Tagged: Carlos Pena

2013 First Year Player Draft Signing Database

As the Cubs sign their picks, this list will reflect who has been signed and how much they signed for.  Picks after the 10th round can get up to a $100K bonus without that counting against the bonus pool.  While it may not be known how much any of them signed for, that is likely the most it will end up being.

Round 1, 2nd overall: Kris Bryant, 3B, University of San Diego

Round 2, 41 overall: Rob Zastryzny, LHP, Missouri – Signed 6/17/2013, $1.1M

Round 3, 75 Overall: Jacob Hannemann, CF, BYU – Signed 6/19/2013, $1M

Round 4, 108 Overall: Tyler Skulina, RHP, Kent State – Signed, 6/16/2013, $800K

Round 5, 138 Overall: Trey Masek, RHP, Texas Tech – Signed 6/18/2013, $357K

Round 6, 168 Overall: Scott Frazier, RHP, Pepperdine – Signed 6/19/2013

Round 7, 198 Overall: David Garner, RHP, Michigan State – Signed 6/19/2013, $175K

Round 8, 228 Overall: Sam Wilson, LHP, Lamar Community College – Signed 6/19/2013, $130K

Round 9, 258 Overall: Charcer Burks, CF, William B Travis HS, TX – Signed 6/12/2013, $170K

Round 10, 288 Overall: Zachary Godley, RHP, Tennessee – Signed 6/18/2013, $35K

Round 11, 318 Overall: Jordan Hankins, C, Austin Peay – Signed 6/14/2013

Round 12, 348 Overall: Trevor Clifton, RHP, Heritage HS, TN – Signed 6/8/2013, Unknown terms.  Said he got what he wanted, which was “third round money”

Round 13, 378 Overall: Trevor Graham, RHP, Franklin Pierce University – Signed 6/21/2013

Round 14, 408 Overall: Daniel Poncedeleon, RHP, Houston, TX

Round 15, 438 Overall: Michael Wagner, RHP, University of San Diego – Signed 6/13/2013

Round 16, 468 Overall: Cael Brockmeyer, C, Cal State Bakersfield – Signed 6/18/2013

Round 17, 498 Overall: Kelvin Freeman, 1B, North Carolina A&T State – Signed 6/21/2013

Round 18, 528 Overall: Giuseppe Papaccio, SS, Seton Hall – Signed 6/18/2013

Round 19, 558 Overall: Will Remillard, C, Coastal Carolina

Round 20, 588 Overall: Zak Blair, 2B, Mercyhurst College – Signed 6/11/2013

Round 21, 618 Overall: Joshua McCauley, RHP, Shepherd College – Signed

Round 22, 648 Overall: Kevin Brown, LF, Bryant University – Signed 6/11/2013

Round 23, 678 Overall: Tyler Ihrig, LHP, Marin Community College -Signed 6/12/2013

Round 24, 708 Overall: Tyler Alamo, C, Cypress HS, CA – Signed 7/7/2013

Round 25, 738 Overall: Marcus Doi, OF, Mid-Pacific Institute

Round 26, 768 Overall: Carlos Pena, C, Southwest Miami HS, FL

Round 27, 798 Overall: Tyler Sciacca, CF, Villanova – Signed 6/11/2013

Round 28, 828 Overall: Brad Renner, RHP, Florida State College – Signed

Round 29, 858 Overall: John Garcia, CF, Denbigh HS, VA

Round 30, 888 Overall: Zak Hermans, RHP, Princeton, NJ – Signed 6/9/2013

Round 31, 918 Overall: Sean Johnson, RHP, Western Iowa CC

Round 32, 948 Overall: Keaton Leach, RHP, Glendale College, CA

Round 33, 978 Overall: Chris Madera, CF, Northwest Florida State College

Round 34, 1008 Overall: Jake Thompson, RHP, Siuslaw HS, OR

Round 35, 1038 Overall: Ramsey Romano, SS, Valhalla HS, CA

Round 36, 1068 Overall: Derek Campbell, SS, California

Round 37, 1098 Overall: Jeremy Martinez, C, Mater Dei HS, CA

Round 38, 1128 Overall: Zack Brown, RHP, Seymour HS, IN

Round 39, 1158 Overall: Josh Greene, CF, Forest HS, FL

Round 40, 1188 Overall: Patrick Riley, LF, Delgado College, LA

Advertisements

Cubs Day Three Draft Picks

Today is the last day of the 2013 First Year Player Draft, and the Cubs will make 30 selections in total.  There aren’t a ton of major league players taken out of these rounds, but you can never say never.

Round 11, 318 Overall: Jordan Hankins, C, Austin Peay

Round 12, 348 Overall: Trevor Clifton, RHP, Heritage HS, TN

Round 13, 378 Overall: Trevor Graham, RHP, Franklin Pierce University

Round 14, 408 Overall: Daniel Poncedeleon, RHP, Houston, TX

Round 15, 438 Overall: Michael Wagner, RHP, University of San Diego

Round 16, 468 Overall: Cael Brockmeyer, C, Cal State Bakersfield

Round 17, 498 Overall: Kelvin Freeman, 1B, North Carolina A&T State

Round 18, 528 Overall: Giuseppe Papaccio, SS, Seton Hall

Round 19, 558 Overall: Will Remillard, C, Coastal Carolina

Round 20, 588 Overall: Zak Blair, 2B, Mercyhurst College

Round 21, 618 Overall: Joshua McCauley, RHP, Shepherd College

Round 22, 648 Overall: Kevin Brown, LF, Bryant University

Round 23, 678 Overall: Tyler Ihrig, LHP, Marin Community College

Round 24, 708 Overall: Tyler Alamo, C, Cypress HS, CA

Round 25, 738 Overall: Marcus Doi, OF, Mid-Pacific Institute

Round 26, 768 Overall: Carlos Pena, C, Southwest Miami HS, FL

Round 27, 798 Overall: Tyler Sciacca, CF, Villanova

Round 28, 828 Overall: Brad Renner, RHP, Florida State College

Round 29, 858 Overall: John Garcia, CF, Denbigh HS, VA

Round 30, 888 Overall: Zak Hermans, RHP, Princeton, NJ

Round 31, 918 Overall: Sean Johnson, RHP, Western Iowa CC

Round 32, 948 Overall: Keaton Leach, RHP, Glendale College, CA

Round 33, 978 Overall: Chris Madera, CF, Northwest Florida State College

Round 34, 1008 Overall: Jake Thompson, RHP, Siuslaw HS, OR

Round 35, 1038 Overall: Ramsey Romano, SS, Valhalla HS, CA

Round 36, 1068 Overall: Derek Campbell, SS, California

Round 37, 1098 Overall: Jeremy Martinez, C, Mater Dei HS, CA

Round 38, 1128 Overall: Zack Brown, RHP, Seymour HS, IN

Round 39, 1158 Overall: Josh Greene, CF, Forest HS, FL

Round 40, 1188 Overall: Patrick Riley, LF, Delgado College, LA

 

And that’ll do it for the Cubs in the 2013 Draft.  Probably not many (if any) major league players in this group.  These players are most likely to go unsigned.  But you never know.

Resetting the Farm System

The Epstein Administration is off to a very honest start, to say the least.  When Theo came, he made no mistake that the intention was to build an organization, from the bottom up, in order to sustain success for the long term.  To this point, he has kept his word.  The Cubs’ system now features five of the top 100 prospects, according to MLB.com’s updated, post season rankings.  Half of the organization’s top ten prospects have been acquired since Epstein and Co. have arrived, and that does not include First Baseman Anthony Rizzo, who would be the undisputed #1 prospect in the system if he met MLB.com’s criteria for what makes a prospect.  The fact that he has had a rookie season in the majors, from my view, does not make him any less of a prospect.  He is by no means a finished product…which is a scary good thought after his 2012 season.

With all of that, here is a positional look at the system:

  • PITCHING: Pitching is still the weakness of the system.  Theo knows it.  Jed knows it.  Even the guy in the bleachers drunkenly screaming to fire Dale Sveum because we could have won the World Series this year knows it.  That is why the focus has been on acquiring pitching.  The new regime spent almost the entire draft on infusing the system with new arms.  They made an unsuccessful attempt to acquire Randall Delgado for Ryan Dempster.  They made a successful deal with the Braves to acquire Arodys Vizcaino, who is the best pitching prospect in the system, according to MLB’s new rankings.  Pierce Johnson and Paul Blackburn are also top 20 prospects in the system, who were drafted in the slots gained from the departures of Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena.  Nine of the top 20 are pitchers, none of whom is Hayden Simpson, the 2010 first round pick.  We are very close to reaching bust status with him.  The front office knows that there is still a shortage of arms in the system, so look for a continued focus on acquiring them, either through trades or in the draft.  Alfonso Soriano and Matt Garza could each become prospect pitching, if there is a deal to be made.
  • CATCHERS: With Wellington Castillo looking primed to crouch behind the dish on a full time basis, with Steve Clevenger being a capable back up, and Geovany Soto being a Texas Ranger, it would seem the system is lacking in catching depth.  That’s mostly true.  The only catcher of note who will be in the minor leagues next season is Anthony Recker, who finished the season in the majors because of a September call-up.  The bright side to the catching situation is that both of the big league backstops are young players, who, like Anthony Rizzo, I would still consider prospects, who are developing at the big league level.  That’s some good news.  The bad news is, catchers tend to be injured more than other positions, and there is not a lot behind them.
  • INFIELD: There is some talent in the infield in the organization, but it’s nothing to jump out of your chair for.  Javier Baez is a notable exception to that, as the system’s number one prospect, again, according to MLB.com.  Christian Villanueva and Junior Lake are also both in the top ten in the organization, but neither seem to be all that close to cracking the major league line-up anytime soon.  Lake is probably the closest prospect, but he projects to be a utility player, who can play all over because of his arm and athleticism.  He has good power, but lacks plate discipline and still needs some polish in the field.  He could be a call-up in the mold of Josh Vitters and Brett Jackson in 2013, to get some experience at the major league level before going back to the minors to work on deficiencies he may not get to know without a call-up.  As for Baez and Villanueva, both finished the season at Daytona.  They may go to AA, Tennessee together next season, but a more sure bet is that they open at Daytona next year.  Josh Vitters, the most major league ready prospect in the infield, showed that he still needs some time to grow.  I could see him being moved to a corner outfield spot if his glove does not improve significantly.  An interesting prospect on the infield is Dan Vogelbach, whose bat will probably propel him up the system.  He hit for a combined 1.051 OPS between Mesa and Boise.  Being a 1B, though, is going to hurt him with the Cubs.  He is blocked by Anthony Rizzo.  If he could become a 3B, he could be a Pablo Sandoval type player in the future, although Keith Law says he has “no shot.”  My guess is, his lack of athleticism is going to be a significant issue with him being anything more than a first baseman or a designated hitter…which the Cubs have no use for.
  • OUTFIELD: The outfield is where the most depth is within the system.  After getting a sight of Brett Jackson, it appears that he has the ability to man CF at Wrigley for a long time, with improvements to his swing and approach at the plate.  The additions of Albert Almora and Jorge Soler, both of whom played well in their first taste of American pro baseball, make them, with Jackson, three of the top five prospects in the system.   With other interesting prospects, like Dave Sappelt and Shawon Dunston Jr, there is some serious talent, much of which is still saturating the low levels of the system.  For the time being, it is interesting to wonder about what an Almora, Jackson, Soler outfield will look like…because it won’t be a reality for a few years.  For now, we’ll get to watch a Soriano, DeJesus, LaHair (or whoever else they can manage to throw out there).

There is a lot more talent in the minors now than there was 12 months ago.  That is something that has to be attributed to building the organization, as opposed to trading any and all talent we can to get veteran players to win right now.  There has been a lot of that over the years, leaving the cupboards pretty bare.  Building it back up will take as much time and effort as it will to build the big league team into one that can consistently win.  It is a good thing to have talent saturation in the minors, and at this point in time, there is much more of it than there was when Jim Hendry left the club.  It is exciting, however, to watch the build-up.  Seeing lower level clubs compete, like the Boise Hawks did in 2012 is a sign of talent infusion.  Hopefully, the Cubs are able to build a system that can compete at all levels.  No organization can have too much talent.  At this point,though, it is still a work in progress.

Player Focus: Ian Stewart

In keeping with the theme of looking ahead, one of the interesting players for the Cubs moving forward is going to be 3B Ian Stewart.  Acquired from the Rockies, along with AA pitcher Casey Weathers for Tyler Colvin and DJ LeMahieu, Stewart was the first man given the chance to replace the departed Aramis Ramirez.  Stewart’s numbers, in 55 games, were not spectacular, but there is more to the story than plainly looking at the numbers.

Biographical Information:    

Photo: David Kohl/ AP

Height: 6’3″
Weight: 215
Age: 27
Drafted: 1st Round (10th Overall), 2003 by the Colorado Rockies
Debut: 8/11/2007 (0-2, Run)

Cubs Statistical Analysis:

As I said earlier, there is more to the numbers than meets the eye for Ian Stewart.  First of all, he played in 55 games, so it is almost unfair to do this.  But, in his 55 games, he hit 5 HR and drove in 17.  That put him on a pace for 15 HR and 50 RBI in a full 162 game season.  What goes largely unnoticed is how much Stewart improved as the season wore on.  After hitting .169 in April, he hit .225 and .226 in May and June, respectively.  Part of that is how cold and windy it is at Wrigley in April.  As the weather got warmer, so did Stewart’s numbers.  With a ground ball: fly ball ratio of 2:1, it is fair to say Stewart would have out-performed his 15 HR pace.  One prime example is the bottom of the ninth inning on opening day.  Ian Stewart absolutely tattooed a baseball into the well in right field.  If there was anything short of gale force winds, he hits a game tying home run in the ninth inning on opening day.  But there were winds (I promise, I was there in a sweatshirt…it was cold) and he ended up with a hustle triple.  Offensively, his numbers were not great, but they were not as terrible as some of the haters have made them out to be.  Defensively, he was outstanding.  His range factors, fielding percentage, and runs saved numbers were all in the league average area, but some those numbers were all off the pace of his career averages.  I can speculate that defensive positioning had something to do with the slight drop in his defensive numbers, but his leather prowess did not go unnoticed by Dale Sveum, who said on more than one pregame show that his glove was keeping him in the line-up, whether there was a lefty starter or not.

Player Comparison:

Who else do Cubs’ fans know who hit about .225 (what Stewart hit in May/ June, which is a better indicator than his April average), with power from the left side of the plate and an excellent glove at a corner infield position?  I’ll give you all a hint: Carlos Pena.  And do any of us remember how much we liked Carlos Pena?  Of course not…because he’s not a Cub, anymore.  Ian Stewart, however, is a very similar player in what he brought to the line-up.  He brought a great glove and a workman like attitude, in spite of a wrist injury that absolutely hampers the ability to swing a bat.  If healthy, I have no doubt in my mind Stewart can match the 25-30 HR and 80 or so RBI Pena gave the Cubs in 2011.

The BIG Question:

Will Ian Stewart’s wrist heal after surgery enough to make him a productive player, and will be he back with the Cubs next season?

The Answer:

Without trying to read Jed Hoyer’s and Theo Esptein’s minds, I would guess that the two questions are going to be related.  Obviously, the Cubs sent a pretty good prospect in Colvin and a player many in the Cubs’ organization thought had a chance to be an everyday 2B in LeMahieu for Stewart, so the price was not cheap at all to get him here.  55 games with a bad wrist is not exactly a good opportunity to gauge what a player can do day in and day out.  Should Stewart get the go-ahead to start baseball activities again and gets his swing going again, he is worth at the very least, a look in Spring Training.  At best, he could find the swing that made him the 10th pick in the draft nine years ago.  To be picked that high, it is apparent that there is some talent in there.  Stewart said on Twitter some time ago that was was willing to take $1.5M for next season, which is peanuts in baseball, so he is absolutely worth bringing back, in my mind.  Josh Vitters continues to work hard, but he hasn’t exactly grabbed the bull by the horns and locked himself down at the hot corner.  Absent a surge by Vitters between now and October 3, there is no good reason not to bring Stewart back.  There are no good prospects, other than Vitters, waiting in the wings to come up right away.  Free agency does not offer too much of a short term, stop gap player to add for a year or two, and certainly  not as inexpensively as Stewart will be.  My crystal ball is not always right, but I cannot see why Stewart wouldn’t be back…at least for the spring.

Prince Albert

Photo: ESPN HS Baseball

With the sixth pick in the 2012 MLB First Year Player draft, the Chicago Cubs selected OF Albert Almora.  He is 6’2″, 175 from Mater Academy in Hialeah Gardens, FL, and is an 18 year old University of Miami commit.

Almora was the ninth rated prospect by MLB.com, and is represented by Scott Boras.  He has played with USA Baseball for six years, and the book on him is that he has tremendous leadership and maturity to go with the obvious physical talent that comes with being a top ten selection in the draft.  Those physical tools have been labeled by many scouts as above average hitter at the major league level with the ability to hit to all fields, as well as good speed and base running ability.  He is considered a plus defender, and has terrific range and arm strength.  Additionally, he has been said to have great work ethic and make up.  Overall, he is probably a “safe” pick, with good ability and tools, likely to sign, and very little downside.

This was Theo Epstein’s and Jed Hoyer’s first selection as heads of the baseball operations with the Cubs, so Almora will have the distinction of being the poster child of the new regime, for better or worse.  They have both said on numerous occasions that they were looking to add impact players in the draft, and build the team from the bottom up.  Tonight is the first step, and Almora represents that.

The Cubs will make the 43rd and 56th selections tonight, as compensation for departed 1B Carlos Pena and 3B Aramis Ramirez.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly on the 1st 41

Today’s game marked the first quarter of what has been a very down and up and down again 2012 season.  Therefore, I find now to be a perfect time for the obligatory blog entry with premature grades and analysis of 41/162 games.

The Good:

  • Bryan LaHair has proven to be a worthy and able first baseman during the first quarter of the season.  He’s hit for power, average, taken his walks, and done a respectable job manning first base in the field.  While he is not the gold glove that Derek Lee or Carlos Pena had proven to be in their tenures with the Cubs, he is making the plays he is supposed to make.  His bat is the important thing, though, and with talk of an Anthony Rizzo call

    Photo: Johnathan Daniel, Getty Images

    up potentially coming in the next few weeks, his bat could force a shuffle of the outfield.  He could force the energetic Tony Campana to the bench to make room for David DeJesus in center, while he moves to right field.  The takeaway is that he is swinging a strong enough bat to force another player out of the line up if and when Rizzo arrives, and that is a major positive for the Cubs’ offense.

  • Tony Campana has been a spark since joining the roster and getting regular playing time.  I know I took a cheap shot at Nyjer Morgan in an earlier post, but after watching Campana a little more, I don’t think he is a Morgan type as much as he is a Juan Pierre type of player.  His range and versatility in the outfield is excellent, and he has found his swing this season, keeping the ball on the ground and slapping hits all over the park more than he did last season.  With his speed, those are the things he needs to do to be a successful player in the majors.  In the games in which he’s played, he has been mightily successful.
  • The starting pitching has been fantastic, for the most part.  With Chris Volstad being sent to Iowa, the one real weakness has been removed.  Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija, and Paul Maholm have all been very good with only a few rough outings among them.  Samardzija, Dempster, and Maholm were all asked to pitch in the Wrigley bam box this weekend, and all did a respectable job.  There were no cheap home runs off of Maholm today, but he limited the damage to solo home runs and kept the team in the game.  Ryan Dempster gave up back to back home runs that were completely wind aided.  Both of those are harmless fly balls on a normal day.  I can’t fault a guy for giving up a fly ball that the wind carries just into the basket.  Especially one that has been as dominant as Dempster this season.  Unfortunately, none of the three were rewarded with wins.  Actually, the starters only have 10 wins to this point.  They deserve more.  They have been excellent.
  • The defense gets an honorable mention in the good because it has been.  Starlin Castro’s eight errors are kind of misleading.  Overall, his defense, notably his throwing, have been much better.  The work in spring has very much benefited Starlin in the early going, and it seems as though he is moving in the right direction.  The same can be said about Darwin Barney, who is a converted short stop.  Alfonso Soriano, for as much as we ride him has also been much, much better.  He makes all of the plays he is supposed to make and has been better in his paths to the ball how he plays the ball of the wall.  Lately, he has been hampered with a leg injury that has made his defense suffer a little bit, but he is probably an average defender in left thus far, and that is a vast improvement over the last few seasons.  Ian Stewart and David DeJesus have been as advertised with their gloves.  They have been excellent at their respective positions.
  • Joe Mather.  The man is another Reed Johnson type that is always ready and can play anywhere he’s needed.  That’s a valuable commodity in baseball, and he has provided steady and consistent play whenever Dale Sveum has called on him.  He is turning into a very nice addition to the bench and is earning himself more playing time.

The Bad

Photo: Johnathon Daniel, Getty Images

  • Only the Toronto Blue Jays have walked more batters than the Chicago Cubs.  So, while the .239 batting average against Cubs’ pitching is good for 8th in baseball, the walks have been a huge problem and need to come down.  Many of those walks have come late in games by the bullpen.  Carlos Marmol is tied for the team lead with Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija with 16.  It is to be expected that the starters would walk more batters because they throw a significant number more innings, and for the most part, the starters have been solid in the BB category.  The problems are with the pen.  Marmol has 16 in 11.1 innings pitched.  Rafael Dolis has 11 in 24 innings, Kerry Wood had 11 in his 8.1 innings before retirement this weekend, and James Russell has 10 in 17.1 innings.  That’s 48 walks out of the late inning relief pitching, in 61.1 innings.  Way too many…and a very big reason why the Cubs have 6 saves and 8 blown saves through 41 games.
  • The rash of injuries to the catchers has been devastating and mind blowing.  At current, Geovany Soto, Steve Clevenger, and Wellington Castillo are all banged up.  That leaves the Cubs with the newly reacquired Koyie Hill and rookie Blake Lalli to serve is the back stops for a young bullpen.  Hill is a veteran that has experience with the Cubs and is a reliable defensive catcher.  He was an excellent addition with the onslaught of injuries to the catchers.  Before the injuries, the catchers were fine.  Geo got off to a slow start, but his bat was coming around as he was hitting some balls hard.  Clevenger was said to have a “slump proof swing” by Manager and former Hitting Coach Dale Sveum.  The catchers were not winning the team any games, but not costing them too many, either.  Soto had two of his four errors in one inning, neither of which were his fault because Rodrigo Lopez should have fielded both balls, and Clevenger and Castillo each have a passed ball.  Other than that, 2 errors for Soto in his other 27 games and doing a good job with the new and young pitchers.  The catching has been about average, and lands in the bad category because all of that average catching is injured and has given way to reacquired veterans and rookie call ups.
  • More about the walks, this time for the hitters.  105 in 41 games is good for 26th in baseball.  The lack of patience at the plate has led to some quick innings, which don’t allow the team to see the weakest part of the bullpen…the middle relief.  Any pitcher that is in middle relief is not the cream of the bullpen because if they were, they’d be starting, setting up, or closing.  Unfortunately, the Cubs have only see starters, set up guys, and closers because there is almost no need to pull the starter for pitch count.  Dale’s edict to take the first pitch, unless you can hit it a country mile has not brought about the patient approach the team needs.  There have been some ugly swings and misses at pitches there is no chance at hitting.  Bryan LaHair, David DeJesus, Ian Stewart, and Geovany Soto are the only guys in double figures.  Guys like Starlin Castro, Alfonso Soriano, and Darwin Barney (who has 9 BB this season) should be in double figures.  They get enough at bats that they should be seeing more free passes.  They’re there for the taking…and the offense would benefit from a few gift base runners.

The Ugly

  • I’ve spoken on the schedule before, so this will be brief.  The games against good and surging teams have been a constant in the early going.  Fortunately, the Houstons, Pittsburghs, and San Diegos are all right in front of the Cubs right now.  This is a golden opportunity to win some games against some teams that the Cubs are better than.  There is room for a better mark than 15-26 at the quarter pole, but many of those teams are, frankly, better than we are.  I am not stunned that the record is 11 under right now because I would have looked at the schedule and thought it about right for this team against that schedule.  The surge that we saw before the current 6 game skid is promising.  I expect that to happen again this season, and to happen with a little more consistency as the season continues.  That’s it for the ugly, though…tough schedule that led to some very up and down results.

Offensive Defense

The Cubs’ two most overwhelming weaknesses last season were starting pitching and defense.  It’s not a state secret that those two areas need to improve this season if the Cubs are going to be competitive.

To this point, including today’s game, the starting pitching has been pretty good.  Chris Volstad threw another quality start for the Cubs today, with the 4th run he gave up being unearned.  That makes six quality starts in the first nine contests, which is all the team can ask for.  Yesterday, Jeff Samardzija seemingly ran out of gas after 5 innings, but the bullpen picked him up.  His running out of gas was minimized by the 9 run lead he held before the inning, giving up the only 5 the Cardinals would scratch out all day.  He did not have his best stuff, but did manage to get out from under some base runners in the first four innings before getting some of the same medicine the Cubs gave Zack Greinke on Thursday afternoon.  The innings being eaten by the starting pitching cannot be understated, either.  Last season, the strength of the team was the bullpen, and Mike Quade went to it early and often nearly everyday.  This season, we’ve seen the starter pitch into the 7th inning more often already than we did until August last season.  At least to this point, the pitching is better, and is the reason the Cubs have been in most of the games they’ve played, even with a lackluster offensive effort so far (the last two days notwithstanding).

Photo: Brian Kersey, Getty Images

The defense is another story.  Entirely.  There have been 7 errors, 4 of which came by Starlin Castro, 2 of which were high throws to first base today that probably would not have been errors throwing to Carlos Pena or Derrek Lee the last two seasons.  The first of those two errors would have led to a 2 out with nobody on situation in the Cardinal fourth.  It led to a four run rally.  The four runs that the Cardinals lead by today (in the top of the ninth).  There have been too many plays that should have been made, like a foul pop-up down the right field line that fell in front of Bryan LaHair this afternoon, that have not been made.  The ground ball that Jeff Baker allowed past him on Opening Day that went into right field was the eventual tying run.  The early .722 Defensive Efficiency Rating is good for 10th in MLB, but that number is sure to drop after another two errors today.  That number is an improvement over last season’s .680, but is still not high enough.  The .982 fielding percentage is 16th in MLB at this point.  They quite simply need to be better.

I am not exactly breaking news when I say that the Cubs’ roster isn’t going to stack up with elite rosters around MLB.  It just isn’t.  There are some nice pieces.  Matt Garza and Starlin Castro are building blocks for a foundation of a team that can compete for championships down the road.  Jeff Samardzija is looking to add his name to that group.  At this point, though, the defense is not at the standard it needs to be.  The starting pitching is improved.  The bullpen has been up and down, to this point.  The offense has been the same way.  That makes giving extra outs, especially in the tough early part of the season, a costly proposition.