It has been speculated for about a month now, but today it became official, the Cubs have announced they have reached an agreement to move their single A affiliate from Peoria to Kane County. Opening day for the Cougars will be Thursday, April 4.
“We are extremely excited about our new relationship with the Chicago Cubs,” said Cougars General Manager Curtis Haug. “The close proximity between both organizations will be mutually beneficial in numerous ways. We believe that the Cubs organization and their philosophies about the minor leagues, including scouting, player development, and involvement in the community, are a fantastic fit for our franchise.”
The Kane County Cougars are excited to bring the Cubs affiliate to town and so are the Cubs as the comments from Jason McLeod below.
“We are excited at the opportunity to work with the Kane County franchise,” said Cubs Senior Vice President of Scouting/Player Development Jason McLeod. “The benefits of having one of our minor league clubs this close to Chicago are numerous and we look forward to starting this new relationship.”
Not only is it exciting for the Cubs and the Cougars, but for so many Cub fans who can see some of the young, exciting Cubs talent so close to the Chicagoland area. The new contract with Kane County will last for two years, running through the 2014 season.
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As we heads towards the end of the season it starts to become a reality, there’s only a handful of Cubs games left this year. For most, this is a blessing as some fans can’t “bear”…. (get it?) to watch anymore given how bad the team has been and other sports have started. For this Cubs fan it’s not so great as I enjoy watching this team play, no matter how infuriating it is at times. With that said it’s time to start focusing on the off-season baseball that will take place, first up is the Cubs instructional league that starts today. This is an important step for many of these players as they are going to get more game experience, and another opportunity to impress the front office heading into next season. Below is a breakdown of everyone that will participate this year, the games begin on September 21. We will give you much more information on these players as our player cards come out, we will also do our best to give you results and box scores of these games, so stay tuned!
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MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo has done an updated top 100 prospects lists as well as each organizations top 20. Mayo will probably come out with a list prior to the 2013 season, but here is where Cubs prospects stand as of now according to Mayo. To check out the entire top 100 list and to read a little more on these Cubs prospects.
1. Javier Baez – SS (#24)
When the Cubs picked Almora they new his bat was going to play and that is exactly what happened. The Cubs top pick from 2011 was outstanding in his time with Peoria this year hitting .333/.383/.596 with 12 home runs, 33 RBIs and 20 stolen bases. He struggled a bit when moving to Daytona, but overall it was very successful season for the young shortstop.
2. Albert Almora – OF (#52)
The Cubs top pick in this years draft didn’t sign right away, but when he did he didn’t disappoint. He started with the AZL Cubs and moved to Boise shortly after. Combined he played in 33 games hitting .321/.331/.464 with two home runs and 19 RBIs. He also hit 12 doubles.
3. Brett Jackson – OF (#74)
It has been an interesting year for Brett Jackson who has dropped a bit in the prospect watch. The good news first he has made it to the show and when he makes contact does some damage as he left Iowa with 22 doubles, 12 triples, and 15 home runs, to go along with 27 stolen bases. He also plays great defense, the bad news is he has really struggled making contact striking out over 200 times between his two stops.
4. Arodys Vizcaino – RHP (#76)
Vizcaino was considered one the Braves best young pitchers and was deemed untouchable last year. Things changed a bit this year as he missed the entire season after elbow surgery in March. The Cubs are very pleased to have acquired Vizcaino, but it remains to be seen how he will recover from surgery. Lets hope it is as a starter, but at the least he is a power arm out of the pen which the Cubs need badly as well.
5. Jorge Soler – OF (#77)
Jorge Soler did quite well in getting accustomed to baseball in America. He is still very raw, but at 20 the Cubs feel very strongly he will be a big contributor to the big club in the future. He spent time with the AZL Cubs and moved to Peoria where he finished the year. He combined to hit .299/.398/.463 with five home runs and 25 RBIs in just 34 games.
6. Matt Szczur – OF
The speedy outfielder had a nice season in Daytona hitting .295/.394/.407 with 38 stolen bases, but struggled a bit in 35 games with Tennessee.
7. Trey McNutt – RHP
McNutt did not have the year he was looking to have going 9-8 with 4.26 ERA. He struggled a bit and was moved to the bullpen, but maybe it will be better for him and the Cubs.
8. Junior Lake -SS
Lake played the entire year in Tennessee and did a pretty good job going .279/.341/.432 with 10 home runs, 50 RBIs, and 21 stolen bases. He is still very raw and will continue to work on his game.
9. Pierce Johnson – RHP
The Cubs took Johnson with the 43rd overall pick in this years draft and he did quite well making six starts, two with the AZL Cubs and four with Boise.
10. Josh Vitters – 3B
The former first round pick, number 3 overall finally put it all together this year in Iowa hitting .304/.356/.513 with 17 home runs and 68 RBIs. The PCL All Star got the call up, but has struggled so far with the Cubs, but at only 23 the future is still very bright for Vitters.
11. Dillon Maples – RHP
It took a while for Maples to make his first appearance, but when he did he showed signs of what he could be. He was a bit inconsistent in his six appearances, but he will have more opportunities next season to show what he has. He has tremendous upside.
12. Robert Whitenack – RHP
Coming off of Tommy John surgery Whitenack struggled pitching for Daytona going 1-6 with a 5.96 ERA. Although the numbers don’t look good, remember he is coming off of major surgery and has good upside.
13. Dan Vogelbach – 1B
Not many Cubs prospects did as much damage as Vogelbach did this year. The big first baseman played in 61 games this season between the AZL Cubs and Boise Hawks. He hit .322/.410/.641 with 17 home runs and 62 RBIs.
14. Ben Wells – RHP
A 2010 draft pick the 19-year-old Wells missed most of the season with a right elbow strain. He made a few appearances at the end of the year, but will look to stay healthy in 2013.
15. Paul Blackburn – RHP
Another 2012 draft pick Paul Blackburn was chosen 56th overall out of high school. He made nine appearances for the AZL Cubs going 2-0 with a 3.48 ERA.
16. Jeimer Candelario – 3B
Candelario played the entire season at Boise and at only 18 the corner infielder showed he can hit a little bit. The switch hitting Candelario hit .281/.345/.396 with six home runs and 47 RBIs.
17. Gioskar Amaya – 2B/SS
Amaya played his season in Boise and put up some good numbers. He his .298/.381/.496. The 19-year old filled up the stat sheet with six doubles, 12 triples, and eight home runs. He also drove in 33 and stole 15 bases.
18. Tony Zych – RHP
Zych shared time between Daytona and Tennessee out of the bullpen. He combined to going 5-4 with a 3.67 ERA with 64 strikeouts in 61.1 innings.
19. Alberto Cabrera – RHP
Cabrera, who moved to the bullpen this year started in Double-A, but quickly moved to Triple-A before finally ending up with the big club. His minor league numbers were really good going 4-1 with 3.11 ERA with 74 strikeouts to only 14 walks. He has struggled since coming to the Cubs, but we’ll see where he factors in going forward.
20. Marcus Hatley – RHP
Hatley pitched well in Tennessee out of the bullpen going 3-1 with a 3.40 with 46 strikeouts in 45 innings. He then got the call to Iowa where he struggled in his time there.
It is good to see the Cubs have five players who are inside the top 80 in MLB. You can also see the emphasis the Cubs placed on pitching, drafting Pierce Johnson and Paul Blackburn in this years draft as well as bringing in Arodys Vizcaino in the Paul Maholm deal. Looking a little further into things is the talent Theo Epstein and company brought in this year. They obviously brought in the three pitchers above as well as Albert Almora and Jorge Soler. three of those five are inside the Cubs top five and Pierce Johnson makes it four in the top 10. The exciting thing is there are more who they brought in who I would guess are close to cracking this top 20 and who may even show up in the top 20 before the 2013 season gets underway. Keep checking back this offseason as we will talk more in-depth about these prospects as well as many more.
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There are very few things to get excited about when the team you obsess over is bad. One of the few things to get excited about are prospects making their Major League debut late in the season, and that is exactly what will happen tomorrow night in Milwaukee. The Cubs have announced that 25-year-old southpaw Chris Rusin will pitch tomorrow night. Rusin was drafted by the Cubs in the 2009 amateur draft in the fourth round, and he has made steady progress in the system since then. Here is a pretty stellar scouting report from John Arguello at Cubs Den…
“I’ve watched Rusin often in the minor leagues and most recently in the Dominican League and, if you like the art of pitching, he is a pleasure to watch. He works in the 88-90 mph range with his fastball and, according to Baseball America, has the best change-up and command in the system. Those two factors make his otherwise average stuff play up quite a bit. Rusin attacks the lower part of the strike zone, often jumping ahead of hitters early in the count. He keeps hitters off balance by constantly changing speeds and locations so that when he does “fire” a 90 mph fastball, it probably looks more like 95 mph. Despite a fringe average fastball, hitters often fail to get a good swing on it.
Rusin numbers in the Dominican Winter league are solid. He has a 2.84 ERA and a solid 2.8/7.5 walk to strikeout ratio. That ratio is pretty much in line with his minor league career rates of 1.93/7.05.
Rusin also has had excellent groundball to flyball ratios. This winter his G/F ratio is 3.45 and it was 3.61 at Iowa this past season. The solid strikeout and ground ball numbers bode well for a pitcher in Wrigley Field, especially when the wind is blowing out, as it often does in the summer.
He’s not a top end starter but he can certainly give you some solid innings at the back of the rotation, perhaps as soon as April of next season. He isn’t going to beat himself out there. His FIP numbers throughout his minor league career seem to indicate that if you put a good defense around him, he’ll keep you in the game consistently.”
Here’s a look at Rusin’s numbers this year with Iowa.
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2012 first round draft pick Albert Almora has been promoted to Boise and will join the team tomorrow. The center fielder has been really hot of late going 10 for his last 14 with five RBIs over his last three games. In 75 at bats with the AZL Cubs he is hitting .347/.363/.480 with one home run and 13 RBIs. There are about three weeks left in the Hawks season and they currently in first place in the second half. We will see how the 18-year-old handles the promtion and see if he can help Boise to a playoff birth. Here is the first stepping stone of many for Almora and we look forward to seeing him progress in the future.
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