Jason McLeod Sheds Light on Cubs Plan for Baez and News from Down on the Farm

Jason McLeod, the Cubs Senior Vice President of Player Development and Amateur Scouting, joined Jim Bowden and Rich Herrera during The Front Office (MLB Network Radio/SiriusXM Radio) on Sunday morning. And Jason McLeod provided a little information about the team’s plans for Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara.

PrintJim Bowden asked Jason McLeod about what position Javier Baez is going to play once he is called up to the big leagues this season. And if he would play second base every day in Iowa to prepare for his call-up. McLeod said, “We’ve said all along we want Javy to play short for as long as possible. The plan is that he is going to open the season playing shortstop at Iowa. As you saw this last week he did get a couple of games in at second base. I’m sure that is something that as we get into the season and depending on how he is doing, on both sides of his game, offensively and defensively, I think we will have more of those discussions and conversations. I’m sure there will be a time, depending on what’s happening also at the Major League level, that you will see Javy move over to the other side of the bag a couple of times a week.”

“We also have another interesting player there, Jim I know you know about, in Aris Alcantara, who can play shortstop as well and we would like to keep him versatile because he is a really athletic, fast-switch guy, that we know that can play second and we would probably like to get him some exposure at short and move him around as well,” McLeod said. “It is going to be a young team we have there in Iowa this year with prospects at a lot of positions. I think you will see Javy start to move around a little bit as he gets into that first month or two of the season.”

As for a timeframe on when Javier Baez or any of the other prospects will be making their way to Wrigley, McLeod said, “I think we’d love for it to be sooner rather than later. Meaning that they’ve gone out and dominated their competition and shown that they are ready. It is somewhat of a bland answer to say they are going to let us know but really they are going to let us know when they’re ready. Each guy has his own player plan and it stresses on three core areas that we feel are very important for them to be successful Major League players. We’ve sat down with them and they understand and know what it is. When they go out and can turn weaknesses into strengths and dominate the level that they are at, then they are going to move up. There is no set timetable. Like I said if they are here sooner, up in Chicago, that means they’ve gone out and addressed any of the weaknesses that they have and they’ve dominated their competition.”

Jim Bowden wrapped up the interview by asking Jason McLeod what a realistic timetable was for the Cubs to be contenders. “I really don’t have an answer for that,” McLeod said. “I think a lot of that depends on what we end up doing with the Major League club. I think a lot depends on current negotiations with our current players and what the free agent market looks like as we get into the next off-season, what trades we might make. The best way I think I can answer the question is to say from an internal, organizational standpoint, and I was just telling someone this about a week or two ago, I think we are bubbling under the surface and really getting ready to explode and take off as an organization in the next year or two. I know Theo had mentioned, I think at a press conference he gave or an article that he did, he mentioned that the Cubs are coming and we are coming fast. And I know a lot of us in the organization feel that way, we really believe that. With the talented players that we have here and I think with the decisions that Theo and Jed are going to make over this next year, I think that we are going to be one of those clubs that you are going to look up in the next year or two and say ‘Wow this team is really going to be doing some damage here for the near future.'”

Jen-Ho Tseng

Scouts really like what they are seeing early in camp from RHP Jen-Ho Tseng, the now 19-year old Taiwanese right-hander the Cubs gave $1.625 million to last July. After not pitching well in the World Baseball Classic, Tseng appears to be back on track according to a report from Baseball America.

Tseng faced Dominican amateur players from the International Prospect league recently and hit 89-94 mph on the gun while mixing in “an above average curveball” that sat around 75 mph. Tseng’s curveball “had good depth and late, sharp bite” and he “buckled the knees of back-to-back hitters for strikeouts at one point.” Baseball America acknowledged Tseng was facing “mostly 15- and 16-year olds” but his “fastball and curveball were quality pitches regardless of who he was facing.”  BA noted Tseng did not throw his changeup (81-83 mph) often. Most scouts feel Tseng’s best pitch is his changeup.

Video from Baseball America

Keith Law was not as impressed with Tseng as Baseball Prospectus or Baseball America. Law thinks “the questionable signing looks even more questionable now given how ordinary his stuff and arm speed are.”

According to a report from Baseball Prospectus, Tseng “is extremely polished for his age and should handle a full-season assignment this year.”

25-and-Under Talent Rankings

Baseball Prospectus released its organizational rankings of the top talent in the game that is 25 year or younger. So while most lists focus on the prospects in a team’s system that has never played a game in the majors, Baseball Prospectus ranked the 30 teams based on the top talent in their systems 25-and-under.

The Cardinals and Nationals topped BP’s ranking and the Cubs came in tenth. Baseball Prospectus said the following about the Cubs, “With a list headlined by the no. 4 prospect in the game – shortstop Javier Baez – and running deep, the Cubs have a plethora of young talent either at or percolating toward the big league roster. It’s a U25 list that leans toward prospects, but shortstop Starlin Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo are big league draws. The system’s talent gives Chicago a strong punch and plenty of hope for turning around the franchise.”

Top 10 Players in the Cubs System 25-and-Under

  1. Javier Baez
  2. Starlin Castro
  3. Kris Bryant
  4. Anthony Rizzo
  5. Albert Almora
  6. Jorge Soler
  7. C.J. Edwards
  8. Arismendy Alcantara
  9. Peirce Johnson
  10. Junior Lake

Baseball America released its list of the top 50 players in the game 25-and-under last week. And both Javier Baez (21) and Kris Bryant (24) cracked a top 50 list that featured a top five of Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Jose Fernandez, Manny Machado and Stephen Strasburg.

Blocked Prospects

Keith Law posted a report earlier in the month that focused on the most-blocked position-player prospects in the game … and near the top of his list was Javier Baez.

Law explained that Baez is “blocked to the extent that he’s playing behind someone, Starlin Castro, who is under contract long term.” As Law pointed out, the Cubs will have to find a position for Baez when they feel he is ready for the Major Leagues.

Javier Baez said he prefers second base and played two Spring Training games there recently. Law said Baez could stay at short and the Cubs could move Starlin Castro to left field. Another suggestion Law posted that if the Cubs would like Castro to stay at short, Baez could move over to third with Kris Bryant moving to right field.

Law’s report posted on ESPN before Mike Olt showed he was healthy and started making a push for a spot on the Cubs’ Opening Day roster. In regards to Olt, Law said his “window to reestablish his value as a potential everyday third baseman is very small; if he gets a trail this season and doesn’t hit, he might be buried by season’s end.”

Minor League Moves

The Cubs traded Trevor Gretzky to the Angels for Matt Scioscia. And the trade made national headlines due to their famous last names. The Cubs selected Gretzky in the seventh round of the 2011 draft and he hit .274/.300/.333 in 41 games for Boise and Kane County last season with three doubles, one triple and one home run. The Angels selected Scioscia in the 45th round of the 2011 draft. Scioscia hit .194/.248/.224 in 40 games over three levels last year (rookie, Low-A and High-A) with two doubles and one triple. Angels’ GM Jerry Dipoto said the trade was “simply giving two players a new opportunity.”

According to a report from Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, the Cubs released RHP Carlos Gutierrez. The former first round pick of the Twins (2008) made just six appearances in the Cubs’ system last season. Gutierrez ended up with a 0.77 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP after allowing four runs, one earned, on six hits with six walks and six strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings in the rookie league, High-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee.

The Cubs also released catchers Yaniel Cabezas, Carlos Escobar and Neftali Rosario. First baseman Kelvin Freeman, infielders Greg Rohan and Brad Zapenas were released as well according to a report from Baseball America.

News and Notes

Kris Bryant signed an endorsement deal with Adidas.

The Cubs have several players in the game that are among the best in their age bracket. Baseball America released its ranking of the top players in each age bracket from 16 – 25. OF Eloy Jimenez ranked as the second best 17-year old in baseball. Albert Almora came in as the third best 19-year old in the game. And Kris Bryant followed Mike Trout in BA’s ranking of the top 22-year olds.

The Indians released former Cubs’ prospect RHP Robert Whitenack. Cleveland claimed Whitenack off waivers from the Cubs last year and he really struggled in Cleveland’s system. Over three levels (Low-A, High-A and Double-A), Whitenack posted a 4-9 record with a 5.96 ERA and a 1.71 WHIP in 19 games, 17 starts. At Double-A Akron, Whitenack was 0-2 with a 27.00 ERA and a 4.33 WHIP. A one-time top pitching prospect in the Cubs’ system had not been able to bounce back from Tommy John surgery.

For those that missed it and have a subscription to Baseball Prospectus, Jason Parks loved what he saw from the Cubs’ minor leaguers when he was at the Cubs’ complex earlier in the month.

Jeff Passan thinks two elite prospects could help rescue the Cubs from misery.

LHP Jose Paulino was mentioned as one of the top 20 Dominican Summer League/Venezuelan Summer League prospects from last year by Baseball America.

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO and @TheCCO_Minors

Quote of the Day

"The more reasons you have for achieving your goal, the more determined you will become." - Brian Tracy

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  • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

    Love the quote at te bottom of this article from Jon Daniels…

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2014/03/al-notes-pierzynski-harang-ichiro-orioles-rangers.html

    Uh yeah Jon, ya think?

    Also interesting about all the pitchers the Orioles won’t be able to protect. Lots of these types of guys go on to have real good careers. Anybody in there the Cubs might jump in on?

    • Tony_H

      Board – this is well worth making sure people see it.

      “”I thought way too short term with the Garza deal last year. That one’s got a chance to haunt us and haunt me,” Rangers GM Jon Daniels told Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic in reference to his trade with the Cubs. Daniels gave up C.J. Edwards, Mike Olt, Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez for Garza. Olt could soon make an impact in the big leagues, but it’s Edwards and Ramirez who might turn out to be the keys to the deal — Edwards was terrific down the stretch last year for Class A+ Daytona, and Ramirez has pitched well in spring training after posting a terrific strikeout rate in Double-A last season.”

      • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

        I think Ramirez is the x-factor of the deal. Olt was somewhat known and CJ is projectable by many. Ramirez is the guy that could flame out or could be a #3 type starter soon. His success or lack therof will have some impact on the total of this trade. It’s already a huge win, since they don’t even have Garza anymore, but it could go on to be an epic win if Olt, CJ and Ramirez all go on to become stars.

        • Richard Hood

          I actually am still higher on Grimm. He was a good pitcher for Texas last year before the league got a book on him and he was over his head at that point. I still see a 2/3 upside with him if he can get better at the mental side of the game.

          Even if he can not he will be a dominant reliever very quickly.

          • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

            That’s awesome to hear Richard. Ray has pointed out that the guy really brings heat which always makes upward mobility possible.

            Why do you think they’ve not given him more of a shot to start?

          • Richard Hood

            Because they see a Dempster, Shark type transition in his future. His problem is learning the psychology of pitching. As a reliever short term you get him day to day coaching and he fills a need today while keeping an eye on tomorrow.

      • paulcatanese

        Tony, this is directed to you, as you would have the most knowledge in this area.
        Yesterdays game had a comment by Casper regarding Billy Bean and how he thinks his organization is progressing. I may not get this right as I was lost soon after Casper started to comment.
        He went on to say how Bean viewed the
        A’s. Stating a number of percentages and dollar amounts, payroll, and how all of it related to profit vs expenditures.
        I think it was interesting but didn’t come close to knowing what had been said.
        Bottom line was, it didn’t sound lke baseball as I know it, but an entirely different entity.
        Don’t know if you caught it, but I think you would have known what he was talking about. If you did, a short comment from you explaining what was said would be appreciated.

        • Tony_H

          Yes I did but I might not use the same #’s.

          Imagine every player is like a financial investment. Some have have higher risks, and higher rewards. Some are safer bets to produce modest results. He said they don’t have a 20% return tech stock, like a Miquel Cabrera, but they also don’t have any -20% stocks that drag down the team. They are a team full of bonds that return a 3-8% safe return, but will give positive results. And that he believes that the net result of every player be a decent return will produce more wins, then if they could have more of the high tech stock type players that may return big, but also may cost the team as well.

          • paulcatanese

            Thank you, I assume also that this is what the Cubs are shooting for.
            Almost seems as though they should have a stock broker on board. Very involved, but makes sense as to a progress schedule for a team. Takes longer, but may be surer in the long run.

          • Tony_H

            Now imagine if the A’s had the financial resources to keep their elite players instead of losing them. That is what the Cubs are trying to do and what the Red Sox do.

          • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

            That’s an interesting way to do it. Obviously it’s a proven way to approach things. Beane and Theo pioneered this approach right at the same time and Friedman came right behind them.

            Tony has a great point that having that approach and the ability to resign your stars is a potent combination. Imagine the A’s if Beane could actually sign his stars? Think of all the guys that have passed through there on their way to stardom elsewhere. Giambi, Tejada, Damon, Hudson, Swisher. These guys have a development factory with a retail shop at the end of the line. You could say the Yankees best farm team is the A’s!

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  • Ripsnorter1

    Baez says he prefers 2B.

    • Tony_H

      If he is not at SS. Basically because he is still in the middle of the field. He will prefer anywhere that allows him to get to the majors.

  • K_Gripp

    I think there is a very good chance that the organization is planning on trading Castro and that is one of the main reasons they will not move Baez off of shortstop. It’s purely speculation on my part but when you read about Castro from different sources including rival GMs and scouts he just isn’t the cornerstone player you want to build your organization around. I hope that he has a great first half and I hope a contender has a need for a shortstop at the deadline. Baez can step right in leaving second base open for Alcantara. If Olt wins 3rd base that would be best but if not Villanueava or Bryant wait in the wings at 3rd base.

    My bold prediction is that neither Samardzija or Castro are still in the Cubs organization in August.

    • DWalker

      Castro will go IF they can get the price they want for him. Right now, after last year, what the FO will want (and won’t have cubs fans dig out the torches and pitchforks) and what other clubs will give are pretty far apart to the point theres probably not any talking. even if Baez does replace Castro at short, it may not be a long term position for him as he may outgrow it. Right now, my guess is Baez will continue getting reps at SS because it is the more valued position, but as long as Castro is with the cubs he will move to second. Alcantara in that case will be a utility player. If he can perform at the majors, his versitility is far to valauable to not be using. I would not be shocked if he starts nearly every day in the lineup just by sloting him in to give everyone else a day off.
      No doubt, if guys live up to expectations, the cubs are going to be overloaded with more talent than positions, so a few trades will happen. I don’t expect shark to still be here after the deadline, but I am going to doubt castro goes at the deadline. We stil have a ways to go before we have to worry about all the prospects tripping over each other, and since the probably won’t all make it, there really is no pressing need to trade castro unless its for an ideal package.

      • K_Gripp

        You’ve stated the obvious position. Why would you trade a 24 year old all-star shortstop entering his prime signed to a team friendly long term shortstop?

        The answer of course is that you don’t think you can win with him as a team leader. Think about this. Castro, has been bread to lose because its all he has ever known in the organization, he is known for being unmotivated and flighty, he is not the disciplined hitter the organization model is built around, and his numbers have gotten progressively worse in the majors.

        I admit it is a bold prediction. It would mean that Baez and Alcantara are ready for MLB positions, there is a trading partner for Castro, and the Cubs can get a value that keeps them on course with their rebuilding plan. There is risk involved because obviously trading an all-star shortstop entering his prime could turn out badly.

        I hope Castro course corrects and turns into the perennial all-star we know he can be but I also wouldn’t cry in my beer if Castro were playing shortstop for another organization next year.

        • TheWrongGuy

          I will agree and disagree with your allusions of trading Castro.

          1) Theo doesn’t like to trade at a low value. (Garza is perfect example) Castro’s value right now after last season’s hitting is SUPER low.
          2) Baez will be a MLB baseball player this year. I am not holding my breathe for him to be at Wrigley in June either. Baez’s strike-out to walk rate is horrible. Both players are not matching Team Theo’s plan as a “disciplined hitter’s”.
          3) Alcantara has a future as a switch-hitting super utility guy, aka Bonifacio. I know many may not like that but that is fine, it’s my opinion.

    • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

      I have said that for a while K_Gripp and I agree with you. I don’t see him here long-term. His contract and ability will make him extremely attractive to suitors. He’s the one guy we have that if he starts hot and looks like an all-star, could bring us back a package of future TOR starters. I could see him bringing a package of quality like Archie Bradley, Aaron Sanchez and CJ Edwards. All in one trade. It will be tough for Theo to turn down.

  • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

    Interesting that last week I read where one service sees Tseng as a future TOR starter. Then here we read where another doesn’t think much of him at all. Just goes to show where one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Probably why good players get their outright release from a team then get picked up and excel with another. I know it’s a numbers game in there too and often injuries play a part, example being Kalish. But man, take 10 baseball guys and ask an opinion on a particular player and you probably get 10 different responses!

    • TheWrongGuy

      Tseng was facing mostly 15-16 year olds. When he has a change-up that sits in the mid 80’s those youngsters will crush that pitch as most latin hitters are free swingers. The Cubs have been teaching, since Derek Johnson has been here, is to pitch off the fastball command.
      This is my view anyways.
      :)

    • mutantbeast

      Board, one thing you got to take from Kieth Law. For some reason the guy just absolutely hates the Cubs. I have no reason as to why, but he tries to always put a negative spin on them(for example, Baez percieved “cockiness” or Solers “attitude) to his referring to Kris Bryant as “Dave Kingman 2.0 after the Cubs drafted Bryant last year. I prefer Proferssor Parks, whos far less biased towards the Stankees, Mets or Red Sux like Law is.

      • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

        Thanks Beast. Good to know.

      • John_CC

        You forgot to mention how often he tries to tear down Junior Lake. When a guy, like Law, targets a fringy prospect like Junior and constantly points out his flaws and state he will never make it, you know he has a bias.

        • Richard Hood

          Is it bias or just plain egotism? I think that Law is stubborn on prospects both good and bad. He makes up his mind on a guy and never changes it.

          A couple years ago there was a kid for StL that Law said would be the next Mantle and all it would take is time. He was a can’t miss. Have you seen much of Rasmus lately? He finally had a decent year after a long career of being well below expectation.

  • Rick Barkan

    I would think Castro is gone when Baez is ready. Any thoughts?

    • jtrain23

      I think that strictly depends on which Castro we see this year. If he is producing like the Castro we saw in his first two seasons, then I don’t see how you get rid of him. He is still very young which means he still has potential to grow both physically and mentally. He is under contract that gives the Cubs control over him until 2020. If he is producing at an all star caliber, then the contract is a bargain until the last option year at $16 million.

      However, if he still seems lost and is flat lined (or even declining) in production like he has been the last 2 years, then he becomes quickly expendable. I think this is a huge year for Castro, and with the major log of talent behind him, it could be make or break.

      I personally hope he returns to form and that our problem is where to put all of the other talent rather than how to shed the team of Castro and his contract. Time will tell.

      • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

        See K-Gripp’s post above. We already went over this but yes, I agree with you.

        However, not until Castro has improved. Theo knows what he has and knows what he can get for him. If Castro comes out of the gate swinging and looks on pace to get 200 hits he’ll be gone. If he slumps we’ll hold onto him and try and get him going first.

        Either way, I don’t see him being on the roster in 2016.

        • jtrain23

          I didn’t read deep in the posts. I just read the article at work and replied to the top post showing up.

          Maybe I’m wrong, but part of me still thinks the Cubs have Castro in their long term plans if he can show he is the player we all thought he was a few years ago.

          I don’t have any more basis in my opinion than anyone else and it is also simply speculation. It’s just the feeling I get.

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