Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 06/04/12

Where has all this offense come from? Peoria’s offense has gotten into high gear with the additions of Yasiel Balaguert and Javier Baez. Daytona has won four straight as Arismendy Alcantara, John Andreoli, Rubi Silva, and Ronald Torreyes have suddenly become hitting machines. However, Tennessee continues to struggle with putting runs on the board, needing great pitching by Eric Jokisch and Trey McNutt to secure wins. And Iowa’s Josh Vitters has gone on a tear, which has also affected Brett Jackson … plus Anthony Rizzo did not miss a beat after missing nearly a week.

PJ Francescon and Anthony Rizzo were named the Cubs Minor League pitcher and player of the month for May and five Daytona Cubs were selected as 2012 FSL Mid-Season All-Stars. Austin Kirk, Arismendy Alcantara, Nelson Perez, Greg Rohan and Matt Szczur will represent the D-Cubs in the 51st All-Star Game at Charlotte Sports Park on Saturday, June 16.

Get some more bang for your buck by taking 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.

With the start of play in the Dominican Summer League, Thursday’s report will begin coverage of the league as a weekly recap, which will replace the CCO’s Prospect Watch.

Low Class-A – Peoria Chiefs (25-31)
Peoria’s odd strategy apparently backfired for them on Wednesday, as they lost 10-1 to Burlington. The Chiefs tapped Ben Wells, who hadn’t pitched in ten days and had not started in over a month, to take the mound over regularly scheduled starter Starling Peralta. Wells did okay in his return, yielding an unearned run and striking out four in 3.1 innings. Peralta came on, and an error by shortstop Javier Baez helped open the floodgates in a seven run (two earned) fifth inning. Felix Pena relieved and surrendered another two earned runs, as he lasted only 0.2 innings. It was then the task of Hunter Cervenka to clean up this mess, and he did by striking out six batters over 2.1 scoreless innings. The Peoria offense was paced by Wes Darvill, who was 2-for-4. Baez scored the Chiefs’ lone run after getting hit by a pitch and coming around on a Yaniel Cabezas (2-for-3) RBI single.

If there is one thing that can be said about Thursday’s 3-2 loss to Burlington, you can’t blame Gerardo Concepcion. Going six innings, Concepcion struck out four batters and allowed two earned runs. But Peoria’s offense came up short again, managing just five hits. Yasiel Balaguert (1-for-4) singled with two outs in the top of the sixth and brought home Zeke DeVoss (1-for-4) and Taiwan Easterling (1-for-4) who had each singled earlier, to tie the score. But Austin Reed couldn’t hold the Bees, allowing a solo home run in two innings for what proved to be the game winner. Yaniel Cabezas was 2-for-3.

The Chiefs jumped out to a huge lead on Friday, but had to survive a late push by Burlington to bring in an 8-6 victory. A Paul Hoilman (2-for-4, three RBI) double in the first plated Zeke DeVoss and Taiwan Easterling. Pin-Chieh Chen (1-for-3, two RBI) hit a sac fly and brought home Oliver Zapata (1-for-4) in the second inning. Chen later delivered a solo home run, as three more runs crossed home in the fourth. Although ahead 6-4 at the time, Peoria tacked on two more runs in the ninth, as Yasiel Balaguert (2-for-5) and Javier Baez (2-for-5) singled and came around on a single by Sergio Burruel (1-for-5).

But the Peoria defense let the Bees back into the game. Starter Michael Jensen remained successful, allowing two unearned runs and striking out three in 5.2 innings. Luis Liria continued to flourish in his bullpen role, also striking out three while he too was the victim of two unearned runs in 1.2 innings. Closer Yao-Lin Wang again was a little shaky, but held on as he gave up two earned runs and struck out three in 1.2 innings to collect his fourth save.

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Peoria put on a performance on Saturday that many thought would be the norm for the Chiefs this season, as they marched into Kane County and stomped the Cougars 15-3. Picking out an offensive star would be difficult, Pin-Chieh Chen was 1-for-1 with five walks, a stolen base, and four runs scored out of the lead-off spot. Wes Darvill led all hitters by going 4-for-6 with an RBI. Yasiel Balaguert drove in three as he was 1-for-5 with a double. And Javier Baez hit his first Single-A home run as he was 3-for-5 and had three RBI.

For the first time since Austin Kirk threw a no-hitter on the Fourth of July last season, a Peoria pitcher struck out ten batters in one game. Jose Rosario was free and easy, going seven scoreless innings. Larry Suarez put forth a typical effort, allowing two earned runs in an inning. Sheldon McDonald pitched the last inning and gave up an earned run.

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High Class-A – Daytona Cubs (23-30)
As Daytona dodged the raindrops on Wednesday, the bullpen and a late rally brought a 6-5 victory over Brevard County. Frank Del Valle didn’t have his best stuff for the D-Cubs, giving up five earned runs in 4.1 innings. However, Hayden Simpson had one of his better outings, tossing 1.2 scoreless innings. The rest of the pen shut out the Manatees for the remainder of the game, with Eduardo Figueroa, Tony Zych, and Scott Weisman each contributing an inning.

Daytona was down 5-3 to start the ninth, as solo home runs by Micah Gibbs (1-for-4) and Greg Rohan (2-for-5) played their part. Singles by Ronald Torreyes (1-for-4) and John Andreoli (2-for-3) set the table for Rohan, whose two-out single brought home Torreyes. Rubi Silva then reached on an error, loading the bases for Nelson Perez (1-for-2). Perez then delivered a two RBI single that put the D-Cubs in the lead for good.

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The D-Cubs tried to ride a six-run third innings to victory on Thursday, but had to push across one more in the bottom of the ninth to edge Brevard County 7-6. It all started with one out as Chad Noble (2-for-4) and Ronald Torreyes (2-for-4, home run) singled, Matt Szczur walked, and Arismendy Alcantara (2-for-4) brought in Noble with a single. Nelson Perez (1-for-4) then blasted a grand slam. Greg Rohan (2-for-4) followed that up with a double, and after a balk advanced him to third, trotted home on a sac fly by Rubi Silva (2-for-3, triple). That would be all the runs for Daytona, until Torreyes hit a walk-off homer to lead off the bottom of the ninth.

Austin Kirk didn’t have one of his better outings, allowing five earned runs in five innings while striking out four batters. Joe Zeller held down the fort for two innings, not allowing a run and striking out three Manatees. However, AJ Morris let Brevard County back in the game by giving up a solo home run in one innings. Jeffery Lorick would get the win by pitching a 1-2-3 eighth inning.

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Make it three in a row for Daytona, as they had the type of laugher on Friday that many observers felt would be the norm this season, beating Fort Myers 16-7. In an interesting twist, only Arismendy Alcantara, the team’s leading hitter, didn’t record a hit. Leading the way was a resurgent Ronald Torreyes, going 4-for-5 with two doubles and two RBI. Greg Rohan also had two doubles as part of his 3-for-6 evening, while Rubi Silva was 3-for-5. All-Star selection Nelson Perez (2-for-4) smacked his ninth home run, and Micah Gibbs (1-for-3) had a three-run blast. Designated Hitter Taylor Davis was also 2-for-5 with an RBI.

Matt Loosen wasn’t particularly great, allowing three earned runs and striking out three in five innings, but was able to take advantage of the offensive display. Hayden Simpson started out well, but ran into trouble in the seventh inning as he gave up four earned runs while going a total of 1.2 innings. He was relieved by Tony Zych, who had become a forgotten man in the bullpen recently. Zych went 2.1 scoreless innings to help secure the victory for Loosen.

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The offensive explosion continued on Saturday, as the D-Cubs pounded out 16 hits in route to a 10-5 win against Fort Myers. Leadoff hitter John Andreoli provided the spark, as he went 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI. Rubi Silva matched Andreoli by going 3-for-5, driving in a run and hitting a double. Arismendy Alcantara and Nelson Perez were each 2-for-5 with three RBI, Alcantara stroking both a double and a triple. Micah Gibbs was also 2-for-4.

It was a “bullpen day“, as Eduardo Figueroa was given the starting nod. Figueroa went three innings and allowed an earned run. Ryan Searle struck out three and was credited with the win for tossing three scoreless innings. Joe Zeller was roughed up for two earned runs in an inning of work, while Scott Weismann also gave up two earned runs as he pitched two innings.

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Double-A – Tennessee Smokies (24-32)
Once again, the Tennessee offense couldn’t muster enough support for their pitching or overcome their defense as they lost 6-4 to Huntsville on Wednesday. Dallas Beeler continues to be a hard-luck pitcher. Although he has a career 3.54 ERA over three seasons, his record of 3-14 reflects both a lack of run support and the 16 unearned runs given up behind him. It was more of the same for Beeler, as the Smokies managed only five hits and an error was responsible for a run. Beeler ended up pitching 4.2 innings, allowing five runs (four earned). Ty’Relle Harris kept the Stars in check by tossing 1.1 scoreless innings. But Marcus Hatley gave up what would be the nail in the coffin, as he struck out three but let in an earned run over his two innings. Frank Batista remained perfect in Double-A play, throwing a scoreless ninth inning. Michael Brenly provided the main offense for Tennessee, smacking a two-run homer as he was 1-for-3. Junior Lake added a solo shot as he was 2-for-5 for the evening.

On Thursday, the pitching was able to hold out enough for the offense to eek-out four runs to defeat Huntsville 4-1. Eric Jokisch is having a fine year, lowering his ERA to 2.38 after holding the Stars to one earned run and striking out three in 6.1 innings. Brian Schlitter finished off the seventh inning for Jokisch, and then turned the game over to the dynamic duo of Kevin Rhoderick and Frank Batista. Rhoderick worked out of an inning in which he allowed a hit and a walk, while Batista struck out the side in the ninth to record his seventh save.

Michael Burgess led the way for the Smokies, as he was 2-for-3 with his fifth home run of the season. James Adduci (1-for-4) doubled and came home on a wild pitch. In the eighth, Elliot Soto (1-for-1) led off with a triple and touched home on a Junior Lake double (1-for-4, RBI, double). A Rebel Ridling sacrifice fly brought Lake in to score.

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For the late arriving crowd, the sixth inning was all you needed to see in Fridays 2-1 win by Tennessee over Huntsville. Pitching was the key, as starter Trey McNutt looks like he’s finally rounding into form. McNutt went six innings and struck out two while allowing an earned run. Alberto Cabrera did what he likes to do best, come in with a clean slate so he can throw loose. Cabrera struck out four in two scoreless innings. Marcus Hatley was tapped to finish the game, and came through untouched in the ninth. The offense continued to wheeze and chug, but James Adduci was 3-for-4, scoring one of the runs. Michael Burgess (2-for-3) doubled in Matt Cerda (2-for-3) for the winning edge.

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After staking themselves to a 3-0 lead on Saturday, pitching and defense were Tennessee’s undoing as they lost to Montgomery 4-3 in ten innings. Fresh off of a three day rest, Jae-Hoon Ha was back at the top of his game as he went 3-for-4. Rebel Ridling went 2-for-4, while Justin Bour, Nate Samson, and Elliot Soto drove in runs. Dae-Eun Rhee was cruising through five innings, but his own throwing error, as well as an error by Junior Lake and a passed ball from Luis Flores brought in three unearned runs, as Rhee left after 5.2 innings. Jeffrey Antigua and Brian Schlitter kept the Biscuits from scoring in regulation; but Ty’Relle Harris surrendered the winning run in the tenth.

Triple-A – Iowa Cubs (25-30)
A rainout on Wednesday brought a doubleheader on Thursday, with mixed results. Game one saw Brett Jackson drive in two and he was 1-for-3 in the I-Cubs’ 4-1 victory over Omaha in game one. Frankie De La Cruz pitched 4.1 innings and struck out four as he allowed an earned run. Ryan Roland-Smith got the victory on 1.1 shutout innings, while Rafael Dolis picked up his first Triple-A save as he struck out two over 1.1 innings. Matt Tolbert was 2-for-2 with a double, and Juan Apodaca went 2-for-3.

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Iowa was being no-hit by Omaha in game two with one out in the sixth inning, until Brett Jackson gave the I-Cubs their only run on a solo homer as they lost 10-1. Jay Jackson had what proved to be a typical outing for him. Through four innings, Jackson gave up six earned runs, including two home runs, while striking out four batters. Esmailin Caridad kept the Storm Chasers from scoring for an inning, but the newest Iowa player, Shane Lindsay, couldn’t record an out in the sixth inning. Lindsay allowed four earned runs on a hit, wild pitch, and four walks. Manny Corpas cleaned up with a scoreless inning.

The I-Cubs tried to come back on Friday night, but fell short as they lost 5-4 to Omaha. Chris Volstad put Iowa in a hole after they had taken the lead on a leadoff homer by Brett Jackson (3-for-4, home run). Volstad surrendered four earned runs in 6.2 innings, striking out three batters. The offense fought back to tie the game in the eighth, as Josh Vitters (1-for-3) thumped a two-run home run. Luis Valbuena was 2-for-5 with two doubles, while Ty Wright went 2-for-4 with an RBI. Jeff Beliveau gave up an earned run in the bottom of the eighth to take the loss.

The offense spotted the I-Cubs with five runs on Saturday, but pitching burst their bubble as Iowa ended up losing to Oklahoma City 11-8. Brett Jackson continued his tear, going 3-for-5 with a double, triple, and stolen base. Just as hot is Josh Vitters, who went 2-for-5, including a double, his ninth home run, and two RBI. Also with multiple hits were Luis Valbuena (2-for-2, RBI), Anthony Rizzo (2-for-4, double), Ty Wright (2-for-5, RBI), and Blake Lalli (2-for-4, two doubles, RBI). Rodrigo Lopez came off the disabled list and allowed four earned runs in five innings. Ryan Roland-Smith also gave up four earned runs in his 1.1 innings, while Mike MacDougal let in three earned runs after going only 0.2 innings. Scott Maine played out the string by tossing a scoreless eighth.

News and Notes
The Iowa Cubs released LHP Nate Robertson; RHP Shane Lindsay was assigned to the Iowa Cubs from the Chicago Cubs. The Iowa Cubs activated RHP Rodrigo Lopez from the 7-Day disabled list; assigned RHP Shane Lindsay to Extended Spring Training.

The Tennessee Smokies activated LHP Casey Harman from the 7-Day disabled list. The Daytona Cubs placed OF Elieser Bonne on the 7-Day disabled list; activated C Chad Noble from the 7-Day disabled list. The Peoria Chiefs placed IF Kenny Socorro on the 7-Day disabled list; C Sergio Burruel was assigned to the Peoria Chiefs from the Boise Hawks.

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) – .269/.345/.385, home run, stolen base (Peoria Chiefs)
  • Jeimer Candelario (3B) – Extended Spring Training
  • Zeke DeVoss (2B) – .245/.378/.340, 10 doubles, triple, two home runs, 13 RBI, 13 stolen bases (Peoria Chiefs)
  • Junior Lake (IF) – . 291/.354/.466, seven doubles, triple, three home runs, seven RBI, three stolen bases (Tennessee Smokies)
  • Matt Szczur (OF) – .267/.359/.374, 11 doubles, three triples, home run, 13 RBI, 19 stolen bases (Daytona Cubs)
  • Ronald Torreyes (2B) – .204/.267/.287, six doubles, two triples, home run, 11 RBI, four stolen bases (Daytona Cubs)
  • Josh Vitters (3B) – .280/.328/.489, 12 doubles, nine home runs, 29 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) – 3-3, 3.45 ERA, 28.2 innings, 23 strikeouts, five walks, 1.15 WHIP, four saves (Daytona Cubs)

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  • Ripsnorter1

    Gotta run….but Cubs’ fans should know that this afternoon the Cubs have a chance to set the record for the longest road losing streak in franchise history. 10 is the record, and the Cubs have tied it. Samardzija has a chance to snap the string today. He’s pretty good, and SF Giants have a pathetic offense once you get past Cabrera. It ought to be a no-brainer that the Cubs must not let that guy beat them today.

    Vogelsong has been pretty tough of late. Vogelsong has a 1.31 ERA in five starts at AT&T Park, and his 1.51 overall ERA since the start of May is second-best in baseball.

    This should be another low scoring game. The Cubs could win this one. Maybe.

    • Dnuge

      Hopefully the Cubs win today, they have wasted far to many quality starts this year, Wood deserved much better yesterday but the Giants pitcher was lights out also. !

  • Zonk

    It is nice to see Torreyes finally hitting; I have been preaching patience with him, as he has been very unlucky, with a BABIP in the low .200s despite good footspeed.  He has still struck out only 8 times(!) in 45 games; keep doing that, and you’ll hit .300, like he has at lower levels.  Clearly, A+ pitchers aren’t tying him up.  Who knows if he’ll ever hit for any power, but he can make contact.

    It is also nice to see Vitters muscling up.  I had just about written him off, but he has a window now to get to the majors in 2012, given the lack of production from Stewart.  I would probably wait until September call-up if I am the Cubbies, but I bet we see him at some point….

    B-Jax….somehow he’s raised his average.  Will he hit 100Ks before the All-Star break?  I hope not, but it’s very possible.

    • Aaron

      Zonk,

      I agree with EVERYTHING you just said.

      I’ll add this though….Torreyes MUST add some muscle, otherwise he’s not going to reach his potential. He’s like Theriot and Barney in many ways in that he’s a singles hitter with decent speed….not great speed, but decent…However, unlike the other two, Torreyes actually has some minor league stats that jump out at you with his average. The problem with pint sized players though, as they rise through the system is that they will start to face advanced, power pitching, and when that happens, they MUST have the ability to muscle pitches into the OF when they’re jammed, etc. Does that make sense?

      As for Vitters, I’ve actually heard a GREAT comparison…though, personally, I believe it’s quite lofty. I’ve heard him compared to Vlad Guerrero. They both possess tremendous bat speed (well…Vlad did, prior to hanging up the spikes). They both hit nearly everything in sight, and don’t/didn’t strike out much. The difference is that Vlad had much better plate discipline in the fact that he purposely would foul off pitches anywhere close to the zone, and he was great at hitting pitches nearly off the ground into the OF as line drives, or even over the fence. Vitters isn’t there yet, but I believe he possesses the ability to do so. Once he and the coaches around him accept the fact that he’s a hacker, then work from there to become more “Vlad-like” by fouling off pitches purposely that are anywhere near the zone, then teams will be forced to do 1 of 2 things…either pitch him so far out of the zone that he’s forced to take the pitch, or pitch him in the zone, and try to let him hit it to a fielder, because you’re so frustrated with him fouling off the other pitches. Once Vitters adds even more muscle this next off-season…watch out…he’ll rise up the lists.

      BJax is a LOT different from Vitters. His bat speed is nowhere near what Vitters has, and I even mentioned this when the Cubs drafted him. However, he adds a TON to a lineup, because he’s willing to take close pitches to set himself up for a meatball, and he possesses the rare combination of power, plus speed, and plus defense. He will NEVER hit over .300 in the big leagues, but he might be Adam Dunn-esque with the main difference being less power and more speed. I believe his average will also be slightly better than Dunn’s…probably in the .250 range, while he’ll have a .360+OBP and 20+SB.

      • Zonk

        Good points

        On Torreyes, I’ve read that scouts don’t think he’ll ever develop power, because he’s 5-9 and 140 lbs.  He is an excellent defender, and shows very advanced contact ability for his age.  Let’s hope he adds a bit more, otherwise he projects as the next Rey Sanchez; good contact, good glove, nothing else.

        I’d like to know how Vitters is doing at 3B in Iowa.  He has 6 errors, which is acceptable, curious how he looks otherwise.  He has the tools for 3B but I know the Cubs considered moving him to OF, but resisted because we need a 3B.  Hopefully it’s all coming together for him.

        I have my doubts on B-Jax which I have shared earlier.  I like all his tools, but the K rate is unacceptable, and if he can’t figure out a way to cut that I don’t think he can be an acceptable ML player.  And I think hitting .250 would be successful for him, given his ability to take a walk, play CF, and hit the occasional jack.  But I am doubtful he can sustain .250 even with his K-rate.  He wouldn’t be the first CF prospect to flame-out for that reason:  Brian Anderson and Joe Borchard are recent examples from the South Side.  Both first round picks, both good overall tools, and both failed because they swung and missed at too many pitches.  I hope I am wrong….

        • Coachdon

           I think the time is about right to bring Vitters up to the ChiCubs. He is hot right now and the third base guys at the big league level are awful. He could also be your right handed first base back up, unless Jeff Baker is your guy. His success may be more important than Rizzo’s, since he can play multiple positions and would fill a position of need, as opposed to Rizzo who has to move our leading hitter in order to play. As for BJax, I would not be unhappy with a plus defender with a good arm that hit a solid .250 plus with some power, and could steal some bases. I think he could do that right now and probably should be given the chance one day soon.

        • Tom U

          Vitters is on his way to posting his best defensive average at third in his career. From what I’ve seen, he’s done a better overall job.

  • Aaron

    Oh…almost forgot:
    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2012/06/reds-release-jeff-francis.html 

    Jeff Francis just got released. In AAA, if you have an ERA under 4 as a starter, you’re worth looking at. I would approve of dumping Maholm this moment and signing Francis. That obviously won’t happen, but I would at least consider taking a flier on him, and adding him to the 40-man.

    • Zonk

      Why would we dump Maholm?  Maholm isn’t Cy Young or anything, but he’s a solid #4 or 5.  He’s also been better in recent memory than Francis.

      Jeff Francis missed 2009 due to surgery, and has pretty much been shelled since then.  He’s probably pitching well enough for the back of somebody’s rotation, but he profiles like a back of the rotation innings eater….which is exactly what he was last year for the Royals. 

      I would take a pass, unless he is willing to pitch out of the bullpen, but I bet Francis is looking for a ML rotation slot.  And, I bet anything one will be available.  There are several teams who don’t even have innings-eaters right now.

      • Coachdon

         Maholm, I believe, is on a one year deal. If someone give you anything of value for the future, you need to trade him before his record is 4-10 and he has lost value. I would prefer to see the Cubs give some guys like Rusin a shot to see what they can do.