When the Cubs acquired Jose Quintana ahead of the 2017 MLB Trade deadline, they sent two top prospects, Dylan Cease and Eloy Jimenez, to the south side of Chicago.
Both guys were well-regarded at the time, but a year-and-a-half of even better production at higher levels has done wonders for their perceived value. Indeed, Jimenez is now the third best prospect in baseball (behind UBER prospects Vladimir Guerrero Jr and Fernando Tatis Jr.), and Cease has made a meteoric rise, himself, taking the 21st spot on MLB Pipeline’s top-100.
As for their organizational progress, Jimenez, 22, reached Triple-A last season … and absolutely mashed in his 55 games (179 wRC+). While Cease, 23, took the big leap to Double-A, earning a 1.72 ERA with a … 38.6% strikeout rate. Yo.
Both guys are the right age, have reached the right levels, and have performed well enough to justify spots on the big league roster, and yet …
- … the Sox just optioned both guys to Triple-A Charlotte. Gasp! What a surprise! I mean, yeah, Jimenez’s spring numbers were pretty bad and Cease hasn’t yet dipped his toe into the Triple-A swimming pool, but I think under different circumstances – some alternate universe, perhaps – both guys would be on the big league roster right out of the gate. Honestly, not to pour salt into the wounds of Sox fans, if they had landed Manny Machado, I wouldn’t have been shocked to see Jimenez up sooner than later. Maybe they would’ve still held him down long enough to secure an extra year of team control – maybe that’s still the plan – but with Machado on board, there’d probably have been some added urgency. I guess we’ll never know.
- Also unknown: where the White Sox go from here. They still have a lot of interesting young players, but boy, oh boy: Machado made so much sense for them. It’s hard to blame them, knowing how much they offered, but at the end of the day, he’s in San Diego, not Chicago. And that’s all that counts.
- Hey, do you remember that time Jimenez broke a stadium light, “The Natural” style?
- In case you missed it, MLB has announced a series of rather significant rule changes, many of which are being implemented immediately.
- Among those changes not going into effect immediately is the three batter minimum for pitchers (that’ll start in 2020). And when it does start, it could change a lot about baseball: lineup construction, bullpen management, pace-of-play, etc. In fact, at The Chicago Sun Times, Gordon Wittenmyer wonders if this new rule will effectively exterminate situational lefties as a species. The answer? Yeah, probably. And also: who cares? I am an extremely pro-player baseball fan, but it’s not like the league is eliminating a roster spot. The lefties than can get out only other lefties will just be replaced by other relievers who weren’t making teams before this rule change. And in return, we should get shorter games with fewer stops, better pace-of-play, and almost certainly more offense. None of that is a bad thing.
- At FanGraphs, Paul Sporer ranked the top starting pitchers heading into the 2019 season, and unsurprisingly, the list is led by Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom and Chris Sale. I don’t buy – at all – that Justin Verlander will be the fourth best pitcher in baseball next season and Gerrit Cole at #6 seems high, even after his resurgence last season, but who wants to bet against Houston pitchers in this era? Yu Darvish is the top-ranked Cubs pitcher, by the way, coming in at #20 overall, and he’s followed by Kyle Hendricks (39th), Cole Hamels (45th), Jon Lester (48th), and Jose Quintana (49th).
- And that’s what I quietly LOVE about the Cubs rotation next year. They may not have that one tip-top guy (like 2015 Jake Arrieta, 2016 Lester/Hendricks, etc.), but they have FIVE starting pitchers ranked in the top-50. Evenly distributed every team should have about 1.6 pitchers in the top 50. So have five … well, that’s pretty awesome. They have a legitimate go-to starter at every stop in the rotation and, given the needs in the bullpen, they’ll need this rotation to perform if they hope to reclaim the division.
- Carlos Martinez (shoulder) has been sidelined for the past 25 days, but is expected to play catch at camp later today. The Cardinals are being closeted about potential next steps, which leads me to believe they’re not entirely sure how well this first step will go. Here’s manager Mike Shildt: “We can’t take that next step until we’ve proven the step is worth taking and we’re ready for it. Now he’s ready for it.” And here’s President John Mozeliak: “We really have to see how the throwing program progresses before we can weigh in on the optimism or concern on when and what type of contribution you might get.” See? They’re holding this close to the vest. My guess? Martinez is used primarily as a reliever this year.
- Relatedly, Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson will not be on the Brewers active roster for Opening Day. With that said, he’s clearly coming back sooner than later. Nelson threw an inning of relief against the White Sox on Monday and manager Craig Counsell said “everything’s good” regarding Nelson’s health the next day. According to MLB.com, he’s scheduled to work parts of three innings in his next appearance this Saturday. In other words, Nelson is moving forward and just needs innings under his belt before he can return.
- MLB Trade rumors lists each team’s largest free agent contract, which is actually fun for the opposite reason: finding out the smallest, biggest team-contract. Do you know which team that is and how low the deal is? I bet you’ll be surprised (well, not by the teams, but by how small their biggest deal is).
- Just for fun:
— Daren Willman (@darenw) March 14, 2019