Waiting on Almora deal, Cubs see draft class take shape


Waiting on Almora deal, Cubs see draft class take shape

Albert Almora is the biggest name at the top of the board.

Sources say the Cubs are confident they will be able to sign Almora, that it would be a surprise if the No. 6 overall pick didnt come to an agreement before the July 13 deadline.

Almora, whos being advised by super-agent Scott Boras, has a full scholarship to the University of Miami, but the 18-year-old outfielder has played up almost his entire life.

Almora made the Mater Academy varsity while still in grade school, played for the year-round elite travel teams in South Florida and has already won five gold medals with Team USA.

While waiting to close on Almora, the Cubs announced on Saturday that they have signed 15 players from their 2012 draft class, including Paul Blackburn, a right-hander from Heritage High School in Brentwood, Calif.

The 18-year-old Blackburn, who had committed to Arizona State University, will receive a 911,700 bonus as the No. 56 overall pick, according to Baseball America. He went 8-3 with a 1.27 ERA as a high school senior, striking out 84 in 77.1 innings while walking only 17.

After using their top pick on Almora, the Cubs took seven consecutive pitchers, and 22 in total, trying to address the organizations biggest need. That was the takeaway from the first draft of the Theo Epstein administration.

Obviously, we went pitching heavy, Epstein said recently. Theres a pretty big void of pitching in our system, so beginning to address that issue with quantity, as well as quality, was something that was attractive to us, because theres so much attrition pitching-wise.

Blackburn is a more advanced, sort of polished high school pitcher who also has a chance to have three average-to-above pitches.

You need to draft numbers in order to withstand all the attrition that happens. We needed to stock the system with pitching, and we feel like we did.

The Cubs have also signed: Coastal Carolina right-hander Josh Conway (fourth round); University of Virginia infielder Stephen Bruno (seventh); University of South Carolina Beaufort left-hander Michael Heesch (eighth); University of California-Berkeley catcher Chadd Krist (ninth); and Georgia high school outfielder Rashad Crawford (11th), whos said to have eye-opening athletic ability and is regarded as a sleeper pick from this draft.

The Cubs have not made the Pierce Johnson deal official, but the Missouri State University right-hander recently posted this message on his personal Twitter account: Just signed with the Chicago Cubs! Thanks to God, family, teammates, coaches, and friends. If it wasn't for you guys I wouldn't be here!

Injury concerns probably pushed Johnson down to the No. 43 overall pick. He had a 2.53 ERA in 14 starts this year and notched 227 strikeouts in 216 innings during his three seasons at Missouri State.

Pierce Johnson is somebody that we watched closely all year, Epstein said. We didnt think we were going to have a chance at him. The little forearm strain that he had probably played to our advantage, because he doesnt get out of the first round if he had stayed healthy the entire year.

He threw great right before the draft and looked really healthy and we were real happy to be in a position to choose him. Hes got a plus fastball and gets swings-and-misses and groundballs with it, and has a plus breaking ball as well. Hes a real competitor on the mound.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Schwarber, Baez on night to remember at the Home Run Derby

Cubs Talk Podcast: Schwarber, Baez on night to remember at the Home Run Derby

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Kelly Crull spoke with Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber after an electric and entertaining Home Run Derby in Washington D.C.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here:

Who Knew? Cubs at the All-Star Break

Who Knew? Cubs at the All-Star Break

With a break in the action, let’s take a look at the season so far.

Today, I’ll focus on the first 57.4% of the Cubs’ 2018 season. Which is to say, the 93 games before the All-Star Break. Clearly more than “half.”

In all seasons with an All-Star Game (1933-present, minus 1945)

This is the fifth time the Cubs have had the National League’s best record at the All-Star Break.

Here is the entire list (note – 2016 is NOT on this list. They trailed the Giants by 3 games at the Break in 2016):

1937 44-25 +2.0
1969 61-37 +5.0
2001 51-35 +0.5
2008 57-38 +4.5
2018 55-38 +2.5

Which is incredible since:

• Anthony Rizzo has a wRC+ of 100, which is league average

(he was at 131 – 31% better than league average - through the All-Star break last season)

• Kris Bryant has missed 23 games and has only 10 home runs

• The Cubs as a team have 30 fewer Home Runs through 93 games than they did last season

(100 this season, 130 last season)

• The Cubs have had six pitchers make 8 or more starts this season and only one (Jon Lester – 2.58) has an ERA under 3.90

• Cubs pitching has an MLBhigh walk percentage of 11.0%

(Tyler Chatwood’s 9 starts with 5 or more walks is most in a season by a Cubs pitcher since Dick Drott’s 13 in 1957)

• Cubs have outscored their opponents by only one run in the first inning (5251)

This includes being outscored 18-13 in the first inning in Kyle Hendricks’ 19 starts

• Cubs are 57 against the Reds

(they were 27-11 against Cincinnati in 2016-17)

That being said, it's not so incredible since...

• The Cubs have scored at least 10 runs 15 times this season. No other team has done it more than 12 times.

• Jason Heyward has a wRC+ of 109 (he’s 9% better than league average)

This is notable because in 2016 he was at 71 (29% worse than league average) and 88 in 2017 (12% worse than league average).

• The Cubs have EIGHT qualified players with at least a .340 OnBase pct. (and Ian Happ, who is eight PA short of qualifying, is at .379)

The only qualified Cub with a SUB-.340 OBP is Javier Báez (.326 – a career-high). However…

• Javier Báez has 50 extrabase hits in 91 games. Last season he had 49 extra-base hits in 145 games.

Báez is the first player in Cubs history with 15 Doubles, 5 Triples, 15 HR and 15 Stolen Bases before the All-Star Break**.

Báez is the first player in MLB history with 18 Doubles, 6 Triples, 18 HR and 18 Stolen Bases before the All-Star Break**.

**seasons with an All-Star Game – 1933-present (minus 1945)