Cubs Minors Recap: First 2013 looks at Rosario, Rivero; Vote for Javy; VIDEO on Almora

Cubs Minors Recap: First 2013 looks at Rosario, Rivero; Vote for Javy; VIDEO on Almora
Jose Rosario

So there's much to cover today.  It's going to be a hectic week for me as I will be in and out until Sunday.  We'll get you what we can and if I hear anything, I'll stop whatever I'm doing.

I was going to write about my thoughts on the Kris Bryant situation but it started getting long, so maybe I'll save that for a separate article tomorrow.

Futures Game All-Stars

Jorge Soler and Arismendy Alcantara have been selected to play for the World Team in the Futures Game.  Javier Baez is one of the finalists and you'll have to vote for him at this link for him to get in.  He'll get tough competition from Carlos Correa and others, so get out the vote!

On with the recap...

Tennessee 6 - Jackson 0

  • Kyle Hendricks was in beast mode again, pitching 8 shutout innings while walking just one batter and striking out 6.  Hendricks is now 8-2 with a 2.17 ERA on the season.  He has walked 21 and struck out 71 in 92.1 innings.  And in case you think he's getting lucky somehow, his FIP is a very solid 2.77.
  • Zach Rosscup finished up with a scoreless inning, walking one and striking out one.  He lowered his ERA to 2.05.
  • CF Matt Szczur singled and drove in 2 runs but appears to be a in a base-stealing slump of late.  He was caught for the 8th time this year.
  • 1B Justin Bour is back and doing his RBI thing again.  He went 1 for 3 and drove in 2.  In 160 games in 2 years at Tennessee, he has 131 RBI.
  • 3B Christian Villanueva continues to play well after a slow April.  He hit his 8th HR of the season and added a single and is hitting .257 on the year, but .280 since April.  His overall line is .257/.316/.435

Beloit 5 - Kane County 4

  • I was at this game today and I watched the game from a different perspective, from the first row right behind 1B.    I got to see a couple of pitchers I have yet to see in 2013.  One of them was Jose Rosario and the other was Armando Rivero.  Jose Rosario was the starter and he came out throwing an 92-93 for most of the game and hit 94 often in the 2nd inning.  He has a fluid, clean delivery that he should be able to repeat.  He throws easy heat with classic arm action (see picture above).  He threw mostly fastballs and I couldn't get a good view of his secondary stuff from where I was sitting but I can say he sells those pitches pretty well.  He showed pretty good arm speed on the change today.  What he lacked, however, was stamina and he lost command, velo, and feel for his breaking stuff in the 4th inning.  He walked 3 batters that inning and threw 3 wild pitches to give up 3 runs in all.  Rosario had walked just one batter and allowed one infield hit in his first 3 innings of work though he struck out just one hitter.
  • The next pitcher Justin Amlung pitched mostly at 90-91 and hit 92 at his peak.  It seemed to me hitters had some trouble picking him up today for whatever reason.  Got some late swings and struck out 6 batters in 3.1 no-hit innings of relief.  He did walk 2 batters.
  • The last pitcher was recent addition Armando Rivero and I actually watched him from the 1B side and then from behind home plate in his second inning.  He's long and lean at 6'4 and 190 lbs.  He was 88-91 in his first inning of work and then dialed it up a little to 90-92 in his second inning of work.  He gets some good arm side run on his fastball and throws a short, tight breaking ball that was generally in the high 70s.  Rivero's delivery isn't as fluid as the first two pitchers.  He throws across his body a little and finishes a little upright, which I think possibly costs him a little velocity.  He looks like a bullpen guy to me right now but he's got some movement, so there's a shot to make it in that kind of role.  He struggled early with his command and velocity but settled in well.  He ended up pitching 2 innings and allowing one run on a solo HR while walking one and striking out 3.
  • Bijan Rademacher was 2 for 5 with a pair of singles and a big RBI that brought the Cougars in within one.  Side note is that the guy hustles all the time, even in from RF to the dugout (as well as when he goes back out and takes the field again).  In general the Cougars played hard today.  The benching of Albert Almora seemed to resonate well with all the players as I didn't see a single player dog it to 1B base today.
  • Albert Almora had one particularly good AB today where he worked the count to 3-1 and then ripped a line drive single up the middle.  He just had the one hit, however, in 5 total ABs.
  • Dan Vogelbach had himself quite a day, going 4 for 4 with a double that one-hopped the wall in the right-center field gap.  A bit of a scary moment when Vogelbach slid hard on a close play at the plate and came up limping but seemed to shake it off quickly.  He played the rest of the game with no visible ill-effects.
  • Jeimer Candelario had a well-hit double over the RF'ers head to drive in the first Kane County run and made a nice defensive play in the field at 3B on a slow roller.
  • Gioskar Amaya had a pair of hits including his 3rd HR that he pulled over the LF wall.
  • SS Brad Zapenas had a pair of hits including a double down the LF line to drive in a run, and then scored on Rademacher's single.

Boise 4 - Hillsboro 3 (Game 1)

  • Opening day starter James Pugliese ran into some first inning trouble, giving up 3 runs (2 earned) in the first inning but then settled down the rest of the way and shutout Hillsboro for the next 4 innings.  He pitched 5 innings in all and walked 2 and struck out 4.   Pugliese has a 1.80 ERA after 3 starts.
  • Carlos Martinez Pumarino finished up with 2 scoreless innings and ended up picking up the win after Boise rallied to win in the bottom of the 7th inning.  Martinez-Pumarino is 3-0 with a 1.17 ERA in just 7.2 innings.  He's been at the right place at the right time this year but he's pitched well enough to earn those victories.  He has allowed just 2 hits while walking 2 and striking out 5.
  • CF Jacob Hanneman is on a roll after a 1 for 13 start.  He went 2 for 4 with a single and scored a run.  He's 6 for his last 15 with 2 doubles and a HR.
  • SS Carlos Penalver was 1 for 3 with an RBI and a run scored.

Hillsboro 3 - Boise 2 (2nd Game)

  • Paul Blackburn had a bit of a rough patch but it was due in large part to some shoddy defense in the short.  An error by 3B Jose Dore opened up the flood gates and a couple of throwing errors by SS Carlos Penalver and 2B David Bote compounded the issue.  Blackburn only gave up a pair of infield singles and a walk that inning, but  3 runs did score and all of them were unearned.  Blackburn pretty much dominated other than that inning, going 5 innings, walking just the one batter and striking out 8.  His ERA is still at 0.00 after 3 starts.  He has pitched 15 innings and allowed just 8 hits, has walked 2 while striking out 20.  Wow.
  • Boise's hottest hitter may be David Bote, who went 3 for 4 and is 9 for his last 21 to raise his average to .289.
  • Yasiel Balaguert doubled, walked, scored a run and drove in another.  He has cooled off, however, after a hot start and is hitting just .227.
  • LF Trevor Gretzky went 1 for 3 and drove in the Hawks' first run with a groundout to SS.

AZL Cubs 6 - AZL A's 5

  •  Erick Leal had another great start and I don't know if he'll ever make it -- he's a long way away, but I'm pretty excited the Cubs were able to get a pitcher of his talent for Tony Campana.  I'm going to have to see what he's throwing these days but he was definitely missing bats today.  He pitched 5 scoreless innings and allowed just one hit while striking out 7.  He walked one.  In two starts he has pitched 10 innings and allowed just one run on 5 hits.  He has struck out 12 while walking just 2.
  • SS Giuseppe Pappacio is off to a great start and is hitting .412 after a 3 for 4 day.  He also scored 2 runs and drove in one.
  • 2B Francisco Sanchez is a talented player who hasn't had much success yet but he may be starting to break through a bit.  He had 3 more hits today, including 2 doubles to drive in 2 and score a run.  Sanchez is up to .250 on the year with 3 doubles (.400 slugging).
  • 18 year old 1B-3B Mark Malave singled and drove in a run and he's hitting .308 to start the season.



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  • Thanks for that insight on Rivero. The early reports from ExST had him throwing mid 90's. Sounds like he wasn't finishing his pitches if he was too upright and throwing softer. I know opinions about whether he's a starter or BP guy has always been split.

    Hendricks just keeps succeeding....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    You're welcome. My opinion is Rivero's a bullpen guy but this is the first time I got an extended look. Hendricks has been incredible this year. He's looking like a steal -- but after huge years by Nick Struck and Barrett Loux in AA only to falter in AAA, I'm going to remain cautiously optimistic.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Another great wrap. I do have a suggestion. If you could maybe incorporate the top prospects of the opposition into your reports that'd be awesome.

    Not sure how doable that would be for you. I know it would add more work to your pile, but it would maybe give us more of an indication of how valid some of these performances are.

    You know like the Hawks had a great offensive day against the A's top pitcher prospect blah blah, and some especially memorable AB's came from etc. in the 4th bah blah blah. If its asking too much I get it. I still love your stuff though. I feel I've gotten to learn most about the system through your eyes.

    Starting to get excited about Blackburn. Can't wait to see how he does at his next level up. Same goes for Hendricks. Suddenly the system doesn't seem so devoid of arms. At least at the lower levels.

    Sounds like Jose Rosario might be more suited for the pen along with Armando Rivero. Maybe a spot starter long reliever because of those stamina issues you mentioned.

    So is this Borne kid the real deal? Is he possibly going to be able to play a corner outfield spot or 3rd? I know Cubs already have their 1B of the future. However can he possibly have league scouts convinced enough to suggest their teams trade for him if its a team that needs a bat who plays 1B?

    And just for curiosity sake whatever happened to Jay Jackson? I know he had some promise as soon as a couple of years ago.

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    In reply to Johnny Hatelak:

    I'm sorry I was asking about bour in my second to last paragraph of course. SMH.

  • In reply to Johnny Hatelak:

    In answer to your question on Bour, the answer is no. He can't play any other position which is really going to hurt his chances at getting and holding a big league roster spot. He isn't a great hitting major league prospect, though could easily be described as a really good minor league hitter. I'd say his ceiling is Bryan LaHair-like, and there's no guarantee that he'll reach it. Without having a bat that can hit 20+ HRs and hit at least .260/.340, it is very difficult to be a starting 1B in the show. And if you can't play any other positions, it is next to impossible to be a back-up.

    But, John may have a different view.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Bour can't even play 1B. He's a DH with little power. Which means he is essentially a non factor as a prospect.

  • In reply to Johnny Hatelak:

    Thanks Johnny.

    I'll add those once in a while, especially when they're facing a top pitcher or one of our top pitching prospects did well against a hitting prospect (as when Pierce Johnson shut down Byron Buxton), but in general these are pretty long already and it is just focused on the Cubs.

    I think Rosario and Rivero are both pen guys but for different reasons.

    Justin Bour is a big, big guy and he's either a 1B or a DH. He has a real knack for situational hitting but he may not be a good enough hitter overall to carry either of those positions. He doesn't have the kind of power you like from a guy his size.

    Jay Jackson is no longer with the organization.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Thanks fella's. How about this Rock Shoulders kid? Is he another Crash Davis like Bour? And what happened with Jackson? He get dealt?

  • In reply to Johnny Hatelak:

    Shoulders has slightly more athleticism than Bour, but is similar in stature. Big body, more raw power. Played some OF with Boise last season but realistically will only play 1B or DH. He will go as far as his bat will take him.

    Jackson was released in April before the start of the minor league season. He is now with the Marlins AA affiliate.

  • It looks to me like Albert Almora will need to tone down the high leg kick as he advances, but that's just me, I'm not a hitting coach.

  • In reply to Caps:

    There would be some who agree with you on that. I think eventually they do it but they may want to have him experience some success and work on it in the offseason.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    It looks to me like he has toned it down a little bit already, compared to the HS clips I remember seeing.

  • In reply to TheFiveYearPlan:

    It could be down a bit. I'd have to see the old video again. It did look like he was trying to tone it down in instructs but maybe he'll take it down a bit at a time.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Yeah, someone should also tell Joey Votto and Jay Bruce to tone down their leg kicks too. Yup, they both got one and kill the Cubs with it. Someone named Babe had one too.

    Someone named Billy Williams once said that you don't mess with a hitter's style too much, that each hitter has his own style and you shouldn't mess with it too much. You help him when he has a problem, but you don't mess with his style. You can ruin a hitter when you do. That comes from sweet swingin' Billy Williams.

    Hitting isn't a cookie cutter science. It's an art. Rembrandt was a successful artist and so was Picasso, and noone will ever confuse one with the other.

    Just my thoughts.

  • In reply to Tinker Evers Chance:

    That's true. I think you only fix it if it becomes a problem and that's obviously not the case right now.

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    I'm usually the last guy to be pushing for guys to be promoted ASAP, but Blackburn is clearly wasting his time in Boise.

    I mean, super small sample size, obviously, but it's just going from A-ss to low A we're talking about here. If it was any higher at all, I'd be fine with letting him finish the season there. But it seems like Kane County would be better experience for him right now.

    Who knows maybe Derek Johnson is working on some very specific things with him, but there certainly isn't anyone blocking him on the cougars roster.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    I disagree, Giff. Three starts aren't nearly enough. His performance thus far encouraging, and I want him to see time in KC this year, too. But it is far from clear that he is wasting his time in Boise. If he has 3 more dominant starts in a row, then we can start talking about a promotion. I would be very surprised if it happened any sooner than mid-July. Hope I'm wrong though...

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    There is definitely room for him in the Cougars rotation and when his defense was butchering that 3-run inning, I was wondering what it'd be like for him to go up and pitch at a higher level of play. I'd like to see it. Like Johnson, I'd hoped he would have started a level higher.

  • I'm really interested to read an upated scouting report on Erick Leal. It's just two games, and he put up good numbers as a 17-year-old in the DSL last season so it's not like this is new found success. I just want to know why he's successful and whether scouts think he is likely to pick up velocity as he matures into his 6'3", 180 lbs. body.

    Like Leal, Cabrera was 17 in the DSL and was promoted stateside skipping directly to Boise as an 18-year-old but then spent two years in Low-A Peoria. I assume this front office will be more patient with Erick. But it will be interesting to see if he keeps this level of performance up whether he sees Boise sometime this season.

    The big difference between Leal and Cabrera right now is their known stuff. Alberto always had the big fastball and the promising slider, he just couldn't control them. We have no reports of Leal's FB being anything special but he has great control striking out 70 versus 11 walks last season and off to a great 12-to-2 start this year all at or above a strikeout per inning. And whereas stats mean very little at these levels, age appropriate success on two different levels does carry a bit more water.

    There's no reason to get excited about him as anything legit yet, but there is ample reason to follow him closely.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Ill have to take a ay off and check out Leal. He c ertainly has a pitchers frame and apparently easy delivery.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    He does have a nice delivery, advanced for his age. We had video of it at the time of the trade and you can tell he was pretty polished for such a young kid.

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    Hey John, I have a few questions for you or anyone else who could answer them. I was just wondering if you pay any attention to the VSL and DSL and if there are any guys on those teams to keep a close eye on. I've been checking some box scores lately, and the VSL team seems to have some pretty interesting young talent on it.

    One guy that has caught my eye has been Roney Alcala. He hit decently well in the DSL last year and is doing very well in the VSL this year. I know its still a relatively small sample size with 130 ABs, but if he continues to hit like he does, when would be a reasonable time for a promotion on him. Also, what is a general timetable for promotion on these younger DSL and VSL guys?

  • In reply to Eric Maher:

    The problem with following prospects in the VSL and DSL is that the competition is so spotty that the numbers are almost meaningless. At those levels, scouting reports carry much more weight than production. A general rule of thumb might be if a player is younger (17) and has a good scouting report (meaning he likely got a decent signing bonus) and is performing well, he is worth following.

  • John...was also at the game, sat in the front row basically right where the Cougars were taking their on-deck swings. Really like Almora's attitude, he's excited, he's pumping up his teammates, he's leaning on the dugout railing talking to his manager, he's the first to greet a player who scores and him and Vogelbach seem to get along. Every time Almora went up to bat Vogelbach would say "You and me, you and me"

  • In reply to jorel1114:

    Thanks for sharing this. I've heard several times that both of these guys are "excellent teammates". The thing I like, they always seem to be smiling. This is supposed to be fun, right?

    Baez is similar, he is well liked by his teammates and always smiling. Unfortunately, he's a little more Garza-esque with it. He hasn't utilized the shaving cream pie to the face method, but he did fracture his thumb last year while high-fiving a teammate.

  • In reply to jorel1114:

    Thanks Jorel. Good stuff.

    On a related note, I liked that Dillon Maples was the first guy out to greet Jose Rosario when he struggled with his control and had to leave the game. If anyone can know what Rosario just went through, it's Maples.

    Also liked that Wilson Contreras went out of his way to give a ball to a kid. Tough guy on the field but apparently a softie off of it.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, I was at the game in the QC where Maples came out of the bullpen. I got to see him warm up, up close and I gotta say he seemed to not have any idea where the curveball(?) was going. I literally had to tell my friends who weren't paying as much attention to be careful because one could come at their face since we were right by the catcher Contreras. I remember someone saying that hed one of the best breaking pitches in the system... Is it a Curve or Slider? Also, I really wasn't that impressed with it; it had some break but seemed early and decently hittable when it did cross the plate..

  • In reply to Rudy:

    Also, It was just a warm up but his stuff overall didn't wow me like I thought it would. He may not of been dialing the fastball up all the way and I suppose it's different when you know what pitch is coming but I was standing real close to the would be left handed batters box and I'm a lefty and it seemed quite hittable.

    Also, watching Amlung warm up, he had better control in the bullpen but his ball was really easy to pick up off his hand and seemed pretty straight that day... doesn't make for a good combo.

  • "CF Matt Szczur singled and drove in 2 runs but appears to be a in a base-stealing slump of late. He was caught for the 8th time this year."

    Nope. He wuz robbed. He was popping up from the slide when the tag was made. An awful call.

  • I could read reports like this all day. Always followed minor leagues but never had this much info. Btw I have bleacher seats for the game in july against the pirates. I wouldn't mind seeing a game at Kane co while visiting Chicago.

  • In reply to rockyje:

    Definitely come out to Kane if they're at home.

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    On a somewhat unrelated note, David Price had an absolutely dominant rehab start in Port Charlotte last night. Working at 94 through 5 quick innings, struck out 8, only gave up a questionable walk on a full count through 4, then lost a little command and gave up 2 soft hits in the 5th but got out of it. Granted, just A ball, but the stuff was Definitely there. He was throwing mostly straight stuff but kept hitters off balance all night changing speeds. Looks like he could easily get a few starts under his belt before the deadline.

  • Anyone else a little concerned about Soler's injury. Has been out for some time and I thought I read a report that he was coming to Chicago for another looksie by a Doctor as his shin wasn't responding to treatment.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    I'm not concerned yet. It's his shin so you don't have to really worry about ligaments/tendons.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Fractures tend to heal better.

  • Great to read about pitching doing well. Hendricks, Blackburn and Leal sound exciting. Oh and have to like Vogelbach going 4 for 4 and a walk.

  • John, I love the blog! I read this article in the NYTimes on evolution and pitching and I thought you might find it interesting. Keep up the great work!

  • In reply to King3B:

    Thanks King3B. Evolution and pitching? Those are two of my favorite subjects! Thanks!

  • Hi John, thanks for the awesome Blog. I travel quite a bit to Phoenix, AZ for work and thanks to the info on this site I found out about the AZL. I went last night, and really enjoed a competitive and Free game. Wonderful entertainment on the road. At any rate Leal looked really good out there. He had a very fluid, smmoth and consistent wind up and delivery, with a niuce fastball. I was sitting on the third base side so it kind of hard to see his movement, but at least 4 of the strike-out's on right hanned batter's involved a swing and miss on and outisde pitch in the dirt. I have never seen so many strike-outs that involved a throw over to 1st. Jorge Diaz, did a great job closing it up. He loaded the bases with no outs, and then proceeded to strike out the next 2 batters with a a nice looking curve. He got the last out on a grounder to the shortstop. I was nice to see him save the 1 run lead in such a tight situation. Thanks again John!

  • In reply to NGWheelz:

    Very nice info. Thanks NGWheelz!

    Too bad there's no gun at Fitch. But great to hear Leal was getting swings and misses. And thanks for the info on Diaz as well.

  • In reply to John Arguello:


    Why can't there be a Minnesota Rookie League? LOL I grew up on minor league baseball in the 60s in Iowa, and it was so much fun! I'm praying for the day that the Twinkles move their MWL team up to the new ballpark they're building in St. Paul (for the Saints). Then I can go watch the Cougars when they came into town. Not gonna happen, but I can read your minor league reports or dream.................

  • Thanks for the Javy link, John. Read about the vote but didn't know where until you provided it (yeah I'm that lazy). On the other team, had to reject the Yankees and Red Sox prospects. They get enough exposure from their sister station ESPN, so took the Sand Gnat. That's not a joke, there really is a team called the Sand Gnats. Tres cool!

  • In reply to HefCA:

    You're welcome! Vote Javy everyone!

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