Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 05/31/12

The season debuts of Robert Whitenack and Javier Baez were a mixed bag, with neither assisting in producing more victories. Peoria was able to manage one, as it took 14 innings to secure. The winning touch has seemed to elude Daytona despite the efforts of Greg Rohan, while it has found a home in Iowa, winners of five straight. Iowa’s Josh Vitters has turned things on as Anthony Rizzo nurses a sore wrist. And Tennessee continues to stumble around in the field, as runs became hard to come by.

To see where this all leads to, take a look at today’s Down on the Farm Report.

Note: Monday’s report will cover games from Wednesday to Saturday. Thursday’s report covers games Sunday through Tuesday.

Low Class-A – Peoria Chiefs (23-29)
The Chiefs held a slim 2-1 lead going into the ninth on Sunday, but the bullpen wasn’t able to close things out as they lost 3-2 to Wisconsin. Yao-Lin Wang was entrusted with the lead, but had trouble getting outs as he walked two and gave up two hits, including a two-run homer. It spoiled a good effort by Michael Jensen, who struck out eight and allowed only one earned run in six innings. Sheldon McDonald held the Timber Rattlers, as he went two scoreless innings. Once again, run support could have made the difference. Peoria had eight hits, but left five runners in scoring position while going 2-for-14 in that situation. The Chiefs scored first in the third inning, as Zeke DeVoss (1-for-4) doubled and came in on a triple by Taiwan Easterling (3-for-4, triple). Peoria added their other run in the fifth when Easterling, who had doubled, scored on a Ryan Cuneo (2-for-3, double) RBI single.

With all of the hype surrounding the promotion of 2011 first-round draft pick Javier Baez, the Peoria offense still struggled as they lost 3-1 to Wisconsin on Monday. Baez started at shortstop and batted sixth, and was 2-for-4 in his debut. But the Chiefs could only manage three more hits, as Oliver Zapata was 1-for-2 with two walks, and Zeke DeVoss (1-for-4, double) scored the only run. Jose Rosario had his good stuff going, striking out seven and allowing one earned run in seven innings. Austin Reed gave up two earned runs, including a home run, in his two innings.

Peoria played marathon baseball on Tuesday, coming out ahead of Wisconsin 4-3 in 14 innings. Kyler Burke didn’t have one of his best outings with five walks, but allowing two runs (one earned) in five innings kept things close. Larry Suarez relieved and pitched two innings, giving up an earned run. It then became a call to arms, four more pitchers followed. Luis Liria looks as if he has a future in the pen, as he continued to look sharp in a scoreless inning. Yao-Lin Wang redeemed himself from his previous appearance by striking out four in two innings, while Sheldon McDonald also tossed two scoreless innings. The win would go to player-coach, and infielder, Kenny Socorro, who blanked the Timber Rattlers for two innings.

Outfielder Yasiel Balaguert (2-for-6) doubled in Wes Darvill for the Chiefs’ first run in the second inning. Ryan Cuneo (2-for-5) added a solo home run in the third. An Anthony Giansanti (2-for-6) single in the bottom of the fourth brought home Javier Baez, who had walked and stole second base earlier. That was all until the bottom of the 14th, when Pin-Chieh Chen drew a two-out walk, stole second base, and touched home on an Oliver Zapata single.

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High Class-A – Daytona Cubs (19-30)
Daytona rallied to take the lead on Wednesday, but the D-Cubs’ relief corps couldn’t hold it as they fell 8-7 to St. Lucie. Starter Frank Del Valle wasn’t able to repel the Mets’ attack, surrendering two home runs as part of a five earned run, six strikeout, five-inning performance. The D-Cubs came back with seven runs in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings, as Greg Rohan hit a three-run homer and Ronald Torreyes was 3-for-3 with two RBI. While Joe Zeller struck out three in his two innings, he allowed St. Lucie to tie the score with two earned runs. Then Tony Zych, in his two innings, allowed the Mets to take the lead, which would eventually turn out to be the winning margin.

The D-Cubs were never in it on Thursday, losing 5-2 to wrap up their series with St. Lucie. Ryan Searle return to a starting role, and was clearly rusty as he allowed three earned runs in only 3.2 innings with two strikeouts. Hayden Simpson relieved and gave up another earned run in 2.1 innings. The last run for the Mets crossed the plate on Eduardo Figueroa, as he pitched two innings and struck out three batters. Ty’Relle Harris finished things off with a scoreless ninth. Daytona was able to push across two late runs as Greg Rohan (3-for-5) belted his eighth home run while Micah Gibbs (1-for-4, home run) hit his first of the year. Richard Jones and Ronald Torreyes were each 2-for-4.

On Friday, Daytona received yet another sparkling performance from Austin Kirk, but couldn’t take advantage of nine hits as they lost 2-1 to Clearwater. Kirk continues to dominate Florida State League hitters, tossing eight shutout innings while striking out four batters. Closer Tony Zych blew his fifth save as he allowed two earned runs in the ninth. The D-Cubs only run came as Rubi Silva (2-for-4) came home on a single by Dustin Harrington (2-for-3, RBI). Micah Gibbs was also 2-for-4 for the evening.

Saturday’s game saw Daytona halt a three game skid, as they topped Clearwater 3-1. Matt Loosen is now rounding into form, as he went six innings and only allowed a solo home run, while striking out seven batters. Jeffrey Lorick saw his first action for the D-Cubs and repelled the Threshers for two scoreless innings. Now assuming the left-handed closer role, Scott Weismann struck out two in the ninth and picked up his second save.

Centerfielder John Andreoli was the spark for Daytona, as he was 2-for-3 with two runs scored and two stolen bases. Rubi Silva scored the other run, as he was 2-for-4 with a triple. Matt Szczur (1-for-4, RBI) and Elieser Bonne (1-for-3, RBI) had an RBI apiece.

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On Tuesday, Daytona dropped a pair to Brevard County 4-1 and 5-2 in a doubleheader. Game one saw the return of Robert Whitenack, who had Tommy John surgery a year ago. Whitenack was a little rusty, allowing four runs (three earned) and ten hits in 4.1 innings, but not as rusty as the Daytona offense. Their only run came in the fifth, as a Matt Szczur (1-for-3, RBI) single brought home Richard Jones (2-for-3), who had doubled to lead off the inning. Ryan Searle continues to plug gaps, as the D-Cubs have yet to find a role for him, as he struck out four in 1.2 innings.

The second game saw PJ Francescon go the distance, pitching six innings and giving up five earned runs while striking out five batters. The only Daytona runs came on a Greg Rohan (1-for-3, HR) home run, his ninth of the season, with Arismendy Alcantara (2-for-2) aboard in the third inning.

Double-A – Tennessee Smokies (22-30)
The struggles for the Tennessee squad continued on Monday, losing their fifth out of the last six games to Huntsville, 8-4. The game wasn’t even as close as the score made it appear, as shoddy outfield defense helped lead to five earned runs off of starter Dae-Eun Rhee in the second inning. Rhee pitched 2.1 innings and was charged with seven earned runs. Jeffry Antigua attempted to right the ship, striking out five in 4.2 scoreless innings, but the offense couldn’t produce. Rebel Ridling was 1-for-4 with his sixth home run, but that wasn’t able to make up for some of his defensive shortcoming in left field. Luis Flores went 1-for-2 with two RBI. The Stars were able to push across an insurance run off of Brian Schlitter, who tossed two innings. The only bright spot was Frank Batista, who kept his Tennessee ERA at 0.00 with a scoreless ninth.

While the Tennessee offense remains punch-less, they got just enough good pitching to get past Huntsville 3-2 on Tuesday. Nick Struck had his best pitching performance in weeks, striking out nine in six scoreless innings. Then the high-wire act that is Alberto Cabrera took over. Cabrera struck out two, but continued to demonstrate an inability to work out of jams, allowing two runs (one earned) in 1.1 innings. Fortunately, Kevin Rhoderick came to the rescue, bailing out Cabrera in the eighth and pitching a scoreless ninth for his sixth save.

The Smokies were able to get some production out of the top of their line-up, as Junior Lake was 2-for-4 with a double and two runs scored, while Jae-Hoon Ha was also 2-for-4 with a stolen base. Justin Bour was 1-for-2 with two walks and an RBI.

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Triple-A – Iowa Cubs (24-27)
As rumors swirled on Sunday, Iowa was able to put together a solid effort and defeat Memphis 5-1. After Anthony Rizzo (1-for-3) put the I-Cubs ahead with a two-run double in the first, he left the game for a pinch-hitter in the sixth. Rumors immediately started that Rizzo was about to be called to the parent club. But in the end, it was just a precaution due to a wrist issue. Alfredo Amezaga and Luis Valbuena, both 2-for-4, set the table for Rizzo. Dave Sappelt was 2-for-4 and Josh Vitters was 2-for-5, while Juan Apodaca (1-for-3) drove in a run.

Chris Volstad had things under control, as he cruised through seven innings, allowing an earned run and striking out four batters. Striking out the side, Carlos Marmol continued to tune up in an injury rehab. Esmailin Caridad also recorded two punch outs as he held the Redbirds the rest of the way.

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Iowa showed that it isn’t all-Rizzo, all the time on offense Monday as they swept Memphis 8-2. With Rizzo on the bench, Josh Vitters took over at first and went 2-for-5 with his sixth home run and two RBI. Brett Jackson has batted .295 since moving to the six-hole in the batting order, as he was 2-for-4 with a triple, stolen base, and an RBI. Alfredo Amezaga and Luis Valbuena were also 2-for-5, while Dave Sappelt had a 2-for-4 day.

Brooks Raley had it going in his second start for Iowa, sailing through five innings before allowing two earned runs in the sixth, as he struck out two batters. Manny Corpas came on and kept the Redbirds off the scoreboard for three innings. Scott Maine then slammed the door, pitching a shutout ninth inning.

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A late rally by Iowa on Tuesday pushed their win streak to five games, as they defeated Omaha 5-4. Josh Vitters continues to be on fire, as he was 2-for-3 with a home run, RBI, and two runs scored. Down 4-1 in the top of the seventh, Brian Esposito (1-for-3, double, two RBI) droe in two with a double and helped the I-Cubs pull within one run. Iowa then added two more in the eighth, as Alfredo Amezaga (1-for-5) came in on Dave Sappelt’s (2-for-4) force out, while Luis Valbuena (1-for-5) scampered in on a wild pitch.

Chris Rusin allowed all four earned runs to the Storm Chasers in six innings, striking out three batters. Jeff Beliveau returned from the DL and tossed a scoreless inning for the win. Mike MacDougal and Scott Maine each pitched a shutout inning, with Maine notching his third save.

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2012 First Year Player Draft
The 2012 First Year Player Draft begins Monday. The Cubs have the sixth overall pick and four of the top 67 picks in the draft (6, 43, 56 and 67). According to a report from the Sun-Times, about 20 of the Cubs’ top scouting personnel and front office evaluators have been gathered in Chicago since Monday preparing for the three-day draft.

Jason McLeod indicated pitching will definitely be a focus for the Cubs in the upcoming draft. McLeod said, “It’s not going to be need-based picks, especially with our first pick. But once we get past the first pick – and it could be a pitcher; it may not be a pitcher – it is something we are certainly going to try to address. It is a need for our organization.”

The Cubs began a process Wednesday at Wrigley Field of working out draft eligible players. The process is expected to continue over the next few days. Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, Jason McLeod and Tim Wilken were in attendance for Wednesday’s workout.

The Cubs worked out shortstop Carlos Correa and left-handed pitcher Max Fried on Wednesday. Correa took infield at both shortstop and third base and Dale Sveum threw him batting practice. According to Bruce Levine, Sveum threw 47 pitches to Correa and four of the balls ended up in the bleachers (two to left, one to center and one to right). Max Fried threw off the Wrigley Field mound.

Carlos Correa (Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Gurabo, P.R.)
The Cubs were said to be interested in the 17-year old shortstop Carlos Correa prior to his workout at Wrigley Field. Correa is 6-foot-3, 185 pounds and according to Baseball America he is light on his feet, shows fluid actions and has a cannon for an arm. Correa has the tools to remain at short but as he develops he could move to third base. Correa has been compared to Troy Tulowitzki and Ryan Zimmerman. At the plate, Correa shows excellent balance and rhythm, as well as patience, to go along with exciting bat speed and natural loft according to Baseball America. Correa is one of the youngest players in the draft and has committed to the University of Miami.

Carlos Correa is being advised by Paul Kinzer. Players cannot officially sign with an agent before being drafted.

Max Fried (Harvest-Westlake HS, Studio Valley, CA)
Max Fried is lean, athletic and projectable at 6-foot-4, 180 pounds. According to Baseball America, Fried has a fluid delivery and advanced feel for three pitches that all have a chance to be plus or better. Fried can add and subtract from a fastball that ranges from 88-95 mph. His best pitch is a tight downer curveball in the 74-78 range that rates conservatively as a plus pitch and flashes plus-plus. Fried throws a low-80s changeup that is already average and projects as another plus pitch. Baseball America described him as cerebral and determined and projects him as a potential number two starter in the big leagues with a chance to be a number one.

News and Notes
The Chicago Cubs optioned C Blake Lalli to the Iowa Cubs; Iowa activated LHP Jeff Beliveau from the 7-Day disabled list and placed RHP Rodrigo Lopez on the 7-Day disabled list. The Iowa Cubs assigned IF Nate Samson to the Tennessee Smokies.

The Tennessee Smokies placed LHP Casey Harman on the 7-Day disabled list.

Infielder Javier Baez was assigned to the Peoria Chiefs from the Boise Hawks; IF Marco Hernandez was assigned to Extended Spring Training.

CCO’s Prospect Watch
Note: RHP Robert Whitenack, the eleventh player in the 2012 fan poll, will take the place of RHP Dillon Maples

  • Javier Baez (IF) – .222, stolen base (Peoria Chiefs)
  • Jeimer Candelario (3B) – Extended Spring Training
  • Zeke DeVoss (2B) – .249, 10 doubles, triple, two home runs, 13 RBI, 13 stolen bases (Peoria Chiefs)
  • Junior Lake (IF) – . 294, six doubles, triple, two home runs, five RBI, three stolen bases (Tennessee Smokies)
  • Matt Szczur (OF) – .269, 11 doubles, three triples, home run, 13 RBI, 19 stolen bases (Daytona Cubs)
  • Ronald Torreyes (2B) – .173, four doubles, two triples, eight RBI, four stolen bases (Daytona Cubs)
  • Josh Vitters (3B) – .281, 11 doubles, seven home runs, 25 RBI, stolen base (Iowa Cubs)
  • Dan Vogelbach (1B) – Extended Spring Training
  • Robert Whitenack – 0-1, 6.32 ERA, 4.1 innings, 1 walk, 2.54 WHIP (Daytona Cubs)
  • Tony Zych (RHP) – 2-3, 3.91 ERA, 25.1 innings, 20 strikeouts, 4 walks, 1.26 WHIP, 4 saves (Daytona Cubs)

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