Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 02/20/12

Five Players to Watch: Rookie and Short-Season A-Ball

This is the first in a series of articles highlighting some of the players not noted on off-season prospect lists. The players are listed in alphabetical order, and as they are presently listed on rosters. Inclusion in this list does not necessarily reflect where each player will start the season.

Jeffrey Baez, OF
This 18-year old was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2010 and was given a reported $350,000 bonus. Solidly built at 6-foot-0, 180 pounds, he played for both the C-1 and C-2 teams in the Dominican Summer league in 2011.

The right-hander combined to hit .282 with five home runs and 36 RBI while batting near the top of the order for both teams. What had him that high in the line-up was his speed. Even in the run-first DSL, Baez was a force on the base paths. His 32 steals were fourth in the league, and the three players ahead of him had at least two years more experience.

According to observers in the Arizona Instructional League, Baez is built like a running back or linebacker, and plays baseball like a football player. He’s an average defender, with some skills that can use refinement. Baez fielded .964 with 11 assists seeing the bulk of his playing time in centerfield. While it looks like he may return to the DSL this summer, his success there and in the Fall League last year can have him pushing draftees John Andreoli, Shawon Dunston Jr., Trey Martin, and Garrett Schlecht for a spot in the Rookie League or low A-ball.

Pin-Chieh Chen, OF
In a system that seems full of centerfield prospects, no one is more unheralded the Pin-Cheih Chen. If you a looking for a stealth prospect that can surpass some of the bigger names, Chen may just be the player.

The 20-year old was international free agent in 2009 after he appeared with the Taiwan National team in the Asian Junior championships. Originally signed as a second baseman, Chen saw action in both the rookie league and at Short Season-A Boise in 2010, hitting a combined .295 with 19 RBI and ten stolen bases in 190 at bats. The decision was made in extended spring training in 2011 to move Chen to centerfield. He returned to Boise and batted lead-off until the arrival of second baseman/outfielder Zeke DeVoss, and then moved into the number two hole. Chen batted .301 with 14 doubles, four triples, two home runs, 30 RBI, and 20 stolen bases.

Despite seeing his first outfield action, Chen fielded a flawless 1.000. Scouting reports like his arm, speed, range. There have been reports that Chen’s speed and defense are very close to Major League ready. A lanky 6-foot-1, 170 pounder, he still has room to grow. Chen squares ball up very well with his excellent hand-eye coordination, which could end up helping him as he moves through the system. If his offense can continue at this pace, or even improve, you could be looking at a special player.

Carlos Penalver, SS
If you’re a shortstop signed by the Cubs organization and are playing in the Dominican Summer League, the comparisons to Starlin Castro come with the territory. However, Carlos Penalver shook off that extra pressure and went on to perform well in his first professional season.

The 17-year old Venezuelan was signed by the Cubs in 2010 to $550,000 bonus. Penalver started the entire season with the powerful C-2 team in the DSL in 2011. While having an advantage hitting between Jeffrey Baez and third base prospect Jeimer Candelario, the right-hander held up his end by hitting .272 with 38 RBI and 21 stolen bases. Defensively, Penalver fielded .957 on the sun baked fields of the Dominican Republic.

Baseball America’s pre-season outlook reported that Penalver has good hands, body control, and footwork. Observers of the Fall Instructional League called his play at shortstop “flashy”. He unfairly draws comparisons to Castro and prospect Marco Hernandez, but isn’t as natural a hitter as Castro and Hernandez. Penalver is considered to be better defensively with much better speed and base running instincts.

Alexander Santana, RHP
Promising can best describe 18-year old Dominican Alexander Santana. Signed in September 2010 at just 16-years old, he was assigned to the Cubs-1 team in the Dominican Summer League, and then moved to the more advanced Cubs-2 team halfway through the season. Rated as the 24th best prospect in the league by Baseball Prospectus, Santana ended up with 14 starts and innings at 67.1, six coming for C-1 and eight with C-2. He posted a combined 4-2 record with 2.67 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. Not a strikeout pitcher, Santana still had a 36 to 20 strikeout ratio.

Santana struggled a bit in the Fall Instructional League, as some of the prospects he faced were a little further along in their development. He will probably return to the DSL this summer to build strength on his 6-foot-1, 170-pound frame. His high-80’s/low 90’s fastball is reported to have good sink, and he throws an advanced curveball for his age. Scouts like his future growth potential, and feel he has at least middle-of-the-rotation, sinkerball type of “stuff”.

Brian Smith, LHP
Recently, the Cubs organization has done a fairly good job developing left-handed control pitchers, such as Sean Marshall, James Russell, and prospects Jeff Beliveau and Eric Jokisch. They may soon be adding Brian Smith to that list.

Smith was drafted in the 40th round of the 2010 draft. A native of Pickering, Ontario, Smith was a member of the Junior Canadian National Team. The now 19-year old (December 12) spent his first professional season in the Arizona Rookie League in 2011. He led all Cubs starters in innings with 46.1 and ERA at 3.30. Smith finished the season at 3-4 with 41 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.489.

The 6-foot-0, 170-pounder has an upper-80’s fastball that tops out at 90 MPH. He also sports a good breaking ball and decent change-up. Smith does a good job keeping the ball down, surrendering only one home run all last season. His development could be similar to fellow Canadian, infielder Wes Darvill. There may be times in which he looks overmatched until he adjusts to the level of competition. If he does adjust and continues to develop physically, the organization may have another baffling lefty in the pipeline.

Attention CCO Readers
Please continue to post the names of the minor league players you would like the Down on the Farm Report to follow next season. I will track the progress of ten players throughout the entire season. I would like a representative sample of positions and levels of play, and I’d prefer to track at least one player acquired by the Cubs in the off-season. You can name as many players as you like, but remember, only ten will be chosen.

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  • Ursula

    Elliot Soto

    • Tom U

      For future reference, Carpentersville of Algonquin?

      • Ursula


  • Ripsnorter1

    Sabermetrics and Bryan LaHair…….

    I like this guy. He’s our 1B for the start of 2012. I was impressed last year when in one of his first games, he looked at 40 pitches in a single game! Hugely impressive!  But that’s not Bryan LaHair’s game. Did a little research, and here is what the Sabermetric’s scouting has to say about LaHair…..

    Contact rate: 68%
    Walk rate: between 6-8% for last five years.MLB batting average can be forecasted when you combine these two stats. ML batters with a contact rate between 66-70% for 2011 hit a combined .229. For the last five years, the combined BA for those in that category have hit .235. When you add in the walk rate with the contact rate, the average BA of ML player in 2011 was .248.

    Another factor: Batter’s Eye, ie, measures his judgement of the strike zone. The best hitters have an eye measuring 1.00 or better. LaHair’s is 0.25. The ML combined batting average of hitter’s with an eye of 0.25 is .232.


    And the PCL inflates stats something awful.

    So here are LaHair’s Major League Equivalents, adjusting his performance for league and individual ball parks, read like this:
    .223 BA …17 HR…58 RBI for 2009
    .238 BA…17 HR…51 RBI for 2010
    .247 BA…25 HR…67 RBI for 2011.

    MEANING….he’s not likely to hit for enough average or power to survive at the ML level. Throw in the fact that he’s not a great fielder at 1B, and is absolutely awful in LF or RF, and he probably won’t survive an entire year at the ML level.

    .362 average, .393 on base, .752 slug, 1.145 slg, 25 hr, 100 RBI in only 71 games.  (Micah Hoffpauir, Iowa, 2008)

    .353 average, .424 oba, .652 slg, 1.076 ops, 26 hr, 109 RBI in 110 games. (Geovany Soto, Iowa, 2007)

    .362 average, .410 oba, .563 slg, .973 ops, 9 hr, 43 RBI in 55 games. (Felix Pie, Iowa, 2007)

    .320 average, .415 oba, .499 slg, .914 ops, 15 hr, 59 RBI, 121 games.(Bobby Scales, Iowa, 2008)

    After 13 games and 33 AB with 14 H, he’s hitting .424. Over his last 7 games, he went 3 for 26 as the league adjusted to him. Pat Hughes was saying in one stretch where he had gone 0 for 11 that he was walking back to the dugout talking to himself after he had fanned yet again. “He’s been doing that the last 3 games,” he said.

    LaHair fanned 18 times in 59 AB. That’s better than Brett Jackson, but unsurvivable at the ML level.

    AND one last fact: last year LaHair was 28, meaning that his PCL stats represent his career year. Expect a falloff in 2012.

    Summary: it will be tough for LaHair to make it. He loves the fastball, but its the offspeed stuff and the curveball that will determine the longevity of his ML career.

    • J Daniel

      All the more reason to not worry that he is a drop off defensively from Pena.  Either LaHair will be beyond all of those stats and his hitting will be really good or it will be Rizzo at first quickly.  I would bet on Rizzo.

      • Ripsnorter1

        I’ll do a Sabermetric report on Rizzo tomorrow or Wednesday. And do not expect LaHair to exceed what he always has been in the minors. It doesn’t happen at the ML level that way.

    • Anthony

      Rip, isn’t contact rate the inverse of KAB%


      LaHair career Milb 79%

      MLB 70% in 2 short stints

    • Anthony

      LaHair has a career 79% CR in the minors, and 70% in 2 combined MLB stints?

      • Ripsnorter1

        Just using the stats that I bought……

        • Anthony

          Good stats can be found at Ref and Cube.

          Two staggered short MLB stints isn’t a huge sample. His Milb stats are a good sample at 79%, which is solid for a power hitter.

          If I were guessing, LaHair should maintain a 75% plus Contact Rate in the Majors, and with 500 plus PA’s, should hit .250-.270 range with 25 HR’s

          When Hendry signed Pena, it all but eliminated LaHair from the equation as Hendry went with the proven veteran, then erred by not trading Pena to Cleveland in 2011, which is a talent management mystery?

          • Ripsnorter1


            I like LaHair a lot. I’d love to see him bash 30 taters and drive in 100 runs. But I have the Hoffpauir feeling. So I am not nearly so sanguine as you about his prospects. 

      • Ripsnorter1

        59 AB for LaHair in 2011….18 K. 

        That’s not hot, my man. 69%

    • daverj

      Nice analysis Rip.  I had previously posted that my projection for LaHair in a full season of at-bats would be .260-.270 with 15-20 HR.  The posters who replied thought I was being way too pessimistic.  Based on your post, I’m now thinking I was being too optimistic with the batting average.  

  • daverj

    I saw a post the other day where it was suggested that a 5 year, $65 million extension for Garza would be fair to both sides.  Given that Danks just signed an extension for those numbers coming off a down year, I can’t see Garza agreeing to a deal like that after coming off a very good year.  If I were Garza’s agent, I’d advise him to start the negotiations at 5 years, $90 million and consider negotiating down to 5 years, $75 million.  If I were Garza, I wouldn’t accept less than a 5 year, $75 million deal.

    • Vivid_Reality

      5 – 65 would be a steal. I would expect Garza’s agent to use Jered Weavers 5 – 85 extension as a main comparable.

      • Tony_Hall

        Weavers 5/85 makes Garza getting 5/75, a good deal for Garza as Garza is no Weaver.

        • daverj

          I don’t see the Weaver deal as a good comp for Garza.  Weaver is a better pitcher than Garza, but Weaver gave the Angels a big discount because he much preferred to stay with the Angels.  I think Garza would like to stay with the Cubs but won’t give them a discount and would be ok with testing free agency.

    • Tony_Hall

      I posted 5 years $75M would be a fair number for both sides, and Danks is a good comparison for him.  But, Danks was 1 year away from free agency and Garza is 2 years away, as he was a Super 2.   Garza, if he said no, would need 2 years of health to exceed this contract.

      Garza won’t get 5 years $90M, without bringing his WHIP down considerably.

  • cc002600

    Nobody else wanted Blake DeWitt ????

    SHOCKING !!!!!!

    Gee,I never would have guessed.

    • Redlarczykg

      Give (maybe  trade) Blake Dewitt to our “future GM” Greg Maddox!  All negative kidding aside.  I still wouldn’t mind having either of the Maddox brothers as Pitching Coach for the Cubbies.

  • SRK

    D.O.T.F. (in no particular order):  Dan Vogelbach, Reggie Golden, Zeke DeVoss, Jeimer Candelario, Trevor Gretzky, Mark Malave, Hayden Simpson, Shawon Dunston Jr., Ronald Torreyes, Jae-Hoon Ha

    • paulcatanese

      Sorry, I don’t think Gretzy or Dunston Jr. would be in the long term plans to make it to the Cubs. Think both were “name” signings, and don’t think Theo thinks that way.

      • Ripsnorter1

        What? Theo would not have signed Doug Davis to go 1-10 so he could get his retirement????

        • paulcatanese

          Don’t know why not Rip, he’s done it pretty often with a number of guys.
          I’ve stopped trying to figure Theo out, so many things that have been mind boggling to me with the signings, there has to be a purpose,just don’t know what it is.
          Have to think the ink won’t be dry on some of the invite contracts and they will be gone, a lot of paperwork ahead. 

          • cubtex

            You got that right! Doug Davis would be an upgrade over Nate Robertson and the law firm of Ryan Roland Smith.

          • paulcatanese

            That would make too much sense.
            One other point, I don’t know why posters are critical of those for disagreeing about Theo, I thought that this was the place to do that, he can be praised or not, that should be ok and accepted, period.

          • Tony_Hall

            Paul – I think the main reason is everyone wanted JH gone, and he is gone.  Getting Theo was a huge deal, instant credibility to the Cubs, something we haven’t seen.  He wasn’t handed a stacked deck, and is trying to turn over this roster in the short term, and build a foundation that will produce talent that will  fit the mold of what they are wanting at the major league level.  This is so against the Cubs history of round peg in square hole, time and time again. 

            I just don’t see how anyone can not like what the future is for the Cubs now, versus how bad the outlook was for so long.   

          • cubtex

            The Cubs made the playoffs in 98,03,07 and 08. It was time for Hendry to go but it is not like the Cubs have been terrible. You need a little luck to win the WS. The best team does not always win. The Red Sox under Theo were extremely lucky during the playoffs…..hence winning 2 WS. IF the Bartman play is an out instead…..the Cubs could have won 2 WS under Hendry as well. The Cards weren’t this best team last year…..the Giants weren’t etc. I hope Theo gets the Cubs in the playoffs as much as Hendry did in his…and hopefully get over the hump as they will need breaks and a little luck

          • Tony_Hall

            I was kind of talkingabout the last few years and how you could see the future was being used to supplement the present.

            Glad to know you acknowledge that it takes a little luck as well, that it just isn’t how much you spend or how stacked your team is each year.

      • daverj

        Agreed on Gretzky, but Dunston is a legitimate prospect.

  • cubtex

    It sounds as if the compensation for Theo will be resolved soon. I really hope it is not McNutt or Vitters. I get this feeling that Bud is going to give Boston a good prospect. I have a feeling that McNutt is going to have a good year and could be a late season call up.

    • Tony_Hall

      I feel it will be a player or 2, that are not Top prospects, but have a chance to be in the majors as role players or short term starters (Barney type players).

      • cubtex

        I hope you are right. I am pretty high on McNutt for this year.

  • Aaron

    couple of comments…

    1) Judging solely by Epstein’s comments, his own comments, AND his agents prior comments (meaning before Selig got involved), McNutt is almost surely the compensation, and dare I say might not be the only player going.

    2) I just wish they’d deal Jeff Baker to the Red Sox and be done with it all. The Cubs need to get younger, and because he ONLY hits lefties, he’s a guy that they really don’t need.

    3) Has anyone looked at Sheridan’s picture of Steve Clevenger? I can almost guarantee that he won’t be in the discussion of back-up. It looks like he packed on about 20 pounds of fat from last year. I had to do a double-take looking at his gut, because he didn’t look like that at all last year. Given how everyone stepped up their conditioning it seems from last year, this really does NOT bode well for him…neither does the signing of Jason Jaramillo, and Clevenger’s showing in winter ball doesn’t help him out either.

    4) I just read somewhere…maybe Trib or something that said it’s Garza, Dempster, Maholm, and Volstad that are locks for the rotation, and Wells, Wood, and Samardzija will be battling for the 5th spot. I don’t agree with that at all…just thought it was worthy of passing along.

    5) I would prefer the Cubs ship Barney to the Red Sox before they dealt a young pitcher with upside, even if I personally believe that McNutt is a dog based on two piss poor showings in AA. Why do I feel that way? In the lower minors, the Cubs are absolutely STACKED in the middle infield with Amaya, Hernandez, Baez, DeVoss, Penalver, Lockhart, Alcantara, Torreyes, Lake, Watkins, etc. Unfortunately, they’re nowhere close to being as stacked with starting pitchers, and for that reason alone I would include even a decent player like Barney.

    6) The likely pen of: Marmol, Wood, Russell, Corpas, Miller, Samardzija/Wells, and possibly Sonnanstine is FAR LESS desirable than:
    Marmol, Wood, Russell, Dolis, Carpenter, Beliveau, and L. Castillo (for his starter potential later on) 

  • Neil

    Tom, thank you for the great report.

    • Tom U

      You’re welcome, always a pleasure.