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theo epstein and jed hoyerProjections and predictions for the 2014 Chicago Cubs season are rightfully grim (though the playoff odds are ticking up!), so, at the precipice of what could be another slog, it’s nice to look at some longer-term views on the organization. They serve to remind us that things look bright for the future, even if not for the present.

Former Cubs pitcher and current ESPN analyst Rick Sutcliffe participated as an instructor at Spring Training this year for the Cubs, and thus got a first-hand look at what the Cubs have to offer long-term. In a long piece by Jesse Rogers, Sutcliffe shares some candid thoughts and anecdotes. Among those thoughts, Sutcliffe put things in perspective.

“It was an absolute mess when Theo [Epstein] took it over,” Sutcliffe told Jesse Rogers. “When you look at the history of draft choices, particularly the No. 1 picks, it’s embarrassing that there has not been more production there. That’s the reason for the last two years. I don’t think Theo would admit it, but I think it was even worse than he would have thought …. Two years ago, Theo sent me down to minor league camp to take a look at all the arms, and when I came back I said, You’re going to be pissed off at me. He said, ‘Tell me the truth, that’s why you’re here.’ I said I saw three guys that I think have a chance out of 65 guys. That’s sad.”

Thankfully, Sutcliffe says he nows sees “eight out of ten” that have a chance to make the big leagues, which is obviously a marked improvement. In particular, Sutcliffe singles out C.J. Edwards and Kyle Hendricks for high praise.

Over at CSN, Dave Kaplan spoke with folks in the industry about how the Cubs are perceived, how The Plan is working, and what the future holds. All responses, as you should expect, were positive.

Among those responses, here’s one anonymous rival GM: “I have evaluated their system and it is absolutely loaded. They have tremendous position player talent and they have some pitching that will be good. I can tell you that everyone around the game knows that the Cubs day is coming, and it is not that far off.”

Read those two pieces if you want to feel a little better about things today. And you’ll probably need to remind yourself of them come June and July.

  • Kyle

    The Kaplan piece doesn’t impress me, but the Sutcliffe stuff is legit exciting.

    • MightyBear

      Agree totally K-man.

    • Brocktoon

      I don’t know, I’d trust the words of anonymous GM over that donk Sutcliffe any day

      • Brocktoon

        If we’re assuming the same number of guys in camp Sutcliffe is saying there were 3 out of 65 who could make the majors 2 years ago and now it’s 54 out of 65? We’ve added 51 guys with major league potential in the last 2 years? Ok Rick.

        • Funn Dave

          Yeah, that struck me as some major hyperbole.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          I took that to be intentional hyperbole. I’m sure he could have phrased that better.

        • Kyle

          I don’t think it’s completely implausible that we’ve added 51 interesting pitchers in two years.

          I don’t think there was literally only three guys with a potential big league fastball two years ago, but organizational pitching depth was a huuuuge problem and addressing it has been the most impressive thing this regime has done. More impressive than shooting to the top of the organizational farm lists on the backs of some high draft picks.

          Assuming we’re not including sure-fire major league guys like Strop and Arrieta,, the Cubs in 2013 added the following:

          Via trade: Grimm, Ramirez, Black, Pineyro
          Via Rule 5: Rondon
          Via older IFA: Rivero
          International IFA: signed 3 guys to big signing bonuses, and presumably at least half-a-dozen smaller arms (signings below $100k aren’t usually reported)
          Draft: Picked nine arms that I’d say are probably worth at least taking note of.

          That’s 24 arms in a year. 2012 was at least as big.

          • ClevelandCubsFan

            Good point, Kyle

          • ClevelandCubsFan

            And it could also say something about a change in development that’s happened since the new regime took over. I.e., some of the guys who didn’t look like they could make it before now look like they COULD make it.

            It’s long been hinted (and not-so-secretly believed by many on here) that perhaps the biggest fundamental problem in our minors was NOT raw talent. It was development.

          • Greenroom

            Cj Edwards was a “pretty good” pick up via trade as well.

        • ssckelley

          Obviously not all 54 will make the big leagues just like I doubt all 3 made it a couple of years ago. I think what Rick was saying is he now sees more pitchers that actually have the talent to develop into MLB pitchers. We are still dealing with small percentages that actually make it but having 8 out of 10 at least have the talent gives the Cubs much greater chance than 3.

          • Brocktoon

            I’m relatively certain more than 3 guys from the minor league camp. Had the talent to develop into major leaguers, and I’d be willing to bet fairly large sums of money that more than 4 would see the majors in their career. It’s needless exaggeration because saying “they’ve added a lot of depth to their minor league pitching” doesn’t make a good soundbite. Sutcliffe as usual is more interested in being quotable than anything close to accurate

  • David

    Remember when Sutcliffe went after Eric Show in 1988ish??? Good times.

  • cub4life

    Reading this kind of stuff gets me excited. And also i can’t wait for the future to be here (but don’t want it to be rushed). So lets get on with the season and enjoy what hopefully will be the last “bad” season for a long time.

  • Dustin S

    I was a little po’d at Sutcliffe very early last year (even though he is one of my all-time favorite Cubs) when he predicted they’d be lucky to win more than 65 games. But it sadly turned out that he was pretty much spot on. So hopefully he’s right again on the 8 out of 10 prediction.

  • Napercal

    The high draft pick this year and probable high draft pick next year should add two more impact pieces to the farm system. This fo has also demonstrated that its minor league people can develop players too. There are likely to be other players in the system who will step-up their game and improve their value.

    • Noah_I

      I’m kind of curious to see where the Cubs fall in the 2015 draft. I could see them be anywhere from about 65 wins, which could compete for the worst team in baseball with the Astros, Marlins and White Sox improving, to about 77 wins with a bit of luck (outside of those numbers are possible of course, but I’d consider outliers). If the Cubs won 75 games last season, they would have the 11th pick in the 2014 draft, and that’s without adding losses to other teams for the Cubs’ added “wins.”. If they won 77, the Cubs would have the 13th pick in the draft.

  • Jrock1

    I can’t wait for the Cubs to be good again. Since they are going to be bad this year, I want them to be really bad so we can guarantee a top ten pick and not have to give up a draft pick when we go after free agents if we ever do.

  • Cubbie in NC

    I can’t see Sutcliffe anymore without thinking of the Grace story of the pitching coach coming out to talk to him after giving up back to back home runs. Sutcliffe being nasty, and the pitching coach saying they asked him to come out to give them time to reload the fireworks machine before the next batter.

    • aaronb

      10. What’s your funniest baseball story?

      Grace: One day Rick Sutcliffe gave up back-to-back home runs in Cincinnati. And in Cincinnati, they shoot off fireworks after a Red hits a home run. And Sutcliffe was pretty intense on the day he pitched. So Eric Davis takes him deep and Paul O’Neill takes him deep right after that. So Sutcliffe is all pissed off, and Billy Connors comes out to the mound and Sutcliffe yells at him, “I know I gave up f—ing back-to-back home runs and get your f—ing ass back in the dugout and tell Zimmer to f—ing settle down there, too.”

      Billy looks at him and says, “I know you have everything under control, Rick. I just wanted to give that guy running the fireworks a little time to reload.” I blew a snot bubble on the mound I was laughing so hard.

      • jp3

        That’s an awesome story, Grace isn’t some people in Chicago’s favorite people but nobody can deny he’s not entertaining as hell. I think he’d be awesome as a color man in our booth.

        • Brocktoon

          Grace is a miserable human being, a horrendous color commentator, and was a clubhouse cancer.

          • jp3

            Took longer than I thought but I knew someone would have an over the top reaction to Grace…

            • Brocktoon

              How is an honest assessment over the top?

              The treatment this raging d-bag gets in Chicago vs. the treatment Sosa gets is revolting.

              • jp3

                How’s in an honest assessment if you are one of the few that despise him and can’t me one for not hating Sosa… If he cheated with roids he was one of 500 so I would never hold that against him, especially seeing he and Grace gave me a lot of fun baseball to watch growing up.

                • jp3

                  I meant count me in for one not hating Sosa. My auto correct is messing with me again.

    • https://twitter.com/LouHemp beerhelps

      That”s as awesome as the Maddux “boy you really love to pitch ” story.

      • jp3

        I’m scared to ask, how’d that story go?

        • jp3

          Never mind, I just found that story and it’s awesome.

          • https://twitter.com/LouHemp beerhelps

            Yes it is, crude and sophomoric, just how I like my humor.

  • candyland07

    And its been an absolute mess for the past two years at the major league level. The Cubs have failed in almost every offensive category with the exception of Power. Theo and friends have produced the Cubs worst two year record at Wrigley Field that have produce a mass exodus of fans enjoying any type of baseball in Chicago.

    The youngsters Castro and Rizzo have failed under team Theo ,and Sevum was rightly shown the exit door with high artificial praise from Team Theo.

    When a major league team like the Cubs fail to try and compete at a major league level- Complimenting the high draft choices should not be that remarkable .it is the edge that Major League Baseball give lousy teams in the draft.

    When the team is good people will cheer . when the team is lousy people should grumble. Its okay to grumble – The Cubs stink, and its okay to be optimistic of the future because of the talent the Cubs have drafted due to its incompetent desire to be a better team in the present.

    • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

      Do yourself a favor and take a look at Rizzo’s 2012 numbers with Theo in control

  • brains

    the question hasn’t been one of will the cubs eventually, someday, probably, improve. it’s how has the new business model interfered with the present and future? we’ve all agreed for a long time that mcleod is deserving of a humongous raise, but that doesn’t address any of the strained relations between the FO and recent players, the elective extreme amount of time the rebuild will take, the possibility that we won’t have a mlb-level salary situation until 2018 or beyond, etc.

    still, i do like having the young talent. it’s too bad the team is being negligent on other levels in which the talent would be put to best use.

  • jp3

    Also Darvish Is not starting the year on the DL, would love to fleece that sheep one more time.

  • Medicos

    Which coaching staff members have been responsible for having both Castro and Barney make basic fundamental changes in their approach to hitting????

    Castro: 2010: 139 hits—53 runs—.300 BA
    2011: 207 hits—91 runs—.307 BA
    2012: 183 hits—78 runs .283 BA
    2013: 163 hits—59 runs—.245 BA

    Barney: 2010: .241 BA
    2011: .276 BA
    2012: .254 BA
    2013: .208 BA

    Sometimes it’s best just let young players continue to approach the extremely difficult task of hitting MLB pitchers utilizing whatever method they’ve using since they were teenagers rather than insisting that changes are necessary.

  • IA_Colin

    So wanting to actually see who was in camp during this time I know Az Phil would have had a post aaaand he does. The rosters of minor league camp 2012. Go through the pitching and honestly the 3-4 number is pretty close lol. Its a whoooole lot of back of the rotation/middle relief guys.

    http://www.thecubreporter.com/2012/03/09/2012-cubs-minor-league-camp-rosters

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