Cubs Minors Recap: Kane County's big rally falls short; Soler HRs

I spent the afternoon watching Kane County rally from an 8-1 deficit to tie the game at 10 before eventually losing 13-10 in 11 innings.  Made one tactical error in that I sat on the opposite side of the beer cave but totally worth it as a I was able to get a good look at a lot of Kane County hitters.  I will post video later...

Albuquerque 8 - Iowa 3

  • Brooks Raley had a tough spring and it carried into his first start today.  Raley allowed 7 hits and 2 walks in just 4 innings, leading to 4 runs.
  • Yoanner Negrin is an older pitcher (he'll be 29 in 3 weeks) the Cubs signed out of Cuba a couple of years ago.  He's not really a prospect but has decent stuff (low 90s fastball, average secondaries), but if he pitches this well, he may leap frog some of the Cub veteran bullpen depth at Iowa.  He pitched 2 scoreless innings, walking one and striking out 3.
  • Zach Putnam had his second straight bad outing, allowing 3 runs in 1.2 innings to raise his ERA to 19.29.
  • Rafael Dolis struggled after a promising debut.  He was brought in to get the last out but allowed 2 hits, a walk, and a run before doing so.
  • Brett Jackson is off to a slow start, hitting .154 overall and striking out 5 times in 13 PAs.
  • Logan Watkins continues to get on base.  He singled and walked.  He has now been on base in almost half his PAs (5 hits, 3 walks in 17 PAs).
  • Ryan Sweeney made his debut and went 3 for 3 with a double, a walk, an RBI and a run scored.  Certainly seems a good way to get the big league attention right away.

Tennessee 9 - Pensacola 1

  • Eric Jokisch had an atypical but effective outing.  It was atypical in the sense that he was inconsistent in the strike zone, especially early on, yet he battled and managed to throw a strike when he needed it.  In the end he walked just 2 batters while striking out 7 in 6 innings.  He allowed one run on 3 hits.
  • Another excellent performance by the Smokies bullpen except this time it was a different cast of characters.  Kevin Rhoderick has moved into a middle relief role after setting up and occasionally closing last season.  Rhoderick has a great slider but has lost some juice on his fastball over the years.  He's now a low 90s guy and pitches with max effort to get there.  He needs that fastball to get ahead and use his slider and today he did that well, pitching a scoreless inning and allowing just one hit, walking none, and striking out one batter.
  • Marcus Hatley may be the best of the bunch today in terms of long term potential and he showed it last night.  He was overpowering with a mid 90s fastball and power curve and struck out 4 batters in 2 scoreless, hitless innings.  He walked one batter.
  • Frank Batista is a guy who gets some mixed reviews but good results.  He's another max effort low 90s guy with an average, but occasionally good slider.  Today he got the win with 2 scoreless innings.  He walked one and struck out two.
  • Matt Szczur went 2 for 7 with 3 RBI and a run scored.  He has now gotten on base in 7 of his first 16 plate appearances (6 hits, 1 walk).
  • Jae-Hoon Ha continued his torrid start, going 3 for 5 with 2 RBI.  We know Ha can go get it in the OF but his success in the the pros will come down to how well he hits.  Last year he took great strides as far as drawing walks, something he never did despite good pitch recognition skills.  This year he's looking to be more consistent at the plate and develop power.
  • Another plus defender, Christian Villanueva, is off to a good start with the bat as well.  He's hitting .357 after another two hit day.  Villanueva impressed the Cub with his defense and added pop.  He may get a chance to reach AAA later this year and be knocking at the doorstep of the big leagues.  With the Cubs shortage of productive 3Bs due to injuries and ineffectiveness, Villanueva has an opportunity to put himself in the picture by the end of the season.
  • 4th outfielder prospect Rubi Silva HR'd for his lone hit of the game.
  • Backup catcher prospect Rafael Lopez doubled in 2 runs and walked once.

Daytona 4  - Brevard County 2

  • Austin Kirk got the start and went 3 innings, likely because he's on a strict pitch count early in the season.  He allowed 2 runs on 4 hits, walked 2 and struck out 2.  The lefty needs to pitch with better command to succeed and seemed to struggle with that in the 2nd half last year after a good start.
  • Yao-Lin Wang is an interesting pitcher.  Hes normally 88-92 mph but has reached 95 at times.  He has an advanced change-up for his level and it allows him to get a ton of swings and misses.  Yesterday was no exception as he struck out 4 in 3 innings of work.  He allowed just one hit and one walk.
  • Lefty Frank Del Valle is another intriguing guy who can sometimes get better strikeout numbers than you would think from a guy with a high 80s fastball.  He is a guy who has an assortment of pitches and when he locates them well, he can be tough to hit.  That was the case yesterday as he struck out 6 batters in 3 scoreless innings.
  • Zeke DeVoss had his first tough day at the plate (o-4) but still managed to draw a walk.  He has gotten on base in 7 of his 18 PAs.
  • Timothy Saunders just seems to hit no matter which position or level he plays.  He was at 3B today and went 3 for 4.
  • Javier Baez is off to a slow start, hitting .167 after an 0-4 day.  He also committed his first error of the year.
  • Jorge Soler, on the other hand, is off to a pretty good start, hitting .417 over the first 3 games.  He hit his first HR of the season and went 2 for 3 overall with a walk an RBI and 2 runs scored.
  • 2B Stephen Bruno pitched in with a couple more hits and a run scored.

Quad Cities 13 - Kane County 10

  • RHP Jose Arias had a miserable day.  He had a decent fastball, which was 90-92 mph, but the Quad Cities hitters were all over his secondary stuff, particularly a change-up which he tips off by significantly slowing his arm speed.  He didn't get much help from his defense either so this was just a recipe for disaster.  Arias has to improve that change-up, which I would call below average, if he's going to stick as a starter.
  • LHP Nathan Dorris came in and was okay.  He has a nice, repeatable delivery and held his own even though he didn't have his best stuff or command.  He allowed 3 hits and 2 walks in 2.1 innings of work but managed to allow just one run and gave the Kane County hitters a chance to come back from an 8-1 deficit -- which they did.
  • RHP Ian Dickson is the unsung hero of the day, going 5 innings and allowing just 2 runs while Kane County tied the game at 10.  Dickson looks like a power pitcher but isn't.  He mixes and matches, hides the ball well, and creates some deception with his long, lanky body - lot of legs and arms coming at you.  The best example of how Dickson operates was in a strikeout of top prospect Carlos Correa.  He had Correa completely off-balanced, getting him out in front early with offspeed stuff, then freezing him with an 89 mph fastball.  Then, on the next pitch, with Correa geared up for another shot at that fastball, he changed speeds again and got him to chase a pitch in the dirt.  It was a clinic and one of my favorite moments of the game.
  • RHP Steve Perakslis came in and picked up where he left off in his last perfomance, aggressively going after hitters with his fastball and getting 3 quick outs in the 10th but things didn't go as well for him in the 10th when he allowed 3 runs to lose the game.  It seems Quad Cities may have picked up on something with Perakslis  because they stole 3 of their 4 bases in that one inning.  You can be pretty sure he'll do a better job of holding runners the next time he's out on the mound.
  • Pin-Chieh Chen rebounded from a slow start with a two hit day, including an easy triple that could have been an inside-the-park HR had he rounded 3rd aggressively -- but he was given the stop sign and when QC muffed the relay it was too late for him to start up again ando make a break for home.
  • Gioskar Amaya also broke out of his two game funk with a double and a single.
  • 1B Dan Vogelbach is a very competitive ballplayer today and I was glad to see him try and slow things down at the plate a little.  We saw a bit more of the disciplined approach we saw last year and the results were positive. He got 3 hits including his first extra base hit and a ringing single into CF.
  • 3B Jeimer Candelario is my early favorite player on this Kane County team.  He has a great approach from both sides of the plate.  He really works the count and gets himself into favorable hitting situations.  He really took advantage of one of those situations with a 390 foot double to CF into the teeth of a howling wind.  It seemed to fool the CF who apparently didn't think the ball would carry that far.  Defensively he's been solid.  He moves better laterally this year and still has those soft hands and strong arm.  The one weakness I saw with him defensively was charging a slow roller to 3rd base.  He didn't do it aggressively enough and the runner beat the throw.  Overall, I like the way he plays.  Patent at the plate, improved on defense and he plays hard. He ran out every ground ball.
  • Rock Shoulders is really seeing the ball well early on.  He had another 4 hits today with 2 RBI -- and did not strikeout.  He really battled on one AB and seemed to change his approach a bit with 2 strikes. Would like to see more of that when the situation calls for it.  He's hitting .429 on the season with one HR.
  • Here's one thing we noticed about Wilson Contreras yesterday -- he's really intense out there on the field.  He plays hard and runs everything out.  He even chewed out a ballplayer (won't say who) for not putting in his best effort to stop an errant practice.  He had a good day at the plate, getting a double, two singles, and a walk.  He scored 2 runs and drove in another.
  • 5'9" Oliver Zapata was mighty at the plate today, getting 3 hits including a triple and a line drive HR down the RF line.  He drove in a total of 5 runs and was a huge factor in the big comeback.
  • Injury note: Trey Martin was injured as he tried to leg out an infield grounder with the winning run on 3B and two outs.  About halfway up the line he pulled up lame and appeared to be holding his hamstring.  He was removed from the game and Zapata played CF the rest of the game.



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  • What was the attendance at the Kane County game? Was it a full house?

  • In reply to Alex:

    Oh no. Not even close. Probably still too cold. By the end of the game stadium was nearly empty.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Was also very windy, pretty overcast, with showers as they rallied in the 9th. Family and I made it thru the comeback but kids just wouldn't have made another couple innings.

  • In reply to John Davidson:

    Yep. Wasn't an ideal day at the park --especially if you brought kids. Should see bigger crowds in June, July, August...

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Silver lining... made it easy for family and me to sit with Houston scouts behind the plate.

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    There is something very pleasing about watching all the Cubs prospects mature. When/if Villaneuva does take over third, for example, it will be kind of fun to think about following him since his days in Daytona. Ditto with Logan Watkins.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Agreed!! It's always fun to see these guys make it when you've seen their ups and downs and ultimately the progress and development that got them to the bigs.

  • I am not really concerned with stats at this point.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    I don't think any of us are overly concerned.

  • Thanks John.

    Your first hand reports from Kane are great to read.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Thanks Toby! Wish I could see every game. Will miss it today.

  • It's encouraging to watch AA and AAA games, and see prospects that work counts. I'm seeing more of it among Tennessee players, which I guess is to be expected.
    That big run inning for the Smokies last night was nice to see.

  • In reply to Eldrad:

    I think the tide started to turn a little bit last year but I believe we'll continue to see more and more hitters work counts. Kane County did a great job of it today, especially in the 2nd half of the game, for the first time this year and it really paid off.

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    In reply to Eldrad:

    I've been listening to the Daytona games, and that's really impressed me out of some of their hitters, too. DeVoss and Soler being primary among them. I'm thinking Soler might accomplish some big things this year.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Few hitters in the system makes pitchers work as much as DeVoss does. If he improves his hitting, and I think he will, he'll be a factor in CF.

    Soler's patience was one of the first things I noticed last year when I got to see him play. We didn't know much about that because of the limited info on Cuban players, but it stood out -- even though he didn't walk as much as that patience would indicate.

  • Great recap John. I decided to go to the Kane County game yesterday as well. It was quite windy, but definitely a great game. The Cougars' infield is really fun to watch. I shot a few videos for anyone that hasn't gotten a shot to get out to Kane County yet.
    I too was very impressed by Candelario. There is something about him that really exudes confidence, and I am really starting to believe he could be a star one day.

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