|No teams have been more active traders this offseason than the Padres (five deals) or Cubs (three), so fittingly the two clubs came together for the first time this winter. New front offices in San Diego and Chicago continued to put their stamp on inherited rosters with a four-player trade that sent first baseman Anthony Rizzo and low Class A righthander Zach Cates to the Cubs and righthander Andrew Cashner and 20-year-old Korean outfielder Kyung-Min Na to the Padres.
The acquisition of Yonder Alonso from the Reds last month clouded the Padres’ first-base depth chart. Prior to the deal, Rizzo ranked as San Diego’s top prospect, but Alonso now has the inside track. Fortunately for Rizzo, he had a front-office proponent in the Cubs organization—just as he did with the Padres and Red Sox. Jason McLeod, now Cubs senior vice president of scouting and player development, originally drafted Rizzo out of high school in 2007 while serving as Red Sox scouting director. Working as an assistant general manager for the Padres, he then helped engineer the trade that brought Rizzo (and three others) to San Diego in the December 2010 trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez to Boston. New Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer also worked in the Red Sox and Padres front offices alongside McLeod.
The new Padres front office, headed by GM Josh Byrnes, has brought in established talent this offseason such as catcher John Baker, closer Huston Street and corner outfielder Carlos Quentin, while also adding promising, but unestablished, young players like Alonso, catcher Yasmani Grandal and now Cashner, who ranked 95th on the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects list heading into the 2010 season. He lit up radar guns as a Cubs rookie reliever that year but spent most of 2011 on the disabled list with an aggravated shoulder.
The Cubs, meanwhile, continue to stock up on talented players who had been pushed out of the picture in their previous organizations. Rizzo even resembles former Rockies third baseman Ian Stewart in that he’s a disciplined lefty power hitter with a loopy, uppercutting swing that ought to play in Wrigley Field, especially when the wind blows out to right field. Chicago also added starting pitchers Chris Volstad, a righthander, and Travis Wood, a lefty.
|Anthony Rizzo, 1b
Age: 22. Position: 1B (133 G).
Born: Aug. 8, 1989 in Fort Lauderdale.
Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 220. Bats: L. Throws: L.
School: Douglas HS, Parkland, Fla.
Career Transactions: Selected by Red Sox in sixth round of 2007 draft; signed Aug. 15, 2007 … Traded by Red Sox with RHP Casey Kelly, OF Reymond Fuentes and a player to be named to Padres for 1B Adrian Gonzalez, Dec. 4, 2010; Padres acquired OF Eric Patterson (Dec. 16, 2010).
Rizzo led all Triple-A batters with a 1.159 OPS through June 5 last year, when San Diego called him up at age 21 because it had seen enough of Jorge Cantu and Brad Hawpe at first base. He went 3-for-7 with a double, triple, homer and four walks in his first three big league games, but he soon fell on hard times and went back to Tucson on July 21 having gone 11-for-91 (.121) in the big leagues. He went on to rank second in the Pacific Coast League in slugging (.652) and fifth in hitting (.331) before returning to the Padres and starting eight games in September. Rizo must make adjustments after big league pitchers were able to exploit the length and uppercut in his swing with quality fastballs up in the zone. He needs to stay on top of the ball and level out his stroke to make more contact and hit more line drives. Rizzo started to pull inside pitches for power in Double-A in 2010, and last year he hit 23 of his 27 homers to right or right-center field. Strikeouts always will be a byproduct of Rizzo’s plus power, though he led all big league rookies with at least 100 plate appearances with a 14 percent walk rate. Like many lefty power hitters, Rizzo struggles versus southpaws—he hit .245/.312/.409 against them in Double-A and Triple-A—but his strike-zone awareness should enable him to hit for a decent average.
|Zach Cates, rhp
Born: Dec. 17, 1989 in Conway, Ark.
Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 220. Bats: R. Throws: R.
School: Northeast Texas CC.
Career Transactions: Selected by Padres in third round of 2010 draft; signed Aug. 14, 2010.
Undrafted out of high school and after his first year at Northeast Texas CC, Cates moved to the mound full-time in 2010, just in time to pull down $765,000 from the Padres as a third-rounder that summer. Cates worked primarily as a catcher up through 2009 and still is learning the finer points of his new craft. He tends to pitch away from contact now and distrusts his changeup, while his delivery tends to be too mechanical and his release point too inconsistent. Cates pitches with an arm wrap in the back of his motion, but most of the time his athleticism allows him to get in position to throw his secondary stuff. Cates pitches at 91-93 mph with sinking and tailing life when he gets extension, but he leaves his fastball up and over the plate a bit too often. He tops out near 96 and does it easy, affording him a bit of natural deception. He shows some feel for a split-changeup, and scouts believe it can be average with more work. The Padres swapped out Cates’ curveball in favor of a slider in late August because he struggled to command his curve with his long arm stroke. He showed occasional ability to spin a curve, so his slider could develop into a weapon. Cates’ power repertoire and inconsistent mechanics suggest a future in the bullpen, and he’s ready for high Class A.
|Andrew Cashner, rhp
Born: Sept. 11, 1986 in Conroe, Texas.
Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 200. Bats: R. Throws: R.
School: Texas Christian.
Career Transactions: Selected by Cubs in first round (19th overall) of 2008 draft; signed July 10, 2008.
The Cubs intended to use Cashner as a starter in 2011, but he strained his rotator cuff in his first big league start (5 1/3 innings, two hits, one run, two strikeouts, one walk) and did not reappear until Aug. 23 in Double-A. He spent September in the Cubs’ bullpen and delivered 5 1/3 more innings, this time allowing one run on one hit, while striking out six and walking three. The Padres intend to use Cashner as a reliever, and it’s role for which he’s well suited because he sits at 95-96 mph with his fastball and 84-85 mph with a nasty slider. When he’s commanding the ball, he profiles as a set-up man or potential closer.
|Kyung-Min Na, of
Age: 20. Position: LF (35 G), CF (33 G), RF (15 G).
Born: Dec. 12, 1991 in Seoul, South Korea.
Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 170. Bats: L. Throws: L.
Career Transactions: Signed as international free agent by Cubs, Aug. 12, 2009.
An athletic center fielder who is still catching up to the speed of the pro game, Na flashes plus tools as he’s an above-average runner with a strong arm and the ability to handle center field. His bat is behind his other tools, but he has shown some ability to square up the ball. Na doesn’t have much power and projects as more of a top-end of the lineup center fielder if everything comes together with a decent fall-back option as a solid fourth outfielder.