Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 01/21/13

The cream began to rise to the top as the playoffs neared their end in the Caribbean Leagues. As the Caribbean World Series nears, one of the hottest players has to be Luis Valbuena. Valbuena has almost single-handedly lifted Cardenales de Lara to the top spot in the Venezuelan Winter League.

Meanwhile “Down Under”, Ryan Searle continued to mow them down in the Australian Baseball League while Brisbane fought for a playoff slot.

As a note to readers, please stay with us until the very end, as a special announcement from the CCO follows the article.

Note: Coverage of the winter leagues will be by calendar week, Sunday through Saturday

Dominican Winter League

Toros del Este 

The Toros made a game of it in round-robin play but wound up with an 8-9 record and three games out of the championship. The Bulls’ stumble down the stretch began last Sunday when they lost to Cibaenas 5-4. Diory Hernandez was 1-for-4 with an RBI, while Jeffry Antigua gave up the game winning hit in bottom of ninth.

The Bulls’ only win was on Monday as Diory Hernandez went 0-for-2 with a walk, a stolen base, and run scored in a 5-4 win over Escogido.

Click Here for Complete Box Score

It was a carbon copy of Sunday’s game for the Toros on Tuesday as they lost for a second time to Cibaenas 5-4. Diory Hernandez was 2-for-4 with an RBI in the game.

Alberto Cabrera started on Wednesday and provided four scoreless innings, while striking out seven, but the rest of the Bulls could not support him as they ended up losing 4-3 to Escogido.

Estrellas de Oriente

Oriente tried to play spoiler down the stretch but they finished the round-robin a disappointing 5-12. Things started well for the Stars last week as Junior Lake went 1-for-4 with a triple, a run scored and a RBI as they defeated Cibaenas 4-3 on Monday.

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It was a huge game on Tuesday as Estrellas weathered a late rally by the Lions to defeat Escogido 7-6. Nelson Perez (1-for-3) blasted a solo home run, walked and scored a pair of runs. Junior Lake went 1-for-4 and also drove in a run. Reliever Luis Liria allowed an earned run with a pair of walks and a strikeout in an inning of work. Rafael Dolis earned the victory by striking out a batter in a scoreless inning.

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In what proved to be their final game of the DWL season, Junior Lake went 0-for-4 as the Stars lost 2-0 to Cibaenas on Wednesday.

Mexican Pacific League

Yaquis de Obregon

In a quirk of the LMP playoff system, Obregon advanced to the second round even though they lost their opening round series with Guasave. Mazatlan and Hermosillo were eliminated. Facing top seeded Culiacan the 2011 Caribbean Champions drew on their experience and smashed the Tomato Pickers four games to one in a seven game series.

Reliever Esmailin Caridad had a hand in the process and picked up a hold on Tuesday as he pitched 0.1 innings. Caridad gave up an earned run while walking two as the Yaquis won 6-5 over Culiacan.

Click Here for Complete Box Score

Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League

Gigantes de Carolina

After barely making the playoffs, the Giants were pretty much a pushover in round-robin play and they were eliminated on Thursday after going only 4-8.

Ty’Relle Harris was roughed up last Sunday in his final start for Carolina. Harris lasted only two innings and surrendered three earned runs in a 14-7 loss to Mayaguez.

Venezuelan Winter League

Cardenales de Lara

Making a push for the next round, the Cardinals won five out of six this past week. They were led by infielder Luis Valbuena, who batted .458 with two home runs and 13 RBI for the week. Lara started things out with an 11-3 win over Anzoategui last Sunday and Valbuena went 2-for-5 with a run scored and two RBI.

Click Here for Complete Box Score

Monday saw the Cards post their only loss of the week as Luis Valbuena was 1-for-3 with a RBI as Lara fell 4-3 to Magallanes.

The Redbirds went back to their winning ways on Tuesday. Luis Valbuena went 2-for-4 with a walk, a run scored and two RBI as they defeated Anzoategui 11-5.

Click Here for Complete Box Score

Luis Valbuena kept rolling and drove in three runs on Thursday as Lara thrashed Caracas 9-2 on Thursday. Valbuena was 2-for-3 with a walk and a double.

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There was just no stopping Luis Valbuena on Friday. Valbuena posted another three RBI night. This time, Valbuena doubled and homered as he was 2-for-4 with a walk in Lara’s 6-2 victory over Zulia.

Click Here for Complete Box Score

Luis Valbuena then capped his week by going deep for the second consecutive game in the Cardinals’ 6-3 win over top rated Magallanes. Valbuena was 2-for-5 with a run scored and two RBI.

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Leones de Caracas

Catcher J.C. Boscan made a pinch-hit appearance on Thursday. Boscan was 0-for-1 as the Lions lost to Lara 9-2.

Australian Baseball League

Brisbane Bandits

Ryan Searle may be the ABL’s hottest pitcher. After being named to Team Australia for the upcoming World Baseball Classic, Searle returned to a starting role and has a 2.93 ERA this winter with 26 strikeouts and two walks in 27.2 innings.

With the Bandits fighting for a playoff spot, Ryan Searle pitched an absolute gem on Saturday. Searle went eight innings, allowed only an earned run, did not walk a batter and struck out seven. Searle picked up third win as Brisbane defeated Perth 8-5.

Click Here for Complete Box Score

A New Feature on the CCO

For all the readers that follow the CCO on Facebook, the CCO will begin a Tuesday’s with Tom U. Chat from 7:00pm CST until 8:00pm CST (that’s 2:00pm to 3:00pm GMT for our international followers). Join us on Facebook tomorrow, January 22, for our first Q & A session.

Don’t Forget

The CCO has a new Twitter feed dedicated to the Cubs minor league teams, prospects and players @TheCCO_Minorsand now, minor league coverage has been included on the CCO’s Facebook page. Stay up to date with all minor league happenings by following Chicago Cubs Online on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. 

Attention CCO Readers

The Down on the Farm reader’s poll continues this week. You can cast your votes on Twitter, Facebook and on the CCO. The current leaders are 3B Christian Villanueva and RHP Dillon Maples, with RHP Juan Carlos Paniagua close behind.  Please post the names of the minor league players you would like the Down on the Farm Report to follow next season. The CCO will track the progress of ten players throughout the entire season and a representative sample of positions and levels of play is optimal. You can name as many players as you like, but remember, only ten will be chosen. So from Luis Acosta to Tony Zych, all nominations will be accepted and given equal weight. Once a list is compiled of the top 20 vote getters, a poll will be placed on the site to cut the list in half.

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO and @TheCCO_Minors

Quote of the Day

"Pitching is the cornerstone of most championship teams." – Roger Craig

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  • Bob

    Tim Saunders

  • cloycub13

    Shoulders, Gretzky, Maples, Vogelbach, Zych, Almora, Soler, Baez, Underwood, Searle, Golden, Dunston Jr., Antigua, A. Vizcaino, Batista, Saunders, Villanueva, Brenly.
    Damn has our system improved… Seriously… there were about 4 last year that I could name and most of them were the draft picks from the year before. To boot, I know I missed a lot! That is awesome! And can only get better from here.
    So, I do have to address one thing. Aaron had mentioned a Vogelbach in left scenario and many poopooed the idea. I would love to see it, and based on this guys progression thus far, I would guess that he has the heart to become a really good player, and thunder out of left with only average defense would make him a star!
    Maybe it’s the amazing coverage that Neil provided over the convention, maybe it’s a plan and a vision being implemented and surprisingly showing early returns, or maybe it is just that blue koolaid thawing…But I like it, I like it a lot!!!
    Thanks Neil and CCO crew!
    Go Cubs Go!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • DWalker

      I was staggered when I read he had lost 40 lbs, that actually kind of scares me. Vogelbach has been called deceptively athletic by some bloggers in that he has more athletic potential than one would expect from a guy his size. Its a bit of a stretch that he would even be an average LF, but he is dedicated enough that I wouldn’t rule out it possibly being able to happen; realistically though, DH or 1st is where he is at defensively. On the other hand, if he has the absolute power in the majors he could potentially have, even taking him as a sub average defensive LF may be an option, if other aspects of the team are above average defensively, especially if center has well above average defensive range.

      I do think DH is coming to the NL within the next five years for better or worse. I am in the school that opposes it on principal but recognizes the need for an even playing field, and guys like Vogelbach make the prospect a lot more palatable.

    • Tony_Hall

      Alfonso Soriano was a 2B, who was (and still is) extremely athletic. Yet he was awful for years in the OF. After a lot of work he has learned to play LF.

      Vogelbach is not athletic. He would be a below average 1B, with a lot of work he could become average, at best playing 1B, the end of the positional charts. That doesn’t translate into being even adequate in LF. There is no one saying he can play LF, except for people who are hoping to find a way into the lineup with Rizzo.

      Think of it this way, imagine Jim Thome in LF….how about Ryan Howard….not so much on either. Now the Phillies traded Thome to make room for Howard. In return they received Daniel Haigwood, Aaron Rowand and Gio Gonzalez. Not a bad return at all.

      • brent carmona

        Tony, I hear vogelbach is athletic from different blogs. Twitter etc, but athletic for his size does not make me ecstatic by any means. I am one of those guys that’s optimistic he could play LF at some point, mainly due to his dedication to losing weight (he lost a lot of weight shortly after signing, and now Neil heard he dropped even more weight this offseason), plus with the right coaching (see soriano this year) I don’t see him playing LF that far fetched. Unlikely yes, but I think its definitely possible.

        You are right we can use him as trade bait, David price in a year or so maybe? He would be part of a great package for sure.

        • Tony_Hall

          Vogelbach is athletic for “a big guy”. Not athletic like Soriano, Castro, or B Jackson types.

          The positions a player plays moves in a certain direction. Not very often are players able to go back up the chart.

          First base is the last position that players go to, after showing they can’t play up the middle P/SS/C/2B/CF, then players move to the corners RF/LF then 3B/1B.

          Also, this isn’t just my opinion (or Tom U’s above), but is the consensus opinion of every scouting report on Vogelbach. On this topic, they say that even Rizzo would be unable to play LF effectively. So if Rizzo is not able, what chance does that give Vogelbach….pretty much 0.

          • brent carmona

            Good points tony, the odds are against him for sure. Maybe I’m a sucker w guys that have a great makeup…I feel he’s the kind of guy that would do whatever it takes to get better. I’m possibly also buzzed off the Kool aid, I keep imagining him in the lineup w Castro rizzo etc, I gotta be realistic though!

            Regardless, he will be nice trade bait. Im sure we wont disagree with the bat potential this kid possesses, its pretty impressive so far that’s for sure.

          • Tony_Hall

            I believe his bat to be Prince like. If he becomes average at 1B, Rizzo will need to keep improving to make the Cubs trade Vogelbach instead of Rizzo.

            I am all for the DH anytime now and in the next 2-3 years would be about right.

      • Brp921

        Trading Rizzo down the line may be the way to go, if Vogelbach can only play first and keeps progressing the way he has.

        • Tony_Hall

          The only difference is Rizzo is built for a long career. If he shows this year, that he can adjust to the adjustments pitchers will bring, then it is the right time to throw a contract at him to lock him up for the rest of his controlled years and buy out some FA years.

          Vogelbach isn’t likely to play nearly as many years, but if we can DH him everyday, then he is perfect.

          • Brp921

            I agree about locking up Rizzo with a good contract for both him and the Cubs. That would make him more tradeable if and when that decision was made. I think it remains to be seen on how long Vogelbach or Rizzo play though.

          • Tony_Hall

            I was basing their length of career on their body type. Rizzo is built to play a long time, whereas Vogelbach looks like he is built for a lot less years.

            But, Vogelbach could play 15 years and Rizzo could be done in a handful of years, that’s why they play the games.

          • Brp921


    • Tom U

      Cloycub, I understand fully that at 20 years old, Vogelbach has still a long way to go in his development. However, I don’t agree with those who compare him with Adam Dunn.

      At the same point in his life, Dunn was splitting his time between the minors and the University of Texas, where he was a back-up QB to Major Applewhite. He left UT after Chris Sims signed as a recruit. So Dunn was already a better athlete than Vogelbach.

      I saw a lot of Vogelbach this past summer, and he seemed “okay” at first. I’m glad to see that he’s lost more weight. With his bat speed, it probably won’t matter much if he is 220 or 260 lbs. However, I didn’t see anything at this point to think he can transition to the outfield. Rock Shoulders is a better athlete, and could possibly “get away” with playing out there.

    • daverj

      Vogelbach to the outfield won’t happen. Assuming Rizzo builds on last season and doesn’t regress back to 2011 (unlikely, but certainly possible as it’s happened with others), Vogelbach’s future is trade bait.

      • Brp921

        I hope they don’t trade Vogelbach. I think he’s going to be an outstanding player. I could be wrong, but I think trading Vogelbach, would be another Lou Brock story in the annals of Cub history.

  • Tom U

    Great photo from the Brisbane v. Perth game this past weekend.

  • Tom U

    The current leaders of out player poll are Christian Villanueva and Dillon Maples, followed closely by Juan Carlos Paniagua, Dan Vogelbach, and Jorge Soler.

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  • John_CC

    Wow, the Vogelbach Kool-Aid is spiked strong these days!!

    I like the kid a lot too, but come on people. He is the PERFECT prospect for the Cubs to trade!! All the hype, the bat speed and nowhere to play. And he’s still a 20 year old prospect. Trade him for equal young talent that the team needs!

    • Brp921

      Why trade him now. You wouldn’t get to much value for him at this point. All you would get would be another prospect who may or not make it. Vogelbach looks like he’make it as a hitter at least. I would hold on to him at least till he’s MLB ready if not permanently.

      • John_CC

        I am not saying to trade him right now … but when the time comes.

        • Brp921

          I guess I misread your post. It reads to me that you were promoting the trade him now scenario. My bad.

  • SuzyS

    I never submitted a list…Searle, Underwood, Johnson, Loux, Antiqua, McNutt, Struck, Maples, Carreno, Batista,
    Kirk, Paniagua, Villanueva. All pitchers except for Villanueva.

    Tom, besides pitching, the system appears extremely weak in catching prospects…perhaps you might be able to do a piece on that sometime in the next few months.

    • Tom U

      Suzy, all I can say about catching is to stay tuned to the minor league previews coming in the next few weeks.

  • SuzyS

    Tom U, Tooling around on the link you gave for Searle in the Australian Baseball League…I found he had a teammate from the states with marginally better stats than Searle…after a little more research…it appears the prospect played independent ball in Washington State the last couple of seasons…and did well. I was about to suggest the Cubs look into signing him to a minor league contract…when lo and behold…I saw that the Yankees signed him today!!!

    His name is Chris Smith…

    Oh Well.