Daily Cubs Minors Recap: Russell HRs; Almora adjusting nicely; Dunston continues to improve; Tseng battles with less than best stuff

Daily Cubs Minors Recap: Russell HRs; Almora adjusting nicely; Dunston continues to improve; Tseng battles with less than best stuff

Suddenly it looks like fortunes have changed.  It's Tennessee that seems headed for the playoffs while Iowa's recent tailspin has them on the outside looking in.  That is good news for those who want to see Jorge Soler come up sooner rather than later.  Soler, however, is in a tailspin of his own.  An 0 for 4 day left him 2 for his lat 28 and 5 for his last 39.

Promotion note: 2nd round pick Jake Stinnett is on his way to Boise.

On with the recap...

Salt Lake City 7 - Iowa 5

  • Chris Rusin got rocked for 6 wins in 6.1 innings, allowing 9 hits, including 2 HRs and walking 3 in the process.  Rusin fell to 7-13 with a 4.12 ERA.  Considering other starters seemed to have passed him on the depth chart, his spot on the 40 man roster could ultimately be in jeopardy depending on how many player the Cubs want to protect and acquire in the offseason.
  • Junior Lake went  0 for 4 in his first day back at Iowa though he did draw a walk, steal a base. score, and drive in a run.
  • Logan Watkins was a key to the offense today, doubling twice including one with the bases loaded that drove in 3 runs.  After a good run earlier in the season, Watkins is back down to .257/.329/.367.  Watkins is a good athlete who can play multiple positions, run, and take a walk but he is going to have to hit to have an extended career as a major league utility player.
  • Rafael Lopez went 2 for 4 with a run scored.
  • Ryan Kalish went 3 for 4 with a walk, run, and an RBI.
  • In case you were at all worried, Kris Bryant was well enough to pinch-hit today.  He drew a walk and then was removed for a pinch-runner.

Tennessee 7 - Montgomery 1

  • A better start for Corey Black in that he walked just 2 batters, striking out 4 and allowing just a run on a solo HR over 5 innings.  It was good enough to earn him his 6th win 13 decisions and lower his ERA to 3.06, though his FIP is significantly higher at 4.46 in large part because of a walk rate that is just below 5 per 9 IP.
  • The Smokies got shut down relief the rest of the way with PJ Francescon (0.2 IP, 1 BB) and Hunter Cervenka (0.2 IP, 1 BB, 1 K) working scoreless outings, while  the newly acquired Blake Cooper went 1.2 innings, walking one and striking out 3.  LHP Andrew McKirahan finished up with another scoreless inning with 1 K.
  • Albert Almora is turning the corner at AA.  His ABs were more disciplined (though he did not draw a walk) and made hard contact all day, going 2 for 5 with a double and a run scored while also nearly pulling a HR down the LF line before it went foul.  Almora upped his AA average to .236 and has hit .306 in his last 10 games.  He also made a nice defensive play in CF.

  •  Addison Russell went deep for the 9th time since joining the Cubs in early July.  He went 2 for 5 overall with a double to go with the 2-run shot.  He is hitting .297/.346/.534 in 38 games.
  • Christian Villanueva doubled twice, scored and drove in a run.  The doubles power remains consistent with the strong defensive 3B.  It was his 33rd of the year between AAA and AA but it's been a struggle otherwise.  He has hit .227/.297/.380 with 10 HRs between the two leagues.

Kane County 2 - Burlington 1

  • This wasn't vintage Jen-Ho Tseng as he was just 87-90 and may be wearing down in his first pro season, but Tseng knows how to pitch, he throws strikes, and he still has the hammer curve as a go-to pitch.  That was enough to keep the Bees at bay for 6 innings.  Tseng allowed just one run on a solo shot, walked none, and struck out 5.  Tseng got a no-decision but lowered his ERA to 2.45.
  • LHP Michael Heesch pitched 2.1 no-hit innings, though he did walk 2.  He also struck out 4.  Heesch has been a load out of the bullpen for Kane County and if he can pitch with better control, he has a shot to progress up the system.
  • Jasvir Rakkar has been a revelation for the Cougars bullpen.  He bounced around as an org pitcher early but has found a home in Kane County, working his way into a high leverage innings role.  He worked the final 1.2 innings to earn the win and keep his ERA a spotless 0.00 in 12.2 innings so far.
  • The ever-improving Shawon Dunston went 2 for 3 with a walk, run scored, RBI, and he even threw out a runner at home -- of vital importance considering the close-knit nature of this game.  Dunston's line is at .284.323/.404

Salem-Keizer 7 - Boise 3

  • Another bumpy start for Trevor Clifton, who walked 3 and allowed 6 hits in 4 innings but showed some moxie in limiting the damage to 2 runs.  Clifton struck out 3 and his ERA stands at 4.41.
  • Ryan McNeil allowed a 2-run HR in his one inning of work and that tagged him with the loss in this one.  It's been a tough road back for McNeil, he is 0-5 with a 10.13 ERA.
  • Charcer Burks went 3 for 4 with a triple, run, and RBI.  Burks improved his line to .316/.423/.418 at Boise and .313/.389/.431 overall this season in 44 games.
  • Kevin Brown hit a 2-run shot, his 3rd HR at Boise.
  • SS Bryant Flete went 1 for 3 with a double and walk.  In 43 games this season between Boise and AZ, the 21 year old Flete has hit .307/.390/.358.

AZL White Sox 4 - AZL Cubs 1

  • Adbert Azolay pitched an inning to start the game and allowed a run.  That was enough to put him on the losing end of the decision.  He is 2-3 with an 8.02 ERA this year.
  • The bright spot today was another strong outing from Jesus Castillo who showed great control with no walks and while he isn't missing a ton of bats, he isn't getting squared up either, allowing one hit despite just one strikeout.   Castillo has a 2.30 ERA, allowing hitters to bat .242 against him.  He's a wprk in progress, however, as the walks are high at 15 in 27.2 innings.
  • 3B Adonis Paula was the offense for the 2nd straight game, going 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI.


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  • I know this is a typo, but fun to play off of it. No wonder why Rusin is in danger of losing his 40 man spot when he gives up 6 wins in 6.1 innings. That is some real bad pitching. Now guys like Berken, Germano, Volstad came close to that. Yes he is in danger which we knew more and more the decisions would get tougher where the front office has to get creative and plan ahead to try to keep as many of the guys that they can. There will always be more borderline guys to pick up for both pitching and offense, so we aren't really at that point yet about losing much. Rusin is easily replaced at this point.

  • In reply to Cubs Future:

    Rusin just plain stinks. Its when the Cubs get rid of the Rusins of the world then we know they are making progress. Rusin could watch someone like Hendricks and improve.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    He just doesn't have the same command. Goes to show the importance of that at the MLB level. Literally a game of inches.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    To defend Rusin slightly, this guy is in MLB Hell. He is the AAA/MLB swing guy. That level of scrutiny and upheaval has to be tough. It does not make up for his control issues. It does mean the person slated for that role next year has to be mentally tougher than most pitchers.

  • Tseng might be running out of gas...

    I think it's obvious Russell has mastered AA pitching. With his abbreviated season due to injury, I'm assuming they'll want him to play more. Curious to see if it's the AFL, which he's already been or if it's Winter ball in the Caribbean where the competition should be more challenging for him.

    Also, o/t but this is a good read on how MLB pitchers are attacking Baez:

    The fact he's hitting as well as he is is very telling about this boys talent and potential.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Yes the whole AFL/winter leagues would be interesting to see who the front office is either trying to get a better look at of being on the bubble or those they want to move up a little faster. There are lots of possibilities indeed.

  • Something I was wondering about with Hendricks that hopefully can help with some numbers. We know that his stint in the majors is a small sample size, but growing with each deep quality start. This past game in particular seemed to have more fly balls than usual (maybe not just caught my attention). Especially considering low strikeouts, he will need more ground balls I would believe. Obviously balls can find a way through and he manages to get weak contact on a lot of fly balls too. What typically has he run in the minors for the flyball to groundball ratio?

  • In reply to Cubs Future:

    He was more of a groundball guy at AAA. Still the same at MLB level, but to a lesser degree.

  • Just wondering if Neil Ramirez shoulder is OK how long would the changeover process be for him to build up arm strength for a starters roll . He has done it before and the Cubs seem to have a gaggle of possible relievers coming up Armando Rivero, Arodys Vizcaino, Kyuji Fujikawa, Blake Parker, and several already here Justin Grimm, Pedro Strop, Wesley Wright, Hector Rondon with several more on the way Corey Black, Zac Rosscup, Hunter Cervenka, and others.

  • In reply to Andrew444:

    I don't think they plan on making him a starter at this point.

  • In reply to Andrew444:

    Parker, Rivero, & Vizcaiano are the only ones mentioned that are imminent for the BP next season. I think Fuji is gone. he isn't exactly dominant and the $5MM option doesn't make him cheap either. He was signed as an insurance policy to Marmol for the closer's gig, it didn't work. Time to move on...

    "IF" Ramirez is stretched out, that is likely done over the winter. His biggest issue though is command. He was always a question to stick as a SP for this reason. Same with Grimm. But Grimm doesn't have the durability risk/questions that Ramirez has. We'll see what the FO thinks.

    I personally still think Rondon is an excellent candidate for conversion. He was a SP prospect with TOR #2 stuff before his elbow issues. That ceiling hasn't changed. He's still only 26, and has been healthy 2 consecutive seasons now...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I agree about Rondon. It is always best to give a pitcher two full years in relief before giving him the burden of a starter's innings. But Rondon was considered a future starter before he had his first injury, and he has all the pitches needed to succeed. I hope they consider making him a starter this winter, even if they limit his innings next year.

    For the same reason, I hope they do not do that with either Ramirez or Vizcaino. Give them a full two years in the majors in the pen before deciding whether to move them back to the rotation.

    Smoltz is the template here.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Rondon and Ramirez do not have any minor league options remaining for next year, so any stretching out they do will have to be done over the winter, which seems like a terrible idea given the long season they just went through and the fact both guys have had injury issues in the past. So either of them would need to do all of the work at the major league level. I just don't see either guy making the transition succesfully at this point.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    There were durability questions with Rondon before he got hurt, similar to Vizcaino. I think the Cubs should be happy to have a lockdown bullpen with guys like Rondon and Ramirez. Grimm is a more likely candidate but the command issues, as you said, make him questionable.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    True, but Rondon has a more ideal SP frame than Vizcaino.

    I agree that Grimm is the most likely, but he doesn't have the TOR profile of Rondon. Still Grimm was stretched out over the winter last year, reported to ST as a SP candidate and due to lack of command almost immediately shifted to RP.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I also don't think they need to do this with those pitchers at this point... They have payroll flexibility & may add more starting pitching this off season thru FA. Prospects in the minors eventually move up the chain, etc... They have Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson & Wada until they don't have them... Jacob Turner & Felix Doubront now as well. I just don't see them taking their closer for now & turning him into a starter along w/other guys they have in setup roles. Unless they view them as TOR candidates, I just don't see the need.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    I don't disagree with your sentiment. Maybe I didn't say it well earlier. The only reason I mentioned Rondon as a SP conversion candidate, is because of his TOR potential. That and I think the injury risk is minimized as much as it's ever going to be since he's been healthy now for 2 seasons. Given this FO's penchant for identifying market inefficiencies, etc., might be an excellent way to find a cost controlled TOR like Arrieta.

    Don't know how likely it is they will do that. Probably not very likely at all. But is costs them nothing to stretch him out and have a look over the winter.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Rondon has been a great pickup from the Rule 5 draft and he has been a solid closer. However this is his first year of true success for him (48 innings) and I think the FO is perfectly happy with him in that role. I would put the chances of Rondon being stretched out and converted to a starter somewhere between slim to none in my opinion.

    The same thing goes for Ramirez who is still dealing with the shoulder from time to time. They won't tempt fate by trying to add the strain of a starter's work load. As you say, Rondon has been healthy for two years, but the two years before that he threw a total of 10 innings and 30 innings the year before. The last time he threw 140 innings was 5 years ago, and he has thrown a total of about 140 innings in the 5 years since. I think both the Cubs and Rodon himself would rather he stay a high leverage reliever but be able to do it year in and year out, then go back to trying to pitch 140+ innings a year (200 if we are talking TOR) and risk blowing out his arm.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    The bullpen will be lights out next year...


    Maybe Schlitter stays, too. Add a LOOGY and long-relief guy to the mix and that is a cheap and dominant bullpen.

  • In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    Rosscup. There's 1 of your leftys. The 4 "R"s. Wright, almost an R, the other lefty. :o)

  • In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    The LOOGY could be Hunter Cervenka, the Texas power Lefty....his ERA is 3.04, but against LH's it's a dominant 0.87 ERA, with a .152 avg. against, and a 0.82 WHIP.

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    In reply to Andrew444:

    Are we "short" of MOR and BOR starters?

  • Tseng's fastball dropped beyond that after about the third inning. Towards the end of his outing he was having to reach back for 88. I don't think he's going to be starting for the Cougars playoff run. Breaking stuff still looked good, and he was able to adapt and battle without his A game, which is very promising for a pitcher his age. He only seemed to hit 90 a few times early in the game.

    Penalver might be turning a corner offensively. I think he might finally be putting on a bit of muscle mass. His first two outs were very well hit, just right at the defense. Also didn't realize just how solidly built Jeffrey Baez is. By no means would you refer to that young man as "small".

    Caratini's warning-track shot here (my phone's by no means the greatest, and the scoreboard being where it is in relation to my seats didn't help):

    Heesch K (since video of him is hard to find):

    One guy that stood out to me in a kind of roundabout way for Burlington was Greg Mahle. Left handed sidearm reliever that works in the upper 80's and hit 90 (and I think 91) a few times. I don't see any way someone would refer to him as the top prospect in that game, but he might just be the safest bet to have an MLB career, as his motion, velocity, and handedness looks very good for a career as a LOOGY in the show.

  • In reply to Jim Weihofen:

    Thank Jim!

  • In reply to Jim Weihofen:

    good stuff, thx!

  • In reply to Jim Weihofen:

    It's always a treat to get first hand game info and video. Thanks, Jim.

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    Off topic, but it seems a lot of people who comment on here are already talking about trading Baez or they are "concerned" about him...just curious, how many 2nd baseman are going to hit .260 with 30+ homers, and 80+ RBI's next year? I would say Baez and that's it! So he strikes out a lot, big deal.

  • In reply to Scott Buchanan:

    I certainly don't want to trade Baez and I'm not worried about his early performance. It's been par for the course for him.

  • In reply to Scott Buchanan:

    I think .260 is a realistic floor. At his ceiling, Baez can hit .300+

    If he gets off to a fast start next season, he likely replaces Utley as the NL AS 2B, and that could last for the next decade plus...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I haven't seen anyone saying he could hit for that high of an average. Links?

    Seems like .280 is optimistic and his floor is Mike Olt this year.

  • In reply to Scott Buchanan:

    The strikeouts are concerning, but anyone who didn't see them coming hasn't been watching. If you haven't been watching, then you also haven't seen the adjustments he has made at every level. He still has a high chance at busting, but his talent is insane.

  • In reply to Scott Buchanan:

    Baez said he would be denied by Cubs fans 3 times by spring training 2015. 2013 Daytona, 2014 in Iowa, 2014 in Chicago.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    He's JB not JC.

  • In reply to Oneear:

    I don't know, I'm sure that many Cubs fans say "Jesus Christ" when he strikes out.

  • In reply to Eldrad:

    lol, and when he hits a homer.

  • The Cubs would be idiots to trade Baez, or any of their shortstops, for any single pitcher.

    I think that the front office has successfully identified a market inefficiency. TOR pitchers are currently overvalued and top power hitting offensive players are currently undervalued. I would not trade Stanton for any single pitcher in baseball, including Kershaw, if they had the same contract money and length.

    If the Cubs were to trade Baez to the Mets, it should require Harvey, Wheeler AND Syndergaard, rather than any one of them. Or Harvey, Wheeler and a package of three or so high ceiling low A prospects.

    Power hitters like Stanton are fantastic values right now. Power hitters that can play shortstop, like Baez or Russell, are the prize of any team.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    If that' was the real package it would take to pry Baez loose, he is completely untradeable under any circumstance.

  • In reply to Jimmie Ward:

    Not to mention not trading Stanton for Kershaw straight up considering same length and money. Pitchers have more injury risks, but Kershaw is only 26. You can count on him to be in every game no matter who the opposing pitcher is. Yes not every day player, but he makes his impact every time he pitches.

  • In reply to Cubs Future:

    Kershaw makes an impact every time he pitches. But he only pitches in 20 percent of the games. and only pitches in about 80 percent of the innings in the games he pitches.

    And I agree, Baez is just about untradeable at this point. If anyone goes, it will be Castro, and probably not for another year or so.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    What kind of package would you accept for Castro?

    Castro should have the higher value.

  • This is what I don't understand we claimed cole hammels off waivers and they didn't claim a younger more talented pitcher in yu darvidh off waivers.

  • In reply to pwcubs2001:

    May have done so as a professional courtesy to the TEX org... who know's, who cares... TEX wasn't going to just let us just have him and we are not in a position to trade the farm away for a TOR SP right now.

  • In reply to pwcubs2001:

    I think that the Phillies may actually consider trading Hammels. Texas isn't going to do it. I don't think the Hammels claim was just for fun. I think there is interest there, but we probably weren't willing to meet the price.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    It wasn't "just for fun"
    Ruben Amaro is a lousy GM and if Theo/Jed could have convinced him to move his sights off of Russell/Bryant and on to Almora/Vocalburp/Villanueva, Cole Hamels would be a Cub.

  • In reply to pwcubs2001:

    Teams can only claim 60 (pretty sure that is the limit, might be 50) players. So they aren't going to bother with a guy they know Texas isn't going to trade.

  • I have gone to both games of the Smokies series and will be attending the rest of the series. Almora's catch had every scout sitting around me wow'ing. It was the best catch I have seen live (at a minor league game). Black looked good and was hitting 92-93 with his fastball. He pitched out of a few jams (including a bases loaded one out jam).The only run Black gave up was a HR to Alejandro Segovia (who happens to be dating my best friend so I was ok with it). Russell punished the baseball on his homerun. Russell also displayed a strong arm and good range. Almora looks very comfortable in AA now and I am ready for him to break out and become the star we are all hoping. All in all it was an awesome game (especially for the Cubs fans in attendance). I can't wait to see what the next 3 have to offer! Go Cubbies Go Smokies!

  • In reply to Tide23:

    Really excellent stuff, Tide. Enjoy the games and the future stars.

  • I wonder what a deal would look like for Darvish? I wonder if Almora, Mckinney, Vogelbach and Villenueva?

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    In reply to Jjdgolf:

    Not a chance

  • In reply to Jjdgolf:

    Maybe if it was Russell, Almora and Vogelbach but no way they take your deal. I wish they would!

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    Interesting tidbit from Olney:

    From the Elias Sports Bureau: Starlin Castro played his 725th career game at shortstop. It broke a tie with Alex Rodriguez for the second-most games at shortstop by player younger than 25 years old all time. (Robin Yount has the record at 957 games.)

  • Where does Tseng project in a rotatio? 3rd starter?

  • In reply to Ike03:

    I think 3 is his ceiling but some think he can be more.

  • True story. I had a really strange dream last Wed about the Cubs. Somehow I was with a big group of Cubs fans milling about the locker room after a game, and we were all talking excitedly about Baez being a true home grown super star. (this was the night after his hr against MIL). Anyway, I'm just giddy with an ear to ear grin. And Baez walks up to me, while the rest of the crowd is still going on and on about Baez. Baez then says to me "I guess I should show them the flaws in my game", and walks back out to the field. I remembered thinking, is he going to K on purpose. Dream ends.

    Sure enough the next day he gets the golden sombrero. I'm going to start paying closer attention to my dreams.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    Let us know when you dream he has a 4 homer game.

  • In a blast from the past in the Iowa game today, Manny Ramirez homered off of Randy Wolf.

    In related news, I wonder who is going to win the Bush-Kerry election.

  • In reply to springs:

    Don't be surprised if you see him up here with the Cubs come September 1 or so. Could claim that last 40 man roster spot.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    No chance. Manny will never be added to the roster or called up to the Cubs.

  • I don't think the Cubs trade one of their shortstops... yet. It would be crazy to lose that talent in exchange for a TOR arm that you can sign in FA. If they sign two big free agent arms this offseason, they're practically done. Why give up something for nothing?

    However, SS depth can be used to trade for impact players when the Cubs are competitive, cash strapped or the FA market is dry. 2017 may require some rearranging of big pieces.

  • Does anyone think Hendricks has a shot at rookie of the year if he keeps pitching like this?

  • In reply to JLynch2247:

    Yes, definitely. Since his first inning MLB stage fright aberation, he's allowed like 6 ERs in 40 innings? he could double the ERs for say 40 more innings of work and still sport an ERA of sub 2.50

  • In reply to JLynch2247:

    Anything is possible. The race for NL Rookie of the Year is pretty weak with no true rookie "breakouts", Billy Hamilton is probably leading with a slash line of .271/.302/.395 - no power, no on base, but he plays a very good CF and has 46 steals. Jacob deGrom, 6-5, 2.87 ERA (100 IP), and Gregory Polanco .245/.313/.355 are probably the closest to him. Hendricks is 5-1, with a 1.66 ERA (48 IP), if he can get lucky with W's and keep up his awesome start ERA wise (his FIP is 3.54) then he could have a chance as the writers who vote still love those "standard" numbers....but if Hamilton can keep his avg. around .270 (regardless of his crappy obp & slg%) and he ends with 60 steals or so it will be hard to topple I said they love the old "standards" and batting .270 with 60 steals sounds really good...but if KH can get lucky with W's and end up with a 10-1 record with a sub-2 ERA...who knows? I wouldn't hold my breath.

  • Does anyone think Schwarber will play in any leagues this off season? I was wondering if they wouldn't rest him, sihce he's been playing non-stop for nearly a year. Also, Frank he a GUY? His ERA and WHIP have dramatically dropped in the past few years, and it appears AA isn't challenging him. He's a small framed pitcher, so it appears that an 8th inning role would be good for him, with limited outings and appearances.

  • In reply to copinblue:

    Hoyer has already said the plan with Aschwarber is to bring him to fall instructs to work on Catching skills/drills. Then they will make a decision on his position for 2016.

    So no, he isn't playing in any leagues this off season.

  • In reply to copinblue:

    I think they are considering it but it may work out like Baez did last year when the rest might do him more good.

    Batista isn't really a guy. Max effort low 90s FB, slider has gotten better, used to be pretty flat, but command is pretty average. Profiles maybe as a middle reliever.

  • Thank you John...I appreciate everything you do on here.

  • In reply to copinblue:

    Thanks copinblue. I appreciate that.

  • Trey Martin seems to be coming around lately. Is this him shaking off the rust from a lost 2013 season?

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