Welcome To Chicago: Brett Jackson & Josh Vitters

Josh Vitters and Brett Jackson.

We have been hearing about these guys for a long time, and it seems their time has come at last. Both were recalled from Iowa and made their big-league debuts yesterday.

The future is now. Sort of.

Welcome to the show, B-Jax. Welcome to the show, Joshy V. I hope you’re both here to stay.

Advertisements

The Farm Boy Files: 2012 Outlook

Here’s the deal:

I started writing this post during Spring Training (probably the beginning of it, but perhaps the middle. It was definitely well ahead of the end.) For some reason it didn’t want to come together in a presentable form, and the process of writing it had me ripping my hair out. By the time the regular season started, and a week or so elapsed, I decided to abandon the idea of a Minor League “preview”.

Nevertheless, last week I decided a return at least to the ordinary Farm Boy Files was in order. My love for the kids is strong, even if my love of writing about a bunch of them at the same time is nonexistent. Before choosing a subject, I took a peek at what I’d managed to scrap together for the original preview. While it wasn’t much, it was slightly more assembled than I’d thought, and it seemed like a waste not to go ahead and publish it.

So here we are. This overview of the Cubs farm system is neither extensive nor cohesive, but I’ve tacked on some recent stats to try and prevent its being completely irrelevant. I hope those of you who share my affinity for prospects will enjoy. To those who don’t, here is a nice baby sloth photo to make your stop here today worthwhile.

Baseball America’s Top 10 Cubs Prospects, 2012:
1. Brett Jackson (OF)
2. Javier Baez (SS)
3. Anthony Rizzo (1B)
4. Matt Szczur (OF)
5. Trey McNutt (RHP)
6. Dillon Maples (RHP)
7. Welington Castillo (C)
8. Rafael Dolis (RHP)
9. Junior Lake (SS)
10. Josh Vitters (3b)

***

Continue reading

Spring rolls on…

The petri dish of preparation and experimentation that is Spring Training is drawing nearer to its end. I’m not celebrating yet, but I do have my party hat and noisemakers where I can reach them. Because, while spring camp is always fun at first, eventually it becomes like an exciting movie trailer that you’ve seen too many times. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m ready for the full-length feature.

Here are a few more springy notes. They will likely be the last of 2012. (I know… yay!)
No room in the inn: Brett Jackson, who has pretty much mopped up in the Cactus League this year, will start the 2012 regular season in triple-A. Not because he isn’t big league ready, but because there just isn’t a place to squeese him in on the Cubs 25-man roster.  Somebody pointed out that this is like discarding a $100 bill because your wallet is filled with $1’s and there isn’t room for it. I can’t think of a better analogy.

The situation is hardly worth pouting over, though. We all know that we’ll be seeing Brett in Chicago before long.


Jeff Samardzija, SP: If you had asked me a month ago, I likely would have proclaimed that Jeff Baker had a better chance of earning a spot in the Cubs starting rotation than Jeff Samardzija. Then I totally would have downplayed the sass of the remark by saying that I meant it more as a compliment to the versatile Jeff B. than an insult to Jeff S.

But I digress. Here we are in late March with Smarj now looking to be a shoo-in for a starting roll. And no-one can say he hasn’t done anything to earn it. I certainly hope he’ll keep up the good work… it warms my heart to see a player transform from kitten-eater to winner. I’d like to state here and now, however, that that no matter how productive Jeff may continue to be, I reserve the right to laugh at/criticize his long flowing locks and sketchy facial hair.
Catcher V. Catcher: Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger are battling for the back-up catcher’s position and it looks like the contest will go down to the wire. I’m just happy it won’t be Koyie Hill anymore. Not because I didn’t like Koyie Hill. I was fond of him, as has been well documented. But it will be really nice not to have to listen to everyone else complain about him for a change.

Bunting Tourney Final: The unexpectedly entertaining ride that was the Chicago Cubs spring bunting tournament came to a conclusion last week. Casey Coleman represented the pitchers and David DeJesus the position players in the final, with the latter coming out on top.

Congrats, David. My expectations for your regular season in-game bunting skills is now unreasonably high.

Joe Mather: Actually has a shot at making the team. How ’bout that?

Dave Sappelt: Is it just me, or does Dave totally look like some sort of batting helmet model in this photo?

Springing Forward

I can already tell that I’m going to run out of quotes and clever post titles with “spring” in them before I run out of spring training related posts. Blogging… don’t let anyone tell you it’s an easy life, kids.

In any case, here are my latest commentaries on all things Cub.

Intrasquad Games: The great thing about intrasquad games is that it’s impossible for the Cubs to lose. Of course, it’s impossible for them to win, too, but that’s a small detail that I am personally willing to accept.
So far, the victories have all lain with the hitters (though they had help from some interesting wind conditions, from what I hear.) Brett Jackson has been showing his mettle, hitting jacks and doubles all over the place, as has FBB-favorite Matt Szczur, who scored from second base on a sacrifice fly (it may have been due to right-fielder David DeJesus’s having got his hand stuck in a chain-link fence, but still…) AND hit a grand slam. You go, Matt.

“Real” Games: The Cubbies played their first “real” match-up of the spring yesterday afternoon, against the A’s. Of course, these games are not REALLY real, but they are more real than intrasquad affairs.
The farmboys showed up the veterans in this match-up. The same thing sort of happened in the intrasquad games, and I am delighted. Watching the youngsters have success is a joy to behold, even in the preseason. Outfielder Jae-Hoon Ha, one of several Cubs prospects who hails from South Korea, knocked in 2 runs with a triple. Infielder Adrian Cardenas (of whom I have no further knowledge to offer as of now) drove in three with a home run in the 6th inning. Keep up the good work, kids!
In the end, the A’s came out on top with a very typical Spring score of 12-10. Fortunately, as it IS the spring, we have no reason to care for scores or outcomes. We can just be happy that baseball, once again, is.

Bunt Tourney Update: Dale Sveum has pulled off a couple of upsets, defeating Kerry Wood and favorite Ryan Dempster respectively in the first two rounds. There are just sixteen competitors remaining, now, and it’s hard to say who will come out on top. I can’t see a clear-cut favorite anymore, especially not the way things have gone so far. Pretty much all the guys we assumed would excell have been eliminated.
The sweet 16 match-ups, as per Carrie Muskat, are as follows:
Jeff Beliveau vs. Trey McNutt

Chris Rusin vs. Casey Coleman

Jeff Samardzija vs. Randy Wells

Paul Maholm vs. Dale Sveum

Adrian Cardenas vs. Blake Lalli

Welington Castillo vs. Steve Clevenger

Joe Mather vs. Starlin Castro

Jeff Baker vs. David DeJesus

I’m going to be super random and pick Chris Rusin to go all the way. I think he’s crafty enough to pull it out. On a side note, I’ve been meaning to dedicate a Farm Boy Files post to Chris for at least a year. Hopefully I’ll get that done one of these days.

Dale Sveum celebrates his victory over Kerry Wood.

“No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.”

My friends, spring has sprung. Like a jaguar out of hiding… like a slinky falling down a flight of stairs. It is upon us.

Here is a random collection of thoughts on Cubs camp happenings thus far:

So long, Chris Carpenter: It hurts to lose a promising young pitcher, but at least the saga of the Theo compensation will nag at us no longer. I extend all my best wishes to Mr. Carpenter, but I’m not looking back on this one. At least not until Chris goes and wins the 2012 AL Cy Young for the Red Sox. Which wouldn’t shock me one bit.

As you can see, Jeff Samardzija is going with the Alexandre Dumas look again this season:

This is fine with me, as it is an excuse to bring back my good friend, the musketeer lego man. All for one and one for all!

On the other side of that coin, Brett Jackson has cleaned up considerably since the winter…

If Jeffrey wants a pal to swashbuckle with, Travis Wood might be the best candidate.

I don’t quite know how a spring training bunting tournament ballooned into a spectacle that has Cubs personnel, media, and fans everywhere taking notice. But I like it. I like it a lot.
Tony Campana had emerged as the early favorite on the position player’s side, only to be upset by Steve Clevenger in the first round. The man to beat now might just be youngster Matt Szczur. My sources like Ryan Dempster on the pitcher’s end (the outcry to his being seeded as a #10 was significant. ‘Tis a head-scratcher, indeed, as Ryan has always been a most proficient bunter.) I always pull for the underdog, so you can bet I’ll be supporting whichever unlikely candidate makes it the farthest.
I know one thing for sure. After all the extracurricular bunt practicing and tourney hoopla, this team better be able to bunt with lethal precision once the regular season rolls around.
Stay tuned!

I have already heard some griping about what a pain this Cubs team is going to be to watch this season, what with all the young, inexperienced players we’ll be trotting out. It baffles me how such pessimistic souls live with themselves. I mean, they’re probably right. It is very likely that the Cubs are on their way to limping through yet another sub-par year. But, for goodness sake, it is Spring Training! A game has yet to be played. If you can’t feel at least a little excitement at this point, I pity you.

Hey, guys… the first real game of the preseason is just five days away! Be ready to jump for joy (or, even more appropriately, spring for it.)

Here are just a few more visuals to tide us over:

Marlon Byrd offers some of his expertise to Reed Johnson’s little boy.

Dale Sveum can see you.

Brotherly love.

Recapping Cubs Con: Day Three

If you visit The FBB often, you will know that I have a great love for our up-and-coming minor league boys and it won’t be much of a surprise to learn that I looked forward to Sunday’s “Down on the Farm” forum with much anticipation. The line-up was a solid one: Brett Jackson, Josh Vitters, Junior Lake, Matt Szczur, Jeff Beliveau and newcomer Anthony Rizzo appeared along with Jason McCleod, Tim Wilken, and Oneri Fleita. The latter three did most ofh the talking, while the players mostly sat in silence, or fidgeted with their drinking glasses and pens. Brett Jackson (prospecto numero uno in the Cubs system) was the exception. He took the reins on the majority of questions leveled at the players, speaking well and with a good sense of humor. Anthony Rizzo also spoke a bit (on the challenges of being traded, among other things) and smiled more than the rest. 

I’m more than a little ashamed to admit that up until the midpoint of this session, I was completely unaware Junior Lake is Latino. I should know that sort of thing, I really should. In any case, Oneri Fleita translated a question for Junior, who rattled off an answer in his native tongue. Dave Otto, who was officiating, jokingly turned to Mr. Jackson for an interpretation. Brett’s response: “He said that Brett Jackson was the best player he’s ever seen… that I’m his best friend, and that my Spanish is above average.” Brett also playfully turned an audience inquiry about how closely the minor leaguers follow the Cubs over on Junior…

Brett: “Junior, did you watch the Cubs at the end of the year?”

Junior: *Confused, non-commital look*

Brett:  “Just say ‘yes.'”

On the whole, “Down On The Farm” lived up to my expectations, although it seemed to go by really fast. We finished off our Cubs Convention experience by collecting a few more autographs, all from fellows who had appeared in this session (Matt Szczur, Jeff Beliveau, and Josh Vitters.) It can’t hurt to collect before these guys hit the big-time, can it?

Here are a few more random notes to wrap up my recap… they didn’t really fit anywhere else:

-I am extremely sad to inform everyone that my little friend Theo 2 was lost somewhere in Chicago. Jed Jr. is all alone now. Let us observe a moment of silence in his memory…

Their last photo together, taken shortly before the Opening Ceremony on Friday.

-Darwin Barney cited chewing gum as one of his superstitions…. Bubblegum Power Activate!!!

-Reed Johnson is a Redskins fan (haha) and he uses Canadian imported birch bats.

-During the Cubs Caravan (which took place the day or so before the convention) some of the younger minor league guys dared Tony Campana to eat a large number of some Fruit-By-The-Foot-like product in 10 minutes (or some such minuscule amount of time.) Apparently, he didn’t quite make it. And I’m guessing it will be a long time before he voluntarily eats any Fruit-By-The-Foot again.

-Josh Vitters as some really sparkling eyes. Usually, I would not make a point of sharing such an observation, but it’s really true.

Well guys, this is all I’ve got for now. I’m heading to California tomorrow, but when I get home I hope to put up a few more pictures (better ones. I hope.) Until then, thank you for putting up with my inefficiencies.

Peace out.

GM For a Day

It had reached that time of year when fans the nation over begin to put their GM caps on and think/talk about what moves they would make if they were in charge. GM caps aren’t nearly as fun to play with when your team is mired in sub .500 mediocrity, but it is something to do nonetheless.

The following is a just-for-fun looksee at what I would consider doing if I were the Cubs GM for a day. You will see that, even as sentimental as I am, I do not share real GM Jim Hendry’s somewhat alarming stance on fire-sales and rebuilding.

This may be the most heartless post I’ve ever written.

***

Dempster, Ryan: While I am trying not to let my heart interfere with my head in my pretend 1-day tenure as Cubs general manager, I can’t help it with Dempsty. I couldn’t possibly let him go anywhere. (See also: Wood, Kerry.)

Garza, Matt: I never would have traded for Matt in the first place. Unless some other team was daft enough willing to part with 3 of its top ten prospects, I wouldn’t let go of him this year. It just seems pointless.

Grabow, John: Free to a good home.

Marmol, Carlos: There was a time when I would have considered Carlos #2 as untouchable. I don’t any longer. I suppose all that 9th inning stress has gotten to my head. I am not saying that I would trade Carlos, only that I wouldn’t rule it out. And I would demand a LOT in any possible trade situation (more than he is worth.)

Marshall, Sean: Sigh. It would be difficult for me to pull the trigger on any deal involving Sean, but I hope that in the end I would be able to do what was right for him and the Cubs.

Russell, James: If John Grabow and Sean Marshall aren’t around I guess that would make James the new go-to lefty in our bullpen.

Samardzija, Jeff: He’s done OK this year, certainly better than anyone expected. I would just keep Jeff where he is and ride out that contract.

Wells, Randy: Most of these fellows fit into one of three basic divisions. One, the guys somebody may want. Two, the guys that nobody want. Three, the guys people want but can’t have. I’m afraid that Randy might be a two.

Wood, Kerry: Maybe Kerry should be a one, but he’s a three as long as I’m GM.

Zambrano, Carlos: I wouldn’t even consider Carlos #1 as trade bait. If only to annoy Paul Sullivan.

Hill, Koyie: I heard a rumor that someone might be interested in Koyie. If it’s true, he’s theirs. But it probably isn’t.

Soto, Geovany: Not for sale. Catchers, even half decent ones, are too hard to come by.

Baker, Jeff: If I were the GM of a team that was in contention, I would want Jeff Baker. As Cubs GM, I would hesitate to part with him. Players as versatile and inexpensive as Jeffy B. are worth hanging onto, even in a bad year.

Barney, Darwin: Not going anywhere on my watch.

Castro, Starlin: Crown prince of all the untouchables.

DeWitt, Blake: Blake has never really seemed like a fit on the Cubs. I would send him some place where he could be more useful.

Pena, Carlos: I love Carlos Pena. I always have. I’ve enjoyed watching him as a Cub. But he is still probably the first guy on the proverbial chopping block.

Ramirez, Aramis: The times, they are a-changing. I’m willing to say goodbye if he is.

Byrd, Marlon: Yet another prime trade candidate who I’d miss.

Campana, Tony: Should probably be in triple-A getting more seasoning and playing time, but if half the trade propositions I’ve suggested went down, he’d probably have to tough it out in Chicago.

Fukudome, Kosuke: Sayonara, Fuke. (I seriously feel so mean all of a sudden.)

Johnson, Reed: I couldn’t let go of Reed. So much for that head/heart business.

Soriano, Alfonso: Rumors, schmumors. Fonsie isn’t going anywhere, whether we like it or not.

*Jackson, Brett: I would appease the people (myself included) who would like to have a peek at Mr. Jackson in Chicago before the 2011 season expires.

*Flaherty, Ryan: How do you feel about third base, Mr. Flaherty?

***

So, how ’bout it? What would you all do if you had GM powers for a day?