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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Now THAT is an early Spring Training game if I’ve ever seen one, and I didn’t even see this one. It was a long, messy game that ended with the Cubs on the losing end of an 11-7 final, and holding their breath about a potential injury to their franchise shortstop, more on that later. It was a tale of two games for both teams really as seventeen of the eighteen runs scored in the game crossed the plate in the first five innings. Cubs pitching finally had a rough day, and it started with Brooks Raley. Raley was really knocked around, he was able to go one plus inning giving up four runs on five hits while walking one and striking out one. Thanks to an early surge by the Cubs offense Raley wasn’t on the hook for the loss, that honor went to Trey McNutt. McNutt didn’t pitch terribly in his outing, but he was hung with the loss as he couldn’t bail out Raley after he left and allowed an earned run of his own in an inning of work on two hits. Jaye Chapman, and Alberto Cabrera were also beat up pretty bad today as they combined to give up five runs, four earned, on six hits over three innings. Chapman was particularly bad as he only lasted a third of an inning giving up three runs, two earned, on two hits while walking two. The foursome of Michael Bowden, Hisanori Takahashi, Shawn Camp, and James Russell stopped the bleeding but it was too little too late.
As I mentioned the Cubs bats were alive and well early this afternoon as they held a 4-1 lead and pushed across seven runs in the first four innings. Both Nate Schierholtz and Darwin Barney had two hits, and they were productive as Schierholtz knocked in one with Barney driving in two. Javier Baez drew some oohs and aahs with a screaming line drive base hit that almost decapitated the Dodgers shortstop, the hit had twitter abuzz, and drew comparisons to Gary Sheffield after the game from Dale Sveum. Back to the Cubs holding their breath, Starlin Castro was 1-for-3 on the day, but had to leave the game after pulling up lame crossing first base after grounding out. Castro said after the game that he was worried when he first felt it, but he is confident it’s more tightness then a pull, he’s feelings were echoed by Sveum as well after the game, fingers crossed.
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Things didn’t exactly get going the right way for the Cubs and eventual winning pitcher Travis Wood. Wood walked the first batter he faced today, on four straight pitches, then threw 11 consecutive strikes to close out a solid two inning outing. He didn’t get out of the game unscathed as the lead-off walk he issued scored for the Angels which was part of a two run first inning. The Cubs quickly erased that deficit thanks to some clutch hitting in the third inning. After Luis Valbuena brought the Cubs to within one run in the second inning with a solo home run, the Cubs exploded for five runs in the third, all with two outs. The highlight of the inning had to be Brett Jackson‘s two run triple, his second triple of the game, he finished the day going 2-for-2 with two triples, two RBI’s and a run scored, guess that new swing is working out okay so far, it’s early, I know. Jorge Soler, and Anthony Rizzo had solid spring debut’s as they each registered a double in three plate appearances, Soler’s double brought in a run for his first RBI of the Spring season. Junior Lake also wowed the capacity crowd with a long solo home run, his only hit of the day in three plate appearances. Back to the pitching, it was outstanding, sure it wasn’t against the vaunted Angels every day lineup, but it was still an excellent performance for so early in the Spring. After Travis Wood, six Cubs pitchers joined the fun to close out the game, they tossed seven innings allowing four hits, one walk and no strikeouts.
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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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Peoria and Tennessee were the only Cubs minor league teams with regular season games today. Boise played game one, which we will have a separate post on.
Peoria finished the season strong beating Kane County 6-2. Ben Wells got the start pitching two scoreless innings allowing no runs on three hits. Willengton Cruz got the win pitching 4.2 innings allowing two runs on just one hit. Luis Liria struggled with his command, walking four in just 0.2 innings, but got the ball to Pete Levitt who recorded his first save of the season throwing the final 1.2 innings. Yaniel Cabezas had the big blow going 2-for-4 with a three run home run in the fifth. Pin-Chieh Chen also had two hits and a scored a run. Dustin Geiger was 1-for-3 with a double and an RBI and Timothy Saunders had a hit and a run scored. Jorge Soler and Chadd Krist each had a hit in the win.
Tennessee ended the season on a high note as well beating Pensacola 8-1. Austin Kirk was good getting a win in his final start giving up one run on four hits in 5.2 innings. Frank Batista, Jaye Chapman, Rafael Dolis, and Trey McNutt combined to pitch the final 3.1 innings striking out three, giving up two hits, and allowing no runs. Newly acquired Anthony Recker was 2-for-5 with a home run and four RBIs. He his a three run shot in the seventh. Jae-Hoon Ha and Matt Cerda also had two hits a piece with Cerda driving in one run. Rubi Silva had a hit and drove in two in the Smokies win. Junior Lake, Logan Watkins, and Matt Szczur all had a hit and a run scored on the day.
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Here is a quick look at the Cubs minor league recap for Thursday, August 30th. When the AZL Cubs playoff game ends we will have a full recap of that game.
Boise scored two in the ninth, but it wasn’t enough as they lost to Everett 4-3. What else is new Stephen Bruno was 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI. His hit streak now sits at 20. Rock Shoulders hit a pinch-hit two-run home run in the ninth. Albert Almora was 1-for-4 with a double and an RBI. Dan Vogelbach also had a hit in the loss. Justin Amlung started and took the loss going two innings allowing one run on two hits. James Pugliese pitched the next four innings allowing two runs and striking out four. Su-Min Jung and Tyler Bremer combined to throw the last three innings, with Bremer giving up a run and striking out two.
Cedar Rapids put up four big runs in the 10th inning to beat Peoria 11-7. The Chiefs had a lot of nice nights on the offensively. Pin-Chieh Chen was 3-for-4 with two walks, a triple, three runs scored, and a stolen base. Wes Darvill also had three hits, including a double and an RBI. Jorge Soler was 2-for-6 with an RBI and Sergio Burruel also had two hits including a double and two RBIs. Zeke DeVoss had a hit and an RBI as did Jacob Rogers. Timothy Saunders, Oliver Zapata, and Bijan Rademacher all had a hit in the loss. Joseph Zeller started and pitched 6.2 innings allowing five runs on eight hits. Sheldon McDonald and Larry Suarez pitched the next 2.1 innings, but Luis Liria took the loss giving up the four runs in the 10th.
Going into the ninth tied Brevard County scored two and Daytona one, so the final ended up 6-5 Brevard County. Kyle Hendricks started and pitched four innings allowing three runs on seven hits. Matthew Spencer and Hunter Cervenka combined to pitch the next 2.1 innings giving up one run and striking out four. Eduardo Figueroa took the loss as he allowed the two runs in the ninth inning. John Andreoli had a nice night going 3-for-5 with a double and a run scored. Javier Baez was 1-for-4 with a home run and Christian Villanueva had a hit and an RBI. Rebel Ridling was 2-for-5 with a double and a run scored and Elieser Bonne knocked in a run with a hit in the loss.
Tennessee beat Pensacola on Thursday 4-2. Dallas Beeler started and pitched five innings allowing two runs, one earned on four hits, while walking two and striking out four. After Casey Harman pitched a scoreless sixth, Trey McNutt pitched an outstanding inning as he struck out the side and didn’t allow a base runner. Brian Schlitter notched his six save as he struck out four over two innings. The Cubs offense used the long ball as all four runs accounted for via the home run. Logan Watkins, Justin Bour, and Matt Cerda all connected with Cerda hitting a two-run homer. Jae-Hoon Ha was the only other Smokies player to have a hit in the win.
Thursday was not a good night for Iowa losing to Nashville 6-1. Yonner Negrin started and took the loss as he pitched five innings allowing three runs, two earned on six hits. Jaye Chapman struck out two in a scoreless inning of work, but Miguel Socolovich gave up three runs in his inning. Rafael Dolis pitched the final frame, not allowing a run and striking one out. Adrian Cardenas was responsible for the only Cubs run as he was 1-for-4 with a double and an RBI. Tony Campana also had one hit and he scored the Cubs lone run, he also stole his 18th base at Iowa. The Cubs had five more hits in the loss, as Thursday was not a very good night.
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Sunday’s minor league recap. Daytona did not play as they had a scheduled day off.
The AZL Cubs won a big one on Sunday beating the Athletics 5-2. Duane Underwood started and pitched the first 2.1 innings giving up two hits and allowing no runs. Juan Paniagua got the win striking out three over the next 1.2 innings. After Carl Lang gave up one run in his inning Anthony Prieto pitched the next two, followed by Carlos Martinez-Pumarino who finished this one off giving up a run, but striking out three in two innings. Ben Carhart had another nice night at the plated going 3-for-5 with an RBI. Trevor Gretzky got his average over .300 as he went 3-for-4 with a run scored in this one. Carlos Penalver and Jeff Baez each had two hits a piece with Baez knocking in one run. Shawon Dunston had a double and an RBI in the Cubs win. With the win the Cubs are now only one game in back of the Athletics for the division lead.
After winning the division on Saturday, Boise came back Sunday and lost 5-1 to Vancouver. Felix Pena got the start and took the loss allowing four runs on five hits over 4.1 innings. He also walked three and struck out five. Su-Min Jung and Tyler Bremer combined to pitch the final 3.2 innings on Sunday. The Hawks had a few highlights at the plate, however. Jeimer Candelario ended the night 2-for-3 and Darien Martin also had two hits. Stephen Bruno had yet another hit in this one and also drove in the Cubs lone run. Gioskar Amaya and Marco Hernandez each a hit in the Boise loss.
Peoria was all over Wisconsin from the get go, eventually winning 10-3. Jeffry Antigua was outstanding on Sunday pitching seven strong innings allowing no runs on three hits, while striking out seven. Pete Levitt pitched the final two frames allowing three unearned runs in the ninth inning. Dustin Geiger led the way offensively going 3-for-4 with three RBIs. Jorge Soler go into the fun as well going 2-for-5 with a double and two RBIs.. Jacob Rogers also had two hits, including his first home run with Peoria. The top of the order did their job as well, as Zeke DeVoss and Pin-Chieh Chen each had two hits. DeVoss added a run and an RBI and Chen scored four runs and drove one in as well. Oliver Zapata and Sergio Burruel each had hits with Zapata adding an RBI in the Chiefs victory.
Tennessee scored one in the bottom of the eighth to win the game 4-3. Eric Jokisch was pretty good in this one giving up three runs on eight hits in seven innings. He also walked one and struck out four, his ERA now sits at 2.97. Trey McNutt continued to pitch well out of the bullpen pitching the final two innings and getting the win. Jae-Hoon Ha was outstanding at the plate going 3-for-4 with a double, triple, RBI, and a runs scored. Elliot Soto was 2-for-3 with an RBI and Rubi Silva had a hit and an RBI of his own. Matt Szczur also contributed with hit and a run scored in the Smokies victory.
Iowa scored one in the ninth, but it wasn’t enough losing 4-3 to Oklahoma City. Chris Rusin got the start and pitched good, but took the loss. He pitched seven innings, allowing three runs on four hits, while walking one and striking out seven. Blake Parker tossed the final two innings allowing one run and striking out two. James Adduci, Blake Lalli, and Matt Tolbert all were 2-for-4 with Adduci knocking in a run and Lalli scoring two. Brian Esposito had a double and an RBI and Adrian Cardenas pinch hit with an RBI single in the Cubs loss.
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