We mentioned yesterday that the Chicago Cubs are approaching the point in the year where they need to shift their focus to the 2015 season. That doesn’t mean give up on 2014, but rather, use the rest of this season to prepare the players and the organization (as a whole) to pull the team out of the cellar in 2015. Here are some things that we need to see from the Cubs before their last game of the season on September 28th:
Get a good look a Jorge Soler:
Jorge Soler projects to be a middle-of-the-order bat and the Cubs’ starting right fielder for a long time and we need to see him in action. When Soler came over from Cuba, the Cubs’ signed him to a 9-year, $30 million contract so he is not subject to the same rules as the other Cubs’ prospects. For example, keeping Kris Bryant in AAA for another year buys the Cubs’ another year of control, where as Soler will make that $30 million over the next 9 years regardless of when he is called up. Entering play yesterday, Soler is hitting .322 with 12 home runs in 56 games between Rk, AA and AAA.
A bad start from Kyle Hendricks:
Chicago Cubs rookie, Kyle Hendricks has been unbelievable since making his major league debut on July 10th, posting a 5-1 record and a 1.66 ERA in seven starts. We have seen Hendricks do a lot of great things at the big league level but one thing we haven’t seen him do is bounce back from a bad start. The number one way to know that a rookie pitcher has finally “made it” in the big leagues is when he can have a bad outing, shake it off and come out and shove in his next appearance. Chicago Cubs ace, Jake Arrieta proved that he can bounce back when he followed a terrible start against the Colorado Rockies on July 31st (5 IP, 13 H, 9 ER) with a seven inning gem against the Milwaukee Brewers six days later (7.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER). In order to know how Kyle Hendricks fits into the Cubs’ future plans we need to see if/how he rebounds from a bad start.
Explore Minor League Pitching Depth
Despite the lack of good press, the Chicago Cubs have a decent crop of minor league pitchers and September is the perfect time to see just what they can do at the big league level. Most of the Cubs’ pitchers featured on the team’s Top 20 Prospect List aren’t quite ready for the big leagues, but guys like Dallas Beeler, Zac Rosscup and Eric Jokisch are worth a look. All three are in their mid-20’s and have had considerable success at AAA and the fact that they are not on the team’s top prospect list is irrelevant because those lists are overly subjective and are not a guarantee of future success. Plus, with the Cubs looking to make strides in building their pitching staff this off-season, taking a good look at what they already have would simply be doing their due diligence.
(stats per baseball-reference.com)
A decision on Mike Olt:
For much of the season, Mike Olt was the subject of many of our Monday morning articles, which is never a good thing. But since his miserable Cubs’ debut, Olt has been tearing up AAA, hitting .301 with seven home runs in 27 games. Olt isn’t eligible for arbitration until 2017 but it would be best if the Cubs could make a decision on his future with the team sooner rather than later. The Cubs’ third base logjam consists of Olt, Luis Valbuena and Kris Bryant right now and all three have shown the ability to hit at AAA but not at the big league level. Particularly where the Cubs will look to trade prospects to make a run, possibly as early as this off-season, it is important to know who fits into the plan and who doesn’t. Right now Mike Olt isn’t in those plans but his resurgence over the past month has brought his future back into consideration.
Get Arismendy Alcantara going:
As discussed yesterday, Arismendy Alcantara has struggled mightily since being moved out of the number two spot in the lineup and that needs to change. ‘Mendy is not a six hitter, has never been a six hitter and will probably never be a six hitter, so it is in the Cubs’ best interest to move him back to the top of the order where he is confortable and productive. Batting Javier Baez in the two hole is a logical move for his development but is it worth hurting ‘Mendy’s growth? Probably not. As it is right now, ‘Mendy is a big piece in the Cubs’ plan for the future, partly because of his talent, but also because of his versatility and if his struggles this year knock him out of the Cubs’ plans then they will have a significant hole that they need to compensate for. The Cubs’ are a better team with a productive Arismendy Alcantara in the lineup and they need to figure out how to get him going again.
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