Friday, November 9, 2012

Should the Cubs Consider Trading Starlin Castro?

Starlin Castro
The Cubs were horrendous in 2012, that much is obvious.  However, the team had a few bright spots in first baseman Anthony Rizzo, starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija, and shortstop Starlin Castro.  Castro, only age 22, has been a Cubs regular since 2010 (he collected six RBI in his first MLB game) and he hasn't disappointed - after three seasons in in Chicago he carries a career .297 average, has already eclipsed 500 career hits, and has increased his power each season.

Castro may even be the best young shortstop in the game.  Doubt it?  Try naming one better.  Even with a prolonged slump in 2012, he still posted a .283 batting average, hit 14 home runs and 12 triples, and 78 runs.  He ranked seventh among shortstops in batting average - no one above him was younger. He led all shortstops in RBI (78) and triples (tied at 12 with Jose Reyes), and was third among shortstops in hits (183).  Remember, this is a 22 year-old who has consistently produced at the major league level.  Guys like that don't come around often.

Starlin does have his problems though.  A perceived lack of effort and concentration has led to a position-leading 27 errors in 2012.  Asdrubal Cabrera, who was second in shortstop errors, wasn't even close (19).  Castro still has problems with plate discipline as well - his strikeouts have increased and his on-base percentage has deceased each year he has been in the majors.  He only walked 36 times in a league-leading 646 at bats in 2012.  He isn't polished by any means.

Javier Baez
The question is simple: Do the Cubs think that Starlin Castro is a necessary piece on which to build the foundation of a winning team?  A good shortstop is a necessity, but it is possible that Castro could be replaced.  The Cubs currently have top prospect Javier Baez waiting in the minors and while he isn't polished either he has star potential written all over him.  Baez turns 20 on December 1 and last season at Single A Peoria he hit .333 in 57 games with 12 homers and 33 RBI.  He's raw, but his performance in the Arizona Fall League showed he has the tools to be a success in Chicago.

If the Cubs trust that Baez will eventually be ready to step in as the Cubs' everyday shortstop, will they be willing to trade Starlin?  Castro recently signed a seven year, $60 million dollar deal, which means some teams will automatically be out of any possible deal, but other teams will jump at the chance to acquire a good shortstop at a relatively affordable price.  If the Cubs can find the right player to target - say, Justin Upton of the Diamondbacks - Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer must seriously consider making a move.  Losing Castro may be unpopular with some fans, but pulling the trigger on a deal could lead to a more competitive Cubs team.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Gotta Love the Futures Game

As a guy who typically likes to check (the online home of Minor League Baseball, for those you don't know) at least once daily, the Futures Game is one of my favorite parts of the MLB All-Star festivities.  It's not often that you can watch baseball's top prospects on national television, so tune in right now to ESPN2 if you want to see prospects from your favorite club.  Here is a look at three of the most hyped prospects on the rosters of the U.S. and World teams.

Jurikson Profar: Some may remember watching him play for Curacao in the Little League World Series awhile back, but now the 19 year-old is now raking at Double-A for the Texas Rangers (Frisco RoughRiders).  He already homered in the first inning and singled in the third inning of the Futures Game, which continues a good season in which he has compiled a .292 average, nine homers, 39 RBI, and nine stolen bases.  He also happens to be the youngest player at Double-A.  He was recently named the number two prospect in Baseball America's Midseason Top 50 Prospects list, so Elvis Andrus better watch out, as Profar will probably force him to move to second base in the coming years.  MILB Player Profile:

Dylan Bundy: The Orioles' prospect is only 19, but he is already one of the best pitching prospects in baseball.  He was recently named baseball's number one prospect in the Baseball America Midseason Top 50 Prospects list.  He throws a mid-to-high nineties fastball, a 12-6 hammer, and a power change-up.  In eight starts for the low-A Delmarva Shorebirds he did not allow an earned run, while striking out 40 batters in 30 innings.  After his promotion to high-A Frederick Keys, Bundy has gone 4-2 with a 3.58 ERA in seven starts.  MILB Player Profile:

Billy Hamilton: How many steals could the Reds' 21 year-old prospect possibly have only 82 games into the season?  How about 104 - which is downright ABSURD.  Half way through his season for the high-A Bakersfield Blaze, Hamilton is batting .323 with one homer, 30 RBI, and those 104 steals.  He just tripled to dead center in the Futures Game, which unfortunately doesn't give him much of a chance to steal a base (unless he goes balls to wall and steals home).  Baseball America ranked him as the 27th best prospect on its Midseason Top 50 Prospects list.  MILB Player Profile:

Monday, April 9, 2012

Yoenis Cespedes: Mayor of Bomb City

So much for Oakland A's rookie outfielder Yoenis Cespedes starting the season off slowly.  Depsite many predictions that the Cuban import would struggle against MLB pitching, he has already hit three home runs in four games this seasons.  His stat line so far: .308/.400/1.077 with 3 home runs and 7 RBI.  Yeah, yeah, we're only four games into the season, so who cares about stats.  Well, they're still pretty impressive.  If you want more proof that Cespedes should be given the keys to Bomb City, check out this absolute blast he hit on Friday night.

I don't care if the guy hits .240 the rest of the season.  If he keeps hitting taters like that, people will keep watching him.  That is just absolute raw power right there.  See ball, hit ball, watch ball go a very long way.  I would already give him a nomination for the home run derby this year.  In fact, I've already drafted Cespedes in two fantasy baseball drafts, one before the season started (so I benefited from his home runs and I can tell people that I knew he was going to play well, of course) and one last night.  Looks like he could be the sleeper pick of the season.  We will just have to wait and see.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

It's Been Awhile... Let's Get Some Runs!

So it's been awhile since I posted on my blog. My bad I know - I've been busy and just generally got out of the habit of posting.  Whoops.  Anyway, baseball is finally back and I decided to spend a measly twenty dollars on in order to listen to every Cubs game.  Why the hell didn't I do this years ago?  That little for so many Chicago losses (and maybe a few wins?).  Just hearing the organ play behind the deep voice of Pat Hughes - life couldn't get any better.  Actually, strike that.  My friend Stuart just sent me a picture of himself sitting in the bleachers at Wrigley and I'm sitting in the Trinity College library writing a policy implementation paper.  Booyah...

Anyway, the season is back and the Cubs lost their first game of the season.  All feels right in the world again.  It should be an interesting season, what with Theo beginning to mold the Cubs into a possible winner but having to wait through what should be longggg summer of 2012.  For any Cubs fan, the beginning of the season brings the possibility of fielding a winner, tempered with the reality that come October, we'll be watching different teams duke it out in the playoffs.  Despite that fact, this is still the absolute best time of year.  Now if only I could stop writing this paper and fly to Chicago.

I'll leave you all with the most recent New Era commercial, celebrating a great Chicago rivalry (even though the Cubs are clearly superior). 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Introducing the Miami Marlins

The Miami Marlins unveiled their new logo and new uniforms yesterday night in front of about 700 people at their new stadium.  I don't love the new uniforms, but I definitely think they're better than the old ones the Marlins wore.  The new attitude the organization has put on display looks like it should be a positive for the city of Miami.  The ballpark is amazing, Ozzie Guillen is the new manager, and ownership is willing to increase payroll to try and put a winning team on the field.  If Jose Reyes, Albert Pujols, Mark Buerhle or any other big free agent signs with the Marlins, the NL East could be a very competitive division next season.  Here is video of the unveiling ceremony on Friday.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Theo Epstein Fires Mike Quade

See ya later Quade!  Epstein took little time to make his first major remolding move with the Cubs, firing incumbent manager Mike Quade.  It was a move that many people expected after Quade's first season as manager was a disappointment.  The Cubs finished 71-91, good for fifth place in the NL Central.  Even though they weren't supposed to be great, 90 losses was never the expectation.  Quade spent nine years in the Cubs organization, including time as the third base coach from 2007 until he took over for former manager Lou Piniella with 37 games left in the 2010 season.

One thing Cubs fans shouldn't get excited about is the possibility of Ryne Sandberg taking the reins in the dugout.  Epstein said today that "The next manager must have leadership and communication skills; he must place an emphasis on preparation and accountability; he must establish high standards and a winning culture; he must have integrity and an open mind; and he must have managerial or coaching experience at the major league level."  That excludes Sandberg, who has been a spectacular minor league manager but has no big league coaching experience.  Reports are now saying that the Cardinals will interview Sandberg to replace Tony La Russa, which will send Cubs fans into psychotic episodes of rage (In reality, even though I'm a Cubs fan, I'll send my congratulations to Ryno if he gets a promotion to manage for the World Series champs.  Still, Ryno in a Cards uniform is like a scene from the deepest depths of Hell).

So who will Epstein hire to lead the Lovable Losers in 2012?  ESPN has mentioned Terry Francona as a possible selection, but he might need a break after the Red Sox September fiasco.  Other candidates could include former Red Sox coach Dale Sveum, current Sox bench coach DeMarlo Hale (both will be candidates for the Sox job as well), Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin, Rays bench coach Dave Martinez, and Indians bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr.

I'm not sure Epstein will want to hire the manager he just worked with for eight years, but if Francona was energized by the possibility of managing in Chicago, I'd put him on the short list.  Mackanin would also be a great fit in Chicago.  He started his coaching career with the Cubs and would be good at instituting a professional, hard-working atmosphere in the clubhouse.  Epstein said the managerial search begins immediately, so we'll see how long it takes for him to find the right candidate.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Girlfriends and Baseball

Last week, watching the World Series was more challenging than usual.  It had nothing to do with the fact that I dislike both teams that were competing in the 2011 Series (Especially the Cardinals.  As a Cubs fan, it pains me to watch them win another championship.), or that I had a lot of work to get done for my college classes, or even that the games are on late and take forever to finish.  In fact, if it were up to me I wouldn't have done any work and I would have skipped my morning classes so that I could stay up and watch every out without missing out on a solid eight hours of sleep.

What made watching the World Series slightly challenging (but funny at the same time) was sitting next to my girlfriend for a few of the games.  She's knows her sports (she plays basketball and runs track), but she still loves to ask questions when we're watching baseball.  The typical "who's that?" or "why is he doing that?"  The best question came during game two, when she asked why a baseball runner ran to second, even "if he was going to get outed." 

Watching a baseball game with your girlfriend definitely involves more questions than watching the game with your buddies.  Buy hey, the fact that she's willing to sit and watch a game on TV means something.  Anyone who knows me knows that even watching a game alone I get animated, stressed out easily, and sometimes yell at the TV.  If Paige is willing to sit through that spectacle, then I'm willing to indoctrinate her into the world of baseball nuances and terminology.