Kris BryantThe Cardinals beat the Dodgers (and Clayton Kershaw) in a laugher yesterday, which propels them to the World Series. Maybe being so good and so successful for so long will breed so much pressure going forward that the Cardinals will collapse under the weight of expectation, spiraling into a nightmarish descent over the next decade. Yeah, yeah. Pigs flying, monkey butts and all that.

  • Kris Bryant just won the Arizona Fall League’s player of the week award for the first week of the season. But that was nothing. Yesterday, all he did was hit some 800 feet’s worth of homers (that’d be two bombs) and a double. It’s barely worth discussing Bryant’s hilarious AFL line, given the tiny sample and skewed offensive numbers … but it’s fun: .423/.448/.962. I’d take that. And, yes, he’s got the top OPS in the league.
  • The rest of the Cubs were a mixed bag yesterday for the Mesa Solar Sox, who lost for the first time. Albert Almora was 1-6 with a double, Jorge Soler was 2-5 with a couple strikeouts, and Dallas Beeler gave up three earned runs on six hits and two walks over three innings. Armando Rivero also gave up an earned run in his inning of work, with two hits and a walk.
  • Carrie Muskat offers a long write-up on Mike Olt, the third base prospect the Cubs received in the Matt Garza trade. At last check, Olt, who struggled through an extremely down 2013 season due to vision problems, was trying to get the latest vision issues under control. After having some success with eye drops mid-season, Olt had to stop using them for a time, and issues cropped up again. Muskat’s piece, and Olt’s quotes, suggest that the latest round of doctor visits and treatment plans may have been successful in finally getting this thing to a better place. If Olt’s issues in 2013 were truly limited to the vision problems, and if those problems are truly fixed before the 2014 season (I’d still preach caution there, because there’s a lot we don’t know), we all might be in for a very pleasant surprise at third base to start the season. Olt will presumably be competing for the job there in Spring Training, and, at his true talent level, he could easily be a quality starter there going forward. Of course, where that would leave fast-charging Kris Bryant (and Javier Baez) … well, that’s a discussion for another day.
  • By the way, Cardinals: when Vin freaking Scully intimates that you’re being whiny, petty douches with your complaints about how the Dodgers are playing, you’ve clearly crossed the line.
  • Also: both teams do embarrassing things. Sometimes simultaneously.
  • Video of Cubs draftees Tyler Skulina and Rob Zastryzny, as well as bonus baby Eloy Jimenez? Yes, please, and thank you, Baseball America. The best reactions I can give from a minute of video during practice sessions? Skulina is a big kid and it looks like he throws hard. Zastryzny has a little bit of deception in his delivery, which is probably part of why he’s been so effective despite not having huge heat (though he was reported to be able to touch the mid-90s later in the year at Missouri). Jimenez does not look like a 16-year-old kid.
  • Jon Heyman reported that the bonus Dalier Hinojosa is getting from the Red Sox is $4 million, making him only slightly more expensive than Cubs relief prospect Armando Rivero ($3.1 million). A top international arm Hinojosa was not.
  • As expected, vets JC Boscan and Darnell McDonald elected free agency after being outrighted off of the 40-man roster last week.
  • http://It'searly Mike F

    Castro is not a leadoff hitter, he flat out doesn’t get on base enough, doesn’t take pitches and they put him there when the season didn’t matter to make pitchers throw him hittable strikes. Castillo is not a 3 hole hitter, the 3 hole is where you put your best hitter. When your 3 hole hitter hits .230 someone usually gets fired. Castillo isn’t the hitter or have the power for that. Baez, Soler and Bryant make fit at some point in the middle of the order. Almora might fit at some point at the top, but that is all ifs/

    • Voice of Reason

      Dude he said the players weren’t in a batting order.

    • Blublud

      In a perfect world, where Castro gets back to form, Rizzo plays more like he did his rookie year, Castillo repeats last season with more pop, and all 5 of our top position prospects reach their potential, Alcantara at 2nd, Baez at 3rd, Soler in RF, Bryant in LF, Almora in Cf, Castro just might be the best option at leadoff. Castro is a better hitter then Almora and is probably slightly faster with equal pop, and they walk about the same, so Castro will get on base more. Alcantara has more speed then Almora and maybe slightly more pop, though Almora Is probably a better hitter. So the lineup would look like this.

      1) Castro/Alcantara/Almora
      2) Castro/Alcantara/Almora
      3) Bryant
      4) Rizzo
      5) Baez
      6) Soler
      7) Castillo
      8) Castro/Alcantara/Almora

      I don’t know if we want any of those 3 hitting 1st or 2nd in a perfect lineup, and which ever one bats 8th could become the best 8 hitter in the league, but if all our prospects reach, we won’t really have a choice. I am also willing to bat we never ever see that lineup in a real game.

  • http://It'searly Mike F

    Ok dude….

  • CubsFaninMS

    Kris Bryant is the real deal, people. I’m higher on him than Baez. Here are my comps for our Top 4.

    Javier Baez – ceiling of Gary Sheffield; floor of Dan Uggla
    Kris Bryant – ceiling of Willie Stargell (yes, I’m that high on him); floor of Glenallen Hill
    Jorge Soler – ceiling of Derrek Lee (minus his freakish year bidding for Triple Crown); floor of a slightly-less-successful Delmon Young
    Albert Almora – ceiling of Tony Perez; floor of David Dejesus

    Of course, their TRUE floor is not making it to the show at all. It is probable one of these won’t. I won’t speculate because my heart is too into the potential of each one. It’ll happen when it happens.

    • Blublud

      These guys are all high first round picks or in Soler’s case, the equivalent of. The chances all these guys make it to the show are extremely high and possibly even probable. The chances that they are all above average are also very high.

      The question is will they all reach the bigs as a Cub. Baez and Bryant will most definitely reach as Cubs, Soler’s chances are high due to his contract, but there are teams that will happily take it if he reaches his potential. Almora chance are less due to him tracking behind the others in ETA. By the time Almora is ready, which is likely Sept 2015, and more than likely early 2016, the Cubs may be ready to add to the roster with a big trade. Almora will probably be our most valuable prospect at that point, meaning teams will want him if the Cubs look to add a impact playef at that point.

      • ClevelandCubsFan

        it might not be a question of who makes it to the show aa a Cub but a question of who becomes an all star as a cub.

      • ssckelley

        I think Almora is proving by his performance in the AFL that he could move through the system much faster. I know the AFL is a hitters league, but these are still AA pitchers he is facing and even his outs are solid hits. This makes me hopeful to see him at Tennessee before the end of next season and we all know once you get to AA you are on the spring board to the major leagues. If Almora dominates A+ and AA next year it is possible he gets added to the 40 man and gets a taste of MLB pitching next September.

        2015 seems to be the year everything starts coming together. The first wave of prospects will be having a huge impact on this team either the MLB roster or through trades. Then 2016 and beyond we see the benefits of the international spending along with next Junes draft picks. Then, hopefully, the farm system keeps producing year over year.

        • Kyle

          That’s an incredibly optimistic timeline on all fronts. And as you say, AFL is an extremely hitter-friendly league (mostly because teams send their best hitting prospects but mostly whatever pitchers they can spare some workload on) and has a small sample anyway.

          I notice nobody ever seems as worried about Soler’s .543 OPS in the AFL as they are excited about the good performances, oddly enough.

          • ssckelley

            Actually my biggest concern with Soler right now is the lack of contact. Small sample size and I know it has been a while since he has played but early reviews have not been that great. In his defense he has not had much chance to work out after his injuries and has not seen game situation hitting since (i think) May.

            • X The Cubs Fan

              His contract during the season was good when he was healthy. Nothing to truly worry about.

              • Blublud

                I’m not sure his health has any impact on his contract. maybe his contact, but not his contract. 😉

          • On The Farm

            I would have to agree. Just take a look at the quality of pitchers the Cubs sent to the AFL. Sure there are going to be a couple pitchers that are top organizational prospects, but they look like an exception, not the rule. I would have to think that no matter what Almora will receive 600 ABs between AA and AAA before he gets a taste of the majors. That’s pretty optimistic too in my opinion. If I had to guess, he gets a full years worth of ABs at AA, and a half year in AAA, with a chance to make the big league club out of ST in 2016.

            • ssckelley

              I agree with the 600 at bats between AA and AAA. So even though I stated he could see a September call up next season I doubt he starts 2015 at the MLB level unless he completely crushes MLB pitching.

              My point is that if Almora continues to dominate each level that the FO will keep challenging him much like they did with Baez this year. A lot of people here seem to have the mind set that high school players need 4-5 years in the minors and that is not the case with the really good ones. I remember some people making the same kind of projections with Baez last off season because they seen how he struggled at Daytona. He was 19 years old and I remember seeing 2015/2016 type of projections and now some of those same people are saying he will be up next year.

        • Blublud

          I doubt it. Almora will likely start 2014 at High A, putting him in line for a promotion to AA late in the year. It’s crazy to expect that he’ll do what Baez did at AA and get bumped to AAA in 2 months, because that type of performance is not expected. It just happens. So then he’ll then start 2015 at AA with maybe a mid year promotion to AAA. He won’t get a September call-up more than likely, because this FO doesn’t seem to waste Sept call-ups on players not on the 40 man roster. So that puts him in line to be where Baez is in 2014, but in 2016.

      • On The Farm

        BluBlud, while I am inclined to agree with you Almora has the least likely chance of making the majors as a Cub, I can’t help but envision Almora as a Jacoby Ellsbury type how they brought him up later in the year in 2007, and he gave them a nice little end of the season roster boost.

        • Blublud

          He reminds me of Ellsbury, minus the speed, The batting average, the OBP, the homeruns, the OPS and the OPS +.

          oops, maybe I should say he reminds me of Ellsbury minus Ellsbury’s steroid season.

          • On The Farm

            Careful with your comparisons of Almora, people tend to never let go of those things.

            I agree he will never have the SB numbers of Ellsbury, but he does have the similar OBP ability. I wouldn’t mind having the original Ellsbury too though.

            • Blublud

              I don’t think Almora will have Ellsbury’s hitting ability. I think they’ll walk about the same. I think they’ll have similar pop. He won’t steal nearly as many bases. I still think Almora will be a .280/320 type of hitter with 10 HR, 10 SB and GG defense in center. A very solid player, just not a super star.

    • Blublud

      Oh, and I haven’t changed my opinion on Baez. I still think he is a top 2-3 prospect in the game. But I’m starting to think Bryant is too. If I had to choose between Buxton and Baez, I would more than likely take Buxton. If I had to choose between Bryant and Buxton, I would take Bryant without a thought.

      • X The Cubs Fan

        I strangely agree.

    • Kyle

      All of their floors are considerably lower than that.

  • josh ruiter

    How could you be higher on Bryant than Buxton? I am a die hard Cubby fan no doubt. But everything that scares talent evaluators about Baez are the same things that scare folks about Bryant. His hit and swing and miss tendencies are a scare. The difference is Baez put up 37 HRs and hit in the .280s at AA as a 20 year old kid. At 21 at lower levels Bryant put up good numbers….but remember he is older, more polished and at a less challenging level. Also, Baez defensive position premium is far more valuable. I get the AFL numbers and the falling in love that happens, but Baez clearly has the higher ceiling at this point. Plus Power, Plus speed, Plus defense (if he slides to 3b), plus arm, and a projectable hit tool. Bryant has plus plus power, avg. speed, avg. def, plus arm and a projectable hit tool. I’m not saying he couldn’t be an all star, i’m just saying he currently doesn’t have a higher ceiling than Baez IMO, though probably a higher floor. Neither one are in the Buxton conversation as buxton’s ceiling is Mt. Olympus high, but his floor is real low as well.

    • Blublud

      I still think Baez has a higher ceiling, but Bryant just looks like a man among boys, and like a guy who could be a giant among men. I agree he has the lower ceiling, but right now he looks more likely to reach his ceiling. I taking Bryant because he seem like more of a sure thing to be an all-star then anybody in the minors right now, not because if they all reach their ceilings he’ll be the best player. Bryants ceiling and floor seems to be all-star bat at whatever position.

    • hansman

      “At 21 at lower levels Bryant put up good numbers….but remember he is older, more polished and at a less challenging level.”

      Bryant was also adjusting to wood bats. I think 2014 is the season where we will see the real Bryant emerge. The K’s are a concern; however, the walk-rate suggests he has a decent batting eye. The question is, was the 23% K rate the low or high-end of where his true talent lies?

      • ssckelley

        I agree and I think believe the 23% will be on the high side for Bryant. He started his college career off at about the same SO percentage and was well below 20% by his senior year. His SO percentage that he started his professional career with is no concern at all and like you said the walk rate is encouraging.

        • Blublud

          The thing is, if Bryant has 40 HR potential, we can deal with a 23% SO rate. So if it does improve, then he only gets better as a player..

  • Granddaddy

    Why does it take the cubs soooo long to bring up their prospects? It don’t take good baseball organizations that long.

    • ssckelley

      I have been thinking along the same lines. This FO is much more deliberate with their top prospects than other organizations. I think the only reason why they have pushed Baez is because they are trying to get him to fail, so they can correct the SO rate, but he keeps knocking the ball out of the park no matter what level you put him at.

      I get the impression the FO original plan was for everything to fall into place in 2015. That was the year the renovations were supposed to be completed, they could have reopened Wrigley with an exciting contending team, sell a crap load of tickets, and advertising with their new signage.