Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 11/20/12

Arizona Fall League Recap

The Arizona Fall League completed its regular season last Thursday and it ended up being a rough fall for the Mesa Solar Sox, the team the Cubs’ prospects are assigned to in the AFL. The Solar Sox finished dead last with a 10-20-2 record. While the Cubs’ prospects were not the lone cause for the dismal showing, none of them made a truly outstanding impression.

Here is a rundown of how each player in the Cubs’ system performed in the AFL this year.

Matt Szczur, OF
The Good: Matt Szczur spent the majority of the time as Mesa’s leadoff hitter. Szczur finished the fall with a 264 batting average and a .368 on-base percentage. More importantly, Szczur walked more (14) than he struck out (10) and led the team with nine stolen bases.

The Bad: Matt Szczur had only five extra-base hits (two doubles, two triples and a home run) in 91 at bats, demonstrating a somewhat alarming lack of power. Observers also described Szczur’s defense as only “average”.

The Skinny: Matt Szczur seems to have shaken off the doldrums that led to a .210 batting average at Tennessee after his somewhat hasty promotion late last season. He has seemed to grasp the “grinder” approach at the plate that management is trying to instill. While he is one of the fastest players in baseball, his lack of power is concerning, especially for someone with his football background. Time will tell if he eventually develops into a Kenny Lofton-type of igniter or is more of a Reed Johnson.

Logan Watkins, IF
The Good: Added to the Solar Sox’s roster after an injury to Javier Baez, the organizational Minor League Player of the Year impressed observers with his fundamentally solid style of play. Logan Watkins displayed great functional speed, going from first-to-third and second-to-home several times. Watkins also posted a .375 on-base percentage with eight walks and three strikeouts in only 32 at bats.

The Bad: At times, Logan Watkins looked rusty as would be expected after being away for nearly two months. Watkins made a few bad throws and there was some talk of him having a sore arm.

The Skinny: Despite hitting only .219, Watkins acquitted himself as a player on the rise and seemed a great fit at the number two slot in the batting order. Watkins could have management thinking long and hard about the second base position this off-season.

Javier Baez, IF
The Good: Javier Baez played in only 14 of the Solar Sox’s 32 games, but they were eventful. Baez tied for the team lead with four home runs and was second on the team with 16 RBI. Baez also displayed a take-charge attitude at shortstop.

The Bad: Even with all of Baez’s offensive bravado, he still hit only .211 and struck out 14 times with only two walks (.250 OBP/.456 SLG). While some observers were lavish with their praise for his defense, he led the team with nine errors (seven at shortstop, two at third). Even more disturbing was the questions concerning his attitude and character reared their ugly head again. Reports indicated Baez was either “pouting” or “disinterested” when asked to play third base.

The Skinny: Javier Baez has undeniable bat speed and power potential, plus he is developing as a clutch hitter. He will need to curb his aggressiveness at the plate and increase his strike zone awareness if he is to have any success in Advanced-A ball, where he most likely will start next season. It appears that many are “whistling in a graveyard” regarding his defense.

Tony Zych, RHP
The Good: Tony Zych was tied for second on the team in both appearances (13) and games finished (8). Zych finished the fall with a 3.86 ERA while recording both a hold and a save.

The Bad: Tony Zych allowed 18 hits and two walks in 14 innings for an unimpressive WHIP of 1.43. Zych also struck out only four batters.

The Skinny: Scouts were impressed with the movement on Zych’s pitches, his deceptive delivery and, of course, his 100 MPH heater. However, those who feel he has closer potential have to take notice of his lack of strikeouts and high hit total. The people who feel Zych might contribute to the big league club this coming year may be the same who sang the praises of Rafael Dolis prior to last season.

Nick Struck, RHP
The Good: Nick Struck pitched more innings (16.1) than any non-starter on Mesa’s pitching staff.

The Bad: Struck finished second on the entire staff in home runs allowed (3) and his 5.51 ERA and 1.47 WHIP were indicative of his nearly 1:1 strikeout to walk ratio (11 strikeouts and 12 walks).

The Skinny: Nick Struck was sent to Arizona to work on a few tweaks that were made to his delivery during the season. Struck was not designated a starter in order for him to get as much work as possible. Struck seemed to struggle with an unfamiliar role in the bullpen and would alternate a good performance with a bad outing.

Kevin Rhoderick, RHP
The Good: Kevin Rhoderick was named as a replacement for the injured Zac Rosscup and emerged early as the team’s designated stopper. Roderick received little support for his efforts but had a successful fall. Rhoderick tied for the team lead in strikeouts among relievers (14) and finished second on the staff with a 0.96 WHIP.

The Bad: Rhoderick seemed to lose momentum during the team’s extended losing streak. It was reported that his slider lost some of its bite and he was hit pretty hard. Rhoderick did not make an appearance in Mesa’s last nine games.

The Skinny: Kevin Rhoderick reportedly has closer-like “stuff”. But as fans have seen with Carlos Marmol, that may not be enough when you’re best pitch isn’t working. Rhoderick will have to develop his secondary pitches further if he is to advance.

Rubi Silva, OF/IF
The Good: Rubi Silva was clearly the Solar Sox’s best defensive player. He recorded several outfield assists and appeared smooth both at second base and in the outfield. Silva also flashed some of his speed. Silva hit three triples and swiped three bases.

The Bad: Silva appeared to be overmatched by the level of pitching. Silva hit only .206 with a .260 OBP. In 86 at bats, Silva struck out 21 times and worked five walks.

The Skinny: Some are starting to whisper the word “bust” due to the million dollar contract signed by Silva two seasons ago. However, Rubi Silva has a track record of adjusting offensively each year. His speed, defense and ability to play multiple positions may make him an interesting reserve … that is, if he can hit well enough.

Dae-Eun Rhee, RHP
The Good: Dae-Eun Rhee was fourth among Solar Sox starters with 12 strikeouts in 18.2 innings.

The Bad: Rhee walked eight batters and was rocked for 26 hits and 13 earned runs in 18.2 innings (6.27 ERA/1.82 WHIP).

The Skinny: It was a surprise to many observers that Dae-Eun Rhee was named as the Cubs’ designated starter. Many thought that the organization would take advantage of the atmosphere surrounding the league and try Rhee as a reliever. With his performance, Rhee may be able to pass through the Rule 5 draft without being claimed.

2012 Arizona Fall League Statistics

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  • paulcatanese

    By the way Tom, thats our 14 yr old grandson at 6′ and 165 lbs.
    Had a fantastic freshman year at QB, and rumors are they are moving him up to varsity next year. Photo was taken June 2012
    for his grammar school graduation.

  • Ripsnorter1

    Sczcar….if he develops into a Reed Johnson, that would be great.

    • Raymond Robert Koenig

      Aim high.

      • Ripsnorter1

        I am. He hit .210 in AA. LOL

        • Raymond Robert Koenig

          If all the Cubs expect from their “prospects” is to become another Reed Johnson their player development system is even worse than thought.

          • Ripsnorter1

            I checked out Kenny Lofton’s minor league stats….he didn’t shine all that much in the minors. His last year, age 24, he hit .308 with 2 HR and 50 RBI. He stole 40 bases but was gunned down 23 times. He slugged .417. Maybe Szczur can improve enough to become a Kenny Lofton.

            BTW Lofton was drafted and developed by Houston, and they dealt him to Indians for Eddie Taubensee and Willie Blair. Both had long but not spectacular careers. Lofton hit .299 for a career. Not bad. Not bad at all.

          • ChadAudio

            Kenny Lofton was also an outstanding NCAA point guard .. amazing athlete, but didn’t really figure things out until he was taught how to drag bunt.

  • Ripsnorter1

    I like this format of examining the strengths and weakness of these players. Good job!

  • Dorasaga

    Interesting stuff:

    Tom, wouldn’t you say that Szczur can be a pleasant surprise in 2014? I don’t know much about minor league development nowadays, but most of the time, when a 23 year or younger prospect talked about what he’s working at, he’ll mention just one thing and perhaps feel shaky about the other things. Szczur is working on two things that can be difficult to manage at the same time: his approach at the plate and on the basepath. And right now, he’s confident he’s better at both of them. Who knows? Next June, he might be at triple-A saying he’s ready to beat Major League pitching.

    • Tom U

      Dorasaga, I certainly hope the AFL was a step in the right direction for Szczur. If he can develop into a right-handed lead-off hitter, it would set up the batting order rather well.

    • cc002600

      gotta love this kid’s attitude.

      Would love to see him and Watkins make it by 2014. or maybe 2015

      I think these guys fit the Theo mold. – grinders, athletic, smart.

  • Ripsnorter1

    Do you believe in UZR/150? Sabermetrics fielding measurements of CF for 2012….54 players in MLB played CF last year….David DeJesus was ranked #42 and Tony Campana #44 and Brett Jackson was ranked #26. Josh Hamilton was ranked #53. Now that’s the guy I want playing CF for me!

  • SuzyS

    While we’re waiting for the Cubs to make their roster changes…I’m sure of only one thing: Rule 5 losses and draftees will be grist for debate for the next year.
    The other thing I’ve learned is not to fall in love with ANY prospect…I’ve just been burned far too many times…which tells me it’s a good thing that I’m not THE decision maker here.
    I just hope Theo’s team is really on top of this.

  • SuzyS

    I mourn the release of Rebel Riding. Although it was evident he wasn’t going anywhere with the Cubs…we lost a great name to root for. Imagine…”Rebel Riding to the rescue!!!”…A great baseball name!? :-)

    • Tom U

      Keep on rooting for Dong-Yub Kim.

      • John G

        There has to be a good joke somewhere between Dong-Yub Kim and Trey McNutt

        • Tom U


        • SuzyS


  • Tony_Hall
    • RickinMSP

      Well that didn’t last long. I’m sure they still plan to bring him into spring training on a minor league deal, or sombody will anyway, though he has proven to me he isn’t a ML pitcher.

      • Tony_Hall

        Some team, will at a minimum, give him a minor league contract, with an invite to camp, as most likely he will be non-tendered after clearing waivers.

  • Tony_Hall

    TheCCO RT @CarrieMuskat: #Cubs acquire RHP Barret Loux and a player to be named from#Rangers for RHP Jake Brigham

    about 1 minute ago · reply · retweet · favorite

    • Tom U
      • Tony_Hall

        Seems pretty good, why did Texas have to trade him and a player to be named to get Brigham back??

        • Neil

          Brigham was injured

          • Tony_Hall

            Kind of like cashing in an insurance policy, and getting a newer, less mileage vehicle.

  • Tony_Hall

    So far, the Cubs kept Guiterrez and cleared him off the 40 man roster.

    Flipped Brigham and brought in Loux and a player to be named.

    DFA’d Lahair

    Added pitchers McNutt and Whitenack
    Added hitters Watkins and Villanueva

    A few hours to go…

  • paulcatanese

    Good report Tom especially on Baez. 9 errors in 14 games. What are these observers seeing when he is out there with the glove?
    As I have said many times his problem is when he is moved to third base. In spite of his age he needs to grow up, and soon.

    Puouting and shoing dis-interest when move out of shortstop

    will soon have managers and upper echelon grow tired of it.
    “whistleing in a graveyard when he is on defense” thats a clever one, havent heard it before.

  • John G

    Just read this.

    “In 2009, the Cubs selected a strong, 6-foot-4-inch power pitcher named Colin Kaepernick in the 43rd round of the amateur baseball draft.”
    Too bad they didn’t sign him. Last night might have been a bit different. Or not.

  • John_CC

    Excellent Tom, short and sweet and right to the point!

    I Watkins a serious option to make the big league team next year?

  • Tom U

    In a word John, “no”. Management has well documented their desire for prospects to have nearly a full season at Triple-A in order to “finish” their development.

    You can point the finger at many parties for not promoting Watkins to Triple-A last season. Former farm director Oneri Fleita was notoriously slow at promoting non-“targeted” prospects such as Watkins.

    However, the management team of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer brought in a whole slew of non-prospect infielders to Triple-A. Those included Alfredo Amezaga, Adrian Cardenas, Blake DeWitt, Edgar Gonzalez, Diory Hernandez, and Matt Tolbert. Most organizations would have cut these players anywhere from a week prior to the draft to a week after the signing deadline. The Cubs kept all of these players around, with the exceptions of Gonzalez and Hernandez, for the whole season.