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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