Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

cubs azl spring training logoThe Chicago Cubs’ full-season minor league affiliates open up their seasons tonight at 6pm CT and 7pm CT (full details here), and, since there’s no big league game tonight, let’s just make this post a game thread for the minor league games. Go Cubs, Smokies, Pelicans, and Cubs.

In the meantime, some of the latest Cubs prospect notes …

  • Chicago Cubs GM Jed Hoyer explained why C.J. Edwards will be starting the season in the AA Tennessee bullpen rather than the rotation, and his thoughts on the subject are exactly what I’d hoped/expected to hear. You can read Hoyer’s comments here and here, but the short version is what I wrote yesterday: the Cubs want to manage his outings and keep them relatively short for now since they were going to have to do that this year anyway, and this approach leaves open the possibility that Edwards could contribute in the big leagues later this year. No one is closing the door on Edwards starting down the road just yet. The Cubs just want to manage his appearances, and leave open the possibility that they’ve got a live, useful young arm available to them down the stretch (rather than having to shut him down because he threw too many innings in April and May).
  • Your ideal case for Edwards this year, if you’re asking me? He pitches well out of the pen at AA for a month or so in 1 to 2 inning spurts, is bumped to AAA Iowa for another month or so of the same, and he reaches the big league bullpen around midseason. From there, he’s a contributor down the stretch, and gets his innings on the year up near 90 to 100. Then, after he’s shown he can get big league hitters out and stayed healthy all year, he’s considered for the rotation in 2016. Maybe he goes that way, or maybe he stays a reliever. But, either way, at that point, he’s a clear weapon. And, even if he’s in the pen, maybe he’s a true multi-inning guy.

  • A great read on Kyle Schwarber at Baseball America, and the efforts he and the Cubs are making to ensure he can catch someday in the big leagues. No one will say it’s a guarantee, and Schwarber’s skills behind the plate were extremely raw when this offseason started. But he’s a hard worker, a smart guy, and a great athlete. Still, he’s had to work on and dramatically improve essentially every aspect of catching.
  • Per the Pelicans, pitching prospect Duane Underwood is now officially listed as Duane Underwood, Jr.
  • Javier Baez is no longer technically a prospect, but, with him heading back to AAA Iowa to work on some things (after a leave of absence to be with his family after his sister’s passing), he skews more “prospect” than “big leaguer” these days. Thus, I include this great piece from Matt Trueblood on Baez and Sammy Sosa here in this set of Prospect Notes.
  • BN’er Dale (Spriggs) is in Arizona, and, as he did through Spring Training, he’s periodically sending me his thoughts on the things he’s seen. Among the latest: Dillon Maples is throwing mid-90s with a sharp breaking ball (I know he’s had a rough go since the 2011 draft, with injuries, reworked mechanics, and extreme wildness – would be nice if he somehow broke out), and Dylan Cease is throwing well as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Carson Sands and Justin Steele, who didn’t get full-season assignments, are also throwing at Extended Spring Training. Dale thought Eloy Jimenez was making some nice plays in the outfield, which is nice to hear, since it’s always been all about the bat (which has so much potential). Dale mentioned a sleeper who looked good to me, too, when I was watching last month: infielder Ho-young Son. It looks like Son was signed out of Korea last year and played just 25 games in rookie ball at age 19, so it’s not even really worth getting to into the limited stats. Now 20, Son could be a guy to watch this year in short-season ball, either at shortstop or second base. Also, Dale likes the look of utility man Varonex Cuevas (great name), who may have to move along a bit since he’s already 22. Finally, Dale notes that outfield prospect Kevin Encarnacion, who missed last year after a car accident and severe burns, has given up switch-hitting.

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