Chat with Bruce Levine
Welcome to ESPNChicago.com! Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox reporter Bruce Levine stops by Tuesday to chat.
Levine has covered sports in Chicago for over 28 years and hosts "Talkin' Baseball," heard Saturday mornings on ESPN 1000.
Send your questions now and join the chat Tuesday at noon CT/1 p.m. ET!
Bruce Levine (1:04 PM)
Welcome to the chatroom. Plenty of things to talk about other than Marmol and Tom Ricketts, but we'll be happy to take all questions. Bring the Sox and Cubs questions. Here we go...
With the upcoming series vs the NL, should the sox keep Viciedo and Dunn in the lineup and sit Konerko? Stick with the hot bat?
Bruce Levine (1:06 PM)
NL-style games, you need to pick and choose your best defensive team out team. You don't want to get caught late in the game with double switches that don't work. Remember, pitchers automatically have to come out in NL games for pinch-hitters late in close games.
Hey Bruce, how is John Danks doing?
Bruce Levine (1:07 PM)
John will pitch today in Arizona. HE had an extra day of rest after throwing 77 pitches against minor leaguers last week. Don Cooper said the velocity was a bit higher than it had been earlier in the spring, about 87-88.
Al (Homer Glen)
Can you remind me what it would have taken for the Cubs to get Upton and would you have pulled the trigger?
Bruce Levine (1:08 PM)
Kevin Towers told me he asked for Starlin Castro. And the conversation ended there.
Joe (West Town)
Bruuuuce! Wellington Castillo started yesterday vs. a righty pitcher. I hope this is something we can expect more going forward rather than see him platoon. In the early going it looks like he can flat out hit. Thoughts?
Bruce Levine (1:09 PM)
Castillo should be a 110-120 game catcher this year. He's really working hard at his trade, trying to master calling games and framing pitches. He seems to want this badly.
Should I be worried about Nate Jones? Was hoping he would be dominant this year.
Bruce Levine (1:11 PM)
I think they have to be concerned about over-using him. There's always a pitcher or two in any bullpen that gets abused. There are guys that have shown they can get batters out for 2-3 days in a row. Remember one other thing: this is his second year in the league. Scouts can get a good read on what he does well.
bob (orland park)
do you think after only a few games that we are seeing a sox team that will rely on homers for a good share of their runs?
Bruce Levine (1:13 PM)
So far it's about 70% -- 15 of 22. It cannot be that high for the whole season. The White Sox in recent years have scored 40-45% of their runs via the long ball. Once Keppinger gets going, they could start scoring runs with more base hits and hit and runs.
I heard the other day that Dale Sveum was asked about changing the NL over to have a DH and that he was not in favor of it. What are your thoughts on this as far as realistically happening and if so how soon? Does it make the game better or worse?
Bruce Levine (1:15 PM)
That rule would have to be negotiated or collectively bargained between the players union and the owners. I don't think the union would fight it because it would mean more high-paying jobs. In past years NL owners have been firmly opposed to adding the DH. However, with the new schedule of interleague games every day, most people believe that it's inevitable that both leagues will have the DH within a few years.
Sox fan from the Northside.. [via mobile]
White sox nation asks .. It's early I know.. But with a line up like Detroit has, can we win this Division?
Bruce Levine (1:17 PM)
It's not about the lineup -- it's about the pitching. Detroit has a dominant starting rotation and what appears to be a mediocre bullpen. You can lose a lot of games in the late innings with a bad bullpen. I think Detroit is beatable if they don't improve their bullpen.
Bruce, I've had some heated debates with Cubs fans recently about whether or not we should have gone after a FA 3rd basmen or center fielder. Do you think the Cubs are going about this rebuilding (strengthening the farm system) the right way or would you have signed some guys?
Bruce Levine (1:19 PM)
I think the Cubs are doing their best to trade for as many young guys as they can. Personally, I don't get the Ian Stewart thing at all. They did try to trade for Chisenhall and Olt, but couldn't get the deals done. I agree with you that at some point in the next year or so they need to start spending money on younger-type free agents. The Ricketts family should have plenty of money to give to their baseball people to get that job done. At least you hope that is the case.
I am starting to get irritated by Dale Sveum using extreme shifts for contact hitters especially with men on base. What is the logic behind this? It makes sense for power hitters but as a fan I am not going to enjoy slow rollers getting through the infield all year
Bruce Levine (1:21 PM)
Sveum calls that the 90/10 rule. He believes 90% of the time when you use an extreme shift it will cut off singles up the middle and in the hole. 10% of the time a batter will hit it the other way. The shifts are based on scouting reports on where hitters make contact. Every single pitch is diagrammed and documented before any new series starts. It's a part of their daily preparation.
There has to be a better second baseman in the Cubs organzation that can do a better job the Lillibridge. He is just painful to watch.
Bruce Levine (1:22 PM)
Nobody is ready to move up from the minors, but Barney will be back next Monday.
Hey Bruce, after the first week should Sox fans be worried about the team's defense this year?
Bruce Levine (1:24 PM)
It hasn't looked stellar as of yet, has it? I think their defense is going to be okay. Keppinger is an improvement over Youkilis at third base and Ramirez and Beckham are as good as anybody in the game. Konerko doesn't have much range but catches everything. Flowers is an upgrade over AJ. Viciedo is the only adventure in the outfield.
Tess, Detroit [via mobile]
Pitcher or hitter for the Cubs 2nd pick in this coming draft?? What would Bruce do?
Bruce Levine (1:26 PM)
I would definitely go for the top pitcher in the draft, and it appears that's Mark Appel. Theo and co. always say you have to get it right with your top pick, and I believe Appel probably has the biggest upside in the draft. Nothing wrong with having really good choices at 2, 3, 4 etc. Johnny Bench was a second-round pick.
Shane (Rhode Island) [via mobile]
If Dejesus is traded who takes over the leadoff spot? Is Almora a leadoff type hitter?
Bruce Levine (1:29 PM)
Almora could be a leadoff hitter, but that's down the line. If DeJesus is traded it means the Cubs are stockpiling young players again at the trade deadline. Otherwise there is no reason to move him. There's no apparent leadoff man on the roster right now other than DeJesus.
Michael in Phoenix [via mobile]
Do you think Keppinger has what it takes to successfully produce as the everyday 3rd baseman for Sox?
Bruce Levine (1:31 PM)
Right now it doesn't look good. But if he can get some of his issues behind him I think he will be OK. Sometimes the transition to a new city is difficult for a player.
Any chance the Sox lock up Gavin Floyd this year or does he get traded by July?
Bruce Levine (1:32 PM)
I think that's an interesting question. Although Sox fans seem to dismiss his consistency, he has been a horse for the Sox. So therefore a proven commodity might be worth looking at on another short-term deal.
Before the season started, some fans had suggested the Sox trade Viciedo, but the Sox appeared firm in their belief that he could be a 30-100 guy eventually. What do other evaluators think of him or what would be an example of a balanced trade involving him?
Bruce Levine (1:34 PM)
I wouldn't reade him. He's your 1B or DH of the future. Most scouts believe he is a potential 35-40 HR hitter. He quietly hit 25 last year. Ventura has told me he feels Viciedo is not even close t othe type of hitter he will be.
mark va [via mobile]
U said the cubs have no better options at 2B. Logan Watkins? Contact hitter who sees a lot of pitches and draws a lot of walks
Bruce Levine (1:35 PM)
He's not ready yet. He needs to play at the upper levels of the minor leagues for another year. A possible good choice in the future.
Dannon Sherich (Thomson, IL)
Edwin Jackson seems to be an innings eater much like Garza. Both pitchers to me are overpriced for what they bring to the table. Do you see Jackson constantly getting hit like he has so far?
Bruce Levine (1:36 PM)
Jackson is a solid fourth starter. He is a .500 pitcher with an ERA in the 4.00s. Don't underestimate the value of a fourth starter. They are on the mound as many times as your 1s, 2s and 3s. Garza has better stuff than Jackson.
I see that Ian Stewart is close to making a return to the lineup soon in 2-3 weeks. Does Sveum make him the everyday 3rd baseman right away or does he platoon with Valbuena to determine an everyday starter?
Bruce Levine (1:37 PM)
If Stewart is healthy he will get a good amount of time out there. Stewart has big-time home run potential and run production is something the lineup needs badly. All that said he has to prove he can stay healthy and on the field.
Between Soriano and Marmol, they make up 27% of the 2013 Cubs Payroll. After shedding these two contracts, on what would you spend that money in 2014? Do you sign a stud FA 3B or more pitching?
Bruce Levine (1:40 PM)
I would just like to see them identify the young players between 27 and 29 that they can project for the next three to four years. There is only so much you can do as far as building a farm system goes. At some point you have to spend your money on free agents that make sense for you. They did sign three free agent pitchers this offseason and two FA outfielders. However outside of Jackson, none of the FA signings appear to be a part of the future.
Cubs seem to be sticking with Gonzalez and Lillibridge at second when they aren't contributing. Has there been any thought to Hairston or even Clevenger playing second until Barney is healthy?
Bruce Levine (1:41 PM)
They aren't options
Dan (Downers Grove)
Love your work Bruce and thanks for these chats. What do you think of Conner Gillaspee? I think he can be a steal for the Sox and his versatility and left handed bat are assets the Sox really need.
Bruce Levine (1:42 PM)
So far so good with him. He's a nice backup at first and third. Left-handed hitting is something the Sox needed badly. They are very right-handed heavy.
What can we contribute to Rizzo's struggles during the start of the season? Does he need to take more pitches?
Bruce Levine (1:43 PM)
He's having a lot of trouble with the changeup. In his second year scouting reports will reflect what he's not hitting. They are working with him on laying off it and hitting the ball the other way.
Kelley (NW Indiana)
If the Cubs lose 100 games again this season, would that be a set back to the progress in the rebuilding stage.
Bruce Levine (1:44 PM)
I think that's up to the fans to determine. I believe it is realistic to give Epstein and Hoyer a couple of years to develop their model. If it takes 5-7 years you are going to see a lot of empty seats at Wrigley.
How do you the rotation shaking out once Garza returns and if Baker is healthy?
Bruce Levine (1:46 PM)
That's a good problem to have. I think all bets are off on trying to predict if Baker is coming back. In Garza's case, the first or second week of May is realistic if there are no setbacks. Normally it takes a pitcher 4-5 weeks in spring training to be ready so somewhere between May 10-15 might be realistic for him to return as a full-time starter.
Cubs are getting no production from Sappelt or Lillibridge. When does management consider Jackson and Vitters again?
Bruce Levine (1:48 PM)
Seven games is not a large enough sample size to make a judgment. Jackson won't be called up until midseason at the earliest. Remember some of these guys like Sappelt and Lillibridge are extra men. They are expected to do a decent job but not be everyday starters.
If the Sox decide to become sellers in order to bring in young talent later this season, who are the most likely candidates to go?
Bruce Levine (1:49 PM)
The Sox don't usually run their operation that way. But if they fall out of competition then you can see Floyd being moved. And maybe Matt Thornton.
Peter (Atlanta, GA)
How good of a season can Alexei Ramirez have?
Bruce Levine (1:50 PM)
He's a very tough guy to project. Last year most people thought he had a bad offensive season yet somehow he led all AL SS in RBIs. My guess is he will be back up to 15-20 homers this season.
If Travis Wood has another good performance tonight do you think he may have turned a corner? If so do you think we can start counting on him as part of the future? 3rd/4th stater about 10 wins 180 inning guy? Thanks Bruce!
Bruce Levine (1:52 PM)
I thought Wood turned the corner somewhat at the end of last season. He may be with Samardzija the two best athletes on the team. I can't predict it but it appears he's better than he was. He's worked extremely hard with Chris Bosio to improve his command.
Did Marmol deserve to get booed? I don't think it was so much Marmol being booed, as much as the management was being booed for him still being around. Dan Haren with one leg is better than Marmol
Bruce Levine (1:55 PM)
I kind of agree with your premise that once it's out there that you tried to trade a player that he no longer has a place on your team. The Cubs weren't receptive to other trades but Marmol's market really never warmed up during the offseason. His stuff isn't as good as it was. It's not really his fault. He has the most appearances of any pitcher since 2007. It's all about wear and tear.
What have you been most impressed about so far for the Cubs? How about least impressed?
Bruce Levine (1:56 PM)
The waythe Cubs continue to work under Sveum and his coaches impresses me. Normally when you have a team with limited ability you hear a lot of grousing about playing time. This group of coaches keep their players focused. Nobody is going to outwork the Cubs. Castro has played himself into better shape. He reported to camp too heavy. With his new RF approach, he can put up some serious numbers this year.
Bruce Levine (1:58 PM)
That's it for me this week. Follow me on Twitter, ESPNBruceLevine and check out my teammates Jesse Rogers (ESPNChiCubs) and Doug Padilla (ESPNChiSox). See you next week.