Cubs prospect Beeler well-versed in humility

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Cubs prospect Beeler well-versed in humility

"I've never been good at much besides throwing a baseball," Cubs prospect Dallas Beeler said last Saturday at the 2013 Cubs Convention.

If that sounds overly humble, especially at a panel put together to celebrate Cubs prospects, its because Beeler has been humbled. He tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow when he was still in junior college in 2009. The injury required Tommy John surgery, and when Beeler transferred to Oral Roberts, he needed a work-study job in order to pay his way through school as he worked out and rehabbed with the team.

The Cubs noticed his progress and selected Beeler in the 41st round of the 2010, but that was four rounds later than he was picked coming out of high school two years earlier. When the topic of his draft round came up, Beelers eager nature subsided a bit.

"The way I thought of it was 'I'm not getting drafted as a number, I'm getting drafted to have an opportunity to play,'" Beeler said.

But then he brightened up, and embraced his humble beginnings all over again.

"I'm happy that I signed in the 41st round. I'd rather be the underdog than be that guy that's in a high place and comes down. I'd rather be the guy that comes from behind, but shines through and everyone says 'Oh my God, he's the 41st round pick, but he's here.'"

Beeler is almost here.

2012 saw the 6-foot-5 right-hander complete his first full season at Double-A Tennessee, as he tossed 136 innings (a professional career-high) across 27 starts, while holding his own with a 4.24 ERA. If Beeler makes it, it will be on the strength of his control. He's not overpowering, but he's averaged only 2.3 walks per nine innings over the course of his entire minor league career.

While each level in the minors bring a more intense challenge, one constant for Beeler has been the presence of pitching coach Jeff Fassero.

"He's been my pitching coach all three years I've been in pro ball, I think. I signed, and was in Arizona for about a week. He was pitching coach there, but I didn't get to know him. But then my first full year he was in Peoria, and I love him, he's a great guy."

Beeler was promoted to Double-A Tennessee at the end of 2011, and at the start of 2012, Fassero joined him there.

"We get into arguments on the mound," Beeler said, "He'll say this, and I'll say 'Well, I dont want to do that.' But he's one of those guys you can come to a common ground with and realize why he's wanting you to do that."

Listening to advice is something Beeler got used to during his recovery from Tommy John surgery, when he would look for insight and help from anyone who could relate to his experience.

"I talked to Josh Johnson before I had Tommy John surgery," said Beeler, "And I asked him 'any tips or tricks that you can give me?' He said 'Go with a positive attitude. Go in with the attitude of 'alright, this is going to fix me.'"

Focusing on the positive worked for Beeler, and now that he's all the way out and only steps away from realizing his major league dreams, he's all about spreading it around. When fellow Cubs pitching prospect Robert Whitenack went down with the same injury, Beeler was quick to offer an encouraging word.

"I saw Whitenack about three months after he had the surgery in Arizona and I asked him, 'How are you doing?'

"He said 'it gets tight,' and I just tried to give him my experience from it, and let him know 'You may hit a few bumps in the road -- I hit a few bumps in the road, and had a few setbacks. There's going to be pain there, but know that you have to push through the pain. There's going to be scar tissue that's going to pop and you're going to feel like you tore your ligament again, when really all you're doing is stretching it out -- getting that extension back, and getting that range of motion back.'

"Whenever he's got a question for me, I want to be there for him. With everyone who's had Tommy John surgery, it's almost like a family."

Family, humility; both are good things to fall back on for someone who's only good at throwing a baseball.

White Sox snap scoreless streak early, cruise past Indians

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USA TODAY

White Sox snap scoreless streak early, cruise past Indians

The White Sox quickly ended their 23-inning streak of offensive futility and didn't look back. 

A three-run first inning propelled the White Sox to avoid getting swept with a 6-2 win over the Cleveland Indians in front of 24,444 at Guaranteed Rate Field Sunday afternoon. 

Tim Anderson led off the bottom of the first with a double, and after Tyler Saladino dribbled a ground ball through the left side, he came around to score on Melky Cabrera's sacrifice fly. The White Sox last run before that came in the fourth inning of their 9-1 loss to the New York Yankees on Wednesday. 

After Cabrera's flyout, Indians right fielder Abraham Almonte made a mess of Jose Abreu's line drive single, allowing it to skip past him to the wall. That error brought Saladino home and allowed Abreu to reach third, and Abreu later scored on Leury Garcia's two-out single to tag a third run on Cleveland starter Danny Salazar. 

Salazar was shaky over his five innings, striking out nine but allowing seven hits and issuing three walks. The White Sox struck again in the fifth inning when Avisail Garcia launched an RBI double off the top of the center field wall. 

Cleveland's inability to catch the ball helped the White Sox push across another run in the sixth inning. After Omar Narvaez drew a leadoff walk, Jacob May put down a sacrifice bunt and hustled to first, where second baseman Michael Martinez — covering for charging first baseman Carlos Santana — had to awkwardly stretch for Santana's underhand toss. Martinez dropped the ball, allowing May to reach.

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Following strikeouts by Anderson and Saladino, Cabrera lined a single to left, and Narvaez was aggressively waved home (a common practice with two outs in an inning). Brandon Guyer's throw easily beat Narvaez to the plate, but Indians catcher Roberto Perez dropped it, allowing Narvaez to score the fifth run of the game.

Another Indians defensive miscue led to the White Sox sixth run in the eighth, when an Abreu ground ball kicked off Santana's spikes and into center field, allowing May to score.  

White Sox starter Derek Holland was solid in his six innings, allowing only a solo home run to Francisco Lindor with three walks and six strikeouts. His toughest test came in the top of the fifth, when he issues a two-out walk to Santana to load the bases but struck out Lindor to end the frame. Holland lowered his ERA to 1.99 with his six innings of one-run ball Sunday. 

The Indians tacked on a late run when David Robertson threw a wild pitch that allowed Lonnie Chisenhall to score with two out in the ninth.

Quality more important than quantity for Bears in 2017 NFL Draft

Quality more important than quantity for Bears in 2017 NFL Draft

NFL teams typically wants as many draft picks as possible. The theory: The needier the team, the more picks required for those needs.

Not sure that this is the true situation confronting the Bears in 2017, however. In fact, something nearly the opposite, a variation on a less-is-more theme, is truer.

For the Bears approaching the 2017 NFL Draft, quality is more important than quantity. “Best available” player is fine, but for a team in major need of true impact difference-makers, a “best-possible” player is paramount. How GM Ryan Pace and his personnel posse accomplish that will be one of the most closely watched and far-reaching dramas of this draft. Because it may require some creativity on the clock, with a dizzying array of scenarios popping up in front of them by virtue of possible picks by the Cleveland Browns at 1 and San Francisco 49ers at 2.

Pace already has been about the business of giving himself the option of going after best-possible rather than simply waiting, staying with the draft board and selecting best-available.

The Bears were among the NFL’s most active teams in free agency. That has taken care of some “quantity” issues (cornerback, wide receiver, tight end), with an eye toward freeing the draft for the pursuit of true excellence, something too few Bears drafts have managed to secure (which is how teams miss playoffs nine times in 10 years and find themselves on third different GMs and coaches in the span of six years).

As he has always had within the context of the overall direction of the football franchise, Pace has a draft plan. More specifically, he also has a structure within which to execute that plan.

Draft “bands”

Besides an overall top-to-bottom ranking of players, the Bears establish various “bands” of players they identify as being worth a pick at a certain spot. Not all players in the band are graded equally, and the Bears may move to trade up if a significantly higher-graded players in the band is within reach, or if they fear other teams leap-frogging them to grab a targeted player.

But the bands allow the Bears to weigh trading back and still being able to select one of the talents in that band. With the Bears sitting at No. 3 this year, the first band in this draft will be a small one.

“We’ll have an elite group of names that we’re confident will be there [at No. 3],” Pace said at the recent owners meetings. “Three names, yeah. But beyond that, [we say,] ‘OK, there’s some pretty good depth in this draft, too, so are there scenarios’ — and it’s easier said than done — ‘where we can trade back.’ Those things’ll be discussed.”

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They’re being discussed right now. The phone in Pace’s Halas Hall office has been increasingly active the past couple weeks — calls ingoing and outgoing — and will become more so this week as the Bears and most of the NFL take the temperatures of trade ideas going into the start of the draft Thursday night. It happens every year about this time: general managers looking to satisfy sometimes-conflicting objectives, one of adding draft picks via trades down where possible, and the other of adding best-possible players, sometimes necessitating trades of picks or players to move up.

For the Bears, this year is a bit out of the ordinary, if only because they hold the No. 3-overall pick in a draft considered extremely talent-rich at certain positions and extremely less so at others. Loosely put, a position such as cornerback is rated deep enough that quality starters can be had even down into the fourth round, so teams likely need not trade up to land a blue-chipper. Conversely, the quarterback position, the one most often targeted for round-one trades up, is short of consensus elites, so again, teams are less likely to trade up to secure one.

The Bears are in position to select a franchise quarterback but opinions vary widely on whether there are clear ones to be had as high as where the Bears draft, as the order now stands. Pace, who established last year his willingness to trade up for what he considers “elite,” is like any other personnel executive in wanting more selections.

The Bears do not want to slip out of a band entirely. When they sat with No. 7 in the 2015 draft, the Bears identified a quiver of eight players deemed worth the seventh-overall pick. Those ranged from quarterback Marcus Mariota to wide receiver Amari Cooper to defensive lineman Leonard Williams, and included Kevin White, one of two from the eight not already selected by that point.

Because the goal was a player judged to be elite, trading down was not a realistic option because of the risk of getting none of their targets and instead settling for the next, lower tier of prospects.

Dealing with market forces

But what will the market allow this time? 

“Yeah, and based on the talent of the guys in those bands, what it would require for us to go back?” Pace said. “Those things are all being talked about and studied now, and we’ll keep on fine-tuning it.

“But you’ve got to have a partner willing to do that, too.”

Pace has been a willing partner for trades either up or down, sometimes in the same draft.

Last year, holding the 11th pick, the decision was made to trade up to No. 9 because of their grade on Georgia edge rusher Leonard Floyd, and the concern that either the New York Giants would take Floyd at No. 10 or another team would leap-frog the Bears and grab him. The Bears wanted a pass rusher and the falloff from Floyd was viewed as significant. Clemson’s Shaq Lawson was the next edge rusher taken (No. 19), he was less the speed player that Floyd was, and concerns about Lawson’s shoulder issues proved valid, requiring offseason surgery that cost him most of his rookie season.
 
On day two, Pace traded down twice with an eye toward landing one of his top second-round-band talents: Kansas State offensive lineman Cody Whitehair.