Chris Clarke – Pic by Todd Johnson
Outside of the Rule Five Draft and the very first MLB Draft Lottery, it was a pretty boring week filled with a lot of hurry up and wait. There is no two ways of getting around it as there was just not a lot of news going on about the minor leagues.
The Cubs did lose right-handed pitcher Chris Clarke to the Mariners in the Major League phase of the Rule Five Draft. I found that was a little disappointing as Chris was one of the more engaging players to talk to in the system. He had a really good year in terms of staying healthy and improving how he pitched. All of us here at North Side Bound wish him the best of luck with the Mariners. However, we could possibly see him back in a Cubs uniform if he does not stick with the Mariners. They are probably going to use him in the bullpen rather than as a starter as he was a monster for USC coming out of the pen.
The Cubs also lost left-handed relievers Bryan King, and Luis Rodriguez. King battled injuries the last two years while Rodriguez was outstanding in the Arizona and at Myrtle Beach the past two years. King was slated to be back at Tennessee while Rodriguez would’ve been at South Bend in some capacity.
The Cubs did pick up three players in the minor league phase of the Rule Five Draft. Right-handed pitcher Nick Burdi hasn’t pitched since 2020 but looks to be on the mend after pitching with the Pirates in the majors; he’ll probably begin the year in Iowa. It’s pretty safe low risk-high reward kind of transaction.
As for OF Jefferson Encarnacion, he hasn’t played since 2019 in the Dominican, but he was seen on the backfields of the Phillies’ complex this fall and instructs, which is probably where the Cubs got a look at him. I don’t have any preconceptions about what he brings to the table right now. We will probably have to wait until he shows up in Mesa to get a better look at him.
The guy that really caught my attention was Luis Aquino who the Cubs got from the Mariners’ system. He only pitched six innings this year but he has some pretty good strikeouts per inning numbers throughout his career and the Cubs may have gotten a steal as he can throw in the mid 90s. Who knows, maybe Aquino and Carlos Garcia can form a nice 1-2 lefty punch for the Pelicans this spring.
I’ve said all fall that the Cubs are in need of some lefty pitchers in the system. Injuries and minor league. Free agency has taken its toll but the Cubs went out and re-signed left-handed reliever Eric Stout to a minor league deal, which provides a little depth for the major league club. I really like the singing and Stout pitched well in some games last year for the big league Cubs and the Pirates.
The Cubs are bringing back infielder Tyler Ladendorf him as part of their coaching staff. He also has one the most unusual titles I’ve seen in recent years. He is going to be called a “hitting fellow.” Ladendorf was well liked in the clubhouse in his time with the Cubs in the minors, but the 34-year-old is now starting to transition to a life beyond his playing career.
2023 Draft Update
Sadly, the Cubs did not get one of the top six picks in next year’s draft. They had the best chance of picking number 12 but they were leapfrogged by the Twins, and that moved the Cubs down one spot to number 13. They’ll still get a very good pick in next year‘s draft. Still, it’s hard to not dream on Dylan Crews and Max Clark. I don’t see either of them falling to the Cubs at 13. Greg Zumach and I will begin some profiling of some guys here in the next couple weeks about who could be available when the Cubs pick at 13.
Poll of the Week
Greg Zumach took this highly scientific poll on Twitter about what type of player fans wanted to see the Cubs take with this year’s first round pick. It was no surprise to see that most fans wanted a college hitter who could probably help much sooner than a high school bat and/or pitcher.
Winter Workout of the Week
Notice the shorter delivery path. Good stuff that he began working on the last six weeks of the year.
Tweet of the Week
I thought he would be the most likely Cub to get snapped up in the Rule Five Draft. Now that he is staying, he has a legit shot as a backup OF this spring in Chicago.
Pics of the Week
This goes out to Brendan King, Kohl Franklin, and Brennen Davis who were at Club 400 last weekend with South Bend owner Andrew Berlin and the 2022 Midwest League championship trophy.
Prospect List Season
Look for Baseball America to drop their top 10 Cubs list this week. It could happen any day as they are concurrently doing the NL and AL Central teams.
International Free Agency
Here’s a nice little video I found Saturday morning of the Cubs top international free agent for January 15 – Derniche Valdez. The video is from 2020 and he’s changed a little bit physically since then, but you can see the nice fluid actions that he takes at the plate even as a 14-year-old. Valdez should be in the Dominican Summer League next summer.
What’s Ahead This Week on North Side Bound
We will have breaking news this week if there is a trade or a transaction made. Tuesday will see me drop the Shortstop Rankings in our Position Breakdown Series. On Wednesday, I will check out Iowa’s infield in the Affiliate Sneak Peek series. And on Friday, I go down the rabbit hole in the Five Series with Luis Verdugo. Greg Huss will also be back with latest Cubs on Deck podcast and he will also breakdown 30-21 on his prospect list with a video. Greg Zumach has articles he is working on simultaneously about the Draft and what guys are doing this winter along with our next mailbag series, Episode 6.
Album of the Week
This is the second part of my off-season series where I look at a whole album. Last week I did Peter Gabriel‘s “Melt.” This week, I am shifting gears towards my favorite record of the mid 90s and that is “Superunknown” by Soundgarden.
This is not their first record, but it’s the one that turned them from a very good rock band into a powerhouse, and it might be the best album of the grunge era as it is filled with a lot of diverse influences. There’s psychedelic, there’s some hard rock/heavy metal, and there’s even a dirge. The album is filled with a ton of powerful riffs from guitarist and singer Chris Cornell and guitarist Kim Thayil, as well as the thunderous bottom end of bassist Ben Shepherd and drummer Matt Cameron.
From the opening riffs of “Let Me Drown” through “”Black Hole Sun” and “The 4th of July”, as well as the amazing “The Day I Tried to Live,” there’s just not a bad song on there. In fact, they’re so unique and diverse in their own way.