Kimbrel is Elite, Pederson Slapping, Howard's Arm, Team Vaccinations, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Kimbrel is Elite, Pederson Slapping, Howard’s Arm, Team Vaccinations, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

Is 9:30 am too early to be thinking about the leftover bbq I get to have for lunch? How about 6:30 am, when I woke up? Because I was thinking about it then, and I’m thinking about it now. It’s gonna be an early lunch day.

•   Craig Kimbrel looked as good last night as he’s looked at any time with the Cubs, so he certainly wasn’t any worse for the wear with having all that time off recently:

•   His curveball was ultra-sharp, too, showing the vertical drop you want to see when he’s at his best. The signature low arm angle and good spin/extension makes 97 mph at the top of the zone just about impossible to do anything with (especially when he might drop that hammer curve on you at any moment). As it was last year after his first four outings, we’re still seeing Craig Kimbrel be CRAIG KIMBREL. Other teams are no doubt seeing it, too. He’s one of the best relievers in baseball, and you’re reminded that his contract comes with a $16M team option for 2022 (with a $1M buyout, so it’s actually only a $15M decision). Consider that this past offseason’s top closer, Liam Hendriks, signed for three years and $54 million (with that funky fourth year), despite the pandemic crushing finances, and I’m right here to tell you that the Kimbrel option for 2022 is now looking mighty ATTRACTIVE, rather than an obvious thing to decline.

•   Joc Pederson had yet ANOTHER three-hit game last night, and all three were singles. His season line is up to .268/.354/.341 with a 98 wRC+ (almost back to average!), and he’s hitting a hilarious .484/.514/.516 since returning from the IL (wrist) earlier this month. Just the craziest singles hitter you’ve ever seen. That won’t last, of course, but I mean that in good ways as well as bad. All these line drive singles tell you that Pederson is really, really on-point with his timing right now. The power will come next. We’ve seen this before with guys who got really out of whack, and then they kind of have to build things back. The timing comes first, and then the power.

•   Also, good dude:

•   Doesn’t sound like the Cubs are ever going to pass the 85% vaccination threshold:

•   Even if you set aside the obvious health – personal and public – benefits of the safe and effective vaccines, I cannot wrap my head around someone saying, “I’d rather keep wearing masks and being separated from people and being limited in activities rather than get a shot.” I also cannot wrap my head around being fine with being one of the guys preventing the rest of your teammates from being able to ditch the protocols. I’m not in the clubhouse, so what do I know, but I feel like I’d be a little ticked about it. Only 12 teams have passed the 85% threshold so far this year, which is very disappointing.

•   As Kris Bryant, who is happy to be vaccinated, said after the game (per The Athletic): “It certainly would be nice to have one locker room instead of seeing half of the other guys on the other side of the world here. But that’s the cards that we’re dealt right now, and that’s what we’re going to deal with. Maybe we get there, maybe we don’t. But hopefully everybody stays safe through the end of the season.”

•   Not to belabor it, but there’s also the competitive angle, as vaccinated persons don’t have to sit out and miss games for their team if they wind up a close contact with no symptoms:

•   Cubs shortstop prospect Ed Howard had, by far, his best game at the plate last night so far in his young career (a couple hits and a walk – when you go to full-season ball straight from high school when you basically didn’t get to play your senior year, it turns out it’s tough!), and he also once again showed off just how advanced he is defensively:

•   It would’ve been crazy if Howard were able to come out of the gate hitting well against advanced pitching, after the shutdown, given his extreme youth and lack of experience. So none of that bothers me at all. I’ve been impressed already by the defensive clips we’ve seen, and mostly I just want to see him improve offensively as the year goes on. That’s it. That’d be enough to keep him on track as a top five prospect in the Cubs’ system.

•   Tents, toys, gardening products, and more are your Deals of the Day at Amazon. #ad

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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.