Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 06/26/12

Special Assignment – Midwest League All-Star Game

Geneva, IL: A hot and blustery June 19 was the setting for this year’s Midwest League All-Star game. The host for the event, the Kane County Cougars, pulled out all stops to give all attending a true Chicago-Area baseball experience.

The day started before noon as a Fan Fest, with families being able to play catch on the field and take batting practice. The picnic area provided a petting zoo, rock wall climbing, and plenty of inflatable rides for the youngsters. Entertaining the crowd were the Chicago Cubs Dixieland Band and organist Nancy Faust, showing that she is still at the top of her game by not only performing ballpark classics, but music from new artists such as Lady Gaga.

A fan-friendly atmosphere was present, with players providing autographs all during the warm-up sessions, as well as a special on-field period just prior to the game. A particularly popular target was Peoria Chiefs infielder Zeke DeVoss. DeVoss was one of four Chiefs named to the squad, including first baseman Paul Hoilman as a starter, left-handed pitcher Kyler Burke, and catcher Rafael Lopez. However, Lopez had to bow out, due to a concussion that placed him on the disabled list. As the game approached, player introductions were made and the national anthem was sung by famed public address announcer Wayne Messmer.

The game in itself became almost anti-climactic, as starting pitcher Drew Grainer of the Burlington Bees surrendered five runs (two earned) in 0.2 innings to the East team in route to an 18-2 loss. Kyler Burke didn’t fare much better, going 0.2 innings and giving up five earned runs. Paul Hoilman was 0-for-2, and Zeke DeVoss went 0-for-1 while seeing action in right field. Great Lakes Loons’ first baseman O’Koyea Dickson was named the game’s Most Valuable Player after going 2-for-3 with a home run and two RBI.

Interview – Kyler Burke, Zeke DeVoss and Paul Hoilman
Between team photos, warm-up, autograph signings, and the general mayhem that accompanies an event like an All-Star Game, the CCO was able to ask a few questions to the Peoria representatives:

ChicagoCubsOnline: How does it feel to be a part of today’s festivities?

Kyler Burke: I’m glad to be back, but this time it’s a little different role. Last time I was at one of these, it was as an outfielder.

Paul Hoilman: I was voted to the All-Star team last season (in the Northwest League), but that was an after the season kind of thing. It’s nice to have a break in the season.

Zeke DeVoss: I’m glad I’m having a good enough season to make it here.

CCO: Zeke, you played mainly outfield in college, how has the transition been to the infield?

DeVoss: I feel it’s going smoothly. I put in a lot of work every day at it.

CCO: Paul, you show great focus in your preparation to hit. Where did learn to refine your approach?

Hoilman: Well, hitting is a big part of my game. My college coach was from the Citadel, and he was good at instilling discipline.

CCO: Kyler, you were mainly used out of the bullpen last season, but now you are starting. How has that been different?

Burke: At the time, I needed to build up my arm strength, so coming out of the pen was the best way to do that. But I like the regular nature of starting.

CCO: Zeke, coming from the University of Miami, do you have any advice for the Cubs’ first round pick Albert Almora?

DeVoss: Well, I was glad to go to college and experience that, but I’m also glad to be here with the Cubs organization. He just has to do what he thinks is best for him.

CCO: Any word on promotions?

Hoilman: Not yet.

Burke: I’m going to Daytona after the game (Burke was promoted to the Daytona Cubs two days later).

Video – All-Star Sideshow

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

The CCO would also like to thank Shawn Touney, Director of Public Relations for the Kane County Cougars, for allowing us to be a part of this event. A special mention also goes to reporters Mike Knapp of the Beacon News and Patrick Brown of

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO

Quote of the Day

"If a baseball could talk, it would sound like Ron Santo." – Pat Hughes - Remembering Ron Santo #10 (1940-2010)

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  • Tony_Hall

    Great job Tom! Looks like you had fun on your special assignment.

    • Tom U

      Thanks Tony. It was hot, but well worth it!

  • JimBo_C

    I was at this game. I showed up in the second inning and it was already something like 7-0. I wish I would have known that you were there. It would have been great to meet you in person and to talk Cubs minor league baseball with you. Thanks for all that you do for this crew.

    • Tom U

      Thank you JimBo. I try to make it to the games the Chiefs are playing in Geneva, thanks to the management of Kane Co. Hopefully, I can make it for the season ending Labor Day series.

  • Aaron

    I believe with July right around the corner, it’s time to talk trade, and look what the Cubs could realistically get.

    We already know that just about every veteran player, or guys like LaHair that are near 30 years old, are probably available in trade.

    Here are some thoughts:

    Garza-The Padres were in similar circumstances that the Cubs are in this year, wanting to overhaul their roster, get younger, and make a move with an eye towards the future. They dealt staff ace Latos to the Reds for Boxberger (fireballing former first round relief prospect), Volquez (former frontline starter coming off bad year), Alonso (top position prospect of Reds), and Grandal (catcher, former first rounder, and top catching prospect pretty much in all of baseball). Now, Latos was pre-arbitration, so he was cheap, plus he’s just 24 years old. Also traded last year was Gio Gonzalez, who at 26 years old, was dealt for Peacock (one of top starting pitching prospects of Nats), Norris (top catching prospect of Nats), Milone (lefty starter), and AJ Cole (fireballing starting pitching prospect). Gonzalez was also arbitration eligible at the time of the trade. Garza is 28 years old, and 2013 will be his last arbitration year prior to free agency. However, he has been the most consistent starter of the 3, and he has been in the league longer. We should know from history that deadline deals net better prospects than offseason trades. However, since the new CBA has changed everything with regards to FA compensation (though the acquiring team could always assume that Garza will turn down arbitration in 2013, thus netting them an additional draft pick). the Cubs might have to accept a package somewhere between the Gonzalez and Latos deals

    Tigers-Oliver, Turner, Castellanos
    Jays-D’Arnaud, Syndergaard, Marisnick

    Dempster-He is NOT considered an ace, though his numbers this year would say otherwise. However, he still is worth a good amount to the Cubs in terms of prospects. Other than big names (and performers) like Halladay, Cliff Lee, Oswalt, etc., there haven’t been a whole lot of seasoned veteran starters about the age of Dempster traded in recent years midseason, so let’s just go with the Oswalt deal where he was dealt at the deadline for Gose (top OF prospect for Phillies at the time), Happ (about their #3 pitching prospect at the time), and Villar (young infield prospect with speed and power potential)

    Dodgers-Joc Pederson, Gould, Webster
    Braves-Gilmartin, Teheran

    Everyone else, like Soto, Barney, Soriano, Baker, Johnson, LaHair, Marmol, Maholm, Wells, Stewart, DeJesus, etc. could be used to expand deals, but it’s highly doubtful any of them would net significant prospects at this point, so their only use would be obtaining mid-level or low-level high ceiling prospects that just haven’t cut it yet in their pro careers. About the only one of them you could probably see headlining a deal and netting something decent in return would be LaHair or DeJesus (but only if he starts hitting again).

    So, you can see why the Cubs could be pushed to deal BOTH Dempster and Garza, and not one or the other. However, there appears to be one caveat with that. Supposedly next year’s draft is going to be pretty good. They already know that Dempster wants a long-term contract, and he wants to win a ring. If they offer him arbitration, knowing he’ll decline, PLUS, the fact they know they’ll be picking high (possibly 1 or 2) next year, and could receive a similar haul that the Astros got this year with all of their bonus money pool, then they might opt to keep him, unless they can net 1 or 2 top prospects in return. Same goes for Garza, though the Cubs have until the end of 2013 to figure all of that out.

    I would say the chances of the Cubs trading Dempster are about 75% right now, and Garza is about 50-50 at the moment. Other teams know how much Epstein and Hoyer value draft picks, so the Cubs would have to be blown away to deal either of them. In fact, both Dempster and Garza are the ONLY veterans the Cubs could potentially receive draft picks for, as the others wouldn’t qualify based on salary (and uselessness).

    … keep that in mind going forward with the new regime.

    If none of those players I mentioned above are even being considered in talks with those teams, then I don’t see any reason why the Cubs should trade them just to trade them. The fact is, if they hang onto them, and offer arbitration (which they’re near 99.9% likely to reject), they will receive 2 top picks in the 2013 (Dempster) and 2014 (Garza) drafts.

    So if teams are only offering mid-level prospects in return, then I’d absolutely tell them to go pound sand. As for the other veterans though…..they can all be released for all I care, as they’re really not adding anything of value to the team at the moment:
    Soto-hitting below .200
    DeJesus-hitting in the .260’s range, OBP plummeting too, and offers no speed or power
    Soriano-can’t run anymore, and still chases nearly everything
    Johnson-decent 5th OF, but has no speed anymore, and no plate discipline. The Cubs would be better served with a younger version of him in Ty Wright who actually makes more contact
    Baker-poor defense, poor hitting. What else do you need to know?
    ……I could go on and on. About the only guys currently on the roster you’d want to build around, are Samardzija, Castro, Rizzo (as of today), Campana (for his speed and defense), and Russell. All others are either too old, too expensive, or too average to build around. So in a 100+ loss season, what the hell are they still doing on the roster?!? Someone seriously needs to ask the regime that question.

    Here are just a few reasons to jumpstart the firesale:

    Wright-.292/.349/.446, 18 doubles, 6 hr, 33 RBI, 18 walks, 44 K’s

    Lake-.315/.367/.469, 9 doubles, 2 triples, 4 hr, 12 RBI, 13 walks, 35 K’s (40 games…injured earlier)

    W. Castillo-.333/.484/.565, 4 doubles, 4 hr, 15 RBI, 16 walks, 16 K’s

    Cardenas (about to be sent down for Rizzo and under-used at MLB level thus far..just 37 AB’s)-.319/.376/.521, 7 doubles, 3 triples, 2 hr, 18 RBI, 11 walks, 5 K’s were his numbers in AAA

    Vitters-.291/.341/.493, 18 doubles, 12 hr, 39 RBI, 16 walks, 44 K’s

    • Christian2334

      Aaron, I love reading your posts and everything you have to say. But do you really think the jays would give up d’Araund?

    • CubsChatter

      I think if you want that Tiger trade to happen, you need to add Barney…..and the Tigers need to throw in another player.

    • agustinrexach

      Yup time to start talking trades!!!

      Aaron…So in a 100+ loss season, what the hell are they still doing on the roster?!?

      I believe the answer to that is precisely to make sure it is in fact that! lol a 100+ loss season and secure a high pick.
      That with the loss of Demp and Garza becoming high draft picks could be what they are looking in to. Thoughts?

      • Aaron

        I think there’s some truth to that. But you have to be realistic (even I am about the youth movement as never have I said doing so would result in great success…mostly I would say it would result in a slightly better or slightly worse team), that by blowing things up, it’s not going to make things better right away. But the point I have ALWAYS made is the whole thing about if you’re going to lose, you might as well lose with younger players, to give them valuable experience for when the team does start playing well (or to use them as trade bait…or even better yet…find out which guys your scouts think can hack it at the MLB level, and adjust your 40-man roster in the offseason accordingly)

        That’s why I was basically alluding to the fact that it could really go either way with the Cubs. They could hold onto Dempster and Garza, and take the picks (assuming they have a pre-arranged agreement with Dempster to turn it down), or they could trade, if they get multiple top prospects in return

    • Neil

      Hey Aaron, not good news …

      Travis d’Arnaud tore the PCL ligament in his knee last night sliding into second. Out 6-8 weeks, no surgery

      • Aaron

        thanks Neil…didn’t know that. In fact, that might bode well for the Cubs if you think about it. My understanding is you can trade minor leaguers on the DL. In a way, it’d be “buying low” (though obviously not, because he’s a top talent)

  • paulcatanese

    Time for the debut of Mr Rizzo.
    Are they going to part the waters of Lake Michigan to bring him to the park?
    Will he arrive at first base by helicopter or parachute just before the first pitch?
    Flashbulbs will be seen as far south as the White Sox park.
    He is wearing a cherished number(44) and hope he wears it well.
    All kidding aside, I wish him well, and hope the fans,media just let him play his game, no matter what, I hope thats the case.
    Good Luck Mr. Rizzo, may you have a long and productive career.

  • paulcatanese

    Rizzo in the lineup, batting third,Sveum, thats the way to throw him to the wolves, why not just bat him leadoff so he can get up sooner.
    A better place would have been 5 or 6 for the first few days.
    I wonder how long for LaHair to be around,pitchers will have to throw hitters pitches keep them away from right field.

    • cubtex

      I like that Sveum put him in the 3 spot. Castro will get better pitches with Rizzo behind him and maybe he can relax a little more and be more selective. The good thing is that Castro and Rizzo could be hitting back to back for several years together. These 2 are the future.

  • paulcatanese

    Good post Tom, sounds like a great time was had by all. It’s kind of special that they had the room outside the park for the festivities, on the West Coast only the Oakland A’s (N /Calif has) the room for that in the parking area.