Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 09/26/11

With the minor league season well in the rearview mirror and only three games remaining on the Cubs’ schedule, it is time to take a look at each position throughout the Cubs’ minor league system. For the most part, the Cubs system had a good year and saw several players take steps forward in their development.

First up in a series of articles, are the infielders and catchers in the Cubs’ minor league system.

Position Analysis – Infield and Catcher Welcome to the CCO’s series of articles to summarize and project how the minor league system looks on a position-by-position basis. For the position players, here’s the grading system I will use:

A = more than one player capable of starting in the major leagues
B = at least one player capable of starting in the major leagues
C = at least one player capable of making it to major leagues
D = in need of an upgrade
F = in serious need of an upgrade

First Base – B+
According to the grade, I believe that at least one player of all the first basemen in the system will be able to start in the majors. While they each have good qualities, just who that starter will be remains a mystery.

It has been well chronicled as to how well Bryan LaHair did in Iowa this past season, so here is a brief summary. The left-handed hitting LaHair was first in home runs (38), tied for first in RBI (109), and sixth in hitting (.331) in the Pacific Coast League. He also had a .992 fielding percentage at first base and a .955 percentage in left field. LaHair was voted the PCL’s Most Valuable Player. He will turn 29 years old on November 5.

The Tennessee Smokies rode to the Southern League championship in part due to the season put forth by Rebel Ridling. The 25-year old right-hander’s .309 average led the team, and was good for third in the league. He also led the team with 20 home runs and was second with 80 RBI, which tied him for fifth and put him ninth in the league respectively. Ridling led the system by fielding .993 at first base, and made 47 starts in left field, with a .985 fielding average.

Daytona’s Justin Bour is the prototype for the position at 6’4″, 250 lbs. The 23-year old lefty was second in the Florida State League in both home runs (23) and RBI (85) this season. In the pitching -rich FSL, Bour was able to hit .277 with a .478 slugging percentage and .813 OPS. His season fielding percentage of .987 equals his career average, in three seasons in the minors.

If any other first baseman in the system had as good a season as LaHair, it would be Peoria’s Richard Jones. Jones, 23-years old, was in the running for the Midwest League’s Triple Crown for most of the season. His 98 RBI led the league, and his 24 home runs were good for second. His team leading .309 average was fifth in the league. The left-hander fielded .986 at the position.

Splitting time between Peoria and Boise, 22-year old Ryan Cuneo combined for a .287 average with eight homers and 59 RBI in 75 games. The left-hander struggled some at Peoria, hitting .263 with two home runs and 28 driven in. However, when he was sent down, he helped propel Boise into the playoffs by going .347 with six homers and 29 RBI while slugging an amazing .720. He had a .987 fielding percentage for the year, and made seven starts in the outfield. Cuneo is generally considered the most athletic first baseman in the system.

The organization also had another record-breaker at the position in 2011, as Boise’s Paul Hoilman broke the team’s single season record for home runs with 17. The 22-year old right-hander led the Northwest League in homers, and was fifth with 44 RBI. He will need to work on his approach more in order to move up, as his .252 batting average and 105 strikeouts in 71 games will attest. Hoilman was third among all first basemen in the system with a .991 fielding percentage, two points behind Ridling.

The Arizona Rookie League held glimpses of the future for the club. Getting the bulk of the work was undrafted free agent Ryan Durrence. The just turned 23-year old righty hit .247 with 27 RBI in 47 games. He tied for the team lead with three home runs, and has the look of a solid system player. Durrence then turned the position over to a couple of young left-handers. Nineteen year-old Roderick “Rock” Shoulders hit only .188 in his eight games in Arizona, starting five at first base as the organization tries to figure out his best position. The team’s 2011 second round pick, 18-year old Dan Vogelbach made a splash in his debut, hitting .292 with a homer and six RBI in six games. Vogelbach is now pounding the ball in the instructional league. Seventh round pick, 18-year old Trevor Gretzky is the son of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky. The 6’4″, 190 lbs. lefty is currently rehabbing a shoulder injury.

Positions in the Dominican Summer League can be fluid, but seeing a lot of time at first base for the organization’s two teams were 18-year old Delbis Arcila and 19-year old Xavier Batista. The left-handed Arcila hit only .258, but was fourth in the league with 44 RBI, along with hitting five home runs. Right-handed hitting Batista was fourth overall with 10 home runs, while going .259 with 38 RBI in 67 games.

Second Base – A
Among one of the best-stocked positions in the Cubs’ minor league system, second base holds a lot of promise for the future.

After selling the contract of Bobby Scales, the organization promoted 23-year old D.J. LeMahieu to Iowa, as he rose through the five levels of the system in a little more than two seasons. LeMahieu was technically demoted, coming to Iowa after spending 16 games with the parent club in early June. He hit a scalding .358 with two homers and 27 RBI in 50 games for the Tennessee Smokies prior to his big league call-up. Back down in Iowa, he went .286 with three home runs and 23 RBI in 58 games, his first time hitting under .300 in his professional career. The right-hander ended up playing 66 games at second base between Tennessee, Iowa, and Chicago with five errors in 281 chances for a .982 average overall. He also committed only one error in 150 chances at third base, played five flawless games at short for Iowa, and a perfect game at first for Chicago.

When LeMahieu was promoted, the organization decided to fill the position at Tennessee with some minor league veterans, including David Macias, Jonathan Mota, and Nate Samson. Samson was a platoon shortstop in 2010, and wound up playing the most games at second for the Smokies this season. The 24-year old started strong, hitting well over .300 before falling to .236 for the 2011 campaign.

During the first month of the season, Daytona second baseman Logan Watkins hit .122 in 74 at bats. However, a brief stint in left field jarred the 21-year old out of his slump. He would go on to hit at a .313 pace for the rest of the season and ended up at .281 with five home runs, 45 RBI and 21 stolen bases. After getting his stroke back, Watkins moved to shortstop to cover another player’s promotion. He then moved back to second when Matt Cerda was injured. The left-handed hitting Watkins also played centerfield when minor injuries sidelined some of the outfielders. He fielded .966 in 295 chances at second.

While Matt Cerda has mainly played third base since joining the organization in 2008, second seems the logical fit for his 5-foot-9, 165-pound frame. The left-hander batted .283 with 43 RBI and a .394 on-base percentage, while losing 31 games to injury. He fielded .983 at second and .906 at third base. Turning just 21-years old at mid-season, Cerda is considered a high energy, high character individual that leaves a favorable impression on coaches and fans alike.

One of the organization’s best kept secrets, 22-year old Pierre LePage actually led the whole system in hitting in 2010. Primed for a big season in 2011, LePage was batting .281 for Peoria in early June. However, the right-handed hitter began to battle injures, and slumped to .179 in 18 games before going on the DL. He ended up hitting .252 with two home runs, 26 RBI, eight stolen bases, and a .977 fielding percentage in 65 games.

In trying to fill the void made by LePage’s absence, Peoria rotated several players through the second base position. The two most notable were shortstop Arismendy Alcantara and outfielder Rubi Silva. The 19-year old Alcantara showed great range for the position, but lapses in concentration led to him fielding only .918. Twenty-two year old Silva didn’t fare much better, with only a .936 fielding percentage.

Opening at second for Boise this season was 21-year old Brad Zapenas. The right-handed hitter was considered a good glove man when drafted this year, and didn’t disappoint with a .987 fielding percentage in 27 games at second. Zapenas also made appearances at shortstop and third, and hit .238 with nine stolen bases. When Zeke DeVoss was drafted, he was considered primarily an outfielder. However, the 20-year old played mostly second for the Boise Hawks, showing he needs improvement with a .914 fielding percentage at the position. The switch-hitter displayed future leadoff potential by hitting .311 with 14 stolen bases in just 38 games.

The Arizona Rookie League saw several players audition at second. The team’s leading hitter, Gioskar Amaya, made 17 appearances and fielded .950. Seconding leading hitter Marco Hernandez lined up 14 times at second and had a .965 fielding percentage. However, switch-hitter Brian Inoa had the most starts with 21. The organization likes the 19-year old’s offensive potential, hitting .282 with 18 RBI and eight stolen bases in 40 games. But the converted catcher may have to keep looking for a position, fielding only.890 at second base.

Signed late in the season, 17-year old switch hitter John Ortega batted .260 with 17 stolen bases in just 30 games in the DSL, splitting time between both of the Cubs’ teams. Nineteen-year-old switch-hitter Jesus Rodriguez hit .288 with two home runs and 16 RBI for C-2, while 19-year old lefty Jeffry Puente hit only .231, but had two homers and 33 RBI in 66 games. Seventeen-year-old switch-hitter Antonio Gonzalez batted only .214 between both teams but had 11 stolen bases in 59 games.

Shortstop – A-
The shortstop position ranks just as well stocked as any in the minor league system, with several very interesting prospects.

If anyone can illustrate the benefits of playing winter ball, Marwin Gonzalez would be a prime example. Coming off the 2010 season, Gonzalez was a platoon middle infielder that was promoted to Double-A to cover the void left by the promotion of Starlin Castro. The 22-year old then went to the Venezuelan League and put on an MVP-type performance, opening some eyes within the organization. A conservative approach was taken with the switch-hitter, starting him at Tennessee. He proceeded to tear up the Southern League, hitting .301 with two home runs and 20 RBI in 64 games. Promoted to Iowa, he hit .500 over his first ten games, and then settled down to finish at .274 with a home run and 19 RBI 60 games. Overall, Gonzalez fielded .968 at shortstop; he also has experience at second, third, left field and centerfield.

An intriguing talent at Tennessee is the 21-year old Junior Lake. Big for a shortstop at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, the right-hander has awesome offensive potential. Lake reminds many of Alfonso Soriano with his combination of power and speed, as his combined numbers between Daytona and the Smokies were .279 with 12 home runs and 51 RBI, with a system leading 38 stolen bases. Like Soriano, Lake strikes out a lot, combining for 109 whiffs against only 19 walks. Also like Soriano, defense seems to be an afterthought, as Lake committed 33 errors and posted a .936 fielding percentage. Lake also seemed to have a hard time adjusting to Double-A pitching, hitting only .248 for Tennessee. The organization thinks a lot of Lake, playing him exclusively at shortstop and sending him to the Arizona Fall League this October.

To fill the void Lake left at Daytona, the D-Cubs moved Logan Watkins back to short, which jump-started his season. However, when an injury sidelined second baseman Matt Cerda, 27-year old Cuban national Rafael Valdes was asked to bridge the gap until Elliot Soto was ready for promotion. Valdes put up a .263 batting average with three home runs and 29 RBI between Daytona and Peoria. The slick fielding Soto surprised everyone with his offense, hitting a combined .271 with 29 RBI, including a .309 average in the tough Florida State League. Just turning 22 in August, Soto proved his hitting was no fluke in the playoffs, batting .450 for the league champions. The right-hander fielded .970 between Daytona and Peoria, and was 1.000 in eight games at third base, and .989 in 16 at second.

Many will look at the numbers for Peoria’s Arismendy Alcantara and see a whopping 40 errors. However, taking into account that only 21 of those came at short and that the switch-hitter is only 19-years old, there is reason for hope. Raw talent is what best describes Alcantara, hitting .271 with 39 RBI and eight stolen bases for the season. His strong arm and excellent range hasn’t yet translated defensively, with a .917 fielding percentage at short, .918 at second base, and .841 at third.

A late season injury to Alcantara opened the door for 2011 draftee Kenny Socorro. Seeing limited playing time in Boise, the 22-year old hit .289 in ten games for Peoria. Overall, the right-handed hitting Socorro was .248 with 11 RBI in 34 games. He fielded .951 at shortstop, .955 at second base, and .933 at third.

Another raw talent is Boise’s Wes Darvill. The British Columbia native hadn’t seen a high level of competition until signing with the Cubs in 2009. Despite being in the system for three seasons, the lefty is only 20 years old and has made strides in his development each year. Opening the season at short for the Hawks, Darvill was hitting around the .300 mark until a glut of middle infielders cut into his playing time, dropping him to.230. Regaining his position down the stretch, Darvill hit .320 in the final 15 games to end up at .256 with 12 RBI and seven steals, helping lead Boise to a playoff berth. The lanky 6-foot-2, 175-pound infielder is still a work in progress at short, fielding a career high .943 in 2011.

The collective eyes of the Cubs faithful will now be squarely fixed on 2011 first round draft pick Javier Baez. After signing late, the 18-year old got a look-see in Arizona and Boise, playing five games and hitting .278 in 18 at bats. The right-hander didn’t dispel any of the pre-draft concerns over his defense, committing six errors. Whether he stays at the position or moves to third, outfield, or even catcher remains to be seen.

Turning 19 years old at the beginning of September, Marco Hernandez led the AZL Cubs in RBI with 42 this past season. The lefty ended up hitting .333; good for second on the team, with a .375 on-base percentage, while 23 of his 70 hits went for extra bases. There is some question as to whether shortstop will continue to be in his future, but he fielded .953 in 33 games at short, while having a .965 percentage at second base and .900 at third. Tenth round draft choice Daniel Lockhart also got a quick look in Arizona, playing three games at short and three at second, and one at third, fielding .909 overall. The 18-year old lefty ended up hitting .219 in 32 at bats.

Seventeen-year old right handed hitter Francisco Sanchez received the bulk of the playing time at short for the Cubs-1 team in the Dominican Summer League, even though he only .191 in 60 games. However, he did hit six home runs and drove in 29 while fielding .886; showing that while he has something to work with, he still has a lot of work to do. On C-2, 17-year old Carlos Penalver stepped into the big shoes left behind by Starlin Castro. The right-handed hitting Penalver held his own, batting .272 with a homer, 38 RBI, and 21 stolen bases and fielding .957, helping to lead the team into the playoffs.

Third Base – C+
The conservative grade for third base prospects reflects some uncertainty at several of the levels in the system, but can possibly be higher in the future.

Third base was a position in flux for the Iowa Cubs. Twenty-six year old Marquez Smith battled injury, playing only 78 games and moving from prospect to suspect. The right-handed hitter went .278 with seven home runs and 36 RBI while fielding .969 and appearing in nine games at second base. Veteran infielder Scott Moore made 42 appearances at third for Iowa and fielded .920 at the position. The left-hander batted .295 with nine home runs and 53 RBI for the season. D.J. LeMahieu also started 31 games at third for Iowa.

After making 74 starts at third base prior to 2011, an abundance of talent at Tennessee saw Ryan Flaherty line up at six different positions this past season. The 25-year old lefty hit .305 with 14 home runs, 66 RBI, and a .907 OPS in 83 games for the Smokies playing first, second, shortstop, third, left field, and right field. Flaherty was later promoted to Iowa, playing 26 games at second, 16 at third, and seven in left field while hitting .237 with five homers and 22 RBI in 49 games. Overall, Flaherty fielded .996 at second, .934 at shortstop, .905 at third, and 1.000 in both the outfield and first base. His offensive and defensive skill set mostly reflects a third baseman, but whether he emerges there or becomes a multi-positional left-handed power hitter remains to be seen.

Possibly no other player in the Cubs’ minor league system grew more in 2011 that Tennessee third baseman Josh Vitters. The 2007 first round draft pick turned 22 in late August, but became a more mature player earlier. After the promotions of D.J. LeMahieu, Marwin Gonzalez, Ryan Flaherty, and Matt Spencer, Vitters stepped into the leadership void to help lift the Smokies to the Southern League championship. The right-handed slugger batted only .283 for the season, but hit 14 home runs and, more importantly, led the team with 81 RBI. Batting third against left-handed pitching and fifth against righties, Vitters always seemed to be coming up with a clutch hit or RBI. As for his defense, it continues to be a work in progress. Blessed with a powerful throwing arm, Vitters still committed 21 errors and fielded .903 at third base. In 32 appearances at first base, he fielded .983.

Upon returning from injury, Matt Cerda manned the third base position for the most part for Daytona. However, Cerda was augmented by the promotion of 25-year old Greg Rohan. Known primarily as an outfielder/first baseman prior to 2011, Rohan was held back in order to play third for Peoria. Not hanging his head, Rohan went on to have an MVP-type season for the Chiefs, hitting .314 with five home runs and 52 RBI in 76 games. The big righty then found Florida State League pitching to his liking, going .345 with six homers and 19 RBI in 31 games for Daytona. Rohan was passable at third base, fielding .891 between both levels in his first extended action at the position.

Also seeing action at third for Daytona were 25-year old Jake Opitz and 22-year old Dustin Harrington. Known as an offensive player, Opitz saw most of his action as Designated Hitter for Daytona. The left-handed batter hit .268 with eight home runs and 38 RBI in 83 games. Making appearances at six different positions (including one as a pitcher), Opitz fielded .941 in 25 games at third. Drafted in the 34th round in 2010, Harrington has struggled to find his niche. At 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, the right-hander is built more like a shortstop, but fielded better, with a .955 percentage, at third base. Harrington hit only .221 in 29 games at Daytona, and was sent down to Short-Season Boise. He hit .301 in 29 games for the Hawks while seeing time at third, short, and second.

At the beginning of the season, third base was a revolving door for Peoria, as outfielder Anthony Giansanti, Arismendy Alcantara, and Elliot Soto all saw action before Greg Rohan grabbed the reins. Upon Rohan’s promotion to Daytona, Dustin Geiger was assigned to the Chiefs. The 19-year old Geiger hit .342 with two homers and 20 RBI in 19 games for the AZL Cubs. Coming up to Peoria, the righty played 43 games and went .227 with a homer and 13 RBI. Defensively, he’s very similar to Vitters. Geiger has good agility and a laser beam arm, but needs work as he posted .894 fielding average with 17 errors overall.

At the hot corner for Boise this season was 19-year old Wilson Contreras. The right-handed hitter started off slow, batting around .200 in the early part of the season before ending up at .261 with two home runs and 27 RBI in 60 games. Contreras also lined up seven times at first, six in the outfield and twice at second. At third, he fielded .866 with 19 errors in 142 chances.

Seeing action at second base and shortstop, the AZL Cubs’ leading hitter Gioskar Amaya took over at third after the promotion of Dustin Geiger. The 18-year old right-hander hit .377 with 36 RBI and 13 stolen bases in 52 games. He fielded .864 in 20 games at third, .932 in 18 games at short, and .950 in 17 at second base.

Eighteen-year-old switch hitter Varonex Cuevas was the primary third baseman for the Cubs-1 team in the Dominican Summer League. Not much can be said for Cuevas, as he hit .165 with 14 RBI and seven stolen bases in 49 games. He fielded .934 in 25 starts at third. However, the jewel in the crown of the DSL for the organization was C-2′s Jeimer Candelario. The 17-year old switch-hitter was fourth in the league with a .337 average and second with 53 RBI. Add to the five home runs and an incredible 50 walks (against 42 strikeouts) in 72 games, and you have an extremely polished hitter for someone so young. While he can use some work defensively, he wasn’t terrible, sporting a .913 fielding average with 17 errors in 195 chances.

Catcher – B
Catcher is one of the most difficult positions to evaluate at the minor league level. They basically break down into two distinct categories: prospects and system players. Prospects are players being groomed as future major leaguers. Systems players are important also, as their job is to help develop minor league pitchers.

A primary example of a system catcher would be Iowa’s Chris Robinson. The 27-year old Canadian has been in the minor leagues for the past seven seasons, the last three with Iowa. This season, the right-hander started 66 games for Iowa and hit .316 with a homer and 29 RBI. He committed only one error for a .998 fielding percentage, with three passed balls and 37-percent caught stealing percentage. More importantly, when Robinson replaced an injured Welington Castillo, the ERA for the team’s starting pitching went down by nearly a full run.

Welington Castillo started the season for Iowa with a lot of potential, and a lot of questions. On a similar career path as current major league starter Geovany Soto, Castillo was always considered to have the defensive tools, along with offensive potential. In 2011, he finally began to display some of that potential, hitting .286 with 15 home runs and 35 RBI. The big question concerning the 24-year old was game calling. The righty did little to calm a shaky rotation, and committing four errors and eight passed balls didn’t help matters. However, Castillo has always been blessed with a rocket for a throwing arm, nailing 29 of 65 runners for 29-percent, a little below his career average of 37-percent.

If there is a catcher in the system that encompasses almost all facets of the position, it would be Tennessee’s Steve Clevenger. The 25-year old lefty was drafted in 2006 as an infielder, a fact some felt was held against him by the previous regime. If there were any doubts about his defense or game calling ability, his 2011 dispelled them. Clevenger help the Smokies’ pitching staff achieve the third lowest ERA in the Southern League. His .996 fielding percentage included six passed balls and a 27-percent caught stealing percentage. Clevenger could always hit, as his career .308 average can attest. At Tennessee, he batted .295 with five home runs and 39 RBI. In two brief stops at Iowa (25 games), Clevenger hit .407 with three homers and 15 RBI.

Tennessee also has their own version of the fictional “Crash Davis” in 28-year old Blake Lalli. The left-handed hitter had one of his finest offensive seasons, batting .287 with nine home runs and 52 RBI while playing 37 games at catcher and 45 at first base. Lalli is a steady veteran that has a future as a coach or manager. Also making a splash at Tennessee, for both the right and wrong reasons, was Luis Flores. The powerful right-hander hit .275 and blasted seven home runs and 20 RBI in only 40 games. He fielded .992 with only two passed balls and a 41-percent caught stealing percentage. However, the 24-year old received a 50 game suspension after testing positive for Methylhexaneamine, a stimulant. He status with the organization remains cloudy.

Another catcher who may need to make a decision about his future is Daytona’s Michael Brenly. Drafted in 2008, the son of the Cubs’ color analyst has seen a steady decrease in his offensive numbers. The right-hander will turn 25 in October, and 2011 saw him hit .206 with a homer and 24 RBI. He remains a good defensive catcher; fielding .996 with five passed balls and 30-percent caught stealing. He may want to follow in his father’s footsteps and consider a career in coaching or managing.

Twenty-three year old Chad Noble spent 2011 at Boise, Peoria, and Daytona. The right-handed hitter has the look of a solid system catcher. He hit .237 overall, with a homer and 17 RBI. Shutting down the running game is where Noble is at his best. Although he only had a 27-percent caught stealing overall, he threw out 32-percent of the runners at Daytona, his career average. However, he does seem a little stiff behind the plate, as his four errors and three passed balls in 44 games illustrate. Even more well traveled was Mario Mercedes. Signed by the organization way back in 2005, the 24-year old saw action at Boise, Daytona, Tennessee, and Iowa this season. Mercedes played in only 23 games, but the right-hander hit .293 with six RBI in 75 at bats. As far as defense, he had two errors and two passed balls in 20 games, but threw out a whopping 56-percent of would-be base stealers, and has a 36-percent career average.

Peoria has two intriguing prospects in Micah Gibbs and Sergio Burreul. Gibbs, a 23-year old switch hitter was the 2010 third round pick. He has been slow to adjust offensively, but hit .245 with two home runs and 28 RBI. He is somewhat average defensively, with six errors, five passed balls, and a 25-percent caught stealing average. Gibbs is considered a hard worker with a lot of upside potential. Burreul was called upon to handle some of the Chiefs’ top pitchers, and had four errors and six passed balls while nailing 33-percent of runners. While the left-handed hitter only batted .203 with 10 RBI, he just turned 20-years old.

One of the top offensive players at the position for the organization has to be Boise’s Rafael Lopez. Drafted in the 16th round this year, the 23-year old used his experience to his advantage. The powerful left-handed hitter batted .316 with six home runs and 37 RBI, good for tenth in the Northwest League. His experience also helped defensively, with five errors and only two passed balls in 32 games while snuffing out 35-percent of runners. Whether he can do this at a higher level of competition remains to be seen. High priced free agent Yaniel Cabeza had a rough transition after coming to America from Cuba. Primarily the starter for Boise, the 22-year old righty hit only .201 with a homer and 17 RBI in 47 games. Known for his defense, that also was suspect with six passed balls and only a 27-percent caught stealing average. The organization hopes that these were only adjustment issues, and that Cabeza can come back strong next year.

The next great catching prospect for the organization may this year’s sixth round pick Neftali Rosario. Drafted from the Puerto Rican Academy, the right-hander turned just 18 at mid-season. In only 25 games, he hit .294 with 17 RBI for the AZL Cubs while tying for the team lead with three home runs. Rosario has some work to do behind the plate, as his five errors and eight passed balls reveal. However, he did throw out 30-percent of all base stealers. Fans will also need to watch the Instructional League with interest, as 17-year old Italian catcher Alberto Mineo will be making his professional debut. The left-handed hitter batted .270 in 31 games at the Australian Academy Program this past summer.

The catching prospects in the DSL are not too promising. Nineteen-year old right hander Jhonny Pena batted .204 with 10 RBI in 45 games for Cubs-1; 18-year old switch-hitter Wilfredo Petit hit .196 with two homers and 18 RBI in 54 games for Cubs-2. However, in a run-first league, both were pretty good at halting others on the basepaths. Pena was at 29-percent caught stealing while Petit was at 43-percent.

Next Up … The CCO will take a look at the outfield down on the farm.

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO


  • Tony_Hall

    Tom – Great recap of the infielders and catchers in our system.

    It is good to see the depth at 1B, that has been developing, and the continued depth with middle infielders and catchers.  Hopefully the new GM, will promote and trade off the right players, upon his arrival.  

    3B is (of course) the worst of these positions, but Vitters is still the heir apparent at 3B, it may just take another 1/2 or full season for him to be ready.  Until then, we may need some stopgaps.  Scott Moore, Marquez Smith, Ryan Flaherty, are some possible short term internal options.

    • Dorasaga

      I think all fans eying the future are pleased by Vitters, who cut-down strikeouts and worked more free passes compared to his two earlier years as a pro. With my goggles on, perhaps, the future is now.

    • cubtex

      Blake DeWitt. Just kidding :)

      • Tony_Hall

        :)  Maybe you missed, JH is gone, otherwise, Dewitt would be the guy, probably batting 3rd as well :)

  • Griffnbell

    Great article!! I really hope we have a gem at catcher in Rosario. He sounds like he has great tools. Also, I wouldn’t mind Lake if he’s a younger version of Soriano. We just need to trade him before he turns into the old Soriano. He sounds like he could be at multiple positions. I’m looking forward to see how he does in the AFL. The one thing I like is that are position players are capable of playing all over the place. I was always a huge fan of Derosa and his ability to play wherever we needed him too. I’d love to sign him this offseason to mentor our kids.

    • cubtex

      I agree on Rosario. It appears the the Cubs might have got a steal in the 6th round by nabbing him there. 18 year old catchers with his upside are rare. Hopefully he continues to progress!

      • Aaron

        Rosario and Lopez might be the best in the system overall in a year or two…and that’s a good thing, because they’re not one dimensional

  • Calicub

    Great work as always Tom.

    • Bryan

      Yes, these farm system updates are great.  All of us “learn” about these kids we wouldn’t know of otherwise.  Thanks Tom!! 

  • paulcatanese

    Great research Tom,well done, that had to keep you away from the Pizza Parlor for a while. Good in-depth coverage.

  • brent carmona

    Plenty of information, excellent recap. Thanks Tom for your hard work!

  • John G

    Great analysis. I still have high hopes for Matt Cerda.

    Can’t wait to see your break down on pitching. A lot has been made out of Marmol having a league leading 10 blown saves. But, if I read the stats properly, the Cubs, as a team, have a total of 24 blown saves. That is an astonishing number. Yes, a few of those blown saves came back as wins, but imagine what the final record could have (should have) been this year.

    We need better bullpen pitching.

  • paulcatanese

    What is interesting to me is Baez, after looking at his tape early on, I did say that his defense at that position would be suspect, and as he has performed so far he is living up to what I had thought. It will really depend on how long they keep him there or move him as you mentioned to a different position. If those concerns are there now, move him now and dont wait until he is ingrained to shortstop and becomes a mediocore shortstop. If his bat is supposed to be that good for a number one pick, move him and continue to take advantage of the hitting he may bring to the game.

    • Aaron

      I think the best place for him is 3B, but teams often leave SS alone until they prove there’s no hope then they usually try CF, 2B, or 3B.

      You almost want him to remain at SS, at least for the time being as it’d increase his versatility if he can get a little better on defense. The last thing you want is to confuse him in the field so that it starts affecting his offense.

    • cubtex

      Paul….what is it with you wanting to move everyone to 3B? LOL!  As Aaron mentioned…you want to keep young kids at short as long as you can. You can always move shortstops to other positions in a few years…but very rarely will you see somone moved from another position to shortstop. Keep him there for now. Remember the ages of these kids.

      • paulcatanese

        To both you and Aaron. You both are right, I guess its because I watch the actions of shortstops above all other positions as I feel the middle infielders are really the key to success for any team, along with catching and center field. I also feel it is the most coveted position on the team and probably expect too much from that spot. Second base is the next and they are as good as each other allows them to be. And somwhere along the line since I have played both for a number of years I am overly critical of both( or jealous that I cannot any longer). And what exemplifies what I feel is that
        being a Cub fan all of these years and hating the White Sox, they have had the best fielding shortstops over the years Aparicio, Carasquel, and now playing third base for them Visquel. Only one, Dunston came close with the glove and then his arm helped a lot.

  • paulcatanese

    Already I have seen that Gretzky’s son is rehabing a shoulder. Was that the problem the Cubs were looking at before signing him? Or did that come about after the fact?

    • Aaron

      Paul,

      That injury was already known. The knew he’d have to rehab. To my knowledge it’s not a big deal and they didn’t want to rush him too much.

      • Tom U

        Spot on, as usual Aaron.

  • Tno13

    Tom,  Thank you for your efforts. I look forward to the upcoming reports.

  • RickinMSP

    Tom,

    I rarely post, but I am an avid, my wife would say obsessive, reader of the site.  Throughout the season, I’ve really enjoyed the spirited Aaron/Cubtex debate about the Matt Garza deal and the Paul/Cubtex debate about moving Catro to 3rd.  Most of all though, I’ve enjoyed reading your Farm Report.  Without it, I’d have no idea who any of the minor leaguers are nor their potential to help the big league club.  It has given me long term hope for the future.  While I agree that the division should be up for grabs next year, I no longer want to merely be competitive in the division, I want to compete for the World Series.  That will require a commitment to build from within to sustain long term competitiveness. 

    Based on your reports, the potential is there, but young, and unfortunately only as good as the leadership, which has been lacking in recent years (if you consider since the 1930s recent years).  Ricketts has a chance to set the Cubs up for a good 10 year run with the right hire or continue the misery with the wrong.  I am hopeful, but have been disappointed too many times to really have faith the the right person will be hired. 

    I’ve rambled long enough, thanks again Tom and I look forwrd to your pitching report because it seems to me that is where the Cubs are really weak.

    • cubtex

      RickinMSP……Happy to entertain and post more often.

    • paulcatanese

      Agree with Cubtex and I believe Aaron in your’e interest and yes, post more often.

  • Calicub

    Tonights lineup is so legit!

    Campana
    Barney
    Castro
    Pena
    LaHair
    Clevenger
    LeMahieu
    Colvin
    Colman

  • Tom U

    Thank you to everyone for your comments.

    • Dorasaga

      I love that cute profile pic of yours, Tom. Is that from a Mexican baseball team?

      • Tom U

        It a new season for me, and that is the logo of Yaquis de Obregon of the Mexican Pacific League.

  • Hansened43

    What about the pitching? any chance we will see that soon.Thanks Edw