Roster Moves, News, Notes
The prospect write-ups continue in full force. Today we’ve got more starters, a couple relievers and a round of first basemen. My goal is to hit every guy in full-season before the end of the year. I’ll throw in some write-ups on some of the guys at Boise, Mesa and the DSL but I haven’t seen most of them play.. I’ll also go in-depth on over 100 prospects during the off-season....... A lot has been written about the Cubs “lack” of pitching prospects. The Cubs may have the best collection of hitting prospects ever assembled and to somehow try to compare their pitching to that is, well, just not fair. The Cubs don’t have the 6-foot-5, “I throw a 97 mph fastball” and was a high drat pick guy—these are your “top-rated” arms, not the Kyle Hendricks of the world. And the last time I checked, Pierce Johnson and C.J. Edwards were considered two of the better arms in the minors, just not at the top of anyone’s list/opinion. And in case you haven’t noticed, the top-ranked arms have spent plenty of time dealing with injuries, including Edwards and Johnson. The Cubs have a few hard throwers in Duane Underwood, Juan Paniagua and Jefferson Mejia but most of their prospects settle in the low 90s and that doesn’t get you noticed compared to the guy throwing 97 with a pile of Ks. Cubs aren’t concerned with speed on a gun, they’re concerned with player’s ability to make quality pitches and get guys out when in trouble—not throw harder. I’m a big fan of Kyle Hendricks. Nobody hit him in AA, they didn’t do it in AAA, and oh look, not much success in the big leagues either. Cubs have accumulated a bevy of arms that throw strikes, pitch down in the zone, field their position, are good athletes, and keep their team in the ball game for six or seven innings. Chicago may look to add starting pitching depth through free agency and the international market, but I really don’t see them unloading any bats unless its a no-brainer deal. And you better have about 1,000 plans moving forward for pitching. Just because you acquire two top free agent pitchers and your rotation looks set for years, chances are it won’t make it two months if you’re lucky to get out of spring training unscathed.
AAA—Iowa 3, Oklahoma City 0
Dan Straily and three relievers combined to blank the RedHaws.
At the Dish: CF Matt Szczur (.256) led off the game with a single, stole second and third (28), and scored on 2B Logan Watkins’ RBI single. RF Jorge Soler (.305)followed with a double off the center field walk to plate Watkins (.256). Szczur, who went 2-4 with a walk, knocked in a run in the ninth. LF Josh Vitters (.216) had two hits while C Eli Whiteside singled and walked twice.
On the Hill: Dan Straily (7-6, 4.06 ERA) allowed two hits and three walks over six shutout innings. He threw 99 pitches, 61 for strikes, and fanned four. Zac Rosscup earned his 10th hold with a scoreless seventh and Armando Rivero fanned the side in the 8th. Blake Parker recorded his 23rd working a scoreless ninth.
I-Cubs Notes: Newly acquired left-hander Felix Doubront will make his Cubs debut Tuesday night with a rehab start.
Prospects Notes..........Dan Straily was acquired by the Cubs along with SS Addison Russell and OF Billy McKinney for pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from Oakland on July 5. A 24th round pick in 2009, Straily rose quickly through the ranks and was the A’s No. 2 prospect after leading the minors with 190 strikeouts in 2012 in 152 innings. Despite the high strikeout rate, Straily’s not a flame thrower as his fastball sits in the high 80s and can hit the low 90s. He mixes in a slider and change-up and gets plenty of swing-and-miss with those two pitches. Already with 41 major league starts, the 26-year-old should be a September call-up (if not sooner) and get a chance to compete for spot in the rotation next spring.
Iowa doesn’t have a first base prospect but the future for Mike Olt may be as a back-up corner infielder. I’ve written about the changes to his swing, stance, and approach he’s made since getting demoted to Iowa and its paid off—.338/.372/.649 with 5 HR and 19 RBI in 19 games. Even though he made the club out of spring training and led all NL rookies in homers before being sent back to AAA, Olt struggled in his first season at Wrigley, hitting .139/.222/.353 in 72 games with an almost 40% K rate. He’s still striking out at Iowa 30 percent of the time, but looks more comfortable at the plate and is taking the ball back up the middle and to right-center. I wouldn’t close the book on Olt just yet as he should return to Wrigley with his new approach in September.
Had the day off and find themselves with a one-game lead over Huntsville, the first-half champs. They open a five-game series with the Brewers’ AA affiliate on Tuesday night at Smokies Park with Felix Pena (1-1, 4.82 ERA) making his third AA start.
Prospect Notes—Cubs don’t have a lot of left-handed pitching in their system but one guy that’s put together a solid year in Tennessee is Hunter Cervenka (2-3, 3.31 ERA). Acquired with Michael Bowden from Boston for Marlon Byrd in 2012, the 24-year-old has spent the entire season with the Smokies recording a team-high 12 holds and one save. In 39 games out of the pen, the Texas native has 56 K in 51.2 innings and a 1.12 WHIP. Dropping his walk rate from 4.7/9 to 3.6/9 has helped but the command of his cut fastball and sharp breaking curve ball still needs to improve.
Dustin Geiger had a breakout season in 2013 for Daytona (.281/.365/.458, 17 HR, 86 RBI) and got mentioned for his performance during the Cubs Convention by Jason McLeod, Cubs Player Development Director. A 24th round pick out of Merritt Island High School in 2011, Geiger’s struggled in AA this year hitting .228/.307/.393 in 111 games. The 22-year-old’s strikeout rate has gone up, his walk rate has dropped, and he just doesn’t look comfortable in the box, struggling with pitch recognition. He continues to improve on defense, making the move from third in 2013. Geiger is still young enough that one bad season isn’t enough to write him off but he will need to improve his approach at the plate if he wants to become a big leaguer.
Daytona’s game with Lakeland was canceled due to unplayable field conditions and will be made up Aug. 22 in Lakeland. Daytona plays a DH on Tuesday vs. Brevard County......Rock Shoulders was named Florida State League Player of the Week for Aug. 3-9, going 6-for-14 with 3 HR, 6 R, and 10 BB. He is the first Daytona Cub to earn the weekly award this year. Since July 9, Shoulders is hitting .303/.471/.652 with 6 HR and 21 BB.
Prospects Notes— I’ve written plenty on Juan Paniagua, some of which you can find on links at his player page. He’s 24 but has thrown more innings this year than his previous four combined as the Dominican learns the art of pitching. There’s no doubt Paniagua has big league stuff with a 95-mph fastball and a hard slider but lacks the tempo and composure of a big leaguer. He pitched his way out of Kane County as he showed the ability to learn hitters, hold runners on, and pitch, not throw, out of trouble. If he continues to improve his baseball IQ, he will find his way to Wrigley either as a starter or out of the bullpen, his stuff is that good.
Daniel Vogelbach likes to prove his doubters wrong, that’s why this season has been tough on the 21-year-old Florida native who returned home for a season in the FSL. And while this wasn’t the scenario the first baseman had envisioned, he may look back at the 2014 season as a valuable lesson on handling the grind and dealing with adversity. Accustomed to seeing his name among the league leaders since turning pro, that hasn’t been the case for Vogelbach in Daytona, batting .267/.358/.425, all career lows. He’s still been productive hitting in the middle of the lineup with 13 HR and 65 RBI, third in the FSL. Defensively, he continues to improve his foot and glove work at first and sports a .994 fielding percentage. Even through the numbers don’t reflect it, Vogelbach has made the improvements to advance to AA and shown his commitment by coming into the season in better shape.
Low A—Kane County
Kane County had the day off and return home on Tuesday night for Albert Almora Bobblehead Night vs. Quad Cities. A starter hasn’t been named.
Prospects Notes— A new delivery last year and a switch to the bullpen this season have boosted James Pugliese’s stock. A 18th round pick in 2011 out of Mercer County College in New Jersey, the 22-year-old (Happy Birthday) is currently on the disabled list for Kane County after making 26 appearances. Working exclusively out of the pen, Pugliese is 3-0 with a 1.74 ERA in 46.2 innings. He’s recorded 51 strikeouts, walked 11, and sports a .189 BAA. No details on why Pugliese is on the DL but it may have more to do with roster spots and innings than any actual injury. He should start the 2015 season in Daytona.
A leader on one of the top teams in the minors, Jacob Rogers has anchored first base for the Cougars, hitting .267/.362/.443 with 13 HR and 54 RBI. The Cubs 40th round pick in 2012 out of St. Petersburg College spent last year at Boise, batting .278/.394/.413 with 8 HR and 47 RBI. One of the few left-handed power bats in the Cubs system, Rogers, 24, leads by example for the younger players with a good work ethic. He should move up to Daytona next year and return to his home state for a summer of rainouts and doubleheaders.
Short-Season—Boise 11, Eugene 6
Danny Canela went 3-for-3 with a three-run homer as the Hawks collected 15 hits in the win.
At the Dish: 1B Danny Canela (.309) smacked his sixth homer in the five-run third and added a RBI single to help pace the offense. RF Charcer Burks (.302) has reached base nine straight times, with a single and three walks. LF Calvin Graves (.226) was 2-4 with a triple and three RBI. SS Bryant Flete (.333) had three hits and scored twice while C Mark Zagunis (.306) and 2B David Bote (.333) had two hits each.
On the Hill: Cubs 7th round pick James Norwood (0-1, 2.92 ERA) got the start and worked a career-high four innings, the longest outing from a new draft pick in the last three years. He allowed a run on three hits and a walk, and set down two hitters on strikes.....Brad Markey (1-0, 3.00 ERA), 19th round pick from Virginia Tech, recorded his first pro win, allowing a run in two innings....Trey Lang gave up four runs over two innings and Daniel Lewis worked a scoreless ninth with two punchouts.
Hawks Notes: The Hawks go for the sweep Tuesday night with right-hander Trevor Clifton (3-2, 3.95 ERA) on the mound.
Arizona Rookie League—Cubs 8, Rangers 1
Cubs pitching held the Rangers to three hits while the Cubs collected 14.
At the Dish: Every player in the Cubs lineup had at least one hit as 2B Ho-young Son (.300) has his best game as a pro, going 3-2 with a triple and three RBI. CF Kevonte Mitchell (.324) doubled, tripled and knocked in a pair. SS Gleyber Torres (.282) 3B Adonis Paula (.260) and C Tyler Pearson (.189) all had two hits.
On the Hill: Jose Paulino (2-3, 6.35 ERA) had his best performance stateside as the 19-year-old left-hander blanked the Rangers for six innings. He allowed two hits and fanned a season-high six.....Pedro Araujo (2-1, 3.38 ERA) recorded two punchouts in his inning of work while Jordan Minch (0-0, 5.79 ERA) allowed an unearned run in two frames.
Cubs Notes: Right-handed relief pitcher Brian Schlitter has been assigned to Mesa and will rehab at Cubs Park.
Dominican Summer League—Angels 5, Cubs 2
Angles (27-34) made the most of their five hits and beat the Cubs (38-23).
At the Dish: 2B Frandy Delarosa (.280) doubled and knocked in a run while RF Jenner Emeterio (.308) singled in a run. SS Carlos Jimenez (.314) had two hits including a triple and C Yohan Matos (.291) singled.
On the Hill: 19-year-old Junior Marte made his fifth start (13 games) and didn’t allow a hit over three innings, He walked one and got charged with two runs, one earned. Deibi Torres surrendered three runs over three innings while Jeffry Hernandez and Dilson Vasquez both tossed a scoreless inning.