Top Five Moments of the 2013 Season in the Cubs Minor League System

The Cubs’ farm system had a very memorable 2013 season. Several players, even the ones not making headlines, showed a lot of improvement on the field. Three of the Cubs’ affiliates made the post-season and the Daytona Cubs were the last team standing for the third time in six seasons.

So with another year coming to an end, let’s take a look back at the top five moments in the Cubs’ minor league system from this past season.

5. “There’s a Skunk on the Field!”

That was the call from play-by-play man Wayne Randazzo and commentator Keaton Gillogly on August 9 in the bottom of the ninth in a 5-5 ballgame between Kane County and the Burlington Bees. The critter entered the playing field at Fifth Third Bank Stadium from the first base photographer’s well and frightened Bees’ first baseman Wade Hinkle as it headed toward second base.

Cougars-SkunkBut instead of taking a trip around the basepaths, the spunky little varmint made a right turn at second and headed toward centerfield. Cougars’ Director of Public Relations Shawn Touney and several members of the grounds crew, at a safe distance, pinned the rodent against the outfield wall and guided it to the now opened centerfield gate. And the skunk exited the field to thunderous applause. The total “skunk delay” was four minutes. There is no word from the Cougars as to whether this will now become an annual promotion.

Click Here for the Audio

4. Tennessee and Boise Make the Playoffs

When the Smokies lost their primary run producers first baseman Justin Bour and outfielder Jae-Hoon Ha early in 2013, it looked like it would be another long season in Tennessee. The Smokies put together a decent first half, just one game under .500, but they finished 9 ½ games behind the first place Birmingham Barons.

But things changed after the All-Star break. Justin Bour returned to the lineup and the offense received a boost with the additions of outfielder John Andreoli and shortstop Javier Baez. The additions of Baez and Andreoli turned a solid core of infielder Arismendy Alcantara, outfielders Rubi Silva and Matt Szczur, and third baseman Christian Villanueva into a potent line-up. The pitching staff also received some reinforcements with the additions of Matt Loosen and Dae-Eun Rhee as they took the spots of Alberto Cabrera and Kyle Hendricks after their promotions to Tennessee. Loosen and Rhee joined unsung heroes Eric Jokisch and closer Frank Batista to help post a 42-27 in the second half and the Smokies won the division title by nine games. In the division playoffs, Tennessee took Birmingham to the final game of the best-of-five series, but ended up losing three games to two.

Boise had a strong team all season, but needed a quirk in the playoff rules in order to make the post-season for the third straight year. The Hawks finished two games behind Salem-Keizer in the first half of the season, and four games behind the Volcanoes in the second half. Since Salem-Keizer won both halves and Boise had the next best overall record, they nosed out Hillsboro for the final playoff spot. A blend of mature players and prospects, Boise benefited from having Northwest League batting champ and Short-Season All-Star in outfielder Kevin Encarnacion, RBI champion Yasiel Balaguert, as well as first round draft pick Kris Bryant and pitchers Paul Blackburn and James Pugliese. Things looked promising for the Hawks as they swept Salem-Keizer in the first round behind the pitching of Blackburn and the hitting of Encarnacion, catcher Justin Marra, and second baseman Danny Lockhart. Boise also started off the finals well, as Dillon Maples shut out Vancouver 5-0. But as the series moved north of the border, the Hawks were forced to leave several players who had travel restrictions behind. The situation got so bad that manager Gary Van Tol was forced to use left-handed pitcher Sam Wilson as a centerfielder in game three of the series. The undermanned Boise squad lost both games, and the championship, to Vancouver.

3. A Big Night for Baez

Things weren’t looking up in Daytona on June 10 after the D-Cubs fell behind Fort Myers 1-0 in the top of the first inning. Lead-off hitter John Andreoli flied out to start the bottom half. But after a walk to Tim Saunders, Javier Baez homered to right center field to put Daytona ahead and begin a memorable night.

Leading 4-1 to start the third inning, Baez increased the margin by launching a solo home run to center. With the game 5-4 in the fifth inning, Andreoli walked and Saunders singled to bring up Baez. The shortstop then belted his third straight dinger … giving him a solo homer, two-run longball, and a three-run home run for the evening. Baez stepped to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the seventh and smacked another solo shot. Baez hit four home runs, to three different fields, and drove in seven runs on the night.

Javier Baez’s four home run feat was voted by the writers and the fans of MiLB.com the Minor League Game of the Year.

Click Here for the Story and Video

Click Here for the Box Score

2. No Hitter, No Hitter, No Hitter

Prior to the 2013 season, the last minor league no-hitter for the Cubs came on the Fourth of July, 2011 when Austin Kirk turned the trick for the Peoria Chiefs. Fast forward almost two years to the day when Matt Loosen took the mound for Daytona on July 8. Loosen had been demoted to the D-Cubs a little more than a month earlier after starting the season late and struggling for Double-A Tennessee. Loosen was working with one of the best receivers in the system in catcher Yaniel Cabezas and benefited by his teammates scoring all seven of their runs in the first three innings, with the last two coming on a longball from Bijan Rademacher. All of the run support allowed Loosen to pound the strike zone and he ended up with a season high nine strikeouts and notched no-hitter with only 106 pitches.

Click Here for Complete Box Score

It had been a hard luck season for Eric Jokisch up to the point when he made the start for Tennessee on August 6. Jokisch seemed to suffer from a lack of run support more than any other starter for the Smokies, and he was just coming off a stint on the disabled list. As with Matt Loosen’s no-hitter, the Smokies provided Jokisch with early run support and scored three in the first inning, one each in the second and third, three in the fourth, and two more runs in the fifth inning. Javier Baez was the big hitting star as he went 4-for-6 with two doubles and three RBI. Meanwhile, Jokisch held Jacksonville hitless as he struck out eight and walked four batters. The game was not without its drama, as great defensive plays by Christian Villanueva and Javier Baez for the first two outs in the ninth help preserve the nine-inning no-no.

Click Here for Complete Box Score

In a season where weather played a big factor, it’s no surprise that the third no-hitter of the season was due in part to the foul weather experienced by Daytona. Facing Dunedin on August 27, the D-Cubs had to finish a suspended game from the previous night. That meant that the scheduled game, a completion of a game suspended on August 21, would be played as part of a doubleheader. As is custom in the minors doubleheaders are seven innings long. The game was originally started by Ben Wells, who held the Blue Jays hitless and a struck out a batter in one inning. When the game was resumed, lefty Kyler Burke picked up the next five innings. Burke struck out four and walked two batters. The final inning was pitched by Zach Cates, who struck out two of the three batters he faced. The only run came in the third inning after Dustin Geiger singled in Elliot Soto. Geiger and Soto were instrumental in keeping the no-hitter intact, as Soto and Geiger made a sensational play on a ball deflected by Cates for the second out in the seventh.

Click Here for Complete Box Score

1. Florida State League Champions – The Daytona Cubs

In a twist on the common analogy, it was a tale of three seasons this year for the Daytona Cubs.

The first part of the season was on dominated by the superstars. The Opening Day roster for the D-Cubs not only contained top prospects Javier Baez and Jorge Soler, but 2012 Northwest League batting champion Stephen Bruno and the CCO’s 2012 Short Season Player of the Year Tim Saunders. However, injuries robbed the team of Soler, Bruno, and Saunders, while Baez was promoted to Double-A Tennessee. Despite all the setbacks, Daytona finished the first half of the season in third place, two games out of first place.

Following the promotion of Baez, Daytona relied more on a team approach, seemingly with a different hero each night. The D-Cubs received production out of less visible players such as Ben Carhart, Pin-Chieh Chen, Wes Darvill, Dustin Geiger, Elliot Soto, and Yao-Lin Wang. They were able to keep the team’s head above water until reinforcements came in the promotions of Kris Bryant, Bijan Rademacher, and Dan Vogelbach.

The third incarnation of the D-Cubs came after 2012 first round pick Pierce Johnson was promoted, and trades brought Corey Black, C.J. Edwards, and Ivan Pineyro in to form the “Gang of Four” rotation that would dominate the playoffs.  The quartet tossed 36 straight innings in the playoffs without allowing an earned run. Daytona cruised to the Florida State League Championship, as Edwards and Ryan Searle one-hit Charlotte in the deciding game four of the series.

Overall, it was truly a storybook year for the Daytona Cubs, as their fans saw:

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  • SuzyS

    I like “skunked again” at Kane County. Somehow, it seems very Cub-like with shadows of Ron Santo and the black cat thrown in.
    I wonder if someone will get a part time job next summer for the “skunk patrol”….It might even make “America’s Dirtiest Jobs” list!!!
    Seriously, our minor leagues are an exciting work in progress…and many thanks for your work on this, Tom.
    You bring it alive for us.

    • Tom U

      The funny thing is that the skunk came out of the first base photographer’s well. That’s usually where I am when I take pictures for the slide shows. I’ll have to make sure I take a good look in there before taking pictures next season.

  • Tony_Hall

    Great Top 5 Tom.

  • Eugene Debs

    #1 is the one that lets me sleep at night.

  • Tony_Hall

    Are teams platooning more? Yes, but “…still below the totals of the late 80′s and early 90′s”

    Will teams go back to 6 man bullpens so that they can platoon more? That’s a good question. or will teams expand rosters to 26 instead?

    http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/43069/are-teams-starting-to-platoon-more

    • Brp921

      I’ve thought for a long time that if there was one major change made in baseball, it should be an expansion of the twenty-five man roster. Baseball is so much different today than it was when the twenty-five man roster rule was established. With today’s game having relief specialists, long relievers, middle relievers setup relievers, loogies, closers, let alone late inning defensive replacements, pinch hitters, pinchrunners….the list goes on. I think baseball needs to address the “new game” and decide on a new roster number. I would suggest twenty-eight.

      • Tony_Hall

        MLB addressed this in 1991 (I believe) when they expanded the 24 man roster to 25. I do believe it will go up to 26 at some point.

        Here is an article from just over 2 years ago, looking at 26 man rosters, with 1 GM saying 27.

        http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/columns/story?id=6687005

        • Ripsnorter1

          You babies. Still wet behind the ears. : )

          The ML rosters were always 25 since 1920. Previous to that they were 21 players since just before WW I. It was then 25. So 25 has been the norm for over 100 years.

          What happened was that the owners decided that
          although 25 players were allowed, they would only carry 24 per club to protest the union and
          the rising salaries. So for the first half of 1978, and all of 1986 to 1989, 24 players.

          I am against a higher roster limit. That would mean even more specialization and even longer games.

  • Tony_Hall

    Success rates of Prospects.

    Breaking down prospects to who was a bust, success and superior, here is the rate that Top 20 prospects have been in the superior category. Evaluators are doing better job identifying the best prospects.

    1990-93: 13.8 percent
    1994-97: 15.3 percent
    1998-2002: 16.2 percent
    2003-06: 20.3 percent

    http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/43074/a-study-on-success-rate-of-prospects

    http://camdendepot.blogspot.com/2013/12/death-to-tinstaapp-updating-mckinneys.html

    Prospects are no sure thing, but as teams and sites like BA are getting better at this inexact science, the success rates are going up.

  • Tony_Hall

    Sorry, catching up on my Dave Schoenfield articles and he has some good ones in the last few days.

    This will get some people to look at WAR differently.

    What if Willie Mays was a free agent?

    “We could project his 10-year WAR totals at something like this: 9.5, 9.0, 8.5, 8.0, 7.5, 6.5, 5.5, 4.5, 4.0, 3.0. That’s 66 WAR. At $6.5 million per win, that’s a $429 million contract.
    Too much money? According to Baseball-Reference.com, Mays was actually worth 88.8 WAR from ages 28 to 37, including an amazing run from ages 31 to 34 where he topped 10 WAR each season.”

    They also look at Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Ty Cobb, Ken Griffey Jr, and young ARoid.

    Fun column, even for those that don’t like WAR.

    http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/43039/what-if-willie-mays-were-a-free-agent

    • 07GreyDigger

      WAR is a stupid stat because I don’t understand it. ROAR!

      • Tony_Hall

        It is not a perfect stat and that is what people like to use as a way to say it has o value. It is one of the ways we have to look at players and get a value for all that they do.

        One area people miss out on is how the changing of a position can change a players WAR. CF is more valuable than RF, SS more than 1B, SP more than a RP.

        • 07GreyDigger

          I am a fan of WAR. I was just using some sarcasm. :)

          • Tony_Hall

            I know you are.

  • 07GreyDigger

    Tom, I appreciate the humor in #5, before someone posts that the fact this was a highlight speaks volumes about the Cubs this season.

    • Ripsnorter1

      Now that post just reeks of optimism. : )

  • cubtex

    My curiousity led me to look at 3 teams that finished worse that the Cubs did and look at their OUTFIELD non roster invites in 2013. It seems like the Cubs are in the huge minority with the number of invites. It isn’t even close. Obviously these other teams didn’t need to sign all these AAAA players to fill out a roster in spring training.

    Astros had 4 non roster OF. All under the age of 30.

    Marlins had a grand total of 2…Yes….2 OF

    Twins had a grand total of 3

    Cubs have Cunningham,MacDonald,Maier,Neal,Kalish,
    Wells,Ryan Roberts, traded for Ruggiano to go along with BJax,Ha and Vitters.

    7 non roster OF by my count. Alot of sitting around for the outfield group.

    • Tony_Hall

      Where did you find the non roster invitees, can you provide a link?

      By the way, your new favorite team, had 44 non roster invites in 2013. with 9 of them listed as OUTFIELDERS.

      http://yankees.lhblogs.com/2013/01/31/yankees-announce-44-non-roster-invites/

      2013 SPRING INVITEES

      OF Abraham Almonte
      C Francisco Arcia
      OF Tyler Austin
      INF Greg Bird
      RHP Corey Black
      LHP Juan Cedeno
      RHP Preston Claiborne
      INF Cito Culver
      RHP Matt Daley
      OF Matt Diaz
      OF Adonis Garcia
      RHP Shane Greene
      RHP Nick Goody
      OF Slade Heathcott
      RHP David Herndon
      C Kyle Higashioka
      INF Walter Ibarra
      INF Dan Johnson
      RHP Tom Kahnle
      INF Addison Maruszak
      RHP Jim Miller
      RHP Bryan Mitchell
      RHP Mark Montgomery
      INF Luke Murton
      OF Ronnier Mustelier
      C J.R. Murphy
      OF Thomas Neal
      INF Jayson Nix
      RHP Zach Nuding
      LHP Vidal Nuno
      RHP Mike O’Brien
      RHP Kelvin Perez
      RHP Branden Pinder
      INF Jose Pirela
      RHP Ryan Pope
      OF Juan Rivera
      INF Kyle Roller
      C Gary Sanchez
      OF Rob Segedin
      LHP Josh Spence
      LHP Matt Tracy
      INF Gil Velazquez
      RHP Chase Whitley
      C Bobby Wilson

      • Ripsnorter1

        My question: of the 44 non roster invitees, how
        many were not already in the Yankee system?

        I see Corey Black made the list.

        • Tony_Hall

          No thanks to that research project. The point is NRI’s are just not that important. Teams throw them out for many different reasons, sometimes as a favor to a 30 something player, to give them one last shot to catch on with a team. JH did this almost every year.

        • cubtex

          and Ibarra..who is also a non roster invite this year with the Cubs :)

        • cubtex

          Corey Black only cost us 18 mil to aquire him :)

      • cubtex

        That is a reflection on the minor league system….wouldn’t you say? So let me get this right. Yankees have an awful minor league system according to you and many…Cubs are a top 5. Why all the trash?

        • Tony_Hall

          I would say the number of NRI’s will decrease over the next few years as the Cubs minor league system finally fills up at AAA.

          NRI’s also cost money, not huge money, but many teams won’t spend as much as others in any place they can find.

          But also remember the Yankees lineup and roster was basically set, why bring in so many people, because they can do it

          • cubtex

            You know Theo never cared about wasting a few million or several here and there

          • Tony_Hall

            No where near that kind of money.

          • Eugene Debs

            I agree – as the upper levels of the minor leagues sees the influx of recent draftees and trade acquisitions, we will need less NRI types. I’m on the fence as far as the Cubs approach right now, but one thing we can say is that they are sticking to the plan and we cannot deny that we have more prospects than in any time since who knows when.

            The MLB team is dreadful and will certainly flirt with 100 losses again, which is a shame.

      • cubtex

        and I just googled the non roster invites for the Astros,Twins and Sox for 2013

        • Tony_Hall

          Ok, I was hoping you found a one stop shop for all the teams.

    • Ripsnorter1

      Cubtex,
      All of your whining about non-roster invitees is just like your
      whining about Sveum’s non-development of Castro, Rizzo, and the young players.

      It is similar to your whining about Theo’s International Signing being mostly busts.

      It is very similar to your whining about Theo’s failure to maximize value from his deadline trades.

      It falls into the category of your whining about Theo dealing off a decent starting rotation
      for middling position players.

      It is the kind of whining you did when Theo frittered away whatever prospects we had in the
      system, and replaced them with other team’s scrap heap cast offs.

      And truthfully, it falls into the same category of all your whining about how the Cubs are
      doing their rebuild.

      And the category is: YOU ARE DEAD RIGHT.

      • cubtex

        My point is that in 3 offseasons….Theo has added 1 body from a trade on the field(Rizzo)
        The pitching staff is worse. We added only a Travis Wood and Jake Arrieta.
        We lost 100 games in 2012 and 96 in 2013 and the roster is worse.
        Oooh yea…Suzy told me the plan. We are supposed to wait for Baez and Bryant to be called up and it will all get better. They are supposed to fill the team with AAAA players until that happens. That’s right. That is how all big market teams operate.

        • 07GreyDigger

          I know you love to blame Theo, but isn’t there some amount of blame to Ricketts here? I mean if he’s not giving Theo the budget needed to run a major market team as you expect, what do you want the guy to do?

          • Eugene Debs

            All of the blame goes to Ricketts. He bought the team with a Mastercard and the interest is piling up. I love the focus on minor league development, but it’s somewhat out of necessity due to the simple fact that the Cubs are broke.

      • cubtex

        The South Side GM is putting Theo to shame. He has added Abreu, Garcia,Eaton and Davidson as new everyday players this year….and I doubt they are done. I have a feeling that they will get Nick Franklin as well.

        • Ripsnorter1

          People talk about how bad the ChiSox MiL system is. But they just keep bringing up
          pitcher after pitcher that gets the job done, and then they trade them for starting position
          players. October 2013 BA says that the Sox system ranked 24th in MLB, and yet they get it done.
          (Cubs were ranked #5).

          • cubtex

            that’s the thing about rankings. It can be very misleading. Chris Sale,Addison Reed, Santiago, Quintana, and others. They seem to always have pitching to bring up. They don’t have position talent but pitching is much more valuable. They flipped Santiago for Eaton, Reed for Davidson. Teams will be happy to give up top 10 position prospects for pitching but not many teams will give up top of rotation pitching prospects for hitting only.

          • Ripsnorter1

            I’ve been hearing “wait until next year” since 1969. But Theo is saying, “Wait until the next decade.”

            All this for $18.5 million! This is why I am a Theo supporter!

          • cubtex

            He has concentrated 100% on the farm while ignoring 100% the mlb team. Can’t he walk and chew gum?
            I can’t stand wasting years and years of being competitive when it doesn’t have to be. Teams all over baseball are proving otherwise.

        • John_CC

          What has any of those guys done in the ML, let alone for the Sox?

      • 07GreyDigger

        How do we know that Theo’s international signings are mostly busts? Aren’t the majority of international free agents 16? So how do we know they are busts yet?

        How do you Theo isn’t maximizing value from his deadline trades? Aren’t the majority of the people acquired still prospects who haven’t made it to the majors yet? How are we to know if they have failed or not?

        What prospects did Theo fritter away? Are there Cubs prospects that have amounted to anything that we’re in the system when he took over?

        • Ripsnorter1

          You need to go back and read all of Cubtex’s post listing the Intern’l busts.
          Concepcion comes to mind….

          You also need to read his comparisons of deadline asset trades vs other GMs.

          You should read his list of prospects traded and Rule V claimed and lost.

          DJ LeMahieu stole 18 bases and hit .281 last year. I guess you could compare him
          to Mr. Barney. DJL saved 9 runs at 2B, compared to Barney’s 15 runs saved. Barney had
          the 6th worst offensive season of any 2nd basemen in the history of the game.

          In short, read his posts and you’ll be informed. He is constantly comparing Team Theo to
          other GMs.

          • 07GreyDigger

            I don’t need to go back and read anything, because like everything we all post here, it’s all subjective. Doesn’t mean any of it is right.

            DJL needs to be given up. He’s a product of Coors Field. Is he better than Barney? Yes. But his numbers away from Coors are Barneyesque. A split of .245/.270/.297.

            As for the trades and prospects, have you ever heard the saying that you can’t judge a trade until 5 years down the line?

            Case in point, the first Cubs Garza trade. At the time, it looked like Hendry gave the farm away for Garza, but in hindsight, they lost Chris Archer and not much else. So it wasn’t so bad after all.

            How are we to judge any of those trades and moves without truly knowing what their return is? It’s all subjective.

          • Ripsnorter1

            I do not think it is subjective. Cubtex is posting objective facts.

          • 07GreyDigger

            What’s objective about comparisons of deadline acquisitions of prospects who haven’t made the majors yet?

            What’s objective about saying that Andrew Cashner is a bonafide successful young pitching arm who has had one successful season?

          • Ripsnorter1

            Listen to Cubtex~he’s right.

            “They traded Cashner,Marshall,Garza,Dempster
            and only got back Travis Wood who is currently in the rotation. Poor use of your pitching assets. The team is worse than when they took over.”

            I’d say that is objective. The team is worse. Judge by the win totals.

            Another quote that is objective:

            “The Theo plan is to build up the farm system and invest heavily in the international free agent market as well as strategic free agent signings here. The farm system plan is working so far but….the international free agent market hasn’t helped the mlb team at all yet.
            International signings
            1. Gerardo Concepcion 6 mil- Big time bust!
            2. Soler- 30 mil- Jury still out.

            3. Fujikawa- 9.5 mil- ouch

            Other players who could have helped the Cubs but were signed by other teams.
            Yu Darvish- Ace of the Rangers
            Cespedes- 26 HR’s and 80 RBI last year
            Puig- Exciting talent
            Ryu- Very good #3 starter
            Urrutia-O’s prospect signed for under 1 mil who should be starting for the O’s next year.

            I am not mentioning the Gleybar Torres and others because they are babies. The Concepcion’s, Fujikawa and Soler were signed to help out the mlb team fairly quickly. From what I have seen of Soler, he has a long way to go.”

          • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

            Rip, because one person does not agree with you or Ray it does not mean they are wrong or should be told to listen to another poster. You would not want to be told to listen to what someone else has said.

            There are different views to those trades and everyone can have their opinion.

          • Ripsnorter1

            I certainly agree that they do not have to agree.

            I was answering Greydiggers question. I thought we were having a friendly discussion.
            My apologies to Greydigger if he thought it was improper or unfriendly or rude.

          • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

            Man, not at all. No complaints from anyone, including me. Some of those trades are not as black and white as they are made out to be and are viewed differently.

            It’s all good … again, no worries.

          • 07GreyDigger

            We’re all of differing opinions for sure, I just tire of the constant bashing of everything the FO does. I feel like if they made a good free agent signing, that people would dump on that too.

          • Ripsnorter1

            I actually think I’m fair with Team Theo. Every time he makes a good move,
            I post my approval.

            I approved of his drafting both Almora and Byrant.
            I approved of the Marshall trade.
            I approved of the Bogusevic trade.
            I approved of the Feldman trade as well.
            I approved the Wesley Wright signing–no great shakes, but an okay move.
            I approved of the Maholm signing.
            I approved of the Baker signing (though he didn’t turn out for us).
            I approved the Garza trade to Texas.
            I even approved of the Sweeney signing.

            There may be a couple of more moves that I approved of which I cannot think of right now.
            But I still believe Theo is not a boy genius. Far from it, I don’t think he is in the Top Ten GMs in baseball. Perhaps not even in the Top Twenty.

    • triple

      So you’re finally admitting that this isn’t the same rebuild as the Astros and Marlins that you say anyone can do… you’re actually making a little progress Ray. We are all proud of you!

      • cubtex

        I admit it Triple. After further review….There’s is better. They are further along than the Cubs. Thanks for bringing that up!

    • Eugene Debs

      Right, but with MacDonald back in the fold, we’re looking good.

  • Ripsnorter1

    And speaking of Jose Veras…

    I do not understand what the Tigers are doing, except disassembling a team that can win it all,
    for a team that may not even make the playoffs in 2014.

    You heard me right: they might not even make the playoffs in 2014.

    And here’s just another reason: they had a lousy bullpen in 2013, and they made it worse for 2014.
    Benoit (2.01 ERA) and Drew Smyly(2.37 ERA) were Detroit’s only reliable relievers in 2013, with the rest of the bullpen combining for a 4.88 ERA. (That figure drops to 5.00 when you remove free agent Jose Veras.)
    Benoit is now a free agent and Smyly is headed to the rotation to replace Fister, and the only thing Detroit has done to address its bullpen is spend $10 million per year on Joe Nathan. Trouble is, he just replaces Benoit without improving the pen. Ian Krol, who was acquired in the Fister deal, is extremely unlikely to replace Smyly’s production. Bruce Rondon has tremendous upside, but he has occasional command problems, and a sore elbow kept him out of the playoffs.

    Smyly will not be as good as Fister. Fielder’s presence will certainly be missed.

    Mr. Dombroski is acting similar to Mr. Jim Hendry after the 2008 Cubs came oh so close.

    Bad news for Tigers’ fans in 2014.

    • mutantbeast

      I dont know. 2009 Cubs didnt have a 2 time reigning league MVP, a defending CY Young award winner, a #2 starter who has twice won the Cy Young. They also still have VMart , Kinsler isnt too bad and Nathan will close more games then Benoit ever did. What the Tigers did do was compromise there depth. Injuries might be what mostly cripples them. They casnt afford Miggy or an AJax to get hurt.

      • Ripsnorter1

        And they did not fix the bullpen. The bullpen is worse.

        Remember how our bullpen sabotaged several games in 2013?

    • cubtex

      They’ve got a stud closer in the minors from Texas. Corey Knebel their 1st round pick a couple of years ago. He should help at some point next year.

      • cubtex

        He’s got nasty stuff!

        A successful closer at the University of Texas, Knebel has the chance to
        be a college reliever who doesn’t take very long to get to the big
        leagues. The tall right-hander has an outstanding two-pitch power
        combination and that’s all he needs. His fastball hits the mid-90s and
        he mixes in his biting downer curve that can be a true out pitch.
        Combine that with the kind of “give me the ball” attitude you want to
        see from a ninth-inning guy and Knebel has everything to continue
        closing all the way up to the Major League level.

        • Ripsnorter1

          He is not listed in their top ten prospects.
          Their system is ranked #29 by BA.

          Just shows you that Baseball America doesn’t know everything, does it?

          • Tony_Hall

            Baseball prospectus has him as #5, updated this off-season.

            Future potential is listed as closer, with realistic role of a set-up guy. His weaknesses are makeup concerns, due to his emotions getting the better of him, and no movement on his fastball. They also state that he has more control than command.

            http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=22321

          • cubtex

            He just got drafted in 13. I have seen this guy pitch several times. Nobody hit him. He is close to major league ready.

  • CubbyDenCritic

    To me, adding CJ Edwards & Kris Bryant to the farm system should have been in the top five……but they got skunked out of making the list.

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      They are mentioned in Tom’s report as part of Daytona’s highlights.

  • Tony_Hall

    The Theo before Theo.

    http://www.csnchicago.com/cubs/cubs-andy-macphail-knows-what-theo-epstein%E2%80%99s-going-through

    ““I am a huge believer in no comments from the peanut gallery,” MacPhail said. “I was never a great fan of getting comments from the peanut gallery when I was in the fray.”