Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 11/21/11

This week saw some familiar faces in new places. Daytona Cubs starter Jeffry Antigua and Iowa Cubs reliever Marcos Mateo joined the Dominican League, while Iowa starter Jay Jackson, DSL infielder Carlos Penalver, and Tennessee first baseman Rebel Ridling are now part of the Venezuelan League.

Pitching remained the story, as Scott Maine and Robert Coello continued their hot streaks. Chris Rusin and Austin Bibens-Dirkx pitched gems, as did Carlos Zambrano before suffering misfortune. Meanwhile, Marwin Gonzalez came back with a vengeance from a week off.

Including a recap of the Arizona Fall League, welcome to this week’s Down on the Farm Report.

Dominican Winter League

Gigantes del Cibao
It wasn’t much of a week for Mario Mercedes, only receiving a brief appearance as a defensive replacement in the Giantes11-1 over Este on Friday.

Leones de Escogido
Lefty John Gaub is still struggling to bring his ERA down. On Sunday, he had a strikeout in a perfect inning as Escogido lost 10-5 to Licey. Gaub then pitched two-thirds of an inning on Wednesday and served up a solo home run, but the Lions still beat Cibaenas 3-2.

Finally, on Friday, John Gaub struck out the only batter he faced as Cibaenas returned the favor in a 3-2 loss in ten innings. The game also saw a crisp start by Chris Rusin, pitching 5.2 scoreless innings and striking out six batters.

Click Here for Complete Box Score

Toros del Este
Seeing his first action in nine days, Alberto Cabrera started on Thursday and pitched three innings. Cabrera allowed two earned runs and struck out a batter. In the game, Nelson Perez delivered a pinch-hit that led to the go-ahead run, as the Bulls topped Oriente 8-6.

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Nelson Perez started on Friday, and was 1-for-2 with an RBI. Jeffry Antigua had a blistering debut for Este, striking out three in 1.1 innings in an 11-1 loss to Cibao.

Estrellas de Oriente
Scott Maine remained dominant in his closer role for the Stars, as he struck out a batter in two-thirds of an inning to pick up his first hold in a 9-3 win over Este on Sunday.

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Scott Maine was back on the hill in Wednesday, lowering his ERA to 0.90 by striking out a batter and tossing a scoreless inning for his fifth save in a 1-0 nail-biter over Licey.

Click Here for Complete Box Score

Mexican Pacific League

Naranjeros de Hermosillo
Blake Parker started out well on Sunday, blanking Los Mochis for an inning as the Orangemen defeated the Sugar Cane 8-4.

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However, Blake Parker met his match on Tuesday against the powerful Obregon squad. Parker suffered the loss as he gave up five earned runs in 1.1 innings with Hermosillo falling 11-3. On Thursday, Parker was facing the Yaquis again and gained some revenge, striking out the side as the Growers won 7-2.

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Yaquis de Obregon
Starter Marco Carrillo had a rare poor outing on Thursday, allowing three earned runs and suffering the loss as the Tribe fell 7-2 to Hermosillo. Carrillo pitched six innings and struck out two to maintain a 2.65 ERA.

Reliever Oswaldo Martinez had a rocky week, but it didn’t seem to affect the team that much. On Wednesday, he let in an earned run in 0.2 innings as the Yaquis romped 16-8 over Hermosillo.

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Oswaldo Martinez then lasted only a third of an inning on Friday, allowing an earned run in a 5-2 loss to Los Mochis.

Venezuelan Winter League

Caribes de Anzoategui
On Friday, Carlos Zambrano appeared to be returning to his old self, allowing an unearned run and striking out four over five innings, until a line-drive struck him in the side of the head. Initial reports indicated Zambrano received six stitches in his lip and vowed to make his next scheduled start, as the Indians defeated Magallanes 3-1.

Reports since have indicated Carlos Zambrano received between 10-18 stitches near his ear. Zambrano is expected to undergo more testing early in the week and his status for the remainder of the Venezuelan Winter League is uncertain.

Stay tuned to the CCO for further updates on Carlos Zambrano.

Click Here for Complete Box Score

Leones de Caracas
After a week hiatus, Marwin Gonzalez came back refreshed and swinging, hitting at a .421 clip for the week. Gonzalez started on Sunday by going 3-for-3 with two doubles and a walk as Caracas lost to Magallanes 2-1. He then followed that up with a 2-for-4 performance that included a walk and two RBI as the Lions stumbled 7-3 to La Guaira on Tuesday. After having a 0-for-3 day on Wednesday, Gonzalez bounced back and went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI in another loss to Magallanes, 7-2 on Thursday.

On Friday, Marwin Gonzalez belted a double and drove in two more runs for the week as Caracas defeated Lara 9-5.

Click Here for Complete Box Score

Iowa starter Jay Jackson was brought on board by the Pride this week, and had a rude introduction on Saturday. Jackson went three innings and let in three earned runs while striking out a batter. He was given the loss, as Zulia topped Caracas 3-0.

Navegantes del Magallanes
Robert Coello continued his impressive run for Magallanes by striking out three batters in 1.1 innings of work as the Navigators slipped past Caracas 2-1 on Sunday.

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Coello’s next appearance was Thursday, where he earned his fifth hold in 0.2 scoreless innings and the Navs beat Caracas again 7-2.

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In the Pathfinder’s 3-0 win over Margarita on Saturday, Robert Coello extended himself by tossing two shutout innings, striking out two and picking up his sixth hold.

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First baseman Bryan LaHair received a much-deserved week off after going 1-for-4 in Sunday’s win.

Aguilas del Zulia
Austin Bibens-Dirkx had another good start this week, hurling 5.1 innings and allowing only one earned run. Bibens-Dirkx struck out four and picked up his third victory as the Eagles won 5-2 over Anzoategui on Wednesday.

Click Here for Complete Box Score

Arizona Fall League
The Mesa Solar Sox finished the Arizona Fall League regular season on Thursday with a 17-20 record. In a season dominated by the Surprise Saguaros and the Salt River Rafters, the Solar Sox ended up with the third best record. Minor leaguers Josh Vitters and Junior Lake were named to the AFL’s Top Prospect List.

Leading the Cub prospects was Josh Vitters. Vitters’ .360 batting average was good for seventh in the league. He also added four home runs and 17 RBI. A slight disappointment was the playing time Vitters received. Listed as an outfielder, Vitters only received a handful of starts there. He mainly lined up as the DH, with the rest of his time seen at first base.

After a slow start, D.J. LeMahieu hit at a .349 pace over his last 10 games and wound up batting .302 for the campaign. LeMahieu was primarily used as a third baseman, with a few starts at first interspersed. Being asked to bat in the middle of the line-up, LeMahieu ended up tied for tenth with 21 RBI despite hitting only two home runs. His 14 stolen bases were good for second in the league.

After being named the AFL’s Player-of-the-week in the third week of the season, Junior Lake’s average nose-dived eighty points and he ended up hitting .296. Junior Lake did put on a final push and wound up tying teammate D.J. LeMahieu with 21 RBI. However, Lake made his mark on the basepaths, swiping a league leading 18 bases. As with Josh Vitters, his defensive deployment was disappointing. Lake saw most of his playing time at shortstop, committing five errors and failing to convince anyone he had a future at the position. Lake saw very limited action at third base and the outfield.

Trying to put an injury plagued season behind him, Trey McNutt responded with a “ho-hum” performance this fall. McNutt started a total of seven games, and tossed 18 innings for a 5.00 ERA. He had a 1.61 WHIP with only eight strikeouts to go along with seven walks.

For the second year in a row, Chris Carpenter created a buzz by topping the 100 mph level on his pitches. Carpenter ended up the most effective pitcher the Cubs sent to Arizona, going 1-1 with a 3.29 in 11 games, 13.2 innings pitched. Carpenter also struck out 18 batters while walking only two, and posting a 1.24 WHIP.

Jeff Beliveau joined the Solar Sox after a stint with the US National team, representing his country in the Baseball World Cup and Pan-Am Games. In three of his appearances, Beliveau was practically unhittable, allowing one hit and one walk, no earned runs, and striking out four in four innings. However, it was a different story on November 12. Beliveau was shelled for three earned runs, including a home run, in an inning, despite the fact he ended up striking out the side.

As a replacement for Beliveau while he was with the National team, Marcus Hatley seemed a little out of his element. Haley ended up with a 1-3 record with a 9.88 ERA, pitching 13.2 innings in 12 games. Hatley seemed to get his feet under him in his last appearances, allowing only an earned run and striking out three in five innings.

It was pretty much a lost effort for Andrew Cashner. Like Carpenter, Cashner wowed the scouts by hitting over 100 mph on the radar gun. However, shoulder tightness limited him to only nine appearances and 8.2 innings. Cashner earned a victory and two saves and struck out seven batters … but he also allowed 12 earned runs and had a 1.96 WHIP.

Click Here for the Mesa Solar Sox Final Statistics for the 2011 AFL Season

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Quote of the Day

"Never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how slow." - Plato
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  • Brp921

    Tom, Thanks for you reports on our minor league system, it’s great to be able to briefly look over whats going on in the minor leagues on a weekly basis. Let me ask you, if the Cubs were to offer arbitration to Ramirez and Pena, in the hopes of receiving draft picks and they both accepted, then I believe that would pretty well eat up most of the money available for free agents. If that were to happen who in your opinion, if any one, could be brought up that could make a significant contribution on the major league level, either pitching or otherwise?

    • Tom U

      Thank you for being patient, I had to stay a little later at work today.

      In your scenario, the pitcher I would look closely at is Chris Rusin. A left-hander, Rusin didn’t have great numbers at Tennessee, but did pretty well when promoted to Iowa. Currently, he’s doing well in the Dominican League. The rotation could use a lefty.

      Another pitcher would be Jeffrey Beliveau. He also is left handed and was the organization’s pitcher-of-the-year. Beliveau was highly regarded, and added to Team USA in the World Cup/Pan-Am games. He also did well when he joined the AFL. He has potential to be more effective than John Grabow (being charitable) and could eventually make Sean Marshall expendable.

    • Tom U

      I’m also sorry I didn’t properly read all of your post. As far as position players go both Brett Jackson  and DJ LeMahieu have a chance to be major contributors this coming season. 

      With new management in place, Marlon Byrd may find his insistence on being a starter and playing only centerfield no longer honored. Byrd was never better that a really good fourth outfielder, while Jackson brings more speed, power, defense, and athleticism to the position. 

      In your scenario, LeMahieu would have to fight for playing time with Darwin Barney at second. However, I don’t see it that way. I feel that LeMahieu should be the odds on favorite at third base. Forget the power numbers (how much did that help last year anyway?), LeMahieu has the skills to be a consistent hitter, something you didn’t always get with Ramirez. 

      The only way I would ever offer arbitration to Ramirez is with the understanding that if he accepts, he would have to play both third AND first base. That should be enough to make him decline.

      • paulcatanese

        I like that Tom, as I advocated that last year before Pena, if the Cubs had seen thier way to move Aram to first or sit they would have saved money
        and he may have actually improved his value.

        • John_CC

          But you are forgetting Paul, last year they were only a move or two away from being a Championship caliber team, and Pena was one of those moves. Too bad Henrdy never found the last piece!

      • John_CC

        Good idea with Ramirez, an ultimatum is exactly what he needs after his end of the year ultimatum that he would only stay for team that showed it wanted to compete.  HA!

      • Brp921

        Thanks Tom I’ll look forward to seeing them next year.

  • Anthony

    Wonder if the new regime may consider stretching Carpenter back out into a starter. With some electric stuff, he could probably work in the 91-95 range with his fastball breezing.

    • cubtex

      I agree Anthony. I would rather see Cashner stretched out and used as a starter. Coming in and thowing gas for 2 or 3 days in a row has more of a strain on his shoulder IMO.

      • cmschube

        Interesting..  I was always under the assumption that throwing 100-110 pitches (150+ when you consider pre-game warm up pitches) every 5 days would be worse…

        • daverj

          Agreed.  I thought pitchers with shoulder issues were generally moved to the bullpen.  I’ve never heard of a pitcher with shoulder issues being moved from the bullpen to the rotation.

        • paulcatanese

          That depends on the issue. Throwing for 100 plus pitches are treated with ice and the next day some light throwing and then rest to allow the blood vessles to contract. Throwing two three days in a row, the arm dosent have a real chance to subside and so to speak, heal. Relievers in my mind have to have a “rubber” arm and a lot depends on the pitching coach to keep all of them healthy. Thats something we didnt have last year at all. Thats one reason I think its easier to start than relieve. Aaron would be a much better authority on that, he knows pitching very well.

          • cubtex

            Well said Paul. I would imagine Cashner would have a harder time throwing back to back days and there would be several instances during a long season where he couldn’t be used because of that. See Aroldis Chapman. He is not nearly the weapon he could be as a starter because throwing 110(or whatever he throws) out of the pen……the Reds cannot use him in back to back days several times during the year. You almost need to be a psychic to pick his spots. If Cashner is stretched out and has a limited pitch count he will build up strength in his shoulder and IMO keep him healthier than used as a reliever.

          • John_CC

            It really depends on the pitcher, his arm, the coaches, the trainers programs, etc.  You can’t just say that guys that throw 100 can’t throw back to back days. It just isn’t true. See Neftali Perez, Papelbon, Joba, Zumya…there aren’t a lot of them, but the best relievers stay in the high 90′s and do it on multiple days.

          • paulcatanese

            Thats true John, some can throw back to back days, but it is definatly not the norm. In fact, back in the day(ha) there were some(rare) that pitched the first game of a doubleheader and started the second game and went as far as they could.

            Sorry John I thought you were talking about starters and not relievers, yes relievers can throw back to back days. But not the way Quade used them, two three days in a row and one off and back to back to back days. Even though they only threw one inning at a time and sometimes one hitter. They still had to warm up and in essence were used too much and too often. Quality under him went downhill quickly.

      • paulcatanese

        Again I agree with both you and Anthony. Both have a lot of talent and deserve a serious shot.

      • cc002600

        I ain’t saying a word. Too tired to fight.
        LOL

    • paulcatanese

      I liked Carpenter since he first came up, and actualy think he could replace Marmol as the closer, much less to go wrong in the mechanics department.
      He also would be very good as a starter, either way, he needs to be up there.

    • cubtex

      Sorry Anthony…I thought you were talking about Cashner…not Carpenter. I would rather see Carpenter kept in the bullpen and Cashner stretched out. I think Carp could eventually turn into a pretty decent closer.

  • daverj

    Clint Barmes signed with Pittsburgh for $10.5 million over 2 years.  It’s looking like another offseason of big contracts for free agents.  If a guy with little upside like Barmes gets over $5 million per year, what do better players like Kubel and Cuddyer get?  How about a guy with big upside like Sizemore?

    • Brp921

      Maybe the Cubs will use this year as an opportunity to play their young guys, see where they stand, and go from there.

      • daverj

        That is probably a good idea … one I could see happening.

        • daverj

          Latest tweet from Gammons on Cespedes is below.  I can’t believe the Cubs are going to get this guy at the numbers that are now being floated about for him.  I read somewhere that some think he may get around $60 million.

          “Cespedes people told club they already have an offer w/ $10M up front and eight years. “The $35-50M estimate may be light,” says a GM.”

          • paulcatanese

            I would certainly hope its light, that guy is out of sight and whoever signs him at that 60 mil. range needs thier heads examined. He would have to make Pujols look like a minor leaguer to demand that kind of money.

          • daverj

            It’s complete insanity.  While some Cub fans may not like it now, the best thing for this organization long term is to avoid Cespedes, Pujols, Fielder, Darvish, Buehrle, E Jackson and all the other high priced guys that are sure to be way overpaid.  Youngsters and a few free agent vets (who are leftover in January after the big spending) on 1 or 2 year deals are the way to go.

          • Dorasaga

            Seriously, you are sane. As a Cubs fan, I’ve been against Darvish since DAY ONE of the postseason. He’s not as popular as Matsuzaka; he’s overused like Matsuzaka (130 pitches in multiple games per season); his career number is just as good as Matsuzaka in Japan. Perhaps he got better frame, which scouts rave about. Plus, Darvish got a more consistent walk-rate.

            Cespedes, I’ll let the expert talks:
            “Up(side)s and Down(side)s of Cuban Outfield Prospect Yoen(n)is Céspedes”

            http://www.baseballdecuba.com/EngnewsContainer.asp?id=2595

          • Anthony

            heard the pitching this dude faced has been high school level

          • paulcatanese

            I would not doubt that at all, don’t trust it,and hope the Cubs don’t go for it.

          • cubtex

            No chance I sign a question mark like this for 8 years! I hope Theo is not serious about going there!

      • paulcatanese

        I like that and would have hoped it happened last year. That was just wasted time and the Cubs could have been months ahead in thier progress.

        • Brp921

          Absolutely. At least once they were far back in the standings.

  • John G

    Congratulations to Justin Verlander. MVP and Cy Young Award. I wonder what his next contract will look like?

    • daverj

      He’s signed for the next 3 years at $20 million per season.  If he keeps it up, he’s probably looking at a long term contract at $25 million per season as a free agent.

      • John G

        Had he not signed a contract extension last year, he would be the top free agent on the market right now. He could be asking for Puljols type numbers.

  • paulcatanese

    Cespedes, Aram, and all the rest of them, they throw millions around like its “chump change” unreal and discusting.

    • Chuck

      Paul, I agree with you 100%. I hope that Theo has learned a lesson with the signing of Dice-K.

      • paulcatanese

        I dont know Chuck, I think they are down there now. I hope they would make the right  move and pass.

  • cubtex

    Joe Nathan got 2 years at 15 mil? Wow! Maybe now is the time to move Marmol.

    • Demitri

      I saw that, and I’m in shock. Rangers make a risky move right there. But they’ve been to the world series twice and lost so maybe they are trying something different I guess

      • cubtex

        They obviously want to move Feliz to the rotation….but that is alot of money for a pitcher coming off an injury.

        • Demitri

          I don’t think that will work out for them. Does that mean CJ isn’t going to return?

          • cubtex

            Yes. I don’t think there is any chance CJ will be back.

          • daverj

            Agreed.  Letting Wilson go is probably the right move for them.  Someone will give him around $90 million for 6 years … and then repent at their leisure over the 2014-2017 seasons. 

  • John G

    Watching the Cespedes self promo tape, I wouldn’t touch that guy for any price. Too much posing at the plate and admiring his HR. I just don’t like guys like that. Say what you want about Marlon Byrd, I like the way he runs out his HR’s. No grandstanding. That crap just rubs me wrong. It makes me thiink of Barry Bonds. ARam and Soriano have been known to do that as well. It turns me off. I’d rather see the Sammy Sosa hop than a guy standing there admiring it and then ever-so-slowly jogging around the bases, milking the moment.

    That, and what someone else said. What level of pitching is he actually facing? It’s probably sub-Grabow.

    • Dorasaga

      I don’t mind post this excellent review again:

      http://www.baseballdecuba.com/EngnewsContainer.asp?id=2595

      “And Céspedes also enjoyed a handful of other notable advantages back home in Cuba that contributed rather mightily to inflating his raw numbers. One was playing nearly half his games in a bandbox-dimension Bayamo home ballpark reputed as a slugger’s paradise.

      Another was hitting in the third slot of a potent Granma lineup where he was followed by not only Despaigne (home run king the previous two seasons) but also by Yordanis Samón (21 HRs, 76 RBIs, and a league fourth-best.385 BA).

      In short Céspedes saw a ton of mostly hittable pitches over the past several seasons, and in a league acknowledged for its recent precipitous dip in pitching talent.”

      • Dorasaga

        By the way, I’ve watched a lot more games of Despaigne in international tournaments, and I must say this guy is a much more impressive hitter than Cespedes, whom I consider more raw and needs polish just like A.E.Else from Cuba. I’m sure scouts realized the free agent in question has a long swing and all, among many other things that we need to wonder (criminal case, etc.).

      • cc002600

        yuck.
        if all that’s true, anyone who gives this guy big dough is a moron.

        Theo is too smart to do that.

         

        • Dorasaga

          They need to consider him as an athletic, raw prospect with good defensive skills, who is perhaps double-A ready. Any more expectation that leads to an overpay might cheat the fans, because that means the Cubs farm system is so desperate that Cespedes must signed to “look good.” Rumors stay as a rumor, thank God.

    • paulcatanese

      Agree John, I watched it too. If he has that much ego now, think what it would be if he actually signs for the money he wants. Bonds was one big reason I never went to any of thier ballgames.

      If he pulls that here there are some pitchers that will stick it in his ear the next time up. I just say pass on him.

  • Tom U

    Thank you to everyone for your comments.

    • paulcatanese

      Tom we comment because the leads you supply us with are so well done.As well as Neil’s, we can’t resist.