Daily Cubs Minors Recap: Baez HRs; Hendricks sharp; Arrieta gets a step closer to returning

Daily Cubs Minors Recap: Baez HRs; Hendricks sharp; Arrieta gets a step closer to returning

A tough loss for the Cubs today though it's good to see the young core playing well.  In the minors there are a few players who want to join that core and a few of them did pretty well today...

Apologize for the late recap as I had a busy day yesterday with a doc appointment and MRI for my stress fractuere

Iowa 5 - Nashville 1

  • Kyle Hendricks bounced back from a poor start the last time and looked like the Hendricks we're used to seeing -- only one walk vs. 5 Ks in 7 innings.  He allowed just 1 run en route to his first victory of the year.
  • Another player who hopes to be in Chicago soon, Neil Ramirez, had his second straight good outing after his disastrous start to the season.  Ramirez pitched a scoreless inning, striking out one.
  • Blake Parker has been in Chicago already and was something of a surprise cut this spring but he has looked good in Iowa so far.  Another scoreless inning to close the game.  Parker struck out 2 and is throwing strikes -- so maybe we'll see him back in Chicago if a spot opens up.
  • Matt Szczur had cooled off after a good start but had two more hits today. He's down to .233 after his recent slump.  But it's early, so it doesn't take a lot for a batting average to rise or fall quickly.  Szczur has played well overall, particularly on defense.  Szczur also stole his 3rd base but he was also caught stealing for the 2nd time this year.
  • 2B Arismendy Alcantara is quietly off to a solid start, hitting .280 with 4 of his 7 hits being doubles.  One of those doubles came today as he went 2 for 4 with  a run scored.
  • SS Javier Baez hit a 2 run HR for his only hit in 4 ABs.  Baez is off to a .154 start but has shown signs of breaking out in recent games.
  • Josh Vitters continued his solid play with a single and two walks.  He's off to a tremendous start after a slow spring and an injury plagued 2013 seasoned.  The two walks are most impressive and it gives him 3 on the year.
  • Veteran Chris Valaika doubled, singled and drove in 2 runs.

Chattanooga 1 - Tennessee 0

  • Not a great game for the Smokies but it was encouraging in that Jake Arrieta made his second strong start as he rehabilitates and looks to get back on the active Cubs roster.  Arrieta was the inside favorite for the 5th starters spot but was injured.  That role has gone to Carlos Villanueva but one has to believe that once Arrieta is ready, he'll be back in the rotation.   Arrieta went 3.2 innings and did not allow a run.  He walked 2 and struck out 4.
  • Dae-Eun Rhee did an admirable job piggybacking the start but the one run he allowed in 4.2 innings.  He walked one and struck out 4 in the tough luck loss.
  • Only 4 hits for the Smokies today.  Stephen Bruno doubled while Zeke DeVoss, Dustin Geiger, and John Andreoli all singled,  Kris Bryant went hitless but drew a pair of walks.

Dunedin 12 - Daytona 2

  • Tough second start for Tayler Scott, who was a 5th round pick in the 2011 draft.  The Cubs like Scott for his tremendous athleticism and makeup, but today that didn't help him much as he allowed 8 runs (4 earned) on 11 hits in just 3 inning.  Scott also walked 3 batters -- something he cannot do if he expects to have success at the higher levels.
  • About the only good news for the pitcher was another scoreless outing for Arodys Vizcaino, who allowed one hit and struck out one.  He was once again in theh 96-98 mph range with a mid 80s slider.
  • Not much brewing on offense for the D-Cubs.  They scored both of their runs on their third, one on an RBI single by Oliver Zapata, who went 1 for 3 with a walk and an RBI grounder by Tim Saunders who also singled.  Bijan Rademacher was the star of the day going 3 for 3 with a walk and scoring a run.  Zapata came in to play for Gioskar Amaya, who was hurt in this game.

Kane Kounty 7 - Fort Wayne 5

  • After a strong 2014 debut, Tyler Skulina once again started strong, allowing just one run through 5.2 innings before unraveling with one out to go in the 6th.  It spoiled what whould have otherwise been another strong outing.  Skulina allowed 3 straight hits and had 4 baserunners score after he coudn't get that last out.  Still, we have to be encouraged by his start so far.  Skulina allowed 5 runs in 5.2 innings in this outing, walking one and striking out 6.  He still got the win.
  • Middle man/long reliever Justin Amlung came in and helped close the door with 2.1 scoreless innings, but not before he allowed a double to allow 2 inherited runners to score in that 6th inning.
  • Tyler Bremer pitched a scoreless inning to pick up the save.  He allowed 2 hits but no walks and struck out one.
  • The Cougars got a lot of production from the top of their lineup today.  Daniel Lockhart stepped up in the leadoff spot and singled twice and scored two runs.
  • 9th hitter Carlos Penalver made a big jump up the lineup to the second spot and made the move pay off.  He double, singled, stole a base, and scored 3 runs.
  • Yasiel Balaguert only had one hit but managed to drive in 3 runs, two on a single and one a grounder that was ruled an error but Balaguert was credited with a RBI because the run would have scored regardless.
  • Shawon Dunston walked, stole a base, and scored a run but was hitless on the night.
  • Trey Martin had a productive day, getting a single, walk, RBi, and a run scored.


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  • fb_avatar

    Wonder what's going to happen with Vitters. He's still so young and is forcing the issue some with his play.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    When you think about it. Take out his, what, 100 PA in the majors and you'll see that he's done nothing but hit and hit well at every level.

    While I'm not as high on him as before I just don't see a 4A player in Josh Vitters. Will he be a star...or even an everyday player? Maybe not. A productive corners + DH guy on the short side of a platoon?

    I think that's within reason and he could make a pretty good career doing it as long as he can hit and so far it seems he can.

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    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Not clear to me where the front office is on him, though. If they've given up, even if that's unfair, he may end up being trade bait more than anything else.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    IDK that he has any trade value until he proves he can hit MLB pitching, even if it's just a small sample. He's the kind of player teams will take a gamble on if there's no cost/downside to them. But they aren't going to pay anything for that gamble.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    He can hit. It's the defense and approach that has hurt him. I always thought he'd be a late bloomer because he's slow to adjust but if he's going to stay with the Cubs he has to do something this year.

  • I agree on where you are going, I think Vitters and Jackson are more valuable now to the organization for where they were drafted (1st round) than their actual potential. Like Olt was to the Rangers the Cubs view the two as throw ins to sweeten a larger deal. Can you say "change of scenery" type players.

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    I think with Vitters it is always going to be a case of where does he hurt you the least.
    He does not have good defense anywhere and is barely serviceable as a corner IF/OF guy. He also does not show the extra base power that is ideal for those type of guys.
    I think his bat will translate well to the majors at some point but he will always struggle to find playing time in the NL. I really do not see wasting a spot on current roster with a guy that if we are lucky will hit 260. to .280 with very few walks and very little power even off the bench.

  • In reply to Richard Hood:

    Very little power? He's always had an above average, and in some years exceptional, slugging percentage. So if he can replicate his MiLB numbers he clearly profiles as a corner guy. Hardly a wasted roster spot. Now he may not pan out, but I wouldn't give up on him yet.

  • In reply to TTP:

    The positives for Vitters are he has a gorgeous swing. He has excellent hitting mechanics (like instructional how-to video perfect) great hands, plus bat speed, crazy natural contact ability. That's why Scouts fell in love with him early on.

    But he lacks pitch recognition and is very willing to go out of the zone for contact. The problem with that is, he isn't a great bad ball hitter like Castro/Baez. He doesn't make enough consistent, hard contact. Too much weak contact on pitches out of the hitting zone. He has to curtail his approach and improve pitch recognition for his raw ability to shine through. I hope this new & improved Vitters is the result of a mental adjustment by him. Because he makes so much contact that he can hit at an average level. Could be a plus hitter with just modest improvements, but given his slow pace of change, it's difficult to project this as a plus tool.

    He can show good power in batting practice. He has bat speed and natural strength, with loft in his swing to drive the ball out of the park and into the gaps routinely. The problem is, he swings at pitches he can’t drive all too often, decreasing his in-game power. Similar to his hit tool, mild improvements in his approach and pitch recognition would allow power to play at an average level with 20+ doubles and 15-20 home runs.

    I just think those that are clinging onto the notion that he is a .300 hitter with 25-30 HR's are clinging onto the dream of what could have been. It isn't realistic to think "he can replicate his MiLB numbers" at the MLB level. His deficiencies will be exploited by MLB pitchers. Given his "iffy" defense at all 4 corners, his ceiling really is a bench/DH guy now. He's still young and may someday, eventually put it all together... but he's getting squeezed out of Chicago for a 4th/5th OF'r future.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    This idea that he won't walk is becoming very outdated:

    In his AAA career he has walked 7.6% of the time. And it's over 10% between this year and last. He will never be a 10% walk guy in the majors I imagine, but he has certainly become more selective over the course of the last 3 years.

  • In reply to doogolas:

    Ironically, I never mentioned his willingness or ability to take a walk. While his walk totals have increased, he still swings at too many pitchers pitches resulting in weak contact.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I would have to agree that Vitters is more likely a 4th or 5th OF. His biggest liability his his below average defense in the outfield (he also gets hurt a lot). I do think many are under estimating his power potential. He has had a good slug % and on his years in the minors where he has been healthy he has hit 15 + homers, so his power could translate up to 20ish homers in the major leagues. Overall who knows we know he is a .300 hitter in the minors with a decent walk rate and a pretty good K rate and that usually translates pretty well in the big leagues. But who really knows at this point.

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I think that's a good summary, and the reasons that scouts aren't that high on him, despite his obvious good numbers at AAA, and hit tool.

    When you are a poor defender in LF or 1B, the bar is very high for your hit tool, and he may not be clearing that, even with his gaudy AAA numbers. He wouldn't be the first bat-first guy to destroy AAA pitching and not really stick in the majors; LaHair, Hoffpauir, and if you are older Julio Zuleta spring to mind just from our own system

  • In reply to Zonk:

    exactly! Let me be clear, I'm rooting for the guy; but at the same time, it's time... no more excuses. I think people forget just how much of a burden his defense places on his bat.

  • I think we've reached the stage where we don't *need* Vitters to make good on his potential; but all the same, it would sure be nice if he turned into a useful piece. For me, most realistic ideal scenario would be this:

    Vitters proves to be a late bloomer, and thanks to his maturity and improved physique he suddenly develops more slugging than he's shown in his career. In this respect, he's off to a good start in Iowa, but it's much too early to put stock in those numbers. Provided he keeps it up, Vitters gets the call to Chicago some time in July, where he gets phased in with favorable match-ups, the way we're doing with Olt and Lake right now. If Vitters continues to hit with authority, he could break camp in 2015 as the starter in LF. He won't need to be an All-Star, but if Vitters can do just enough to support the narrative that he's a late bloomer who's finally making good on his promise, then by middle of 2015 he'd have a good deal of value to AL teams -- right around the time we may want to promote Almora, which will start to make things a bit crowded in our OF.

    Now granted, this is not in any way a likely outcome; but it's a possible one, and I don't think we have anything whatsoever to lose by keeping Vitters rostered just to see how this plays out.

  • Vitters need to play everday for the season to see what he can
    do with 500+ AB's

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    He has had issues staying healthy. Combine unreliable health with an unreliable work ethic and I certaintly couldn't blame a FO for losing faith and moving on. Maybe the improved commitment to conditioning this past offseason can help him turn the corner in this regard as well.

  • Vitters is the man of interest today. I was ready to give up on him this spring but it appears maybe a fire has been lit under him since then. That's all we've really asked of him -- to play hard from AB to AB, from pitch to pitch, and keep plugging away.

    Vitters to me always acted like the game was going to have to come to him, but in reality, he has to get after it. He has to make the adjustments and he has to keep wanting to improve.

  • Honestly, anything Vitters does from this point on to improve his trade value is a plus for me. I really don't think he is in the cubs plans at all. He can do himself a favor by playing this well consistently, so the cubs can use him as a good throw in to get that top pitching prospect. Also, it would give him an opportunity elsewhere. It is a shame, but it is what it is.

  • How long will we have to wait to see Vizcaino in Chicago?

  • Arrieta looks promising. I am wondering when they will bring him up. He looks close.

    Vizcaino looks great. How much time does he need before we bring him up. He looks ready now.

    With Parker and Ramirez we do have options to help our BP. I would say there definitely are positives this year. Now we have to translate the positives to results. We are not there yet but getting close.

  • Per Mark Gonzales last night in the Tribune:

    "Iowa shortstop Javier Baez, 21, was listed as the youngest player to start the 2014 season on a Triple-A opening day roster, according to Baseball America. Second baseman Arismendy Alcantara was the 10th youngest player in the Pacific Coast League."

  • Have they given up on Ramirez as a starter?

  • On the bullpen: It looks like the early season on the big club and in the minors is about working through who will last (Grimm, Rondon for sure at this point) and who will not. And there appear to be really good options in the minors. I also wonder whether, or how many, starters are there. It would be nice if Ramirez or Vizcaino or someone could start long term. I know you can't have too many good bullpen arms, but you can have too few starters and I would love to see a balance develop.

    My other question is what lefties may come up (relatively) soon, especially given the less than impressive first week for the two veterans.

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    Whether Vitters is still in the Cubs plans or not is really irrelavent. Vitters should be taking care of his business for his own sake. Oh but if there was only a way to combine his hit tool with Brett Jackson's best attributes.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Yes. And given this front office, Vitters, or any player in the Cubs organization, can play himself into or out of the Cubs' plans at any time.

    In that sense, it is kind of nonsense to talk about who is and is not in the Cubs' plans. The plan is to have plenty of depth and promote the players that are succeeding.

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    In reply to Richard Beckman:

    Exactly! Though if I had to guess, I would say this front office is probably just hoping Vitters plays well enough that another team might want to trade for him.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I agree with you. Vitters and Jackson need to play well for there own sake. If we are willing to let Sweeney and Darnell have a chance to contribute then we would let Josh and Brett contribute too, if ready to do so.

  • Any update on Soler's 7 day DL stint?

  • Hey, no need to apologize for late Minors Recaps! Are you kidding? When we can get these updates free of charge...well, we walk in the garden of your turbulence. That's all I'll say about that. Sorry about the injury, by the way. Heal good and soon.

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    If the Cubs would just solidify a few spots on the rotation and in the bullpen and this team could be much better than expected. First, Veras should NOT be the closer, I don't know why he was handed the job in the first place. Rondon should be the setup man and Strop should be given a chance to close. Also Wesley Wright is just awful, so inconsistent. Rusin would be a better option to go with Russell as the two lefty's. When Arrieta comes back our rotation would be solid, and if Vizcaino can return this season he would add a very formidable arm in the bullpen, and maybe be the closer with Strop as the setup man and Rondon the middle reliever.

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    In reply to Franz Doreza:

    And the outfield and second base.

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