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Your Morning Phil: Cashner, draft, Astros

Phil Rogers

On Baseball

9:40 AM CDT, May 14, 2013

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Talking baseball while congratulating the Boston Bruins on one of the great playoff finishes of all time:

1. In less than two years with the Cubs’ organization, Anthony Rizzo has earned himself a $41 million guarantee, which he says guarantees he will be a good grandfather, once that time comes.  Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer believe they’ve secured a cornerstone player in their rebuilding.

Both parties are probably right. But that doesn’t mean that the Cubs fleeced the Padres when they got him.

Before slapping Theo and Jed on the back, Tom Ricketts should DVR Tuesday night’s Padres-Orioles game, then watch it when he gets home from Wrigley Field. San Diego will start 26-year-old right-hander Andrew Cashner, the first-round pick whom the Cubs traded for Rizzo.

Cashner has been an accident waiting to happen since going to the Padres. He strained a lat muscle in his first start for them, which put him on the disabled list for two months last year and left him in the bullpen upon his return, and delayed the start of his 2013 season by seriously cutting his thumb with a hunting knife. But he’s popped the eyes of scouts when he’s been healthy and on the mound.

Cashner has made 10 career starts, going 2-3 with a 3.72 ERA. He’s worked only 46 innings in those starts but his secondary stats show that he has at least as much potential as the Cubs’ Jeff Samardzija, and probably more.

As a starter, Cashner’s WHIP is 1.109; Samardzija’s is 1.284 in 41 starts. Cashner has 40 strikeouts and 13 walks in his 46 innings as a starter, a 3.08 strikeout-walk ratio and pace of 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings; those numbers are 2.79 and 9.1 for Samardzija.

At 26, Cashner is the age that Samardzija was when he made 75 relief appearances for Mike Quade in 2011. If he can take the same step forward next season that Samardzija did in 2012, Rizzo-for-Cashner won’t look like a one-sided trade anymore.

2. Baseball America’s Aaron Fitt is a fan of University of San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant. In fact, he says he would take Bryant over Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray with the first overall pick in the June draft because he’s a “special power bat.’’ He’s hitting .346 with 28 home runs and 43 extra-base hits in 52 games for the Toreros, and has built those numbers without flailing at pitches off the plate (56 walks, 35 strikeouts).

The Astros are considering Bryant along with Appel, Gray and at least three others for the first pick and the Cubs insist they aren’t bound to take Appel or Gray with the second pick. But a month ago it seemed the only question was who would go first, Appel or Gray, with the Cubs scooping up the other. That’s no longer a clear choice.

Bryant's father, Mike, says his son is a natural. He remembers throwing batting practice to him at a Little League field when Kris was five. "The first pitch I threw to Kris, he just absolutely ripped it into the outfield," Mike Bryant told MLB.com. "He probably hit it maybe 30 feet into the outfield, it was hit hard and deep and high and a beautiful, smooth swing." Bryant is seen as an impact bat who can come quick, like Ryan Zimmerman and Evan Longoria. Hitters like him are safer picks than pitchers. Consider the Joe Mauer/Mark Prior situation in the 2001 draft. Jason McLeod and Jaron Madison, the Cubs’ new scouting director, are going to face a gut check if the Astros pass on Bryant.

3. The Astros are suddenly in the market for a team president, and Nolan Ryan feels under-utilized with the Rangers. But don’t make the assumption that Ryan will jump from one Texas team to the other, as he already has twice before since retiring as a player. George Postolos, a very bright man, resigned from the Astros on Monday because he was frustrated with the hands-on nature of owner Jim Crane. It hardly seems like an ideal situation for Ryan to become empowered. The one thing going in Ryan’s favor is that the Astros really do need Ryan. While their scorched-earth approach to the roster under GM Jeff Luhnow is a smart way to rebuild – as it is with the Cubs and Epstein – they have alienated their slim fan base, which has been whittled away in recent years by the NFL’s Texans and the MLS’ Dynamo. Ryan would be popular with fans, as another former Astro could be. Craig Biggio is campaigning for the job but it’s hard to see how he’s qualified.      

progers@tribune.com

Twitter @ChiTribRogers