Two Cubs prospects take part in the annual AFL Rising Stars Game. One less fortunate member of the Mesa Solar Sox finds himself out for the season. Two vacancies are created on the minor league coaching staff, one because of a promotion and the other due to a departure. Find out who’s hot and who’s not in the humid climate of Venezuela.
All that and more in today’s Down on the Farm Report! Minor League News
It was a busy week in the Cubs minor league system with lots of news coming out of Mesa. In addition to the buzz surrounding the Arizona Fall League Rising Stars Game, which aired Saturday night on the MLB Network, a lot of information was revealed at the organizational meetings.
As nearly everyone has heard by now, Ryne Sandberg will not return to the system in 2011. The Hall of Fame second baseman was offered the managerial position at Triple-A Iowa, but he is not willing to return to the minor leagues. The Sun Times reported that Bill Dancy is in line to get promoted to Triple-A. Dancy led the Tennessee Smokies to the Southern League Championship this season.
Dave Keller, who had been the Cubs minor league hitting coordinator since 2004, has been promoted to the big league staff as a special assistant to Mike Quade. Keller started his minor league coaching career in 1990 in the Cleveland Indians organization and also spent several years in the White Sox chain.
According to Bruce Miles, Smokies’ hitting coach Tom Beyers will most likely take over Keller’s job as a roving instructor. The full minor league coaching staffs will be announced sometime within the next month.
Some of the top prospects in the organization will head to Mesa in January or February for a minicamp. Darwin Barney and Brett Jackson are expected to join Tyler Colvin in reporting early this year.
Arizona Fall League
It was a good week for most prospects, who enjoyed the nationally televised Arizona Fall League Rising Stars Game and all the attention brought by the Cubs organizational meetings, but outfielder Brett Jackson was hit with some bad news. His season with the Solar Sox is over because of cellulitis with an abscess in his shin. This condition, which is similar to a staph infection, caused Jackson to be hospitalized. The setback should not affect the start of the 2011 season. The former first round pick will return to Arizona in January to work out and prepare for the start of Spring Training.
The Mesa Solar Sox pounded the Peoria Saguaros 15-1 on Monday to start the month of November on a high note. They pounded out 20 hits and scored two or more runs in all but two of their at-bats. Josh Vitters (2-for-5, BB, 3 RBI) crushed a two-run homer in the fourth inning that broke the game wide open at 8-0. Ryan Flaherty was right in the middle of the hit parade, with three base knocks including a double and an RBI. Click for full box score.
Eight runs were not enough to even make a game of it on Tuesday as the Saguaros returned the favor by beating Mesa 13-8 in Peoria. A shocking 11-run seventh inning for Peoria turned the game around. The Solar Sox, who had built an 8-2 edge, suddenly found themselves trailing 13-8. A day after cranking 20 base hits, Mesa allowed 20 hits and committed six errors. No prospects from the Cubs organization participated in the game. Click for full box score.
The Solar Sox stayed in Peoria to take on the Javelinas in Wednesday’s tilt, which resulted in a crushing 11-2 defeat. Ryan Flaherty returned to the lineup in left field but went 0-for-4. The Javelinas did most of the damage in a six-run sixth. Click for full box score.
The skid was snapped on Thursday afternoon as the Solar Sox returned to HoHoKam Park and topped the Peoria Javelinas 7-4. Ryan Flaherty played at a new position (second base), but got the same result at the plate. He went 0-for-4 to extend his hitless streak. Jake Muyco got the start and went four innings. He allowed three earned runs on two walks and six hits. Chris Carpenter gave up one hit and one walk but that was all in 1.2 innings. Kyle Smit was hit with the blown save, but ended up getting credit for the win as well. He allowed Peoria to tie things at four in the top of the seventh, but his team came back with three runs in the bottom of the inning. David Cales, the fourth Cubs pitching prospect to work in the game, put a zero on the board in the eighth inning. Click for full box score.
Mesa beat Surprise in the final game before the all star break on Friday. They jumped in front with five tallies in the top of the first and cruised to a 13-5 victory at Surprise Stadium. No players from the Cubs’ system played in the game. Click for full box score.
Arizona Fall League Rising Stars Game
The AFL East, whose roster included a pair of Cubs’ prospects, came up just short in the Rising Stars Game on Saturday night in Surprise. The AFL West came away with a 3-2 victory thanks to a walk-off home run by Leslie Anderson.
Josh Vitters, who sat out for the Solar Sox most of the week for an unknown reason, returned to the diamond. He entered the contest as a pinch hitter in the sixth and struck out. He popped out to short in his only other trip to the plate, which came in the top of the ninth.
Chris Carpenter was electric in his inning of work on the hill. He allowed just one hit and struck out two in the shutout seventh. The right-hander had great velocity, lighting up the radar gun and topping out at 99 mph. If you missed the game on Saturday night, it will be replayed on the MLB Network at 1:00am and at noon tomorrow. Click for full box score.
AFL East Standings
AFL West Standings
Peoria Javelinas 13-7
Peoria Saguaros 7-14
Mesa Solar Sox Upcoming Games
*All Times CT
Tonight VS Scottsdale 7:35
Tuesday VS Surprise 1:35
Wednesday VS Phoenix 7:35
Thursday @Surprise 1:35
Friday @Phoenix 1:35
Saturday @Peoria Javelinas 1:35
Stats for Cubs Prospects in AFL
Ryan Flaherty: 17 games, .316 AVG, 4 RBI, 9 BB
Brett Jackson: .250 AVG, 4 games, 3-for-12, 3 runs, 5 RBI
Josh Vitters: .255 AVG, 13 games, 2 HR, 11 RBI
David Cales: 1-0, 2.57 ERA, 6 games
Chris Carpenter: 0-1, 7 games, 4.91 ERA
Jake Muyco: 0-2, 9.18 ERA, 5 games
Kyle Smit: 3-1, 2.70 ERA, 7 games
Caribbean Winter Leagues
Tony Campana has officially recovered from his slow start with Zulia. In the last week, he has raised his average nearly 70 points and has boosted his OBP to .357. Craig Muschko and Austin Bibens-Dirkx are both members of the Zulia pitching staff.
Muschko was touched for only one run in his last start, which was on Saturday. He went 5.2 innings and allowed six hits and one walk. Craig got the win to improve to 2-1 in the Venezuelan Winter League.
Bibens-Dirkx now officially has the most deceiving record in the VWL. He has only one win against two losses and two no decisions in his five starts this winter. However, Austin has an ERA of 1.90 and was hit with the loss in a game in which he did not surrender an earned run.
Marquez Smith is another Cub who has started to come around offensively. He has a .255 batting average, four home runs and 14 runs batted in all in just 15 games. Smith, who’s playing for Aragua, went on a power streak last week including home runs on Sunday and Thursday.
A lot of Cubs hitting prospects are putting up good numbers this winter, but none better than Marwin Gonzalez and Brandon Guyer.
Gonzalez has a .370 average in 21 games for Caracas. He has two dingers, 18 driven in and 15 bases on balls. While Guyer’s numbers are not as prolific as his teammate from Double-A this season, Brandon’s .348 average, one homer, and seven RBI in 19 games are nothing to sneeze at.
Down on the Farm Report Notes
Look for the Down on the Farm Report every Monday throughout the offseason! Follow me on twitter at twitter.com/cubsfarmupdates for updates from the Arizona Fall League this week. If you have any questions or comments, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please visit my Chicago Cubs blog at www.everythingcubs.blogspot.com.