Bote's Turn, Don't Forget Duffy, Alzolay's Slider, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Bote’s Turn, Don’t Forget Duffy, Alzolay’s Slider, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

Whether a residual effect or something else entirely, I have had a tension headache – a bad one – virtually every day since I recovered from COVID. I know it’s that type because you can press on an area in my upper back and I can feel it in my temple, forehead, and sinus area.

•   From David Ross on the decision to demote Nico Hoerner, and give the starting second base job to David Bote:

•   This is an explanation I can get behind. I have long articulated a desire to see what Bote could be with regular starts, and we’re talking about a guy who is an above-average big league hitter despite not getting regular playing time, and despite what sure look like extremely unlucky results against lefties. Exit velocity isn’t everything, but it’s also really hard to fake – and Bote is consistently among the league leaders in obliterating the ball. His profile is the TYPE that sometimes explodes, and at 27/28, I want to see if it happens.

•   Plus, in a world where Kris Bryant is departing as soon as the Trade Deadline or at least by the end of the season (highly likely), wouldn’t it be nice to know what Bote could be as a replacement at third base next year if it came to that? Under the hood, Bote has the traits of a guy who could be a solidly above-average hitter, and a capable defender at third base. A franchise player like Bryant has shown? Almost certainly not. But I’d love to see Bote get his shot right now – it’s important information! – and so although it means the Cubs were left with deciding on Hoerner as a bench guy or an alt site guy, I think they’re making the right move here.

•   Also, it’s not just a long-term move – all the available data from their big league performances so far suggests Bote is at least a good bet to be the better overall performer in 2021 as Hoerner. The bat is clearly further along and has just as much upside (if not more), and the glove is not THAT bad. From the just-pointing-it-out department:

•   No one is going to confuse Bote for Hoerner out there defensively, but I think it may have gotten lost in the shuffle that Bote isn’t *bad* defensively at second base. All I’m saying.

•   As for the Hoerner side of things, it’s clear it came down to a choice: carry Hoerner on the bench and get him sporadic at bats and appearances (clearly behind Bote and maybe even sometimes behind Sogard), or send him to the alternate site and then Triple-A to get more regular playing time and then re-evaluate later on. I think there was at least an argument that it was still worth carrying Hoerner for April, at least, when there’s no minor league season, but as recently revealed, there are going to be some games among organizations in April. And then obviously in May, Hoerner could actually finally play games at Triple-A for the first time in his career.

•   It was interesting to see that Hoerner told Ross – with Ross passing it on to The Athletic – that he understood he’s benefited in his career so far from things out of his control (which I took to mean his super early promotion because of injuries in 2019, and then the pandemic season in 2020 that partially forced the Cubs to carry him on the big league roster for development purposes). This time around, he’s not benefiting from things outside his control (i.e., the presence of David Bote and Eric Sogard, together with his minor league options).

•   Also, even Gordon Wittenmyer couldn’t find the service time manipulation angle, and he’s the first to admit – if the angle was there, he would’ve hammered it:

•   Meanwhile, the final bench spot might NOT be decided as Ildemaro Vargas just yet:

•   I’ll admit that I’ve kinda let Matt Duffy slip from my mind this spring. I really liked the signing when the Cubs made it, since he’s got a nice high-contact bat, versatility, and has had big league success in the past (he’s only 30). But with him missing last year entirely, and having injuries before that, I really didn’t know where he would be right now. And then this spring, he’s kinda been given a lower-key role, coming in late, playing at first base, etc. But Sharma is right to point out that Duffy is still around, and he even goes so far as to report that there’s more affection there for him than we may have realized:

[K]eep an eye on infielder Matt Duffy as he makes a late push to make the team out of spring. The staff really likes Duffy’s simple approach at the plate, as he displays a calm at-bat. The Cubs believe he can hit great “stuff,” pointing to his ability to get a hit off Dodgers youngster Dustin May, who was hitting triple digits Thursday night. Duffy can play both corner infield positions and is a solid veteran presence who has been on winning teams in San Francisco.

•   Javy Báez previewing his year:

•   Miscellaneous on Adbert Alzolay’s outing from Thursday, describing to The Athletic how he wants his slider to work: “I felt like my slider was harder,” Alzolay said. “Which is good, because that’s the main thing with that pitch, get the separation between that and my curveball. It should look different than the curveball. That’s the main thing with the pitch. We want to get that pitch into the lefties so we can get groundballs or the swing-and-miss when we need it. That’s the main thing, keep the shape of the pitch and throw it in the strike zone. When I throw it in the strike zone, you see what happens. Even if they know it’s coming, I get good results.”

•   Wild story about the Rockies organization from The Athletic here, and although it’s not like we didn’t already know it was a total mess thanks to the Nolan Arenado situation, the details and anecdotes in here … my lord. I mean, look at just this one example:

The Rockies seem to live on an island of one, operating with different standards than other, more successful clubs, even internally. For instance, rather than bring back furloughed part-time clubhouse attendants for the shortened 60-game season in 2020, they assigned more than a half-dozen full-time front-office staffers to work the job of “clubbies,” including shining shoes, cleaning laundry and buying chewing tobacco for players, in both the home and visiting clubhouses at Coors Field.

•   Instead of bringing back the actual clubhouse attendants who have been hired to do that job, the Rockies just told random front office people to head down to the clubhouse and take care of it? That’s truly bizarre, to say nothing of the next-level cheapness.

•   The Cardinals are officially switching from Kolten Wong at second base to Tommy Edman:

•   Edman, 26 in May, failed to replicate his breakout 2019 in the 2020 season, but he was a very similar hitter to Wong and rated solidly above average defensively at second base. It might not be a huge step down, and obviously the addition of Nolan Arenado improves the overall infield mix considerably. (The outfield and rotation, by contrast, are looking mighty suspect right now. Just sayin’.)

•   Old friend Wade Davis made his old team, as he’ll be in the Royals’ bullpen to open the season.

•   This is incredible:

•   Toothbrushes, kids books, and LED lanterns (they come in handy!) are among your Deals of the Day at Amazon. #ad

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.