Results tagged ‘ Farm Report ’

Farm Report: How stats can help evaluate minor league players


Cubs Pro Scouting Director Joe Bohringer at the Cubs Convention.

Visit Baseball Reference, Fangraphs or, and you can look up everything from how a player performed in the Dominican Summer League to a breakdown of his left/right splits.

But missing are the stats organizations really care about—the ones for 2013 and beyond.

Predicting what a player will do in the future is a front office’s most important, and toughest, task. A few seasons of data can be telling, but the uncertainty surrounding those numbers increases with each level removed from the majors.

Cubs Pro Scouting Director Joe Bohringer and his staff try to isolate and grade the true talent of thousands of professional players spanning eight different levels. These scouts, who filed many of the team’s 14,000 reports over the last 13 months, aren’t tasked with crunching numbers so much as incorporating them as pieces of the puzzle.

“You’re trying to balance the available information—a player’s track record—with the information you get from your live looks, which is based on the experience and opinions of your scouts,” Bohringer said. “Our job is to try and take all the available information … and then use all that information to make what’s really the best educated guess we can as to what the player may or may not be down the road.”

Popular stats like wins above replacement (WAR) and on-base plus slugging (OPS) aren’t nearly as relevant in the minors. Walk and strikeout rates, ground ball and fly ball rates, speed and power are more fundamental components that help categorize types of players.

“In general, those broad categories won’t change a ton as players move up or down the chain,” Bohringer said. “You will see players who make adjustments to their game as they go. In most cases, they’re really just trying to tighten things up within a specific skill set as opposed to becoming something entirely different.”

The Cubs will look at trends to see if a hitter is making adjustments, reducing his strikeouts or getting into better counts. And they compare players to their league (controlling for age) more than they try to project a major league line.

Minor league numbers also play a role in evaluating how Cubs farmhands are developing. Director of Player Development Brandon Hyde and his crew of coaches and coordinators create “player plans,” a direct implementation of the newly codified Cubs Way. Every farmhand signs off on developmental goals, which list his strengths and weaknesses in the physical, fundamental and mental aspects of the game.

“We break it down into categories, and we have progress reports on goals and things we feel—and the player feels like—they need to do to get better,” Hyde said.

The team collects proprietary information in nightly game reports that include pitch-by-pitch data alongside coaches’ comments. It’s all aggregated and searchable by the front office like any other stats.

It may not replace a crystal ball, but the Cubs hope that good use of the information at hand will allow them to see some bright futures ahead.


Here are some of the Cubs’ 2012 minor league pitching leaders versus their leagues.^ The pitcher’s highest level is listed along with his performance relative to the league average (e.g., Loosen struck out 22 percent more batters faced than the rest of the FSL). The top three starters* are followed by the top three relievers.

Matt Loosen*                        HiA     +22%
Jake Brigham*                       AA      +20%
Kyle Hendricks*                    HiA     +10%

Marcus Hatley                       AAA   +37%
Jeff Lorick                               HiA     +35%
Tony Zych                             AA      +32%

Kyle Hendricks*                    HiA     -66%
Nick Struck*                            AA      -26%
Jose Rosario*                       LoA    -21%

Casey Harman                      AA      -50%
Scott Weismann                   AA      -28%
Joe Zeller                               HiA     -28%


Rob Whitenack*                   HiA     +23%
Dallas Beeler*                       AA      +19%
Dae-Eun Rhee*                    AA      +16%

Frank Batista                          AAA   +34%
A.J. Morris                             HiA     +26%
Felix Peña                              LoA    +11%

^Among players currently with the Cubs who have not made their MLB debut (min. 50 IP).
*Pitcher faced at least 90% of his batters as a starter.

Farm Report: Boise evens divisional series to set up decisive Game 3

Scott McDaniel /

After a frustrating battle with situational hitting for the first 17 innings of the series, the Boise Hawks poured it on in the ninth last night to force a deciding Game 3 in their first-round playoff series. The Hawks and the Yakima Bears (Diamondbacks) will settle it all tonight in a game that you can hear at 7:05 Central Time via

Boise scored seven runs in the ninth to break a 4-4 deadlock and ultimately went on to win 11-5. Albert Almora, the sixth-overall pick of the 2012 draft, was at the center of several rallies. He hit a two-out triple with the Hawks trailing by a run in the eighth, and scored on a wild pitch. The next inning, he followed up Jeimer Calendario’s two-run triple (which was misplayed in the outfield) with a two-run double to put the game away for good.

Scoring Recap: Boise struck first, taking a two-run lead on Gioskar Amaya’s home run in the third inning. Yakima answered right back in the bottom half, thanks to a double, walk, bunt and then two-run single by Kevin Medrano. Batting ninth, Trey Martin led off the fifth with a double, and he scored on Stephen Bruno’s single for a 3-2 lead. Medrano and Joseph Loftus led off with singles off reliever Michael Heesch in the bottom half. They scored on a one-out single to give Yakima a 4-3 lead. Almora came up big in the eighth with a two-out triple and scored on a wild pitch to tie things up. In the top of the ninth, the Hawks took off. After two quick outs, Boise put nine straight men on base and took a commanding 11-4 lead. Tyler Bremer closed out his third inning of work by allowing just a run in the bottom of the ninth for the 11-5 win.

Top Performances: Boise starter Tayler Scott was sitting in the low-90s on the Yakima stadium gun. He didn’t have his best stuff, according to Hawks broadcaster Mike Safford, but he battled out of tough situations throughout his five innings of work. His ability to induce ground balls on all three of his pitches showed again yesterday.

Speaking of ground balls, second baseman Amaya picked a sharp, one-hopper in the first inning to start a double play and keep things scoreless. Amaya did just about everything yesterday: He gave Boise a 2-0 lead in the third when he turned on an inside fastball for a home run. He also added a couple of sacrifice bunts and a walk. Amaya’s natural tools may not match up with some of his teammates’, but he proved himself in myriad ways as a 19-year-old in the Northwest League. He’s one to watch.

Tonight’s Starting Pitchers: Felix Peña is expected to take the hill for the Hawks. The 22-year-old, Dominican born right-hander is now in his second season in the U.S. He throws a fastball, curve, slider and change. His fastball gets some sink when he locates it down, which is always a key for him. The slider can be a strikeout pitch when buried low and away from a right-handed hitter. His curveball is a slow change of pace and can be inconsistent, but he gets good downward break when he gets on top of it. Sometimes it looks like he’s rushing through his delivery, but he’s shown the ability to adjust in games.

Peña’s two starts against Yakima this year were polar opposites. On July 25 at home, he gave up seven hits and four earned runs in four innings. On August 21 at the Bears, Peña allowed just four hits and an unearned run in five innings.

Yakima’s starting pitcher was unknown as of last night, but it looks like they’ve settled on 18-year-old right-hander Jose Martinez. He’s made just two appearances outside of the Dominican in his career (10.2 IP, 4.22 ERA).

The Big 6-0-0: Safford celebrated his 600th Northwest League broadcast last night. It was only his 594th with the Hawks—he also has six games with the Spokane Indians under his belt. Listen to him again tonight at 7:05 Central Time at

—Sean Ahmed

Farm Report: Hailing Szczur

Matt Szczur, pictured with the Short-Season Class-A Boise Hawks, has climbed a couple levels in just one year. Post by Austin Hannon. (Photo courtesy Boise Hawks)

Some players just find a way to separate themselves both on and off the field.

In May 2010, Matt Szczur (pronounced Cesar) donated stem cells to help save an 18-month-old girl that he had never met. One year later, he finds himself ranked as one of Baseball America’s midseason top 50 prospects.

On July 10, a day after being promoted to Class-A Advanced Daytona, the rising center fielder participated in the XM Futures Game, a display of each franchise’s elite prospects. ESPN’s Pedro Gomez performed an in-game dugout interview that touched upon Szczur’s decision to choose baseball over his gridiron skills he flashed at Villanova.

“To be honest, I thought I would miss it,” Szczur said, about his decision to leave football for baseball. “I realized in spring training, football wasn’t for me. I was excited I chose baseball.” (more…)

Draft day — Cubs to pick around 7 p.m. CT

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for INSIDE THE IVY LOGO.jpgThe magnetic board is ready. Scouting director Tim Wilken, GM Jim Hendry, assistant GM Randy Bush, and all of the organization’s amateur scouts have been packed into a room for over a week.

Yes, it’s the signs of the First-Year Player Draft — when tens of thousands of hours of preparation play out over 50 rounds. Many baseball people consider this their favorite time of year.

The Cubs select 31st this year, in a talent pool with little clarity beyond the first pick. Wilken firmly subscribes to the “best future big-leaguer available” theory, with his successful track record showing little preference between college and high school kids.

Untitled-1.jpgBut Wilken does have a strong preference for athletes, and the farm system has improved significantly in that area since his first draft in 2006. Check out our “Farm Reportdraft preview from the June issue of Vine Line by clicking on the thumbnail at right.

We’ll have Wilken’s comments on the first pick — expected to be made around 7:20 Central –here on the Vine Line blog.

Other can’t-miss coverage

The MLB Network and will televise the first round tonight at 5 p.m. Central, and they have an incredible amount of coverage planned on their 2009 draft page. Scouting reports, interviews, analysis, video … They have just about everything you could need.

Also, don’t miss our draft blowout in the July issue of Vine Line, featuring reports on the Cubs’ 2009 draft picks. We get exclusive access to the team’s amateur scouting reports and profile the first 10 picks, based on our scouts’ evaluation of their tools and makeup. It’s true insider coverage that you can only get from Vine Line.

— Sean Ahmed