Thanks so much to those of you who’ve done some Amazon shopping since I mentioned BN’s new relationship with Amazon on Monday. I added a link up there to the left (“Support BN at Amazon”), which will take you straight to Amazon. The Wife told me that I should also let folks know that the easiest way to help out is to just change your Amazon bookmark to http://www.bleachernation.com/amazon – that link takes you directly to Amazon, but it tells Amazon that you came by way of BN. For those of you who regularly use Amazon anyway, it’s an easy way to support BN in the process while doing nothing differently whatsoever.
OK, on to Bullets …
- Tony Andracki writes about Welington Castillo’s fantastic 2013 season, and his future as “the” Cubs catcher. Castillo is due for some regression with the bat, but if his defensive strides last year were legit (and especially if they continue), he’ll still be an above-average starter. I’m sure the Cubs are thrilled to have Castillo in place, but, man, any time I think about the catching situation going forward, I get itchy. I like George Kottaras as the back-up, but that’s truly it. The Cubs have scratched and clawed to pick up some depth pieces, and maybe Rafael Lopez emerges as a legit future back-up option. But … if Castillo gets serious hurt, or if his future is derailed for any reason, it’s a grim, grim situation long-term. The Cubs have Will Remillard (a well-liked college catcher drafted in 2013) and Mark Malave (a kid who just turned 19 and was moved (back) to catcher this year) to dream on, but there’s no obvious future starting-caliber catcher making his way up the ranks. Castillo is plenty young enough (26) to carry the Cubs through the wave of talent that could make them competitive as soon as 2015, but you’ve got to have more than one guy.
- (The Cubs, by the way, are not alone in this struggle for quality catching depth – increasingly, the best hitting catching prospects are moving off of the position at younger ages to preserve their health and focus development attention on their bats. I wonder if banning home plate collisions will have a long-term impact on kids’ willingness to stay (and organizations’ willingness to keep them) at catcher.)
- Jim Callis notes some interesting financial bits when it comes to the top 100 prospects in baseball – the Cubs have the two most expensive guys on the list (Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant), as well as two of the least expensive (Arismendy Alcantara and C.J. Edwards). Diamonds in the rough are great, and it still happens, but teams are clearly getting better and better at identifying top talent – the vast majority of the top 100 were big-ish money signings.
- A number of former Cubs reflect on their time at, and memories of, Wrigley Field.
- The Cubs are getting at least one ESPN Sunday Night Baseball Game. It’s against the Cardinals on May 4. ESPN loves the Cubs! Except then I see that the Cardinals have four ESPN Sunday Night Baseball Games through July 20, so clearly ESPN just wanted to get another Cardinals game on the schedule. Yet another reminder: when you’re good, people pay attention and give you opportunities to make more money.
- Garrett Schlecht didn’t work out as an outfield prospect with the Cubs, so he’s been released, and now he’s a pitching prospect with the Rockies. Best of luck to him.
- Everyone knows that free agent prices are going up, but as Dave Cameron notes as FanGraphs, the ascent in the last five years in particular has been unbelievable. It happened so fast.
- Perhaps ZiPS really was high (relatively speaking) on the Cubs for 2014, and not just generous to everyone: if you want to see what hilariously bad projections look like, check out the Astros. Their rotation projects to be worth 1 WAR. One. Uno. A singular win above replacement level for the entire rotation. The bullpen is worth 0, and no position is worth more than 2 WAR (i.e., an average big league starter) except catcher (Jason Castro). Maybe that number one pick in 2015 isn’t a holy lock for the Cubs. The question here: I know the Astros are sticking to their plan (and, given the current CBA, I won’t criticize them for it), but at what point is MLB a little annoyed about Houston running away with the worst record in baseball for a fourth consecutive year? They lost 106 games in 2011, 107 in 2012, and 111 last year. That’s exceptional.
- Beyond the Boxscore on K% and BB% – which is more important when it comes to pitcher success? No surprise, super low BB% and super high K% each make for a good pitcher. It appears that the high K% guys tend to be more valuable, overall, than the low BB% guys, but it’s pretty darn close.