The Cubs are still in talent acquisition mode, and likely will remain in that mode in some capacity even when they have hoisted back to back to back to back to back World Series flags at Wrigley. The two biggest sources of young talent, trades and the draft, are very well covered by a wide array of media outlets.
The third source, the international free agent signing period, is much less discussed. There are immense challenges in writing about the international scene, not the least of which are byzantine rules, ridiculously early deals, the scarcity of information on many of the players, and, at least for this season, a higher level of political turmoil in Venezuela. There are very few people on the planet who have a firm grasp of the international free agent scene.
And one of them is Ben Badler at Baseball America. This year is proving to particularly difficult to assess, and in his latest article Badler goes into some of the reasons for that being the case.
The article is a great read that I highly recommend you take some time to digest, and it opens up some surprising glimpses into a process that has gotten rather strange in some ways. There are prospects reaching informal agreements with teams a year or more before they are due to sign, after which they effectively disappear from the landscape. There are players, very good ones, who simply have not been seen by many of the teams. There are teams that have all but pulled out of Venezuela altogether. Reading though that article, the international free agent signing period starts to sound like the Wild West of baseball talent acquisition.
With this being the murkiest IFA pool in some time, the Cubs may have been particularly smart to load up on talent last year and take the penalties this year. They may also be one of the teams who have already reached a number of pre-signing-day deals and already have a pile of talent committed. Or it could be that the Cubs will look to spread their money around and try to pick up players who have been overlooked by other teams. Or both. Or they could trade some pool money. Or something else. Right now we just don’t know what the plan is or how these events will play out.
The signing period begins July 2, and I think we can expect to hear some confusing and contradictory reports as we run up to that date. That confusion can create opportunity, however. To my eye this looks like a year in which the teams who have the best organizations on the ground in the Caribbean could enjoy the most success. The Cubs are believed to have a strong organization; this could be the year in which they prove it.
Scores From Yesterday
Iowa - Eleven hits were not enough, as the Cubs lost 2-1.
Tennessee - The Smokies had the day off.
Daytona - The Cubs had more hits, but were shut out anyway by a final of 3-0.
Kane County - Kane County dropped Game One of the doubleheader 11-1, and then grabbed the win in a pitching duel 1-0 in nine innings for Game Two.
Performances of Note
- [Iowa] Javier Baez produced another good game. He doubled twice and did not strike out in a 2 for 4 performance.
- [Iowa] Christian Villanueva and Arismendy Alcantara also had 2 hits each for the Cubs.
- [Iowa] Carlos Pimentel had the start (filling in for Kyle Hendricks, who missed his turn with a bum ankle – sounds good for next start, though) and allowed just 2 hits and a walk over 6 innings while striking out 6.
- [Daytona] Pin-Chieh Chen finished 2 for 3 and had the Cubs only multi-hit day.
- [Daytona] Rob Zastryzny made his first start since being hit with a ball 13 days prior and allowed no hits and no walks while striking out 2 over 2 innings of work.
- [Daytona] Steve Perakslis also had a good day. He allowed a run on a hit and a walk while striking out one in 3 innings of work.
- [Kane County] Jacob Hannemann and Ben Carhart each had 2 hits in Game One. Will Remillard doubled and walked.
- [Kane County] Carhart then drove in Carlos Penalver with the game winner in Game Two. Penalver doubled and stole his 12th base.
- [Kane County] Cael Brockmeyer, one of The Hitting Catchers of Kane County, fished Game Two 2 for 3.
- [Kane County] Justin Amlung pitched a very nice game in the second billing. He lasted 7 innings and allowed just 3 hits and no runs while striking out 5.
- The Cubs big Caribbean signings from a year ago were under the microscope for Baseball Prospectus (subscription required), and both fared quite well. Eloy Jimenez drew praise for his raw power and bat speed, but he still needs to work on his swing. It sounds like he has room to improve on the basepaths as well.
- Gleyber Torres was noted as the more polished hitter, but one who still has quite a bit of work to do in learning how to translate his physical tools into consistent success. He does not project for a ton of power, but the scouts think he should hit enough to hold down a middle infield job at the major league level one day (in the distant future – he is young and will not be up anytime soon). Right now it sounds like he is doing just fine at shortstop, but like many very young infielders a move to second could easily be part of his future. Right now we’ll just have to wait and see.
- I will be in Iowa in about a month to watch the Cubs play on June 20 and 21. If you’re going to be in town for those games, let me know and I’ll look into setting up a meet up somewhere around the stadium.