Prospect Disappointments, Contact Importance, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Prospect Disappointments, Contact Importance, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

This is not a movie review: I am not a spoiler dude, so I can say only that I left TFA and TLJ somewhat annoyed by the many problems/annoyances I saw and couldn’t ignore. Didn’t feel the same way leaving TROS. Best of luck to folks avoiding spoilers this weekend.

  • A kinda weird, but certainly provocative topic from the MLB Pipeline crew: the biggest prospect disappointment (bust) of the decade for each organization. For the Cubs, the dubious honor goes to former outfielder Brett Jackson: “Jackson, the Cubs’ top Draft pick (No. 31 overall in 2009) hit the Top 100 list at No. 46 in 2011 and climbed to No. 33 in 2012 as an outfielder with an exciting power-speed combination. He made it to Chicago in 2012, but hit .175/.303/.342 in that stint and saw just seven more big league at-bats with the D-backs in 2014. He last played in 2015, logging 51 games in Triple-A with the Giants organization.”
  • To be sure, Jackson’s was indeed a very disappointing story for the Cubs – and I’m sure he was bummed, too, obviously – because he was so talented in all ways that should have made him, at least, a big league fourth outfielder. But the one piece of his game that was missing sapped all the rest: a simple inability to make consistent contact against advanced pitching. Jackson’s 63.8% contact rate in the big leagues was a whopping 16 percentage points below league average for that era, and he had the second worst contact rate in baseball his 2012 partial season with the Cubs. It wasn’t something I put enough stock into back in those days, but I pay much closer attention now.
  • So do the Cubs, by the way, which is why they have referenced a need to improve their contact rate going forward. Among Cubs regulars, the team had just three batters with a better-than-average contact rate: Anthony Rizzo (82.0%), Jason Heyward (79.7%), and Albert Almora (77.5%). Victor Caratini, Ben Zobrist, Nico Hoerner, Tony Kemp, and Jonathan Lucroy also managed the feat in limited duty. But everyone else was below average, and some were way below average – Willson Contreras, Javy Baez, and David Bote were all below 70%. Contact rate, in isolation, is absolutely not the end-all be-all of offensive performance, but if you want to diversify your lineup (remember the bananas?), you need to have more different kinds of hitters.
  • Circling back to Jackson, though, as the Cubs’ biggest prospect bust of the decade – seems like there should be some competition there from Addison Russell. Although Russell contributed meaningfully at the big league level, when you think about the trade that acquired him, about his standing as a top 10/15 prospect in baseball, and then about how he plummeted after his second season? I think there’s an argument there that Russell was more disappointing – because so much more was expected – and that’s before you even get into the domestic violence suspension. It’s also before you get into the serious and repeated on-field lapses that got him dumped back to AAA in his fourth season, and ultimately non-tendered for nothing. That’s not supposed to be the trajectory for top 10/15 prospects in the game.
  • The disappointment is all the more strong when you think about how basically every other top-tier Cubs prospect is either still on the team or wound up breaking out elsewhere. But I guess that’s also a compliment to the Cubs of this decade: while there were obvious struggles on the player development side in a number of ways, at least they never really *completely* failed to hit with their tip-top guys.
  • NBCS Chicago is running down the Cubs’ roster of the decade, and, hey, not everyone is from the championship team:

  • Will always be able to say this about the 2010s:

 



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.