It happens every year. I'm following the minor leagues, as well as college games. I'm keeping abreast of the potential opportunities for the Cubs first draft picks, while monitoring the full-season squads. Work and life sometimes get in the way, but I do a fairly good job. Then it happens. The amateur draft. After following the three days rather carefully, sometimes very shortly thereafter, i run into a figurative wall. Information overload sends me not into a writer's block, but more of a writer's manic state. I have so many things to focus on, I can't focus on any of them. Then it passes, and I can get back to writing.
Speaking of deja vu. I had an interesting flashback talking to a White Sox fan recently. The discussion started with my pet idea of trading for Jeff Samardzija, but quickly devolved into the usual. Alexei Ramirez at short, Adam LaRoche hitting fifth, Robin Ventura's job security, and trading or keeping Chris Sale. Nothing particularly new, but I soon realized I've had this discussion before.
Here on Bleed Cubbie Blue, in fact. Cutting to the chase, it isn't whether the Sox keep their ace Sale or not. Whether Ventura stays or goes is largely immaterial. What matters for the Sox are two things. Do they have the people in place to better evaluate talent than their division rivals? Will their owner allow the spending on things outside the 25 man roster to let it be accomplished?
I think Rick Hahn is probably a good general manager, and Kenny Williams commitment to winning needn't be questioned. I don't know that they have the staff or know-how to do what is needed to make them their division's best team.
The Twins have been doing a phenomenal job of adding talent. They lean toward a solid bat early, and hard-throwing relievers shortly thereafter. The Indians traded an aging Jake Westbrook for Corey Kluber. The Royals won't let pitchers into the bullpen unless they throw in the high 90s. And the White Sox hope Adam Eaton and Avisail Garcia have great seasons.
The Sox need to rebuild. Ironically, their owner is the poster child for not allowing other teams to spend internationally or in the draft. They will perform well enough to not be in the bottom four of the draft, but that limits their chances at what they need. Very young, developable talent. I have few doubts that Carlos Rodon will be a solid pitcher. But if the Sox system (which I am more familiar with than I was a year ago) doesn't get serious about developing their own offensive thumpers, it won't matter how good Sale or Rodon are.
If this season has taught Cubs fans anything, it should be the importance of, not the 25-man roster, but having five spare hitters and pitchers beyond that 25. Injuries will happen. Not to the convenient players, or at the convenient times. To win now, the Sox can't wax nostalgic about how they won 10 years ago. They will have to go through the same arguments we endured a handful of years ago.
Curiously, their owner has a chance to make his rebuild much harder, by simply being who he has always been. If Reinsdorf remains a reactionary in regards to how baseball is developed, his front office might have a very hard road over the next five years.
Much of my night listening is now Eugene Emeralds games. Part of that is to listen to prospects like Ian Happ, Eloy Jimenez, and Justin Steele. Some is to get a read on how the necessary roster-shuffling will progress. Add in a trace of hearing stories about players I am largely unfamiliar with, and you have most of the picture.
For instance, on opening night for the Emeralds Carson Sands was the scheduled hurler. Three hours before first pitch, he was already in full uniform, and ready to go. His manager, Gary Van Tol, recommended he dial it down a notch. Sands survived the outing, and likely learned something from it. Learning and improving are key components to minor league development.
Eugene is going with a six-man rotation. The above-mentioned roster crunch is real. Both Eugene and Mesa have nearly full rosters, and some of the draftees haven't been assigned yet. In other words, some players are due to be released soon. As players have a two-week period before they have to be placed somewhere, the brass is staggering the signings to give time for the talent to sort itself.
After starting the season with a line-up with too many holes in it, Eugene is fun to listen to. Hanging a first three of Donnie Dewees, Eloy Jimenez, and Ian Happ makes it feel like I'm cheating. Again.
Three Up/Three Down
Jen-Ho Tseng was the Cubs' minor-league Pitcher Of The Year last season. Focusing more on velocity this year, his numbers have suffered. Whether A led to B is up to your hunches, I guess. In Tseng's last three starts, he has given up 11 earned runs in less than 15 innings. He has walked seven over the time frame.
Kevonte Mitchell is stepping aside in the outfield so Dewees and Happ can play every day in Eugene. Also, perhaps, because he has started off on a 2-for-32 skid.
(As an aside, some will wonder why Dewees and Happ are even at this level, still. Much of it boils to, what the countermove should be. While to a person with no emotional ties to the players, move this guy up, and drop this guy down seems ridiculously easy, in some instances, the guy who is getting demoted or released has done nothing to deserve either negative action. I have one idea for an outfielder who, perhaps, deserves demotion. I have no idea on a second. There is no offense in leaving Dewees in short-season ball for a week.)
Iowa's John Andreoli has one hit in his last 24 at bats.
Perhaps Iowa's Carlos Pimentel should be the 2,000th Cubs player. In his last five starts, he has pitched a shade over 28 innings, allowing 19 hits and three earned runs. In the span, he has fanned 22.
Over a recent stretch, Tennessee' Billy McKinney went 12-16. He also walked twice. I'd really have to be floored with a trade offer to accept McKinney being flipped for a rental. I would prefer him being in the Cub system for much of the next decade than only get eight or ten starts out of a veteran pitcher in 2015. McKinney has an OPS of .827 in Kodak.
Myrtle Beach has been losing so much recently, they have fallen on my listening priorities. Yes, I much prefer to listen to teams that have been playing well recently. Despite their slumping, Mark Zagunis keeps doing what Mark Zagunis does. Over his last ten games, he's hitting over .400, and has walked six times compared to only one strike out. He hit a pair of homers in one of those games. As Zagunis is a bit of a right-handed McKinney, neither should have many more boxes to check before they move up.
South Bend might be playing the best ball in the pipeline now. Pulling one guy that's been doing well is giving a dis-service to another eight or ten guys. Rashad Crawford has been ridiculously consistent recently. Along with playing a solid CF, he is hitting .324 over his last ten, with a homer and four steals. When Dewees or Happ get promoted, it would be unfortunate if Crawford's loses at bats.
Eugene was lukewarm water their first six games. Some guys were (to use the Ryne Sandberg-as-Phillies-manager term) over their heads. Too many errors. Too many leads given up late. Sort of like South Bend, it's tough limiting it to one guy doing well here. Justin Steele has been that guy so far. I get a kick out of players that have an ERA below one, but above zero. By definition, that means they've pitched over a game, and have done really well limiting the opposition. The second starter for Eugene's six-man rotation, Steele has fanned 15 in 11 innings, walking only two. When high school pitchers in the system do well in short-season ball, it renews my optimism, regardless what the parent club is doing.
Which means, more déjà vu.