Welcome everyone to a new minor league season. This week, pitching seemed to be the word in Tennessee as their staff struck out 38 batters in the first three games. Daytona also received excellent pitching performances from Starling Peralta, Yao-Lin Wang, and Frank Del Valle. However, things are a struggle in the early going for Kane County and Iowa.
Editor’s Note: Monday’s report will cover games from Wednesday to Saturday. Thursday’s report covers games Sunday through Tuesday.
Low Class-A – Kane County Cougars (0-3)
With all of the hoopla surrounding the new Cubs’ affiliate in the western suburbs, the Cougars dropped the first game of the season 7-2 to Quad Cities on Thursday. First round pick Pierce Johnson received the honors of opening things for Kane County. The right-hander was only able to deliver 2.1 innings and surrendered five earned runs while striking out four batters. Justin Amlung relieved and struck out two in 2.1 innings, letting in an earned run. Brian Smith, the 20-year old southpaw, followed Amlung and gave up an earned run while striking out four over two innings. Steve Perakslis and Eddie Orozco finished things out. Perakslis went 1.1 innings and Orozco adding a scoreless inning. Rock Shoulders (1-for-4) delivered the big blow for the Kane County offense. Shoulders swatted a two-run homer in the fourth with Jeimer Candelario (1-for-3) aboard. Dan Vogelbach was 2-for-4 for the evening.
Game two of the season saw a real pitcher’s duel, and Kane County’s youth and defense betraying them as they lost 4-1 to Quad Cities on Friday. Tayler Scott was on the hill for the Cougars and pitched well enough to win. The 20-year old South Africa native struck out six in six innings, with the only run against him coming after first baseman Dan Vogelbach booted a grounder. Lefty Jeffry Antigua replaced Scott and was a victim of his own control and the defense in the eighth inning. After a couple of walks sandwiched around a sacrifice, shortstop Marco Hernandez missed a catch that allowed a run. An out later, Antigua gave up a bases clearing double to make the score 3-1. Antigua ended the evening with three unearned runs in three innings with two strikeouts. Wes Darvill was the top hitter for Kane County, as he was 3-for-4 with a double. Rock Shoulders (1-for-4) doubled in Jeimer Candelario (1-for-4) in the seventh innings for the Cougars’ only run.
Kane County made a valiant comeback on Saturday, but couldn’t finish the deal as they lost 13-10 to Quad Cities in 11 innings. At 5-foot-9 he was the smallest player on the field, but Oliver Zapata came up big for the Cougars by driving in five runs while going 3-for-6 with a triple and a home run. Zapata’s two-run triple in the bottom of the ninth is what sent the game into extra innings. Willson Contreras was also hot at the plate, as he reached base four times, finishing the game 3-for-5 with a double and an RBI. Rock Shoulders continued to be Kane County’s best run producer. Shoulders added two more RBI to his season total of five as he was 4-for-6. Dan Vogelbach went 3-for-6 with a double and an RBI, while Pin-Chieh Chen, Gioskar Amaya, and Jeimer Candelario each collected two hits.
Things weren’t so rosy for the pitching staff, as Jose Arias received his Single-A baptism by fire. Arias allowed seven runs (six earned) in only 1.2 innings. Lefty Nathan Dorris was asked to stem the tide, and did by going 2.1 innings while giving up an earned run and striking out three batters. Ian Dickson then came on and proceeded to eat up five innings. Dickson let in another two earned runs while striking out four batters. Steve Perakslis was then placed in charge of holding back the River Bandits, but wasn’t up to the task as he allowed Quad Cities to score three earned runs in the top of the 11th inning.
High Class–A – Daytona Cubs (2-1)
After jumping out ahead in their opener on Thursday, Daytona let things slip away from them as they lost 4-3 to Brevard County. The D-Cubs took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first as Tim Saunders (1-for-4, stolen base) doubled in Zeke DeVoss (1-for-2, stolen base) and Javier Baez drove in Saunders with a sacrifice fly. Stephen Bruno (1-for-3, double) scored on an RBI single by John Andreoli (1-for-4) to complete Daytona’s scoring. Twenty-year old Ben Wells took the hill as the opening night starter and struck out four in four innings while allowing two earned runs. Lefty Sheldon McDonald relieved and was charged with two earned runs in the seventh inning after pitching 2.2 innings and striking out three batters. Eduardo Figueroa finished things out with two strikeouts over 2.1 scoreless innings.
The offensive potential that fans got a glimpse of the previous day was on full display on Friday, as Daytona shut out Brevard County 8-0. Zeke DeVoss was the catalyst as he went 3-for-5 with a double, a triple, a stolen base, and two RBI out of the leadoff spot. Driving DeVoss home with the first runs of the game was Javier Baez, who smacked his first homer of the season and ended up 2-for-5 with a double and two RBI. Leading the charge from the bottom of the order was John Andreoli, as he went 3-for-4 with an RBI. Chad Noble was 2-for-4 with a triple and an RBI while Ben Carhart went 3-for-5.
Starling Peralta had flirted with no-hitters in the past, and Friday was no exception. Peralta took a no-no into the fifth inning while striking out five in 4.1 scoreless innings. Ryan Searle completed the shut out by dealing six strikeouts in his 4.2 innings of work.
It may have taken a little while, but it seems as if Daytona has finally settled into the season, as evidenced by their 4-2 victory over Brevard County on Saturday. Austin Kirk returned to central Florida after being promoted to Double-A at the end of last season and was a little sluggish. Kirk allowed two runs (one earned) and struck out two in three innings, putting the D-Cubs behind. But the offense bailed him out in the bottom of the fourth as Jorge Soler walked and Stephen Bruno (2-for-3) was hit by a pitch to lead things off. John Andreoli (1-for-4) singled on a bunt, with Soler scoring on a throwing error. A groundout by Ben Carhart plated Bruno, and Andreoli came home on a single by Micah Gibbs (1-for-3).
That would be all the D-Cubs would need, as they turned things over to their bullpen. Yao-Lin Wang shut down the Manatees’ attack for the next three innings while striking out four and earning the victory. Frank Del Valle then came in and got a save the hard way. Del Valle struck out six in three innings of scoreless relief. In the bottom of the seventh, Jorge Soler (2-for-3) would add some insurance by belting a solo home run, his first of the season.
Double-A – Tennessee Smokies (2-1)
The Tennessee Smokies got off to a bumpy start on Thursday as they lost 7-3 at Pensacola. Dallas Beeler was named the Opening Day starter and yielded four earned runs, three of them homers, while striking out five in 5.1 innings. He was followed by A.J. Morris, making his Double-A pitching debut. Morris went 1.2 innings and struck out two while surrendering another earned run. Tony Zych was the victim of an error by first baseman Justin Bour, as he was charged with two unearned runs while striking out a batter in an inning of work. Matt Szczur hit leadoff for the Smokies and was 3-for-4 on the evening. Arismendy Alcantara drove in all of the Smokies’ runs as he was 2-for-4 with a home run.
Tennessee pulled their record even on Friday night as they embarrassed Pensacola 8-2. Starter Alberto Cabrera had his good stuff going. Cabrera allowed two earned runs in six innings with nine strikeouts, and contributed a double in his two at bats. Zac Rosscup continued to baffle the Blue Wahoos and struck out five over two scoreless innings, while Trey McNutt added a strikeout in his inning of work.
The offense that managed only six hits the night before doubled that total on Friday. Jae-Hoon Ha and Christian Villanueva led the way for the Smokies. Ha seemed to be in the middle of things all night as he went 3-for-5 with a double, a RBI, a stolen base, and outfield assist. Villanueva went 3-for-5 with a double and plated four of the Smokies’ runs.
As good as the Tennessee pitching was on Friday, it was equally good on Saturday as the staff struck out 15 again in a 9-1 victory over Pensacola in 12 innings. Eric Jokisch picked up where he left off last season. Jokisch showed pinpoint control while mixing his pitches. Jokisch struck out seven Blue Wahoos in six innings while allowing an earned run. Jokisch also helped himself by picking off two base runners. Kevin Rhoderick came out of the pen and delivered a scoreless inning while adding a strikeout to the total. Marcus Hatley’s return to the Smokies saw him strike out four as he kept Pensacola off the board for two more innings. In the competition for the closer role, Frank Batista picked up the victory as he contributed two scoreless innings and two strikeouts to the cause. Adding the cherry on top was Brian Schlitter, who gave the Tennessee pitching staff one more strikeout as he slammed the door in the 12th inning.
In what looked like a pitcher’s duel early on, Rubi Silva (1-for-8) kept the Smokies in the game by blasting an opposite field solo home run to tie the game in the top of the fifth inning. The offense continued to sputter until they got deep into the Blue Wahoos’ bullpen in the 12th inning. Rafael Lopez (1-for-5) started things off with a walk, and Elliot Soto (1-for-3, stolen base) reached on a throwing error. Jonathan Mota pinch-hit and walked for the first of two times in the inning to load the bases. Matt Szczur (2-for-7, three RBI) then stroked a two-run single to put the Smokies ahead for good. Tennessee would send another ten men to the plate in the inning highlighted by a two-RBI single by Jae-Hoon Ha (3-for-5, stolen base) and a double by Lopez that also scored two runs. Christian Villanueva (2-for-5, RBI) was hit by a pitch in the arm and is day-to-day.
Triple-A – Iowa Cubs (0-3)
A new season saw a repeat of some of last season’s miseries as veteran pitching was the culprit in a 10-3 loss to Albuquerque. Chris Rusin was named Opening Day starter after narrowly missing the big league roster. Rusin held the Isotopes in check, allowing three runs (two earned) and striking out four in five innings. Casey Coleman followed and worked around a walk with a strikeout to set down Albuquerque scoreless in the sixth inning. But Jensen Lewis could not do the same. Lewis gave up four hits and five runs (three earned) in 0.1 innings. Zach Putnam then came in and poured gas on the fire. Putnam let in another two earned runs while finishing out the seventh inning. Rafael Dolis mopped up by tossing a scoreless eighth. Newcomers Brian Bogusevic and J.C. Boscan were the main cogs of the offense. Bogusevic went 3-for-5 with an RBI, while Boscan was 2-for-4. Long-time I-Cub Ty Wright (2-for-4) chipped in an RBI.
The I-Cubs’ veteran pitching woes continued on Friday, as they yielded ten runs for the second consecutive day in a 10-6 loss to Albuquerque. Major League vet Drew Carpenter started and was rocked for five earned runs in four plus innings. Jaye Chapman didn’t fare much better and gave up two earned runs in an inning. Former Yankee Cory Wade added to the misery. Wade gave up an earned run in 1.2 innings of work. Blake Parker finished thing out by striking out three in 1.1 innings, but allowing another two earned runs. Leadoff hitter Logan Watkins paced Iowa. Watkins was 3-for-3 with a triple and two runs scored. Brian Bogusevic continued to swing a hot bat and went 2-for-3 with an RBI. Brad Nelson, playing out of position at third base, belted two home runs and was 2-for-4 with three RBI.
Repeating another theme from 2012, an Iowa starter pitched well enough to win on Saturday, if supported by the offense and the bullpen as they lost 8-3 to Albuquerque. Brooks Raley had a rough outing but did not put his team in a big hole. Raley gave up four earned runs in four innings while striking out three batters. Raley was helped out by Yoanner Negrin, who also struck out three in two scoreless innings of relief. But Zach Putnam was unable to hold the Isotopes any further. Putnam allowed three earned runs in 1.2 innings. Rafael Dolis got the final out in the eighth, but not before surrendering another earned run. The I-Cub offense tried to keep pace by scoring two runs in the second inning as newcomer Ryan Sweeney (3-for-3, a double and a RBI) and J.C. Boscan (1-for-3) singled to lead things off. Sweeney came home on a fielder’s choice by Raley, with Boscan scoring on a throwing error. Iowa actually took the lead in the third as Brad Nelson (1-for-3) doubled and touched home after Sweeney’s double. But after that, the I-Cubs’ offense went silent the rest of the way.
News and Notes
The Chicago Cubs assigned OF Ryan Sweeney and IF Donnie Murphy to Iowa. The Iowa Cubs placed RHP Esmailin Caridad on the 7-day disabled list. The Tennessee Smokies placed IF Anthony Giansanti on the 7-day disabled list. The Kane County Cougars placed C Yaniel Cabezas on the 7-day disabled list.
The Cubs placed RHP Dayan Diaz on the 7-day DL, along with RHP Marcelo Carreno and RHP Michael Jensen. RHP Casey Weathers, RHP Jose Rosario, RHP Chang-Yong Lim, RHP Matt Loosen, LHP Kyler Burke, LHP Jeff Lorick, LHP Andrew McKirahan, C Carlos Escobar, 1B Greg Rohan, 3B Brad Zapenas and OF Albert Almora were also placed on the 7-day DL to start the season.
Arizona signed former Cubs’ farmhand Michael Brenly to a minor league contract.
Top Prospect Watch
- Javier Baez (SS) – .167, double, home run, three RBI, .500 SLG (Daytona Cubs)
- Stephen Bruno (IF/OF) – .333, double, RBI, .944 OPS (Daytona Cubs)
- Jeimer Candelario (3B) – .308, double, .742 OPS (Kane County Cougars)
- Pierce Johnson (RHP) – 0-1, 2.1 IP, 19.29 ERA, 4 K, 3.00 WHIP (Kane County Cougars)
- Barret Loux (RHP) – is scheduled to start on Monday (Iowa Cubs)
- Tim Saunders (IF/OF) – .333, double, RBI, SB, .801 OPS (Daytona Cubs)
- Jorge Soler (OF) – .417, home run, RBI, .667 SLG, 1.128 OPS (Daytona Cubs)
- Christian Villanueva (3B) – .357, double, five RBI. .829 OPS (Tennessee Smokies)
- Dan Vogelbach (1B) – .357, RBI, .429 SLG, .786 OPS (Kane County Cougars)
- Logan Watkins (2B) – .417, triple, .533 OBP, 1.117 OPS (Iowa Cubs)
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