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Trent Giambrone and the trading deadline false alarm

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A day before the deadline, this Cubs minor leaguer left the game. Assumptions were made that turned out not to be true.

Trent Giambrone plays for Myrtle Beach in 2017
Larry Kave/Myrtle Beach Pelicans

Last Sunday night’s Cubs game was a return to form. It brought the return of a misplaced moment. The fake hug watch. Partway through the Cubs game against the Cardinals, it became falsely apparent the Cubs were trading Trent Giambrone, who had left the game due to injury. (It was originally reported he left the game healthy.) This is a look at Giambrone, if he is of note, why, and how do you pronounce Giambrone, anyway.

In the day, men’s tennis had an up-and-coming star in Michael Stich. Though much of the 1990s, he was a valid foe. He won Wimbledon in 1991, and reached #2 in 1993. As he was getting covered on-air, networks had to explain how to pronounce the German name that didn’t have a pure English equivalent. I remember ESPN noting that is isn’t Stick, isn’t Steek, and isn’t Stitch. However, it’s somewhere in-between.

Giambrone’s name is a bit of an indirect hit, as well. The “brone” is two syllables, with BRO getting the emphasis. The “knee” is a separate syllable. However, the first four letters are part Gym, part Gem, part Jam, with a remote touch of gee-yam. The three letters are about a syllable-and a-quarter long. Regional dialect variations make it quite fun and confusing, but the Press Guide says “Gym.”

As to the player, Giambrone was a 25th-round choice in 2016 from Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi. which appears about equidistant from Little Rock, Arkansas, Memphis, Tennessee, and Jackson, Mississippi. Giambrone attended high school in Metarie, Louisiana, near New Orleans.

As a senior at Delta State, Giambrone had an OPS of 1.034 at the D-2 school. A reliable hitter in his first pro campaign for Eugene in the Northwest League, his team broke a lengthy title-free streak in 2016. He skipped the Midwest League in 2017, jumping straight to Myrtle Beach.

He’s been more useful than a star. He is running rather even with the Rule 5-eligibility timeline, which is far more applicable than calendar age. This is as good of a time as any to explain my fervor on the topic.

Now 24, Giambrone will likely get a solid look in Triple-A in his third full season in the pros. If he has a good season, he would make for a very reasonable addition to any organization seeking a cheap roster addition in the Rule 5 Draft, if he is successful. Chesny Young was on the same fight plan, but never has been better then the Pacific Coast League.

Regardless what method of selection, if a player is “ahead of the Rule 5 curve,” he has a legitimate chance to “force” a team to consider him a valued enough piece to add him to the roster to avoid poaching. Giambrone isn’t a cinch MLB player. However, being in line with the Rule 5 curve is a reasonable tell he might be. With Giambrone being right on the time line, it makes him a more likely choice than a player drafted in a similar year, still struggling in the Carolina League.

A very likely possibility would be the Cubs trading Giambrone in about a year if he’s a borderline Rule 5 guy. (The Yankees have become adept at these sorts of swaps, and variations thereof.) Or, if he shows what is desired, he might serve as a reasonable infield supplement in a year from August or September.

***

The Cubs have a video game they use with their hitting prospects. It’s a bit rights-protected, and for justifiable reasons. As such, I have no idea the premise, but it tests hand-eye coordination. I’d be terrible at it. However, certain players excel at the game, and the Cubs put weight on the predictive nature.

My guess is that Giambrone scores well in the game. His cumulative numbers aren’t sensational. He’s a good hitter, though my no means extraordinary. Defensively, he’s a second baseman with plenty of versatility. Nothing jumps out about him being a top-end likelihood at a lengthy career. Yet, he figures to be in Triple-A in April. Something is there quite a few of us aren’t seeing.

Which is among the joys of baseball. David Bote’s ascension was inexplicable. He kept getting better with the competition level. To comp Giambrone to Bote probably isn’t accurate, as Bote is an exit velocity machine.

Giambrone should be a major league player, unless the Pacific Coast League is better than he is. Along with Zack Short and Vimael Machin (pronounced “machine”), the Cubs continue to push forward second- and third-day draft picks who are both versatile and better offensively than their round indicates.

Which leads to a final teaching moment. When people hear a player was drafted in a later round (defined however you wish to define a later round), a few assumptions are often made. “Since he was drafted late, he must be a lousy player.”

About that.

A player selected in the top dozen selections is likely a bit better than the rest. However, the 18th player in the draft is likely very similar to the 40th player in the draft. As the draft continues, the variation gets less, not more. The range between a sixth and twelfth round player is miniscule. A 14th- and 22nd-rounder are not that much different at all. When the Cubs draft a player in the 36th round, he’s likely very close in ability to the 24th round guy. Tracking college games and guessing appropriate rounds is as much on invisible concepts (leadership ability or likelihood to sign) as in-game production.

(Teams that start to draft early in the third day based more on “willingness to sign for a scant bonus” over “ability to play well in a college environment” are doing their fans a disservice. Players like Bote and Giambrone are out there. They like getting paid a reasonable bonus. If an organization isn’t up to that minor financial burden, they surrender depth to teams that are. Third day bonuses of $125,000 per player aren’t penalized.)

When a player gets a chance, he goes from there. Then, the assessments become more pointed. Some players improve a bit as pros. Others don’t at all. Some get injured. Others stay in line or above with the Rule 5 Draft curve. If you’re limited in your time to assess prospects, those are the guys you want to learn how to pronounce their name.