Arismendy Alcantara hit a home run off an organizational teammate, and Christian Villanueva was one of the few bright spots in his team’s loss. Here are some notes from yesterday’s action around the Caribbean:
- CF Arismendy Alcantara smashed his second home run of the winter off organization mate Frank Batista, but his Tigres del Licey fell to the Aguilas Cibaenas. The two-run shot was his lone hit of the day in three at-bats.
- RHP Batista got the start and gave up three earned runs—including the aforementioned Alcantara homer—over four innings and struck out two for Cibaenas. His ERA now sits at 3.73.
- DH Christian Villanueva finished 1-for-4 with a single and a run scored despite his Yaquis de Obregon side falling 11-2 to the Charros de Jalisco Tuesday. He also managed to draw a walk in the defeat.
Junior Lake reached base multiple times Monday in the Dominican, and a pair of catchers recorded hits for their respective teams. Here are some notes from yesterday’s action in the Caribbean:
- PR-C Luis Flores entered the game in the third inning as a pinch-runner and finished 1-for-2 with two runs scored in the Estrellas de Oriente’s 5-4 win over the Gigantes del Cibao. The 28-year-old backstop split time between Double- and Triple-A during the 2014 regular season, hitting .253/.388/.371 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with eight homers in 67 games. He was originally a seventh-round selection out of Oklahoma State in the 2008 draft.
- CF Junior Lake had a big day in the Estrellas’ win. The 24-year-old reached base four times, with two singles and two walks. He went 2-for-3.
- CF John Andreoli was 0-for-4 as the Senadores de San Juan fell to the Indios de Mayaguez Monday.
- C Willson Contreras recorded a single and scored a run in the Tigres de Aragua’s loss to the Navegantes del Magallanes. Contreras was 1-for-3 on the day before being pinch-hit for in the eighth inning.
It was a quiet day for Cubs prospects in the Caribbean Sunday. Catching prospect Willson Contreras managed to help his team in Venezuela, while Arismendy Alcantara contributed to his Dominican club. Here are some notes from yesterday’s Caribbean action:
- CF Arismendy Alcantara recorded a single and walk for the Tigres del Licey. He finished 1-for-3 in the 7-2 win over the Aguilas Cibaenas.
- LHP Jeffry Antigua pitched a hitless eighth inning of relief for the Toros del Este. Antigua, who split time between Double- and Triple-A last season, struck out one Leones del Escogido hitter in a 5-4 loss.
- DH Christian Villanueva reached base on a pair of walks Sunday despite his Yaquis de Obregon side getting pummeled 16-3. He finished 0-for-2 against the Caneros de los Mochis pitchers.
- CF John Andreoli had a single in a Senadores de San Juan loss to the Indios de Mayaguez. He was one of four players to reach base in the 2-0 loss.
- C Willson Contreras recorded an RBI single as the Tigres de Aragua cruised to a 7-2 win over the Tiburones de La Guaira. Contreras is viewed as one of the better young catching prospects in the organization. He played 80 games at High-A Daytona, hitting .242/.320/.359 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with five homers.
The Cubs Thursday selected the contract of right-handed pitcher C.J. Edwards from Double-A Tennessee. Chicago’s 40-man roster now stands at 39 players.
Edwards, 23, is 14-7 with a 1.86 ERA (49 ER/237.0 IP) in 50 minor league outings (49 starts) covering the last three seasons. The right-hander has struck out 294 batters in 237.0 innings pitched, an average of 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings, and has allowed only two home runs, an average of roughly one per 119.0 innings pitched. Edwards has also turned in a 0.975 WHIP.
The Newbury, South Carolina, native was originally selected by Texas in the 48th Round of the 2011 Draft. He was acquired by the Cubs as part of the trade that sent Matt Garza to Texas in 2013 and went 2-0 with a 1.36 ERA (5 ER/33.0 IP) in eight starts with Daytona to help the club to the Florida State League Championship. Edwards was slowed by injury last season but returned to go 1-2 with a 2.44 ERA (13 ER/48.0 IP) in 10 starts with Tennessee and pitched in the Arizona Fall League, earning All-Star honors with a 1-0 record and a 1.80 ERA (3 ER/15.0 IP) in six starts.
Arismendy Alcantara had a big day at the plate in the Dominican Wednesday, while numerous other Cubs contributed to their respective clubs. Here are some notes from yesterday’s action in the Caribbean:
- CF Arismendy Alcantara’s Tigres del Licey fell 6-3 to the Gigantes del Cibao despite the major leaguer’s big day at the plate. The 23-year-old had a three-hit game including a first-inning solo shot. He finished 3-for-4 with a an RBI and a run scored.
- CF-LF Junior Lake reached base twice, going 1-for-5 with a walk and scoring two runs in an Estrellas de Oriente win over the Leones del Escogido. Lake also stole his third base of the season.
- 3B Christian Villanueva is better known for his defense, but he contributed in the Yaquis de Obregon’s win. He racked up his third double of the winter, finishing 1-for-3 and adding a walk. Obregon held of the Venados de Mazatlan by a score of 5-4.
- CF John Andreoli had one of the Senadores de San Juan’s four hits Thursday. Batting leadoff, he finished 1-for-3 with a walk in the loss to the Criollos de Caguas.
Bijan Rademacher hit .350 in the Arizona Fall League this season. (Photo by Aldrin Capulong)
The 2014 Arizona Fall League officially wrapped up on Friday with Salt River claiming the league title over Peoria. Though the list of Cubs playing for the Solar Sox this offseason lacked the firepower and name recognition of the 2013 participants, a few lesser-known commodities earned some positive press with solid performances.
Not much is typically expected out of an AFL taxi squad player, as they generally get into games only twice a week. But Bijan Rademacher delivered the highlight stat line for any Cubs prospect in Arizona.
The outfielder hit .350/.404/.525 (AVG/OBP/SLG) and totaled a .929 OPS. Though he didn’t record enough plate appearances to win the batting title, his average was second best among players with at least 40 at-bats. He added a home run, two doubles and a triple while stealing four bases and playing solid defense.
Rademacher, the No. 20 prospect in the Cubs organization according to MLB.com, was a 13th-round pick in 2012 out of Orange Coast College in California. The outfielder spent the entire 2014 season at High-A Daytona, where he hit .281/.363/.448 with 10 homers and 22 doubles. He could be expected to start at Double-A next season.
Jacob Hannemann, who played his first full professional season in 2014, also fared well in Arizona. The athletic center fielder got into 17 games and hit .279/.328/.410. Though he didn’t add a ton of pop, the 2013 third-round pick got better acclimated to the level of talent he’ll eventually be competing against on a regular basis.
Slugger Dan Vogelbach failed to go yard in any of his 21 AFL games, but he managed to show some patience at the plate. His 17 bases on balls tied for second in the league. The 2011 second-round pick received a free pass in more than 19 percent of his plate appearances, significantly better than his 2014 regular season total of 11.8 percent.
Getting C.J. Edwards a few more trips to the mound against elite competition was important for the Cubs after the right-hander missed the first half of the regular season with shoulder issues. In six starts, the club’s top pitching prospect looked like his old self, posting a 1.80 ERA and allowing three runs in 15 innings. He also struck out 13 batters. If there’s one concern over Edwards’ body of work, it’s likely his eight walks in that span. But his 1.07 WHIP also shows that even with the free passes, opposing hitters have a tough time reaching base against him.
The other impressive pitching effort came from Ivan Pineyro. The 23-year-old missed the early portion of the regular season with forearm issues and struggled upon his return to Double-A. But those struggles went away in the AFL, as Pineyro concluded the showcase with a 1.98 ERA in 13.2 innings. In seven appearances, the right-hander surrendered only three runs, all in one game on Oct. 22. Even more impressive were his 16 strikeouts versus only four walks. The pitcher, acquired for Scott Hairston in 2013, could open the 2015 season at Double- or Triple-A.
It’s a good sign for the Cubs organization when some of their lesser-known farmhands excel against such tough competition. This group might have lacked the name recognition of last year’s class, but plenty of prospects ended the AFL slate on a high note.
The Arizona Fall League’s regular season came to a close Thursday with Mesa and Glendale wrapping up action in a 4-4, 11-inning tie. Plenty of Cubs farmhands got into the game with mixed results. Here are some notes from yesterday’s AFL action:
- 3B Danny Lockhart singled in the third inning and scored four batters later on a Jon Berti (Blue Jays) homer. He also led off the 11th with a single to finish the afternoon 2-for-5.
- RHP Ivan Pineyro earned his third hold of the fall, going two innings of hitless relief. He struck out three and walked none.
- 1B Dan Vogelbach recorded an RBI double in the fifth inning. He finished 1-for-5 with a walk.
- PH-DH Bijan Rademacher finished 0-for-1 with a walk in the 10th inning.
- RF Jacob Hannemann went 0-f0r-5.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Scouting publication Baseball Prospectus unveiled its list of the top 10 Cubs prospects on Friday. For Cubs fans and prospect junkies, it’s like Christmas day.
Over the last few seasons, the organization has stockpiled a deep farm system many view as the best in baseball. Unlike some other major league clubs, the list of high-upside Cubs farmhands extends well beyond a top 10—even with Javier Baez and Kyle Hendricks graduating to the big leagues. Here is how Baseball Prospectus viewed the top players in the organization:
1. SS Addison Russell
2. 3B Kris Bryant
3. OF Jorge Soler
4. OF Albert Almora
5. C Kyle Schwarber
6. OF Billy McKinney
7. RHP Pierce Johnson
8. SS Gleyber Torres
9. 1B Dan Vogelbach
10. LHP Carson Sands
Strengths: Impact potential with the stick; strong hands and barrel control; good bat speed; improved approach; should grow into high-contact MLB bat that will hit for average and power; solid actions at short; good hands with left-side arm; solid run paired with baserunning acumen; clocks plus times out of the box and should settle in as average run at maturity.
Weaknesses: Still working to slow down game in the field; set-up and footwork can get loose, particularly at the margins, leading to drift in throws; can slip into overly aggressive approach at plate.
The Year Ahead: Russell is close to major-league ready and possesses the skill set, makeup, and natural ability to make an immediate impact as soon as he is called upon. The profile is an elite blend of offensive upside, defensive stability at a high-worth position, athleticism, and strength; the aggregate of which could produce a perennial all-star capable of impacting the game in all facets. Not only might this be the best collection of tools, upside, and probability from a talented crop of minor-league shortstops, but there’s a case for top prospect in the game. He should debut in Chicago in 2015 and it won’t be long before Russell surpasses the ‘L’ stop as the best known Addison in Wrigleyville.
Strengths: Elite raw power; big leverage and big-boy present strength; ability to produce regular hard contact; good plate coverage allowing for wide kill zone on mistake pitches; borderline double-plus arm; solid athleticism and coordination for a big man; strong grades for makeup.
Weaknesses: Long levers produce holes in swing that could be attacked by major-league arms; limited swing plane/pitch plane overlap narrows contact margin; some issues with velocity on inner half; capable at third base but may lack lower-half agility to excel; run could settle a tick below average at maturity.
The Year Ahead: Through his minor-league career, which totals just a shade over a full major-league season’s worth of plate appearances, Bryant has posted pornographic numbers at the plate, including a slash line of .327/.428/.666 while averaging nearly a home run every three games. He’s ready to bring his act to The Show, where he should eventually settle in as a fixture in the middle of the Cubs lineup. This season could be choppy at times due to the potential for major-league arms to exploit shortcomings in a swing. But the approach, work ethic, and IQ should aid Bryant in making his adjustments, and the raw power will be a legit threat from day one. Depending on the organization’s needs, Bryant could remain at third or transition out to right field where his arm and athleticism could make him a solid defender. Either way, he will join Russell as the foundation of a talented, young Cubs lineup for years to come, with 2015 likely to serve as the coming out party.
Strengths: Advanced bat; plus-to-better raw power that plays in game thanks to plate coverage and strike-zone awareness; solid bat speed and good bat-to-ball skills should help hit tool play average or better; strong leader and big makeup; lauded for work ethic; positive reviews from instructs on progress behind the plate.
Strengths: Loud stuff led by lively, low-90s fastball and sharp, low-80s hammer; can dial up to mid-90s with regularity; capable of cutting fastball for different look, counterbalance to two-seamer; some deception; traditional starter’s build; good present strength; will flash above-average change piece with fade mirroring fastball action; showed improvement in consistency of pitch execution and command over final two months.
Strengths: Balanced repertoire featuring three above-average offerings and above-average command; reports of improved consistency in mechanics and arm action through instructs; comfortable pitching to all four quadrants; some room to bump velo band to firm plus in comfort zone; already showing feel for sequencing; sturdy build; solid presence and even demeanor.
A notable absence from the list was right-hander C.J. Edwards, ranked No. 5 a year ago. Despite missing three months to a shoulder strain, Edwards enjoyed a solid second half that included a nice run in the Arizona Fall League. The publication seems to be skeptical of his long-term health, but still had positive things to say about the hard thrower.
Upon returning to action in late July, Edwards showcased impressive swing-and-miss stuff over six starts, with his fastball and curve each grading out as plus offerings and his change showing promise to boot. Were there more certainty that Edwards could maintain the quality of his stuff over the course of a full season at the upper levels, he would fit comfortably as one of the top-ten prospects in the system.
Soler reached the majors in 2014, and the publication believes Russell and Bryant could both join him at Wrigley Field in the upcoming season. They expect Almora, Schwarber, Johnson and Vogelbach to see action in the majors sometime in 2016.
A trio of Cubs pitching prospects saw action, and a position player continued his stellar fall Wednesday in Mesa’s 6-5, 11-inning loss to Peoria. Here are some notes from yesterday’s Arizona Fall League game:
- RHP C.J. Edwards got the start and went three scoreless innings, giving up one hit and one walk while striking out two batters. He finished the AFL season with a 1.80 ERA in 15 innings.
- RF Bijan Rademacher connected on a two-run homer in the fifth. He also recorded an RBI groundout in the first, a third-inning walk and a game-tying RBI single in the ninth. He went 2-for-4 in the game and improved his line to .359/.400/.538 (AVG/OBP/SLG).
- RHP Zach Cates recorded his third hold of the fall league, giving up no runs on two hits over an inning.
- LHP Gerardo Concepcion surrendered two earned runs on three hits and two walks after taking over for Edwards in the fourth inning.
Mesa will play its final game of the season Thursday, when the Solar Sox host Glendale. First pitch is scheduled for 12:35 local time.
It was once again limited action for Cubs prospects as Mesa was downed by Glendale 5-2 Monday afternoon, with only one local farmhand in the lineup. Here are some notes from yesterday’s Arizona Fall League action:
- DH Jacob Hannemann reached base in his first three at-bats, singling in the fourth, doubling in the sixth and singling again to lead off the eighth. The sixth inning hit was his fourth double of the fall. He finished 3-for-4 on the day.
Mesa hosts Surprise Tuesday afternoon, with first pitch set for 2:35 local time. Lineups have not been made available but fans can check at mlb.com as the game nears.