Cubs Fall League Recap: A small glimpse of the future

Cubs Fall League Recap: A small glimpse of the future
Pitching drills

Today I spent the day at Fitch Park in Mesa rather than take the drive to Surprise.  I'll recap both games, but I'll have more detail on the instructs game.  Here's the thing.  I don't know the final score and when I'm watching at this level, I'm more concerned with individual performances.

For those interested, the final score was 6-2.   I'm not going to run down the box score, I'll let Arizona Phil, whom I had the pleasure to meet today, do that.  Here is that  box score.

The starting pitcher was Jose Arias and he is one big hombre.  He stands about 6'5" and he's filled out as compared to many of the players in the instructional league.  I'd say he has an MLB pitcher's body right now.  Arias came out throwing heat.  There was no gun for me to read but I'd guess it was around 95 mph.  It certainly was fast enough to the point where the Dodgers team coaches were concerned about their hitters trying to catch up to him.  They never really did.   One thing that's pretty cool about the instructional league is that the players come up and sit in the stands with you at times.   Arias graciously accepted all the compliments on his performance, so I figured he'd be a good guy to talk to.  He told me he mixed in a curve and a change with that great fastball, and that he was happy with the way his curveball was breaking.  From our vantage point, it certainly seemed like he fooled a few hitters with it.

At one point I tweeted, "Cubs on the board on consecutive singles by Almora, Soler, and Vogelbach."  To which Tim from Obstructed View responded, "A tweet from the future".

Hopefully that turns out to be the case.

Here are some of the highlights and some observations.

  • Jorge Soler's defense.  He made two great diving catches running in and to his right.  He also showed a good arm.
  • Albert Almora looks to be trying to take a more patient approach up there, but here's the challenge:  He makes contact so easily that he pretty much hits anything he takes a whack at.  The good thing is he doesn't chase pitches out of the zone.   The same could be said of Stephen Bruno, who had a ringing single his first time up.  Had the chance to talk to Bruno briefly and he's a real nice kid, very polite, very gracious with his time.
  • Marco Hernandez hit a sac fly to drive in the game's second run.
  • Gioskar Amaya made a diving stop and then threw out a runner at first.  He's different in person than I thought he would be from watching his intense style of play.  He's very quiet and unassuming on the field, but he knows how to flip that switch once he gets out there.
  • Jeimer Candelario drew a key walk and showed good patience at the plate.  He looks to be in pretty good shape -- or at least he doesn't look as thick as he did on my laptop screen as I watched him play in Boise.
  • Trevor Gretzky had a tough day, fouling a pitch off where it hurts most.  He did have a great AB, working the count and extending it to about 8-9 pitches before drawing a well-earned walk.  He's also sporting an excellent moustache these days.  One thing about Gretzky is it looks to me like his swing can get a little long, perhaps because he's trying to tap into that power potential.
  • I like Wilson Contreras' athleticism behind the plate, he's really quick and explodes out of the shoot.  He also shows a good arm but I think he'll need to shorten that release a bit on his throws.

Arizona Fall League

  • Dae Eun Rhee got the start and got knocked around a bit.  He was at 89-91 mph (h/t Jeffrey) and had trouble with his curve.  He allowed 6 hits in two innings but limited the damage to 2 runs.  He walked one and struck out two
  • Tony Zych fared better, pitching a perfect inning and striking out a batter.  He has not yet allowed a hit or a walk, striking out 2 in his 1.1 innings so far.  Zych was at 95-96 with his velocity, but more importantly, got some outs with his slider.
  • Matt Szczur was back in CF and went 1 for 4 with a walk.  He also scored a run.
  • Javier Baez must have been relieved to see SS penciled in next to his name today.  He had an errorless game and at the plate went 2 for 5 with a double and an RBI.  He only struck out once.  Baez is hitting .308 through the first 3 games.


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  • As you watch them can you point out good, and bad, things
    that you notice about each prospects. I want to know if any
    of the prospects show any special skill (i.e., power, speed, etc)

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    That would be pretty long. I'll mention a few here and there and if you want to ask about someone or something specific, let me know and I'll answer

  • John, did you get the chance to see Carlos Martinez pitch? Is the the 17 year old lefty who was pitching for one of the Cubs' DSL teams? How did he look?

  • In reply to SVAZCUB:

    Martinez was signed out of Cuba and he played as a 20 year old this sesson. Decent FB but a little raw for his age. Big kid.

  • The Carlos from Venezuela who pitched in the DSL this year is Carlos A. Rodriguez. Don't feel bad - I got excited too when I saw Carlos Martinez's name in an earlier box score. He was listed as Carlos Martinez-Pumarino in the Arizona Rookie League box scores, which contributed to my initial confusion.

  • In reply to cubsin:

    Yes, it's the guy who pitched in AZ.

  • I hope watching intructional ball is as interesting as EXT ST was. It sounds it though

  • In reply to WickitCub:

    It's a lot of fun. It's pure baseball, no frills.

  • John, please tell me a little more about Arias. Does he project as a starter if he gets a 3rd pitch? ETA? I see he's 21, which was a little old to be at Boise. See him at Kane next year?

    (If you've written about him in the past, you should think about putting a search box so we can find out things easier by ourselves.)

  • In reply to SFToby:

    He does sound intriguing, doesn't he?

    I second the motion for some sort of search feature. Although, we may be somewhat limited within the chicagonow blog framework....

    And since I haven't said this in a few weeks.... THANK YOU John for all that you do for us here!

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    My pleasure! Having a
    blast doing this!

    I should do a better job of tagging players. I hesitate because sometimes I talk about so many at once. Thanks for the feedback from both of you on that.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Good idea on the search boxes. I'll at least try and link players to older articles.

    The first thing you notice is that he is an imposing presence on the mound. The next thing is a clean, effortless delivery and then the ball explodes out of his hands. He commands his fastball very well. It's his secondaries that aren't as polished. They were working for him yesterday and he overmatched a lot of hitters. Right now I have to say reliever but he's a guy who could move quickly if he becomea consistent with his secondaries. If not, he can be a power arm out of the bullpen.

  • Thanks for the added info and thanks for all the work you put into this enterprise. I'd love to see more talent come out of the DSL. I think that may be the quickest way to stock up on talent.

    I've found through experience that adding tags is a huge waste of time. Even if you spend hours and hours adding them they don't get used a lot. The addition of a search box, if possible on the blog template is a lot easier and will get used a lot more often than not. Links are better than tags but still are a pain to add.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Hoosier & John - one thing we readers can do to find older info in Cubsden (or most other sites) is to use google - if you're looking for older stories on Jose Arias for example, google:

    cubsden: jose arias

    and you'll see all the articles that he's appeared in.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Thanks guys. I actually use google myself sometimes when trying to find my old articles.

  • "A tweet from the future". I loved that line....somethings a brewin' with our Cubbies me thinks.

  • I've used the google method as SFToby explains many times and it does in fact work efficiently. John, I'm living vicariously through you right're doing a fantastic job bringing us great information! I'm waiting for you to start describing the action like Pat Hughes does..."Almora made a great running catch while wearing black socks, black shoes, a flat billed cap, gray trousers, and a blue shirt...with a zephyr of wind at his back..." Thank you!!!!

  • MLB Trade Rumors Matt Swartz's predicts salary arbitration projections...

    First time: Luis Valbuena ($900K), Jeff Samardzija ($2.9MM), James Russell ($900K)
    Second time: Chris Volstad ($3MM)
    Third time: Manny Corpas ($1.4MM), Ian Stewart ($2.3MM)
    Fourth time: Matt Garza ($10MM)

    Time to cut Volstad, Corpas, Valbuena & Stewart. I do not see any of these players helping the Cubs.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Valbuena could be signed cheap enough. Volstad, Corpas and Stewart will have to take salary cuts or try to hook on elsewhere.

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    I agree. And while Valbuena doesn't do anything to be considered an everyday player, he is nice utility infielder once they have a regular 3b. I could see them having mild interest in bringing Volstad back but only if he agrees to a massive pay cut after being non-tendered. Like $1 mil max, and maybe some incentives. I doubt he could get a better deal from someone else after he is non-tendered anyway.

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    In reply to Just Win:

    I agree on Volstad. He showed a few signs later on in the season, and he's still a big guy with a pretty live arm. What could it hurt if the price is right? He's basically the kind of reclaimation project they will be looking for through FA.

  • John, quick question -

    Who have you seen so far this year that has impressed you that wasn't on your radar earlier?

  • Freaking Cardinals.

  • Man do I hate the Cardinals, But, It will be so sweet When Team Theo has the Cubs in position to put the Cardinals back to a middle of the pack team in the division every year. 2014 is coming .

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    I second that.

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