Michigan plays tonight at Rutgers, their first game since being humiliated by Minnesota at home, and since becoming a national story for all the wrong reasons. A win won’t be much of a salvo, because it’s quite clear UM didn’t do the right thing this week. I love the Wolverines, and I don’t want to wish ill on the young players, but I think I’d prefer to see Michigan lose again today. Big. The Cubs have let me down in other ways in the last decade, but I never felt like they were doing wrong. It’s unfathomable to me after 20+ years of Michigan fandom, but this week has me wondering whether I should start supporting my local team – and alma mater – a little more openly. I’m just so disappointed.
- If you missed it, Baseball America came out with its top 20 prospect list for the Midwest League, and it was bereft of Cubs prospects, save one, Duane Underwood, down at 18. In isolation, having only one prospect show up on the list was not a surprise – the Midwest League is huge, and the Kane County Cougars were loaded with really interesting young players, but not necessarily classically elite prospect types – but Underwood over Jen-Ho Tseng was a substantial surprise. My only guess at the time was BA’s sources were going with Underwood’s significantly higher upside (he might be the only lower-level Cubs pitching prospect right now with a front-of-the-rotation ceiling) over Tseng’s polish and age/level dominance. Sure enough, in his chat at BA, J.J. Cooper confirmed that was precisely it: “Underwood has way more stuff. Tseng was consistently 88-90 without really a plus pitch. He locates well and baffled a lot of hitters, but what he showed this year was more back-end of the rotation stuff. Underwood at his best is 93-96 mph with a hammer curveball. There’s more upside to that assortment of pitches.” Fair enough, though I still think a 19-year-old pitcher who dominated full season ball – his first exposure in the States – with mid-rotation upside should be on a list like this. Tseng’s got a great curveball, too …
- (But I don’t want to be too hard on BA here – with 16 teams in the league, especially a lower-level league where guys are all projection and fresh out of the draft/IFA/etc., there are probably 100 guys who’ve got a legit case to be on this list. There’s no doubt that Tseng is in that discussion. He’ll just have to do it again at High-A Myrtle Beach next year. And, in the meantime, here’s hoping Underwood breaks out. And Daury Torrez, too. And Juan Paniagua. And Paul Blackburn. And Tyler Skulina. Everyone from Kane County. All the breakout pitching prospects!)
- Cooper also gets into Kyle Schwarber a bit in the chat (Schwarber didn’t qualify for the list), and expresses serious concerns about his defense – not just behind the plate, but also in the outfield. “He’s a well-below average defender in the outfield right now. At least one manager who wasn’t all that sold on his catching ability said that it was way beyond his ability in left field right now. As that manager put it ‘It’s not good. He’s just not going to run around in the outfield. Maybe he plays first?’ Everyone loved Schwarber’s bat, but it was hard to find anyone who was confident about where he will play long-term.” I’m not too worried about it, given that catching is still a possibility, and, with his athleticism and work ethic, becoming passable in left field should be a reasonable enough task for him long-term.
- No surprise: Kevin Towers is leaving the Diamondbacks’ organization after Tony La Russa was installed as his new boss, was stripped of his GM role, and Dave Stewart was hired as the new GM. Towers had the opportunity to stay in the org in another role, but this was a fait accompli. He’ll get another job in baseball somewhere because, despite some boners in Arizona, he does have some skills to offer. But he may never get another top-level gig.
- Some great things and great shots about Chicago.
- If you missed yesterday’s short explanation of xFIP, an important advanced pitching statistic, may I recommend you check this out (and subscribe to BN’s YouTube page here for future videos):