Spring Training Prospect Notes: Alzolay, Hatch (and Strop) all debut during backfields action

Thomas Hatch

Thomas Hatch (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

On Monday afternoon the Cubs AA and AAA teams traveled to Tempe to take on the Angels affiliates. Adbert Alzolay made his 2018 debut and according to an Angels blogger on hand Alzolay was his usual mid-90s with a plus curve. I have no reports regarding how he looked, but Thomas Hatch also made his first appearance of the spring.

Oscar De La Cruz (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Oscar De La Cruz (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

The Cubs brought the pair of right handers to big league camp, Alzolay because of his presence on the 40-man roster and Hatch on a non-roster invite, but it was clear early on that it was meant more as an introductory experience. Both pitched more innings last season than they ever had before and I believe the plan was always to bring them along slowly this spring. They took a different approach with Oscar De La Cruz, who is at a similar level of development but missed significant time last year. He was given a handful of opportunities in Major League games, likely as a way to catch up a bit on the experience he missed out on in the AFL and fall instructs in 2017.

Meanwhile, on the backfields in Mesa on John Arguello Way, Pedro Strop also made his first appearance on Monday, pitching for the South Bend squad. Strop had been held back by a calf strain throughout the spring, but AZ Phil reports he looked to be in top form as he blew away four of the five batters he faced on just 18 pitchers (16 strikes). His fellow bullpen mates Brandon Morrow and Brian Duensing also got in some work during the game.

Kevonte Mitchell

Kevonte Mitchell

A few prospects also turned in performances of note so far this week. Returning from a broken leg suffered last season, third baseman Wladimir Galindo pounded out three hits for Myrtle Beach on Monday, while De La Cruz combined with lefties Jose Paulino and Wyatt Short to hold the opposition to just one run on ten hits and two walks. The highlight from Tuesday was a mammoth grand slam off the bat of Kevonte Mitchell as part of a nine-run 5th inning that sparked Myrtle Beach to victory. Erich Uelmen pitched four dominant innings for the South Bend squad, striking out five and inducing six ground outs against zero recorded in the air. I am excited to see how both of those players progress throughout 2018. They have the potential to surprise a lot of people.

We also received our first description of recent international signing Alexander Guerra. The catcher is a Cuban defector the Cubs signed in late October. He debuted in the Serie Nacional as a 17-year old back in 2015. After struggling at the dish his first year, he posted much stronger numbers in 2016, slashing 267/375/465 with 6 HR in 33 games. Now 20 years old, he sat out all of 2017. According to AZ Phil:

"Alexander Guerra is fairly polished both at bat and behind the plate and he has some HR power (at least he shows it in BP) and what looks (to me) like above-average exit velocity off the bat in games, but he probably could stand to lose a few pounds. I would be surprised if he weighs less than 275. He is a load. He makes Rene Rivera look thin."

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  • Glad to read about promising pitching prospects. Can wait so
    see what we do in the June draft and July international market

  • The two top guys that Baseball America has the Cubs linked as favorites are:
    Pitcher Richard Gallardo:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPEh-neoq_c

    Centerfielder Jose Lopez:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CfDFOvJMcG8

  • Now that we have all of our money to sign them we should do well

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    All what money? You mean the ~$4.75M for IFA?

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Yes, but it is a relatively even playing field for all teams now.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I liked the old way were the Cubs and a few other teams had an advantage. There are to many teams saying they are at a disadvantage because of revenue like the Oakland A's. The A's are in probably the 4th highest market area in the MLB. They just refuse to spend. The Cardinals sell out most games have a great TV contract and they are considered "small market". Manfred needs to wake up and take a look at baseball.

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    Great reporting. I still get a chill to read "John Arguello Way." It's so fitting to be on a back road too--John must have driving that so many times to see the out of the way prospects.
    I know it's early, but hearing about AA and Hatch and De La Cruz is heartening. Guerra sounds a lot like Smokey Burgess from years ago. He needs a dietician and I'm sure he'll get one. Thanks again Michael.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Earl Averill from way back, or Hector Villenueva from more recent times.

  • We have 5 picks in the top 100 should we gamble on pitchers
    or high school players

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I'm sure their will be at least one pitcher and high school player among those picks. Cubs have invested so many draft picks at pitcher the past couple of years that their pipeline is really well stocked already at lower levels. I think they will start to restock the position player pool this year.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    That's true, but a high school player usually takes at least 4 years to develop. With our lack of impact positional talent, and the young core mostly hitting free-agency after the 2021 season, I wouldn't mind seeing a college bat or two to help ease some of the tough decisions we'll be facing in a couple years.

  • Lefty reliever Dario Alvarez has been claimed on waivers by Seattle. Opens up a second 40-man roster spot. One will be required for Gimenez. The other figures to go to Hancock/Bass. If Butler fails to secure 25-man roster spot he is likely to be gone as he is out of option. I still think Cory Mazzoni's spot is vulnerable as well. Hancock/Bass/Bourjos fighting it out for a chance. I'm sure Cubs will be scouring the waiver wire as spring closes out as well.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I saw Mazzoni throw. He should be vulnerable!

  • There should be someone of value to pickup

  • I am surprised that they let Alvarez go, rather than Mazzoni. Perhaps they had a deal with Alvarez that they would let him go if he wasn't going to make the 25 man squad.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Possible. I think it had more to do with the fact he was out pitched by their other two 40 man lefties as well as two non-roster lefties that would be considered for call ups before him anyway. Plus the club is carrying three lefties in the pen anyway.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    What do you think about Baldonado? I have not seen him but his stats look good.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Plus the fact he can't throw strikes. I always wondered why they signed him in the first place.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Because when he does throw strikes, he can put up major league numbers like he did in 2016 (15 IP, 11 H, 5 BB, 28 K).

    Low risk, high reward signings should never be looked down upon when they don't work out, though. It cost the Cubs nothing to work with him during ST and see if they could unlock something with him.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    I believe you are a little off on your 2016 stats. You only took the partial season with Atlanta. His Texas numbers in the second half were not nearly as good. With that said I agree with the high reward low cost risk by signing a pitcher with potential. I just didn't figure Dario Alvarez was one of those. I do respect your comments here though.

  • Just saw a clip of Vogelbach HR. He's got to be 275 lbs at a minimum. He hit the heck out of it tho.

  • In reply to veteran:

    I shared this on twitter yesterday, but I guess I should do it here as well. Buster Olney wrote a piece about Vogelbach changing his approach this winter and finally embracing the fact that he is a power hitter. It made me happy to read. Whenever you guys would ask me about him I'd usually respond he didn't have a power hitter's approach. Early on I felt it was a good thing because it taught him how to be a well-rounded hitter, but somewhere along the way he lost his aggressiveness and he failed to take advantage when pitchers made mistakes. Now, he is trying to rectify that.

    https://www.seattletimes.com/sports/mariners/a-changed-to-his-swing-and-approach-at-the-plate-could-put-daniel-vogelbach-on-the-mariners-opening-day-roster/

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    good to see him do well. Hard to see how he doesn't make the team. He is their best hitter.

  • Admittedly - even though it may not happen in any useful number of appearances in 2018 - I am seriously looking forward to seeing what Alzolay and Hatch can do against MLB hitters.

  • I keep hearing about this hancock guy. Anybody who has religiously followed cubs 2018 spring training. Can tell me anything about him please?

  • In reply to bolla:

    Former 2nd rounder from Jed's days in San Diego. Never made it as a starter, but always had arm strength, and he ended up as the return in the Matt Szczur trade. Converted to reliever last year after missing most of 2016 is now apparently up to 96-98 consistently in the shorter outings after working mostly around 94 as a starter iirc. Slider is okay. Command still an issue in my mind.

    Definitely some upside but he is also 27 already, so doubtful he all of a sudden becomes a key piece in a MLB bullpen. But that doesn't mean he can't fill a roll if he throws enough strikes.

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