Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 08/20/12

Things continue to look good from the ground up in the minor league system and Iowa surprised by winning three out of four to end the week as Dave Sappelt appears to have his eye on the big league club in September.

Boise has stayed in the lead in the second half of the season thanks to Rock Shoulders, Stephen Bruno and Albert Almora joining an already impressive list of hitters in Gioskar Amaya, Jeimer Candelario, Dan Vogelbach, and Willson Contreras.

Speaking of promising hitters, Jorge Soler turned things up a notch with another homer in Peoria, while teammate Tim Saunders continues to chug along.

Pitching was the focus in Tennessee as Frank Batista continues to pile up saves and Austin Kirk notched his first Double-A win.

So look into the future by taking a peek 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.

Short Season-A – Boise Hawks (30-33)
It was a rough night for Boise pitching on Wednesday, but a good debut for outfielder Albert Almora as the Hawks lost to Salem Keiser 13-5. All but one of Boise’s runs came via the long ball. Albert Almora (2-for-5) hit a solo shot to lead off the fourth inning. After a single by Dan Vogelbach (1-for-4) and a walk to Willson Contreras (1-for-3), Rock Shoulders (1-for-4) delivered his eighth home run of the season. The Hawks added a run in the fifth, as Izaac Garsez (1-for-3) led off with a single and eventually came around on a Marco Hernandez (1-for-3) base hit. But it wouldn’t be enough as the Volcanoes ripped Boise pitching. Starter Ian Dickson surrendered two home runs as part of five inning-four earned run effort. Hunter Ackerman didn’t have an easier time. Ackerman served up two home runs and was roughed up for six earned runs in 2.2 innings. Rafael Diplan yielded the final three earned runs that included a home run in 1.1 innings.

Thursday saw Boise revert back to their winning ways as they defeated Tri-City 7-2. Carlos Escobar (2-for-4) was led the way for the Hawks. Escobar drove in three runs and doubled. The 21-year old catcher was drafted in the 15th round in last June’s draft (2012) and is known to be good defensively. Willson Contreras continues to produce. Contreras drove in a run and finished the game 3-for-5 with a double. Jeimer Candelario plated two runs with 1-for-4 performance that included a double. Albert Almora (2-for-5) also joined the doubles club.

Pierce Johnson was scheduled to pitch two innings, and the staff seemed prepared as Johnson went out and struck out five while not allowing a run or a hit. Felix Pena was the piggyback and allowed two earned runs over five innings. Nathan Dorris was called on to close things out and he was able to slam the door. Dorris struck out three while holding the Dust Devils scoreless over the final two innings.

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Boise was able to hold off a late rally by Tri-City on Friday and brought home a 7-6 victory. Justin Amlung was scheduled to pitch the first two innings and allowed an earned run in his two innings before turning the game over to the pen. Michael Heesch followed Amlung and tossed two scoreless innings. Once again, James Pugliese seemed to be thrown off. Pugliese gave up three earned runs in an inning of work. Mark Johnson was ready with Su-Min Jung but Jung allowed two earned runs in two innings. Eduardo Orozco picked up the long save by striking out three and blanking the Dust Devils over two innings.

Dan Vogelbach paced the Boise attack by going 3-for-5 with a triple and an RBI. Stephen Bruno (1-for-5) clubbed a three-run homer while Izaac Garsez and Lance Rymel were each 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI. Albert Almora went 2-for-4 with a double.

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There was no doubt about things on Saturday, as Boise put up five runs in the first three innings and sailed to a 8-2 victory over Tri-City. Rock Shoulders (1-for-5) belted a grand slam in the third inning and took over the team lead in home runs in the process. Shoulders is now second in the Northwest League in longballs. Stephen Bruno’s quest for the league’s batting title stayed on course as he went 3-for-4 with a triple and three RBI. Marco Hernandez was he was 2-for-4.

Pitching was “lights out” for the Hawks, as their hurlers fanned ten Dust Devils. Jose Arias showed why he is considered by some to be a possible front end starter by striking out five over five shutout innings. Hayden Simpson was able to bear down on hitters. Simpson allowed two runs (one earned) with five strikeouts over four innings in route to his second save.

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Low Class-A – Peoria Chiefs (55-68)
Peoria seemed to be feeling the effects of a roster shake up on Wednesday, as four errors led to five unearned runs in a 5-1 loss to Burlington. With pitcher Zach Cates and first baseman Paul Hoilman landing on the DL, pitcher Willengton Cruz and infielder Jacob Rogers received promotions and the Chiefs had to turn to Jeffry Antigua to make an emergency start. Antigua did what he could. Antigua struck out four in 3.1 innings, but he also hit a batter and uncorked a wild pitch and was the victim of errors by Oliver Zapata and Wes Darvill that led to five unearned runs. Veteran relievers Justin Berg, Bryce Shafer, and Pete Levitt held the Bees the rest of the way, but the Chiefs’ offense was nowhere to be found. Bijan Rademacher (1-for-3) doubled home Jacob Rogers for Peoria’s only run.

The scoring slump continued on Thursday, as Peoria was shutout by Burlington 4-0. The Chiefs pounded out seven hits, but could not dent home plate. Back in action and leading the offense was Tim Saunders. Saunders was 2-for-3 and Dustin Geiger (2-for-4) was the only other Chief with a multi-hit game. Back up from Boise, Willengton Cruz started his second stint in Peoria by allowing two earned runs and striking out four in two innings. Luis Liria struck out three and was touched for an unearned run in 2.2 innings. Sheldon McDonald replaced Liria and was also the victim of an unearned run in his 2.1 innings. Larry Suarez appears to be adjusting to his role in the back end of the bullpen. Suarez struck out four over two scoreless innings.

The Chiefs tried to ride their power bats on Friday, but came up short as they lost to Burlington 5-4. Dustin Geiger (1-for-3) drew first blood with a solo home run in the second, while Wes Darvill (1-for-5) put Peoria back in the lead with his solo shot in the fifth. A Chadd Krist (1-for-3) solo home run then brought the Chiefs within one in the sixth inning. Tim Saunders (1-for-3) tripled and scored on a wild pitch in the seventh inning. Starling Peralta had his strikeout pitch going, buzzing eight Bees while allowing three runs (two earned) in six innings. Austin Reed gave up the go-ahead runs in the seventh. Bryce Shafer tried to limit the damage. Shafer tossed two scoreless innings and struck out three batters.

Peoria took out some of their frustration with Wisconsin on Saturday with a 9-2 thumping of the Timber Rattlers. Wisconsin has had the Chiefs’ number this season, as they were 2-9 against the team from the north woods. Jorge Soler had a monster night, going 4-for-5 with a double, a home run, a stolen base and two RBI. Fellow Cuban national Yaniel Cabezas (3-for-5 with a double) also drove in a run. Two picks from the 2012 draft, Tim Saunders and Jacob Rogers, each had two RBI and were 2-for-4, with Saunders adding a double.

Michael Jensen joined Nick Struck, Eric Jokisch, and Matt Loosen as starters in the Cubs’ system with double digit wins. Jensen earned his tenth victory by allowing two runs (one earned) while striking out seven batters in five innings. Pete Levitt added three more “K’s” in three scoreless innings, while Sheldon McDonald went 1-2-3 in the ninth.

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High Class-A – Daytona Cubs (53-67)
A rash of inclement weather has led to the postponement of several Daytona games lately. The make-up games started with a doubleheader on Wednesday. In the first game, the D-Cubs pushed across a run in the top of the seventh to beat Lakeland 3-2. Ronald Torreyes continues to improve offensively. Torreyes doubled in the go ahead run and finished the game 2-for-4. Elieser Bonne and Taylor Davis both drove in runs. PJ Francescon appeared to be rusty after the long, weather induced, lay-off. Francescon allowed two earned runs in three innings. Hunter Cervenka and AJ Morris each tossed two scoreless innings.

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Daytona couldn’t translate five hits into any runs as they dropped the nightcap 1-0 to Lakeland in extra innings. Spot starter Frank Del Valle cruised through his six innings, giving up only one hit and striking out four. Eduardo Figueroa served up a walk off homer in the bottom of the ninth. John Andreoli, Javier Baez, Christian Villanueva, Elieser Bonne, and Vladimir Frias each had a hit.

Daytona pitching allowed Lakeland to pull ahead twice on Thursday, as the Flying Tigers defeated the D-Cubs 7-6. Starter Robert Whitenack is slowly beginning to sharpen things up. Whitenack allowed an earned run in four innings. Fresh off the DL, Matt Spencer was able to supply two scoreless innings. However, Scott Weismann was not as lucky. Weismann gave up four earned runs in 0.2 of an inning. Jeffrey Lorick was hung with loss after allowing two runs in the bottom of the ninth. Javier Baez had a break-out game for Daytona and went 3-for-4 with a double, three RBI and his first home run in a D-Cubs’ uniform. Taylor Davis (1-for-3 with a double) drove in two and Rebel Ridling went 2-for-4 with a double.

On Friday, Tampa broke open a tie ballgame in the eighth inning and stole one away from Daytona, 5-2. Starter Kyle Hendricks was decent through four innings, striking out two and allowing two earned runs. Hendricks was piggybacked by Kyler Burke, who breezed through his first three innings by allowing two hits and two walks while holding the Yankees scoreless. Then in the eighth, Burke served up a three run homer that gave Tampa the win. Christian Villanueva (2-for-4 with a double) had the only RBI for the D-Cubs. John Andreoli (2-for-4 with a double) and Nelson Perez (2-for-3 with a double) also notched a multi-hit game.

Double-A – Tennessee Smokies (61-64)
Tennessee couldn’t make a two-run lead stick on Wednesday, as three late run by Birmingham led to a 4-2 loss. Nick Struck was in search of his 14th win, and helped his cause by striking out six while allowing an unearned run in six innings. But veteran Brian Schlitter had an off-night. Schlitter gave up three earned runs in the bottom of the eighth. Frank Batista picked up the final out in the eighth. The Smokies’ offense squeaked two runs out of six hits, as doubles by Michael Burgess (1-for-3) and Chad Noble (1-for-3) brought across a run in the third. A Justin Bour (1-for-4) single plated Matt Szczur (1-for-4), who doubled to lead off the sixth inning.

The Smokies made the most of four hits on Thursday, as they defeated Birmingham 4-3. The big blow was a three-run homer in the third by Justin Bour (1-for-4) with Logan Watkins (0-for-1, three walks) and Jae-Hoon Ha (1-for-3) aboard. Elliot Soto then pushed across the go ahead run with a sacrifice bunt in the seventh. Soto brought in Michael Burgess (1-for-4), who had doubled earlier.

It wasn’t one of the better starts for Eric Jokisch, but he still allowed only two earned runs in 4.2 innings while striking out two in the process. Tony Zych followed and fanned three Barons over two scoreless innings. A fielding error led to an unearned run for Kevin Rhoderick. Frank Batista then picked up save number 22 with 1.2 scoreless innings.

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On Friday, the Smokies couldn’t make up for a big inning, as they lost to Birmingham 5-4. Dae-Eun Rhee could not build on the success of his last start and allowed four earned runs (three in the third inning) in his 4.2 innings of work. Trey McNutt is still trying to get comfortable in a bullpen role and gave up an earned run while striking out two in 1.1 innings. Casey Weathers followed with 1.1 scoreless innings, while Brian Schlitter got the final two outs. Rubi Silva had the big night offensively. Silva was 2-for-4 with an RBI.

After experiencing a 32-minute rain delay and more inclement weather on the way, Tennessee’s game with Birmingham Saturday was called in the top of the sixth inning with the Smokies leading 2-1. The game gave the first Double-A win for Austin Kirk, who struck out three and allowed an earned run in five innings. Justin Bour added to his league leading RBI total. Bour drove in a run and went 1-for-2 with a double. Michael Burgess was also 1-for-2 with an RBI, while Junior Lake had a 2-for-3 performance that included two doubles.

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Triple-A – Iowa Cubs (49-79)
Iowa got a solid team effort from the pitching staff as they shutout the Tucson Padres 4-0 on Wednesday. Starter Chris Rusin raised his record to 8-8 as he struck out four over six innings. Blake Parker continued in his rehab with two scoreless innings that included three strikeouts. Veteran Esmailin Caridad finished things off with a strikeout in the ninth.

Chris Rusin was able to help his own cause as he went 2-for-3 at the plate and scored a run. Tony Campana, along with manager Dave Bialas and Diory Hernandez, who was on the bench, were ejected in the third inning as Padres’ starter Matt Palmer was being replaced. In Campana’s place, Nate Samson was 1-for-2 with an RBI, while Alfredo Amezaga also drove in a run.

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After Wednesday’s fireworks, things settled down again on Thursday as Iowa lost to Tucson 7-6. Newly signed Seth McClung was given a greeting fitting and proper for all of the I-Cubs’ veteran signees in 2012. McClung was shelled for seven runs (four earned), but struck out five over 3.1 innings. Fresh up from Daytona, Ryan Searle fared a little better. Searle blanked the Padres while striking out two in 2.2 innings. Jay Jackson pitched the final two innings. Jackson recorded two strikeouts and held Tucson scoreless. Alfredo Amezaga (4-for-5 with a RBI and a stolen base) paced the I-Cubs’ attack. Blake Lalli, Diory Hernandez, and Matt Tolbert were each 2-for-4, with Lalli driving in a run. Tony Campana was back in action and went 2-for-5 with his 14th stolen base.

Iowa made a late charge on Friday to pull ahead of Tucson and posted an 8-1 victory. At the head of the pack offensively was Dave Sappelt. Sappelt drove in four runs as he was 3-for-5 with a double and his fifth home run. Alfredo Amezaga (3-for-4) was the sparkplug and scored two runs. Diory Hernandez (1-for-4) doubled in two runs while Nate Samson was 2-for-4 with a double.

Recently signed Horacio Ramirez delivered a six inning, one earned run, two-strikeout effort. Scott Maine fanned three in two perfect innings, with Jairo Asencio cleaning up things with a scoreless ninth.

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Iowa came back home on Saturday and made it two in a row as they defeated Memphis 3-2. After being in the bullpen most of the season, Ryan Rowland-Smith is beginning to settle in as a starter. Rowland-Smith struck out six and allowed an earned run through five innings. Blake Parker continues to get his work in. Parker gave up an earned run in his 1.2 innings. Marcus Hatley and Jairo Asencio then put the clamps down. Hatley and Asencio did not allow any runs over the last 2.1 innings and Asencio picked up his third save.

Dave Sappelt looks as if he is angling for a September call-up. Sappelt cracked a home run for his second consecutive night and finished the game 2-for-4 with two RBI. Jeff Frazier and Brian Esposito were also 2-for-4 while Alfredo Amezaga was 2-for-3 with a double.

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News and Notes
The Chicago Cubs optioned LHP Brooks Raley to the Iowa Cubs. The Iowa Cubs signed LHP Horacio Ramirez; placed RHP Jaye Chapman on the 7-Day disabled list. The Daytona Cubs assigned RHP Ryan Searle to the Iowa Cubs; activated LHP Matt Spencer from the 7-Day disabled list. The Boise Hawks assigned RHP Matt Iannazzo to the Daytona Cubs.

CCO’s Prospect Watch

  • Javier Baez (IF) – . 184, two doubles, a home run, seven RBI, two stolen bases (Daytona Cubs)
  • Jeimer Candelario (3B) – . 289, 12 doubles, five home runs, 38 RBI, two stolen bases (Boise Hawks)
  • Zeke DeVoss (2B) – .245, 23 doubles, six triples, five home runs, 34 RBI, 35 stolen bases (Peoria Chiefs)
  • Junior Lake (IF) – . 284, 23 doubles, three triples, eight home runs, 39 RBI, 18 stolen bases (Tennessee Smokies)
  • Dillon Maples (RHP) – 0-0, 1.17 ERA, 7.2 innings, 10 strikeouts, five walks, 1.30 WHIP (Arizona Cubs)
  • Matt Szczur (OF) – .222, six doubles, three triples, home run, four RBI, four stolen bases (Tennessee Smokies)
  • Ronald Torreyes (2B) – .264, 21 doubles, four triples, six home runs, 45 RBI, 13 stolen bases (Daytona Cubs)
  • Dan Vogelbach (1B) – . 340, six doubles, a triple, eight home runs, 25 RBI (Boise Hawks)
  • Robert Whitenack (RHP) – 1-5, 6.14 ERA, 48.1 innings, 29 strikeouts, 27 walks, 1.94 WHIP (Daytona Cubs)
  • Tony Zych (RHP) – 1-1, 5.19 ERA, 17.1 innings, 24 strikeouts, nine walks, 1.73 WHIP (Tennessee Smokies)

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  • Dorasaga

    Tom, I believe you’ve watched Vitters down the farm more than I did (saw him in the Futures Game years ago, and that’s it). Do you see his future as a Major League third baseman? From the limited plays that involved him (I can only recall three times when the ball ever neared him), he seems to be slower than expected when fielding the ball. Some on CCO see him as a utility player, perhaps best around the infield. I would like to see him play left field.

    All said regarding fielding, will he be moved back to AAA next year to field another position? Will this move be a problem to other young players? promoting up or needing play-time?

    • Tom U

      Dorasaga, you have a lot to answer before I go to work, so I’ll tackle the big one.

      From what I seen of Vitters, he moves okay laterally, has decent reactions, and a plus arm. He has a lot of trouble coming in on balls, and that is where he got a lot of the errors I’ve seen, both fielding and throwing.

      He has experience at first base, and played the outfield in the Arzona Fall League last year.

      • Dorasaga

        Thanks, that’s what I thought, a good arm. He throws more accurate than Castro. I went back to all games he started this month, and watched his plays. He didn’t transfer the ball quick enough from the glove to the throw. Overall, his initial reaction to reach ground balls coming to him looked about average for a Major Leaguer. He could run, too. The speed can translate to range. Maybe he’s better profiled as a right fielder.

        With experience, he might become better at third base. Then the problem will be his bat.

  • mutantbeast

    Volstink needs to be DFAd if he cant get over the one big inning syndrome.

    • Aaron

      I cannot understand the Volstad trade. Yes, getting rid of Zambrano was a great move to begin with from the standpoint that they finally got rid of his constant outbursts, distractions, etc.

      However, the Marlins needed Zambrano for depth, and the Cubs should’ve at least been able to land a low-A level pitcher or two.

      Volstad is very similar to Garza in that his potential has never matched his production….but Garza at least has produced decent results.

      Volstad not only will be non-tendered, but he might be entirely out of organized baseball (ie.-he’ll be playing Indy ball) in 2 years. Some other team might sign him and figure they can once and for all figure him out, but once they learn what the Cubs did…that he’s a complete dud, they’ll wipe their hands of him.

      The proverbial canary in the coal mine with Volstad is this stat line:
      2.22 ERA, 65 IP, 68 hits, 15 walks vs 55 K’s, 1.277 WHIP (2.1 walks/9 IP and 7.6 K/9 IP)
      …..followed up by a campaign of…
      3.08 ERA, 152 IP, 161 hits, 36 walks vs 99 K’s, 1.296 WHIP (2.1 walks/9 IP and 5.9 K/9 IP)
      …..followed up by a campaign of…
      4.16 ERA, 168 IP, 193 hits, 47 walks vs 118 K’s, 1.423 WHIP (2.5 walks/9 IP and 6.3 K/9 iP)

      flash forward to 2012….

      6.88 ERA, 69 IP, 85 hits, 21 walks vs 41 K’s, 1.529 WHIP (2.7 walks/9 IP and 5.3 K’s/9 IP)

      Those first three stat lines are from his first 3 years in pro ball (age 18-20) with the Marlins.

      As you can see, he gives up a TON of hits, but has fairly decent control. The WHIP skyrockets because of the hits allowed.

      Through even the minor leagues, Volstad was giving up 9.7 hits/9 IP. In MLB, he has EXACTLY the same line, but with slightly more walks per 9 IP at 3.1 vs 2.6.

      In MLB, unless you’re a Glavine, Maddux, etc., you’re not going to have much success if you’re giving up over 9 hits/game and not striking out a ton of guys, and even those two, as they aged gave up more than that, and you saw their ERA’s soar. in fact, with Maddux, in nearly every year his hits/9 IP were over 9, he had an ERA over 4. Same held true for Glavine.

      If I’m Team Theo, I’m looking at guys with hits/9 IP below 9. Here would be my list:
      Liriano (8.3)
      Bedard (8.4)
      Kuroda (8.5)
      Marcum (8.2)
      Matsuzaka (8.3)…yes, he’s sucked recently, but if he accepts a reasonable deal, the Cubs could do a lot worse
      McCarthy (8.8)…but only if his shoulder checks out okay
      A. Sanchez (8.9)
      Chris Young (7.5)

      I am telling everyone that hits/9 IP has a DIRECT correlation to the success of a pitcher. Yes, you have statistical anomalies like Marmol who walk a ton of guys, but don’t give up a bunch of hits and have bad results from it, but in general, if you stick to that formula you’ll do very well. I look at guys like Liriano and Matsuzaka, and even McCarthy, and I think that with the relative success they’ve had already in the AL, if they jumped to the NL, they’d have even more success. I also think with Sanchez’s jump to the AL, it’s damaged his stock, and he might be in a 1 yr Edwin Jackson-esque “prove it” sort of deal range for the Cubs. In fact, just about everyone on that list is looking at the prospect of a 1 year “prove it” deal because of age, injury, or 2012 performance.

      I’ve told everyone I’d love the Cubs to sign Edwin Jackson, but the more I look at stats, I have to say that I think he’s in for a MAJOR correction. This season is his best hits/9 IP he’s put up with 7.8 hits/9 IP, and this has a direct correlation with his success. He’s always had the raw stuff to strike guys out and get out of the jams he created by giving up hits in recent seasons. But earlier in his career, he also struggled with walks, which was a recipe for disaster.

      I think it’s clear to just about everyone on this site that the Cubs must sign at least 1 or 2 free agent pitchers for the Cubs to have a snowball’s chance in hell next year.

      Casey Coleman (13.7), Rodrigo Lopez (11.4) Chris Volstad (11.0), Randy Wells (11.0), Brooks Raley (10.6)….just aren’t going to cut it for the rotation.

      Others that won’t cut it out of the pen, include:
      Camp (9.3), Russell (9.8), Bowden (10.0), L. Castillo (16.2).

      Looking at the starters this year, you can see the correlation between hits/9 IP and success with:
      Samardzija (8.3), Maholm (8.6), Dempster (7.0), Garza (7.8), and T. Wood (8.2, but he’s hurt by the highest walk rate among starters at 3.3 walks/9 IP).

      If the Cubs can get a few FA starters, they’ll be well on their way, and might even be good next year, especially with the likes of W. Castillo, Clevenger, Rizzo, Vitters, B. Jackson, etc. having another year under their belt.

      Samardzija
      Garza
      Liriano
      Matsuzaka
      Young/Marcum/Bedard/Kuroda

      ….that would look pretty good (and relatively cheap) to me. What do you all think?

      Additionally, I just wanted to point out that one of the reasons you’re seeing Raley, Germano, Volstad, and now Rusin making starts down the stretch is that Team Theo wants to see who can hack it. This year, more so than any other, the Cubs will be playing meaningful games down the stretch (not for them, but because of who they face). Between now and the end of the year, the Cubs will face the following playoff contending teams:
      Giants (3)
      Nationals (4)
      Pirates (7)
      Reds (3)
      Cardinals (3)
      D’Backs (3)

      That’s a total of 23 games, which would amount to about 5 starts per pitcher to find out if they can hack it. We need to find out once and for all what we have. I’d argue that they should’ve promoted Kirk much earlier and they also need to see what McNutt has, but my guess is McNutt’s days as a starter are long over, and the only other guy I’d want to see is Lendy Castillo in that role, but apparently they’re just giving him a whirl in the pen for the rest of the year, even though in his rehab, he was a starter….but I digress

  • Zonk

    Interesting Article on Castro extension:

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/cubs-bet-big-on-starlin-castros-improvement/

    According to Fangraphs, the fact that Castro qualified for Super-Two status cost the Cubs approx. $10 mil to $20 mil. That, in other words, is the extra $ spent because we brought him up 2 months before the cutoff date in 2010. If we had left him in the minors an extra two months, it would’ve saved that amount of money.

    Rizzo this year was clearly ready, but this is why he was kept down. Several readers here clamored for Rizzo to be promoted in May or early June and not wait…..this is why you wait. Even as he was tearing-up AAA, it was smart business to keep him in Iowa.

    • cubtex

      as I pointed out before. The Cubs were trying to win in 2010 as opposed to this year. They were 14-16 at the time of Castro’s callup and were 5 games out of 1st. 2 totally different scenarios. Of course….those teams not looking to win would keep him down.

      • Aaron

        Agreed, it’s easy to look back at the end results and say he was brought up too soon because the Cubs fell flat, but it was an exceptionally easy call at the time to bring him up, trying to receive a jolt from him, which he initially provided. It was a shame that the roster was full of a bunch of high-priced veterans that “already got theirs”, so they were not motivated at all.

        You look at Lee, ARAM, Soriano, Fukudome, Dempster, Zambrano, Silva, Nady, etc., and they were all veterans that had high salaries and incidentally, all but Dempster (and perhaps Zambrano) had exceptionally bad years comparatively speaking to their careers.

  • Zonk

    Tom, what are your thoughts on Tony Zych? This is his first full year after being drafted last June (4th rnd), and though his ERA isn’t amazing, he’s been promoted aggressively to AA at age of 21, is missing bats (24Ks in 18 AA innings), and not walking a ton of guys. He was clocked at 98-99 last year, with an 85 mph slider. Sounds like he should be moving up our prospect lists, and is the closest thing we have to a ML-ready power arm in the minors, Vizcaino excluded. Only problem is that he is strictly bullpen guy.

    Anyway, not sure if you concur, but he looks promising for the near future as a high-leverage reliever

    • Aaron

      I know you asked Tom, but here are my thoughts:

      While you stated he’s missed a lot of bats….by stating his K totals, you’re neglecting to mention what I stated in a post below about hits/9 IP. Zych has been surprisingly hittable in AA with 10.3 hits/9 IP.

      Yes, he was clocked at 98-99 mph prior to the draft, but what I’ve read about him this year is that he’s sitting at about 94-96 mph, which is still good, but not nearly what he was at prior to the draft.

      Zych is fairly deceptive with his throwing motion where he kind of holds the ball behind his ear almost like a catcher, so I really can’t figure out why he’s been hit so hard in AA.

      I hope he goes to the AZFL or at the very least Fall Instructs, and then to Camp Bussy, because I want to see him get back up to 98-99 mph consistently, and I want to see him figure out how to miss more bats and play against advanced competition (AZFL). He’s clearly on the fast track to the big leagues, because he’s 21, a year away from when he was drafted, and already at AA. I guess we’ll see what happens this winter.

      Usually, you can always tell what a team truly thinks about any given player by their offseason assignments. While it’s true that players can refuse these assignments due to resting, gaining more muscle, etc., it’s usually the team’s call where they go. If a player is assigned to the Mexican Winter League or some other obscure league other than the AZFL or Carribean League, then you can tell what the team really thinks.

      • brent carmona

        Tom and Aaron, since our starting pitching is barren, would you guys think that yao-ling wang and tayler Scott are the most intriguing guys to keep an eye on?

        I know its early for them, I’m just asking, how interesting are they I guess.

        Wang has the k rate going, while scott is very efficient and gets a lot of ground ball outs. Got to imagine they both have time to fill out as well, still a at a young age.

      • gary3411

        Zych didn’t lose velocity, those 98-99 reports were either freak throws once in a blue moon, hot guns, or lies. I’ve known him since we were youngsters and know his closest friends, I’ve also hit against him not that long ago (HS). Zych’s never thrown 99 more than a few times, ever.

      • Zonk

        That’s good feedback on Zych, thanks! Yeah, he does give up some hits; that could be small sample size. That’s less alarming than giving up walks would be.

        Either way, the fact that he was promoted means the organization likes him, and he might crack our top-10 prospects after the season (though, that list is getting harder to make, unlike a couple years ago)

  • cubtex

    Looking at that mess in Boston….it is further reason to believe that Theo would not have been resigned after this year. The Cubs were in such a hurry to get him that they gave Boston 2 power bullpen arms in Carpenter and Kurcz. Kurcz has outstanding K per IP number in AA while Carpenter has been lights out since coming off his injury in AAA. Theo would have been out of a job after the year and if Ricketts would have still wanted him……not only could he have gotten him……he could have gotten him much cheaper.

    Not a buy low by Ricketts for Theo!

    • Zonk

      Bringing Theo in was right move, but we overpaid for sure. Not sure who to blame for that, I think Neil referenced Crane Kenney as the one who made that promise to the Red Sox, not sure.

      • cubtex

        Time Will Tell. I don’t know how you can say that was the right move at this moment!

  • redlarczykg

    Tom,
    After work, could you tell me if it’s too soon to be excited about the 17 yr old lefty on the Cubs Domincan Summer League 2 team, Carlos Rodriguez?
    W/L 5-3 ERA 1.92 65.2 IN 49 H 19 BB and 70 SO.
    Is he a power pitcher? Thanks for all your hard work and insight!

  • Tom U

    redlarczykg, unless you are a big-time prospect in the DSL, such as Luis Acosta or Mark Malave, information is very sketchy until they arrive in the US.

    That said, when evaluating 18 and 19 year old pitchers in the DSL, look more at their measurements than their stats in order to get a clue on their development. If they are built like Boise starter Jose Arias (6’5″, 220) and putting up good stats, you are more likely to moved along quickly. Otherwise, the organization takes a wait and see approach on a pitcher’s physical growth before moving him on, as what happened with Frank Batista.

    That brings us to the 5’11”, 178 lbs. Carlos A Rodriguez. While his numbers are good, I’m sure that at 17, the front office will want to see how he develops physically. This is what they did with Alexander Santana last year, a now 18 year old righty with some similar numbers

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=santan002ale

    Incidentally, along with Rodriguez and Santana, keep you eyes on Luis Villalba, Chris Pieters, and the jewel of the crown, Daury Torrez.