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Charting a New Course Without Their Captain: Examining the Anthony Rizzo Trade

Anthony Rizzo by Rich Biesterfeld (@Biest22)

It seemed almost unimaginable that Chicago Cubs legend, Anthony Rizzo, would wear another uniform, but that day has finally arrived. The de facto Cubs captain will continue to don pinstripes, albeit in Yankee blue rather than Cubbie blue. After arriving during the 2011 offseason, Rizzo immediately stepped into the role of the face of Theo Epstein’s Chicago Cubs. He embodied “The Cubs Way” on and off the field. Anthony Rizzo’s departure conjures up intense emotion from Cubs fans and deserves its own post to reflect on the impact that Rizzo had on the team, the fans, and the entire community.

The social media farewell is one that the Cubs’ team has, unfortunately, perfected over the last year. This one is flawless. If you can stomach it please do give it a watch.


A Cubs Legend

Anthony Rizzo was far more important to the Cubs franchise than his on-field accomplishments, but they are certainly impressive:


Examining the return

Kevin Alcantara

Perhaps the most exciting player brought over in the Rizzo trade is Alcantara. The outfielder exudes tools and athleticism though he has significant swing and miss to his game. As a 19-year-old will immediately add to a stellar group in the Arizona Complex League and is off to a blistering .360/.488/.520 pace through 8 games. It’s a small sample size, but it’s always better to be on a great pace than not. Alcantara was a big prospect in the 2018 international free agency class and appears as if he’s realizing his high potential. He is a likely corner outfielder long-term, but one who looks like he has the bat to succeed there. The 7 strikeouts in 25 at-bats (again, small sample-size alert) points to a real area of focus. Alcantara’s swing will evoke some Alfonso Soriano comparisons. Fangraphs is the publication overwhelmingly high on Alcantara (ranks 2nd in the Cubs system), but most publications (MLB Pipeline and Baseball America) rank the young outfielder in the Cubs top 15 prospects

Built like a younger Dexter Fowler, Alcantara now approaches 200 pounds and could have plus tools across the board once he fills out and gains more experience. His bat speed, projectable strength and leverage give him well above-average power from the right side of the plate and produce some of the highest exit velocities in the system. He made a reasonable amount of contact in his 2019 pro debut but will need to improve his discipline when he faces more advanced pitchers.

A plus runner, Alcantara covers plenty of ground in center field with long, fluid strides. If he slows down as he adds strength and needs to move to a corner, his solid arm strength would fit nicely in right field. Besides his tools, his baseball IQ and work ethic also earn praise.

MLB Pipeline

I’ve made no change to Alcantara’s FV from last year since I can’t find anyone from outside the Yankees org who has seen him, though his ranking among the 50 FV prospects in the system has changed based on continued conversations about him with front office personnel from other clubs. For context, Alcantara was fourth on my international list in 2018, and was one of the players the Yankees promoted from the DSL to the GCL in the middle of the summer of 2019. He was part of New York’s DR instructs in the Fall. Athletic 6-foot-6 outfielders who can rotate like Alcantara can are rare, and this young man might grow into elite power at maturity. He is loose and fluid in the box but does have some swing-and-miss issues, though it’s not because lever length is causing him to be late — it’s more of a barrel accuracy issue right now. This is one of the higher ceiling teenagers in the minors, but of course Alcantara might either take forever to develop or never develop at all. (DR Instructional League)


Alexander Vizcaino

Though more highly rated than Alcantara, Vizcaino brings an even higher amount of risk with his profile. The 24-year-old right handed began the season with an a shoulder injury, but had been starting with mixed success in high-A. Vizcaino’s fastball sits in the mid-to-upper 90s with good ride up in the zone and solid sinking action towards the bottom of the zone. This suggests he throws two distinct fastballs. The change-up (also referred in some places as a split-change) really falls off the table according to multiple reports. Video is incredibly hard to come by, but for a glimpse of Vizcaino, see the video below.

Alexander Vizcaino in a July 21, 2021 outing

A velo bump and uptick in changeup quality (he now has one of the nastier cambios in the minors) were the cornerstones of a 2019 breakout for Vizcaino, who was promoted to Hi-A Tampa for his final five starts of the year. While he now has 70-grade fastball velocity, his long arm action and three quarters slot create sinking action on the pitch that ends up generating groundballs more than swings and misses. The whiffs are going to come from the changeup, which bottoms out as if a trap door has opened beneath it just as it approaches the plate. At this age, I think the breaking ball refinement necessary to make Vizcaino a starter is unlikely, but I would have said the same thing about his fastball and changeup last year. (Alternate site)


Wrap up

None of the players will be able to replicate what Anthony Rizzo has brought to the Chicago Cubs organization, but after 10 seasons, Jed Hoyer and company made the decision to target prospects who could represent the next generation of Chicago Cubs. Neither prospect has what you would consider a high floor, but rather each of Alcantara and Vizcaino represent high upside that one can dream on. As the prospects from each of these franchise-altering trades filter into the system, separating the minor league players from the Cubs legends is almost impossible. However, I am encouraged by what I’ve seen from both Alcantara and Vizcaino and dream of celebrating more Cubs wins in the future.


Examining the Andrew Chafin Trade

Andrew Chafin by Rich Biesterfeld (@Biest22)

As the Chicago Cubs sell-off continues, the organization has begun to trade from their surplus of extremely talented relievers. Teams are always in need of late-inning relievers and there is an added value if one has closing experience or is left handed. Andrew Chafin fits all of the above and now will bolster Oakland’s reliever corps. The big lefty with an 80-grade mustache was everything you could have wanted in a free agent signing for the Cubs. He was a steady presence in the pen with a 2.06 ERA (2.67 FIP), 24.7 K%, and a 50% ground ball rate.


Any team could use the services of Andrew Chafin, but it was ultimately Oakland who put out a package that made the Cubs bite. It’s hard to imagine a better trading partner for the Cubs to identify undervalued assets than the organization that Chicago Cubs VP of Scouting, Dan Kantrovitz, spent several seasons as an Assistant GM. We have already seen the Cubs prioritze players from Oakland in recent moves. Both Alfonso Rivas and Dakota Chalmers are proving to be great pickups out of the Athletics’ system. Cubs fans are hoping the two players picked up in the Chafin deal prove to be even better.

Examining the return

Greg Deichmann

Deichmann is 26, but also slashing .300/.432/.449 in 207 at bats in a hitter-friendly environment in Las Vegas. The ball really flies in Sin City, though the most surprising part of Greg Deichmann is the discrepancy between his raw power and his in-game power. Fangraphs rates him as having 45/50 in-game power (approximately average power), but with a 70 grade raw power (plus-plus). If the Cubs believe that working with the hitting infrastructure led by Justin Stone, could help Deichmann tap into even some of that raw power they could have an above-average major league rightfielder. Despite not hitting for much power this season, the former second-round pick out of LSU has put up a 127 wRC+, which suggests his performance has been 27% better than an average hitter after accounting for the league and hitting environments.


Daniel Palencia

Palencia is a breakout prospect and represents high upside in this deal. This is not a Dan Kantrovitz selection in all likelihood as he signed with the Athletics several months after Kantrovitz joined the Cubs. This spring he’s featuring big time velocity. According to Fangraphs, Palencia throws 97-99 mph this year and feature a bat-missing breaking ball. He may be a future reliever with a Juan Cruz physique, but he has high leverage potential. The Athletics have been developing him as a starter. This is a classic lottery ticket selection, but one that has caught the attention of publications like Fangraphs and the Athletic. In a recent piece by Melissa Lockard, Palencia is creating quite a buzz.

Right-hander Daniel Palencia doesn’t have Juan’s size (listed at 5-11, 160), but his fastball has hit 100. The 21-year-old has been kept to two- or three-inning outings as he adjusts to full-season ball. His ERA is 6.91 in 14 1/3 innings, but he’s struck out 14 and has been overpowering at times.

Melissa Lockard

Wrap up

This will hardly be the last move in the next few days for the Chicago Cubs and it bodes well for future deals that they were able to secure two players that offer good future projections. Deichmann will likely see big-league time later this season and Palencia offers a high risk/high reward proposition. In many ways this deal provides both safety and ceiling if all things go as planned. I’ll have a more in-depth look at the trade pickups after the deadline.


Chicago Cubs Sign James Triantos as They Begin to Wrap Up Draft Class

The Chicago Cubs have signed second-round pick, James Triantos, according to multiple reports. James’ family confirmed the signing on social media. In addition to the high school infielder, the organization has also come to terms with two more high school players in Dominic Hamel and Christian Olivo according to multiple reports.

UPDATE: the deal is worth $2.1 million according to Jim Callis


The Cubs, under VP of Scouting Dan Kantrovitz, “kept the accelerator down” selecting Triantos who required a significant bonus to sign away from a UNC commitment. There were some within the organization that viewed Triantos as a first-round caliber player. Many fans craved high-upside prep talent in the lead up to this draft. In Triantos and Drew Gray, the Cubs filled that need right away. Triantos may have some of the best bat-to-ball skills in the organization.

Player Reports

James Triantos

Ivy Futures Report: James Triantos (SS, Madison HS) sported impressive batted-ball data. His contact rate of 94% contact rate topped prep players in the showcase circuit last year with a similar max EV as Will Taylor, Harry Ford, and Colson Montgomery. Traintos has quite an arm and has good run times. He hails from Cubs area scout (and 2020 Stan Zielinski Scout of the Year) Billy Swoope’s territory. I also don’t think it would surprise me to hear the Cubs very interested in Triantos with an early selection. From my latest mock: “If there’s one player who could be this year’s Nick Yorke (who was a surprise mid-first round selection), I’ll say it is James Triantos.”


Dominic Hambley, RHP

Report: Hambley showcases premier stuff on the mound and was viewed as difficult to sign away from his commitment to Oregon State. Hambley’s fastball operates in the low 90s with strong life. The Cubs are also encouraged by his high-spin slider. He will throw a changeup as a third pitch. Look to the Cubs to begin to develop him in the offseason at instructs.

Christian Olivo, SS

Report: Christian Olivo is an impressive defensive shortstop from Puerto Rico. As a 17-year-old in the MLB Draft League, Olivo showed solid bat-to-ball skills and hope that as an extremely young prospect he can grow into a solid offensive player. Olivo will take some time and will require a commitment with the Cubs’ High Performance and Performance Science department, but should make for an exciting follow in the future.


Wrap up

When the Triantos signing becomes official, it will complete the Cubs bonus pool round selections (the first 10-rounds). The signing of Dominic Hambley fulfills the “$200k bullet” that Chicago Cubs VP Dan Kantrovitz spoke about firing in his recent interview with .

“Kept the Accelerator Down”: Talking Draft Strategy with Cubs VP Dan Kantrovitz

In this case, we’re not lowering our expectations at all because of that lower pool and so I think, you end up having to compete with teams that have more than you or twice as much as you do. You have to probably look at things a little bit differently, and try to be as creative and strategic as you can.

Dan Kantrovitz

A special thanks to Dan Kantrovitz, Vice President of Scouting, Chicago Cubs for joining

I have been fascinated with the major league draft since I began following prospects (Mark Prior and Mark Teixeira were the big fish in the 2001 draft). I dreamed of a draft where the Cubs would blow the budget out of the water and bring in a load of impact talent. But since 2012, a new collective bargaining agreement was put into place, and limits on draft spending were implemented. The era of “bonus pools” was here. While it’s debatable whether those changes brought about positive effects to the game of baseball, one thing is quite clear, teams have to enter each draft with a strategy on how they plan to best spend their pool of money.

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Chicago Cubs Vice President of Scouting, Dan Kantrovitz came to the organization in October 2019 after successful stints with both the St. Louis Cardinals and Oakland Athletics. His experience previously running drafts for major league organizations provided a luxury to the Cubs in their search for a new scouting director. Simply put, it’s hard to find a scouting director with years of experience successfully doing the job. Unfortunately for Kantrovitz and the organization as well, due to the COVID-19 pandemic MLB scaled back the 2020 draft to five rounds. Fans would have to wait until 2021 to see his strategy in action with a more complete 20 round draft.


The implementation of bonus pools creates a vastly different drafting experience for organizations. Clubs in the lower tier of market size are gifted “competitive balance selections (extra picks after either the first or second round) and teams who performed worse the previous year pick higher in the draft, which nets them a higher recommended pick values assigned to each selection. Certain clubs are armed with significantly more bonus pool capital than others. In particular, the Cubs’ approximately $7M was dwarfed by teams like Cincinnati and Detroit, who could spend close to double the Cubs’ figure. Kantrovitz described the experience as the Cubs simply playing “a different game” from those organization during the draft, however he was clear that the Cubs would have to employ some creative maneuvers with regard to their bonus pool. According to Kantrovitz, “In this case, we’re not lowering our expectations at all because of that lower pool and so I think, you end up having to compete with teams that have more than you or twice as much as you do. You have to probably look at things a little bit differently, and try to be as creative and strategic, as you can.”

The $200K Bullet

After the Cubs took Jordan Wicks with their first selection, balanced high upside and senior signings in rounds 2-10, and went heavy into prep players on day 3, fans were left wondering just how much money would even be available to move around to the latter round players. Now that some of the dust has settled with player negotiations, Kantrovitz provided some context to his day 3 selections.

We aimed to finish day two, with roughly, $80[k]-$100k in surplus in our pool that would enable us to then fire off a bullet of roughly $200k for one player on day three. We estimated that we could get a player that was a top, two-three round caliber player with that bullet.

Dan Kantrovitz

While some teams clearly favored the safety of taking college juniors and seniors who would be the most likely players to sign for the slot max of $125k afforded to players drafted in rounds 11-20, Cubs fans were surprised when seven of the 10 day three selections were high school players. It begged the question of just how much bonus pool flexibility had the Cubs built after taking numerous high-upside players earlier in the draft? According to Kantrovitz, the Cubs planned to be creative in bringing in a player who they viewed as a top two-three round talent (effectively the caliber of player they would take if they had a competitive balance pick) by being in a position to offer one player slightly more than the $125k routinely offered on day three. “We aimed to finish day two, with roughly, $80[k]-$100k in surplus in our pool that would enable us to then fire off a bullet of roughly $200k for one player on day three,” Kantrovitz said. “We estimated that we could get a player that was a top, two-three round caliber player with that bullet.” If fans are concerned that statement suggests the Cubs will only sign one of the seven prep players on day three, Kantrovitz stated that there the Scouting Department had some good “intel” that there may be quality high school players available who would consider signing for the $125k. It appears that is coming to fruition.

Erian Rodriguez appears to be a high school player who agreed to sign for the $125k slot

The Changing Landscape of Minor League Baseball

Disclaimer: As these are amateur players that have not signed with the Chicago Cubs, we did not discuss any high school players who have not agreed to terms by the time this episode airs.

Though it was jarring to see the Cubs’ 11th and 12th round selections abruptly signal that they would be going to college, the Cubs expected multiple high school picks selected in the 11-20th rounds to bypass professional ball at this time. In fact, due to the changes in the landscape of minor league baseball such as reducing the number of minor league affiliates and the 180 player-limit, which both went into effect this season, the team wasn’t in a position to be able to bring in a full complement of 20 drafted players in the first place. “Frankly, we weren’t gonna be able to sign 20 players in the draft anyway,” Kantrovitz said. He further went to to describe the balance the Cubs’ Scouting Department weighed during day 3 between bringing in quality players and the effect that player would have on others within the organization. “I remember talking with our guys [the Scouting Department] and PD (Player Development). It was pretty clear when you look at our rosters out there, unless there was a player who we just loved (say a college position player), there wasn’t going to be an obvious spot for him to just go into Myrtle [Beach] and get played time,” Kantrovitz said. “He had to be better than who we already have. And so, again, I think my mindset going in was, one, can we get this caliber of player after the draft (when we’re talking about college players on day three)? And then two, is he better than what we already have? And do we want this player taking at bats over a 19 year old prospect that’s still coming into his own at Myrtle [Beach]?”


Kantrovitz provided significantly more context in the full interview (available here) behind the selection of Wicks and how the Cubs pivoted plans because he was too good to pass up. He also went into great depth about their day two selections and the 2020 and 2021 non-drafted free agents. It was striking to hear how excited the organization is about their draft. Though a scouting director would be performing malpractice if they were publicly disappointed in their draft selections, it was clear that the organization is a big believer in the caliber of talent that should be brought in when the final signings are official. Cubs fans know how much one stellar draft class can impact the entire organization and while it will be difficult to judge this group for several years, the early results suggest this group will be one to watch.

Want to hear far more insights into the strategy of the Chicago Cubs during the 2021 draft? Curious about the impact of non-drafted free agents from 2020 and 2021? The full interview is available here.

Cubs Introduce the Next Wave of Draft Prospects

Chicago Cubs first-round pick, Jordan Wicks, was introduced to the media today, July 15th. He will be joined by fellow high-upside draft prospects in signing with the organization, lefthander Drew Gray (third-round) and centerfielder Christian Franklin (fourth-round). Today marks the first time the next wave of prospects will officially enter the system.

The Cubs, under VP of Scouting Dan Kantrovitz, were opportunistic in selecting Wicks who was one of “nine or ten guys” on their draft board that they were hopeful would slide to their selection at 21st overall in the draft. Once it became clear he may be available, the team jumped at the opportunity to draft a player who Kantrovitz described as “the complete package.

Drew Gray and Christian Franklin are two players who Cubs’ officials describe as premier athletes. In an interview between Dan Kantrovitz and , Kantrovitz described Gray as “dripping with projection” and featured multiple pitches that excite the Cubs’ scouts, including a “snapdragon breaker” (his curveball). Cubs officials feel that Franklin is a plus centerfielder, which is rare to find at that stage in the draft. Each of these players is considered a “high-variance” player (one that has a wide range of outcomes). It will be up to the Cubs’ performance science and high performance departments to help these players reach the higher end of that range. Gray was scouted by area scout, Tom Clark and Franklin was scouted by area scout, Ty Nichols.

Signing bonuses of all three players are unlikely to be announced at this time. However Wicks’ bonus is expected to near the 21st overall bonus slot figure of $3,132,300. Drew Gray confirmed his signing via his Instagram. According to Carlos Callazo, Franklin signed for $425,000 ($39,500 under slot of $464,500).

One note, unless confirmed publicly or by a team-source, I won’t be speculating or reporting a player’s specific signing bonus. Bloggers exist as sort of fan/journalistic hybrid. I greatly enjoy what I do and I’m passionate about it. I love to tell stories and inform if I can, but I also want to be mindful that even speculating that a player has signed and attaching a signing bonus could jeopardize a player’s eligibility in case the deal falls apart. I crave information like many do, but I hope you understand.

Notes from the Press Conference

UPDATE: more than the three original players officially signed their contracts.

Player Reports

Jordan Wicks

Ivy Futures Report: Lefthander who pounds the strike zone. Top college lefty in the class with a low 90s fastball (has a fourseam and 2-seam with 2400 rpm spin) and a plus-plus changeup. There’s solid separation in velocity between the two pitches (~8-10 mph difference) and he “kills spin” by throwing the changeup at less than 1600 rpm. His feel for spin with a breaking ball lags behind with a spin rate close to 2400 rpm. Looks the part of a quick mover in the minors. A team with a good pitch development team should be able to get at least an average breaking ball from Wicks.

Drew Gray

Ivy Futures Report: A two-way player in high school, Drew Gray was announced by the Cubs as a pitcher. He’s showcased elite spin metrics on his fastball and curveball. He boasts elite extension and his fastball has a flat angle at the top of the zone, which is an in vogue metric that helps get swings an misses. As a recent convert to pitching there isn’t a lot of wear and tear on the arm.

Christian Franklin

Ivy Futures Report: Franklin will show plus raw power. He could be a plus CF at the next level. The offensive bar for a plus CF in the majors is low. If Franklin is drafted by an organization with a strong hitting infrastructure, he could be a stud. However, his biggest risk is the significant swing and miss (28.4 K% for the season). Some scouts see a fourth-OF profile, but with the potential for so much more. He’s a dynamic athlete and a fan-favorite for Arkansas.

News and Notes

Several more Draft picks are in the process of signing or have signed officially.

Chicago Cubs Select James Triantos in Second Round of MLB Draft

With the 56th pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, the Chicago Cubs selected James Triantos, 3B, Madison HS.

Ivy Futures Report: James Triantos (SS, Madison HS) sported impressive batted-ball data. His contact rate of 94% contact rate topped prep players in the showcase circuit last year with a similar max EV as Will Taylor, Harry Ford, and Colson Montgomery. Traintos has quite an arm and has good run times. He hails from Cubs area scout (and 2020 Stan Zielinski Scout of the Year) Billy Swoope’s territory. I also don’t think it would surprise me to hear the Cubs very interested in Triantos with an early selection. From my latest mock: “If there’s one player who could be this year’s Nick Yorke (who was a surprise mid-first round selection), I’ll say it is James Triantos.”


Triantos reclassified to the 2021 ranks from 2022, where he was one of the better two-way prospects in that class. As a pitcher, he has a solid four pitch mix, primarily led by a FB in the low-90’s and an advanced CB in the high-70’s with great shape. He has a SL and a CH to boot in the low-80’s. Low-effort delivery, as well. As a bat, where most expect him to end up, he has a good feel for the barrel and shows off some sneaky pop for a guy who is 6’0″, 185. Hit 2 bombs at WWBA, including the longest of the tournament at 424 feet.

Prospects Live

Originally part of the Class of 2022, Triantos reclassified to join the 2021 Draft class, leading to scouts flocking to Virginia to check him out as he gained traction as a serious pop-up prospect. A two-way standout at James Madison High School, his future as a professional lies in his ability in the batter’s box, and he had so much helium that it looked possible he’d be the first player at Madison to get taken in the first few rounds since Jay Franklin was a first-round pick in 1971.

There are some polarizing opinions about Triantos and his upside, with scouts who like him really believing in the bat. Some see a future plus hitter with a feel for the barrel and good bat speed. There’s some surprising power given he’s not the biggest guy in the world, though he’s very physical. Detractors feel he can get stuck with a predetermined approach from the right side of the plate and can guess wrong.

Even fans of Triantos feel he won’t be a shortstop at the next level. He has the arm for the left side of the infield, with those who dream seeing a little Alex Bregman or fellow Virginia high school product David Wright, albeit a bit less athletic. The University of North Carolina recruit gets high marks for his baseball IQ and work ethic, another reason why he could hear his name called in the top five rounds.

MLB Pipeline