I went out to catch the Kane County game today (why is it in the 50s in June?) and saw Albert Almora for the first time in person in a game and I was impressed. His approach seemed better to me than his walk rate would indicate. I saw him chase just one bad pitch the entire game and he did work a 7 pitch walk for his first AB. It reminded me of when I first saw Jorge Soler at the same level. Soler wasn't really drawing walks, but he wasn't really chasing bad balls either. When he did swing, he generally put the ball in play. In a general way, the same is true of Almora. I don't think Almora will have a problem getting on base and drawing walks as he moves up but right now, there isn't much MWL pitchers can throw that he can't handle. I didn't get a chance to see him field a tough chance in the OF but he gets a good break on anything hit around him and takes good lines to the baseball. He's probably the best defensive CF in the entire Cubs organization right now -- majors included.
There was also a scary collision at the plate when Cedar Rapids player Niko Goodrum was sent home from 3rd for some reason even though it was clear he was going to be out by a mile. Cougars catcher Willson Contreras was waiting with the ball when Goodrum was only about halfway down the line. The 6'4", 200 lbs Goodrum decided to try and shake the ball loose but Contreras aggressively came out to meet him and tagged him on the chest, but according to reader Willie G. (who talked to Contreras after the game) he caught Goodrum in the neck/head area with his shoulder. Goodrum's helmet came flying off and he fell with a thud, apparently knocked out before he even hit the ground. He had to be revived with smelling salts and was taken off the field in a stretcher and in an ambulance. According to Willie, Contreras was okay but seemed shaken up about it. He's a tough player who plays with an edge but he obviously didn't want to hurt him in that way. The guess here was that it was a concussion and Goodrum did wave to the crowd as he was carried off the field. It's unfortunate the aggressive play ended in an injury but it was not intentional. I have to admit that, injury aside, I like his tough, hard-nosed style of play. The Cubs could use that kind of player.
I'll have the rest of my thoughts in the Kane County portion of the recap, which I will do first today. In fact, let's work from the bottom up today for a change.
Kane County 3 - Cedar Rapids 2
- It seems like every time I go, LHP Michael Heesch is on the mound, so I'm getting to know him pretty well. I've seen him at his best when his fastball ranged from 88-91 with arm side run, breaking some bats, and drawing some oohs from rival scouts along the way. I've also seen him at 87-89, sometimes with a bit less movement on his FB. This version was the one that was out there today but he doesn't hurt himself out there. He works fast and throws strikes and keeps his defense in the game. He doesn't give up a lot of hard contact and the defense plays well behind him. His stuff is average, but the approach up there is excellent. He makes the most of what he has. Today that was good for 6 innings of 2 run baseball. He walked 2 and struck out 4. His ERA dropped to an even 4.00.
- RHP Steve Perakslis is throwing the ball extremely well since some rough outings early in the year. He was working off of a 91-93 mph fastball that touched 94. He was aggressive, threw strikes, got ahead and finished them off with either the fastball or his breaking ball, which got some swings and misses today. He threw 3 scoreless innings, walking one and striking out 3. His ERA is down to 3.41 and has a 0.89 ERA in his last 10 games.
- Eddie Orozco finished things off with a scoreless 10th and put himself in position to be the winning pitcher when the Cougars notched the winning run in the 10th.
- Albert Almora went 3 for 4 with a walk and is hitting an obscene .475. The first hit was his hardest hit of the game, a sharp grounder between 3B and SS. The second hit was an infield single and the third was a dying quail double in which Almora showed good hustle, awareness, and solid speed. Almora is definitely not a burner and he seems to run better under way. He was caught stealing earlier in the game when he had a terrible jump and was out by a good 10 feet.
- Dan Vogelbach showed an all fields approach, twice going to LF including a hit that he hustled into a double. In fact, Vogelbach really manufactured a run with his legs that inning. After stretching the hit into a double, he tagged up and made it to 3rd on a flyball to medium CF -- I didn't think he had a shot to make it but he slid in easily. Vogelbach then scored on a wild pitch. The more traditional Vogelbach showed up in the 3rd inning when he absolutely ripped a line drive HR into RF that nailed the Leinenkugel sign with a resounding thud and shaking the sign as it connected.
- I continue to be impressed with Jeimer Candelario's increased range and play-making ability at 3B. I have little doubt he can stay there long term. He made a nice play on a slow roller and another one on a sharp grounder to his left. He wasn't too bad with the bat either, going 3 for 5 including a frozen rope single that nearly won the game in the 10th. Candelario is hitting .259 on the year with a .344 OBP but I expect good things from him in the 2nd half. It's just a matter of time with him because of his good approach and natural feel for hitting.
- Marco Hernandez went 1 for 4 but he deserves a mention because he's playing with much better energy than I saw earlier in the year. He ran out every grounder at full speed and made the defensive play of the game on a diving stop of a sharp grounder up the middle.
- Rock Shoulders has been struggling and had a tough day, but he came up big with the bases loaded in the 10th. He drew a 4 pitch walk to send us all home happy -- and eager to get in our cars and turn the heat on.
Daytona 5 - Brevard County 0
- Excellent outing for LHP Austin Kirk as he pitched all 6 innings in a rain-shortened game, walking 3 and striking out 7.
- Ben Carhart went 2 for 3 with a walk and 2 runs scored. Carhart was a good college hitter at Stetson and has been doing well since being moved up to the 2nd spot. He's hitting .279 after going 7 for his last 17.
- Javier Baez stayed hot with a 2 more singles, an RBI, and a run scored. He's hitting .281 with 9 HRs and his OBP is suddenly a not-so-hideous .322, especially considering he came into the game with a .519 slugging percentage (.243 ISO).
- The team's two steadiest producers were in on the action as usual, Jorge Soler went 1 for 4 with 2 RBI and Dustin Geiger went 1 for 4 with a double and a run scored.
New Orleans 5 - Iowa 3
- Chris Rusin had one of those outings that's better for the FIP than the ERA or won-loss record. He pitched 7 innings and allowed 12 hits and 5 runs, but did not walk a batter and struck out 4. He fell to 4-5 with a 3.82 ERA on the year. His FIP coming into the game was 3.59.
- Michael Bowden made his 2013 Iowa debut and it was a good one. He went 1.2 scoreless innings, walking one and striking out 3.
- Logan Watkins seems to find a way to contribute everyday but he continues to tread water and hasn't broken out yet. He went 1 for 4 with a walk and a sacrifice hit. He's hitting just .229 but has a solid .349 OBP and a surprisingly solid ISO of .165. If he can just get some better luck (his BABIP is down to .278 from .332 last year), he can still have a solid year at Iowa.
- Dave Sappelt went 2 for 4 and scored a run and raised his average at Iowa to .276 with an OBP of .323.
- Brent Lillibridge went 1 for 4 with a double and an RBI. He's been hitting .282 since his demotion.
Filed under: Daily Cubs Minors Recap