Daily Cubs Minors Recap: Jeffery Baez HRs again; Javy makes adjustments, Alcantara gets a cup of coffee

Well, in one fell swoop (make that one big trade), the Cubs went from potentially looking at an unprotected pick at #11 to pick #5 and just a game and a half outside the top pick. Not that the trade is solely responsible for that but the Cubs certainly don't want to make a late, meaningless rush at the end of a season unless they do it with their young stars.

One of those stars, Arismendy Alcantara is about to make his Cubs debut as Darwin Barney takes 2 days off for paternity leave.  He is expected to return to Iowa afterward, but it is a nice reward for the 2B/CF who has certainly been playing well enough for a promotion.  Mauricio wrote about it this last night.

There isn't a whole lot of star power to talk about today. Javier Baez and Kris Bryant had so-so games.  Albert Almora's Daytona team rained out, and both Jorge Soler and Addison Russell got planned days off. Speaking of Baez, the Cubs have two pretty good prospects named Baez.  One is Jeffrey, who hit his 7th HR to go with 12 sBs in just 24 games.

The other, of course, is Javer Baez.  While he didn't have a great game, there was a nice article on him yesterday by Jesse Rogers at ESPN Chicago. One of the underrated things about Javier Baez is his willingness to take instruction to go with the aptitude, work ethic, and skills to make use of that coaching.  It has him steadily improving a game that once depended solely on raw bat speed to one where Baez is developing an approach at the plate.  That part of his game is still in the embryonic stages but given how much he has improved over the years, it isn't hard to imagine that he will continue to improve that part of his game as well.  Baez is driven to be a great player and is willing to do whatever it takes to get there. It's remarkable how far he has come so far.

Baez is even using video.

"I couldn't get to the outside fastball," he said. "I was leaning back. We saw some video and I fixed it. My mind was looking fastballs in, which I don't have to do. I can just react to that."

"I wasn't looking at the ball all the way through the zone," Baez said. "We started working on that with the (pitching) machine. I've been swinging the bat good and to the whole field. Everything is back to normal."

He's also learning from guys like Manny Ramirez and his manager Mary Pevey,

"He's teaching me what to look for ahead of time from a pitcher," Baez said. "He knows how they are going to pitch me."

"He needed to start swinging at strikes," Iowa skipper Marty Pevey said Monday. "Just swing at strikes and keep working. He did that."

As importantly, Baez seems to be able to adapt and simplify all the advice and tailor it to his style,

"I feel really great," Baez said. "I started really slow, and I started listening to everybody and I had a lot of stuff on my mind. Trying to do a lot at the plate. Now I'm just trying to get a good pitch to hit."

And what does Manny say about Javier,

"His power is better than mine at that age."

That is a bit frightening, especially since Baez is learning how to become a major league hitter.

With that, let's start the recap...

 Omaha 7 - Iowa 6

  • With Iowa's rotation being usurped by the big league club, Dae-Eun Rhee got his long awaited for promotion to AAA Iowa.  Rhee has been more resourceful than dominant this year at Tennessee and so the PCL figures to be a tough test for him.  The first one didn't go well as Rhee was in trouble throughout his start, allowing 9 hits and 3 walks in 4 innings while striking out just one.  He got out of all that trouble with 4 runs allowed, so it could have been worse.
  • Alberto Cabrera has pitched better of late and he had one of his better performances with 3 no-hit scoreless innings to lower his ERA to 3.83.  His command still isn't good enough and he did walk 3 batters but at least he's headed back in the right direction.
  • Marcus Hatley has pitched well all year but that didn't carry over for this game.  A rare implosion let to 6 hits and 3 runs in just 1.1 innings.  It tagged Hatley with a loss and raised his ERA up to 3.09.  Such is the life of a reliever, one bad outing can look your stats suddenly look less impressive.
  • The big 3 had 3 hits altogether (one apiece)  today with Arismendy Alcantra getting the lone extra base hit.
  • The production came from two struggling athletic LH hitters at the bottom of the order.  Brett Jackson hit a 2-run HR while Ryan Kalish went 2 for 3 with a walk and a 3 run shot.  Kalish is 5 for his last 10 with 2 HRs after a prolonged slump, so perhaps he is beginning to turn things around.

 Tennessee 7 - Birmingham 3

  • The Smokies climbed back over the .500 mark despite their pitchers walking 9 hitters. 5 of those were by starter Eduardo Figueroa, who lasted just 4 innings despite allowing one run.  The best performance was by Tony Zych, who threw 2 scoreless innings with just one walk to earn the victory.
  • With it's stars sitting this one out, the Smokies got production from unexpected sources.  Backup C Luis Flores had a double, 2 walks and 3 RBI while backup SS Eliot Soto went 2 for 4 and drove in 2 runs.

Kane County 7 - Quad Cities 3

  • Paul Blackburn didn't have a dominant outing or his usual great command, but he did manage to go 5 innings and allow just a 2-run HR despite 3 walks.  He also managed to strikeout 6 hitters and moved to 8-2 with a 2.79 ERA.  The K rate is creeping upward and is at 6.81 per 9 IP right now.
  • Zach Hermans also allowed a HR and like Blackburn, it accounted for the only damage he allowed on the scoreboard. In 3 innings he walked 2 and struck out 5.
  • Corbin Hoffner struck out 2 batters in a scoreless 9th to complete a 13 strikeout day for the Cougars.
  • Is it time to turn on the Shawon-O-Meter again?  Every since Shawon Dunston, Jr has been getting regular playing time, the average has steadily increased and a 2 for 5 day left him at .260.  He has hit .455 in the first week of July.
  • The Schwarb-O-Meter on the other hand, seems to be a perpetual motion machine.  It may have had an o for 4 or two, but it keeps on ticking with steady performance.  Today Kyle Schwarber went 3 for 5 with 2 doubles and 2 RBI.  Schwarber has been overshadowed by recent acquisitions and the play of the elite and fast approaching upper level prospects, but he continues to do his thing in the MWL with a .379/.471/.707.  Half of Schwarber's hits have gone for extra bases (7 doubles, 4 HRs).
  • Kevin Brown can add Kane County to his MiLB passport stamps.  Have bat, will travel.  After stints in Boise and as a fill-in for Tennessee, Brown is at Kane County to help fill in for the injured Jacob Hannemann and Yasiel Balaguert.  It doesn't seem to affect his stroke as Brown went 2 for 4 with a double and a HR.  In 22 games at the 3 levels, Brown is hitting .314/.374/.535 with 2 HRs.
  • Jeimer Candelario continues to try to work out of what has been a nightmare season for him.  He went 2 for 4 but is hitting just .182 at Kane County, a level which he handled well last year.

 Boise 11 - Hillsboro 4

  • Tyler Ihrig moved to 3-0 with 6 innings of 2 run baseball in which he walked one and struck out 6.  His ERA is at 3.30 for the year.
  • Jeffrey Baez is emerging as a legit power/speed prospect.  He went 2 for 4 with a walk, double, and his 7th HR.  He is hitting .250/.330/.540 with a walk rate of 8% to go with a rather high K rate of 25.7%.
  • Another big day for Rashad Crawford.  The Hawks have noticed and have moved him up to the 2nd spot recently where he is continue to get on base and then be an asset with his speed.  He went 3 for 5 with a double, 2 runs, and 3 RBI today.  The 20 year old Crawford is now hitting .307 on the year.  Crawford has good speed by hasn't mastered the art of stealing bases yet, stealing 6 but getting caught 5 times.
  • The Hawks now have a more experienced DP combo as 13th round pick 2B Chesney Young and 16th round pick SS Jason Vosler were both productive college bats and are taking it to the pro level.  Young went 2 for 4, stole his first base, scored and is now 6 for his first 8 at Boise.  Vosler went 2 for 4 with a triple, 2 RBI, and 2 runs and is 4 for his first 13 at Boise.
  • OF Charles White is another experienced college bat and he pitched in with a single, 2 walks, and 3 runs scored.  He also stole his 2nd base.

AZL Indians 6 - AZL Cubs 4

  • Alberto Alzolay started and walked just one batter and struck out 4 but got hit pretty hard and didn't get much help from his defense.   He allowed 5 hits and 6 runs (3 earned) to take the loss and fall to 1-1 with a 5.51 ERA.
  • 26th round pick Zach Hedges struck out 4 in 1.2 scoreless innings.
  • 8th round pick LHP Tommy Thorpe made his debut and pitched a scoreless inning while RHP Yomar Morel finished with 2 scoreless innings but the Rookie Cubs were unable to take advantage of the great bullpen work.
  • Bryant Flete got the start at SS today and walked twice to go with a double.  Flete has been filling in for Gleyber Torres, who has missed the past few games but he is a prospect in his own right.  Good hitter and solid approach with middle infield skills.
  • Andrew Ely is the latest round pick signed by the Cubs (32) to date and he made his presence known with a 3 for 4 day that included his first pro HR.  Ely is a 2B.
  • Shamil Ubiera is an athletic OF who was productive in the DSL last season.  He has struggled so far at AZ but had himself a nice day with 2 hits, a run, an RBI, and 2 SBs.



Leave a comment
  • John you hit on something I've been wondering about in your very first sentence. If things go to plan, the Cubs will not have a protected pick after this year. Do they go out and sign a big free agent or two knowing full well they may not compete for the playoffs next year but that there's a great chance they'll land outside of the top 10 picks, and any free agent signed in subsequent years will cost them a 1st round pick?

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    In reply to Ike03:

    Possibility....certainly, under the new CBA, there are rewards for being bad. This is why we almost have to root for the Cubs to lose the rest of the year. Hard to do that, but that will help us in the long-run.

    There are rewards for being good, there are rewards for being bad, but there are none for being mediocre. We were in danger of being mediocre, before the big trade.

    The sorry state of the Phillies organization is a case study in the perils of sustained mediocrity....

  • In reply to Zonk:

    It's a lot easier to stomach the Cubs losses when you realize that they are essentially a minor league team. Since what matters in the minors is the development of prospects and not wins, its easier to focus on the progress that Castro and Rizzo are making, rather than on the overall ineptitude of the rest of the team.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Haven't we lost enough in last 3-4 yrs?

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    How odd will it look when the Cubs are a first place team come June next year, and also picking first in the draft?

  • In reply to IThrewSomeRocks:

    That would b great!!! Better find starting pitcher and a closer.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    I like our internal options with Mr.Ramirez, Vizcaino, Rivero, and Rondon. Spend that extra cash you were going to on a closer to get another Hammell/Feldman/Maholm

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    And some OFers that can hit?

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    Yeah, but we're not going to win with this team so enjoy the losses.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    I think if they didn't have a protected pick they wouldn't sign a big free agent. They might not anyway, but they would for the right guy (Lester?)

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Hopefully the 2015 draft will be the last for us with a protected pick. I hope Theo opens up the checkbook because if he doesn't, we are looking at, literally, a $60M payroll. Even if he signs one or two Feldman / Hammel-type pitchers, we are still looking at a $75M payroll. Completely unacceptable for a big market team.

    It would be nice to see a Lester / Beckett package this off season. For one, they could sign both for about $75M less than what Schzerzer would cost. The key here would be the obvious Boston connection - you could pitch them on the 'can you imagine how amazing it would be to win a WS in Boston and in Chicago..'

    Not sure if Theo would want to burn his 2nd and 3rd round picks (assume Beckett gets a QO) on those two guys and I don't think we become immediate playoff contenders with those two - but it would show me that Theo is done with tanking seasons and assumes that we could be in the hunt for a WC spot in 2015.

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    In reply to Roscoe Village:

    I disagree, I think we definitely become playoff contenders with those two and an outfield bat.

    Mix in some other dumpster diving specials, we could literally go from last place to first place.

    Brewers look bad right now ( losers of 7 of 8) but who would have thought they would be leading the division and one of the top teams in the national league last year?

    With the right moves and some lucky breaks, Things can change in a hurry in baseball

  • In reply to Roscoe Village:

    Don't worry about how big or small the payroll is. The FO isn't all of a sudden go gee our payroll is low we are going to have to spend like mad. They have a plan. They are following it and don't need any help from fans.

  • In reply to John57:

    I agree, the FO is not going to spend just to spend. With each roster spot if the best person for the job is a cheaper, younger player than so be it. They are not going to force expensive vets into spots just so they can say that they spent some money. Thankfully, Theo, Jed, and the gang have enough confidence in their plan, and in themselves, that they are willing to see it through without resorting to superficial bandaids which only succeed in hampering the teams flexibility.

  • In reply to John57:

    In the grand scheme of things, I could care less how large or small the payroll is - IF we are winning or incrementally improving the big league club [which we haven't been]. If Theo trots out a $70M payroll and we lose 90+ games, I'd be upset. I'm not advocating spending just to spend. I'm advocating, after 4 years of not making investments to bring in ML talent, actually working on improving the club. I don't think there is anything wrong with that. Of course they don't need help from fans - I don't recall recommending that Theo listen to my rambling..

    But the key for me is, this MIGHT be the last time we have a protected pick.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I will be disappointed if they don't sign Lester or Scherzer, though it still seems like a long shot. Signing one or both may be the Yankees' only hope to contend in the near future if they don't get Price (and I don't think they have the prospects for that).

    You have to wonder what the price tag will be for Scherzer/Lester. I think the least either signs for is 6/150. I know pitching is probably starting to become overvalued, like hitting is undervalued, but I'm not sure the very elite guys are going to feel it.

    Lester seems on the surface like a better bet than Scherzer, though after looking at the at advanced statistics I'm not so sure. The more important thing may be his rapport with Theo.

  • In reply to Gregory Shriver:

    One thing I wonder if you were Lester. Why would you sign here? When the rest if rotation is weak and you have no idea who is gonna pan out. The pay would have to be unreal for me to pitch for a team with a horrid line up as the cubs do.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    Its sounding more and more like Lester is going to re-sign with the Red Sox, he may not even be available.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    Because Lester and his representation can read and, like most of us on this blog, they know of the influx of very high end, young talent that is on the way in 2015. They also know that Castro, Rizzo and Arrieta are already there. They know that the Cubs have a depth of power relievers and a very strong, in prime defensive catcher. By mid-2015, the Cubs line-up will likely have Alcantara in CF, Bryant at 3B, Castro at SS, Baez at 2B, Rizzo at 1B, Castillo at C with Russell and Soler close behind. Fronting a rotation with Arrieta followed by Wood and a solid group of choices at 4 & 5 with that line-up behind you would be one of the better positions for a FA TOR starter to consider. What matters to a FA is what the next 5 years look like not the last 5 years.

    If you knew you were going to be with the Cubs for the next 5 years, were getting in on the ground floor of perhaps the best young offense the league as seen in a long time that should also be good defensively, had a good chance of breaking the curse on the northside and the money was better than anywhere else, would you dismiss it out of hand because they sucked while undergoing a complete rebuild that now is basically over?

  • In reply to Quedub:

    It will take more then Lester and Arieta and ok back end starters to make a deep run. The young arms in the pen haven't shown it for multiple seasons. We have no closer.
    And saying best line up that baseball has season in a long time. Yikes that is crazy to say when none have taken a mlb at bat. I will say half of those guys will not be as good as you claim.
    I can read just fine. I would say those aces will wait for sure. I don't think Lester type guy is gonna want to go thru the growing pains. They want instant sucess.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    I believe you can read just fine, too. Though you did misread what I just wrote. I wrote "perhaps the best young offense..." not best line up in the league. Big difference.

    The Cubs line-up by mid-2015 has a great chance of including Rizzo (25), Castro (25), Bryant (23), Baez (22) and Alcantara (23). I would call that perhaps the best young offense the league has seen in a long time. If you disagree, that's cool.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    I don't disagree if all pan out. But your "perhaps" is what will prevent a Lester from signing on "ground floor". Once/if the perform well then TOR guys will make a jump to Chicago. I don't by the challange of bringing title to north side will bring an ace in. Money and a great line up will

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Once again, not what I wrote. I didn't say the "challenge" of bringing a title to the northside, but the opportunity to, a good chance to.

    And the "perhaps" wasn't the key word you misread, "young" was. I think there is a very good chance that Bryant, Baez and Alcantara will all be up mid-2015 and will have earned that promotion, meaning they'll be ready. Maybe not performing at all-star levels, but hitting better than what they have now with the upside for being special. Pitchers like Lester know that the Cubs have a very strong probability of having the best YOUNG offense this league has seen in a long time. I fear you'll pounce on the word "probability", so, preemptively, my response is any responsible fan must use that word because there are no guarantees in life or in baseball. No team that courts Lester will be able to give him guarantees either.

    Whatever man, we'll just agree to disagree. I'm certainly not trying to change anyone's mind here. I'm not even saying there's a good chance the Cubs will sign one of the TOR FAs, just that they won't look at the Cubs next 5 years as pessimistically as you are describing it.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    I think the simple fact that it will be Theo, Jed and Jason laying out their plan and timeline adds a ton of credibility to a sales pitch to Lester. He already knows what those guys are capable of and will not brush it off as a bullshit sell job.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Nothing to disagree about. What u miss read was about how cubs bring in and sell the player on coming in. Won't work on a perhaps or could be or we are young. I am not being negative. I just believe we are so unbalanced in pieces to contend but will be interesting how the pull it off. You miss read my tone.

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    Is Jeffrey Baez a "pop-up" prospect? Strikes out a bunch and he's been in our system for awhile, but is he legit top-20?

    What a bad season for Candelario...the last two years he has had very low BABIP, does he hit alot of balls in the air, or is he unlucky, or both?

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I had him on my 11 guys to watch. Outside of the top 20 for me right now because of the Ks but could sneak in if he shows progress in that area. May pass Hannemann,

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Aren't both Jeffrey Baez and Hannemann older prospects for the leagues they're in?

  • In reply to CubsML:

    Baez is age appropriate for the NWL. He'll be 20 all season. Hannemann, 23, is old for the MWL but is coming on strong. He hadn't played a lot of baseball due to being on a 2-year Mormon mission prior to being drafted by the Cubs. He seems to have found his stride hitting .333/.388/.527 in June. If he has a good July, I would expect him to be promoted to Daytona late July/early August.

    I don't count either of these two as having a good chance at being quality major leaguers, but you never know. They have a chance, but the odds aren't in their favor.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I think he's a legit prospect and w/b top 20 in most organizations. But given our depth he may not crack the top 20. Top 30 is prob more realistic. But as he climbs the ladder, the sky is the limit.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Yes I was thinking the same thing. He would be top 20 most organizations, but we have great depth. We will need it as some make it to the majors, but obviously he needs to work on the K's and keep it up as he moves up. Still great to see.

  • Greetings from Omaha this morning. I attended the I-Cubs game vs the Storm Chasers last night. Wild game, and walk off for Omaha, due to the noted implosion from Marcus Hatley. He didn't fool anyone in this game, as the Chasers were squaring up on this 87-89 MPH fast ball which he was leaving up in the zone. Cabrera, on the other hand, was solid. He sat about 91-92 and spotted his fastball low in the strike zone to set up kis slider, which led to a number of awkward-looking swing and misses. Rhee sat about 90, getting up to 92 a couple of times. However, his breaking ball command was bad: sliders out of the zone and curve ball with more of a spin rather than bite. Omaha was raking on his curves that were left up in the zone.

    On offense, Ryan Kalish had four really good at-bats, and hit hit some run off Chris Dwyer, who was otherwise having his way with Cubs lefties. Dwyer used to be a top KC Royals prospect, but with a fast ball of 86-88, he doesn't appear to be more than a LOOGY at best. Such is the way with prospects sometimes. It was nice to see Brett Jackson hit a bomb, and it got out in a hurry. He also struck out twice and batted ninth, which I guess tells us a little more about his current stock. Alcantara played a solid game and was later called up - way to go AA!

    Bryant had a rough game, I thought, what with two strikeouts and a little sloppy in the field. Javy scratched out an infield his but does he ever look dangerous at the plate. Hope to see him hit one today. Lopez had a little trouble with his throwing opportunities, hitting a baserunner in the back with a throw to first and a wild throw to second on a stolen base attempt.

    Most amusing, was Bryant (and Pevey's) ejections after Bryant had words with teh home plate umpire after striking out on a slider. After they were ejected, Manny came out with a big smile and shook Pevey's hand, and took over coaching at first base, to the cheerful applause of the crowd. Gotta love it! Another day here in Omaha. Thanks John, for the great forum!

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    In reply to kansasblackhawk:

    You report Hatley's FB as 87-89.....that can't all be a cold gun if that's correct, b/c Cabrera was clocking 91-92. I thought Hatley featured mid-90s heat. I wonder if there is a problem related to that velocity drop, which would also explain why he got shelled...

  • In reply to kansasblackhawk:

    I saw it was reported that all Bryant said to the umpire was "That's on you". If I had a nickel for every time a player said that to me when I was umpiring....

  • In reply to kansasblackhawk:

    Watched Hatley in Colorado Springs, have to concur he is hittable, they have Rivero did he pitch yesterday? Also got to figure that soon they will bring up Cabrera from Tennessee

  • In reply to kansasblackhawk:

    Thanks for these great observations!

  • In reply to kansasblackhawk:

    Thanks for the first hand notes.That's worrisome regarding Hatley's velocity. I am liking the Manny Ramirez player/coach situation more and more with every passing day. Besides the reports we are hearing of him helping Bryant, Baez, Alcantara and others with coaching and tips, it seems that he is also keeping the clubhouse loose which is a great thing when you have star prospects with great expectations...he can get them to loosen up, keep it simple, be smart and let their talent take over.

    Manny's full quote on Baez: "His power is better than mine at that age, and he's a really good fielder. Wow."

    Manny Ramirez said "wow" talking about Baez. When fans like us who most never made it past college ball say that it is one thing, when Manny says wow after all he has seen and done...that says a lot.

    The future is looking very bright.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    I've got a feeling Manny may have been exaggerating a little bit. Compare his numbers in the minors (combined AA & AAA) when he was 21 to Javy's at same age.

    Manny Ramirez:
    .333/.417/.613 1.031 31(HR) 115(RBI) 44 (doubles)
    Javy Baez:
    .242/.308/.453 .761 14 (HR) 53 (RBI) 17 (Doubles)

  • In reply to DetroitCubFan:

    He was specifically talking about Baez's power, i.e. what happens to the ball when he connects.

    What Manny had going for him at that age, that Javy is still working on, is knowing which pitches to swing at. If Javy was as good as Manny at patience, working the count and getting/recognizing his pitch, his power numbers in a full season in AAA this year might match Manny's.

    Trust Manny (and all of the other prospect evaluators), Javy's power is just as good if not better than Manny's. Now it's all about getting the most out of that power by knowing which pitches to unleash on.

  • In reply to DetroitCubFan:

    This is just wrong. You combined Manny's numbers in AA with AAA but not Javy's when he was only 20? How abbout an apples to apples comparison?

    Javier Baez -
    A+: [age: 20] - 76 games:19 doubles, 4 triples, 17 HR
    AA: [age:20] - 54 games: 15 doubles, 0 triples, 20 HR
    AAA: [age:21] - 81 games: 17 doubles, 2 triples, 14 HR

    --> Baez Total: 211 games: 51 doubles, 6 triples, 51 HR

    Manny Ramirez -
    A+: [age: 20] - 81 games: 18 doubles, 4 triples, 13 HR
    AA: [age: 21] - 89 games: 32 doubles, 0 triples, 17 HR
    AAA: [age: 21] - 40 games: 12 doubles, 0 triples, 14 HR

    --> Ramirez Total: 210 games: 62 doubles, 4 triples, 44 HR

    So in fact the two players are VERY comparable at the same age, i.e. Manny had more doubles, and Baez had more triples & HR's...and Baez is just heating up in AAA.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    Seriously Dawg?

    I was simply trying to reflect the numbers at both their age 21 seasons. Purpose was to compare ONE season (again reflecting what Manny was saying when comparing them at the same age [age 21]), not multiple seasons!

    I don't think he was intending to compare their entire minor league stats. If you are going to do that, then why not compare "apples to apples" and go all the way back to High School, travel teams or even Little League and combine all their numbers for comparison?

    One season and one season only! THAT was the point.


  • In reply to DetroitCubFan:

    What? I compared their age 20 & 21 seasons! 211 games vs 210 games...what you compared was ridiculous and that's all I will say on this as you don't get it.

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    Albert Almora already has 2 hits today, (1 RBI), raising his average to .280. His OPS is close to .700. That's a huge climb from the hole he was in a month ago.

  • I watched Javier Baez in late April in Colorado Springs and then late June and it was night day from his stance/waggle now far more steady to how he and Manny are talking and Ramirez pointing out things as the opposing pitcher is warming up (Alcantara too watching) and how Baez was now waiting on pitches and driving them to RF instead of wailing at breaking balls in the dirt.

    A scout in May said that the Cubs organization was waiting for him to have trouble and then seek out help, he has and is responding well.

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    In reply to rnemanich:

    Interesting observation from that scout.....Cubs say they want all players to struggle in the minors, so they learn how to do exactly that, reach out for help, listen, make adjustments. That is very encouraging for Javy.

    I'm not sure though how they are going to get Bryant to struggle and learn; he is not cooperating with that aspect of the development plan. Make him bat left-handed, maybe?

  • John, you know I have a special interest in Baez, having been on the field/watching him since his early teens here in Jax. But that coach-ability and his desire/drive for success at the MLB have been present from day one. It's often over looked by many as they are in awe of his bat speed & power. But it's why I give him a higher floor than most.

    I really think opposing pitchers are not going to like facing Baez/Bryant/Rizzo/Soler/Castro by the middle part of May 2015... This FO is slowly building a "Murderer's Row" line-up that will play together for years...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Here will be the deal, in two years the Cubs lineup will field one of the youngest and best offensive batting orders in baseball if the projections and development of players continue.

    Alcantara is emerging as a Top of the Order batter, if the Cubs are smart they will then bat Baez behind him as the #2 hitter statistically is one of the most productive, Rizzo will probably remain 3rd, followed by Bryant who is developing to be one of the best mistake power hitters in the system, this is where decisions will be made. I just don't think Castro will remain long on this club, (Cubs need young starting pitching with TOR talent), so depending if Soler is healthy and finally develops that is a good place, followed by Schwarber (ole' HoosierDaddy, as I am an alum and friend of person who once was called that in Welsh-Ryan arena) whom I think sticks at catcher. there it remains one OF spot and one IF spot, if Russell is the natural they all say he then goes 7th, followed by an OF'er (could Almora/ McKinney platoon or Hannerman/McKinney/Almora) of course that is all on paper and all through the system, only time will tell.

  • In reply to rnemanich:

    There are some that think Almora has the best bat or hit tool in the system. IDK, as I haven't seen him play in person yet. But if so, that's not a guy that hits in the bottom of an order. Also defensively, he's head & shoulders above the others so that's not a profile for a platoon player.

    Not sure Schwarber can stick at catcher long. We'll see, but a 40 grade arm doesn't bode well for a catcher and is marginal even for LF. The LH Bat is dreamy though.

    I think the only way Castro is moved is we are blown away with the haul. I just don't see that happening. Nor do I expect Baez or Russell to take the SS position from him. We'll see, time will tell.

  • In reply to rnemanich:

    I think that the need for a TOR starter is extremely over rated. Certainly it is better to have one than not to have one, but the extra value given by a TOR starter, who is usually not going to go past 7 innings anyway can be migitated by having a dominant bull pen, which is something that the Cubs are moving towards.

    | would rather have a Castro in the lineup five days and a Hamel on the fifth day than a lesser player at shortstop (or wherever) and a Samardzija every fifth day.

  • In reply to rnemanich:

    No way Baez ever hits 2nd with his strike out rate.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I can feel it too. Its an anticipation of giddinesss like I know the adrenaline is just about ready to start pumping. Sure some may not pan out but I'm thinking most of them will. What a line-up.

  • John: I have a question and recommendation.
    I have been a Cub fan for over 50 years. I consider myself a knowledgeable, realistic and optimistic fan.
    But having become addicted to this site, I realize that you have attracted many respondents who are far more knowledgeable than me. (Not all , but many.)

    This is my thought - any way to add on to the site a space for fans such as myself to initiate topics for general input?

    First example: we have a few clearly core players on the roster and a few clearly useless (for the future) players. But some guys may be in-between (Ruggiano, Coughlin, etc.)

    I'd be interested in other's thoughts about who we should hold on to and who not.
    And why?

    Other readers may have similar questions that we would appreciate comments on.

    Weaving this into the existing threads does not always work.

    So, wadda ya think?

  • In reply to tboy:

    It's funny you should say that because we just had a fan guest post submitted for Starlin Castro. That really is the only space this site can give as there is no designated fan posting area like there are at BN and BCB. Right now our set-up doesn't allow for it. Maybe that's something ChicagoNow and Word Press can add someday.

    As for now, it's guest posts and comments -- which many people read, so don't think your voice isn't being heard. I try and read all the comments even if I am unable to respond as frequently as I used to.

  • In reply to tboy:

    It's funny you should say that because we just had a fan guest post submitted for Starlin Castro. That really is the only space this site can give as there is no designated fan posting area like there are at BN and BCB. Right now our set-up doesn't allow for it. Maybe that's something ChicagoNow and Word Press can add someday.

    As for now, it's guest posts and comments -- which many people read, so don't think your voice isn't being heard. I read every Cubs-related comment even if I am unable to respond as frequently as I used to.

  • In reply to tboy:

    It's a terrible idea. I'd never get any work done. It's bad enough as it is.

  • In reply to TheThinBlueLine:


  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Don't laugh John, if we can't pay our bills because we spend all of our time on the Cubs Den, then we are coming to move in with you! (I have a 130lb Cane Corso/Italian Mastiff "puppy" that comes with me by the way)

  • In reply to tboy:

    Coghlan, 29 yrs 21 days today, back in 2009 was considered very promising hurt his knee after being rookie of the year, now four years later he is playing/earning his way back to an everyday lineup.

    Ruggiano is 32 years old (see Reed Johnson comp.) bounce back year after 2013 was marginal, he batted over .300 in 2012 with a high OBP,

    both should be performing near their high curve, especially in platoon situations and they are fine utility players who might be able to serve a role showing the ropes to young players coming up. Competition with Sweeney for that role until the systems brings in better/younger and less expensive talent.

  • In reply to rnemanich:

    We definitely have the market cornered with 4th OF'r types. Kalish is a nice bounce back candidate too. He started hot, but cooled and now may be resurging some. Anyways, other than A.A. & Soler, no one projects to be much more than 4th/5th OF'r prospect until you get to A ball.

    IF AA & Soler can be everyday players next year, I can live with a platoon/reserve from the best of Ruggiano/Lake/Coghlan/Sweeney/Kalish, etc for our 3/4/5 OF spots.

  • In reply to rnemanich:

    Of the two, I prefer Ruggiano as far as potential, especially since he is starting to hit right handers pretty well. It is hard to see space for him in the outfield if Almora, Alcantara, Soler, McKenney and/or Schwarber develop as hoped, but the chances of all of them developing as hoped are pretty slim.

    In the meantime, he might turn out to be a pretty good stand-in.

  • Also of interest is that Baez committed 44 errors last year, which I felt was an over inflated number based on years of watching him. Still some made it out like that would be the norm... So just an FYI, Javy is on pace for 17 errors this year.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Holy crap, HD... that's remarkable!!

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I've thought all along he's a legit major league shortstop and arguably a better one than Castro defensively. But with both Castro and Russell in the system it seems the only way he'll get regular playing time there as a major leaguer is if he's the one who gets traded.

    The good news is that his baseball IQ, hands, range, and arm make him a potentially elite defensive second baseman. (Think Ryne Sandberg with Manny Ramirez's bat.)

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    If you had asked me last year, I'd say Baez would over take Castro @ SS too. It wasn't due to Castro's physical tools, but his mental lapses. Castro HAS gotten better every year though. Baez can certainly play MLB calibur SS, at least until he's 30 or so, but his arm & bat will play anywhere. Add in the fact that the FO has been adamant that Baez will move and not Castro, I think he Javy our future 3B. Russell might be a little more polished defensively, but his arm & bat profile better for SS/2B than they do at 3B.

    Baez is a guy that Prof Parks described as becoming a "Religion" for Cubs fans. He has the highest ceiling in all of MiLB. I don't see this FO ever trading that type of ceiling unless they start to believe he can not attain it.

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I think the plan for next year is becoming clearer by the day: 3B Bryant, SS Castro, 2B Baez, CF Alcantara. The success of those three players will determine who moves where when Russell is ready. (Almora, Soler, and Schwarber could also be in the plans at that time.)

    Given what I've heard on his defense and the front office's demonstrated desire for a strong defensive shortstop (they traded a Boston legend to get one), I still think Russell has an excellent chance of being the shortstop long term.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    "IF" Soler can stay healthy, he factors heavily into 2015 plans too.

    You may be right about Russell, maybe not. For everyone that says he can stick at SS, there's an equally credible scout/source that says he will out grow it. Much the same as Baez.... Additionally, he has 17 career hits at AA/AAA, it's just a tad early to be bumping a 3-time MLB AS in favor of our shiny new toy. Like I told you previously, I'm okay with him taking it from Castro, if he can. But I'm not giving it to him. I think all three are plus defenders at SS, but IDK if any could be considered plus-plus for SS...

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I don't think "For everyone that says he can stick at SS, there's an equally credible scout/source that says he will out grow it" is accurate. The consensus seems to be he can stick at shortstop with fewer people saying he will eventually outgrow it. I also disagree that all three of them rate as plus defensive shortstops. Baez and Castro are average to slightly above average. Russell, alone, grades out as plus.

    I'm not "giving" anything to Russell. I'm just saying that he, alone, has a good chance of bumping Castro. This front office has traded Nomar Garciaparra for Orlando Cabrera. Then replaced him with Alex Gonzalez and Julio Lugo. (And won a World Series with Lugo.) I think it's fair to say that offense isn't the most important thing in their evaluation of shortstops.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    The consensus is that Baez can stick at SS too. But no one is ever predicting that Castro will outgrow it. Maybe Russell takes it from him, maybe not. We won't know for a couple of years.

    Don't put too much faith into the Nomar trade. It's not a very good comp as his best days were clearly behind him. He was historically a 5-7 WAR player and at age 31, had declined to a 1.5 WAR player, battling injuries, and only under contract for another year. That is NOT even remotely close to the situation with any of our SS players. The only that shows is that this FO is not afraid to move aging/declining s/t assets for long term assets.... which we already knew.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I agree with this line up going into 2015 and believe that it gives us flexibility if other young players play their way to Chicago. If Russell looks like he is ready to the step up to the MLB, they could move Bryant to the outfield and Russell to 3B. Additionally, they could hold Russell at SS and move Castro to 3B. Or they could trade Castro and insert Russell to 3B. There would be so many options if an injury occurs or a prospect doesn't pan out.

    If we are lucky we are talking about the same problem in the outfield in 2016 and 2017 with AA, Almora, Solar, Schwarber, Bryant, McKinney, etc...

    I think we will be pretty good in 2015 and great in 2016. Most exciting piece is that I think we are setting ourselves up to be competing for the WS for many, many years. It is exciting to think about the Cubs being a favorite, year in/year out.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    That,.... is what most would call 'An Improvement' HD,.....


  • When is the current CBA expire? I've got to think that the players are against the any clause that inhibits the free agency system. Not to mention any baseball club that wants to shop for a FA.

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    In reply to SFToby:

    You probably mean the qualifying offer system? That will be a hot topic of discussion. I would bet anything that part of the CBA will be changed/revamped. I also expect to see an international draft.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I'm not sure there should be two drafts. It should all be one. Should we have separate drafts for every country so the worst team can get multiple No. 1 talents without any effort at all? In the end it seems these changes are for only 2 reasons. 1. To keep bonuses down overall, and 2. To push someone's idea of some enigmatic and ill defined "fairness principle" which is just a thinly veiled attempt to give an advantage to what are perceived as smaller market dollar challenged franchises.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    If I were to guess I would think that the qualifying offer/compensaton system will be tweaked in the next negotiations so that a team can only make a qualifying offer once to a player. In other words, now if a player accepts the 1 year deal from the QO, the next year the team can just make another qualifying offer, and that goes on indefinitely. That is why every player has declined it. Even Boras said that Drew & Morales might have taken the 14 Million this year if they knew that the following year they would be free agents. Then the QO system will work like it's suppose to.

  • My wife & I were in Omaha for the game yesterday evening with great seats in the front row behind the Cubs on-deck circle on a perfect night for baseball.

    Rhee is definitely a pitcher that needs to have pin point control to be effective and it showed last night. When he came off the field after 4 innings he was completely gassed with his jersey hanging out of his pants... the dude looked as if he had just thrown 200 pitches. I have to give him credit for working hard to keep the Chasers to only scoring four runs because they were hitting him hard.

    Alcantra has a solid approach at the plate but the transition to CF will take some time... the angles taken to fly balls are not quite direct and he misplayed one fly ball into a gift triple. Baez is an impressive all-around athlete... on one steal attempt he had to dive across second base to save Lopez' throw from going into center field and he was still almost able to tag the runner out. Kalish and BJax looked good with some no-doubt homers and Hatley had an ugly outing... could not throw strikes and when he did the Chasers hitters were making solid contact. Cabrera was impressive in his three innings and even his three walks had several borderline pitches called as balls.

    And then there is Mr. Bryant and the issue with his first ejection as a pro. He apparently told home plate umpire Chris Gonzalez "that is on you" after striking out on his 4th plate appearance in the 8th inning by swinging at a low and away slider 18 inches off the plate. What really happened is Gonzalez had called several high strikes on Bryant during the evening and the first pitch in the last plate appearance crossed at KBs armpits for a called strike. There were also four "fans" sitting beside us that had been drinking who became belligerent to Chasers players and increasingly critical of Gonzalez, so when they started screaming about the high first pitch strike Bryant actually backed away and questioned the call. It was not even apparent KB had been ejected at first after the strikeout, but when Bryant started walking down the LF line with his gear, manager Marty Pevey ran up to Gonzalez and went George Brett "I can't believe you took away my home run because of pine tar" crazy. During the entire incident Bryant was actually very calm and I'm convinced it was ultimately some drunken fans that got under the thin skin of the home umpire that initiated the entire ordeal.

    In the end the ejection also contributed to Storm Chasers tying the game in the bottom of the eighth. Valaika had to move from 1st to 3rd in place of Bryant and Vitters- who had not started- was brought in to play first. After Hatley had allowed the first three Chasers to reach, Baez bare-handed a toss from Watkins on a double play grounder and whipped a throw to Vitters which was whiffed upon for an E3 and a tie score.

    Finally, ManRam is definitely a crowd pleaser. The dude was sporting a glorious Mohawk along with wearing his sunglasses at night in the dugout, and when he took over as first base coach after Pevey's ejection the Iowa Cub fans gave him a standing ovation. All things considered it was a fairly entertaining experience.

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    I just love the Javy article. It doesn't get as much attention as it should but I think it underlines just how important the developmental staff the new front office has put in place are. Can anyone seriously imagine Javy saying that right now if the pre-Ricketts development guys were still in charge? Or hiring Manny to teach the AAA guys how to hit?

    Baez himself is kind of interesting guy. Jason McLeod has admitted that he would have missed him. What you have there is the effect of a strong development program on a raw player they didn't want but got anyway.

    Oh, and Jeffrey Baez was my breakout guy in 2013. Looks like I may have been a year early on him.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    McLeod also admitted that they missed on Chase Headley... yet him and Jed refused to trade him while they were in SD. So it's puzzling to me when people use not drafted/traded for by this FO as the basis for trading Baez/Castro...

    This FO has actually been very candid about players they missed on that went on to be good/great and players they missed on that they drafted and flopped...

  • Great news for Barney and Alacantra, wish them both good luck.

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    I am not a professional scout, and I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. That said, I was in attendance of the Kane County – Quad Cities game. My impressions…

    First, it was a beautiful night for baseball; blue skies, mid-70’s temperature and little wind. The view of the Mississippi River and Rock Island’s downtown District from our seats were awesome. I’m a little bias (as I live in the Quad Cities) and I think Modern Woodman Park is one of the best minor league stadiums in the country. We were greeted and thanked for coming by the Quad Cities’ owner. That kind of personal customer service is what makes small town businesses great.

    But I digress. Pitching was very good. Paul Blackburn started and worked 5 innings of 2-run ball. The 2nd inning was a little bumpy as he issued 3 walks around a 2-run home run. However he worked out of that jam and shut down the Quad Cities’ offense. Zak Hermans worked the 6th – 8th innings quite well. He gave up a first pitch home run to Phillips to lead off the 6th, then slammed the door the rest of the way. Corbin Hoffman worked a 1-2-3 9th with 2 strikeouts. The ‘radar gun’ readings on the scoreboard were pretty low, I think. To my untrained eye, KC pitchers were moving the ball around the zone, working quickly on the mound and consistently throwing first pitch strikes. I think Quad Cities hitters were getting impatient in the last 3rd of the game as they started chasing pitches, particularly low and away. All three pitches looked good, stayed focused, in Blackburn’s case worked out of jam and held Quad Cities in check to let the offense do it’s job.

    Hitting was solid. I was impressed that KC scored 4 of the 7 runs with 2 outs. 2-out scoring and making contact with RISP is a short coming of the Cubs and it seems KC batters are addressing this situation well. I observed only a few swings at bad pitches; for the most part, KC batters seemed patient waiting for their pitch. KC only took two walks on the night; Quad Cities pitcher wasn’t missing many bats as KC put a lot of balls into play. The offensive heroes were Kyle Schwarber and newly acquired Kevin Brown. Schwarber ended the night 3 for 5 with 2 doubles and a walk. One of my brothers was with me at the game and said Schwarber looks like Jeff Bagwell in the batter’s box with his wide, compact stance. He was very patient and yet pounced when his pitch came in. I don’t recall when the Cubs acquired Kevin Brown and he had a great night going 2 for 4 with a double and a home run. I’m not sure how he will fit into the picture and hitting like this will present the FO with yet another great problem.

    Fielding was tremendous with Shawon Dunston, Jr. in LF making the play of the game. In the bottom of the 6th, he ran a country mile (and then some) and made a spectacular diving catch for the 2nd out of the inning. Great jump and acceleration to the ball and the hand-eye coordination to finish the play. Carlos Penalver at SS showed excellent range moving to his right, snagging a hot grounder and making a jumping throw to Jacob Rogers at 1B. Very athletic and very strong.

    It was great night with beautiful weather, family and KC win! I really enjoy reading this blog and am grateful I can contribute to the forum.

  • In reply to Wolfrider1t:

    Thanks for the first hand report! The Cubs Den is getting a lot of Denizens reporting on the games they attended lately...It's great stuff! Keep it coming people!

  • In reply to Wolfrider1t:

    Makes me want to drive 3 hours to catch a game.

  • John, is Mary Pevey the first female manager in professional baseball? I don't recall reading about her ;-)

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    In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:

    I am not 100% sure but I believe his name is Marty

    Just a typo

    How did Manny end up coaching 1st? The 1st base coach became manager and Manny came off the pine to coach 1st ?

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    Yes obviously. I was just teasing John. Hence the ;-)

  • John, any idea on what Hannemann's injury is?

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    In reply to John57:

    I heard that Hanneman was not injured; he is serving a 6-game suspension for coming into contact with an ump (on a play at 2nd base)

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Thanks. In the article above John said he was injured. I prefer a 6 game suspension to an injury.

  • OT: This is way off topic, but the Blackhawks inked Teows & Kane to matching 8 year - 10.5 Million/per ($84 Million each)contracts today after winning two Stanley Cups together. Hopefully that will be Bryant & Baez in 6+ years for the Cubs after bringing a long awaited Championship to the Northside (with much higher dollar amounts than $10.5 Million per I imagine!)

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    In reply to Ghost Dawg:


  • John, Is it possible to get a 'prospect cheat sheet' pinned up above. A simple spreadsheet with name, age, acquisition source/rd drafted, year acquired would be great. I can't keep track of who we drafted, signed, traded for etc. Would make the minor league updates all the better.

  • In reply to Gunga:

    See the article posted by stv711 below. In that article it basically has that chart for the top 20 (though I'm not sure I agree with his top 20).

  • Tanaka MRI? Whew! I guess that makes you think.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    There were many predicting troubles for him with the pitch counts he amassed in Japan. Never really know if that had anything to do with it or not. Sucks for the NYY, who now may come calling for EJax....

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    Well,... that could be a bullet that the Cubs managed to miss,...

    I wish him well - but needing an MRI is rarely a good sign.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Just saw this. Hope he's not injured. I think he's good for MLB. But you're right, Bilbo, sure does make you think that if he is injured that the Cubs dodged a bullet. Also makes one very worried about any FA pitchers we sign in the off-season. Pitchers seem to be ticking time bombs.

  • 1st time poster....

    Interesting article on the the rebuild styles of Cubs and Astros


  • In reply to stv711:

    Nice article. Thanks for the share!

  • Today's line up is out. Alcantara playing 2B and batting 2nd. Can't wait to see him.

  • John, any chance Kevin Brown stops in Cinncy and collects two hits on his way to another affiliate. He's been the milb Johnny Appleseed the last couple of weeks.

  • Tulo allegedly asking to be traded. Can't wait to see the "tulo to the Cubs?" Trade rumors


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