Ask Away

This is my very last weekend before moving downtown (into an apartment less than a mile from Wrigley Field), but the days are moving slower than ever. I can’t wait to move in and explore the area, of course, but I think that the excitement has slowly been turning into anxiety about the moving process, itself.

I just want the final product. I don’t want to do any of the work upfront. #Millenials

But, if there’s just one more week until I move into my new apartment, that means there’s also just over one more week until Opening Day. And for that, I once again become excited … but that, too, turns into anxiety when I stress over the possibility of the playoffs or anything that can stop this season from being perfect. I have problems.

On a completely different note, if you’d like to ask a question, remember to send them in to Ask Away @ BleacherNation dot com or tweet them to me @Michael_Cerami, using the hashtag #AskAway.

Last week, we discussed the slow starts of Jorge Soler and Hector Rondon, whether or not the Cubs clubhouse is still on schedule, my favorite moment as a writer for Bleacher Nation so far, what the deal is with all the cat pictures around here, and more, so be sure to check it out.

This week, we’ll touch on who’s having the best and bad worst Springs, if the Cubs are coming close to trading any prospects, my favorite Simpsons characters, and much, much more. So without further adieu, Ask Away …

I haven’t had a chance to keep up too much this Spring, so, who’s been having a good Spring and who hasn’t?  Caleb M.

Before I address this question, I’d like to reiterate that Spring Training statistics are almost wholly meaningless. The samples are small, players are often working on particular aspects of their game (negatively affecting their results) in ways that are not always visible to fans, and the level of competition is not close to the same as the regular season. That said, it’s a fun question to think about, so let’s take a look at the hitters and pitchers who have had the best and worst 2016 Spring Trainings.



On the positive, positional side, four hitters have an OPS greater than 1.000 this Spring (with at least 30 plate appearances), and that list goes Jeimer Candelario, John Andreoli, Anthony Rizzo, and Dexter Fowler. Candelario, in particular, is having a very noteworthy Spring, and has catapulted himself into the big league picture sooner than many expected. With his new-found improvements, defensively, at third base, and his ability to hit advanced pitching, we may see him in Chicago as soon as this summer.

On the other hand, Addison Russell (.680), Jason Heyward (.676), Javier Baez (.583) and Albert Almora (.569) are among the most notable players with a sub-.700 OPS in 30 plate appearances or more this Spring. But, with the exception of Heyward, I’d argue that the other three have very obvious things to work on this Spring, and are probably not concerned with the results (not that they should be anyway). And, of course, the only thing that matters for a proven guy like Heyward is being healthy and ready to go.

On the positive, pitching side, the back of the Cubs rotation easily stands out above the rest. Jason Hammel has a mere 1.20 ERA over 15 innings of work, while Kyle Hendricks trails just behind with a 1.89 ERA in his 19 innings. I’ve been especially impressed with how Hendricks has looked over the course of the Spring (19Ks, to just 2BBs).

On the other hand, as we already know, Hector Rondon (13H, 1BB in just 4.2 IP) and Justin Grimm (6H, 4BBs in just 4.2 IP) are having a rough go of it this Spring, but, like I said last week, and in the opening paragraphs above, you just have to trust that Spring results do not necessarily show what a guy will do in a given season when it comes to more established players.

Are the Cubs getting close to HAVING to trade some prospects (like, for a couple examples, Dan Vogelbach and/or Christian Villanueva)? Rod

No, the Cubs definitely do not have to trade any of their prospects, but the truth is they probably should and probably will move a few of them before the season is over. That said, speculating on the particular players is never a bright idea, because there are so many variables that go into the calculus of a trade, including the quality of the trade, the type (position, age, experience) of player the other team is targeting, the amount of control a team has over that player, and whether or not he is blocked at the Major League level by a long term piece.



Cubs fans have long been calling for the trade of Dan Vogelbach, for example, because of his relatively good (but admittedly not great) prospect status, and his apparently better fit on an American League team. However, Vogelbach still has three seasons of options remaining, and is just reaching AAA for the very first time in 2016 (after walking over 18% of the time in AA). If his long-awaited power finally begins to show up this season, you may be happy the Cubs held onto him for as long as they have. (see the next question).

Which player on the Cubs, can the team least afford to lose for an extended period of time?  Thomas G.

So, my gut on this leads me to Anthony Rizzo. He has been the best (and certainly most consistent) hitter on the team for the past two seasons, is just 26 years old, and projects to have yet another MVP quality season in 2016 (and none of that is to mention his leadership qualities, though they wouldn’t necessarily be lost, even with him on the bench). That said, the Cubs have a pretty good set of replacements should the unthinkable happen to Rizzo. For example, Javier Baez could immediately slide in and cover first or Ben Zobrist could dust off his first baseman’s glove and allow Baez to take back over second base, where he plays excellent defense. My point here is that the drop off from Rizzo (1B) and Zobrist (2B) to Zobrist (1B) and Baez (2B) (for one example) might not be as terrible (especially including the improvement on defense) as the alternative … which is losing Jake Arrieta.

Jake Arrieta is the most important piece to the 2016 Chicago Cubs success, not only because he projects to once again be very, very good at the top of the Cubs rotation, but because the Cubs are least capable of replacing his value with the available in-house options. The multiple super utility pitchers will do fine in a pinch, but wouldn’t come anywhere near the production of Arrieta, and don’t have the benefit of any other added value (like defense, where Arrieta, himself, almost won a Gold Glove last season).

Moreover, while the Cubs could call up someone like Jeimer Candelario to move around the infield, the team does not have the same luxury with impact pitching depth in the upper minors. No, if the Cubs are going to be very good in 2016, Jake Arrieta will probably have to be there. (I sure hope that blister heals!)




And now for the personal, funny and anything-else-that-comes-to-mind part – let’s talk about favorite Simpsons, Cake vs. Pie, and who has the better smile, Jorge Soler or Kris Bryant. Ask Away …

Who is your favorite Simpson’s character? Jonathan R. (Darth Ivy)

I’ve always been partial to Milhouse, but I’m going to lean towards Moe Szyslak (though I did have to Google the spelling of his last name), because I love Hank Azaria – the voice actor behind Moe. His scummy bar, cheap antics and raspy voice remind me of a bartender or two back in college.

[Brett: If not Thrillhouse (his proper name), I’d go with this guy.]

Do you prefer cake or pie? Luke B. (Yeah, that Luke)

I’ve definitely eaten way more cake in my lifetime than pie, but I’m definitely leaning towards the latter. If you can offer me a warm slice of pie, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top, there’s no contest.

An important question that might bring a bit of peace between my daughters: Who has the best smile on the Cubs, Kris Bryant or Jorge Soler? – Jason M. (Zorag)

First, let’s see what we’re working with:

Image-1

Don’t get me wrong, I love me some #Sparkle, but Georgie steals the show when he flashes his pearly whites. These Ask Aways are getting weird.


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