Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The 1st likely mistakes of the season:

According to the Chicago Tribune and Paul Sullivan it appears that the leadoff hitter will likely be Corey's to lose. Now, lets look at what qualities Patterson has to qualify him as the leading candidate to lead-off.

How much of a factor does the ability to get on-base matter to a lead-off hitter?

On-base percentages from last year:
Ramirez .373 (likely will be between .360-.370)
Nomar .364 (likely will be in the .340s)
Lee .356 (will likely be higher this year)
Barrett .337 (should carry over into 05')
Walker .352 (should be between .340-.350)
Hollandsworth .336 (career)
Burnitz .351 (career)
Patterson .320 (should be around .335 next year)

How much importance is there by a leadoff hitter's ability to work the count, draw a BB, while giving the #2 and #3 hitters a better gauge on the starting pitcher?

Pitcher per Plate appearance from last year:

Lee 3.94
Walker 3.85
Burnitz 3.85
Ramirez 3.62
Barrett 3.55
Patterson 3.46
Hollandsworth 3.34
Nomar 3.14

I tend to value the ability to reach base and the effect it has on the order later in that inning. The inning that the most runs are scored is the 1st inning, it should be treated as such. Another statistical fact, the winning team will likely score more runs in one inning than the losing team will the entire game. Patterson is a middle of the order hitter with the bonus of speed, not a top of the order speed hitter with the bonus of power. The way to separate the two is b/c of one reason and that is a little thing they are not looking at; OBP.

My ideal 05' line-ups:


Hairston (2B)

The line-ups are a nice intro into part II of the likely early mistakes of the 05' season, which will be concluded tomorrow.


Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Get that team a LOOGY!

This is an initial push to get Rusch out of the rotation and into a more important spot for the team (left handed relief). How can a situational lefty be more important than a starting pitcher? When a team lacks anyone who can get a LH batter out on a consistent basis that does not close games. With the loss of Kent Mercker, leaving Remlinger as the most likely candidate to retire opposing LH batters, it will be a long season for the micromanager inside of all of us, yelling fo the lefty when Dunn is up to bat. Unfortunately if that is Remlinger, is best pitch is a tailing change-up that breaks down and in on a LH batter which is where he wants it. Of course, there are other options as Will Ohman has very good stuff and will likely retire LHs, but doubtful he will make the opening 25 man roster. Also, there is Stephen Randolph who was acq'd from AZ for a PTBNL, good stuff but can't control it. There would have to be another piece to the puzzle for it to fit nicely and that would be the progression of another pitcher as the #5 starter, I would love see Mitre or Dempster become the #5 and keep it warm till Guzman shows some dexterity.

Here is the opponent's OPS. of left handed hitters from 2004' (LH pitchers are in bold) of the projected bullpen...

Dempster (only 27 ABs) .787
Hawkins (135 ABs, will likely close or set-up) .735
Wellemeyer (43 ABs) .863
Leicester (51 ABs) 1.092
Remlinger (66 ABs) .851
Borowski (32 ABs, we all know about his struggles vs. both LHs and RHs) 1.199
Rusch (120 ABs).569 OPS

Extremely simple and to the point, if the Cubs have only Remlinger in the pen as the token lefty, the Cubs will lose more close games than they did last year and that is hard to do.


Monday, February 21, 2005

It isn't you, Carlos!

Last week, Zambrano mentioned that one of his goals was to get stronger later in the season. For Carlos, getting stronger in the second half might be more of a negative than a positive, if he intends on adjusting his workout routine, he will be asking for trouble.

Carlos is one of the strongest pitchers in baseball, both in velocity and fatigue levels. For two years now Carlos has been one of the most abused pitchers finishing 3rd in 2004' and 10th in 2003' in Baseball Prospectus'Pitcher Abuse Points.

Want to know how to improve Carlos Zambrano as the season progresses? Monitor him more carefully. The concept of saving a pitcher for his next after the outcome has been decided has been a foreign concept for the Cubs (well beyond Baker's tenure).

Several examples from the 2004' season...

April 15-117 pitches in a 10-5 win (9-1 when he left the game)
April 20-111 pitches in a 9-1 win
May 13-114 pitches in a 7-3 win (6-1 when he was pulled)
May 30-110 pitches in a 12-1 win
June 5th-113 pitches in a 6-1 win
June 10th-121 pitches (12-3 win)
June 26th-128 pitches thru 6 in a 6-3 loss
July 2nd-124 pitches thru 6.1 (6-2 win)
July 29th-120 pitches in a 4-0 win
Aug. 11th-124 pitches in a 5-1 win
Aug. 23rd-115 pitches thru 6.2 in a 8-3 win
Sept. 6th-119 pitches in a 9-1 win
Sept. 17th-112 pitches in a 12-4 win
Sept. 27th-124 pitches thru 6.1IP in a 12-5 win

14 out of 31 starts the Cubs could have been more cautious w/Zambrano.

For those wondering, Zambrano went 4-0 with a 1.01 ERA in September.

It is obvious to me, instead of increasing the risk of an off-season injury (see Prior and Borowski) by trying to increase in-season stamina, have the Cubs use some caution in games that have likely already been decided.


Friday, February 11, 2005

Minor League Notes:

From Rotoworld:

" Felix Pie-His game still needs plenty of work, but Pie had an impressive 799 OPS as a 19-year-old in the Florida State League last year. The concern is the strikeout-to-walk ratio. He needs to do a better job of identifying which pitches he should be swinging at. If it comes with time, he could be the next Johnny Damon. It’s just as possible that Pie will never have the on-base skills to be a leadoff hitter, but since he does project as a strong defensive center fielder, he won’t need to be that great of a hitter to be a quality regular. He’s due to spend at least two more years in the minors."

" 6. Ryan Harvey-The sixth overall pick in the 2003 draft. The Cubs have taken things slowly with him because of the torn ACL he suffered prior to being drafted, but he’ll get to try out full-season ball this year. Harvey is still all potential at this point. He should develop 30-homer power, and he’ll probably reemerge as an above average runner now that he’s fully recovered from knee surgery. As he gains experience, he’ll turn into a strong defensive right fielder."

From the USA Today:

"With Mr. Sosa gone, Jason Dubois and Todd Hollandsworth are going to get increased face time in left field. By season's end, slugger, and I do mean slugger, Brian Dopirak might be ready for the majors. A team executive said Dopirak is the Cubs' Vladimir Guerrero, minus the arm."

I have no idea what that means, would Brooks Kieschnick have been the called the same thing back in 94'?

From the Daily Southtown:

"Angel Guzman, whom Baseball America has named the Cubs' top pitching prospect for two straight years, managed just 11 appearances in the minors last year after recovering from shoulder surgery in 2003. But the 23-year-old right-hander could be back stronger than ever. Farm director Oneri Fleita watched Guzman throw in a few sessions in Venezuela recently. "Angel told Oneri it's the best he's felt by far since before the surgery," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. "He's not taking as long to get loose again. "He will come to camp, but we're not going to rush him. I don't see a scenario he would break with the club because he missed so much time. I certainly would pencil him in at (Triple-A) Iowa, and if he can get out of the gate and have success and be his old self, we would be able to go get him."


The Annual Top 50 Prospect List (31-40):

#40 Kevin Collins-Strong Season at Lansing, overshadowed by Dopirak and Sing as far as other power hitting OF/1B types in the system. He has one tool on offense, which is power, he isn't too old to where he can be counted out, but the poor season in 2003' hurt his chances of remaining in the system long enough to get to AAA without being left unprotected. He'll have to improve his eye at the plate to have any shot at the majors, his power will always never shut the door on him. He should head to Daytona and enjoy working w/Zisk, it was a nice rebound for him.

#39 Will Ohman-Nice comeback story for him, came back from Tommy John Surgery, pitched fairly well at Iowa, nice K ratio, control should improve as the lingering effects from the surgery diminish. Pitched well in Winter Ball, features a low 90 FB and a slider with bite, probably the best LOOGY in the system with a chance to make to the 25 man roster (Pinto projects as a starter and Rohlicek is still a season away). Will either be the 2nd lefty in the pen, if Rusch is still a starter or will go to Iowa and likely close.

#38 Jermaine Van Buren-Any time a player comes from the Indy Leagues and re-establishes himself, it is a great story. Van Buren spent the 03' season in the Central Baseball League and was sold to the Cubs late in 2003'. Designated in relief, Van Buren shined allowing only 23 hits in 53 innings, while striking out 10 more baserunners than he allowed. His stuff is similar to Ohman, low 90s FB and a decent slider, still not too old for the minors despite hitting the Indy League circuit. Will likely go to Iowa and compete against Ohman for the closer's spot.

#37 Jerry Blevins-A potential reach at this spot, he had a real strong showing at Boise, used his upper 80s/low 90s FB well as well as his slider, projects as a future lefty specialist. The Cubs typically seem to have strong pens at Low-A, next year will be no different.

#36 Dwaine Bacon-The little engine that could, the best baserunner in the system (I think Pie has more pure speed), who knows how to draw BBs and create havoc once on. 2004' was a disappointing for Bacon, his avg. dropped below .250 and despite the increase in BBs, his OBP dropped nearly 20 points and his Slg over 30 points. He'll be 26 in April and will likely be at Iowa leading off, Iowa has a little bit of a log-jam with Jackson, Kelton, and Greenberg right there, it'll be interesting to see how the Cubs OF plays out for Bacon. Bacon projects a 5th OF'er, a more glamourous version of Tom Goodwin.

#35 Jake Fox-Had a solid season at Lansing, platooning with Rick at C, and will likely do the same at Daytona. Showed the same the power that made him a 3rd rd. pick, while improving defensively, has been better than I expected defensively, while not showing the plate patience I seen from him at Michigan. Defensively, he's behind Rick (who projects as avg. at this point) and will likely see more time at DH than C. He will have to cont. to work at being at C and improve his BB totals to project as an everyday C in the majors, the dropoff is severe going from C to 1B as far as projection unless you can hit like Daric Barton.

#34 Darin (not Scott) Downs-Showed the promise and the health I was looking for last off-season, still has the upper 80s FB and nice curve. Improved his numbers and IP at Boise last year, should start at Lansing and see IP increase as the Cubs have been very cautious with him. Still needs to improve his control and did a solid job of limiting his HRs in a hitter's league, I expect him to breakout next year.

#33 Russ Rohlicek-Another LH reliever has made the list, amazing to see 3 so far and the major league squad has one (Remlinger) and he is better against RHs than LHs. Converted starter turned reliever had a very strong year, ERA around 2.00, 44 hits in 69 IP, a K ratio just under 9, and only allowed 2HRs in the last years (134IP). His main problem has been his control, BB'ed 42 men in the 69 IP, and will need to improve that as he heads to Iowa. The Cubs sent him to the AFL which speaks strongly how they feel about him, he throws in the low 90s, has a deceptive delivery and his former work as a starter, allowed him to develop a show me change as well.

#32 Buck Coats-On a personal level, one of the nicest Cubs prospects I've met as a player, he made strides in all aspects of his game, expect drawing BBs. In 1200 career ABs, he managed 6HRs, in 414 ABs last year, he managed 8 HRs in a pitcher's league. He also .290, while his XBH ratio went up to 29%, but he made more strides defensively, and will cont. to progress at SS at AA. He still has quite a bit to go defensively as he is prone to simple errors (bad throws/poor fielding), but enough range and the arm to possibly make it as a SS, if he shows continual improvement. The only concern was his drop in BBs as they went from 64 in 2003 while dropping to 32 in 2004', while his K ratio increased.

#31 Eric Patterson-You all know he is Corey's brother, similar athletic ability, EP doesn't project to have the same power as Corey, but compensates with a better eye at the plate. Will likely start at Peoria at 2B, I hope the Cuns don't shift him to the OF, it would be a waste at this stage. Should hit avg., draw BBs, steal bases, play a decent defensive 2B, and if there was a comparison to be made, I would say Eric Young is the one that comes to mind.


Saturday, January 29, 2005

The Annual Top 50 Prospect Listing:

#50 Tony Richie-Still bothered by shoulder problems was able to hit .314/.373/.389 at Boise, should be heading to Wes Tenn if not hit w/injuries, still projects as a weak hitting starting C or an above avg. backup. I suspect he'll end up at Lansing.

#49 Carlos Vasquez-Just quietly going thru the system with an avg. FB and slider, any chance of him making it to the majors will depend on his ability to improve from medicore numbers at Daytona. Probably end up in the West Tenn pen.

#48 Micah Hoffpauir-Micah did improve over his 2003' numbers and showed an increase in power despite hitting in the Southern League. He was a product of being overshadowed by fellow 1B, Dopirak, Collins, and Sing. He will be at Iowa next year.

#47 Chris Shaver-4th round in 2004, featured an upper 80s to low 90s FB and solid slider from the LH side, started at Boise and put up ok numbers, will likely be a starter at Peoria, but projects out of the pen.

#46 Alberto Garcia-Continues to hit, continues to search for a position on the field and how to draw BBs. Will go to Daytona and likely play 3B, 1B, and OF possibly in the same week.

#45 Sean Gallager-Another 04' draftee, that pitched well at Mesa, displaying a 92MPH FB and the best curve in the 04 draft. Has the build to progress nicely, he will need to develop a change, if his FB has reached its peak velocity. Likely to begin at Boise, possibility to start at Lansing, but very doubtful.

#44 Eric Eckenstahler-PTBNL in the Felix Sanchez deal, pitched decent after the trade after he regressed w/Toledo. 28yo., with limited ML experience and hasn't improved his control isn't positive, but hard to pass up a LH with a 92FB and solid breaking pitch. Will probably maintain the same role he has for the last 3 years as a AAA LOOGY.

#43 Luis Montanez-I'm a sucker for punishment, 10 years from I might still be including him for nostalgia purposes. He showed what he could have done if he had not been rushed after his MVP season in the AZL. Shifted to OF, actually he is not than the college seniors that liter the Northwest League.

#42 Carmen Pignatiello-My greatest fears for him came true, the progression from going from High-A to AA was too much for him. The ability to get by with deception of a change, decent breaking pitch and a mid 80's FB wore off. Will either be held back at West Tenn. or go to Iowa as a LOOGY.

#41 Mitch Atkins-maybe a reach here, but the 04' draftee (7th round) has a nice ceiling with him as he has a nice build, good 88-92 FB, and the makings of a plus breaking pitch and change. Will be better off with plenty of off-season work at Fitch and a season at Boise.


The Drought is Over!

Well, for this Blog it is. The recent dealings have sparked my motivation again to write.

Much has been said about the trade, on paper the Cubs have traded a aging superstar still possible of hitting in the .850s-900s OPS level/.290-.310 EqA for a utility infielder and two prospects who rank in the 15-30 range in the Cubs system and the possibility of a 3rd. I can't forget the 10+ mil heading to Balt. for charity reasons.

Despite that, I am not upset as the Cubs made their bed and had to pay the consequences of stooping to the level of a PR war with no possible winner.

Mike Fontenot is a 2B who has a decent stick, below par defensively, can draw BBs, needs to increase contact as he progresses, I would rank him lower than Richard Lewis at this stage. The other prospect that is known is RHP Dave Crouthers who is a RH who will shifted to the pen for 06' as his struggles, mostly from confidence problems will likely make him glossy bullpen guy. I would rank Leicester ahead of him at this stage within the Cubs system as far as current pitchers within the system w/similar roles.

As far as justification of the trade, new prospects in roles within the organization that are already filled will likely be a transfer pass to another club.

The players I am interested in are very common names Aubrey Huff, still in his prime, will be expensive, and would fit nicely to give a LH bat w/power. He would be able to replace the void from Alou's productive 04' campaign, his ZiPS projection .890 would rank the highest on the team for 05'.

Brad Wilkerson, who might be the choice among the Cubs brass, given his inability to hit for avg., but manages to create havoc for opposing pitchers and can hit at the top of the order despite plus power.

Austin Kearns, my sleeper among the group as Gary Hughes and Kearns have a past in Cincy and the current surplus of OF'ers might make a possible trade target. I hope his recent injuries have decreased his trade value as I predict a breakout season for him similar to his rookie campaign, ZiPS tends to go along with my belief system predicting a .285/.388./473 line in 347 ABs.

Getting Huff becomes a must at this stage, to include someone like Kearns to compliment Huff, would likely improve the Cubs OF (both offensively and defensively last year) and relying on Nomar trying to reduce the reduction in offense over last year becomes less of a burden on him.

It would drain a good portion of the pitching prospects near the ML level, I would expect several of Mitre, Guzman, Brownlie, Wellemeyer, Nolasco, Brownlie, and Leicester and potential positional prospects to get a combo of Huff and Kearns, but the short-term/long-term benefits outweigh the long-term benefits of having a pitching surplus 1-2 years from now.

I'm also a proponent of trying to get Dotel from Oakland, but like a domino, one needs to fall 1st and that would be getting Huff from TB.


Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Callis weighs in on a potential 5th starter next year:

"Tim from Chicago asks:
With Matt Clement almost certainly gone next year, which pitcher has the best chance to be the Cubs fifth starter next year: Renyel Pinto, Bobby Brownlie, Angel Guzman or Ryan Dempster? Thanks.

Jim Callis: What about Sergio Mitre? He had a very nice year in Triple-A and would be a $300,000 option that would allow the Cubs to allocate more funds toward their offense. But I suspect that Dusty Baker will give Ryan Dempster every opportunity to win that job."

Personally, I'm all for giving it to the best pitcher which includes the pitchers mentioned above as well as Leicester and Wellemeyer who have started for most of their minor league career. Guzman has the best stuff of the group, but can use some time at Iowa to stay healthy and get some IP, something he hasn't done. Brownlie and Pinto can both use IP at Iowa as well. That leaves Dempster, Mitre, Wellemeyer, and Leicester as the potential starters. I'd like to see Wellemeyer get the job out of those 3, he would have the chance to improve his breaking pitch and improve his control, he has the biggest upside out of those 4.


Rotoworld on Dubois:

"Jason Dubois ... 25, has to be taken seriously as a future regular after hitting .316/.389/.630 in his first season in Triple-A. He doesn’t have any star potential, but his power should make him a solid everyday left fielder for a few years. The Cubs will have an opening for him once they decline Moises Alou’s 2005 option. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll let him play, though. They need to trade him if they’re not going to use him, as he has nothing left to learn in the minors."


Dopirak or Harvey:

Jim Callis still think very highly of a extremely gifted Ryan Harvey.

"Harvey is more athletic and can do more things than Dopirak, but Dopirak really tore up the low Class A Midwest League this year. I'd give Dopirak maybe a slim, slim edge, but that may change by the time I get around to doing our Cubs Top 30 in the offseason."


Monday, September 13, 2004

Note on Felix Pie:

Jeremy Deloney, Baseball Miscellany, on Felix Pie CHN :

" ... The Cubs have often lacked a legitimate leadoff hitter and they have to look no further than their own high A affiliate in Daytona. CF Felix Pie ranks among the top minor league leadoff men for his speed and his ability to make contact. He doesn’t yet have the on base abilities that are generally required in today’s #1 hitters, but he’s only 19 years old ... The only tool that some scouts question now is his ability to hit for power. Of course, at 6’2” 175 pounds, Pie still has some growing to do and could stand to add valuable muscle to his upper body ... has the potential to steal 40+ bases in the big leagues if he can learn to get on base more. His speed also helps him immensely in the outfield. Despite his youth, he shows above average defensive skills including a strong arm, good range, and sound instincts. Pie may not ever win a Gold Glove, but he certainly doesn’t lack for effort ... From an offensive standpoint, Pie has a lot of work to do. At least the Cubs can be patient in his development ... Because Pie has such raw abilities, the Cubs would be wise in taking things slow with him. Next year he’ll most likely be in Double A with West Tennessee. He will most certainly work on making more hard contact and pulling the ball to unleash his power potential ... If he can add a little more power and more patience at the plate, Pie might be able to push Corey Patterson to an outfield corner (or another organization) in 2-3 years."

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