Posted on 23 October 2009 by Lou
Over the next month or so, we’re going to give our assessment of the performances of Cubs players at each position in 2009. This weekend, we’re starting with the catchers.
First up – Geovany Soto
2009 Stats – .218 batting average; .321 on-base percentage; 11 HR’s; 47 RBI’s; 27 runs scored; 50 walks; 77 K’s in 331 at-bats.
2008 Stats – .285 batting average; .364 on-base percentage; 23 HR’s; 86 RBI’s; 66 runs scored; 62 walks; 121 K’s in 494 at-bats. Awards – NL Rookie of the Year.
Grade: C-. Overall, a major disappointment for Soto playing in only 102 games with 2 stints on the DL. After his breakout 2008 year – including an All-Star Game nod – Soto looked lost the entire 2009 MLB season. He was mentally off after testing for positive for some performance-enhancing drugs during the 2009 World Baseball Classic and he never got back on track. You’d like to think that he will be able to get back on track during the 2010 MLB schedule, but until he shows it, the Cubs might just have an average catcher behind the plate who had a career year in 2008. A major factor will be health – if he shows up to Spring Training in good shape, being able and ready to shoulder the load, that could be a good sign for the Cubs. If not, it’s a good thing they have Koyie Hill.
GM Jim Hendry, Manager Lou Pinella and Cubs fans will be eager to see the 2008 Soto show up at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field in April 2010 – we do too…
Posted on 22 October 2009 by Lou
Cubs fans can’t wait to get a look at Josh Vitters at Wrigley Field in the near future. The 20-year old had a 2-run double in his 1st AFL game – a 5-4 win for the Mesa Solar Sox over the Scottsdale Scorpions. After going 5-8 in his 1st 2 games, he came back down to earth in his 2 next games, going hitless in 7 at-bats. Coming of a solid 2009 in which he hit .284 with 18 home runs and 68 RBI’s in work at both Class-A Peoria and Double-A Tennessee, Vitters is looking forward to continuing his season this fall. “I don’t think the talent level is much different at all from the regular season… I just need to get used to facing pitchers I’ve never faced before… The Competition is definitely better [facing Double-A and Triple-A level players] but I’m trying to keep my game plan.”
Going into the 2007 draft, scouts dubbed Vitters the “Most Polished Hitter”, so it isn’t surprising to see Vitters succeeding so early in his minor league career. An added bonus is that he is fielding well too – he has yet to commit an error thus far this fall.
The future sure looks bright for Vitters and the Cubs. GM Jim Hendry would probably love to see Vitters make an impact at the Friendly Confines in the next few years…
Posted on 21 October 2009 by Lou
Hip Hip Hooray – we can finally put the Cubs hitting coach story behind us. The Cubs have agreed to terms with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo. The deal is for 3 years and $2.42 million, which will make Jaramillo the 2nd highest paid hitting coach in the major leagues behind the St. Louis Cardinals hitting coach Dave Duncan. Look out NL Central opponents – we can have a hitting coach gladiator war every time the Cubs and Cards play each other in 2010.
Jaramillo was the Texas Rangers hitting coach for 15 years. He helped develop some great Rangers hitters during his tenure, and even worked with Alfonso Soriano and Milton Bradley while the 2 were Rangers players. Cubs GM Jim Hendry and Manager Lou Pinella hope that bringing someone in from the outside with a different perspective of the Cubs players will help the Cubs offense regain its 2008 form rather than its 2009 form. In 2008, the Cubs led the National League with 855 runs scored (2nd only to the Rangers in all of MLB). But in 2009, the Cubs scored only 784 runs, good for only 10th best in the NL. Not good – sure injuries and poor production from certain players – Bradley, Soriano, Geovany Soto, Mike Fontenot – were the primary reasons, but the lack of clutch hits and hits with runners in scoring position (just a .241 batting average – 2nd worst in all of MLB) is a huge concern going forward. Hopefully Jaramillo can work out the kinks.
Jaramillo has a simple philosophy. “I pride myself in situational hitting… It’s not like I’m trying to reinvent the swing.” He puts an emphasis on finding a good rhythm, staying square on the ball, shifting weight and focusing on the arm release point of each pitcher. Jaramillo knows there are physical and mental aspects of hitting and he will work with each player to make sure that they are prepared to go up there focused and ready during each at-bat.
It can’t get much worse than it was in 2009. If the Cubs do start piling on the runs in 2009, Jaramillo is going to look like a genius. Most likely, it won’t really be his credit to take in the long run. The Cubs probably aren’t as good as they were in 2008 nor as bad as they were in 2009. Somewhere in between should have the Cubs – and Cubs fans – smiling in 2010…
Posted on 20 October 2009 by Lou
It has been an up and down major league career for 29-year old Neal Cotts. After bursting out on the scene during the Chicago White Sox magical 2005 World Series title run (69 appearances, 1.94 ERA, 1.11 WHIP) as one of the White Sox most dependable players, Cotts has not been able to regain that form and has had to deal with numerous injuries. The latest is his biggest obstacle yet – elbow ligament replacement Tommy John surgery in early July – and it may bring an end to his baseball career.
Cotts appeared in 19 games for the Cubs in 2009, struggling with a 7.36 ERA and 2.09 WHIP. The Cubs moved Cotts down to Triple-A Iowa where he made 9 scoreless appearances until the June 24th game that ended his season. During the game, Cotts felt sharp pain in his left arm – something he had never felt before – and tests showed significant damage that would require surgery.
Since the surgery, Cotts has been rehabbing the arm and the rest of his body with an intensity never felt before. He is working out at the Cubs complex in Mesa, Arizona as well as at a Phoeniz area rehab facility. Cotts expects to pitch in 2010 – he saw Billy Wagner come back from the same surgery in just 10 months and pitch effectively for the New York Mets and Boston Red Sox in August and September of this year. And he doesn’t expect anything different for him. Kerry Wood and Ryan Dempster have also had the surgery, and both are still pitching in the majors, so he has a lot to be hopeful for.
Whether it’s for the Cubs or not, he is still optimistic about 2010. Cotts is arbitration eligible, so it is unclear if GM Jim Hendry and the Cubs will offer him a contract before the December 12 deadline. Cotts has the right attitude: “It’s hard to put in perspective exactly if it happened on that one pitch or if it happened earlier and it was just building up – - I don’t know. I can’t go back on it now and say, ‘That was the problem.’ It was just being inconsistent, bad… It’s all ahead of me in terms of what I need to get done and getting back. You get in the best shape of your life now because you have nine months before you’re fully activated… I enjoy it over here and I’ve enjoyed the organization. They’ve treated me well. I know in terms of performance and in terms of staying up there, it hasn’t been as planned for either side. I’d like to be up there to help the team.”
Good luck to you, Neal…
Posted on 19 October 2009 by Lou
Here’s the answer we’ve all been waiting for – the big move for the Cubs this off-season. Rudy Jaramillo will be the Cubs new hitting coach! Yippee!
Ok, I’m being a little cynical here, but it sounds like this guy Jaramillo knows what he’s doing. He has been the Texas Rangers hitting coach since 1995. During his tenure, 17 Rangers hitters have won Silver Slugger Awards; 4 Rangers hitters have won MVP Awards; 3 Rangers hitters have won HR crowns and 3 Rangers hitters have won RBI crowns. The Rangers also led the major league baseball in runs scored in 2008 with 901, but there was a big drop off in 2009 – only 784 runs scored – as the Rangers fell to 10th best in baseball.
The Cubs led the National League in runs scored in 2008 with 855 runs scored (2nd only to the Rangers in all of MLB). But in 2008, several players underperformed under Gerald Perry and Von Joshua and the club scored only 707 runs total – 9th worst in all of baseball behind such poor teams as the Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles and Cleveland Indians. A move had to be made from outside the system, as the Cubs released Perry and moved Joshua back to his hitting coach role at Triple-A Iowa.
The Cubs have received permission to negotiate with Jaramillo, who was only offered a 1-year contract by the Rangers organization for 2010. Jaramillo had this to say about his situation – “This is my decision. I want to go out there and see where I stand in the game.”
If the Cubs do get Jaramillo, let’s hope something improves in 2010. Given how badly Geovany Soto, Alfonso Soriano and Mike Fontenot hit in 2009 (not to mention Milton Bradley who will likely not be back with the team), it really can’t get much worse.
Posted on 17 October 2009 by Lou
In our latest look at the Cubs top minor league prospects, pitcher John Gaub will be continuing his development this fall in the Arizona Fall League. Gaub was one of 3 pitchers that the Cubs acquired last November in exchange for clubhouse and fan favorite Mark DeRosa. While there are still a lot of people upset with Jim Hendry for making the move – especially since it was done to free salary so that the Cubs could sign overrated trouble-maker Milton Bradley in the failed Milton Bradley experiment – at least the players brought over are showing that they are major league caliber players who may be playing on the north side for years to come.
Gaub made 52 appearances in the Cubs minor league system in 2009. In 26 games at Double-A Tennessee, Gaub compiled a 2.83 ERA. IN 26 games at Triple-A Iowa, Gaub was even better with a 1.72 ERA. At the Triple-A level, teams batted just .172 against him. The solid showing so far means that Gaub might even vie for a bullpen spot on the Cubs roster in 2010.
Jeff Stevens was another pitcher who came over from the Indians in the DeRosa trade. Stevens started off well giving up just 2 hits and no runs in his 1st 4 2/3 innings pitched. He hit a rough stretch where he gave up 9 ER over just 2 2/3 in 3 consecutive appearances, but bounced back by giving up just 1 ER over his final 4 1/3 innings pitched at the end of the season.
GM Jim Hendry and Manager Lou Pinella have confidence that Stevens and Gaub will be able to help the Cubs at the major league level in short order…
Posted on 16 October 2009 by Lou
All hands on deck. The completion of the Cubs sale to the Ricketts Family is inching closer and closer to fruition. Earlier this week, a U.S. bankruptcy court judge ruled that the Tribune Co. can proceed with the sale of the Chicago Cubs to the Ricketts Family for the whopping sum of $845 million. The 1-day bankruptcy filing took place to protect the Ricketts Family from future lawsuits by Tribune Co. creditors who might try to seek a claim against the Chicago Cubs entity. Now that the courts have ruled that the Tribune Co. and the Cubs can proceed with the sale, things should move along quickly.
Yippee!!! As I have said before, the Cubs really need to get the Ricketts Family on board before the start of the free agency period (which begins 15 days after the end of the World Series) if the Cubs are to have any chance of making a tiny “dip” (definitely not a big splash) in the free agent market. With the departure of Rich Harden and hopefully Milton Bradley (even if we have to eat some of his salary), that should free up a little money from which GM Jim Hendry can add a piece or two. The Cubs clearly won’t be able to land a Matt Holliday or Jason Bay, but the Cubs do have some holds that need to be filled. Having the Ricketts family in place to give guidance to Hendry by the end of October will be a huge step in the right direction.
Go Cubs Go!
Posted on 14 October 2009 by Lou
The Chicago Cubs top prospect 3rd baseman Josh Vitters is slated to play for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League which starts this week. Because of a hand injury, Vitters played on 70 games for Class A Peoria and Class Double A Daytona in 2009. Vitters had a combined batting average of .316 during the season. Vitters was the Cubs top draft pick in the 2007 MLB Draft and he remains the top prospect in the Cubs minor league system. Vitters also remains on the radar screen of general managers all across baseball, so GM Jim Hendry and Manager Lou Pinella are in the mood to make a blockbuster trade this off-season, rumors will certainly swirl about Vitters being included in the deal.
When you purchase Cubs tickets at Wrigley Field for future Chicago Cubs MLB games, you could end up seeing Vitters or one of the Cubs other top prospects at the Friendly Confines…
Posted on 13 October 2009 by Lou
The Chicago Cubs are eagerly anticipating the start of the Arizona Fall League. Several young players are looking to make statements over the course of the league and GM Jim Hendry and Manager Lou Pinella will certainly be keeping tabs on the progress of certain players. The next few days we’ll highlight a few of the Cubs top prospects – how they’ve done and what we can expect of them in the near future.
1st up is a pitcher – Andrew Cashner – the Cubs 1st round draft pick in 2008. Cashner started the 2009 season at Class A Daytona where he made 12 starts and finished with a 1.50 ERA. In early July, the club moved him up to the Double-A level at Tennessee. He made another 12 starts there, going 3-4 with a 3.39 ERA and 41 strikeouts.
Cashner will pitch for the Mesa Solar Sox in the AFL and he is expected to make his 1st start on Friday, October 16th.
Posted on 10 October 2009 by Lou
The Cubs will be looking for answers in 2010. Let’s hope the Ricketts family has their act together before the end of the World Series. The Ricketts family will need to be on the same page with GM Jim Hendry and Manager Lou Pinella before the start of free agency in late November.
Pitching-wise, the Cubs are set with a starting rotation of Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells and Tom Gorzelanny. The Cubs will likely say goodbye to free agent pitchers Rich Harden and Kevin Gregg, but will look to sign John Grabow soon to serve as the team’s set-up man for Carlos Marmol. The Cubs will also probably like to try to re-sign Reed Johnson despite his 2009 injury issues.
After signing Grabow, the Cubs certainly need to find a way to trade troubled outfielder Milton Bradley. Not sure who is going to be willing to take him, but the Cubs will likely have to pick up some of the $20 million still owed to him over the next 2 years. Not good – but it is what it is.
GM Jim Hendry will also need to figure out who is going to start at 2nd base and center field in 2010.
So while there are some voids that need to be filled in 2010, the Cubs can take a more cautious approach this off-season to see if the team can right the ship after an under-achieving 2009 MLB schedule…