1000 Words: Bryant and Baez, Friendly Foes

Bryant_Baez

(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

During Sunday’s MLB Futures Game, which pits the top international prospects with the best American talents, Cubs prospect Javier Baez ripped a home run in the sixth inning to put the World Team ahead. As the Puerto Rican-born shortstop rounded rounded third, his Iowa Cubs teammate Kris Bryant (representing the U.S. Team) applauded his efforts. Baez finished 1-for-2 with the homer, while Bryant went 0-for-3 with a walk.

After a slow start to the season, Baez has picked up the pace. He wrapped up the first half hitting .240/.305/.449 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 14 homers at Triple-A Iowa. In 92 games between Double-A and Triple-A this season, Bryant is hitting .346/.444/.701 with 31 homers and 81 RBI.

 

 

ESPN’s Law names Bryant top MiLB prospect

KrisBryant_Futures

Kris Bryant is now seen by many as the top prospect in baseball. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

A year ago, Kris Bryant hadn’t even made his rookie ball debut. Fast forward to now, and the Cubs farmhand is viewed by many as the top prospect in the game. ESPN Insider Keith Law recently unveiled his midseason Top 50 MLB Prospects list, and he put the Triple-A third baseman squarely at the top. Joining Bryant on the list are three other Cubs prospects, including two more in the top eight overall. Below are excerpts from the list on the top Cubs prospects:

1. Kris Bryant, 3B | Chicago Cubs

Age: 22 | Current Level: AAA (Iowa)

Preseason Ranking: 15

While there are players in the minors who offer higher ceilings — notably the next two guys on this list — Bryant is so close to major-league ready that his value at this moment is at least as high as that of Buxton, who’s playing now but has been hurt most of the year, or Correa, who’s out at least until the Fall League. Bryant has power, he’s capable at third base, and his eye and approach continue to improve. Even if he’s just a .260-.270 hitter — probably a pessimistic forecast — he’ll still be a MVP-caliber bat who hits 30-40 homers and gets on base at a solid clip.

4. Addison Russell, SS | Chicago Cubs

Age: 20Current Level: AA (Tennessee)

Preseason Ranking: 3

Russell will be the best prospect to change hands this season, going from the Oakland Athletics, who took him with the 11th overall pick in 2012, to the Cubs in the deal that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the A’s. A torn hamstring robbed Russell of most of April and May, but he’s healthy now and hasn’t lost anything at the plate or in the field. He has outstanding hands and plenty of arm for shortstop, which makes up for slightly limited range. His footwork has improved over the last year, so I don’t really doubt that he can stay at the position. Those great hands also serve him well at the plate, helping him to accelerate his bat quickly and get good loft in his finish to create line-drive power. I see a high-average hitter with a strong OBP and 10-15 homers — maybe even a few more —  who plays above-average defense at shortstop.

8. Javier Baez, SS | Chicago Cubs

Age: 21 Current Level: AAA (Iowa)

Preseason Ranking: 7

Baez still has the minors’ best bat speed, with great wrist and forearm strength that translates into huge all-fields power, which you saw in his homer in the Futures Game off a hanging breaking ball. He’s still rough around the edges at short, agile enough to play but lacking the finesse or the focus to do so at a major league level. That same Futures Game performance also saw him lollygagging on a groundball to short and delivering a lazy throw when he needed to fire one over to first base. Makeup may be the biggest concern here. Otherwise, Baez has the raw ability to become a 35-40 homer guy at second or third base.

28. Jorge Soler, RF | Chicago Cubs

Age: 22Current Level: AA (Tennessee)

Preseason Ranking: 26

Soler is a monster if he can just stay on the field. He has electric bat speed, plus-plus raw power and the athleticism and arm to play an above-average or better right field. He’s gotten bigger and stronger since signing in 2012, and in the 15 games he’s managed to play in Double-A this year, he’s hit .400/.456/.880 with 14 extra-base hits in 57 at-bats (tiny sample size caveat applies), indicative of his crazy strength. While he’s been injured too often for me to rank him higher, he has the raw offensive ability to be a top 10 prospect if he gets the at-bats to work on his recognition of offspeed stuff.

 

10 Decades, 10 Legends: 1990s—Mark Grace

Grace

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

For our annual July All-Star issue, Vine Line set out to find the most valuable player from each 10-year span in Wrigley Field’s history to create a Cubs All-Star team for the ages. There are hundreds of ways to go about this, so we simplified things by using the baseball statistics website Fangraphs to find the player with the highest Wins Above Replacement total for each decade.

Wins Above Replacement, better known as WAR, takes all of a player’s statistics—both offensive and defensive—and outputs them into a single number designed to quantify that player’s total contributions to his team (though for pitchers, we used only their mound efforts and excluded offensive stats). For our purposes, a player received credit only for the numbers he posted in each individual decade and only for the years he was a member of the Cubs.

In the ninth installment of our 10 Decades, 10 Legends series, we look at first baseman Mark Grace, one of the biggest fan favorites ever to play on the North Side. He’s also grossly underrated and essentially dominated the 1990s.

Previous Decades:
1910s – Hippo Vaughn
1920s – Grover Cleveland Alexander
1930s – Billy Herman
1940s – Bill Nicholson
1950 – Ernie Banks
1960s – Ron Santo
1970s – Rick Reuschel
1980s – Ryne Sandberg

1990s—Mark Grace, 36.2 WAR

Seasons: 1990-99
AVG/OBP/SLG: .310/.385/.449
PA: 6,467
HR: 117
R: 843
RBI: 786
SB: 49

Given Mark Grace’s enduring popularity on the North Side, it’s hard to believe how much the beloved first baseman flew under the radar on a national scale.

Throughout the 1990s, Grace’s WAR total ranks eighth of all NL position players. It’s also a well-known fact that he and Pete Rose are the only two players in major league history to lead the league in hits for a decade without being elected to the Hall of Fame. While those chances quickly faded—Grace received just 4.1 percent of the vote on his first Hall of Fame ballot in 2009, removing his name from future consideration—there’s a good reason Gracie has always been a fan favorite.

He had a solid debut in 1988, finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting, before becoming a legitimate star in the 1990s. Not only did he lead the decade in hits, he also had the most doubles, went to three All-Star Games (1993, 1995 and 1997), and helped the Cubs to a postseason berth in 1998. For the decade, he hit .310/.385/.449 with 711 walks versus 448 strikeouts.

Grace was also one of the better defensive first basemen of his era, picking up four Gold Gloves, all in the 1990s. He would go on to win a World Series title with the Diamondbacks in 2001.

Cubs Minor League Recap: 7/15/14

Most of the Cubs’ minor league squads had a scheduled day off, including Iowa, which is in the midst of the Triple-A All-Star break. Pitchers Blake Parker, Kyle Hendricks and Tsuyoshi Wada will all take part in Wednesday’s All-Star Game. Arismendy Alcantara was also named to the squad, but will not play due to his recent promotion. Boise was the only team in action Tuesday, and they secured a one-run win on a walk-off single. Tennessee, Daytona, Kane County and Mesa all resume play Wednesday. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s Hawks game:

Boise Hawks (18-14)
2nd Place (-1.0)

After surrendering a one-run lead to Spokane in the ninth, Boise emerged with the 4-3 walk-off win thanks to an RBI single from RF Jeffrey Baez.

  • RHP Erick Leal pitched six innings, giving up one earned run and striking out five.
  • Baez (.288) knocked in the game-winner with his third hit of the night, extending his Northwest League-leading hitting streak to 18 games (.377/29-for-77). His season average has risen from .164 to .288 during the streak.
  • CF Rashad Crawford (.325), SS Chesny Young (.423) and C Mark Malave (.278) each recorded two hits. Malave singled and doubled, knocking in two (9).
  • RHP Ryan Williams (0.00) and LHP Sam Wilson (1.80) both suffered their first blown saves. Each allowed one run over two frames (Williams’ run was unearned). Wilson fanned five to earn his first win.

10 Decades, 10 Legends: 1980s—Ryne Sandberg

SandbergRyne

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

For our annual July All-Star issue, Vine Line set out to find the most valuable player from each 10-year span in Wrigley Field’s history to create a Cubs All-Star team for the ages. There are hundreds of ways to go about this, so we simplified things by using the baseball statistics website Fangraphs to find the player with the highest Wins Above Replacement total for each decade.

Wins Above Replacement, better known as WAR, takes all of a player’s statistics—both offensive and defensive—and outputs them into a single number designed to quantify that player’s total contributions to his team (though for pitchers, we used only their mound efforts and excluded offensive stats). For our purposes, a player received credit only for the numbers he posted in each individual decade and only for the years he was a member of the Cubs.

In the eighth installment of our 10 Decades, 10 Legends series, we look at second baseman Ryne Sandberg, who was not only the best Cubs player of the 1980s, but also one of the best in the game.

Previous Decades:
1910s – Hippo Vaughn
1920s – Grover Cleveland Alexander
1930s – Billy Herman
1940s – Bill Nicholson
1950 – Ernie Banks
1960s – Ron Santo
1970s – Rick Reuschel

1980s – Ryne Sandberg, 33.7 WAR

Seasons: 1982-89
AVG/OBP/SLG: .285/.341/.439
PA: 5,379
HR: 139
R: 754
RBI: 549
SB: 250

In January 1982, the Phillies were interested in acquiring the services of Cubs shortstop Ivan De Jesus. In exchange, Philly shipped the aging Larry Bowa to the North Side, along with a lightly regarded infield prospect named Ryne Sandberg. Little did the Philadelphia organization know it had just given up the most productive second baseman of the 1980s.

Sandberg went on to a remarkable 16-year career in Chicago and quickly became the face of the franchise. From his start with the Cubs in 1982 through the end of the decade, he won an MVP Award (1984), six Silver Slugger Awards and seven Gold Gloves. He also went to six All-Star Games.

While 1984’s “Sandberg Game”—a nationally televised affair in which he hit a game-tying home run in the ninth inning off Bruce Sutter and then another off the Hall of Famer in the 10th—was likely his most memorable performance, he also managed to lead his club to two postseason berths. In 10 playoff games, Ryno hit .385/.457/.641 with five doubles and six RBI.

He continued to produce at a high level into the early 1990s and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2005.

Cubs Minor League Recap: 7/14/14

One of the Cubs’ top prospects hit for the cycle, helping Daytona to an extra-innings win, and Mesa jumped back into a first-place tie after a successful Monday. Both Tennessee and Kane County dropped games in the late innings, and Iowa had the day off for the Triple-A All-Star Game Tuesday night. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s minor action:

Tennessee Smokies (13-12)
T-1st Place (–)

Charles Cutler tied the game in the fifth with a two-run, inside-the-park home run, but the Smokies offense couldn’t break the tie, falling 6-5 at home to Jacksonville.

  • Cutler (.335) finished 2-for-4 with two runs, his third homer of the season and two RBI (31).
  • LF Pin-Chieh Chen (.270), 3B Christian Villanueva (.292) and CF Jae-Hoon Ha (.213) all had two hits apiece.
  • Villanueva had two of Tennessee’s five doubles—the remaining three came from SS Addison Russell (.222, 1 2B), 2B Stephen Bruno (.281, 19 2B), and PH Dustin Geiger (.226, 20 2B).
  • RF Jorge Soler (0-for-3, RBI) was named the Southern League Hitter of the Week for the period from July 7-13, hitting .556 (10-for-18) with four runs, two doubles, four homers and eight RBI in six games.

Daytona Cubs (15-8)
1st Place (+0.5)

Albert Almora’s triple in the 13th helped him complete the cycle and lift Daytona over host Juptier, 13-8.

  • With his 5-for-7 night, Almora (.276) became the first Daytona Cub to hit for the cycle since Brett Jackson on June 14, 2010. He also drove in a career-high five runs, beginning when he and SS Marco Hernandez (3-for-7, 3 R, HR, RBI) hit back-to-back homers to lead off the game.
  • 1B Dan Vogelbach (.274) and 3B Jordan Hankins (.250) each added three hits. Vogelbach drove in two (46), while Hankins tallied his second double.
  • LF Bijan Rademacher (.290) went 2-for-5 with a run, his sixth homer and two RBI (35).
  • RF Billy McKinney (.286) and 2B Gioskar Amaya (.272) each had two hits.
  • After RHP Starling Peralta (3.92) blew his third save, allowing three runs over three frames, RHP Zack Godley earned the win with a scoreless 12th inning.

Kane County Cougars (17-7)
1st Place (+1.0)

Visiting Beloit scored two in the ninth inning to beat Kane County, 3-2.

  • Kane County managed just four hits, including a two-run double (12 2B, 21 RBI) from SS David Bote.
  • RHP Daury Torrez (2.81) delivered his ninth quality start (6-1) in 17 tries, going seven innings and allowing no earned runs. He has allowed zero earned runs in four of his last five starts.
  • Torrez was succeeded by RHP Michael Wagner (1-2, 3.51), who surrendered two runs to suffer his first blown save and second loss of the season.

Boise Hawks (17-14)
2nd Place (-2.0)

Boise and Spokane scored all of their combined 17 runs in the first four innings, with host Boise winning, 11-6. C Mark Zagunis became the first Hawk to hit for the cycle since Demond Smith on August 4, 1994, vs. Everett.

  • Zagunis launched his first professional home run in the fourth inning en route to becoming one of two Cubs minor leaguers to hit for the cycle yesterday. He finished 4-for-5 with three runs and four RBI (12). His total hits, runs and RBI all set new professional career highs.
  • 2B Jason Vosler (.286) also notched his first professional home run in his seventh game with Boise, finishing 3-for-4 with a run, the homer and two RBI (5).
  • RF Jeffry Baez (.273) extended his Northwest League-leading hitting streak to 17 games (.366/26-for-71), going 2-for-5 with two runs scored.

Mesa Cubs (10-8)
T-1st Place (–)

Mesa moved into a tie for first place with a 5-1 win at the AZL Giants.

  • DH Alberto Mineo (.362) hit his first homer of the season, finishing 2-for-4.
  • 2B Bryant Flete (.333) singled and drove in two (5).
  • LF Kevonte Mitchell (.250) went 1-for-3 with two runs, a walk, and two stolen bases (3).
  • LHP Carson Sands (1-0, 0.00) struck out two in a scoreless sixth to earn his first professional win in his second game with Mesa.

Now Playing: Castro and Rizzo are ready for the 2014 All-Star Game

The heart of the Cubs order will be on hand for Tuesday night’s 2014 MLB All-Star Game in Minneapolis, as Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo will represent the North Siders in the Midsummer Classic.

Despite just being 24 years old, Castro is already participating in his third All-Star Game. After struggling for much of 2013, the shortstop has bounced back this season, hitting .276/.326/.440 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 11 home runs and 52 RBI.

Joining Castro in the NL dugout is first baseman Rizzo, who is making his first All-Star appearance. The National League’s Final Vote winner has hit 20 home runs (third in the NL) to go along with his .275/.381/.499 line and is quickly earning comparisons to some of the game’s top first basemen.

Castro and Rizzo spoke to Vine Line this week about what it means to be selected to the All-Star Game.

10 Decades, 10 Legends: 1970s—Rick Reuschel

Reuschel

For our annual July All-Star issue, Vine Line set out to find the most valuable player from each 10-year span in Wrigley Field’s history to create a Cubs All-Star team for the ages. There are hundreds of ways to go about this, so we simplified things by using the baseball statistics website Fangraphs to find the player with the highest Wins Above Replacement total for each decade.

Wins Above Replacement, better known as WAR, takes all of a player’s statistics—both offensive and defensive—and outputs them into a single number designed to quantify that player’s total contributions to his team (though for pitchers, we used only their mound efforts and excluded offensive stats). For our purposes, a player received credit only for the numbers he posted in each individual decade and only for the years he was a member of the Cubs.

In the seventh installment of our 10 Decades, 10 Legends series, we look at towering right-hander Rick Reuschel, who was a consistent workhorse throughout the 1970s.

Previous Decades:
1910s – Hippo Vaughn
1920s – Grover Cleveland Alexander
1930s – Billy Herman
1940s – Bill Nicholson
1950 – Ernie Banks
1960s – Ron Santo

1970s – Rick Reuschel, 41.3 WAR

Seasons: 1972-79
AVG/OBP/SLG: 114-101
W-L: 284-274
G-GS: 284-274
IP: 1834.1
K: 1122
K/9: 5.50
ERA: 3.43

Unlike some of the other players on this list, Rick Reuschel’s numbers don’t jump off the page. He even led the league in losses in 1975 with 17, albeit with a 3.73 ERA. But while he didn’t earn a lot of attention for his efforts, Reuschel was definitely the standout performer for the Cubs during a down decade—a stretch that saw the team win between 75 and 85 games nine times.

The right-hander’s lofty WAR total can largely be attributed to a clean bill of health and a high level of consistency. He won at least 10 games from his big league debut in 1972 through the end of the decade. He also pitched no fewer than 234 innings a season from 1973-79, making at least 35 starts in each of those years. As a result, his WAR total ranks fifth among all pitchers in the 1970s.

The 1977 All-Star wasn’t one to strike out a ton of hitters—he averaged 5.1 K/9 for his career—but he used deception and a wide arsenal of pitches to get hitters out.

Big Daddy’s finest season came in 1977, when he went 20-10 with a 2.79 ERA, made his lone Cubs All-Star appearance and finished third in the Cy Young race. He ultimately pitched for 19 seasons and earned 214 major league victories.

 

Cubs Minor League Recap: 7/13/14

The Cubs minor league system had a successful Sunday, with only Iowa taking a loss. Meanwhile, Mesa was rained out. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s minor league action:

Iowa Cubs (51-46)
2nd Place (-0.5)

Iowa managed just three hits in a 5-2 loss to visiting Oklahoma City.

  • 2B Logan Watkins (.277), SS Chris Valaika (.289) and 1B Lars Anderson (.254) all recorded a hit.
  • RHP Dae-Eun Rhee (6.43) allowed one run on three hits and struck out three in three innings of relief.

Tennessee Smokies (13-11)
1st Place (+0.5)

Tennessee used a seven-run fifth-inning to snap a three-game skid and beat visiting Jacksonville, 14-8.

  • RF Jorge Soler (.426) recorded his first career multihomer game, going 3-for-5 with two runs scored, two home runs and a career-high five RBI (17).
  • 2B Stephen Bruno (.281) went 3-for-5 with two runs, three RBI (28) and one stolen base (5).
  • SS Elliot Soto (.233) and LF Anthony Giansanti (.233) had two hits apiece.
  • RHP Zach Cates (2-1, 2.25) tossed two scoreless innings of relief to earn the victory.

Daytona Cubs (14-8)
T-1st Place (–)

Daytona won its second-straight game, beating host Jupiter, 6-2.

  • RHP Tayler Scott pitched six scoreless innings to earn the win.
  • RF Billy McKinney (.261) went 1-for-4 with a home run and four RBI (8).
  • C Chadd Krist (.214) went 2-for-3 with a second-inning, two-run homer.
  • RHP Zack Godley (5.01) tossed a scoreless eighth inning.

Kane County Cougars (17-6)
1st Place (+2.0)

GM 1: Kane County held visiting Beloit to just three hits in a 3-1 victory.

  • RHP Jen-Ho Tseng gave up three hits over seven innings and surrendered just one run to earn the win.
  • DH Kyle Schwarber (.382) and 1B Jacob Rogers (.265) had two hits apiece.

GM 2: Kane County beat Beloit 6-5 to complete the doubleheader sweep.

  • 3B Jeimer Candelario (.267) went 2-for-3 with two home runs and a game-high four RBI (15).
  • LHP Michael Heesch (2-0, 3.18) allowed one run on two hits in one inning of relief to earn the win.

Boise Hawks (16-14)
2nd Place (-2.0)

Boise recorded 11 hits in a 6-2 victory at Eugene.

  • 3B Jesse Hodges (.264) and 1B Alex Tomasovich (.275) had two hits apiece.
  • RF Jeffry Baez (.273) extended his hitting streak to a season-high 16 games (.364/24-for-66).
  • RHP James Norwood (0.00) struck out four hitters in two perfect innings of relief.

Cubs Minor League Recap: 7/10/14

Of the Cubs minor league affiliates, only Kane County picked up a win Thursday. Mesa had the day off and will resume play Friday. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s minor league action:

Iowa Cubs (49-44)
1st Place (+0.5)

Iowa scored their lone run on a solo shot from 3B Kris Bryant, falling to host Omaha, 7-1.

  • Bryant (.329) led off the seventh with his ninth home run since joining Iowa and 31st of the season. He has hit safely in 18 of his 23 games as an I-Cub.
  • C Rafael Lopez (.280) recorded the first four-hit game of his career, tallying four singles in four at-bats.
  • 1B Logan Watkins (.265) went 1-for-4 with his 11th double of the season off of Omaha’s Tim Collins. The two-bagger was his first extra-base hit off of a lefty this season.

Tennessee Smokies (12-9)
2nd Place (-0.5)

Entering the ninth knotted at four, the visiting Suns out-rallied the Smokies to win, 6-5.

  • RF Jorge Soler (.405) hit his third home run in his last three games, finishing 2-for-4 with a run, a walk and two RBI (12). He has reached base safely in all but one of his 11 games with the Smokies this season.
  • SS Addison Russell (.143) recorded his first two hits with the organization in his third game with Tennessee. His seventh-inning single snapped an initial 0-for-12 skid.
  • 1B Dustin Geiger (.222) finished 2-for-4 with his fourth double in as many games and 18th of the season.

Daytona Cubs (12-7)
T-1st Place (–)

Dunedin jumped ahead with a five-run fourth and never looked back, topping the Cubs in Daytona, 7-4.

  • SS Marco Hernandez (.293) finished 3-for-5 with his 10th double of the season. It marked his 23rd multihit game of the season and his fourth three-hit performance.
  • LF Bijan Rademacher (.285) knocked two doubles in four at-bats, bringing his season total to 16. His two RBI bring him to 32 on the season, the third-highest total on the team.
  • The team went just 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position, but managed to produce four runs from seven hits and four walks.

Kane County Cougars (14-5)
1st Place (+1.5)

The Cougars scored early and often at Quad Cities, tallying three in the top of the first en route to a 9-5 win over the River Bandits.

  • 3B Jeimer Candelario (.238) set a season high with eight total bases, including his first homer with Kane County and two doubles (6).
  • 2B Ben Carhart (.283) had his third multihit game in his last four, finishing 3-for-5 with a run and three RBI.
  • CF Jacob Hannemann (.267) went 2-for-5 with his 13th double of the season.
  • SS Carlos Penalver (.224) also notched multiple hits, singling twice and walking while scoring two runs.
  • RF Kevin Brown (.364) launched his second homer in three games since being promoted to Kane County.
  • RHP Jose Arias (1.82) recorded the final two outs for his second save of the year.

Boise Hawks (14-13)
T-2nd Place (-1.0)

Boise pitching allowed nine runs on 19 hits and two errors as the Hawks fell, 9-3, at home.

  • RF Jeffrey Baez (.275), C Mark Zagunis (.366) and 1B Alex Tomasovich (.255) recorded two hits apiece.
  • Eight of Boise’s nine hitters recorded a hit. 2B Giuseppe Pappacio (.197), the lone hitless Hawk, also contributed offensively with a sacrifice fly in the third.
  • RHP Josh Davis (1-1, 7.11) suffered his first loss of the season, allowing four earned runs in 0.2 frames.
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,575 other followers