The Arizona Fall League held its midseason Fall Stars game on Saturday, and it featured the Cubs’ big three prospects. All three got in the game for the East, but the West cruised to a 9-2 win. Here are some highlights from the weekend’s fall/winter league action.
Arizona Fall League –
Albert Almora, RF – Almora entered the game in the top of the sixth as a defensive replacement, and went 0-for-2 at the plate.
Kris Bryant, 3B – Bryant led off the top of the eighth with a soft liner to center. Two batters later, Devon Travis (Tigers) tripled, scoring the Cubs 2013 first-round pick. Bryant finished 1-for-4 and committed two errors in the field.
Jorge Soler, RF – Batting seventh for the AFL East, Soler reached on a walk in his first at-bat. In his other at-bat, he led off the fifth with a sharp single to the right side of the infield.
On Friday, the Solar Sox were on the losing end of a 5-4 decision with Peoria. Almora and Wes Darvill both got in the game for Mesa.
Albert Almora, DH – Almora led off for the Sox and got things going in the bottom of the first with a double to right, but he was left stranded at second. He drew a walk in his next at-bat. With Mesa trailing by a run entering the ninth, Almora smacked a one-out triple to center, but Mesa couldn’t drive him in to tie the game. THe Cubs prospect finished 2-for-4 with a walk.
Wes Darvill, 3B – Darvill reached on a two-out walk in the fifth. In the seventh, he reached on an error and scored from second on a Dixon Machado single (Tigers). Darvill finished 1-for-3.
Mesa hosts Salt River Monday, with first pitch scheduled for 7:35 CST. Matt Purke (Nationals) will take the mound for the Sox, while Grayson Garvin (Rays) will throw for the Rafters.
Caribbean League –
Jeffry Antigua, LHP – Antigua was credited with a hold, striking out his only batter for the Toros as they came away victorious on Saturday.
Junior Lake, LF – Lake went 1-for-4 with the game-winning RBI for Oriente on Sunday. He also added a pair of hits in a loss on Saturday.
Marcos Mateo, RHP – Mateo blew a save on Sunday, but recorded the win, pitching one inning and giving up an earned run on two hits and a walk for the Estrellas de Oriente. He racked up his third save of the Dominican league season with a one-strikeout, hitless ninth inning on Friday.
Marcus Hatley, RHP – Hatley pitched a scoreless ninth inning for Culican in a 7-2 win on Friday.
Edwin Maysonet, SS – Maysonet had a single and a walk in a 1-0 win for Santurce Saturday.
Jonathan Mota, 3B – Mota recorded a single and scored the Leones’ only run in a 4-1 loss Saturday. He singled, walked and drove in a run in a win on Friday.
Rubi Silva, LF – Silva went 2-for-4 on Friday with a walk, an RBI and two runs scored for Ponce.
Frank Del Valle, LHP – Starting for Margarita on Saturday, Del Valle gave up one run on four hits and three walks, striking out two over three innings. The Bravos won 7-5.
Hector Rondon, RHP – Rondon surrendered two hits but struck out one in a scoreless eighth inning for Caracas Sunday.
Mesa looks to be getting back on track, topping Scottsdale 7-3 Thursday and tallying 12 hits. The Cubs’ big three prospects all took the field, with mixed results. Here are the highlights from yesterday’s action.
Albert Almora, LF – Almora went 0-for-4 Thursday.
Kris Bryant, 3B – Bryant reached base for the first time in the sixth inning, drawing a one-out walk. He’d get to second on a hit-by-pitch and move to third on a fielder’s choice. Then fellow farmhand Jorge Soler drove him in with a single. He reached base again in the seventh with a single to load the bases and eventually scored on a Soler base on balls. Bryant finished 1-for-4.
Armando Rivero, RHP – Rivero entered the game in the seventh inning and struck out the first two batters he faced—Kyle Kubitza (Braves) and Peter O’Brien (Yankees). He then forced Aderlin Rodriguez (Mets) to pop out to earn his second hold of the fall.
Jorge Soler, RF – With two outs and runners on the corners in the sixth, Soler scored Byrant on a single to left field, capping a three-run inning. The Cuban prospect also drove in a run on a bases-loaded walk in the seventh, again scoring Bryant. Soler finished 1-for-3.
Sammy Solis (Nationals) will take the mound Friday for Mesa against Peoria, opposite Jason Adams (Royals). Albert Almora is expected to DH and lead off for the Sox, and Wes Darvill will play third and bat eighth. First pitch is scheduled for 2:35 CST.
Caribbean Winter League
Yoanner Negrin, RHSP – Negrin gave up two earned runs on three hits over 6.1 innings Thursday for Caracas. The 29-year-old fanned two and walked none, but got a no-decision in a 6-4 win.
Hector Rondon, RHP – The Cubs 2012 Rule 5 selection pitched one inning for Caracas, giving up one hit and walking none to earn a hold.
As big leaguers begin to report to Mesa, Ariz., for the start of Spring Training, we at Vine Line had our eyes on a new farmhand who took the mound for Venezuela in the Caribbean Series. Signed in December, right-hander Yeiper Castillo is a former Red Sox prospect picked out of free agency. He also marks yet another acquisition of a player who underwent arm surgery—on his shoulder in 2011. It’s a minor move, so to speak, but we were eager to take an extended glimpse of him Tuesday on ESPN Deportes.
Castillo went 4.2 innings, allowing two runs on three hits, a walk and eight strikeouts against Puerto Rico. He threw five pitches from a three-quarters arm slot: a 90-91 mph fastball with natural run, an 87-90 mph sinker, a low-80s change, a mid-80s slider and a 78-81 mph curve. Both his change-up and sinker were able to get swings and misses as they ran low and away from lefties, and his 12-to-6 curve did too when located low on two-strike counts. His slider looked like his weakest pitch, though he did use it throughout the game.
Though Castillo threw a lot of strikes (50 of 75 pitches), his command was inconsistent. He sequenced his pitches and had a game plan to work low and away from hitters. When he did, he successfully kept hitters off balance or hitting the ball on the ground. But he also had a habit of missing up over the plate, with one 3-2 fastball being yanked for a home run and others not being taken advantage of because of his change of speeds.
Castillo stands a fairly thick 6-foot-3, though he doesn’t have power stuff. He threw 137 innings in his first season back from the shoulder injury, and he’s picked up another 45 (with an ERA under 3.00) in winter ball. He’ll be 24 this season, and he could be an interesting depth arm if he can improve his command post-surgery.
Cubs outfielder Dave Sappelt was one of the top performers in the Venezuelan league this winter (Photo by Stephen Green).
Winter league regional play finally came to a conclusion last night as Magallanes fended off Luis Valbuena and his Lara squad to win the Venezuelan title and claim the final spot in the Caribbean Series. The offseason leagues were an opportunity for players to rack up a few more innings of experience while still competing at a high level. Many of the Cubs took advantage of the opportunity, and some excelled in their respective leagues. Below is a list of Cubs representatives who fared well this winter.
Michael Bowden: Pitching for the Aguilas Cibaenas, Bowden posted a 2.76 ERA in 32.2 innings of work. He earned a 3-2 record and struck out 35 batters.
Alberto Cabrera: Playing for the Toros del Este, the Dominican native was used more frequently in the postseason. In 19.2 innings and four starts, Cabrera went 1-1 with a 0.92 ERA, fanning 15 batters and walking just six. He surrendered two earned runs in the playoffs.
Junior Lake: Representing the Estrellas de Oriente, Lake tore apart opposing pitchers, finishing with a line of .312/.382/.474 (AVG/OBP/SLG). The infielder was one of the Cubs’ top performers, hitting five homers, driving in 24 and stealing 11 bases in 154 at-bats.
Nelson Perez: A teammate of Lake’s in the Dominican, Perez was often utilized as a bat off the bench. In 84 at-bats, he compiled a .443 on-base percentage, drawing 29 walks and driving in 21. The Estrellas made the playoffs but were eliminated in the round robin portion.
Esmailin Caridad: The lone Cubs representative who will be participating in the Caribbean Series, Caridad was a solid bullpen arm this winter. In 42.0 innings during the regular season, the righty had a 2.57 ERA, struck out 49 and walked 12.
Jay Jackson: Jackson put up consistent numbers for the Venados de Mazatlan, posting a 3.86 ERA in 49.0 innings of work. The righty went 3-2 and struck out 34 batters over 10 starts.
Yoanner Negrin: In 12 starts for the Leones del Caracas, Negrin was tough to beat. Not a huge strikeout guy (38 K in 58.2 innings), the righty still managed a 2.61 ERA and a 4-1 record.
Dave Sappelt: Sappelt was another elite player this winter. In 116 at-bats, the outfielder put up a .336/.378/.526 line, belting five home runs and five doubles. He also stole five bases and drove in 15.
Luis Valbuena: One of the top performers in all the winter leagues, Valbuena powered his Cardenales de Lara side all the way to the Venezuelan championship. The Cardenales were eliminated last night, losing 11-9 in a back-and-forth Game 7 affair. During the regular season, the Cubs infielder hit .306/.414/.497 with 39 RBI in 183 at-bats. He also drew 34 walks. All of those totals were good enough for top 10 in the league. In the postseason, he hit .341 and drove in 21 in 91 at-bats.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Cubs infielder Luis Valbuena continues to be a factor in the Venezuelan league championship series. Though Magallanes claimed a 7-3 win over Valbeuna’s Cardenales squad, the 27-year-old Cubs infielder managed to rip a solo home run in the top of the second inning to continue his torrid stretch.
In 22 postseason games, Valbuena is hitting .345/.412/.563 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with four home runs and 21 RBI. He posted a .306/.414/.497 line in the Venezuelan regular season.
The series concludes Wednesday night as the Navegantes hosts Lara in a decisive Game 7. First pitch is scheduled for 5:30 CST, with the winner representing Venezuela in the Caribbean Series.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
As if Cubs infielder Luis Valbuena hasn’t played a big enough role for the Cardenales de Lara in Venezuela’s championship series against Magallanes, the 27-year-old was heavily involved in his team’s 3-2, 11-inning, Game 5 victory Monday night.
Valbuena finished the night 1-for-4 with a pivotal run scored. He singled to right in the sixth and moved to third after a C.J. Retherford single. But Valbuena was thrown out at home trying to score on a sacrifice fly to center, leaving the game tied at 2.
With a man on in the bottom of the 11th, Valbuena reached on an error on a sacrifice bunt attempt. With runners on first and second, Retherford also attempted a bunt, but Magallanes got the runner at third. After Tomas Perez walked to load the bases, Jose Yepez singled to center to score Valbuena and give Lara a 3-2 series lead.
Former Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano started for the Navegantes, allowing eight hits, one earned run and striking out five over six innings.
Game six is scheduled for Tuesday at 7:30.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
With the Mexican, Dominican and Puerto Rican titles all wrapped up as of the weekend, the Venezuelan championship is the only show in town. The Navegantes del Magallanes grabbed a 6-5 win over the Cardenales on Saturday to tie the best-of-seven series at 2.
On Friday though, Cubs infielder Luis Valbuena was again the story of the game in a 4-2 Lara win. The 27-year-old finished the day 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles, a walk, an RBI and a run scored to continue his stellar winter.
Though Valbuena was ultimately stranded at second after a double in the bottom of the first, he led off the fourth with another double. After moving to third on a wild pitch, he scored what would prove to be the winning run on a Jose Yepez double.
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth, Valbuena drew a walk to give the Cardenales an insurance run and ultimately seal the win.
Lara hosts Magallanes Monday in a 7:30 p.m. matchup, and the teams head to Magallanes Tuesday for Game 6. The seventh game will be on Wednesday if necessary.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
With each of the Caribbean leagues playing its championship series and a trip to the Caribbean Series on the line, scoring runs is as important as ever for the remaining teams. Cubs infielder Luis Valbuena, who has been key in the Cardenales de Lara’s run to the Venezuelan championship, was again at the center of his squad’s 3-0, Game 2 victory Thursday night over the Magalleanes.
Though he only had one hit in the game, he kicked off the scoring in the top of the fifth with a solo shot to right to give Lara a lead they would not relinquish. The Cardenales scored two more runs that inning to seal up the win.
Valbuena’s .333/.400/.551 (AVG/OBP/SLG) postseason numbers are each in the top 10 in Venezuela, and his .951 on-base percentage ranks fourth. His 18 RBI are tied for tops in the league.
The winner of the seven-game series will be awarded a place in the Caribbean Series, a de facto tournament of champions between Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Puerto Rico. The Caribbean Series starts Feb. 1 and runs through Feb. 7.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Alberto Cabrera had a career year in 2012, his first as a full-time reliever. So perhaps it’s only natural the Cubs want to give him another shot at starting.
That’s because the team saw several different pitchers emerge as Cabrera climbed from Tennessee to Iowa to Chicago. In 21 big league innings, he showed a surprisingly lights-out slider. Meanwhile, in the minors, he showed good feel for a change-up that later went unused. This all complements his mid-90s heat. At just 24 and with the team searching for upper-level arms, Cabrera could become a power starter if he truly does have command of all three pitches.
In the Dominican playoffs, the right-hander pitched four scoreless innings on Wednesday, scattering six hits, striking out seven and walking none. But the effort wasn’t enough, as his Toros del Este fell 4-3 and were eliminated from the playoffs.
Cabrera got off to a fast start, retiring the side in order in the first inning behind two strikeouts. He started the second with another strikeout, but then loaded the bases after a pair of singles and a hit batsman. Cabrera worked out of the jam, striking out Fernando Tatis and getting former Cub Henry Blanco to pop out to end the threat.
After surrendering a single to lead off the third, he struck out the side. In his final inning, Cabrera surrendered a bunt single to start off the frame, but started a double play on the next batter. Willy Aybar and Tatis both singled, but Blanco made the third out on a ground ball to the first baseman.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
The Estrellas de Oriente of the Dominican league don’t have a shot at reaching the best-of-seven league finals, which take place later this month, but they’re still playing for pride. On Tuesday, it was a trio of Cubs prospects leading the charge in the Estrellas’ 7-6 victory.
In the third inning, Cubs outfielder Nelson Perez reached on a walk and later advanced to third on a pair of singles by Ray Olmedo and Eliezer Mesa. The 25-year-old was then driven in on a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0. He stepped up again in the fourth and ripped a home run to right field to give his side a 5-0 lead. Perez was 1-for-3 with a walk, a homer, an RBI and two runs scored.
But Perez wasn’t the only Cubs prospect to contribute. Junior Lake drove in a run of his own on a single in the third inning and finished the day 1-for-4.
Not to be outdone, Cubs reliever Rafael Dolis was awarded the victory. The right-hander pitched a scoreless eighth inning, striking out one.
The Estrellas are statistically eliminated, as they sit four games out of second place with only two games remaining. The two squads with the best records will square off in the finals next week.
Other notes around the Caribbean:
Luis Valbuena went 2-for-4 with two RBI, a walk and a run scored for the Cardenales of the Venezuelan league.