With Spring Training just around the corner, most teams are done making major roster moves. Managers are starting to jot down starting lineups for the exhibition season that begins in less than a month.
Paul Casella used Statcast data from last season to rank the teams “that figure to boast the hardest-hitting overall lineups.” Casella based his ranking “upon each player’s average exit velocity from last season.” Casella pointed out he did not rank the offenses. His top five was based on teams that are “expected to pack the most punch, based on the cumulative average exit velocity of their projected starting position players.”
The Cubs came in second on his list with an average exit velocity of 90.94 mph, just ahead of the Mets (90.9 mph) and behind the Marlins (91.2). Giancarlo Stanton (99.1 mph) skews the Marlins number and more than makes up for Dee Gordon (84.6) having one of the lowest average exit velocities in baseball.
Kyle Schwarber (94.5 mph), Jorge Soler (93 mph), Jason Heyward (91.3 mph), Javier Baez (91.3 mph), Kris Bryant (90.8 mph) and Anthony Rizzo (90.1 mph) all had an average exit velocity of more than 90 mph last year.
After the break last season, the Cubs were second in the NL in home runs (94), third in doubles (135), fourth in slugging percentage (.426), third in OPS (.770) and second in runs scored (354).
RHP Pierce Johnson will be in his second big league camp this spring. Johnson was a non-roster invitee last year, this time around he’s on the 40-man roster and if all goes as planned he could make his Major League debut at some point this season.
Johnson’s progress has been slowed by injuries but the development of a third pitch could help him make up lost time according to a report from Carrie Muskat.
Johnson hung around Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Jason Hammel as much as possible last year and will likely do the same in camp this spring. Johnson said Arrieta helped him a lot. Johnson used the advice Arrieta gave him about how to attack hitters.
In 16 starts for Double-A Tennessee last year, Johnson was 6-2 with a 2.08 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. Johnson allowed 24 runs, 22 earned, on 76 hits with 32 walks and 72 strikeouts in 95 innings.
Johnson started last season on the disabled list after suffering a lat injury in Spring Training. Johnson used the time on the DL to his advantage. The Cubs wanted him to work on his changeup and he did. Johnson said he threw the pitch “more this year than any other time.”
Johnson told Carrie Muskat he was “able to throw it for strikes, and that was huge.” Johnson had the confidence in the pitch to throw it to right- and left-handed batters. Johnson said adding a third pitch and having the confidence to throw it was “a game changer.”
And he also changed his “mechanics a little to stay in line to the plate.” Johnson feels he is faster to the plate now, which is something he wanted to improve on.
While the numbers do not look good (1-2, 5.47 ERA, 1.66 WHIP), Johnson feels he benefited from his time in the Arizona Fall League. “Being able to get the input from other people molds you into the pitcher you want to become,” Johnson said.
Pierce Johnson is expected to begin the year with Triple-A Iowa.
Cubs Campaign Slogan
Anthony Castrovince posted campaign slogans for all 30 teams. This is an entertaining read. For the Cubs it’s … Wait ‘Til This Year.
Castrovince explained his decision for the slogan. “The incessant underdogs are now Vegas favorites, trying to abolish a World Series championship drought that has survived 27 U.S. presidential elections.”
News, Notes and Rumors
• Jake Arrieta is not happy about his arbitration date leaking. Arrieta will be in Arizona on Sunday, well ahead of the reporting dates for pitchers and catchers … and his hearing that is set for Tuesday, Feb. 9.
• David Ross would like to manage in the majors one day. FanGraphs talked to him about what his managerial style would be. And Ross shared several of his philosophies with David Laurila.
• The Orioles are still interested in signing RHP Yovani Gallardo according to Ken Rosenthal. Dan Duquette made a deal Thursday to add pitching to the Orioles roster. The Orioles acquired RHP Odrisamer Despaigne from the Padres for minor league RHP Jean Cosme. The Padres used the roster spot opened by the trade with Baltimore to officially announce signing RHP Fernando Rodney. The Orioles DFA’d LHP C.J. Riefenhauser to make room for Despaigne on the roster.
• The Orioles were busy Thursday and avoided arbitration with Brian Matusz. Matusz agreed to terms on a one-year, $3.9 million contract. Matusz filed at $4.4 million and the Orioles submitted a $3.5 million figure. The Orioles have one arbitration eligible player left … Zach Britton’s arbitration hearing is scheduled for Feb. 17, he’s looking for $7.9 million and the Orioles want to pay him $5.6 million.
• RHP Gavin Floyd has a deal with the Blue Jays according to multiple reports. Terms of his contract have not been released.
• According to a report from Andrew Simon, depth in starting rotation is a crucial commodity.
• The White Sox would like to add an outfielder and have been linked to the Dodgers and Andre Either. According to Bob Nightengale, the Dodgers “would love to move Andre Ethier” but there are not any signs of a potential match with the White Sox.
• The first arbitration case is in the books, and after one complete it is 1-0 players. LHP Drew Smyly won his arbitration case and received $3.75 million for the upcoming season. The Rays submitted a $3.2 million figure and lost their first arbitration hearing. The Rays were 6-0 before losing to Smyly.
• Due to the cost to acquire relievers via trades, the Diamondbacks may turn to free agent RHP Tyler Clippard to add a setup man to their bullpen. Dave Stewart told Nick Piecoro that he might not touch base with other free agent relievers outside of Clippard.
• Major League Baseball will host its International Showcase next week (Feb. 10-11) in the Dominican Republic.
• Former Cub-for-a-minute OF/1B Shane Peterson cleared waivers after the Brewers designated him for assignment last week. The Brewers outrighted him to Triple-A and invited him to Spring Training.
And last, but not least, the Cubs packed the bags and sent them to Spring Training … pitchers and catchers report to Mesa in two weeks.
This Day in Cubstory
2005 – Cubs signed free agent Jeromy Burnitz
1993 – Shawon Dunston Jr., born
1980 – Cubs released Derek Botelho
1977 – Rangers traded a PTBNL and cash to the Cubs for Darold Knowles. Texas sent Gene Clines to the Cubs on Feb. 15, 1977 to complete the trade.
1941 – Roberto Rodriguez, born
1931 – Cubs signed Hack Wilson to a one-year contract for $35,000. Wilson set the National League record for home runs (56) and the all-time record for RBI (191) in 1930.
1928 – Don Hoak, born
1916 – Dewey Williams, born
1890 – Max Flack, born
1856 – Harry Smith, born