Three of the top prospects in the Cubs’ system were named to Baseball America’s 2013 Minor League All-Star team on Thursday. Javier Baez and C.J. Edwards received first team honors while Kyle Hendricks was named to the second team.
Baseball America named Javier Baez as the first team’s designated hitter. The Red Sox’s Xander Bogaerts received the nod as the first team’s shortstop. Baseball America pointed out that Baez “stands by himself with minor league-leading totals for extra basehits (75) and RBI (111)” after hitting 37 home runs with Daytona and Tennessee as a 20-year old. Baez hit 19 of his 37 home runs, while putting together a .325/.384/.654 slash line, with runners on base.
C.J. Edwards appeared to take his game up a notch after he was added to Daytona’s rotation in late July. Edwards finished his season with a minor league best 12 strikeouts per nine innings and finished fourth in ERA (1.86). Edwards and the ‘Gang of Four’ helped Daytona win the Florida State League championship and he should be ranked as the top pitching prospect in the Cubs’ system, along with teammate Pierce Johnson, this off-season.
Kyle Hendricks, the CCO’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year, was named to Baseball America’s second team after a tremendous season. Hendricks has put himself into a position to make his Major League debut next year and should spend his first spring in big league camp.
Is Jeff Samardzija out of gas? Samardzija made his 30th start of the year on Wednesday against the Reds and inched closer to the 200-inning mark that he said he wanted to reach at the beginning of the year. The Cubs are not shutting Samardzija down early like they did last season despite the fact that he has already exceeded his career-high in innings pitched this year (194 2/3 innings).
Samardzija admitted he is in “uncharted waters” but said he feels good and has “no complaints or excuses.”
Following his third bad start in a row, Dale Sveum said that Samardzija probably wouldn’t admit it, but he feels that Samardzija is dealing with a combination of physical fatigue while “getting a little mentally wore out right now.”
Samardzija is not only racing toward 200 innings for the first time in his career, he is among the league leaders in pitches thrown this season. After 30 starts, Samardzija has thrown 3,167 pitches this year. Clayton Kershaw (3,141), Adam Wainwright (3,114) and Cole Hamels (3,105) have each thrown more than 3,100 pitches this season as well. And not only will Samardzija pass the 200-inning plateau, but he will also strikeout 200 batters for the first time. Samardzija has 195 strikeouts in 194 2/3 innings this year.
The addition of Scott Baker to the rotation should help Samardzija finish on a better note than he has pitched of late. Samardzija will receive an extra day of rest before each of his next two outings then his final start of the season will be on regular rest in St. Louis.
Kris Bryant and the Future at Third Base
Kris Bryant will garner quite a bit of attention when the Arizona Fall League gets underway in less than a month. Bryant, along with three of the top minor leaguers in the Cubs’ system, will compete with other top prospects in the game. Bryant is expected to see time in the outfield in the AFL, and that is where many of the experts feel he will end up playing.
The Cubs think Kris Bryant has a chance to stick at third base, and according to a report from the Sun-Times, some evaluators think Bryant “could push for a big league job late next season.”
Bryant has a lot of work to do in the field and at the plate before he makes his big league debut. But the Cubs have several legitimate third base prospects in the system as well that could force the Cubs to move Bryant to the outfield.
The Cubs acquired the Rangers’ top two third base prospects in July deals the last two seasons. Christian Villanueva put together an excellent season at the Double-A level and will continue to push Mike Olt in the Cubs’ system.
The Cubs feel Mike Olt will bounce back from his rough season. Jason McLeod said Wednesday that Olt will not play ball this winter and he will be evaluated further to see if the concussion he received last winter when he was beaned affected him more than was originally diagnosed.
Javier Baez is expected to see time at third base, as well as second base, this fall. Most have felt for a longtime that Baez projects better as a third baseman and that is where he would eventually end up. The Cubs have maintained that Baez is a shortstop and they feel he can handle the position at the Major League level.
Another third base prospect to keep an eye on is Jeimer Candelario. On numerous occasions, Theo Epstein has spoken highly of Candelario and the front office’s desire to leave Candelario at third base for the entire season at Kane County was one of the reasons given publically as to why Kris Bryant skipped Kane County and finished his season in Daytona. Candelario is only 19 years old and is further behind the Villanuevas, Olts and Bryants in the system but he is still a player that gives the organization depth at third base.
News and Notes
The Cubs have 82 quality starts this season, nine more than a year ago (73).
Anthony Rizzo is looking for positives according to a report from Cubs.com as his first full season in the majors comes to an end.
Starlin Castro could hit leadoff for the Cubs’ next season according to a report from Cubs.com. Dale Sveum said with what Castro has learned and with the way he has been hitting, he could hit at the top of the lineup. Entering play on Thursday, Castro was a career .303/.350/.439 hitter in 97 games in the leadoff spot with 21 doubles, three triples and 10 home runs for a .789 OPS. According to a report from the Sun-Times, a leadoff man is at the top of Sveum’s wish list this winter, along with a five-hole hitter.
Chris Rusin has put himself in a position to have every opportunity to make the rotation next year according to a report from ESPN Chicago.
Dan Vogelbach is thinking big according to the Sun-Times.
And, clubs are contacting Dave Duncan about hiring him to be in their organization in some capacity, other than coaching. Duncan is not sure if he could coach again right now, but according to Ken Rosenthal, Duncan would “listen to whatever they’re thinking about.” If Duncan is listening, the Cubs’ front office should pick up the phone and see if they could pair him with Derek Johnson.