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Chicago Cubs: Mike Olt Should Not Make Opening Day Roster

It should come as no surprise that recently acquired Chicago Cubs infield prospect Mike Olt is already looking forward to next season. Coming off a rough 2012, in which he was not only traded but battled vision problems, Olt sees the potential opportunity in front of him and is going to do everything he can to seize it. 

Olt had nothing but positive things to say about his time in Texas and his roller coaster season in which he finished the year with a .201 average and 15 home runs in 107 games.

The Cubs received a nice haul for pitcher Matt Garza and Olt was the centerpiece. In 2012, he hit .288 with 28 home runs and a .398 OBP in just 95 games.

Olt, however, is a career .258 hitter in the minors and coming off the worst season of his young career, albeit due to vision problems. He will be in his first full season with the Cubs along with a new coaching staff that will be looking to get off to the best start possible in 2014.

That start should not be with Olt at third base. 

The Cubs would be wise to follow the Anthony Rizzo trajectory to the majors, one that saw him dominate opponents for the entire 2012 season. He took a step backward in 2013, known as a sophomore slump, but the Cubs don’t appear too worried and will likely make it a priority to get him off to a strong start in ’14.

Rizzo played 70 games at Triple-A Iowa in 2012 before his call-up, a year after playing 93 games with the Tucson Padres where he hit .331 with 26 home runs. Both Triple-A affiliates are members of the Pacific Coast League, so he faced the same teams and pitchers by and large.  

The Cubs gave Rizzo plenty of time to get comfortable with a new organization and to sharpen his skills at the plate before his call-up. That time paid off as he finished the 2012 campaign with a .285 average and 15 home runs in 87 games.

Rizzo was an established and feared Triple-A hitter by the time he left the Pacific Coast League and that’s exactly the type of position Olt should be in before his call-up, which will hopefully be his last. 

2013 was only Olt‘s first year in Triple-A, and it was a year to forget. To thrust him into a starting job in The Show in a market anxiously awaiting results would put unnecessarily high expectations on the prospect. Worst-case scenario that pressure would force the Cubs to send him down midseason in hopes he can return at some point with better results. 

If the Cubs can find a Bryan LaHair type to fill in at third base, whether it be an internal option or a free-agent addition like Jeff Baker, it would give Olt the space and time to reestablish his swing which caught the eye of scouts and executives in both leagues. 

Donnie Murphy filled in admirably at third base last season while Luis Valbuena was hurt. He would be just as capable as someone like Baker. Murphy, who can play second, third and short, finished 2013 with a .255 average and 11 home runs in 46 games.

What’s the rush? Give Olt 200-300 at-bats in Triple-A and see if he is legitimately ready to help the Cubs in Chicago.

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Evaluating Chicago Cubs’ Arizona Fall League Prospects

The Cubs sent eight prospects to the Arizona Fall League’s Mesa Solar Sox. The AFL is one of the most exciting times of the year for teams and scouts as the league’s best prospects converge on Arizona.

Most teams send a few guys who are household names, at least to the more astute fan. It’s the names you don’t know that you want to look into as they are the guys right around the corner, having been awarded for making significant strides or given the stint because they were injured and need the work.

The Cubs’ prospects are the talk of the town these days. Albert Almora, Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant are drawing high praise. Newly acquired pitchers via trade and signings or the draft have performed well, giving Chicago its most exciting set of arms in years.

Let’s take a look at the prospects the Cubs sent to the Arizona Fall League this year.   

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Power Ranking Chicago Cubs’ Biggest Needs Heading into Free Agency

The Cubs will do some much-needed fine-tuning this offseason, making upgrades in the outfield and possibly around the infield. The bullpen will need some support after barely hanging on in 2013 and the Cubs will need a strong bench. 

Chicago will be in the market for impact bats and arms, but it would not make sense for the team to unload a boatload of prospects for an ace like David Price. The Cubs did it before with Matt Garza, and while the team does not necessarily miss any of them yet, former Cubs arm Chris Archer is one of the reasons the Rays may be willing to unload Price at this time.

So, we ought to be careful. 

The Cubs need depth if they are content with letting the team develop into 2014. There are grumblings the team will look to make a big move, but remember when the Cubs were possibly linked to Prince Fielder? Yeah, that went nowhere. 

Let’s explore the teams needs going into this offseason and where they may go following the postseason. 

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Chicago Cubs: Full Scouting Report on Each September Call-Up

As minor league seasons end and the major leagues hit the final stretch, teams start calling up their top prospects for their first taste of life in the big leagues. It is a time to see major league pitching, get adjusted to speed of the game and shake off the awe of being a major league ballplayer.

September 1 marks the time when teams can have 40 players on the active roster.

A time that usually brings excitements to fans across the board. 

While these players may clog an already cramped clubhouse, they also provide added depth that is needed after the grueling summer months. That’s why an extra catcher is typically added, a couple of arms in the bullpen and a possible spot starter. 

The past few years, the Cubs have called up all sorts of prospects, who had varying degrees of success. Jeff Samardzija was a September call-up in 2010, in what proved to be a tough year for the perennial ace. He turned it around the season after by putting together a stellar season out of the bullpen. 

Last season, the Cubs called up Josh Vitters and Brett Jackson in August for the final stretch, but they both proved to be nowhere near ready and have spent the whole year in the minors. Vitters has fewer than 100 at-bats, while Brett Jackson struggled at the plate and with injuries, finishing the year in Double-A. 

The Cubs have plenty to be excited about in the minor league system, even though it is still a season or two away. This year just isn’t the year our prospects are ready to taste the big leagues—at least not the ones we are hearing about. 

Junior Lake is probably the most exciting young name on the Cubs roster in terms of prospects.

Lake owns a .295 average with 4 home runs and a .337 OBP in 42 games. What many thought would be a short-term stint has eventually turned into almost a quarter of the season. He’s a versatile young player, who could play a variety of positions in the future. He appears comfortable in the outfield and has logged considerable time at second, third and short. If he continues to hit, the Cubs will find a spot for him. 

The Cubs took advantage of the expanded rosters by activating Ryan Sweeney and Luis Valbuena from the disabled list. They also called up reliever Alberto Cabrera, who appeared in 25 games for the Cubs last season and owns a career 5.40 ERA. 

He was off to a great start in Double-A this season, posting a 9-3 record with a 3.20 ERA, before earning a call-up to Triple-A. He also struck out 107 batters to 37 walks, an improvement after a few years of pitching in Double-A. He’s since been moved to the bullpen in Triple-A, posting a 7.08 and a 19-12 K-BB in 15 games. Not what you want to see, but perhaps the transition to the bullpen threw him off his rhythm. 

He will certainly be given a shot in 2013 and perhaps in 2014, when the Cubs need an extra arm. Fortunately for Cabrera, he has likely secured a spot on the Triple-A roster for next season, so he’s one step closer. He just needs to continue to pitch how he’s pitched as a starter in 2013. 

The Cubs are expected to make a few more roster moves in the coming days, bringing up a few extra bench players and relievers to help some of our more taxed players.

As reported by Bruce Levine of the Daily Herald, J.C. Boscan may be called up as the extra catcher on the roster. Boscan, 33, offers virtually no upside for the Cubs, merely organizational depth. 

Brooks Raley may get the call as the second lefty in the bullpen.

James Russell reached 70 appearances for the second season in a row, an impressive feat. Raley, 25, has put together a nice season for Triple-A Iowa but will face steep competition for a rotation spot in the spring if he’s being considered at all. 

Julio Borbon has had a rough season between Chicago and Texas, and was ultimately demoted after a blunder last month. The lefty offers a unique combination of speed and defense and could be in the mix for a bench spot in the future. While he may still be serving a punishment, he will likely get a shot to finish the year on a positive note. 

One player I hope gets a spot start down the stretch is Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks, 23, was acquired in the Ryan Dempster trade in 2012 from the Rangers. He’s posted a combined 13-4 record with a 2.00 ERA in 27 starts with 128 strikeouts to 34 walks between Double-A and Triple-A. 

He’s made six starts in Triple-A and will likely begin next season in Iowa, but consider him one of our top pitching prospects as our system tends to lean heavily on offense. 

A long-shot, yet intriguing name in the Cubs system is Korean closer Chang-Yong Lim. Lim, 37, had a nice run in Korea and Japan before taking his chance on the major leagues. A second Tommy John surgery in 2012 prompted the move, and—given the closer situation last offseason—the Cubs presumably thought he would provide depth if necessary. 

In 21 appearances this season, Lim owns a 1.61 ERA and 24 strikeouts to 7 walks. He’s pitched well in Triple-A through 11 games, pitching more frequently as of late. This may be his last opportunity to pitch in the major leagues, and this seems like the perfect opportunity to allow that to happen. 

Don’t count on it though. 

The Cubs will likely call up no more than five guys in the next week, which is all they need this year, in what will go down as another rebuilding year. The positives are that Javier Baez has 37 total home runs this season, and Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant and Albert Almora are all playing well and appear to be on track.

Let’s see where we will be at a year from now. 

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Chicago Cubs: Ian Stewart Opens Up on Twitter, Could Be Released?

Chicago Cubs third baseman Ian Stewart opened up on Twitter last night, causing many to shake their heads and wonder if his time with the Cubs organization is nearing an end.

It started when a fan asked Stewart, who is making $2 million this year, if he would be coming back to Chicago anytime soon. He replied, “Probably never,” which started a slew of fans and critics to tweet back.

He would later say: “I meant they might as well release me since I have no shot at a call-up.”

Talk about desperate.

I have been a fan of Ian Stewart since his time in the Rockies organization. I interviewed him in 2008 when he was in Triple-A on the cusp of a major league call up when the Rockies were very excited about his potential. I was excited to see him join the Cubs, even though I was sorry to see Tyler Colvin leave.

He struggled with the Rockies despite showing decent power, never being able to hold a respectable average. When traded to the Cubs, people thought that a change of scenery and a full-time job would help the former top prospect break out (that excitement soon evaporated).

Health issues derailed his opportunities in Chicago, leaving the big league club to rely on Luis Valbuena while patiently waiting for former first-round pick Josh Vitters to emerge. They also just drafted power-hitting third baseman Kris Bryant, who could be in the big leagues as early as next season (probably more like 2015 though). They also have a bevy of infield prospects in their arsenal, which, if all goes well, will lead to a creative reshuffling of the deck in the near future. 

Javier Baez, Castro and Junior Lake will all hopefully play in the same infield someday, and if Josh Vitters emerges, it would create a “good problem” to have. Ian Stewart should know that he isn’t in the long-term plans, and he shouldn’t openly give up just because he thinks the manager does not like him and probably won’t get a call up.  

Stewart also tweeted during his late-night rant that if Valbuena were to get hurt, they probably wouldn’t even call him back up. Sorry to say, but when you’re hitting .164 with 4 home runs and a .279 OBP in 110 at-bats, there is typically only one place to go. Does he really think he would find more success if he was in the majors? 

Baseball is very unpredictable. An injury at either corner could give him a two-week tryout to reignite interest in him in Chicago. But the fact that he is sharing via Twitter that he has essentially given up and we’re not even half-way through June makes me think the Cubs should cut him loose, even if it is what he wants.

Chalk it up to a momentary lapse in judgement, and re-circulate the company policy regarding Twitter.

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Chicago Cubs: Cubs Should Not Retire No. 21 After Sosa’s Comments

The saga of Sammy Sosa could have gone much differently had the Cubs traded him to the Yankees in 2000. At the time, Sosa was coming off of two historic seasons in which he hit 66 and 63 home runs, respectively. 

According to the Chicago Tribune, the offer from the Yankees was tempting to Cubs officials. 

MacPhail strongly considered trading Sosa to the Yankees. Rumors persisted that New York had offered an enticing package of second baseman Alfonso Soriano, outfielders Ricky Ledee and Jackson Melian and right-hander Jake Westbrook.

The Cubs instead opted to sign Sammy to a six-year, $110 million deal. But try to imagine a 24-year-old Alfonso Soriano at second base and a 22-year-old pitcher named Jake Westbrook joining the back end of a Cubs rotation that would feature Kerry Wood, Mark Prior and Carlos Zambrano.

Makes you wonder…   

The final four years of Sosa’s tenure with the club were often exciting, but his numbers fell in every statistical category. Aside from looking at new advanced statistics, Sosa only declined in play and value after 2000. 

The Cubs made a strong playoff run in 2003, and it sparked a period of exciting Cubs trades and free-agent signings that lasted until the end of Jim Hendry’s tenure. Derrek Lee, Nomar Garciaparra, Greg Maddux, Juan Pierre, Jacque Jones and Ted Lilly are just a handful of acquisitions over the past decade that had varying degrees of success. 

The final straw for the team apparently came when Sosa walked out on the team on the final day of the season in 2004. Sosa claimed he was in the clubhouse until the seventh inning, but stadium cameras show him leaving shortly after the first pitch.


Sosa was fined one day’s pay and later traded to the Orioles in the offseason prior to the 2005 season. The No. 21 sat idle until Jason Marquis claimed the number to no objections from team officials in 2007. Marquis was signed to a $21 million deal at a time when the purse strings were cut loose for the Cubs.

The number has been worn every year since then by several different players.

It was worn by Milton Bradley, who had his share of controversies during his brief tenure. Tyler Colvin then wore it for the 2010-11 season before being traded to the Rockies for Ian Stewart and Casey Weathers.

Joe Mather donned the uniform briefly in 2012 and is no longer with the team.

So the number is now wide open, and Sosa wants it to stay that way. He says it should have been retired a long time ago.

“This is a good number that I carried for 14 years (actually 13) in Chicago, and I represented that number, so that number should have been retired a long time ago.” 

Sosa’s comments come after Cubs owner Tom Ricketts suggested the team would be open to reengaging Sammy after years of no communication.

‘‘Maybe we should revisit that,’’ Ricketts told reporters Saturday morning after a Q&A session with fans. ‘‘When we got here, there really wasn’t much communication, and we haven’t really focused on it. But maybe it’s an issue we pick up this year and see what we can do about it.’’


It would not be right if Sosa’s first visit back to Wrigley Field came when they retire his number. Sosa believes his performance on the field alone merits his number being retired. However, he fails to recognize the exclusive class he would be joining. 

The Cubs players with retired numbers are elite individuals, athletes and Cubs ambassadors, consisting of four position players and two pitchers: Ernie Banks, Billy Wiliams, Ron Santo, Ryne Sandberg, Greg Maddux and Fergie Jenkins.

All of them have given back to the team and Cubs community in a variety of ways. They have worked in the front office and in community and fan outreach. They even appear at spring training and mentor young players. Not to mention that Ron Santo was the Cubs radio broadcaster for two decades. I’d also like to point out that Santo’s number was retired 30 years after his last game with the Cubs in 2003. 

They have earned their place in Cubs lore not just by the numbers, which Sammy apparently believes he has earned.

The Hall of Fame voters sent a resounding message to all alleged steroid users that they won’t be given an easy pass for what they did. It doesn’t help Sosa’s case that he was one of few to testify before Congress and then appear on a list of 104 players who tested positive for PEDs.

Sosa is the franchise leader in home runs for the Cubs. He had a great career with the Cubs despite the controversies and fallout from the steroid scandal.

Sosa was a fan favorite for many years. Watching him play was what brought a lot of people to the game. He certainly had the highest jersey sales for several years on the North Side. All that plus his numbers (and nothing else), and he has a strong case for the position he already thinks he’s in.

One day, Sosa will be honored at Wrigley Field.  

But he owes something to baseball and the team, and he should come back to the organization, even in a small capacity, before he claims his number should be retired. 

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Washington Nationals Should Shut Stephen Strasburg Down for a Month

The Washington Nationals want Stephen Strasburg to be there for them in the postseason, but potential innings limits are hurting those chances.

Strasburg is 13-5 with a 2.90 ERA and 166 strikeouts in 133.1 innings this season. If the reports that his limit is between 160-180, that leaves him with less than 50 innings of work for the rest of the season.   

That leaves him with about eight starts if he averages six innings each time out. Realistically, the Nationals will not let him start eight more regular-season games. If they can reach Game 7 of the World Series, they hope that will be Strasburg‘s last start of the season.

In order to do that, they will need to shut him down at some point to keep his arm ready for the postseason and the future.

How should the Nationals approach this dilemma?

Everyone seems to have an opinion, and GM Mike Rizzo denies every credible report about Strasburg‘s limit.

The Nationals are 70-43, 4.5 games ahead of the Braves with the best record in baseball. The second-place Braves have the third-best record in the NL, after the Reds. So the odds of reaching the postseason are very high considering the state of the league. 

That’s why the Nationals should shut down Strasburg now. Shut him down for a month. Have him throw a few side sessions and stay loose, but otherwise, rest the crown jewel. 

Then, come early September when teams start clinching playoff spots, give him another start and then rest him again till the postseason. He will not only be well rested, but he won’t be at a risk of exceeding his innings limit. 

It is a safe move that could prevent embarrassing long-term injuries. 

Let’s take a look at how the Cubs handled Mark Prior in 2003, when they were in a very similar position to the Washington Nationals today. Good, young pitching, combined with a scrappy but effective team with low expectations. 

Prior pitched 211.1 innings in the regular season of 2003, plus an additional 23 innings in the postseason. The next year he did not exceed 120 innings and was hit by injuries, some freakish, for the rest of his career.

Shutting Strasburg down for a month may be considered crazy, but it’s crazy to think that they can keep Strasburg under 180 innings and still reach the World Series with him, assuming they still plan to shut him down.  

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Chicago Cubs: Overview of Top Prospects at Each Level

The Cubs minor league system is playing better than expected in 2012. Let’s take a look at guys who are healthy and making their way up the pipeline towards Chicago.

There’s been a lot of focus on the usual suspects—Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson—but some of the teams best prospects are just getting started and are off to good starts.

This list won’t focus on every top prospect, but noteworthy ones who are playing well. If you like my prospect posts, check out my profile or take a look at the Cubs’ top 10 prospects for the month of July. 

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Chicago Cubs Should Call Up Anthony Rizzo, Move Bryan LaHair to the Outfield

Anthony Rizzo is far and away the most exciting player in the Cubs organization. 

Rizzo is hitting .353 with 14 home runs, has a .416 OBP in 150 at-bats and is getting hot again, hitting .350 in his last 10 games with seven home runs, 14 RBI, four extra-base hits and a K-BB ratio of 6-to-4. 

There is no doubt Rizzo will be joining the Cubs in the very near future. Their upcoming schedule forces the front office to consider the options.

Should they call up Anthony Rizzo now with the Padres and Red Sox looming, or ride out Alfonso Soriano’s little burst of life until a more fluid situation presents itself?

While I’d love to see Rizzo in Chicago tomorrow, you know the Red Sox and Padres have a detailed dossier on Rizzo. His two former organizations know what he is capable of, and I’m sure they would love to see him do well in the majors.

But that doesn’t mean they would be as kind, exploiting weaknesses they discovered long before the Cubs ever did.

It would be nice to see Rizzo get another 50 or so at-bats, which would also give the Cubs time to test Bryan LaHair in the outfield during interleague play, presumably with Alfonso Soriano at DH. David DeJesus can play center field, so the only person who would lose significant time from LaHair moving to the outfield is Tony Campana.

The Cubs would be overloaded with left-handed bats, but it’s not like Rizzo is struggling against lefties, hitting .304 with four home runs. It’ll be interesting to see how the Cubs approach the lefty-righty situation.

The Cubs run the risk of him struggling and then sending him back down to Triple-A, so waiting another two to three weeks would give the Cubs time to let the crowded roster work itself out.  

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Tampa Bay Rays Rumors: 5 Options at the Rays Should Consider at Catcher

It’s no secret that the Rays‘ catching duo is one of the weakest in the league, with Jose Molina and Jose Lobaton holding down the fort. Both players are hitting under .230 thus far, and both would conceivably be backups on other teams.

Despite not a lot of depth in the catching department, there are still several options outside of the organization that could be brought in as short-term solutions. And some of those short-term solutions could be long-term answers.

Let’s explore who the Rays could pursue.   

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