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Unveiling Heyward’s Swing, Strop’s Role, Almora’s Ability, and Other Bullets

Analysis and Commentary, Chicago Cubs News

The Cactus League slate kicks off today for the Chicago Cubs with two games, one of which – the home game against the A’s – will be televised on WGN-9 (and MLB.tv). Audio will be available for the game against the Giants.

… and I’ll be able to follow only most of the games. The Wife will be at a conference for the day, which’ll put me with the three kiddos. By the time The Wife gets back home – approximately mid-game – The Little Girl and I have a daddy-daughter dance to attend. So, then, odds are good that I’m going to miss a big chunk of the games today. I’m not crazy about it, but I am crazy about my kids. So it’s fine.

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  • Today will give us the first in-game look at Jason Heyward’s revamped swing, and, although I’ll caution you in the strongest possible terms not to take anything too final away from whatever happens at the plate today, I will say that I’m eager to just see the swing in non-batting-practice action. For his part, Joe Maddon feels the same way, telling CSN: “I can see [the swing is] a lot freer and the ball’s coming off hotter. But it’s all about game. I’m really eager for him, because everybody just talks about all the work he’s done all winter. Conversationally with him, I sense or feel like he feels good about it and that he’s kind of at a nice peaceful moment with himself. So it will be really fun to watch.”
  • Yesterday’s big news was the Pedro Strop extension, and can I say how much I love this quote:

  • Of course, reading that I immediately think about Dellin Betances and his ugly situation with the Yankees thanks precisely to his role. In another life, Strop pitched exactly as well for another team as he did the past three years for the Cubs, except he did it as the “closer.” And in that other life, he made 50% more in arbitration, and probably doesn’t sign this extension – or, if he does, it’s for a heck of a lot more money. I think it’s pretty awesome that Strop doesn’t care about his role so long as he’s helping the team win. I think it’s pretty crummy that late-inning reliever compensation is still so absurdly dependent on “saves.”
  • More from Jed Hoyer, Joe Maddon, and Strop on the extension here and here.

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  • We recently discussed the positional roster crunch and how it could impact Tommy La Stella, and he spoke a little bit more about the situation with Mark Gonzales. Though there’s still a general lack of clarity – he wouldn’t say one way or another what would happen if he doesn’t make the big league roster at the end of Spring Training.
  • Bruce Miles writes about Albert Almora’s uniquely high baseball IQ, something that was typified by his tagging up from first base in the 10th inning of Game Seven of the World Series. I’m reminded of the time he was thrown out trying to take third base late in a loss to the Cardinals in mid-2016, a decision for which he took a lot of unjustified heat. In short, a pitch got away from the catcher and Almora made the split-second, instinctual decision – the only kind you can make in that moment and have success – to take off for third. The ball, in a total fluke, hit the umpire’s leg, bounced right to Yadier Molina, who then threw Almora out at third. It was a great, instinctual move by Almora … and just some bad luck. On the tag-up in the World Series, the play at second base was close in timing. If Rajai Davis settles better under Kris Bryant’s fly ball to make a stronger and more accurate throw, Almora might’ve been thrown out. But, in a show of those same split-second instincts, Almora made it. And, regardless of whether he did or not, it was a great baseball play. Remember that the next time he’s just barely thrown out on the bases.
  • The Cardinals signed Cuban outfield prospect Jose Adolis Garcia to a $2.5 million bonus. Normally, that amount would make you think this is a serious prospect, but Garcia was not subject to IFA restrictions, which makes me wonder if he got a little more than a player of his caliber might otherwise. It sounds like there are serious questions about his ability to hit high-quality pitching. Then again, I’ll never forget how Aledmys Diaz’s stock slipped, as more and more evaluators became convinced that his ceiling was as a reasonable bench utility option, allowing the Cardinals to sign him for $8 million over three years (plus team control thereafter), a far cry from the $20+ million he was initial expected to get. And then, well, he blew up.

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  • The portable charger I use is on a ridiculous sale (71% off), so here’s the little thing at Amazon. Actually, I think this is a newer, better version …
  • Luis has your TYL Bullets here, which reminds me of the dang fine work he’s been doing there. It’s happening organically by virtue of contributing over there and doing editorial work, but I’m … really becoming a Bears fan. I know it’s not a great time for the Bears as they rebuild (and I know the situations are not the same), but it’s been fun to track what can happen this offseason to shape the near and long-term future. I can see why the Cubs’ rebuilding process – and following along on a certain site, I hope – really crystalized hardcore Cubs fandom for so many folks. It’s only been two months, and I can feel it seeping into me with the Bears. If you’ve got a little Bears interest yourself, I highly recommend heading over to The Ten-Yard Line and poking around, and I definitely recommend following it on Twitter and liking it on Facebook so that you occasionally and naturally get the posts popped into your feed:

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Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor of Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation.

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