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All of us are anxiously watching "the core" develop in the Minor Leagues. Which Minor Leaguers are currently flying under the radar and seen as potential impact players by the team's scouts?
-- Bobbi W., Pine Valley, Calif.
The focus has been on the core four -- Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant -- but there are plenty more to keep an eye on. During instructional league action in early October, I got a peek at the future. For example, Tim Cossins, the Cubs Minor League field coordinator, raved about some of the catchers, including Mark Malave, Cael Brockmeyer, Ben Carhart and Erick Castillo.
Jeimer Candelario is a solid defender and will be playing for Aguilas in the Dominican Winter League, a huge step for the 19-year-old third baseman. Daniel Lockhart, a 10th-round pick in 2011 and son of Cubs area scout Keith Lockhart, is a very smart and talented infielder. Outfielders to keep an eye on include Jeffrey Baez (no relation to Javier), Yasiel Balaguert, Trey Martin and 16-year-old Eloy Jimenez, who is my pick to click. Another teen, 16-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Gleyber Torres, is very polished on the field.
Pitching-wise, you have to start with C.J. Edwards, acquired from the Rangers in the Matt Garza deal, who went 8-2 with a 1.86 ERA in 24 Minor League starts, striking out 155 over 116 1/3 innings. There's also Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs' Minor League Pitcher of the Year, who was 13-4 with a 2.00 ERA in 27 starts, plus Duane Underwood, Dallas Beeler, Matt Loosen, Eric Jokisch, Dae-Eun Rhee, Jen-Ho Tseng and Paul Blackburn. Pierce Johnson was 6-1 with a 2.22 ERA in 10 games for Daytona, joining Edwards, Ivan Pineyro and Corey Black on the Class A Advanced club, which won the Florida State League championship. All are on the fast track. Black was acquired from the Yankees in the Alfonso Soriano deal, and he went 4-0 with a 2.88 ERA in five games for Daytona.
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Arismendy Alcantara may join the core four very soon. The second baseman played for the World Team in the All-Star Futures Game. He batted .271 at Double-A Tennessee with 15 home runs, 36 doubles and 31 stolen bases this season.
Who will the Cubs add in the bullpen? Will it be a free agent?
-- Joel M., Long Grove, Ill.
The Cubs will add someone -- I don't know who at this point -- because they've got plenty of areas to address. With Kevin Gregg heading to free agency and Kyuji Fujikawa recovering from Tommy John surgery, the Cubs have to decide on their closer. Is Pedro Strop ready for the job? Or do they look at the list of free-agent relievers and take a chance that way? Chicago used 23 different pitchers in relief in 2013, and they compiled a 4.04 ERA (13th in the National League), and had the worst record (21-31) in the NL. James Russell could use another lefty to carry some of the workload after posting a 5.29 ERA in 27 games in the second half. Among the lefties who will be on the market after the World Series ends are Javier Lopez, 36; J.P. Howell, 30; and Hideki Okajima, 37.
The Cardinals have been quoted as saying that there is a "Cardinal Way"-- a culture of winning, if you will. How much do you believe a culture of losing surrounds the Cubs, and what are the three things the Cubs can do to flip the script?
-- Ryan H., Lexington, Ky.
I don't believe in a "culture of losing." The emphasis has been on rebuilding. Any team that deals 40 percent of its starting rotation two years in a row is looking to the future. As for the three things the Cubs need to do, it's simple: Win, win, win.
When the Cubs finally hire a manager, which coaches will they keep?
-- Demario H.
That will be up to the new manager. When Dale Sveum was dimissed on Sept. 30, Theo Epstein, president of baseball operations, told the coaches there were no guarantees that any of them would return. Bench coach Jamie Quirk did interview for a spot on the Rangers' coaching staff. Epstein said he would strongly endorse some of the coaches, and pitching coach Chris Bosio is most likely on that list.
I want to put my name on the list to interview to be the Cubs' manager. My qualities: A. Baseball passion; B. Leadership; C. Communication; D. Strong personality; E. Teacher of tough love. I'm a hometown guy from Chicago, but I live in the Atlanta area. I'm the one for the job.
-- Johnny N., Canton, Ga.
I'll let Epstein know.
• Tickets are still available for the 2014 Cubs Convention, to be held Jan. 17-19 at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers. Go to Cubs.com for more information.
• Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo will host his second "Walk Off for Cancer" on Dec. 15 at Pine Trails Park in Parkland, Fla. Rizzo will celebrate five years of being cancer free. Registration is limited to 1,000 people and costs $30 per person. Last year's inaugural event raised more than $100,000. For more information, go to Rizzo44.com.
• Cubs Minor League hitting coordinator Anthony Iapoce will hold a baseball clinic for boys and girls ages 9-13 on Dec. 14 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. ET at Queens College in New York. Kids will get two hours of hitting instruction, plus lessons on fielding, throwing and baserunning. For more information, contact email@example.com.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.