The Cubs' Top Two Approach, What the First Half Showed, Three True Outcomes, and Other Cubs Bullets

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The Cubs’ Top Two Approach, What the First Half Showed, Three True Outcomes, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

Even when the Cubs are battling for the worst record in the league, I’m still very ready for them to be playing a game by today. No dice, though. One more day of All-Star break.

  • Well, we have the first signing of a player whom the Cubs could have taken at pick seven, but didn’t: college shortstop Brooks Lee, picked right after the Cubs by the Twins at pick eight, has signed for $5.675 million, which is above slot for the pick, and is just about slot for the Cubs’ pick at seven. In other words, if the Cubs had taken Lee, we can now conclude they would not have been able to take Jackson Ferris in round two – all the more confirmation that the Cubs sincerely did want a “package” of first-round-caliber players with their first and second picks (Cade Horton under slot, Ferris well over slot), rather than a higher-floor college position player in the first, and then a lesser prospect in the second.
  • (Then again, with a pool of similar size to the Cubs, the Twins took Connor Prielipp in the second round, a TJS-rehabber who would have otherwise been a first round pick, and who was rumored to be among the Cubs’ under-slot options at seven. Maybe the Cubs didn’t evaluate Prielipp all that highly, but, on paper, it’s pretty hard to argue with those first two picks for the Twins. Seems like they did well.)
  • I don’t think we can truly know for sure whether the Cubs were right or wrong in their approach for several years, but I suppose what we can now know is that the bonus demands were obviously a key factor in how you try to maximize your haul in this class. Nevertheless, I suspect people like me will be watching the development of guys like Lee, Kevin Parada, Cam Collier, and Zach Neto closely in the years to come.
  • The take on the Cubs’ first half: “The Cubs went into last offseason with their rotation as the No. 1 priority and then went out and acquired a trio of veterans in Marcus Stroman, Wade Miley and Drew Smyly. Chicago also made one of the headline signings of the spring by reeling in Japanese star Seiya Suzuki. The best-case scenario seemed to be a club capable of being at least within range of the Wild Card bubble. Instead, injuries have decimated the rotation and roster, and the Cubs endured a brutal first half that put them on a 100-loss pace. It has clouded the ability to project how long this rebuild might last. Expect the Cubs to be sellers at the Trade Deadline (All-Star catcher Willson Contreras is atop the pile of chips) as they keep trying to construct the ‘next great Cubs team,’ as president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer has phrased it. And expect more development, along with growing pains, from younger players in the final two-plus months.”
  • I think I mostly agree with that, though I would probably be softer in my language about the injuries and their impact – or at least I would underscore that it became clear this team was not going to be competitive even if everyone had been completely healthy. No, they wouldn’t be even close to a 100-loss pace, but I think we have enough of a sense of the players this year that we can say the team is probably still under .500.
  • The other part I’d say is more mixed is the extent to which the injuries “clouded the ability to project how long this rebuild might last.” That is certainly true, in part, but it’s also true that some of the injury issues actually wound up providing more information about the rebuild/opportunity for young players to get exposure. For example, if the rotation was fully healthy from the jump, it’s not clear that Justin Steele or Keegan Thompson would’ve gotten nearly this much runway to operate and emerge. And without injuries in the outfield and at second base, maybe Christopher Morel never even comes up this year.
  • Not that the Cubs have reached a point where you feel confident they can compete in 2023. Maybe we get enough information on that front over the final two and a half months, maybe we don’t. I suspect it’s going to take an offseason of moves to even have a chance.
  • Speaking of offseason needs, those rumors of the Padres extending Joe Musgrove could put a big dent in the free agent market. The ZiPS projections on his next several years, and the contract he should command, are super rosy. Musgrove projects to be a 2.3 to 3.9-win pitcher for the next six seasons.
  • Great read at The Athletic about the drops in the three-true-outcome rates this year. If you don’t dig in, you might think, woo hoo, the ever-increasing march of three true outcomes (homers, walks, and strikeouts) has finally stopped. But it’s not exactly that. It looks like home run rates are down slightly because of the deadened ball (not necessarily a behavior change), walk rates are down slightly because they pretty much always move in lock-step with home run rates, and strikeout rates are down slightly because pitchers aren’t hitting anymore and this is the first full season with sticky stuff enforcement. The article goes WAAAAY deeper than that, because all of these things are exceedingly complex, but my main takeaway was that there’s still a whole lot to do if the goal is to get more action on the field in the form of balls in play. (You know, like the adding the pitch clock and banning the extreme shift … )
  • You may have to open this video up to actually see what he’s doing, but I am blown away by Adbert Alzolay’s strength and body control:
  • Right lat looks good to me, right? In all seriousness, the hope is that we see Alzolay make an appearance in an ACL game sometime soon-ish coming out of the break. But note that the hope is based not on anything he or the Cubs have said explicitly – just him tweeting an image that SUGGESTED he was close to a return, and then the general timeline we worked out back when he first suffered the injury in Spring Training. It would be really nice to get him up and into the big league bullpen for some multi-inning appearances before the end of the season.
  • Every single out:
  • Nice picture of Mr. Cub:

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.