Steve Stone's Mailbag: Cubs Need Run Producer

Steve Stone's Mailbag: Cubs Need Run Producer

Friday, October 9th
CSNChicago.com

Steve Stone dives into his mailbag to answer some of your questions about Alex Rios, Geovany Soto, Derrek Lee, and his picks for ALNL CY Young Awards.

Question from Sacramento, Chicago, IL: Hello Steve, what do u think Greg Walker will try to do with Alex Rios this off season? I've heard his stance is really horrible for a guy his size. I really feel bad for the guy, it seems like he is really trying out there. What can be done to fix his swing this off season?

Steve Stone: I dont think Greg Walker is going to do anything with Rios this off season. I think he will go back home to Puerto Rico. I think whatever work there is to be done will be done in spring training. The swing itself seems to be okay, but perhaps a little tweaking of the stance or the hand position as he moves down into his swing is something that Greg might want to deal with this spring. I think he will bounce back in 2010 but when he has had success with a batting style, it's hard to ask to change it. I believe in some minor tweaking instead a major overhaul will probably work the best.

Question from Bruce, Walkerton, Indiana: Hi Steve, to become more athletic and faster for next year, would someone like Nate McLouth be an answer to a Quentin, McLouth, Rios outfield? Then re-sign Podsednik as DH?

Steve Stone: Nate would certainly be a nice addition to the team but I dont think Atlanta will give him up after trading for him with the Pirates. When the White Sox inquired about him, Pittsburgh didnt want anything to do with him, which knowing the talent in the White Sox system makes me wonder about the wisdom of Neil Huntington, their new GM. As far as signing Podsednik for the DH, possibly but Ozzie said he will rotate DH's for next year. I dont think a one year contract for Podsednik would be a bad idea especially if it is incentive laden to guard against the injuries that he has suffered in the past. I think from a hitting standpoint, he had a remarkable three quarters of the season for the White Sox. When you factor in base running and defense, the total picture isnt quite as good but as a designated hitter as part of his job description, especially with a lack of a leadoff hitter that the Sox currently have, it seems like a reasonable thing to do.

Question from Charlie, Scottsdale, AZ: Geovany Soto had a tough year, but seemed to turn it around late. Do you see him as the Cubs starting catcher next season?

Steve Stone: Charlie from Scottsdale, Geovany Soto did have a rough year; as far as turning it around late, when you are hitting in the two teens, it's hard to say you turned it around. Yes I do see him as a starting catcher next year, however the Cubs have a decision to make. Either get Soto in terrific shape this offseason so he comes back and enjoys a kind of year like he did his rookie year, or let him gain as much as he wants to, suggest he hit his weight and then hope for a remarkable season. I prefer the former to the latter. The Cubs have said however that Soto didnt gain a lot of weight coming into this year which surprises me because everybody seems to believe that he looked a little more rotund after his stay at the World Baseball Classic. Im not saying that marijuana and brownies go hand in hand but I heard that sometimes, thats what happens.
Question from Lee, Chicago, IL: Derrek Lee has to be the Cubs team MVP right?

Steve Stone: Lee from Chicago, when the team doesnt go to the playoffs, there really is no reason to have a team MVP. Could they have not made it to the playoffs without Derrek Lee? I think so. Just like you could take anybody off the team and they still would not have made it to the playoffs. I believe he had a wonderful year especially when you factor in that much of the time he didnt have a lot of offensive support around him. But understand, dont assume he will have the same kind of year. Take Derrek back to his average year and you will realize like the Cubs do, you have to add one more solid run producing bat. Where have I heard that before? Oh, thats right, I heard that last year and so they added Milton Bradley and Aaron Miles for a combined total of 35 million dollars. That 35 million dollar obligation netted them for one full season; 45 runs batted in. So I suggest this year when they go out on the market to find a run producer, they actually find one who has averaged more than 50.7 runs batted in his entire career. I know this will surprise you, but Milton Bradley coming into last year averaged 50.7 runs batted in per season. He drove in 40 this year. What in the world made Jim Hendry believe that he was going to be a run producer seeing as the previous nine years he had never been one before. The irony is that when they signed Milton Bradley, less than one year ago, and I said that exact same thing, everybody said I was anti-Cub. I was a bitter former employee; that I was evaluating them for all the wrong reasons. I think it has born out over the course of the year that that particular assessment turned out to be fairly accurate. I hope Milton has a lot of luck with whatever team has the courage to take him on along with his 21 million dollars remaining in the two years he has left on his contract.
Question from Allen, Chicago, IL: Who do you think will win the ALNL Cy Young Award? Im going with Zack Greinke.

Steve Stone: Allen in Chicago I am thinking Chris Carpenter and Zach Greinke. The question is who do you have for MVP? I am thinking a tight race between Joe Mauer, Mark Teixiera and Derek Jeter. My vote would go to Derek Jeter however Joe Mauer will probably win it. In the National League, its Albert Puljos and nobodys in second place. Manager of the year, National League, Jim Tracy, Colorado Rockies. American League, Joe Girardi, New York Yankees although Ron Gardiner will probably win it. I also believe that Mike Scioscia should be in line for kudos and might sneak in there because what he had to deal with, all the injuries, the death of Adenheart and all the challenges. But in a four team division, when the other teams arent that good, it's not that difficult to win. I just think that Mike is one of the best around. Executive of the year, National League Mozeliak. St. Louis Cardinals, looking eye to eye with the Chicago Cubs, Mozeliak added Matt Halladay, Mark DeRosa, and Julio Lugo. Jim Hendry added John Grebo, Jeff Baker and Tom Gorzelanny. Enough said. American league Executive of the year its easy when you have an open checkbook and you can spend 429 million dollars but you still have to respect Bryan Cashman for the addition of CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Mark Teixiera. It is one thing to talk about it, as so many other teams did, its another thing to get them. Couple that with the trade for Nick Swisher, turning out to be a very good one and Brian Cashman becomes the American League executive of the year. Rookie of the year in the National League I would say Tommy Hanson of the Atlanta Braves although I am probably leaving out many good candidates but I am partial to pitchers and though I would love to say Gordon Beckham, I would say Rick Porcello of the Tigers will probably win rookie of the year. At 20 years old, what he did was absolutely remarkable.

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Under-the-radar Reynaldo Lopez impressing White Sox: 'He's got some stuff'

Under-the-radar Reynaldo Lopez impressing White Sox: 'He's got some stuff'

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- He maybe doesn't receive the same hype as some of his peers, but the White Sox think Reynaldo Lopez deserves plenty of attention.

A highly-touted prospect for two seasons now, Lopez took a big leap forward in a 2016 season that resulted in two promotions, including a trip to the big leagues.

While Michael Kopech and Lucas Giolito have garnered much of the attention, Lopez, who was acquired with Giolito in the Adam Eaton trade, is right on their heels if not equal. Lopez -- who produced a 3.21 ERA in 19 minor-league starts last season and struck out 42 batters in 44 innings in the majors -- is rated the No. 31 prospect in baseball by Baseball America and 38th by MLB.com.

"He's looked good from the get-go," pitching coach Don Cooper said. "The bottom line is we like all three of them. I didn't hear a lot (about him). When people are asking me questions it's usually about Giolito and Kopech. I'm not sure why because he's a gifted kid. He's got some stuff."

Lopez, 23, already has pitched in 11 regular season games (six starts) and made a playoff appearance. He earned those outings by excelling in a season that began at Double-A Harrisburg. Two seasons after he put up outstanding numbers at Single-A, Lopez dominated the Eastern League with 100 strikeouts in 76 1/3 innings and 3.18 ERA. He attributes his success to calming himself down in game situations.

"I just kept my focus in the game," Lopez said through an interpreter. "Before, I thought a lot about things and I couldn't think. And then I realized to keep my focus on the game. Sometimes if someone hit me or something, my mind got stuck in that moment. But then I understood you have to have a short memory and just let the things that are happening (be) in the past and focus on what's happening."

Lopez, 23, said he has taken the same approach to handling his trade to the White Sox. The right-hander admits he was shocked at first when he heard he was traded by the Washington Nationals, who signed him for $17,000 in 2012 out of the Dominican Republic.

But the more he thought about it, Lopez realized how good of an opportunity he has in front of him with the rebuilding White Sox. The club intends to try Lopez out as a starter --- there's debate among scouting analysts whether he's meant for the bullpen or rotation --- at Triple-A Charlotte this season. Asked what he prefers, Lopez said he's a starter.

And rather than try to impress the club by overthrowing a fastball that MLB.com graded 70 on the 20-80 scale, Lopez has worked on location early in camp. Those efforts haven't gone unnoticed by Cooper and manager Rick Renteria.

"Lopez is a guy who maybe goes under the radar a little bit, but when you see his bullpen work, he's pretty clean, pretty efficient," Renteria said. "He hits his spots."

Through four throwing sessions, Cooper said he likes how Lopez has located his fastball and curveball. Cooper thinks the changeup, which is the lowest graded of his three pitches (45 out of 80), is where the most work is needed. But Cooper is pleased with how Lopez has worked in the bullpen and batting practice and looks forward to seeing how it carries over once the exhibition season begins.

Lopez likes how he has fit in with the White Sox through the first week and a half. An aggressive pitcher by nature --- "I like to get ahead in the count," he said --- Lopez has tried to work down in the zone in the early part of camp. He said that was one of his main takeaways from pitching in the majors.

"I learned a lot from that experience," Lopez said. "I learned how to pitch. It's not just throw hard. You have to locate your pitches and be smart. I think that was the most important thing for me, from that experience."

Blackhawks gear up for Wild in 'extremely important' game

Blackhawks gear up for Wild in 'extremely important' game

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Blackhawks knew their meeting against the Minnesota Wild two weeks ago was a critical contest. This one is right up there, too.

The Blackhawks are trying to keep pace with the front-running Wild, who are seven points ahead of them entering tonight's game.

"There's certainly always something to play for," said coach Joel Quenneville, whose Blackhawks are 10 points ahead of third-place St. Louis. "We want to keep getting better and we're starting to improve over this part of the season. But the point of importance of today's game and keeping it close is important for us, so we'll approach it that way. We were going into the break a week ago, and I'm sure it's an important game for them but it's an extremely important game for us."

Meanwhile the Wild will be trying to do tonight what the Blackhawks did on Feb. 11: go into their bye on a high note. The Wild haven't had many hiccups lately, going 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. Devan Dubnyk will get the start as the Wild look to keep extending their lead.

"It's one of those games that's a great challenge for your group," Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. "You're playing a team that's still won three Stanley Cups in the last seven years and they've been in every battle you can imagine. That team gets up for every important game, and I think they'll think this is an important game. It's just about being an athlete. It's one of those things, you love to play in these situations."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Tuesday marks the Wild's 59th game of the season; they had caught up to Chicago during the Blackhawks' bye week, yet will go into their break with a game in hand. Still, the Wild are ready for the respite.

"We're not complaining about it," Charlie Coyle said. "It's a little different, yeah, but in the long run it's going to help us. Just get this rest period, rest the legs, the body, [rest] mentally, come back and get ready for the grind. It's going to be crucial for us and we'll try to take advantage of it."

Matt Dumba (knee) could return to the Wild's lineup tonight but Boudreau wouldn't say for sure.

Broadcast information

Time: 7 p.m.
TV: CSN
Live stream: CSNChicago.com and NBC Sports app
Radio: WGN 720 AM

Blackhawks

Forward lines
Nick Schmaltz -Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik
Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane
Dennis Rasmussen-Marcus Kruger-Marian Hossa
Ryan Hartman-Tanner Kero-Vinnie Hinostroza

Defensive pairs
Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Michal Kempny-Brent Seabrook
Brian Campbell-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goaltender
Corey Crawford

Injuries/illnesses: None

Minnesota Wild

Forward lines
Nino Niederreiter-Eric Staal-Charlie Coyle
Jason Zucker-Mikko Koivu-Mikael Granlund
Zach Parise-Erik Haula-Jason Pominville
Chris Stewart-Tyler Graovac-Jordan Schroeder

Defensive Pairs
Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon
Gustav Olofsson-Jonas Brodin
Marco Scandella-Matt Dumba

Goaltender
Devan Dubnyk

Injuries/illnesses: None