Cubs won’t overload Kris Bryant with too much information


Cubs won’t overload Kris Bryant with too much information

Now that Kris Bryant is finally here at Clark and Addison, he has far more resources at his disposal than he had while working his way through the minor leagues or at the University of San Diego.

There are hours of video on every pitcher he’ll face. The scouting reports on a guy like Andrew Casher, the former Cubs right-hander who’s starting Sunday for the Padres, are extensively detailed. Anyone with a smartphone can go to FanGraphs and pull up pitch selection percentages and strike zone heat maps.

Manager Joe Maddon cautioned against giving major league greenhorns like Bryant too much information, though, saying all a hitter like him needs is a “nugget or two” every now and then.

[MORE: Kris Bryant bounces back at the plate in second career game]

“I don’t think the information coming to the hitters really benefits hitters a whole lot whether it’s video, data, audio, whatever,” Maddon said. “There are so few things you can tell a hitter. Approach wise, maybe get them to narrow their focus, keep their fastball swing loaded as an example. But all of this wonderful information available to the hitters, I think really doesn’t help them a whole lot.”

Bryant said he likes having more video to watch to give him a better idea of what he might face in a certain count. But he's limiting his video watching to just opposing pitchers.

“I don’t like to watch my at bats,” Bryant said. “I kinda go over them in my head, but when you start over-analyzing your video you’re thinking about everything you’re doing wrong with your swing when half the time it’s not really your swing, it’s what you’re swinging at and what you’re thinking up there. I like to see what the pitcher throws and go with it from there.”

Bryant has already showcased his resiliency at the major league level, following up a three-strikeout debut with two hits and three walks in six plate appearances against San Diego on Saturday. There are plenty of opportunities for over-analysis in the major leagues, but all Bryant said he did was realize that he’d never see a fastball if he kept swinging at all the offspeed pitches thrown at him.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Buy a Kris Bryant jersey]

That wasn’t an intricate adjustment, which is exactly what Maddon hoped to see from his 23-year-old third baseman. The first-year Cubs manager is fine with veterans gathering and synthesizing information, though for him there is such thing as a young player having too much knowledge.

But information can become a problem for a rookie “Only if you give it to them,” Maddon smiled.

“Don’t give it to them. Don’t make it complicated. That’s the whole thing.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Manny Machado’s value and other Cubs offseason wish list items


Cubs Talk Podcast: Manny Machado’s value and other Cubs offseason wish list items

Did Manny Machado’s value take a hit at all after he openly admitted hustling isn’t his “cup of tea”? Our Cubs team (David Kaplan, Kelly Crull, Tony Andracki, Jeff Nelson) debate that, plus the potential fit of Machado or Bryce Harper for the 2019 Cubs and beyond.

The crew also runs down the top items on the Cubs’ offseason wish list – ranging from bullpen help to infield depth to a set leadoff hitter – in what may be the most impactful winter in Theo Epstein’s tenure in Chicago.

Listen to the podcast here or via the embedded player below:

The most underrated storyline of the Cubs offseason

The most underrated storyline of the Cubs offseason

There are plenty of intriguing Cubs storylines to monitor this offseason from their potential pursuit of the big free agents to any other changes that may come to the coaching staff or roster after a disappointing finish to the 2018 campaign.

But there's one question simmering under the radar in Cubs circles when it comes to this winter: How will the team solve the shortstop conundrum?

Just a few years ago, the Cubs had "too many" shortstops. Now, there are several different factors at play here that makes it a convoluted mess.

First: What will the Cubs do with Addison Russell? The embattled shortstop is in the midst of a suspension for domestic violence that will keep him off an MLB diamond for at least the first month of 2019.

Has Russell already played his last game with the Cubs? Will they trade him or send him packing in any other fashion this winter?

Theo Epstein mentioned several times he felt the organization needs to show support to the victim in the matter (Russell's ex-wife, Melisa) but also support for Russell. Does that mean they would keep him a part of the team at least through the early part of 2019?

Either way, Russell's days in Chicago are numbered and his play on the field took another big step back in 2018 as he fought through a hand injury and experienced a major dip in power. With his performance on the field and the off-field issues, it will be hard to justify a contract worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 million in his second year of arbitration (prorated, with a month's worth of pay taken out for the suspension).

Even if Russell is on the roster in 2019, Javy Baez is unquestionably the shortstop for at least the first month while Russell is on suspension. 

But what about beyond Baez if the Cubs want to give him a breather or disaster strikes and he's forced to miss time with an injury?

At the moment, there's nothing but question marks on the current Cubs shortstop depth chart throughout the entire organization and they're certainly going to need other options at the most important defensive position (outside of pitcher/catcher). 

There's David Bote, who subbed in for Baez at short once in September when Baez needed a break and Russell was on the disabled list. But while Bote's defense at third base and second base has opened eyes around the Cubs, he has only played 45 games at short across seven minor-league seasons, including 15 games in 2018. There's also the offensive question marks with the rookie, who hit just .176 with a .559 OPS and 40 strikeouts in 108 at-bats after that epic ultimate grand slam on Aug. 12.

The Cubs' other current shortstop options include Mike Freeman (a 31-year-old career minor-leaguer), Ben Zobrist (who will be 38 in 2019 and has played all of 13 innings at shortstop since 2014), Ryan Court (a 30-year-old career minor leaguer) and Chesny Young (a 26-year-old minor-leaguer who has posted a .616 OPS in 201 Triple-A games).

Maybe Joe Maddon would actually deploy Kris Bryant at shortstop in case of emergency like a Baez injury ("necessity is the mother of invention," as Maddon loves to say), but that seems a lot more like a fun talking point than a legit option at this current juncture.

So even if Russell sticks around, there's no way the Cubs can go into the first month of the season with just Baez and Bote as the only shortstop options on a team that with World Series or bust expectations.

The Cubs will need to acquire some shortstop depth this winter in some capacity, whether it's adding to the Triple-A Iowa roster or getting a veteran who can also back up other positions. Right now, the free agent pool of potential shortstops is pretty slim beyond Manny Machado.

Epstein always says he and his front office look to try to mitigate risk and analyze where things could go wrong to sink the Cubs' season and through that lense, shortstop is suddenly right up there behind adding more bullpen help this winter.