Minor League Recap: Alcantara HRs; Candelario, Vogelbach, Contreras impress at Kane County

Opening Day for the minors meant my first trip to Kane County this year.  The day started warm enough but gradually got colder as the night went on.  We stayed on for all 9 innings, though.  There were some good players on the field, including last year’s 1st overall pick Carlos Correa, who was the best player on the field, and the game featured a good pitching matchup with Pierce Johnson facing Vincent Velazquez.  Correa showed good discipline at the plate, laying off a lot of bad pitches.  He also showed plus bat speed, but was not as quick as Cubs prospect Javier Baez.

But first, let’s get on with our first minor league recap of 2013.  Most of the detail will be from the Kane County game, since it was the only one I saw, though I will watch video of the Iowa and Tennessee games later.  I should also have pictures of the Kane County game soon.

Albuquerque 10 – Iowa 3

  • Chris Rusin made a run at a spot on the Cubs staff this spring and his consolation prize is getting the opening day start for Iowa.  He wasn’t quite as sharp but he did keep the I-Cubs in the game, allowing 3 runs (2 earned) on 4 singles and 2 walks.  Rusin also struck out 4 batters.
  • For all the bullpen depth the Cubs acquired this offseason, it was old stand-bys Casey Coleman and Rafael Dolis who were the most effective.  I’m particularly intrigued with Dolis, who has plus power stuff.  He used the winter to tinker with his delivery, speeding it up and employing more of a leg kick.  Except for one poor performance he did well this spring and he continued that with an 8 pitch perfect inning.  He didn’t walk a batter, which is key for him  — but he also didn’t strike anyone out, which continues to be puzzling considering his stuff.  Coleman also pitched a scoreless inning but Jensen Lewis (1/3 IP, 5 R, 3 ER) and Zach Putnam (2/3 IP, 2 ER) really let the game get away.
  • Logan Watkins and Brett Jackson were the 1-2 punch at the top of the lineup and one thing you’ll get from them is some OBP and a lot of pitches seen.  Today, however, they only got one hit each, though Brett Jackson was also hit by a pitch.  Jackson also helped create a run with his aggressive base-running.  In case you’re wondering, Jackson struck out twice in 5 PAs.
  • The main offensive star was spring training star Brian Bogusevic, who had 3 hits, all singles, an RBI and a run scored.

Pennsacola 7 – Tennessee 3

  • Dallas Beeler opened up the year and it was a mixed bag compared to last season.  Beeler pitches off his 2 seam fastball, which means his game is to keep the ball down in the strike zone and keep the ball in the park.  He also needs to throw strikes. One the one hand, he got hit pretty hard, allowing 7 hits and 3 solo HRs in 5 1/3 innings.  On the other hand, he threw strikes and missed some bats (1 walk, 5 Ks).
  • Relief prospect Tony Zych gave up two unearned runs in an innings worth of work.  He walked one and struck out one.
  • All the offense was provided by two players, CF Matt Szczur and SS Arismendy Alcantara.  Alcantara drove in all 3 runs with a 2 run HR and an RBI single.  He also walked and stole a base.  The walk is encouraging as Alcantara walked in just 5.3% of his PAs last year, though he did improve as the season went on.
  • Matt Szczur had 3 singles and scored one of the Smokies 3 runs.

Brevard County 4 – Daytona 3

  • Ben Wells made the start as he tries to rebound from an elbow injury that led to a lost season after a promising spring.  The bad news is he have up 7 hits — but the good news is 6 of them were singles and he didn’t walk a batter.  He also struck out 4.  That was enough to keep Daytona in the ball game, as Wells allowed just 2 runs.
  • CF Zeke DeVoss did his job as a leadoff man, getting a single and a walk.  He scored a run.
  • 3B Tim Saunders doubled, scored a run and drove in another.
  • Javier Baez, SS, struck out twice but did drive in a run with a sac fly.
  • The Cubs other top propect, Jorge Soler hit a pair of singles.
  • 2B Stephen Bruno jumped up from the short-season Northwest League and didn’t skip a beat.  He doubled, drew a walk, and scored a run.

Quad Cities 7 – Kane County 2

  • Pierce Johnson went just 2 1/3 IP and allowed 5 runs, though he wasn’t as bad as that sounds.  His defense let him down a bit and he gave up a weak ground ball single on a perfectly executed hit and run.  He did give up a couple of hard hits but overall he pitched better than the line indicated.  I don’t know how accurate the stadium gun was but it seemed a few ticks slow.  Johnson was at 88-92 mph but nobody hit more than 93 mph in the entire game.  The Quad Cities pitcher, Velasquez, normally pitches in the 92-94 mph but I didn’t see him break 90 once on the stadium gun.  What you did notice, especially in the first inning was the pop on Johnson’s fastball and some of the late swings it was generating.  He also showed a nasty breaking ball early but seemed to lose his feel for it in the second inning. It lost some bite and he had some trouble commanding it.  The control was solid, however, as he only walked one batter while striking out 4.
  • Justin Amlung (2.1 IP, 1 R, 2W, 2Ks) piggybacked the start but didn’t fare much better.  He was a little wild and while he’s not really a finesse guy, he’s also not the kind of guy that’s going to get away with poor command.  It’s just one bad night but he didn’t look as polished as I thought he’d be.
  • RHP Steve Perakslis (1.1 IP, 0R 0W, 1K) and LHP Brian Smith (2IP, 1 R, 2W, 4 Ks) showed some pretty good life on their fastballs. Both of them hit the low 90s on that stadium gun, though Smith was mostly high 80s.  Smith, however, got some real late swings and showed an occasional good slider, but was inconsistent overall.  Perakslis was aggressive with his fastball and went right after the QC hitters.  Both pitchers struck out prized Astros prospect Carlos Correa.
  • Dan Vogelbach (2-4) walks to the batters box to the sounds of House of Pain which seems pretty appropriate when you consider how he can inflict a world of  hurt on a baseball.  He got too loud, line drive singles but the hardest hit ball may have been a foul ball down the first base side that he got around just a bit too quickly on.
  • My wife and I had seen Jeimer Candelario (1-3, R, BB) at instructs and the first thing we noticed is how good of shape he’s in right now.  It’s not that he was in bad shape in AZ, in fact, it was an improvement over what I saw in Boise, but it looks like he continued to work on it and he looked a lot more lean and athletic than I remembered him.  It showed in the field as well as Candelario displayed good quickness, once ranging far to his left to make a play.  His hands and arm strength were good, as usual.  It’s one game but I came away thinking he could stick there at 3B.  We’ll see how the rest of the weekend goes.  At the plate, Candelario showed his usual discipline, working counts and drawing  a walk to go with his single. He’s my first day candidate for breakout prospect.
  • Rock Shoulders (1-4, 2 run HR) showed he could work counts but it was feast or famine once again for the burly slugger.  He struck out twice, hit into a DP, and hit a 2 run shot to account for Kane County’s only runs.
  • I was also impressed with catcher Wilson Contreras (1-2, 2B, HBP).  I’ve liked him more since seeing him in instructs where you could really see how athletic he is and how quick he moves behind the plate.  He complements that with a strong throwing arm and looks like he has the potential to be a plus defensive catcher, though he’s still rough around the edges.  At the plate, Contreras showed some pretty good pop the opposite way, crushing a double off the RF wall.  If I had a second breakout candidate, especially a sleeper-type, I’d go with this guy.
  • Both Trey Martin and Oliver Zapata showed good arm strength when given the opportunity, though neither threw a runner out.


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  • fb_avatar

    I'm excited about Sczcur. I hope he keeps the hot start going. He's a bit old for AA so It'd be nice if he can give the coaches a reason to send him to AAA and see if he can't fight his way onto the roster.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    I do think if he gets off to a similar start as last year in Daytona, the team won't hesitate to promote him midseason again -- especially if Jackson gets the call to Chicago.

  • John, in the AAA recap on Brett Jackson and his K's, you wrote "in case you're wondering..."

    I think we are all wondering about Jax's strike out numbers. I dare say posting a running tally would be of interest to nearly everyone. While Jax's K's will not be the only criterion which will determine his (eventual?) promotion to the majors, I think that will be the most tangible evidence of how his new swing is working out.

    It's great the minor league recaps are back. Thanks!

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    Haha...I was being a little facetious there. Agreed that that's definitely the main thing to watch with Jackson.

  • Everything is as it should be now that minor league games are being played again.

    Here's hoping Alcantara is for real. A SLG of .450 at AA and an improved walk rate all at the age of 21 would do wonders for his trade value.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    I wouldn't assume he'll be traded. Seems like he has the potential to be a plus defensive 2B with some bat.

    That being said, seems like we do have a ton of major league caliber 2B, so yeah, some of them will have to get dealt eventually.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    He may end up having huge trade value or could end up moving to 2B at some point. If he hits/slugs and plays better defense this year, he's going to be a nice piece for them one way or the other.

  • To me this is the real start of Spring, minor league baseball. It's going to be great having the Cubs A team in Kane county this season.

  • Sensational coverage John. Thanks for your service to Cubs humanity.

  • In reply to MrBillySir:

    Agreed. I was going to say, don't change the layout/format of the minors recap. Everyone is trying to do something different or cover prospects now but they don't watch the games or the recaps have no information. Basically, they can't be (or beat) Cubs Den.

  • Not a big deal whatsoever, but you still have it as Peoria. Thanks and I love these recaps.

  • Obviously, you can't just look at one game and project where a guy is, but I was hoping that Pierce Johnson would start strong and earn a promo to A+ in July. At 22/23, it would be nice to see him make some jumps to higher levels relatively quickly.

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    Was in Geneva last night and was struck by just how good Correa looked. Just oozed confidence out there. Hoping Almora brings same presence if he comes to KC when healthy.

    FYI... Your link/header for the Cougars game says QC 7 *PEORIA* 2. Minor League equivalent of writing last year on your check.

  • In reply to John Davidson:

    Haha, I didn't even notice. It was late. Thanks. I have to say it was weird rooting for the guys in the Kane County uniforms. I was so used to rooting for the visiting team.

    Agreed on Correa. He has that air about him.

  • Living in Peoria, it was depressing last might as i drove by the stadium on the way home & see a sea of red (Cards affiliate now) standing in line. Sigh.
    The only guy who doesn't like the Cubs being in Kane County

  • In reply to plymkr:

    That is a bummer. To be perfectly honest, I love having the games closer to me but I miss that baseball feel in Peoria a little

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    Hey John, you have any info on how Wells' stuff was? His stat line indicate it must have been good but was it 91-92 good or the 94-97 good we saw at one point?

    Really want to see him and Maples progress this year.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I wish I knew. I'll try and find out.

  • Gotta love a player named 'Rock Shoulders',....

    Just sayin' :D

  • I'm willing to suspend judgment on Jackson for a little while as it pertains to his Ks. He's under a lot of pressure, and when your goal is NOT to strike out, that has a way of leading to strike outs. He's still learning the muscle memory that comes with a new swing, and I'm sure it's tempting to return to old habits when he gets in the batter's box. At some point, he should be able to relax and put the bat on the ball with a little more regularity.

  • In reply to Taft:

    I am as well. He's bound to have some ups and downs a he adjusts.

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    May the baseball feel pain many times in King County this year.

  • In reply to James Knott:

    Agreed! I have video of him stepping up to that song. I'll include it with the recaps tonight.

  • In reply to James Knott:

    hmmm-Vogelbomb walks to theplate to the music of the House of Pain? What are they gonna play when he inficts a painful Vogelblast on the opposing pitcher?

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    In reply to mutant beast:

    Chelsea Dagger?

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    In reply to James Knott:

    Hopefully in Kane County, too.


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    Its good for any situation really, do daa, do da daa, do da daa.

  • Love to read about minor league prospects. Love to talk about the upcoming draft. If T. Wood can be consistent he can be a #3. I know its 1 game but his stuff looked good.

  • Brad Nelson playing third base for only the 28th time in his pro career last night in Iowa. It should be interesting to see how much time he gets there as the Cubs wait for the likes of Lake, Villanueva, or Baez to get to the majors to fill the 3B void.

  • In reply to Jim Weihofen:

    Nelson starting at 3B again today. Bogusevic at 1B again. Looks like that's how the Cubs want to run the system depth.

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    House of Pain the band or the song?

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    In reply to Chris Trengove:

    The band. They played "Jump Around" for his entrance song.

  • John,

    Thank you for providing such great info about the Cubs' prospects. I've been reading your stuff for over a month now and want you to know how impressed I am with your thoroughness and passion for what you are doing. I have read many other blogs, and none of them compare with the Cubs Den. Not only are you good, but the guys who comment are knowledgeable and and intelligent.
    I've been a Cub fan since 1945...a lot of suffering, but every spring the optimism returns, But now I'm not expecting much this year; my hopes are for what happens when Baez, Soler, Almora, and the other kids make it to Wrigley.
    Thanks again, and keep up the great work!


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    Hey John. First time poster. Thanks for your Cougars recap. I would like to add my two cents from what I saw last night.

    I thought the team was very lax last night. Hernandez's error came at a very unfortunate time, Contreras' brain fart on the bases led to him getting thrown out at third, and I thought Zapata was terrible in right field.

    That aside, I thought Vogelbach looked great last night, Candelario was great defensively last night (made a nice pick during Scott's stolen base), and I thought Johnson pitched much, much better than the stats will show.

    I also thought the radar gun was off last night, too. I can't imagine that many fastballs were in the high 80s for both sides.

    I am going to chalk up the poor play to the cold weather or early nerves. I think the prospects on this team will do well, and can't wait for Almora to get there. Will be back there on Sunday.

  • In reply to Cubs 27:

    I agree with everything you said except one thing...The Manager, Mark Johnson did not put up a stop sign. When you're the 3rd base coach you're supposed to do that right? This is a good team but the coaching staff needs a wake up call as well.

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    In reply to WillieG1:

    Hey Willie. I was watching Willson and didn't see the 3rd base coach. My wife said Johnson put up the stop sign, but I didn't see it. Either way, someone messed that one up.

    It's the first game, and hope to see better results in the future. Some friends and I will be going to all the Sunday games as part of the ticket package we got, and will most my thoughts as we go along.

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