Cubs Lineup: 4/20/15


(Photo by Stephen Green)

Cubs at Pirates – PNC Park
First Pitch: 6:05 CST
Cubs Starter: Jake Arrieta, RHP
Pirates Starter: A.J. Burnett, RHP
TV: CSN+; Radio: WBBM 780 AM


1. Dexter Fowler, CF
2. Jorge Soler, RF
3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
4. Kris Bryant, 3B
5. Miguel Montero, C
6. Starlin Castro, SS
7. Chris Coghlan, LF
8. Jake Arrieta, RHP
9. Jonathan Herrera, 2B

Vogelbach named Southern League Player of the Week

Tennessee Smokies infielder Dan Vogelbach was named the Southern League’s Player of the Week for his efforts between April 9-19.

In nine games, the 22-year-old is hitting .484/.579/.613 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 15 hits, four doubles, three RBI and three runs scored. His batting average ranks third of all players in the minor leagues, while his on-base percentage is second. Entering Monday, his 15 hits also lead the Southern League.

The 2011 second-round pick has reached base in all nine games this season and has seven walks versus just three strikeouts to his credit in 38 plate appearances.

According to, Vogelbach is the No. 8-ranked first base prospect in baseball and the organization’s No. 15 prospect overall.

Cubs Minor League Recap: 4/19/15

Iowa couldn’t get the bats going, and South Bend blew a late lead Sunday. Meanwhile, Tennessee and Myrtle Beach were both rained out. Here are some notes from yesterday’s minor league Cubs action:

Iowa Cubs (4-5)
Pacific Coast League (AAA)
Third Place (-3.5)

Iowa was blanked by Oklahoma City 4-0. The game was called due to rain with two outs in the top of the sixth inning. The I-Cubs will round out the series with the Dodgers in a doubleheader today.

  • RHP Barret Loux struck out five in five innings of work, giving up one earned run.
  • CF Adron Chambers (.269) hit his fourth double.
  • RF Rubi Silva (.240) also recorded a double.
  • The I-Cubs were held to a season-low two hits and did not draw any walks Sunday.

South Bend Cubs (4-7)
Midwest League (Low-A)
Seventh Place (-4.0)

South Bend fell to Great Lakes, 4-1, after the Loons scored four runs in the ninth inning for the second consecutive day. Sunday marked the fourth time this season the SB Cubs have surrendered the lead in the final three innings.

  • RHP Trevor Clifton pitched five scoreless innings, striking out seven and giving up just one hit.
  • 3B Jesse Hodges (.222) went 2-for-3, plating Jeffrey Baez in the fifth to give South Bend the lead.
  • SS Gleyber Torres (.278) also finished 2-for-3, marking his fourth multi-hit game this season.

Cubs Lineup: 4/18/15

hendricks2014Cubs vs. Padres – Wrigley Field
First Pitch: 1:20 p.m. CST
Cubs Starter: Kyle Hendricks, RHP
Padres Starter: Tyson Ross, RHP
TV: CSN; Radio: WBBM 780 AM


1. Dexter Fowler, CF
2. Jorge Soler, RF
3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
4. Kris Bryant, 3B
5. Chris Coghlan, LF
6. Starlin Castro, SS
7. Miguel Montero, C
8. Kyle Hendricks, RHP
9. Jonathan Herrera, 2B

Cubs Minor League Recap: 4/15/15

Iowa captured a win in New Orleans, and Tennessee was victorious in its home opener Friday. South Bend was on the losing end of a one-run contest, while Myrtle Beach was rained out. Here are some notes from yesterday’s minor league action:

Iowa Cubs (4-3)
Third Place (-1.5)

Third baseman Kris Bryant (.321) crushed his third homer of the season and drove in his 10th RBI, helping the I-Cubs to a 10-7 victory at New Orleans. The second game of the doubleheader was rained out.

  • 2B Addison Russell (.355) went 3-for-4 with a double, three RBI and two runs scored. He has brought in a run in three of the last four games.
  • CF Junior Lake (.250) went 2-for-2 with a double and a run scored.
  • RF Rubi Silva (.263) went 2-for-4 with a sixth inning, run-scoring double.
  • 1B Jonathan Mota (.500) went 2-for-3, driving in a run and scoring twice. He is 7-for-12 with four runs in his last four games.

Tennessee Smokies (4-2)
Second Place (-1.0)

Tennessee topped Pensacola 5-4 in its home opener. Three Smokies players had multi-hit games.

  • C Willson Contreras (.500) went 2-for-4 with a double and scored once. This is his third consecutive multi-hit game.
  • 2B Stephen Bruno (.389) went 2-for-4 with an RBI, a stolen base and a run scored.
  • 1B Dan Vogelbach (.476) went 2-for-3, walked once and scored once. He is 7-for-11 with three runs
    in his last three appearances.
  • RHP Michael Jensen (0.00) earned the win, pitching 2.0 shutout innings, giving up two hits and
    fanning two batters.

South Bend Cubs (3-5)
Sixth Place (-4.0)

South Bend got out to an early lead with a two-run homer from 3B Jesse Hodges (.207) in the second inning, but Fort Wayne rallied in the eighth, topping the Cubs 7-6 in extras.

  • C Cael Brockmeyer (.423) had his third multi-hit game of the season, walked once and scored twice. He has a four-game hitting streak.
  • 2B Jason Vosler (.304) went 2-for-4, hit a double and scored once.
  • LF Charcer Burks (.296) went 3-for-4 and plated one.
  • CF Trey Martin (.290) had his third consecutive multi-hit game.
  • RHP Jeremy Null (1.64) tossed a quality start, giving up two earned runs off seven hits and fanning six batters.

Cubs bring up Kris Bryant; activate Chris Denorfia from DL

Bryant_Kris_Horiz.JPGThe Chicago Cubs today selected the contract of infielder Kris Bryant from Triple-A Iowa and activated outfielder Chris Denorfia off of the 15-day disabled list. Infielder Mike Olt was placed on the 15-day disabled list (retroactive to April 15) with a hairline fracture in his right wrist, and right-handed pitcher Neil Ramirez was placed on the 15-day disabled list (retroactive to April 16) with right shoulder inflammation.

Bryant, who will wear uniform number 17, and Denorfia will be available for the Cubs this afternoon when they begin a three-game series against the San Diego Padres at Wrigley Field.

Bryant, 23, joins the Cubs after hitting .321 (9-for-28) with three homers and 10 RBI in seven games with Iowa. He was Chicago’s first-round pick in the 2013 Draft (second overall) and entered 2015 ranked as the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America. He earned 2014 Minor League Player of the Year honors from Baseball America, USA Today and the Cubs after hitting .325 and leading the minors with 43 homers, 78 extra-base hits, 325 total bases, a .661 slugging mark and a 1.098 OPS, while ranking third with 110 RBI between Double-A Tennessee and Iowa.

After being selected by the Cubs out of the University of San Diego, Bryant combined to hit .336 with 14 doubles, two triples and nine homers in 36 games across three minor league levels that summer, culminating with a 2013 Florida State League Championship and 2013 Arizona Fall League Joe Black MVP honors after leading the league with six homers, a .457 slugging percentage and 56 total bases.

Bryant began the 2014 campaign with his first stop at Double-A and batted .355 with 22 homers and 58 RBI in 68 games with Tennessee to earn a spot on the Southern League All-Star team and a promotion to Triple-A on June 19, just a little more than a year after he was drafted. He batted .295 with 21 homers and 52 RBI in 70 games with Iowa. Bryant also started at third base for the U.S. Team at the All-Star Futures game in Minnesota. Overall, he has turned in a .327 batting average with 55 homers and 152 RBI in 181 minor league games.

As a junior at San Diego, the 6-foot-5, 215-pound Bryant won the 2013 USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award, was the Baseball America Player of the Year, the 2013 Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Year and the 2013 Louisville Slugger National Player of the Year. Bryant is a native of Las Vegas and a graduate of Bonanza High School.

Denorfia, 34, began the season on the 15-day disabled list due to a mild left hamstring strain. The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder split the 2014 campaign between San Diego and Seattle and combined to bat .230 with 12 doubles and three homers in 121 games. He played in two rehab games for Single-A Myrtle Beach, going 1-for-3 with a double.

Overall, Denorfia is a career .272 hitter in 705 games covering all or part of nine seasons with Cincinnati (2005-06), Oakland (2008-09), San Diego (2010-14) and Seattle (2014). He has averaged 21 doubles, four triples, nine homers and 13 stolen bases per 162 games played while turning in a career .331 on-base percentage and a .394 slugging mark.  Denorfia has played 352 big league games in right field, 248 games in left field and 164 games in center field.

Olt, 26, is hitting .133 (2-for-15) with one homer and one RBI in six games for the Cubs this season.

Cubs Lineup: 4/17/15

Cubs vs. Padres – Wrigley Field
First Pitch: 1:20 p.m. CST
Cubs Starter: Jason Hammel, RHP
Padres Starter: James Shields, RHP
Broadcast: ABC 7, Listen live at WBBM 780 AM


1. Dexter Fowler, CF
2. Jorge Soler, RF
3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
4. Kris Bryant, 3B
5. Chris Coghlan, LF
6. Starlin Castro, SS
7. Welington Castillo, C
8. Jason Hammel, RHP
9. Jonathan Herrera, 2B

From the Pages of Vine Line: Dexter Fowler is setting the table for the Cubs


 (Photo by Stephen Green)

At just 29 years old, Dexter Fowler has already played parts of seven big league seasons and solidified himself as one of the better leadoff hitters in the game. But many still believe the best is yet to come for the talented center fielder. The following story can be found in the April issue of Vine Line.

Prototypical leadoff hitters are a dying breed in baseball. As speed has declined in value and the importance of power has spiked around the game, there are fewer and fewer players who are able to work the count, take walks, run well and get on base at a decent clip.

Since the turn of the century, the Cubs have had only four guys you could truly label leadoff men—and one of the best, Alfonso Soriano, probably would have been much better suited to the middle of the order. Prior to that, there was one year of Juan Pierre in 2006, a few fleeting moments in the mid-2000s when it looked like Corey Patterson might be a decent table-setter, and then you have to go all the way back to Eric Young in 2000-01.

Former manager Rick Renteria deployed seven different leadoff men in 2014, and they combined to hit just .253 with a .303 on-base percentage. In other words, like most major league teams, the Cubs have had a big hole in the leadoff spot for years.

Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and Executive Vice President and General Manager Jed Hoyer hope they have solved that problem—and added a proven center fielder to boot—with the Jan. 19 trade that sent Luis Valbuena and Dan Straily to Houston in exchange for switch-hitter Dexter Fowler. At just 29 years old, Fowler has already played parts of seven big league seasons, and, despite floating around the Houston lineup last year, he has all the skills to be an old-school leadoff man.

“I see a lot of pitches,” Fowler said. “It’s a fact of knowing when to be aggressive and knowing when not to. Just being a leadoff hitter for my whole career, basically, it’s a job that I’ve become accustomed to. [Getting on base] is part of my game, and it’s been part of my game since early in my career, so it’s nothing new to me.”

After the Rockies made Fowler a 14th-round draft pick in 2004, he quickly worked his way up to the majors, making his big league debut in 2008 at the age of 22. He was a mainstay at Coors Field until December 2013, when he was traded to the Astros. During his career, the athletic outfielder has played all but one defensive inning in center field and has taken the majority of his cuts from the leadoff spot, a role he’s expected to fill in Chicago.

Despite relatively high strikeout totals—he’s averaged 115 K’s per year over his six seasons of regular playing time—he’s exactly what you want in a leadoff man. During that same six-year stretch, he hit .272 with a stellar .368 on-base percentage, averaging 65 walks and 16 stolen bases per season.

“He has a very good idea of his swing,” said Cubs hitting coach Jon Mallee, who worked with Fowler last season as Houston’s hitting coach. “His approach is second to none in the box, the way he recognizes pitches and the way he doesn’t expand out of the strike zone. He’s one of the best in baseball at just swinging at strikes.”

Though Fowler has always been an above-average big league player and has all the tools to be a star, injuries and inconsistency have thus far kept him from reaching his ceiling.

Between 2009-14, he averaged 128 games per year. But as he enters his age-29 season, the true prime of his career, many on the Cubs are expecting the 6-foot-5, 195-pound player to have a breakthrough campaign.

“This guy is probably on the verge of becoming really, really good,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon. “He’s at that age when things start making sense all the way around. He’s a young veteran. He’s had enough experience. So I’m really eager to watch this all unfold.”

For his part, Fowler is glad to be making a return to the National League, where he’s more familiar with the pitchers, and he is ecstatic to be reunited with Mallee in Chicago. He’s also spent several years watching what the Cubs have been building from afar. On a brief rehab assignment at Triple-A Oklahoma City last year, he matched up against the Cubs’ Iowa affiliate and came away impressed with what the organization has percolating.

“It’s an exciting lineup, with the guys coming in,” Fowler said. “We’re all pretty young, but we all have some time in the big leagues. There’s experience there and definitely a lot of talent. My role is just to get on base and just play my game—get on base any way I can, whether it’s hitting a line drive in the gap and running or taking a walk.”

And if Fowler takes his share of walks, that’s just fine with Maddon and the Cubs. The team’s major offensive weakness in recent years has been a low on-base percentage coupled with too many strikeouts. The Cubs ranked 28th in the game last season with a .300 team OBP and led all of baseball with 1,477 whiffs.

While most agree that patience at the plate is more innate than learned, the Cubs coaching staff is hoping Fowler’s pitch recognition and approach will rub off on some of the organization’s younger hitters. At the very least, having an experienced player at the top of the order who can grind at-bats will give the rest of the lineup a better chance to see what the starting pitcher’s stuff looks like on a given day.

“It does help to have a guy who has that [leadoff experience] because the younger players will see how he goes about his business, how he goes about his at-bat,” Mallee said. “It kind of sets the tone. And then he does a really good job of talking to the young guys and telling them, ‘Hey, in this situation, just try to look for something right here. If not, just take your walk.’ Coming from a coaching perspective, it’s nice to have players who have that experience to be able to help the younger guys.”

Few athletes are willing to dub themselves a “team leader,” especially when they’re new to an organization, and Fowler is no exception. But people who have played with him before rave about the intangibles he brings to the clubhouse. The charismatic Georgia native, who came through the famous East Cobb Little League program and was recruited in multiple sports by Dartmouth and Harvard before deferring to his big league dreams, is a cerebral hitter who studies pitchers and is happy to pass his knowledge along to others.

“He’s an awesome teammate,” said pitcher Jason Hammel, who played with Fowler in Colorado from 2009-11. “[He’s] a high-energy guy, always a positive guy. He fits the mold of what they’re trying to bring in here now. [He’s] obviously a guy who is ready to play, understands his duties. He’s prepared, and then he also knows how to have a good time.”

Throughout his career, Fowler has had many influences. He grew up idolizing Ken Griffey Jr., which is why he wears No. 24, but he also watched Andruw Jones patrol the outfield for his hometown Braves. One of his biggest mentors since he turned pro has been none other than all-time home run leader Barry Bonds. When Fowler was still in Colorado, he connected with Bonds through former Rockies coach Glenallen Hill. Fowler said Bonds preaches patience at the plate and the value of getting a good pitch to hit, lessons Fowler first learned from his father years ago.

Though Fowler fills another big need for the Cubs as a proven center fielder, one of the knocks on him throughout his career—at least as far as stat-heads are concerned—has been his defense. Long and lanky with a graceful stride, Fowler glides through the outfield, covering a ton of ground, and he’s blessed with a cannon for an arm. Yet, in 111 games in center field last season for the Astros, he had a -21.8 ultimate zone rating and -20 defensive runs saved, well below what you’d expect from an elite center fielder.

It basically comes down to the eye test versus advanced metrics. By the naked eye, Fowler more than looks the part and makes his share of outstanding plays. But the numbers seem to contradict what the eye is seeing. Fowler said all he cares about is what his pitchers think. And if Hammel is any indication, the Cubs’ hurlers will be more than happy to have Fowler prowling the Friendly Confines’ vast outfield.

“I want him out there,” Hammel said. “I couldn’t care less. I don’t even know what the hell all the new [analytics] things that you put together are—FIP and all that crap, whatever it is. I know when he has a glove on, he’s going to go run the ball down. Any time you get a guy in center field who can basically cover all three outfield positions from one, it’s going to help your team.”

Though Fowler has heard the questions about his defense before, he puts very little stock in the critique. And he is definitely not going to be cowed by playing defense at Wrigley Field, which is notoriously tough on outfielders. In his career so far, he’s manned center field in two of the game’s most expansive ballparks—Colorado’s Coors Field and Houston’s Minute Maid Park. He knows what he can do and is confident that Cubs fans will appreciate the effort he gives every day.

“Come watch me,” he said. “That’s the best answer for that. If you know the game, you can watch the game, and you’ll see me go get fly balls and do all that. Then I think you’ll be a fan. You ask pitchers, you ask coaches, ‘Who do you want in center field?’ See what they say. It doesn’t matter what the computer says. Ask the guys who are in the game and watching the game.”

Fowler is smart enough to know he’s joining the Cubs at the right time. After several subpar years, the team had a big offseason, adding players like Jon Lester, Miguel Montero and Hammel to an already strong core. Though Fowler becomes a free agent after 2015, he’s most certainly not looking ahead to the offseason or focusing too much energy on putting up a great walk year. He’s too focused on what Epstein calls “the single greatest pursuit left in professional sports.”

“My expectations are to win a championship, as always,” Fowler said. “The excitement around the team right now is second to none. We just want to go and do it for Ernie [Banks].

“It’s awesome being here. You really see what the ‘C’ stands for when you look at the fans, and you look at the organization. To have that on your chest is definitely an honor. It’s a historic organization, and it’s very exciting.”

Many, including Mallee, believe the next step for Fowler is increased power at the plate. His career high is 13 home runs, which he hit with Colorado in 2012. Like most switch-hitters, his overall numbers are better from his natural, or right-hand, side. He didn’t pick up switch-hitting until he was drafted by Colorado in 2005, and he’s worked hard to even out his left-handed swing ever since.

“He’s got more power than he’s shown,” Mallee said. “He’s really an amazing right-handed hitter, and he’s a really good left-handed hitter that gets on base. I think he’s going to hit for more power this year left-handed than he has in the past.”

If the Cubs have, in fact, found a true leadoff hitter who can consistently get on base for the heart of the order, they’ll have a commodity that’s growing ever rarer in today’s game.

They’ll also have a perfect mentor and role model for a young offense still searching for its identity. And that might be just what the organization needs as it turns the corner and becomes a perennial contender in the NL Central.

“The experience is a huge thing,” Mallee said. “Plus, he’s a switch-hitter so it’s like having two guys—a righty leadoff hitter and a lefty leadoff hitter. … For what we’re trying to do to increase our on-base percentage and then get some guys on base in front of the big boys who can drive them in … having that guy set the tone, and leading off the game, and really putting an at-bat on the pitcher, and wearing him down, and seeing pitches and taking pitches for the other guys—that’s just great to have. I’m so excited that we got him.”

—By Gary Cohen

Cubs Minor League Recap: 4/15/15

Iowa lost on a walk-off hit, and South Bend’s comeback bid wasn’t enough on Wednesday. Tennessee and Myrtle Beach were both rained out. Here are some notes from yesterday’s minor league action:

Iowa Cubs (3-3)
Third Place (-1.5)

Iowa saw its three-game winning streak snapped as the club fell 3-2 in walk-off fashion at New Orleans in 10 innings.

  • 2B Jonathan Mota (.462) went 2-for-4 with an RBI. He is 5-for-9 with two runs in his last three games.
  • 1B Chris Valaika (.240) snapped a two-game hitless skid as he went 2-for-4 with a double.
  • 3B Kris Bryant (.333) reached base for the fourth straight game, going 0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored.
  • RHP Donn Roach retired the first 12 batters he faced and allowed just one base runner in six innings.

South Bend Cubs
T-Fourth Place (-3.0)

After falling behind 9-0 in three innings, South Bend rallied, but it wasn’t enough. They lost to Fort Wayne, 10-7.

  • 1B Cael Brockmeyer (.409) went 2-for-4 with a walk, a double, an RBI and a run scored. He has six doubles and five RBI in six games and has a three-game hitting streak (.455/5-for-11).
  • CF Trey Martin (.269) and 2B Chesny Young (.259) each went 2-for-5 with a run scored and an RBI. Martin has hit safely in five straight games (.304/7-for-23).
  • C Gioskar Amaya (.238) hit his first double of the season, going 2-for-3 with a run scored.

Cubs to leave Wintrust W lit up after wins at Wrigley Field

WintrustThis season, the Cubs will debut a new twist on an old tradition. After each Cubs win at Wrigley Field, the team will keep the Wintrust “W” lit above the new video board once the ballpark lights turn off.

Though the left-field video board is definitely new, the concept of keeping a blue light shining after Cubs wins is not. During the major renovation of 1937, when the team constructed the modern-style bleachers and scoreboard and planted the ivy, the idea came about to install two lights atop the scoreboard along with the W and L flags. That way, commuters on the El would still be able to tell if the Cubs won or lost even after it got dark and it was no longer possible to see the flags.

The Cubs installed a blue light on the third-base side of the scoreboard to be lit following wins and a white light on first-base side for losses. More than 75 years later, those lights were still being used.

To continue to preserve this history while utilizing Wrigley Field’s newest assets to their best effect, the Cubs will have a new tradition following Cubs wins. Long after “Go, Cubs, Go” has finished playing and the crowds have poured back out into Wrigleyville, the blue W in the Wintrust logo atop the video board will keep fans and commuters posted on the fate of their beloved Cubs. Watch for it all season at the Friendly Confines.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,248 other followers