Cubs

An extensive look at the Cubs' trade deadline haul

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An extensive look at the Cubs' trade deadline haul

The Cubs have essentially been out of the playoff race since May, but things took a long time to develop on the trade market.

But once things got going, the Cubs were really active, dealing away four players -- Geovany Soto, Paul Maholm, Reed Johnson and Ryan Dempster -- and acquiring five prospects in return.

Let's take a look at the newest Cubs:

Arodys Vizcaino

The 21-year-old Dominican right-hander was the main return from the Braves for Maholm and Johnson and is the real prize of the Cubs' haul this July.

He saw some time in the majors last year with a 4.67 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 17.1 innings, but that was in relief. He appeared in 26 games across three levels for the Braves' minor league system last year and started 17 games with a 3.06 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 9.3 K9.

Vizcaino was named one of MLB's Top 100 prospects the past three winters (topping out at No. 40 prior to 2012), but underwent Tommy John surgery and the Cubs may have got him at a discount. Before he went down, Vizcaino was considered to be a better prospect than even Randall Delagado, a 22-year-old pitcher that was reportedly headed to Chicago in the Ryan Dempster deal that never happened last week.

"I think it's a great pickup," BaseballAmerica's Jim Callis said on 670 The Score Tuesday morning. "Obviously you're buying low on the guy because he's missed the whole season with Tommy John surgery. Vizcaino is a guy who was untouchable a year ago when the Braves were looking to make trades.

"Really the only question on him has been durability. He's a guy who throws in the mid-90s. He's got a tremendous curveball. He's had arm trouble in the past. The long-term question is, can he hold up and be a starter or is he more of a late-inning reliever? But it's a quality arm for two guys who weren't anywhere close to being part of the long-term plan."

BaseballProspectus' Kevin Goldstein was on 670 The Score after Tuesday's trade deadline passed and said he believes Vizcaino will likely end up as a reliever, but admits his stuff is enough to be a dominant reliever, potentially even as a closer.

Jaye Chapman

Chapman is a 25-year-old former 16th round draft pick who has never risen above the Triple-A level. However, he's found success in Gwinnett this year with a 3.52 ERA, 1.40 WHIP and 10.1 K9 in 40 games (53.2 innings). He's only started eight games in his minor league career, so he profiles as a reliever at the big-league level, likely only in the middle innings.

"He's a reliever," Callis said. "He's a guy with a fringe-y fastball, usually works in the high '80s. Has a good changeup. Probably a ceiling as a 7th inning reliever. He's more of an inventory guy. Vizcaino is the prize here."

Here's more on Vizcaino and Chapman from BaseballAmercia.com and CubsDen.

Jacob Brigham

Brigham, 24, is a right-handed pitcher who came to the Cubs in the Soto deal. He has never pitched above Double-A, where he has started 21 games this year to the tune of a 4.28 ERA and 1.36 WHIP.

He has also had Tommy John surgery in the past and John Arguello at CubsDen says Brigham can touch 97, but typically resides in the 92-93 mph range on his fastball.

"Brigham's got a good arm, but realistically, he's probably more of a reliever than a starter in the long run," Callis said.

In the good news department, Brigham was tied for the Texas League lead with 116 strikeouts at the time of the trade Monday night.

Christian Villanueva

The 21-year-old third baseman is the main return from the Rangers for Dempster and while he is still in High-A ball, he has performed well, with a .285.356.421 slash line in 425 plate appearances this season.

"Villanueva is a pretty interesting third baseman," Goldstein said. "He's a guy that can hit, there's no question about that. He's got a very nice swing, ability to make contact. There's the potential for power. There's a little bit of power now. He may be getting a little more down the road. He has some idea at the plate.

"He's a very good defensive third baseman. He's an average runner. He's not the biggest guy in the world (listed as 5-foot-11, 160 pounds). He doesn't have those tools that just light you up. He's one of those players that his greatest strength might be a lack of weaknesses."

Villanueva just barely cracked BaseballAmerica's pre-2012 prospect rankings, coming in at No. 100. The Rangers had top prospect Mike Olt blocking Villanueva at third base in the minors, but will the same be the case for the Cubs and Josh Vitters?

"He may become better than Vitters," Goldstein said. "Vitters has been around forever. It's easy to forget -- the guy was just 17 years old when they drafted him. He's just starting to put things together. I think Vitters at least deserves a pretty long look this year, if just to see if he's really figured it out.

Villanueva is in High-A and he's two years younger than Vitters. That's it, only 2 years younger. He's not ahead of Vitters on the timetable. I think Vitters will have the first chance and Villanueva will have plenty of time to try to prove he's better."

Kyle Hendricks

Hendricks, a 22-year-old right-handed pitcher, was taken in the eighth round of the 2011 MLB Draft and has excelled at High-A Myrtle Beach this year, posting a 2.82 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in 20 starts while posting an incredible 7.47 K:BB ratio.

Arguello calls Hendricks a four-pitch guy with a low-'90s fastball and a good changeup.

Check out more on Villanueva and Hendricks at BaseballAmerica and CubsDen.

Ben Zobrist knows reality of Cubs' crowded lineup: 'There are going to be good players that have to sit on the bench'

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USA TODAY

Ben Zobrist knows reality of Cubs' crowded lineup: 'There are going to be good players that have to sit on the bench'

MESA, Ariz. — Ben Zobrist has long been known for his versatility on the field. But it might take a new kind of versatility to get through what’s facing him for the 2018 season, being versatile when it comes to simply being on the field.

Zobrist was among several notable Cubs hitters who had a rough go of things at the plate in the follow-up campaign to 2016’s World Series run. He dealt with injuries, including a particularly bothersome one to his wrist, and finished with a career-worst .232/.318/.375 slash line.

And so, with younger guys like Javy Baez, Ian Happ and Albert Almora Jr. forcing their way into Joe Maddon’s lineup, it’s a perfectly valid question to ask: Has the 36-year-old Zobrist — just 15 months removed from being named the World Series MVP — been relegated to part-time status for this championship-contending club?

Obviously that remains to be seen. Joe Maddon has a way of mixing and matching players so often that it makes it seem like this team has at least 12 different “starting” position players. But Zobrist, ever the picture of versatility, seems ready for whatever is coming his way.

“I’m prepared for that, if that’s what it comes to. I told him, whatever they need me to do,” Zobrist said Sunday, asked if he’d be OK with being in a platoon situation. “You’ll see me at some different positions. As far as at-bats, though, I’ve got to be healthy. That was the biggest thing last year that kept me from getting at-bats and being productive. So if I can be healthy, I think I can play the way that I’m capable of, and the discussion then at that point will be, ‘How much can you play before we push you too far?’

“We’ve got a lot of great players, and there are going to be good players that have to sit on the bench on our team at times. But no one ever rusts because you know how Joe uses everybody. You’re still going to play. Even if you don’t start, you’re probably going to play later in the game. It’s just part of the National League and the way Joe Maddon manages.”

It’s no secret, of course, that when Zobrist is on, he’s the kind of player you want in the lineup as much as possible. It was just two seasons ago that he posted a .386 on-base percentage, banged out 31 doubles, smacked 18 home runs and was a starter for the team that won the World Series.

But he also admitted that last year’s injury fights were extremely tough: “Last year was one of the most difficult seasons I’ve ever had as a player.” Zobrist said that while he’s feeling good and ready to go in 2018, with his recent physical ailments and his advancing age, he’s in a different stage in his career.

“At this point in my career, I’m not going to play 158 games or whatever. I’m going to have to manage and figure out how to play great for 130,” he said. “And I think that would be a good thing to shoot for, if I was healthy, is playing 130 games of nine innings would be great. And then you’re talking about postseason, too, when you add the games on top of that, and well, you need to play for the team in the postseason, you’ve got to be ready for that, too.

“From my standpoint, from their standpoint, it’s about managing, managing my performance and my physical body and making sure I can do all that at the highest level, keep it at the highest level I can.”

Maddon’s managerial style means that Zobrist, even if he’s not technically a part of the everyday starting eight, will still get the opportunity to hit on a regular basis, get a chance to play on a regular basis. Baez figures to be locked in as the team’s No. 1 second baseman, but he’ll need days off. Maddon mentioned Sunday that Zobrist, along with Happ, have been practicing at first base in an effort to be able to spell Anthony Rizzo. It’s the crowded outfield where Zobrist could potentially see the most time. He’ll be a piece of that tricky daily puzzle along with Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward and the aforementioned Almora and Happ.

Unsurprisingly, in the end that versatility, combined with how Zobrist has recovered physically and whether he can get back to how he’s produced in the past, will determine how much he will play, according to the guy writing out the lineups.

“I think he’s going to dictate that to us based on how he feels,” Maddon said. “Listen, you’re always better off when Ben Zobrist is in your lineup. He’s a little bit older than he had been, obviously, like we all are. I’ve got to be mindful of that, but he’s in great shape. Let’s just see what it looks like. Go out there and play, and we’ll try to figure it out as the season begins to unwind because who knows, he might have an epiphany and turn back the clock a little bit, he looks that good. I want to keep an open mind.

“I want to make sure that he understands we’re going to need him to play a variety of different positions. He’s ready to do it, he’s eager, he’s really ready. He was not pleased with his year last year, took time to reflect upon it and now he’s really been refreshed. So I think you’re going to see the best form of Ben Zobrist right now.”

Two years ago, Zobrist played a big enough role to go to the All-Star Game and get named the MVP of the World Series. In the present, that role might be much, much smaller. But Zobrist said he’s OK with anything, admitting it’s about the number of rings on the fingers and not the number of days in the starting lineup.

“I’m 36 as a player, so I’m just trying to win championships at this point. It’s not really about what I’m trying to accomplish as an individual,” Zobrist said. “Everybody wants to have great seasons, but I’ve told (Maddon), ‘Wherever you need me, I’m ready.’ Just going to prepare to fill the spots that need to be filled and be a great complement to what’s going on.”

Jose Abreu has already begun mentoring Luis Robert

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USA TODAY

Jose Abreu has already begun mentoring Luis Robert

As the White Sox have added young Cuban stars in the making in Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert, Jose Abreu's long-term role on the team has shifted.

The 31-year-old first baseman has been looked at as something of a mentor for the two young Cubans. He seems to be delivering on that so far.

Abreu picked up Moncada from the airport when he first was called up to the White Sox last July. Now he's helping Robert in the batting cage.

The Cuban trio is expected to play a big part of the White Sox future in the coming years. 

Robert has already stated his goal of making it to the majors this year to join Abreu and Moncada, but that may be an overly ambitious goal. Either way, plenty of eyes will be on him throughout 2018 as he marches towards the White Sox roster and his Cuban teammates.