The Impact of Tacky Baseballs, Weber’s Breakout, Cubs Lose an Exec to the Reds, and Other Cubs Bullets

The GM Meetings are underway this week, and while I know that’s going to mean various transactional rumors, I’ve gotta confess I’m mostly interesting in hearing about the temperature on the Collective Bargaining Agreement talks. There might not be a ton of MOVEMENT on that front this week, but (1) there will be some, and (2) there will be a ton of reporters and potential sources all together in one place with the CBA at the top of mind. We might hear a lot this week. Please don’t be nasty …

•   Fascinating read at Marquee on the change from big league baseballs to pre-tacked baseballs in the Arizona Fall League, as these prospects were in a rare spot to get to use the old MLB balls for the first time and then directly contrast it with the new, pre-tacked baseballs. Cubs pitching prospect Ryan Jensen described the MLB ball as feeling like he was pitching with a “cue ball,” so slick that rosin didn’t help. (A lot of MLB pitchers are like, see we told you!) But after the switch to the new, pre-tacked baseball, Jensen was a big fan. I wonder if we’re going to see that become a rare AFL experiment that immediately comes to the big leagues, and if so, how a pre-tacked baseball will impact pitcher command and spin rates next year. We could be in for another season of readjusting to what’s normal.

•   Meanwhile, Jensen’s teammate, Caleb Kilian, had a rough start to the AFL season, but as soon as they switched to the pre-tacked baseball, he’s basically been perfect. He’s likely going to win his second straight pitcher of the week honors, and has reportedly been touching 98(!) mph. Kilian, who had one of the best K/BB ratios in the minors this year, was acquired in the Kris Bryant trade and figures to be in the Triple-A Iowa rotation to open the 2022 season.

•   Speaking of Jensen and Kilian, they each factored into a ridiculous 11-run comeback win by the Mesa Solar Sox yesterday – Jensen got crushed through his two innings of work, setting up the need for Kilian to be perfect so that his offense could come back:

•   Very interesting quote from Cubs utility prospect Weber in that article:

After missing two months with turf toe during the season, having the ability to get in a rhythm has helped Weber. But he’s also driving the ball more after slugging .376 in his Minor League career since being the Cubs’ fifth-round pick in 2018 out of the University of Virginia.

“I’ve usually thought of myself as a pretty pansy hitter. I’m kind of starting to learn how to use my body and engage my core and things like that vs. this old-school kind of ‘hands to the ball’ mentality, which worked for me for a long time, but I need to make an adjustment,” Weber explained. “And so I’ve been able to make it out here with the help of some coaches and some help from some Cubs guys, and it’s been helping out.”

•   Weber, 24, has indeed been a good bat-to-ball guy in the minors, and he takes his walks. But the power has been entirely absent, and we know that the profile doesn’t always translate well when you reach the highest levels of the minors. His power was definitely NOT trending up as the season went on at Double-A, so if he’s unlocked something in the AFL, that would be a true pop that his year did not suggest was coming. I kinda already want it to be next year so we can see how he looks. Weber is currently hitting .333/.447/.580 in the AFL, with the 6th highest OPS in the league.

•   The Cubs have lost another long-time member of the front office, with assistant director of baseball development Jeremy Farrell off to join the Reds:

•   Bed stuff, pet stuff, watch stuff, and more are your Early Black Friday Deals at Amazon. #ad

•   Pod:

•   Mark your calendars:

•   Bulls-related happiness, Bears-related anger (but hope):

written by

Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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