Inbox: Will Fontenot improve in 2010?
Beat reporter Carrie Muskat answers Cubs fans' questions
Mike Fontenot, Starlin Castro, the city of Mesa, and Mark DeRosa are the topics in this week's Inbox. Please send your full name and hometown to email@example.com.
The Cubs expect Alfonso Soriano and Geovany Soto to have better years in 2010. Why not Mike Fontenot? Did something happen to him that no one is talking about? Even with his horrible year at the plate, he was great on defense. Second base is a defensive position and it would be hard to find a better defender. Cubs fans deserve to see what kind of season Mike would have if he were allowed to play the entire season at second base.
-- Gina S., Park Ridge, Ill.
Gina, Fontenot did get the chance to play. He didn't produce. His struggles weren't headline news, mainly because big name players like Soriano, Soto and others faltered. There were high hopes for Fontenot after he hit .305 in 119 games in 2008. This year, he finished with the same number of home runs (9), doubles (22) and three more RBIs than the previous season, played 16 more games, but hit .236. He struck out 51 times in '08, and 83 times this year. He seemed overmatched. Lou Piniella stuck with him because of his glovework, and to Fontenot's credit, he never let his problems at the plate affect him on the field.
As for next year, Jeff Baker is the current front runner to be the everyday second baseman if the Cubs don't add someone. Baker batted .305 after being picked up from the Rockies. Both Fontenot and Baker are arbitration eligible. However, the Cubs could have some in-house options. Read on.
If Starlin Castro is doing so well, why not have Ryan Theriot move to second and promote Castro next year? [Cubs general manager Jim] Hendry could trade Fontenot and keep Baker because of his versatility. This potentially solves one of the Cubs' needs with players they already have. If it doesn't work out and Castro can't handle starting every day, Theriot can move back to short and Baker to second and Castro becomes the backup.
-- Sean P., Des Moines
Castro, 19, is riding the bullet train through the Cubs' farm system. He was playing in the Rookie League in 2008, and this year went from high Class A Daytona to Double-A Tennessee and competed in the Southern League playoffs. Now, he's playing in the Arizona Fall League, which is a huge test as he's competing with some of the top prospects in the game. Castro did start at second base on Monday for the Mesa Solar Sox, the first time he's played there all year. I know Theriot won't like hearing this, but I'd move him to second and leave Castro at shortstop. One thing I would disagree with you on is having Castro be a backup on the big league team. He needs to play, and most likely will start the 2010 season in the Minors.
I know you've gotten a lot of questions like this but since Mark DeRosa is a free agent, is there any chance the Cubs will bring him back? It seems that since he was traded, we have a big hole at second base and he was probably the most liked player on the Cubs in '08, and fans were pretty upset after he was traded.
-- Nick S., Itasca, Ill.
If they signed players because they were popular, Mark Grace would still be starting at first. Never say never, but keep in mind, DeRosa will be 35, he'll be coming off wrist surgery and a .250 season in which he posted a .319 on-base percentage and struck out 121 times. DeRosa would love the chance to work again with new Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo again.
What's the status of the Cubs' future in Mesa for Spring Training? I've heard the state of Florida is making a pitch to move the Cubs there. I also understand the new Cubs owners are due to visit Mesa soon. -- Andy H., Las Vegas
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The state of Florida would be foolish not to try to lure the Cubs away. A recent study showed the Cubs bring in about $52 million to the state of Arizona during the six, seven weeks of Spring Training. I've heard rumors that there are at least four sites being considered in Mesa, and new Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts was expected to check them out when he attends the organizational meetings in early November.
Why doesn't this site keep us updated on the Arizona Fall League and all the Cubs prospects? Right now, is there anything more important?
-- Bruce H., Chicago
Actually, I have been posting daily updates on my blog. You can also check out MiLB.com for more info and stats.
I keep hearing about Carlos Marmol's "great numbers" but he seems to hit and walk an inordinate number of hitters. How does he stack up against other pitchers in that respect?
-- Karen H., Port St. Lucie, Fla.
The bad news is that Marmol ranked third in the National League in hit batsmen (12) behind Milwaukee's Dave Bush (15) and Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto (14), and they are both starters. Marmol walked 65 (he walked 41 in '08). That's obscene for a closer. Marmol finished tied for 17th among NL closers in saves with 15, yet the next highest number of walks among the ninth-inning specialists was 38 by the Mets' Francisco Rodriguez and the Nationals' Mike MacDougal.
On the "great" side, Marmol led the National League in batting average with runners on, holding hitters to .131 average, and was second in batting average overall, limiting hitters to .170. The Dodgers' Jonathan Broxton was first in the latter category at .165. Marmol also finished tied for second with Milwaukee's Todd Coffey and San Diego's Luke Gregorson in the NL in holds with 27.
Why won't Piniella let Soriano bat leadoff next year if he's not battling injury. He might be as good as he was. We did go to the playoffs two years in a row with him there so why not give it a shot and see if he can break the record for most leadoff home runs in a career.
-- Dan H., Vinton, Ia.
Soriano has 54 career leadoff blasts, while Rickey Henderson finished his Hall of Fame career with 81. I don't think that is Soriano's -- or the Cubs' -- goal. In 41 games in the sixth spot in the order this season, Soriano hit .268. He batted .228 when he led off. The main reason to drop Soriano in the order is to protect his legs. If he's leading off, he would be expected to run more, and batting sixth, the emphasis is more on driving on runners (that is, if there are runners on base ahead of him).
A note to emailers who suggest Soriano should move back to second base: The answer is no. Just look at the number of errors he made in the infield.
Who will be the next Cubs legend "bronzed" outside of Wrigley Field? What about Ron Santo?
-- Paul A., Chicago
What about Billy Williams? When the new ownership takes over, one issue to be addressed is the area west of Wrigley Field that was designated for the so-called "Triangle Building." It'd be nice to see some statues there to honor great players the way other ballparks like St. Louis and Pittsburgh have done.
Who was the last Cubs player to wear No. 42?
-- Eric W., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Not counting the ones who wear it in honor of Jackie Robinson, the last Cubs player was pitcher Dave Smith in 1992. The last person to wear No. 42 for the Cubs was coach Dan Radison in 1997.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.