Cubs News, Notes and Rumors from an Off Day in the Cactus League

Tuesday was a day off for a majority of the big league roster, the Cubs return to Cactus League play on Wednesday afternoon at HoHoKam Park. Scott Baker and Carlos Villanueva were among the big leaguers to get their work in during a game with Cubs’ minor leaguers at Fitch Park.

Scott Baker saw his first game action since undergoing Tommy John surgery last April. Reportedly all went well for Baker over two or three innings of work … one report stated Baker threw two innings, while another said he completed three innings. The next few days will determine Baker’s next step in his rehab process. If Baker does not have any issues following Tuesday’ outing, he could pitch in a Cactus League game within a week.

Carlos Villanueva threw three innings of shutout ball at Fitch Park as he stayed on his pitching schedule.

Starlin Castro is expected back in the starting lineup on Wednesday, and Brent Lillibridge will reportedly be back on Wednesday as well. Ian Stewart and Josh Vitters are on track to make their spring debuts on Thursday. For as banged up as the Cubs have been this spring, they appear to be getting healthy with 21 games remaining in the exhibition season.

Jason McLeod

According to a report from Jim Bowden, the Cubs’ best prospect might not be a player … and could be Jason McLeod. McLeod is regarded as one of the best talent evaluators in the game.

Bowden thinks that McLeod is one of the top General Manager prospects in the game of baseball due to his history of successful drafts with the Red Sox, Padres and one with the Cubs. Bowden views McLeod as a rising star and the Cubs should utilize him while they still can.

Jeff Samardzija

Keith Law was on hand for Jeff Samardzija’s start against the Indians on Monday and provided a good scouting report on the Cubs’ Opening Day starter. Law liked what he saw, except for the one bad inning. Jeff Samardzija worked in the 93-96 mph range for a majority of his outing, flashed a plus slider in the 83-87 mph range and a cutter in the low 90s (90-91 mph). Law reported that Samardzija’s stuff looked strong, despite stretches in which he struggled with his command.

Matt Garza

According to a report from Jim Bowden, it appears the Cubs are more likely to sign right-hander Matt Garza to a long-term deal rather than trade him if he comes back healthy. Garza, along with Jeff Samardzija and Edwin Jackson, would give the Cubs a solid top of the rotation moving forward.

Matt Garza must get healthy first, and Bowden is not the first to report that the Cubs could sign him to a long-term deal instead of trade him. A healthy Garza could be more valuable to the Cubs moving forward than what they could receive in return at this point.

According to a report from the Sun-Times, Matt Garza might have enough time to make one start in a Cactus League game before the end of camp. Garza is expected to spend the first two to four weeks of the regular season on the disabled list.

Hector Rondon

Hector Rondon pitched in Monday’s game against the Indians. The Cubs selected Rondon in the Rule 5 Draft last December and has put up good numbers this spring. Keith Law was disappointed with Rondon’s outing on Monday. Law reported that Rondon’s fastball was in the low 90s (90-93 mph) with no life and threw a slurvy slider in the high 70s (77-78 mph). Rondon used to have more velocity on his fastball than the ones that Law saw on Monday.

FanGraphs Top 100 Prospects for 2013

FanGraphs released their list of the top 100 prospects in the game for the upcoming season. Jurickson Profar (Texas), Oscar Taveras (St. Louis), Dylan Bundy (Baltimore), Wil Myers (Tampa Bay) and Xander Bogaerts (Boston) topped the annual ranking.

The top three prospects in the Cubs’ system cracked the top 100 … Javier Baez (22), Jorge Soler (50) and Albert Almora (51).

Jim Bowden passed on his observations of Baez, Soler, Almora and Junior Lake. Bowden did not see anything in Baez and Soler that many have not already mentioned in the past. Baez has “ridiculous bat speed” but he has a late cocking motion in his swing that must be corrected as he progresses through the Cubs’ system. Lake has tremendous power according to Bowden but huge holes in the zone. Bowden said Soler’s power and presence is reminiscent of Frank Thomas. Bowden likes what he saw from Albert Almora and said Almora looks like a slam dunk and a future All-Star.

FanGraphs’ Top 100 Minor League Prospects

News Bits and Rumors

Ian Stewart is expected to make his spring debut off the bench on Thursday when the Cubs travel to Glendale to take on the Dodgers.

Alfonso Soriano recently told Jim Bowden that he would like to finish his contract with the Cubs … Soriano has two years remaining on the eight year contract he signed in November of 2006. According to Bowden, Soriano’s rejection of a trade to the Giants last year had more to do with the large outfield at AT & T Park and how his knees would handle it. Bowden reported that despite the fact Soriano wants to win with the Cubs and he rejected a trade to the Giants, it doesn’t mean that he would veto a trade to a team like the Yankees or the Phillies.

One Cubs’ evaluator told Jim Bowden that if right-handed pitcher Mark Appel is sitting there at No. 2 in this year’s draft, he won’t get by the Cubs.

Derek Johnson is making the jump to professional ball after 11 years at Vanderbilt.

Jim Bowden would not be surprised if the Padres trade Chase Headley in July … and if the Cubs are players, despite what is in the system, the Cubs would be happy with an infield of Anthony Rizzo, Darwin Barney, Starlin Castro and Chase Headley moving forward according to Bowden.

According to Bruce Levine, the market for Carlos Marmol has not been as strong over the last week to 10 days. Levine now thinks that Marmol could be sticking around for a while unless a team loses a closer or a primary setup man.

Attendance in the Cactus League is down about 35 percent this spring. A report from the Arizona Republic pointed to an early start, bad weather and the World Baseball Classic as possible causes for the lack of attendance through the first 17 days of Spring Training.

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  • 07GreyDigger

    I’m not sure how I feel about that Chase Headley rumor. Headley had a breakout year, but is he going to be able to sustain those numbers? Granted if he were in more of a hitter’s ballpark it would be possible, but the Padres are going to ask for the moon, so what would the Cubs gain by giving up prospects they need going forward?

  • paul john catanese

    Attendance down, leads me to think that it’s more of bad weather than the WBC. That is a personal observation on my part, as I cannot get warmed up to games from around the world that features too many Major League players on rosters. I don’t think that a true indication of these teams is present.
    While the idea of “live baseball” in this point of the year is appealing and has some merit, what does not is the fact that teams are pumped up with players that are already in the Majors and players who have been.
    Would have liked to see non professional players in their place, IMO, a lot more fun.

    • 07GreyDigger

      I don’t get the point of the WBC, if you’re going to do it then do it right like when the NHL lets their players play in the Olympics. Too many teams don’t let their players play due to risk of injuries (which is understandable), but it makes the merit and appeal of the WBC a joke.

      If we want some sort of world championship, due a version like hockey does with the Juniors. Lots of young players duke it out every couple of years for their country. But make it for a certain age group. You can’t call it the World Baseball Championship when certain players don’t play.

      • calicub

        But putting the “juniors in” wouldn’t make the WBC as exciting on a world wide scale. Big name players draw viewers. Hence the reason, among others, many and most people have never heard of the IHWC

  • John_CC

    Newsflash from Levine! There isn’t a strong market for an erratic closer that hasn’t put in a solid season in more than a year!

    Let’s face it, Marmol has 1 – ONE – dominating season as a closer, that was 2010. Look beyond his 30 Saves in 2011 and he was wild, erratic and streaky. His k/9 and k/bb have been declining since his 2010 peak. Not surprisingly his WHIP has rising alarmingly from 1.2 to 1.4 to 1.5. The “market” for Marmol bottomed out last year and he has done nothing to improve it.

    • DWalker

      Unfortunatly, that pretty well sums it up. When he throws strikes, he dominates, but he seems to have a mental block on putting the ball accross the plate. I am afraid that we will get no return on Marmol, soriano’s return will be his value as a mentor and whatever he contributes on the field, and Garza will be re-signed (a fate I have mixed feelings about, but can live with). No wonder the FO signed a bunch of short, moveable, trade piece contracts this winter.

      • Brp921

        If Fujikawa works out and can close and we can’t get anything for Marmol then they should convert him back to his original role with the Cubs, the pitcher to come in early to shut the other team down when they have the game on the bases. We could see if he could get it back together in that role. He was lights out in that role before.

        • John_CC

          Errr…yeah but it’s not 2008 anymore. Putting Marmol on the mound with the game on the bases? Walk, WP, game over.

          • Brp921

            Your right…but at least we’d have a couple more innings to catch back up lol.

          • John_CC

            Great point!!

        • calicub

          Do you man letting him start again? cuz i’d go for that

          • Brp921

            I meant the way Piniella used him. Piniella would bring him in to put out the fire when the starter got in trouble I was saying to try him in that role if we couldn’t trade him for any value.

          • calicub

            ah. I see..

            I remember a few years ago someone on here suggested putting marmol out there for the first inning or two and letting the starter piggy back on him…

      • John_CC

        Of all the moves I wanted Hendry to make, trading Marmol in 2011 rather than giving him that freaking 3 year contract is high on my list. He would have returned a serious haul, it would have been coup.

    • triple

      The sad fact about Marmol is that Piniella used him as a setup man when he was the most dominant. I know we had Wood or Dempster closing back then, but I always thought he should have already been the closer as far back as ’07. In his ’07 and ’08 seasons, he pitched 156.2 innings with a WHIP of 1.002 and ERA+ of 216. Maybe that was a product of less pressure in the set up role, but it seems like Piniella coddled him too long and we should have found out sooner if he had the fortitude to fit in the closers role.

  • Aaron

    The Cubs should be all over this guy for insurance against injury to Rizzo, and attempt to convert him to the OF in the interim. He was just released by the Jays:
    David Cooper

    • 07GreyDigger

      I just read he has a serious back injury and probably won’t play this year. If he could play outfield, he might be a nice bench player someday.

      • calicub

        if even ever again

  • paul john catanese

    Junior Lake, out for 4-6 weeks? Why does it always happen with someone with great promise? What a bummer for him. Probably would not have made the roster anyway, but thats not the point, what a lousy thing to happen to him, really hope he heals quickly and has no lasting effects. (Clevenger).