Cease has scouts buzzing after performance, plus other notes from intrasquad game

It was  a long day at the ballpark today but it was well worth it.  The Oakland A's AA and AAA camps came in for an intrasquad game against their Cubs counterparts, but the biggest congregation was there to see an intrasquad game that featured top prospects Gleyber Torres, Ian Happ, Dylan Cease, Justin Steele, Jake Stinnett, DJ Wilson, Eddy Julio Martinez, Donnie Dewees, and more.

It was Dylan Cease who had scouts buzzing today.  One scout had him sitting at 98 and another had him consistently at 96-99 mph.  The curve flashed plus today as Cease snapped off several nasty ones.  The change was fringy but at this point, he looks like he has the makings of two plus pitches, so all he needs is to  upgrade that change to average for it to be effective.

Nobody was worried about the early lack of pinpoint command.  That will improve with time.  The buzz was about how good his stuff is at this stage of his development, just 20 months from TJ surgery.

It's important to understand that results are not as important as process -- and progress right now.  Everyone I talked to agreed that Cease is right where he needs to be -- if not ahead of schedule.

The Cubs challenged him by having him face a lineup of good, more experienced hitters like Torres, Happ, and Dewees.  It was especially evident in Happ's AB, who got himself in a good hitting count, then basically spat on a very good Cease curve ball.  It was a reminder that while Cease was impressive, stuff alone is not going to be enough against good, polished hitters.  It was also a reminder of how good, polished a hitter Ian Happ really is.  As talented as Cease, Steele, and other young pitchers were, it was Happ who controlled the ABs from start to finish every time he came to the plate.  Torres also battled Cease and drew a full count walk.  It was interesting to watch and a nice learning experience for the Cubs young pitcher.

Ian Happ

Ian Happ

Justin Steele threw in the low 90s and after struggling with the first couple of hitters, he seemed to get a feel, using his deceptively good FB to set up what was at times a very good curveball.  Steele is fun to watch.  He doesn't diddle around out there.  He goes right after hitters.  At least one person I spoke with thought he could eventually be the best of the bunch as far the Cubs young crop.  That's pretty high praise.

Justin Steele

Justin Steele

Jake Stinnett started the game versus Cease and pitched pretty well.  The FB was at 91-93 and topped out at 96.  He threw hard and snapped off a few nice sliders, which were in the 83-84 range.  That is certainly encouraging after last season's drop in velocity. (h/t @calikusiolek on this velocity as well as Marte's)

Jake Stinnett

Jake Stinnett

20 year old Junior Marte showed a live arm and good FB with late life that was in the 92-94 range.  Strictly an arm speed guy with some effort, so he may profile more as a reliever.   He also had the makings of a good slider, but he was pretty wild.  Marte is an interesting arm who struck out  11.35 batters per 9 IP, mostly in the DSL (3 innings in the AZL) and held hitters to a .181 batting average, but he is going to have to clean up the delivery a bit and throw more strikes.

Junior Marte

Junior Marte

There were so many knowledgeable people around that I was just trying to soak in as much knowledge as I could.  Won't talk about them all here all at once, but one player I asked about was Rashad Crawford and whether his physical maturation could lead to more power -- and the response was that he already has pretty big raw power, something I saw for myself just a couple of days ago in BP.  And in case you're wondering, Crawford can still run.  He easily swiped a base today and is still playing CF, where he has a chance to be a plus defender.  I was reminded, though, that Crawford was drafted as a raw player and is still learning the game, so he is still working on the finer points, such as his approach at the plate.   Still, I find him an intriguing player because of his athleticism, speed, and strength.  A deep sleeper to put on your list, perhaps.

Speaking of sleepers, PJ Higgins again threw out a baserunner stealing and ripped a line drive into RF-CF for a single.

DJ Wilson showed his speed with an infield single and a bunt single in his first two ABs, though he was caught  stealing on a close call (there was only one ump for that whole game).

On the other fields, Billy McKinney and Shawon Dunston, Jr, hit the ball well in the AA game and Dan Vogelbach hit a grand slam in the AAA game.  I also found it interesting that it is the second time I saw Daury Torrez and the second time he came in late in the game, making me wonder if the Cubs are considering trying him as a late inning reliever.  If not now, then maybe down the line.

Arizona Phil was scoring 3 games all at once.  He was in the zone.  When he gets that posted, we will link it here.

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  • Keep watering these acorns into strong oaks!

  • In reply to edubbs:

    Cease, Steele, Happ, Torres are all MLB players to me.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Not that others aren't, by the way, but those guys are pretty good bets.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Just thinking that Cease, Steele and Schwarber all came in one draft. Way to go Theo/Jed/Jason. :-)

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    In reply to John57:

    Not to forget so was Ryan Williams!!! Mark Zagunas is no slouch either! Plus there were other good players from that draft!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Did Sands participate? He seems below Steele in stuff but more dependable because of his size. Is that accurate?

  • In reply to springs:

    Similar stuff but different size and styles. Both are very good. I just haven't seen him pitch yet this spring, but he's fine -- and it's early.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    The future is looking rosier each day! I* can see it! A World Series Championship is in our near future!!! (It's about time. I've only been waiting all my life and I'm 70 years old!)

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    my friend's step-aunt makes $70 an hour on the computer . She has been without a job for 5 months but last month her pay was $18819 just working on the computer for a few hours. look at here
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  • In reply to edubbs:

    my friend's step-aunt makes $70 an hour on the computer . She has been without a job for 5 months but last month her pay was $18819 just working on the computer for a few hours. look at here
    ➨➨➨➨➨➨➨➨➨➨➨ w­­w­­w­.n­e­t­-j­o­b­s­2­5­­.­c­o­­m

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    John, I don't know if I've ever seen a comp for DJ Wilson but do you think he has more or less upside than a Brett Gardner?

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    In reply to Dax Mezo:

    That's too much too ask probably, but do you or have you heard a ceiling type comp?

  • In reply to Dax Mezo:

    I think that's a fair ceiling for him, except that Wilson can play CF, which ups his value a bit. If he can be Gardner in CF, the Cubs would be ecstatic.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    From everything I've read, mostly here, he sounds like a spark plug and I'm excited to see what he does this year.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    John...a good friend of mine that has gotten a chance to see Wilson play a few times told me that he reminds him of a young Lenny Dykstra with far better speed. Do you see that ?

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    I would love to See DJ Wilson become more like Ricky Henderson with that speed rather than Tony Campana.

  • In reply to Gator:

    I've heard he has surprising pop for his size. He does not run like a penguin though so maybe your dream will come true. :)

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    Something like that. Not a comp guy, but that works fine, especially when you consider Dykstra showed pop later in career,

  • Great stuff. Thank you John. The future continues to look bright.

  • In reply to North Side Pat:

    Still some talent in the system and the Cubs can afford to wait and do it right.

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    Great read John. There is so much to like about these young players, and each one seems better and better. One thing we have to remember is that as wonderful it seems that Cease is throwing in the mid to upper 90's he needs more than that to succeed. The Mets throw hard agains the Cubs and did very well, but KC beat them silly.
    Very impressed by your description about Happ and how advanced he is as a hitter. He might be able to go faster though the system with that approach, and it's good to see Dunston mentioned. I remember when his father was drafted and I'd like to see him follow in his footsteps.
    These descriptions really make my day John. thanks.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Thanks, Jonathan. It is a good reminder that this is a progression and that as good as players seem as 20 year olds, most are not near MLB ready. But you have to be excited about the talent and the potential to be something special.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Thanks for the updates John. It must be nice to be closer to the action in the spring and fall. I will be interested to see how Dunston Jr does if he stays injury free and how Hanneman does in AA now that he has some experience there... It is nice to see the depth and continuing to see players moving up. I dont believe there has been a time in the last 30 yrs that i have seen this many people interested in the minor leagues and proud to see the youngsters make an impact

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    It would be cool to have a Shawn-o-meter 2!

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    In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    What I like about Happ is that he will come up through the minor leagues without being rushed. While Schwarber and others have had success I do still with that they had been able to spend more time in the minor leagues. Everyone agrees that Schwarber needs work on catching but more and more people see him as a possible catcher IF he makes those improvements. That is easier to do in the minor leagues than the major leagues.

    All these guys in the minor leagues, at least the position players, will be allowed to progress at the rate of their development. There is no reason to "race" any of these guys. In fact, right now, there isn't much room for them on the MLB roster. So we can be more confident they will be ready when they do arrive.

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    In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Johnathan....do you remember Tony Woods? I think that he was drafted the same year that Dunston was. Shawon was our SS of the future and Woods was supposed to be our next great 3b. Obviously he never panned out.

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    That was the same draft where you got Gary Varsho. Don't knock it

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    In reply to Gator:

    I don't remember Woods but do remember Varsho. There was another 3rd baseman, Gary Scott maybe, about that time. Who was the tall lanky one also?

  • Cease has a long way to go but you gotta love that stuff in a organization challenged by not having too many pitchers with stuff. Eventually you have to develop a TOR type pitcher.

  • Good golly.20yo less than 2 yrs removed from major arm surgery and the kid throws 96-98mph? Just think where Cease might be in 2-3 yrs.

  • As far as Daury Torrez, aren't there too many pitchers projected to be at AA to all be starters? I would think he will get piggyback opportunities to keep him stretched out.

  • In reply to Gator:

    As it turns out, found out they are grooming him for relief.

  • Will we see Cease start in the Midwest league catching up with Draftmates Steele and Sands? Maybe after some time in extended spring training until it warms up?

    I hope he does not go to Boise. I do not want to rush him but at the same time I want him to be challenged.

  • In reply to Gator:

    You'd have to figure he'd start in South Bend.

  • In reply to Gator:

    MWL has a rep as a pitc hers lleague. Might be the right place to start him. Im wondering how many innings they want for the 3 kids this year 100-120 each?

  • How has Dewees and Eddy Julio Martinez looked so far? Have they settled in? I would love to continue to have a glut of multipositional outfielders who can hit.

  • In reply to Gator:

    Dewees looks solid. EJM is talented but we should probably pump the brakes on him for now. He'll need some time to get back into rhythm and work on his swing and timing.

  • Really excited about Crawford at this point. I loved watching him in the outfield last year. If he could add more impact at the plate he becomes a guy that becomes very interesting.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Yea, but where do all these guys play? So many outfilders I'm afraid to start listing 'cause I know I'll be forgetting someone. EJM, Dewees, Wilson, all CFs. Will they fill the outfield in South Bend, no Jimenez has to be there. So many others half forgotten in the excitement of the influx of new talent. Martin, crawford, Dunston, Mitchell. Did I for get any candidates for A ball teams?

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    At some point - if they all develop into decent (or better than decent) MLB quality outfielders,.... some of these guys are going to end up playing for somebody other than our Cubs,...

    That - in itself - is not a bad thing IMO. First world problems as they would say in Economics & Finance,... Talent - even blocked talent - is a valuable commodity.

    At some point either the guys on the roster currently are going to get expensive, or somebody will make a good offer for one of them and we'll just see the Cubs 'reload' from that depth,....

    Or - we'll see some of that depth traded out for more prospects to try and keep the pipeline of Minor League talent flowing upward.

  • Super exciting news on Cease. Only 20 years, and missed his HS senior season. Great investment at 6th round pick with a $1.5M signing bonus.

    He's got a long way to go, but to be sitting at 98 mph with a top notch curve speaks volumes. Looking forward to following his progress in his fist full season. If he's gonna be in South Bend, I'll definitely head over to watch him. Any chance he rocket's through the system and gets a look in the second half of 2017? (Yes, that's me, the impatient one again).

  • Thanks for the info John. Echo J. Friedman above on Ian Happ and your observation of him controlling the zone. More and more I think it's zeroing in on that one strength that is making the Cubs so good at finding, and developing effective MLB hitters. Kudo's to the Cubs Scouting and development teams!

  • Will the riches of the Cubs player pipeline never Cease? Nyuk nyuk nyuk....sorry about that I was compelled.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    LOL!

  • Cease worries me. Especially with his fast come back. Oakland had a couple great arms come up through their system that had repeat injuries again and again. I hope we're not setting ourselves up for heartbreak!

  • In reply to good4you:

    Coming back at the end of the year in a limited capacity and then taking the winter off and starting back in ST is not a fast comeback. Cease's case is different from Jarrod Parker.

  • In reply to good4you:

    He threw just 37 pitches. Cubs are taking it really slow.

  • Finally got to watch some of these guys in person last weekend, a couple of my observations:

    - Perhaps it was just the day I spent glued to the back fields (Saturday), but Torres sort of gets a diva treatment. Nearly the entire time he was on the field he was with a younger coach (S/C, perhaps). After the team took a fast paced infield drill with Torres on the sidelines, they cleared off an entire field so he could take some grounders at short. It didn't seem to rub anybody the wrong way, it was just...strange.

    - Eloy Jimenez looked outstanding in the cage -- both in situational hitting lining balls behind a runner on hit-and-run and opening up to drive the ball to all fields. Torres was underwhelming, though I only saw about 20-30 swings. Lots of fouls and weak pop-ups.

    - Steele is an elite athlete. I didn't get a chance to actually watch him pitch, but seeing him go through some off-the-mound drills (e.g., fielding bunts/grounders) was very impressive. Something I've learned from the crew of writers here is that this bodes well for his ability to repeat the delivery. Watching him pick hard grounders off the short-hop so effortlessly was a thing of beauty.

    - I've seen this talked about a good amount over the past week or two, but Candelario sure looks the part of an MLB player. He showed great approach and bat control, and I'm a big fan of what I saw defensively.

    - Kyle Hendricks and David Ross were two of the nicest people I've ever met. Hendricks in particular was just genuinely in "aw shucks" mode to every single kid that asked for his autograph -- I watched him sign for 30 minutes and only move about 20 feet. He was appreciative toward every person that approached him.

    - I'm now a believer in Andreoli, he made hard contact and has added lots of lean muscle.

  • In reply to kmokeefe:

    Thanks for the personal observations from those who can't be there.

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    In reply to John57:

    Appreciate the insights. It always is good to have actually seen these players, not only what they do on the field but how they interact with coaches and other players.
    I don't want any "Bo Callahan" type players. Sorry, a "Draft Day" reference, I really do like that movie.
    It's a good observation also about how they field, how fluid and athletic they are.
    You and John and the others on the den who are there really make it better for us to visualize what's happening there. thanks again.

  • In reply to kmokeefe:

    I always tell people I need to see 30 swings before I SHOULD make a conclusion. But I don't have the resources. The one thing that bothers me about Torres swing, or pre-swing, is his hands are awfully busy during his load. It also insinuates tension in the hands and forearms. Not good! But it can be fixed.

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    Agreed! Should have maybe highlighted that point a bit more, but I didn't get to enough swings with Torres to worry about it. Just noteworthy, I suppose.

    John - do you have any insight on my comments about Torres getting different treatment? Not sure if you were there Saturday AM (couldn't find ya!), but I'd be curious to understand if that's a normal thing or perhaps they were working with him on something special that day.

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    In reply to kmokeefe:

    The great play of Andreoli has probably made the cubs decision of what to do with SZR much easier. Sounds to me that Andreoli is pretty much another Matt SZR and the cubs really don't have room on the roster for 2 such players. If they

  • Thanks for the report, John!

    I'm trying not to get too ahead of myself here, but Cease is giving me a bit of a Lucas Giolito vibe--a guy who fell in the draft due to injury concerns but has tons of talent if he can recover and put things together. We'll see what happens!

  • In reply to seattlecub:

    The Cubs would be over the moon if Cease and Giolito had similar careers.

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    Watching the Cubs on ESPN. Now AAA means Almora, Andreoli and Alcantara--this inning, single, HR, single..lots of talent.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Andreoli is certainly making a case to be the 25th man. Not saying he will be, but don't think anybody has done more this spring to make a run at it. I bet we'll see him at wrigley at some point this year

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    I didn't get a chance to see last nights game and i was just wondering how Schwarber looked behind the plate.

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    I thought he moved well laterally to block balls in the dirt. But he dropped another pitch and he didn't look good trying to throw out a runner.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Idk, sometimes he looks like a boxer back there. Is there another style of receiving pitches that would work better for Kyle It's seems like he is going to need to let the pitch come to him more or something.

  • Been looking back at past drafts. 2014 is shaping up to be special. 2002 was so disheartening - 10 picks in 1st 4 rounds and only Rich Hill to show for it. That could have been the best pitching haul.
    Interesting fact, from the 2012 draft, no one has made the majors yet. Granted it was a HS prospect heavy draft so it takes longer to develop. 2013 had both Bryant & Godley make it up so far and 2014 has Schwarber up due to his prowess. When you look back at the drafts and look a few years forward to see what happened you see where the dips in performance were.

    I know this isn't shocking to anyone who reads this regularly. I guess I am looking at the potential specialness of the 2014 draft and what it can mean long term.

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    They say you need 5 years to truly evaluate a draft. The fact that 2014 included Kyle Schwarber means that it will be a good draft for us regardless, but that's also a function of drafting 4th overall. It's looking good so far, but book still out.

    By the 5 year measure:
    2010 was a disaster: Matt Szczur and Erik Jokisch.
    2011 so far is Javy and Vogelbach....nobody else looks like they're going to amount to much, unless you still believe in Andrew McKirahan

    I would like to see us start to develop lower-round players, not just high-first round picks. We have not done that yet under this FO, but feel like it's coming

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I definitely agree. The draft can, in some ways, be divided into two parts -- the first (and maybe second) round and the rest. Success in the first round is imperative, as this should be the way to add strong parts to your team, particularly if you are picking high. Failure here (as the Cubs demonstrated for many years) leads to little impact in the farm.

    The remaining picks are areas where you can build the farm depth while also possibly hitting a home run with a player who has fallen or a raw talent. Certainly Cease, Sands, Steele and Hudson could become stars for example, while players like Zagunis, Ryan Kellogg and Matt Rose could become good players who fill a role on a winning team.

    The 2014 draft has the potential to be the best Cubs draft in a generation and we still have strong hope for 2012 (2015 is still developing, hard to tell). Our other drafts have not done much beyond the first round and as we the team becomes successful and doesn't have a high pick to rely upon, we will need to be successful in finding players throughout the draft to keep our restocking our farm system. Let's hope this FO can begin (or, as we hope, continue) this strong drafting throughout the lower rounds.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Taking this a step further, just to illustrate what could have been done in our 2007 draft (where we had scouts who could see the future, obviously), here is what could have happened (all Cubs picks are 3rd in the round except Supp round and all selections given are players taken later than round):

    1st round: Pick: Vitters. Available: Bumgardner (10th) Heyward (16th). Lots of picks, really.

    1st Supp: Pick: Josh Donaldson. We can stick with that pick.

    2nd round: Lost pick for signing Soriano (Nats used it to take Jordan Zimmerman).

    3rd Round: Pick: Tony Thomas. Available: Angels took Matt Harvey with 24th pick of 3rd round.

    4th round: Pick: Darwin Barney. Available: Padres took Corey Kluber with the 10th pick of the 4th round.

    5th round: Pick: Brandon Guyer (actually rather good 5th round pick). Available: Orioles took Jake Arrieta 2 picks after the Cubs.

    6th round: Pick: Casey Lambert. Available: Red Sox took Anthony Rizzo with the 20th pick of the 6th round.

    7th round: Pick: Ty Wright. Available: Mets took Lucas Duda with the 29th pick of the 7th round. Might instead take Matt Moore from next round.

    8th round: Pick: Marquez Smith. Available: Not much (Matt Moore went two picks before us to the Rays.)

    9th round: Pick: Clark Hardman. Available: Tony Watson or Greg Holland.

    Obviously this draft is before the draft salary cap and certainly we can't expect anyone to see the future. But this does show what success in later rounds could bring -- this draft could have led the perfect Cubs GM to take Josh Donaldson and Anthony Rizzo to play 1b and C (now 3B, but drafted as catcher) (and perhaps Heyward), added Matt Harvey, Jake Arrieta, Corey Kluber and perhaps Madison Bumgardner to the rotation and put Watson and Holland into your bullpen.

    Later round talent does exist and teams that can spot it will be successful.

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    In reply to springs:

    Excellent points. The FO really makes it's money in the picks after the first and second round. Look at all the difference makers in the later rounds. This is why I don't mind so much having given up our first 2 picks--I think the scouts and Theo and Jed can mine talent in the later rounds and come up with all-stars.
    Of course, this is true in all sports--the FAs that the Bears just signed were mostly 4-6 round picks.

  • I watched some of the game yesterday and noticed that Soler has closed his stance a little. His front foot seems to be closer to the plate and was wondering why he could have done this? My only guess was to try and stay in more on the low and away breaking ball that he struggled with at times last year and to drive the ball more to right center/right field. Any thoughts?

  • In reply to Ozzie24:

    Typically moving from an open stance to more straight lined stance is to cut down on body movement. From an open stance, there is more distance to travel on your front foot along with knee and hip rotation back to neutral. Can be tough on timing--that is batting from an open stance.

    I don't care what he does, just give me the locked-in Soler of the post-season. Haha!!!

  • In reply to Ozzie24:

    I'd be curious to see how this changes his swing plane, if at all. People can do all sorts of things before the ball is thrown -- I chalk that up to timing and routine. When the body starts moving forward is when the swing starts!

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