Yesterday was a very happy day. The Wife, who has been teaching in the classroom since the fall, received her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. I am overjoyed. There is no reason not to celebrate these moments now when we get them after what the last year has been. Hey, I hope my time comes relatively soon, too, but for now, I’m just happy for her, our family, and the other teachers and staff in the district.
• SSC in the comments correctly busted my chops yesterday for continuing to forget Matt Duffy when discussing the Cubs’ infield situation. While Duffy’s presence wouldn’t change my thinking on wanting the Cubs to add a starting-caliber second baseman on a one-year deal, he is a part of the equation, and has a decent shot at making the team. I don’t know why Duffy, who signed a minor league deal a couple months ago, doesn’t stick in my head – I presume it has something to do with him almost exclusively playing third base in his career (albeit with games everywhere else in the infield here and there). So if you think of him mostly as a third baseman, then he doesn’t really factor into the second base equation except by way of leaving David Bote more starts there (instead of third). And as much as I like Bote, I don’t know that the Cubs are going to hand him the keys as the starter at second base over Nico Hoerner, who I really want to see have the opportunity to develop more at AAA Iowa. So I guess part of the reason I keep forgetting to mention Duffy is because he most likely doesn’t really impact the second base situation all that much *in the way that I want*. He certainly might impact it, though.
• The other thing on Duffy that makes him hard to peg: although he was a really solid player in 2018, his performance was rough across the board in 2019 when he battled back and hamstring injuries, and then he didn’t make a big league team in the shortened 2020 season. Each of the Rangers and Yankees got a look at him and decided not to use him at the big league level. What did they see or not see? Duffy is only 30, so there’s plenty of room for him to bounce back if he’s physically well, but it’s not really something we can project.
• This is just a fantastic deep dive into the Cubs’ “high performance” department – and how it coordinates with the rest of player development – and it reminds you (1) how far behind the curve the Cubs had fallen by 2018, and (2) how aggressively they’ve invested the last two years:
When Jed Hoyer traded Yu Darvish for high-risk, high-upside prospects, he repeatedly mentioned how high performance was key. I took a deeper look at Adam Beard's department and how the Cubs’ high performance department can help their youngest prospects https://t.co/wA81nCNydR
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) February 3, 2021
• Among the bits in there, a foundational description of what the “high performance” department is, and its boss, Adam Beard:
Before the 2019 season, the Cubs hired Adam Beard as their director of high performance. Beard had spent the previous four years in the same role with the Cleveland Browns, the first of its kind in the NFL. Like Breslow and Stone, Beard, who had worked with a rugby team in Wales before arriving stateside, isn’t a one-man operation.
“My first year was really reconstructing everything for the major-league level,” Beard said. “It made sense in understanding the machine in terms of spending a full year in that major-league role and then understanding some of our performance gaps and stuff like that. My job is almost like the manager or head coach for the background stuff. Making sure we get the best out of the staff and then it transfers to the players and coaches.”
Beard defines high performance as the “team behind the team,” broken up into five areas: strength and conditioning, athletic training/medical, sports science, nutrition and mental skills/psychology. Between the major and minor leagues, Beard oversees over 40 full-time staff members who each specialize in one area. People like Shane Wallen, the major league strength and conditioning coach who helped revamp the team’s weight room prior to the 2020 season, and Cory Kennedy, head of minor league strength and conditioning and performance science, are essential to the process.
• The sizable investments here – as well as other areas of player development – are really the Cubs’ big swing for the next few years. Either their farm system will suddenly explode, with tons of guys breaking out, or there won’t be surprising upside, and the Cubs’ efforts in this area will be panned. Think about the trade return for Yu Darvish: a group of 17-20-year-old prospects who still have SO MUCH developing to do. That doesn’t just mean their baseball abilities – it means their physical and mental skills development. If your organization is peculiarly good at that side of things, you can get more out of the same prospects than the average organization. Here’s hoping the Cubs will, because there are only so many edges available.
• Another “just missed” list for Miguel Amaya, who was just outside Keith Law’s top 100. He’s basically a guy who, if he looks like the bat is there at AA to open the 2021 season, he’ll instantly be in the 75-100 range on most midseason lists. And if he really looks like he’s capable of raking? I’d argue he should instantly be much higher. Of course, he’d already be on my top 100, but whateves.
• Speaking of prospect lists, this is so nuts:
14 of the top 15, and 22 of 30 have reached the big leagues.
That's insane. https://t.co/sOapq18zBX
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) February 3, 2021
• Also, if you count Justin Steele – who was called up last year, but didn’t appear in a game – then it’s actually already 23 of 30 that have appeared in the big leagues. That does not happen. It’s a credit to BA’s ranking, but also a reminder of just how absurdly loaded the Cubs farm system was at that time (and that was just after Javy Báez and Kyle Hendricks had already graduated, and just before Ian Happ was drafted!). There’s a reason people talked about that 2014-15 era of Cubs prospect-dom as the best group of prospects they’d seen in decades. Clearly, they were right.
• Wallets, belts, tea, and – I love them – weighted blankets are among the Deals of the Day at Amazon today. #ad
• 2003 Dusty Baker has returned, and he’s a bullpen coach in Japan:
Hiroshima righty Aren Kuri threw a 347-pitch bullpen today https://t.co/PqDtt7fj4N
— Kazuto Yamazaki (@Kazuto_Yamazaki) February 4, 2021
• So he’s got that going for him:
Bill Murray critiquing his own batting practice is perfect!
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) February 2, 2021
• Kept meaning to share this random and amazing cricket catch (home run robbery, right?):
Unbelievable! What.A.Catch! Take a bow Glenn Maxwell.
— Herald Sun Sport (@heraldsunsport) November 17, 2018
• Thanks for checking out these offers this week especially:
DraftKings Sportsbook is going big for Super Bowl 55 with up to a $1,000 deposit match and a 2x your money touchdown bonus for the big game: https://t.co/659XbTu45P
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) February 4, 2021