“Go West, Young Man”: Examining the Kris Bryant Trade

Kris Bryant by Rich Biesterfeld (@Biest22)

This is going to be a tough play… Bryant… The Cubs win the World Series!

Joe Buck

It seemed almost unimaginable that Chicago Cubs legend, Kris Bryant, will be wearing another uniform, but that day has finally arrived. Kris Bryant has been traded to the San Francisco Giants. The return to the trade will be covered below and while the players brought in have significant upside and projection, a historic figure in Cubs lore has left the organization.

From #2 overall pick in the 2013 draft to 2014 minor league player of the year to 2015 rookie of the year to 2016 NL MVP and World Champion, Kris Bryant has cemented his legacy in Chicago. Though a #17 flag bearing Bryant’s name will likely not be hanging from the foul poles at Wrigley in the future, Kris’s seven plus seasons in the organization have left an indelible impact on the Chicago Cubs.

Advertisements

Examining the return

Alexander Canario

Canario is a huge upside prospect with a very high variance. He has impressive power that is generated from incredible bat speed. Canario represents a player that is a good test for the Cubs hitting infrastructure. He did take some time to adjust in the early going of the season (hardly an uncommon sentiment in a post COVID season) and since June 2nd, Canario has put up a .265/.340/.482 line with a 112 wRC+ and 26.6 K%/10.2 BB%. He is a good athlete with average speed. Canario has split time between center and right field in his pro career, but profiles better in right field. I believe he is a Top 20 prospect for the Cubs. Several publications rank Canario as a Top 10 prospect in the Cubs system. If you believe in his adjustments and breakout, then the Cubs landed an impact prospect.

Despite sitting in the international spending penalty box in 2016 after signing Bahamian shortstop Lucius Fox for $6 million the year before, the Giants still found a bargain by signing Canario for $60,000 out of the Dominican Republic. He won MVP honors at the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League’s all-star game during his 2017 pro debut and really broke out two years later by batting .318/.377/.623 with 16 homers in 59 games between Rookie and short-season ball.

With the best bat speed among San Francisco prospects outside of Marco Luciano, as well as his growing strength and the loft and leverage in his right-handed swing, Canario has well above-average raw power. Though he hit .291 in his first three years as a pro, he’s overly aggressive and gets too pull-happy and long with his stroke. After he posted a 30 percent strikeout rate in 2019, the Giants had him focus on strike-zone discipline and the consistency of his at-bats at their alternate site and in instructional league. 

MLB Pipeline
Advertisements

Caleb Kilian

I can’t tell you how impressed I am with Caleb Kilian. After watching several games of footage, I can say that I firmly believe prognosticators are sleeping on Kilian. The righthander is a “command+” pitcher who had a 1.14 BB/9 in AA (0.42 in Hi-A!) with a 26.2 K%. Kilian’s command is primarily derived from his focus on the fastball. Kilian throws three fastballs with a four-seam, two-seam, and cut fastball (cutter) all being used often in at-bats. The four-seam operates 94-96 mph and has solid ride up in the zone. It is helped by his excellent command. Both his cutter and two-seam are solid pitches that can generate whiffs (cutter) or weak contact (two-seam). His cutter replaced a former slider that wasn’t a very successful pitch.

Mechanically, Kilian excels with smooth, repeatable delivery, which aids his command+ profile. Kilian has a long arm stroke, which is a mechanical feature that some teams have moved away from in recent years. The Cubs are not one of those clubs as multimedia producer for Marquee Sports Network, Lance Brozdowski, illustrated perfectly with Cubs prospects Ryan Jensen, Kilian, and Alexander Vizcaino.

One inconsistent note that I’ve read about Kilian is the reports on his curveball. Some evaluators note that he doesn’t have much of a breaking ball and others feel it above-average. Count me amongst the latter category. This is an above-average curveball that generates weak contact and whiffs (especially when he buries it). Kilian is having real success at the upper levels of the minors. This is an advanced arm that can still get better with an improved changeup. The Cubs have also succeeded in developing sliders amongst the pitching prospects so look for them to reincorporate a slider into his repertoire. Bold claims: I feel like this is a mid-rotation arm, the most advanced starter in the Cubs system (until Jordan Wicks debuts), and a top 10 Cubs prospect.

Caleb Kilian across multiple 2021 starts

Kilian added strength during his layoff and showed increased velocity in short stints at instructs, topping out at 98 mph after usually ranging from 90-95 with his four-seam fastball in college. After battling inconsistency with his breaking balls at Texas Tech, he has added some power to his curveball and scrapped his slider in favor of a shorter, harder cutter. He also exhibits feel for an average changeup. 

MLB Pipeline
Advertisements

Wrap up

It’s impossible to match the impact Kris Bryant has brought to the Chicago Cubs organization with the players in this trade, but it was apparent that the Cubs were open to moving on from Kris for the past several seasons. No, it has nothing to do with him turning down a $200 million dollar extension offer (that was categorically denied) and no, it was not because Kris wanted to play for some other team. It all is a result of finances from a major league club that is turning the page. Kris Bryant is a part of some of the best memories in my fandom of watching the Cubs. I’ll wish him well as I watch the Cubs the rest of the season and dream of a better and brighter future. This trade brings both a high floor in Kilian and high upside (Canario). Cubs fans are hoping that the end result is two solid or better major league players.

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.

Advertisements

A Cubs Legend

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

Advertisements

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
Advertisements

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)

Fangraphs
Advertisements

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)

Fangraphs

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.

Advertisements

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.

Advertisements

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.

Advertisements

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.

Advertisements