Rizzo receives Branch Rickey Award
Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo has been named the 2014 recipient of the Branch Rickey Award for Humanitarian Service award. A cancer survivor, the 25-year-old has raised funds through his Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation for cancer research and support of families affected by cancer.
Cubs will have first-ever opening night at Wrigley
Major League Baseball announced the Cubs and Cardinals will kick-off the 2015 season from Wrigley Field with a Sunday night game on April 5. The other 28 teams will play on Monday and the Cubs-Cards will get the day off. It will mark the first-ever opening night game at Wrigley.
Hot Stove News
Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada has been cleared by Major League Baseball to sign as a free agent. Moncada, a shortstop, will be signed under the international free agent rules that enforce a penalty of 100 percent over the teams’s international spending cap. Reports have tied the 19-year-old to a $30 million contract, far exceeding any team’s spending allotment, and costing teams an additional $30 million in penalties. The team that signs Moncada will only be able to sign international prospects under $300,000 the next two seasons.
Here’s a look at the Nov. 15 winter league action with some updates and recaps of Cub prospect performances.
Arizona Fall League
Season is over so let’s get started on some recaps of the players. We’ll take care of pitching today as the Cubs sent four arms to Mesa. The top prospect arm was C.J. Edwards, who missed three months of the season after experiencing a tired arm at AA Tennessee in April. On a 50-pitch count or three inning limit, the String Bean Slinger made six starts for the Solar Sox (1-0, 1.80 ERA, 15 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 8 BB, 13 K, .154 BAA. He fastball was clocked in the 91-93 range and he continues to work on a plus curve ball and developing change-up. Edwards will be added to the 40-man roster before the winter meetings as he’s eligible for the Rule 5 draft.........Right-hander Ivan Pineyro is another arm that missed several months of the season with an injury, a forearm strain. Pineyro appeared in seven games (4 starts) and threw 13.2 innings (1-0, 1.98 ERA, 11 H, 3 R, 4 BB, 16 K). He left one start after retiring two batters but this was done as a precautionary measure and he was back on the mound six days later. The 23-year-old is eligible for the Rule 5 draft and the Cubs could lose Pineyro if left un-protected, which is likely based on Cubs 40-man roster issues...........Gerardo Concepcion hasn’t lived up to expectations since being signed out of Cuba in 2012 and injuries and illness haven’t helped. The left-hander features a fastball in the low 90s with a sweeping curve. In 15.1 innings in the AFL, Concepcion finished with a line of 1-1, 5.87 ERA, 16 H, 11 R, 9 BB and 7 K. Concepcion is eligible for the Rule 5 draft but with money still left on his contract, its unlikely another team will acquire him........Right-handed reliever Zach Cates pitched in nine games for Mesa and allowed 11 hits and nine runs in two of them. With a fastball in mid-90s, Cates was solid in his other seven appearances, yielding seven hits and two runs over 8.1 innings. He ended the AFL with a line of 0-0, 9.28 ERA, 10.2 IP, 17 H, 11 R, 6 BB, 8 K, .347 BAA. Cates is also Rule 5 eligible but its unlikely he’s protected by the Cubs or drafted by another team.
Venezuelan Winter League
Willson Contreras went 0-for-1 after entering the game at catcher in the bottom of the sixth in Aragua’s 10-2 loss to Caracas.
Dominican Winter League
Arismendy Alcantara made his debut for Licey on Saturday night, getting the start at second. He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in Licey’s 2-0 loss to Toros. Former Cub reliever Carlos Marmol threw a scoreless frame for Licey with two punchouts.....Carlos Pimentel retired the only hitter he faced on strikes in the fifth inning of Escogido’s 13-7 win over Gigantes..........Manny Ramirez (.269) went 2-for 5 and scored once in Aguilas’ 2-1 win over Estrellas. Junior Lake (.268) was 1-5 with a double and a run scored.
Mexican Pacific Winter League
Christian Villanueva is the only Cubs prospect playing in Mexico. Villanueva had a down year in 2014 and after struggling in AAA, (.211/.283/.372, 64 K, 223 AB) was sent back to Tennessee (.248/.310/.385) to finish the season. Should be noted he had 38 doubles between the two levels, and led all Cubs minor leaguers for the second straight year. In 14 games for Obregon this winter, the 23-year-old is hitting. 262/.347/.452 with 2 HR and 5 RBI while playing third and DH.........Villanueva got the start at third on Saturday in Obregon’s 5-1 win over to Navojoa but went hitless in four at-bats.
Puerto Rican Winter League
1B-3B Jonathan Mota (.306/.342/.333) and CF John Andreoli (.219/.278/.281) have played 10 games each for San Juan. Andreoli is coming back from a wrist injury and Mota is technically a free agent after spending past 10 years in Cubs minors. Cubs catcher Victor Caratini, acquired from the Braves in a trade in July, is on the San Juan roster but is currently listed as inactive. Javier Baez, Jake Arrieta and Neil Ramirez are all listed as inactive on the Santurce roster......Moving back to the leadoff spot, Andreoli doubled, walked and scored twice in San Juan’s 5-2 loss to Mayaguez. Mota got the start at first and was 0-for-2.
Australian Baseball League
Former Cubs pitcher Ryan Searle has appeared in five games for Brisbane, making three starts. The right-hander is 1-0 (1 SV) with a 2.89 ERA in 18.2 innings. He’s fanned 22, walked nine, and surrendered three homers. Searle pitched in the Independent League after being released by Cubs in 2014.