So far this winter, all of the mailbag posts have come in one format. I usually do one mailbag a week where I take one question and write a whole post about it. But every once in a while, some questions just don’t need an elongated answer. They can be answered in a paragraph or even just a few sentences and that’s what I’m going to do today.

a Fan Afar@aFanAfar : Curious about the ceiling for the system as a whole, as it currently stands. Do the prospects in-house have individual floors/ceilings high enough to make ours a top three pipeline again, or is that kind of upside going to require additional high-end talent?

It is a little bit hard to see into the future but the Cubs system is much improved over a year and a half ago. They do have a ton of young talent that needs to mature and play full season baseball. Until most of these kids get to AA, the Cubs are not going to be a top-three system. Maybe by the end of 2023 the Cubs could be considered to be a top 3 system and then they would probably use some of those minor league assets to go acquire major league assets.

Connor Watrous@ConnorWatrous : @EthanXXVI (Ethan Roberts) MLB ETA? 

Well my friend, if all goes according to plan, Mr. Roberts could see Chicago as his place of employment sometime late this summer. As I’m sure he would tell you, he’s got a few things he’s working on this winter to try and improve his chances of getting there. When he does debut, that’s going to be one exciting day!

Tim Connors@ConnArtist99 : Barring injury, DJ Herz the real deal?

Most of the other writers at North Side Bound would scream “YES!!!“ at your question. My answer is a little more nuanced. Right now, everything looks to be great. Facing class-A hitters is totally different than squaring up against the more polished approaches he’ll see in the Southern League. To me, that’s where he’s going to face his biggest test in his development. His development looks to be on track for him to get him to Double-A sometime this summer. And as Frank Sinatra said, if he can make it at Double-A, he’ll make it anywhere.

Cory Iwaszewski@CDub1519: So. Many. Arms. What will it take to really breakthrough and be on that next core of SP arms?

To be quite frank and blunt, it’s going to take pure and utter domination at Iowa and Tennessee to really break through. We’re talking ERA‘s under two and strike out rates between 10 to 12 K per nine innings. I don’t know if the Cubs really have anybody like that yet. But if a few guys can string together a couple of good months, there might just be some players like Caleb Kilian and Ryan Jensen knocking on the door later this summer. How have you changed as a photographer in the past year? Do you enjoy taking pictures or writing more?

This year I made a conscious effort to try and take pictures that were different. I am always going to get some standard photos of a hitter in his batting stance or a pitcher getting ready to deliver the ball. After seeing South Bend several times in July and August, I needed some different pictures and I started doing more and more closeups this year. I think those came out really well towards the end of the season. I also got a lot of dugout shots which seem like kind of behind the scenes kind of photos that I took in Beloit.

I kind of enjoy the photography thing a little bit more than writing at this point. I find it more challenging. I don’t mind writing, I just hate typing as I’m a terrible typist. As a photographer, I really learned a lot this year about just trying to get different shots of the players from different angles throughout the game. 

When I retire from teaching here in a couple of years, I’m wondering just exactly how much I’m going to be writing and how much I’m going to be photographing, especially now that I’m not running a whole website by myself. The ability to travel anywhere between April and the middle of September in those first couple of years when I’m done teaching is going to be a blast.