Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 09/19/13

Special Assignment – Kane County Cougars v. Peoria Chiefs

I had the pleasure of being able to cover the final series of the season between the Kane County Cougars and Peoria Chiefs. I’d like to thank Shawn Touney, Director of Public Relations and the Kane County Cougars. I’d also like to mention reporter Mike Knapp of the Beacon News, who has been an excellent resource, a great baseball conversationalist, and was a welcoming presence in the press box, as well as Kevin Druley of the Kane County Chronicle.

The Series

The two in-state members of the Midwest League have a good rivalry. However, the series was tempered by that fact that neither the Cougars nor the Chiefs were going anywhere in the post-season. Therefore, the opportunities that usually present themselves during batting practice and pre-game drills were not there. Both teams did some minor warming up, but they were both clearly in “playing out the string” mode. However, the relaxed atmosphere along with my familiarity with Cougars management gave me a new experience, my first access to the clubhouse.

After making the rounds with a few players I was familiar with, I introduced myself to a player I had never seen before, who turned out to be pitcher Scott Baker on a rehab assignment. Baker told me that the plan was to go six innings (he went 5.2 that day) and then wait for word from the Cubs’ front office. Baker would make his first start for the Cubs five days later.

The other highlight of the series happened on Sunday night. As it turned out there was a Hall of Famer among a rather large Labor Day weekend crowd. Wayne Gretzky and family were there to see left-fielder Trevor Gretzky. And Trevor showed off his power by hitting a towering home run into the right field stands.

Interview: Michael Hamann

The CCO was fortunate to be able to interview two of the three pitchers we named Short-Season Pitcher of the Year. I was able to catch up with soft-spoken Michael Hamann prior to the Peoria game on August 31.

ChicagoCubsOnline: Congratulations on a fine season. You were drafted last year and played at Boise, but had your first season cut short by an injury. Can you take us through that?

Michael Hamann: After signing with the Cubs, I went to Arizona for a while and was sent up to Boise. I was pitching in a game and came off the mound to field a ground ball. As I was moving toward the ball I felt something give. My coaches told me I had to come off the mound faster, but when I explained something was wrong with my ankle, they had me looked at it. It turned out to be a severe ankle sprain, and I was shut down for the rest of the season.

CCO: How does your ankle feel now?

MH: It feels great. The idea was to let it fully heal, so I didn’t work out this winter, and then eased my way back into things come spring.

CCO: What went into the decision to become a relief pitcher as opposed to starting?

MH: I like the pressure that is involved with closing.

CCO: What do you believe is your best attribute as a closer?

MH: My composure. I’m usually able to keep my cool regardless of the situation.

CCO: Do you have an assignment for the off-season?

MH: Not yet. We’ve talked about going to strength camp.

Interview: James Pugliese

James Pugliese, along with Boise’s Corbin Hoffner, were the other co-winners of the CCO’s Short-Season Pitcher of the Year. The burly right-hander had just finished his side work after starting the previous night. He was delighted to sit down with the CCO, which he follows on Twitter.

ChicagoCubsOnline: Congratulations on your fine season. You spent all last year at Boise and had to return there again this season. How did it feel having to repeat that level?

James Pugliese: We were working on a mechanical change to my delivery. The previous season I had been a “drop and drive” pitcher. The coaches were working with me to stand tall on the mound, and have pitches come more on a downward plane.

CCO: It certainly looks like the change has been successful.

JP: Yeah, with my new delivery, I’m able to pound the bottom of the strike zone better.

CCO: Does it disappoint you to be leaving Boise with them being close to locking up a playoff spot?

JP: They have a great group of guys up there. I’m sorry to be leaving them, but I’m glad to be here.

CCO: Do you have an assignment for the off-season?

JP: They haven’t told me yet, but I know that I’ll probably be returning here (to Kane County) next season.

The Scouts’ Corner

Once again, I was able to meet up with a few scouts who were taking in some of the action. Most of them had just come from Des Moines, where they had been watching the Iowa Cubs. Here is what they had to say about some of the Cubs’ prospects.

One said that Cubs’ management is very impressed with the athleticism displayed by Brian Bogusevic. He felt that Bogusevic will get a long look in the final month of the season, with him being in their 2014 plans if he does well. None of the scouts were able to see Kyle Hendricks, but felt that Justin Grimm was a “five inning” pitcher at best.

The scouts felt that Jae-Hoon Ha remains a good prospect, but that he has “a long way to go”. Among the issues they feel Ha has is that he is always looking for something inside, and that he has trouble with breaking balls and outside pitches. All felt that Ha’s defense was outstanding.

There was also some talk of a few prospects at Double-A Tennessee. One scout said that outfielder Matt Szczur is one of the fastest players he has seen, but he’s not sure whether he can develop any further than a reserve outfielder in the majors. Another said that outfielder Rubi Silva has a “crazy, wild swing”, but seems to get his bat on most pitches. Lastly, a direct quote on Javier Baez, “He’s a real turkey, but he’s a damn good ballplayer”.

Off-Season Plans

Here are what the off-season plans of the players I had a chance to speak with.

Fall Instructional League – Jose Dore, Giuseppe Papaccio, Tyler Skulina

Strength Camp – Michael Hamann, Tyler Skulina

Working Out on Their Own – Reggie Golden, Trevor Gretzky, Tayler Scott, Rock Shoulders

School – Carlos Escobar

Instructional League

The Cubs instructional league begins on Sunday and the roster was released on Wednesday that includes several of the top prospects in the system.

Pitchers 

  • Jose Arias
  • Paul Blackburn
  • Johermyn Chavez
  • Trevor Clifton
  • Scott Frazier
  • David Garner
  • Zach Godley
  • Trevor Graham
  • Tyler Ihrig
  • Trey Lang
  • Erick Leal
  • Dillon Maples
  • Jeferson Mejia
  • Juan Paniagua
  • Brad Renner
  • Jose Rosario
  • Tyler Skulina
  • Daury Torrez
  • Jen-Ho Tseng
  • Duane Underwood
  • Michael Wagner
  • Sam Wilson

Catchers

  • Tyler Alamo
  • Cael Brockmeyer
  • Ben Carhart
  • Erick Castillo
  • Mark Malave
  • Alberto Mineo
  • Wilfredo Petit
  • Will Remillard

Infielders

  • Gioskar Amaya
  • Jeimer Candelario
  • Frandy De La Rosa
  • Kelvin Freeman
  • Jordan Hankins
  • Jesse Hodges
  • Daniel Lockhart
  • Giuseppe Papaccio
  • Carlos Penalver
  • Gleyber Torres

Outfielders

  • Jeffrey Baez
  • Yasiel Balaguert
  • Charcer Burks
  • Rashad Crawford
  • Jose Dore
  • Shawon Dunston
  • Eloy Jimenez
  • Trey Martin
Video – Player Sideshow

The CCO would like to thank the management of the Ozric Tentacles for permission of use of their music.

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO and @TheCCO_Minors

Quote of the Day

"Always make a total effort, even when the odds are against you." - Arnold Palmer
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  • TheWrongGuy

    Great stuff! THANKS again TOM!

  • Ripsnorter1

    What does the expression, “He’s a real turkey,” mean?

    I take it to mean “he’s a head case.” Am I wrong?

  • Ripsnorter1

    I thought Sveum’s job was safe, until first Samardzija is having an
    argument with David Bell, and now Ed Jackson was having a yelling
    match with Sveum for being pulled after 4 innings.

    Throw in the “development” of Rizzo and Castro, and suddenly
    Mr. Sveum doesn’t look as pretty as he did before. I do not like the
    way he was taking Castro and Rizzo to the press and threatening a return to
    the minors. You never heard him say that about Luis Valbuena or Darwin Barney.

    Speaking of his development skills, how about the way he handled Vitters when he
    was up here?

    But I figured he’s got another year on his contract, so what’s the point
    of throwing that money down the drain, like they did Mr. Quade’s contract,
    when you have a losing team with no real hope of winning the division?
    BTW Sveum was hired for development reasons, was he not? Otherwise
    Quade would have stayed.

    • K_Gripp

      I’ve never bought into Svuem being the manager when the team turns the corner to contender. Three years into this rebuild its becoming more obvious that the plan was a 5 year turnaround and you can’t hire a top flight manager to endure 4-5 years of winning less than 70 games. All of this losing has got to be taking a toll on the psyche of the players and coaches alike.

    • paulcatanese

      Quade is still out fishing with a grin ear to ear.
      And Barney, well, he has done the best he could,(which is not great). Simply put, you get what you see. Barney’s future is written on the wind, but in the Cub’s mind, Barney has given all he can, and no improvement is visualized
      there. He makes very few mental mistakes, and is the top infielder out there. His hitting is the most he can do. He will be gone or on the bench.

  • Tony_Hall

    Good article from Sahadev Sharma at ESPN Chicago.
    Season review of Cubs prospects.

    http://espn.go.com/blog/chicago/cubs/post/_/id/19877/season-review-cubs-top-prospects

    • J Daniel

      Very nice! Very positive reports and feels like we will see most of them sometime soon.

  • cubtex

    With the Brewers absolutely kicking the Cubs A##! It is pretty safe to assume that the Cubs will have the #4 pick in next years draft. With 10 games to play the Cubs have 89 losses.

    1st pick 51-101 Houston

    2nd pick 56-96 Miami

    3rd pick 60-92 Chicago Sox
    4th pick 63-89 Chicago Cubs
    5th pick 65-86 Twins

    I really don’t see these top 5 picks changing.

    • paulcatanese

      Well with 10 games left the Cubs are assured of not losing 100.:)

      • cubtex

        hahaha. you are correct sir. Although this year seems more painful to me than last year. I guess a 96 loss team would be an improvement?????

        • paulcatanese

          Agree, and it’s the first year that
          I don’t mind missing a game, what’s to watch?

  • paulcatanese

    Good report Tom, and I would like to see the Cubs switch to those uniforms and cutoff sleeves and the small logo, they are really sharp.