Results tagged ‘ Carlos Villanueva ’

Villanueva makes Cubs debut, Barney at DH

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Recent Cubs signee Carlos Villanueva will take the mound Monday, as the Cubs travel to meet the free-spending Dodgers at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz. Last year, the 29-year-old right-hander split time as a starter and a reliever for the Blue Jays, going 7-7 with a 4.16 ERA in 125.1 innings. He signed a two-year deal this offseason and will be vying for one of the final starting spots.

It will be all right-handed pitchers Monday as Jensen Lewis, Blake Parker, Michael Bowden, Robert Whitenack and Barret Loux are also scheduled to throw.

The position players will be a mix of regulars, fringe players and prospects. Welington Castillo (catcher), Darwin Barney (designated hitter), Nate Schierholtz (right field) and Scott Hairston (center field)—who all project to see significant time this season and will undoubtedly be on the Opening Day roster—are all in the lineup.

The versatile Luis Valbuena, who will continue to split time around the infield, will play second base Monday, while the athletic Junior Lake will get the start at the hot corner. Non-roster invitees Brad Nelson and Alberto Gonzalez will start at first base and shortstop, respectively.

Nelson hit .279 with 24 home runs and 81 RBI last season for Texas’ Triple-A squad. The 30-year-old slugger has hit 80 home runs over the last four minor league seasons. Gonzalez missed much of 2012 but hit .215 in 102 games for the Padres in 2011.

Non-roster invitee Darnell McDonald will start in left field. McDonald hit .205 in 88 at-bats with the Red Sox and Yankees in 2012

Brian Bogusevic, Steve Clevenger, Brett Jackson, Brent Lillibridge, Edwin Maysonet, Dave Sappelt, Jorge Soler and Logan Watkins are also expected to come off the bench today.

First pitch is scheduled for 2:05 CST, and the game will be available for free on MLB.TV. The Dodgers will be sending right-hander Chad Billingsley to the mound. Here is the batting order:

2B Luis Valbuena
DH Darwin Barney
RF Nate Schierholtz
CF Scott Hairston
1B Brad Nelson
LF Darnell McDonald
C Welington Castillo
3B Junior Lake
SS Alberto Gonzalez

Spring Training Preview: The Starting Five


(Photo by Stephen Green)

Finally, baseball is back. As pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training this past weekend, Cubs fans everywhere got a little more excited with the realization that the baseball season is nearing.

And to get us back into gear, the February issue of Vine Line previewed the squad heading into Mesa, Ariz. We broke the team down into five groups—starting pitching, relief pitching, infielders, outfielders and catchers—to give people a clearer picture of what the team could look like when it breaks camp and heads to Chicago.

Below is the starting rotation preview. The February issue is on newsstands now, with single issues available by calling 800-618-8377. Or visit the Vine Line page on to subscribe to the magazine.

If everyone stays healthy—always a big if—the Cubs will have an abundance of starting pitching for the first time in a while. Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson and Jeff Samardzija are locks for the rotation, while Scott Feldman, Scott Baker, Travis Wood and Carlos Villanueva will battle for the final two spots. Baker, who has a 63-48 career record, underwent Tommy John surgery in April. Though he may be ready come Opening Day, the Cubs’ depth allows them to be patient with his return.

Garza’s rehab from the elbow issues that knocked him out for the final two months of 2012 appears to be on schedule, and he’s been adamant that he’ll be ready by April. A healthy Garza could build on his impressive 2011 season, in which he had a career-best 3.32 ERA and 197 strikeouts. The Cubs’ surplus of starting pitching makes the idea of parting with Garza in a trade for prospects slightly easier to stomach. That’s certainly a possibility, either in March when he’s proven he’s healthy or at the July trade deadline.

Jackson’s acquisition provides the team with a reliable innings-eater—he’s made at least 31 starts and tossed at least 180 innings in each of the last five seasons—a wildly underappreciated skill. Any manager who’s had to overuse his bullpen, like the Cubs have the past few seasons, will tell you how much he appreciates having a pitcher he can rely on to deliver six quality innings every fifth day.

Feldman and Wood both have the ability to be competent starters, and Villanueva showed flashes of brilliance last season, including an impressive 22.9 percent strikeout rate and 6.7 percent walk rate in 92 innings as a starter. However, he has yet to prove he can deliver those numbers over 160-plus innings.

The real breakout star in the rotation may be Samardzija, whose road to this point has been bumpy. In the span of two seasons, Samardzija has gone from failed prospect, to reliable bullpen arm, to possible future ace, thanks to his dogged work ethic and electric arm. Samardzija will have no innings limit in 2013, so it’s a good bet he’ll take another step forward and become the anchor for a rotation that has the potential to be the team’s strength.

Cubs agree to terms with RHP Carlos Villanueva

The Chicago Cubs and right-handed pitcher Carlos Villanueva have agreed to terms on a two-year contract. To make room for Villanueva on the 40-man roster, right-handed pitcher Lendy Castillo has been designated for assignment.

Villanueva, 29, joins the Cubs after pitching the last seven seasons with Milwaukee (2006-10) and Toronto (2011-12). The versatile Villanueva has made 56 starts and 245 relief appearances during his major league career, going 33-35 with six saves and a 4.26 ERA (311 ER/657.1 IP) in 301 big league outings. In his most recent two seasons with the Blue Jays, Villanueva made 29 starts and 42 relief appearances.

Last season, he carried a 7-4 record and a 3.10 ERA (34 ER/98.2 IP) in 33 appearances (11 starts) through the end of August before struggling during the season’s final month with a 0-3 record and an 8.10 ERA (24 ER/26.2 IP) in five September starts. Overall in 2012, Villanueva went 7-7 with a 4.16 ERA (58 ER/125.1 IP) in 38 appearances (16 starts).

Villanueva made his major league debut with Milwaukee in 2006 and became a big league mainstay by the 2008 season. He set a career high with 64 appearances in 2009 and averaged a career-best 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings in 2010, his lone season pitching exclusively in relief. Villanueva set career highs last season with 125.1 innings pitched, 16 starts and 122 strikeouts.

In his career, Villanueva has limited opponents to a .248 batting average and a .315 on-base percentage. He has averaged 7.8 strikeouts and 3.1 walks per nine innings.

A native of Santiago, Dominican Republic, Villanueva originally signed with San Francisco as a non-drafted free agent in 2002. He was traded to Milwaukee just days prior to the 2004 season and was traded to Toronto during the 2010-11 offseason.

Castillo went 0-1 with a 7.88 ERA (14 ER/16.0 IP) in 13 relief outings for the Cubs last season.

Cubs 2013 ZiPs projections unveiled


(Photo by Stephen Green)

Each year, sabermetric enthusiast Dan Szymborski compiles projected stats for the upcoming season for all major league players. Using an intricate formula, the computer-based projections, better known as ZiPS (sZymborski Projection System), give an estimate for most notable offensive and pitching categories. Late last week, Szymborski unveiled his projections for the 2013 Cubs.

It should come as no surprise that shortstop Starlin Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo are projected to make the biggest impact in 2013, each slated for a 4.0 WAR (wins above an average replacement player). Castro is projected to hit .294/.332/.446 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 14 homers, 12 triples, 24 stolen bases and 77 RBI. The slugging Rizzo rates out at .279/.349/.503, with 31 homers, 109 driven in and 32 doubles.

On the pitching side, Jeff Samardzija projects to be the best starter with a 3.1 WAR. He’s estimated to throw 169 innings, strike out 172 batters and record a 3.62 ERA.

According to Szymborski, newcomer Edwin Jackson should have an ERA around 3.91 over 186.2 innings and fan 159 hitters. His estimated WAR of 2.8 is slightly better than Matt Garza’s 2.7.

Projected WAR of starting pitching candidates:

Jeff Samardzija: 3.1
Edwin Jackson: 2.8
Matt Garza: 2.7
Scott Baker: 1.6
Carlos Villanueva: 1.4
Travis Wood: 1.3
Scott Feldman: 1.0

Projected WAR of starting lineup:

Starlin Castro: 4.0
Anthony Rizzo: 4.0
Darwin Barney: 2.3
Alfonso Soriano: 1.8
Welington Castillo: 1.6
David Dejesus: 1.1
Nate Schierholtz: 0.8
Ian Stewart: 0.4