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.

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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?

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

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The Farmboy Files: Midseason Roundup

Since the season is halfway through, I thought it would be a good time to take a peek at a few of the farmboys in the Cubs system and see how they are faring in 2011. First lets look at an overview of where our Cubs affiliates are currently standing…

Peoria Chiefs (Low A): The Chiefs are 41-49 and in next to last place in the Western Division of the Midwest League.

Daytona Cubs (High A): The D-Cubs, under the tutelage of Buddy Bailey, are currently sitting high atop the Florida State league with an impressive 57-33 record. The next best team is 8 games back. Keep it up, Daytona!

Tennessee Smokies (Double A): The Smokies aren’t doing too bad themselves with a 53-38 record on the year. They are easily in first place in the North Division of the Southern League.

Iowa Cubs (Triple A): And the I-Cubs, currently sitting on a 41-51 record, bring us back down to earth. They are in last place in their division of the Pacific Coast League.

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Now that we know where the teams are at, let’s get on to some individuals! Here we go.

Josh Vitters: Long considered the golden boy of the Cubs system, Joshy has yet to really live up to the hype. He has been healthy so far this year, though, which is good. His offensive numbers are respectable, but hardly mind-boggling. He’s batting .279/.316/.442 with 34 runs and 39 RBI through 80 games in Tennessee and has hit 8 homers and 19 doubles. He has a fielding percentage of .885 at 3B, where he has spent the most playing time. I don’t mean to dis the boy, but I’m a bit concerned at this point about what the post-Aramis era is going to look like for the Cubs.

Kyler Burke: The one time Cubs Minor League player-of-the year is a pitcher now, apparently. Whoa.

Matt Szczur: My new favorite prospect. Recently promoted from low-A Peoria to high-A Daytona. He was the Cubs rep in the MLB Futures Game. Follow him on Twitter! @SuperSZCZ4

It’s pronounced “See-zur.” Get it down now, folks!

Rebel Ridling & Ryan Flaherty: Two former VBL players, both doing tremendously well in AA Tennessee. One or other of the two leads almost every offensive category… convincingly ahead of Mr. Jackson and Mr. Vitters. It’s paying off, too. Ryan Flaherty was promoted to Iowa on Monday.

Drafted as a SS, Ryan has moved around a lot the past few years due to the Cubs depth at that particular position. And when I say moved around, I mean moved around. In 2011, he has played short (14 games), 1st (4), 2nd(37), 3rd (12), left (21), right (13), and has acted as DH a few times. It strikes me that Mr. Flaherty might be coming in handy in Chicago in a very short time.

Evan Crawford: I hadn’t heard of Evan up to this point (blast you, Vineline, and your less extensive 2011 minor league prospectus!) He was drafted by the Giants in 2009 and came to the Cubs I know not how.  Evan has registered 98 hits in just 78 games this season in Daytona, which caught my eye. He has also scored 52 runs, stolen 21 bases, and been hit by 12 pitches.

Not to be confused with Toronto double-A pitcher Evan Crawford.

Justin Bour: A Virginia native and George Mason alum. Woot. Justin, who plays 1B, has put up a good showing in Daytona, hitting 17 long-balls and 21 doubles in 85 games. He has driven in 63 runs and scored 45.

Ima be keeping my eye on him now.

Pitching, in general: It’s hard to judge. A lot of our farmboy pitchers have put up some less than exciting stats, but numbers rarely tell the whole story in minor league baseball.

Marwin Gonzalez: BRING HIM UP NOW, BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE TO ACHIEVE THE STARLIN-MARLON-MARWIN-DARWIN COMBO!

Brett Jackson: Promoted Monday to triple-A Iowa along with Ryan Flaherty. Look for one or both in Chicago soon. We are going to need something cooler than “B-Jax” to call him. Get working on that, people.

D.J. LeMahieu: Premature cup-of-coffee stint in Chicago aside, D.J. has been very impressive so far this season. In 61 games between double and triple A, he has batted .353, hit 17 doubles, driven in 31 runs and scored 36. He’s only walked 12 times, but he’s also only struck out 27. I’ll take that.

Angel Guzman: After undergoing major surgery at the beginning of last year, Angel is finally back in the game. He has thrown 4 innings for Peoria and allowed one run. After all that he has been through, you can’t help but get behind this guy and root him on. I hope we will see him back in Chicago soon.

Draftees: Through Thursday, the Cubs had signed 17 of their draft picks from ’11, including first round selection Zeke DeVoss (an outfielder from the University of Miami.) Welcome to the Cubs, Zeke and company!

Stay tuned for more FBB Farmboy coverage throughout the year!

The Farm Boy Files: Ryan Flaherty

The Farm Boy Files is a feature designed to better acquaint ourselves with our Cubs prospects. Today’s profile is on shortstop turned utily-man and Arizona Fall League participant Ryan Flaherty.

Basic Info:

Ryan E. Flaherty, born July 27, 1986 in Portland Maine

6’3”, 220 lb.

B/T- L/R

Drafted by the Cubs out of Vanderbilt in the first compensation round in 2008.

Stats:

Between 131 games in single-A Daytona and double-A Tennessee in 2010, Ryan batted .271 with 10 home runs, 36 doubles, 72 RBI and 75 runs scored. He walked 51 times, to 86 strikeouts. In 6 games (14 AB) for the AFL’s Mesa Solar Sox, he has batted .286, scored 4 runs, and walked 5 times.

VBL Alum Power!: Ryan played for the Waynesboro General in 2007 (?).

Scouting: Ryan is a shortstop by trade, but is big and hits for power (think along the lines of Cal Ripken Jr.) Due to the logjam the Cubs organization has at shortstop, Ryan has been moved around the field a lot the past year or so. He spent the majority of 2010 at second and third base. According to a Vineline magazine poll of minor league coaches, Ryan is tops in the system in hitting for power, defensive range, and footwork.

Ryan had these things to say on his recent moving about the field:

I’m open to anything. Whatever they think gives me the best chance to move on in my career, I’m willing to do that. I’m ready.

As a kid, even though I loved playing shortstop, my father taught me to learn all positions in the field because you never know where help will be needed.

Video!

#1 Do you want to get some hitting pointers from Ryan Flaherty? Of course you do!

#2 Interviewage

“How do you do whatcha do- when you’re growin’ them [prospects] down on the farm?”

My Vineline (monthly magazine of the Chicago Cubs) came in the mail last week. It’s the annual Minor League Prospectus issue, which I look forward to every year for its “50 Names from the Farm” feature.

Fans have long bemoaned the lack of productivity from the Cubs’ farm system. Admittedly, our “can’t miss” prospects of recent years have all, well… missed. It is fortunate that we’ve gotten guys like Ryan Theriot, Carlos Marmol, Geovany Soto, and Randy Wells – all of whom basically came from out of nowhere.

Despite recent history, I am optimistic that the farm system really has begun to improve. A few of these kids down there now (some of them really are just babies) seem brimming with promise. It is possible that I am being naive, yes. Fine-sounding magazine blurbs have been known to sway me. I don’t care, in any case. It is much pleasanter to be optimistic than not. But let us get on with looking at some of our laddies!

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Quick rundown: Among the “50 Names from the Farm,” 9 are outfielders, 10 are infielders, 2 are catchers, 8 are left-handed pitchers, and 21 are right-handed pitchers. Sixteen were not on last year’s list. Of those, most were either drafted this year (Like Brett Jackson or DJ LeMahieu) or acquired by trade (such as Jeff Gray.) A few made the leap from fringy to bonafied prospect. Robinson Chirinos, for example, had toiled in the system for nearly 10 years  as a middle infielder without getting his name in Vineline’s top 50. In ’09, Robinson converted to catching and finally made the list. I love a good underdog!

Shortstops comin’ out the wazoo: SS #1- Wesley Darvill… I tend to be wary of high-school draftees, but Wesley here is Canadian and also played hockey. So. He’s cool. He’s also one of the “babies.” As in, he won’t turn 19 until September. SS #2- Ryan Flaherty… Not your prototypical shortstop at 6’3”, 220 lbs. He is built along the lines of Cal Ripken Jr. The Cubs may likely try him at a few different positions. [See next category.]  SS #3- Junior Lake… Another baby, and a toolsy one. He has one of the strongest arms in the system, but is still very raw. Some execs feel he may have a future in center-field. SS #4- Darwin Barney… Last name-first name, first name-last name. The more I read about Darwin,  the more I feel that he is essentially an infield version of Sam Fuld. He’s an intelligent guy who plays all-out and has a stellar glove, with his bat being the one iffy factor. I am inclined to like him. SS #5- Hak-Ju Lee… One to start watching, if you haven’t already. Vineline describes him as “balletic.” He is said to be the farm’s best contact hitter, an agressive fielder, and have fantastic speed/baserunning ability. He won’t turn 20 ’til November. SS #6- Starlin Castro… Regarded as the number-one prospect in all of Cubdom, many expect Starlin, 20 in March, to make his big-league debut in 2010. He finished the ’09 season in double-A and the proceeded to light the Arizona Fall League on fire. Earlier last year, high-A Daytona manager Bobby Dickerson sent Cubs brass a scouting report on Starlin that read, “When he plays in the big leagues- his team will be a contender to win a championship every year.” Mr. Dickerson has been a minor league coach/manager for 27 years and says he’s only ever written such a report on one other player. Maybe you’ve heard of the other guy, who’s a shortstop, too. His name is Derek Jeter. So, yes… I very much look forward to seeing what the future holds for Starlin Castro.

Hak-Ju Lee

Hey, haven’t I seen you someplace before? Ryan Flaherty and Rebel Ridling both played in the Valley League. Rebel played for the Covington Lumberjacks. I thought Ryan Flaherty played for the Winchester Royals, but according to the VBL website it was actually the Waynesboro Generals. OK.

Rebel Ridling

Jeffs: Antigua (LHP), Beliveau (LHP), Gray (RHP), Stevens (RHP)

You know you’re getting old when… your prospects begin to have names like “Trey,” “Blake,” and “Kyler.”

Odd/Fun first names: Darwin, Brooks, Junior, Rebel, Welington

International flavor: Alessandro Maestri (Italy), Ryan Searle (Australia), Hung-Wen Chen (Taiwan), Dae-Eun Rhee, Hak-Ju Lee and Su-Min Jung (South Korea.)

Who? Jeff Beliveau and Aaron Schafer? OK, well… I’ve heard of you all now!

As time goes by: How does this year’s list compare to last year’s? I pulled out the February 2009 issue, the cover of which was not encouraging (it featured photos of the Cubbies exciting new acquisitions Milton Bradley, Luis Vizcaino, Aaron Miles, Kevin Gregg, and Joey Gathright.) A few guys made the transition from prospect to big-leaguer during the course of the year. Micah Hoffpauir, Sam Fuld, Jake Fox, Jeff Samardzija and Randy Wells stand out. A handful of others (Jeff Stevens, Justin Berg and Esmailin Caridad, for example) spent a bit of time in the bigs. If I were going to invent an award for the best product from ’09 and call it, say, the Rah! Rah! Player of the Year award, it’d go to Randy Wells.

The majority of the rest of the 2009 list recur in 2010. I am encouraged by new trends of youth and athleticism. The Cubs farm system as a whole is younger and more athletic than it used to be. It seemed a few years ago that everyone in double-A was a 26-year-old designated hitter, or a 25-year-old defensive replacement. Our prospects just seem “prospectier” nowadays.

As long as I’m on this topic I guess I should mention… Josh Vitters: the oft-hyped third-baseman who was the second all-around pick in the 2007 draft. I am inclined to be more wary of him, for no particular reason. Brett Jackson: First round pick from last year’s draft. Vineline compares him to a speedier Jim Edmonds. He was an art major at California. Intriguing, eh? Andrew Cashner: Top of the list as far as pitching prospects go. I feel it best not to get too enthused over pitchers. Too many things can (and often do) go wrong. DJ LeMahieu: Second rounder from ’09. Although he attended LSU and has a French-sounding last name, he is from Michigan, not Louisiana. I expect this fact to confuse me for years to come. Trey McNutt: OK, so he is a pitcher… but as I’ve already mentioned once, I love a good underdog. And if being a 32nd round pick doesn’t constitute an underdog, I don’t know what does. Vineline says, “Cubs fans should know his name.” Logan Watkins: Just another ‘un I’ll have my eye on.

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It is probably obvious by this point, but I have a great interest in the minor-league system, and had a lot of fun compiling this post. I hope to follow up with more farm-y reports as the 2010 season begins and progresses.

Starlin Castro