Cubs blanked by Royals
Carl Edwards, Jr. suffered his first blemish of the spring, only getting one out in the seventh. He retired the first hitter but a single and a walk ended his day. Both runs scored when Pedro Strop surrendered a three-run homer......John Andreoli got the start and was 1-for-3 with a walk. Andreoli, hitting .360, walked in the in 7th and singled in 9th.....Jeimer Candelario lined out to right as a pinch-hitter in the ninth......3B Jason Vosler went 0-for-2, grounding out to second and flying out to left to end the game......CF Albert Almora made the defensive play of the game with a diving grab at the warning track in right center and singled to lead off ninth...... Willson Contreras (.417) popped out to second in his only plate appearance..... Taylor Davis (.105) singled to left in his only at-bat.
Two years ago, Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer told reporters and anyone else that was listening that the Cubs lacked catching talent, not only at the major league level but in the minors as well. He identified catching as a weakness of the Cubs organization.
So in typical “Cubs Way” they’ve turned their weakness into a strength. At the major league level, they traded for Miguel Montero and signed veteran David Ross. Another deal gave them Victor Caratini, they took Kyle Schwarber with the fourth overall pick in 2015, and developed Willson Contreras into one of the top catching prospects in baseball. Two drafts and some position switches have also bolstered depth in the minors.
First off, if the Cubs can turn Contreras into one of the top catching prospects, those doubting Schwarber’s development will be proved wrong. When I talked with Cubs Minor League Catching Coordinator Tim Cossins a month after they took Schwarber, he was adamant that the Ohio native’s future was behind the plate. That hasn’t changed.
Caratini is one to keep an eye, the switch-hitting 22-year-old batted .257/.342/.372 in 112 games in Myrtle Beach in his first full-year behind the plate. Acquired from the Braves at the trade deadline in 2014, the Puerto Rico native hit .305/.365/.457 over the final 28 regular season games and was named the Most Valuable Player of the Carolina League Championship (6 games, .474/.542/.684, 4 2B, 7 RBI). Caratini will continue to develop his skills behind the plate under the watchful eye of Tennessee Manager Mark Johnson, a former big league backstop.
During the off-season, the Cubs added Tim Federowicz, who has big league experience, and David Freitas, a career minor-leaguer with the Orioles. Both provide depth at the upper levels. Taylor Davis is seeing plenty of action in spring training games and will likely split time between first, DH and catcher in Iowa.
Cubs have converted three infielders, including Gioskar Amaya, who was named to the Florida State League all-star team as the second baseman in 2014. Making the conversion during fall instructs, Amaya caught 60 games last year at South Bend and is likely headed to the Carolina League. Benjamin Carhart (21G Myrtle Beach), a former third baseman, and Jordan Hankins, a MWL all-star second baseman in his first full season, made the conversion in ’15, seeing 11 games behind the dish. P.J. Higgins is making the switch this spring after playing the infield after being drafted in the 12th round last June.
Cael Brockmeyer heads the list of late-round draft picks the Cubs have added the past three years. Brockmeyer played at all four full-season affiliates last year, including a walk-off homer on opening night for South Bend. Other draft picks include Tyler Pearson (25th-2014), Ian Rice (29th-‘2015), Marcus Mastrobuoni (25th-2015) and Tyler Payne (30th-2015). Tyler Alamo (24th-2013) was a ’13 -round pick that split time between first and catcher last year while Will Remillard (19th round-2013) returns after missing 2015 with Tommy John surgery.
The International market has been a little thin for the Cubs but they signed Miguel Amaya, the top catcher and Panamanian in the ’15 class, to a million dollar bonus. Amaya made his debut at fall instructs and attending Cubs minor league camp since it opened. Other international players in the Cubs pipeline include Erick Castillo (2010-Venezuela), Alberto Mineo (2010-Italy), Jhonny Pereda (2013-Venezuela) and Gustavo Polanco (2014-Venezuela), Erick Gonzalez (2014-Dominican Republic).