Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 09/06/12

With the conclusion of the minor league season, it is time for the CCO to name our Players and Pitchers of the Year in the Cubs system. After some debate, it was decided that separate awards should be given to players that participated in full season ball and those who competed in a short season league. Short season players were defined by players who were assigned to Short-Season Class-A Boise, the AZL Cubs, the Dominican Summer League, and players who were unable to begin the year with a full-season minor league team.

Today’s report also features full coverage of the first round of the Northwest League playoffs. The Boise Hawks completed the first round of the playoffs with a two games to one series victory over the Yakima Bears.

Short-Season Player of the Year – Tim Saunders, IF
Being the 974th player selected in the draft isn’t usually an omen of better things to come, unless you are this year’s consensus Short-Season Player of the Year Tim Saunders. Selected in the 32nd round, the infielder compiled an impressive résumé while attending Division III Marietta College in Ohio. As a senior, Saunders hit .441 while leading Division III in hits (94) and runs (80) while stealing 41 bases. What brought Saunders’ final grade down were varying opinions on his defense. Some scouts were reporting him being a plus defender with a plus arm, while others didn’t feel he could handle the shortstop position.

After signing with the Cubs, he took the Arizona Rookie League by storm. Saunders hit .493 with three home runs, seventeen RBI, and five stolen bases in 17 games while lining up at shortstop, third base, second base and centerfield. Saunders was moved up to Daytona with starting shortstop Arismendy Alcantara on the disabled list. He ended up batting .310 with four stolen bases and four RBI in twelve games with Daytona, seeing action primarily at shortstop. Saunders was then flipped with 2011 first round draft pick Javier Baez and moved to Peoria. In 20 games with the Chiefs, Saunders hit .321 with two home runs, 12 RBI, and eight stolen bases while splitting time between shortstop and third base.

Tim Saunders’ aggregate batting average of .381 was tops among all short-season players. He had competition for the award from fellow teammate Dustin Geiger, who tied for the minor league lead with 17 home runs. Javier Baez, who replaced Saunders at Daytona, was also in consideration. Baez led all short-season players with 26 stolen bases while hitting .294 with 16 home runs and 47 RBI. Tying Baez for the RBI lead, Boise third baseman Jeimer Candelario rounded out the list of candidates. Candelario hit .281 with six home runs.

Short-Season Pitcher of the Year – Daury Torrez, RHP
An eighteen-year old right-handed pitcher with a 1-2 record and 3.54 ERA in 40.2 innings doesn’t grab a lot of attention, especially if those numbers were in the Dominican Summer League. But that was the 2011 season for Daury Torrez, who this season proved that a year older was a year better.

Pitching for the Cubs-2 team, the 6-foot-3, 170-pound Torrez dominated the DSL in 2012. His 0.82 WHIP was second in the league, while his 1.21 ERA ranked third. Torrez led all of the Cubs’ short-season pitchers in wins with a record of 6-3, as well as ERA and WHIP. While the book is limited on Torrez, the numbers are staggering. Torrez struck out 50 batters while walking only four and he allowed ten earned runs (14 total) in 74.2 innings.

Fellow Dominican Summer League Player, Carlos A. Rodriguez was another candidate. Rodriguez tied for ninth in the league with 73 strikeouts, which was first among the system’s short-season pitchers. A pair Boise Hawks rounded out the debate. Reliever Eduardo Orozco had a 2-1 record and 1.95 ERA, and his six saves not only led all short-season relievers, it tied for sixth in the entire system. Starter Tayler Scott was among the Northwest League leaders with a record of 5-2 and 2.52 ERA.

Short-Season Class-A – Boise Hawks
The best of three series with the Yakima Bears began on Monday with Boise losing 5-4. All of the Hawks scoring came via a grand slam by Rock Shoulders (1-for-4) in the fourth inning. The only player to have more than one hit was Marco Hernandez, who stayed hot by going 2-for-4 with a triple. Pierce Johnson got his first taste of playoff action. Johnson gave up an unearned run and struck out two in three innings. Jose Arias allowed three runs, two earned, while striking out two batters over his three innings of work. Nathan Dorris tossed the last three innings and he allowed the go ahead run to score in the top of the ninth … which proved to be the game winner.

Boise evened the series on Tuesday as they traveled to Yakima and put up seven runs in the ninth in route to an 11-5 victory. Tayler Scott got the gall for game two and struck out four in four innings while allowing two earned runs. Michael Heesch also gave up two earned runs while striking out three in two innings. Tyler Bremer pitched the final three innings, also fanning three and letting in a consolation run in the bottom of the ninth.

Gioskar Amaya (1-for-3) got things going for the Hawks. Amaya laced a two-run homer in the third inning with Trey Martin (3-for-4 with a double and a RBI) aboard. Stephen Bruno (3-for-5 with a RBI) doubled and scored in the fifth inning, while Albert Almora (3-for-5) tripled and scored on a wild pitch in the eighth inning … and that set up the ninth. Jeimer Candelario (2-for-4) tripled and drove in Trey Martin and Stephen Bruno. Dan Vogelbach and Willson Contreras walked and Candelario scored on a balk. A double by Albert Almora drove in Vogelbach and Contreras. Marco Hernandez followed with a walk, and a pinch-hit single by Rock Shoulders plated Almora. Hernandez scored on a single by Martin.

Click Here for Complete Box Score

It’s on to Vancouver as the Boise Hawks defeated the Yakima Bears 3-2 on Wednesday to advance to the Northwest League Championship. Felix Pena saved his best performance of the season for the playoffs. Pena shut out the Bears on five hits through seven innings while striking out two batters. Brian Smith came on in the eighth and immediately got into trouble by giving up a single and walking a batter. An error by Gioskar Amaya allowed a run to score, while another came in on a groundout. Eduardo Orozco was then brought in to settle things down and he did just that by striking out the first batter he faced while Amaya atoned for his error with a defensive gem to end the inning. Orozco then went 1-2-3 in the ninth to send the Hawks to the championship series.

Boise scored all of their runs in the third inning, as Willson Contreras walked to lead things off. Contreras went to second on a wild pitch, and advanced to third on a Trey Martin (1-for-3) single. Another wild pitch allowed Contreras to come home, and Gioskar Amaya (1-for-2, stolen base) walked to put two on. With one out, Jeimer Candelario walked to load the bases. Dan Vogelbach (1-for-4) then delivered a two-run single that scored Martin and Amaya.

Click Here for Complete Box Score

Monday: The CCO Minor League Player of the Year

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  • Zonk

    I wonder how many players we will have in BA’s top 100 list this year; I suspect more than we’ve had in awhile. Curious your thoughts, but I think it will include the following:

    Javier Baez (Returning; I think will be in top-25)
    Arodys Vizcaino (Returning; probably lower than #40 rank last yr)
    Albert Almora
    Christian Villanueva (#100 last year; probably moving up some)
    Jorge Soler (Not sure where he’ll debut, but somewhere)
    Dan Vogelbach (probably toward end of list, but good debut)

    That would be 6 at least, and Szczur has a chance to repeat. Candelario has a shot at making it too.

    No home grown pitchers though, that’s a problem

    • Tom U

      Zonk, you have to understand. If you are a prospect and are not on one of the national scouts’ radars, you pretty much have to bash them over the head with statistics before they finally recognize you.

      Therefore, while they may not be mentioned this off-season, look for the names of Michael Jensen, Yao-Lin Wang, Tayler Scott, Jose Arias, and Ryan McNeil to pop up in the future.

    • Robert

      MLB.com had a final ranking this year just come out. Soler Jackson and Baez are all on there but in the later half.

      • daverj

        So are Almora and Vizcaino … that’s 5 guys in the Top 100.

  • Zonk

    Tom, speaking of Saunders, where do you play him next year, in terms of level and position?

    I think the Cubs need to keep him at SS if there is any chance of him playing that position, as that will enhance his value as a super-utility guy, if he makes the majors in that capacity. It doesn’t look like he has the power to be a useful corner OF or 3B.

    He could be advanced quickly to start, as Baez figures to play SS at A+ to start next season, and Saunders clearly needs to move on from A-ball. Not sure what happens with Alcantara in that scenario, as he almost certainly needs to play SS at AA as well.

    • Tom U

      Zonk, I’ve spent some time looking over this recently, and would not be surprised if Saunders was Tennessee’s opening day shortstop next season.

      That said, it will be most interesting what some of the principles will be doing in the off-season. What will Saunders play in the instructional league, and what will happen to Baez in the AFL? Junior Lake will most likely play in the Dominican this winter, where will he be used? And what about Arismendy Alcantara?

      • Zonk

        Should be interesting…..

        Speaking of Junior Lake, what do you think of him? IMO, he isn’t much of a prospect…..he is very “toolsy”, but that’s it. He has average power, shows poor plate discipline, and is too erratic for SS, yet probably doesn’t have the bat for 3B. He’ll probably make the majors, but not do much. That’s my take, but hope I’m wrong….

  • cc002600

    Would love to see Volgelbomb get some time in the OF….perhaps he could be our LF’er in 2015 or 2016 ? Because we know he ain’t playing 1B for the cubs.

    I know its small sample size and its at the lower levels, but his offensive numbers are VERY impressive. Heck, the guy has almost as many walks as K’s….that’s very, very rare for a guy with power. Wow.

    • mutantbeast

      Ive seen him play in person down here in AZL. His power is quite legit, and its to all fields. If he can continue to progress , I can see a potential 30HR big leaguer. I will say hes not an outfielder. IB is his only defensive position.

      • texcubnut

        Or, DH.

      • cc002600

        But doesn’t he have “sneaky speed” for his size, kind of like Prince…?

        No way he could be just an adequate outfielder ?

        Heck if we could live with guys like Dave Kingman, Kal Daniels, and Soriano in LF, I would think we could live with him, as long as he mashes.

        just sayin

    • Zonk

      There is no question Vogelbach had a promising debut; so far, so good. I would like to see him hit at a higher level before we get too excited, like A+. Remember Brian Dopirak? LH hitter who raked in A, and his bat died advancing a level.

      Scouts think Vogelbach is strictly a 1B; if he continues to advance, we can always trade him…..it’s not like we don’t need help in some other areas!

      A little less of Momma Vogelbach’s cooking wouldn’t hurt either…..

  • Tony_Hall

    Tom – Have you seen the Cubs have this much talent come into the system and be productive in one season before? I have never followed the short season leagues, and lowest levels of the system before, so I am not sure if this is normal to have this many players get drafted and go to short season assignments and above and have this much success in the 1st year.

  • Tom U

    Tony, the Cubs had good drafts successively in 1985 and 1986. In ’85, they drafted Rafael Palmiero, Rick Wrona, Doug Dascenzo, and Mark Grace. 1986 saw them draft Derick May, Joe Girardi, Jim Bullinger, and Rick Wilkins.

    The minor league teams in 1985 were very successful. Rookie Wytheville was 3rd in the Appalachian League with Les Lancaster, Kelly Mann, and Greg Smith.

    Short Season Geneva finished 43-33, 2nd in the New York-Penn League and had Dascenzo and Dwight Smith.

    They had two SIngle-A teams, Peoria winning the South division in the Midwest League behind Greg Maddux, Jeff Pico, Palmiero, Hector Villanueva, and Wrona. Winston-Salem didn’t do as well at 56-81, but had Damon Berryhill, Drew Hall, Dave Martinez, and Jamie Moyer.

    Double-A Pittsfield went 59-79 with Johnny Abrego, Darrin Jackson, and Gary Varsho.

    The Iowa Cubs were 66-75 with Shawon Dunston, Billy Hatcher, and, incidentally, a 31- year old Larry Rothschild pitching for them.

  • Mike Burchette

    Starlin Castro or Javier Baez at shortstop? Both are immature . Castro is NOT a shortstop!! 30 errors. Has problems making the routine play. Tried to make EVERY play look like a highlight reel. Put him in centerfield or trade him. Or trade Baez !! He’s so mentally weak, a pouter!! Junior Lake is a tough competitor. Castro has poor strike zone awareness and on base pct. Hello, a young Soriano!!! What kills the Cubs is the inability to package minor league players in a trade for a third baseman or catcher. We need Nick Castellanos from Detroit (Toledo). He’s NOT gonna make their club anytime soon. They have the Triple Crown winner at third base and just signed Torri Hunter. No one wants Soriano. Campano cannot hit. Play Dave Sapelt in center field. Put DeJesus back in right. The Cubs are 3-4 years away from being a .500 team. Playoffs, who said playoffs?? The Cubs have too many one-dimensional players. Leaders on the team- NONE!!!! I’ve been a fan since 1959!!