, Wainwright, Darvish, Harvey, Lee, Strasburg, Verlander, Corbin, Hamels, Latos, Fernandez — only Lee and Corbin don’t have incredible stuff (though both still have much better stuff than Hendricks). Lee may be the best command/control pitcher we’ve seen this decade, while Corbin relies heavily on a 92+ mph fastball that Hendricks simply couldn’t replicate.

          1. Sam

            You seem to forget about a kid named Geg Maddux. Never had an overpowering fastball, but was always top of rotation worthy, and a sure fire first ballot HOF’er. It’s not all about velocity. Too many guys rely on that, and that’s you hear, but having the knowledge of how to pitch, hitting spots and changing speeds sometimes trumps the 95+ guys.
            Jamie Moyer ( on a lesser scale ) had a ton of success without a big fastball, learning how to ‘pitch’ in the last 12 years of his career.
            I haven’t seen Hendricks pitch, but the numbers are reminiscent of what Maddux put up in the minors.

            1. Kyle

              Greg Maddux had above-average fastball velocity.

              1. cub2014

                maddux through 90-92 in his prime

                1. Kyle

                  More like 91-94, and that is above-average.

                  When he dropped down to Hendricks’ velocity later in his career, he became quite ordinary.

              2. MichiganGoat

                Yeah the fact that he didn’t have an above average fastball is a myth many of us (including me) we’re taught but when you look at his velocity in his prime years you see a good fastball and of course exceptional control.

              3. Lou Brock

                Maddux depended on the late movement on his fastball. He never threw harder than 90/92 during his prime. He also had the benefit of pitching on a Braves staff that always had the umpires in their back pockets with Bobby Cox in their ears.

                1. DarthHater

                  Wikipedia says: “Maddux relied on his command, composure, and guile to outwit hitters. Though his fastball touched 93 mph in his early years, his velocity steadily declined throughout his career, and was never his principal focus as a pitcher. By the end of his career, his fastball averaged less than 86 mph.”

                  1. Kyle

                    “in his early years” being when he was dominant.

                    Like all pitchers, he started to lose velocity as he aged. And when he did, he got worse.

                    1. DarthHater

                      Naturally, I was not trying in any way to contradict the crushing fist of logic.

                    2. jt

                      The CYA and close to CYA award years for Maddux were, for the most part, ages 26-34. Though he did come in 3rd at age 23.

                2. Bill

                  Maddux has himself said that he became a better pitcher when he learned how to take something off the fastball. He didn’t beat guys by blowing it by them, he got them out by setting them up, moving the ball around and great control. Yes, Maddux threw harder when he was younger, but he was still a very, very, good pitcher when he lost some zip on his fastball. He became hittable, when he aged, because he threw more pitches over the heart of the plate. He wasn’t able to paint the corners as consistently.

    2. marc

      I dont think grimm makes the cubs out of spring training, unless its a starter with the 25 man roster crunch . It looks like cabrera and arrieta are bullpen bound along with villanueva, russell, stropp, parker, and hopefully another lefty,(rosscup, raley, rusin). Doesnt count fujikawa and vizcaino who are possible midseason guys. If grimm stays in iowa, i think they keep him stretched out as a starter.

      1. Jason P

        Could happen, but it contradicts what Gonzalez reported (Brett’s third bullet). Personally, I like his arm out of the pen better than in the rotation — he can hit the mid-90′s and this bullpen needs power arms. Plus he doesn’t really have a useful third pitch, so that would make it hard for him to succeed as a starter.

        1. marc

          Just looking at the 25 man crunch it makes me wonder if we see some trades this offseason. You would think parker stropp russell and villanueva are locks. So what do you do with arrieta and cabrera if they dont make the rotation? If they like grimm in the pen thats great, but they are going to need to get a second lefty in there somewhere before russell’s arm falls off. I would love to see some trades this offseason with some of our close to the majors guys to relieve the 25 and 40 man crunches.

          1. nkniacc13

            40 man crunch is going to be bigger issue than 25

            1. marc

              Maybe, but exposing some of the fringe 40 man guys are easier to stomach than exposing fringe 25 man guys like cabrera and arrieta.

              1. Jason P

                I think Cabrera’s pretty close to a lock for the bullpen. Because for him it’s either bullpen or claimed by another team, and there’s no way the Cubs lose a prospect like Cabrera.

                1. nkniacc13

                  I think that with who the Cubs have under roster they wont have may issues with their 25 man as some have to be added or lose which will come close to fill out pitching. The issue will be with the players the have to add to the 40 man or maybe lose to rule 5. I think you could see prospect for prospect trade more than you see cube trade for major mlb players

  11. Deacon

    I think Hendricks is going to be the second coming of “The Human Rain Delay,” otherwise known as Steve Trachsel. Trachsel was a serviceable starter in the majors for a lot of years, despite having anything close to overpowering stuff.

    1. Deacon

      Sorry, I meant NOTHING close.

    2. cms0101

      Trachsel: Slightly above average starting pitcher… Tool of a human being…

    3. Stevie B

      Holy **it, that was funny. You coukd read War And Peace before Trachsel could finish 9.

      1. DocPeter Wimsey

        To get into the Chicago Speed Reading Association in the 1990′s, you had to finish War and Peace in one Trachsel inning.

  12. Stu

    It seems a little too optimistic to pin all hopes on all of the prospects to come up and propel the Cubs into the playoffs. It is also not realistic to never have a free agent not live up to a year or 2 of underperforming their contract.

    1. wilbur

      You’re right, no one is expecting this, and it doesn’t make rash free agent siginings a good move either.

      1. marc

        I dont think anyone is calling for 5 year deals with ntc again. However it would be great to address one of holes in our club this offseason. Whether that be an impact outfielder to pair with the shierholtz sweeney lake bogey group, or finding help in our rotation. If an answer is out there for 3b or 2b that is reasonable that would great too, but i think of or sp are probably more realistic. The cubs probably need to fill at least one of their needs this offseason if they expect to compete in 2015 or even 2016, because cin pit and stl are not going to do us any favors. Relying on our guys in aa and lower to favorably fill those needs, two seasons out, might be a little ambitious.

        1. jt

          On another site, CarGo was mentioned. Now, that is a quantum leap in talent. The guy who wont be 28 until season’s end. $63.5M for 4 prime yr’s (28,29, 30, 31) plus that which given up in trade.
          I don’t pretend to know the value of prospects but just to toss out a few names I’d consider Almora, Schierholz and perhaps a guy like Cabrera? Maybe Olt or Vitters as a pot luck through in?

          1. cub2014

            For Cargo probably have to give up a starter
            (rockies big need); So Samardijza,Schierholtz
            & Pinyero?

          2. jaslhill

            My thought would be that they would want more than that, especially given the contract.

            Either way, yes, please to CarGo … actually, how many do you have in stock? I’ll take two.

  13. cub2014

    trade for Price: Blackburn,Villanueva,Raley,Soler
    trade for CarGo: Samardijza,Schierholtz,Pinyero
    sign: Choo,Arroyo
    resign: Sweeney,Gregg,Navarro
    on their way:Baez,Bryant,Alcantera
    Add those 10 guys and you are as good as the
    Pirates or Reds!!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.