Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 08/09/12

Progress continues to inch along in the Cubs’ system, with the lower minor league teams showing the most improvement. Boise has moved into first place in the second half as leading hitters Gioskar Amaya, Stephen Bruno, and Dan Vogelbach have stabilized the offense. Shortstop Tim Saunders has tightened up the defense in Peoria, to the delight of Michael Jensen and Starling Peralta. New faces Christian Villanueva and Javier Baez have been in the middle of things in Daytona, while Tennessee’s Justin Bour was named Hitter of the Week in the Southern League. Meanwhile, Iowa is now searching for an identity after the promotions of Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters.

With recaps of the Arizona Rookie League and the Dominican Summer League, here is 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.

Short Season-A – Boise Hawks (22-30)
The Big Man made a big impact in extra innings on Sunday as Boise defeated Spokane 10-9 in 11 innings. With two outs in the top of the 11th, Dan Vogelbach (1-for-5) crushed a solo home run to put the Hawks ahead to stay. Vogelbach’s heroic almost overshadowed two other outstanding offensive performances, starting with catcher Lance Rymel’s four RBI, as he was 2-for-4 with two home runs. Izaac Garsez had a breakout game with a 4-for-5 performance that included a RBI. Trey Martin (3-for-4 with a triple) plated two and Marco Hernandez went 3-for-5. Willson Contreras (2-for-5) scored three runs.

Ian Dickson had a good outing, striking out three and allowing three earned runs through five innings. But Hunter Ackerman was pounded for four earned runs in 1.1 innings. Rafael Diplan lasted only 0.2 innings and was tagged for two runs (one earned). Tyler Bremer settled things down with two scoreless innings that included a pair of strikeouts. Coming off of a start four days before, Su-Min Jung also struck out two over 1.1 innings, and Eduardo Orozco recorded the final two outs and picked up his second save.

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Boise needed to crank up their offense again as they outlasted Everett 11-7 on Monday. Three Hawks homered in the game, starting with Steven Bruno (1-for-5, two RBI) going yard for two runs in the fifth inning, The following inning, Carlos Escobar (2-for-3, double, two RBI) went deep with a two-run shot, while Gioskar Amaya (5-for-5) added a solo blast in the seventh inning. Rock Shoulders was 3-for-5 with an RBI, and Trey Martin (1-for-4) drove in two.

Twelfth round draft pick Justin Amlung was given a predetermined two innings to start the game, and allowed two earned runs. Regularly scheduled starter Felix Pena then took the hill, and was touched for four runs (three earned) while striking out five over four innings. Willengton Cruz followed and continued having trouble with his command, giving up an earned run, two hits and three walks in 1.2 innings. Nathan Dorris earned his first save with 1.1 scoreless innings that included three strikeouts.

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After going on a three game roll, the Hawks hit a bump in the road on Tuesday as they lost 6-3 to Everett. Boise took the lead early, as Dan Vogelbach (1-for-3) connected for a solo shot in the second inning. Izaac Garsez (2-for-2) scored on a Gioskar Amaya (2-for-5) triple in the fifth inning. The Hawks added a run in the eighth on a Jeimer Candelario (1-for-3) double and Candelario eventually scored on a Willson Contreras (1-for-4) groundout. Starter James Pugliese seemed to be in control, striking out six and allowing an earned run in four innings. But after Pugliese reached his pitch limit, he was replaced by Michael Heesch. Heesch gave up three earned runs with three strikeouts in two innings. Su-Min Jung allowed two earned runs over the final two innings.

Low Class-A – Peoria Chiefs (52-61)
In a tense match-up on Sunday, Michael Jensen was denied in his attempt to reach double digit wins, losing to Clinton 3-2. Jensen tried to join Nick Struck and Matt Loosen with ten or more wins. Jensen allowed an earned run and struck out four in five innings. Sheldon McDonald struck out three and was able to thwart the Lumber Kings’ attack for two innings. But Austin Reed was tagged for two earned runs in two innings. In his Peoria debut, Tim Saunders was 1-for-4 with a double and a run scored. Yaniel Cabezas was also 1-for-4 with a double and an RBI.

Peoria’s veteran relievers wound up disappointing them again, as the Chiefs lost 8-6 to Clinton on Monday. Starter Zach Cates performed adequately. Cates allowed three earned runs to go along with two strikeouts over 4.2 innings. Pete Levitt did his job and kept the Lumber Kings off the scoreboard for 1.1 innings. But Justin Berg laid yet another egg and gave up three runs (two earned) with three strikeouts in two innings. Jeffry Antigua also disappointed, serving up two home runs in the final inning. Tim Saunders (1-for-5) doubled in three runs and put Peoria ahead in the first inning. Wes Darvill (2-for-4) singled in Saunders and he scored in the sixth inning after double and a Sergio Burruel (2-for-4) single. Darvill also worked a bases loaded walk that brought in another run.

The Chiefs received an outstanding pitching performance but had to sweat things out on Tuesday as they defeated Clinton 5-3. Starling Peralta was perfect through five innings before surrendering a solo home run in the sixth inning. Peralta had an incredible 14 strikeouts in seven innings with only one earned run. Bryce Shafer wobbled a little, giving up two earned runs in 0.2 innings. However, Larry Suarez pitched the final 1.1 innings, shutting down the Lumber Kings and picking up his first save.

Zeke DeVoss awoke from a deep batting slumber and went 4-for-4 with two doubles and a triple. Chadd Krist stayed hot and drove in two runs as part of his 2-for-4 performance. Wes Darvill’s resurgence continued with a 2-for-4 effort.

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High Class-A – Daytona Cubs (51-62)
Tight games were the norm throughout the system on Sunday, as Daytona lost 4-2 to Dunedin. PJ Francescon started and struck out four, but was able to go only two innings. Francescon was hung with two unearned runs after a Javier Baez fielding error. Frank Del Valle was the long man for the day. Del Valle went four innings, struck out five and allowed two earned runs. Ryan Searle tried to keep the D-Cubs in things by tossing two scoreless innings, but the offense failed to come through. Daytona scattered seven hits, with Christian Villanueva (2-for-4) leading the way. John Andreoli and Rebel Ridling were each 1-for-4 and scored a run.

After an off day on Monday, the D-Cubs were back in action on Tuesday as a couple of newcomers led the way to a 6-1 victory over Lakeland. Javier Baez was 0-for-10 following his promotion and broke out in a big way. Baez was 2-for-4 with a double and three RBI. Christian Villanueva was 1-for-3 with a double and two RBI while John Andreoli ran wild. Andreoli went 2-for-3 and stole three bases.

Austin Kirk had his good stuff working for him. Kirk struck out three and allowed an earned run over 5.2 innings. Jeffrey Lorick picked up his fourth hold with 1.1 scoreless innings, while AJ Morris grounded the Flying Tigers for the last two innings.

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Double-A – Tennessee Smokies (55-60)
Despite a home run and a good pitching performance, Tennessee ended up on the short end of 5-4 loss to Jackson on Sunday. Eric Jokisch pitched well enough to win. Jokisch allowed three earned runs and struck out six in five innings. However, the offense and the bullpen weren’t up to the task. Trey McNutt let the Generals take the lead, as he gave up an earned run while striking out three in three innings. Matt Cerda (2-for-4, double) scored on an error to tie things up in the seventh, but Brian Schlitter let in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth. The Smokies scored in the first as Logan Watkins (1-for-5) singled and stole second then came home on a Justin Bour (2-for-3, double) RBI single. Nelson Perez (2-for-4) added to the lead with a solo homer in the second inning. Bour doubled and scored on a wild pitch in the fourth inning.

Tennessee was the second team in the system that had to take one for the organization on Monday night, although this one didn’t turn out as well with the Smokies losing 7-6 to Jackson. Rehabbing pitcher Lendy Castillo was scheduled to pitch two innings and allowed an earned run while striking out two batters. Pushed back from his start, the struggling Dae-Eun Rhee seemed even more out of sorts as he gave up six earned runs in five innings. Tony Zych, who has also struggled, tossed a scoreless inning. Justin Bour continued to be smoking hot. Bour went deep for his 15th home run as part of a 2-for-4 performance that included a double and three RBI. Matt Szczur was 2-for-5 with a double and a stolen base, while a two-run homer by Junior Lake (1-for-3) in the top of the ninth pulled the Smokies to within one run.

It was almost over before things began on Tuesday, as Tennessee lost 10-4 to Jackson. Jacob Brigham was shelled as he only recorded one out before surrendering six earned runs. Kevin Rhoderick was summoned early and had his best performance in some time, holding the Generals scoreless for 1.1 innings. Zach Rosscup was all over the place as he yielded five walks and two hits, netting two earned runs in 2.2 innings. Casey Weathers wasn’t much better. Weathers also allowed two earned runs in an inning before Brian Schlitter could stop the madness. Schlitter tossed 1.1 scoreless innings. Infielder Dustin Harrington mopped up with a shutout inning. Justin Bour remained the biggest offensive threat. Bour went 2-for-3 with an RBI while Nelson Perez was 2-for-4.

Triple-A – Iowa Cubs (44-74)
As Iowa said goodbye to two players on Sunday, the team searched for leadership in a 2-1 loss to Reno. Prior to the game, Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters were called up to the parent club, leading to a temporary talent void. Veteran Casey Coleman tried his best to keep the I-Cubs in it. Coleman struck out eight over six scoreless innings. Jay Jackson was also untouched in an inning of work, but Marcus Hatley let the Aces get on the board with an earned run in the eighth that tied the score. Esmailin Caridad then failed to record an out, as a ball he deflected ended up as an error for Greg Rohan. Jaye Chapman replaced Caridad and gave up a single that plated the go ahead run. Iowa’s lone score came in the seventh inning, as Diory Hernandez (1-for-3) singled home Jeff Frazier (1-for-3).

For a place that the front office said would be for finishing development, Iowa looked more like a Major League taxi squad on Monday as they lost 2-1 to the Reno Aces. Twelve of the fourteen players had Major League experience, and those players averaged nearly 28 years in age.

Frankie De La Cruz got the start and actually did a good job, limiting the league’s highest team batting average to just one earned run while striking out four in five innings. On a rehab assignment, Blake Parker shutdown the Aces for an inning, while Michael Bowden struck out three in two scoreless innings. However, Jairo Asencio let in the winning run in the top of the ninth. One would expect more offense form this veteran group, but Greg Rohan, one of the two players without Major League experience, was the only player to drive in a run. Rohan was 2-for-4 and Blake Lalli went 2-for-3 with a double.

In what has to be one of the “feel good” games of the minors this year. Ty’Relle Harris won his first game as a starting pitcher on Tuesday as the I-Cubs delivered a 7-4 victory over Reno. Harris, whose career was in jeopardy after being involved in a car accident last year, had his longest outing of the season, tossing six innings and striking out five batters while allowing two earned runs. Esmailin Caridad had Harris a little nervous, as he gave up two earned runs, but struck out three in 1.1 innings. Caridad was bailed out by Jaye Chapman. Chapman struck out the only two batters he faced. Jairo Asencio earned his first save by pitching a perfect ninth.

James Adduci provided the run support. Adduci was 1-for-3 with a double and drove in three runs. Dave Sapplet plated two runs and finished the game 2-for-4, while Alfredo Amezaga was 2-for-3 with a triple and two runs scored.

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Arizona Rookie League
At 26-12, the AZL Cubs have the second best record in the rookie league. Unfortunately, division mates AZL Athletics have the best record at 27-11. During the past week, the A-Cubs went 3-2, led by pitchers Ryan McNeil and Logier Padron. McNeil tossed two scoreless innings of relief on Thursday, and another 2.1 innings in a start on Tuesday. McNeil struck out six over the two games. Padron threw the final three innings on Tuesday, and had three strikeouts as he raised his record to 4-0. Anthony Prieto also tossed four scoreless innings during the week, while Paul Blackburn won his second game on Friday with 3.1 scoreless innings in relief of Dillon Maples, who held the opposition scoreless for 1.2 innings.

Jacob Rogers remains a hitting terror as his average dipped slightly to.390 while driving in 16 with 11 doubles, a triple, and two homers. Ben Carhart is close behind, hitting .377 with 17 RBI while catcher Justin Marra is seeing more playing time by batting .375. The “Big 3” outfielders, Shawon Dunston Jr., Albert Almora, and Jorge Soler, are hitting .258, .264, and .260 respectively. Soler now leads the club with eight steals.

Dominican Summer League
Life hasn’t been good for the Cubs-1 team, as their 27-29 record is good for fifth in the Baseball City division. Infielder Jenner Emeterio doesn’t have enough at bats to qualify for the league statistics, but if he had, his .342 average would be good for eighth. First baseman Roney Alcala remained solid at the plate, batting .315 with five home runs while leading the team with 36 RBI. Outfielder Jeffrey Baez is third in the league was 27 stolen bases and raised his average to .302. Right-hander Carlos A. Rodriguez dropped to 11th in the league with 58 strikeouts, and has an ERA of 1.80 to go along with a 0.95 WHIP. Eighteen-year old lefty Angel Mejias has emerged as a number two starter. Mejias is 3-2 with a 2.82 ERA that includes 46 strikeouts and a 1.14 WHIP.

The Cubs-2 team has also suffered, dropping their record to 28-27, fifth in the Boca Chica South division. Infielder Bryant Flete has taken over as the offensive leader, hitting .318 and driving in 12 runs while stealing nine bases. Outfielder Shamil Ubiera leads the team with 32 RBI while batting .309. Fellow outfielder Kelvin Encarnacion is also a big part of the offense, batting .303 with five home runs, 26 RBI, and 12 stolen bases. Right-hander Daury Torres remains one of the top pitchers in the league, as he is third in both ERA and WHIP respectively at 1.25 and 0.77, along with a 5-2 record and 48 strikeouts. Nineteen-year old righty Pedro Araujo has come through as a number two starter by going 5-0 with a 2.54 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 46 innings. Alexander Santana remains a workhorse, as the 18-year old has tossed 51.1 innings with a 1-3 record and ERA of 2.98, with 45 strikeouts and a 1.09 WHIP.

News and Notes
The Chicago Cubs recalled LHP Brooks Raley, OF Brett Jackson and IF Josh Vitters from the Iowa Cubs; assigned OF Tony Campana to the Iowa Cubs.

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