Betting on Baez's Talent, Descalso as Jay, Brach's Health, and Other Bullets

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Betting on Baez’s Talent, Descalso as Jay, Brach’s Health, and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

Congratulations on your time-travel this morning. The future is dark and scary, but we have cars that drive themselves and food you can order from your phone.

  • Javy Baez isn’t worried about regression knocking him down this year after breaking out in 2018 – projections pretty uniformly have him stepping back from “MVP-caliber” to merely “very good player” – and he’s just quietly working on “following the ball” all the way through the zone ( It’s a seemingly simple thing, but it’s not hard to imagine how it can get away from you in the moment, especially when you’re such a naturally instinctive, reactive player. Given Baez’s otherworldly natural ability and long-time projectibility at the plate, it would not surprise me to see him continue to hit very well this year thanks to just getting more and more experience facing big league pitching.
  • Will he fundamentally improve on his walk rate (4.5%), strikeout rate (25.9%), and power production (.264 ISO)? I don’t know that I’d bet on that, and I certainly recognize that his results last year did not mesh with the expected metrics (based on quality of contact, his Statcast expected wOBA was 31 points lower than his actual wOBA – the 29th biggest mark in baseball). We’ve explored the risk of regression here. But do I nevertheless think he can duplicate his success from last year? I certainly think he can. Unlike some breakout guys, it’s not as if we couldn’t see that level of potential in Baez all along. Then, at 25, a whole lot clicked for him. When it comes to elite talent, that’s actually pretty normal, so from that perspective, you wouldn’t just expect regression because the season was so much better than the ones that came before.
  • In other words, sometimes you just bet on talent. Eventually, it wins out.

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
  • We’ve heard this comparison before, and it was almost explicitly part of the reason the Cubs went after him this offseason, but here’s more on Joe Maddon saying Daniel Descalso is Jon Jay:

  • Reliever Brad Brach, it turns out, dealt with mono late this offseason, which always makes you nervous with respect to ramping up arm strength for the season (and for attendant injuries in that process, as your body compensates for any loss of strength). For now, Joe Maddon sees Brach as being ready like normal for Opening Day, but this is definitely now on your radar as a potential additional Injured List reliever to open the season (Brandon Morrow will be, and Xavier Cedeño very likely will be). Obviously you want your best guys healthy, but it’ll at least be an opportunity to see some of the many, many options the Cubs have, and see them in actual meaningful games.
  • Mark Zagunis has been out with a sore left wrist from a hit by pitch, and hopefully will be back soon (Tribune). Although he’s on the 40-man roster and isn’t really a threat to be dumped any time soon, this year will be really important for Zagunis to show he’s going to flash enough power for the Cubs to use him as a 4th/5th outfielder in the coming years. He certainly looks the part this Spring – he’s been crushing the ball – but, then, that was the case last Spring, too, and he wound up showing almost no power at all at AAA Iowa (.272/.395/.375 – that OBP looks nice, but in the big leagues, it would plummet without a little power to keep pitchers honest and to notch more hits).

  • I was looking at old Nico Hoerner images for a forthcoming post, and stumbled on this flashback to October:

  • If you want to see how much this messes him up – watch the batter. Now? Oh wait, now? No, now! Ah, f*** it, I give up:

  • That reminded me of this from last year, when Yu Darvish accidentally lost his balance mid-hesitation move, and it wound up working out for him:

  • Yu Darvish isn’t going to be trying out that hesitation move again this year, which is just fine with me. It is fun when it works, but if it throws off the rest of your game and doesn’t allow you to focus on what you need to focus on, might as well just stick to what works.
  • MLB Shop flicked on another clearance sale today with free shipping, so check out what’s included in the Cubs gear here.
  • Man, the Padres have some serious, serious upper-level pitching prospects. This isn’t even the guy everyone is talking about:

  • Instead, the guy everyone is talking about:

  • Oh, and they have SIX OTHER ARMS that are routinely included on league top 100 lists. Their collection of pitching prospects is like what the Royals and then the Cubs did on the positional side at the peak of their rebuilds. I’m not sure this will be the year, but the Padres could be very, very good soon if Fernando Tatis is as good as he seems, and now with Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers in place.
  • Interesting new section on Amazon (well, new to me, at least) – a “bargain finds” section that just kinda lists a whole bunch of cheap stuff in various categories.

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Author: Brett Taylor

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