10 Questions with Steve Holley
Last year we did 19 questions with Inside the Ivy's Steve Holley. Due to budget cuts and the recession, we paired it down to 10 this year. You can find a list of their top 20 Cubs prospects either here or here.
1. Let's start right at the top, you named Tyler Colvin as the Cubs top prospect. What position do you think he'll end up playing in the majors and how worried should I be about that Ryan Harvey-esque 4:875:1 K/BB ratio
There has always been a good deal of emphasis placed on the strikeouts totals of low to mid-level minor league players. But if you want a player to develop into the type of hitter that Colvin projects as (lets say 20-25 HR potential), you are more often than not going to have to accept that strikeouts come with the territory. That doesn’t mean that Colvin is content with striking out. Working to lower them has always been at the top of his priority list, and toward the end of last season, he made a few adjustments in his approach that seemed to help him see more pitches and get into some good counts.
I believe he’s capable of playing any of the three outfield positions (though center is most ideal), but where he ends up may depend a lot on what Felix Pie does, or perhaps what the organization decides to do with Pie. On an unrelated note, Colvin got a little behind the eight-ball in spring training with a nagging elbow problem toward the end of his stint in big league camp. That could explain his slow start this season.
2. Speaking of Ryan Harvey, he made your list at #19, is there any hope that he'll ever see Wrigley Field without having to buying a ticket? Any whispers about putting his golden arm to use on the mound?
I believe it’s possible, but it has been six years (or thereabout) since he saw a pitcher’s mound. Anyway, when I inquired about the possibility of Harvey making a switch to pitcher last year, the Cubs’ farm director declined to go in-depth on the matter because the season was still in full swing and Harvey had just returned from a hamstring injury. For probably the first time, though, the notion wasn’t completely dismissed outright. Take that to mean what you will.
Realistically, I want to say this is a make-or-break year for Harvey offensively. Some good news is that he reported to camp in the best shape he’s probably ever been in and has dropped a considerable amount of weight from last season. The added baggage he had been carrying around may have been slowing him down more than anyone realized, and the weight loss should help him avoid some of those nagging injuries he’s had.
3. How disappointed am I going to be if they trade Sean Gallagher? I know his "stuff" doesn't match up with some of the top pitching prospects in the game, but I just don't see a lot of 21-year olds putting up numbers like he did at in the upper levels of the minors, like he did last season (Gallagher is now 22).
While his stuff may not be the
best in the game, he’s a safer bet to reach the big leagues than several of
those with “better” stuff, and he has matured quite a bit since last season.
I’ve seen him this week with the Iowa team and he looks fabulous. He’s down to
215 pounds (he said he’s dropped 35 pounds all told) and that should help him go
deeper into games, as he does not have to pitch with as much exertion. His
fastball is constantly low to mid-90s and he still possesses a sharp curve.
Additionally, the work the Cubs put in with him on developing a slider has
started to show dividends now that Gallagher has learned the different grips
between a slider and curve. His mechanics are more consistent now, and I
wouldn’t be surprised to see Sean in the big leagues on a full-time basis very
4. Our own Arizona Phil is a big Josh Donaldson fan, putting him at the top of his own prospect rankings. What are your thoughts on him and do you think he can stick at the catching position?
Unless he gets caught up in the depth at the position on down the road, I don’t see why he can’t stick at catcher. There’s been zero talk of him changing positions. While he did have a fair amount of passed balls (11) last season, he also threw out 40 percent of runners and that’s the number that sticks the most with me. Peoria will be a good challenge for him because he’s still relatively new to catching and has yet to handle a staff of 12 or 13 pitchers for a full season.
5. What deal with the devil did Kevin Hart make to turn his career around? He went from the often forgettable "player to be named later" in the Freddie Bynum deal, to Cubs minor league pitcher of the year and making the playoff roster. Is it all because of his new cutter?
The cutter was certainly a key addition that threw hitters off because the scouting reports on Hart read that he was primarily a sinkerball pitcher with an average to above average slider. He can throw both the cutter and his two-seam fastball effectively, and now he is striving to sharpen up his standard four-seamer. While he pitches off his fastball and slider, last year was the first year he really felt comfortable throwing his changeup. If he’s able to fully develop that pitch, he could be downright nasty. Aside from that, is it not entirely possible that the Orioles, in their quest to sign every recognizable ex-Cubs prospect on the planet, might have missed the boat and undervalued one of their own?
6. How much pressure is on the Cubs to try and get Jeff Samardzija to the majors as quickly as possible, considering they handed out what has to be the first-ever major league deal for a fifth round pick (that's an assumption on my part)? And how much pressure does Samardzija feel to justify that contract?
If the Cubs feel pressured, they’re wearing their poker faces well. Samardzija most certainly does not feel pressured. When I first met him last year in Daytona, I was a bit surprised by how loose he appeared. This was around the time he was moved into the bullpen and rather than being upset over it (or his near 6.00 ERA), you could find him in the clubhouse watching wrestling videos on YouTube. I don’t think he’s overly careless; I just don’t believe that he’s easily sidetracked or disrupted.
7. Maybe you can explain to me why the Cubs have spent a good portion of the off-season chasing the Orioles Brian Roberts, when we seemed to already have a left-handed, top-of-the-order candidate who plays second base in Eric Patterson. I know his defense at second base is suspect, but couldn't Jim Hendry used the time he spent on the phone with Andy Macphail and just picked up a fungo bat and hit 1,000 groundballs a day to Patterson?
You got me on this one. For what it’s worth, the Cubs say they are still plenty high on Patterson and that his slip-up last year is water under the bridge. That’s about all I can tell you.
8. The biggest surprise on your top twenty list was the inclusion of Justin Berg at #11 (acquired in a trade for Matt Lawton in 2005). What are you seeing or hearing that should make me keep tabs on him?
I figured to get some questions as to why I ranked Berg as high as I did. For me and everyone else that is high on him, it’s all about his sinker. He can touch 93-95 mph with it, and it’s the best such pitch in the Cubs’ farm system. As a matter of fact, he has drawn comparisons to Brandon Webb from a few people – namely Dennis Lewallyn, Tennessee’s pitching coach who worked with Webb while in Arizona’s system.
When you look at numbers, there is some similarity in Berg’s and Webb’s minor league careers, particularly in terms of their wildness. They’re both similar in build, too. What Berg needs is to control and repeat his delivery, especially with the sinker because his slider is a solid pitch as it is. I’ll add that Berg has a lot of guts. He pitched his first game last year with the flu, and ended up vomiting in the clubhouse by the middle innings. His coaches felt that put him behind the eight-ball and that it took him longer to catch up than the rest of the staff.
9. One of our readers ("Crunch") wanted to ask about Casey Lambert, the Cubs 6th round pick last year out of Virginia that the reader had an opportunity to watch a few times in the ACC. Has his fastball improved (low 90s rather than high 80s)? Does he have or working on a 3rd pitch? Are the Cubs gonna keep him in relief (if he has a 3rd pitch developing/developed)?
The plan is to keep him in relief. His fastball still sits in the upper 80s and he spent much of Instructs last year working on the development of his changeup. It has become a pretty solid offering for him, but the hard curveball is still his bread and butter.
10. Give me a name (or two) of a player that you think is a good bet to take a big leap forward this year?
I’ll go with Kyle Reynolds, the third baseman at Tennessee. He put together an incredible run last year beginning in June at Daytona, finishing with 21 home runs – 20 of which came in the second half. He suffered an ankle injury midway through the season, and being out of the lineup gave him time to work with Richie Zisk on some things mechanically with his swing. The work paid off and his confidence shot up through the roof.
Thanks to Steve for his time and be sure to check out his live blog of Sean Gallagher's start in New Orleans tonight. You can submit questions as the game goes on. You can also read Murton's reaction to Eric Patterson getting called up at Scout.com.
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