Instructional League Opening Day: In Grind We Trust, Rosters, and some quick observations

I got to do something that I will always remember.  Field Coordinator Tim Cossins called me over and all the players stood around me.  He talked about the grind -- a word that has a negative connotation with some, as it implies a high effort guy with no talent.  But among ballplayers, it's a positive word.  Nothing comes easy no matter how talented you are.  Baseball is always about the journey:  from prospect to MLB player, from spring training to fall, from game to game and even from pitch to pitch -- you grind away because at this level everybody is good.  It's too big a game to conquer at once, so you keep grinding away -- and if you don't, then you can be sure someone else will.

As I was going through treatment, I often called it a grind as well -- and I meant that in a positive way.  One of the things that kept me going was understanding I wasn't going to beat this all at once.  It was going to be a journey and it wasn't always going to be easy. I was going to have to grind away at it.  I was going to do everything I had to do, day after day, and stay positive even when I felt exhausted.

And so along that theme, I said a few words to the players about grinding through the process.  You have to feel that you are going to make it though, you trust that if you keep grinding away, you will get there.

In Grind We Trust.

I am not sure I was all that eloquent. I was certainly a little nervous. but I was still proud to share my grind with theirs.  As different as our end goal may be, the journeys have parallels -- there will be struggles and breakthroughs, but you never stop grinding until you get to where you want to be.

First day Impressions

You don't want to take too much out of the first day, so I will keep this brief.  Here are a few things of which I took note...

  • Kwang-Min Kwon has trimmed down, both in terms of his body and also his swing, which was noticeably shorter than it was last fall when he was launching long BP HRs, but had trouble translating that power to games.
  • There are no 2016 IFAs in camp but one player who missed all of last season, 17 year old IFer Christopher Morel, grew physically as well.  He suffered a badly lacerated arm and did not play last year. He looked like a skinny kid -- you could almost mistaken him for a bat boy.  Not this year.  He is still skinny -- but he certainly looks taller and has filled out slightly.  He has long levers and while he may struggle early in his career to get them all in sync, he showed some batting practice power today.  He looks like he can be a monster physically as he continues to mature.  I think he'll outgrow SS but may develop the power to play 3B.
  • Robert Mejia is a physical monster already and was playing 1B.  He struggled with throws at 3B but did show occasional raw power at the plate.  From a physical size standpoint, he reminded Phil and I of Brewers 1B Chris Carter.
  • I didn't ealize how big catcher Jhonny Pereda had gotten since last year.  He seems to have grown a couple of inches and looks much more filled out.  He was more of a defensive catcher last year but showed some pop this year in the AFL.
  • Catcher Miguel Amaya looks to have put on some muscle weight, something many scouts and front office members told me he would need to do.  Amaya is already a good defensive catcher with strong natural leadership skills.  As a hitter he has a mature approach and a solid stroke, though he has been more of a line drive hitter to this point.  I am interested to see if he hits for more power this fall.
  • Aramis Ademan is never going to get all that big but there's a nice sound off his bat.  I think he'll hit enough to be a starting SS.  He can certainly stick there defensively.
  • OFer Jonathan Sierra showed a smooth stroke and was working on getting his lead hand through the zone quicker so that he can better turn on pitches for power.  He did so successfully toward the end of his BP session.
  • Eddy Martinez had a cleaner stroke than I remembered last year, when he sometimes showed a slight hitch.  We know his approach got better as he got more reps under his belt.
  • Players from Eugene and Myrtle Beach have been given extra time to report to camp -- and with good reason as both teams extended their seasons with titles.

I have partial rosters here and you can see the full rosters from AZ Phil at The Cub Reporter here.

Dylan Cease
Jared Cheek
Oscar de la Cruz
Kyle Miller
* Jordan Minch
Tommy Nance
James Norwood
* Carson Sands
* Justin Steele
Jen-Ho Tseng

P. J. Higgins
* Alberto Mineo
Ian Rice

* Carlos Sepulveda (2B)
* Jason Vosler (3B)

* Donnie Dewees (CF)
Eddy Julio Martinez (RF)

And as a reminder, the Arizona Fall League representatives will be...

  • Victor Caratini, C
  • Ryan McNeil, RHP
  • Steve Perakslis, RHRP
  • James Farris, RHSP
  • Ian Happ, 2B
  • Eloy Jimenez, OF
  • Duane Underwood Jr, RHSP

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  • fb_avatar

    Super freaking Cool !! Words we all could follow and learn from.

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:


  • fb_avatar

    This is one reason I read you John. I love the details of these players, and in the 3 or 4 years (or sooner) that the rest of the country will be hearing and seeing them we already will have a great history of them.
    I also view grind as a positive. As David Ross was saying in his conversation with Bryzzo you have to grind every at bat, and by that he meant to never just give away an at bat. Every pitch that is thrown should be watched and the more pitches you see the better it will be for future batters. It also doesn't matter what the score is, it might not mean anything for this game, but in the next one or the one following it could.
    thanks for a great start to the AFL John.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Well put Jonathan. That really is what it's about -- you don't give away an AB -- or a play, or an opportunity to improve.

    One of the things I liked that I didn't mention is that after coaches gave Sierra some advice and he hit some rockets, he came up to the coaches and fist-bumped them all with some humble thank yous. He's a good kid. Hope he makes it.

  • fb_avatar

    Hey John, your link for AZ Phil brings you back to this page.

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Really? Thanks. Will fix.

  • Someday you have to post a photo of Az Phil.

  • In reply to Hagsag:

    I don't think that will happen :) He's a pretty private person. Great guy, very friendly when you get to know him.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I can confirm that AZ Phil is a great guy -- a great person to watch a baseball game with and a very observant fellow. The level of detail he catches even while conversing with another person is impressive. Go down and visit him at Instructs or during the Fall League sometime, Hagsag. It's well worth your time.

    He's not hard to find, even without a picture.

  • Wow John great story. Clearly the Cubs org thinks as highly of you as we do

  • In reply to ericccs:

    Thanks. The coaches down here are great and it trickles on down to the players. The Cubs just really know how to find really good people.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    john, do they even have any 2016 ifa's? I haven't seen anything on signings so I know they haven't signed anybody for more than $100,000.

  • In reply to DLROBERTSON:

    No 2016 IFAs there. Thanks for reminding me. Meant to write that. Closest we get is Christopher Morel, who signed last year but is playing his first full season.

  • Thanks for the inspiration, John. What time do they start if we want to catch them practicing?

  • In reply to NilesNorth:

    Today was later but generally around 9:30 to 10. BP usually at 11 and later they'll have games around 1 pm. Not sure when advanced instructs start but I have a schedule for that somewhere.

  • John, you deserve every good thing that comes your way. I've been saying since '13 that the Cubs are going to hire you away from us. I hope they do, but you'll still get to write for them, along with any scouting, front office gig, get. You're what keeps all of us coming back multiple times a day, 365 days a yr. Well, you and the Cubs. Thank you John.

  • In reply to copinblue:

    Thanks, Chad. That would be great. I have never inquired on it, though. Maybe one day I willb :)

  • fb_avatar

    John, what is your relationship with the Cubs? Today Tim Cossins called you over so do the Cubs know you and Cubs Den and do you have relationships with the FO or the players or coaches?
    Thanks again and all the best for you both personally and professionally.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I'm on friendly terms with many of them, but very casual. Usually just a hello, how are you, etc but sometimes I get to pick their brains for a minute or so :)

  • [CLAP] [CLAP] [CLAP] [CLAP] [CLAP] [CLAP] Good for you John! You will always remember giving that speech. You are a lucky SOB, in more ways than one.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Thanks, Toby!

  • Eloquent or not, I suggest that your sharing may well have a significant positive impact on any number of those listening---now or in the future. Good for you!

  • In reply to Hubbs16:

    I hope so. I usually speak well, I did it for a living, but I was unsure of how much I should say so I kept it simple.

  • Good read as usual John. Nobody does the life metaphors better.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Thank you, 44.

  • How cool of an experience that must have been, John. Amazing. And I agree with others, I have a feeling you will continue to be involved with the Cub's organization.

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