Just Play Rivas, Pitcher Development Timelines, Cubs Lose an AGM, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Just Play Rivas, Pitcher Development Timelines, Cubs Lose an AGM, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

I hate when the Bears don’t have a first round pick, which, in recent years, has been far too common. Last night is one of those universal sports nights when 95% of sports fans can have fun as outside observers. I still had SOME fun, but it was really tempered by the fact that we kept seeing all the guys the Bears would arguably most need go flying off the board. At least they’ll have some picks tonight …

•   Alfonso Rivas walked twice last night, increasing his season slash line to .462/.563/.769! … over 16 plate appearances. Fun fact about Rivas: every single year/level in his career has been 1.) way over league average results 2.) in a small sample. Maybe it’s all just been flukey stuff (he’s barely got 1000 PAs *total* as a professional), or maybe he just hits. Sure, it won’t be like THIS, but maybe he’s just a guy who knows so well what he’s doing up there that no matter the level, he’s gonna produce at an above-average clip. I hope that he stays up with the big team at this point and continues to draw some starts. Obviously I’d like to see him starting almost every day at this point (Frank Schwindel DH’ing more often if you want to keep his bat in the lineup, and one of Jason Heyward or Rafael Ortega taking a seat on those days).

•   Also, Rivas runs the bases well and plays great defense. Just let him play. Figure out the rest around that governing principle.

•   (Now we all get to EXPLODE when Rivas is optioned back to Triple-A Iowa on Monday when rosters go back down to 26 … )

•   I don’t think this weekend’s series in Milwaukee is a “critical” one for this year’s Cubs – take that however you want – but I do think it could be a significant mood shifter, for both the fans and the players. Things have started to slip, the Cubs know they are in the middle of a brutal stretch of opponents, and they’re going to face the reigning division champs in their house. You look non-competitive and drop two or three, and that tells a story (fair or unfair in the scheme of a 162-game season). You really compete and win two of three? That, alone, doesn’t prove this is suddenly a surprise division-winning team, but it’s the kind of relatively small moment that helps you feel more and more like this year could be, at least, a turning point in the direction of the organization. Even that will require more than one series win in Milwaukee, but it would read like a start.

•   Last night’s starter for the Braves, Kyle Wright, absolutely owned the Cubs, as he has in each of his four starts this year. If those four starts were the only time you’d seen him pitch, you would think he was one of the five best pitchers in baseball (heck, by the end of the year, he might be). But the reality is, it’s been a long, erratic development process for Wright. The fifth overall pick back in 2017, Wright was so advanced coming out of Vanderbilt that he made stops at Double-A and Triple-A in his first full pro season, and got a cup in the big leagues that year, too. The next year, 2019, he split between Triple-A (mediocre) and MLB (terrible). In the pandemic season, he was up with the big league team and was again terrible. Last year, he was mostly at Triple-A pitching to very good, but not overwhelming, results. He got another MLB taste last year and once again struggled.

•   So, maybe this is finally the breakout for Wright at age 26. If so, consider all that it took to get him there – FOUR years of being there at the cusp of MLB, and not even necessarily dominating at Triple-A. Not every player will have that kind of trajectory (and I’m not assuming that Wright is definitely dominant now for good), but some guys do take multiple years to make it work. I’m sure the calls to just move Wright to the bullpen permanently were probably pretty loud in 2021. I’m going to remember him when I try to exercise some patience in the future with guys whose stuff I believe in. (If you’re interested in more on Wright, specifically, Mike Petriello took a deep look at HOW he’s dominating this year after the many years of development.)

•   Crossover content, as the Cubs have lost assistant GM Jeff Greenberg to the Blackhawks (recall, he’s the guy who interviewed for their GM gig, so clearly this was where his future passion laid):

•   You’re happy for the person, of course, but it’s a loss for the Cubs. Here’s how Jed Hoyer described it to NBC: “Obviously, Jeff’s a big loss, but when you hire really good people and you watch them develop, your hope is they go elsewhere and they have a ton of success. I always assume that success would come with other baseball teams, and that’s always difficult when their success comes against you. It’s kind of nice it’s hockey. I can become a huge Blackhawks fan and don’t have to worry about playing against them …. Just for him as a person, I’m really excited for him. It’s a unique opportunity, getting to work in a different sport and to try to take what he’s learned from baseball and put it in context of a sport he knows well from playing as a kid in college. And to not have to move his family and work for a historic organization, it’s a one-off. I really didn’t want to lose him, but I’m really happy for him.”

•   Greenberg was instrumental in the front office during the transition period from the Theo Epstein regime to the Jed Hoyer regime, and was something of a de facto number two for Hoyer until new GM Carter Hawkins was hired. The Cubs now have only two assistant GMs, Ehsan Bakhari and Craig Breslow, and I wonder if they’ll be in the market for a third after this season (or if they’ll promote from within).

•   I thought it was weird that (at least some of) the projection systems held onto the Reds as being better than the Cubs by the end of Spring Training, because it was crystal clear to me that the Reds were way more decimated than that. But that said, I absolutely did not expect this level of awful:

•   For his part, Votto’s year is mirroring that of the Reds. After a hugely resurgent 2021 season, Votto is this year hitting just .129/.299/.145 (47 wRC+), and the peripherals are all abysmal. None of that is to say it’ll stick or that Votto, 38, won’t turn it around. But it’s been baaaaad.

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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.