edwin jackson cubsThe Little Girl remains obsessed with watching ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas.’ Do I tell her it’s January 5, or just roll with it? That is, of course, a rhetorical question. I roll with anything that isn’t the 500th viewing of ‘Cinderella.’

  • Jeff Sullivan writes at FanGraphs about the necessity (and unpredictability) of depth behind the “five-man rotation.” Getting quality sixth and seventh starters is usually very important to a successful season, but it’s hard to just go out an sign great sixth/seventh guys – since great pitchers tend to have starting rotation jobs elsewhere. Instead, you just kind of have to have that depth, either by way of internal development or stale contracts for guys who don’t mind a swing role. In Sullivan’s calculations, the average team had to rely on a non-starting-five arm for 32 of its starts in 2013. That’s 1/5 of all starts being made by a guy you didn’t expect to be in the rotation.
  • How do the Cubs stack up right now in this area? Well, assuming for the sake of argument that they do not sign another starter – I suspect one more is coming, be he in the form of Masahiro Tanaka or a lesser option like Jason Hammel or Scott Baker – and do not trade anyone, then the rotation stacks up thusly: Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson, Jake Arrieta, Carlos Villanueva/Chris Rusin. There will be other guys competing for that fifth spot, but Villanueva and Rusin are obviously the top candidates. The one who doesn’t get the job is your de facto sixth starter, and the seventh comes from a group including Brooks Raley, Justin Grimm, Alberto Cabrera, Kyle Hendricks, Brett Marshall, Neil Ramirez, Eric Jokisch, Tsuyoshi Wada, and Dallas Beeler, among others. That’s a ton of depth – better than it’s been in recent years – but is it the kind of quality depth you want making 32 starts at the big league level? My gut says it’s slightly below average, with a rotation as a whole that is hovering right around average (but with nice upside).
  • Craig Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus chatted earlier in the week (with a fantasy bent), and offered many thoughts on Cubs players/prospects … (1) Craig is not high on Pierce Johnson, whom he sees as clearly behind C.J. Edwards (the latter being a future number 3, the former being a 4/5); (2) Craig really likes Arismendy Alcantara, who has made adjustments and improved as he’s climbed the ladder (a future .275/.340/.450 hitter, according to Craig, which you’d take in a heartbeat at second base); (3) Craig wonders if Justin Grimm could still be a good back-of-the-rotation starter; (4) Craig is not all that high on Kyle Hendricks, whom he calls a 5/6 and “a nice guy to have in the minors”; (5) Craig guesses an early June debut for Javier Baez in the bigs; (6) if Craig had to choose a future 3B for the Cubs between only Mike Olt and Christian Villanueva, he’d choose Olt; (7) Craig sees Anthony Rizzo as more of a .265 low-20s HR guy (remember, this is a fantasy bent where those are important things); and (8) a Jeff Samardzija extension that exceeds the Ricky Nolasco deal (4/$49M) is fair – Craig admits he’s more down on Samardzija than most.
  • NorthSideIrish

    johnsickels ‏@MinorLeagueBall 21m
    Cubs prospect Javier Baez: a guy who could hit like Giancarlo Stanton, while playing shortstop.

    Thinking about that is keeping me warm today…

  • TK

    Not sure why so many seem soooo sure that Rizzo will be such a stud. I HOPE y’all are right, but I’m skeptical. He looked bad in SD, and got sent back down till we traded for him. He looked pretty unimpressive in 2013. The only time he’s looked like a prospect-turned-success was a few months in 2012 . . . when he was new to the league . . . exactly the same as Lake last year, and many, many, many, many prospects over time. We all their names. If what he did last year turns out to be Rizzo’s ceiling, I could see us going with Vogelbach at 1B in a couple years. Hopefully he fixes things.

    • http://bleachernation.com woody

      Vogelbach is a really nice insurance policy.

    • Noah_I

      I’m not so sure that Rizzo will be a stud, but Craig’s numbers for Rizzo are essentially just Rizzo’s 2013 numbers with a BABIP adjustment. Which, if you think Rizzo is at his ceiling as far as power is concerned, that’s legitimate. But it’s essentially saying he’s at his ceiling now, and it’s pretty rare for a 24 year old guy with Rizzo’s raw power to have fully tapped into it at that point. I don’t think he’s a 40 homer guy, and I don’t think he’ll ever be one of the best players in baseball, but he could be a good enough combination of OBP and power to hang around an .850 to .900 OPS through his prime, with a 1.000+ or two thrown in there on a year with some crazy luck. He could also be someone who continues to hover around .750 to .800 his whole career.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Yeah, I think that 30 HR is what we are looking at in Rizzo. That will, no doubt, flux ± 5-6 HR each year due to various circumstances. However, only 4 1Bmen hit 30+ HR last year, so a 30 HR season means that the Cubs will probably get 3-4 more HR from 1B than they give up to the other guys’ 1Bmen.

      • TK

        Im not at all concerned with his power. I worry about his ability to just make contact, consistently. I especially worry about his .189 BA vs LHP and 127 K overall. No doubt he will hit a ton of HR and 2B in his career, but do we really want another Sosa type of player (HR or die)? The Plan is supposed to get us a team full of “complete” players, not 1D guys. I know his OBP and OPS would look much better IF he didn’t K so much and IF he could make better contact vs LHP. But those are some major “ifs” and I don’t see him “learning” to hit LHP at MLB level AND we learned last year that sending him down to AAA will never happen. Perhaps he will see better pitches and therefore hit better when he has a better lineup around him?????

        • Drew7

          1) As Doc said before, Rizzo K’s at a below-average rate for a power hitter.

          2) Rizzo’s OPS against LHP was .625. The league average for a LHB against a LHP was .645 – no huge red flag there.

          • TK

            A team full of your “league average” doesnt win a WS.

            • Drew7

              1) its not *my* league average

              2) great strawman

  • http://deepcenterfield.mlblogs.com/ Jason Powers

    It is hard to square the idea, Brett, of Masahiro Tanaka coming to Chicago:

    1) After the 20M, He’s very very likely at 6-7YR/100-120M+ guy. The highest amount EVER the Cubs have paid for a player…whose never played in the MLB.

    Are the Cubs gonna put that amount into a pitcher that one hopes can anywhere from a 3.5WAR to a 5.0WAR guy, but could falter to be just a 2-3 WAR guy? If he doesn’t get above 22-24 WAR on his contract, you get an underperforming dude. And a waste of resources… (6M/WAR for 25WAR equals 150M)

    2) Likely, the Cubs are stinking bad for 2 more seasons. Another mediocre year after that – unless you pony up, or Baez et.al. are the dream team 1. So 2017 is your best bet for a team worthy of Tanaka.

    Does Tanaka want to go from a champion in Japan to a bottom of the division team? (I wouldn’t…go to someone like New York or LA, or even Detroit. At least – from his point of view – you are getting the chance to be in the playoffs for 3-4 times min on your contract. Early, and not hoping a bunch of AA guys are the promise. Tanaka doesn’t even know the guys we are so hyping to be The Big Cubbie Blue Ball Machine…)

    3) If the idea is to get top talent in the amateur draft, then why are you trying to win worthless games in 2014? (Yes, I am aware of the attendance decline v. financial hit plus the TV renegotiations might actually mean investing in a marketable player aside from Rizzo….)

    If we assume we get another top 2-3 pick (draft 2015) from a 2014 debacle – since we didn’t sign anyone we’d expect is a 3-5 WAR all-star – it doesn’t make much sense to put Tanaka on the team. If he’s awesome, but the Cubs win only 70 games + you get a 8-13 pick. If he’s average, we get a better pick, but we blew a ton of money on a pitcher…seems too much risk for that.

    That top pick, if solidly selected, is worth as much as Tanaka is on the open market…and we didn’t pay him 130M plus to acquire. We get him for 6 MLB years….younger than Tanaka

    If top prospects like Walker or Bogaerts are valued at nearly Tanaka’s contract, why do it? It’s paying a lot with the risks outweighing the reward.

    If the Cubs FO is so smart, you’d never get locked into a strategy that requires you tank first, and then sign guys only if they are well under 30. Tanaka maybe the ace they want, but if you can’t take real advantage of that for 3 years, its rather dumb one to do.

    Save the money. That’s what they’ve done so far since 2010.

    • ClevelandCubsFan

      Do you know how much revenue a very top tier Japanese player would bring to the Cubs via advertising and merchandiaing? I don’t. But I bet Theo and the business side have an idea. And I bet it’s substantial.

      I could list a host of intangible factors that could push Tanaka’s value well above a simple $/WAR calculation.

      • Voice of Reason

        If signing this Japanese pitcher meant a bunch of money then why aren’t all major league teams trying to sign him?

  • TulaneCubs

    *stamps feet for Justin Grimm*

    I continue to think people are way underrating Grimm’s chances of winning the 5th starter role, given the current rotation outlook. I’d put him right on par with Rusin in terms of chances at winning that job and I hope they don’t give it to Villanueva. I’d much rather see if Rusin/Grimm can hack it so that we’ll know if we can rely on those guys as rotation pieces going forward.

    • NorthSideIrish

      Grimm was AL Rookie of the Month for April last season (when he should’ve still been in the minors), but then the league caught up with him once they had a scouting report. If he shows that he can make adjustments, I’m sure the team would love for him to grab the job in ST. I’d much rather get an extended look at what Grimm or Cabrera can do as a starter and leave Villanueva as a swing man where he has some real value.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Unfortunately, that narrative probably isn’t true. Grimm’s numbers went downwards, but none further than expected by chance alone. One pitcher in 5 would show his downwards trend in walks. One in 13 would show his downward trend in K’s, too.

        The biggest shift was that Grimm had a pretty good BABiP behind him in April (0.296). It was a whopping 0.364 after that!

        Of course, he faced all of 406 batters last year over these stats, so almost none of these numbers mean anything.

        • NorthSideIrish

          Yeah, but then I would have had to do research and stuff. So I stuck with the easy narrative…

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Needs an MLB-caliber third pitch, if I remember correctly. That was the issue.

          (Which is also why, if he can’t make it as a starter, there’s hope for upside in the bullpen.)

  • Jr 25

    When all is said and done I feel Vogelbach will have a better career than Rizzo.

    • Rebuilding

      Obviously it’s way too early to know exactly what Vogelbach is going to be, but my gut tells me the same thing. His plate discipline for a big guy with power is super rare. I honestly think he has a chance to be a David Ortiz type

      • TK

        I don’t know why we aren’t hearing a ton of news about Vogs losing 30 lbs and stuff like that. All this $$$ for player development . . . Assign a damn Physical Trainer to his asterisk, work his bass in the gym every stinking day, and whip his hash into shape!!!!! If that boy loses a lil weight and strengthens his core . . . no telling what he could do in MLB.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          We have, but most of it was last year. Vogelbach wasn’t in bad shape last year, particularly compared to where he was when he was drafted, but no amount of training is going to turn him into an Albert Almora, even a Jorge Soler.

          He’s a big, slow, slugging first baseman, but since he has joined the Cubs system he has become a much stronger, more well muscled big, slow, slugging first baseman.

          Really, though, conditioning hasn’t been a concern of mine on Vogelbach. He’s done well in that department.

          • TK

            I dont want him to start stealing bases or anything crazy. I want him to lose a reasonable amount of fat so he can reasonably become a 1B who can reasonably provide effective defense . . . About league average. And doing so would give him so much more power, and help to jump on even more pitches than he already does. This kid could be the next closest thing to Barry Bonds if he gets his butt in shape.

            I know he has “made strides” in that department, bleh, bleh, bleh. He is young. He IS athletic. He IS physically able to get into much better shape than he is currently in. I just about live in the gym . . . I see amazing transformations from old, disgusting, fat slobs into reasonably healthy people. And from ordinary, soft, lazy, sweat-loathing young ladies into super sexy fitness competitors. Im 41 and easily the most fit person in the gym. There are very few legit excuses, and those TRULY apply to only a very few. It can be done. And it can be done much quicker. Its a matter of motivation and the org laying down the law.

            He should be reporting to AZ looking like a completely different man when ST starts. If not, that tells me all I need to know about him . . . No heart, lazy, passive, don’t care about the big picture. Ton of potential that would be wasted by slobiness.

            • Isaac

              Barry Bonds? You do realize he stole 514 bases, right?

              Let’s let him test AA first…:)

              • TK

                Well, not that part. I meant the combination of the ability to take walks, and hit so many pitches outta the part. If this kid gets some of the blubber out of the way of his swing, he could be GREAT.

                Also, I did say the NEXT CLOSEST thing to bonds. I didn’t say he could equal bonds. He could be feared nearly as much.

                • bbmoney

                  Let’s just avoid using one of the 5 greatest players of all time in our comps of A-ball prospects. In any sense, next closest or otherwise.

              • http://bleachernation.com woody

                I remember Bonds when he first came up with Pittsburg. He was built like a young Andre Dawson. At the end he looked like the Incredible Hulk. I’m all for conditioning, but there is a difference between muscles being functional i.e. gymnast as opposed to body builder. The article about Rizzo said he was doing yoga and flexability stuff too. IMO very smart to invest in fitness and wellness.

          • arta

            I like the kid, I hope he makes it. here or AL.

        • Abe Froman

          I remember hearing that after he was drafted he lost a good amount of weight, not sure how much though.

          I agree with your overall point:

          1) if I’m Vogelbach with the potential for tens of millions of dollars on the line I would like to think that would be great motivation to go on a consistent diet and fitness regimine. This is very easy for me to type in a message board and not actually personally commit to.

          2) in searching for the next market efficiency, a somewhat crazy idea would be to hire full time personal trainers all schooled in “The Cubs Way” for all legit prospects, maybe top 40 (with an option to opt out if players are not into the idea) at 75k per personal trainer, that serves as a full time shadow/extension of the ideal fitness/nutrition regimine for each player. This could serve as an additional resource to help players stay in shape year round. That would be an investment of 3 million which may be excessive (given 40 trainers at 75k per year), however you could scale it down to elite prospects or those in more need like Vogelbach.

          I don’t mean to knock the guy for his weight, I don’t know his metabolism or current diet, he is likely working hard to stay in shape, just some random thoughts.

          • JeffR

            I don’t know if that would technically be a market inefficiency. And it would be way cheaper and more effective for them to work out at the cubs facility in Arizona, like many of them are right now.

            Also baseball is one of those games that being in great shape isn’t a necessity. Sure it helps especially on defense and base running but there have been many very successful players who were considered out of shape.

            • Abe Froman

              I’m not going to bang my fist on the table about it just a wild idea, but it would be a market inefficiency of sorts if other teams aren’t doing it. Yes it would be more cost effective for the players to work out at team facilities, but that also defeats the year round nature of the idea, and also the dieting/personal attention element. Kruk was good but wouldn’t you agree he would have been better if in great physical shape?

            • ClevelandCubsFan

              Still can recall Kruk with the White Sox slapping the ball into the outfield and then limping/hobbling to first. One of the most amazing hitters I ever saw. But you wonder how good could be have been?

          • go cubs go

            Kind of an interesting idea though. I like it.

      • Praying For The Cubs To Win

        Any chance Vogelbach can play the outfield. Great bat.

        • bbmoney

          I’m no scout. But everything I’ve read says no.

          I mean he could play the outfield in the sense that if you gave him a glove he could stand out there, but he’d probably so awful with so little range that he’d lose any value his bat adds. Or that’s what I’ve read at least.

          • JeffR

            I don’t believe his arm is very good either.

          • arta

            I’ve read the same thing, but LF is where u play if u have a big bat. remember kingman, Sauer, Soriano, the list goes on of players who were bad on D but played LF cause of their bat. if his bat is that good, he’ll play or be traded to the AL. then again there’s talk of the DH coming to the NL.

            • JeffR

              I can’t really speak for the others you list but Soriano is a great athlete who actually made himself into a good left fielder. And he had a ridiculous arm his first few years with the cubs and I believe led the league in outfield assists a couple times. Nothing I’ve seen on Vogelbach tells me he can be anywhere close to average in the outfield. I think we would have seen him out there a few times if he was capable.

              • CubFan Paul

                “And he had a ridiculous arm his first few years with the cubs”

                …he still has it

                • JeffR

                  Well yes the arm did not get amputated, but I thought reports were that it wasn’t as good as it once was.

                  • CubFan Paul

                    “but I thought reports were that it wasn’t as good as it once was”

                    Soriano has a freakin’ cannon.

                    No one watches the games anymore.

  • Coal

    Be very wary of the Grinch. My daughter loved it (and so did I) until one year she decided that all she wanted from Santa was an Electro Who Cardio Flux (which is one of those contraptions the Who boys and girls are seen riding on Christmas morning in the Grinch’s early daydream). Sort of a combination bicycle / musical instrument to be played / ridden by 4-5 ‘people’ simultaneusly.

  • gocatsgo2003

    Anyone else getting pushed to the App Store when they log on from an iPhone? Annoying and happens almost every time.

    • bbmoney

      I’m getting that too. I thought Brett mentioned he was aware of it the other day and was seeing what he could do.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        You are correct – it’s very, very frustrating. Sorry for folks experiencing it. Unfortunately, there’s not always a lot I can do – though I do try.

        Fortunately, these ads don’t last forever, and eventually cycle out of the mix.

        • Fishin Phil

          Call Apple and tell them you will unleash a horde of angry Cub fans on them if they don’t knock it off.

  • Medicos

    Day after day on Bleacher Nation, I read comments from numerous Cub fans who are concerned about the vast amounts of money presently being paid and on possible future contracts to professional athletes. What difference does it make how much the Rickett’s family pays these athletes. It’s their money. All we as Cub fans, hungry for a World Series Championship, should be concerned about is can the players on the Cubs win ballgames and be competitive years after year. I’ve been a fan for over 60-years and in that time in only 17-seasons have the Cubs won more than they’ve lost. 28% of winning baseball is not too good!!!

  • Ballgame17

    gocatsgo2003- that’s been happening to me too and it is beyond aggravating. It happens when I have the Chicago Tribune app open as well. App store pops up with ridiculous kids games. I wanna virtually strangle someone. If anyone knows a solution, please help…

    • college_of_coaches

      It’s got to be an iPhone glitch, as I’ve had the same problem with other apps. It’s not BN-specific.

      Also, Happy New Years to Brett and everyone at BN!

  • Ghostdawg

    Craig Goldstein? Seriously? He is an intern at BP. He is a stat guy. He is not a scout.
    Also, his projections for the Cubs prospects are laughable.

    Pierce Johnson as a 4/5 projection and CJ as a 3. Disagree. So do scouts.

    He’s a fan of Grimm but not Hendricks. Disagree. Hendricks will be a solid starter, imo. Grimm will be a solid middle reliever, also in my opinion

    Olt over Villanueva. He’s a fantasy stat guy so obviously he doesn’t care about defense but Olt still has to prove that he is over his issues, We will see. (no pun intended)

    Rizzo a .265 low-20s HR guy – Disagree. Sounds like he just averaged his 2012 & 2013 seasons. Rizzo needs to improve against lefties, but I think he is due for 30 hr’s this year.

    I’m sure Goldstein is a good intern at BP, compiling and supplying stats for the writers, and doing his own fantasy thing, but his outlook for prospects should be taken with about as much weight as the stat geek you know at the office.

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