I so desperately wanted to go to Arizona this year – I was supposed to be there now – and inundate you all with notes from the backfields. Last year, my time there helped me identify Chris Morel as a potential breakout, pick out a new pitch Michael Rucker was throwing, and see improved stuff from guys like Ben Hecht and Manny Rodriguez. I saw Brennen Davis hit a Riley Thompson pitch off the top of the right field fence. It helped me contextualize the early part of the season.
Alas, we’ll all be searching for context when baseball resumes again, with a different feel than it ever has. I just wish those players on the backfields the best continued health. Right now, that’s all that matters.
- While most minor leaguers had started their Spring Training in Mesa a while ago, two players were noticeably absent: Matteo Bocchi and Alberto Mineo. Those two are still in Italy, quarantined, unsure as to when they’ll make it back stateside.
- Bocchi, a sidearm relief pitcher signed from the University of Texas last year, was really impressive in his debut season. He had a 2.03 ERA in 13.1 innings with short-season Eugene, and in one of my favorite games of the minor league season last year, jumped over to Tacoma in early August to help a depleted Iowa Cubs pitching staff. He filled in for 2.2 hitless innings in a West Coast Pacific Coast League park. Impressive.
- I have been messaging with Bocchi the past few days from where he’s staying in Parma, Italy. He passed along that “life inside the red zone is tough, but I’m still finding a way to train.” Any facility Bocchi could train inside is closed, so he’s doing what he can: playing catch in parks, working out with bands and weights, and finding slopes to throw mock bullpens. I think I can speak for all Cubs fans when we wish those two guys the best in these strange, turbulent times.
- [Brett: If you weren’t aware of the situation in Italy, which has foreshadowed how bad things could get in the U.S. without aggressive action, see this article for an example. It’s terrifying and sad.]
- The delayed start to the season will allow for players with minor injuries to catch up to their peers. Cory Abbott indicated on Twitter that he’d suffered a minor setback, but was nearing a return to regular camp before the postponement. Other guys that Arizona Phil mentioned as injured: Chase Strumpf, who was apparently wearing a cast on his left arm (I’m working to find out more on that one), first base prospect Tyler Durna, and of course Manny Rodriguez.
- Stephanie Lynn from Cubs Den was in Arizona for the last few days of camp, and really caught my eye with these pictures specifically:
Cam Balego served as a bullpen catcher during Tuesday’s Cubs game against the Giants. pic.twitter.com/VXRaWU4N7I
— Stephanie Lynn (@SRL590) March 11, 2020
- Balego, who I wrote about in the Honorable Mention of my prospect list, broke out last year offensively playing primarily third base for the High-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans. He’d attempted a conversion to catcher in 2018, but the plan was mostly scrapped when he threw out just 3-of-31 baserunners and allowed four passed balls in 88 innings. It makes absolute sense the Cubs are going to see the experiment through, as Balego’s power breakout last year would give him Major League upside if he could offer some unique versatility. I’ve posited that second base could be possible, but if Balego could be a passable third catcher, that only helps. He will be 25 years old at Double-A Tennessee this year, so there’s not a ton of margin for error as he builds that resume.
- Tyson cracked me up with this one:
*baseball operations shut down indefinitely*
Me applying for a job to make money: pic.twitter.com/4k5tD2Pf6a
— Tyson Miller (@Tyson_Miller07) March 12, 2020
- The reality, though, is that minor leaguers now have no idea when they will start receiving paychecks again. They haven’t received one since September, and were not paid for their Spring Training contributions so far. They will drive Ubers, deliver packages, work construction where they can. Many have left Arizona to return home to live with their parents. Baseball’s not at the forefront of many of their minds, simply because they are not compensated even remotely properly for it to be.
- Finally, I recommend this piece on what the draft might look like this year:
— keithlaw (@keithlaw) March 14, 2020
- It’s super interesting to hear so much talk on the draft getting moved, with some executives calling for it to be moved forward, and others hoping it’s later. I speculated on Twitter that teams will likely ask large numbers of players to come to their home stadium for private workouts, and I concur with the notion in Keith’s article that we might see some regional combines this year. Teams will be leaning harder on their scouts than ever before, to gather opinions in tiny samples, as the statistics just won’t be significant. A reminder that I did a little video scouting last week in my look at the college pitching class.