Cubs Minors Recap: Zastryzny signs, Soler OK, and Underwood debuts

Cubs Minors Recap: Zastryzny signs, Soler OK, and Underwood debuts
Yasiel Balaguert

A bit of news to start the day....

2nd round pick LHP Rob Zastryzny signs

In case you missed it in our comment thread earlier, 2nd round pick Rob Zastryzny signed a deal.  We know because he said so himself...or tweeted it, rather.

MLB Daily Dish reports,

"A source has confirmed that the Chicago Cubs have officially signed left-hander Rob Zastryzny to a contract after selecting him in the second round (41st overall) in this year's draft. Zastryzny will receive a bonus of $1.1 million, which is $261,900 less than the assigned slot value for the 41st selection, $1,361,900."

Obviously the underslot signing is good news as it is money that can be used to help pay for overslots like Tyler Skulina, Charcer Burkes, and Trevor Clifton.

As for the scouting report we got, the belief is that Zastryzny can eventually sit 92-93 with a plus change and a solid average breaking ball -- and that he can play up that stuff with pitchability and good command.   Zastryzny also works quickly, which sometimes prevents hitters from getting into a rhythm while also keeping his defense on it's toes.

Jorge Soler has mild injury

Also, for those worried about Jorge Soler, it looks like a minor calf strain (h/t @sahadevsharma) and it appears he won't miss much time.  He is not likely to go on the 7 day DL at this point.

More thoughts on the Cubs system from Professor Parks

I also had another Twitter chat with Professor Parks who told me that the rough draft of his top 50 prospects contains 3 prospects (Albert Almora, Javier Baez, Jorge Soler) in the top 20.  A fourth, Kris Bryant, is around the top 25 range.  He also repeated that the Cubs are being considered for as high as the 2nd spot in the overall organizational rankings.

Lastly, he also told me he is probably going to the Northwest League to scout players.  The NWL is where Boise plays so it it will be interesting to hear what he thinks of Paul Blackburn, Duane Underwood, Shawon Dunston, Jr., Carlos Penalver, and others...

In case you missed it earlier, we talked about some of the international free agents the Cubs are pursuing.

On with the recaps...

Iowa 2 - Omaha 0

  • You don't see a lot of 9 inning complete games at the minor league level, but when you work as efficiently as Chris Rusin (93 pitches), you get a rare exception.   Rusin was at his best, changing speeds and hitting his spots as he cruised through the Omaha lineup, allowing just 5 hits and one walk while striking out 8.   The outing moved Rusin to 6-6 with a 3.06 ERA on the season.  His control has been outstanding this season (1.67 BB/9 IP).  He's pitching to contact this season and getting good results -- and we may just see him in the Cubs starting rotation after the trade deadline.
  • The I-Cubs got solo HRs from Donnie Murphy (6) and Bryan Bogusevic (9).  They only had 4 hits overall, but they obviously did not need many.

Tennessee 2 - Mississippi 1

  • Another crafty LHP, Eric Jokisch, had a pretty good game as well.  Jokisch went 6 innings and allowed just 3 hits and one run.  He did walk 3 batters, however, while striking out 3.  Jokisch improved to 5-6 with a 3.50 ERA on the year.  He has also showed good control, though not as sharp as Rusin (2.6 BB/9IP), but he has missed more bats (7.7 Ks/9 IP).
  • Trey McNutt continues to pitch well -- and efficiently.  He needed just 10 pitches (7 strikeouts) to get through a 1-2-3 inning.  He lowered his ERA to 4.30 after some struggles and the key -- as it has always been, is that he is throwing strikes.  He's walked just 2 batters in his last 10 outings (10.2 innings) and his walk rate has creeped under the 4 (3.99 BB/9IP). Hope he keeps it going.
  • Tony Zych has also stepped it up in his last 10 outings, putting up a 1.50 ERA in 12 innings and he's struck out 10 hitters in that time, something he hadn't been doing enough of early in the season.  He lowered his ERA to 3.10 with a scoreless inning.
  • Steady Frank Batista continues to outpitch his stuff.  He's not going to overwhelm anybody (5.6 Ks/9IP) -- but he gets results, which Cubs fans would gladly take from their MLB bullpen.  He earned his 9th save with another scoreless inning, lowering his ERA to 1.97.  His walk rate is a solid 2.6 per 9 IP this year.
  • The Smokies got offensive contributions from some of their unsung players today.  Anthony Giansanti and catcher Chad Noble each had 2 hits and scored a run while Pin Chieh Chen had an RBI.  Jonathan Mota had two hits.

Clearwater 9 - Daytona 2

  • Not a good start for Zach Cates, who allowed 4 runs in 4 innings.  The problem?  He walked 5 batters.  Cates fell to 6-6 and his ERA rose to 4.48.   He has walked 3.5 batters per 9 innings this year after today's performance.
  • Javier Baez did not get a hit but stole his 7th base and drew his 15th walk.  That may not seem like much, but it does mark his career high.  He walked 14 times last year between Peoria and Daytona.  The walk rate of 5.5% also represents a career high.  He's also increased his walk total each month and already has 6 walks in 50 PAs in June, a 12% rate. Keep it going Javy!  If you continue to get more selective, they're going to eventually have to come at you with fastballs that you can hit over scoreboards.
  • Dustin Geiger accounted for both Daytona runs with a 2-run HR, his 8th dinger of the season.  Geiger continues to surprise this season with his .291/.357/.470 line in a pretty good pitchers league.
  • Ben Carhart had a couple of knocks to raise his average to .274 on the year.

Kane County had the day off with the MWL all-star game coming up


  • Duane Underwood may have been battling a case of nerves today as he showed a live arm but was battling his control and pitching with runners on base all day.  Boise announcer Mike Safford commented that Underwood threw the best fastball he has seen this season.   Considering Paul Blackburn hit 93 a few times and closer Mike Hamman has touched the mid 90s, that's encouraging.  Safford also commented that Underwood is very deliberate on the mound when compared to Blackburn and opening day starter James Pugliese.  The Boise offense was able to bail Underwood out, however, as they roared back to tie the game.
  • Orbandy Rodriguez hasn't pitched since 2009, when he was known as Manuel Gil.  He fractured his elbow in his second season and the identity fraud was discovered while he was still recuperating and he was released. He's a 6'6", 200 lbs. RHP with good mound presence, but as you might suspect, he's older than his competition.  He's a 24 year old pitcher who came into relieve a starter that is 6 years younger than him in the 18 year old Underwood.  He didn't fare much better today.  He started off with 1.1 scoreless innings but then unraveled, giving up 4 runs in the 6th inning.
  • Ethan Elias went 2 innings and allowed one run, walking one and striking out 4.
  • Tyler Bremer pitched a scoreless 9th.
  • The Hawks got contributions from up and down their lineup, starting with the leadoff man David Bote.  Bote didn't get a hit but did walk twice, scored a run and drove in another.
  • SS Carlos Penalver is off to a tough start, hitting just .118 to start the season.  He was 1 for 4 today with a walk and was struck in the hand with a pitch.  Fortunately it appears he was okay as he stayed in the game.  Penalver also scored a run.
  • CF Kevin Encarnacion singled, walked, and scored a run.
  • Yasiel Balaguert continues to hit more like the guy the Cubs thought they were getting last year.  He had 2 hits, including a 2-run double.  He also drove in a run with a sacrifice fly.

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  • fb_avatar

    Javy Baez is looking like proof of something you've said in the past -- when elite prospects put it together, they can make huge strides seemingly overnight.

    Fun fact on the Rusin game, a friend of mine who was listening said that Rusin only went to 3 balls on the batter he eventually walked. He was pounding the strike zone today. He's becoming a favorite of mine -- really eager to see what he can do if given a rotation slot down the stretch. It would be nice if we didn't have to worry about finding another Scott Feldman next November, because we have a capable replacement from Iowa.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Read that Whitmeyer thinks if/when Cubs gut the rotation again it'll be just as terrible as last year. Once again, he couldn't be more wrong. We won't be trotting out the Jason Berkens, Chris Volstads, and Justin Germanos this year, not to mention Shark won't be getting shut down again. We'll have Rusin ready-and-waiting, Cabrera, Villanueva, Scott Baker at some point, maybe Hendricks, etc. No way could the rotation be as bad as last year.

    Sometimes I think Whitmeyer just says things without really thinking about it. He's good for reporting and sources but that's about it lol

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    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I agree. The rotation at the end of the year will be: Shark-Jackson-Wood-Rusin at 1-4. (Assuming Villaneuva is dealt and Baker doesn't make it back.) I could pitch every fifth day and the rotation would still be better than last year's.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I don't think Whitmeyer liked the Cubs' response to his financial story. He's been awfully pissy with the Cubs this year and it seems to have started right around the time he published that piece.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I think Rusin can be a starter. When he locates well and has that change working, it makes that 90 mph FB plenty good enough. Decent slider too. He's a starter. Raley I'm less sure about as a starter but I think he can be a pretty LOOGY to start his career.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    What is it about Raley that makes you doubtful that he can be a starter, John?

  • In reply to João Lucas:

    His change-up isn't the same quality as Rusin's and he gets crushed by RH hitters. I think the Cubs may need to limit his exposure to righties early in his career.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Jeez, I wish Maddux was still with the organization. I'd love to see him work a bit with Rusin.

  • Rusin has been our most consistent pitcher not named Travis Wood.

    Is Balaguert still trying to pull everything with that uppercut swing, or has he fixed that?

    Also have you heard anything about Rivero? Where is he? Haven't heard much since we signed him back in March.

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    He's pitching in EST and had been dominating. Sits 93-95mph with a tight-breaking splitter and average changeup. I think he'll move very quickly and will probably be a starter until he proves otherwise.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    He was in AZ zinging 95 mph FBs. I imagine we'll see him start in AZ to get his feet wet. Cubs seem to like to move Cuban prospects slowly because of the long layoff and culture change.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Have you seen or heard any reports on Yasiel's swing?

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    From what I saw in Peoria he had a quick bat, but a bit of a long swing and was a little pull-happy. I haven't seen him since and I don't know if his success is because of the lower level of competition or that he made adjustments. I hope it's the latter because his swing wasn't going to play against upper level pitchers.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That's where I was going. He gots that long uppercut swing and wants to pull everything. If he made adjustments and thats the reason for his success, then we have something to get excited about. If not, he will be exposed and probably struggle to make it past A+.

    Let me know if you see him.

    P.S. where do they have him playing? I assume LF with Shawon in CF?

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    Zastryzny = Cingrani..... That's my hope at least.

    Underwood is still a boom or bust candidate but for some reason I have a good feeling that with Derek Johnson and co in place he's more likely to be boom then bust. We're already seeing dividends with the consistent velo from EST till now. That was step 1.

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    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Zastryzny probably already has a better changeup than Cingrani. Cingrani is only going to be able to get away with being a two pitch pitcher for so long.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I still like Underwood, but I think right now Paul Blackburn is the odds on favorite to rocket up prospect boards this offseason. That first start really has me geeked for him.

    I know it's the in thing to denigrate our starting pitching prospects, but at this point we have: Hendricks, Cabrera, Rusin, Johnson, Blackburn, Underwood, Pugliese, Zastryzny, Skulina, Clifton.

    Okay, no one is going to confuse us with the Astros, but there's a lot of talent there. Underwood has true ace potential. And we can give Hendricks any number we want -- if he keeps striking out 7 per 9 and walking less than 2 per 9, he can front most rotations in the game. (Yes, I know that isn't given, or even likely, but the kid has been shocking people up to this point.)

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    I'm sure our opinions probably differ on whether these guys are starters or not but the Cubs intend to use them as such so i'm going to add them to that list until further notice: Maples, Conway, Paniagua, Lang, and Vizcaino all have great stuff as well. With a little luck add them to your list and were looking pretty flush with starting pitching prospects.

    Really excited about Underwood, Johnson, Zastryzny, and Blackburn as well. I think they are the first true "wave" with Cabrera, Hendricks, Rusin etc warming us up before that wave.

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    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I left out Maples, Conway,Paniagua, and Vizcaino because their issues seem to make them bullpen help in the immediate future, if not flame-outs. I'm not writing them off, but trying not to get too wide eyed.

    I simply forgot about Lang -- probably should have included him.

    All of this good news makes Ryan McNeil a little easier to swallow. A little.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Those 4 make them likely bullpen guys. Vizcaino has the experience, command and repertoire to be more right now, but that durability question looms even larger than it did at this point last season.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Oh dear, Marcel, I just hope that Zastryzny does not contract mononucleosis like our very 1st pick in the draft a few years ago, Hayden Simpson, and like our 6 million dollar man, Gerardo Concepcion, who was dropped from the 40 man major league roster, cleared waivers, out righted to Kane County last December, and who is now in extended spring training, lol. Before signing as an international free agent, the Cubs were very high on him, but most teams had projected Concepcion as a 5th starter at best if he made the majors. And with Vizcaino having a 2nd surgery on his elbow, let's hope that it does not "freeze" up on him with loss of range of motion from excess scar tissue from opening up the elbow joint capsule for a second time.

  • In reply to shalin:

    I'm inclined to follow the line of thinking that Concepcion's signing was to help secure the services of Jorge Soler. I personally consider Soler's signing bonus to be $32 million, with $1 million for Concepcion. Wouldn't give much more than that to a 5th starter type.

    Simpson was a bad draft pick. He's what happens when you zero in on someone and they're not there. The Cubs had their hearts set on Chris Sale, but the White Sox grabbed him three picks before the Cubs. Admittedly, had the Cubs gotten Sale, it'd be a very interesting conversation as to just how far the Cubs would be from contention with a 1-2 of Sale and Shark. Alas...

  • In reply to Jim Weihofen:

    Soler was paid 32 million, while Concepcion was paid 5 million. It would seem that the Cubs (and other teams) felt that Concepcion was one fifth the prospect that Soler was.

    The Cubs had an empty farm system, and were playing long shots in an effort to fill it up with prospects. Concepcion was a long shot that didn't pay off, just as MOST long shots never pay off. But it was a good signing nonetheless.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Boise announcer mentioned it looked like Underwood was pretty tense and I wonder if it was just a case of the first time pitching in front of a good sized crowd (it was the Boise home opener). Sounded like he had plenty of velo and he was mixing in that curve.

  • Would like to see more from Kevin Encarnacion... Numbers were good in the DSL and it seems like the plate discipline is not a fluke... A patient switch hitter with some speed and at least some gap pop... Can only hope he pans out.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Agreed. It's always hard to put a lot of stock in DSL numbers but walk rates seem to have translated pretty well so far with not just Kevin Encarnacion but also Jeimer Candelario this year at Kane and Carlos Penalver last year in the AZL.

  • fb_avatar

    I have a gut feeling that Bryant signs today.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I have heard that the deal is 99.9% done but with all the travel that Bryant has done since the end of the regular college season is waiting a couple weeks for the physical just to get some rest before he hits the ground running.

  • In reply to Rich Hood:

    The fact that the Cubs are already shifting money around to other picks tells me they're confident he'll sign and that they have a figure in mind.

  • In reply to Rich Hood:

    A few more weeks would put him signing very close to the deadline. That's rather uninspiring for him getting in work.

  • I'm hopeful for Jokisch, too. As has been said many times here, someone (hopefully more than one) is likely to pan out and be a mainstay with the big club.

  • In reply to cubs1969:

    I have to think one of Jokisch, Rusin, Raley will stick. They're similar pitchers and they use a time proven approach. It's a matter of who can execute it best.

  • I wonder if the series being in Clearwater has something to do with Soler's calf strain? It was in Clearwater when he had his bat wielding incident. Maybe they want to keep him out of this series to avoid any retaliation? It'll be interesting to see if he makes his return Thursday at home.

  • In reply to Cub Fan Dan:

    Hmmm. Interesting theory, but to deny him his start in the All-Star game over a ruse to keep him out of the next series makes me doubt it

  • Now that Zastryzny has signed where do you guys see him reporting? I realize that most of the newly signed draft picks are on their way to Boise or will spend some time in EST, but I was hoping to see Zastryzny in Kane County. From what I have read he seems to be somewhat polished and I think one possibility is that he takes Dillon Maples' spot in the rotation. Maples might be better served going down a level to Boise or going to the Cougar's pen.


  • fb_avatar
    In reply to PtownTom:

    He will go to Mesa to get his feet wet then probably zip through Boise. May end up in Kane County. May also end up in Daytona. Until the initial assessment is done though we have no idea.

  • In reply to PtownTom:

    I'm sure he'll spend time in AZ, like everyone else.

  • In reply to PtownTom:

    I think they're all going to EST and depending on evaluations there, that will dictate where they go. Look for most to appear in Boise, even if just a few games before moving up to KC.

  • In reply to PtownTom:

    Zastryzny is in Mesa. He'll start there and we'll see how far he goes from there.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    After pitching a full season at MO, I can't imagine we'd see him do much more than pitch a few innings in Mesa and a few more in Boise.

  • In reply to JB88:

    I'm expecting a similar load to what Pierce Johnson had last year.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I actually don't know what to expect load-wise. Johnson was coming off an injury. Did that limit his innings even more? Or did the FO think he could handle some extra innings because his arm hadn't been taxed as much?

    I thought Johnson could be a good comparison, but then remembered the injury. One way or the other, I really don't expect him to see much more than Johnson did.

  • In reply to JB88:

    I don't think it's so much about injury as it's just that the FO seems to like to break guys in slowly their first year. First year out of college isn't really all that meaningful from an evaluation standpoint. More about getting their feet wet, transition to new environment/teammates, and keeping them healthy. I expect limited innings for all of the pitchers.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Logically that makes sense. With the FO's push for college players this year and the supposition we've all been drawing that they are aiming for ML pitching sooner rather than later out of this crop of draftees, I do wonder if they will take a somewhat more aggressive approach to pitchers like Zastryzny, Skulina, and Masek. And by aggressive, I don't mean huge innings, rather pushing them up a few levels instead of starting them in Boise.

  • In reply to JB88:

    I see that possibly happening next season. I think Johnson could have started in Daytona, for example. It took him all of one start + one inning to adjust to the level competition -- if that. I was at those first two starts and I didn't see him really struggling -- just poor defense and some bad luck that first game.

    As for this season, I don't think putting them at Kane, for example, speeds up their time frame much. Cubs may want to get a look, but even if they advance to that level this season, I think they'd start there again anyway next year.

    That said, you have more leeway with pitchers as far as advancing them quickly. If you have good stuff and can locate it reasonably well, you can succeed at most levels regardless of experience. Even when the hitters get the best of a pitcher early on, as long as he has good stuff/command, etc., if he has any kind of feel he'll eventually adapt his approach to more experienced hitters.

    Instead of the college arms this year, I can see Paul Blackburn reaching Kane County. Possibly Pugliese from two years ago as well. Maybe Zastryzny gets his feet wet at Kane since he's more of a feel pitcher than Johnson is.

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