The Arizona Fall League started Tuesday and the Cubs have eight prospects playing for the Mesa Solar Sox.
RHP Corey Black, RHP David Garner, RHP Pierce Johnson, LHP Ron Zastryzny, C/1B Cael Brockmeyer, C Willson Contreras, 3B Jeimer Candelario and OF Mark Zagunis are spending the fall in Arizona with manager Mark Johnson.
Mesa is 0-2 after two games with a night game on tap for Thursday.
Pierce Johnson got the ball for the Solar Sox on Opening Day. Willson Contreras was behind the plate, hit third and Mark Zagunis started in right field for Mesa.
Johnson allowed three runs on three hits with two walks and a strikeout in three innings. Johnson made 46 pitches, 24 for strikes. Rob Zastryzny followed Johnson and gave up one run (home run) on one hit with a walk and three strikeouts in two innings. Corey Black pitched a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts.
Willson Contreras was 0-for-5 on Tuesday with a strikeout. Mark Zagunis went 0-for-2 with two walks, a strikeout and a run scored. Jeimer Candelario was used as a pinch-hitter (0-for-1) and stayed in at the end of the game to play third base.
Jeimer Candelario started at third base and batted third Wednesday. Candelario was 3-for-4 with a double, a walk and a run scored. Candelario was caught trying to steal second base. Candelario was the only position player to participate in the first game of the fall at Sloan Park. David Garner pitched the ninth inning. Garner walked two and struck out two without allowing a hit or any runs. Garner made 21 pitches, nine for strikes, in Mesa’s 7-6 loss.
C Willson Contreras had an excellent season and put his name on the map with the National Media. Contreras won the Southern League Batting Title and was the Cubs Minor League Player of the Year. And Keith Law thought enough of Contreras’ season to point out how well he played in his Prospects of the Year report.
Keith Law thinks Contreras is “good enough behind the plate that he should make it easier for the Cubs to convert Kyle Schwarber into a full-time outfielder.”
Contreras is a very good receiver that has work to do both offensively and defensive. Contreras put up the numbers this year at the plate (.333/.413/.478/.891, 34 doubles, four triples, eight home runs) and has forced his way into the Cubs’ catching conversations.
Willson Contreras is playing in the Arizona Fall League, will be added to the 40-man roster next month and will have a chance to show Joe Maddon, Chris Bosio and the coaching staff what he is capable of in the spring.
According to a report from Gordon Wittenmyer, 3B Jeimer Candelario has pushed his way into the Cubs’ plans.
The switch-hitting, 21-year old third baseman hit .270/.318/.415 in 82 games for High-A Myrtle Beach before he was promoted to Double-A Tennessee. Candelario excelled with the Smokies and batted .291/.379/.462 in 46 games to finish the season a combined .277/.339/.431 with 35 doubles, four triples and 10 home runs for a .770 OPS.
Wittenmyer talked to Jaron Madison, the Cubs’ farm director, about Candelario. The Cubs think Candelario was pressing in 2014 and that led to his struggles and demotion from High-A Daytona to Low-A Kane County. Madison said Candelario relaxed this year and performed.
The Cubs are also very pleased with the progress he made defensively.
Jeimer Candelario is playing in the Arizona Fall League. The Cubs would like to see he hit for a little more power in Arizona before he is done playing for the year.
Baseball America confirmed LHP James Russell elected for free agency. Russell re-signed with the Cubs in the spring on a minor league contract after the Braves let him walk. Russell played a big role in the bullpen early in the season before he ran out of gas.
Russell was designated for assignment on Sept. 1 to open a spot on the 40-man roster for RHP Trevor Cahill. Russell was outrighted to Triple-A Iowa and finished the season with the I-Cubs. Russell appeared in nine games for Iowa and posted a 2-0 record with three saves, 2.45 ERA and 1.09 WHIP.
The Cubs selected Russell in the 14th round of the 2007 draft. Russell made his big league debut on April 5, 2010. Russell was 0-2 in 49 games with a 5.29 ERA and 1.50 WHIP this year with the Cubs. Over six seasons with the Cubs, Russell was 10-18 with a 4.03 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 365 games with five starts.
James Russell has appeared in the most games by a left-handed pitcher in franchise history.
The Cubs designated LHP Tsuyoshi Wada for assignment on Sunday to make room on the 40-man roster for C Taylor Teagarden. And according to the transactions page on Cubs.com, Wada was outrighted to Triple-A Iowa.
Wada will become a free agent and could re-sign with the team. Wada pitched in only one game after the roster expanded and does not appear to be in the Cubs’ plans moving forward. Wada was 1-1 in eight games, seven starts, with a 3.62 ERA and 1.26 WHIP this season for the Cubs. In 16 starts for Iowa, Wada was 4-5 with a 3.95 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. Wada allowed 44 runs, 38 earned, on 93 hits with 26 walks and 62 strikeouts in 86 2/3 innings.
Tsuyoshi Wada pitched in 21 games and made 20 starts over two seasons in the majors with the Cubs. Wada was 5-5 with a 3.36 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 3.94 FIP (42 runs, 38 earned, on 97 hits with 30 walks and 88 strikeouts in 101 2/3 innings).
News and Notes
• The Cubs’ system won the fifth most games in the minors this season (371-316) and was one of the top 10 organizations, in terms of minor league winning percentage, to have at least one affiliate win a league championship. The Cubs’ High-A affiliate, Myrtle Beach Pelicans are the 2015 Carolina League Champions.
• According to Baseball America, OF Donnie Dewees has been looking for ways to capitalize on his plus-plus speed. Baseball America spent time at fall instructs and posted a very good report with information from Mesa on Dewees, Dylan Cease and how the prospects watched the NL Wild Card Game.
• The Cubs signed 2B Orian Nunez to a minor league contract. Little is known about the 17-year old infielder from the Dominican Republic. Nunez is 5-foot-10, 160 pounds and bats and throws from the right side.
• Sports Illustrated ranked Myrtle Beach Pelicans’ Christmas Vacation in July uniforms No. 9 among minor league uniforms. And the Tennessee Smokies checked in at No. 6 for their Smoky Mountain Service Dog uniforms.
• According to Baseball America several players with Cubs ties filed for free agency or were outrighted to Triple-A … Jeff Bianchi (free agency – Red Sox), Ryan Lavarnway (outrighted – Braves), Casey Coleman (free agency – Royals), Scott Baker (free agency – Dodgers) and Chris Volstad (free agency – Pirates).
• And from the departing Andrew Green, Kyle Schwarber (2015), Kris Bryant (2014), Javier Baez (2013) and Justin Bour (2012) led the Double-A Tennessee Smokies in home runs the last four seasons.