Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 10/06/11

The last of the CCO’s five-part series on the Cubs minor league system focuses on the pitching in the lower levels of the organization … the Boise Hawks and both the rookie league and Dominican summer league teams.

Pitching Analysis

Because pitching assignments can be fluid (career starters can be used out of the bullpen, and relievers with little starting experience can but used in that role), the grading scale I will use will be:

  • Pass
  • Fail
  • Incomplete

The reports are broken down by level, assignments, right-handed and left-handed pitchers

Boise Hawks – Starters

Grade – Pass

Young and inexperienced, the Boise starting rotation held their own and helped put the team in the playoffs. Living up to the international hype was right-hander Yao-Lin Wang. The Taiwanese 20-year old was only 4-4, but was second in the Northwest League in strikeouts with 77, fifth with a 1.25 WHIP, and his 3.22 ERA was good for sixth. Another 20-year old, righty Jose Rosario, was ninth in the league with a 3.53 ERA and his six wins were good for sixth in the league. The native New Yorker was 6-3 with 50 strikeouts to 18 walks and a 1.33 WHIP. Lefty Willengton Cruz’s 3.71 ERA would have been good for tenth, had he enough innings to qualify. The 21-year old Dominican was 1-2 with 50 strikeouts and 31 walks in 53.1 innings. Leading the team in starts, 18-year old Ben Wells struggled some in his first professional season. The big right-hander was 4-4 with a 4.66 ERA, but showed his future potential by striking out 53 while walking only 19 hitters in 77.1 innings. Not doing as well was 19-year old Austin Reed. The righty struggled with his command, and was 2-7 with a 6.08 ERA and just over a 1:1 strikeout to walk ratio (36 strikeouts, 25 walks). Another 19-year old, Jin-Young Kim, failed to live up to his hype. The South Korean appeared overmatched at Boise, going 2-2 with a 7.66 ERA. He was able to regroup in the Rookie League, with a 2-0 record and 1.74 ERA in 20.2 innings. His countryman Su-Min Jung actually started the season at Peoria before coming to Boise. Jung had a hard time in Peoria, going 2-2 with a 5.36 ERA, and 0-1 with a 4.22 ERA at Boise before being mover to the pen after seven starts overall. There, he had a 1.63 ERA in 11 innings of work.

Boise Hawks – Bullpen

Grade – Fail

As much as the starting rotation helped secure a playoff spot, relief pitching put the Hawks in the position to squeak in rather than putting teams away. However, that was usually not the case with 22-year old Bryce Shafer. Second in the Northwest League with 12 saves, the righty had a 2.35 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 25.2 innings-pitched. The 2009 Cubs minor league player of the year, 23-year old Kyler Burke made a successful conversion back to the mound. The powerful lefty was 2-1 with a 2.86 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 44 innings, also sporting a 1.23 WHIP. Twenty-three year old right-hander Joe Zeller was able to use his experience to compile a 1.95 ERA and three saves along with a 2-0 record and 1.16 WHIP in 27.2 innings.

But after those three players, things went downhill in a hurry. The best of the lot was righty Dustin Fitzgerald. The 21-year old was 3-1 with a 3.19, but nearly a 1:1 strikeout to walk ratio (27 strikeouts, 23 walks) in 31 innings. Converted third baseman Charles Thomas had a 4.35 ERA and a 1-2 record in 17 appearances, with a 1.98 WHIP. However, the 22-year old right-handed pitcher was called up to Peoria at the end of the season. Nineteen-year-old righty Colin Richardson managed only a 5.64 ERA in 15 appearances, but had 25 strikeouts to 12 walks. Twenty-two year old right-hander Hector Mayora posted a 5.29 ERA in 17 innings. After signing near the deadline, left-handers Sheldon McDonald and Andrew McKirahan had four appearances apiece for Boise. The 22-year old McDonald had a 4.91 ERA, while 21-year old McKirahan’s ERA was 2.25. Fellow 2011 draftees Michael Jensen and Tony Zych gave up no earned runs in two appearances each.

Arizona Rookie League Cubs

Pitching for the AZL Cubs finished the season with a 28-28 record, 4.08 ERA, and struck out 460 batters opposed to 197 free passes. Not too bad for a squad that ran through 31 players and had an average age of 20. Here are some thoughts about the pitchers that have not been covered in previous summaries.

The AZL Cubs had what could be considered a starting rotation, which was headed up by 18-year old Brian Smith. The Canadian left-hander led the staff with 12 starts, was second with 41 strikeouts, and had a 3-4 record and 3.30 ERA. Leading in punch-outs was 20-year old Hunter Ackerman with 49. The southpaw was the fourth round pick of the Cubs in 2010 and Ackerman posted a 0-3 with a 3.68 ERA in 44 innings (nine starts). Eighteen year-old James Pugliese was the Cubs 18th round pick this past June and started nine games for the team. The big righty was 2-2 and a 4.62 ERA with 32 strikeouts in 39 innings.
If anyone could be considered a closer, it would be 21-year old Yilver Sanchez. The Dominican right-hander actually had four appearances in Boise before tossing 26.1 innings for the AZL Cubs. Sanchez was 1-3 with a 2.39 ERA, 32 strikeouts, and two saves in 14 appearances. Another Dominican, 19-year old Rafael Diplan, was tried as a relive but with less success. The righty had a 7.07 ERA and a save in 14 innings.

Felix Pena, a 21-year old right-hander, hurled 39 innings and was 3-2 with a 6.92 ERA and 32 strikeouts. A pair of 19-year old right-handers, Alvido Jimenez and Ramon Garcia, was next on the list. Jimenez was 3-1 and a 2.50 ERA with 22 strikeouts and two saves. Garcia saw time with Peoria and Tennessee, and was 6-2 with a 3.21 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 53 innings overall. Also appearing at multiple levels were 23-year old Jean Sandoval and 19-year old Ryan Hartman. Both right-handers, Sandoval was 3-2 with a 2.12 ERA and 1.06 WHIP between Boise and the Rookie League; while Illinois native Hartman had a 3-0 record and 5.59 ERA in 29 innings between Peoria and the AZL Cubs. Two other right-handed pitchers who struggled were 22-year old Santo Rodriguez and 27-year old Yoannis Negrin. Rodriguez also saw time in Boise and Arizona, and was 1-3 with a 12.15 ERA in 20 innings. Signed late in the season, Negrin pitching in Arizona, Peoria, and Daytona and was1-1 and a 4.85 ERA, with 18 strikeouts in 13 innings combined.

Eighteen year-old lefty Luis Villabla, and 19-year old righties Tayler Scott and Amaury Paulino also saw brief action in Arizona.

Dominican Summer League

With 51 pitchers taking the mound between the Cubs’ two teams in the academy, covering each one would take another entire article. Here are some of the more outstanding performers.

One of the youngest players to take the hill, 17-year old Alexander Santana shows a lot of promise. The right-handed pitcher was 4-2 with a 2.67 ERA in 67.1 innings covering 14 starts. Santana received an invite to the Instructional League this fall. A pair of 20-year old right-handers in Jose Arias and Loiger Padron was among the top in ERA for starting pitchers. Arias was 1-1 with a 2.28 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 43.1 innings over 12 appearances (10 starts). Padron pitched for both teams and was 6-3 with 49 punch-outs with a 1.02 WHIP and 2.44 ERA in 17 appearances, six of which were starting assignments. Pitching exclusively for Cubs-2, 19-year old Victor Garcia led the Cubs’ teams with 64 strikeouts. The left-hander was 3-2 and a 2.95 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in eight starts as part of 14 appearances. Eighteen-year-old Augusto Colinas may have a future as a closer. The lefty was 5-2 with two saves, a 2.65 ERA, and 35 strikeouts in 37.1 innings. A name to remember for next season could be Francisco Turbi. Although 23-years old, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound right-hander was 4-1 with 11 saves and a 3.09 ERA, with a 1.13 WHIP and 29 strikeouts in 32 innings.

More Analysis of the Cubs Farm System

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  • Dorasaga

    Brett Jackson has been doing great at the IBAF World Cup so far:

  • paulcatanese

    I know someone earlier had asked if the injuries to pitchers were more in the Cub system than others. I think what a lot of people forget is most of these are kids, 18-25or 30 yrs old. Sometimes their priorities are not the right ones.Pick up basketball games,water skiing,and any sort of pick up games where injuries occur. Some pitchers don’t take the extra precaution to warm up properly especialy in cold weather.So many things that are not even related to baseball happen when they are at that age that hurt the baseball end of it. One of the big things is the pressure to succeed and they overdo the limits of what they have.I havent included pain medication or other types that would influence the performnce, but I think thats the general idea.

  • Tom U

    Trey McNutt the probable starter for Mesa on Friday.

  • cubtex

    They have a poll on asking readers if they would trade Starlin Castro for Theo Epstein. What????? Out of approximately 1500 votes 160 people actually said yes. That is one way to get Barney to shortstop Paul! Lol

    • paulcatanese

      Not for me, some people are weird, why would they trade him at all?I wouldnt put it pass them with some of the moves they have made. Can Epstein play short?
      Did you read the article by Victorino on the Budwiser Horses? Seems they left a fair amount of articles on the ground around the field and right in front of the Phillies dugout, I had suggested they hire Qua to follow the horses with a shovel, I think he would be a success.

    • cc002600

      That’s beyond mind boggling  that some people would do that.  Too many people are falling prey to the Theo hype machine.

      That is sooooooooo ridiculous, its beyond belief.  If they get Theo, fine, I’m good with that, but I wouldn’t give up a bag of balls to get him, let alone your best player, who just happens to be 21 years old, who looks to be a perennial all-star.

      There are many, many OTHER good candidates out there that can be had for nothing….and oh, who just might be better than Theo. 

      I refuse to believe that Ricketts is that stupid. or at least I hope so.

      • paulcatanese

        I,m surprised they dont build a monument outside the park for this guy, but then it seems he is covered in gold already and getting more expensive by the day.

    • John G

      Of course it’s a stupid question. But here’s an equally stupid question. Hypothetically of course.

      Would you trade Starlin Castro anywhere if you were GUARANTEED a one time World Series Victory? One time only, nothing for the foreseeable future. The key word is guaranteed. Kind of a Faustian situation.

      • roguesqr09

        In MLB chat, he said that Boston could ask for Brett Jackson as compensation, and the commentator said ‘No reason they should ask for less’.

        • paulcatanese

          If Qua is still here for next year I would say yes,let that happen as Brett Jackson would never see the field between the lines. Only if Qua is coming back and is not out of there for next year, cause with him no rookies until the last week of the season and only for one game.

      • Dorasaga

        I would trade my soul if I can witness the Cubs wins the World Series.

    • Ripsnorter1

      Steve Rosenbloom on 670theScore today was advocating just such a trade.

      HE’S NUTS!!!!

      Epstein–there are dozens of men who can do what he does. 
      But there are not even one dozen Starlin Castros.

      • cubtex

        100% right. They are nuts if anyone would advocate that!

      • texcubnut

        Rosenbloom would love nothing more than to see the cubs fail to qualify his hate-spewing columns and justify his man crush on the sox. I don’t waste my time reading his manure. But ask me some other time to tell you how I really feel about Rosenbloom.

  • paulcatanese

    I’m getting very tired with all the hype surrounding the aqusition of a GM. these guys are not Gods,are the Cubs so bad and is this such a position that requires all of these perks to get someone over here? No one wants the job unless they are coherced to come over?Just put the job out there and let those who want it send the Cubs their resume, reverse the procedure.

    • cubtex

      and don’t give up any assets to get a gm. There are a lot of good candidates.

    • John G

      Paul, I agree with you. I would rather have Sandberg as Field Manager and just a “decent” GM rather than a superstar GM and a “decent” FM.

      • cubtex

        John…..You can win with a below average manager but you cannot win with a below average GM.

        • John G

          Ozzie Guillen and Kenny Williams

          • cubtex

            yes i would agree that kenny is a below average gm…you got me there, but good players can overcome a bad manager was my point.

          • Dorasaga

            Maybe he’s not. Kenny acted and sounded like Billy Beane. He made three bad moves last two years, traded for Edwin Jackson, Jake Peavy, and signed Adam Dunn for four years (instead of 2-3, which he deserved). But he only had 2 losing seasons within the last decade as a GM (until this year, that’s a 3rd).

            Williams always has that “football mentality” to win now, but we can see that he learned his lesson and going for the youth movement and rebuild now.

        • texcubnut

          I agree, but it would be nice to have both and totally agree with Paul; see who is interested in being the GM who brings  a world series trophy to Chicago. Just one question, Paul… where do I send my resume?

          • paulcatanese

            Send it to the Yankees, they just got wiped.

  • cubtex

    white sox name Robin Ventura manager. Didn’t even know he was looking to manage. Cubs need to bring in Sandberg next.

    • John G

      180 degree flip in manager personalities.
      Jesse Ventura would have been more in line.

    • texcubnut

      Nolan Ryan sends his congrats and head noogies to White Sox nation!!

      • Dorasaga

        Haha. I never knew who was that jerk who charged Ryan and was punched to no end. I guess I’m learning something everyday.

  • Neil

    Cubs in AFL – Thursday results: Josh Vitters (1B): 2-for-4, 2RBI, Sac; DJ LeMahieu (DH): 1-for-5, R; Junior Lake (3B): 0-for-5, error

  • Spoda17

    Look all… not trying to bring a big downer to the great GM hunt… but I would pass on Theo, not because of the big contracts, but because I think we need to go with someone who can build a farm system and sign the right free agent.  If you all remember, about 10 years ago, we actually had one of the best farm systems in baseball… then JH went crazy… I like Friedman… give a reasonable amount of money to work with, and build a farm system… WS baby..! and a dynasty… we need to think long term, not just win it and go boobs up…  not to get ahead of myself, just sayn”

    • Tony_Hall

      You will have to refresh my memory on the great farm system we had when JH took over…

  • Ripsnorter1

    Bob Brenly JUST LOVES ARAM…..

    Bob Brenly has never been a big fan of Aramis Ramirez. And with the third baseman on the verge of free agency, Brenly said it might be time to let Ramirez go. 

    “He’s a numbers gatherer,” Brenly, the Cubs television analyst, said Wednesday on “The Waddle & Silvy Show” on ESPN 1000. “He gets his stats at the end of the year every year but defensively he’s just fallen off the face of the earth. As a baserunner he kills you, he’s a log jammer on the bases, and I’m not buying any of this leadership for Starlin Castro stuff at all. 

    “That combined with the fact that he did statistically have a good year, he needs to maximize this. If this is going to be his last big contract, I think it behooves him and his agent to go out there and see what they can get in the free market. It should be a pretty sizable contract.” 

    Ramirez played eight and a half seasons with the Cubs, and led them with 93 RBIs to go along with 26 home runs and a .306 batting average this season. He decided he would opt out of the $16 million option year, if it was picked up by the Cubs, and test free agency. He is in the final year of a five-year, $75 million contract. 

    Brenly said Ramirez has been a productive hitter during his time in Chicago but Brenly said Ramirez struggled in the clutch and defensively at third base. 

    Waddle & SilvyCubs broadcaster Bob Brenly discusses the Cubs’ reported interest in Theo Epstein, letting Aramis Ramirez go, and his managerial future.More Podcasts »
    “It’s hard to think back recently, especially last year, and remember any big RBIs that he had or any period of time where they won a lot of games because of the way Aramis was swinging the bat,” Brenly said. “There’s no question about it, you look at the stats and he’s the best third baseman they’ve had since Ron Santo, maybe the only third baseman the Cubs have had since Ron Santo. 

    “A lot of pitchers would never go public with this information … double-play balls that aren’t turned because Aramis takes so long to get rid of the ball to get it to second base. He’s gotten a number of second baseman just clobbered out there on double-play attempts. In the grand scheme of things it may seem like a small thing but over 162 games, the double plays that you don’t turn that lead to more pitches for your pitcher, that lead to more opportunities for the opposition. 

    “Everything has to be tightened up. And at this stage of his career he’s not going to get better defensively. For me I think maybe it’s time for him to move on and go somewhere else. I’m sure he still has a number of good years left as an offensive player, but if you’re looking to re-tool the team in a different image it might be time for him to go.”

    • texcubnut

      Rip, hard to argue with anything Brenly said about Ramirez. On this subject, I’m a Brenly dittohead.

    • Ripsnorter1

      I’d say Bill Madlock was a good 3B after Ron Santo……..

    • Ripsnorter1

      “Ramirez doesnt’ hit in the clutch”….what about Mr. .196?

      Let’s compare the stats for 2011, Vin……..

      Ramirez RISP………………….vs…………………Mr. .196 RISP
      181 PA…21 BB…20 K……….vs…….162 PA…40 BB….39 K
      Aramis is better because he puts the ball in play. He doesn’t just pass the
      buck to the next hitter, in this case, PENA.

      .278 BA…..354 OBP…..517 slugging for Aram: EXCELLENT
      .175 BA…..377 OBP…..404 slugging for PENA. LOOK AT THAT BA!!

      RBIs:  67 for Aram:  45 for Mr. .175…….It is obvious that Carlos WANTS to walk and pass the buck to the #5 hitter, in this case, BYRD.NOW, do you want BYRD trying to drive in all of your runs?
      He fans 1 for every 4 AB. That .175 BA is great, isn’t it?Let’s compare that to Byrd’s RISP BA……

      143 PA……………….vs……………………162 PA
      26 RBI………………..vs……………………45 RBI
      .198 BA……………..vs……………………..175
      7 BB………………….vs…………………….40 BB
      28 K………………….vs…………………….28 K
      .305 slug……………vs……………………..404
      .252 OBP…………..vs……………………..377


      BYRD vs. TONY CAMPANA (a MiL OF, imo)
      .261 BA
      .370 OBP
      .304 slugHIS SLUGGING IS RIGHT THERE WITH BYRD.BA is better.
      OBP is better.WOW!

  • texcubnut

    Robin Ventura???  REALLY???

  • paulcatanese

    “Yankee go home” Congratulations to the Tigers, they could not have done any better. And A Rod’s two K’s and the last out.