Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 03/17/10

For those of us that enjoy keeping tabs on the minor league system, the 2010 Cubs Spring Training season has been a fun one. We’ve finally starting to see some progress with developing homegrown talent in the Cubs’ organization. With a mostly veteran starting eight at the big league level, it’s important to know that there are some young guys on the way.

Let’s jump right into the first “Down on the Farm” report of 2010.

Guys Getting a Taste
The Cubs have a number of farm hands that have been given a shot this year in big league Spring Training. There were five former first round picks in camp. Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters have already been assigned to minor league camp.

Brett Jackson, an outfielder, was the Cubs top pick last June. Last season he hit well at three different Class-A stops: Mesa, Boise, and Peoria. This spring he showed patience at the plate drawing four bases on balls. Outside of the walks, Jackson went 1-for-3 with an RBI triple.

Josh Vitters, who the Cubs drafted with their third overall selection in 2007, went 4-for-9 with four RBI and four runs scored before being sent back to Fitch Park. Two guys that survived the first round of roster cuts are outfielder Tyler Colvin and pitcher Andrew Cashner.

Since being drafted by the Cubs in the first round of the 2006 draft, it’s been a long road for Colvin. He underwent Tommy John surgery in October of 2008, but bounced back quickly last season. After hitting .300 under Ryne Sandberg with Double-A Tennessee, Colvin earned a September call-up. He struggled at the plate but made several great defensive plays in his six-game cup of coffee. This offseason, Colvin bulked up, putting on 20+ pounds of muscle. He has opened a lot of eyes by hitting .533 with six RBI so far in 11 Cactus League games.

Andrew Cashner has surrendered one earned run in his five innings of work this spring. The fifth former first round draft pick in camp is Brad Snyder, a left-handed hitting outfielder who the Indians selected in 2003.

Snyder tore it up in winter ball, hitting .379 in 211 trips to the plate. He launched nine homers and drove in 48 runs. Brad is hitting .417 in Spring Training. Snyder and Colvin are fighting for a spot on the roster with Sam Fuld.

Everyone’s heard about top prospect Starlin Castro, and for good reason. Castro has lived up to the hype this spring, but Lou Piniella and the Cubs have decided that he will be better off starting the year at the minor league level. Don’t be surprised if Castro is the starting short stop at some point this season. Castro’s hitting .435 in ten spring games.

There are a number of young pitchers in camp fighting for spots in the bullpen as well. John Gaub, Mitch Atkins (optioned to Triple-A Iowa on Sunday), Justin Berg, Mike Parisi, Blake Parker, Jeff Stevens, J.R. Mathes, Thomas Diamond, James Russell, and Casey Coleman are all in the mix. Those that do not win spots in the bullpen will likely factor in to the AAA Iowa Cubs pitching staff (apart from Parisi who was a Rule 5 pick).

Minor League Camp
Reporting early was a theme throughout the Cubs organization this year. We heard all about how many of the big league guys reported to camp a week or two early, and it was the same case with the young Cubs, who were working in Mesa long before the pitchers and catchers report date of March 4 and the mandatory report date for all minor league players of March 9.

Since the Cubs were still holding their workouts at Fitch Park, the farmhands’ early practice took place down the street at HoHoKam. Minor League practices were led by former Cubs catcher Jody Davis, who will manage the Class-A Short Season affiliate Boise Hawks this season. Now that the Cactus League games have started, minor league practices are taking place at Fitch Park. Minor League Spring Training games get underway later this week.

Vegas Weekend Call-ups
With the split squad games in Las Vegas and Arizona last Friday and Saturday, some minor leaguers got the chance to play in a few spring games with the Cubs because they needed some extra guys to come off the bench.

On Friday afternoon Junior Lake, Nelson Perez, Brandon Guyer, and Smaily Borgues all went 0-for-1 against the Brewers.

Second baseman Logan Watkins singled on Friday, which earned him another at bat on Saturday. He struck out in Saturday’s game against the Reds. Logan was drafted in the 21st round of the 2008 draft and hit .326 with the Boise Hawks last season.

Ty Wright took advantage of his chance to play at HoHoKam Park with an RBI single on Saturday.

D.J. LeMahieu, the Cubs second round pick out of LSU last June, spent some time playing shortstop in the two games against the White Sox in Las Vegas. He singled once in each game. Kyler Burke, who was the Cubs’ minor league player of the year in 2009, went 1-for-1 on Friday and 0-for-2 with an RBI on Saturday. Burke came over from San Diego in the Michael Barrett trade in 2007.

Ryan Flaherty also saw action at Cashman Field. As far as pitchers are concerned, Jeremy Papelbon, brother of Jonathan, retired one of the two Brewers he faced on Friday while Jay Jackson struggled against the White Sox.

Minor League Free Agents That Did Not Resign with the Cubs

  • Doug Deeds – OF
  • Matt Craig – 1B
  • Casey Fossum – LHP
  • John-Ford Griffin – OF
  • Jose Pina – RHP
  • Luis Rivas – 2B
  • Nate Spears – 2B

Minor League Opening Days
Ryne Sandberg’s Iowa Cubs play an exhibition against the Iowa Hawkeyes on April 7, a day before their season opener. Here is the list of Cubs’ minor league teams opening day games with last year’s record in parentheses. All games are on April 8.

  • Triple-A Iowa Cubs (72-72): vs Nashville
  • Double-A Tennessee Smokies (39-31): @ Mississippi
  • Class-A Daytona Cubs (30-38): @ Brevard County
  • Class-A Peoria Chiefs (29-38): @ Clinton

Low-A Boise and Mesa Rookie Ball do not start their seasons until June. Prior to that point, many of those players will be playing in extended spring training games at Fitch Park.

More on Me
I am thrilled to have the chance to cover the minor league system for the CCO this season! I’m a long time reader and big fan of the site. I’ve been blogging on the Chicago Cubs since 2008 over at www.everythingcubs.blogspot.com, so I invite everyone to check it out. Also, I update the Cubs Farm Updates Twitter daily during the regular season and from time to time during the winter.

Follow me there at www.twitter.com/cubsfarmupdates
Questions/Comments: cubsblogmailbag@aol.com.

Quote of the Day

"The will to succeed is important, but what's more important is the will to prepare." - Bobby Knight
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