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 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 18 October 2009 by Lou
In our latest look at the Cubs top minor league prospects, shortstop Starlin Castro will also be playing in the AFL this fall. Castro is only 19 years old and will be the Cubs youngest player in the AFL this season. Castro played for the World Team in the All-Star Futures Game earlier this season.
Castro played 96 games at Class-A Daytona where he hit a promising .302. After being promoted to Class Double-A Tennessee at the end of the year, Castro racked up a .288 batting average in 31 games. It’s a good sign that his average stayed pretty steady as the season progressed and as he moved up to a higher level of competition. The Cubs hope that Castro continues his development this fall in the AFL. Could we see Castro at the major league level at Wrigley Field anytime soon? Guess we will have to wait and see…
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 15 October 2009 by Lou
While we’ve heard the rumors that Cubs fans want Ryne Sandberg to be the Cubs next hitting coach, that is not going to happen. Let me repeat that – it is not going to happen. The Cubs organization wants Sandberg to be a major league manager, and to serve as a hitting coach for a year or 2 under current Manager Lou Pinella won’t really do much to help him in that regard.
Sandberg served well as the Double-A Tennessee Manager in 2008 and should continue to serve in that role until the Cubs managerial vacancy opens up. The Tennessee team plays in the Southern League which plays bu National League rules. This is very important – to continue to learn the nuances of NL Ball – no DH, when to pull a picther, when to use the double-switch, etc…
While we won’t know until early December what the Cubs plan to do with Sandberg, we fully expect him to be at the helm of the Double-A Tennessee for at least another season….
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 12 October 2009 by Lou
Jeff Samardzija still thinks he has what it takes to be a starter in the Cubs rotation in 2010 – now he just needs to go out and show it. After a rough 2009, he’ll have even a tougher time than he had in Spring Training this past year given the competition. Samardzija appeared in 20 games for the Cubs during the course of the 2009 MLB schedule (including 2 starts). He had a 1-3 record with a hefty 7.53 ERA (29 ER) and 1.76 WHIP in 34 2/3 innings pitched. Teams batted .329 against Samardzija with 7 home runs and his strikeout to walk ratio was not great – 25 to 21. Compare that to his 2008 numbers in his rookie year, and there is a stark contrast:
1-0 record; 2.28 ERA (7 ER) and 1.41 WHIP in 27 2/3 innings pitched; .226 opponents’ batting average with a 25-15 strikeout to walk ratio; 1 save with 3 blown saves.
So what went wrong in 2009? Was it simply a sophomore jinx, does he not really have what it takes to pitch at this level, or at the age of 24, does he still need more minor league time to work on developing more pitches like a changeup or cutter that will keep batters more off-guard? It’s unclear right now, but Samardzija will continue to work on throwing this offseason, playing winter ball in the Mexico league for Triple-A manager Bobby Dickerson.
Manager Lou Pinella had good things to say about the youngster: “The kid needs to pitch winter ball. He’s on the right path… He just needs to work on the things he’s working on and get more consistent with it, and winter ball will give him that opportunity… Starting-wise, I think he’ll be able to throw all of his pitches and I think he can get better quicker. When you pitch out of the bullpen, you’re only pitching an inning, two innings at a time, so you basically go after the hitter with one or two pitches. Starting-wise, you have to develop all of your pitches and repertoire.”
The Cubs are pretty much locked into 4 starters in 2010 – Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster and Randy Wells. The 5th starter role will likely come down to Tom Gorzellany, Samardzija, Sean Marshall and Angel Guzman. Gorzellany made some nice starts in 2009 after coming over in a trade from the Pirates; Marshall won the 5th starter’s role in 2009, but Pinella moved him to the bullpen after Neal Cotts’ was hurt because the Cubs needed a lefty reliever out of the pen; and Guzman pitched well in the bullpen in 2009 and will likely serve a similar role in 2010. So it will be interesting to see how it all pans out in Spring Training in 2010. Samardzija can improve his chances with a good showing in winter ball in the Mexico League, so we’ll keep you posted how he is throwing later this month…
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…
Posted on 09 October 2009 by Lou
It’s hard to put all the blame on Von Joshua (or Gerald Perry before him for that matter), but Manager Lou Pinella has decided to go in a different direction for his hitting coach in 2010. Although Pinella emphasized that Joshua did nothing wrong, because the Cubs offense did not rebound after struggling under Gerald Perry through the middle of June, Pinella thought it would be best to try something different. GM Jim Hendry had this to say as well: “There’s not blame to be handed out. We had a lot of guys who didn’t swing the bats like they’re capable of. When Von came up, we were scuffling, and we never really made a lot of progress in the same areas that we were deficient in the first half.”
After leading the National League with 855 run scored in 2008, the Cubs manages to score just 707 runs in a frustrating 2009 (9th worst in the majors). The Cubs .255 team batting average ranked 5th worst in all of baseball and the team never seemed to be able to come through with the clutch hit with 2 outs or with runners in scoring position. Several Cubs hitters underperformed – Milton Bradley hit only .257 after hitting .321 for the Rangers in 2008; Geovany Soto .218 vs. .285 in 2008; Alfonso Soriano .241 vs. .280 in 2008; and Mike Fontenot .236 vs. .305 in 2008. Basically, save for Ryan Theriot, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez (who missed 2+ months of the season), the Cubs offense was in complete shambles for a good portion of the year.
Let’s hope the Cubs bring in a hitting coach who can simply relate to the players. And let’s hope the Cubs get a few more clutch hits in 2010…