Minor League Signings and Other Cubs Notes from Down on the Farm

While the front office has not made many changes to the 40-man roster to this point of the off-season, the Cubs have signed 14 players to minor league contracts that include non-roster invites to Spring Training.

Rick Renteria and his staff spent the weekend in Mesa planning for Spring Training. Cubs’ pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training on Feb. 13.

The Cubs’ system made another headline during the Winter Meetings and both Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo checked in on which player the Cubs might take with the fourth pick in June’s Draft.

The full list of non-roster invites to Spring Training should be released in mid-January and will include Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Kyle Hendricks and possibly Albert Almora.

Here is a list of players that should be in big league camp competing for a job on the Cubs’ Opening Day roster in the spring, most but not all of the NRIs have been confirmed.

Pitchers

  • RHP Paolo Espino
  • LHP Tommy Hottovy (NRI)
  • RHP Carlos Pimentel
  • LHP Tsuyoshi Wada (NRI)

Catchers

  • John Baker (NRI)
  • Eli Whiteside (NRI)

Infielders

  • Walter Ibarra
  • Ryan Roberts (NRI)
  • Chris Valaika (NRI)
  • Jeudy Valdez

Outfielders

  • Aaron Cunningham (NRI)
  • Ryan Kalish (NRI)
  • Darnell McDonald (NRI)
  • Casper Wells (NRI)

NRI – Player received non-roster invitation to Major League Spring Training

Kris Bryant

The Arizona Fall League announced its 2013 Top Prospects Team last Monday and the 2013 AFL MVP Kris Bryant made the cut. The team was selected by AFL managers and coaches and was based on the player’s performance in the fall, not their prospect status.

Kris Bryant led the AFL in home runs (6), slugging percentage (.727) and OPS (1.184).

Kris Bryant was the only Cubs’ prospect that was named to the team that is filled with many of the top young players in the game. Albert Almora and Jorge Soler turned in good fall campaigns and Dallas Beeler stepped up his game and his performance in the fall helped cement him a spot on the Cubs’ 40-man roster.

RHP Aaron Sanchez, the Blue Jays’ top prospect, was also named to the team.

The 2014 MLB Draft

The Rule 4 Draft is six months away but Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo recently projected how the top 10 selections in the draft could unfold. The Cubs have the fourth overall selection in the First-Year Player Draft.

Jim Callis sees the Cubs selecting RHP Tyler Beede from Vanderbilt and Jonathan Mayo thinks the Cubs will select Trea Turner, a shortstop from North Carolina State.

Tyler Beede is 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, and features three above-average or better pitches. Beede has struggled with his command. Beede has had issues with finding a consistent release point which has lead to the command issues, but when he is on, he has been very good.

Tyler Beede features two different types of fastballs that could end up as plus pitches. Beede’s four-seam fastball “shows good gear out of his hand with rising action” and sits around 94-95 mph and has touched 97 mph. His two-seemer “shows good tailing and sinking action” and sits 92-94 mph with some swing and miss. As for his secondary pitches, he has shown flashes of possessing a curveball (low-80s with hard 12-6 break) and change-up (high-70s with good deception) that could end up as plus or plus-plus pitches.

Trea Turner is 6-foot-1, 171 pounds, and can really run. Turner has 80-speed (20-80 scouting scales) and is projected as a top of the order hitter. An ankle issue hampered Turner last year but to go along with his 80-speed (57 stolen bases in 2012) he has good bat speed and is very athletic. Turner is not projected to hit many home runs but he does have gap power and an excellent ability to get on base. Turner moved from third base to shortstop last spring. Turner has the arm strength and range to handle the position.

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  • SuzyS

    13 degrees with a low of 6 degrees forecast for tonight in Northern Illinois.
    Any mention of the rule 4 draft next summer is a warming thought…indeed.
    Paul…in California and Ray in Texas…I’m envious.
    Perhaps I should move to the tropics and come back when the Cubs are ready to win.

    • SuzyS

      BTW…my personal motto is still…”The forecast for tonight is dark…followed by dawn”.
      For the naysayers out there…the sun always rises…after it sets.

    • cubtex

      Just got back from a brisk 10 mile run in 63 degree weather in shorts and a t shirt. Tomorrow in the 70’s. Sorry Suzy. That is why I moved out of the Chicago area.

    • CubbyDenCritic

      Suzy, Tropics is not all Paradise all the time……..you would get tired of that beach life after awhile……and the food is not great on the islands of Hawaii……no great pizza or burgers…………California is okay, some parts…..other parts not so great……Carmel is a nice place, but does get cool……San Diego is a tourist & military town…too expensive to live near………..you can spend 20 years in California and still not see it all.
      But Suzy….Don’t ever move to Florida…..worst state in the country…….only good for Spring Training and that is about it.

      • JimBo_C

        The weather is very nice today at my home in sunny south Florida.

      • JasonOfTheBurbs

        They do have 2 Portillos franchises in Southern CA…I frequented the Buena Park location multiple times in my travels! When in need of pizza, try Rosati’s, as they are pretty decent for a chain when craving Chicago-style pizza.

        I moved back to the Chicago area this May…gained about 20 pounds instantly reaquainting myself with area foods.

        • Tony_Hall

          Now that is a post I can agree on with you. We plan trips to and through Chicago based on having a meal at Portillo’s. Italian Beef is my favorite, but everything is good there.

          Chicago is full of good places to eat, that is for sure.

          • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

            When I was there my company ordered Portillo’s for us one day. Chicago style hot dogs, which I wasn’t crazy about. Not a tomato fan. Wish I could have had the beef…

          • Tony_Hall

            I’m not a hot dog guy, but people rave about there dogs as well.

            Beef, burgers, chicken, pasta, I honestly have never had a bad meal at Portillo’s.

          • SuzyS

            You can order it for Christmas…along with Lou Malnatti’s Pizza.!!!
            They ship anywhere.

          • Tony_Hall

            Now, Lou Malnatti’s…

            My wife was from Munster, IN, and we had an Aurelio’s right around the corner. I always looked forward to that as well.

            I’m not sure about anyone else, but I am getting hungry.

          • SuzyS

            Yep, I’m headed out for some pizza and shopping…adieu.

      • SuzyS

        I’ve already lived on an island there…and loved it.
        But the tropics are really south of the lower forty eight…

    • paulcatanese

      71 degrees today, same for the week. But did have a little snow last week, gone the next day.

  • CubbyDenCritic

    By the time the drat comes around, the Cubs will select the best player, regardless of position needs.
    I am sure that Bryant was not even in the top ten last year at this time………so movement of players will be seen during the season on the draft chart.

  • cubtex

    Cubs need impact starting pitching. Jose Fernandez drafted after Javy Baez finished 3rd in Cy Young. Mark Appel should be in the Astros rotation next year. They need to draft a pitcher next year.

    • CubbyDenCritic

      Theo’s theory is drafting the best player…..allot can happen between now and then,

      • cubtex

        Theo’s theory needs to change and draft the best pitcher available. They have taken position players the last 3 years.

        • Tony_Hall

          So now you don’t like Baez and/or think it was a bad pick, because someone drafted after him has had success at the major league level.

          You do get that quite a few players were chosen after Baez and that in reality the draft is an imperfect science. Mike Trout was drafted with the 25th pick and Albert Pujols was taken in the 13th round. The chance that someone has a better career than Baez is almost for sure. it doesn’t make it the wrong pick at the time.

          • cubtex

            Are you not reading the words that I am typing?

          • Tony_Hall

            Yes, you are and have been lately, complaining about who has done what that was drafted after Baez.

            Is that correct?

          • cubtex

            I said that there has been a lot of impact pitching drafted recently. Cubs drafted position players last 3 years. I love Baez’s upside and future but this team needs impact pitching. They need to draft pitching.

          • Tony_Hall

            They have been drafting pitching, in bunches. But at the top of the draft, they have taken the best player.

            You needs lots and lots of arms to develop just 1 one major league arm. I think they have done a good job of stockpiling pitchers. Just not happening as fast you want to see results.

          • cubtex

            Most impact pitching is drafted in the 1st round.

          • Tony_Hall

            Yes and in the second half of the 1st round. We went over this and over this last year before the draft.

          • SuzyS

            Tony, I agree with cubtex here…we need to draft tor pitchers…we have quantities the last few years…now it’s just quality.pitchers.

          • Tony_Hall

            Absolutely, but not if they aren’t the best player. You don’t reach at the top of the draft.

          • cubtex

            You won’t reach at a top 6 pick. Tyler Beede, Tyler Kolek These aren’t reaches. Best pitcher available will be a top 8 pick at that time. If he is rated a slot or 2 lower…who cares. He is the best pitcher available at the time. We aren’t talking about Hayden Simpson here.

          • TheWrongGuy

            Here I have this bookmarked as a favorite till a better and new listing comes out…

            http://www.baseballamerica.com/college/2014-draft-top-50-october-2013-carlos-rodon/

            Personally I take Beede or Kolek at our number 4 pick. Unless Hoffman falls then pick him.

          • cubtex

            100% agree

          • TheWrongGuy

            The one pick that might pull our FO away from picking a pitcher might be Alex Jackson kid right from the FO’s stomping grounds in San Diego and he’s a catcher which is a need. So that is the one I am worried about them choosing over a pitcher. I am not worried about them choosing the SS from NC St.

          • cubtex

            But isn’t there a question if he will project as a catcher? He is listed as a C/OF

          • TheWrongGuy

            Yes and they have also said that power bats are “rare” so…

          • cubtex

            Not too rare right now in the Cubs system. Bryant,Baez,Soler and Vogelbach.

          • Tony_Hall

            You can never have too much power. Not all players have to make your major league team.

          • cubtex

            I thought the saying was…You can never have too much pitching

          • Tony_Hall

            That too. That is why you grab the best talent you can get.

          • cubtex

            lets agree to disagree. I value starting pitching a lot more than you. Look at all the people who ripped the Mark Trumbo trade. Starting pitching is the most precious commodity in baseball. No doubt about it.

          • Tony_Hall

            I have a hard time believing we have to end a discussion, agreeing to disagree, we usually change the others mind :)

            Have a good night.

          • cubtex

            What else is there? I don’t think we have anything left on this subject :)

          • Tony_Hall

            We have beaten this horse to death and have before and will again before the Cubs pick is announced next June.

            Hopefully, I haven’t offended any horses with that comment :)

          • TheWrongGuy

            “Naeh!” said Mr. Ed.

          • cubtex

            I enjoyed our banter as always. Have a great week!

          • TheWrongGuy

            100% agree starting pitching is a great commodity to have.
            This current FO seems to value more the number 2 or 3 projected pitchers. Rather than aces.

          • TheWrongGuy

            Yes true. BUT….
            How long will those guys be in the system?
            Remember they are building a high impact prospect machine in the minors. At least that is their goal.

          • cubtex

            True but teams very rarely will trade top pitching prospects like an Archie Bradley or Tajuan Walker without getting back pitching in return.

          • TheWrongGuy

            100% FACT!

          • John_CC

            But you just referenced the Trumbo trade…and it begs the question: is it better to gamble gamble on drafting pitchers to turn onto TOR studs, or to trade power hitters for pitchers already proven in the MLB?

          • cubtex

            Very doubtful Rodon or Hoffman slide but if the Sox take a position player…you have either Kolek or Beede to choose from. Obviously Beede would be on a quicker course but if they feel Kolek has more upside…I would be OK with that.

          • SuzyS

            Last year’s choice between either Bryant or Gray…was not a reach on either.
            I don’t expect the spread to be any different this year with the fourth pick…There will not be a long reach in the picks…just tough choices.

          • cubtex

            exactly

          • Tony_Hall

            So you would have taken Gray?

          • cubtex

            Last year I said I preferred Appel. I didn’t want to touch Gray with that Aderol incident. I agreed with the Bryant pick but I would have understood if Gray was picked due to the lack of arms in the system…but the character issue was a red flag for me.

          • Tony_Hall

            Gray was the best pitcher available, and at the Top 3 picks, by what you just said, they should have taken Gray.

          • cubtex

            and if he didn’t have the Adderall issue. I agree

          • Tony_Hall

            So, should they have then reached, I mean chosen Kohl Stewart?

            Many have said if the draft was redone, that Bryant would go 1st. I think the Cubs received the best player in the draft. The position is immaterial at the top of the draft. Grab the best player, you can always trade them down the road.

          • cubtex

            Now you are talking crazy. Bryant was the top hitter in the draft. The pitcher they wanted went 1st. Cubs passed on Gray and took Bryant.

          • Tony_Hall

            What is crazy?

            I believe they would have taken Appel, because they thought Bryant would go 1st. I don’t believe Gray was ever in their Top 2.

          • cubtex

            I believe they talked about Gray. Appel and Gray were the 2 highest rated pitchers by far and then there was a dropoff. Next year there are 2 pitchers rated higher than Appel and Gray. Rodon and Hoffman should go 1,2. Then you have a high school kid in Tyler Kolek who has an arm like Gray and Beede who is more polished and was a 1st round pick before college. One of those 4 will be there at pick #4

          • cubtex

            And all are rated in the top 6…so like I said…If you pick a guy who was slotted to go 5 with pick number 4….who cares? It fits a need.

          • Tony_Hall

            Of course they talked about Gray, they talked about all of the players.

          • Tony_Hall

            And you didn’t answer about Kohl Stewart? He was the next pitcher, and by your standards the Top 8 are all good, they should just go to the top pitcher, if Gray is out because of Adderol, then Stewart is the pick. You make the draft so much easier when you don’t worry about taking the best player.

          • cubtex

            When you have the #2 pick you don’t draft the 3rd rated pitcher. Cmon dude.

          • Tony_Hall

            I agree, you take the best player. They did.

            I quote Ray “Best pitcher available will be a top 8 pick at that time. If he is rated a slot or 2 lower…who cares. He is the best pitcher available at the time. We aren’t talking about Hayden Simpson here.”

            A slot or two lower, who cares!

          • cubtex

            exactly. thanks for re-quoting me. Damn, I am one smart dude. And I was talking about next years draft. You are having a hard time following along tonight :) Cocktails with dinner?

          • Tony_Hall

            Your philosophies don’t work from draft to draft?

            C’mon, if next years Top 8 are all good, then you don’t think last years Top 4 were?

            Bottom line, take the best player and you will be in good shape. As you just admitted, reaching for the 4th best player at the 2 spot would have been crazy.

          • SuzyS

            Tony, Unless there is some one far and away superior in talent…we are talking about a very subjective pick.
            Many times, the fourth ranked player might outperform the three in front of him.
            If you believe your pick has TOR potential…which is actually a need for the Cubs…then I belive the Cubs have to go that route….regardless of ranking by media.
            The key is if the Cubs rank the prospect as TOR.

          • cubtex

            I have been trying to get that point across to him for the last 30 minutes :)

          • Tony_Hall

            I get you and Tex’s point, I just dont’ think you will find many draft experts who agree. You can find one I am sure, but the vast majority, always say to rank the players, then take the best one available, regardless of the position at the top of the MLB draft.

          • cubtex

            Tony this is from Jim Callis. He is one of many who feel the Cubs need to draft a pitcher.

            Callis: Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt — Cubs almost certainly
            will take a pitcher after spending last two top-six choices on bats,
            though Beede must refine his command.

          • Tony_Hall

            7 of the Top 10 are pitchers. It is not hard to imagine that they will take a pitcher. But it will be because it is the BPA, not because they are just going to draft a pitcher regardless of what position player are available.

            If Trey Turner is available at 4, I have hard time believing, that at this time, they would pass on him.

          • Tony_Hall

            And when I ask him why not take Kohl Stewart, the 4th player last year at 2, he says that is a reach.

            Either you will take the best pitcher or you won’t. If they are all interchangeable at subjective at the top, and pitching is what you need, you then should be able to take Kohl Stewart instead of Bryant, if Gray has an issue that you don’t want to draft.

            That is why I say take the BPA.

          • cubtex

            Kohl Stewart for the 5th time was considered to be a big dropoff from Appel and Gray. Bryant was clearly the best bat.

          • Tony_Hall

            Ok, just making sure that at 4 was a huge drop off. So you can’t say going into the draft, just take the next best pitcher, you do actually have to look at each player.

          • cubtex

            Here are the names Tony so you can re-quote me again.
            1. Carlos Rodon P

            2. Jeff Hoffman P
            3.Alex Jackson c/of
            4. Tyler Kolek P

            5. Trea Turner SS

            6. Tyler Beede P

            7. Jacob Gatewood SS

            So my point again is. This is the “debatable” top 7 at the moment. If the Cubs feel that a Tyler Beede fits their needs more than a Trea Turner…you draft the pitcher. Here is where you can re-quote me. If Tyler Beede is rated as the 6th best player in the draft but you have him as a future TOR starter by your scouts…you draft him even though he is rated a few slots lower. BTW. Feel free to requote that. I enjoy seeing wisdom repeated.

          • Tony_Hall

            I get it, at #4 next year, you think they go down to the 6th best player.

            Not sure I would want that wisdom repeated.

            So with the 4th pick in the draft, you would want to take the 4th best pitcher, yet in 2013, taking the 3rd best pitcher with the 2nd pick was not smart and obviously not the 2nd best pitcher at 2, because he had an adderall issue.
            I look at a draft differently. If I am at 4, I would have 4 names written down, that I have as the 4 best players, by my ratings. I take one of those 4, and hope that I somehow have a choice between 2 of them.

          • cubtex

            so if you have 5 top shortstops in your system but a gaping gaping hole in another area and you are able to draft that need and have a top 10 prospect immediately in your system and your #1 or #2 pitching prospect…you draft another SS? Are you sure you aren’t Jerry Angelo?

          • Tony_Hall

            You take the best player, especially if they are a SS.

            Players don’t all stay at SS. They move around and populate many other positions by the time they reach the majors.

          • cubtex

            wow. is all I have to say.

          • Tony_Hall

            I have been saying that about you all night.

            You don’t draft in MLB for a need at the major league level.

            You take talent. Talent that can be traded, moved to another position, etc.

          • SuzyS

            Ummm…??? Tony,,,YOU missed the point on that one.
            Think about it.

          • Tony_Hall

            Not sure what you mean.

            It was poorly worded as I don’t get how the “and your #1 or #2 pitching prospect…” fits in the sentence.

          • cubtex

            I am saying that the player you just drafted would immediately be the #1 or #2 pitching prospect in your system but the SS(even though he might be rated higher) might not even be the top 2 SS already in your system.

          • Tony_Hall

            But the SS is a higher rated player then the pitcher, you take the SS.

            Wouldn’t Gray have been our #1 pitching prospect? Yes he would have.

            Didn’t we have many 3B? Yes we did.

            Yet Bryant was still the right pick, because he was the better player.

            Should we have not taken Bryant and asked for Olt in trade, since we already had options at 3B. No, you keep adding the best talent you can get.

          • Ripsnorter1

            Bryant was the right choice. The guy will mash 35 HRs a season
            for ten years, and when you can draft Ron Santo or Luke Hochevar,
            you take Ron Santo.

          • gary3411

            Less than 10% of college kids I know have never done adderall. That is a sample size of hundreds. Very pinkish red flag.

          • cubtex

            less than 10%? What college do the kids you know go to?

          • cubtex

            Gary…My son is a scholarship D1 track athlete. He gets tested. He knows what he should and should not put in his body(Just like Jonathon Gray) Gray cheated to gain an advantage on the baseball field.

          • cubtex

            and you also have to look ahead to next years draft to see if it will be pitching heavy or hitter heavy draft. If they felt that they could get that arm next year and that a power bat like Bryant wouldn’t be there next year that could be their reason as well

          • cubtex

            spelled it wrong( I guess that proves I don’t touch the stuff) Adderall. lol

          • Tony_Hall

            LOL, I didn’t have a clue. C’mon you are in sales, roll with it and no one will know you made a mistake.

          • gary3411

            I would’ve, still would’ve. Still disappointed.

          • cubtex

            time will tell. I don’t like to draft a guy who knowingly cheated. If he did it once he is capable of doing it again. You don’t take Adderall by accident. He took it to get an edge.

          • Ripsnorter1

            Power bats are in very, very short supply in MLB at this time.

            Let’s see….Baez, a Hendry pick, is a power bat.
            Bryant, a Theo pick, is a power bat.

            Two very good picks, imo.
            You can buy pitching easier than you can buy a power bat. : )

          • Tony_Hall

            Ah, Ripsnorter, the voice of reason!

          • SuzyS

            Rip, how do you rank the Almora pick. He’s NOT a power bat.???

          • Ripsnorter1

            I like Almora, but Almora is not a power bat. Sure, he hits doubles and triples, but
            he is not a big 25-40 HR guy. Look at his stats:

            249 AB…3 HR.

            Nope. Not gonna call that a power bat. He doesn’t run well either, ie, not
            a big speed guy. Great, great instincts in the OF. Nice pick. But he is what he
            is: a line drive hitting CF with a great glove, kind of like Ken Berry.

            http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/b/berryke01.shtml

          • SuzyS

            Ken Berry??? I like the analogy…but you’re showing your age…and I’m showing mine…because I know who you are talking about:-}

          • Ripsnorter1

            Suzy! You are popping my balloon!

            I always thought you were just 22….

          • Ripsnorter1

            BTW, I want Almora to play CF for us. : )

          • SuzyS

            Yep…I want Almora to play CF for us also…but maybe give Szczur a shot before Almora arrives.
            BTW…Almora could develop power…just like Sandberg did…when everyone projected him to be a singles a doubles hitter.
            Maybe Almora might become the next Johnny Damon???

            Actually, I’ll own up to 29…and have for the last several years:-)

          • Ripsnorter1

            Well, I know you don’t nothing anything about mathematics, but
            I do respect your opinion about Almora’s power. He’s just 19, so
            he could turn out to be a power bat in five years. : )

          • cubtex

            agreed, but now they need to draft a pitcher.

          • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

            I agree, we need to get a future staff ace…

          • John_CC

            Yes they need pitching. But had they drafted pitchers in the first round the past 3 years, we would all be talking about the pathetic offense and how they need hitters.

            Six of one…

            Silly argument.

    • SuzyS

      I agree with the impact pitching need….Although I like Bryant a lot…I am on record as saying I was disappointed we didn’t draft Gray at the time.
      Baez was a Hendry6 pick.
      Either way…we need at least 2 TOR pitchers in the near future.

      • cubtex

        I am not saying I am disappointed with the last picks. I think Theo was shocked the Astros took Appel. They need to draft a pitcher in this draft though. Tyler Beede would be a good pick if he is there.

        • SuzyS

          agreed.

    • K_Gripp

      Not so fast on Appel. He struggled at times in Low-A and didn’t hit the ground running after the time off before he was signed.I was able to see 3 of his starts in person and he was less than impressive in all 3. He could erase all of those doubts and get back on track with a strong start to next season but I doubt that he is pitching for the Astros next season.

      • cubtex

        You could be right. He threw close to 150 IP last year between Stanford and the minors and Astros shut him down…but the point remains that he is in on the fast track.

  • cubtex

    Axford signed with Cleveland. Whew!

    • Ripsnorter1

      We got Wesley Wright and Liam Hendricks instead.
      Whew!

      • cubtex

        Seriously….would you want John Axford saving games next year? He is Carlos Marmol 2.0 No control and when he falls behind he gets hammered and gives up many long ones. If we are going to lose next year…don’t sign Axford to do it.

      • cubtex

        and don’t be so quick to dismiss Liam Hendriks. He hasn’t had much success yet in the majors but I have seen him pitch a couple of times. He could end up being a serviceable back end guy.

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