There Was a Loss Upside, Bullpen Evaluations, McGregor's ROUGH Night, Thompson, and Other Cubs Bullets

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There Was a Loss Upside, Bullpen Evaluations, McGregor’s ROUGH Night, Thompson, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

The loss to the Twins, annoying as it may have been at an individual performance level, was unquestionably a good outcome for the Cubs. As we discussed, this is the Cubs’ most realistic shot for passing the Twins in the Reverse Standings, and, although a Twins sweep won’t guarantee it by any stretch (it would merely leave the teams tied), a Cubs sweep almost certainly would’ve killed it. So, rejoice: last night’s loss pulled the Cubs to within a game of the Twins, and also held serve with the other teams in the back half of the top ten, all of whom – save for the Twins – lost last night.

Also, things have been so bad for the Angels that they have now passed the Tigers for that 11th spot (which becomes the 12th pick). The Cubs now have a fairly comfortable 5.0-game cushion before they’d fall that far. The Cubs are most likely to wind up in the 7-9 range.

(Side comment on the Tigers: watch out for them next year, man. That’s one of those corner-turning young teams, and these kinds of second-half runs by the youngsters often foretells a really good following season. Reminds me a lot of the 2014 Cubs.)

(Side comment on the Angels: woof. I know the Mike Trout injury is a brutal blow, but they’re about to have their sixth straight losing season. This despite having Trout and Shohei Ohtani, despite bringing in Anthony Rendon and Joe Maddon, and despite consistently “going for it.” They haven’t won a season since they formally changed their name from the silly-but-winning Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to the simple-but-cursed Los Angeles Angels.

Other Cubs Bullets …

•   Alec Mills and rotation-related comments coming soon in a separate post, so I’ll instead kick things off here with the bullpen, where last night offered the latest disappointing Trevor Megill outing. This year has been his first big league experience, he has a compelling/unique delivery for such a tall guy, and he has good life on the fastball with a good breaking pitch. He also has minor league options remaining, which you love for a potential up-down guy. And I know that emerging relievers are about as volatile as a type of player can get. But I am having trouble wrapping my head around how frequently he gets absolutely hammered. The results are horrible, overall, and it’s almost exclusively the product of him just getting crushed at times. It takes me back to the question I’ve had for a while on him – and, admittedly, I keep going back and forth – does he maintain a 40-man spot all offseason? It’s like an election needle that keeps bending back and forth around the 50% mark for me over the last two months. It’s currently at like 45% he sticks through the offseason.

•   Elsewhere in the bullpen, Scott Effross continues to impress. With a sidearmer, you wonder whether the league will catch up, but I do love the look of his pitches. I’m really glad the Cubs decided to bring him up when they did, giving him this time to face big league hitters, generate some data, and make HIS 40-man decision a little more informed. If we’re playing the needle thing, he’s probably more like 85-90% sticks at this point, not only because of the small-sample success, but also because I’m pretty confident the Cubs really *WANT* a funky arm like his available next year as a change-of-pace in the bullpen.

•   Through 11 plate appearances, Trayce Thompson is hitting .250/.455/1.000 (251 wRC+), so he’s clearly the new Wisdom/Ortega/Schwindel. I’ve moved on to the next 30-year-old thing.

•   In all seriousness, Thompson’s story is a little different, and while you might have interest in retaining him on a minor league deal heading into next year, I don’t think he’ll be able to put himself in position to be a possible guy to retain on the big league roster for next year. I don’t see the same kinds of indicators of a possible later-career breakout in his Triple-A performance or in the story arc (the numbers at Iowa were above league average overall, but the strikeout rate was alarming for Triple-A, the Diamondbacks let him go earlier this year rather than see what they had, and the Cubs did not elect to give him a big league look until after other outfield options became unavailable). Thompson also already had over two years of big league service time coming into this year, which – like it or not – changes the calculus a little bit, too, in terms of possible future value. ALL THAT SAID, of course I’d love to see the Cubs retain him in the organization into next year on a minor league deal. Maybe something has clicked in a new org, and with a little more time to show it, he could emerge as a 4th/5th outfielder next year. It seems unlikely, but if he isn’t blocking any Triple-A starts for prospects, why not?

•   David Ross told Marquee that Alfonso Rivas’s finger issue is going to end his season: “He had a little something pop up in Milwaukee. We got it looked at today — the doc came in and kinda diagnosed it with something a little more serious than we thought and it was gonna require him going on the IL, so we made some last-minute adjustments. Hate that for him. I was really enjoying watching him play, getting an opportunity but his season will be done.” Rivas, 25, will come into Spring Training competing for a bench job as a part-timer at first base and in the corner outfield spots. Otherwise, he’ll head to Triple-A to await an opportunity. More big league time is pretty clearly in his future.

•   In better health news for guys finishing out the year, it was good to see Nico Hoerner flying around out there with relative abandon. The side must be feeling pretty good.

•   The Cubs had (former?) MMA fighter Conor McGregor out to throw out the first pitch, and I don’t know if it’ll be remembered up there with 50 Cent and Carly Rae Jepson, but it was really something:

•   If it’s any consolation for him, McGregor’s 7th Inning Stretch wasn’t quite as bad as his first pitch. I’m thinking maybe he hasn’t heard the song before:

•   Boog said on the broadcast last night that Derrek Lee is throwing out the first pitch and singing the stretch tonight, so that’s more fun.

•   I got asked what I thought was a great question on Twitter earlier this morning from @GW927 after I re-shared the news of Dillon Maples’ DFA/outright/likely departure: “How would things be different if he came up in today’s infrastructure? (Yes, big hypothetical, just curious your opinion)” No one can say for sure, of course, but it’s fascinating to think about. Recall, Maples was this huge, raw-armed teenage prospect when he was drafted, and then required an extensive rework of his mechanics – for years – before he was even playable. There were also injury issues that may or may not have popped up under a different group. If I can speculate, I think the current development infrastructure is a whole lot better at working out and implementing player-specific plans, and it’s possible Maples would’ve had more success earlier on. It’s also possible – butterfly’s wings and all – that he never develops the killer slider, and never even reaches the big leagues at all. Or suffers a worse injury. Or whatever. Obviously we can’t know what definitely would’ve happened, but clearly the current developmental regime (in place for two years now) has been a helluva lot better at that “last step” development for relievers. Maybe that means a younger Maples would’ve been put in a better position to succeed. Or maybe it wouldn’t have mattered – after all, it’s not like this group didn’t have the same access to Maples the last two years.

•   This is what it looks like when you smoke it right at the left fielder, but he mis-reads how hard you hit it, and completely whiffs on a ball that then lodges itself into the ivy:

•   Thanks, Michael, you’re cool:

•   The Cardinals have won 10 games in a row, and could come to Wrigley Field this weekend with a chance to all but sew up that second Wild Card spot. That sucks for two reasons: (1) f*** the Cardinals, and (2) the Cardinals may reach a point where they are resting starters, if not this weekend, then in the final season of the year against the Cubs, when the Cubs “need” losses.

•   Just a note here:

•   At 66, it’s possible Robinson is just ready to hang ’em up. But if the Evanston native wants to slide into a consulting-type-gig with a hometown organization, I’d love to hear that the Cubs want to pump him for info on the Rays’ pitching development infrastructure.

•   The Padres’ total collapse isn’t quite complete yet, but the change is already underway:

•   I love seeing the fan-interaction-type stories back in full swing:



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.