Checking Down on the Farm … Cubs Minor League News, Notes and Transactions

While the front office stays on The Girardi Watch and is busy compiling a list of managerial candidates that is thought to have Sandy Alomar Jr. and Manny Acta just under Girardi’s name, the Cubs minor league system has continued to make news.

The Instructional League is in full swing and the Arizona Fall League gets underway on Tuesday. Jed Hoyer said on Friday that Jorge Soler is fully recovered from the fractured left tibia that sidelined him at the end of June. According to Hoyer, Soler is ready to participate in the AFL along with Kris Bryant, Albert Almora, Wes Darvill, Dallas Beeler, Matt Loosen, Armando Rivero and newly added Lendy Castillo.

Several of the top players in the system have ended up on more top prospects lists and the Cubs signed a couple of players, as well as resigning a familiar name.

John Sickels – Minor League Ball

John Sickels updated his ranking of the top 75 prospects in the game and six of the top young players in the Cubs’ system made the Sickels’ list while two others received honorable mentions.

Javier Baez (8) checked in at number eight on Sickels’ ranking, up 10 spots from his pre-season ranking (18) and six spots from the mid-season list (14). Kris Bryant cracked the top 20 at number 19 while Albert Almora came in at number 22. Almora improved his stock from Sickels’ pre-season ranking (44) but slipped due to injury from number 14 in July.

Jorge Soler (27), C.J. Edwards (41) and Arismendy Alcantara (70) were the other three players from the Cubs’ system listed among the top prospects in the game. Pierce Johnson, who quietly had a very good year, and Dan Vogelbach received honorable mentions.

John Sickels said, “The Cubs are going to have one hell of a lineup someday.”

Midwest League Top 20 Prospects

Baseball America is releasing a list of the top 20 prospects in each league throughout Minor League Baseball. Kris Bryant (1), Paul Blackburn (7), Yasiel Balaguert (9), Dillon Maples (10), Shawon Dunston Jr. (12) and Kevin Encarnacion (17) were ranked among the best in the Northwest League and three players made it into the top 20 in the Midwest League.

Albert Almora (6), Pierce Johnson (10) and Dan Vogelbach (17) were the three players from the Kane County Cougars that stood out in the league this past season according to Baseball America.

For those keeping score, that is nine players out of 40 in two lower levels of the minor leagues.

Minor League Transactions

According to Baseball America, the Cubs signed RHP Alan Oaks and C Danny Canela out of the Frontier League.

Danny Canela partied ways with North Carolina State in January, signed with River City and won the Frontier League rookie of the year award after posting a .360/.455/.582/1/037 line. The 22-year old right handed throwing, lefty batting catcher hit 14 doubles, 12 home runs, walked 41 times with 50 strikeouts in 67 games. Canela turns 23 on December 14 and is 5-foot-11, 200 pounds.

Alan Oaks was drafted by the Marlins in 2010 and did not fare too well in parts of three seasons in the Marlins’ system. The 25-year old, 6-foot-3 right hander was 2-4 in 37 relief appearances last season in the Frontier League with a 1.99 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP.

According to Baseball America, the Cubs re-signed RHP Marcus Hatley. The 25-year old right hander posted a 3-2 record in 35 relief appearances with the I-Cubs this past season with a 4.22 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP. Hatley also spent time in Double-A and posted a combined 4-4 record in 49 games with a 3.86 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP. In 60 2/3 innings, Hatley gave up 53 hits with 35 walks and 74 strikeouts.

As part of the year end procedural roster moves, the Cubs recalled RHP Trey McNutt, RHP Neil Ramirez, 3B Mike Olt, 3B Christian Villanueva, 3B/1B/OF Josh Vitters, OF Brett Jackson, OF Jorge Soler and OF Matt Szczur.

The first wave of minor league free agents hit the open market this past week. Players who have at least three years of Major League service time, or who qualified as a Super Two player and were outrighted to a minor league club may elect for free agency instead of accepting the outright assignment.

The Cubs had two minor league players elect for free agency, right handed pitchers Michael Bowden and Eduardo Sanchez. Other former Cubs or Cubs’ farm hands that elected for free agency this past week included: RHP Jairo Asencio, RHP Chris Volstad, LHP Hisanori Takahashi, OF Tyler Colvin, C Blake Lalli, IF Brent Lillibridge, IF Alberto Gonzalez, RHP Dave Bush and RHP Justin Germano. IF/OF Eric Patterson was released by the Brewers.

Defense, Defense, Defense

Baseball America took a look at the up-the-middle prospects in the minors that are worth loving for their gloves. And four of the top prospects in the Cubs’ system made the cut defensively.

Marco Hernandez and Javier Baez converted less than the average number of chances into outs this past season but both shortstops were among the leaders in assists per game. The regular full-season minor league shortstops in 2013 converted about 95.6 percent of their total chances into outs while recording 2.79 assists and 1.43 putouts per game according to Baseball America. Hernandez averaged 3.18 assists per game with a .939 percent conversion rate while Baez averaged 3.07 assists per game with a .922 conversion rate in 73 games with Daytona.

Albert Almora, who received rave reviews for his defense, led all centerfielders in putouts per game with a minimum of 45-69 games played. According to Baseball America, “even with a lack of eye-popping raw speed, the Cubs’ Albert Almora is a potential Gold Glove winner at the Major League level thanks to terrific first-step quickness and wide ranging territory.” Almora is “also a plus-thrower who racked up seven assists in 59 games.”

Willson Contreras slipped in the top 10 in assists per game for a catcher in the minor leagues with at least 70 games played.

Cubs Minor League Position Analysis

For those that might have missed Tom’s series of reports on the positional depth in the Cubs’ system, click on the links below to learn about the players in the system that might not be at the top of the prospect lists at this point of their professional careers.

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO and @TheCCO_Minors

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  • RynoTiger

    what? Tyler Colvin is a free agent?! Say it ain’t so! contact his agent quick before another team tries to sign him!

    • TheWrongGuy

      NO!
      He can only hit in Coor’s Field in Denver.
      SHHHHHhhh! let someone else sign him.

    • Dorasaga

      Who cares? He’s no part of the Cubs Future.

    • Ripsnorter1

      Tyler could not cure the strikeout syndrome.
      And if Mr. Baez doesn’t learn to cure it, he will suffer the same fate as Tyler.

      And that comment is not just a negative comment. It is the truth.

    • Eugene Debs

      It’s actually EXCATLY the kind of moves we are making these days. We won’t get him, but how is he different than Bogusevic, Sweeney, McDondald, or Neal?

      • Ripsnorter1

        The difference is that Colvin has more power than all of them put together.

      • cubtex

        good point. He is actually no different than those you mentioned.

  • coachdon

    You know, the guy did hit 20 homers in less than a full season in the bigs. If you were Miami or Houston, or even the White Sox, why wouldn’t you take a flyer on Colvin?

    • Ripsnorter1

      Colvin has hit 20 HRs for the Cubs, and 18 for the Rocks.
      He has a bad year every other year. He doesn’t do well in the odd years.
      Since 2014 is an even year…..you offer good advice.

      Looking at those Rock stats of 2012….531 slugging for 452 PA.
      Not bad….that would rank #9 in all of MLB if he did it in 2013. (502 PA)

      • gary3411

        413 outside the mountains though

        • Ripsnorter1

          I know it. But that’s only his Rock year of 2012.
          Cubs’ year? Slugged .500, and his splits say
          that he slugged .478 at Wrigley, and .531 away.

          He’s not hopeless, in other words. : )

          Thanks for the post. : )

  • Tom U

    Two early reports on winter baseball assignments: Marcus Hatley tweeted that he will be on the Tomateros de Culiacan in the Mexican Pacific League while Arismendy Alcantara put out a tweet that he will be on Tigres De Licey in the Dominican Winter League.

  • SuzyS

    Danny Canela marks the Cubs opening volley to address our weakness at catcher. (I know…he’s undrafted and already 22).
    After watching how Theo and Jed addressed the void at third base a couple of years ago…I have full confidence that we will be brimming with catcher prospects in another 2 years.

  • SuzyS

    I spent a little time yesterday, just out of curiosity to see how Ian Stewart ended up…and could only find 2012 stats on him.
    Does anyone have his stat line in the minors from this year??? Or is he out of baseball???

    • Tony_Hall
      • SuzyS

        Thanks,Tony.
        I actually checked that link…but for some reason, could only come up with 2012 yesterday.

    • RynoTiger

      Hey Suzy,
      I was in a Waffle House in Tempe just the other day and I had such a good waffle I wanted to say thanks to the chef..so I went over to the counter to provide my compliment, and to my surprise, the chef was Ian Stewart!

      • SuzyS

        Nice to know he’s an expert at something…waffling!!! :-)

        • Ripsnorter1

          No! That’s Theo that’s the expert on waffling.

          LOL

    • Eugene Debs

      Picking up Stewart was a mistake. Re-signing him should result in jail time for the front office.

  • cubtex

    Really impressed with Sonny Gray from the A’s yesterday. That was the first time I got to take a look at his stuff on TV. What might have been. The Cubs drafted him out of High School years ago but ended up going to Vanderbilt.

  • cubtex

    David Price probably pitched his last game for the Rays. If I am the Cubs….I don’t trade the farm for this guy. I pass. The Cubs are too far away and I think his best days are behind him.

    • Eugene Debs

      Depends on the price (pun intended), but another “Garza trade” would be a bad idea.

      • cubtex

        difference with the Garza deal is that he was almost 2 full years younger than Price at this time and he was controlled for 3 years at a much lower salary. Price’s price tag will be higher….1 year of less control and 2 years older than Garza was.Any time you can aquire young controllable pitching is not a bad thing…but Price is not that young or controllable.

        • cubtex

          ok just double checked. Garza just turned 27 when the Cubs got him. Price just turned 28 so I am mistaken on the age difference. The extra year of control and price is the main difference.

          • SuzyS

            I’m in agreement here, we can do without David Price…he really does not fit the acquisition profile…(longer control and a little younger).

            However, we do need to get 2 TOR SP in the next few years…like to have one in hand by the end of next season.

            IMHO, Samardzia will not cut it as TOR….I think he’s proving himself to be a 3 or 4 spot in a good rotation.

          • Brp921

            I’m thinking something will be done this off season to get a TOR pitcher in a trade Suzy. I don’t think it will involve any of our top prospects, at least not Baez or Bryant. I’m thinking maybe Shark and possibly Castro if they can get the guy they want.

          • Ripsnorter1

            I expect Team Theo to deal Casto this off season–for pitching.

          • SuzyS

            I have no expectations that way at all. Castro had a really down year. I think most expect him to rebound at the plate this upcoming season.
            If Castro is traded…it will be at the July trade deadline…when he can bring the most.
            Shark on the other hand…either he signs an extension or he will go this off season in a package deal.
            Barney is also on the bubble….but most of the bigger trades will happen in July (if any of the kids are ready)…or next off season. IMHO.

          • SuzyS

            I see Shark getting traded before Castro.

            Before all the “Cubs MLB budget hamstrung stories” came out…I really thought we’d go all out for Tanaka…(probably a #2). It just made so much sense.
            But who is that TOR we trade for???

          • Ripsnorter1

            Chris Volstad!

          • SuzyS

            You’re on a roll today,Rip….Is there something rare in your air?

    • paulcatanese

      Not to worry, Price is not injured, has no chance of coming to the Cubs:)

      • J Daniel

        Great one, Paul!

  • Guest

    Some good talent in playing ball for the Cubs this winter.

  • Eugene Debs

    Cubs are sending some serious talent to the AFL. Keep developing, boys! In other news, for the love of God sign a couple of players to make the on-field product interesting. No need to break the bank, but at least participate in banking, right?

  • cubtex

    One flyer free agent that might make sense if he is looking for a 1 year deal and try and cash in the following year is Michael Morse. He had an awful year with Seattle and the O’s. He might want to only sign a 1 year deal and playing in Wrigley would help his power numbers. He could hit in the 4 spot and break up all the lefties that the Cubs currently have.

    • Ripsnorter1

      Let’s check the stats on Mr. Michael Morse….age 32 March 22, 2014

      He played fulltime for the Nats in 2011 and had a great year at .303/.360/.550 slugging.
      Riggleman must have been the manager, eh?

      2013…such a forgetable year for so many…including Mr. Morse:
      .215 BA vs RHP
      .215 BA vs LHP
      He couldn’t hit anyone.

      But for his career, he’s a .280 BA vs RHP, and
      .284 BA vs LHP. Hey, he can play both ways!

      Yeah. Why not sign him?

      • cubtex

        1 year flyer? It is better to have him hitting 4th next year than Schierholtz or Bogusevic or Castillo.

        • Ripsnorter1

          Think of the glory of this outfield:

          Neal in CF
          McDonald is LF
          Joey Gathright in RF

          We could lose 125 games!

    • Ripsnorter1

      Yeah….Michael Morse, wrist injury. Went to the doc to

      see if he needs surgery 29 Sept 2013…..

      Something else….he doesn’t fit the “Cubs’ Way” profile. No sirreeeeeeee!!

      Morse’s plate discipline leaves a lot to be desired. He’s walked in just 5.7% of his plate appearances over the last three seasons, including 3.7% (!) in 2012. His strikeout (22.1%) and contact (75.5%) rates are both well-below-average during that time, ditto his miniscule 3.69 pitches per plate appearances average. Quick at-bats are not the Cubs Way™, but that’s what you’re getting here.

      He’s no stranger to the DL. Morse missed most of Spring Training and the first two months of last season with a right shoulder strain, and in 2010 he missed a month with a calf problem. Morse also missed the entire 2008 season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder, and two years before that he missed a few weeks with right knee surgery.

      The ground ball tendencies became quite extreme last season. Morse posted a 55.3% grounder rate in 2012 after sitting at 44.8% from 2010-2011. That explains the .190 ISO, which was his lowest full season mark since his rookie year in 2005. When a power hitter has a shoulder problem and suddenly has a tough time lifting the ball in the air, it’s a red flag.

      Morse offers zero speed or value on the bases. He’s 6-for-12 in career stolen base attempts and has taken the extra-base (first-to-third on a single, etc.) just 33% of the time through the years. The league average is in the 39-40% range.

      Morse is a bad defensive outfielder. The various metrics all agree he’s been a poor defender since finally breaking out as a full-time player three years ago: -24.5 UZR, -8 DRS, -2 Total Zone, and -3 FRAA. The first base metrics are a little better, but stats on first base defense aren’t as reliable as they are at the other positions.

      FORGETABOUTIT!

      I

      • cubtex

        Sooooooooo. You want a Bogusevic, Lake and Schierholtz outfield for next year?

        • Ripsnorter1

          Mr. Cubtex….I am speaking like Mr. Theo Epstein, Inc.

        • Ripsnorter1

          Morse…wrist injury…think Paul Konerko….think permanent damage possibly….

          • cubtex

            I didn’t know about his wrist injury. that could change everything.

          • Ripsnorter1

            Otherwise the guy could have been a huge bounceback candidate….

            I’d love 35 taters and 120 RBI out of our #4 hitter.

  • Ripsnorter1

    Ya don’t think steroids help, or perhaps, have a residual effect?

    #12 in all of MLB in sluggggggggging……Mr. Marlon Byrd.

    He hasn’t been #12 in slugging in his entire life! Not even little league.

    • cubtex

      Have you seen his swing this year compared to when he was with Cubs? He is using his lower body this year. Picking up his front leg and is generating much more power. I hated his swing when he was with Cubs. All upper body and was basically a slap hitter. That is the difference with Byrd.

      • Ripsnorter1

        So-o-o-o-o-o-o-o,
        you are saying it isn’t steroids, but ster-rearend that is making the difference?

        Seriously, he had an awful double play swing when he was with the Cubs.

  • Ripsnorter1

    Looks like the Cubs, er, ah, Bears lost again today….

    • SuzyS

      I was thinking the same thing…I hope the Bears have a top ten farm system to keep hope alive!!! :-)

  • Ripsnorter1

    Let’s consider the Shark and his fine year….4.34 ERA….
    Who would you rather have as your starter?

    Feldman, or
    Garza, or,
    Stults, or
    Arroryo, or
    Hammels,
    Wandy Rodriguez, or
    Chad Gaudin?

    The fact is that they all pitched better as a starter than the Shark in 2013.
    Which Shark will show up in 2014: the first half 2012 Shark, or the second half 2012 thru the end of 2013 Shark?

    • cubtex

      So now that you mentioned Garza. With him not pitching great with the Rangers and probably costing himself some money in FA….Do the Cubs make a run at him now??? I would go 15 mil per year on him. He is still better than anyone the Cubs have on their starting staff and at 4 years at 15….That is a hell of a lot better contract and he will pitch a lot better than one Edwin Jackson.

      • SuzyS

        Yes, and the FO liked Garza so much that I think they would rather give Zambrano a one year flyer.
        Neither is going to happen.

      • gary3411

        He’ll get more than that.

        • cubtex

          you are probably right.

      • Ripsnorter1

        I would offer him a contract at my price–like you said. Yessiree.

  • Windy City Fan

    2014 Chicago Cubs Rotation
    Jeff Samardja
    Edwin jackson
    Jake Arrieta
    Left hander Scott Kazmir
    free Agent from Cleveland Indians
    Free Agent from Baltimore Orioles Scott Feldman
    Cubs 2014 Bullpen
    Long Reliever
    Yanner Negrin from triple A Iowa
    Hector Rondon
    Daniel Bard
    Jen Ho Tseng
    Chang Yong Lim
    Henry Rodriguez
    Pedro Strop
    Koji Uehara from Boston Red Sox
    Kyuji Fujikawa
    Catchers
    Weligton Castillo Jc Boscan
    We need catchers
    Sign Free Agent catcher Brayan Pena on minor league contract
    Free Agent catcher John Buck fron the Pittsburg Pirates
    1Base A. Rizzo
    2Base Ramon Santiago free Agent from Detroit Tigers
    Logan Watkins
    3base Mike Olt Kris Bryant
    SS Starlin Castro Darwin Barney
    Left Field Thomas Neal Junior lake
    Center Field Shin Soo Choo Jae Hoon Ha
    Right Field Nate Schierholtz Brain Bogusevic
    Bench
    Luis Valbuna Ryan Sweeney Darwin Barney

    • cubtex

      No chance on Choo.

  • SuzyS
  • cubtex

    Bucs up 2-1 now over Cards! Love It! The 3 key free agents came thru big for them today! Liriano Russell Martin and Grilli. One more W and they are in the NLCS!

    • cubtex

      Ex Cub Marlon Byrd with a big 2 run base hit as well!

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