Lefty Bullpen Options, Almora the Best, Developing Players, Maples' LOL Sliders, and Other Bullets

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Lefty Bullpen Options, Almora the Best, Developing Players, Maples’ LOL Sliders, and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

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  • We got the sense from Theo Epstein yesterday that the final spot in the bullpen would likely to go one of Kyle Ryan or Randy Rosario, and it sounds like Joe Maddon is inclined to agree, preferring to carry – together with Mike Montgomery – two lefties in the bullpen to open the season (Sharma). Each guy can be optioned to AAA, so there’s no lost player problem there. Instead, if it comes down to those two, it’ll simply be a matter of which guy the Cubs feel like can help more.
  • Rosario, 24, had some decent results at times last year, but the peripherals always suggested he was going to get knocked around eventually – sure enough, if you chop off just his first month last year, his ERA balloons to 5.12 after June 21. It was not a good year. But he’s young, and he does have some talent.
  • Ryan, 27, has had some big league success in the past with the Tigers, and then kind of had to rediscover and reinvent himself last year with the Cubs at AAA. He might be a higher-risk-higher-reward option, and he’d probably be my pick at this point. Remember, the Cubs liked what they saw from him enough last year at AAA to sign him to a big league deal early in the offseason rather than risk losing him to another organization.
  • The other option, of course, is that the Cubs could try to acquire someone like Tony Watson from the Giants, a reported target even at this late stage.
  • Joe Maddon highlights the challenge of competing at a peak level right now, while also trying to max out the talent of your still-developing players (670 The Score): “It is a balancing act. The situation for Ian [Happ] is for him now and us in the future. Yes, we are here to win right now, but we still are developing some young players. We did that all last season kind of well. It is a constant battle. When you have young guys who can help you win but are still developing, it can become difficult.”
  • Like I said yesterday, there’s a chance the demotion winds up being the best thing for Happ in the long-term, *and* the best thing for the Cubs in 2019.
  • Relatedly, this is fun, and sounds about right – Albert Almora had the highest rate of non-routine chances converted to outs (among ALL players) in 2018 according to Inside Edge:

  • That’s a reminder why, especially in the wake of Ian Happ’s demotion to Iowa, everyone *wants* Almora to seize that full-time center field job and run with it. He wasn’t a top 10 pick in the draft for no reason, and there has always been a belief that the bat could be slightly above average in the big leagues. The talent to do that is there. Pair it with his glove, and boom, you’ve got a solidly above average everyday player. He may very well get a chance in the early going to show he can be that guy. No reason not to root for it wholeheartedly.
  • Cuts from minor league camp – good luck to these guys wherever they wind up next:

  • The Cubs are considering back-up catching options, but Joe Maddon is still gonna be content with Victor Caratini if he’s the guy – and there won’t be a three-catcher situation (which is borderline impossible anyway with a four-man bench):

  • This is just my favorite filth in the world:


  • Maples reminds me so much of Carl Edwards Jr. in this sense: when they are at their best, fully command and clicking, they look like a top five reliever in baseball. But when they don’t have command, you just have no idea what you’re going to get, and that’s what can hold back even the most elite “stuff” guys. The good news is that very few guys, even at their best, can look like Edwards, or like Maples does in that clip right there.
  • This weekend was extremely busy, so make sure you catch yourself up by scanning the headlines here.

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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.