Five Players to Watch: Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa
This is the last in a series of articles highlighting some of the players not noted on off-season prospect lists. The players are as they are presently listed on rosters, and do not necessarily reflect where each player will begin the season. Austin Bibens-Dirkx – RHP
If you are asking the question “who is the next great pitching prospect for the Cubs?” several players come to mind. However, if you are asking “who will be the next Randy Wells or Casey Coleman?” the answer may be Austin Bibens-Dirkx.
The Seattle Mariners originally drafted the Salem, Oregon native in the 16th round in 2006 out of the University of Portland. Bibens-Dirkx was released by the Mariners organization in 2009 following surgery to remove bone spurs. He pitched for the Victoria Seals in the independent Golden Baseball League before his contract was sold to the Cubs organization.
After being placed at Class-A Peoria in 2009, he quickly advanced to Double-A Tennessee. This past season, while pitching for the Smokies, he posted a 5-3 record in 16 starts with a 3.27 ERA. He had 68 strikeouts compared to 27 walks, and a WHIP of 1.00. He was promoted to Triple-A Iowa, where he was 5-4 with a 4.61 ERA in 13 appearances (eight starts). He also had 34 strikeouts, against 21 walks.
Bibens-Dirkx then followed that up with a blistering performance in the Venezuelan Winter League. He went 2-2 in seven starts with a 1.60 ERA and a just over 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio (19 strikeouts to nine walks).
The 6’2″, 190 lbs. Bibens-Dirkx is a good, old-fashioned strikeout pitcher. He uses his low-90’s fastball to set up his well above average slider. Like many strikeout pitchers, he struggles with his command. On days he is spotting his pitches well, he can be practically unhittable, as the .192 batting average against at Double-A suggests. When he is brought up and how he is used will determine his success. If the parent club pitches him on another team’s “get away day”, or a day game after a night game, he may turn in a Ryan O’Malley type of performance.
If he never makes it in the big leagues, you may still hear his name in the future. The Christian-Rock Artist has already produced two CD’s.
Steve Clevenger – C
For those who like to speculate, determining the career path of 24-year old Steve Clevenger would be a real puzzle. Can he be a starting catcher? Will he emulate someone like Craig Biggio and start out as a catcher, and then move to another position? Is he just a platoon player, or, maybe, just a well-rounded backup?
Originally drafted as a second baseman out of Chipola (Fla.) Junior College in 2006, the Baltimore, MD native was switched to catcher in 2007 after a brief try-out at first base.
An offensive player, the 6’0″, 195 lbs., left-handed hitting Clevenger has posted batting averages of .310, .317, .311, and .265 from Low Class-A Boise through Triple-A Iowa. Invited to the Arizona Fall League in 2008, he hit .302 in 17 games for the Mesa Solar Sox. However, power is not his game.
Clevenger hit just five home runs last season, a career high. A contact-hitter, Clevenger has struck out 157 times while walking 137 times, demonstrating good pitch selection. Last season, at Double-A Tennessee, he hit .317 with five home runs and 47 RBI in 88 games.
Clevenger was demoted to Double-A in 2010 after appearing in 68 games at Triple-A Iowa in 2009. The demotion was more due to the progress of fellow prospect Welington Castillo. Clevenger has an excellent fielding percentage of .990 and a 29% caught stealing rate. His well-rounded game will be a plus for any major league roster. How much of a plus remains to be seen.
Marwin Gonzalez – IF
Signed in 2005 at the tender age of 16, switch-hitting infielder Marwin Gonzalez has enjoyed a steady climb through the system.
Gonzalez started his career in 2006, playing in the Dominican Summer League. He then played rookie ball in 2007, seeing time at all four infield positions and batting .288.
He spent the majority of the 2008 season with Short-Season Class-A Boise, playing second, short and third while batting .279, with 43 RBI and 15 stolen bases in 65 games. He finished the season at Low Class-A Peoria, batting .224 in 33 games while playing second and shortstop.
In 2009, Gonzalez spent the entire season at High Class-A Daytona. The pitching dominant Florida State League proved to be a challenge for Gonzalez. He posted only a .241 average in 120 games. However, Gonzalez added to his versatility, playing 10 games in centerfield and 28 in left field while splitting equal time at third, short and second.
Gonzalez returned to Daytona in 2010, seeing time at five different positions and batting .271 in 23 games. When Starlin Castro was promoted to the big leagues, Gonzalez bypassed prospects such as Ryan Flaherty, Junior Lake, and D.J. LeMahieu and was promoted to Double-A Tennessee. He was platooned with Nate Samson at shortstop, batting .246 with 41 RBI in 86 games.
Following the 2010 season, Gonzalez participated in the Venezuelan Winter League. There, he opened some eyes, hitting .324 with 12 doubles, two home runs, and 38 RBI. He followed that up by hitting .295 with five doubles, two triples, seven runs scored, and 11 RBI in the playoffs.
Now, just recently turned 22 years old, Gonzalez’s 2011 season may resemble the child’s game of “Where’s Waldo”. We may not know where Marwin Gonzalez will be next, but it looks as though he is ready blossom.
Luke Sommer – LHP
At 6’3″, 190 lbs., Luke Sommer made a name for himself as a power-hitting outfielder when the Cubs drafted him in the 30th round in 2007 out of the University of San Francisco. Sommer hit .237 with 31 RBI in 49 games of rookie ball. With an abundance of outfield prospects, the organization asked the left-hander if he would like to try pitching, something he hadn’t done since graduating in 2004 from Canby High School in Oregon.
Sommer returned to rookie ball in 2008 and posted a 1-0 record with a 1.08 ERA and eight strikeouts in six relief appearances. He was quickly promoted to Short-Season Low Class-A Boise, where he was 3-2 with a 2.61 ERA in 14 games. He had an outstanding 22 to 2 strikeout to walk ratio and a WHIP of 1.03.
In 2009, Sommer spent the entire season with High Class-A Daytona. He compiled a 2-4 record with a 2.12 ERA in 51 relief appearances. Once again he had an outstanding strikeout to walk ratio of 67 to11 and recorded three saves.
He returned to Daytona in 2010 and assumed the closer’s role. He finished his time in Daytona with a 1-1 record with a 2.52 ERA and six saves in 21 games. Promoted to Double-A Tennessee, Sommer duplicated his 1-1 record with a 2.02 ERA and eight saves in 30 games for the Smokies. Sommer then saw seven games of action at Triple-A Iowa, posting a 1-0 record with a 4.05 ERA. His totals for 2010 were a 2.41 ERA, 14 saves and a 42 to 16 strikeout to walk ratio.
At 25 years old, the late-blooming Sommer projects at least to a situational left-hander role. He has three pitches, sporting a fastball, slider, and change-up he can throw for strikes. However, he will have to work on his velocity, topping out only in the low 90’s. If the organization is patient, Sommer can possibly develop into a late inning weapon.
Polin Trinidad – LHP
Signed by the Cubs on Christmas Eve this past year, Polin Trinidad was originally signed by the Houston Astros in 2002. He spent some time in the Dominican Academy, and began rookie ball in 2005.
Trinidad progressed slowly though the Astros’ system, usually appearing at several levels each season. However, there seemed to be no rhyme or reason with Trinidad’s statistics.
For example, in 2007 he was 6-8 with a 4.18 ERA and 120 strikeouts to 35 walks in 23 starts at Class-A Lexington. Promoted to High Class-A Salem, he went 2-1 with a 2.81 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP.
In 2008, Trinidad started a pattern of mastering a lower level of competition, being promoted, then struggling a bit. He started with a 4-2 record with a 2.32 ERA and 0.92 WHIP at Salem. Promoted to Double-A Corpus Christi, he was 6-5 with a 3.61 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 18 starts.
Returning to Corpus Christi in 2009, he was 7-5 with a 2.94 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP in 13 starts. Once again, he was promoted to Triple-A Round Rock and went 6-5 and a 4.53 and 1.31 WHIP, again in 13 starts.
For 2010, Trinidad broke the trend and posted a 3-8 record with a 5.02 ERA at Round Rock. The Astros placed him back at Corpus Christi, where he was 1-3 with a 4.02 ERA. The Astros then left Trinidad off of their 40-man roster, where he was signed by the Cubs.
Baseball America described Trinidad as a pitcher who “sits in the high 80’s with a nice change-up”. His “funky arm angles” make it hard for the batter to pick the ball up, as his over 4:1 career strikeout to walk would indicate. However, it also causes him to struggle with his location, as opposing batters hit .290 against him at Triple-A. Trinidad’s experience with both stating and relieving might make him a player the parent club calls on if he can improve his pitch location.
- Five Players to Watch: Rookie and Short-Season Low-A Ball
- Five Players to Watch: Low Class-A Peoria and High Class-A Daytona
Attention CCO Readers!
Please continue to post the names of the minor league players you would like the Down on the Farm Report to follow next season. I will track the progress of ten players throughout the entire season. I would like a representative sample of positions and levels of play, and I’d prefer to track at least one player acquired by the Cubs in the off-season. You can name as many players as you like, but remember, only ten will be chosen.