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.
- 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)
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.
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.
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.