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Cubs Minor League Recap: Instructs and Fall League

Cubs Minor League Recap:  Instructs and Fall League
Matt Szczur

Greetings from Sunny Arizona! Got a chance to see some instructs early on at Fitch, then headed off to HoHoKam to check out Baez, Szczur and the rest of the Cubs Fall League reps.

Instructs were an interesting experience. You'll never get closer to ballplayers. You can listen to them interact. You hear the coaches. You just get a real feel for what everyone is trying to work on.

Some things stand out. Almora's sweet swing. Vogelbach's power and how everyone stops what they're doing when he's up. Even a pop up that hit the batting cage drew oohs when it tore the padding off the top bar.

But there's also Jorge Soler working on his swing. It looked like coaches were helping him use his lower half better, so he didn' t have to depend on a deep load to generate his power. You see the smaller framed Almora emerging as a leader, even while standing in between giants Soler and Vogelbach. You can also see how much Vogelbach really enjoys being around the game and his teammates. He has a lot of fun, but he flicks a switch when he gets into the batting cage and it's all business.

Meanwhile at the AFL game, all eyes were on Javier Baez. On opening night he hit a bomb, a double and knocked in three. But today he reminded us once again that he's just a kid. He went 0-4, only making solid contact once. In the field his debut at 3B did not go well. He commited two errors and escaped two more when he got a fortuitous bounce on a mishandled throw, then later was saved by a great scoop on a poor throw to 2b on a DP attempt.

Szczur showed why scouts still have some doubts. He tries to generate power with his arms rather than his lower body, producing a swing that...well, isn't all that pretty. There isn"t enough rotation in his hips and he sort of swept his bat through the zone rather than exploding through-- the way prospects Baez, Soler, and Brett Jackson seem to do naturally. It's hard to imagine him developing consistent power right now.

Rubi Silva showed good athleticism in the field and on the bases, but an aggressive approach found him consistently behind in the count.

On the mound, Nick Struck showed some unexpected velo, reaching as high as 93, but uncharacteristically was unable to find the strike zone consistently. He walked three batters and while he did not allow a run, he did allow two would be HRs that just went foul. His stuff is good enough but he won't succeed without better command than he showed today.

The good thing about prospects, however, is that there is always tomorrow.

Here's the link to yesterday's box score.

Dae-Eun Rhee takes the mound for Mesa today, but the game is in Surprise, AZ -- that is a 1.5 hour drive from where I'm staying...so I'm going to watch the guy at instructs play a game in Mesa which is just 1/2 hour away.  Tonight I'll have a live account of the younger prospects but we'll wrap up the Fall League game as well.

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  • Hope your enjoying the nice dry weather John. I don't remember the last time there was a Cub prospect like Vogelbach , who's only asset was power. For Vogelbach, the upside is that he has light tower power , when someone has power like him one can overlook the other stuff.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    He can hit too. He has a clue up there. He should hit for average and draw some walks in addition to the bombs.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, thanks for covering the prospects in person. The eye-test really helps us get a fuller picture.
    What kind of chance does Vogelbach have of becoming a Jason Kubel-type player: adequate in the outfield, with lots of power. For instance, does he have good instincts in the field, and a good arm?

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Not as athletic as Kubel, especially when Kubel was young. I think he has more power potential, but defensively he is a 1b/dh type.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Your right, he is a good hitter . I should have specified that as well.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    The name Karl Pagel comes to mind.

  • John, how did the pitching look at instructs? I have not seen much about it and that seems to be a department we are struggling in and could use some new talent. I thought I read that Dallas Beeler was there, but I have not seen anything about him lately. Why was he the only one from AA to go to instructs? Do you think he will go back to AA or move up or down? Also, what are your thoughts on Baez and where he will play in the spring?

  • I focused on the hitters because the pitchers were working on fielding drills. I'm going to try and catch the game at instructs today, so I'll see some live pitching.

    I think Beeler musr have gone to learn something specific, maybe a new pitch. He'll either return to AA or move up to AAA if he shows enough progress.

    As for Baez,he'll play SS for now. He has to share SS with an Orioles prospect named Schoop at the AZL, but it certainly not a bad thing to see him play some third. That may be his position in the big leagues.

  • So Baez misplayed everything that was hit to him? Doesn't sound like he's too enthused about a possible move to 3rd. Do you think he brought that to his ABs?

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Pretty much. The one time he made a nice stop he threw it into the dirt at 2b. Still got the out but cost team a chance at dp.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    He looked bored at 3b. Maybe he needs to get adjusted to the slower pace as compared to the constant action at SS, more than the skills required.

  • Got your phone all squared away? You were having some problems with it as I recall.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Battery ran out. Fully charged today.

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    Hey John -- just a question -- do you see a lot of the successful offensive players from Daytona starting out in AA next year? Guys w/ a good amount of AB's already in Advanced A -- like Andreoli, Torreyes, Alcantara starting out back in High-A -- or do you see them starting off in AA?

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    In reply to Chris Lattier:

    You asked John, and I'm not an expert, but my two cents while you are waiting for his reply.....

    The Cubs actually have a logjam of middle infielders at the A- through A+ levels. Unless they start moving players to new positions, there are more prospects than slots....a good problem to have!

    For this reason, I think Alcantara has to be moved along. Torreyes probably not, though if he starts strong, he may get a promotion. And the emergence of a guy like Tim Saunders makes it even more interesting; he would project as more of a utility guy, but his advanced age and strong start means he might be jumped to A+ or even AA. And there are several scenarios like that.

    Between Amaya, Hernandez, Saunders, Bruno, DeVoss, Torreyes, Baez, Alcantara....a pile of lower-level middle infielders. Regardless, I think there will be aggressive promotions if players get hot starts.

    The other side of that is that we have very little projectible talent at the higher levels, so advancing a player isn't going to bench anyone with a ceiling.

    Should be interesting.....

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    In reply to Zonk:

    Thanks Zonk! Was just wondering -- I was looking at all the lower level talent in the system and trying to figure out where they would all play. Between Torreyes, Amaya, Alcantara, Watkins, DeVoss, Villaneuva, Saunders, Bruno and potentially Baez (although 3B looks more likely) and Lake -- we have so many potential 2B. Of course you could play them at a multitude of positions until they're ready. But geez...a lot of potential there.

  • In reply to Chris Lattier:

    Sorry for the delayed response. This trip is part baseball and part vacation!

    I'm thinking Watkins and Lake in Iowa. Alcantara and Torreyes at Tenn., DeVoss and Saunders at Daytona. Andreoli should be at AA next year.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Enjoy the vacation stuff to there buddy or the little misses might clamp down on the baseball stuff ;)

    Devoss & Saunders in Daytona?.... You thinking they split time at 2B? Unless Baez proves to be a man among boys in AFL, he's likely to return to Daytona for 2013, no?

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Ha! I'm balancing the two as best I can :) So far no complaints! But it also means I'm not commenting much at night. Good thing the wife likes a little baseball too!

    I think Saunders will play everywhere and get his ABs at multiple positions-- ala Mark DeRosa.

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    Interesting take on Szczur....he certainly had a disappointing year this year, and seems to have taken a step back in terms of prospect stock. He deserves more time because of this athleticism and character, which both rate very high.......but he may just not have the god-given baseball ability.

    This year is probably a critical one for him. Either he takes a big step forward and kills AA, or he's probably a non-prospect

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I wouldn't call his year disappointing. He did very well in daytona and got promoted to AA. Once in AA he started out slow but was slowly improving. His average there ended up only .210 but it was a small sample size. In A+ he had .295/.394 with a good number of stolen bases. A center fielder with good defense, speed on the bases and high obp is a useful player. It does look like he won't have much power but that is not essential for a CF.

  • In reply to John57:

    I will say he was disruptive on the bases. Pitcher was completely distracted. He does work the count well too.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    He's a prospect. I just don't see him as a star. More of an athletic guy who is going to give you max effort.

    The swing isnt ideal, but he does keep the bat in the zone a long time, which may help him hit for average, but right now I don't see it producing any power.

  • Nice to see Dusty Baker hasn't lost his managerial skills. If only the Cardinals would hire him.

  • Sad to hear ex-Cubs player Champ Summers passed away at the age of 66 today.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    That is sad news.

  • Condolences to the Girardi family, as well.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Sad news indeed. Always liked him as a kid.

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