Arismendy Alcantara will make his major league debut Wednesday. (Photo by Stephen Green)
The first of the big-time Cubs prospects will make his major league debut Wednesday, as infielder/outfielder Arismendy Alcantara gets the start at second base against the Reds in Cincinnati. The athletic Alcantara, who was recently named the No. 18 prospect in the game by Baseball Prospectus, will bat in the two spot. Right-handed pitcher Dallas Beeler has also been recalled and will make his second start of the season tonight.
Alcantara will temporarily replace Darwin Barney, who has been placed on paternity leave and is expected to return on Friday. Left-handers Chris Rusin and Tsuyoshi Wada have both been optioned to Triple-A Iowa.
Alcantara, 22, is hitting .307 with 25 doubles, 11 triples, 10 home runs, 41 RBI and 21 stolen bases in 89 games with Iowa this season, his first year at the Triple-A level. Named a Pacific Coast League All-Star, he is the only player in the minors to reach 25 doubles, 10 triples, 10 home runs and 20 stolen bases. His 46 extra-base hits are tied for ninth in the minors.
The switch-hitter has a .374 average against left-handed pitching and a .280 average against right-handers. He batted .345 in June and enjoyed a 13-game hitting streak from June 22-July 3, in which he hit .463 with a 1.214 OPS. This season, he has played 70 games at second base, 11 games in center field and six games at shortstop.
Signed by the Cubs as a non-drafted free agent in November 2008, Alcantara owns a .284 batting average with 104 doubles, 41 triples, 40 home runs, 254 RBI and 112 stolen bases in 530 career minor league games. He was a 2013 Southern League midseason and postseason All-Star for Double-A Tennessee, and hit a home run in the 2013 All-Star Futures Game.
Beeler, 25, will make his second start for the Cubs after making his major league debut in the first game of the June 28 twinbill versus the Nationals, an outing in which he allowed one unearned run over six innings. He is 5-3 with a 3.93 ERA in 11 starts with Iowa this season. The 6-foot-5, 210-pounder has walked only 17 batters and allowed just five home runs in 66.1 innings pitched, an average 2.3 walks per nine innings and one home run allowed per 13.1 innings.
The right-hander is in his fifth professional campaign since being selected by the Cubs in the 41st round of the 2010 draft out of Oral Roberts University. Beeler reached Double-A Tennessee in his first full pro campaign in 2011 and made a career-high 27 starts for the Smokies in 2012 before being slowed by a sprained finger on his right hand. Beeler is a career 17-21 with a 3.69 ERA in 77 minor league outings (69 starts).
The Cubs have reached an agreement with sixth-round draft pick Dylan Cease, a right-handed pitcher out of Milton (Ga.) High School.
With this move, the Cubs have now signed their first 22 picks, as well as 26 selections overall, from the 2014 draft.
Cease, 18, was a preseason first-team prep All-American heading into his senior year at Milton High School, but an injury hurt his draft stock. He struck out 20 batters in 12 innings without allowing a run before suffering an elbow injury in March that kept him off the mound for the remainder of the season.
In his 2013 junior season with Milton, the 6-foot-2, 180-pound Cease was 9-0 with an 0.81 ERA in 69.1 innings. He struck out 100 batters, good for an average of 13 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.
Cubs acquire INF Addison Russell, OF Billy McKinney, RHP Dan Straily and a PTBNL from the A’s for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty)
The Chicago Cubs today acquired infielder Addison Russell, outfielder Billy McKinney, right-handed pitcher Dan Straily and a player to be named from the Oakland Athletics for right-handed pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.
Russell and McKinney were ranked as the top two players in Oakland’s farm system by Baseball America entering the 2014 season, while Russell was ranked the third-best prospect in baseball by ESPN.com, No. 11 by MLB.com and No. 14 overall by Baseball America.
“It’s not a secret that we now have an extremely talented, extremely deep group of potential impact position players age 20-22, who are moving very quickly through our system” said Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein. “And these are real prospects. Not all of them work out, but we like these players quite a bit, and they have a chance to play together for long time at Wrigley Field. When you put that together with a couple of 24-year-old All-Star-caliber performers like Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, we can’t help but be excited about the future.”
Russell was Oakland’s first-round pick in the 2012 Draft (11th overall out of high school), and McKinney was the club’s first-round pick in the 2013 Draft (24th overall out of high school). Straily began the 2013 campaign ranked second by MLB.com and sixth by Baseball America in the Athletics system (with the organization’s best slider and change-up) before going 10-8 with a 3.96 ERA (67 ER/152.1 IP) in 27 starts in the major leagues last season.
With the acquisition of Russell, a shortstop, the Cubs now have in their organization three of the top 14, six of the top 41, and eight players overall listed on Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects list entering the 2014 campaign.
The 20-year-old Russell entered 2014 as Oakland’s top prospect as ranked by Baseball America for the second year in a row. He was a 2012 Arizona League postseason All-Star, a 2013 Futures Game selection, the 2013 Single-A California League Rookie of the Year, a 2013 California League postseason All-Star and was named to the 2013 Arizona Fall League’s All Prospects Team, where he played for the Mesa Solar Sox and was a starter in the AFL All-Star Game.
The 6-foot, 195-pound Russell began his pro career by hitting .369 (80-for-217) with a 1.027 OPS in 55 games covering three levels in Oakland’s farm system before spending nearly all of 2013 at advanced Single-A Stockton. He was just one of 12 minor league players to reach double digits in doubles (29), triples (10) and home runs (17) last year en route to an .885 OPS with Stockton before a three-game promotion to Triple-A Sacramento at the end of the season.
Russell was with Oakland’s Double-A Midland affiliate at the time of the trade, where he hit .333 (16-for-48) with a .439 on-base percentage, a .500 slugging percentage and a .939 OPS in just 13 games this year due to a hamstring injury. He joined the Midland line-up in mid-June and finished his time there riding an eight-game hitting streak.
“We put a lot of work into understanding the [trade] landscape, and I’ll just say it was a no-brainer process,” Epstein said. “If we had a chance to get Addison Russell, that was the deal we had to make. We didn’t think twice about it. Certainly we made attempts to craft packages that gave us enough pitching to feel like it was worthwhile to part with a Jeff Samardzija or Jason Hammel or both in the same deal, and we felt this was by far the best deal for the Chicago Cubs.”
The 19-year-old McKinney last year played across two levels in Oakland’s system in his first pro campaign and combined to bat .326 (70-for-215) with nine doubles, three triples, three home runs, 26 RBI and a .387 on-base percentage in 55 games between the Rookie League Athletics and Single-A Vermont.
At the time of the trade, the left-handed hitting McKinney was batting .241 (70-for-290) with 12 doubles, two triples, 10 home runs and 33 RBI in 75 games for Single-A Stockton this season. He has appeared at all three outfield positions, predominantly in center field (67 games). He batted .292 (28-for-96) with 12 runs, five doubles, one triple, three home runs and 15 RBI in 24 games in June. All told, the 6-foot-1, 195-pounder has batted .277 (140-for-505) with 21 doubles, five triples, 13 home runs and 59 RBI in 130 career minor league games.
Straily, 25, has pitched parts of the last three years with Oakland, going 13-11 with a 4.11 ERA (105 ER/230.0 IP) in 41 starts. He made his big league debut on August 3, 2012, and made seven starts with Oakland that season, going 2-1 with a 3.89 ERA (17 ER/39.1 IP) before spending nearly the entire campaign in the majors in 2013. Straily has split the 2014 season between the big leagues (1-2, 4.93 ERA in seven starts) and Triple-A Sacramento (4-3, 4.71 ERA in 10 starts).
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Straily was originally selected by Oakland in the 24th round of the 2009 Draft and was named the organization’s 2012 co-Minor League Pitcher of the Year after combining to go 9-7 with a 2.78 ERA (47 ER/152.0 IP) and an organization-best 190 strikeouts in 25 starts between Sacramento and Midland, where he was named to the Texas League All-Star team.
Samardzija, 29, went 31-42 with one save and a 3.97 ERA (294 ER/666.0 IP) in 206 games, including 83 starts, with the Cubs over the last seven seasons. He went 2-7 with a 2.83 ERA (34 ER/108.0 IP) in 17 starts with the club this season. He was originally selected by the Cubs in the fifth round of the 2006 Draft.
Hammel, 31, went 8-5 with a 2.98 ERA (36 ER/108.2 IP) in 17 starts with the Cubs this season. He is 57-64 with four saves and a 4.62 ERA (564 ER/1,098.0 IP) in 232 big league outings (175 starts).
“We certainly hope that this is the last year that we’ll be obvious sellers at the trade deadline,” Epstein said. “Nothing would make us happier than being in the position Oakland is in, which is to aggressively add to the big league team and enhance the team’s chances of making the postseason and winning the World Series. As we discussed it, we repeated to ourselves that this type of move, being sellers, is not what we want to do, so if we’re going to do it, we need to make it count. And we need to get a player back who significantly impacts the organization, helps change the landscape, helps make our future a heck of a lot better.”
The Cubs came to terms with catcher Mark Zagunis, the organization’s third-round pick in the 2014 MLB draft, on Wednesday.
The 21-year-old Zagunis batted .330 with two homers, 10 doubles and 39 RBI in 53 games in his junior season at Virginia Tech. He posted a .426 on-base percentage, tallying 32 walks and swiping 16 bases. He was an All-ACC second-teamer for the second time in his career and was a semifinalist for the 2014 Johnny Bench Award.
In his time with the Hokies, Zagunis was a .338 hitter and had a .979 fielding percentage while playing primarily behind the plate. He stole 52 bases, becoming just the second player from Virginia Tech to record 50-plus stolen bases in a career since the school joined the ACC.
With this signing, the Cubs have inked 21 of their first 22 picks, with only sixth-rounder Dylan Cease still without a deal.
The Cubs have come to terms with second-round selection Jake Stinnett, fourth-round selection Carson Sands, fifth-round selection Justin Steele and seventh-round selection James Norwood from the 2014 First-Year Player Draft. Terms of the deals were not disclosed.
Stinnett, a right-handed pitcher from the University of Maryland, posted an 8-6 record with a 2.67 ERA in 17 games this season. The 22-year-old led the ACC with 132 strikeouts, four complete games and 118.0 innings pitched. He pitched the seventh no-hitter in U of M history on March 1 in a game against UMass.
Sands, 19, was 11-1 with a 0.58 ERA and one complete game in 14 outings, including 12 starts for North Florida Christian High School this past season. In 60.2 innings, he fanned 100 batters, or 14.8 K/9, and walked just 24. The left-hander pitched for Team USA on three occasions, winning a gold medal with the 18U club in 2012.
The 18-year-old Steele went 5-1 with a 0.98 ERA in eight games for George County High School (Miss.) this past season. He struck out 92 in 43.0 innings, good for an average of 19.3 K/9. He also walked just 12 and threw two no-hitters. His efforts earned him the 5A Player of the Year award in Mississippi.
Norwood, 20, went 8-2 with a 2.68 ERA (28 ER/94.0 IP) in 15 starts this season to cap off a three-year college career at Saint Louis University.
Cubs top prospect Javier Baez playing for the Tennessee Smokies in 2013.
The Cubs have had success at the Double-A level since teaming up with the Tennessee Smokies in 2007. On Wednesday, the clubs worked out a deal that will hopefully extend that success.
The Chicago Cubs and the Tennessee Smokies announced a four-year Player Development Contract extension, keeping the club’s Double-A affiliate in Kodak, Tennessee, through the 2018 season.
“We are pleased to reach agreement with the Tennessee Smokies on a four-year Player Development Contract extension,” said Jason McLeod, Cubs senior vice president of scouting and player development. “Our front office has enjoyed our relationship with the Smokies, and the players who have come through Tennessee have spoken very highly of the Smokies and their fans. We thank Randy Boyd, Doug Kirchhofer, Brian Cox and the entire Smokies family for their commitment to providing a great experience for our Double-A players.”
This PDC extension will bring the Cubs and Smokies affiliation to 12 seasons by the end of the 2018 campaign. Since beginning their affiliation with the Cubs in 2007, the Smokies have participated in postseason play in five of seven seasons and have advanced to the Southern League Championship series three times. Tennessee has posted a 553-485 record (.533) as of June 10, with six of seven completed seasons ending with a winning record. The .533 winning percentage is best among all affiliates in Smokies history.
“Tom Ricketts, Theo Epstein and Jason McLeod have been great partners,” said Smokies owner Randy Boyd. “The Cubs have strong ownership and an outstanding organization. We look forward to continuing this affiliation for many more years.”
Tennessee has seen many of the Cubs top prospects over the last two seasons, including No. 1 prospect Javier Baez in 2013 and No. 2 prospect Kris Bryant this year. In total, 35 Smokies have gone on to make their major league debuts with the Cubs, including Jeff Samardzija, Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney and Welington Castillo.
“There’s no question the talent that has come through Kodak recently has been some of the best in baseball, and it’s an amazing opportunity for fans to see the stars of tomorrow pass through here,” said Smokies General Manager Brian Cox. “The impact the players and coaches have made in East Tennessee has been tremendous and the future is clearly bright for both the Chicago Cubs and Tennessee Smokies.”
Just six days after becoming the fourth overall pick of the 2014 draft, catcher/outfielder Kyle Schwarber has finalized a deal with the Cubs. Schwarber will join the club’s affiliate in Boise, which plays its Short-Season Single-A Northwest League opener at home on Friday.
The 21-year-old from Indiana University batted .341 (238-for-697) with 40 home runs and 149 RBI in 180 games in his three seasons, adding 182 runs, 41 doubles, 12 triples and 23 stolen bases. He walked 116 times compared to 91 strikeouts, leading to a .437 on-base percentage. He recorded a .984 career fielding percentage, primarily at catcher (though he also played some outfield) and threw out 51 of 154 (33 percent) attempted base stealers.
The 6-foot, 235-pound Middletown, Ohio, native hit .358 (83-for-232) with 14 home runs (tied for seventh-most in the nation) and 48 RBI for the Hoosiers this spring, adding career highs with 66 runs, 16 doubles, six triples, 44 walks (compared to 30 strikeouts) and 10 stolen bases. He started all 59 of Indiana’s games and recorded a .464 on-base percentage alongside a .659 slugging percentage, good for a 1.123 OPS.
Behind the plate, Schwarber had a .992 fielding percentage (3 E/383 TC) this season and threw out 16 of 43 (37 percent) attempted base stealers, en route to being named one of three finalists for the 2014 Johnny Bench Award, given to the top Division I catcher in the nation.
In 2013, he was named the top catcher in the country and a First Team All-American by Perfect Game and the NCBWA after hitting .366 (86-for-235) with 18 home runs (first in the Big Ten and third nationally) and 54 RBI in 61 games. He recorded a .456 on-base percentage, walking 42 times, and slugged .647, best in the Big Ten. He was also named Academic All-Big Ten and joined USA’s Collegiate National Team after the season.
As a freshman in 2012, Schwarber started all 60 of Indiana’s games, including 54 at catcher. He posted a .300 batting average (69-for-230) alongside a .390 on-base percentage and a .513 slugging percentage, hitting eight homers and driving in 47 runs. Defensively, he nabbed 27 would-be base stealers, good for second-most in the conference.
Schwarber, a 2011 graduate of Middletown High School, was recommended by Cubs area scout Stan Zielinski.
Hector Rondon returns to the 25-man roster. (Photo by Stephen Green)
The Cubs made a series of transactions Tuesday, activating right-handed reliever Hector Rondon from the paternity list, and calling up catcher Eli Whiteside from Triple-A Iowa. In other moves, reliever Jose Veras has been designated for assignment, and catcher Welington Castillo has been placed on the DL with left rib cage inflammation.
The 26-year-old Rondon has an 0-1 record with six saves, 25 strikeouts and a 1.59 ERA over 22.2 innings. Opposing hitters are batting .193 against the right-hander, and his .493 OPS against ranks 10th among NL relievers.
Whiteside, 34, signed with the Cubs prior to the season and is set to make his Cubs debut. He’s currently hitting .171 with four doubles, three homers and 13 RBI in Triple-A Iowa. He has played all or part of five big league seasons and won World Series rings with the Giants in 2010 and 2012. He’s a career .215 hitter in the majors.
In 13.1 innings, Veras went 0-1 with a 8.10 ERA for the Cubs.
Castillo is currently hitting .242 with five homers.
Neil Ramirez got his first call-up to the major leagues Thursday. (Photo by Stephen Green)
The Cubs recalled right-handed pitcher Neil Ramirez and left-handed pitcher Zac Rosscup from Triple-A Iowa Thursday. Outfielder Justin Ruggiano has been placed on the 15-day DL with a left hamstring strain, and right-handed reliever Blake Parker was optioned to Triple-A. According to manager Rick Renteria, the team will go with a 13-man bullpen for the next few series.
This is the 24-year-old Ramirez’s his first call-up to the majors, after going 36-35 with a 4.40 ERA in 140 minor league appearances over the last seven seasons. He was acquired by the Cubs as the player-to-be-named later in a deal that sent starter Matt Garza to the Rangers. Ramirez spent most of Spring Training in major league camp, pitching 7.2 scoreless innings. In seven frames at Iowa this season, he had a 7.71 ERA. Between Double-A Frisco and Double-A Tennessee last year, he went 9-3 with a 3.68 ERA in 22 starts.
“It’s a dream come true. Everybody says that, but when you get that call, it’s definitely that feeling that you’ve been working for something so long, and it’s finally here,” Ramirez said. “I’m just excited to be here and give the team a chance to win.”
Rosscup, 25, joins the Cubs for the second time this season. He previously came up as the 26th man during the doubleheader against the Yankees on April 16. He made his big league debut as a September call-up last year, posting a 1.35 ERA with no record in 10 appearances, all out of the bullpen. He’s currently 1-0 with a 4.26 ERA over six innings with Iowa.
Ruggiano, who injured himself chasing a ball in the right-field corner Wednesday, is batting .229 (8-for-35) with a homer and six RBI this season. Parker has no record and a 16.20 ERA in two relief outings.
Slugger and 2013 first-round draft pick Kris Bryant has been assigned to minor league camp. (Photo by Stephen Green)
The Chicago Cubs have assigned 12 players to minor league camp, reducing their spring roster from 66 to 54 players.
Infielders Arismendy Alcantara and Logan Watkins, outfielder Matt Szczur and right-handed pitcher Dallas Beeler have been optioned to Triple-A Iowa. Outfielder Jorge Soler has been optioned to Double-A Tennessee.
Six nonroster invitees have been assigned to minor league camp: right-handed pitchers Marcus Hatley and Carlos Pimentel, left-handed pitcher Eric Jokisch, infielders Kris Bryant and Jeudy Valdez, and outfielder Albert Almora.
Additionally, outfielder Aaron Cunningham has been granted his release.
Chicago’s spring roster now consists of 27 pitchers (seven nonroster invitees), five catchers (three nonroster invitees), 11 infielders (four nonroster invitees) and 11 outfielders (five nonroster invitees).