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.

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