Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 10/11/10

Brett Jackson and Chris Archer help Team USA Qualify for the 2011 Pan American Games. The Arizona Fall League season is set to get underway. Starlin Castro is expected to play winter ball in the Dominican.

All that and more in the first Down on the Farm Report of the off-season!

Pan American Qualifying Tournament
Cubs’ farmhand Brett Jackson put up prolific numbers in Team USA’s four exhibition games before the start of the Pan American Qualifying Tournament. He followed that up by leading the team to victories in their first three contests. Jackson has not appeared in a game since October 4. He has left the team presumably because he is slated to play in the Arizona Fall League starting this week.

Jackson, an outfielder who spent most of the year at Double-A Tennessee, built on a fantastic regular season with his performance in the Pan American Games. Brett went 2-for-3 in the exhibition opener against Canada, but then suffered a 0-for-2 game against Puerto Rico. He continued to feast on Canadian pitching in the final two scrimmages going a combined 4-for-6. All four exhibitions took place in Cary, North Carolina. The Americans went 3-0-1 during the preseason, which included a 5-5 tie with Canada.

Chris Archer pitched in the tie and had a rough go of it in his only exhibition appearance. Archer, a right handed pitcher who finished the year at Double-A, allowed four earned runs on five hits and two walks in 2.2 innings.

The team kicked off the 2010 Qualifying Tournament in Puerto Rico with a 7-4 win over the host country on October 2. Brett Jackson stepped up and played the role of hero with a three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth that turned out to be the difference in the game. He reached base a total of four times, going 3-for-4 with two singles, the homer, and a walk.

Jackson, who got the chance to learn from USA hitting coach and former Cubs slugger Leon Durham during his time in Puerto Rico, was the leadoff man in all three games he started. Brett played right field twice and center once. The Americans crushed Aruba 14-0 on October 3. The Cubs farmhand posted another two-hit game. He also scored twice, walked twice, and drove in three runs.

Team USA walloped over Columbus 13-6 to improve to 3-0 last Monday. Jackson went 1-for-2 with a walk and a run scored in his final game before flying home. Brett finished the Pan American Qualifying Tournament with a .667 batting average (6-for-9), a homer, and six RBI in just three games.

The tournament has not been as kind to Chris Archer so far. After a breakout regular season, Archer had a bad outing in the preseason and then struggled through his start on October 5. He made it through four innings but allowed three runs on three walks and four hits. Chris received plenty of run support from his offense, including a five run third inning that broke a 2-2 tie and gave Team USA a 7-2 edge. They went on to win the game 8-5 and Archer was handed a no decision.

Since Archer’s outing, the club has rapped off three more victories. They beat Panama 10-2 on Wednesday, and then enjoyed Thursday’s off day. The Americans wrapped up a spot in the 2011 Pan American Games by blanking Nicaragua 5-0 on Friday. They didn’t slow down after that, edging Venezuela 6-3 in 12 innings on Saturday to improve to 7-0. The U.S. squad plays Cuba tonight at 6:30 CDT in the final game before the semifinals take place.

Click for full schedule and results

Arizona Instructional League
Five Cubs prospects combined for a no-hitter at Fitch Park on Saturday as the Angels and Cubs played to a scoreless tie in an AZL Instructional League battle.

Aaron Kurcz, a 2010 draft pick, started and cruised through the first three innings. He did allow one base on balls, the first of three issued by the staff on the day. Dustin Fitzgerald retired all six men he faced over the next two innings. Robinson Lopez, a product of the Derrek Lee trade, threw more hitless ball in the sixth and seventh. Kevin Rhodewick worked the eighth and Casey Harman, a late pick in June’s draft, completed the no-no in the ninth.

There are no official stats or box scores for the Instructional League, but Arizona Phil from thecubreporter.com writes game recaps and reports the stats from most of the games. Evan Crawford, Wilson Contreras, and Logan Watkins accounted for the only three Cubs’ hits.

Other guys taking part in the Arizona Instructional League include second round draft pick Reggie Golden, stud shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, power man Justin Bour, ’10 draft selection Micah Gibbs, and converted outfielder Chris Huseby. The AFIL is designed for players from Class-A to get extra work in. The level of competition is a notch or two down from the AFL.

Arizona Fall League
The 2010 Arizona Fall League campaign is set to get started tomorrow. The Mesa Solar Sox will play in Phoenix tomorrow at 1:35 Central Daylight Time. The Solar Sox’s roster includes minor leaguers from the Cubs, Angels, Phillies, Mets, and Pirates organizations.

Cubs prospects participating include pitchers David Cales, Chris Carpenter, Jake Muyco, and Kyle Smit; infielders Ryan Flaherty and Josh Vitters; and outfielder Brett Jackson.

Josh Vitters, the Cubs first round draft choice in 2007, is recovering from a broken hand suffered during the month of August. Casey Kopitzke, who manages the Cubs Class-A affiliate Peoria Chiefs, will be at the helm for the Solar Sox. Their home opener at HoHoKam Park in Mesa will take place on Wednesday night at 7:35 CDT.

Here is the rest of the Solar Sox schedule for this week:
*All Times CDT
Thursday @Surprise 1:35
Friday VS Surprise 1:35
Saturday VS Peoria Saguaros 7:35
Sunday Off Day

Here are the regular season stats for all of the Cubs playing in the AFL:
David Cales: 4-2, 4.03 ERA, 0 starts, 13 saves, 57 games at AA-Tennessee & AAA-Iowa
Chris Carpenter: 8-6, 3.41 ERA, 26 games (all starts) at AAA and AA
Jake Muyco: 4-2, 4.16 ERA, 5 saves, 54 games in relief at AAA and AA
Kyle Smit: 10-4, 2.25 ERA, 1 start, 7 saves, 49 games at Class-A & AA with the LAD & CHC
Ryan Flaherty: .271 AVG, 10 HR, 72 RBIs, 131 games at Daytona & Tennessee
Josh Vitters: .247 AVG, 10 HR, 39 RBIs, 91 games at Daytona & Tennessee
Brett Jackson: .297 AVG, 12 HR, 66 RBIs, 128 games at Daytona & Tennessee

Random Notes
Congratulations to former Cub farmhand Matt Murton, who has set the single season hits record in Japan… Cubs’ shortstop Starlin Castro is expected to play for Escogido in the Dominican Winter League this offseason… Fan voting has started for the 2010 MiLB Awards, click here to vote … Five of the eight teams in the MLB playoffs have former Peoria Chiefs on the roster.

Down on the Farm Report Notes
Look for the Down on the Farm Report every Monday throughout the offseason! Follow me on twitter at twitter.com/cubsfarmupdates for updates from the Arizona Fall League this week. If you have any questions or comments, email me at cubsblogmailbag@aol.com. Please visit my Chicago Cubs blog at www.everythingcubs.blogspot.com.

Quote of the Day

"Baseball, just a game as simple as a ball and a bat. Yet, as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes." - Ernie Harwell
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