Almora Platooning, Heyward Leading Off, Zagunis Thumping, and Other Bullets

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Almora Platooning, Heyward Leading Off, Zagunis Thumping, and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs News, Cubs Minor Leagues and Prospects

On the weekends, I usually try to do some of my early-day writing a little later in the morning so I can do family time when the kiddos get up. Other times, like today, we’ve got a little too much going on that day, and I have to bang it all out early. And on those days, I usually sequester myself to be efficient. Today, I decided to try to write in the throng of child activity – just to be around the family. It is … challenging.

  • Albert Almora has everything you’d want in an everyday center fielder … so long as his improvement against righties in the second half was a legit turning of the corner that holds into this season. His selectivity in those situations was still wanting, but as he points out to the Tribune, it’s difficult to truly improve against righties just by facing sliders in the cage. You need starts and time to do it, which is something we’ve heard about Kyle Schwarber improving against lefties. Of course, the problem for Almora and the Cubs is going to be the existence of no fewer than three other outfielders – Schwarber, Ian Happ, and Jason Heyward – that you’re really going to want to see starting against most righties. Throw Ben Zobrist in there, and it becomes all the more challenging to actually make Almora an everyday starter. As we’ve said before, if Schwarber and Almora wind up becoming platoon players this year, it’s more of a byproduct of the roster than a genuine desire to platoon them.
  • This was in the Miscellany last night, but I wanted to point it out here, too, because it’s quite notable:

  • The implication there is that Heyward is actually being considered as a leadoff possibility, even if only as part of an ongoing rotation. The rub is going to be Heyward’s comfort level – he has previously expressed a preference to hit down in the order – and how effective it is to periodically pop him up there and give him the most plate appearances in a game. Unless batting leadoff somehow makes something click for Heyward (not impossible, given that the Cubs seem now to think the best way to help with his offensive struggles is to work on the mental side of the game, not the mechanical side), it’s not really something I want to see. In other words, either put Heyward there for a good long stretch because you think it’ll work for him (and if it works for him, he’d be good in that role for the Cubs), or don’t bother with rotating him there at all.
  • Note: Heyward’s walk rate was a big part of what buoyed his OBP in his best offensive days, when he looked like the kind of guy who could be a great leadoff hitter. But as he’s struggled with the Cubs, that walk rate has fallen, as pitchers are less and less concerned with challenging him in the zone – his 46.2% zone rate last year was the highest of his career.
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
  • Tommy La Stella remains one of the best bench bats in baseball:

  • There’s a part of me that hates that La Stella is going through his prime years with the Cubs as a bench bat behind a couple other bench bats. On a lot of teams, he’s a starting second baseman who – in my opinion – puts up an above-average offensive line (which is good for second base). Heck, he might even be good enough to be that guy on a playoff-caliber team. With these 2015-18 Cubs, he’s never received, and (absent a couple serious injuries) never will receive, that chance. He just turned 29.
  • Interesting to read how other Cubs lefties are observing Jose Quintana, and learning from what he does (Cubs.com). That’s a nice side benefit of bringing in guys like Quintana, Yu Darvish, and Jon Lester. There are things they can teach younger pitchers just by being around.
  • Watching the game yesterday, I had to step out for a bit for some family stuff, and came back to a beast of a batter I didn’t recognize at all:

  • That’s outfielder Mark Zagunis, and is it just me, or does the dude look like he packed on about 15 pounds (hopefully of muscle) from last year? It may not translate, but the one thing that kept his offensive game in the “very solid” range as opposed to the “very good” range (where it would play much better in a corner outfield spot) was not having that big-time power. The guy has incredible plate discipline and very strong bat-to-ball skills. If he can power up a bit, that’s a serious bat right there. Barring an injury, Zagunis will return to AAA to begin the season, and hopefully he rakes.
  • Michael offering a different kind of perspective on our discussion about the 2004 rotation versus the 2018 rotation:

  • Ben Zobrist is a podcaster:

  • Former top Cubs prospect Eloy Jimenez has already dealt with a lot of random injuries in his career, and here’s another:

  • Oh man, I’m imagining Pedro Strop popping Theo Epstein in the beanbag and I am dying:

  • This is fantastic:

  • Are you a computer science whiz who wants to work for the Cubs? They’re hiring.
  • He’s not perfect, but he’s better than what the Bears have, so I say go get him:


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Author: Brett Taylor

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