Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 05/16/12

Special Assignment – Peoria Chiefs v. Kane County Cougars

Recently, I had the pleasure of being able to cover the series between the Chiefs and Kane County. It was a pleasant addition to be able to meet some of the executives from the Cubs organization. I’d like to thank Shawn Touney, Director of Public Relations for the Kane County Cougars, as well as Broadcast and Media Manager Nate Baliva of the Peoria Chiefs for their hospitality.

I’d also like to mention reporters Chris Emma of Northsiders Report.com and Mike Knapp of the Beacon News, who were my companions during the series; as well as reporter Larry Peterson of the Fox Valley Labor News, and Woodrow Carroll as they all made me feel welcome in the press box.

Interview – Joe Bohringer and Oneri Fleita
Both Cubs’ Director of Pro Scouting Joe Bohringer and Vice President-Player Personnel Oneri Fleita were in attendance for the series. I had a chance to speak with them over the course of the series, and they agreed to answer a few questions:

ChicagoCubsOnline: Have there been any prospects that have stood out so far this season?

Oneri Fleita: Our player of the month, Anthony Rizzo, has put up video game-type numbers in Triple-A. He’s looked good defensively. He and Frank Batista stand out. Batista is a player that we’ve only had for a couple of years, and he’s at Triple-A. He shows that what’s most important is to throw strikes.

CCO: How about any surprises?

Joe Bohringer: Tony Campana did a great job for us at Iowa, and now he’s up with the big league club.

Fleita: I like our pitching here (at Peoria). I’ve been impressed.

CCO: Do you see any promotions coming?

Bohringer: We’d like to see the rosters stabilized at this point. We’re just coming around to 100 at bats for some players, and some players are just coming back from injuries or are just not ready yet.

Fleita: We try not to get too high or too low on any of our players this early in the season. Some players get off to slow starts.

CCO: Are there any players that are in Arizona at this time that have looked good?

Bohringer: Well, I haven’t seen him since spring training, but Shawon Dunston Jr. comes to mind. He can hit leadoff, and projects to center or left. We currently see him as a centerfielder. He works hard, and I’ve had good reports on him. Is that okay to say (to Fleita)?

Fleita: (laughs) He hasn’t given away any secrets.

CCO: Do you have any expectations for the upcoming draft?

Fleita: Well, that’s Jason McLeod’s job. All we ask is for good players. He’s done a good job with that, and there have been some good players from the Dominican (Academy). (laughs) Just get us good players and we’ll do the rest.

Side Session – Gerardo Concepcion
Recently signed Cuban National Gerardo Concepcion was throwing a side session before Wednesday’s game. Here are some impressions:

Gerardo Concepcion has very long arms and legs, making him appear much taller than his listed 6-foot-2. He stands on the mound with his shoulders slouched back … has a three-quarter delivery with a consistent arm slot. However, his release point seems to vary, which makes him appear as if he is nibbling rather than attacking the strike zone. Has no violent or deceptive movement on his pitches, but curve and slider break the way they are supposed to. He maintained consistent velocity throughout the workout (no radar readings available).

Photos
(click on images to enlarge)
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Gerardo Concepcion

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Wes Darvill & Zeke DeVoss

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Marco Hernandez

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Paul Hoilman

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Jose Rosario

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Brad Zapenas, Pin-Chieh Chen, & Taylor Davis

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

Kyler Burke – Pure power pitcher, 94 MPH fastball, 89 MPH change-up, 89 MPH power curve. Burke struck out three and walked two in 6.1 innings. Burke started a nifty 1-6-3 double play and was able to work out of a jam. Burke left the game allowing one earned run on a solo homer

Wes Darvill – Played third base for two games. Darvill has enough arm strength for the position, but would probably fit better at short or second, outstanding range, got tagged with some probably unfair errors on plays many third baseman wouldn’t get to. Darvill takes a good approach at the plate and doesn’t seem overmatched, despite the fact that he is only 20 years old and appears to be well liked by his teammates

Zeke DeVoss – Can see why many are excited by his ability. DeVoss is very raw at second base, but works hard at the position before every game. DeVoss can make plays that will cause you to rise to your feet, or shake your head. Can be alternate between being too deliberate or too causal in the field and has great speed and excellent acceleration

Taiwan Easterling – Does not look to have improved on defense since I saw him last season, but hasn’t regressed. Easterling’s throwing arm may be one of the best in the system, as he threw out four runners during the series. He has deceptive speed, as he appears to glide more than stride. Easterling’s hitting seems to need a lot of work

PJ Francescon – Has a good mound presence and a sweeping curveball. The radar gun was not working on the night he pitched. Francescon’s only mistake was an inside fastball that was belted for a three run homer. Francescon went seven innings, threw 81 pitches, six hits, three walks, five strikeouts

Marco Hernandez – A very slick fielder, with quick hands and reactions with more than enough arm strength for shortstop. Hernandez has very good range and elevation on leaps but appears to be a little overmatched offensively

Paul Hoilman – Seems very focused on his hitting, stays within himself, and takes what the pitcher gives him. Hoilman has good agility and a better fielder at first than advertised and seems to be a leader, whom other players gravitate toward

Luis Liria – Sports a 91 MPH fastball, 89 MPH slider, 81 MPH change-up. Liria was able to get off the mound quickly and tag a runner on a bunt attempt. Liria had a lot of poise, inherited runners in scoring position and left them stranded

Austin Reed – Works very efficiently, 94 MPH fastball, 89 MPH curve and worked out of a one out-runner on second jam

Yao-Lin Wang - Looks bigger in person. The radar gun not working on the night he pitched. He has a lot of drop on his curveball, works slowly and was missing down with his breaking ball … not his best effort

Video – Player Sideshow
The CCO would like to thank the management of the Ozric Tentacles for permission to use their music.

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Quote of the Day

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  • SuzyS

    Tom, Absolutely fabulous work…Thanks…many times over!!!!!

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    Great job Tom!

  • Ripsnorter1

    Yup. It is fabulous work. Thank You.

  • Chadaudio

    Wow.  That sounded like a really fun assignment.  Good work.

  • Redlarczykg

    Tom,

    Has Brett Jackson been over hyped like Pie, Patterson, Colvin etc?
    He’s batting .226 with 3 HR.

    Sveum said during ST that Jackson was the best looking prospect he had ever seen?  Has Sveum referring to how handsome Brett is?

    They say Jackson has a swagger to him.  Does he swagger back to the dugout striking out 35% of At Bats?

    • brent carmona

      Just my two cents,

      He got off to a solid start to the season with most of his statistics. Then there was a nice stretch of games when he didn’t strikeout, I forgot how many but it was pretty impressive for a guy like brett Jackson. Then, after that stretch, something happened. My best guess is two things, one, is he was trying to adjust his style so he could not strikeout so much, and while he started have some success with his new approach (i don’t know what to call it, maybe shortening his swing, but by approach I just mean cutting down strikeouts) the pitchers started to adjust and Jackson must now adjust back. Second, I heard jed hoyer was in town ti watch a game (or two I am not sure), and although Jackson seems like an ultra confident guy, its possible he was pressing to try and get his attention.

      Or he could just be in an old fashioned slump, who knows….

      I’m pretty sure he will find a way out of it, we all here know he is better than this. tom, let me know if I made any sense here haha

      • Anthony

        some players are, what they are

        and wish TomU would have asked Fleita about BenK

        • Tom U

          Anthony, has Ben caught on with another team?

          • Anthony

            heard he is tossin 94-96 and may show up as a pitcher scouts have told me they advised to not bother getting back in the stew and the hill may be the quickest way back for him

            the kid would have produced, but this enigma may end up a success in an unlikely manner using that big arm in another way

            saw video from a scout before ST hitting, and just want to say that CHIc and Theo made a mistake

          • Tom U

            I think so too, and I’ll try to keep him in mind with some of the people I come across.

    • John_CC

      With respect, Tom and Neil have both answered this question ad naseum lately.  Jackson is a big, strong 23 year old kid at AAA. He has “tools”, strengths and weaknesses. He has always Kd a lot yet maintains a very good OBP. 

      I think that fans are putting higher expectations on him than are merited.  Pie, and Patterson to a less extent, were pushed before they were ready and then not given a fair chance.  Fortunately, the Cubs are not doing that with Jackson. 

      He is not a superstar player. He will most likely never hit for a high BA.  Last year, between AA-AAA, he put together a 20/20 season in 430 AB, struck out almost 140 times yet maintained a .380 OBP.  So maybe in a couple years he could match that in the ML, with his size and range in the OF and strong defense, he would a big improvement and plus player for the Cubs. And he’s still just 23.  But he will not be an impact player…that is what we are holding out for in Rizzo!

      So I guess it depends on the “hype”.  You have to remember that being the #1 prospect in the Cubs farm system is not the same at being the #1 prospect in the Nats system, for example. 

      But he is certainly a handsome young man … as Harry, no doubt, would have noted!!

      • Zonk

        His strikeout rate is so alarming, though, you have to wonder if he is a major-league ballplayer, never mind a star.  Scouts have said for awhile he isn’t a superstar or all-star.

        A 35% K  rate with 3 HRs is bad.  That’s Adam Dunn, without power, and that’s against AAA pitching. 

        Cubs have to be concerned at this point

        • Zonk

          PS:  And somewhat unfair to compare to Pie or Patterson.  I know Corey didn’t live up to all the hype, but he was a productive enough CF for a few seasons for us (if aggrivating at the same time).

          And Pie was a bust obviously…surprising since he handled AAA pitching easily, but goes to show you how all prospects are suspects until they make it

          • John_CC

             Patterson was on track, we all remember that amazing first half of 98 he had before the injury.  Pie was touted and rushed and never developed.

            That aside, I agree on Jackson…to an extent.  It is still very early in the new season, he’s only had 160 PA. That is 30% K rate / PA.  His numbers are down across the board so far this year.

            But if you look at 2011, he had 138 K in 512 PA, for a K rate of 27% yet he maintained a .380 OBP.  That is good.
            Just at AAA in 2011, he had 64 K in 215 PA, again 30% rate, his OBP was .388! 

            The numbers just don’t work out like you’d expect. Of course you can’t K 200 times a season in MLB and maintain the averages he has in the minors.  So yeah, I’m sure there is concern. He is still just 23.

          • Zonk

            That’s true on the numbers, and he has some time.

            Frankly, I think B-Jax projects as basically a left-handed Drew Stubbs.  They have a very similar skill set and record; Stubbs probably has a little more speed and power, and B-Jax a little more patience

          • John_CC

            Sounds about right. Looking at Subbs’ minor league stats, he has very little power, 28 HR in 1800+ PA, a lower K rate or 23%, and lower OBP, too. More speed.

          • cubtex

            saw Stubbs play quite a bit at Texas while in college. Not many better athletes than Stubbs. That kid can fly. You are correct to say that BJax doesn’t run as well as Stubbs and doesn’t have quite the power as well.

          • Chadaudio

            The Drew Stubbs comparison is very interesting.  The concerning thing would be that Jackson is in the PCL (a hitters league) and Stubbs came up in the International League.

    • Tom U

      Redlarczykg, it all depends on what you see as over-hyped. Jackson has made good progress through the system, and deserves to be considered one of the top prospects. That said, he may never be a superstar, which some may hold against him.

      That’s not to say that he isn’t going to be a good player, but the organization may want to consider him for a different role than he has been used to. Remember, this was a player that was putting up Starlin Castro-type numbers in Double-A last year before he broke his hand.

  • paulcatanese

    Pretty cool post Tom, and great that the Exec’s got to meet YOU.
    They should be impressed with what you do, and I think at least they owe’d you a lunch.
    Between you Neil and the others that post above, the Cubs need all of you.

    • Texcubnut

      I agree with paul. They do owe you.  You keep interest in the minor league teams and their players at a high pitch throughout the season. On a strictly PR level, they ought to pay you although I know you’ll say that, for you, it’s a labor of love.

      • Tom U

        There are some perks, but I’m just having a blast doing this. I can never thank Neil enough!

  • cubtex

    Great info Tom! Thanks!

  • Texcubnut

    Outstanding reporting, Tom. Thanks for all you do.

  • paulcatanese

    On the photo’s Tom, as one of my favorite golf analyst’s would say,
    “lots of skinny flatbellies out there.”Gosh those guys look young, were we ever that way?

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    Chiefs add LHP Hunter Cervenka from Red
    Sox trade and RHP Larry Suarez. RHP Bryce Shafer sent to Extended, RHP
    Charles Thomas released.
     

  • Tom U

    Thank you to everyone for your comments. I have to respond to a few a little later, because I’m off to another assignment.

  • Josh

    Great article Tom

    Top Performers in System (BJAK is now off the list sadly)

     

    HITTERS (min 100 PA, OPS > 750 or stat leader)

     

    Infielder

    Anthony Rizzo (22) AAA: 359/420/704 — 8 2B, 1 3B, 13 HR, 2 SB

    Luis Valbuena (26) AAA: 327/398/478 — 5 2B, 4 HR, 1 SB

    Paul Hoilman (22) Low-A: 295/356/492 – 13 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR

    Arismendy Alcantara (20) High-A: 292/321/469 — 6 2B, 4 3B, 3 HR, 10 SB

    Justin Bour (23) AA: 281/338/442 — 7 2B, 6 HR

    Rubi Silva (23) High-A: 296/338/440 — 6 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR, 1 SB

    Greg Rohan (26) High-A: 265/340/434 — 8 2B, 5 HR

    Logan Watkins (22) AA: 268/356/399 – 3 2B, 3 3B, 3 HR, 6 SB

     

    Outfielder

    Nelson Perez (24) High-A: 313/419/554 — 4 2B, 4 3B, 5 HR, 4 SB

    James Adduci (27) AA: 299/366/449 — 8 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 4 SB

    John Andreoli (22) High-A: 280/412/355 — 5 2B, 1 3B, 7 SB

    Matt Szczur (20) High-A: 250/353/348 — 9 2B, 2 3B, 16 SB

     

    PITCHERS (ERA/WHIP K/BB)

    Weighted ERA/WHIP (EW) : (ERA + 3*WHIP)/2

     

    Starters (min 6 GS) (EW < 3.8)

    PJ Francescon (23) Low-A: 2.09/0.80 39/12

    Michael Jensen (21) Low-A: 3.23/0.97 28/10

    Austin Kirk (22) High-A: 1.75/0.97 27/11

    Eric Jokisch (22) High-A: 2.90/1.23 48/14

    Trey McNutt (22) AA: 2.84/1.18 20/11

    Brooks Raley (24) AA: 3.50/1.19 26/11

    Chris Rusin (25) AAA: 2.83/1.05 28/14

     

    Relievers (min 7 GP/8 IP) (EW < 3.40)

    Andrew McKirahan (22) Low-A 1.80/1.00 11/4 — 2 SV

    Yao-Lin Wang (21) Low-A: 2.81/1.00 13/7

    Jeffrey Lorick (24) Low-A: 0.63/1.05 20/7 — 4 SV

    Ty’Relle Harris (25) High-A: 2.70/1.26 17/10

    Joseph Zeller (24) High-A/AA: 2.37/1.11 15/8

    Scott Weismann (22) Low-A/High-A/AA: 1.96/0.98 14/2

    Casey Harman (23) High-A/AA: 1.83/0.91 14/3

    Alberto Cabrera (23) AA: 2.55/1.08 22/6 — 1 SV

    Kevin Rhoderick (23) AA: 1.29/0.86 17/4 — 4 SV

    Marcus Hatley (24) AA: 3.06/1.19 22/8 — 1 SV

    Frank Batista (23) AA/AAA: 3.14/1.33 14/6 — 5 SV

    Blake Parker (27) AAA: 2.08/1.08 8/4 — 5 SV

     

    Swing (min 2 GS/20 IP) (EW < 3.6)

    Kyler Burke (24) Low-A: 2.27/1.06 28/9 — 1 SV