Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 05/23/11

Put me in coach. I’m ready to play, today! Centerfield took center stage in the organization this week. Iowa promoted Tony Campana to “The Show”. Jae-Hoon Ha made a big splash in his new assignment. Rubi Silva joined one of the hottest teams in baseball. New graduate Matt Szczur returned to the line-up, and looked like he never left. And Kyung-Min Na is a welcome addition in Peoria. Meanwhile, the kids show everyone how to make a ‘Bullpen Day‘ work.

All of that, and more, in this week’s Down on the Farm Report … Low Class-A – Peoria Chiefs (24-19)
Starting the week with a two game losing streak, Graham Hicks toed the bump for Peoria on Thursday. Hicks was brilliant in his three shutout innings of work, striking out three and walking none. Su-Min Jung piggy-backed on Hicks; in his 3.2 innings, Jung struck out six and allowed two earned runs. Casey Harman and Marcus Hatley came in and slammed the door, as the Chiefs defeated the Quad City River Bandits 3-2.

A new line-up saw production from the top of the order, as Pierre LePage and Arismendy Alcantara each went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI. Anthony Giansanti, now receiving more playing time in the outfield, cracked a solo home run.

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Peoria’s second lefty, Cameron Greathouse, faced the Clinton LumberKings on Friday. Greathouse followed Graham Hicks’ lead from the previous night, tossing four innings of shutout baseball, as the Chiefs came away with a 3-1 victory. Alvaro Sosa followed Greathouse and allowed an earned run in two innings of work. Bryce Shafer added two scoreless innings for a hold. Hard-throwing Marcus Hatley struck out two in the ninth for his third save.

Greg Rohan and Anthony Giansanti led the way for Peoria’s offense, each going 2-for-4 with an RBI. Pierre LePage was 1-for-3 with a walk, a run scored, and his seventh stolen base.

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Yet another left-hander provided a lift for Peoria, as the Chiefs defeated Clinton Saturday, 5-3. Eric Jokisch hurled 4.1 scoreless innings and struck out five, as he piggy-backed Hayden Simpson. Simpson also struck out five in his 4.2 innings, allowing three earned runs.

Peoria’s offense kicked it into gear after the LumberKings scored three in five innings. Richard Jones smacked his sixth home run, driving in two in a 3-for-5 performance. Elliot Soto was also 3-for-5 with two RBI. Greg Rohan, Kyung-Min Na, and recently activated D.J. Fitzgerald all had multi-hit nights.

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The latest in the lefty parade, Peoria saved the best for last as Austin Kirk mowed down the Clinton LumberKings 8-3 on Sunday. Kirk struck out six and allowed three earned runs in his six innings of work for his third victory. Yohan Gonzalez earned a hold for his two scoreless innings. Robinson Lopez, trying out a new role as closer, finished with a scoreless ninth.

Back from his college graduation, Matt Szczur resumed his leadoff role with a 2-for-4, two RBI performance that also included his eleventh stolen base. Ryan Cuneo drove in two runs as he hit his first professional home run.

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High Class-A – Daytona Cubs (32-12)
A re-shuffled line-up took the field for the D-Cubs on Monday. However it was Daytona’s “veterans” that came through in a 5-4 victory over Fort Myers. Junior Lake, Evan Crawford, Justin Bour, and Michael Brenly each had two hits, while Mario Mercedes, Rubi Silva, and Dustin Harrington will have to wait until next time.

Nick Struck lasted only three innings, allowing three earned runs. Dae-Eun Rhee allowed only one earned run over his 3.1 innings and picked up his first victory. Ryan Buchter earned a hold with a scoreless inning; while Frank Bautista nailed down his tenth save.

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Aaron Kurcz took the mound for Daytona on Wednesday and fired five scoreless innings as the D-Cubs defeated Palm Beach 5-1. Kurcz struck out two and walked one. Brent Ebinger followed and allowed an earned run in two innings of work, earning a hold. Ryan Searle finished with two scoreless innings.

A balanced attack saw Matt Cerda with the only multi-hit game for Daytona. Cerda was 2-for-3 with an RBI. Logan Watkins was 1-for-2 with two walks and two runs scored.

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After spotting the Palm Beach Cardinals four runs on Thursday, Daytona stormed back with a seven-run fifth inning. Leading the way was Justin Bour, who was 5-for-5 with two doubles and two RBI. Evan Crawford and Mario Mercedes joined Bour with multi-hit games. Logan Watkins continues to dig himself out of his hole by going 1-for-4 with two RBI as the D-Cubs defeated the Cardinals 8-6.

Brett Wallach served up a two-run homer as part of his four earned runs in 4.2 innings. However, Wallach struck out nine while walking only two batters. Jordan Latham got Wallach out of the fifth, and then allowed two earned runs then next inning. Ryan Butcher came in and put out the fire, earning his first win. Frank Bautista added a scoreless 1.2 innings for his eleventh save.

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Nick Struck rebounded from his poor outing on Monday by tossing five innings of three hit ball as he led Daytona to their 30th victory of the season Friday. Struck allowed one earned run and struck out four to defeat Palm Beach 3-2. Eduardo Figueroa followed Struck and pitched 2.2 scoreless innings. In a rarity for Ryan Searle, he actually allowed an earned run in his 1.1 innings, but picked up his first save.

The D-Cubs made the most of their six hits, with Junior Lake starting the scoring with a solo shot. Evan Crawford and Michael Brenly had Daytona’s other RBI.

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It seems that the ‘Bullpen Day‘ has been a theme running through the organization. Daytona had one on Saturday, but unlike the parent club, pitched a shutout. Dae-Eun Rhee started and went 4.1 innings, striking out two batters. Juan Serrano followed and continued blanking Palm Beach for 2.2 innings, getting credit for the win. Corey Latham earned a hold for his scoreless inning, while Frank Bautista picked up his twelfth save with a scoreless ninth.

The top of the line-up provided the spark for Daytona. Junior Lake and Matt Cerda each went 3-for-5, while Michael Burgess cracked a two-run double as the D-Cubs defeated the Cardinals 3-0.

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Comeback was the work of the day for the D-Cubs as they spotted St. Lucie three runs, and then posted seven of their own to defeat the Mets 8-4. Jeffrey Lorick got Daytona in a hole by allowing four runs (three earned) in his 5.2 innings of work, but hung on for the victory. Brent Ebinger stopped the bleeding with 1.1 scoreless innings, earning a hold. Ryan Buchter then came on struck out the side in the eighth. Buchter added another strikeout in the ninth to record his first save.

Daytona’s two best hitters provided the firepower Sunday evening. Junior Lake was 3-for-5 with a double, solo homer, stolen base, and two RBI. Evan Crawford was 4-for-5 with a double, stole base, and an RBI. Matt Cerda, Justin Bour, and Logan Watkins also had multi-hit games, Watkins also adding a stolen base.

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Double-A – Tennessee Smokies (28-16)
Avenging a 2-1 Tennessee loss on Monday, the Smokies defeated Chattanooga 6-2 on Tuesday. D.J. LeMahieu, who had his hitting streak stopped at 16, came back with a vengeance, going 3-for-5 with a double. Josh Vitters was also 3-for-5 with a double. Marwin Gonzalez and Luis Flores each had multi-hit games, while Jae-Hoon Ha had an RBI triple.

Rob Whitenack was simply overpowering, pitching seven scoreless innings and striking out five batters to raise his record to 4-0. Jeffrey Beliveau continued the shut out with a perfect inning of work. Rafael Dolis allowed two runs in mop up work.

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A Wednesday matinee saw Tennessee come up with three runs in the ninth inning to defeat Chattanooga 5-3. The Smokies’ offense hasn’t missed a beat with all the new faces, pounding out twelve hits. Rebel Ridling led the way for Tennessee going 2-for-3 including a solo blast. Jae-Hoon Ha, Ryan Flaherty, and Blake Lalli joined Ridling with two hits. Ha drove in two runs of the Smokies’ five runs.

Trey McNutt got his sixth start, allowing an earned run in three innings of work. Ty’Relle Harris followed with two earned runs in three innings. Marco Carrillo slammed the door with two scoreless innings, picking up the win. Blake Parker earned his third save.

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The Smokies revamped line-up now features Jae-Hoon Ha and Marwin Gonzalez at the top. This moved the organization’s best hitter, D.J. LeMahieu to third in the batting order, and he has flourished. LeMahieu continued to torch Double-A pitching by going 3-for-5 in Thursday’s 9-7 victory over the Mobile BayBears. Clean-up hitter Rebel Ridling also enjoyed a three-hit night, while Ryan Flaherty and Josh Vitters are performing in the fifth and sixth spots in the batting order. Flaherty was 2-for-4 with four RBI including a three-run bomb, his ninth homer of the season. Vitters was 3-for-4 with two doubles and three RBI. Luis Flores collected his first Double-A homer, a two-run shot.

Alberto Cabrera had a shaky outing, allowing four earned runs and walking four in his six innings, but nevertheless picked up his fifth victory. Just off the DL, Kyle Smit appeared rusty, giving up three earned runs in only a third of an inning. However, the mighty Smokies’ bullpen locked down the BayBears the rest of the way. Kevin Rhoderick, Jeffrey Beliveau, and Rafael Dolis held Mobile scoreless the rest of the way.

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Make it four in a row for the Smokies, as Matt Spencer blasted two home runs and drove in five as Tennessee defeated Mobile 6-5. Blake Lalli joined “The Morristown Masher” with a 2-for-4 night, thumping his fourth homer. Ryan Flaherty also had a 2-for-4 game.

After a good performance in his last outing, Brooks Raley slipped backward as he allowed four earned runs in his five innings. Tennessee welcomed back Chris Carpenter, who picked up the victory with 1.1 innings of one-run baseball. Kevin Rhoderick and Rafael Dolis then shut down the BayBears, Rhoderick with his second hold while Dolis earned his third save.

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Patience was the key for the Smokies on Saturday, as Tennessee drew six walks to go along with nine hits as they dominated Mobile 11-2. Ryan Flaherty drove in three as he went 2-for-4. D.J. LeMahieu and Nate Samson also had two hits, while Matt Spencer blasted his tenth homer.

Tennessee followed the organizational trend by having a ‘Bullpen Day‘. Hung-Wen Chen drew the starting assignment, allowing an earned run in his two innings. Kyle Smit followed with two scoreless innings and was credited with the victory. Ty’Relle Harris was next and gave up an earned run in his inning or work. Jeffrey Beliveau added two scoreless innings. Saving the best for last, Marco Carrillo struck out three in the final two innings.

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D.J. LeMahieu remained scalding hot as Tennessee took one away from Mobile 4-2 on Sunday. Down 2-0 to the BayBears in the bottom of the sixth, the Smokies erupted for three runs, thanks to Ryan Flaherty’s tenth home run, a three-run shot. Nate Samson and LeMahieu had singles to set up Flaherty. LeMahieu, 3-for-4 on the day, drove in Tennessee’s final run in the eighth, singling in Jae-Hoon Ha, who had doubled ahead of him.

Rob Whitenack continues to impress, striking out three and allowing only two earned runs in his five innings of work. Kevin Rhoderick also struck out three in his two scoreless innings to earn his second victory. Chris Carpenter, looking a little bit more comfortable, went scoreless for an inning to earn a hold. Now seeming comfortable in his new role, Rafael Dolis picked up his fourth save with a scoreless ninth.

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Triple-A – Iowa Cubs (20-23)
Iowa began to make up for a bad week by outlasting the Reno Aces 9-6 on Monday. Brad Snyder had a night to remember, gong 4-for-4 with three doubles, a stolen base, and an RBI. Steve Clevenger hit his first Triple-A home run, and was 2-for-4 with two RBI. Marquez Smith also had a homer, as he joined Luis Montanez and Bobby Scales with a two-hit night.

Austin Bibens-Dirkx pitched six innings, allowed three runs (two earned) to get his third win. Justin Berg picked up his first save after Jeff Stevens allowed three earned runs in two innings.

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After a loss on Tuesday and an off day, Iowa got back on the winning track on Thursday, defeating Tucson 8-2. Robert Coello spotted the Padres two earned runs in the first inning. Coello cruised through the next five, striking out six to earn his third victory. Jeff Stevens, John Gaub, and Justin Berg each pitched a scoreless inning.

The I-Cubs collected only nine hits, none for extra bases, yet made them all count. Steve Clevenger led the way, going 2-for-3 with an RBI. Jonathan Mota drove in three with his only hit, while Luis Montanez and Tyler Colvin collected the only other RBI.

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Down 10-4 to the Tucson Padres after six innings on Friday, Iowa rallied back for seven runs over the last four innings, including three in the bottom of the ninth, to win 11-10. Ramon Ortiz allowed nine runs (eight earned runs) in 5.2 innings. Marcos Mateo followed with another earned run in a third of an inning. Making his Triple-A debut, Blake Parker blanked Tucson over two innings. Esmailin Caridad added a scoreless ninth inning for the victory.

The star of the night was Steve Clevenger. Clevenger was 4-for-5, including a double and a solo home run, with three RBI. Multi-hit nights were recorded by Brad Snyder, Bobby Scales, Scott Moore, Jonathan Mota, and Luis Montanez. Fernando Perez even got into the spirit, cracking a two-run home run.

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Win number twenty came in a rain-shortened victory on Saturday, as Iowa topped Tucson 4-3 in six innings. Steve Clevenger again was the hitting star, going 2-for-2 and raised his average to .519. Bryan LaHair was 2-for-3 with an RBI, while Matt Camp drove in two runs.

J.R. Mathes was credited with the victory after allowing three earned runs in his five innings of work. Marcos Mateo picked up his first save, hurling a scoreless inning.

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Iowa lost to Tucson 16-7 on Sunday. Of note, Randy Wells pitched four innings for the I-Cubs, allowing six earned runs, including a two-run home run, and striking out three batters. Wells threw 68 pitches, 43 for strikes. Anthony Rizzo hit the two run blast off Wells in the first before Wells settled down. After three innings, Wells had thrown only 36 pitches, 25 for strikes. Wells labored through the fourth and threw 32 pitches, 18 for strikes.

News and Notes
The Chicago Cubs optioned OF-1B Tyler Colvin and RHP Marcos Mateo to Iowa; recalled LHP Scott Maine, RHP Justin Berg and called up OF Tony Campana. Right-handed pitcher Blake Parker assigned to Iowa Cubs from Tennessee and RHP Randy Wells was assigned to Iowa from Peoria; RHP Chris Carpenter assigned to Tennessee from Iowa. Tennessee activated RHP Kyle Smit from the 7-Day disabled list. Outfielder Jae-Hoon Ha was assigned to Tennessee. Outfielder Rubi Silva, C Chad Noble, and IF Dustin Harrington were assigned to Daytona.

Daytona placed 2B Gian Guzman on the 7-Day disabled list. Peoria Chiefs activated OF Matthew Szczur from the temporarily inactive list and D.J. Fitzgerald from the disabled list. Peoria placed OF Smaily Borges on the 7-Day disabled list. Outfielder Kyung-Min Na, RHP Randy Wells, and 1B Ryan Cuneo were assigned to Peoria. Left-handed pitcher Jeffry Antigua was assigned to Extended Spring Training.

Top Prospect Watch

  • Michael Burgess (OF) - .212, .301 OBP, .719 OPS, 9 Doubles, 7 HR, 27 RBI, 5 Outfield Assists (Daytona Cubs)
  • Chris Carpenter (RHP) – 2-1, 6.41 ERA, 19.2 IP, 14 ER, 20 K, 17 BB, 2 Holds, Save 1.88 WHIP (Iowa Cubs) 1-0, 3.86 ERA, 2.1 IP, 1 ER, 1 K, 3 BB, 1.71 WHIP (Tennessee Smokies)
  • Micah Gibbs (C) – .298, .433 OBP, .814 OPS, 4 Doubles, HR, 8 RBI, Stolen Base (Peoria Chiefs)
  • Reggie Golden (OF) is in extended Spring Training
  • Jae-Hoon Ha (OF) – .311, .344 OBP, .867 OPS, 10 Doubles, 2 Triples, 6 HR, 27 RBI, 6 Stolen Bases, 7 Outfield Assists (Daytona Cubs) .296, .296 OBP, .741 OPS, 2 Doubles, Triple, 3 RBI (Tennessee Smokies)
  • Brett Jackson (OF) – .295, .420 OBP, .938 OPS, 7 Doubles, 3Triples, 4 HR, 17 RBI, 13 Stolen Bases, 2 Outfield Assists (Tennessee Smokies)
  • D.J. LeMahieu (IF) – .367, .394 OBP, .900 OPS, 13 Doubles, 2 Triples, 2 HR, 27 RBI, 3 Stolen Bases (Tennessee Smokies)
  • Trey McNutt (RHP) - 1-2, 2.38 ERA, 22.2 IP, 6 ER, 16 K, 5 BB, 1.32 WHIP (Tennessee Smokies)
  • Hayden Simpson (RHP) – 0-1, 4.63 ERA, 35.0 IP, 18 ER, 29 K, 14 BB 1.60 WHIP (Peoria Chiefs)
  • Matt Szczur (OF) – .327, .407 OBP, .780OPS, 5 Doubles, 9 RBI, 11 Stolen Bases, 2 Outfield Assists (Peoria Chiefs)
  • Josh Vitters (3B) -.265, .303 OBP, .739 OPS, 10 Doubles, 5 HR, 23 RBI (Tennessee Smokies)

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  • Patrick_Schaefer

    Absolutely an amazing job on the update Tom thank you. 

  • Kevinwickit

    Tom,
    Aqny updates on B Jackson when he will return to action?

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

       Kevin, Brett Jackson is in Arizona rehabing his hand. Jackson is expected back with the Smokies later in the week.

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Kevin, Brett Jackson’s father just posted on Twitter that he is nearly pain free, working in Arizona and will be back on Friday

      • Kevinwickit

        Thanks Neil

  • Dorasaga

    Tom, I’m curious what’s the status of Cerda, now that he is still in high-A. I recall his name got a few more mentioning earlier last year.

    How about McNutt? I’m surprise he only got 3 innings of work as a starting pitcher. In 6 games, all starts, he only had 22 and 2/3 of innings. That’s not even 4 innings per game! What’s going wrong. Is he far from ready? and he needs to work on something (mental?)? Or that earlier minor trip to DL hurt him more than the club thought?

    • Aaron

      The Cubs are strict on IP and pitch count limitations with their young pitchers in the minors. Additionally, if you look at box scores, they try to boost their confidence by pulling them early when they start to get in trouble. If you think about that for a minute….that means a lot of the pitchers in the Cubs’ system have abnormally low ERA’s for what they should have. I have no problem with it, it just doesn’t help them much when they reach MLB and have to battle through 6-7 IP, and they have less than stellar stuff at any given day. Maybe that’s why the Cubs move pitchers up and down like yo-yo’s? Additionally, the Cubs try to ease injured starters back by limiting their innings, where they have a designated “piggyback” starter, who is a starter himself, and the two of them often pitch the same amount of innings. For instance, Simpson is coming back from “injury” (actually mono…but let’s just call it injury). He usually only pitches 4 innings, then Jokisch takes over for him, piggybacking until the end of the game. Jokisch doesn’t pitch other than when Simpson does, usually, so he’s the “piggyback starter”. 

      What all of this means, is that if you’re the Cubs, probably the most likely call-up for a starting pitcher would be Whitenack, who averages 6 IP per start. 

      • JimBo_C

        Aaron,

        Interesting point … I took a look at our AA stats and found that out of all of the pitchers only one had a start of more than 6 innings (Whitenack). The organizational approach seems very conservative; probably afraid of blowing out arms in the aftermath of Wood, Prior, Guzman, etc.

        I hear (but did not research it) that Nolan Ryan is running his minor league shop much differently in Texas; pushing his starters to go deeper into games; learning how to gut out game situations as they start to get fatigued.

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Dorasaga, McNutt has been dealing with the blister issues. That has limited his innings.

      • Dorasaga

        Thanks to both, Aaron and Neil.

        Aaron, your idea that the management would like to “ease injured starters back by limiting their innings”… hmm…

        Now while I’m not familiar with pitcher development and their relative drill to fight injuries, you know pitching. My question is: If the blister problem could not be cured in the immediate future, since his last DL trip didn’t help much, then shouldn’t McNutt be better off not pitch for a longer while? Maybe try some simulation games, before he can handle the recurring blister then be ready to pitch more innings?

        • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

           Dorasaga, McNutt is pitching tonight. McNutt has been dealing with blisters on the index and middle fingers of his right hand. According to Smokies Radio, the Cubs have taken off his limitations tonight and he’s expected to throw five to six innings.

          • Dorasaga

            I see. I have this impression that blister issue will stick with a pitcher for a long, long time. So, the guy simply needs to learn to cope with this recurring “injury risk,” pitch well with a blister. McNutt therefore might end up a 6 inning guy at best, who cannot finish games, if he ever succeeds in the Big league. Or else, he might hurt his hand. That’s just my logical guess; nothing proven.

  • Dorasaga

    Here’s a little encouragement and brain teaser for Cubbie Faithfuls. Below are some leading home run batters of baseball (with their age, plus batting average, on-base, and slugging):

    2. Curtis Granderson (30) – 16 HR, .263/.328/.614
    9. Kemp (26) – 10 HR, .316/.399/.537
    21. Chris Young (27) – 9 HR, .225/.275/.465
    26. McCutchen (24) – 8 HR, .257/.359/.474
    33. Stubbs (26) – 7 HR, .268/.353/.432

    What do they all have in common? They are center fielders–a traditionally tough defensive position that requires the best range and a good eye on the field.

    I guess time has changed since our center fielder is all about defense, alone. Young, though, looks like the same old. He might not belong to this group. He’s really doing little else at the plate than knocking that lucky shot.

    And how is this encouraging for us?

    Brett Jackson will join this new wave of talents. And he’s only 22 years old.

  • cc002600

    Tom U,

    Great job !!

     

    I always look for your posts about updates in the minors, keep them coming !!  Love
    reading that stuff.

     

    Thanks.
     

  • Zonk

    So far, this has been a pretty good season for Tennessee, not just in W-L record, but in how prospects are coming along.  LeMaheiu is doing very well, and a few others are showing signs of maybe being helpful at the big club, like Ridling, Gonzalez, and Ha looking ahead. 

    Iowa has been a disaster though; the big club is desperate for starting pitching, and the Iowa starters have been a class-A trainwreck.  If Jay Jackson was halfway competent, he would be up by now, but he’s been such a disaster you have wonder if he’s still a prospect.  Jeff Russell keeps starting, because we have nobody at the AAA level ready to step-in. 

    We’ve had some good hitting, but mostly from AAAA-type guys that play low-value defensive positions, like Snyder, LaHair, and Montanez.  None of them project to be ML-run producers.  And Bobby Scales is having a nice year too, but whatever…he should coach.

  • Zonk

    For those looking for Koyie Hill relief, I wonder if Steve Clevenger isn’t a better option.

    Clevenger does’nt have much pop, so he probably projects as a backup.  He seems to make contact though, striking out only 20 times last year (and walking only 6!).  His defense is pretty solid, and pitchers like throwing to him.  Sounds like a decent backup to me.

    Castillo has good pop, but struggled to make contact at Iowa both times, and strikes out way too much.  I can’t see him hitting consistently in the majors.  He has a good arm, but apparently can’t call a game to save his life, which is one reason Hill keeps playing.

    Maybe Clevenger needs a promote, and the Cubs should outright Castillo

    • cc002600

      Ever notice how few guys in the cubs organization actually draw walks ?  It must be an organizational philosophy to just go up there and swing at any old crap that the pitcher throws…really smart, huh ?

      its pathetic. …..its things like this that don’t make it real hard to figure out why this team never wins….

      its sooooooo cub.

      • paulcatanese

        You are right with the exception of two players, Fukudome (who was not brought up from the orginization,) and Pena the same. The only one who did come up was Barney that makes a pitcher work, but then I suspect his training came from Oregon State, and his own brain.

        • cc002600

          Oh yes, agreed..there are always exceptions to every rule.

          Thankfully, it looks as though BJax knows how to take a walk.  My comment was about the overall view of the organization, generally speaking. I look at the numbers of many of our top prospects, excluding BJax, and all I see is low walk totals.  …..and over the years, when I look back, it seems as though the cubs very rarely have patient hitters, with 2008 being a rare exception. It seems as though they always rank near the bottom in walks.

          Remember Dusty’s brilliant comment about he doesn’t like guys “clogging up the bases” ??  LOL

          It just baffles me at how they don’t see this stuff.

          • Zonk

            Billy Beane would say, though, that you really can’t teach a hitter patience.  Statistics mostly bear that out.  You can DRAFT patience, but you can’t teach it necessarily.

            Most minor league hitters have difficulty making contact; that’s why they are minor league hitters

            The Cubs system has improved under Hendry, actually. It’s not as good as it could be, but better.  We also have pissed away draft picks to sign free agents, which doesn’t help the farm system; but that’s another story

          • Zonk

            PS, and I would not call Darwin Barney a patient hitter.  He makes good contact in the zone,  but he doesn’t go  deep in the count, and has never drawn a ton of walks.  He is a bit of a hacker; in fact, this is why I think he should really be a SS or super-sub, not a starting 2B-man.  He doesn’t hit with enough power or OBP to start long-term.

          • paulcatanese

            Zonk, you have hit on my favorite subject, Barney at SS. I think that’s his favorite position and would do well there and prolong his major league career, I like his brain and the way he plays, but the bat,with little power may limit his time. I didn’t say he was a player looking for a walk, but that he makes the pitcher work. I do as you think he should be at short. 

        • cubtex

          Unfortunately, Barney does not walk as much as he should being the type of hitter he is. He does make good contact. Barney really surprised me yestrrday when Castro dove for that ball up the middle and he failed to go to the bag. That has nothing to do with learning a new position. All middle infielders should know. He just kind of fell asleep and it cost them 2 runs.

          • paulcatanese

            You are correct in not covering the bag. I know he must have assumed that Castro was not going to get to the ball. One of my pet peeves was exactly that, someone makes a great play and trys to throw it and no-one there. the Cardinal rule, never assume, cover a bag, any bag but always expect a throw.I am sure he was told by someone about it ,or at least I would hope so. 

        • Ripsnorter1

          Bobby Scales draws walks, but he resides in Des Moines, Iowa. . .. .

          • paulcatanese

            Fine with me Rip,put Scales at 2B,Barney at SS and Castro at 3B, and put Aram in LF.

          • Matt

            Aram in left hahaha that 10x’s more miserable to watch then soriano out there!

          • paulcatanese

            Not at all, I would put Soriono in center, and hope for flyballs hit to left center.

          • cubtex

            Bobby Scales is 33, doesn’t steal bases, limited range at 2B and has no power. A career minor leaguer who will probably move on to his second career after this year or the next.

          • Ripsnorter1

            True.

      • cubtex

        Brett Jackson has 24 BB’s in 112 AB’s. That’s pretty good.

        • cubtex

          To expand on that thought….I don’t feel it is an organizational thing. Prospects have the mindset that bases on balls don’t get u to the show. I looked up the batting leaders in the Southern League and the one guy with a very impressive wak ratio is a first baseman with 15 bombs. I assume he is pitched around quite a bit. Young players feel they need to swing the bat to get noticed and promoted

          • paulcatanese

            Right again,also singles hitters have a tough time making it also. If Aram were back in the minors now and trying to be moved up he wouldn’t have a prayer. At this point he dosen’t even have warning track power.

        • cc002600

          agreed .  I mentioned that.  BJax seems to be the one exception.

        • Tom U

          But they are improving in this area. At Peoria, Matt Szczur, Pierre LePage,  Micah Gibbs, and Sergio Burruell have more walks than strikeouts.

          • Dorasaga

            Improved indeed. “Walks” alone doesn’t always mean “good,” but a good walk to strikeout ratio always says something about a young* batter’s ability to work the pitcher (not everything, of course, but a good enough indicator).

            *Once good at making contact, some aged veterans seem to walk a lot more to compensate their lost power as they past their prime, methinks.

            Even Josh Vitters had cut down his K% and added some walks per plate appearance. That’s a good sign–seeing more pitches and knowing what to do with them.

            Barney doesn’t walk much, but he doesn’t strikeout as much, either. He walked about 7% and K-ed 12% in the minor. His stats are telling when he played for Iowa.

            As he came closer to the Show, Darwin hacked more and didn’t walk as much as before. I saw the same problem with Adam Dunn last year. I guess cubtex is getting to the truth: Management LOOOVES to see the hack. Walks won’t get the player a good contract. Hacking would. LOL

    • paulcatanese

      Actually anyone would be a better option. 

    • paulcatanese

      Why not?

  • Zonk

    BTW, Randy Wells was shelled at Iowa yesterday.  Ideally, he gets more time off, but the Cubs are so desperate right now that if his arm is attached to his body, he will probably get a start this weekend.  Yikes.

    Before the season it looked like we had excess starting pitching depth.  Then:
    -Cashner gets hurt
    -Wells gets hurt
    -Silva self-destructs
    -Jay Jackson ineffective
    -Coleman and Dempster underperform
    -Noone at Iowa steps-up

    We’ve had no luck at all this year in this category

  • paulcatanese

    Tom,I appreciate the work you do on the players in the minors. If it wasn’t for your’e columns I would know very little about them. My posts on them are largely from the information that you and others post and believe me I am beginning to know these players before they even arrive. Thanks 

  • Tom U

    I’m sorry that I have not been able to get to your questions today. I’m not at liberty to answer during the day, and I had some matters to take care of this evening.

    All of today’s questions were more than satisfactorily answered by Neil, Aaron and many others. Thank you for picking up the slack.

    And thanks to everyone for for all of your comments. They are greatly appreciated.

    • Jim_Tinley_Park

      Tom:

      You do a great job!

  • Tom U

    Tyler Colvin just blasted a solo homer in his first at bat tonight.

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Tom, thanks for posting was getting ready to. Colvin’s homer came off a lefty as well. Colvin has hit for the cycle in the last two games with three of the hits coming off southpaws.

      • cubtex

        Maybe we can revisit that lefty…lefty platoon in right again. Just kidding :)

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    What an end to the Smokies game. Tying run tried to score from second on an attempted stolen base and a wild pitch. Luis Flores threw to Chris Carpenter who tagged out the runner to end the game. Smokies won the game 6-5 and completed the five-game sweep of the Bay Bears.

  • Ripsnorter1

    Garza’s elbow problems might be caused by this change in approach.

    ESPN has this quote on how Garza has changed his pitching approach for 2011 to more breaking stuff. Previous to 2011, he threw 60% straight fastballs. This year, 30% fastballs, and he has thrown many more curves, sliders and changeups.

    Here’s the quote:
    “After his trade to the North Side, the common fear surrounded his stadium change. Despite his good ERA with the Tampa Bay Rays, Garza allowed more than the league average in homers in both 2009 and 2010 — despite playing in a park known to depress power numbers. Moving to Wrigley Field, where a windy day can transform a popup into a double and a Mohawk into a comb-over, Garza looked poised for some serious struggles.Instead, he changed his approach and found a new form of success.In 2010, Garza threw his four-seam fastball (the straight or rising fastball) about 60 percent of the time, essentially challenging hitters to do their worst. This approach, coupled with the Rays’ superior defense, made Garza relatively successful. However, without Evan Longoriasnaring grounders like a demigod, the righty needed a more defensive-independent approach. So he replaced his extra four-seamers with a slew of bendy and wobbly pitches: more two-seamers (22 percent), sliders (21 percent), changeups (12 percent) and curves (11 percent).FanGraphsGarza has gone from a fastball-obsessed flamethrower to a crafty right-hander, who happens to sport a flammable fastball. The result has been a significant uptick in swinging strikes (7.5 percent in 2010 to 11.1 percent in 2011). Only his curveball seems to have lost some whiffs, but nearly every other pitch has induced many more frustrated batters; his changeup alone went from 33 percent whiffs to more than 54 percent.”

    • paulcatanese

      Which brings up a point, are we at “wait till next year” yet? If Garza goes down even on the 15 day list that leaves the Cubs with Dempster and Zambrano to hold the fort. Not an enviable position for the Cubs.By the time Colvin is back and Garza the party will be over if not right now. An outfield that is very suspect at this time,catching a mystery,third base,who knows. Why don’t they just wrap it up for the year and bring as many kids up as they can and go from there? The veterans that are left cannot carry the club even if they were to go on a spree, aint gonna happen. Even if the Cubs were to have Pujols and Fielder right now, without pitching and a decent outfield they might just as well forget it.

      • paulcatanese

        Which brings another point to mind. I envision JH wearing a toga and a wreath on his head and playing a violin as he watches the Cubs burn.

      • Ripsnorter1

        Hendry cannot afford to admit a $130 million dollar defeat. He’d be fired if he brought up the kids. Besides Paul, you just take a look at the 40 man roster: only 2 OF on it in AAA: Colvin and Fernando Perez. As for INF, we’ve got ZERO. C = ZERO. And of the pitching staff, the overwhelming majority of our choices are totally undeserving of a big league call up. We don’t have a viable starter on our 40 man roster who is currently in the minors. Just look at these stats and try not to weep . . . .

        Coello: 3-4…7.95 ERA in 8 starts
        Smit: 2-0…7.16 ERA
        Cabrara  5-2..5.62 in 8 starts
        Caridad…2-1…8.31 era
        Dolis…1-2…2.64 in 14 G, 4 GS (he’s the best one of them all)
        Gaub…1-1…4.24 he’s really awful as a LH specialist….
        Mateo: you know what he is.That’s it. You’d have to drop players off of the 40 man and risk losing them to “bring up the kids.” JHendry won’t do it for ticket sales. He won’t do it because it would cost him his job. He won’t do it because he fears ruining their confidence. He just won’t do it.

        • Ripsnorter1

          I know people think I’m super negative, but the fact is our Minor league system isn’t as good as some here think it is. We don’t have anyone to bring up off of the 40 man (besides Colvin). Perez out to be outright released. 

          • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

            The 40-man and the entire minor league system are two different things. The Cubs management of their 40-man roster is very poor but there is talent in the minor leagues.

          • paulcatanese

            In the end are you saying that the Cubs will end up trading more prospects
            for reliable pitching?Not saying that you think it should be done,but could end up that way again.

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Rip, for what its worth Garza said Saturday that he’s felt the same tightness in the past. He really down played it.

      Thanks for posting the info.

      • Ripsnorter1

        Garza was DL’d in April 2008 for “radial nerve irritation” in his throwing arm. 

        This nerve passes through the elbow, and controls the hands/muscles necessary to throw a curve/slider.”The radial nerve supplies sensory and motor information to the back of the hand, forearm, and triceps. Most commonly, the radial nerve becomes irritated as it passes through the forearm or lateral elbow, most notably in the area of the supinator muscle. This muscle turns the palm upwards, such as when a power curve is thrown. The nerve may also get irritated as it passes by the bony structures on the outside of the elbow.”

        This article suggests that Garza is wrecking his elbow: http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=85334375376

        Here is a high light:Take a good look at the picture of Matt Garza that I used for the introduction of this post. Now compare it to Greg Maddux below:Here’s Garza again for comparison:Note the position of the hand, most notably the flexion of the wrist. Greg Maddux’s palm is turned down, while Garza’s is towards first base. Garza is experiencing early pronation, which is not good. This still reinforces my believe that Matt Garza throws a supinated slider (and probably curve ball), as pronating early is the best way to achieve maximum supination through release. Bad news, Rays fans – that “nasty curve” you see on TV? It’s destroying his elbow.

        • paulcatanese

          Are you sure your’e not Ben Hogan? Or better yet “House”? Pretty fancy diagnosis there Rip, I’m impressed.

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    It appears Luis Montanez is on his way to the Cubs. Will require two roster moves, one on the active roster and one on the 40-man roster.

    http://twitter.com/#!/TheCCO

    • cubtex

      He is deserving. Neil or Tom….in your opinion, can he handle centerfield? I know they have moved him over there at Iowa recently.

      • Tom U

        Cubtex, Montanez’s experience is limited, but he has played center both in the minors and majors. 

        It’s kind of the same situation as Soriano. A former shortstop who had throwing problems, Montanez has a strong arm. However, like many infielders, he’s a “dart” thrower rather than the classic outfield arm. He has more experience in the outfield than Soriano had at this point in his career, and is generally considered to be a good fielder.

    • Ripsnorter1

      I’m glad for Montanez. I hope he hits .358 or better.

      • Ripsnorter1

        I think the Cubs could easily drop Schlitter or Gaub and not later regret it. Or better still–Fernando Perez.

    • paulcatanese

      Oh boy, there go’s Campana.

    • daverj

      Hard to believe this guy was one of our top prospects 10 years ago … seems like yesterday when we drafted him.  I could see him being reasonably productive for a limited period of time/limited number of at-bats.  I prefer to see him over Reed Johnson.

  • Baron_S

    Bryan LaHair has a .706 Slugging Percentage in close to 40 games at Iowa -

    http://www.thebaseballcube.com/profile.asp?P=/bryan-lahair.shtml

    What does he have to do to get a look?? Learn at the Koyie Hill dirty paparazzi school?

  • paulcatanese

    What good did it do to bring Campana up? All he did was have an unlikely run scored with his speed and an RBI double in his first game, and then was relegated to be almost invisable on the bench. He at the least deserved a start. Even an infielder was played over him in the outfield. Are Quade and JH so sold on the present players that no one else can produce out there ? They need to get a clue. Even if Camapana is not the answer he at least deserved a chance to prove it.