As usual, our lens on big national days like today is sports – that’s not because we think sports is the most important thing, but instead it’s because sports is our primary lane.
To that end, one big open question with the arrival of the Biden Administration is how pandemic policies, responses, and vaccine distribution could change. The Trump Administration obviously took a pretty aggressive stance on what was permissible with respect to sports returning and playing through the pandemic. It’s a little TBD how and if that could change or be modified going forward, and how fan attendance – something all leagues are hoping continues to grow this year – is impacted by all of this. Sports will not be the priority for the new administration, but pandemic response and vaccinations absolutely will be. So we’ll be following closely.
The Cubs join the City of Chicago in a moment of silence, reflecting on the impact of the pandemic and honoring those who have lost their lives to COVID-19. #BrighterTogether pic.twitter.com/IPuX7QQIhD
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) January 20, 2021
• It feels like free agency is finally really moving now. There are still a ton of free agents out there, but we’re seeing big money signings now, the mid-tier starting pitcher market is flying, the remaining bullpen arms are starting to go, etc. I honestly think the confirmation from MLB that Spring Training was going to start on time, with a full 162-game season ahead, meant that teams – well, many teams – decided it was time to suck it up and start building out the roster. For the Cubs, we still don’t know whether they have literally any dollars available to commit on a guaranteed contract (sad, embarrassing state of affairs), but we do know that whatever they WERE going to do was probably going to requires the free agent market accelerating (either signing the leftovers on the mega-cheap, or making trades).
• Although Baseball America’s pre-2021 top 100 prospects list included just two Cubs (Brailyn Marquez and Brennen Davis), we knew that catching prospect Miguel Amaya had to be close. Sure enough, he was in the group of 10 prospects who just missed the list. So … the Cubs have three in the top 110! Something like that!
• BA also shared every prospect who appeared on at least one of their staffers’ top 150 lists (that’s the initial basis for building out the top 100), and it’s fairly concerning to note that only two other Cubs prospects even showed up on any of those 150s: Adbert Azolay and Ed Howard. So, then, you could argue that – at most – the Cubs have five prospects who show up in BAs top 150, if there were such a thing. In a league of 30 teams, you’d expect the average org to have … five prospects in the top 150. Since the Cubs don’t have any prospects in the top 50 overall, and since Alzolay is going to graduate the moment he takes the mound in April, you’d then call the Cubs, on this basis, a well below average farm system.
• There are caveats aplenty there, but the fact is that if the Cubs’ goal in the year ahead is to restock and build out the farm system so that it’s considered top tier … they have a long way to go. It’s going to take (1) significant steps forward from a huge number of prospects (certainly possible given the investments in player development and the lack of insight into who stepped forward over the past year); and (2) significant additional infusions of talent (tricky to do, relative to the rest of the league, when you have the smallest IFA pool and draft late).
• Speaking of prospect infusions, some details coming out on changes to the draft logistics this year:
Some of the potential combine details, as outlined in the article: pic.twitter.com/gJd6FMJi12
— R.J. Anderson (@r_j_anderson) January 19, 2021
• A pre-draft combine could be not only useful for teams, but also fun for drafting/prospecting nerds, depending on what kind of access fans have to content. A reminder that there are going to be significant changes to the draft, itself, this year, with it taking place much later (July 11-13, coinciding with All-Star festivities), and lasting between 20 and 30 rounds.
• As incredible as it is, minor league signing Shelby Miller might right now have the inside track at the Cubs’ fifth starter job. He’s happy about the opportunity, and here’s hoping something crazy happens:
Grateful for this opportunity with the Cubs. I am excited to show the work I’ve been putting in to be healthy and get back to myself. Can’t wait for it all to start !
— Shelby C Miller (@ShelbyMiller19) January 18, 2021
• Also, some really impressive data:
Couldn’t help but grab the Rapsodo from new Cub Shelby Miller’s Instagram story (and derive meaning from it despite him being in sneakers, haha). Big time spin efficiency, low release height, you like that VB … Shelby’s the Cubs latest Vertical Approach Angle-focused signing. pic.twitter.com/kktNsaVKE7
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) January 20, 2021
• I don’t want people to take TOO MUCH away from the data there, but, uh, a 100% spin efficiency at nearly 2600 RPMs is pretty incredible, even at a lower velocity. Gerrit Cole was at 99.9% last year, and obviously he’s kind of the pinnacle of what you can do with spin efficiency on your fastball. Also, that spin rate would be around top 15 in baseball. Don’t take too much away from one share like this in a controlled environment, but I’m just putting context on it for you. That data is kinda eye-popping.
• This is a good read:
— Lauren Comitor (@laurencomitor) January 19, 2021
• Something positive:
#CubsCharities today announced the 2020 Diamond Project grant recipients, awarding more than $950K to support 17 capital improvement projects across Chicago.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) January 20, 2021
• Friends forever:
— Willson Contreras (@WContreras40) January 19, 2021
• I was reminded of this moment yesterday, and it still slaps:
Remember that time Tim McCarver said there was no way Jon Lester was going to throw over to first, and Tommy Pham believed it? pic.twitter.com/v2vWbLhrps
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) December 22, 2017