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- Hardball Talk offers a take on a source who tells George King that new Yankee closer Aroldis Chapman is an athletic freak, could beat Billy Hamilton in a 100-yard dash, and might be the best athlete in the big leagues. Hardball Talk is, like I am, skeptical. Chapman certainly does look like a beast, and his unique frame – the same frame that allows him to throw 103mph – probably helps make him a better athlete than most players, and a better athlete than you might otherwise realize. But best in the majors? Overall? Nah.
- That made me wonder who is the best athlete on the Cubs. Jake Arrieta is an obvious contender – and maybe is the obvious answer. His physical fitness is off the charts, though I suppose the question then is: what makes someone a superior “athlete”? To me, it’s not only fitness, but also strength, agility, speed, endurance, etc. Again, the answer still might be Arrieta, but other guys on the 40-man roster who come to mind: Matt Szczur, Jason Heyward, Willson Contreras, Kris Bryant, and Javy Baez. What do you folks think? [EDIT: A lotta folks are shouting Jorge Soler at me, which I understand, because the guy is a beast. I love me some Jorge Soler. I guess I was just thinking about what makes an “athlete”, and I don’t see the same speed/agility there like with the other guys. Strength, no doubt. Killer smile? Absolutely.]
- Speaking of Heyward, it turns out that he works with a “movement coach” in the offseason to help improve his speed and agility (Cubs.com). An even quicker, speedier version of Heyward? He could be an even bigger terror on the bases and could definitely handle center field. I get more and more excited every day to see him full-time in center field. I really think we’re going to be thrilled to watch.
- We’re barely halfway through February, but we already have a strong leader in the clubhouse for the bat flip of the year.
- The PECOTA projections came out yesterday, and I didn’t discuss the tepid projection for Addison Russell because I wanted to take a deeper look to try and figure out why PECOTA was so unenthused. But Matt Trueblood took it on with a great deep dive, which leaves you feeling like Russell projects *much* better than PECOTA might think. Short version? Russell’s defense is probably better than PECOTA is projecting, and Russell was unfairly dinged last year – in the extreme – by batting 9th, and facing the starting pitcher for a third time the fewest times of any regular in history (by a wide margin). Also, I’d add: Russell was 21 last year, and had played extremely few professional games above A-ball. He’s a stud. You’re going to see it starting to shine through this year.
- The Red Sox have signed former Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol to a minor league deal, and he’ll head to Spring Training with them. The righty pitched at AAA for the Indians last year (quite well, actually), before competing in the Dominican Republic this offseason (not so well, but only 7 innings). Marmol, now 33, hasn’t had any big league success since the Cubs parted ways with him back in 2013, and that’s made it easy to forget just how good he was in his prime. Sure, he got himself into plenty of trouble with walks, but he was so nastily effective otherwise that he was worth 6.5 WAR from 2007 to 2010, 8th best in baseball over that stretch. It’s unlikely that Marmol will make his way back with the Red Sox, but stranger things have happened.
- It’s still up in the air whether Mark Buehrle is going to retire – there were rumors early in the offseason that he might want to pitch for the Cardinals – and, while we wait, we have an excuse to watch one of the best glove flip plays in the last 30 years.
- Over at Baseball is Fun, Mookie Betts parked his golf cart … in a pond.
- Michael is always open to questions for Ask Away – askaway at bleachernation dot com.
- Although Cubs pitchers and catchers don’t formally report until Friday, technically, baseball Spring Training begins today:
Pitchers & catchers report today for Mets, Pirates, Cardinals, DBacks, Indians, Phillies, Rockies, & Giants. YES!!! pic.twitter.com/i1JJ1Ki8ys
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) February 17, 2016
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