Archive for the ‘ Minor Leagues ’ Category

Cubs Spring Training Lineup: 3/26/15

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Eric Jokisch will start Thursday for the Cubs. (Photo by Stephen Green)

Cubs vs. Angels – Sloan Park
First Pitch: 6:05 CST
Cubs Starter: Eric Jokisch, LHP
Angels Starter: Jered Weaver, RHP
Broadcast: ESPN, Listen live at MLB.com

Lineup
1. Javier Baez, 2B
2. Addison Russell, SS
3. Kris Bryant, LF
4. Jorge Soler, RF
5. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
6. Mike Olt, 3B
7. Welington Castillo, C
8. Eric Jokisch, P
9. Matt Szczur, CF

Top-tier talent and depth give Cubs top farm system, according to MLB.com

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Not only is prospect Kyle Schwarber one of baseball’s best prospects, he’s also viewed as possessing the organization’s best hit tool. (Photo by Stephen Green)

MLB.com’s Prospect Watch unveiled its version of the top 100 minor leaguers and top farm systems in the game on Friday. It should come as little surprise that the Cubs had the top crop of minor leaguers, including six in the top 100: Kris Bryant (No. 2), Addison Russell (No. 5), Jorge Soler (No. 23), C.J. Edwards (No. 48), Kyle Schwarber (No. 50) and Albert Almora (No. 58).

The organization’s top 30 prospects were also unveiled on Friday. Just looking at the list should give fans an idea of the depth in the system. Plenty of solid players continue to add their names to the cue, only adding excitement for what’s coming down the line on the major league side.

Third baseman Kris Bryant is the most devastating power-hitting prospect in the game, and outfielder Jorge Soler (who homered off Mat Latos in his first big league at-bat) isn’t far behind. Neither is catcher/outfielder Kyle Schwarber. Addison Russell is a rare five-tool shortstop, and Gleyber Torres might be another. Outfielders Albert Almora and Billy McKinney could be the tablesetters for all those run producers.

Given the Cubs’ enviable depth in the farm system, fans have grown accustomed to seeing lists of this nature. But MLB.com takes their list one step further by breaking down players by best tools, a unique way to better understand individual strengths.

Best tools
Players are graded on a 20-80 scouting scale for future tools — 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average.

Hit: Kyle Schwarber (60)
Power: Kris Bryant (80)
Run: Jacob Hannemann (65)
Arm: Jorge Soler (65)
Defense: Albert Almora (65)
Fastball: Duane Underwood (65)
Curveball: C.J. Edwards (60)
Slider: Jake Stinnett (60)
Changeup: Jen-Ho Tseng (55)
Control: Eric Jokisch (55)

Cubs announce Futures Game vs. Rangers at Sloan Park in Mesa

Sloan-ParkThe Chicago Cubs today announced details for a 2015 Futures Game featuring the Cubs vs. Texas Rangers on Monday, March 30, at Sloan Park in Mesa, Arizona. The best prospects and young players from each organization will showcase their talents when they take the field at 7 p.m. MST, after the Cubs host the San Francisco Giants at 1:05 p.m. MST.

Fans looking to catch the action can purchase general admission tickets in the reserved seating bowl for $6 at the Sloan Park Ticket Office or online at www.sloanpark.com.

A portion of the net proceeds from the game will benefit the Cubs Charities Diamond Project, which expands opportunities for children to play baseball in the Mesa community. Over the last four years, working with the Mesa Hohokam Foundation, Cubs Charities has raised funds to support youth sports, including the Mesa Little League.

The Diamond Project, one of Cubs Charities’ signature programs, was launched in 2014 and aims to provide funds to nonprofit, neighborhood-based organizations to support capital improvement projects and improve the quality, safety and accessibility of local baseball fields. In addition, the program is intended to build an infrastructure through partnerships and resident involvement that will sustain these open spaces for the community.

The Rangers will donate their portion of the game’s proceeds to the Dane McDonald Safe at Home Foundation, an Arizona nonprofit started by AZL Rangers’ Hitting Coach Donzell McDonald in honor of his son, also the nephew of Cubs Mental Skills Program Coordinator Darnell McDonald.

Gates will open an hour before the start of the game. Parking in the general lots, located east of the ballpark, is complimentary. Fans with questions can contact mesa@cubs.com. For more information about Cubs Spring Training, please visit www.sloanpark.com.

Cubs reduce Spring Training roster

The Cubs optioned right-handed pitcher C.J. Edwards to Triple-A Iowa on Thursday, reducing their spring roster to 52 players. He pitched three scoreless innings this spring with the major league side, giving up two hits, striking out two and walking none.

Chicago’s spring roster of 52 players consists of 27 pitchers (six nonroster invitees), five catchers (two nonroster invitees), 10 infielders (four nonroster invitees) and 10 outfielders (three nonroster invitees).

Cubs duo headlines Baseball America’s top 2015 rookies

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Expectations are high for prospect Kris Bryant. (Photo by Stephen Green)

If the Cubs have been synonymous with anything in previous years, it’s the organization’s willingness to stockpile droves of young talent, something baseball president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer made a priority wen they accepted their roles in the Cubs’ front office in late 2011. Though the last few seasons have been a waiting game, the arrivals of Arismendy Alcantara, Kyle Hendricks, Jorge Soler and Javier Baez in 2014 demonstrated that the young, high-upside talent is quickly nearing the major league level.

On Tuesday, Baseball America unveiled its top 20 rookies for the 2015 season, and Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler were No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. Most are assuming big things from the pair, who could be key pieces in the middle of the Cubs’ order as early as mid-April. Bryant took home virtually every minor league award available last season after slugging 43 home runs between Double- and Triple-A, while Soler flexed his muscles with five homers in 89 major league at-bats to wrap up 2014. Shortstop prospect Addison Russell was also in the top 20.

Here’s what Baseball America had to say about the Cubs trio:

1. Kris Bryant, 3b, Cubs (23)

2015 Outlook: A future fixture in the heart of the Cubs’ order, Bryant won’t require much minor league time in 2015. He could reach Chicago as early as mid-April—a la the Astros’ George Springer last year—once the Cubs can postpone his free agency until after his seventh (projected) big league season in 2021. Taking up left field, as the Cubs have tasked Bryant with in spring training, could help alleviate a logjam on the Chicago infield, where talented young players Javier Baez, Starlin Castro and the system’s No. 2 prospect Addison Russell all could warrant starting roles. Even if one of that trio falters, then infielders Arismendy Alcantara, Tommy La Stella and Mile Olt have demonstrated varying degrees of promise.

2. Jorge Soler, rf, Cubs (23)

2015 Outlook: Soler blasted 11 extra-base hits and hit .373 in the first 14 games of his big league career last summer, but pitchers adjusted and kept him in check at 7-for-38 (.184) the rest of the way. Look for Soler to make the necessary counter-adjustments this season and deliver on his promise as a slugger with enough feel for the strike zone to sustain a healthy average and on-base percentage.

18. Addison Russell, ss, Cubs (21)

2015 Outlook: Russell forms the third leg of the Cubs’ indomitable prospect trio, each of whom may be featured players in Chicago this summer. Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler are more assured of playing time—and thus they rank Nos. 1 and 2 on this list—but Russell is the youngest of the three and could represent the organization’s golden parachute in the event that sophomore Javier Baez continues to flail in the majors or that Bryant’s services are required on an outfield corner.

 

Cubs Spring Training Lineup: 3/17/15

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Outfielder Matt Szczur has three home runs this spring. (Photo by Stephen Green)

Cubs vs. Royals – Sloan Park
First Pitch: 3:05 CST
Cubs Starter: Jason Hammel, RHP
Royals Starter: Danny Duffy, LHP
Broadcast: Listen live at MLB.com

Lineup
1. Dexter Fowler, CF
2. Chris Denorfia, DH
3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
4. Starlin Castro, SS
5. Miguel Montero, C
6. Junior Lake, RF
7. Javier Baez, 2B
8. Mike Olt, 3B
9. Matt Szczur, LF

Cubs rank third in ESPN future power rankings

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Javier Baez could be a key to the Cubs’ future success. (Photo by Stephen Green)

In an attempt to forecast how well each major league organization will do over the next five-years, ESPN Insiders Jim Bowden, Keith Law and Buster Olney created the preseason MLB Future Power Rankings. The trio ranked each club in the following five categories: the quality of the current big league roster, the quality of the farm system, the team’s finances, a team’s management, and the mobility of the current roster or the current age and contract status of the team.

With the best minor league system in the game and a number of key veteran offseason additions, the Cubs find themselves at No. 3 in the rankings. The team jumped up one spot from when these rankings were last compiled on Oct. 31. Here’s what ESPN had to say about the Cubs.

Majors: 17 points (30 being the best score)
Minors: 30 points
Finance: 23 points
Management: 29 points
Mobility: 23 points

The overview
To date, Theo Epstein’s plan is playing out very well. Now the Cubs need prospects such as Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Javier Baez to make a successful jump to the next level. They also need to grab one of the elite starters on next winter’s free-agent market, such as Jordan Zimmermann or David Price. — Buster Olney

The dilemma
How will the Cubs configure their middle infield over the next few seasons? For now, Javier Baez is the front-runner at second base, with Starlin Castro at shortstop, but when shortstop prospect Addison Russell is major league-ready, he’ll end up beating out one of them, which could cause multiple players to shift positions. It could even mean third-base prospect Kris Bryant has to play a corner-outfield spot. — Jim Bowden

Impact prospect
Bryant should be the Cubs’ Opening Day third baseman, but he’ll probably be brought up by late April and is my pick to win NL Rookie of the Year. If it’s not him, it could just as easily be right fielder Jorge Soler. — Keith Law

Cubs Spring Training Lineup: 3/10/15

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Jorge Soler will bat fourth for the Cubs Tuesday. (Photo by Stephen Green)

Cubs @ Indians – Goodyear
First Pitch: 3:05 CST
Cubs Starter: Travis Wood, LHP
Indians Starter: Trevor Bauer, RHP
Broadcast: MLB Network (delay), listen live at MLB.com

Lineup
1. Tommy La Stella, DH
2. Junior Lake, LF
3. Arismendy Alcantara, CF
4. Jorge Soler, RF
5. Javier Baez, 2B
6. Kris Bryant, 3B
7. Welington Castillo, C
8. Chris Valaika, 1B
9. Addison Russell, SS

From the Pages of Vine Line: Minor League Prospectus, Part 6 – Impressive Arms

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Jen-Ho Tseng is one of the many impressive arms in the Cubs system. (Photo courtesy Kane County Cougars)

As evidenced by the additions of players like Jon Lester and Miguel Montero, the Cubs front office is transitioning from a period in which it focused primarily on bringing in assets to help improve the future of the franchise to an extended period in which they expect to compete every year at the big league level. However, if you were to suggest to baseball president Theo Epstein or general manager Jed Hoyer that this transition means they are now less inclined to build through their farm system, they would be quick to correct you.

Just because Cubs fans may finally start seeing wins accumulate at Wrigley Field doesn’t mean the minor league pipeline is suddenly going to go overlooked. In fact, for the second year in a row, the North Siders will have arguably the best system in all of baseball. Boasting the top prospect in the game, an overabundance of high-profile shortstops and a suddenly large group of interesting arms at the lower levels, the Cubs have built the scouting and player development monster they promised to deliver more than three years ago.

In our annual minor league prospectus, Baseball Prospectus’ Sahadev Sharma helps us break down the names to know at all levels of the system. All month long, we’ve unveiled player bios on a section-by-section basis. Here is Part 6, the final portion of the Cubs minor league prospectus:

Part 1 – The Elite
Part 2 – The Up-And-Comers
Part 3 – A Phone Call Away
Part 4 – Ready to Rebound
Part 5 – Keep an Eye on

Impressive Arms
The Cubs system is known far and wide for its abundance of young bats—and rightfully so. But that doesn’t mean the organization is devoid of pitching talent. The front office has avoided arms in the first round of the draft lately, but has grabbed them in bulk in the subsequent rounds. They have also been aggressive in targeting pitchers on the international free-agent market and via trades.

Corey Black – RHP
Black’s 5-foot-11 frame has led many to believe he’s best suited as a reliever, but he also has a power arm and three legit pitches. For now, the Cubs are keeping him as a starter because of that three-pitch arsenal and the fact that he continues to work hard on building up his strength, which could allow him to assume the innings demand that comes with being part of a big league rotation. If he can’t stick as a starter, many believe the right-hander could easily transition into a high-leverage, late-inning reliever.

Paul Blackburn – RHP
Blackburn is another player frequently compared to Hendricks due to his advanced pitchability and his excellent command to all zones. The biggest question about Blackburn’s future is whether his fastball can play up as he continues to fill out his body. Currently, his velocity fluctuates. Sometimes it sits between 88-90, and other times it moves up to 93-94. Consistency in his pitch velocity will be improved through conditioning and by adding more weight to his frame so he can stay strong throughout the season. With his solid curveball and change-up, Blackburn currently has the look of a back-end starter, but if he does improve his fastball velocity, a mid-rotation grade is possible.

Juan Paniagua – RHP
Paniagua flashes three plus pitches and displays the type of dominant stuff that has some dreaming he could become an impressive starter. However, his command comes and goes, often due to problems with repeating his delivery. He also struggles with the finer points of attacking hitters over six or seven innings, which likely pushes him into a bullpen profile. With such an impressive repertoire, Paniagua could excel in a relief role where command is less of an issue over shorter bursts.

Jen-Ho Tseng – RHP
Tseng has an advanced feel for command, as evidenced by his 3.8 percent walk rate in his first professional season, and the stuff to be a solid mid-rotation starter in The Show. The Cubs’ 2014 Minor League Pitcher of the Year made a lot of adjustments over the course of the season, and when he’s going strong, he attacks the zone with a solid three-pitch mix. Though Tseng impressed this year, many feel he doesn’t have much projectability, making the floor high, but the ceiling relatively low. He did state that his offseason goal was to put on more weight, which could add a little zip to his fastball. At the very least, more lean muscle mass should allow the Taiwanese arm to go deeper into games on a consistent basis.

Daury Torrez – RHP
Torrez placed himself on the prospect radar after impressing this past summer at Kane County. He has a big, strong body, gets downhill while pitching, shows three plus offerings and goes deep into games. Unlike Tseng and Blackburn, who are command-first guys, Torrez has the tools. If his command comes around, he should be able to stick in a starting role. If it doesn’t, he’ll likely move into the bullpen where his stuff could play up as he becomes a two-pitch set-up guy.

 

From the Pages of Vine Line: Minor League Prospectus, Part 5 – Keep an Eye On

As evidenced by the additions of players like Jon Lester and Miguel Montero, the Cubs front office is transitioning from a period in which it focused primarily on bringing in assets to help improve the future of the franchise to an extended period in which they expect to compete every year at the big league level. However, if you were to suggest to baseball president Theo Epstein or general manager Jed Hoyer that this transition means they are now less inclined to build through their farm system, they would be quick to correct you.

Just because Cubs fans may finally start seeing wins accumulate at Wrigley Field doesn’t mean the minor league pipeline is suddenly going to go overlooked. In fact, for the second year in a row, the North Siders will have arguably the best system in all of baseball. Boasting the top prospect in the game, an overabundance of high-profile shortstops and a suddenly large group of interesting arms at the lower levels, the Cubs have built the scouting and player development monster they promised to deliver more than three years ago.

In our annual minor league prospectus, Baseball Prospectus’ Sahadev Sharma helps us break down the names to know at all levels of the system. As the month progresses, we’ll unveil player bios on a section-by-section basis. Here is Part 5 of the Cubs minor league prospectus:

Part 1 – The Elite
Part 2 – The Up-And-Comers
Part 3 – A Phone Call Away
Part 4 – Ready to Rebound

Keep an Eye On
Like everyone else who watches the game regularly, scouts often fall in love with certain players. Unless you spend a great deal of time digging deep into the farm system, which isn’t all that unusual for Cubs fans of late, you may not have heard of some of the following names. But these are the guys scouts have identified as having a legitimate shot to put themselves on the map in 2015.

Jeffrey Baez – OF
Though he is generally known as the less-famous Baez in the Cubs organization (for the record, he and Javier are not related), Jeffrey is a big, strong-bodied outfielder with a chance to hit for power. He has some speed for his size, which has allowed him to rack up stolen bases early in his professional career and play solid defense from a corner outfield spot. Baez dominated in Boise, and after a slow start following a promotion, he eventually hit his stride with the bat in Kane County. He has the upside to be a legit major league bat, but that depends on his ability to make adjustments and keep his body in shape.

Charcer Burks – OF
A former high school football player, Burks has the tools and athleticism to open some eyes. He possesses an advanced approach for a younger player, but must continue to get stronger and utilize his speed by hitting line drives or keeping the ball on the ground rather than trying to hit it in the air. He has a gap-to-gap, line-drive swing and will likely be more of a singles and doubles guy than a power hitter.

Victor Caratini – C/3B
Caratini plays both third base and catcher, but he will stick behind the plate for the time being. If he can prove he has the skills to remain there, he’ll join Zagunis and Schwarber to give the Cubs some depth at a position at which they were largely lacking just a year ago. The switch-hitter has the flexibility, soft hands, strong arm and overall tools to become a solid backstop. Either way, he has enough bat to provide value. If it’s behind the plate, that value suddenly becomes of the impact variety.

Trevor Clifton – RHP
Clifton was a top-round talent, but the Cubs were able to sign him to an over-slot bonus after selecting him in the 12th round of the 2013 draft. The big, physical righty has an easy plus fastball, and his body has filled out since he joined the organization. With the potential for a solid change-up and a strong breaking ball, he has the weapons to be a starter, but he hasn’t yet shown the necessary consistency

Kevonte Mitchell – OF
Mitchell is a great athlete with a body scouts say is a mix between Giancarlo Stanton’s and Matt Kemp’s. Kemp is the dream here, as he is for every toolsy player who needs everything to go just right to reach his potential. As of now, Mitchell has the tools, but needs his game to catch up, which can only happen with playing time and lots of it. He profiles in a corner outfield spot, but there are some who believe the former basketball player could be adequate in center. Mitchell is the type of athlete scouts dream about. The ball flies off his bat, and he looks the part, but everything needs to click. If it doesn’t, which is the case more often than not with these types of players, he could end up less like Kemp and more like Reggie Abercrombie—a player with monster tools who never fully puts it together and struggles to perform in the high minors.

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