Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 08/23/11

Special Assignment – Peoria Chiefs v. Kane County Cougars

Recently, I had the pleasure of being able to cover a game between the Chiefs and Kane County. Not only was I able to have a birds-eye view from the press box, I was able to interview some of the members of the team. I’d like to thank Shawn Touney, Director of Public Relations for the Kane County Cougars, as well as Manager Casey Kopitzke, Broadcast and Media Manager Nate Baliva, and Team President Rocky Vonachen of the Peoria Chiefs for their hospitality.

Interview – Peoria Chiefs Manager Casey Kopitzke
Peoria Manger Casey Kopitzke was kind enough to spare a few minutes to answer questions before the game. Here are some excerpts from that interview:

ChicagoCubsOnline: Casey, the Chiefs have had an up and down season, but now that seems to have stabilized. To what do you owe this to?

Casey Kopitzke: Right now, we’ve been able to put out a consistent line-up, and the team has reflected that consistency. Call-ups are a part of the game, so you just need to try to stay positive.

CCO: That seems to be part of the territory for a minor league manager. Just as you have someone playing well, they’re gone. That seems to have affected your bullpen the most.

CK: Yeah, right now, we have Dan Berlind (as closer). He’s a little older guy, and has some experience in the league. That’s helped a great deal in that at area.

CCO: We hear a lot about having a good clubhouse and team leaders. Who are some of the leaders on the Chiefs?

CK: Some of the older guys like Richard Jones and Anthony Giansanti… They were here last year, and they know what to expect… And Greg Rohan…Greg came back, and was asked to play third base. He didn’t hang his head or anything…worked hard, and now it’s paid off.

CCO: And he made a great catch in Austin Kirk’s no-hitter.

CK: Yeah, his versatility was really a plus.

CCO: We know you like all of your guys, but who has impressed the most this season?

CK: Well, all the guys who have gone up have been impressive. I guess you look at players like Dallas Beeler and Marcus Hatley…guys who not only went up a level, but went two (levels up) and to see how well they are doing, it makes you feel good. That’s what it’s all about down here, helping the guys learn.

CCO: Who are the guys that keep the team loose?

CK: (laughs) Well, we’ve got a lot of those. It’s a good clubhouse.

Video Interviews and Highlights

Outfielder Taiwan Easterling

Pitcher Eric Jokisch

Player Highlights

Scouting Reports
Here are some of my impressions of the performances of some of the Chiefs, in alphabetical order.

  • Arismendy Alcantara – Has a very impressive set of tools … played second base that evening … showed good mobility and excellent range, going out into medium right field for a pop fly … strong throwing arm …well above average speed, nearly beat out a routine grounder and advanced from first to third on a single most players would have stopped at second … looks good at the plate, is able to keep his hands back and drive the ball up the middle
  • Taiwan Easterling – Very good speed and arm strength for centerfield, very fluid in his turns … threw out a runner trying to advance to third … needs to work on routes to the ball, should have cut off some balls that went into the gaps … has good hitting instincts, but looks like he can use more experience
  • Dustin Geiger – Appears to be a little overmatched offensively, but looks “hitterish”… has a nice approach and is able to drive the ball … tough night defensively at third, as several wicked hops ate him alive … showed a “plus” arm (in an amusing instance, after shagging an errant throw from Richard Jones in warm-ups, Geiger let loose a laser beam from two steps into foul territory, across the diamond, short-hopping the wall of the opposite stands)
  • Anthony Giansanti – For someone who started the season at third base, showed excellent mobility in the outfield …very good arm strength, causing several runners to retreat to first base … appears to be overly aggressive at the plate
  • Richard Jones – Classic power hitter with a quick step and long stroke … when he is able to get his hips turned, the ball goes a long way … showed good mobility at first … was able to run down and tag out a batter before a runner from third was able to get home
  • Austin Kirk – Seemed to have trouble finding the plate that evening … was able to get ahead of batters, but let them off the hook … strikeout on a wicked breaking ball … fastball seems to average to above average, reaching the mid 90s
  • Ben Klafczynski – Can see why people are excited about him … diamond in the rough … very athletic, looks very fluid in his movements … exceptional arm strength, nearly throwing out a runner at home from deep left … appears a little overmatched offensively at this point, but has skills … was able to keep his hands back and drive a ball for a single … can see why the organization is trying to “fast track” his development
  • Pete Levitt – Big, powerful, and intimidating … has the look of a future closer … fastball in the mid to upper 90s … popped leather with every pitch … high leg kick

Follow the CCO on Twitter: @TheCCO

Quote of the Day

"It is not fair to ask of others what you are unwilling to do yourself." - Eleanor Roosevelt
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  • Jim_Tinley_Park

    Tom:

    Nice work. I think you have the makings of a scout under the new regime.

    • Tom U

      Thank you for the compliment. However, I like it right here where I can independently evaluate.

  • Aaron

    Nice work Tom!

    Your scouting report on several players are encouraging…because…

    Kirk-I read reports he was sitting in the high 80’s, low 90’s, and to hear from you that he’s throwing low-to-mid 90’s is a very encouraging sign. I was worried about fatigue, or some underlying arm issue

    Klafczynski-as some may recall, he was my guy in the 2011 draft in terms of “diamond in the rough”…a guy that had little to no publicity at all. I read reports about his bat and athleticism in college, so it was encouraging to hear you say it as well

    Levitt-I knew he was a big guy at 6’5″ coming out of the draft. The only report I saw of him said he was at 88 mph, though at the time of the draft, I noted that it could’ve been an old report (ie.-high school scouting report). If he’s hitting mid-to-upper 90’s as you say, then that is VERY encouraging

    As for Alcantara, I have been following him since his days in DSL, although, admittedly, it was NOT for baseball reasons. He just had a very unique name, so I thought I’d follow him. Funny, huh?

    Anyway, he’s still just 19 years old (turns 20 in October), so his stats at Peoria are nothing to be scoffed at, considering his youth:
    .277/.311/.360, 350 ABs, 42 runs, 97 hits, 13 doubles, 5 triples, 2 hr, 36 RBI, 8 SB…16 walks vs 73 K’s is a little concerning, but, again….he’s still young, and he’s a switch hitter

    The thing that impresses me most about the Cubs system, is their depth up the middle at SS, 2B, and CF. Check this out…

    2B: Barney, LeMahieu, Cerda, Watkins, DeVoss, M. Hernandez
    SS: Castro, M. Gonzalez, Lake, Alcantara, Amaya, Baez
    CF: Campana, Jackson, Ha, Szczur, Crawford, Easterling, Dunston Jr.

    The amazing thing about EVERY one of those players, is that they can, and have played multiple positions, with DeVoss and M. Gonzalez playing both IF and OF.

    Sure, the only stars in that group might be Castro, Jackson, and possibly Baez, but all of the rest could be solid regulars or role players at the MLB level.

    I don’t think there is a single team out there right now that can claim that many players will be in MLB.

    This is also one of the MAJOR reasons I want the Cubs to trade Barney while his value is at its peak. Gonzalez, Lake, LeMahieu, and even Flaherty (who has played 2B before) could easily step in right now, and provide more run production from 2B. Castro and Barney can single you to death, but if Castro gets on with a single, and you have a guy like Byrd in the 3 hole, you better have a doubles hitter in the 2 hole to bring Castro around.

    Despite being near the top of the league in hits at their respective positions, the Cubs have failed miserably to drive them in.

    Don’t get me wrong…I love Barney and his hustle, and heads-up play, but when you have the depth the Cubs have, and you got a guy like Lake with 19 doubles, 5 triples, 12 hr, 51 RBI, and 35 SB, and you’re struggling to add more athleticism and speed to your team…you do whatever is necessary to bring him up, and if that means unloading a guy like Barney, who happens to be 6 years older than him….then you make that move, and replenish your farm system.

    • Griffnbell

      I have to agree about Barney. As much as he has been one of the only reasons I still tune in to watch the games he is pretty much a clone of Theriot. I do like the chemistry he and Castro have but that can be duplicated. I like the thought of Devoss at 2b. Not much power but SPEED makes up for it. In the meantime go with Lemahieu and Gonzales as the 2b and back up SS. Put Barney and Soto in a deal and get back some minor league left handed starting pitching. Also, I’m dying to see Jackson in CF and Lahair in either LF or 1B. Give the kid (Lahair) a try, if he fails move on. 

    • JimBo_C

      What I like about Barney is that he can play SS (unlike Theriot who had poor range, mediocre arm and minimal atheleticism). At this point, I look at him as an insurance policy on Castro (in case they decide to move him elsewhere) and as a good backup that you wouldnt hesitate to use at such a critical position. If we have a guy at AA/AAA ready to roll with good range, hands and an arm then I get your point. You should never get too enamoured with  player of Barney’s caliber and overpay him (Jody Reed learned this lesson the hard way when he asked for more money from the Red Sox and they pulled his offer).

      • Darrellb

        It will be several years before Barney good even be in a position to make the big money. By then, he will either have earned it or he won’t have.

    • Tom U

      Thank you very much Aaron. It was a good first effort, and we’ll work to get better.

      As far as the pitcher’s speed goes, I don’t have the equipment to clock the pitches myself. The only speed gun I have is one of my son’s old toys that once clocked my wife’s mouth at 6 mph (and she wasn’t even swearing at me!) I used what was posted in the stadium, however reliable that information is.

    • Tom U

      The days for DeVoss at second may be numbered. He’s committed 11 errors in only 26 games. He started in center last night, so we’ll see how long that lasts.

      In something related, Rubi Silva has played a lot more second base lately. He’s hitting around .300. When I was at the game, I only saw him in warm-ups, but definitely has a strong arm.

      • cubtex

        I have noticed DeVoss’ errors. Remember, he hadn’t played there until midway his college season so I hope they don’t give up on him there yet. With his speed and athleticism it would be nice to keep him at 2nd.

    • cubtex

      If you can package Barney with a mid tier pitching prospect from the minors(Jay Jackson) for a starting pitcher…..Do it.

  • Usiak

    Adding video was a nice touch.  I bet that the guys got a kick out of being interviewed at that level.  Great idea of adding some graphics to the vids also.

    • paulcatanese

      I dont think I can add anything more to the compliment to Tom, the video was a great touch along with the interviews, so I will say double to what you said to Tom, good job.

  • ghostofelvis

    Has anybody seen anything on the 3rd baseman for the DSL 2 Cubs, Candelario? havent seen no video, but some scouts are absolutely raving about this kids plate discipline and bat speed. 

  • Anthony

    Tom, nice work.

    Fan excitement about multi-sport guys in baseball sometimes lets folks forget that other players can also be exceptional athletes. Klafczynski is one of those players and is probably ML ready defensively, fundamentally, and mentally. If his bat develops, then a draft steal for the Cubs. Saw him in the New England all-star game in 2010, saw the power arm, and there is HR power there.

    Saw a basketball video of him on Facebook, fluid, to say the least.

    • Dorasaga

      Can’t beat that. Athletes who played multiple organized sports that are very different from each other have one benefit. They stressed on different aspects of conditioning. The conditioning between, say soccer and basketball, where the athlete needed to run around the clock for more than an hour, is different from baseball and volleyball. Klafczynski can benefit from those different aspects, and hopefully, stay a while in pro-ball.

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    Excellent job, as always

  • paulcatanese

    Tom, am I missing something here? What has happened with Brenly’s son? Havent heard anything about him. Was he traded? Hurt or released?

    • Tom U

      Michael Brenly is playing for the Daytona Cubs.

      • paulcatanese

        Thank you Tom, just havent seen his name for a while.

  • Tom U

    Thank you to everyone for your comments

  • Patrick_Schaefer

    Good Stuff Tom thank you!

  • Anthony

    Richard Jones just keeps hitting, bombs

  • Darrellb

    I would suggest a handheld direction microphone.