Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 08/16/12

Changes appear to be in the air for the minor league system, as Vice President of Player Personnel Oneri Fleita was fired on Wednesday afternoon. Long deserved promotions for pitcher Austin Kirk and outfielder Rubi Silva have finally happened, while Yoannis Negrin, Willengton Cruz, and Jacob Rogers also received a bump up in level.

Tennessee has tightened up their defense, which has resulted in shut out wins for Dae-Eun Rhee and Yoannis Negrin. And Iowa actually posted a couple of wins, with Greg Rohan emerging as a new offensive leader.

Albert Almora did not disappoint in his Boise debut. Almora went 2-for-5 with a home run on Wednesday night in Boise’s 13-5 loss to Salem-Keizer.

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 (26-32)
The best laid plans for Boise went very wrong on Sunday, as the Hawks lost to Salem-Keizer 10-9. The plan was to get some innings for relievers Justin Amlung and Michael Heesch, while keeping regularly scheduled starter James Pugliese on schedule. The result was that everyone seemed to be out of sync. Amlung did okay; he allowed an earned run in two innings. But Heesch struggled with his command before settling down after giving up two earned runs. However, Pugliese seemed ill prepared, leaving pitches up in the zone and being hammered for seven runs (five earned), including two home runs, over 2.2 innings. Matt Iannazzo was asked to clean up, and he did by striking out two and tossing 2.1 scoreless innings. The pitching spoiled a great night by Boise hitters, with Xavier Batista leading the way. Batista finally showed some of the potential he displayed in the DSL last year. Batista belted a grand slam and a solo homer in his four trips to the plate. Emerging as a clutch RBI man, Willson Contreras (2-for-4) also went deep and drove in four runs. Leading hitter Steven Bruno maintained his pace with a 3-for-5 performance.

A tight ballgame on Monday blew wide open in the eighth inning, as pitching and defense cost the Hawks in an 11-4 loss to Salem-Keizer. Jose Arias had a little bit better than normal performance. Arias allowed two earned runs and struck out four batters in six innings. Willengton Cruz saw his first action in a week, and shut down the Volcanoes for an inning. But an error by Jeimer Candelario opened the floodgates on Hayden Simpson. Simpson was shelled for eight runs (six earned) while only recording an out. Su-Ming Jung added gas to the fire with his own error and was charged with an unearned run in 1.2 innings. Candelario had good night at the plate with a 3-for-4 effort. Marco Hernandez extended his hitting streak to 18 games with a 2-for-4 performance that included a triple and an RBI. Gioskar Amaya was 2-for-5 in the loss.

Boise got back to their winning ways on Tuesday, as they shut out Salem-Keizer 5-0. Starter Tayler Scott now ranks fourth in the Northwest League with a 1.88 ERA as he stopped the Volcanoes offense for five innings. Tyler Bremer had his longest outing, tossing three scoreless innings. Eduardo Orozco finished up with two strikeouts in a perfect ninth inning.

Jeimer Candelario appears to be back in the swing of things. Candelario (1-for-4) drove in two runs and Trey Martin (2-for-2) also had an RBI, while Gioskar Amaya was 2-for-4.

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Low Class-A – Peoria Chiefs (54-65)
Peoria fought to stay in the game on Sunday, but ended up falling to Beloit 6-5. An error by Zeke DeVoss opened the floodgates on starter Starling Peralta, who was touched for three unearned runs in the first inning. Peralta gave up a total of six runs through six innings. Pete Levitt held the Snappers for the final two innings in hopes of comeback that never happened. The Chiefs offense battled back, twice tying the score. DeVoss tried to make up for his error with a 2-for-4 performance at the plate that included two RBI and a stolen base. Pin-Chieh Chen also swiped a base and went 1-for-5 with an RBI. Wes Darvill continued to swing a hot bat. Darvill was 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored.

Two mistake pitches were the difference for Peoria on Monday, as they lost 3-2 to Beloit. Yao-Lin Wang was a hard luck loser his previous start and that continued Monday. Wang gave up back-to-back solo home runs in the second inning that accounted for the only earned runs he allowed. Wang struck out four through six innings. Austin Reed was very shaky in the eighth inning, but appeared to get bailed out by a great play from outfielder Oliver Zapata. However, Reed couldn’t hold things together and walked in the winning run. Zapata added to his outfield assist with a 1-for-2 effort that included a double and an RBI. Jorge Soler (2-for-3 with a double) remained hot.

High Class-A – Daytona Cubs (52-64)
Mother Nature was not kind to the Daytona Cubs, raining out a doubleheader on Sunday and a regularly scheduled game on Tuesday. The D-Cubs had a scheduled off-day on Monday.

Double-A – Tennessee Smokies (57-62)
Tennessee shut out Huntsville for the second game in a row as they defeated the Stars 4-0 on Sunday. A reshuffled defense and revamped batting order appear to be the key to the success. Logan Watkins (1-for-2, three walks, two stolen bases, three runs scored) and Junior Lake (2-for-4, double, RBI, stolen base) were shifted to shortstop and third base respectively, while Matt Cerda (1-for-2, walk, stolen base) moved across the diamond to second base. Matt Szczur’s (1-for-5) arrival not only moved Jae-Hoon Ha (1-for-3, two walks) to left field but Matt Szczur also took over the leadoff spot, allowing Junior Lake to protect Justin Bour (1-for-5, two RBI) in the line-up.

The tightened defense and productive offense allowed the pitching staff to throw free-and-easy, as newcomer Yoannis Negrin struck out four through five innings. Zach Rosscup continued to blank Huntsville for 1.2 innings, while Casey Weathers added a scoreless inning. Frank Batista came in for the final four outs and struck out two as he picked up his 21st save.

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With an off-day on Monday, Tennessee was busy making roster moves that paid dividends in Tuesday’s 8-2 victory over Birmingham. The Smokies called up outfielder Rubi Silva and left handed pitcher Austin Kirk from Daytona. Silva had a great debut as he was 2-for-4 with a triple and an RBI. Junior Lake enjoyed the protection Silva gave him in the line-up. Lake drove in two and went 2-for-5 with a double. Jae-Hoon Ha (1-for-4) belted his fifth homer of the season and drove in two. Logan Watkins stole his 26th base as part of his 2-for-5 performance that included a double and an RBI.

Starter Dallas Beeler only went three innings, but struck out three batters and he shut out the Barons. Kirk followed with an inning of scoreless relief, but Casey Harman labored through 2.2 innings and gave up two earned runs. Trey McNutt had two strikeouts as he shut out Birmingham for 1.1 innings. Kevin Rhoderick nailed things down with a perfect ninth.

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Triple-A – Iowa Cubs (46-78)
It took two days and, probably, a bottle of antacids for manager Dave Bialas, but Iowa was finally able to post a 10-8 victory over Las Vegas on Sunday. After rain suspended the game on Saturday, the game was picked up in the fifth inning Sunday with the I-Cubs leading 5-2. Blake Lalli (2-for-5) highlighted a five-run first inning with a two-run home run. Greg Rohan remains an RBI machine. Rohan drove in three as he was 3-for-5. It was all extra bases for Dave Sappelt, as he went 3-for-5 with two doubles, a triple, and a RBI. Veterans Jeff Frazier (2-for-4) and Brian Esposito (2-for-5) also contributed and Frazier plated three as well.

Casey Coleman started but left after 1.2 innings with shoulder pain. Esmailin Caridad was rushed in and allowed two earned runs in 2.1. Restarting the game on Sunday, Blake Parker gave up an earned run over an inning of work. Marcus Hatley was roughed up for four earned runs in 1.1 innings, while Jay Jackson was touched for an unearned run, also in 1.1 innings. Jairo Asencio got the final four outs, picking up his second save.

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In Sunday’s scheduled game, Iowa didn’t seem like they had anything left in the tank and lost to Las Vegas 3-2 in seven innings. Frankie De La Cruz struck out seven, but allowed three earned runs in five innings. Back from the parent club, Scott Maine tossed a perfect inning. The I-Cubs could only muster two runs as Alfredo Amezaga was 2-for-4 with a double, an RBI, and a stolen base. Blake Lalli was also 2-for-4, while Diory Hernandez went 2-for-3 with a double.

To put things bluntly, Iowa was simply pummeled by Las Vegas on Monday and the 14-7 loss wasn’t even as close the score indicates. The 51′s scored in every inning they batted in, except the first inning, as Iowa pitching had no answer. Ryan Rowland-Smith was hit for five earned runs in four innings, while Jaye Chapman went two innings and gave up four earned runs. Newly signed Seth McClung surrendered three earned runs in only 0.1 innings. Jay Jackson finished out his inning with no further damage. To save the staff, catcher Brian Esposito pitched the last inning and allowed two more earned runs. Tony Campana hasn’t hung his head since being demoted from the parent club. Campana was 3-for-4 with two stolen bases. Greg Rohan (1-for-4) and Dave Sappelt (1-for-4) drove in two runs apiece.

It was Iowa’s turn to come up with a big inning, as the I-Cubs used a seven-run fifth inning to blow past Tucson 12-7 on Tuesday. The Iowa offense may have found their new focal point, with Greg Rohan stepping up. Rohan went 2-for-5 with two RBI. Also having a 2-for-5 evening were Tony Campana and Blake Lalli. Campana stole a base while Lalli had a double and an RBI. Nate Samson was 3-for-5 with a run driven in. Dave Sappelt (2-for-6) and James Adduci (2-for-4) each knocked in a run.

In his third start, Ty’Relle Harris looked a little shaky and allowed seven earned runs over four innings with two strikeouts. Fortunately, Marcus Hatley had one of his best outings of the season, blanking the Padres for two innings with a pair of strikeouts. Scott Maine kept up the pressure by tossing two scoreless innings, while Jairo Asencio had a perfect ninth.

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Arizona Rookie League
With 13 games left to play, the AZL Cubs continue to have the second best record in the rookie league at 29-14, one-half game behind the AZL Athletics. This past week, the A-Cubs went 3-2, with Chad Martin winning two games and Steve Perakslis getting credit for the other game. Perakslis went three scoreless innings to close out Saturday’s game. Anthony Prieto started and struck out three while allowing an earned run in three innings. Albert Almora was 3-for-5, while Trevor Gretzky (2-for-4) drove in two runs.

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Chad Martin relieved Paul Blackburn on Wednesday. Blackburn tossed two innings and allowed two earned runs while striking out two batters. Martin, Dillon Maples, and Corbin Hoffner each pitched two scoreless innings and Maples posted three strikeouts. Ryan Hartman collected his second save by blanking the AZL Dodgers in the final inning. David Bote was the hitting star. Bote went 3-for-3 with two doubles and two RBI. Trevor Gretzky (2-for-4) also drove in a run, while Shawon Dunston Jr. went 2-for-5, including a triple and an RBI.

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Chad Martin’s other win came on Monday as the A-Cubs blew the doors off of the AZL Reds 17-7. Albert Almora led all hitters by going 5-for-6 with a triple, a stolen base, and three RBI. Carlos Penalver was close behind with a 4-for-6 night. Shawon Dunston Jr., Justin Marra, and Trevor Gretzky were each 3-for-6. Dunston tripled and drove in two while Marra also plated a run and doubled. Garrett Schlecht (2-for-5 with two doubles) and Danny Lockhart (2-for-7) each drove in three runs and Lockhart hit his first home run. The same team of pitchers from Wednesday’s win came back with equal aplomb on Monday, with Dillon Maples recording five strikeouts in three innings.

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Dominican Summer League
Cubs-1 remains fifth in the Baseball City division with a record of 29-33. Infielder Jenner Emeterio’s batting average has dropped to .309, which still leads the team, but he committed his 17th error of the season. First baseman Roney Alcala remains the team leader with 40 RBI and five home runs, while batting .304. Nineteen year old lefty Luis Villalba has taken over the team lead in ERA for starters at 1.91 with 29 strikeouts in 37.2 innings. Right-hander Carlos A. Rodriguez is still 11th in the league with 63 strikeouts, and has an ERA of 2.08 and a 1.04 WHIP.

The Cubs-2 team has improved their record to 30-30 and moved into fourth in the Boca Chica South division. Outfielder Shamil Ubiera has taken over as team leader with a .317 average and 34 RBI. Infielder Bryant Flete is now hitting .307, driving in 12 runs and stealing 10 bases. Right-hander Daury Torres remains third in WHIP at 0.82 and fifth with a 1.16 ERA, along with a 6-2 record and 49 strikeouts. Alexander Santana improved his ERA to 2.72 as he remains at 1-3 with 49 strikeouts and a 1.07 WHIP through 56.1 innings. Righty Pedro Araujo dropped a game, lowering his record to 5-1 with a 2.76 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 49 innings.

News and Notes
The Chicago Cubs recalled RHP Michael Bowden from the Iowa Cubs; optioned LHP Brooks Raley to the Iowa Cubs. The Iowa Cubs placed RHP Casey Coleman on the 7-Day disabled list.

The Tennessee Smokies assigned RHP Yoannis Negrin to the Iowa Cubs; assigned OF Nelson Perez to the Daytona Cubs. The Daytona Cubs assigned LHP Austin Kirk and OF Rubi Silva to the Tennessee Smokies. The Peoria Chiefs placed 1B Paul Hoilman and RHP Zach Cates on the 7-Day disabled list. The Boise Hawks assigned LHP Willengton Cruz to the Peoria Chiefs. The AZL Cubs assigned IF Jacob Rogers to the Peoria Chiefs.

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  • RickinMSP

    Hayden Simpson, one more in a long and proud tradition of number one draft choice busts. Jettison him in the off season and make room for somebody else.

    • BosephHeyden

      Just to add on, but who was the guy who recommended we draft Simpson in the first round (even before he pitched it was a questionable move) and does he still have a job?

      • Aaron

        technically it was Wilken’s call but he still has a job

  • Tom U

    Ir’s been a crazy morning, and I’ll comment more on this later tonight, but here are a few words on Oneri Fleita.

    On Saturday, I said I was reserving comment on the hiring of Jaron Madison because I felt something like this was coming down the pike. It was very curious for Joe Bohringer, whose beat is the majors, to be hanging around the likes of the Peoria Chiefs.

    That said, Mr. Fleita was very gracious in allowing me the chance to interview him. He was very kind to the local press, telling stories about the past and providing information. I hope he is successful in the future.

    • Aaron

      I thought that was peculiar as well. I thought it was bizarre that anyone in that scouting department was kept on board in the first place, aside from Wilken…and even that was debatable with his lackluster drafts and international signings.

      The only reason Wilken gets a pass is due to his distant past track record with the Blue Jays. Ironically, after he left, they absolutely stockpiled their system with talent…granted, Wilken only received one season of a decent draft budget, but the lack of impact players was apparent.

      It was more of an indictment of Hendry and Fleita, however, as both had been with the Cubs for nearly 20 years in player development capacities, and the Cubs produced just a handful of decent MLB talent like Wood, Prior, and….oh, wait….that’s about it, right? Isn’t it amazing that in nearly 20 years of picking near the top of the draft, they failed to land even a handful of MLB players?!? How did those two last even that long?

      • Zonk

        The ‘aughts was a draft and development disaster for us. Prior was a consensus pick, and a no-brainer at the time; anyone could make that one. Some high picks were derailed by arm trouble, but mostly it was just a train wreck from beginning to end. Geo Soto was a good pick, and Sean Marshall was great value for as low as he was, but overall, it was just a disaster.

        This is why we stink; you can’t build a team without a farm system. Theo and Co. know that, which is why you have to build from the ground up. Painful, but there is no other way.

        Just flipping through is such a walk down memory lane……Luis Montanez, Ryan Harvey, Mark Pawelek, and that 2005 stinker where the only player to even reach the majors was Donnie Veal….worst draft ever by any team, IMO.

  • Zonk

    RE: Lake and Watkins, that is an interesting position shift. Scouts have long said Lake belongs at 3B, and as for Watkins, the move to SS seems like an attempt to broaden his skill set as a ML Utility guy. Does he have the arm for 3B?

    It’s still depressing the lack of impact pitching, and there appears to be no help in that department at A+ or above….some guys who may make the majors, but no future all-stars

    • John_CC

      There is no doubt that they will have to start trading position players for pitchers. Maybe Garza for multiple pitching prospects. They just cannot wait to see if draftees make it all the way up. With Lake and Vitter, Baez and Castro, Soler, Jackson, Almora — something’s gotta give.

      • Zonk

        Neither Watkins or Lake really project as more than utility-type guys at this point…..we wouldn’t get much trading them.

        In a broader sense, I could see a trade involving Garza, depends on his health. With the new CBA rules, his new team would get a draft pick ONLY if he starts the season with them, so players are more valuable in the offseason vs. midseason for that reason.

        Our committed payroll as it stand going into next season is somewhere in the $60 to 70 mil range. I predict we will be spenders for FA starting pitching. Not Grienke or Edwin Jackson (we would likely surrender draft picks for them), but lesser starters along the lines of Maholm. This will be our primary area of spending. That, and maybe an outfielder.

        • John_CC

          What do you base your utility man projection for Lake on? Just curious.

          Dude is only 22 and has made a big improvement this year, his first full season at AA. His K:BB rate has improved greatly, while his OPS is climbing too. He has 97 hits in 85 games.

          I know his defense is suspect, but he is still quite young. I think he’s one of the better athletes in the system. I’m not writing him off yet.

          • Zonk

            Junior Lake? He has impressive physical tools, but hasn’t put it together.

            The problem with Lake is that he has many skills, but other than his arm, none of them stand out. He doesn’t hit for much power, strikes out too much, doesn’t steal bases, and isn’t a particularly good fielder. He doesn’t field well enough for SS, and doesn’t hit enough for 3B.

            Other than that, I love him! :)

  • Vivid_Reality

    Did we ever complete compensation with the Padres for Hoyer and McLeod? I don’t remember hearing anything about it.

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      No, not that I am aware of.

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    Cubs sign Horacio Ramirez and assign him to Iowa Cubs. Jaye Chapman, acquired from Braves, placed on DL with elbow strain http://bit.ly/Rlbrk9

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    RHP Ryan Searle was promoted from Daytona to Iowa & RHP Frankie De La Cruz released to sign with Taiwan team.

  • Zonk

    Looking at the list of Minor Leaguers we have that will be Rule 5 Draft eligible next year, there isn’t alot of talent we have to protect.

    Christian Villanueva will be eligible, and almost certainly will be added to 40-man

    Trey McNutt and Austin Kirk are eligible….not sure on them. It would have to be a real bad team to stash McNutt all year, the way he is pitching.

    Other than that, not really anyone, unless you like Logan Watkins or Hunter Cervenka that much

  • Zonk

    Also, I believe next year that Travis Wood and Welington Castillo will both be out of options; meaning, they can’t be sent to the minors without clearing waivers. This is due to service time. Both project to make the opening day roster, so maybe a moot point.

    Just looking up what our roster situation is next year…..