Cubs

Cubs 2017 MLB Draft Tracker Day 3: Pitching, pitching and more pitching

Cubs 2017 MLB Draft Tracker Day 3: Pitching, pitching and more pitching

After emphasizing pitching in the first 10 rounds of the 2017 MLB Draft, the Cubs continued that trend Wednesday.

Cubs Day 1 recap

Theo Epstein's front office took two more pitchers with their first two Day 3 picks, adding to the eight pitchers they took in the Top 11 picks. 

Cubs Day 2 recap

Here is the complete Day 3 recap:

Round 11, No. 345: Rollie Lacy, RHP, Creighton - Went 5-2 with a 2.54 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 83 Ks against only 18 walks in 88.2 IP as a junior.

Round 12, No. 375: Ben Hecht, RHP, Wichita State - The 22-year-old is a Champaign, Ill., native who also played at Illinois State (2014). He was 2-2 as a reliever in 2017 with a 4.75 ERA, eight saves and 41 Ks in 30.1 IP.

Round 13, No. 405: Austin Upshaw, IF, Kennesaw State - The 20-year-old Georgian slashed .333/.383/.518 (.901 OPS) at Kennesaw State with 17 doubles, eight homers and 41 RBI in 56 games.

Round 14, No. 435: Luis Vazquez, SS, Alberto Melendez Torres School - Scouts tout his leather. 

Round 15, No. 465: Jared Young, 2B, Old Dominion University - Led ODU with a .367 average to go with a .441 on-base percentage and .580 slugging percentage. He stole nine bases, hit seven homers and drew 33 free passes (15 walks, 18 hit-by-pitches) against only 19 strikeouts.

Round 16, No. 495: Brandon Hughes, CF, Michigan State - Actually pitched some his freshman year for the Spartans. His ERA was 7.11. Much better hitter as he stroked a .330 batting average his junior year. 

Round 17, No. 525: Peyton Remy, RHP, Central Arizona College - Freshman was 6-1 with a 4.25 ERA this season. 

Round 18, No. 555: Casey Ryan, RHP, University of Hawaii - Successful four-year career at Hawaii. Also, how sick would it be to pitch at Hawaii? 

Round 19, No. 585: Chris Singleton, CF, Charleston Southern University - You must read his story. 

Round 20, No. 615: Brendan King, RHP, College of the Holy Cross - From the Boston Globe, a very talented mathematician. 

Round 21, No. 645: Sean Barry, RHP, University of San Diego - Reliever had a five-game scoreless streak that lasted 9.1 innings. 

Round 22, No. 675: Skyler Messinger, SS, Niwot High School - Hit above .400 his junior and senior season. Of course, that was high school. 

Round 23, No. 705: Brady Miller, RHP, Western Oregon University - Three-time All-GNAC pitcher at Western Oregon. 

Round 24, No. 735: Braxton Light, RHP, Wallace State Community College - Scouts are calling him a lights out pitcher. Pun. 

Round 25, No. 765: Mitch Stophel, RHP, King University - Strong relief pitcher for the King Tornadoes, which is actually located in Tennessee. 

Round 26, No. 795: Bryce Bonnin, RHP, Barbers Hill High School - Ranked by MLB.com as the No. 74 prospect in the 2017 draft, but is committed to Arkansas for next year.

Round 27, No. 825: Darius Vines, RHP, Oxnard College - "Vines" is a perfect name for a team with Ivy on its wall, eh?

Round 28, No. 855: Kier Meredith, CF, Robert B. Glenn High School - Clemson signee has a decision to make. 

Round 29, No. 885: Jake Steffens, RHP, Santa Clara University - Had a 5.05 K/BB ratio in the competitive WCC last season. 

Round 30, No. 915: Cam Balego, IF, Mercyhurst College​ - Posted a ridiculous .367/.500/.698 slash line at Mercyhurst. 

Round 31, No. 945: Ramsey Romano, IF, Cal State Long Beach - Pretty funny that his team name was the "Dirtbags." He also hit .313 last season. 

Round 32, No. 975: Hunter Ruth, RHP, Bucholz High School - We can't prove it, but he may be Babe's great-great-grandson. 

Round 33, No. 1005: Joe Donovan, C, Westmont High School - Local kid from Westmont absolutely RAKED against fellow Chicagoland competition. 

Round 34, No. 1035: Andrew Karp, RHP, Florida State - Florida-native has live arm, but was roughed up as a Seminole. 

Round 35, No. 1065, Ben Ramirez, SS, Eastlake High School - His Twitter is all about retweeting #JavyTags. 

Round 36: No. 1095, Tanner Allen, CF, UMS Wright Prep High School - Longtime LSU recruit had a change of heart and will likely attend Mississippi State next season. 

Round 37, No. 1125, Alex Cornwell, LHP, Maranatha High School - High school bats didn't hit too well off him, recording just an .093 batting average. 

Round 38, No. 1155, Russell Smith, LHP, Midlothian High School - Dude is just one inch shorter (6'9) than the mammoth Randy Johnson (6'10). 

Round 39, No. 1185, Cooper Coldiron, IF, University of Houston - Before transferring to Houston, Coldiron earned a spot on the Texas-New Mexico All-Star Team at Grayson College.

Round 40, No. 1215, Jeffrey Passantino, Lipscomb University - The MLB Draft's Mr. Irrelevant

Why Cubs, rest of baseball sweat as MLB battles coronavirus testing issues

Why Cubs, rest of baseball sweat as MLB battles coronavirus testing issues

It was never going to be perfect.

But Major League Baseball’s coronavirus testing system needs to be good enough.

That may not seem like an especially high bar to set.

But so far it has been a difficult one for baseball to clear.

In fact, the latest example of baseball's biggest challenge in pulling off a 60-game season played out at Wrigley Field on Monday. That's when the team that by all indications has done the best job of establishing and following safe practices had its manager and five other “Tier 1” members of the organization sit out activities “out of an abundance of caution” because their latest COVID-19 tests, from Saturday, remained “pending.”

Tier 1, by the way, comprises the 80-something members of the organization with the highest access, including players and coaches.

The results had been analyzed. But as pitching coach Tommy Hottovy explained, they appeared to be in a batch of samples that included at least one positive test, the batch involving multiple teams. So they were retested. Five of those retested samples, including manager David Ross’, were negative, the team said late Monday, with the sixth considered “compromised” and another test done.

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The sixth did not belong to a player.

Give the Cubs another gold star for getting through yet another round of tests — and yet another glitch in that process — without having a player test positive.

But give MLB another kick in the ass. The testing issues don’t seem to be as bad as they were throughout the league that first holiday weekend of processing. But it hasn’t fixed this thing yet, either.

Whether it’s a lab-capacity issue, a quality issue or a shipping issue, it’s not even close to good enough.

Not for 30 teams barely a week from leaving their individual training-site bubbles to start playing each other for two months. Not when more than one-third of those teams play in locales considered hot spots for the pandemic. Not in the world’s most infected country.

“We do feel comfortable in this bubble that we’ve kind of created here,” said Hottovy, who was hit hard by the virus for a month before camp started. “When the season starts though and we start traveling and we start putting ourselves in some different circumstances, we just don’t know what to expect with that.

“We’re still taking this day-to-day for sure.”

Players across baseball, including Cubs star Kris Bryant, said they were upset and surprised at how unprepared MLB’s testing system appeared to be when camps opened. Two weeks of testing later, and just enough issues persist to make the league’s entire 2020 undertaking look more tenuous than ever.

The season starts July 23. That’s not much time to get it “good enough” — never mind to get it right. But, again, we're not asking for perfection.

The league protocols require testing thousands of players and other team personnel every other day through the end of the season.

Imagine sitting a manager and three or four players from a single team on a game day because of “pending” or “compromised” test results. Imagine that happening two or three times a week to various teams. Or worse — imagine a given team doesn’t exercise “an abundance of caution” and puts the players or staff in question on the field or in the dugout and clubhouse anyway.

“The only concern that I have right now is how long the test will take to get the results back,” Cubs catcher Willson Contreras said on Thursday. “Other than that, I don’t think I am at risk inside of the ballpark because the Cubs have been doing the best they can to keep us safe in here."

“I don’t have any concerns about my teammates, because I trust them. I know we all are doing our best to keep [each other] safe, and that way we can have a season this year.”

Contreras expressed tolerance with the system so far and was reluctant to point a finger at MLB or anyone else.

“But how can that get better?” he said. “I have no answer for that.”

It doesn’t matter whose fault it is as much as it matters that an answer is found quickly.

Players, staff and their families already have taken on the daily stress and anxiety of this health risk and the every-other-day process of holding your breath until the next result comes in.

“You get that test day coming up when you might get results, and it’s a little bit of that unknown, a little bit of anxiety of, ‘Have I done everything right?’ “ Ross said. “You start running back the day since you’ve been tested and what you’ve done, where you’ve gone, who you’ve been in contact with, just in case something bad may come back on your test. It’s real.”

Thirteen players, including Giants star Buster Posey, already have declined to play this season, all but one without a pre-existing condition that would qualify as “high risk” under the agreement between players and management.

Angels superstar Mike Trout heads a list of several more who have talked openly about opting out at some point, depending on how things look as we get closer to games.

That includes Cubs starter Yu Darvish, who said Sunday, “I still have concerns” and that he has not ruled out heading home if he doesn’t feel it’s safe anymore for him or his family to keep playing.

Maybe Trout, Darvish, Posey and the rest of those players have the right idea.

In fact, maybe we’d all be better off if baseball rededicated its testing capacity to a general public that suddenly is facing shortages again in a growing number of hot spots.

But if baseball is going to stick to its plan and try to pull off this season, then it needs to get this right. Right now.

Nobody’s expecting anything great at this point. Maybe not even especially good. But good enough? In the next week or so?

Would that be too much to ask?

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How Cubs' Jon Lester just got 126 innings closer to returning to Chicago in 2021

How Cubs' Jon Lester just got 126 innings closer to returning to Chicago in 2021

One more year of Jon Lester?

A few months ago that looked uncertain at best — figuring to come down to a $25 million decision for the Cubs to mull at the end of this season (or a $15 million decision, given the $10 million buyout on the option clause).

But the vesting part of Lester’s hefty seventh-year option on his original six-year, $155 million contract suddenly looks tantalizingly within reach for the longtime ace.

Major League Baseball and the union have finalized an agreement on multiple details for calculating contracts in 2020, including vesting contract options, according to documents obtained by NBC Sports Chicago.

Performance thresholds for vesting options will be prorated for the 60-game season and rounded up to the next out. 

So that 200-inning threshold Lester needed to reach to assure the additional $25 million year — a threshold he hasn’t reached since 2016, when he was 32?

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In a season only 37.04 percent as long as normal, that means 74 1/3 innings earn the extra year.

It’s still roughly the same average of innings for 12 projected starts (6.17) this year as it would have been for 32 (6.25) in a full season.

But that’s a lot fewer potential aches, pains and injuries to navigate for two months compared to six months — and a stretch that doesn’t include the bone-chill cold of April and weather volatility of May.

Lester, who ranks eighth on the all-time list of postseason innings pitched, said when spring training opened in February he “obviously” wanted to finish his career as a Cub.

“Hopefully, I have a good year, and it’s null and void, and we don’t have to talk about it,” Lester said then of trying to vest the option.

“I signed here hoping that the option was kind of going to take care of itself and [I’d] finish out the seventh year. After that, I can’t predict tomorrow, let alone what’s going to happen two years down the road.”

Lester pitched in his first intrasquad game of the restarted training period on Sunday and looked strong enough to get sent out to face two more batters after finishing his scheduled two innings — retiring seven of nine, with one reaching on an error and another on a 15-foot tapper in front of the plate.

“He was commanding all of his pitches,” catcher Willson Contreras said. “From what I saw, he’s looking in good shape.”

Monday's agreement between MLB and the union also included details on calculating awards bonuses, roster bonuses and contract escalators. And unlike the normal injured list, players won't lose "active time" on the roster while on the COVID-19 IL.

The Athletic was first to report Monday's agreement.

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