Barring an unthinkable surprise next Saturday against Ohio State, Michigan will finish the year ineligible for a bowl, thanks to yesterday’s loss to Maryland. I’ll be at The Game on Saturday, I’ll be modestly torn: I remain a Michigan fan, through and through, though my connection to the school is predicated solely on being born in Toledo, surrounded by at least as many Michigan fans as Ohio State fans (including my dad). On the flip side, I actually went to OSU for law school, have increasing affection for the team after living in Columbus for 10 years, and a win for the Buckeyes could set the stage for a playoff appearance. A Michigan loss, by contrast, would guarantee Brady Hoke’s dismissal and an immediate, and long-needed, overhaul of the football program.
I’ve got a lot of thinking to do this week.
- Junior Lake is putting together an interesting campaign in the Dominican Winter League so far. He’s hitting just .233 and slugging just .322, but his OBP is .364 thanks to a walk rate just shy of 13%. The strikeout rate is elevated, though, at just under 30%. He’s also stolen 13 bases without being caught once. I’m not really sure what you do with those numbers, but it’s definitely interesting to see all of the walks.
- Arismendy Alcantara is also playing in the DWL, though he’s been playing for only about a week. He’s been seeing time in center field and at second base.
- Lefty Joe Ortiz is pitching in Venezuela, and so far has a 2.84 ERA over 6.1 innings. He’s struck out three and walked none. You may recall that the Cubs picked up Ortiz off of waivers from the Rangers just after the regular season ended. He’ll compete for a bullpen job next Spring.
- Also in Venezuela, catching prospect Willson Contreras is crushing it: .300/.341/.650 over 14 games. The 22-year-old backstop hit .242/.320/.359 in the FSL this year (which was actually above average for that league), and could have a big-league future long-term, depending on how his receiving skills evolve. It just takes time with catchers.
- In Mexico, Christian Villanueva is starting regularly, and hitting .254/.375/.458 with 11 walks against just 12 strikeouts. It looks like the start of a nice bounceback after a disappointing 2014 for the one-time top 10 Cubs prospect. Villanueva’s glove is thought of as one of the best at third base in the minors, and that could carry him to the big leagues at some point if he can just hit a little. He is currently on the Cubs’ 40-man roster, and may yet wind up as a trade piece if he re-establishes himself in the first half of 2015.
- And speaking of post-season prospect play, this FanGraphs piece has a statistically-adjusted leaderboard of performances in the AFL (you’ll have to read it to understand what the stats are about), and the good offensive performances for the Cubs came from Dan Vogelbach and Bijan Rademacher. On the pitching side, the Cubs had the second best performing pitcher in the league. No, it wasn’t C.J. Edwards – it was Ivan Pineyro, who recently was left unprotected from the Rule 5 Draft. We’ll see if his big AFL makes up for the injured forearm he suffered in the 2014 regular season, and pushes some team to take a chance on him. I don’t have a good feel for how his stuff would play in the bullpen, so I’m not sure whether he’s a realistic stash for another club or not.
- Vine Line has a piece about players in the offseason. What do they do? How do they unwind? Is it hard to get away? Etc. Let me just say, I already felt a bro-ship (that’s kinship in a dudely way) with Jake Arrieta, but he is speaking my language: “My routine starts with getting up when my 3-year-old son starts beating me up. The day starts when my kids want it to. Then I’m either cooking breakfast or running down the street to get coffee. From there, it’s playtime for the next three to four hours or so until the kids take a nap.” Throw in me trying to write this very post in between screaming fits and spilled milk, and that’s me this morning. Well, minus the elite athletic ability and badass beard, of course.
- In his piece on the addition of Henry Blanco to the coaching staff, Jesse Rogers mentions that he hears it’s “doubtful” that Dave Martinez will come over from Tampa to join the Cubs. Martinez was passed over for Tampa Bay’s managerial job.