Cubs’ prospects have had injuries, issues down on farm
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org May 28, 2013 10:15PM
Chicago Cubs Photo Day
Updated: June 30, 2013 6:48AM
As the Crosstown Showdown heads north to Wrigleyville for the next two games, it’s not just the White Sox’ end of the Red Line that looks torn up and closed down for construction.
The Cubs’ path to the playoffs has been detoured and barricaded since new ownership cut baseball spending, then hired a high-priced demolition crew from Boston to tear the operation down to the studs.
As for those studs, once you get past Jeff Samardzija, Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, it’s tough to be sure what’s on the big-league roster to support what’s in the blueprint.
The Cubs have a handful of other guys on the roster who figure to be part of longer-term plans, but the real studs needed to fix what’s wrong with these Cubs 18 months into the Theo Epstein regime are in Kane County and Daytona Beach, Fla.
Or in next week’s draft. Or this summer’s international signing season.
That’s why when $30 million Daytona outfielder Jorge Soler grabs a bat during a bench-clearing brawl, as he did in April, it sends chills up the spine of the organization all the way to the Clark and Waveland offices.
And why when Kane County’s No. 6 overall draft pick, Albert Almora, misses the first six weeks of the season with a broken hamate bone — then tweaks a hamstring less than a week into his return —jaws clench a little near Wrigley.
Because fixing this Cubs team is less about what’s broken than it is about what’s missing.
Impact players who can compete with the Cardinals and Reds in the next four or five years.
Young pitchers who can do for years what the Cubs’ rotation has done the first two months of the season (3.59 ERA through Monday).
It’s a long process the Cubs have admittedly undertaken as they fight through what looks like a fourth consecutive losing season in the making.
And the construction project only gets more challenging, and potentially longer, with such news as projected stud Arodys Vizcaino’s elbow setback.
Vizcaino, 22, is the former top prospect of the Braves who was acquired — post-Tommy John surgery — last July in the Paul Maholm trade.
He has been considered a legitimate candidate for a long-term front-line spot in the Cubs’ rotation.
Already experiencing recent discomfort during his throwing program, Vizcaino had arthroscopic surgery on the elbow Tuesday to clean out a calcium buildup the club says is unrelated to the replaced ligament.
As recently as last fall, team officials said Vizcaino was expected to be ready to throw this spring with a shot to open the season on time. By spring, his projected debut was pushed back to sometime in July.
And now he’ll be shut down for six weeks, which effectively ends his chance to pitch during the season and makes a best-case debut scenario sometime during the Arizona Fall League or Instructional League.
Barring another setback, he might be ready to open next season at full strength.
Certainly, it could’ve been worse, given the possible causes of the discomfort when Vizcaino got to Dr. James Andrews’ office for Tuesday’s exam.
But the Cubs have at least lost a chance to see what they’ve got in the powerful right-hander during the season as they recalibrate competitive timelines and make even mid-range roster projections.
Just one more reason next week’s No. 2 overall pick in the draft — with power college pitchers Jonathan Gray and Mark Appel topping the list of available impact guys — looks like the club’s most important pick in more than a decade.
And why building foundations for sustained success from the ground up are anything but certain processes, regardless of who’s in charge.