As a third shift employee, I spend a decent amount of night-owl time on my computer at absurd hours of the night researching whatever I'm intrigued by. On one of those types of nights in 2008, I was doing a Google search on the Cubs, who were in the midst of a really good season. I noticed they had made a very minor transaction for a player named Jason Stanford. While Stanford never returned to the big leagues, a link brought me to a Minor League Wrap on Bleed Cubbie Blue, and I've been here pretty much ever since. I have an affinity for minor league players.
Part of that can be blamed on my two decades on the scorer's table for the Rockford Lightning. They were basically in the Triple-A level of the NBA from the mid-1980s through the early 2000s. Seeing really good athletes busting their chops in front of virtually no fans is something I'm more familiar with than most fans are.
The internet is a wonderful place to go for a niche devotion. Following the Cubs system is certainly one of those. I've gone to minor league games off-and-on since the early 1980s, though my first game was in Omaha in the mid-1970s. (Yes, I have gone to parent-club games also, but I'm not a huge fan of large crowds.) In 2010, buoyed by my time on BCB, I returned to the minors for this April game from that season. BCB provided me the opportunity to hone my writing (which is very therapeutic and hopefully infotain a few of you along the way.
Eventually, System Sonogram sprung, as I wanted a weekly opportunity to go into things I thought were being under-covered on the Cubs system. It's a morphing sort of beast, as I have a new thing I'm more interested in each season. After last season's Sybil campaign (April and May were somewhat frustrating, but July into August were obscenely enjoyable), I'm attempting to focus more on one game per night.
Last year's "jumping from one game to another" was very amusing when I heard a home run call from three different announcers in half an hour. However, I lost track of pitching, and the "flow of the game". This year, I plan to emphasize Twitter more (@tim815 if you're interested) and write more synopses of individual games than before, though that will likely be on thezygote50.webs.com.
System Sonogram will pull from whatever sources I can locate to tell a story about the Cubs system. Today's tells a tale of how much better the Cubs system is now than then. Recently, the Cubs released 2014 draft pick Charlie White. A true center fielder from Maryland, White was a 21st-round selection in last June's draft. He struggled hitting in the Northwest League, which was a bit of a surprise. He was a solid lead-off man in the ACC that season, and I would have thought he would hit better than he did.
I doubt White was released entirely over his hitting struggles in the Northwest League. It wasn't over his defense or his base-running, as those were quite good. Another reason to keep him around another year would have been his X factor of his pitching. Tossed into two games for Boise last summer when the bullpen ran out of arms, not only did White pitch well, the Hawks came back to win both games, with White getting the W both times.
In the Midwest League, it's nice to have a spare-part hitter with a strong enough arm to represent on the mound. Whether it is a blowout scenario, or in a 15-inning game following a 12-inning game (yeah, that happens in the minor leagues), you want a veteran-type player who's willing to take one for the team, and retain integrity for the game. White would have been a decent last-hitter-on-the-bench type of player for those situations.
However, it appears the Cubs might start the 2015 Midwest League season with both Kevonte Mitchell (2014 13th-round selection) and Eloy Jimenez (July 2013 IFA signing) in the outfield. Combined with Gleyber Torres, the South Bend Cubs could start three players aged 20 or younger in the daily lineup.
Depending on who the other outfielders are, there might be no reason to keep White around to caddy for them, as they will likely play most outings. The decent thing seems to be to let White find himself a team where he might actually get to play. The need for him to return to Extended Spring Training and hit against June prep selections seems rather limited. However, looking at the Peoria Chiefs lineup from 2010, he's probably better than some of the players in that lineup, not to mention the guys on the bench.
I try to limit the rules on System Sonogram, as participation is almost always a positive. However, speaking of positive, I write this with a player's family in mind. If a player struggles, then he struggles. Athletes and their support staff are used to struggles. However, it's of very little benefit to overplay their struggles. Some of you might be tempted to say: "(this player or that) really suuuuuuucks." No, he doesn't. What "suuuuuuuuuuuucks" is that Mariners prospect Victor Sanchez died this week, the victim of a boating accident suffered just before he was scheduled to leave for spring training.
If you wish to not how a player might improve his game, or where his numbers might be lagging, have at it. I plan to do the same in my "Three Up, Three Down segment every week. However, incendiary commentary that you would feel a bit put off by if someone was using it to describe your work performance isn't accepted here.
I imagine much of my time will be monitoring the A-ball squads in Myrtle Beach and South Bend. In April, I'll probably lean toward the Advanced-A Pelicans in the Carolina League, as I believe lower-level games in warmer weather are more indicative of future results than games played in temps in the low 40s. If you have a game you plan to follow (other than the parent club), let me know which one. That way, you can help me increase my level of coverage. (I'm often interested in general location stuff on pitchers, willingness to work the count effectively on hitters, and defensive basics on defenders.) An increased MiLB.TV coverage will be of assistance the next day catching up.
Look for an edition every Tuesday or so, looking at the week that was. As noted, follow me elsewhere on the net for more timely commentary, though I plan nightly commentary on Minor League Wrap, as well.