As I drove through some snow to get to an early-morning workout today, I thought of Michael, who is on a plane to Arizona right now. There, he will enjoy some baseball, some sun, and hopefully some of you. If you are going to the game today or tomorrow at Sloan, make sure you follow Michael on Twitter so you can keep up with his whereabouts and say hello if you see him.
- At the Washington Post, Theo Epstein tells Barry Svrluga that Anthony Rizzo is a “sneaky MVP candidate.” The article is a great read about the value Rizzo provides this club, though I doubt many around here would call Rizzo, perennially one of the five best hitters in the NL, a “sneaky” anything. And yet … doesn’t it seem like Rizzo gets overlooked, even on his own team, sometimes? Consider that so much of the talk this offseason has been about the two major offensive additions to the team in Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward. Among the carry-over position players, you probably hear more about Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber than anyone (and that’s not without good reason). But Rizzo is, in many ways, the heart and soul of the offense, and no matter what changes around him, he’s going to be batting right there in the heart of the lineup, generating so much offense.
- That all makes me think about how many legitimately plausible MVP candidates the Cubs have right now. Even if I don’t stretch too hard (arguing, for example, that if Addison Russell plays defense like he did last year and breaks out offensively like we know he can, even he could be an outside-the-box MVP candidate), I can come up with five very plausible MVP candidates in Rizzo, Bryant, Schwarber, Heyward, and Jake Arrieta. Maybe Heyward is a stretch in that group, but he’s just 26, and his offensive ability is right there on the cusp of being top tier (just a liiiiitle more elevation … ).
- Travis Wood, who pitched a couple solid innings kicking off the Cactus League season yesterday, is preparing as a starting pitcher this spring, as we knew. He’s also keeping the same mentality, in terms of preparing as a starter, as he’s had in previous Spring Trainings (CSN). That’s the right way to be, even if the plan right now probably places him in the bullpen out of the gate, fulfilling a variety of roles.
- Something I’ve been mulling since Luis wrote about the Cubs’ lack of an obvious, traditional fall-back option at closer if something should happen to Hector Rondon – since the Cubs don’t have an obvious guy, I actually think Wood is as good as an in-house option for that role. He keeps it in the zone, he can crank it up in the pen, he has a diverse pitch mix, and he’s not the type to be rattled in the 9th. Normally, you’d be nervous about having a flyball pitcher in the closer’s role, where home runs can be extra damaging, but Wood actually increased his groundball rate dramatically in the pen last year, and didn’t give up many homers at all. Small sample, yes, but I’m just kicking this around.
- Kyle Hendricks, who struck out four in two innings yesterday, is feeling good mechanically (CSN). He is nominally in a rotation battle with guys like Wood, Trevor Cahill, and Adam Warren, but, as the incumbent who has shown what he can do, Hendricks almost certainly has the inside track right now.
- Although the Red Sox showed David Price the love they wouldn’t show Jon Lester, the latter was happy for the former, and offered to help him out in any way he could as Price transitioned to Boston (Boston Globe). Good guy.
- Baseball America offers its picks for various things in the 2016 season, and the Cubs show up quite a bit among the upper tier teams, with the best moves, biggest storylines, and playoff success.
- Yes, he’s most famously associated with the Cardinals (though his singular best play came with the Padres), but I can still enjoy Ozzie Smith – especially when he’s still able to play middle infield at 61(!) years old!
- We said it coming into Kris Bryant’s debut season – he is the rare player who could still be dominant despite a huge strikeout total – and sure enough:
Only 17 players in last 50 years struck out >40% above league average & still posted a WAR of 5+. KB in 2015 was one https://t.co/BCfvcyzumS
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) March 4, 2016
- Miscellaneous fun over at BIF, including Corey Dickerson hitting a ball an incredible 569 feet – and it wasn’t even at Coors Field.
- Just magnificent (also, click that follow button!):
— Baseball Is Fun (@flippingbats) March 4, 2016