Cubs Minors Recap: Ramirez leads Smokies one-hitter; Black pitches well; Torrez bumped up to Kane

The Cubs got some good performances from two recent acquisitions in Neil Ramirez and Corey Black, a respectable debut from Daury Torrez, who skipped Boise and jumped to Kane.

Meanwhile, an old standby in Casey Coleman led Iowa past Omaha, a team they're trying to leapfrog into the playoffs.  They are 2 games back now with 4 to play.  Boise, however, lost a key game and fell back into a tie for first.

I was also reminded that the DSL Cubs were playing in the semi-finals tonight (they lost) and did not mention that the VSL Cubs lost in the finals.  Cubs are winning at just about every level except the majors right now.  That's got to count for something.

Many thanks to reader Doug H. for his contributions today.  Doug saw Ramirez's first start today at Tennessee.

Here's the recap...

Iowa 4 - Omaha 2

  • Casey Coleman went 6 innings, walking 3 and striking out 3 while allowing 2 runs.  He picked up the win and is now at 5-3 with a 3.16 ERA on the year.
  • Alberto Cabrera seems to have righted the ship and had his third straight scoreless outing.  He, Marcus Mateo, and Eduardo Sanchez made it 9 up and 9 down to end the game.  Mateo lowered his ERA to 2.03 while Sanchez picked up his 3rd save.
  • The offense got contributions from up and down their lineup.  Mike Olt had a sac fly in 4 appearances while veterans Edgar Gonzalez, Ty Wright, and Edwin Maysonet each had 2 hits.

Tennessee 5 - Chattanooga 0

  • Neil Ramirez made his debut in the Cubs organization and started off what would end up being a combined 1 hitter.  Ramirez did allow the one hit in 4.2 innings of work, falling just one out shy of qualifying for the win after reaching his pitch count.  He walked 2 and struck out 5.  Ramirez was 90-94 on his fastball, often working toward the high end when he needed something extra.  He showed an 86-88 mph change up, an 83-84 slider, and a hard 74-77 mph curveball -- he's undoubtedly a power guy, but he worked at just 88 down in his last inning of work, but may have just been pitching to contact to try and get through the 5th.
  • P.J. Francescon has had a solid year in middle relief and picked up his second win with 1.1 scoreless, hitless innings in which he walked one and struck out 3.  Francescon works with a low 90s two seamer and was missing bats with a good 75-77 mph curve.  The 24 year old has a 4.34 ERA with 16 walks and 21 Ks in 29 innings this year.
  • Yeiper Castillo finished with 3 perfect innings to close out the one hitter.  It was his first save and lowered his ERA to 3.79. Castillo worked at 89-92 mph with excellent command today.
  • Arismendy Alcantara hit his 35th double and 4th triple, both hit the wall.  He also scored 2 runs. Don't look now but Alcantara has steadily raised his numbers as a RH hitter vs. LHP.  His OPS is now up to .722 vs. lefties, a big improvement over the beginning of the year.  I always felt he just needed more reps and that appears to be paying off right now.  He's hitting .270/.351/.455 on the year with 15 HRs and 30 SBs.
  • Southern League pitchers are apparently done thinking they can make Javy Baez get himself out today.  Baez was intentionally walked in a key situation and also hit a sac fly to drive in his 49th run in 49 AA games.  Baez has also lowered his strikeout rate to an even 27% and just 22% in August, so he's heading in the right direction.
  • Justin Bour was the beneficiary of the walk to Baez and hit a double to clear the bases and drive in 3 runs while Christian Villanueva crushed his 17th HR of the year, hitting he scoreboard.  His extra base power has been outstanding this year.  In addition to the HRs he also has 4o doubles and has a .201 ISO.  He's still a sleeper candidate behind Mike Olt but Villanueva has shown he can hit for power and play well defensively at the hot corner.  The one item missing are the walks to supplement his OBP, which is just .315 this year.

Daytona 3 - Brevard County 2

  • Another Cubs trade acquisition, Corey Black, also fared very well today, allowed just 3 hits,. no walks and one run in 6 innings.   Black's statistics are still combined with his Yankee numbers so he's 7-8 with a 3.93 ERA -- but he's 4-0 with a 2.88 ERA as a Cub, walking 10 and striking out 28 in 25 innings.  So far so good.
  • Bijan Rademacher had a pair of hits, including a double, and  a walk to raise his average to .261.
  • C Chadd Krist continued his solid play of late with a single and 2 RBI.
  • Kris Bryant got the day off while Dan Vogelbach doubled, walked, and scored a run.

Cedar Rapids 5 - Kane County 2

  • I was excited to see Daury Torrez get the call from Arizona, where he was dominant, posting a 2.04 FIP, walking less than a batter per 9 innings (0.92) and striking out a batter per inning.  Torrez works with a 91-93 mph FB with good movement and mixes in a power slider and a change-up.  He commands all his pitches, as his walk rate would attest -- but Torrez isn't a finesse guy.  He has solid stuff and an ideal, still projectable frame.  The recently turned 20 year old held his own today with 5 innings of work in which he walked just one batter and struck out 2 in allowing 3 runs.  With the final Labor Day series coming up, that may be the only start he gets.
  • The Cougars offense took a hit when Almora got hurt and then Vogelbach got promoted, so they've had to pick up the slack a bit.  Rock Shoulders was one of those guys but he hasn't played his best baseball of late.  Today though he did double, walk and drive in a run.  He's hitting .253/.348/.444 on the year with 18 Hrs.
  • SS Marco Hernandez has played well of late and 2 more single brought his average up to .256.  He also stole his 19th base.

Salem-Keizer 10 - Boise 8

  • I'm not sure what happened to Paul Blackburn after a great start but he was never quite the same after some time off.  His command has been inconsistent and he walked 3 more batters today.  He also gave up 5 runs but was really let down by his defense today.  Only one of those runs were earned.  As much as I like Torrez's quick look at the end of the year, you have to wonder if that was earmarked for Blackburn until he struggled a bit of late.  Blackburn still has a very respectable 3.33 ERA.
  • The nice thing about Boise is they can pick up a shaky performance by a starter.  They roared back with a 4 run 3rd to put them right back in the game.    Shawon Dunston was one of the catalysts today with 2 hits, a walk, 2 runs scored and 2 SBs, giving him 12 on the year.  Dunston is hitting .293/.383/.365 on the year.
  • Another son of a former big leaguer, Daniel Lockhart, has also had a very good season.  Lockhart drove in 2 runs.  He doubled, singled, and walked and raised his line to .296/.353/.348.  Obviously the power hasn't shown up this year.  Lockhart doesn't have a lot of lift in his swing, but his bat stays in the zone a long time and he should make contact and hit for average.
  • Kevin Encarnacion has been a beast since returning to Boise and today he HRd, singled and drove in 4 runs.  The 21 year outfielder is hitting .368/.443/.574 with 7 HRs.  He has walked 11.7% of the time while striking out just 16.4%.
  • SS Carlos Penalver was one of my sleepers early in the year and it seemed for awhile that I missed on that one.  Not so.  Penalver has been on fire of late, hitting .363 this month and raising his overall average to .266.  He has walked in 10% of his PAs and carries an OBP of .342.  The slick fielding SS has also stolen 9 bases in 12 attempts.

AZL Cubs 8 - AZL D'Backs 1

  • Encouraging performance from Trevor Clifton, who went 2 scoreless and did not walk a batter.  He also struck out 3.  It looks like the overslot pick in the 12th round may pay dividends.  Of course, it's early but the abilty to throw strikes gives him a great shot -- especially since he can bring it as hard as 97 mph.
  • Rafael Dolis pitched a scoreless inning.
  • Much of the offensive damage was done by rehabbing big leaguers Ryan Sweeney and Luis Valbuena, who combined for 5 hits, 2 doubles, 3 RBI, and  a walk.  DH Tyler Alamo drove in 2.  Mark Malave doubled in his only AB.  He's hitting .270.

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  • Great to see all of the new pitching acquisitions really doing well. It seems the FO have hired some really good scouts. Why did Encarnacion struggle so much at KC while mashing at Boise?

  • Torrez's numbers down in the Dominican are plain silly. Hope he can continue that at the higher levels. Nice to see him get a taste at KC, where I am sure he will begin next season.

    Will be nice to see some playoff baseball with a couple affiliates as a bridge to the AFL. Great experience for these guys.

  • Love all these minor league recaps. I am already sad they'll be ending soon. Thanks for all your guys' hard work this year!

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    In reply to StatHead:

    AZL Fall league to look forward to.

  • In reply to StatHead:

    Thanks. I have mixed feelings. Sometimes I appreciate the break because it feels like if I had to do it all year, I'd go crazy -- but I start missing them after about a month. At least there is the fall league and winter ball.

  • If the minor league teams are winning so much now (as compared to the beginning of the year), could it be a testament to the skills of the coaching staffs in the minor leagues? Or is it more skill in evaluating talent/as a result of trades done by the front office? Or both?

  • I'll say both, but I think what is important to understand is that the touted "Cubs Way" is legitimate. They bring in players that fit the profile of what they philosophize about. It's exciting to think that the entire organization is under a single "roof" of expectations and coaching that teaches and insists on that approach to the game.

  • In reply to cubs1969:

    Boy, I hope you're right!

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    The huge change for Blackburn following time off makes me wonder if there's an injury there we don't know about.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I was told he was fine, but results say otherwise.

  • How did the Cubs get Encarnacion? Was he drafted or acquired by trade? Are scouts excited about his potential? He's on fire.

  • In reply to baseballet:

    He has been with the org for years. He was signed as a teenage IFA. He has had some good, but injury plagued seasons in the DSL the past couple of years.

    His swing is a little funky, almost as if he is slapping at the ball, but unlike Szczur he actually seems to have enough strength to make it work for extra base power. He's not a top prospect, but he has always been a sleeper guy with tools. Maybe he is starting to figure it out. One thing that concerns me in the couple games I got to see him in person in the OF is he took terrible paths to flyballs. Now, its obviously small sample, but he turned a couple of outs into extra base hits in those games.

  • In reply to baseballet:

    IFA. He's a bit of an unorthodox player, plays with a lot of fire but doesn't have the prettiest swing or the raw speed I expected. It really seems to work for him though as he's always put up good numbers. He'll be interesting to follow next year at Kane.

  • Aside from the 'lack' of power from Vog, what else could you ask for? The guy takes a bunch of walks, seems to always have good AB's, hits for average, etc.

    Part of me hoped the power would show up in a big way with Bryant hitting behind him - but you can't really complain. We know the power is there, but its great to see him be selective and take what they give him.

    Really interested to see where he is at in 12 months.

  • In reply to Roscoe Village:

    You could ask for good D, but the thing is if he hits then you'll live with him if he just gets the routine stuff. Right now the biggest thing I'm asking is for him to keep proving himself at every level.

  • Guys, here's a good link from Fangraphs. It's their free-agent leaderboard-sortable stats for FAs to be.

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    Marlon frigging Byrd has accumulated 3.6 WAR in only 119 games this year. What a joke.

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    Non-thread related item: The Cubs are now in 3rd place overall in the reverse standings, a half game ahead of the White Sox.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Dempster going for the Red Sox tonight against the W.Sox.

    I'm hoping he get's rocked!

    Go White Sox!

  • Cubs won't "reverse-catch" the Marlins and 'Stros, but I hope they solidify that #3 slot in the weeks ahead. Lots of games on tap with teams in the chase, so it is looking pretty good. Sorry, but tanking is simply the smart play at this point.

    I'm looking forward to seeing Shawon Jr. in Geneva next year.

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    In retrospect its kind of amazing Clifton signed for under a million. Dude is athletic, can throw strikes and brings it. Good scouting I guess.

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