World Baseball Classic Getting Awesome, Stroman's Start, Mancini's Clever Move, Relief Prospect Factory, and Other Cubs Bullets

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World Baseball Classic Getting Awesome, Stroman’s Start, Mancini’s Clever Move, Relief Prospect Factory, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

Woke up this morning to the time changed and snow on the ground. It was very disorienting.

  • The World Baseball Classic is in full swing now, and the biggest Cubs-related connection yesterday was Marcus Stroman starting Puerto Rico’s opener. Stroman threw 4.2 innings, allowing just two hits (one homer), no walks, and struck out two. He threw 65 pitches, which kinda feels like a lot for March 11, so hey, take it easy Team Puerto Rico manager (it’s Yadi Molina). Then again, Stroman has said before that he feels really good when he’s throwing a lot in March, so maybe it’ll work out all right for him to really hit the ground running come Opening Day. He is in great physical shape, so you might have a little less concern about him wearing down later in the year.
  • Team USA defeated King George III and the British Empire 6-2 in their opening game of the World Baseball Classic. Kyle Schwarber delivered the big blow, as he always does in these kinds of games it seems. It was a prodigious three-run blast, flying out of the stadium to a badass guitar riff on eagle’s wings:
  • The full highlights from USA-Britain:
  • It was definitely a fun event, and exactly what I was looking for from the return of the WBC … except that game kinda got outclassed by the game before it, with Team Venezuela shocking the Super-Duper All-Star Team Dominican Republic. It was intense and thrilling and had that over-the-top sense of excitement:
  • Meanwhile, as I type this, Team Italy is beating Team Netherlands in Pool A, which may seem a random thing to be noting. But if Italy does win, that means all five teams (those two plus Cuba, Chinese-Taipei, and Panama) in the pool finish 2-2, and tiebreakers will have to decide which two teams move on. The tiebreakers get increasingly complex, but if none of them “work,” then it’s just a straight up lottery. The crazy thing? The team that finishes in “fifth place” in the pool gets relegated for the next WBC, and has to play in a qualifier tournament to qualify. That would suck if you landed in that spot just by random draw.
  • Last WBC bit for now, if you wanted the highlights of Team Puerto Rico winning its opener against Nicaragua:

  • Sneaky, sneaky, Mr. Mancini. Genius move:
  • The interference rules for baserunners are notoriously laborious, but in this instance, my understanding is that what Mancini did was right on the border of being legal. Forget the “three foot” thing, because that has to do with avoiding a tag. Here, a baserunner is allowed to alter his path to the base as much as he wants … until the defender has the ball and is attempting to make a throw. What you CAN’T do at that point is intentionally interfere with the throw – yes, it’s an umpire judgment call. Here, it’s kinda close, because Mancini was clearly (smartly!) trying to get himself in the way of the throw BEFORE the defender had the ball. But he’s still veering a bit by the time the first baseman is trying to set up his throw, and Mancini pretty clearly impacts the throw. Gut says that if the umpire had called intentional interference, I would’ve said, OK, I guess I can see it. But no call, to me, also looks to be acceptable. I think it’s worth giving it a try, as Mancini did.
  • As Bryan notes, Cubs relief prospect Cam Sanders looked dominant yesterday, as he’s often looked this spring:
  • I don’t know that Sanders will make the Opening Day bullpen, but the fact that it’s a reasonable conversation right now, given how crowded the mix is, and given that he was only just converted to relief late last year at Triple-A, says a lot about how impressive he is. Time to start doing the mental math on the 40-man roster, because Sanders will need a spot sometime this year when he first comes up. In the meantime, I figure the Cubs will want to see him continue to show success against lefties (that changeup will help big-time), and manage the control. As a reliever last year, his strikeout rate was solid, though not overwhelming (28.1%), and his walk rate was not where it needs to be (13.2%).
  • Because Hayden Wesneski looked so good again yesterday, paired with the performances by Sanders and Brendon Little, I had the Wesneski trade on the mind. The connection is that the Cubs helped develop Scott Effross into a dominant reliever kinda out of nowhere (tons of credit to him on reinventing himself as a sidearmer), and they turned that into a guy who might now be a mid-rotation starter in the big leagues. The Cubs have SO MANY potential impact relief prospects on the way that you wonder if they can become something of a factory for these guys, and trade some for other pieces when needed. They’ve already become so good at trading reclaimed veteran relievers for prospects at the deadline, and with the Effross deal, they did it with a controllable reliever, too.
  • Nice play from Dansby Swanson:

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.