Cubs

Kaplan: Zambrano doesn't want worldwide draft

Kaplan: Zambrano doesn't want worldwide draft

Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Posted: 9:22 p.m.

By David Kaplan
CSNChicago.com

Cubs star Carlos Zambrano talked with me before Wednesday's doubleheader about how he came to sign with the Cubs and why he is not a fan of the concept of a worldwide amateur draft.

Currently players from outside the United States are treated as free agents and can sign with the highest bidder, often times commanding deals in the millions of dollars.

"I think a worldwide draft would be bad for the kids from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela because we are late developers. We don't have little league or a system of organized baseball to help us learn the game," Zambrano explained. "When I was a kid we played maybe once a week, that's it. If kids from my country were drafted and then didn't develop quickly enough they wouldn't be around long. This way they develop and grow and then sign a little later than when they would be drafted," Zambrano said.

Zambrano was not a hot-shot prospect when he was a teenager and he was not a guy who saw himself playing professional baseball.

"In fact, I never really played baseball as a child. I was a soccer player and because of my size and athletic ability I had a chance to play at a few baseball academies. I played in front of scouts from the Marlins, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks and the last team I played for was the Cubs.

"I had never pitched and when I was at the Cubs facility, their scout (Alberto Rondon) saw me throw a ball in from right field and noticed that I had a strong arm. He asked me if I had ever pitched and I told him, 'no.' He watched me workout and eventually we flew to the United States and I signed with the Cubs in Arizona. I was the first player from Venezuela to sign his contract in the United States. All of the other guys signed back in our country," Zambrano told me.

Cubs in first place?

Okay, admit it Cubs fans and baseball experts. I know that it is only April 20th, but did any of you think that the Cubs would be in first in the NL Central at any point during the 2011 season? C'mon admit it....

Rose or Isiah?

I was asked this question Wednesday morning. If I was coaching the Bulls in Game Seven of the NBA Finals who would I want as my point guard. Isiah Thomas or Derrick Rose?

That is a great question because both players are amazingly talented and both have radically different skill sets.

Isiah was a phenomenal shooter and he also had a great ability to run an offense in a half court set. However, he was not a high-flying athlete who could finish at the rim and thus he was limited in the ways that he could score. He was quick and had a great basketball IQ, which made him the perfect player to run the Pistons physical, half-court style of offense.

At this point in his career Rose is nowhere near the perimeter shooter that Thomas was in his prime. However, Isiah was never the ridiculous athlete that Rose is and he never was able to complete plays at the rim against bigger players the way that Rose does consistently.

Rose is a savvy leader and a tremendous team guy and his perimeter shot is certainly much better than it was when he entered the league in 2008-09. It is a very tough question to answer, but because of the way the game is played today I would lean towards Rose due to that incredible athleticism.

Tom Glavine trying to buy the Atlanta Thrashers?

A big name in Atlanta baseball could possibly play a role in keeping Atlanta's professional hockey team in town.

Former Atlanta Braves All-Star pitcher Tom Glavine is working actively to keep the Atlanta Thrashers from leaving, according to Atlanta Business Chronicle broadcast partner WXIA-TV 11Alive. Glavine said he is extremely interested in keeping professional hockey in Atlanta. Read the rest of the article here.
Read more from The Kapman on Friday at CSNChicago.com

David Kaplan is the host of Chicago Tribune Live on Comcast SportsNet. Follow him on Twitter @thekapman.

MLB.com's Cubs' 2018 Top Prospects list full of potential impact pitchers

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USA TODAY

MLB.com's Cubs' 2018 Top Prospects list full of potential impact pitchers

Could 2018 be the year that the Cubs finally see a top pitching prospect debut with the team? 

Thursday, MLB.com released its list of the Cubs' 2018 Top 30 Prospects, a group that includes six pitchers in the Top 10. The list ranks right-hander Adbert Alzolay as the Cubs' No 1. prospect, projecting him to debut with the team this season. 

Alzolay, 22, went 7-4 with a 2.99 ERA in 22 starts between Single-A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Tennessee last season. He also struck out 108 batters in 114 1/3 innings, using a repertoire that includes a fastball that tops out around 98 MPH (according to MLB.com).

Following Alzolay as the Cubs' No. 2 overall prospect is 19-year-old shortstop Aramis Ademan. Ademan hit .267 in just 68 games between Single-A Eugene and Single-A South Bend, though it should be noted that he has soared from No. 11 in MLB.com's 2017 ranks to his current No. 2 ranking. He is not projected to make his MLB debut until 2020, however.

Following Alzolay and Ademan on the list are five consecutive pitchers ranked 3-7, respectively. Oscar De La Cruz, No. 3 on the list, slides down from his 2017 ranking in which MLB.com listed him as the Cubs' top overall prospect. De La Cruz, 22, finished 2017 with a 3.34 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) between the Arizona League and Single-A Myrtle Beach.

De La Cruz is projected to make his MLB debut in 2019, while Jose Albertos (No. 4), Alex Lange (No. 5), Brendon Little (No. 6) and Thomas Hatch (No. 7) are projected to make their big league debuts in 2019 or 2020. All are right-handed (with the exception of Little) and starting pitchers.

Hatch (third round, 2016) and Lange (30th overall, 2017) and Little (27th overall, 2017) were all top draft picks by the Cubs in recent seasons.

Having numerous starting pitchers on the cusp of the big leagues represents a significant change of pace for the Cubs. 

Since Theo Epstein took over as team president in Oct. 2011, a plethora of top prospects have debuted and enjoyed success with the Cubs. Majority have been position players, though.

The likes of Albert Almora, Javier Báez, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell all contributed to the Cubs winning the World Series in 2016. Similarly, Ian Happ enjoyed a fair amount of success after making his MLB debut last season, hitting 24 home runs in just 115 games.

Ultimately, Alzolay would be the Cubs' first true top pitching prospect to make it to the big leagues in the Theo Epstein era. While him making it to the big leagues in 2018 is no guarantee, one would think a need for pitching will arise for the Cubs at some point, whether it be due to injury or simply for September roster expansion.

The Cubs have enjoyed tremendous success in recent years in terms of their top prospects succeeding in the MLB. If the trend continues, Alzolay should be a force to reckon with on the North Side for years to come.

Even with an entire spring schedule to go, guessing the Cubs' 25-man roster is pretty easy

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USA TODAY

Even with an entire spring schedule to go, guessing the Cubs' 25-man roster is pretty easy

MESA, Ariz. — The frequent mission of spring training is to iron out a 25-man roster.

But at Cubs camp, that mission seems to already be completed.

With an entire Cactus League schedule still to play, the Cubs’ 25-man group that will leave Arizona for the season-opener in Miami seems pretty well set.

The starting rotation: Jon Lester, Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood.

The position-player group: Willson Contreras, Victor Caratini, Anthony Rizzo, Javy Baez, Addison Russell, Kris Bryant, Tommy La Stella, Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora Jr., Ian Happ, Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist.

The bullpen: Brandon Morrow, Steve Cishek, Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards Jr., Mike Montgomery, Brian Duensing, Justin Wilson and Justin Grimm.

Boom. There’s your 25.

Joe Maddon, do you agree?

“You guys and ladies could probably write down what you’re seeing and be pretty accurate,” Maddon said Thursday. “I can’t deny that, it’s true. Oftentimes, when you’re a pretty good ball club, that is the case. When you’re not so good, you always get auditions during spring training.

“I think what the boys have done is they’ve built up a nice cache in case things were to happen. The depth is outstanding. So you could probably narrow it down, who you think’s going to be the 25, and I won’t argue that.”

It’s the latest example in a camp that to this point has been full of them that the Cubs are one of baseball’s best teams and that only a World Series championship will fulfill expectations. Had the front office stuck with a starting rotation of Lester, Hendricks, Quintana, Chatwood and Montgomery, then there would’ve been a spot open in the bullpen. But the statement-making signing of Darvish jolted the Cubs into “best rotation in the game” status, sent Montgomery back to the bullpen and further locked the roster into place.

Guys like Grimm and La Stella have been forced off the 25-man roster at points in recent seasons, though even their spots seem safe. Maddon even said that a huge spring from someone else wouldn’t mean as much at what guys have done at the major league level in recent memory.

“Spring training performance, for me, it’s not very defining,” Maddon said. “You’re going to be playing against a lot of guys that aren’t going to be here, more Triple-A guys, even some Double-A guys. Some guys come in better shape, they normally look better early. The vibe’s different. You play a couple innings, you don’t get many at-bats, the pitcher doesn’t see hitters three times and vice versa. So I don’t worry about that as much.

“It’s more about, guys that might be fighting for a moment, what do they look like, does it look right, does it look good, how do they fit in? Is there somebody there that you scouted? Because what matters a lot is last year and what you did last year and the last couple months of last year.

“So of course guys that have been here probably have a bit of an upper hand, but we’re very open-minded about stuff. And I think when you look at the guys, you’re right, it’s probably pretty close to being set. But stuff happens.”

Could the recently signed Shae Simmons give Grimm an unexpected challenge for the final relief spot? Maddon said guys who have been with the Cubs in the recent past have a leg up. Could Chris Gimenez turn his experience with Darvish into a win over Caratini for the backup catcher spot? Maddon threw cold water on the "personal catcher" narrative last week.

Of course, Maddon left the door open the possibility of an injury that could open up a roster spot and even shake up the depth chart. But barring the unforeseen, this 25-man group looks locked into place.

That gives the Cubs an edge, perhaps, in that they can specifically find ways to tune up those guys rather than focus on getting enough at-bats for players who are fighting for roster spots. But most of that edge came during the winter, and in winters and summers past, when the front office built this team into a championship contender.

There have been plenty of years when the fans coming to Mesa to watch the Cubs play in spring training saw the blossoming of a big league player thanks to a monster spring or a surprise tear during March. That’s going to be unlikely this spring, a reflection of just how far this team has come.

“It’s easy for me to reflect on this because when I started out with the Rays, wow,” Maddon said. “That was a casting call trying to figure it out. You had very few settled positions when you walked in the door. And then as we got better, it became what we’re talking about. As we moved further along, you were pretty much set by the time (you got to spring training) except for one or two spots.

“So I think the better teams are like that.”

The Cubs are most definitely one of those better teams.