19 Questions with Steve Holley

Once upon a time, Baseball America was the only game in town when it came to covering the minor leagues and prospectdom in general. As one can tell from yesterday's post, there are quite a few new kids on the block and the one making the most noise these days is Scout.com. Their team-specific approach has been a rather rousing success, and MVN can only hope they're bought out by Rupert Murdoch one day as well. And TCR is lucky to have the one-man show that runs Inside the Ivy, Steve Holley, answer a few questions about Scout.com and the Cubs minor league system. 1. Give us a little background on yourself and how you got into baseball writing and what eventually lead you to “Inside the Ivy”?

I ventured into sports journalism in the spring of 2000. Around that time, I met David Marran, the Sports Editor for the Kenosha Daily News in Wisconsin. Dave has had several books published on the subject of Cubs Trivia, and he ran a popular Cubs news site through Rivals.com so that’s how we me met. At the time, Rivals.com covered not only college sports, but the NFL and of course, Major League Baseball. I joined Scout.com a few years later when they managed to head up a group of former Rivals’ baseball editors to publish several of their team sites.

2. What’s the day-to-day job entail? How much do you get to travel to see the teams? Which Cubs personal are the most forthcoming with information? Does Oneri Fleita run and hide whenever he sees you?

I fill the role of editor, publisher, cross-checker and reporter all rolled into one. You can add photographer to that list whenever I’m at one of the ballparks during the summer. I do a lot of traveling and have been fortunate to do some beat reporting at various parks and press boxes over the last few years, and interview many of the Cubs’ top prospects and their coaches. The teams that are a little out of my region so to speak, we usually have beat writers assigned to cover those clubs.

Most all of the Cubs’ personnel are very forthcoming, and Mr. Fleita is one of the most forthright and honest men I’ve ever spoken to. No Farm Director in baseball knows his system as thoroughly as he does.

3. One of the most impressive things I find on “Inside the Ivy” are the in-depth interviews with the players. How do you go about choosing the players you’ll interview and how friendly are you with the players? Are there any specific players you’re really chummy with?

I’d like to think I’m chummy with most every person I interview. With that said, Steve Wilstein of the Associated Press once wrote that there is a very fine line between being friendly with the person you’re interviewing and being friends with that person.

As for how players are chosen for interviews, that’s a really good question. Obviously, you have to find an angle on each player and then get a read on that player before you can really dive into it. In other words, there has to be a reason for why you’d like to interview a player. If you’re lucky, that will lead to a good interview.

4. The Cubs hired Tim Wilken last offseason as their new scouting director. Have you had any dealings with him and what can you tell us about him if so? Also, have you noticed any changes through the system in terms of instruction or parts of the game that are stressed since he’s come along.

I’ve talked to Tim on numerous occasions and the one thing I’ve been able to pick up on from him is that the Cubs are placing more of an emphasis on base-running since he arrived. Bob Dernier was added to the Cubs’ staff of Roving Instructors and it will be interesting to see what kind of an effect he has on Felix Pie’s base-running skills next season. Tim is one of the most down-to-earth and knowledgeable people in the industry and I suspect that’s one reason why he was just named East Coast Scout of the Year.

5. What’s your reaction and those you’ve spoken to in regards to Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg heading to Peoria to manage?

The reaction from those I’ve spoken to in and around Peoria has been very positive. The conspiracy theorists seem to believe that this is merely an audition for a future big league job with the Cubs. Whatever transpires to be the case, I hope Sandberg has a more enjoyable experience in the dugout than another Hall of Fame infielder did a few years back. I’m speaking of course of Mike Schmidt, who from my understanding spent the majority of his time in the Florida State League complaining more about post-game meals than anything else. I hope Ryno enjoys the art of managing, but most importantly, I hope he does a good job in helping to develop the young players.

6. Before we breakdown the 2007 list, I wanted to ask about a pitcher that didn’t qualify because of his time spent with the big league club, Angel Guzman. It appears there’s no room for him at the major league level. Are the Cubs still very high on him and has he appeared to lose any of his “stuff” before his injury streak hit? Also, was there any hint of bitterness from him during his call-up in June where he was only used twice in a three weeks?

Angel is usually very outgoing and chatty, but it was hard to get a good read on whether he was bitter or not when I interviewed him last July after he had returned to Iowa. Would he have liked to have stayed with the big league team? Sure, but I think he understood his situation at the time. As for his stuff, he still throws pretty hard (92-94 mph) and has shown good command overall. It was encouraging to see the number of innings he logged a year ago.

7. To this year’s top 50 list and the Scout.com Baseball Prospect guide that it is publishing (due to be shipped on March 1st). First, what will we find in the magazine that we can’t find at the various Scout.com team websites?

I’d say that you’ll probably find a little more opinion than what we normally showcase on the website. Because of all the rankings, we were able to feature a little more analysis in addition to the news and scouting reports we’ve picked up from the coaches.

8. Now how did you go about compiling this list? How much is your opinion versus the opinion of scouts and coaches and other baseball personal? What are the criteria used to determine their rankings? How much do their stats play into it?

That’s a good question. Stats almost always play some role or another when it comes to rankings, but you have to be careful not to get a little carried away by them. The rankings are compiled based primarily on what the scouts and coaches are telling us rather than what I might feel about a certain player. As much as these players are spread out during the course of a season from town to town, it would be impossible for me or anyone else to get as good a read on them as the scouts, coaches and managers. As for criteria, a lot of factors went into this: potential, ceiling, makeup, tools, body, build, and so on.

9. As for the players, did Iowa second basemen Mike Fontenot kick someone’s dog? His offensive numbers seem to suggest a player who could contribute something to the major league level but he’s been ignored by the big league club including being passed over for a spring training invite. Is he just biding his time until he can get out of the organization or is there any hope for him? Can he handle anything besides second base and is a utility role possibly still in the cards?

Fontenot is an interesting study. As you say, by looking at his career totals he has always hit well for average and generally posted solid on-base numbers. However, I know there have been some questions raised with regards to certain areas of his game, particularly his awareness. To give you an example, a couple of years ago in Omaha, he made a fine running catch over near the right field line and proceeded to toss the ball into the stands – with only two outs. As a result, the runner on third tagged and went home to score.

Also, you have to understand that the Cubs are very loyal to players drafted and signed by their scouts and Fontenot, through no fault of his own, is not one of those players. I don’t believe he’s necessarily in anyone’s doghouse and he could reasonably be a 24th or 25th man on many a club’s roster. I just don’t think it will ever be the Cubs’.

10. Jose Ceda(#21) was our prize for trading Todd Walker to the Padres. He’s obviously a long way away from the majors, but how good can he become and how good is that fastball?

Ceda is a guy whom the Padres found in the middle of a rainstorm in the Dominican Republic a couple of years ago. They clocked his fastball at 99 mph and he’s not lost any of that velocity since coming over to the Cubs. Both the Cubs and Padres have likened his potential to a Lee Smith or Jose Mesa type pitcher. That might eventually persuade the Cubs to put him in a relief role, but what’s particularly encouraging is that not only does he consistently throw in the mid-90s, he’s shown quality command thus far.

11. Does Billy Petrick(#17) have much of a shot of regaining the form that once made him a top prospect in the organization or have the injuries taken too much of a toll?

The early returns on Petrick are promising. He lost some velocity while pitching hurt at Daytona prior to the shoulder surgery he had in 2005, but he was throwing in the mid-90s at Boise last year. I know he had to work through some command issues upon his return last year, but he seemed to square those away. The Cubs shut him down after sending him back to Daytona, but it was just precautionary.

12. You gave Brian Dopirak (#11) a pretty high ranking despite two consecutive disappointing seasons. Does it look like he’ll start in AA again and is the leg finally healed?

I spoke to Brian a few weeks ago. The leg and more specifically the fractured metatarsus (i.e. the pinky toe) in his left foot are all but completely healed. As you know, he had a second surgery performed on the bone near the tail end of the season. After speaking to him, I can tell you that he is as anxious as ever to get back on the field. I normally don’t make predictions on a player’s upcoming season, but I expect big results from him in 2007 and feel he would have had them last season if not for the injury.

13. Alright now, to the top 10; Ryan Harvey[#8] seems like an enigma wrapped in a puzzle. Prodigous power (when he makes contact) along with a cannon in right. He seems to be regressing though when you look at his overall numbers but continues to get promoted through the system. What is it that you think is hampering him? And do you think the Cubs will ever think about putting him back on the pitcher’s mound as he did in high school?

Scouts have always gone gaga over Harvey and with his frame and power potential, that is to be expected. However, he cleverly disguised a mediocre .257 average at Peoria a couple of years back with 24 home runs and 100 RBIs. Last year, I think folks really began to see him for what he is at this point in his career – a power bat that either hits big or misses even bigger. I doubt he’ll ever be the kind of player that finishes near the top of any league in average and his strikeout totals show no sign of tapering off. With that said, potential being what it is, I suspect he’ll always be at or near the top of prospect rankings lists. I haven’t heard anything with regards to him going back to pitching, but will keep my ears open.

14. Scott Moore (#7) seems intriguing to me. A former first round pick who displays good power and plate discipline yet looks to be blocked by Aramis Ramirez for years to come. I know he’s been trying some other positions like shortstop and the outfield. What are his chances of finding a new position and do you or anyone you talk to get a sense he could play shortstop at the major league level? If he could handle it defensively, he’d likely end up being quite a plus with the bat at that position.

Moore got some reps at second base during the 2005 Instructional League and was of course drafted as a shortstop. The Cubs preach versatility to most every player in the system and Moore is no different. With Ramirez blocking his way, he’ll almost certainly have to catch on at a new position before he’s able to have any sort of long-term major league career with the Cubs. As for plate discipline, his strikeouts totals were a little high last year, but his coaches at Double-A were quite pleased with the job he did in the second half to cut back on them. I was covering the Southern League All-Star Game last July and can tell you that he had everybody in the pressbox and clubhouses buzzing. He was clearly the cream of the crop that night.

15. Eric Patterson(#4), how different is he from his brother and what can you tell us about his defense? Is he going to be able to cut it at second base or is a position change in the future?

The errors at second are obviously a concern, but I’m not reading too much into him playing center just yet and I’d wager a full month’s rent that he’ll start 2007 at second base barring an ungodly spring. To the best of my knowledge, the Cubs are not asking him to focus more on the outfield than second. Again, it all goes back to what I said earlier about the Cubs preaching versatility to their minor league players. The talk of him moving to the outfield got a lot of publicity because he is one of the top prospects in not only the Cubs system but all of baseball.

As for the difference between Eric and Corey, Eric is more outgoing and genuinely comes off happier. Subsequently, that can help lead to a more relaxed approach and better results. Also, I think Eric differs from Corey in the sense that he isn’t fixated on rushing through the farm system. The Cubs have taken a lot of heat for rushing Corey through the system, but I’ve always felt it was a two-way street. The fact is, Corey Patterson did not want to be in the minor leagues at all. To some degree, you could say that he sort of pressured the Cubs into granting him his big league debut as quickly as they did. The organization won’t make the same mistake twice, either with Patterson or Pie.

16. Out of our top three pitching prospects, Donald Veal(#2), Mark Pawelek(#3), and Sean Gallagher(#5), is there much difference in their ceilings? Who can we expect in the majors first out of the group? What do each of them still have to work on to get there?

A common misperception is that Pawelek and Veal are power pitchers while Gallagher is not. In reality, this is only partly true. While Gallagher doesn’t typically throw as hard as Veal or Pawelek, he nevertheless has the ability to run his fastball up in the mid-90s.

Pawelek obviously needs to work on better strength and conditioning. He really took one on the chin for showing up to spring training out of shape last year, but this offseason he had a better idea of what is expected of him. Plus, he’s very strong mentally and will be able to block out his struggles last year and move forward. From a pitching standpoint, he spent a good bit of last season working on location.

Veal is the one person in the Cubs’ system that I’m most excited about, but he could stand to cut back on his walks. As you know, we named him our 2006 Pitcher of the Year and as good as his season was, imagine what he could do in ’07 if his strikeout to walk ratio is a shade better. He spent a good amount of time last year working on his changeup, which in the end became as effective as his fastball when it was on. He’d probably like to polish up his curveball a little more, but I sensed he was overly pleased with its progress last year.

Gallagher just needs to keep building on the momentum he’s been riding. Few players that were drafted in the 12th round progress as quickly through a farm system as he has, and he has mounds of confidence under his belt. I know that his mechanics got into a bit of a funk at West Tenn right after he was promoted there last year, but he straightened everything out once he went back to basics. I’m not going to single out Les Strode (the Cubs’ Pitching Coordinator last season), but from what I’ve heard and from what Sean has told me personally, Les and some of the coaches got a hold of him and tried to change a few things. It didn’t work out and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

17. Felix Pie (#1) might as well be a frog in a freshman biology class for how often his game has been dissected. He seems right on the brink of the major leagues but there are definitely still question marks on his game. Will he be making his Cub debut this season and what do you think are his chances of sticking with the major league club? Do fans need to worry that he’ll be the next Corey Patterson or can he overcome his free swinging ways? (*Questions were asked before Floyd was signed and Soriano said he'd try out centerfield)

I think he’ll make his major league debut some time in ’07, yes. Whether it’s as a September call-up, a mid-season addition or even right out of Spring Training as the opening day starter in center, that remains to be seen. A lot of it will depend on how well he does in camp and also whether or not the Cubs add a free agent like Darin Erstad or Steve Finley. The longer the Cubs go without a definitive starter in center, I’d say the job is Felix’s to lose.

18. Are there any hidden gems in the Cubs system that seem to be overlooked at the moment? Anyone I didn’t ask about that, that I should have? Basically, who’s the next Ryan Theriot?

I’ve been very impressed by what Sam Fuld has done to this point. I know a lot of people will point to his age, but he’s always been a solid hitter that gets on base, runs quite well and has a genuinely accurate throwing arm in center. His on-base numbers are quite impressive (in fact, he reached base safely in 33 straight games for Daytona last year) and I want to say Baseball America gave him the honor of having the best strike zone discipline in the Cubs’ system. Of course, I was also pretty high on Adam Greenberg a couple of years back and both are eerily similar in terms of size, background and the numbers they each put up this early in their careers.

From a pitching standpoint, Clay Rapada is a guy that has always intrigued me and we have him ranked very high on our list. He has that deceiving, sidearm windup and is able to get a lot of good sink on the ball. He throws on average of 88-91 and features four quality pitches (fastball, change, curve, slider) for strikes. Barring an injury, I’ll personally donate a bottle of 12-year-old scotch if he’s not pitching at Wrigley before September.

19. And finally, When are those free Prospect guides coming for all our readers?

As soon as Scout.com lets me know, I’ll let you know! Seriously, you can always tell when Scout.com is picking up the hotel tab because the Bibles in each room come attached to a chain …

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TCR would like to thank Steve for the insight and time he provided us and he has graciously agreed to try and answer any of your questions today (time permitting), just drop them in the comments below and he'll do his best to answer them all. Otherwise you can catch Steve's work at the website or tune in once a week once the season starts to the Daytona Cubs postgame radio show, available locally or via the Internet.

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Comments

[...] 1. Give us a little background on yourself and how you got into baseball writing and what eventually lead you to Inside the Ivy ? – More – [...]

Steve,

I feel a bit bad asking questions after that exhaustive interview, so feel free not to answer, but...

Huseby: What did he throw before his injury? Does he throw the same now? What's the plan for him, more AZ or a full season league?

There have been a few recent posts about the draft and the consensus here is that the Cubs should draft Matt Wieters. What do you think the likelyhood is of Hendry and Wilkins coming to that same conclusion if he's available?

Brian Dopirak... and is the leg finally healed?

I spoke to Brian a few weeks ago. The leg and more specifically the fractured metatarsus (i.e. the pinky toe) in his left foot are all but completely healed. As you know, he had a second surgery performed on the bone near the tail end of the season.
----------
Awesome interview. Thanks Steve and Rob.

I believe Brian Dopirak had a fracture at the base of his 5th metatarsal. That is the metatarsal that is connected to the little toe, but since it is the base of that bone the fracture is really at the outside of the midfoot. I've not seen any comment in detail on his injury/surgery so my comments are more general to fractures at that location. There are three fracture patterns in that location. One fx is more of an avulsion of the base (metaphysis) due to forces from the peroneal tendon which attaches in that location. This pattern tends to heal without surgery, but it does require casting or a fracture brace. The 2nd fx pattern is away from the base (metaphysis-diaphysis), closer to the shaft of the metatarsal bone(diaphysis) and has the nickname of "Jones fracture". This one is harder to get healing to occur because the blood supply to the bone in that area is not as good. The 3rd fx is a variant of the Jones fracture and is just considered a stress fracture. Stress fractures can occur anywhere in the shaft of the metatarsal (and in other metatarsals). Stress fractures are more like small cracks in a car windshield and can occur with less one time force but more repetition, such as intensive training with impact. In these fractures, the bone can heal naturally, but it is very slow to heal. In high performance athletes the Jones fractures often get treated surgically, with a screw plus bone graft to get healing more reliably. Without surgery the fractures here can take 4-6 months to heal and if the quality of healing often isn't good, so it can be susceptible to reinjury. Therefore, surgery is considered because of the prolonged natural healing course of this fracture.

http://tinyurl.com/23jfhg

This is good stuff. People need to get over both Brian Dopirak and Ryan Harvey because either is doubtful to have a major league career. Dopirak is a Jason Dubois clone. To me 2007 is a make or break year for Eric Patterson. Either he conquers some of the deficiencies to his game or he drops off the radarscope. And as stated before, I'm just not sold on Felix Pie. Seems to me that he's a poor man's Juan Encarnacion in the making. That isn't altogether bad description of a major league outfielder, but certainly falls way short of original expectations. I confess having less perspective on the pitchers. Of the names bandied about, Sean Gallagher and Donald Veal seem most intriguing. Angel Guzman is on the verge of being a toss-in type in a trade. Sean Marshall is a swell kid, but I'm not sold on his assortment of pitches. His future may be as a Neal Cotts type out of the bullpen.

Steve, did you write the questions and answers all by yourself? I love reading interviews where you talk to yourself.

Great piece Rob and Steve.

Nice read guys.

Is Billy Petrick wearing a Boise jersey?

That a rockin' jersey where can I get one?

Steve,

If I sign up for an account with InsideTheIvy, do I also receive access to college football recruiting information and all of the other information on Scout.com?

Thanks.

TIME TO MAKE YOUR TRAVEL ARRANGEMENTS:

REPORTING DATES: Cubs pitchers and catchers report to Mesa on Wednesday, February 14 and are scheduled to work out for the first time on Thursday, February 15. Position players are due to report on Monday, February 19, with the first full-squad workout scheduled for Tuesday, February 20.

WORKOUT LOCATIONS: Prior to the first Spring Training game, the Cubs will work out from February 15-February 28 at Fitch Park, located at 160 E. 6th Place. With the start of games on March 1, the club will move to HoHoKam Park, located at 1235 North Center Street.

Steve, did you write the questions and answers all by yourself? I love reading interviews where you talk to yourself.

Is that a joke? I asked the questions of course...

If I sign up for an account with InsideTheIvy, do I also receive access to college football recruiting information and all of the other information on Scout.com?

I'm fairly certain you do, I have access to all the scout.com sites with my id/password.

http://cubs.scout.com/2/616224.html

Steve did a nice write-up on the site over there as well and he's going to be on the Des Moines radio today around 6 CST. (1460-AM KXNO)

I forgot to mention he's also on pre-game broadcasts of the Boise Hawks once a week as well.

That a rockin’ jersey where can I get one?

Either try the Boise hawks site (www.boisehawks.com) or www.milb.com

Thanks guys.

Terrific job - really interesting!

A bit off topic but thanks for the info on 5th metatarsal fractures.
I fractured mine in late Nov and it lead to an ankle sprain. I was told no surgery was required and it has indeed been slow to heal. Not being a high performance athlete I have only been getting minimal physical therapy with crappy insurance. I got more detailed info from your post than from my doctor ( In fairness I did not ask much detail beyond how long would it take to heal). So again thanks for the detail

speaking of billy petrick...what's up with his baseballcube sponsor?

http://www.thebaseballcube.com/players/P/Bill...

creeeeeeeeeeeepy.

You got something against Marlon Brando look-alikes, crunch?

well, im more referring to this:

NAMBLA Little League - We at NAMBL salute Billy Petrick for rising to the occasion as a young man and fulfilling not only his potential, but the fantasys of us old pervs.

oh yeah...south park...i get it now.

btw, deal on the table for schmidt 3/44.

Harang signed a 4/36.5 deal with the Reds

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cartman_Joins_NA...

NAMBLA reference apparently....I had no idea either, funny though.

Funny interview with Jim Leyland regarding Neifi Perez-

http://www.detroittigersweblog.com/2007/01/ji...

haha Jacos...

That South Park episode was disturbingly funny. Cartman was on AIM and after he typed something like -I'm a 9 year old boy looking for older men for companionship - he got like like 25 IMs in a second from Internet pervs.

btw, deal on the table for schmidt 3/44

> good one crunch. never gets old, well at least to you apparently.

Slow day.

I went to the web site for Boise they say the jerseys are game worn and go for $ 100.00. I like the throw back look on it.

RobG-
Did you get my email with trivia question?

If the Reds can extend Arroyo, and Bailey progresses as expected, they will have a pretty solid front-end of the rotation.

I'm sure Krivsky will find a way to screw it up though.

I did jacos, thanks. I'll throw it up one of these days....

You can always try Ebay too for the jerseys.

Yeah really, no questions for Steve? Traffic is up, but the comments are way down the last two days.

I don't buy that Arroyo's that good, his ERA+ of 146 last year doesn't seem sustainable to me. I think he goes back to being the slightly above average pitcher that he's always been.

There's one game worn road Boise jersey on ebay right now. It's a size 52 which is XXL I believe. It has #53 on the back. Bid is at $49.99 with a few days left

http://tinyurl.com/yvke5y

check that, it's #43

I'm not sure if Steve monitors the draft, but if he does, I'd be curious to hear what he thinks the Cubs will do with that 3rd pick.

http://tinyurl.com/2al29s

for a buck you can have your own Billy Petrick card

...in a year it will be worth, well ah, real money.

(Yogi sez: and that's as good as cash)

someone in the BA chat asked Callis about the Cubs woeful 1st round picks and Tim Wilken, here's the response...

It tells you a lot about the nature of the draft that those picks all were sound at the time. Christensen would have gone higher in 1999 if he hadn’t been suspended, had success in the minors and then got hurt. Montanez was a deserving No. 3 overall pick in 2000 but it turned out he wasn’t a good shortstop–the Cubs weren’t the only team that didn’t see that happening. Prior was supposed to have injury-proof mechanics–wrong. Brownlie was the best college pitcher in his draft but his stuff never came back after he got biceps tendinitis. Harvey didn’t figure to last until the Cubs picked sixth in 2003. Johnson was a gamble that hasn’t paid off. Pawelek would have gone a little higher in the draft is he had been considered signable for straight slot money. So I don’t think there was anything wrong with philosophy or scouting. They just haven’t worked out. I will repeat the “Tim Wilken has a great track record” mantra because he has the best track record among scouting directors. So I’d have faith in him if I were a Cubs fan.

and Grant Johnson was a 2nd round pick in 2004 as well, hence the gamble.

Bad luck seems to follow some guys.

Mitch Williams' car set ablaze by friendly grill.

http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/16615993.htm

Who do you think the Cubs will take in the upcoming draft at #3 overall?

So Sayeth the God of WAR!

Steve, another topic I'm curious about: can you shed any light on the Cubs new efforts to scout Asia? Hendry mentioned it briefly at the beginning of the offseason and seemed to be saying that efforts were already underway, but I haven't heard much since then.

Is Soto the only catching prospect the Cubs have?

reyes can catch, too...but he's more of a defensive type.

there's mark reed and jake fox, too, but neither are good defensive catchers.

If the draft were held today, then catcher Matt Wieters is the guy I covet most.

catcher matt wieters will be lucky to stay a catcher, honestly.

still way too early to take him out of the position, but his arm is really the only reason he's there now. a move to 3rd/1st is probably in his future.

still, he's a polished hitter on the college level and the best available in the 07 draft class as of now.

royals sign todd wellemeyer 1yr/635K guaranteed major league contract.

not bad for a guy florida didnt even have room for...or texas...

when was wellemeyer with texas? royals picked him off waivers after florida got rid of him

oops...i was thinking of koronka...

or Jon Leicester

or Shammy

just wanted you guys to know that Steve emailed me and Scout.com has him jumping through some hoops at the moment, but he will answer your questions later today/tonight....

In Earth-shattering news, the Cubs just signed RP Héctor Almonte to a minor league deal. Maybe Arizona Phil could give us a scouting report on Almonte?

Rob G. — February 6, 2007 @ 1:53 pm

I don’t buy that Arroyo’s that good, his ERA+ of 146 last year doesn’t seem sustainable to me. I think he goes back to being the slightly above average pitcher that he’s always been.
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Yea I agree Arroyo pitched over his head last year, but he's still not a bad #3, especially in our division.

Arroyo being a #3 is obviously dependent on Harang staying healthy and Homer Bailey turning into the pitcher he's projected to be though. Hopefully, for our sake, neither of those happen.

http://www.thebaseballcube.com/players/A/Hect...

well here's his baseball cube page..

51.2 IP of major league ball, 31 years old

well Harang's good, is Bailey being given a job this spring or are they making him earn it?

Rob G. — February 6, 2007 @ 5:30 pm

well Harang’s good, is Bailey being given a job this spring or are they making him earn it?
---------------------------------------

Everything I have seen has given me the impression they are making him earn it.

Surprisingly, the organization has been pretty patient with him. Living in Reds country, I know many of their fans were calling for him to be promoted during the thick of the Wild Card race last year, even if it was just a bullpen spot, and they didn't budge.

Of course I don't think patience is better than trading away your starting RF'er and SS for bullpen help.

Steve may know a little more about the timetable on Bailey. It seemed from the interview that his coverage of West Tenn. and the Southern League was pretty extensive.

yeah, I know he's based in New Orleans (or somewhere in Louisiana), so he gets to the AA and Hi-A games the most.

Thanks for the many questions all. I will do my best to answer, starting with Huseby:

I know he was back in the mid-90s with his velocity in Mesa last summer with the Arizona Rookies. His control seemed all right, but 17 innings isn't much of a sample size. As for what he was like before the injury in high school, I honestly couldn't tell you. The person who covers the players pre-draft for us is Frank Piliere of Scout.

Now, what I can say about the '07 draft... I asked Tim Wilken for three names that would be on his "Christmas List" for this June. They were: No. 1 David Price (obviously), No. 2. Andrew Brackman from NC State and No. 3 was in fact Matt Wieters. Of course Brackman had that hip injury, but incidentally these three were all projected to go 1-3 in our recent Scout mock draft by Frank. Last year Colvin was a surprise pick by most of the experts, but one of the three players mentioned above will be available when the Cubs select. Everyone wants Price, but I don't see him slipping past both KC and Tampa Bay. Best bet would be for Tampa to continue to ignore pitching and Kansas City to feel they don't have the money to sign Price to the contract he'll want.

Whoever asked about the Scout subscription earlier... yes, you can access to all of the team sites: college recruiting included. Today being LOI day, their college content will be at its best.

Back to the prospects, I think someone asked if Soto was the only real catching prospect in the system. I'm not sure if that was sarcasm, but I can assure you he is not. In fact, I was a little surprised that BA ranked him in their top 30. A few catchers...

Jake Fox: Polished hitter, coaches love his bat; needs to improve his defense. Very motivated player.

Mark Reed: His bat hasn't come around, but too early to worry about that right now. Jody Davis really took Reed under his wing last year and took on a more personal rooting interest in him from what I understand. I hear he had a great Instructional League.

Soto? There's really not one thing in his game that stands out above the other aspects.

Muyco: Cubs aren't worried about his struggles with the bat and he did throw out almost 50 percent of runners last year. Has to count for something.

I will check back in later tonight to try and answer some more of your questions. Thanks for having me, Rob and crew!

-Steve

bailey's got some control issues to deal with first.

his walk totals are low, but just cuz a guy has a 1.00-1.20 whip in A/AA doesnt mean he's a machine.

he's still working on his secondary, too.

its not that he's wild...its just that he's inconsistent.

Bailey will get a shot at the 5th starter and so far the contenders (according to Krivsky on mlb radio) are a rehabing Paul Wilson, E.Ramirez and Bailey unless they sign a bottom dwelling FA like S.Trachsel. I'd imagine it will go to E.Ramirez to begin the season due to all the off days in April where he won't be needed for more than 2 starts. Of course Bailey could dominate in ST and be carried from opening day...wouldn't be the best idea but you never know. I'd guess we probably won't see him until May.

oh and Kirk Saarlos

Thanks Steve, I only knew of Soto and I can't remember the last good catching prospect this team has developed since Rick Wilkins.

David Kaplan on Mothership WGN radio interviewed George Castle promoting his book "Entangled in Ivy". Sounds like there will be some fun behind the scenes looks at how much blundering cub management has done in the Andy McFail years.

On the radio he related how understaffed the Cubs have been during the McPhail era. He gave some examples of how incompetent Ed Lynch was (uncommunicative and hesitant to make transactions by being unrealistic in his demands), as well as pointing out what a terrible misevaluation McPhail made by picking him as his first GM. Instead of picking an experienced GM, he put someone with inadequate front office experience (only 3 yrs) in the role.

Interactions with Dusty are there too, citing that Castle was the one who asked Baker if the club needed a "remedial course in baserunning". Dusty the next day (after more baserunning blunders by Ramirez and Patterson in the same inning) said, "you're not going to ask the Remedial Question again? Castle replied, "what do you want me to call it, Little League."

Apparently the book has some confidences Baker shared with him regarding Sosa although he didn't elaborate on the air. He said Baker didn't hold grudges against the sportswriters.

He was complementary of McDonough early actities to rectify McFails shortcomings as in adding payroll, pushing for the hiring Randy Bush as assistant GM and restoring a Pacific rim scout (Steve Wilson) as it was several years the Cubs went without one (after DLee's dad left the organization).

Wait a minute the Cubs had no scout in the Pacific rim for years? No wonder the Cubs couldn't give a shit about scouting Japanese players.

Oh and the Yankees are making a big push into the China market as they think that will be the next great source of talent in the future.

cubs have had scouts in the pacific rim...leon lee used to work it and snagged choi. stockstill worked austraillia and signed a couple guys, some 'jorgenson' (not his real name, cant remember) was one of the aussie he signed.

lee left, thankfully, before his hotel scandal crap...dunno who's been covering things out there the past few years...cant recall any cubs signings out there since ryu.

the Red Sox already beat them to China

Thank you Steve.

Here's hoping the D-Rays and the Royals alike decide they need pitching (which they both do...).

crunch, on Wieters' defense, just what I have seen on the net disagrees with your info. The consensus is that he's not a polished catcher, but he's a premium athlete and between closing and school just hasn't been able to devote enough time to developing his catching skills. A Cape Cod league top 100 prospects named him #1, and mentioned his natural leadership skills lend themselves to playing catcher. He was 2nd in the league in batting and I think HRs as well, so I think he isn't going to have any problem adjusting to wooden bats.

http://www.brewerfan.net/ViewAmateurPlayerPro...

http://www.capecodbaseball.org/News/News2006/...

There's some disagreement over his height (6'4" or 6'6"), for whatever reason. I think 6'6" is the consensus.

My 'Dream Draft' for this June:

3. Wieters, Matt C S/R 6-6/230 College Georgia Tech (backup Vitters, Josh 3B R/R 6-3/190 High School Cypress (CA) )

31. McGeary, Jack LHP L/L 6-3/200 High School Roxbury Latin (MA) *may need signability concerns to drop to the Cubs

85. Kulbacki, Kellen LF L/L 5-11/205 College James Madison

Steve,

If you're still reading. Any thoughts on Billy Muldowney? His numbers transitioned quite well from college to Boise. Are the Cubs envisioning him as a back of the rotation guy, or do they think they have something more or less on their hands?

crunch — February 6, 2007 @ 10:30 pm
cubs have had scouts in the pacific rim…leon lee used to work it and snagged choi. stockstill worked austraillia and signed a couple guys, some ‘jorgenson’ (not his real name, cant remember) was one of the aussie he signed.

lee left, thankfully, before his hotel scandal crap…dunno who’s been covering things out there the past few years…cant recall any cubs signings out there since ryu.

================================

CRUNCH: I know one Australian player signed by the Cubs (in 1999) was 2B Adam Morrissey, who was traded to OAK after the 2001 season for Mark Bellhorn.

As for Asia, nobody has been assigned to the Pacific Rim in the years since Leon Lee was relieved of his duties, although occasionally Jim Hendry would send one of his assistants (like Gary Hughes, Ken Kravec, or Keith Champion) to Asia to scout specific players, especially last season when the Cubs were looking at a few potential Japanese free-agents who were considered MLB-ready.

But the Cubs have had no constant presence in Asia (especially Korea or Taiwan) since L-Lee, and that resulted in zero signings in Asia over the past five years.

As I wrote here at TCR a couple of months ago (12-1-06):

Speaking of scouts, after not having a Pacific Rim scout for several years (ever since Derrek-Lee's dad, Leon, was fired), the Cubs have named ex-Cub pitcher Steve Wilson (who has lived in Taiwan for the last ten years) as their Pacific Rim Scout (apparently Bill Murray wasn't available). Wilson will give the Cubs a much-needed "go-to guy" in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and China (and Australia).

It is important for the Cubs to have somebody in Asia who understands the cultural differences and business operations in-place in the various countries, and who can effectively scout (and more importantly, sign) amateur and professional players out of Japan, Korea, and Taiwan (especially Korea and Taiwan, since Japanese players are more-tightly controlled within Japan), and maybe even China, since Asia may well be to MLB in the 21st century what Latin America was to MLB the last half of the 20th Century (which is to say, a Gold Mine when it comes to developing baseball players).

During the period when Leon Lee was Cubs Pacific Rim scout (1998-2002), the Cubs signed 1B Hee-Seop Choi (1999), C Yoon-Min Kweon (1999), and RHP Jae-Kuk Ryu (2001) out of Korea, but no Japanese players, and no Taiwanese players. Hopefully, Steve Wilson will get better results, and nothing will get "Lost in Translation."

Andrew Brackman is going to be a boom or bust pick. And his developmental curve will no doubt be long. Randy Johnson is one of the very few super giants who was able to get his mechanics in order enough to have success in the bigs. And it took the Big Unit until his late 20's to do it.

jacos — February 6, 2007 @ 2:49 pm
Is Soto the only catching prospect the Cubs have?

crunch — February 6, 2007 @ 2:58 pm
reyes can catch, too…but he’s more of a defensive type.

there’s mark reed and jake fox, too, but neither are good defensive catchers.

============================

JACOS AND CRUNCH: Jose Reyes was non-tendered on 12-12-06, and I don't believe the Cubs have re-signed him. But before he was let go, Reyes was indeed the best all-around defensive catcher in the organization.

As for Jake Fox and Mark Reed, Fox has major problems with "receiving" but he throws OK. Reed throws even better and is a decent receiver, but he has zero power and little patience at the plate, although he might hit for a decent average.

If he makes it to the big leagues, Fox will,probably end up being a back-up corner OF-1B-RHPH who can catch in a pinch.

Reed kind of reminds me of a left-handed hitting Brad Ausmus, but even if he continues to progress onward to the major leagues, he'll probably have to platoon with a right-handed hitting catcher, or he might eventually morph into a utility guy (C-3B-OF), because of his athleticism.

In my opinion (and I've seen all of them), the Cubs have no catchers in their organization who I can envision as an everyday MLB catcher. Zero. None.

Soto, Fox, Reed, and Chris Robinson could be MLB back-up guys at some point, and if Jake Muyco ever learns to hit even a little bit, he could maybe evolve into a Steve Lake-type back-up catcher (because he has an outstanding arm and occasional power). But none of them are front-line types.

If you’re still reading. Any thoughts on Billy Muldowney? His numbers transitioned quite well from college to Boise. Are the Cubs envisioning him as a back of the rotation guy, or do they think they have something more or less on their hands?

Unfortunately I believe scout.com has put Steve back in his cage, Baseball America rated Muldowney with the best change in the Cubs system. He was #41 on the Scout.com list, here's his excerpt: (Hopefully Steve won't kill me for this):

Shortly after the draft, Pitt head baseball coach Joe Jordano called the Cubs’ eighth-round pick from his school “the full package.”

Armed with a fastball that routinely registers in the low 90s, a changeup, plus a breaking ball for an out-pitch, Muldowney overcame some elbow inflammation shortly after the draft to post genuinely solid numbers in his first taste of pro ball.

Keeping up with the pace he set in college of being a strike-thrower who limits the walk, Muldowney displayed good control and averaged almost one strikeout per inning at short-season, Low-A Boise this past season. He finished his two-year career at Pitt second on the school’s all-time strikeout list with 188 in 166 1/3 innings.

“He’s got three good pitches to work with and has good command and movement on all of them,” said Cubs area scout Lukas McKnight, who signed Muldowney. “He’s just a guy you can really see making it to the big leagues. We knew he probably wasn’t a first-round talent, but he was one of those guys I really targeted.”

Steve,

*DELETED BY MODERATOR*

J,

Unprovoked attacks on our guests is kind of frowned upon here at TCR. Please find another forum for your criticisms....

"The consensus is that he’s not a polished catcher, but he’s a premium athlete and between closing and school just hasn’t been able to devote enough time to developing his catching skills."

yeah, he can throw and target, but he's got mike piazza disease when it comes to almost everything from the point where the ball hits his mit. he comes out of the crouch inconsistantly clumbsy and doesnt set up for his motion to throw really well.

not to say this will make him an automatic change in position once he's drafted. he's not one of those catchers who will be drafted to play 1st or 3rd out of the box most likely no matter who drafts him. he's got youth and comfort there and that counts for something even with the clumbsy footwork. that's not a death sentence for him.

Guests? That was for Holley.. unless he really is the Cubs' PR guy now. How about you pass my questions on to him and let him answer for himself.

Steve Holley was a guest to our site and took time out of his schedule to answer our questions, so yes, a guest.

And I did pass along the comment to him...

For the rest of our readers, I'm fairly certain that "J" is Jason Szuminski

http://www.thebaseballcube.com/players/S/Jaso...

Steve may know a little more about the timetable on Bailey. It seemed from the interview that his coverage of West Tenn. and the Southern League was pretty extensive.

Steve did mention to me that the Jaxx players thought Bailey was kind of a punk and that Chris Walker took exception to a beanball at his head apparently after the Jaxx had beat up on him a little...

Thanks for the info Rob G. I have to admit, the Cubs do a pretty good job of turning under the radar guys into legitimate pitching prospects. I just wish they could do the same with some hitters.

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