A Glimpse at the Iowa Cubs

With all of the ups and downs for the Chicago Cubs this season and I mean by way of the Interstate between Chicago and Des Moines, the Farm System of the Cubs has seen its fair share of scrutiny as well as attention. Most of the successful pieces of this year big league club has come from Jackson, Tennessee and the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx. Sean Marshall has been a huge surprise for the Cubs and let’s not forget Matt Murton last season basically went from West Tenn to Chicago then down to Iowa. The latest call-up from AA is Carlos Marmol and hopefully the talented 23 year old can help the big league club.

The I-Cubs have some very intriguing prospects not named Hill or Guzman and recently I had a chance to see them first hand, in action if you will, and I brought back pictures and here is what I saw down on the farm…. Unfortunately the game I was able to attend was a night that both Micah Hoffpauir and Luis Montanez did not play in the field. Montanez has struggled to say the least in Iowa and in 15 games is only hitting .212 (11-52) with 2 home runs and 4 RBI’s (.268 OBP/.385 SLG) but Hoffpauir has excelled and in 15 games he is hitting .300 (15-50) with 4 home runs and 9 RBI’s, but has struck out 16 times (.357 OBP/.620 SLG). I was able to see Buck Coats, the much-maligned Ryan Theriot, Jae Kuk Ryu, Geovany Soto, Jeff Deardorff and the very publicized Felix Pie.

Buck Coats – The converted shortstop played right field the game that I saw and made two very impressive catches in right center that should have gone for hits. He did not have to make a throw that mattered and I would have like to have seen his arm from a corner outfield spot. I did see him make throws from center in Mesa, but that should be a position the Cubs have filled for many years to come. His plate presence was impressive and showed patience against the knuckleballer Jared Fernandez. Coats was 1-4 on the night with a run scored and almost beat out an grounder in the 3rd….Coats is very quick out of the box and fast down the line. His single was to left field and went with the outside pitch and drove it into left….he did not attempt to pull the ball. Coats is hitting .299 (58-194) in 51 games with 3 home runs, 21 RBI’s, 16 walks and 41 strikeouts with a .358 OPB and a .381 SLG.

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Ryan Theriot – Theriot hit in the lead off spot for the I-Cubs and played both second base and shortstop on the evening. Theriot was with the Cubs from May 8th – May 26th and was not used. Theriot played in 6 games but only got 5 at bats, he was 0-4 with a walk and a run scored. Theriot may not be in the mold of Ryne Sandberg or Jeff Kent offensively, but he can certainly cover his position and made several very difficult plays but was able to make the routine plays as well, showed off very good range at second and turned a beautiful double play. Theriot was 1-5 on the night with a walk and in 37 games he is hitting .324 (47-145) without a home run and 12 RBI’s. He has only walked 12 times but has only struck out 18 times, his OBP is .373 with a .366 SLG.

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Geovany Soto – Soto will certainly be called up soon to be the back-up catcher to Henry Blanco while Michael Barrett serves his pending suspension and the question for the Cubs will be who is released or sent down to make room for Soto. Barrett’s spot cannot be filled during the suspension and with the pitching staff having its difficulties it is fair to assume that Dusty and company will not go with just 11 pitchers on the staff. Soto was 2-5 with 2 RBI’s on the night I saw him and hit the ball hard all evening. Although Nelson Cruz stole a base on him, it was more on Ryu. Soto made a very strong throw to 2nd on a ball that was in the dirt. Soto should be the back-up to Barrett starting in 2007. Soto is hitting .281 (43-153) in 46 games without a home run and 13 RBI’s. Soto has walked 14 times and struck out 29 times but has a .343 OBP and a .333 SLG.

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Jae Kuk Ryu – Ryu was making his first start for the I-Cubs since being sent back down on May 29th and had little if any control. Of Ryu’s first 13 pitches, 9 were balls yet the Sounds lack of patience helped him throw 3 innings of no-hit ball. Ryu ended up walking 4 on the night and gave up 5 runs on 5 hits in 6 innings of work. In my humble opinion, Ryu had trouble repeating his delivery and looked very uncomfortable on the mound….nothing like what I saw during Spring Training. I spoke with a scout that was clocking Ryu on the radar gun and he was hitting between 87-90 MPH that night.

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Jeff Deardorff – Deardorff showed very good patience at the plate the night I saw him even though his numbers on the season prove otherwise. Deardorff is hitting .240 (30-125) with a .312 OBP and a .416 SLG in 42 games this season. He hit the ball very hard and showed composure against the knuckle ball that was dancing around from Jared Fernandez. Deardorff was 3-5 with a walk and 2 runs scored.

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Felix Pie – Pie has been the focus point of the Cubs Farm System for the past couple of years and is playing at the AAA level for the first time. Pie has all the tools to be successful at the Major League level but has not played consistent ball to this point in the season. Pie was dropped in the order to the 7th spot and went 0-4 with a strikeout and looked very uncomfortable at the plate. Pie was playing centerfield on that particular evening and did not have to make a throw that mattered. Pie has an excellent arm that I saw first hand in Spring Training….an arm that would be well served in right field. Pie is hitting .264 (57-216) this season in 56 games (.332/.426/5/31/12 doubles/4 triples/19 BB/53 SO). Pie will be a factor someday but he needs time to mature and learn to play the game and not turn out like another number 20 that had this kind of hype.

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The I-Cubs did lose the game on a wild pitch in the 11th but all in all it was a good night indeed. The future is looking bright….

Note – Stats are from June 5th