Results tagged ‘ Christian Villanueva ’
Slick-fielding infield prospect Christian Villanueva found himself in an unfamiliar spot Monday, as he lined up in left field. Though likely unrelated, he also had one of his better games of the winter at the dish. With few games going on around the Caribbean leagues, he was the only Cub in action. Here are some notes from yesterday’s game:
- LF Christian Villanueva smacked his fifth homer of the winter as the Yaquis de Obregon took down the Tomateros de Culiacan 6-3. He also added a single and scored a second run, finishing 2-for-4. Known for his defensive prowess at third base, it’s interesting to see the 23-year-old slated anywhere but the hot corner. In his six seasons of minor league ball, he has never played the outfield, and he is viewed by many as the best defensive third baseman in the organization. Though the glove has always been there, question marks surround Villanueva’s bat, as he hit .230/.297/.379 in split duties between Double- and Triple-A in 2014 and is a career .266 hitter. Though he has shown glimpses of pop (19 home runs in Double-A in 2013), it’s likely those offensive stats will need to improve as he progresses. Either way, games like the one he had Monday will surely boost his confidence.
Arismendy Alcantara hit a home run off an organizational teammate, and Christian Villanueva was one of the few bright spots in his team’s loss. Here are some notes from yesterday’s action around the Caribbean:
- CF Arismendy Alcantara smashed his second home run of the winter off organization mate Frank Batista, but his Tigres del Licey fell to the Aguilas Cibaenas. The two-run shot was his lone hit of the day in three at-bats.
- RHP Batista got the start and gave up three earned runs—including the aforementioned Alcantara homer—over four innings and struck out two for Cibaenas. His ERA now sits at 3.73.
- DH Christian Villanueva finished 1-for-4 with a single and a run scored despite his Yaquis de Obregon side falling 11-2 to the Charros de Jalisco Tuesday. He also managed to draw a walk in the defeat.
It was a quiet day for Cubs prospects in the Caribbean Sunday. Catching prospect Willson Contreras managed to help his team in Venezuela, while Arismendy Alcantara contributed to his Dominican club. Here are some notes from yesterday’s Caribbean action:
- CF Arismendy Alcantara recorded a single and walk for the Tigres del Licey. He finished 1-for-3 in the 7-2 win over the Aguilas Cibaenas.
- LHP Jeffry Antigua pitched a hitless eighth inning of relief for the Toros del Este. Antigua, who split time between Double- and Triple-A last season, struck out one Leones del Escogido hitter in a 5-4 loss.
- DH Christian Villanueva reached base on a pair of walks Sunday despite his Yaquis de Obregon side getting pummeled 16-3. He finished 0-for-2 against the Caneros de los Mochis pitchers.
- CF John Andreoli had a single in a Senadores de San Juan loss to the Indios de Mayaguez. He was one of four players to reach base in the 2-0 loss.
- C Willson Contreras recorded an RBI single as the Tigres de Aragua cruised to a 7-2 win over the Tiburones de La Guaira. Contreras is viewed as one of the better young catching prospects in the organization. He played 80 games at High-A Daytona, hitting .242/.320/.359 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with five homers.
Arismendy Alcantara had a big day at the plate in the Dominican Wednesday, while numerous other Cubs contributed to their respective clubs. Here are some notes from yesterday’s action in the Caribbean:
- CF Arismendy Alcantara’s Tigres del Licey fell 6-3 to the Gigantes del Cibao despite the major leaguer’s big day at the plate. The 23-year-old had a three-hit game including a first-inning solo shot. He finished 3-for-4 with a an RBI and a run scored.
- CF-LF Junior Lake reached base twice, going 1-for-5 with a walk and scoring two runs in an Estrellas de Oriente win over the Leones del Escogido. Lake also stole his third base of the season.
- 3B Christian Villanueva is better known for his defense, but he contributed in the Yaquis de Obregon’s win. He racked up his third double of the winter, finishing 1-for-3 and adding a walk. Obregon held of the Venados de Mazatlan by a score of 5-4.
- CF John Andreoli had one of the Senadores de San Juan’s four hits Thursday. Batting leadoff, he finished 1-for-3 with a walk in the loss to the Criollos de Caguas.
Christian Villanueva powered Triple-A Iowa to victory, but both Tennessee and Daytona lost one-run games Monday night. Kane County had the day off and resumes action Tuesday. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s action.
Iowa Cubs (2-3)
4th Place (1.5 Games Back)
3B Christian Villanueva supported a strong start by LHP Tsuyoshi Wada with a go-ahead, three-run home run with two outs in the sixth inning to lift Iowa over visiting Nashville, 4-1.
- RF Brett Jackson (.143) notched his first two hits of the season, including a fifth-inning triple, finishing 2-for-2 with a run scored, a walk and a stolen base.
- LHP Wada earned his first win in his debut with the I-Cubs. His eight punchouts have him tied for fifth place in the Pacific Coast League this season.
- RHP Blake Parker (0.00) earned the save, striking out two in a scoreless ninth. His 42 career saves are tops in the organization.
Tennessee Smokies (1-4)
5th Place (3 Games Back)
Tennessee fell at Pensacola, dropping a 3-2 decision and finishing the five-game series with a 1-4 record.
- RHP Matt Loosen went five innings, giving up three earned runs, walking three and striking out two in the loss.
- 1B Dustin Geiger (.278) went 2-for-4 with his second solo home run in as many days.
- SS Jeudy Valdez (.375) went 2-for-3 including an eighth-inning double that drove in his first run of the season.
- RHP Ryan Searle (2.08), LHP Hunter Cervenka (0.00), and RHP Tony Zych (9.00) combined for five strikeouts over three perfect innings of relief.
Daytona Cubs (1-3)
T-4th Place (2 Games Back)
Daytona surrendered an early three-run lead at home vs. Brevard County, losing 5-4 and committing three errors.
- LHP Rob Zastryzny gave up four runs in four innings, striking out six and walking two in a no-decision.
- LF Rock Shoulders (.200) went 2-for-4 with a run scored, a double, two RBI and two strikeouts.
- 3B Jeimer Candelario (.286) added two hits, going 2-for-4 with a run scored, a triple and one RBI.
- RHP Yao-Lin Wang (0-1, 0.00) suffered the loss on an unearned run that scored on a fielding error by SS Marco Hernandez in the top of the fifth inning.
Welington Castillo was one of 19 players to agree to a deal with the Cubs Monday afternoon. (Image by Stephen Green)
The Cubs have come to terms with 19 players on their 40-man roster with zero-to-three years of major league service time. The terms of the contracts were not disclosed.
The players who have reached agreements include right-handed pitchers Jake Arrieta, Dallas Beeler, Alberto Cabrera, Justin Grimm, Blake Parker, Neil Ramirez, Hector Rondon and Arodys Vizcaino; left-handed pitchers Zac Rosscup and Chris Rusin; catcher Welington Castillo; infielders Arismendy Alcantara, Mike Olt, Christian Villanueva and Logan Watkins; and outfielders Brett Jackson, Junior Lake, Matt Szczur and Josh Vitters.
Christian Villanueva is one of the best defensive infielders in the minors. (Photo by Rodger Wood)
Baseball stats website Baseball Prospectus continued its Top Tools series Tuesday and switched to the defensive end of the game, giving honorable mention to Cubs prospects Christian Villanueva and Javier Baez for best infield defense and best infield arm, respectively.
Many have speculated that the third baseman Villanueva would be ready for the major leagues already from a defensive perspective. Here’s what BP had to say:
Villanueva might not play the toughest defensive position on the infield, but that hasn’t stopped him from drawing ample praise from scouts. He has hands that can rival those of Francisco Lindor and he moves well for the position, making every play necessary at the hot corner.
Lindor, the Indians’ prized shortstop, was viewed as the best defensive infielder. In 124 games last season, Villanueva did commit 24 errors, but he has been viewed as a prospect with great hands and solid footwork.
Baseball Prospectus sees Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons as the ceiling for best defensive infielder in the game right now, with Cardinals legend and Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith as the best all time.
Everybody knows Baez for his bat, as his 37 homers last year made a lot of noise in the minor league circuit, but he also has a cannon for an arm. Coincidentally, it was his arm that got him in little trouble defensively. He committed 44 errors in 123 games at shortstop. But his ability to get the ball to first quickly is one of the reasons he hasn’t been moved off of the position yet.
Young shortstops Baez, [Carlos] Correa and [Dixon] Machado can rifle balls to first base from any spot on the dirt. All three players consistently earn plus-plus grades from scouts, and the occasional elite grade will pop onto the radar.
Orioles phenom Manny Machado set the standard for current players while former Cub Shawon Dunston set the all-time bar, according to Baseball Prospectus.
Duane Underwood has one of the highest ceilings of all the Cubs arms. (Photo by Scott McDaniel)
For many Chicagoans, February means cold weather. At Vine Line, it’s all about the Cubs minor league prospectus. In the February issue, fans can check out frequent contributor Sahadev Sharma’s player breakdowns for more than 45 of the organization’s top prospects, from teenagers like Eloy Jimenez to elite talents like Javier Baez. This is our final online installment. For more information, pick up the February issue of Vine Line.
Also from the Series:
2014 Cubs Minor League Prospectus – The Elite
2014 Cubs Minor League Prospectus – Close to Big Leagues
2014 Cubs Minor League Prospectus – International Impact
2014 Cubs Minor League Prospectus – Pitching Depth
READY TO BREAK OUT
Not every name in the Cubs system sits atop prospect lists like Javier Baez and Kris Bryant. But the best organizations not only have top talent and balance, they also have players not everyone has heard of who have a chance to blossom into very good major leaguers.
Whether they’re lacking the flashy tool that garners headlines or are just a little raw and haven’t yet put everything together, there are definitely names worth watching in the Cubs system. And many of these prospects could become much more familiar to fans over the next nine months.
HIGHEST 2013 LEVEL: DAYTONA
2013 STATS: .362/.436/.478 (19 GAMES)
There’s no two ways about it, this kid can flat-out hit. With a front-to-back stroke, Bruno uses the whole field, attacks the fastball and has the ability to stay on the breaking ball. Unfortunately, his season ended early with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. If not for that, it wouldn’t have been a surprise for Bruno to hit his way up to Double-A.
He likely won’t be ready by Spring Training, but the hope is he’ll be able to get on the field early in the minor league season. When he does, expect him to once again hit line drives all over the field.
HIGHEST 2013 LEVEL: KANE COUNTY
2013 STATS: .258/.352/.445 (117 GAMES)
The man with the best name in the system mashed at a tough park for hitters in Kane County early on, earning organizational Player of the Month honors in April. A full-figured kid, Shoulders is more athletic than many realize. He played third base as an amateur, and there are those in the Cubs organization who believe he could have some value in the outfield.
With a winning combination of patience and power, the bat will always be enticing. Now it’s a matter of developing versatility on defense or finding one place to play and really focusing on it.
HIGHEST 2013 LEVEL: BOISE
2013 STATS: 54.1, 4.97 ERA, 36 K, 27 BB (11 STARTS, 14 APPEARANCES)
Outside of C.J. Edwards and perhaps Pierce Johnson, Underwood may have the highest ceiling of any pitcher in the organization. Unfortunately, he came into Spring Training in less-than-ideal shape, which led to inconsistent performance throughout the season. The hope is that he learned his lesson and will prepare appropriately this offseason so he can come into the spring ready to take off.
As far as the stuff is concerned, when he’s on, the fastball is 92-96 mph, and he has a knee-buckling curve. But consistency is an issue, and he didn’t get as many whiffs as you’d expect from a guy with his stuff.
“He’ll come into next season as a 19-year-old, and we’re just waiting for the light to come on,” McLeod said. “His upside is as high as anybody we’ve got.”
HIGHEST 2013 LEVEL: TENNESSEE
2013 STATS: .261/.317/469 (133 GAMES)
Already a big league-caliber defender at third, Villanueva showed some pop for the first time in his career in 2013, hitting 41 doubles and 19 home runs. There are some swing mechanics the Cubs will continue to work on with him, and they’d like to see him improve his plate discipline as far as controlling the strike zone. But Villanueva has the profile teams look for at third base, especially if the power output remains at the level he showed this season. Defensively, his hands and feet are as good as anyone’s.
HIGHEST 2013 LEVEL: DAYTONA
2013 STATS: .284/.375/.449 (131 GAMES)
Vogelbach grew up playing baseball in the Florida sun, so the cold late spring in Kane County was a shock to his system this past season. Many balls that normally would have cleared the fence or fallen for doubles became easy outs. However, his struggles in a cold and rainy April helped him grow immensely as a player. By the end of the year, his numbers were solid, and he’d done enough to earn a promotion to Daytona.
The bat has always been a plus for Vogelbach, as he shows light-tower power and can drive the ball to all parts of the field. Of course, the biggest question will always be his body and whether it will keep him from sticking at first base. While he’ll never be mistaken for slender, there have been some positive signs of late.
“He was probably the best I’ve ever seen him look [in November for instructs] in Arizona,” McLeod said.
McLeod pointed to next season as being a huge year for Vogelbach. He’ll have to continue to stay in shape and prove his bat can carry him to the bigs.
GIOSKAR AMAYA (2B) – Amaya had an up-and-down 2013, but he has bat speed, power for a second baseman, solid plate discipline and the speed to steal a base here and there. He’s a very hard worker, but he can be too tough on himself from time to time. Still, he’s an intelligent ballplayer with tools and plus-makeup.
SHAWON DUNSTON JR. (OF) – Dunston grew up a lot in 2013 after struggling early in his professional career. He had a strong first half in Boise but fell off toward the end. He has all the tools, drew a lot of walks and can steal bases. The Cubs are working on his bat path, as Dunston tends to get a little pull-happy.
KEVIN ENCARNACION (OF) – Encarnacion hit for average and power, drew walks and stole bases in a strong year at Boise. He’s a switch-hitter with a corner-outfield profile. Though he was a little old for the Northwest League, his confidence improved this season after a strong performance. He shows a fluid swing with a very good idea of the strike zone.
DUSTIN GEIGER (1B) – This streaky, big-bodied power hitter mashes lefties and holds his own against righties. Geiger should move into a hitters’ park in Tennessee next year, so he needs to keep putting up offensive numbers and improving defensively.
JACOB HANNEMANN (OF) – Hannemann was a surprise third-round pick in last summer’s draft. He flew under the radar because he hadn’t played for a few years due to a Mormon mission and commitment to the BYU football team. He has a strong left-handed bat and a good feel for the strike zone. From a tools standpoint, he’s a dynamic guy with tremendous speed, a Jacoby Ellsbury-type body and athleticism. He’s raw because of limited playing time, but the Cubs are betting on his upside.
CARLOS PIMENTEL (RHP) – Recently named the Dominican Winter League Pitcher of the Year, this strong-armed reliever has proven to be a tough match-up. He’s a short-arm guy, and hitters often have a tough time picking up the ball. He has been up to 94 mph with the fastball, which he complements with a slider and a solid change-up. His command and control can waver, but he’s a pitcher who gives opponents an uncomfortable at-bat.
IVAN PINEYRO (RHP) – Acquired in a trade with the Nationals for Scott Hairston, Pineyro is a strike thrower with an impressive change-up. He’s not a stuff guy, but the belief is he can end up at the back end of a good major league rotation.
(Photo courtesy of Daytona Cubs)
Inside baseball website Baseball Prospectus has spent the offseason cataloging each organization’s top 10 prospects. This morning, they finally released the Cubs cream of the crop. And if you needed another reason to trust in what the team is doing, this breakdown might just be it.
Prospect guru Jason Parks raved about the impact talent in the system, starting with the organization’s “Core Four” of Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler.
“Through the amateur draft, trades, and the international market, the Cubs have built one of the strongest systems in baseball, with high-impact talent that everybody knows and better depth than people might realize. The farm will rank no. 2 in the minors, just behind the Twins and just ahead of the Pirates,” said Parks in his parting thoughts.
The content is for subscribers only (and if you love baseball, it’s well worth the cost of a subscription). Here’s a brief summary of how Baseball Prospectus ranked the Cubs talent. We list each player’s strengths, but there’s much more good stuff in the article. They also list an estimated time of arrival in the big leagues, and nine of the 10 Cubs prospects are expected to arrive in 2014 or 2015.
1. SS Javier Baez
Strengths: Elite bat speed; elite hands; plus hand-eye coordination; can make hard contact to all fields; natural ability to barrel the ball; raw power is elite; game power could play to elite; arm is plus-plus; actions are easy plus in the field; baseball instincts; superstar profile.
2. 3B Kris Bryant
Strengths: Excellent size and present strength; good athlete; elite raw power; game power could play plus-plus or better; highly leveraged swing built for over-the-fence production; some bat-to-ball ability and hit tool utility; plus arm; glove should play to average; fringe run but good athlete and coordinated for size.
3. CF Albert Almora
Strengths: High level baseball skills and instincts; natural bat-to-ball ability; can make hard contact to all fields; hit tool projects to be plus (or better) tracks well and shows advanced approach; has above-average raw power; swing more gap-to-gap at present but over-the-fence power could show up as he matures; glove in center is easy plus; quick reactions and proper reads help range; arm is solid-average to plus; cocky/confident player.
4. RF Jorge Soler
Strengths: Elite raw power; extreme strength and leverage in swing; game power could play to plus-plus; shows some hit tool quality; could play above average; arm is well above average; glove plays; runs well; looks the part.
5. RHP C.J. Edwards
Strengths: Loose, easy delivery; near elite release; ball just explodes out of his hand; fastball very comfortable in the 92-95 range; can work higher; very good angle and arm-side life; easy release helps secondary arsenal play up; changeup projects as plus offering; very good deception and fade; curveball is bat-missing weapon at present; above-average shape and depth; pitchability; good makeup.
6. SS Arismendy Alcantara
Strengths: Plus athlete with good present strength; excellent hands; creates plus bat speed and above-average power; short, clean path to the ball; makes hard contact; easy plus run; multi-dimensional offensive threat; plus arm; above-average glove at second; five-tool talent.
7. RHP Pierce Johnson
Strengths: Prototypical starter’s body; long, lean, and athletic; very good arm strength; fastball is plus; low-90s velocity that routinely pops the mid-90s on the gun; breaking is easy plus and could end up even better if the command improves; low-80s hammer curve with serious snap; some feel for an average changeup that has some projection.
8. 1B Dan Vegelbach
Strengths: Big boy strength; big boy raw power; doesn’t sell out swing for game power; generates impressive bat speed with quick, strong stroke that is short to the ball/long through it; projects to hit for both average and power; makes pitchers work and doesn’t give away outs.
9. 3B Christian Villanueva
Strengths: Broad-shouldered with good present strength; hands are exceptional in the field; fluid actions; excellent backhand pickup; easy plus arm; can make every play in, side, or back; fast hands at the plate; shows bat speed and some power potential; very heady player with plus makeup.
10. 3B Jeimer Candelario
Strengths: Good present strength; fluid swing from both sides of the plate; shows excellent bat speed and quick path to the ball; very mature approach; tracks the ball well; has a plan at the plate; power could play above average; arm is strong; work ethic to refine with the glove.
BP also lists three prospects that are on the rise in the Cubs system (pitchers RHP Paul Blackburn and LHP Rob Zastryzny and catcher C Mark Malave) and three prospects that could potentially contribute to the Cubs this year (3B Mike Olt, RHP Arodys Vizcaino and RHP Neil Ramirez).
(Photo by Stephen Green)
It had to happen sometime, but Cubs fans in Arizona will definitely miss seeing Javier Baez and Jorge Soler play on a regular basis. The Chicago Cubs have assigned seven players—including many of the organization’s top prospects—to minor league camp, reducing their spring roster from 53 to 46 players.
Infielders Junior Lake and Josh Vitters have been optioned to Triple-A Iowa, while infielder Christian Villanueva has been optioned to Double-A Tennessee. Outfielder Jorge Soler has been optioned to Single-A Daytona.
Three non-roster invitees have been assigned to minor league camp: right-handed pitcher Barret Loux, infielder Javier Baez and catcher Rafael Lopez.
“I’ll be honest, [at Spring Training] I look forward to the sixth through ninth innings more than I look forward to the first five innings,” said Cubs GM Jed Hoyer. “We’ll watch the veteran guys all year. … Getting a chance to see the young players up close is something we cherish because we can’t do that all season.”
Chicago’s spring roster now consists of 24 pitchers (eight non-roster invitees), four catchers (one non-roster invitee), nine infielders (four non-roster invitees) and nine outfielders (three non-roster invitees).