As we inch towards opening day we will be seeing more of these reports, these are both good and bad, good meaning we are finally getting an idea of what the roster might look like, bad because, well, being cut isn’t a bad thing, it’s a developmental step, yeah that’s it. Today the Cubs announced they have sent six players back to various levels of their system, five pitchers and one position player. We will start with the position player, Logan Watkins, a guy I really like, and I think the Cubs do as well as he is versatile in that he can play a number of infield spots. It looks as though he will start the 2013 campaign in Iowa as the starting second baseman, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him at Wrigley at some point this year.
Now let’s discuss the pitchers that were sent packing. Brooks Raley, who started a few games for the Cubs at the end of last year will be headed to Iowa, and most likely be in the rotation there. Raley had an opportunity to crack the roster coming out of camp but had a less than memorable Spring up to this point. Alberto Cabrera, who the Cubs are trying to morph back into a starter will also take up residence in Iowa, like Raley, there was an outside shot of Cabrera making the team as he saw time with the Cubs last year, but a bad Spring forced the Cubs hand. The 2012 Minor League Pitcher of the Year in the Cubs organization, Nick Struck, was also sent home from camp today. Struck had a decent Spring and will look to build off an impressive 2012 this year, most likely in Iowa, yes that staff is pretty full already. Robert Whitenack, who spent much of 2012 coming back from Tommy John surgery, was another one of the cuts. Whitenack is intriguing, as many people in the organization like his arm, and ability, it’s now a matter of regaining confidence post surgery and I think that is what is holding him back. Whitenack is someone to pay attention to as he is already on the Cubs 40-man roster, my guess is he starts a AA Tennessee, that might be a little advanced for him, but he has to show the Cubs organization that he belongs.
The final cut is probably the most notable, Trey McNutt, and his beard. McNutt was a pitching prospect for the Cubs before they restocked with other pitching prospects, if that makes sense. McNutt, originally a starter has become seemingly more valuable out of the bullpen, that made it realistic for him to break camp with the Cubs and be another solid arm in the pen. With him being cut from camp I would think the Cubs would like to see what he can do strictly as a reliever at AAA Iowa, I think that McNutt has a future with the Cubs, and I think it’s out of the pen, but time and performance will tell. The Cubs roster now stands at 53, as I said, inching closer to that magical 25 number for April 1st.
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Every time the Cubs fought back in this one the Giants would tack on a couple of insurance runs to keep the Cubs at bay, the Cubs final push came in the ninth inning as they scored twice, but ran out of outs as they fell to the Giants 9-7. Carlos Villanueva made his second appearance of the Spring, and had a much better performance. Villanueva was able to make it through three innings, giving up one run on four hits while walking one, and striking out two. It was nice to see Villanueva find the strike zone repeatedly in this one, I’ll take giving up hits over walks any day, and he was able to work around the hits for the most part. Barret Loux came on in relief and didn’t have it today, he tossed two innings, giving up four runs, all earned on three hits while walking one and striking out one, Loux was hung with the loss. Jaye Chapman also struggled today as he surrendered two runs on two hits in his inning of work. After having a rough Spring debut, Robert Whitenack bounced back nicely today as he pitched a scoreless inning, walking one and striking out one.
The Cubs were once again productive at the plate as they scored seven runs while pounding out ten hits. Brian Bogusevic got the start in right field today and was stellar at the plate going 2-for-2 with a triple, a walk, and two runs scored. Dioner Navarro only had one hit but he had a productive day, he ended the day 1-for-3 with a walk, and two RBI’s. Steve Clevenger got the start at first base today, yes first base, and he did his best Anthony Rizzo impersonation going 2-for-3 with two RBI’s, Clevenger is having a solid Spring at the plate, hitting .500 (4-for-8) in the early going. Brett Jackson didn’t start, but had an eventful day nonetheless going 1-for-1 with a double, and a stolen base. Jackson is having a resurgent Spring, and a lot of that can be contributed to a new swing, and new-found confidence, he his slated to start 2013 in Iowa, but is doing everything he can to make that decision anything but a given, he’s hitting .375 (3-for-8) with two triples, and a double this Spring.
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The Cubs used the long ball early and often against Chad Billingsley and the Dodgers staff to build a 6-2 lead through three innings. Nate Schierholtz hit a solo shot in the first, and then Welington Castillo went back to back with Darnell McDonald in the third inning. McDonald padded the RBI numbers with a three run homer, a no doubter. Unfortunately that was about it for the Cubs offense as they couldn’t scratch across another run the rest of the afternoon. Carlos Villanueva made his Cubs debut and it could have been better as he struggled with his command. Villanueva couldn’t make in through the first inning as he walked two guys, and gave up two runs in two-thirds of an inning. Blake Parker and Barret Loux had solid outings, each turning in a scoreless effort. Robert Whitenack struggled today, giving up three runs, while not allowing a hit, yes he struggled with command as well, walking two in two-thirds of an inning. The news of the day came from Dontrelle Willis, not because he made his debut, but because he only threw seven pitches before leaving with what is being described as shoulder stiffness, he took the loss.
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Today was the deadline to protect players from the MLB Rule 5 draft, players on a teams 40 man roster are protected, so it comes as no surprise that the Cubs filled out their 40 man roster today. The Cubs purchased the contracts of right-handed pitcher Trey McNutt, infielder Christian Villanueva, minor league player of the year in the Cubs organization Logan Watkins, and right-handed pitcher Robert Whitenack. The other minor league player of the year, Nick Struck was not added to the 40 man and thus left unprotected and available to any team that may want to add him in the Rule 5 Draft. It’s not that much of a surprise that he wasn’t added because the guys that were added have a better shot at sticking with the Cubs, especially McNutt. I think the move to the pen was the right one for McNutt last year and he could have pitched out of a Major League bullpen last year so it was wise for the Cubs to go in that direction.
In addition to filling out the roster the Cubs also designated Bryan LaHair for assignment. The 2012 all-star is said to be looking into an opportunity to sign with a Japan team for next season, if that’s the case I hope he has a great year next year, he was a lot of fun to watch for 51 games last season.
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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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A look at August 23 minor league recap.
Down 8-2 the AZL Cubs came storming back to not only tie the game in the ninth, but score five in the 10th to win it. Dillon Maples started, but struggled with his control walking four and giving up four runs in just 1.2 innings. After Loiger Padron gave up four runs over 2.1 innings the rest of the pen did a pretty good job only allowing one more run to score. Chad Martin ended up getting the win as he struck out four in just one inning. Justin Marra had a good night at the plate going 3-for-5 with three doubles and two RBIs. David Bote and Trevor Gretzky each had two hits and two RBIs a piece in the win. Shawon Dunston had two hits and an RBI and Yasiel Balaguert drove in two runs of his own. Ben Carhart ended the night 1-for-4 with an RBI and three runs scored and Anthony Giansanti scored two and knocked on in as well. This was a great comeback win for the Cubs.
Boise has been scoring a lot of runs lately and Thursday was no different beating Vancouver 11-5. Boise once again pounded out 17 hits to go along with their 11 runs. Albert Almora was back in the lineup and he went 4-for-5, including two doubles, three runs scored, and two RBIs. Wilson Contreras and Darien Martin each had three hits with Martin knocking in three runs and Contreras scoring three and driving in one as well. Dan Vogelbach and Stephen Bruno each had two hits, both collecting doubles. Rock Shoulders and Izaac Garsez both had a hit and RBI in the Hawks victory. Hayden Simpson started and got the win as he allowed three runs on six hits in five innings, while striking out seven. Brian Smith pitched two nice innings in relief not giving up a run and striking out two. Tyler Bremer finished this one off for the Hawks striking out two over the last 1.1 innings. Boise’s magic number is now at two.
Behind Michael Jensen Peoria beat Beloit 6-1. Jensen was stellar pitching six innings allowing only one run on two hits, while striking out four. He is now 11-5 with a 3.47 ERA. Justin Berg and Larry Suarez combined to pitch the final three innings, not giving up a run and striking out three. Leadoff hitter Zeke DeVoss had a really nice game going 3-for-4 with a home run. Pin-Chieh Chen continued to impress as he had two hits, two runs scored, and two RBIs. Jorge Soler and Chadd Krist each had a double and Soler had an RBI. Timothy Saunders is human as he didn’t have a hit in this, but he did drive in a run and Jacob Rogers contributed to the win with a hit and a run scored.
Robert Whitenack gave up three in the first and that was all Clearwater would need beating Daytona 3-0. On a positive note Kyler Burke pitched three scoreless innings in relief striking out three. Matt Iannazzo, Scott Weismann, and Jeff Lorick combined to throw the final two innings of the game. Offensively there really is nothing to report as Daytona only had three hits. John Andreoli, Ronald Torreyes, and Rebel Ridling were the only Cubs to have hits in the shutout loss.
After scoring five runs over the first two innings Tennessee had to hold on in this one beating Chattanooga 5-4. Austin Kirk started, but got a no decision as he wasn’t able to finish five innings giving up four runs in 4.2 innings. He gave up four hits, walked five, and struck out six. Trey McNutt pitched a perfect innings and recorded his eighth win of the season. Brian Schlitter struck out three in two innings and Frank Batista earned his 24th save of the season as he pitched a scoreless ninth. At the plate Justin Bour was 2-for-4 including his 35th double and an RBIs bringing his season total to 109. Jae-Hoon Ha and Junior Lake each had a double and drove in two runs of their own. Rubi Silva and Michael Brenly each had a hit and a run scored in the Smokies victory.
A two run second was enough for Oklahoma City as they hung on to beat Iowa 2-1. Ryan Rowland-Smith started and took the loss giving up two runs in five innings. Marcus Hatley, Jeff Beliveau, and Esmailin Caridad combined to pitch the final four innings allowing only one hit and striking out five. Offensively speaking the Cubs had only six hits and one run, but there were a couple of good performances. Dave Sappelt was 2-for-4 including a double and an RBI. James Adduci also had a double in the this one and he stole his sixth base of the season. Tony Campana, Alfredo Amezaga, and Matt Tolbert all had a hit a piece with Amezaga scoring the Cubs only run in the 2-1 loss.
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A quick recap of the Cubs minor league system on August 16.
The AZL Cubs only gave up three hits on Thursday beating the Reds 9-1. Anthony Prieto started and pitched three quality innings allowing no runs on one hit while striking out three. Carlos Martinez-Pumarino got his fifth win of the year pitching five nice innings in relief. He gave up one run on two hits while striking out seven in five innings. Jin-Young Kim threw a scoreless ninth striking out one. The pitching wasn’t the only highlight of the night as the Cubs scored nine on 11 hits. Shawon Dunston was really good going 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs. Yasiel Balaguert had a nice offensive night as he had two hits, a homer and a double. Trevor Gretzky continued his great run going 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI. Garrett Schlecht, Carlos Penalver, and Alberto Mineo all drove in one run. It was good to see the offense get going again on Thursday night.
Boise put up five runs through the first four innings of this one and that was more than enough as they beat Tri-City 7-2. We will start with our Albert Almora watch. Almora went 2-for-5 with a double and a run scored. Carlos Escobar had two hits, including a double and three RBIs. Jeimer Candelario was 1-for-4 with a double and two RBIs. Dan Vogelbach and Wilson Contreras each drove in a run with Contreras going 3-for-5 with a double. Giosakar Amaya added a triple and walked three times. The other story of the night was Pierce Johnson who was just great striking out five of the six outs he recorded. Felix Pena got the win as he went the next five innings allowing two run on five hits. Nathan Dorris picked up his third save of the year striking out three batters in two innings. Boise had a very nice night all around.
Peoria only gave up three hits, but couldn’t plate a run as they lost to Burlington 4-0. Willengton Cruz got the start for Chiefs and took the loss giving up two runs in two innings of work. Luis Liria and Sheldon McDonald each gave up an unearned run as they combined to pitch the next five innings. Larry Suarez struck out four and pitched the final to innings for Peoria. Dustin Geiger and Timothy Saunders each had a really nice game at the plate recording two hits a piece. Oliver Zapata, Zeke DeVoss, and Pin-Chieh Chen all had a hit to round out the offense for the Chiefs. Once again the defense was an issue as Peoria committed three errors, and allowed two unearned runs to score.
It started out as a good night, but turned into a tough one as they gave up four runs in the eighth and two in the ninth to lose 7-6. Javier Baez had his best night since moving to Daytona going 3-for-4 with a home run and a double. He ended the night with three RBIs and two runs scored as well. Rebel Ridling was 2-for-4 with a double and two runs scored. Taylor Davis also had a double and drove in two for the Cubs. Christian Villanueva had been quiet for a while, but he added a hit and an RBI of his own. Robert Whitenack pitched the first four innings allowing one run on four hits. Matt Spencer threw two really nice innings in relief and was in line to get the win, but the Cubs bullpen couldn’t hold the lead. First Scott Weismann recorded just two outs and gave up four runs and then after the Cubs took the lead again Jeff Lorick gave up two more runs and took the loss. On a positive it was nice to see Baez have a nice night, hope that is the beginning of a tear.
Tennessee only go four hits in this one, but made them count beating Birmingham 4-3. What else is there to say about Justin Bour. He hit his 16th home run of the season, a three run shot in the third bringing his RBI total to 105. Jae-Hoon Ha was 1-for-3 with an RBI and Elliot Soto drove in a run. Michael Burgess and Dustin Harrington each had a hit as well, with Burgess having a double. Eric Jokisch started, but only lasted 4.2 innings allowing two runs on six hits. Tony Zych came in in relief and got the win pitching a scoreless two innings. After Kevin Rhoderick allowed an unearned run Frank Batista closed the door pitching the final 1.2 innings in recording his 22nd save.
Iowa lost to Tucson 7-6. Seth McClung‘s first start with Iowa didn’t go as planned allowing seven runs, four earned on seven hits in 3.1 innings. Ryan Searle threw 2.2 scoreless innings and Jay Jackson pitched two scoreless. After getting down by six early Iowa’s offense got to work, but it just wasn’t enough. Alfredo Amezaga was 4-for-5 witha double, a run scored, and an RBI. Tony Campana had two hits and stole a base. Blake Lalli also had two hits driving in one run and Greg Rohan was 1-for-4 with an RBI. Diory Hernandez and Matt Tolbert each had two hits and Jeff Frazier drove in a run. After two wins in a row it’s back to the “L” column for Iowa.
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