Kris Bryant and Javier Baez continue to make headlines down on the farm, and rightfully so. The top two prospects in the system are producing at the plate, and in Baez’s case, he has shown a lot of improvement after a slow start.
There will be a lot of National attention on the Cubs’ system in the coming week. Manny Ramirez is expected to report to Des Moines and assume his duties as a part-time player and coach for the Iowa Cubs.
Manny Ramirez says he’s changed, understands the role he will have with Iowa and is looking forward to working with the kids in the Cubs’ system. Jed Hoyer talked about the decision to hire Ramirez and the risk-reward associated with the signing during Friday’s spot on the Kap & Haugh Show (87.7 The Game).
“Obviously Theo and I spent a lot of time with Manny,” Hoyer said. “Manny is really complicated obviously. We live in a world where we want to put everyone in black and white brackets and with Manny there are a lot of shades of grey. I always tell people that he is the hardest working, smartest hitter I’ve ever been around and he worked at it. Every morning when I was childless I would workout at Fenway in the morning before work and Manny would be in there working out at 9 o’clock in the morning with a night game that night every morning. He’s studying video more than anyone. He did a series of eye exercises before every game to get ready to play. This guy wasn’t one of the best hitters of All-Time because he didn’t work at it. I think that’s the part that people don’t see. And the part that people did see is also very real and something that we lived first hand. We certainly feel like that through the conversations we had with him that he wants to change his life. He wants to give back. That was really the hardest part to get to accepting was that a guy who did do a lot of things that we disagreed with in Boston had really changed. Certainly we are hopeful that he has because I think he has a lot to give back to our young players about how to hit. He was so good at so many parts of what he did. We hope that certainly what he did wrong is gone and that he can just give back the positives to our young hitters. I do think that he is very, very open with his knowledge and wants to teach and wants to get better. It was very complicated. Theo and I had long discussions about it. We talked about it in the Instructional league to work with the right handed hitters. We talked about it in Spring Training and it finally got to a point where we felt comfortable that this is worth a shot and something that Manny was willing to do.”
On who suggested Manny first, Theo to Jed or Jed to Theo
“Theo brought it up to me,” Hoyer said. “Last fall we started talking about it a little bit. Right away it was something that was interesting, and simply because if you saw what Manny did every day hitting wise as a right handed hitter, that was the biggest thing. We have a lot of really talented right handed hitters in our system and being a right handed hitter and learning how to hit in the big leagues is incredibly challenging. I pray that sometime in my career I can be around another hitter like Manny. I mean he was so talented, so smart and worked at it so much that right away it was okay that’s interesting but there’s so many different things to get through before you can ever make that a reality. An interesting brainstorm, but a lot of different boxes had to be checked. Right now Manny is absolutely saying the right things. We saw him in Boston on Tuesday night and he was in a great place there with his family. I know his comments on Wednesday at the 2004 ceremony. He’s apologized to a lot of people and I think he really wants to move forward. Personally, if he can move forward and be a positive influence on these guys I think that’s a great thing because like I said, the things that he did well, he did probably better than anyone I’ve ever seen.”
On the assumption Manny was brought in first to work with Javier Baez then with the other hitters
“Well, I certainly think he’s going to work with all of the different guys but we’d be lying to say that we don’t hope that he has a really good influence on Javy. Because it is true, the things that Javy struggles with at the plate, the things that he has to learn are the things that Manny was almost perfect at and Manny was incredibly patient. He really sat on pitches well, out-thought the pitcher and I think that the things he can teach Javy are many. I think that they can hopefully develop a relationship. That was certainly a strong thing but I think he can work with a lot of guys in our system and help make them a lot better.”
C.J. Edwards had an MRI on his shoulder Thursday and the Cubs have not released the results of the MRI yet. Edwards is at the Cubs’ facility in Mesa and Jason McLeod expects him to be able to pitch in the second half and provided an update on Edwards last week on The Front Office (MLB Network Radio/Sirius XM Radio).
“With C.J. certainly with the shoulder soreness, structurally he’s fine which is good, but again he’s not the biggest bodied kid. He’s really, really lean, so we’re really just taking a conservative approach with him to build his shoulder strength back up,” McLeod said. “That’s always going to be a struggle for him to put on weight but we are doing everything we can from that side of things with nutrition and so forth. We do expect him back and hopefully he’ll be able to pitch the second half of the season.”
Jason McLeod provided an update on Jorge Soler on The Front Office (MLB Network Radio/SiriusXM Radio) last Sunday as well. McLeod did not give a timetable on when they expect Soler to return to the Smokies’ lineup. But the hamstring injury is not as severe as the one that cost him to miss time out of Spring Training.
“Unfortunately Jorge was slow coming out of Spring Training because he had a hamstring issue,” McLeod said. “Finally got him back and then he ended up tweaking the other hamstring in his leg last week. It wasn’t as severe as the first time. We are still going to take it easy with him. He’s back in Arizona now and it shouldn’t be that long until he is back. This is the second year where he’s been battling injuries. He just hasn’t been able to stay on the field long enough.”
Bryant, Baez and Prospect Rankings
Keith Law posted an update to his top 25 prospects list on Friday. Law still feels Kris Bryant (8) and Javier Baez (9) are the top two young players in the Cubs system, but he ranked Bryant eighth, one spot ahead of Baez, in his new top 25.
Albert Almora and Jorge Soler received honorable mentions from Law, both prospects are listed among seven prospects outside of the top 25.
Jason Parks was asked about his off-season top 10 ranking. Parks said his top 10 would not change much. With Xander Bogaerts graduating off his list, his top three would be Byron Buxton, the-recently-promoted-to-the-Show Oscar Taveras and Javier Baez.
As for when Bryant and/or Baez could get called up, Jim Bowden does not think it will be this season for either of the sluggers.
In order for Kris Bryant to make his big league debut, he would have to be added to the 40-man roster, as Bowden explained, and he does not have to be added this winter. And if the Cubs were to let him play in the minors until at least May of 2015, the Cubs would have an extra year of control.
Bowden likes the fact Manny Ramirez will be working with Baez, and the former GM doesn’t see the Cubs calling Javier Baez up this season. Baez could still push his way up to the majors, but his slow start probably means he will spend the year in Iowa.
News and Notes
According to a report from Patrick Mooney, Rick Renteria will not lobby the front office to call-up Kris Bryant or Javier Baez. Renteria said that’s not his style and he’s glad to see the kids “are performing and they’re building confidence.”
The Cubs are comfortable with Bryant at the Double-A level and are keeping an eye on him according to a report from Carrie Muskat.
Aaron Nola has improved his stock in the upcoming draft with his recent performances in the SEC Tournament. Baseball America posted an excellent report about him. Nola should end up as a top 10 pick and is rumored as a possibility for the Cubs.