Results tagged ‘ Christian Villanueva ’

1000 Words: Is this the future?

The Future

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Second baseman Darwin Barney gets to know (from left) Jorge Soler, Javier Baez and Christian Villanueva. Soler, a Cuban defector who turns 21 years old today, has impressed with his all-around game early in camp. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound outfielder has shown patience at the plate, ridiculous bat speed, strong defense and solid baserunning.

Shortstop Baez has been named by many publications as the No. 1 prospect in the system, and third baseman Villanueva was a key piece of the Ryan Dempster deal last season.

From the Pages of Vine Line: Christian Villanueva prospect profile


(Photo by Scott Jontes, Daytona Cubs)

For hundreds of professional baseball players, the season doesn’t end when the Wrigley Field ivy turns red.

In the Sonoran desert, nearly 2,000 miles southwest of Chicago, Cubs third baseman Christian Villanueva is manning the infield for the Yaquis de Obregon of the Mexican Pacific League. Villanueva, who was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, was acquired from the Rangers in July as the main return for Ryan Dempster and finished the 2012 season at High-A Daytona. Baseball Prospectus recently named the 21-year-old the Cubs’ No. 9 prospect in a front-loaded system they believe now easily ranks in the top half of baseball.

“Villa’s a great kid,” said Jason Parks, who heads prospect coverage for BP. “The Rangers were absolutely heartbroken to see that kid go. This wasn’t, ‘Let’s look at a list because Texas is calling.’ The Cubs scouted Villa. They knew what they were getting.”

What they got was a player who commands the hot corner at a young age, and has the offensive potential and makeup of a future big leaguer—even though he’s not expected to be a prototypical power-hitting third baseman.

“The kid can really, really play third base. I think he has—some people are afraid to say it, but I’ll say it—a seven [out of eight], plus-plus glove,” said Parks, specifically noting Villanueva’s quick reactions and strong, accurate arm.

Villanueva, who was recently added to the Cubs 40-man roster, has struggled at the plate in Mexico. In 51 at-bats, he’s hit only .176 with two home runs and 25 strikeouts. But he posted solid numbers between Myrtle Beach of the Carolina League and Daytona in 2012, hitting .279/.353/.427 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 14 home runs.

The extra experience Villanueva is getting this winter may be particularly valuable as he prepares to make the large leap to Double-A. He’s already shown he can square up velocity inside, but in the high minors, he’ll be tested by advanced pitchers with quality offspeed stuff.

That’s what Cubs farm director Brandon Hyde says Villanueva is seeing right now in Mexico.

It’s a real advantage, from a player development standpoint, to be playing more competitive games,” Hyde said. “A lot of those teams—like the one Jae-Hoon Ha is on [in Venezuela]—they’re looking to win.”

Villanueva’s Obregon team has been at the center of many of the league’s—and the Caribbean’s—best games in recent years. After a 26-year title drought, the Yaquis have won three league championships in five years and the 2011 Caribbean Series crown. The team’s stadium can hold up to 13,000 fans—more than almost any minor league venue—and tends to play to raucous crowds.

Parks said Villanueva has the mature demeanor to thrive in that kind of environment. He gets along socially with teammates across cultures and has proved a quiet leader whose work ethic rubs off on teammates.

It also seems to leave an impression on talent evaluators. Parks last saw Villanueva in October, when Obregon played several exhibitions in the Arizona instructional league. Because the jerseys bore no names, one MLB team scout approached Parks to ask who the third baseman was. Parks told the scout it was Villanueva.

“And he goes, ‘Oh, that makes sense. That kid’s good,’” Parks said. “[And I said] ‘Yeah, he’s good. He’s a major leaguer.’”

—Sean Ahmed

Hot Off the Presses: Vine Line’s Year in Review

The end of 2012 marks the culmination of many firsts. It was baseball president Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer’s first year at the Cubs’ helm. It was Dale Sveum’s first full season as a major league manager. It was Anthony Rizzo’s first year in a Cubs uniform and Jeff Samardzija’s first real experience in the rotation. It was also the first time since 1966 the team lost 100 games in a single season.

In other words, I think everybody is looking forward to saying goodbye to 2012 and popping the proverbial cork on a new year of Cubs baseball.

Although a 61-101 record isn’t what anyone involved with the Cubs was hoping for, everybody knew there was work to be done at the outset of the season. As we look back at the year, there were certainly stretches of good play, breakout performances, walk-off wins and plenty to feel positive about. But no one—from fans to players to the front office—is happy with where the team is right now.

“I don’t think a celebration is in order,” said Epstein on his one-year anniversary with the Cubs. “I have a lot more gray hair now than I had a year ago. My wife reminds me of that all the time. But I do feel really energized by a lot of the things that are going on here.”

In the December issue of Vine Line, the Daily Herald’s Bruce Miles examines how the Cubs fared this year and what they did to strengthen their future prospects. It’s impossible to judge the 2012 calendar year by looking solely at the major league level. When Epstein, Hoyer and company came to Chicago, they talked of the need to restock the minor league system to provide a steady stream of homegrown talent to the big league club. And that’s exactly what the Cubs are doing. Respected hardball website Baseball Prospectus recently released a list of the top 10 prospects in the Cubs organization, and six of the 10 players were acquired or drafted in 2012.

It all started with the 2012 first-year player draft, where the Cubs picked up outfielder Albert Almora (No. 1 on Baseball Prospectus’ list) and right-handed pitchers Pierce Johnson (No. 7) and Duane Underwood (No. 8). But it also included free agent signings like outfielder Jorge Soler (No. 3) and making full use of the trade deadline to fill organizational holes with players like right-hander Arodys Vizcaino (No. 4) and third baseman Christian Villanueva (No. 9).

To say goodbye to 2012, Vine Line and Chicago Cubs photographer Stephen Green also look back at the best photos from the past season. Green, in his 30th year with the team, was there for every moment, from Bill Murray’s Opening Day hijinks to Bryan LaHair’s walk-off single to cap off the year.

We also have a preview of the Cubs Convention, a Q&A with outfielder Dave Sappelt and much more. For these stories, subscribe to Vine Line or pick up an issue at select Chicago-area retailers. We’ve also launched a Vine Line Twitter account at @cubsvineline to keep you posted on Cubs happenings up to the minute.

Cubs add 4 players to 40-man roster

The Cubs’ 2012 Minor League Player of the Year Logan Watkins was added to the club’s 40-man roster. (Photo by Rodger Wood)

The Cubs added right-handed pitchers Trey McNutt and Robert Whitenack and infielders Christian Villanueva and Logan Watkins to the 40-man roster Tuesday, the last day to protect prospects from next month’s Rule 5 draft. The Cubs also designated Brian LaHair for assignment and optioned righty Carlos Gutierrez to Triple-A Iowa.

McNutt, who is currently ranked eighth on the Cubs’ Prospect Watch list, went 9-8 with a 4.26 ERA in 34 appearances (17 starts) with Double-A Tennessee. In four minor league seasons, the 23-year-old has a 27-16 record with a 3.45 ERA. After being selected in the 32nd round of the 2009 draft, McNutt started the Single-A Midwest League All-Star Game in 2010, was a midseason Double-A Southern League All-Star in 2011 and was a 2011 Arizona Fall League rising star. He has recently thrived after a move to the bullpen.

Villanueva, a slick-fielding third baseman, came over from the Rangers in the midseason deal for Ryan Dempster. The organization’s No. 7 prospect hit .279 with 24 doubles, 14 homers, 68 RBI and 14 stolen last season between Single-A Daytona and Texas’ Single-A affiliate, Myrtle Beach. The 2011 mid- and postseason All-Star in the South Atlantic League was signed by the Rangers in 2008 as a nondrafted free agent from Guadalajara, Mexico.

Watkins, the Cubs’ 2012 Minor League Player of the Year, batted .281 with 93 runs, 20 doubles, 11 triples, nine home runs and 52 RBI for Double-A Tennessee. He led the Southern League in runs scored, was second in triples and walks (76), and was fourth in on-base percentage (383). The 23-year-old possesses a career average of .285 with a .372 on-base percentage and was selected in the 21st round of the 2008 draft.

Whitenack joined Single-A Daytona in May after missing part of 2011 with Tommy John surgery. He went 1-6 with a 5.96 ERA in 15 starts. The organization’s No. 13 prospect was drafted in the eighth round of the 2009 draft, and has a career 19-18 record in the minors.

LaHair, who was designated for assignment, was a 2012 National League All-Star, batting .259 with 16 home runs and 40 RBI in 130 games for the Cubs. LaHair and the Cubs are reportedly working on a deal with a Japanese team. Gutierrez was claimed off waivers by the Cubs from the Twins on Oct. 24.

The Cubs’ current 40-man roster:

Scott Baker
Jeff Beliveau*
Michael Bowden
Alberto Cabrera
Shawn Camp
Lendy Castillo
Jaye Chapman
Casey Coleman
Gerardo Concepcion*
Rafael Dolis
Matt Garza
Carlos Marmol
Trey McNutt
Zach Putnam
Brooks Raley*
Chris Rusin*
James Russell*
Jeff Samardzija
Arodys Vizcaino
Robert Whitenack
Travis Wood*
* – LHP

Welington Castillo
Steve Clevenger
Dioner Navarro

Darwin Barney
Starlin Castro
Junior Lake
Anthony Rizzo
Ian Stewart
Luis Valbuena
Christian Villanueva
Josh Vitters
Logan Watkins

Tony Campana
David DeJesus
Brett Jackson
Dave Sappelt
Jorge Soler
Alfonso Soriano
Matt Szczur

Farm Report Wrap-Up: Daytona featured key prospects on left side

Outfielder Matt Szczur stole 38 bases for Daytona in 2012. (Photo by Rodger Wood)

Today we continue our tour around the Cubs farm system, taking a level-by-level look at performances the organization hopes to build on in 2013. The high Class-A Daytona Cubs are next in the spotlight.

They may have dropped from Florida State League champions to last place, but the Daytona Cubs featured several intriguing position prospects worth keeping an eye on. And it’s the continued development of that talent that’s going to be vital for the Chicago Cubs in the coming years.

Chief among them is Javier Baez, who spent the last month of the season in Daytona Beach. He’s become the organization’s quickest climber since being drafted out of high school in 2011. Since his mid-August signing last summer, Baez has played in four different leagues—at the Rookie and three Class-A levels. (He spent the season’s first two months in extended Spring Training before resuming his rapid ascent.) Though Baez batted just .188 in 86 plate appearances for Daytona, he ended the year with two home runs in the finale to bring his season total to 16 (12 with Peoria) in 80 games. That evidence of his plus bat speed, as well as his overall athleticism and competitiveness, puts him as baseball’s 23rd-best prospect and fourth-best shortstop in Jonathan Mayo’s end-of-season rankings at

To Baez’s right, third baseman Christian Villanueva was an important midseason addition via the Ryan Dempster deal with Texas. He’s considered to have very natural actions at third base, along with a strong arm and good hands. On the offensive side, he has plus bat speed and good pop, though he’s still refining his approach. Considering that third base is wide-open at the major league level, Villanueva could be one to watch.

Both Baez and Villanueva will be getting extra at-bats this fall—Baez in the Arizona Fall League and Villanueva in the Mexican Winter League (for Obregon). And both have considerable upside in how high they can climb.

Final Records:

First Half / 30-38, fifth place, 12.5 GB

Second Half / 29-36, sixth place, 7.5 GB

Storylines: Hope you had your stopwatches ready—new Manager Mark Johnson loved to send his runners around the bases. The Cubs’ 201 steals was 34 better than the No. 2 team in the league. Daytona also led the league in triples. Outfielder John Andreoli stole 55 bases in 75 tries to pace the team. Outfielder and top prospect Matt Szczur, promoted to Tennessee in July, had 38 steals in 50 attempts, while shortstop Arismendy Alcantara was 25-for-29. (more…)

Deadline dealing

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer’s first non-waiver trade deadline as members of the Cubs passed at 3 p.m. CST Tuesday with a flurry of activity. The front office made three trades in the last 24 hours, and they waited until the last minute to complete a deal sending away the team’s biggest trade chip, Ryan Dempster. Here’s a recap of the Cubs’ moves and a summary of what they received in the deals.

Cubs send left-handed starter Paul Maholm and outfielder Reed Johnson to the Braves for right-handed pitchers Arodys Vizcaino and Jaye Chapman

What they got:

Arodys Vizcaino: Baseball America rated the right-hander the Braves’ No. 2 preseason prospect and the 40th best prospect in all of baseball. Vizcaino, who has a live arm with a fastball that touches the high 90s, was the centerpiece of the Braves 2009 deal that sent Javier Vazquez to the Yankees. He’ll miss all of 2012 recovering from Tommy John surgery, but should be ready to go by early next season.

2011 stats: 5-5, 3.06 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 9.3 K/9, 97 IP at three minor league levels;
1-1, 4.67 ERA, 17 K, 17.1 IP for Braves

Jaye Chapman: The 25-year-old has climbed his way through the minor league ranks since he was drafted in 2006. In two seasons at Triple-A Gwinnett, the reliever has struck out more than one-fourth of the batters he’s faced, and he’s only allowed three home runs in 2012.

2012 stats: 3-6, 3.52 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 10.1 K/9, 53.2 IP at Triple-A Gwinnett

Cubs send catcher Geovany Soto to the Rangers for right-hander Jake Brigham

What they got:

Jake Brigham: A sixth-round pick in the 2006 draft, Brigham went 5-5 with a 4.28 ERA in 21 starts for Double-A Frisco this season. Baseball America rated him the seventh-best righty reliever in the Texas farm system. Last season, he went 3-1 with a 3.60 ERA in 21 appearances.

2012 stats: 5-5, 4.28 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 8.4 K/9, 124.0 IP at Double-A Frisco

Cubs send right-handed pitcher Ryan Dempster to the Rangers for right-handed pitcher Kyle Hendricks and infielder Christian Villanueva

What they got:

Christian Villanueva: Baseball America rated Villanueva the Rangers’ eighth-best prospect prior to the season. The publication called him “an easy plus defender with soft hands and easy actions.” The 22-year-old stole 32 bases last season in Low-A and finished with a .278 batting average.

2012 stats: .285/.356/.421, 10 home runs, 59 RBI, 9 SB, 425 PA at Single-A Myrtle Beach

Kyle Hendricks: The 2011 eighth-round draft pick had a 5-8 record with 2.82 ERA in 20 starts for Single-A Myrtle Beach this season, earning him a spot on the Carolina League All-Star team. He spent last season at both Low-A Spokane and Double-A Frisco.

2012 stats: 5-8, 2.82 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 7.7 K/9, 15 BB, 130.2 IP at Single-A Myrtle Beach


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