Cubs Minors Recap: Heesch stays hot; Vitters HRs and has 5 hits in Iowa double-header

I went to check out Kane County today and got a second look at LHP Michael Heesch and another look at many other Kane County players.  I'll share those thoughts in that portion of the recap.

Meanwhile, Ryan Sweeney will get the call to Chicago while Dave Sappelt will get optioned back to Iowa.  Sappelt was tabbed to be the RH complement to David DeJesus, who struggles against LHP, but he hasn't done the job.  I'm uncertain as to what role Sweeney will play or how the Cubs plan to get him ABs, but they did have to call him up at some point or risk losing him.  Perhaps the Cubs will have to make a trade to make room in the near future.

Iowa 5 - OKC 3

OKC 4 - Iowa 3

  • 29 year old swingman Guillermo Moscoso started the first game but couldn't get to the 5th inning.  He went 4 innings and allowed 4 hits, 3 walks and 2 runs.  Esmalin Caridad pitched the 5th inning to pick up the win.
  • Kyuji Fujikawa made his rehab appearance and pitched a scoreless innings, walking one and striking out two.  Fujikawa had some trouble locating his FB however and threw just 11 of his 21 pitches for strikes overall.  He may have been a bit rusty after the layoff.
  • Blake Parker finished the game with a scoreless 9th for his 3rd save, though it did have some drama as Parker allowed a single and a walk before retiring the side.  He struck out 2.
  • In the 2nd game, LHP Brooks Raley pitched 5 solid innings.  He did not walk a batter and struck out 4.  He allowed 2 runs, both on a HR.
  • Cory Wade picked up the loss when he gave up a run in the 10th.
  • Josh Vitters went 5 for 8, including his first HR, a 2-run shot.
  • Catcher JC Boscan had the other 2 RBI in Game 1 and went 1 for 2 in that game.
  • Bryan Bogusevic doubled twice, walked twice, and had 4 hits overall over the two games.  He also had an RBI and scored a run.  He's hitting .418/.500/.571 on the year.

Mississippi 6 - Tennesssee 0

  • Tough outing by Kyle Hendricks in that he managed to give up 9 hits in 5 innings, leading to 5 runs (2 earned).  This could have been some luck evening out after the last outing in which he fell behind hitters all day and had a little BABIP luck.  On the bright side, Hendricks did not walk a batter and struck out 5.
  • Marcus Hatley (1 walk, 2Ks) and Zach Rosscup (1 K) each pitched a scoreless inning but Trey McNutt gave up a run on 3 hits in his one inning of work.  Hatley lowered his ERA to 2.31 and Rosscup lowered his to 1.46.
  • Only 5 singles today by the Smokies including one each by Rony Torreyes and Matt Szczur, who also walked and stole his 9th base.

St. Lucie 1 - Daytona 0

  •  Offseason pickup Yeiper Castillo was dominant today with 6 scoreless innings in which he walked just one and struck out 7.  Castillo has solid stuff -- a 91-94 mph FB with an average curveball and a good change-up.  His command is average and he doesn't do one thing particularly well, but his combo of skills may be enough to get him to the majors as a middle reliever.
  • LHP Hunter Cervenka pitched 2 scoreless innings to lower his ERA to 1.98 on the year.  The downside is he's walked 10 in 13.2 innings, but just 1 hitters in his last 4 innings, so perhaps he's finding his rhythm.
  • Luis Liria took the loss by giving up a run in the 9th.
  • The D-Cubs managed just 3 singles, one each by John Andreoli, Dustin Geiger, and Ben Carhart.

Kane County 2 - Dayton 0

  •  Today was my second look at LHP Michael Heesch and his stuff wasn't quite the same as when I saw him last time, but he was still plenty good, especially his command. He didn't have as much arm side run on his fastball and it was 88-89 as opposed to 90-91 last time out.  But Heesch is fun to watch.  He knows he depends on his defenders so he works quickly, attacks the strike zone, and has enough movement on all his pitches to keep hitters from getting too comfortable.  He struck out 5 hitters and walked none in 7 innings -- but he really didn't give up any hard contact, particularly for the first 6 innings.  In his last two innings especially the 8th, he didn't locate as well and was hit harder than he had been all day but he managed to survive and keep the shutout and the lead intact.  I think Heesch has a shot to be a big league pitcher.  He's not ace material, but he knows how to pitch, has a good approach on the mound, and his stuff is good enough to get by at the higher levels.  In all he went 7.1 scoreless innings and allowed 4 hits, no walks, and struck out 5.  Heesch has a 3.08 ERA on the season with 6 walks and 24 strikeouts in 26.1 innings.
  • LHP Nathan Dorris was about 87 mph on his fastball and showed a solid curveball in working the last 1.2 innings of the game for his 2nd save.  He has a 2.19 ERA and 3 walks in 13 Ks in 12.1 innings.  His specialty has been getting the ground ball, as shown by his 4.75 GO/AO ratio.
  • 2B Gioskar Amaya seems to be seeing the ball well of late.  After a slow start he's slowing making his way back up to more familiar numbers.  He had a couple more hits today, including a hustle double in which he was running hard out of the box and took advantage when the OF briefly bobbled the ball.
  • DH Dan Vogelbach showed a good eye, walking twice against a pitcher who'd only walked 1 hitter all year.  I've been most impressed with Vogelbach's approach this year in that he's less pull happy.  He seems more content to take what the pitcher gives him and take it the opposite way from time to time.  Today he did that again, taking an outside pitch and hitting a line drive to LF for a double.  He's not always given credit for being a smart hitter, but that's exactly what he is -- he has a pretty good idea of what he wants to do up there. And here's another thing about Vogelbach -- the guy loves to win.  He's up on the dugout steps pretty much the whole game and when Kane County recorded the final out, he was the first player out of the dugout and out to the mound to congratulate Nathan Dorris as he picked up the save.
  • Rock Shoulders and Jeimer Candelario can hit it a long way but both showed a lot of hustle today, getting infield hits on taps to the mound.  Something that doesn't show up in the box score but it's impressive when you see your big middle of the order guys run hard on what should have been easy outs.
  • Both Bijan Rademacher and Oliver Zapata have been providing some punch at the bottom of the lineup, even carrying the team as some of the heavy hitters have fallen into a bit of a rut.  Both had  two hits today. Zapata has hiked his average up to .280 now while Rademacher has stayed hot and is hitting .333.


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  • Thanks for the update John. Good to hear about the big guys hustling out some cheap hits.

    That doesn't surprise me about Vogelbach. It appears he's popular with his teammates everywhere he has played and this is a big part of why. Love his approach at the plate. Wish we could get Baez to take notes...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    You're welcome. It's hard not to like Vogelbach and his approach to the game. And also loved seeing the big guys run out grounders -- not to mention Amaya flying out of the box on what should have been a hard line drive single, but turned into a double when the OF didn't handle it cleanly.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Was is Sickels who said that Vogelbach would become a folk-hero in Chicago? He has a great attitude apparently, is a fun guy, and fans I think root hard for overweight guys because they look like us. He could be the next John Kruk.

    He has to be a complete hitter, because he looks like a bat-only prospect though

  • For Cervenka, his control isn't getting better yet but on the verge. Today he hit 2 batters (that is bad control). Also bad that throughout his minor league career he has always walked a lot of batters. Good news is that he has only given up 5 hits in those 13+ innings. Overall in the growing small sample size, we see guys that are on the verge of being tested at the next level. So I think we will see a trade of Dejesus this month at least not to mention some promotions/demotions. More of course depending on who gets traded by the deadline.

  • In reply to Cubs Future:

    I don't think he's ever going to be a plus control guy based on his history and the movement he has on his pitches. His stuff should play at this level and at AA and above. He just has to throw strikes more consistently.

    As for HBPs, hard to say if he had bad
    control or if a couple pitches just got away from him. Usually listen to Daytona but didn't get the chance today, so I can't say too much about his control with any degree of certainty.

  • Sappelt and Loe being sent down to AAA, Sweeney & Fuji to Chicago.

    Who gets bumped off 40 man roster ......Loe or Stewart ??

  • In reply to SouthsideB:

    I'd guess it's one of those two. I'd like to see how they plan on getting Sweeney into the game. Would like to see it, but hard to see where he fits in on a day to day basis. Will probably need a trade at some point for him to really play.

  • In reply to SouthsideB:

    At this point, I think Stewart is arguably in less potential demand.

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    In reply to SouthsideB:

    My guess is Loe. But between him and Stewart, it doesn't matter much.

  • Yes I think I'd like to see Bogusevic get a shot.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    He deserves a shot. Going to be hard to find room for all those LH hitting OF'ers. Cubs need to create some space somehow.

  • Very bad news, apparently Josh Conway will be out a significant amount of time, it seems like the mound was in poor conditions and the grounds crew did nothing and in the 2nd inning, after battling with the mound for a while, Conway tripped and landed awkwardly and was in great pain, it seems to be an arm related injury.

    The Cub Reporter has the story, he says a loud pop could be heard... That's not good, my best wishes to him... Phil says he was about to be promoted to Kane County or even Daytona.

    The situation bothers me a bit and I wouldn't be surprised if some grounds crew members get replaced after this incident.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Yeah, I read that too. So disappointing. Here's Phil's description:

    "Conway's spikes got caught in the mud and he tripped and threw a pitch awkwardly, about six feet over the head of the Brew Crew batter. A loud pop could be heard when he let go of the pitch, and his arm recoiled as if he had been shot. He was obviously in tremendous pain, and he ran up the 1st base line into foul territory before coming to a stop and going to one knee."

    He was doing so well. My heart sank when I read that.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Oh that's not good. Thanks guys for that update and very disappointing for Conway, who was pitching very well. Hope he's okay but that sounds bad.

  • Also, Shawon Dunston Jr. is red hot in EXST. With Trey Martin's struggles in Kane County early this season, it's possible they trade places in the near future.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Dunston is an interesting player. I'd like to see him get a shot but maybe they're going to try him at Boise after he struggled there last season. The Cubs may want him to conquer that level first.

  • And just a reminder, Josh Vitters is 23 years old. He won't turn 24 until late August. He was aggressively promoted by the previous regime and also lost time to some injuries. He typically struggled at each level when first brought up. Here are his numbers after adjusting to the new level while still being young for his level.

    Boise (18) .328/.365/.498
    Peoria (19) .316/.351/.535
    Daytona (20) .291/.350/.445
    Tennessee (21) .283/.322/.448
    Iowa (22) .304/.356/.513

    He's not great. He is average at best defensively at 3B. But he's not brutal. That is far from a bust. He has value, we just don't know exactly what it is yet. What we do know is, he could spend all season at AAA working on the deficiencies at the plate that got exposed during his call up last season and on his defense and still be a 24 year old 3B for the Cubs next season with a better bat than Luis Valbuena and 3 years to go before he hits his prime.

    Vitters HAS to develop this year, though. If he can't improve, he'll basically be "take a chance on him" trade fodder.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    I think that's the only reason they've hung on to his this long. He's still relatively young.

    I've lowered my expectations on his ceiling, though. I don't know if he's better than a .275, 15 HR guy with a below average OBP and fringe average defense. I hope I'm wrong and he is better than that, but as you say, he needs to show something soon.

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    In reply to Quedub:

    Keep in mind he's done that with little to no instruction. That was the key for draft experts when it came to Vitters "this High-school kid has big potential but for him to reach it he needs quality instruction". He never got that instruction and this is the byproduct.

    I'm actually amazed he has been able to hit and make it to the majors. Most high-schoolers who are poorly handled by their organization usually flame out at AA.

    Too soon to give up on him but he has to take another step forward this year.

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    In reply to Quedub:

    Those are valid points; we forget that he did pretty much rake in AAA last year, at the age of 22.

    I think John is about right in terms of ceiling; I think Vitters will likely be a 10-year ML veteran, but as more of a LF/DH/3B type who is more of a spare part than a core piece. Nearest comp I can think of is Ty Wigginton. And he probably fits better in the AL.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    That's an interesting comp. I could see him being something like that. Right now I see more role/platoon player than everyday 3B. And while I agree with people who say it's too early to give up, I think most of us have lowered our expectations.

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    Bijan absolutely smoked two doubles to the RCF gap on saturday when I went to the game.

  • In reply to Ken Roucka:

    He hit the ball well again yesterday, though he got caught on the bases after one of his singles.

  • Just read Ian Stewart is a no show in Des Moines.

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    In reply to Holy Cattle:

    Looks like he's taking his full 72 hours to report.....Even though he was, you know, already there.....

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I just don't think Stewart gets it. Sometimes it seems like he thinks he's owed something. It's obvious to me that Sveum doesn't want him back and he's not doing anything to change anybody's mind about him.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Could Stewart be getting released from the 40 man roster ?

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    In reply to Holy Cattle:

    How could they tell?

  • In reply to Zonk:

    LOL! Maybe they noticed someone had fixed that gaping hole in their lineup.

  • In reply to Holy Cattle:

    This guy just doesn't do himself any favors.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That is appallingly bad judgment by Stewart.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Are the Cubs officially on the hook to pay Stewart the full $2M at this point? If not, I believe the benefits of saving even $500K are greater than hoping Stewart's anything more than below replacement 3B man.

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    With Sweeney up, I wonder if a trade will be forthcoming. That OF config doesn't really work particularly well.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Agreed. Already tough to find time for Borbon and he has a more defined role. Something has gotta give for Sweeney to get his ABs. Cubs could just be calling him up to avoid losing him for now -- but a trade seems like the only solution if they expect him to play.

  • The most likely trade would be of DeJesus. But with Sappelt in the minors (or even in the majors) who would play center field?

  • Great stuff as always John. It is exciting to see some of the minor league guys start to step up. It seems that Shoulders if really starting to look like a potential diamond in the rough. Based on your perceptions, and I know it is easy, who are the top 5 minor leaguers that have opened a few eyes thus far?

  • In reply to supercapo:

    Thanks supercapo. I'm assuming you mean guys who weren't already top 30 prospects? Leaving out guys like Alcantara who were already well known, there's a few for me. I think Shoulders has to be on that list. I'd put the guy I saw pitch yesterday, Heesch, on that list as well. Contreras has become more interesting as well. I think Josh Conway was making a leap as well until he got hurt. Rony Torreyes is showing he can hit upper level pitching. It's early and I feel most confident in the guys I've seen live (Shoulders, Heesch and Contreras) but those are a few off the top of my head that I've been impressed with early on this season.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Bruno comes to mind. Although I do not recall if he was on the top prospect list(s). I don't think he was.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John , realistically, how many of our prospects from AA on down do you see as big-league caliber players? Right now. Id say 5-10.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    I'd say that's about right -- and maybe closer to 5.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Soler, Baez, P. Johnson, Almora and who else... Candelario? Vogelbach? Alcantara? Zych?

    Obviously, a lot more can develop into big-league caliber, but as of right now, who do you see on that list?

  • In reply to Quedub:

    I'm just saying it as a general rule. I probably misread a bit and meant it more in terms of impact contributors. They may well have more than 5 contributors, but I think they may have more than that playing roles.

    I think Almora will be one and maybe one of Baez and Soler. Would love for it to be all 3 but even 2 beats the odds. Johnson looks like a good bet right now. Maybe Vizcaino -- but maybe as a closer.

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