The front office saw a major weakness in the farm system during the 2013 season and spent last year adding catching to the organization. And there is depth at the catching position behind the big league backstops and the well-known names in the organization.
While there are questions if Kyle Schwarber, Victor Caratini and Mark Zagunis can stick behind the plate, the Cubs added the three catchers to the system last year. According to Tony Andracki the Cubs see the catching position turning into a position of strength.
Cubs’ farm director Jaron Madison recently told Comcast SportsNet the team feels the catching position is “definitely becoming one of our strengths.” The Cubs have interesting players at the position throughout the system that will “have to battle for reps and at-bats this year” according to Madison.
Behind the big league trio of Miguel Montero, David Ross and Welington Castillo, the catchers in the organization include Rafael Lopez, Kyle Schwarber, Victor Caratini, Mark Zagunis, Will Remillard, Cael Brockmeyer, Mark Malave, Justin Marra, Tyler Alamo, Erick Castillo and Yohan Matos. Each catcher in the organization was detailed in a Down on the Farm Report in November. Remillard arguably the best defensive catcher in the system and was named the Cubs Minor League Player of the Month for April 2014.
Kyle Schwarber grabs all of the attention due to his elite bat that projects well in the big leagues. Schwarber will spend a lot of time in Major League camp during Spring Training and he will be able to learn not only from Mike Borzello and Henry Blanco but he will also be able to pick up instruction from two of the better receivers in the game. Schwarber could begin the season with Double-A Tennessee if he has a very good spring, worse case Schwarber spends a little more time with Mark Johnson in Myrtle Beach at the beginning of the year.
Victor Caratini is new to the catching position and showed promise last year, so much that Baseball America thinks he is the best defensive catcher in the system. And Mark Zagunis is athletic enough to play the outfield. Caratini and Zagunis have also shown good discipline and approach at the plate.
According to Jaron Madison, the Cubs will continue to “attack” the position because an organization “can’t have enough good catchers.”
- Full Report from Comcast SportsNet – Catching Depth
- Full Report from Comcast SportsNet – Kyle Schwarber
- Full Report – Cubs Minor League Position Analysis – Catcher
Minor League Pitch Clock
It was announced last month that pitch clocks will be used throughout Double- and Triple-A baseball during the upcoming season. Major League Baseball is going to further test the pitch clock that was introduced at the Arizona Fall League. MLB is exploring all ways possible to shorten the length of games and address the pace of the game, which has become an issue for the league.
According to the report from Baseball America, details have to still be worked out but pitch clocks would be installed at every park in the upper two levels of minor league baseball. Minor League Baseball will likely follow the same rules that were tested in the AFL, a 20-second clock with three clocks placed on the field, “two will likely be offset behind home plate and a third will be placed along the outfield wall.”
Major League Baseball is footing the bill for the clocks and installation. Each minor league team will have to employ and cover the cost a clock operator. Umpires and clock operators were expected to attend seminars and receive instruction on how the system will work.
The AFL experiment included a 20-second pitch clock and a 2:05 break between innings. The penalty for a pitcher not being in the set position within 20 seconds was that a ball was awarded to the batter, no matter the count.
Jason McLeod was asked about the pitch clocks during an interview Tuesday on South Bend Cubs Radio and specifically what impact the pitch clock at both the Double- and Triple-A levels might have on big league pitchers on rehab assignments.
“I don’t think that will play in to the decision making part on our end,” McLeod said. “Again, we will have to see how that works itself out. I would think that anyone that we would have on rehab we would not want to have him restricted by time, or pitch clock, or anything like that. Again, it’s going to be case by case but I don’t see it [pitch clock] affecting the decision making process.”
Other pace of game rules that will be tested this year in Double- and Triple-A are batters will be required to keep at least one foot in the batter’s box, a time limit on pitching changes and a limit of time in between innings.
According to the transactions page on Cubs.com, the team re-signed Jonathan Mota to a minor league contract. Mota has spent his entire 10-year minor league career in the Cubs system after debuting as an 18-year old in 2005 with the Boise Hawks.
Mota split time last year between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa. Mota played everywhere on the field with the exception of catcher and pitcher last year and he’s played every position in the minors except catcher in his career.
Jonathan Mota batted .252/.280/.344 in 99 games last season with 13 doubles, two triples and four home runs for a .624 OPS.
The Cubs selected David Garner in the seventh round of the 2013 draft out of Michigan State University. Garner will pitch at 22 years old this season and made it to Kane County last year. Garner was a combined 2-1 in 22 relief appearances with a 3.86 ERA and 1.55 WHIP between Boise and Kane County. Garner surrendered 31 hits with 16 walks and 36 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings.
David Garner could begin the season with the South Bend Cubs, which is 11 miles south from his hometown of Niles, Michigan. While he would like to pitch near his hometown, Garner is focused on High-A Myrtle Beach according to a report from Baseball Essential.
Garner said the reason he would want to skip over or spend as little time as possible in South Bend would be getting closer to his dream of playing in the big leagues.
Garner credits Boise pitching coach Brian Lawrence for teaching him how to pitch last year instead of just being a thrower. Lawrence received a promotion of his own and will be the pitching coach for the South Bend Cubs during the upcoming season. Garner explained that Brian Lawrence also taught him and his teammates “how to be professionals on and off the field.”
The young right-hander spent the off-season preparing for Spring Training and setting goals for himself for the season.
David Garner is one of the many young arms in the lower levels of the Cubs’ system that everyone should keep their eye on.
Minor News and Notes
According to the transactions page on Cubs.com, the team signed OF Jose Rojas, INF Jhonny Bethancourt, RHP Bryan Molina and RHP Freddy Tineo to minor league contracts. All four players are from Venezuela. Rojas turns 21 in April, Bethancourt is an 18-year old infielder, Molina turns 20 next month and Tineo is just 17 years old (Nov. 22, 1997). Stats and scouting reports on the four players were not available.
RHP Pierce Johnson will be in big league camp when Spring Training starts next week. Comcast SportsNet talked to him about what he learned last year.
South Bend Cubs owner, Andrew Berlin made it official during Monday’s First Pitch Banquet that Tom Ricketts would be throwing out the first pitch on Opening Day (April 9) and Wayne Messmer will sing the National Anthem.
Andrew Berlin also said plans were in the works before he passed away to have Ernie Banks in South Bend for an autograph session with the fans. And at that time, the team would have named the centerfield gate after Mr. Cub.
Jamie Moyer couldn’t say no when he was asked to be part of the South Bend Cubs First Pitch Banquet … click here for video.
According to the Elkhart Truth, Mark Haley is staying in South Bend and will be the director and an instructor for the South Bend Cubs Performance Center, the “Cubs Cage.” Haley will coach a U17 travel team that will be called ‘The South Bend Silver Hawks.’ Haley managed the High-A South Bend Silver Hawks for the last decade.
Jonathan Mayo released his list of sleeper prospects … spoiler alert, not a single Cubs’ prospect made his list.