Cubs Notes: Almora to Fall League; Quick thoughts on UA game; Minors Recap (Cliff Notes version)

It's been a busy weekend for me when it comes to baseball and non-baseball plans.  As you know, I attended the UA game and I was happy to meet a lot of our readers.  Bernie's was closed early, so we popped in next door at Rock-It Burger -- some meandered over but I know that I missed a few of you, though I did catch up a bit at the game.

It was a lot of fun.  Watched some baseball, saw some possible future Cubs talent, and got to meet a lot of new people and some old friends.  Thanks to all of you that came out.

Arizona Fall League

Albert Almora will indeed be playing in the Arizona Fall League as we suspected, as will Jorge Soler and possibly Kris Bryant. Muskat confirmed the first two names while Bryant wasn't mentioned, but it was put out there on Twitter by his girlfriend, so that's anything but official.  Jed Hoyer would only say that the Cubs would have an impressive group.

There is mixed opinion on Almora, who has played only a partial season in the Midwest League, but I think Almora is advanced enough to hold his own.  I don't expect him to thrive, but I don't think he'll embarrass  himself either.  Almora will start in Daytona next year but it's conceivable he could end the year in Tennessee.

Baseball Factory/Under Armour Game

Home run hitting contest

  • First thing we got to see on the field was the HR hitting contest and three players stood out from the rest: Alex Jackson, Jacob Gatewood, and Chase Vallot.  There was no surprise that Gatewood was the winner  His long, lean, athletic, projectable body just makes him look like a future star and although these kids were selling out at times for the home run, you could see glimpses of Gatewood's smooth, effortless swing.  He hit several onto Waveland Avenue.
  • Chase Vallot was the other finalist and he is more compactly built, with a thick lower half that says either catcher or 1B.  He did a little of both yesterday.  He has the arm strength and the pop times to catch, so it's all about refining his receiving skills.
  •  Nobody gets a louder sound off his bat, however, than Alex Jackson, who has tremendous bat speed.  He missed the finals but hit several low line drives in addition to his home runs.
  • Michael Gettys also showed some good bat speed and hit some long HRs in the derby as well. Gettys is also a top pitching prospect, but as a position player he shows all 5 tools, including uncorking a short hop line drive throw to 3B from deep CF.


  • The first two pitchers were the most interesting to me but as usual, there was a surprise or two.  Touki Toussaint was hitting as high as 97 on the stadium gun but by most accounts, that was a couple of mph fast yesterday.  He also flashed a few plus curves, but was inconsistent overall with it.  He's athletic, projectable and easy to see a lot of upside here, but like many pitchers we saw today, he was pretty raw.
  • Dylan Cease isn't the biggest kid out there at 6'2", 180 but he showed a nice, easy delivery with tremendous arm speed that made it look like the ball was just exploding out of his hand.  He also hit 97 on the stadium gun but did not have a feel for his secondary stuff yesterday.
  • The first thing I thought when I saw Tyler Kolek was that this kid is huge.  He's already man-sized and there is zero projection in that body.  Then when he started throwing upper 90s, including one that read 99 on the stadium gun, the next thought was, "Oh, he doesn't need to project."  He already has a present plus fastball.  He even got a bit of movement when it was closer to the 94 mph range.  Kolek also threw one over everyone's head twice and and hit the protective netting in front of the stands.  Who's going to dig in after that happens?
  • The surprise pitcher was Michael Kopech, who throws from a 3/4 delivery and threw a low 90s fastball (peak 93) and a wicked slider with two plane movement that he commanded quite well that day.  One of the most memorable moments of the game was when he faced Alex Jackson and struck him out on three straight sliders, two of them, including strike 3 were looking.  Good morning, good afternoon, and good night.  He also showed a good curve and a surprisingly advanced chage.  Kopech is 6'2, 188 lbs and his body looks more projectable to me than Cease's so he could wind up throwing harder as he matures.  He's got some funk to his delivery but it was working for him -- it wasn't just Jackson who couldn't pick him up, Kopech struck out the side in his one inning of work.
  • Another pitcher I liked was Grant Hockin.  I tend to gravitate toward guys with clean effortless deliveries and good movement on their fastball, which Hockin showed yesterday.  He also snapped off a couple of nice sliders.
  • Grant Holmes was yet another hard thrower, touching 95 mph.

Position players

  • The HR derby power didn't show up in the game except on one occasion when Jacob Gatewood ripped a line drive over the CF'er head in LF-CF.  Easily the hardest hit ball of the day.
  • Perhaps the offensive start of the game was Tom Gordon's kid, Nicholas Gordon, who had 3 hits, stole 3 bases, and made a nice defensively play where he had to charge the ball and throw off balance and on the run to 1B.
  • Milton Ramos flashed some nice range on a diving play on a hard grounder up the middle.  He has a strong arm but threw the ball on a short hop to the 1B, who could not come up with it cleanly.  It would have been the defensive play of the game.  He played the game with energy though did show the discipline to take a walk.
  • Local product Darius Day out of Simeon squared up the ball nicely a couple of times, once lining out to CF and also ripping a single up the middle that either hit the bag or a player (I was partially screened on that play).

We'll have pictures for you later and more thoughts from Kevin Gallo on the game.

 Minors Recap (Cliff Notes version)

AAA Iowa

Mike Olt went 4 for 4 including his 14th HR and a double.  Bullpen arms Alberto Cabrera and Chang-Yon Lim had a scoreless inning apiece.  Good to see Cabrera have a good outing and very happy to see Lim on the mound after a brief return to the DL.

AA Tennessee

Rubi Silva hit his 15th HR and Justin Bour hit number 17 to back up another solid performance from Dae Eun Rhee (6IP, 0 ER, 3 BB, 2Ks).

Advanced A Daytona

Dan Vogelbach drew 3 walks while Kris Bryant doubled and hit a 2 run single.  Anthony Giansanti also drove in two while Wes Darvill pitched in 3 hits.  Corey Black moved to 6-8 with a 5 inning performance in which he only allowed 2 earned runs, but walked 4.  He also struck out 2.

A Kane County

Giuseppe Papaccio hit his 2nd HR as Kane County got hits from every player in their lineup except Gioskar Amaya.  Trevor Gretzky continued his surprise run with two more hits, including a triple.  He's hitting .429 at Kane County (9 for 21).  Tayler Scott got the win with 6 innings of work in which he walked 3 and struck out 6.  He allowed 3 runs.  Good to see him miss some bats.  Stephen Perakslis picked up his 7th save.

Short Season A Boise

Yet another encouraging outing from Duane Underwood who went 5 innings and walked just one batter while striking out 3.   He allowed 3 hits and one run to move to 3-3 with a 4.56 ERA.  Kevin Encarnacion rolls along with 2 more hits to raise his average to .360.  Jacob Rogers went 3 for 4 with an RBI.

AZL Cubs

Rafael Dolis pitched a scoreless inning in a rehab stint while Daury Torrez was once again all kinds of nasty with 6 scoreless innings that included no walks and 6 strikeouts.  Torrez has averaged an even 9 strikeouts per 9 innings while walking under one batter (0.92) per 9 IP.  He's 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA  and just a 2.04 FIP.  Trevor Clifton went 2 innings and allowed 2 runs, but just one walk vs. 4 strikeouts is encouraging. Ryan Sweeney is on his way back and went 0 for 2 with a walk.



Cubs Affililate Box Scores/Scoreboard



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  • Darius Day's hit took a weird hop off the second base bag. Easily one of the most bizarre plays I've ever seen. Seemed like he was pressing a bit, being at home. Same issue I saw last year with Corey Ray last year.

  • In reply to Jim Weihofen:

    Thanks Jim. I got screened by the ump, who stepped over to get a better view.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    It appeared to be right by, if not on, the corner of the base. Just a strange, strange play.

  • John, can we assume we'll see Szczur in Sep? I think it'd be nice to get some more intel on some these "marginal" guys, like he and Watkins.

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    I don't think we can assume it and the Cubs may prefer to get a look right now at Sweeney, Bogusevic, and Lake in CF. If Szczur comes up, it'll be to get a taste of big league life and maybe get a start or two, do some pinch-running, etc.

  • Our injuried players have to get some BAs or inninings before
    next year

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Agreed. These guys all need some reps in competitive game situations.

  • I like sweeney, I hope he gets some at bats and hope he is in the picture for a roster spot next year.

  • In reply to seankl:

    I do think they want to get a longer look heading into the offseason.

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    If Soler and Almora are on the AFL roster, I think that's it for their under AA exemptions, which would seem to remove the possibility of Bryant playing there. Perhaps Bryant was on the roster then removed when it became clear Almora/Soler would be healthy enough to play?

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I believe Soler qualifies for the International Player exemption

  • Silva's HR was oppo... Didn't look like he got it all either, it just kept carrying. Dude has some serious power to inside/out a ball like that.

    Also, Rhee started the 7th inning, but didn't record an out. He allowed 2 runners on base and they both scored. Those are unearned, but his outing wasn't all that impressive.

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    totally off topic, but just watching the cubs/SD game makes me ask the question - if I was building a roster today, who would I rather have on it: Cashner or Rizzo? Not talking about Rizzo's slump this season, I'm just thinking about how much more difficult and expensive (in terms of FA $ or prospects in a trade) it has become to get a good young pitcher, as opposed to finding a decent 1B.

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    In reply to SKMD:

    They thought Cashner was a reliever only. Another mistake, it would seem.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Nothing against Rizzo but I think they were asleep at the wheel on Cashner.

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    In reply to peoria cubfan:

    I don't know if I would let is slide as a "mistake," to me there was just a certain pattern of arrogance when the new guys came in, they seem to have made the blanket assumption that all things Old Cub were crap, nothing the previous ownerships had done was worth anything, these guys have 20/20 vision and the rest of the world wears bifocals. Casher is one example, Colvin of course is another (he's no all-star but who here would make that trade again?), I would say Sveum instead of Sandberg - not even CONSIDERING Sandberg - was another, and Theo admits that he was surprised at the value of Soriano - meaning he had never paid him any attention and came in with another pre-conceived notion about him.
    Now, when you wear 2 WS rings you're entitled to a certain amount of swagger and arrogance, but I think Theo-Jed have let it blind them to the point of making some bad, ill-thought-out decisions.

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    In reply to SKMD:

    exactly well said. These guys thought since they were paid like they could walk on water......they figured everything that was in the Cub system was trash and no there type of players. Luckily they couldn't trade Javier Baez when they got here.

    I don't blame them for the arrogance, 1. many of the fan base bought in to them w eyes closed and mouths wide open... 2. face the facts, the cubs regardless of ownership and mgmt hasn't done crappola in how long.

    Still they have done a pretty solid job on paper, we have yet to see anything yet on the field. Hopefully we will see something starting next yr.

    If the Cubs had other pitchers in the system, I would have said they made a GREAT deal unloading a pitcher in Cashner w durability issues for a guy they love ( who cares what hes done or how great his yr was last yr, the pt is that he was there guy) . My problem is they traded by far the best cubs pitching prospect at the time. IMO, that was a little too risky IMO.

    Let's call a spade a spade.....Cashner's road to home splits aren't even close. Yes, hes been good, but pitching in Petco is a pitchers best friend, but please can someone remind Edwin Jackson that. That Son of a gun cost me a lot of money on Friday blowing a 6-0 lead in that park!

  • In reply to SKMD:

    I would pick Rizzo right now. Cashner has had injuries each of the last 3 years. In 2011 he made his first start, got hurt and didn't make any more starts the rest of the year. Cashner had a good day today but I think Rizzo is the safer bet to have a longer and better career. Let's talk again in 15 years to find out who won that trade.

  • It'd be interesting to hear some thoughts from Kevin Gallo on the UA game.

  • In reply to WillieG1:

    Are you implying that my quick thoughts here weren't interesting? :)

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Come on John. That's not what I meant. You're the best.

  • In reply to WillieG1:

    Haha! I was just giving you a hard time :)

  • What's upsetting is that Cashner fits the exact profile of the type of SP they'll be looking to acquire this offseason- young power arm with additional cost control. Oh well. I'll admit to being very happy about the trade at the time. Where do we find that guy now? As good as Bryant looks, Appel would've been perfect, given our situation.

  • Way too early to make a judgment like that. The opinions last year were the exact opposite after the season. Time will tell and not enough has passed yet.

  • In reply to Eric:

    That was meant as a reply to Peoria cubfan above.

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    In reply to Eric:

    I agree completely. Last year we were saying this trade was a genius move by Epstein and co.

  • In reply to Antony Franco:

    To all of you commenting on Cashner vs Rizzo ...
    Just one fan's opinion of course. I admit to grinding my teeth about the trade initially. However, Cashner has something of a stigma attached to him - seems to be plagued by injuries. We'll see on that one I guess.

    I go back and forth on the pitcher vs position player thing. I guess if I had to pick I'd prefer the guy who plays every day vs the pitcher who goes every 5th day. I understand that hitting a baseball is fundamentally difficult; perhaps more so today with specialization and uber hard throwers. Still ... shrug.

  • whatever happened to jordan bernfield ? I thought he was writing for cubs den.

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    John, I was at the UA game as well and was extremely ipressed with Alex Verdugo. Any thoughts on him, where he'll be drafted ect..?solid opposite field hit as well as a good performance on the mound. Seems to have a confidence about him as well..

  • In reply to Antony Franco:

    I like Verdugo a lot. We'll write more a little later. He's been the hot name lately on the showcase circuit because he's played well as a hitter and pitcher, but he hasn't highly ranked coming into the game. He's probably not a first rounder right now but he's making his way in that direction

  • I finally got to attend a Smokies game last night, so I'll attempt to expand on the recap.

    Overall, pretty lethargic offense even against a pitcher that didn't look to have that much command. He was only throwing in the upper 80s. Dae Eun Rhee did not impress me, those results or not. He was pitching from the stretch most of the night and couldn't command his breaking stuff, which caused him to be pitching from behind an awful lot. He topped at 91 but only once there and a couple times at 90 - and at that, he seemed to overthrow to get there. He sat around 88. So, I guess he's one of those guys that just gets people out without that much stuff that indicates why. He's pretty thin and perhaps he can bulk up and move up a tick or two, but right now I don't see a whole lot there to get excited about.

    Tony Zych - power pitcher 90-93, but was throwing batting practice to Mobile. He seems to throw with max effort, too, and his pitches were not pitchers' pitches in spite of his arm. He simply got lit up, so let's hope that was just one of those nights.

    Position players:

    Szczur: Drew a walk with an excellent AB. Nothing else, never hit the ball hard.

    Alcantara: Two ground outs, a fly out, and a k. Turned two dbs and looked good doing it. Good arm..effortless throws.

    Baez: Neither did he hit a ball hard, but just got a little under one pitch and popped a sky high can of corn to mid center. Had he gotten it, it might still be going. He won't get cheeted, I guarantee you, but I still think he gets anxious. Two groundouts to 3rd and 1 K besides the fly. Looked confident and smooth in the field, but didn't get many chances.

    Bour: Big dude and a clean stroke. Picked a couple of nice ones on throws in the dirt too. His dinger was so fast I couldn't even see it go out from where I was sitting. I'm not sure about him, but there's a chance that he's for real, I do believe. He had a sac fly in the first, then the dinger, then two ground outs. Not a bad night at all.

    Silva: Had a walk, a dinger to the opposite field (and there was no doubt about it), a fly out and then a K. He looks like a real possibility, at least last night he did.

    Villanueva: A fly out, a walk, a ground out, and a K. But what I want to talk about his play at 3rd. My word! This kid is for real and he can play for the Cubs, defensively, right now. He showed us a dive to the bag to rob a double in the Brooks Robinson mode. Then he made two do or die pickups on slow rollers and got his man each time. I think he also started two dps. Wow, if this kid could bring a bat with him to Chicago, I'd be all in. We'll find a place for Bryant.

    Jackson: doubled his first AB to right, a hustle double as it were. It was no lazer shot, just well placed. I loved the way he was sprinting on contact, made the turn seamlessly, and made it easily to second. He popped up and Kd once. Jury is still out, I guess. There's just so much to like about this kid. Sigh.

    Lopez: Nice looking young catcher that handled Rhee pretty well. He's also got a gun. Lots to like about him playing behind the plate. But oh that bat. My goodness. He was so overmatched I think I could have gotten him out. He Kd all four ABs.

    My wife and I, despite the lethargic offense and the loss, had a very good time. The park is very, very nice for a stadium at that level. They did a really nice job of entertaining the fans, especially with kids, the whole night, and the whole thing only cost us about 40 or 50 bucks. We even sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" at the stretch. Somehow, for an old goat that hasn't been to Wrigley in 20 + years, that was a thrill. Pretty darned good entertainment for the dollar.

  • In reply to cubs1969:

    Cubs 1969 ... I was in Kodiak for Shark's first AA start. It is a really nice place to watch a game. 90 humid degrees at 9pm though ... UGH!

    Thanks for the report!! I always enjoy a fellow Den-mate taking time to share his thoughts on a game seen live!!

  • In reply to cubs1969:

    Thanks for your thoughts, cubs1969. Rhee isn't the pitcher he was as a 19 year old. Injuries have taken their toll. Good to see him have some success, but as far as a prospect status goes, he's pretty far down the list.

  • Hey John, just wanted to say thanks again for the tickets. The wife and I had a blast well at least I did. I don't think this was a star studded of a group as last year but definitely some talent there. A Jax looks the part and definitely has a little swagger, I was impressed with Gettys swing, and Day's overall athleticism is impressive. Also that might have been the most left handed pitching I've seen in one of these showcase games. But thanks again great time and didn't cost me anything till the wife drug me down Michigan ave.

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    How can anyone watch that performance and deny the Cubs deserve the #1 overall pick? Unlike the Astros and Marlins, this team wasn't designed around losing.

  • John, sorry I missed you at Bernie's me and my brother got there just as it opened, but met several nice cubs den folks. Thanks for the tickets and loved the game.

  • Biggest problem with this team is that the guys we assumed were "good" and worthy of building around have forced us to revisit those assumptions. With Castro, I think we just tough it out. When I consider the range of possible outcomes for him, long-term success still seems the most likely. Rizzo will be fine but he's not going to be an All-Star-caliber players. He's a middle-of-the-pack 1B.

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    In reply to Carl9730:

    As a 24-year-old in his second season, Rizzo's numbers already qualify as middle of the pack. I don't think he'll be a star either, but I think once he reaches his prime, he'll be a consistent .850 OPS guy. That's fringe-top-10 first basemen production, which I'd take in a heartbeat.

    Castro's regression has been puzzling. He's been probably one of the 5 worst starting shortstops in MLB this year. But he'll start next season wt ha clean slate and hopefully he takes advantage.

  • In reply to Jason Pellettiere:

    I think some of Castro's problems are due to the fact that his strengths and weaknesses as a hitter don't jibe well with the way they're coaching him. His strength is hitting low FBs, even ones on the outside edge or at the ankles; his weakness is identifying breaking pitches and laying off of them.

    So, what you have is a guy who can jump on a first pitch FB at the knees on the outside corner, and drive it over the 2nd baseman's head. But when he gets deeper in counts, and the pitchers mix it up more, he has trouble guessing on pitches and he ends up being late on FBs and chasing breaking pitches outside the zone.

    He ends up hitting defensively late in the counts, and they've taken his best weapon away from him by expecting him to not swing at "pitchers pitches" early in the count. The problem is that, for him, an 0-0 FB on the outside paint at the knees is NOT a pitcher's pitch--he probably hits 320 when he swings at that pitch. It's a pitcher's pitch for others but not for him. And he doesn't jump on that pitch anymore; instead he's hitting defensively later in counts, which is why his BABIP is way down.

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    In reply to SVAZCUB:

    That's a good analysis. I thought he'd turned a corner after last September when he hit for average, OBP, and power, but I guess not.

    The problem is, the Cubs obviously don't want to give up on him after one bad year, but if he's terrible again next year, it could become hard to move his contract. You've got to keep him this offseason unless someone blows you away with an offer, but there could be major issues if were still discussing this same narrative come this time next year.

  • Funny none of you who prefer cashner over rizzo were around when the trade was made. Love the fans who praise whoever's doing well that moment. I'll go out on a limb & say 10 years from now the rizzo/cashner trade will be considered a crucial steal for the cubs. Perhaps before the end of next year.

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