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jorge soler cubsA whole lot of interesting and important prospect items to share …

  • Jorge Soler is back on the field! Thanks to Arizona Phil at TCR, we know that about Soler, who appeared in just one game – one at bat – at AA this year before a hamstring injury relapse took him back to Mesa, Arizona, where he’d originally suffered the injury in Spring Training. There, he’s been doing baseball activities as he recovers, but he had yet to appear in an extended Spring Training game, which would be the first sign that he could be close to a return to AA game action. Phil reports that Soler DH’d and went 1-4 with a single, but, more importantly, he played the whole game and ran the bases.
  • How close could he be to returning? Well, we can’t know for certain, but you’re going to want to look for him to play a few games in the field before you start getting too antsy. It seems like, when guys start playing in these extended Spring Training games, they usually are ready to return in about a week or so. With Soler, since he didn’t play much at the end of Spring Training, and then hasn’t played much since then, he might need a little more time to get ready to go full speed. In other words … let’s not speculate on a specific timetable, and let’s instead just be happy that he’s back in game action of some kind. Hopefully, he’s ready to go to Tennessee soon.
  • Speaking of Tennessee, get ready for a huge game on Wednesday. Why? Because the Smokies will be facing Clayton Kershaw on a rehab assignment. If Kris Bryant hits a homer off of Kershaw, think the lefty will plunk him the next time up, a la Mat Latos? I suspect not.
  • Mick Gillespie spoke with top Cubs pitching prospect C.J. Edwards on his recent shoulder ordeal, which Edwards described as pretty scary. He goes into more detail on exactly what happened (woke up sore for the first time in his career, tried to throw, and he simply couldn’t locate the ball at all). It sounds like he was incredibly relieved when the diagnosis was just a mild strain, and not anything to do with the labrum or the rotator cuff.
  • BP’s Jordan Gorosh was at Kane County this week scouting, among others, starters Paul Blackburn and Tyler Skulina, shortstop Carlos Penalver, and outfielder Yasiel Balaguert. It’s a great eyes-on look at several of the younger, non-top-tier prospects in the Cubs’ system. The short versions (though you’re encouraged to check out the long versions): Blackburn has back-of-the-rotation big league upside and just needs various refinements as he works his way up the ladder (his velocity in the start, by the way, was only in the 89 to 91 mph range, with dips below that); Penalver sounds like an excellent defensive shortstop, but needs a whole lot of refinement at the plate; Skulina wasn’t really topping 90 with his fastball, and the rest of his stuff did not look “major league quality” (though Gorosh concedes this may simply not have been Skulina’s best day, and for that reason didn’t want to make any projections); and Balaguert can really rip fastballs, struggles with breaking balls, and probably won’t be able to play average defense in the corner outfield as he moves up (so the bat will have to carry him).
  • A profile on Albert Almora from Sean Kernan. Great, fun read. And congrats and well-wishes to Almora and his family – he shared on Twitter and Instagram that his father had just recently beat cancer.
  • http://iawrestle.com On The Farm

    I would have figured Blackburn was more of “mid-rotation” candidate as opposed to a “back end” guy. I know he could always surprise (like how Corey Black was pegged as a RP, but he seems to be trying to prove he can make it as a starter), but I thought when Blackburn was drafted he had more upside than back end. Especially since his control in the MWL has been a lot better than it was in short season ball.

    • ssckelley

      He is still very young yet and it is a positive sign that he is already harnessing his control as his walk rate has dropped drastically. He does need an extra couple of ticks on that fastball in order for him to get MLB hitters out.

      A little OT but for me the biggest disappointment so far has been the rate that Rob Zastryzny has been getting hit at Daytona. He is carrying a 2.015 WHIP and already has given up 4 home runs.

      • Jon

        Rob Zastryzny…remind me again why we can’t sign a impact FA and risk losing a 2nd round pick?

        • http://iawrestle.com On The Farm

          It’s probably because the smartest guys in the room know something you don’t.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Morales and Drew have been asking that of over 20 FOs.

        • ssckelley

          Not sure, you are barking up the wrong tree with me in regards to the importance of the 2nd round pick. The chances are slim you find a quality MLB player in the 2nd round. The only downside is losing the draft pool money.

        • Jon

          At 1 year and 8 million, Nelson Cruz 7 HR”s and 950+ OPS would look nice in LF right now, but what do I know.

          • ssckelley

            No arguments from me, I was pining for a slugging right handed hitter all off season. Instead of Cruz the Cubs gave us Ruggiano.

            But what really ticks me off is the guy they should have went after, Abreu, would not have cost them a draft pick and has better statistics than Cruz. I don’t give a damn that they have Rizzo, one or the other could have played right field.

            • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

              I thought you were better than the “Let’s pay an unknown entity 70 million dollars when the Cubs have nowhere to put him” group

              • ssckelley

                This is a guy people were comparing to Cabrera, one scout called him the best hitter in the world. A guy only 27 years old and all he costs is money, seeing where the payroll is and how much they were willing to spend on Tanaka, yeah I wish the Cubs had made a play for Abreu. If nothing else friggin trade Rizzo!

                • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

                  First off, it was Jonah Keri, not a scout, who said that, and he called him “The best hitter you’ve never heard of.”

                  There is no doubt that he is a good player, but you don’t just stick a guy in right field, especially at Wrigley Field. Plus, we’re one month into the season, we still don’t know who this guy is.

                  Don’t take this as me hating Abreu, I really like the guy, but he’s still a pretty unknown entity.

                  Lastly, why the hell would you trade Rizzo?? He is 3 years younger than Abreu, is signed for the same price for 3 years longer, and is a gold glove quality first baseman.

                  • Jon

                    *He would have gone in left field.

                  • ssckelley

                    I would only trade Rizzo if neither he or Abreu could have played RF.

                    I like good defense at 1st base as well, but it is a luxury. My point is that I would not have let having Rizzo signed stop me from going after Abreu. Go after him, hopefully get him signed, and then worry about where to play him later.

                    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                      All of the finalists for Abreu were AL teams. That’s notable.

                    • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

                      Probably with that line of thinking is if you try them in the outfield, and neither one work, then teams know that the Cubs would have been desperate to trade one of them, allowing them to only get pennies on the dollar instead of full value.

                    • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

                      Problem** Typing too fast haha

                    • Sandberg

                      Brett, you do an admirable job of providing necessary context and mitigating evidence. I get your point here, and I mostly agree with it. However, if Abreu continues to be this good (a big if), the front office dropped the ball, period.

                      I also understand their eggs were still in the Tanaka basket, they can’t spend money, and all that jazz. That doesn’t mean that they didn’t screw up here. They are supposed to be smarter than everyone else, not following the crowd.

                    • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

                      “All of the finalists for Abreu were AL teams. That’s notable”

                      Also, check to see who has been gobbling up all of the marquee sluggers the past few years.

                    • ssckelley

                      Tommy, then stick Abreu at 2nd base. I am getting tired of trading for prospects and am trying to find ways to improve the MLB team.

                      Rizzo has a decent contract and I cannot imagine it would be very difficult to find a couple of small market teams that would be willing to trade for a cost controlled young first basemen. Heck call Miami and find out their asking price for Stanton is, Rizzo plus what? Maybe Baez? IDK…and we will never know.

              • Edwin

                Unkown entity? The Cubs had plenty of opportunities to scout and analyze him.

                • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

                  Looking at stats that aren’t the best kept in the Cuban league and a handful of international games are not plenty of opportunities.

                  • Edwin

                    Apparently the Cubs felt good enough about the stats and scouting reports when they signed Conception and Soler.

                    • terencemann

                      Neither one of those players are 1st basemen….

                    • Edwin

                      …and?

                      The Cubs had opportunities to scout Abreu, they had his numbers just like they did for other players they’ve signed from Cuba. If they didn’t want to sign him because they thought his defense didn’t pan out in the OF, fine. But acting like there is no way the Cubs could have predicted what to expect from Abreu is just pointless excuse making. At some point, if the Cubs have one of the best FO in baseball, we should expect them to do a better job at scouting and identifying talent than other teams.

                  • Brocktoon

                    The accuracy of statkeeping isn’t the issue. It’s the uncertainty of translations of them. And Abreu was supposed to be a mediocre at best defender at first. Expecting to just throw a guy into the OF could have easily been a disaster.

                    • terencemann

                      The Reds tried to just stick Yonder Alonso in left field and it was a disaster.

                    • Jon

                      They then traded Alonso for a stud arm in Latos, which kind of supports the theory that “talent is talent, and having too much is never a bad thing” (you can always move surplus in trades.

                    • Brocktoon

                      It did get Tony Campana a HR though.

                    • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

                      Agreed translation is the main issue, but the actual statkeeping remains ambiguous and can inflate the hell out of numbers. Not something the Cubs are worried about scouting wise, but when fans see these Cuban league numbers, they don’t always see the flaws.

                    • Brocktoon

                      Alonso and 3 other players, including Yasmani Grandal.

                  • terencemann

                    Exactly, it wasn’t just Alonso for Latos. In addition, signing players to one year deals kind of screams “we’re going to flip you if the team isn’t winning” but flipping guys after giving them long term deals is still a pretty big taboo.

          • Spoda17

            Jon, that comment is why you are not a GM for a baseball team… even if he is worth 15 WAR, the only impact he would have on this season is the Cubs waste 8 million… and have a worse draft pick.

            • Jon

              Not everyone believes in tanking season after season, believe it or not.

            • Edwin

              If he was on pace for a 15 WAR season, there’s a good chance the Cubs are fighting for a playoff spot. At the very least, they’d trade him for a big time package.

            • Brocktoon

              How do you feel about the Jason Hammel signing?

          • CubChymyst

            I didn’t want Cruz to start the season. He might do better than I though but I’ll wait another month for his numbers to regress back to normal levels before judging to much. However, this front office has put an emphasis on defense, and Cruz has been awful in the outfield defensively.

        • Isaac

          If you have to ask that question at this stage, you probably don’t deserve to be in the conversation…

        • nick5253

          I think the concern is not finishing in the bottom 5 over the 2nd round pick…. Signing quality FA might lead to a quality big league club. The FO is not quite ready for that as yet.

      • http://iawrestle.com On The Farm

        Agreed, although I thought I read a report that Blackburn’s fastball sits around 90-93, and he has a curve, and a pretty developed change. I would think that as the season progresses (or gets warmer in the midwest) Blackburn’s fastball will get closer to where scouts saw it the last couple years. I know it’s been a cold/wet April for Iowa.

        I was going to mention the same about Z in the minor league daily. I am not quite sure what to think of his Daytona results either. I was kind of hoping he could skip the MWL league althogether, but spending some time in the warm weather in Florida when/if he comes back to the MWL I think he will be a dominate pitcher there.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          I had a piece on Zastryzny ready to go, but his last start wrecked. Until then his FIP was low, way lower than his ERA, and between that and his then lack of homers allowed, I was wondering if infield defense was sabotaging him a bit.

          And then he walked four, allowed four home runs, his FIP ballooned a bit, and that narrative went straight out the window. For now, anyway.

          • http://iawrestle.com On The Farm

            So your thinking is that he will be fine in Daytona, he just has a bit of a rough spot?

            • ssckelley

              IMO he has been hit soundly in every start, although in 3 games it looks like he got hit more the 2nd time through the lineup. Even the game he won he where he only gave up a solo home run but he still gave up 7 hits and a walk in 5.2 innings of work. That game was against Tampa and then 5 days later the same team lite him up for 9 hits in 4 innings. Zastryzny has not had a good/dominate start yet and yesterday the wheels seem to have fallen off.

  • waittilthisyear

    love to see soler remain healthy for the rest of the season.

  • Javier Bryant

    I was at the game that Gorosh was at when Skulina was pitching and he mostly just struggled with command and had a rough 1st inning

    • Medicos

      JAVIER; I was at the same game and you are certainly correct about Skulina’s command of his pitches that day. If a hurler can’t throw strikes on the 1-1 count he’s going to have problems on the mound. Research has shown that the ump’s call on the 1-1 pitch is key to getting a hitter out.

  • Jon

    Great news on Almora’s dad but remember according to someone, he’s technically not allowed to say he beat cancer.

    • Funn Dave

      Let’s try to avoid revisiting past discussions (and I use the term loosely) about sensitive issues, at least for one day…..

  • ssckelley

    Terrific article on Almora, reading stuff like that gets me giddy for him to be in Chicago. Regardless of what the stats say so far this season and his lack of a walk rate I think he is going to be one hell of a ball player by the time he gets to Chicago.

    • Edwin

      At the very least we won’t have to worry about his K%, so that’s a nice change of pace.

      • ssckelley

        One of the few players we have that concern with. I was looking at the K rates in AAA and AA this morning, so far this season both teams are at 23% on the year. Damn, is there any development going on at the upper levels of the minors? Rubi Silva’s is really mind blowing, 32 K’s in 97 PA’s so far this season, this is his 2nd year in Tennessee and last year his K rate was only 20%.

  • Edwin

    Back of the roation big league upside is a bit of a wet blanket, especially at that low of a level for Blackburn. Hopefully things can pick up a bit with him.

  • Darth Ivy

    Fantasy trade?

    One of my buddies is looking for elite starting pitching. I was thinking of offering him Sale for McCutchen. I don’t like having bench offense, so I was also thinking about a secondary part of the trade being my Alfonso Soriano for his Dan Haren.

    McCutchen didn’t have the amazing year last year that a lot of people think. He got 21 HR, 84 RBI, 27 SB. Not as good as his 2012. But this year, his BB/9 is at a career high and his ISO is the second highest of his career at .214. And his BABIP seems in line for his career. So it seems to me, a novice with this stuff, that he might have a darn good year.

    And Haren, he doesn’t walk many guys. His BB/9 has been steady below 2.00 for years. I love that. But to show improvement from recent history, his GB% is way up, his HR/9 way down, and HR/FB is way down. His BABIP is normal for him. His FIP and xFIP are excellent, right with his ERA. Seems like he might have a great year in 2014

    Soriano hit 30+ HR and 100+ RBI in 2013 split between the cubs and a shitty yankees team. Being on this awesome 2014 yankees lineup all year, I expect 30+ HR and 100+ RBI again.

    Thoughts? Am I better off with Sale-McCutchen straight up or the 4 player trade? Or should I avoid either and stick with what I have?

    • Isaac

      If he gives up Cutch for an injured Sale, he should be checked for sanity…That’s a very lopsided trade.

      • Darth Ivy

        he’s waiting until Sale comes back to discuss this more, which should be by the end of the week. He seemed open to it. He’s also a sox fan, so maybe there’s some home team bias

      • Darth Ivy

        and his offense is absolutely stacked. He drafted the best offense in the league, but then also picked up Blackmon, Dozier (spelling?), and Morneau (spelling?). And he’s really lacking in starting pitching. So it might be a needs/surplus thing that’s making him open to it. And it’s his first fantasy baseball team, so maybe he just doesn’t know better

        • Isaac

          Even Sale/Soriano as a package would still benefit you greatly, just for Cutch…Definitely getting the best player in the deal.

          • Darth Ivy

            Thanks. I feel a lot better about it. I’m notorious around here for not knowing how to value trades.

    • Darth Ivy

      I’d love it if someone else could give their two cents here. The more the merrier.

      • http://iawrestle.com On The Farm

        How heavy are you on pitching. You are getting back a really good hitter, but to trade Soriano for Haren I would have to know if can’t really absorb losing Sale and need to add Haren. I would say a Sale for McCutch trade straight up is a win.

        • Darth Ivy

          My active SP-
          Martin Perez
          Eovaldi
          Archer
          Shelby Miller
          Henderson Alvarez
          Hudson
          Porcello
          Cashner
          Jesse chavez
          Wheeler

          My DL-
          Anibal Sanchez
          Sale
          Joe Kelly
          Cobb
          Taijuan Walker
          Mike Minor

          Soooooo I can’t really complain about absorbing the loss of Sale with the straight up trade. Maybe it would be good to have one offensive bench player.

          • Darth Ivy

            oh, plus I have Bradley, Gray, and Stroman on my Not Active list.

            • http://iawrestle.com On The Farm

              I would save Soriano, it looks like you don’t really need Haren. I think you will get more value out of McCutcheon than you will out of Sale.

              • Darth Ivy

                sweet, thanks.

  • clyder

    Because of Soler’s history of hamstring issues, maybe he will be switched to left field to save some wear & tear on his legs. That would put Bryant in right.

  • DarthHater

    Need to get Soler back to Tennessee immediately so that, if Kershaw plunks Bryant, Jorge can go after him with a bat. :-P

  • Zoolander

    Soler’s contract: nine years at $30 million. He’ll make an average of $3.3 million a year. He can opt out of his yearly salaries and file for arbitration once eligible, which may occur at 6 years of service. He signed in 2012.

    • ssckelley

      and in other news we have landed on the moon……….

  • Serious Cubs Fan

    Blackburn describe as having “back of the rotation” upside is highly disappointing to me. I’m still hoping the velocity jumps back up and he has “mid-rotation” upside with the possibility of being a low #2 and more likely being a good #3

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