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cubs new spring trainingDid you know that the “It’s Friday, Friday, Friday” girl has a follow-up, appropriately named “Saturday”? The problem? It doesn’t have the kitschy awfulness that made “Friday” a hit. I’m not saying “Saturday” is good – I’m just saying it’s too good to be good (but not good enough to be good).

  • Mark Gonzales of the Tribune offers a look at the new Cubs Spring Training facilities in Mesa, complete with pictures. How’s this for bad timing? The Little Boy’s first birthday is the day after Opening Day at Spring Training, forcing me to choose between missing the first game at the new ballpark or missing my son’s first birthday. Under no circumstances will I be missing the latter, though his party isn’t until the day after his birthday. There’s a conceivable path to doing both, but it would be dicey. Long story short: you may not see me covering Opening Day at the new ballpark.
  • Speaking of the new ballpark, here are more details on the Wrigleyville West commercial development that is to eventually accompany the ballpark. The previously-discussed hotel is the only piece set in motion at this time. According to AZ Central, the Cubs were supposed to have restaurant space in place by Spring Opening Day, but that didn’t happen (either by choice or circumstance – it’s unclear). So Mesa, itself, took over. A considerable reason for having a Wrigleyville West in the first place was to expand the Cubs’ opportunities for commercial growth – and revenue – so it’s odd to hear that the team has foregone some opportunities. That said, there’s still plenty of development space for the Cubs, and, so far, this is just one piece.
  • Friend of the program Harry Pavlidis chatted over at Baseball Prospectus yesterday, touching on, among other things, Javier Baez’s lightning quick hands. When asked to compare Baez and Miguel Sano, a top three overall prospect, Pavlidis appears to prefer Baez because of his position (shortstop versus third base), his nearly equivalent power (Baez is a 75 if Sano is an 80, he said), and his superior hit tool. As usual, the whole chat’s a good read.
  • A Vine Line Q&A with presumptive Cubs starting center fielder Ryan Sweeney, who notes that he worked with Rod Carew last offseason on some swing changes. It was a very small sample, but in his stub year with the Cubs, he put up the best offensive numbers of his career (.266/.324/.448, 109 OPS+, .337 wOBA). Pair those numbers with average or slightly above average center field defense, and you’d actually have a great starter out there. But, as I said, small sample (212 PA).
  • Apropos of yesterday’s Hall of Fame discussion, the four eligible voters from the Daily Herald reveal and discuss their ballots. Bruce Miles would’ve voted for 12 guys if he’d had the space (voters are allowed just 10 names), and Scot Gregor pretty much nails the group I’d vote for, too: Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, and Frank Thomas.
  • CubFan Paul

    Baez is too violent in the field (still) to be a major league shortstop. He would only start there if the team had no other options

    • Chad

      Have you seen him play a lot? I have not seen him play, so just curious how you came to this conclusion about his defense?

      • CubFan Paul

        Just Spring last year.

        That conclusion comes from scouts who saw him play all year ~postseason reports

        • Chad

          Ok, that’s fine. Was just trying to determine if it was your analysis or regurgitation of scout’s analysis.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          I would not describe his fielding as violent at all. Some of swings, sure, but not his glove work. When I saw him late in the season he was very steady v given his experience. He isn’t MLB ready right now, but mid season is very believable.

          • Chad

            Luke, what are the scout’s perception then. I have read some places where people think he sticks at SS and other where the cubs should just move him now and quit messing around. Paul obviously read someone’s very negative opinion and since you have seen him in person and I think you are more in the know I am curious of the range of reports you have seen on Baez.

            • CubFan Paul

              “what are the scout’s perception then”

              I’ve seen no negative reports on Baez, except from early in the season before he got going.

              I’ve also not seen any professional opinions mid season til now saying he could stick at short. Everyone knows he’ll end up at 2B, 3B, or CF.

              Keeping him at short now is all about trade value/asset stuff.

              • Chad

                You’ve seen no negative reports on Baez, yet you classify his defense as violent? No comprende.

                I’ve seen varying reports. However, he is 20 and what if the reason they want him to stick at SS is because his bat provides the most value there with adequate defense? What if it makes Castro expendable? I’m just saying what ifs. I think he moves too, but you never know.

                • CubFan Paul

                  “yet you classify his defense as violent? No comprende”

                  Not being awesome at something doesn’t have to be classafied as negeative

                  “what if the reason they want him to stick at SS is because his bat provides the most value there with adequate defense?”

                  His bat plays everywhere because of the power. If he can provide above average defense at 3B, 2B, or the OF over just adequate defense at SS you move him, becauses his bat doesn’t matter.

                  “I originally asked Luke, not you.”

                  I was clearing this up: ‘Paul obviously read someone’s very negative opinion’

                  • Norm

                    CFP: “If he can provide above average defense at 3B, 2B, or the OF over just adequate defense at SS you move him, becauses his bat doesn’t matter.”

                    Disagree.
                    Adequate at SS vs. Above Average at 3B, 2B, or OF is irrelevant.
                    It’s Baez at SS vs. Castro at SS. If Baez is better, he should play SS.
                    If we do go back to your example, I’ll still take an adequate SS over a above average 2B, 3B, OF. An adequate SS is not all that easy to find.

                    • CubFan Paul

                      “Adequate at SS vs. Above Average at 3B, 2B, or OF”

                      Meaning if Baez is average/below-average defensively at SS but still hitting .270/.340/.500 vs Baez hitting that and playing above average defense at 2B, 3B, or OF.

                      There’s more value at the other positions (2B 3B CF) with average-plus defense and that stick.

                    • Norm

                      “There’s more value at the other positions (2B 3B CF) with average-plus defense and that stick.”

                      I don’t think that’s true.

                    • CubFan Paul

                      “I don’t think that’s true”

                      I’m trying to say it’s more valuable to have him elsewhere fielding well compared to him staying at SS and fielding poorly.

                      His bat would make him a plus 3B, 2B, and CF. At SS, he’d be slightly above average because his defense would drag down his value.

                    • Chad

                      If he is fielding poorly that is true, but everyone is talking about him fielding adequately. I would expect that a poor defender would not be put at your most prolific defensive position.

                    • DocPeterWimsey

                      The Yankees did fine with Jeter at that position for years, and he was rarely better than a poor fielder despite hagiographies to the contrary.

                    • CubFan Paul

                      “The Yankees did fine with Jeter at that position for years”

                      And if Jeter had a bigger bat and profiled as a plus defender elsewhere, he would of been moved years ago.

              • Chad

                Also, you must have not noticed that I originally asked Luke, not you. Conveniently over looked that I’m sure when quoting me.

              • mjhurdle

                People that I have read (like Jason Parks) think that Baez can play SS, but that he may be a better fit at 3B.

                I think there is a difference between someone saying “Baez would be abysmal at SS” and someone saying “3B may be Baez best long term position.”

                Theo himself said that his scouting report says that Baez can play any position. I don’t think you can write that totally off as retaining trade value.

                I personally think that where Baez ends up will depend more on where the needs at the MLB level shake out. If Bryant comes up and is able to handle 3B and Castro continues to improve at SS, I could see Baez at 2B. If Bryant has to move to the OF for defensive reasons, i could see Baez at 3B. If Castro doesn’t rebound offensively and regresses defensively, i could see Baez there.

                • CubFan Paul

                  “think that where Baez ends up will depend more on where the needs at the MLB level shake out”

                  Ding. Ding. Ding.

                  & don’t forget about Olt at 3B

                  • Chad

                    But you said he is definitely going to move to 2B, 3B, or OF (I don’t see OF happening) so what happens if the MLB level needs him at SS? How can that be ding ding ding, but not jive with what you said earlier.

                    Also, violent is not equivalent to “not awesome at”, 1 has a negative connotation the other means he can be really really good, but not the best, very different. And we know that a player’s bat has more value at certain positions than others, even if it is good at all of them it can have more value at one than the other.

                    • CubFan Paul

                      “so what happens if the MLB level needs him at SS? How can that be ding ding ding, but not jive with what you said earlier”

                      …I said @8:46am “He would only start there if the team had no other options”

                      “violent is not equivalent to..”

                      Violent is a baseball term defined as “plays too fast for the position. It’s not instinctual, just athleticism”

                      “even if it is good at all of them it can have more value at one than the other”

                      BECAUSE OF DEFENSE as I stated above

                    • Chad

                      1. The cubs do have other options (Castro for example) but if Baez is more valuable than Castro then I would hope the cubs would make that move. That is not a “no other option” but a better option scenario.

                      2. Please send me the baseball dictionary. I would like to look up violent. I have heard violent for a swing, but not defense. You described his defense well, and I can’t argue that because I have not seen him play. However, I don’t think playing too fast is a horrible thing for a 20 year old in AA. He needs time to settle down, but his potential is there. That is what scouts are looking at.

                      3. It’s not just defense that makes a player’s offense more valuable at certain positions than others, it’s also the expectations of the offense at those positions. The fact that you expect a 3B or 1B to have X home runs, and a/b/c slash line every year, but can get that same output from your SS that makes that player more valuable as a short stop because you should be able to find a player at 3B or 1B that can equal that output more easily than a SS that can. So for a very SIMPLE example 20HRs at SS is more valuable than 20 HRs at 1B even if the defesne is slightly better at 1B.

                    • CubFan Paul

                      “The cubs do have other options (Castro for example) but if Baez is more valuable than Castro”

                      Castro’s bat doesn’t profile anywhere else so he’s the more valuable SS.

                      “However, I don’t think playing too fast is a horrible thing for a 20 year old in AA”

                      I don’t think its a horrible thing either (as stated above&below).

                      “it’s also the expectations of the offense at those positions”

                      No sh*t Sherlock, but that’s not the topic.

                    • Chad

                      1. I think Castro could work at SS, but that is not what I was saying. If Baez is a better option at SS than Castro I could see Castro getting traded. However, right now the cubs do have an option at SS is what I was saying. But Baez could move Castro out of that role if he’s good enough. Castro would be a better option at 2B than Barney no?

                      2. When you say no “crap” sherlock” that is not what we are talking about. Yes it is. We are talking about bats profiling at positions etc. You said the only difference in a player’s value to a position is his defense and I explained how a player’s offense actually can make him more valuable at different positions, which you had previously argued it was only the defense. However, you then blindly argued with yourself by saying that Castro’s bat only profiles at SS, which doesn’t make sense if defense is the only thing that makes a difference in a player’s value at a position as you previously stated.

                      “His bat plays everywhere because of the power. If he can provide above average defense at 3B, 2B, or the OF over just adequate defense at SS you move him, becauses his bat doesn’t matter.”

                    • Chad

                      I meant Castro could work at 2B

    • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

      Can you describe what you mean by violent fielding? Does he dive at too many balls, throw to hard, stab at the ball with his glove? I’ve heard about his violent swing and plate approach but but never is fielding. And if fielding is an issue it won’t matter if he can hit like he has in the minors.

      • CubFan Paul

        He plays too fast for the position. It’s not instinctual, just athleticism. There’s nothing wrong with that because the bat plays anywhere.

        • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

          Okay that I’ve heard but I would call it violent and I think that’s what’s caused all the confusion.

          • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

            Wouldn’t

    • fortyonenorth

      I don’t know if I characterize Baez’s fielding as violent, but I don’t think he’ll stick at SS in the MLB. Based on my limited exposure to him, he has good reactions (i.e. 3B type) but you don’t see that silky smoothness that is the hallmark of better shortstops. Sure, he COULD be slotted in at SS, but I think he would make Castro look like Ozzie Smith.

      I would love to be proved wrong, but just don’t hold your breadth on Baez being a defensive upgrade.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      “He [Baez] would only start there if the team had no other options.”

      Not to pile it on, but that is never why a (well-run) MLB team chooses who to play a position. Ideally, you put the best hitter who *can* play the position at any position.

  • Dcubsfan

    You are a wise man on choosing your priorities :)

  • hansman

    Hall of fame rod carew…He converted.

  • Blackhawks1963

    Baez is going to have to become adept at hitting the breaking ball. That’s the next big leap needed in his development. His bat speed and physical gifts have enabled him to overwhelm pitching in the lower minors. He’ll get a better taste of breaking balls at Triple A. I don’t think the Cubs rush Baez so far as this goes. Let him spend 2014 at Triple A and be in a position for a September callup.

    • Chad

      Strange, I actually agree with something BlackHawk said, and not just some of it, but most of it. I actually have no idea if Baez is currently good or bad at hitting breaking balls.

      • http://vdcinc.biz 70’scub

        I saw him get frozen a breaking ball for strike 2 last summer, strike 3 was a swing and miss on a breaking 1/2 foot low and outside.

        • Voice of Reason

          70’scub

          You could be describing any professional baseball player.

          • http://vdcinc.biz 70’scub

            Baez…is not any player

            • Voice of Reason

              Neither was Wade Boggs, Ryne Sandberg, Pete Rose….

              • DocPeterWimsey

                Yes, those guys would have gotten frozen on great breaking balls. (Well, Boggs would have picked it up well enough to foul it off if it had been strike 3.) However, they also were (usually) able to distinguish between an outside corner fastball and a slider in the other batter’s box.

                This is why pitch recognition is such an important tool. Unfortunately, it also is one that cannot be trained or improved upon greatly.

        • http://vdcinc.biz 70’scub

          On another AB in the same game he hit a line drive over the SS glove hand that one hopped the foul pole, the ball hooked about 25 feet and carried 300 plus.

        • On The Farm

          So your assessment of Baez’s ability to hit a breaking ball is going to come from the sample size of one at bat?

          Did you think that Kevin Kouzmanoff was going to hit a home run in every at bat after he hit a grand slam his first career AB too?

    • Voice of Reason

      Blackhawks1963,

      While I understand what you’re saying, remember that Triple A isn’t that much different than Double A. In fact, you could argue that the better prospects and players are at Double A. Triple A is full of veterans who are waiting for someone to get hurt at the major league level or prospects who just aren’t panning out and can’t make it at the major league level.

      I do agree, however, that Baez will have trouble with the hook in the big leagues. He is young though and, with his talent, will hopefully adapt and be able to hit the curve in the near future.

      • Chad

        I agree that the better players are at AA, however, AAA is generally a place were almost ML pitchers hang out and are much more polished. At AAA Baez will see more breaking balls than fastballs where AA is a lot more FB working on control etc.
        The talents are different but so are the things people are working on at each level.

  • bpaoni

    Jeff Bagwell? Does anyone remember how much he shrunk after drug testing began? He went from looking like Mark McGuire to looking like Craig Biggio

    • Rebuilding

      A lot of people will say Bagwell has never been linked to PEDs. But for me he didn’t pass the eye test. And after testing he must have been on one hell of a diet. It’s unfortunate if he was clean, but I don’t buy it. With that said I’m for letting them all in within the context of the era

  • cubbiesOHcubbies

    These players arent going to want to come back to Wrigley after spring training ends. How many teams go to spring training to play in a better stadium with more amenities than their MLB park? This is just pathetic and sad.

    • FFP

      “just pathetic and sad”– I had the exact opposite reaction. Good is good. More time on the Cubs will be spent in a modern, professional environment.
      I also saw it as a hint of what’s to come as they sink their teeth into a modern, professional rehab of the historic park. I don’t know about “just,” but I found Mesa inspirational. It lifted my spirits. Good is good. Up is up.

  • sect209row15

    As an invested season ticket holder I’m content with the progress TR and family has made. Having watched the Wrigley family and Tribune group do very little over decades it’s remarkable what they’ve accomplished in five years. When we look back in ten years at all that’s been created and remodeled it will seem miraculous compared to the 30 plus years the tribune was in command.

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

    Among the things I love about the Bullets: you really never know what direction the comments are going to go. Sure, that’s true of most posts, but with the Bullets, there are a lot of directions pre-built-in … and then you guys go nuts. It’s fun.

    • Chad

      I knew you did it just to watch the randomness. I just envision you (and your little boy) sitting there with smirks on your faces which turn into evil laughs as the day moves forward.

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    My take on Baez hitting breaking balls is this. From everything I have read he has fast hands which help him to develope the A+ bat speed. That means that in theory he can lay back on a curveball a little longer than the average hitter. He has to learn that he doesn’t have to knock the skin off the ball every time he’s at bat. The really good hitters like Votto don’t try to do too much. And I think that there are plenty of pitchers in AA that have good breaking stuff. You don’t make it to that level with a one pitch arsenal. Obviously Baez has been able to make the neccesary adjustments because he hammered AA pitching as easily as he did A ball. I don’t think he is a one trick pony. From everything I have read he is a hard worker and an eager student and the coaches he has worked with will attest to that. The Ego is an obstacal that afflicts us all and a good dose of humility and great work ethic will serve him well. How that applies to Castro I don’t know? Part of humility is accepting criticism and the willingness to have an open mind and give new things a try. I don’t think Baez will ever carry as high of a batting average as Bryant, but I think their HR’s and RBI’s will be comparable. I see Bryant as a Matt Holliday type guy that will hit over .300 in most years. Bryant is a much more polished hitter than Baez at this point, but with that Shefield like swing Baez has a tremendous upside.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      The situation is far simpler than this. It comes down to a basic tool: pitch recognition. Good hitters like Votto does not “not try to do to much.” Far more frequently than most batters, Votto can identify a pitch when it’s 10′ from a pitcher’s hand. That, coupled with training, lets him trigger a reaction: swing A, swing B, swing C or no swing.

      Votto didn’t learn how to do this: when he was Baez’s age, he was walking in 15% of his PA’s (as well as fanning in 20% of his PA’s). Moreover, Votto’s MLB numbers are unusual: he’s actually improved his walk rate while slightly decreasing his K’ rate. (Votto has walked, K’d or homered in over 40% of his PA’s: he is the model Three True Outcome batter!)

      As Baez lacks this basic tool, and as no amount of hard work or coaching can provide it, this will always be a limitation for him.

      • CubFan Paul

        “As Baez lacks this basic tool, and as no amount of hard work or coaching can provide it, this will always be a limitation for him”

        Robotic eye implants

        • DarthHater

          They’re coming for your eyes, Doc! Run!!!

      • http://bleachernation.com woody

        So are you telling me that Baez’s pitch regognition skills will never improve? That’s nonsense. I used Votto as an example of what every hitter should aspire to. But Votto has been taking a lot of heat from critics that think he should expand his strike zone and sacrifice OBP for more hits and RBI’s. Castro is the one that is “see ball, hit ball”. I guess what I am saying is that maybe Baez can skip rope and chew bubble gum at the same time, which regretably last year Castro couldn’t do. And please don’t bore me with a bunch of posts taking pot shots at my analogy.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Pitch recognition is not a trait that improves as players progress. Guys with good pitch recognition in the majors had it in the minors. Guys with lousy pitch recognition in the minors carry it over into the majors. (The only possible genuine example in my lifetime of someone truly improving pitch recognition is Sosa: all other supposed examples show no significant changes in BB or K rates, but instead show increases in power that raised the BA given contact, and thus added higher BA to good or better walk rates.)

          Baez’s K:BB ratios are truly impressive: but not in a good way. His K rates
          That’s why things like K:BB ratios are so important and so predictive of MLB success.

          (I could be pedantic and point out that you were making a comparison, not an analogy, too: but we robots are too big for that!)

          • half_full_beer_mug

            What I remember with Sosa was an approach change, where they had him add a toe tap to slow down his plate approach, and by doing that gave him an additional millisecond to read the ball off the pitchers hand. It seemed he stopped flailing at every single off speed pitch after that.

            Maybe, just maybe something like that could help young Baez as well.

            • DocPeterWimsey

              What Sosa did was pull his swing zone in a few inches. He always had tremendous opposite field power, so that turned outer half pitches into hard hit balls to right, and left-handed batters box pitches into balls rather than strikes or poorly hit balls to right.

              The toe tap thing almost certainly was coincidental: if pitch recognition could be gained so easily, the Sosa would not stand out historically for such a drastic and improvement in walk rates. (The vast majority of players show absolutely no trend until very late in their careers, when they often have to start swinging earlier to make up for declining bat speed and/or actually have their vision decline.)

  • mjhurdle

    well put.
    I was trying to find a way to say the same thing, but i wouldn’t have done it as well.

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