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junior lake cubsThe kiddos are doing a breakfast with Santa thing this morning. I’ve never gone to one before, and I’m not entirely sure I get the connection between Santa and breakfast. Does he bring the pancakes himself? Is there reindeer sausage? You know, holly is not to be eaten, Mr. Claus.

  • When Junior Lake’s season in the Dominican Winter League ended earlier this week, I assumed it was because he decided it was time to rest up and focus on Spring Training ahead. It’ll be a critical one for Lake – well, a critical early season – who is trying to lock down a starting job in the Cubs’ outfield, and, absent another major move, left field will be his to lose. Shutting things down in the DWL would have made some sense. Turns out, it wasn’t necessarily Lake’s decision, according to the Tribune. The Cubs were the ones who invoked a “fatigue clause” in the deal permitting Lake to play in the DWL (it’s a standard clause for big leaguers playing in offseason leagues). Given that Lake was dominating the league at the time, and getting valuable outfield experience, it’s fair to assume that the Cubs wouldn’t have shut him down unless they were quite serious about giving him a legitimate shot to win an outfield job next year. I no longer expect the Cubs to make an addition in left field (most of the reasonable options had long gone out the window anyway), and I think the team will enter the year with an outfield of Lake in left, Sweeney/Ruggiano in center, and Schierholtz/another righty in right. I understand why the outfield is going to look like that, but it won’t exactly put up MLB average outfield production. (Late in the season, I offered a couple of pieces digging into whether Lake could realistically provide above average production in left field, or in center field.)
  • Obligatory acknowledgement: yes, I think Josh Vitters will also get a nominal chance to win the left field job. I know nothing of his ability to play passable defense in left field, and I’m not sure his overall upside is as high as Lake’s, but Vitters’ bat certainly projects to be better if he maxes it out.
  • A great piece from Mark Gonzales in the Tribune about bench coach Brandon Hyde, his time as a bench coach with the Marlins, and his unique role in helping transition Rick Renteria into the manager’s seat. The more time we have to settle into the idea that the guy who was directing the farm system over the past two years is now on the big league bench, the more I really, really like it. Not only does Hyde have experience in the position, but he’s going to have a uniquely intimate view of all of the young talent on the way up. Who better to assist RR, and to serve as a conduit – I mean that in a good, non-pejorative way – for the front office when it comes to making game-related decisions about the young players?
  • The ZiPS projection on the Minnesota Twins is out, and it’s interesting to see how much impact adding a few big-ish free agents can have on a young, rebuilding team’s expected output. In the Twins’ case, the answer is … not much. That’s probably a bit idiosyncratic, given that ZiPS appears to hate (relatively speaking) Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes. Salient point here is only that it takes a lot of offseason movement to project a 2013 stinker as a 2014 winner. Most dramatic team-level swings in outcomes from year to year come from young players developing, veteran players bouncing back, and random players surprising/fluking.
  • A FanGraphs study indicates that, in the post-PED era, hitters no longer peak in their mid-to-late-20s. They don’t peak at all, actually. They just immediately start a decline from the early-20s on. It’s a striking revelation … HOWEVA, it is markedly neutered by the fact that the study includes such a short window of time, and that’s during an era when the offensive output across the board has been decreasing every year for reasons wholly unrelated to player peaking. So, across those seven years, the likelihood of seeing “peaks” is dramatically reduced. Offensive output needs to stabalize first before we can really try to figure out if hitter peaking has changed.
  • In case you missed any of the moves yesterday, the Cubs picked up 24-year-old righty Liam Hendriks from the Twins, and made a trio of minor league signings.
  • Jay offers his comprehensive thoughts on the enduring Cutler/McCown debate for the Bears fans among you.
  • And BN’er Chris’s 12 Days of Cubsmas contest – during which there are 12 chances to win a free copy of Chris’s book – continues apace.
  • Bret Epic

    I’m excited to see what Lake could do in a full season. I think he’s a very uniquely skilled player, though I don’t see him as a “Theo” like player. Type of guy that I could imagine eventually play passable, if not slightly better than average OF, a batting average around .275-.290, maybe an OBP between .325-345, 12-18 home runs a year and what I’m really hoping for is 30-40 SB a year. Lake might not project anywhere near this, but this is about what I would imagine as an optimistic view of Lake. Guy has a lot of tools, he just needs to settle into the major leagues.

    • Sorianofan1999

      That’s what I would project for his prime. I hope he makes it.

    • http://www.frenchrocks.net Ian Afterbirth

      Shawon Dunston redux in the outfield and I have no problem with it.

  • Sorianofan1999

    Brett, I remember reading your earlier articles about his expected production next year. But could you please remind me what they were?

  • FFP

    Out Christmas shopping and checking BN. Consequences of the Fangraphs article seem seismic. That article and Brett’s use of the terms “post-PED” and “neutered” in his gloss pointing to it nearly made me drop my morning’s purchase; had to adjust my package.

  • Steve Ontiveros’ Mustache

    Any chance Vitters would be the righty to platoon with Schierholtz in RF? If he can also back up 1B/3B, he might be a valuable bench piece. IF he can hit and IF he can be passable at the corner outfield and infield positions, which I have my doubts about.

    • Bret Epic

      In his minor league career (through the Cubs, not including Winter Leagues or anything of that sort) he has played 3 games in the outfield and 46 at first base. He played pretty well in the 28 games in Iowa this year, but if he’s going to transition to a different position, I think he’s going to need more experience. Maybe they’ll try out their current outfielders, sell high on the ones they can and bring Vitters up later in the year.

    • cubsin

      You forgot the most important if – can he stay healthy. Vitters is adequate (but not much more) at 3B and 1B. We’ll find out about LF/RF in Spring Training. If he looks decent in the outfield and hits well in Spring Training, he should make the Opening Day roster. Otherwise, it’s back to Iowa to play every day in the outfield.

      • Bret Epic

        This is true. Forgot to include it when I mentioned the 28 games. Health, of course is a looming issue. Hopefully he’s able to stay healthy.

    • jt

      I was wondering this also?

    • Steve Ontiveros’ Mustache

      Good points, guys. If I was Vitters I would be praying for health and get to Arizona on Jan 6 to start taking fly balls.

    • cub2014

      I think Vitters if he hits this spring will get the
      starts for Schierholtz against lefties.

      Of course my greatest hope (its looking better)
      Is signing Choo. Then the outfield and the
      lineup looks way better.

  • YourResidentJag

    Bruce Levine ‏@MLBBruceLevine 58m
    Yankees interest in Cubs Darwin Barney may pick up .

    • macpete22

      Let’s hope so. I doubt we’d get much in return though

    • Steve Ontiveros’ Mustache

      Don’t care what we get in return. Anything at all would be nice. Addition by subtraction. I would rather see Valbuena or Watkins at 2B this year.

      • X The Cubs Fan

        Saves us 2 million.

        • Caryatid62

          That won’t be used elsewhere…

          • Bret Epic

            Ryan Roberts also plays some 2B.

          • Polar Bear

            Cary, Just wondering… Are you born with that jewel in your belly button and the purple afro or do you achieve it after so many hours and comments???

            • Caryatid62

              It’s a gift.

      • macpete22

        Good point. It’d probably be a lottery ticket arm in the lower level minors

        • Mick

          Or some international pool money. This would free up Valbuena to play 2B and Olt at 3B.

  • mdavis

    That outfield leaves something to be desired ha. But I’m actually thinking Sweeney will not be platooned. He hits lefties alright, and I think Ruggiano platoons RF. Vitters would be nice to have on the bench, if he can handle the corners. Can back up at 3rd, and 1st.

    • Bret Epic

      .313/.365/.458 against lefties in 2013. 48 AB isn’t a huge amount, but it’s still only 5 less than Schierholtz against lefties, who hit .170/.308/.245 this year.

      • mdavis

        yeah i seem to remember for a bit they were only playing sweeney against lefties or somehting. look he’s not going to light the world on fire, but he’ll hold his own in CF. i’m not concerned about him.

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    I’m happy that Lake is getting the opportunity. He is an exciting player to watch and plays with intensity. I am more worried about Schierholtz as an everyday player in right. We’ll see how he does against left handed pitching. As for Vitters I have my doubts.

    • mdavis

      i think Ruggiano will platoon with him. Possibly Vitters, but I don’t believe Schierholtz will face too many lefties.

  • Gcheezpuff

    Levine is speculating Yankees interest in Darwin Barney. In my opinion I think the Yankees should also be interested in Edwin Jackson and his 200 innings a season at a reasonable 11 million per season for 3 years. How about the Cubs package Ejax, and Barney for Brett Gardner (who becomes a trade chip at the deadline) Gary Sanchez (catching) and Manny Banuelos (take a chance on a young talented pitcher recovering from Tommy John).

    • http://bleachernation.com woody

      Seems like everybody is assuming that Jackson doesn’t have a bounce back year.

      • Mick

        I think this speculation does assume Jackson has a bounce back year otherwise the Yankees wouldn’t be trading Brett Gardner and their best prospects for him. I don’t foresee any SP’s getting traded though until after Tanaka signs. Then the Yankees might be scrambling.

    • YourResidentJag

      That’d be great.

    • Jim L

      That would be a nice return for the Cubs; probably too much to give up from the Yankees POV.

      • Gcheezpuff

        Maybe, but the Yankees farm is kinda weak and pitching is at a premium right now. I do think Ejax will bounce back making is contract a good value which is why the Cubs should ask for good value in a trade. The Yankees would probably have a hard time parting with Sanchez, but Manny is a lottery ticket coming off TJ right now and Gardner only has 1 year of control. On the flip side, the Cubs would be giving up 2 MLB caliber players regardless of what people say about Barney. I’d imagine the Cubs could help even things out with a prospect.

    • cub2014

      then take the 11mil saved and put it down on
      Choo

      Now your OF is Choo,Gardner,Lake,Schierholtz
      or Sweeney & Ruggioni

    • TK

      The Yanks arent the Cubs — they arent just looking to put warm bodies on the field. They want to WIN. they arent gonna trade a lot for a guy whose primary value lies in endurance, NOT in giving the team a good chance to win. EJax would be nothing but filler. he would do nothing to improve their record. Not saying they wouldnt take EJax, but dont expect to get so much back for him. Barney and him could get Banuelos and Gardner, but they arent giving up Sanchez for that garbage.

      • Gcheezpuff

        I think you are severely under valuing EJax and Brett Gardner has only 1 year of Control.

        • TK

          Career ERA of 4.47 (post-season = 5.56), WHIP of 1.44 (post-season = 1.607), K/BB rate of 1.99 (post-season = 1.53), in slow but steady decline since 2010 . . . The list of below-average-performance proof goes on and on and on. He had something like 3 good seasons, in 10 total (?).

          Im not undervalueing him. You are delusional, or you’re thinking of the wrong guy. Edwin Jackson and his $39m over 3 yrs, with Barney, IS NOT A VALUABLE PACKAGE. That will not get you the Yankees’ top prospect. Maybe Banuelos and Gardner. Sanchez? No way in magic dragon land!

          Puff, puff, give . . . Duuuuude.

    • Jason P

      If the Cubs are struggling to a get a top 50 prospect for Samardzija, I highly doubt they’re going to get a 4-win center fielder, a top 50-prospect, and a lottery ticket arm for a defense-only utility infielder and a bounce-back #4 starter candidate.

    • Mick

      What about this scenario:

      Yankees get Barney and E .Jackson

      Cubs get Ichiro, Luis Severino, Ty Hensley, and Manny Banuelos

      The Cubs then buyout Ichiro to let him sign wherever he wants.

      • ClevelandCubsFan

        I’ve never heard of that being done… but the strategy behind it is kinda brilliant. It’s basically no different than signing guys way over slot a couple years ago or signing IFAs for big bucks more recently.

  • http://BN Sacko

    I would like to make an opinion on behalf of a lot of Cub fans but thats to risky so on behalf of myself I am excited about Lake, Rizzo, Castro, Castillo, Shark, Wood and even a little bit Sweeney. Is it fair to say that most of us would have like to see some better players around them from the WM. However as they say there could be some moves after the dust settles.
    I like most, I think, would like to see something closer to a .450 .500 season. the last two have been to painful.

  • jt

    avg 2013 NL OPS for the 3 OF positions was about 0.750.
    on a very strict platoon Schierholz, Ruggiano and Sweeney probably combine to close to that. So, it seems that how far below ‘avg’ would depend upon Lake and “the other guy”.

  • Ivy Walls

    RE: Lake, I definitely see him starting in LF for now, though I would like to see if the Cubs could develop some new organizational discipline and develop a genuine starting super utility player, a player who can play six or even seven positions. Vitters might be able to do it with five spots, but Lake could do it with seven. Another option is Olt platooning in RF, where he too could play 3B and 1B in spots.

    One reason to develop Lake as a super utility starter is allowing the LF spot to open when Bryant ascends. Got to think that Baez comes to 3B pushing Bryant to the OF.

  • Steve

    If the Fansgraph study that indicated hitters, in the post-PED era, no longer peak from age 24-28 is true then it might be time to move Starlin Castro to another team. His stats across the board have diminished in each of the last two seasons from what they were earlier in his career.

    • hansman

      It’s not really true. When they review the performance using wRC+ the line falls much more in line with the rest of them, just without as much run up to the peak.

      Basically, teams have gotten better at getting guys ready before the majors and squeezing more pre-peak production out of them.

      • FFP

        –Generally better at getting guys ready. There are exceptions. Castro is probably one of them, Steve.

  • johnny chess Aka 2much2say

    There is a glaring hole in Center. Choo?

  • http://Bleachernation.com Frank

    In a disappointing offseason so far,there is one thing I’m very excited about. I’m very excited about Ricky and the coaching staff. For the first time in a long time,I think the team will be on the same page and will play hard. I know this doesn’t make up for lack of talent and may only add a few more wins but it should be more enjoyable to watch. Just my opinion from listening to Ricky talk.

  • johnny chess Aka 2much2say

    Lake Choo Castro Rizzo Schierholtz 3rd 2nd Castillo Who starts the year at 3rd, Valbuena at 2nd?

    • mdavis

      Choo is a pipe dream. I think Olt is given every opp to break camp as the 3B. 2nd, if Barney is dealt, some combo of Valbuena, Roberts, Murphy until Baez potentially comes up.

    • cub2014

      If the Cubs spend the money (probably not) Choo
      for 5 years fits for so many reasons……….

      1. OBP: the cubs were the worst
      2. No left handed OF bats among the prospects
      3. Desperately need a leadoff hitter
      4. Versatility: can play CF or move depending on
      which prospects make it.

      If the Rangers sign Cruz then I think the Cubs are
      a real contender for Choo (if they will spend the money)

      • mdavis

        right, but if the price drops to where the cubs would be intersted, i think the rangers swoop in and scoop him up. i just don’t see any way the cubs get choo, unless they overpay, which they will not.

        • cub2014

          thats why the rangers need to sign Cruz, so they
          are out of the Choo sweepstakes.

  • johnny chess Aka 2much2say

    I look at Ruggiano and Sweeney as pop off the bench

    • josh ruiter

      Agree with this…If Sweeney and Ruggiano were 4/5 OF types that is beginning to take shape as a very capable lineup. However, when they expected to produce as starters, then we are in trouble. Lineup out of ST of Choo, Castro, Rizzo, Schierholtz/Ruggiano, Olt, Lake, Valbuena/Murphy, Castillo, and end of year plug Baez in for Valbuena/Murphy and put him in the 4/5 spot and possibly even Bryant plugged into the lineup in place of Schierholtz/Ruggiano. That would let you play with some combo of Choo, Castro, Bryant, Rizzo, Baez, Lake, Olt, Castillo…and doesn’t rule out the possibility of a lineup of Choo, Alcantara, Bryant, Rizzo, Baez, Lake, Castro, Castillo which begins to look like a sustainable long term lineup…and if lake flops but Olt sticks then you have the option of moving one of Baez or Alcantara to the OF as well or Olt himself could man LF. Then you begin to see a young lineup of kids who can produce.
      Bottom line, in all these scenarios you still have a need for a leadoff man and a 3rd outfielder, and chances in the next 2 years at least one of Olt, Soler, Bryant, Baez, Alcantara, and Lake will prove better suited as a bench or trade piece…probably two of them. And don’t sleep on Soler, remember before he played half a year on a broken leg he was bringing it in ST last season. He could force the issue as well.

      • wilbur

        now you’re talking. Maybe Lake was pulled not because of fatigue, but because of a trade coming….

        If the cubs were really in on choo, would boras be calling them an all day sucker?

  • Phil Oddo

    If we were to trade Barney i would put Ryan Roberts at second, from what I’ve heard he is pretty good at defense and he has tatoos so……

  • Die hard

    Dunston Jr spring will make Cubs decision difficult not to keep him on 25 to start season in CF

    • mdavis

      ^ this is humorous. From Boise to the bigs!!!!!!!!

  • regimezefelerski

    Haven’t heard much about Brett Jackson. Have the Cubs given up on his chances in the outfield? Anyone know? Thanks

    • mdavis

      think he has a LOT to prove to this FO if he ever wants another opportunity. might be best to try and swap him for another “change of scenery” type prospect.

    • regimezefelerski

      probably right, Maybe had they left his swing alone? We know he will always strike out, but he seemed to show such promise…

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        Jackson is good in every area of the game except making contact at the plate. Unfortunately, that significantly limits his chances.

        He can have a career as a high strikeout guy. Right now he is an obscenely high strikeout guy, though, and that needs to improve.

        • mdavis

          yup there’s a lot to like. but if you cant hit the ball, the rest of it doesn’t matter. hopefully he’s healthy this year and gets comfortable with that “new swing” or whatever. idk. i’m not counting on him for anything but minor league depth at this point.

  • The Dude Abides

    The Twins are idiots, they should not be attempting to improve their team.

    It’s funny they make moves and it gets just the mention you would expect from this sight justifying not spending (even though Hughes was an early projection for the Cubs listed here).

    The Cubs make smaller moves and it’s applauded they are doing what they can considering there resources.

    Just possibly that is what the Twins are doing as well.

    • wilbur

      you know they stopped making twinkies dont youi?

  • johnny chess Aka 2much2say

    Olt Vitters Jackson Valbuena Matt S. Time to pony up boys.
    Barney?

  • johnny chess Aka 2much2say

    HOLES – 3rd 2nd CF Closer / RH Set-up / LH Set-up / #2 SP #3 SP

    • Rizzovoir Dog

      Strop and Russell are the setup men.

  • johnny chess Aka 2much2say

    If the Cubs Trade Shark and sign Tanaka what do they gain at the Major league level, besides more pitching prospects?

    • mdavis

      more control, more pitchers that fit with the flow of the prospects coming up. just for example, and this is based on nothing, lets say they do a deal with the o’s for Gausman and Wright + some lower level guys. Gausman can go in the rotation this year, Wright could too possibly, and they are on the same timeline as a 25 yr old potential ace (Tanaka) and will be controlled for 5-6 years as Baez, Bryant, Almora, Soler, Alcantara, conceivably arrive to the bigs.

    • X The Cubs Fan

      Youth and control.

  • hansman

    “For 20 seasons, hitter production began to decline significantly around age 30. Over the past seven seasons, the decline has occurred immediately.”

    For anyone who is begging and pleading for us to sign 31 year old free agents left and right.

  • cub2014

    if they trade barney he will probably revert back
    to 2012 numbers so dont give him away.

    if he is gone I have to think they will give watkins
    at 2B and Olt at 3B every chance to make it this
    spring, because you have Valbuena and Murphy
    to fill in. At least until Baez,Bryant & Alcantera make
    it up hopefully.

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    A lot of chatter about Barney being traded to the Yankees. If it happened you would have to assume that Valbuena would be the every day second baseman. What motive would the Cubs have in the trade. Can’t think that they would receive too much. But i think that Barney is due to make more that Valbuena as Barney is arbitration eligible. But I find it hard to believe that a salary dump of such minor proportions would be of importance to the FO. I like Barney and have to believe that gold glove defense is an asset that the Yankees would like to have. With Valbuena playing second all winter it makes me wonder if the FO has been planning to trade Barney from the git go.

  • cub2014

    trade Barney to the yankees for a prospect
    Jackson to Phillies for Brown and a prospect?
    (frees up 13mil in salary) sign choo.

    then you can trade Schierholtz to one of these teams
    that is desperate for another outfielder and get some
    prospects

    Now your lineup is pretty good:
    Choo
    Castro
    Brown
    Castillo? until Baez or Bryant show up
    Rizzo
    Lake
    Watkins
    Olt

    • bbmoney

      I don’t think Brown is making $13m.

      • cub2014

        jackson is making 13mil Brown made 800k last year
        and is arb eligible.

        basically move barney, schierholtz & jackson 18mil
        bring in Choo & Brown add 22 mil

        • bbmoney

          I see. I’d be shocked if the Phillies would do that even with reports that they want to move Brown.

          Amaro would point out Jackson only has 78 career wins.

          • cub2014

            to get brown (w/o haviing to take Papelbon)
            you would have to add a couple of prospects.
            but they have shown interest in Jackson in the
            past and he probably will bounce back next year.

  • 1ski

    Hey brett, I’ve eaten holly and she and I both liked it.

    • TK

      Do you completely lack the brain filter that tells most of us that such a comment in reference to his young child’s activity is grossly inappropriate?

  • Fastball

    Barney will hit .270 for the Yankees win another gold glive. Seems logical and probable if he gets traded. Dont all Cubs turn into studs immediately after being traded. Sure seems that in the last 50 years.

    • cub2014

      fastball, I think it is more than likely that Barney
      bounces back next year. But he still doesnt fit
      into their long term plans.

  • http://permalink papad1945

    I really like the package of Jackson & Barney going somewhere. If we could get a right handed bat for the outfield & a catching prospect in return.

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