Ask Away: Logan Watkins, The Next Home Grown Pitcher, Win Totals, Fish and More!

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Ask Away: Logan Watkins, The Next Home Grown Pitcher, Win Totals, Fish and More!

Chicago Cubs

Ask AwayLast week was my first visit to Spring Training, and if you’ve read anything I’ve written since, you know I was blown away by the entire experience. Sloan Park is beautiful, the weather was perfect, the beer was cold and the hot dogs were a foot long.

And speaking of Spring Training, you’ll recall that I plan on watching 20 baseball movies before the end of Spring Training, primarily on – what I like to call – Baseball Sunday. I am a bit behind, as far as spacing them out equally, but I will stay up all night if I have to. At the end, I’ll provide a ranking of all the movies, including the biggest baseball lesson and amount of time actually spent playing baseball in each.

Last week, we discussed future rotations, Ben Zobrist getting time at shortstop, breakfast food, the best beards on the team and much more, so be sure to check it out. And remember, if you have a question to ask, you can send an email in to AskAway at BleacherNation dot com for a chance to be answered in next week’s article.

Alright, let’s get right to it. Ask Away…

Where is Logan Watkins? Where will he play this season? Tom H.

If you’re not Tom H. and you don’t know who Logan Watkins is, let me catch you up to speed. Watkins, 26, was drafted by the Cubs in the 21st round of the 2008 MLB Draft. He worked his way through their minor league system, hitting .273/.359/.381 along the way, primarily from second base. He was the 2012 Cubs minor league player of the year and eventually made his major league debut on August 4, 2013. Watkins struggled at the Major League level, though, and then, after splitting time between Chicago and AAA Iowa, Watkins was designated for assignment late last offseason.

After clearing waivers, Watkins accepted an assignment to AAA Iowa, where he expected to play in 2015, but unfortunately missed the entire season after tearing his achilles tendon. But, on January 17, 2016, the Cubs resigned Watkins, according to Gordon Wittenmyer, and he apparently feels ready to go:

My guess is that Watkins will head to AAA Iowa, where he’ll get work at second base and in the corner outfield (he’s played some there, before). Here, he’ll serve as emergency depth should tragedy strike the Cubs Major League team. Watkins could still have a future as a bench player/utility type guy with good defense in the field and a relatively good approach at the plate. Best of luck to him in 2016.

Who will be the next home-grown starting pitcher to become a mainstay in the Cubs’ rotation? Josh V. 

This is a pretty difficult question to answer, because TINSTAAPP, but I’ll do my best to lead you in the right direction. Duane Underwood and Dylan Cease are certainly the most hyped Cubs starting pitching prospect in the system, because they have the greatest upside among the bunch. Underwood has middle of the rotation upside with excellent velocity, but very little consistency. Scouts are worried about his ability to repeat his delivery from inning to inning, but love his fastball and curve (both with the chance to be “plus” pitches).

Cease is a first round talent that wasn’t selected until the sixth round of the 2014 MLB Draft, because he was expected to (and eventually did) undergo Tommy John surgery. He consistently pitches in the upper 90s and has touched triple digits on multiple occasions. Ranked sixth by Baseball Prospectus in the Cubs system, Cease has a chance to be a top of the rotation starting pitcher.

BUT, Underwood reached just A+ ball last year and Cease played in the Arizona Rookie League. Neither are particularly close to starting in the majors. So, my answer for you is going to be Ryan Williams, the Cubs’ 2015 Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

Williams, 24, made 16 starts at AA Tennessee last season, finishing with a 2.76 ERA (2.86 FIP), after leaping all the way from Low-A. He keeps the walks down (4.8%), but will have to strike out batters with a little more consistency than he’s already shown (17.8%). However, it’s possible that his efficiency in getting batters out early in the count has limited his strikeouts artificially. I saw him pitch in Arizona last Saturday and he looked excellent in that outing (1 IP, no runs, hits or walks). In all likelihood, he’ll head to AAA Iowa once Spring Training is over, where he’ll continue to refine his pitching and work towards reaching the major leagues. Right now, he is keeping a Spring Training Diary over at ESPN where you can follow his experiences during Spring Training straight from the man, himself.

Who would play first, if Anthony Rizzo was injured? Grant E. (And many others)

I’ve gotten this question (or variants of it) a lot this offseason, so I’ll address the general idea here and provide some possible options. Losing Anthony Rizzo would likely be one of the most devastating occurrences to this particular Cubs team, outside of losing Jake Arrieta. He’s a mainstay in the lineup and leader on the field; no one in the Cubs system, right now, could replace Anthony Rizzo.

That said, if he gets injured, someone would have to try.

So far, from what we’ve heard from coaches and the front office, Javier Baez would probably be that guy. He is/will be the first person off the bench and is more than capable of handling first base. In fact, he’s already made more than one appearance at first base, this Spring, and has looked good throughout the process.

Some alternatives could include Ben Zobrist (with Baez moving to second base, as BN’er Patrick pointed out via email), or Matt Clark, whom the Cubs recently signed to a minor league deal. Clark is a masher in the upper minors, and will head to AAA Iowa once the season begins. It’s important to note that he has gotten a good deal of work at first base this Spring. There is also, of course, Dan Vogelbach, if he’s hitting well at AAA and the hypothetical Rizzo injury figured to keep him out for a long time.

And now for the personal, funny and anything-else-that-comes-to-mind part – let’s talk about bar songs, win totals and fish. Ask Away …

We are at a bar and the bartender asks you to pick 5 songs to play on the Jukebox for free, what songs do you pick? SSCKelley

So, I’m going to answer this as if the question is really about what songs I’d play at a bar, as opposed to simply “What are my favorite songs,” because I think that’s the point. Here’s what I got for Happy Hour, crowd pleasers (among many, many others):

  1. Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen
  2. I Want You Back – The Jackson 5
  3. Lonely Boy – The Black Keys
  4. Rich Girl – Hall & Oates
  5. Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard – Paul Simon
[Brett: Party in the USA or GTFO.]

What is the highest win total you can conceive the Cubs winning in 2016? In other words, if you ran a simulation in your mind 100x, what is the upper bound on wins? (They’d be outliers, to be sure, but they would be plausible.) – Alex H.

Although this is a somewhat serious question, I included it in this section, because there are very real, very difficult mathematical ways of determining the answer. A true upper bound (on the amount of wins a team could conceivably achieve) is something that is determined by statistics and not something I plan on doing right now.

That said, I will give you an answer. But first, let’s start with the projections.

Right now, PECOTA is projecting the Cubs to win 94 games in 2016, while the FanGraphs Depth Charts are projecting something closer to 96 wins. Sticking with 95 as a reasonable outcome based on the statistical projections, it’s not difficult to see the Cubs going up or down by five wins in 2016 (heck, they outplayed last year’s projections by more than 10 wins). However, given 1 in 100 odds, I could *conceivably* see the Cubs winning something like 103-105 games in 2016, I just really, really wouldn’t count or bet on it.

But, the truth is, they are an excellent team and that is, at least, a real possibility.

How many fish can you name? Danny K.

This is hilarious and I’m about to embarrass myself. I’m pretty sure I know far more fish from ordering off of menus than I do from real life fishing, but I’ll try my best. I swear I didn’t cheat since seeing this question:

1. Blue Gill
2. Marlin
3. Grouper
4. Shark (Hammer, Great White, etc.)
5. Perch
6. Trout
7. Walleye
8. Muskee
9. Bass (large mouth, small mouth)
10. Northern
11. Gold (the fish and the cracker)
12. Nemo
13. Clown Fish (is that what Nemo is?)
14. Salmon
15. Tilapia
16. Minow
17. Barracuda
18. Piranha
19. Carp
20. Catfish

I can totally keep going. I just don’t want to (so happy this wasn’t live). What are some of the big ones I missed?

Okay, until next week, friends. Remember, you can send your questions in to AskAway at BleacherNation dot com.

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami