Cubs News and Notes: 2013 international class gets raves, MLB Draft, Prospect talk, and a first hand spring training look

Not much happening on the national scene, but some hope for the future and a bit of news from the staff here at Cubs Den…

UPDATE:  Pierce Johnson has “hamstring soreness” and while I’m never excited about any injury, at least it’s not his arm.  Some of you may remember that Johnson did have some forearm issues as an amateur but they have not developed into anything more serious.

Per Jason McLeod, the injury may cause him to skip a start but it isn’t serious enough for him not to open the season on Tennessee’s roster.

Baseball America lauds Cubs 2013 IFA class

Catch up on the Cubs outstanding 2013 IFA class here with Ben Badler.  You may know most of the names but Badler talks about a few we haven’t mentioned much here, including catcher Yohan Matos and SS Jesus Gonzalez.  Absent from the list is 3B Wladimir Galindo.

Per Badler,

No team landed more potential impact talent on the international amateur market last year than the Cubs, although it didn’t all go as planned and they will have to face spending restrictions during the next signing period for going well beyond their bonus pool.

There are good, length write-ups here on 7 Cubs signees: Eloy Jimenez, Gleyber Torres, Jefferson Mejia, Erling Moreno, Jen-Ho Tseng, Matos, and Gonzalez.  The Cubs signed 27 players overall not including Galindo.

MLB Draft Update:  Will Cubs consider a high school prospect?

Have heard reports that the Cubs have actively scouted Texas prep fireballer Tyler Kolek.  Drafting a high school pitcher this early would be a departure from what many observers expect , but if Carlos Rodon, Jeff Hoffman, and Tyler Beede all go in the first 3 picks, the Cubs may go with arguably the highest upside arm in the draft.

Some reports circulating that Jason McLeod is high on prep catcher/outfielder Alex Jackson.  One source I talked to that if this is true, then much has changed since November.  I have heard the White Sox have also shown a great deal of interest in Jackson, though they’ve been vocal about drafting a pitcher publicly.  For what it’s worth, Chris Crawford of MLB Draft Insider also has the Cubs in on Alex Jackson.  He has them selecting him in his mock draft over both Tyler Beede and Trea Turner.

Though both players are high schoolers, both have been on scouts radars for a long time now and if the Cubs were to draft a high school player, it would almost certainly be a guy with some polish and an established track record.   Both Kolek and Jackson fit that description.

BP Prospect Gathering  a Success

In case you missed it, Baseball Prospectus held a gathering and I was honored to be among the guests to talk prospects.  It was a good time and I was able to meet quite a few Cubs Den readers in person as well as run into some old friends and meet some writers in person.  Here I am talking prospects with Kane County announcer Wayne Randazzo.  Wayne told me he’s excited about the arms  that will be starting the year at Kane County this season.

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Picture from

You can read more about the event here.

Other News and Notes:

  • There will be a slight delay with our weekly prospect list.  Due up are prospects #21 through #25.  We’re getting up to date video on one of the top prospects, so we think it’s worth the wait.
  • Mauricio will be at Mesa and we should soon get in-person reports here.  Looking forward to it.
  • Pierce Johnson is on “limited activity” at the minor league camp.  No reason is known at this time.  We’ll try and find out more specifics if we can, but getting specific injury news has proven difficult in the past.

Today’s Lineup:

  1. Lake CF
  2. Schierholtz DH
  3. Ruggiano LF
  4. Rizzo 1B
  5. Castillo C
  6. Sweeney RF
  7. Murphy 2B
  8. Valbuena 3B
  9. Barney SS

SP: Wood

What to Watch:

  • Lake is in the leadoff spot.  It’s a curious place for him considering his lack of patience, but Lake can be a factor on the bases once he does get on.
  • Apparently Sweeney’s injury was a minor one, he’s back in the lineup and in the field todayl.
  • Lots of role players in the lineup looking to impress and steal some extra ABs during the season.  So far, nobody has made a better case for that than newcomer Justin Ruggiano.

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  • Adding to the idea the Cubs might go with a high school player, Chris Crawford at MLB Draft Insider has the Cubs taking Crawford over Beede and Trea Turner.

  • In reply to CubsML:

    He does have the Cubs taking Jackson too. It's interesting. Very different than what I heard a few months ago but things change.

  • Kolek is the one guy I don't really want to see them draft, too much risk IMO. Keith Law was on Olney's podcast and see's the Cubs taking Hoffman and the Sox going with Beede. FWIW, he had the Marlins taking Kolek

  • In reply to Javier Bryant:

    Way too early for any Mock drafts to be accurate. look at what happened to two of the 3 census top 3 picks last year this time...

    Still, if Kolek is dominate again this season, there is a real chance he'll be gone before our pick...

  • In reply to Javier Bryant:

    Hoffman, Beede, and Kolek all have top of the rotation type arms, so Cubs in good shape. Law is very high on Kolek. Thinks he's the clear #2.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    You can add Rodon to the list of TOR type arms. If our FO wants a pitcher they will be able to get a very good one.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I watched some Kolek video, and it seems he pitches across his body. He steps to the 3rd base side, then swings around his stride leg. I would think that would create extra arm strain since it would block the flow of weight transition to some degree. Please keep in mind that I am a softball coach and this is not my niche! Can you advise?

    Beede has by far the best stats of Rondon and Hoffman, but it is early. Only about 25 innings.

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    It isn't costing him velocity, that's for sure. But in my conversations with Derek Johnson he spoke of an ambivalence with regard to mechanical flaws. As long as it's not going to affect the pitchers health or command, then you have to consider the advantages. Can you imagine being a right-hand hitter and having someone step toward you, perhaps with his arm extending beyond your peripheral vision, and then sling a 98 mph fastball? If I were hitting, I'd be bailing out halfway to Gary, Indiana. It's something you have to balance with the concerns I mentioned above. You can tinker with it, but you don't want to rob a pitcher of some of the quirks that may have helped him be successful.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Thanks, educational! Yes, I could see that angle coming in from 3/4 slot and cutting across the plate. Also his curve looked intimidating coming right at the hitter.

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    In reply to Javier Bryant:

    I'd be just fine with Kolek. He might have the highest ceiling in the entire draft. If the command comes together for him -- and there's no reason to think it won't -- you're looking at Roger Clemens without the steroids.

    Having said that, Law's order makes a lot of sense, as well. While losing Beede would kind of suck (thank you, White Sox sweep), Hoffman bears a lot of similarity to Verlander. He's struggled a bit this season, which has hurt his value, but it's worth noting that Verlander did, too, the year he was drafted. So, much like the Bryant pick, we may luck our way into the best pick in the draft here.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Very good points. The Verlander comp is an interesting one and appropriate when considering the great stuff and the draft year struggles. The Tigers surprised many when they selected Verlander that early, but it paid off. More recently it appears that Sean Manaea may end up being a steal as well. It will be interesting to see if Hoffman can be a similar type steal.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I am so glad the Royals kept Manaea out of the Astros hands.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    If KC is in the thick of it by the deadline, he would make a nice target for us...

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Also, keep in mind that this FO is so diligent in scouting the "person" not just scouting the "player". It's almost like their "make-up" is the most important of tools. So I think this will determine who they take more so than just how they perform this final year.

  • I wouldn't read too much into McLeod being high on Jackson. he can be very high on him, and still not rate him as BPA @ #4. They're going to be scouting everyone and will be very high on several.... But I doubt they'll leak their true intentions/preferences to the media. At least they haven't thus far.

    i'd also be looking for them to make what they consider a fast track impact talent at that pick, much like they have the previous 2....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Absolutely. We did hear they were high on Frazier and Meadows last year but there was no real feeling he was going to take either one.

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    Rough guess on which pitchers and position players will be on the KC roster this year?

  • In reply to Zachary Myers:

    You guys should have lots of young pitching prospects to see.
    etc, etc, etc...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Do you think Tseng will start the season in KC or just has a chance to see some time there later on?

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Jen-Ho Tseng is with the Cubs, from Taiwan. 18th ranked International prospect.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Man am I stupid or what? You guys are talking Kane County and I thought Quedub was talking about KC, as in Kansas City, and I'm thinking "What?" Joke is on me!

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    Can I just say, they're both minor league teams!

  • In reply to rsanchez11:

    Great, I wasn't as confused as I thought!

  • In reply to Zachary Myers:

    Gretzky and Dunston should be there too

  • In reply to Javier Bryant:

    Hannemann could be there too.

  • In reply to John57:

    Dunston Jr as well.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Hoosier hit most of the pitchers, as for position players, in addition ot the ones mentioned above these guys also figure to play in KC: Penalver, Martin, Balaguert, Lockhart and maybe Remillard.

  • There will be a few holdovers from last year and a few players who were rehabbing last year, but the bulk of the KC roster will be players who were at Boise last summer.

  • I don't understand why anyone would think Kolek wouldn't be under consideration. Limiting their view to only college players seems foolish and short sighted. And also doesn't jive with the FO history. Sure, ideally a near MLB ready TOR starter is available when we pick, but the team can't limit their focus to that. There may not be one of those guys available or one of the HS guys might be a clearly better player.

    Any assumptions made in the direction of a college pitcher being the presumptive pick at this point in the evaluation process is foolish. Just last year they passed on the opportunity to take a guy like that in Gray. And the year before they took a HS kid. This FO is not going to take short cuts and force a pick becuase a player might fit into an timeline to contention in 2016. They'll take the player they think is the best fit in terms or talent and the type of culture they are trying to build in the organization, regardless of what his ETA in the show will be.

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    In reply to mjvz:

    I don't disagree, but a minor beef with your point on Gray. This front office likes guys with a long history of scouting reports. Gray really kind of came out of nowhere last season and that does seem to have put him behind Appel (who they did like a lot) and Bryant in their eyes.

    This year's college pitchers -- Rodon, Beede, and Hoffman -- all have the long pedigrees that Gray lacked.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I think The Cubs weren't the only ones rating Bryant this high... I hear the Rockies were ready to pounce on Bryant if he had fallen to them... And many people are saying that if they had to do it all over again that Bryant would be ranked as #1 in the draft.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    That's a fair point on Gray

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Yep, two years ago they passed up the consensus top available college arm in Taylor Jungmann to draft a kid named Albert Almora. That's worked out pretty well so far.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I think you mean Max Fried. Taylor Jungmann was taken in the 2011 MLB draft.

  • In reply to TulaneCubs:

    Fried was a high school pitcher. Actually, Heaney and Wacha were the guys I was thinking of. Both would have been solid picks, obviously, but would still rather have Almora if he pans out as expected. The Cubs weren't going to pick either guy, though Appel added a little suspense when he dropped. I have to think also that the Cubs felt there really was no chance to sign Appel.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I have watched youtube videos of Kolek over the past week and what comes to mind is one of my favorite spring holidays - Passover - Not liking him for the Cubs. His arm slot consistency is not ideal, he telegraphs his breaking pitches with a completely different motion. He is Sabathia-like in body type but he does not appear to be as athletic. He needs a long time and major coaching compared to the college pitchers. I would view him as more boom or bust

  • In reply to Gator:

    I've only seen him pitch one inning so I have no meaningful input on his ability. Kolek himself may not be the right pick. But a lot of people seem to be writing him off because he is in HS, not because they think he is unworthy of being picked at 4.

    My comment was in regard to the sense that seems to be building that the Cubs need to take a college starter in June because it would seem to align perfectly with the idea that the team will be ready to compete in 2016 and a college starter would seemingly be ready to help contribute at some point in during that season. Everyone's patience is wearing thin. I get it. But this FO is not looking at creating a window, they want to compete every year. And that means they would be willing to wait while they develop a HS kid until 2018 to get a #1 starter, rather than settling for a college guy that tops out as a #3, even if he is ready in 2016.

  • in regards to the draft, i would love to see the cubs pop beede if hes there. vanderbilt has provided several excellent pitchers in the past decade including gray, minor and price and i think that beede is next in line. i also really like the derek johnson connection and i feel like that will help put him on the fast track.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    I would be extremely happy if the Cubs ended up with Beede or Hoffman. If the Marlins do end up drafting Kolek 2nd then we might be in luck. Otherwise, I can see the Marlins going Hoffman and Whitesox going with Beede

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    And the Cubs have a Vandy connection in the pitching coach don't they?

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    Medlen on his way to visit Dr. Andrews. Not good for the Braves.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Anytime you go to Dr. Andrews for a 2nd opinion, it's because you didn't like the first opinion......

  • Barney at SS. Interesting. Love it. That tells me 2B isn't a sure thing for him.

  • In reply to notownlikeChicago:

    The team is trying to determine who they would feel more comfortable playing at SS between Barney and Bonifacio when Castro rests or is out with injury. Barney almost always slid over to cover SS in those rare instances the past couple of years.

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    In reply to notownlikeChicago:

    Jim Callis said last year that the Cubs best defensive SS was Darwin Barney. He likes him better than Castro. Not overall, just with the glove.

    On a good team, Darwin Barney would be a top-flight utility guy, and that may be his future

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Agreed. I am (in general) a fan of Barney - just like the way he plays the game with the tools he has.

    But - he's never going to be a better than minimal offensive threat - and he has a glove that willplay in a few loations.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I really hope barney sticks around in that role once the prospects take over. Barney seems like a great clubhouse guy and a good teammate. I wouldnt mind the younger guys learning how to be a major leaguer from aguy like him.

  • Very good point. I think Castro has learned from him and is comfortable with DB playing next to him. Sort of like a security blanket. I would like to keep him as a utility bench guy.

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    I can't imagine him being here in 2015. As a second time arbitration eligible player, he'll earn somewhere in the neighborhood of $3.5-$ next year, way too much for a utility man, unless you are a contending veteran club dotting all your i's and crossing your t's.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Barney probably will be gone eventually for this reason; his arb number will be too high.

    There isn't a team in baseball, though, that wouldn't want Barney at least on their bench, so if he is DFA'ed due to money, he'll be picked up in about 5 minutes, albeit at a lower cost

  • In reply to Zonk:

    It pays to have that top-flight glove, middle infield man on your bench. Brendan Ryan's career has been extended for this reason alone, certainly not for his bat. It's a piece of the puzzle for any championship team.

  • In reply to Tinker Evers Chance:

    Big difference is Rayn plays SS at that level of defense. C, SS, CF is the only position where an all glove, no bat player makes enough of a difference. Barney doesn't have the range or arm to be an elite SS. He can be capable there, but he is not near what Ryan can bring with the glove at that spot.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    The only problem I have with that is that his only tool is his glove. Ideally, you'd like the utility/bench player to have some speed or decent OBP vs RHP or LHP so you can use them for something other than the 20 or so times a season when you need a defensive glove upgrade for the last 3 outs... Just not enough room on the roster for a one trick pony, IMHO...

    That's what makes Bonafacio and potentially Alcantara in the future such a valuable bench/utility guy. Can cover multiple positions, get on base, steal a base, lots of ways to impact a game.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I'm with you Hoosier. Teams have 4 bench spots (not counting catcher) anymore becuase of the 12 man staffs. Ideally your bench guys bring more than one skill. Its not that I don't like Barney or don't think he is an MLB caliber player, it is that we project to simply have better options available in the coming years. The young guys are going to be cheaper as well.

    People talk about trading off some of our postion players in the even that they all turn into MLB players. I say, I would prefer to keep a couple of guys from the Alcantara/Olt/Villanueva/Lake/Kalish/Vogelbach/Geiger group and have a dynamic bench.

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I think Barney has some hitting skills; his 2013 was deflated by an insanely low BABIP. He doesn't take a walk or have much power, but Barney makes some contact, and that's worth something. He's a better hitter than Brandon Ryan for sure

  • I think that most people believe that Barney would be a better defensive shortstop than Castro, or anyone else in the system for that matter.

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    In reply to DaveP:

    I disagree. Most people know Darwin doesn't have Castro's range, arm or athleticism. Barney's sole advantage over Starlin is his consistency.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    I think you are on to something. He would cut down on the errors significantly (although Starlin has improved recently), but I don't think he would have the ability to get to all the balls and would be able to throw runners out when ranging far to the right.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    You could have the same argument with Jeter and A-Rod? I believe A-Rod had the better range and arm.

  • John,

    I'm seeing more and more blogs jumping on the Erik Fedde bandwagon...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Nice! He really seems to be picking up some momentum.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    The more good players there are will only help the Cubs in our later round picks. Someone good will slip down to us that our FO has scouted and like.

  • In reply to John57:

    There is some depth to his draft, so I think they'll at least have a very good player slide into that 2nd round.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yeah I like that. For the first couple drafts with Theo/Hoyer I was hoping for a good draft and was happy with the results. Now I am getting spoiled, I expect a good draft this year. Hopefully Theo/Hoyer stay with the Cubs for a long time. I am curious how this FO drafts when we get the 30th pick in the first round for an extended period.

  • Carrie Muskat saying that Jimmy Russell is going to pitch in game vs mariners tomorrow night!

  • Want to get a look at Yu Darvish's nasty stuff...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:


  • I didn't realize we signed 28 IFA prospects already. I believe the current IFA year goes through June 15, 2014 so we could theoretically sign still more prospects that turn 16 years old between now and June 15th. I would assume our monetary penalty would just go up. Some people are starting to realize what a good job our FO is doing.

  • John, Badler's IFA list omits Wladimir Galindo, I thought the Cubs signed him?

  • In reply to CubsML:

    I don't believe the signing is official yet.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    john what kind of player can Wladimir Galindo be ? Is there any comps ?

  • In reply to seankl:

    Looks like a 3B who might hit for some power. Good size and solid athleticism. Don't have a comp, though.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I see jesse sanchez has him signed with the cubs.

  • In reply to CubsML:

    I got clarification from Badler, "They signed him, but he's a lower-level guy." I assume that means he wasn't a six figure deal.

  • In reply to CubsML:

    Interesting. I thought he was more of a mid-level guy, but have to admit its hard to get good info on IFAs.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John whats the difference between mid level and lower level ?

  • In reply to seankl:

    Just really talking about the quality of the prospect in this case. Think of a mid-level prospect as a guy in that that C to B- range, someone perhaps with the potential to be in the top 25 prospects down the road.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I thought Badler had him ranked #25? That's 5 spots higher than he ranked Tseng and I don't recall Tseng being referred to as a lower level guy and got a $1.6MM deal...

    I'm confused...

  • Pierce Johnson is apparently okay. Just a sore hamstring. Will miss one start but should open on Tennessee's roster.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    thanks for the update, that's good news! Hamstring is nothing.

    IIRC, Pierce fell a bit in the draft because he did have some forearm issues in college.......

    I remember the Cubs in the early 00's had a ton of good pitching prospects who were felled by arm troubles, outside of Prior/Wood. Our luck is due to change.....

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Yep -- Cubs never get to draft him if it weren't for injury concerns. He would have went as high as mid first round -- Cubs would have drafted him there anyway because they weren't concerned with the injury, so they got a huge steal in their eyes.

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    So.......what is the IFA plan for next year? We'll have a decent sized pool to spend, but a limit of $250K per player. Does that mean that:

    a. We may be trading away IFA slots and/or
    b. We'll go for volume, signing busloads of $100K to $250K players, primarily pitchers (because pitchers tend to be more hit or miss)

  • In reply to Zonk:


  • A struggle for Travis Wood today. Sounds like his fastball has some good run today but he's been inconsistent.

  • A missed opportunity for some runs. Would have been nice to see Junior come through.

  • Speaking of the draft, Trea Turner isn't turning it up. He is hitting about .357, isn't getting on lately, and is still 7/9 in stolen bases. He has 1 -2b hit in about 57 AB. It is early though.

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    Looks like Turner might be slipping a little bit. I like Jackson if they go with a hitter or Beede/Hoffman if they decide to go pitching

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    Positives from today's game: the earth did not collide with the sun.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Phew! I'd been worried about that.

  • Does Badler mention anything about Johan Matos, the catcher? I don't think I've read a word about him yet.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Yes, he does. Is it an insider link?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Never mind, I guess it is. Here is an excerpt from Matos

    Power isn’t his calling card, but the additional strength has helped the ball start to jump off his bat with more authority. Matos has a plus arm and has only been catching for a couple of years. The Cubs initially thought third base could end up being a backup plan, but they’re now convinced he can stick behind the plate as a fair receiver who’s worked hard to improve his blocking and technique behind the plate.

  • Is is possible to get a summary of the IFA prospects, for those of us who are not subscribers?

  • I know it's just spring training, BUT this team looks terrible so far.....
    The best player has been Almora and there's no chance of him making the team out spring training.
    I pray they start finding it soon! Opening Day is just 20 days away!

  • In reply to Lifer:

    Whoa, don't hit me with those negative waves man! I'm planning on at least a 117 win season! I bet the tent I live in on it!

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    LOL :)

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    In reply to Lifer:

    1) they look terrible because they've been playing guys that have no hope of making the 25 man. Another team may have the luxury of doing that because they're secure in knowing their 25 guys will get it done when the bell rings. This team, not so much. The main guys need to play and get tuned up.
    2) they're actually not horrible, 6-7 isn't so bad. Smile!
    3) while spring stats mean next to nothing individually, losing 13-0 should be a bit of an alarm. When you can't score one run against another team's ST squad, while your #2 starter and a guy you're thinking of as a late inning reliever get lit up, it's hard to spin that positively.

  • This is by far the best Cub blog ever. I am traveling to Mesa tomorrow through Sunday for wall 2 wall cubbies baseball, spring training style starting with tom nite vs the Mariners. If any of you are heading out and want to say hi please email me at sgp9968870 at yahoo.

  • In reply to Third Generation:

    Thanks TG! Mauricio is down there, maybe you'll run into him.

  • John did you read the reports from Phil from AZ about Eloy Jimenez hitting a ball during BP that would've landed on top of the rooftops in LF at Wrigley? Compared to Glenallen Hill's shot... Pretty impressive for a 17 yr old kid.

  • In reply to Caps:

    I did not see that. Thanks for sharing. They were worried he may not hit for power because of the lack of loft in his swing, but looks like that won't be an issue after all :)

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    May have been brought to Minor League camp for some additional pro coaching... During Phil's last article about the rosters, he's been updating through their comment section about what he's seen from camp and talked about a HR Derby between Vogelbach and Candelario where both hit some long hr's and the following day were called up to MLB camp for a game.

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