Results tagged ‘ Minor Leagues ’

Baseball Prospectus names Cubs top 10 prospects

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(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).

Minor League recap: 8/28/13

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Scott Baker posted his first win of the season in a rehab start for Kane County. (Photo by Stephen Green)

Wednesday was a great day for the Cubs affiliates. The teams went 5-0, Daytona clinched the FSL second-half title, Kris Bryant mashed another home run, and Scott Baker had his best rehab start of the season. Both Tennessee and Mesa had the day off. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s action.

Iowa Cubs (64-75)

Iowa won its third straight game, beating visiting Omaha 5-2.

  • RF Ty Wright (.279) went 2-for-4 with a run scored and a team-high three RBI (36).
  • DH Edgar Gonzalez (.267) was 2-for-4 with two runs scored and two doubles (9).
  • 3B Mike Olt (.197) reached base three times, going 1-for-2 with two walks and a run scored.
  • RHP Kyle Hendricks tossed a season-high 8.0 innings, marking his third straight quality start. He has allowed just one home run in 34.0 innings of work with Iowa.
  • RHP Brian Schlitter (3.10) converted his 20th save of the year with a perfect ninth inning.

Daytona Cubs (37-19-1)

GM 1: Daytona clinched the Florida State League second half title with a 6-2 victory over visiting Dunedin.

  • DH Kris Bryant (.340) went 1-for-3 with a third-inning two-run homer.
  • 1B Dustin Geiger (.281) homered for the second straight game, going 1-for-3 with a first-inning two-run blast.
  • 3B Ben Carhart (.251) went 2-for-3.
  • RHP Lendy Castillo (2-0, 3.32) tossed 2.2 scoreless innings of relief to earn his second win of the year.

GM 2: Daytona won its eighth straight game, beating Dunedin 3-0.

  • SS Wes Darvill (.256) went 3-for-3 with two runs scored and a double (13).
  • RF Bijan Rademacher (.256) was 1-for-2 with a walk and two RBI (18).
  • RHP Ryan Searle (2-2, 5.09) struck out four in 3.0 scoreless innings of work to earn his second win of the season.

Kane County Cougars (23-41)

Kane County snapped its three-game losing streak, beating host Cedar Rapids 9-1.

  • RHP Scott Baker earned his first win after tossing his best rehab start of the year. Baker retired the first 13 hitters of the game.
  • 3B Jeimer Candelario (.254) went 2-for-4 with a walk, three runs scored, a double (35), a home run and a team-high three RBI (57).
  • C Carlos Escobar (.232) went 1-for-5 with a fourth-inning two-run homer.
  • DH Rock Shoulders (.252), 1B Willson Contreras (.250) and CF Jose Dore (.230) all had a hit and one RBI.

Boise Hawks (20-13)

Boise used a 14-hit attack to beat visiting Salem-Keizer 10-6.

  • 1B Jacob Rogers (.287) and RF Yasiel Balaguert (.269) each hit their eighth homer of the season.
  • DH Justin Marra (.239) went 2-for-4 with a walk, two runs scored, a double (3), a home run and a team-high three RBI (15).
  • CF Kevin Encarnacion (.367) extended his hitting streak to 10 games, going 4-for-5 with two runs scored and a stolen base (9). He’s hitting .435 (20-for-46) with 11 runs scored, three doubles, three home runs and eight RBI during the streak.
  • RHP Carlos Martinez-Pumarino (4-2, 5.04) tossed 2.0 scoreless innings of relief to earn his fourth win of the year.

Minor League recap: 8/25/13

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OF Dave Sappelt had a strong day at the plate Sunday. (Photo by Stephen Green)

Sunday was a rough day for the Cubs’ minor league affiliates, as they posted a 1-5 record overall. The only squad on the positive side of the ledger was Daytona, which extended its winning streak to four games behind another strong effort by first-round pick Kris Bryant. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s action.

Iowa Cubs (61-75)

Visiting Memphis recorded 16 hits to beat Iowa 11-5.

  • CF Dave Sappelt (.241) went 2-for-4 with a double (14) and a seventh-inning two-run homer.
  • 1B-LF Greg Rohan (.105) went 2-for-4 with a run scored.
  • 2B Edgar Gonzalez (.254) went 1-for-4 with a walk and one RBI (17).

Tennessee Smokies (36-26)

Tennessee lost its fourth-straight game, falling to visiting Mobile 2-0.

  • SS Javier Baez (.302) was 1-for-4. He has hit safely in 19 of 24 August games.
  • 3B Christian Villanueva (.259) went 1-for-3 with a stolen base (5).
  • RHP Yeiper Castillo (3.99) tossed 3.0 scoreless innings of relief, scattering three hits.

Daytona Cubs (33-19-1)

Daytona won its fourth game in a row, plating seven third-inning runs in an 11-2 victory at Tampa.

  • DH Kris Bryant (.368) extended his hitting streak to seven games, going 2-for-4 with a double (3) and two RBI (9).
  • 3B Ben Carhart (.248) and 2B Wes Darvill (.253) each recorded two hits while driving in two runs apiece.
  • Anthony Giansanti (.303) went 2-for-5 with a run scored and an RBI (17).
  • RHP Yao-Lin Wang (3.80) converted his fourth save in 3.0 innings of work, allowing one run on three hits while fanning six.

Kane County Cougars (22-39)

Kane County lost for the sixth time in eight games, falling at Wisconsin 3-1.

  • 1B Willson Contreras (.243) went 2-for-4 with two doubles (11) and one RBI (43).
  • SS Marco Hernandez (.249) went 1-for-4 with a double (15).
  • LHP Al Yevoli (3.32) tossed 2.2 scoreless innings of relief while fanning three.

Boise Hawks (18-13)

Boise had its four-game winning streak snapped in a 6-5, 10-inning loss at Hillsboro.

  • SS Carlos Penalver (.252) went 1-for-4 with an RBI (19).
  • CF Kevin Encarnacion (.355) was 1-for-5 with a double (9) and two RBI (23).
  • C Lance Rymel (.268) reached base four times, going 2-for-3 with two walks, a run scored and one RBI (18).
  • 3B David Bote (.254) went 2-for-5 with a run scored and his ninth double of the season.

Mesa Cubs (12-13)

Mesa dropped a 5-1 decision at the AZL Reds.

  • 1B Kevin Brown (.236) went 2-for-4 with a double and his first career home run.
  • 3B Jesse Hodges (.209) went 1-for-4 with a triple (2).
  • CF Rashad Crawford (.211) went 1-for-3, extended his hitting streak to four games.

Minor League recap: 7/29/13

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Top draft pick Kris Bryant has driven in a run in three of his last four games. (Photo by Stephen Green)

Of the Cubs minor league affiliates, only Tennessee picked up a win yesterday, moving them back into first place in the Southern League’s North Division. But there was some good news. Scott Baker had an effective rehab start in Daytona, Dan Vogelbach mashed his 16th home run, and Kris Bryant continued to get his feet under him at Boise. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s action.

Iowa Cubs (51-59)

Iowa lost its fourth straight game, falling at Oklahoma City 4-3.

  • RF Ty Wright (.268) went 2-for-4 with a fourth-inning, solo home run.
  • 2B Logan Watkins (.246) went 2-for-4 with a run scored and a double (18). He has hit safely in seven of his last eight games.
  • 1B Edgar Gonzalez (.311) recorded his second straight two-hit game, going 2-for-4 with a stolen base (2).
  • SS Donnie Murphy (.263) was 1-for-4 with a run scored, a triple (2) and one RBI (41). He has registered a hit in 14 of his last 15 contests.

Tennessee Smokies (22-14, second half)

Tennessee jumped back into first place with an 8-4 victory over visiting Birmingham.

  • RF Rubi Silva (.287) extended his hitting streak to 15 games, going 1-for-4 with a run scored. He’s hitting .344 (21-for-61) during the streak.
  • C Rafael Lopez (.245) went 2-for-3 with a walk, two runs scored, a double (20) and two RBI (33).
  • 3B Christian Villanueva (.266) went 2-for-4 with a run scored, extending his hitting streak to eight games. He’s hitting .414 (12-for-29) during the streak.
  • RHP Frank Batista (2.13) allowed an unearned run in 2.0 innings of relief. He’s holding right-handed hitters to a .161 batting average (9-for-56) this season.

Daytona Cubs (20-13-1, second half)

Daytona had its five-game winning streak snapped in a 5-0 loss at Fort Myers.

  • RHP Scott Baker made his fourth rehab start (first with Daytona), tossing 3.1 innings of three-hit, two-run (one earned) ball and striking out two.
  • RHP Pierce Johnson (2.90) made his first relief appearance of the season, striking out seven and allowing three runs in 4.0 innings of work.
  • CF Zeke DeVoss (.250) recorded three of Daytona’s five hits, going 3-for-4 with two doubles (11).
  • LF Taiwan Easterling (.218) went 1-for-4. He has hit safely in six of his last seven games.

Kane County Cougars (10-25, second half)

Kane County managed just four hits in a 14-1 setback at Peoria.

  • DH Dan Vogelbach (.290) extended his hitting streak to five games with a sixth inning solo home run.
  • 1B Rock Shoulders (.261) went 1-for-3. He has hit safely in seven of his last eight contests.
  • LHP Al Yevoli (2.70) allowed a run on four hits in 2.1 innings of relief.

Boise Hawks (3-4, second half)

Boise recorded only two hits in a 5-2, 11-inning loss to Spokane.

  • 3B Kris Bryant (.185) went 1-for-4 with a walk, a double (2) and one RBI (7). He has driven in a run in three of his last four games (seven total).
  • LF Jose Dore (.200) went 1-for-4, extending his hitting streak to three games.
  • RHP Loiger Padron (5.52) allowed one run while striking out four in 3.0 innings of relief.
  • RHP Tyler Skulina tossed 3.0 scoreless innings in his second career start. He has allowed just two runs in 15.0 innings pitched.

Minor League recap: 7/28/13

Javier Baez continued his home run binge, blasting two more Sunday. (Aldrin Capulong/Daytona Cubs)

The Cubs minor league affiliates played .500 ball Sunday, with Daytona, Kane County and Boise all picking up wins. Newcomer C.J. Edwards, acquired in the Matt Garza trade, made an impressive debut with Daytona, Javy Baez continues to crush the ball, and top draft pick Kris Bryant homered for the second time in three games. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s action.

Iowa Cubs (51-58)

Iowa lost its third straight game, falling at Oklahoma City 4-3.

  • RF Ty Wright (.261) recorded a season-high-tying three hits, going 3-for-4 with a run scored, three doubles (11) and one RBI (19).
  • C Luis Flores (.189) went 2-for-4 with one RBI (13).
  • DH Edgar Gonzalez (.293) registered his second multihit game in his last three games, going 2-for-4 with a run scored and one stolen base (1).
  • RHP Chang-Yong Lim (0.00) tossed 2.0 scoreless innings of relief in his Iowa debut.

Tennessee Smokies (21-14, second half)

Visiting Birmingham used a 15-hit attack to defeat the Smokies 8-5.

  • SS Javier Baez (.232) recorded his second multihomer game in his last four contests, going 2-for-5 with two runs scored, the two blasts and a season-high-tying four RBI (19).
  • RF Rubi Silva (.287) extended his hitting streak to 14 games, going 2-for-4 with a double (23). He’s hitting .351 (20-for-57) during the streak.
  • LF John Andreoli (.302) and CF Matt Szczur (.280) each recorded two hits.
  • 3B Christian Villanueva (.264) went 1-for-2 with two walks, extending his hitting streak to seven games.

Daytona Cubs (20-12-1, second half)

Daytona won its fifth straight game, beating host Palm Beach 2-1.

  • RHP C.J. Edwards made his Cubs debut and struck out the first seven batters he faced. He has allowed one earned run or fewer in eight straight starts dating back to his tenure with the Single-A Hickory Crawdads.
  • LF Taiwan Easterling (.218) went 2-for-4 with a run scored. He has hit safely in five of his last six games.
  • 2B Brad Zapenas (.211) snapped a five-game hitless skid, going 2-for-4 with a run scored.
  • RHP Lendy Castillo (1-0, 1.80) struck out three while allowing an unearned run in 3.0 innings of relief to earn his first win of the campaign.
  • RHP Austin Reed (4.25) worked a scoreless ninth inning to convert his third save of the season.

Kane County Cougars (10-24, second half)

Kane County used a four-run third inning to beat host Peoria 6-3.

  • DH Rock Shoulders (.260) posted his second straight two-hit game, going 2-for-5 with a run scored, a double (20) and three RBI (53).
  • 2B Giuseppe Papaccio (.244) and 3B Jeimer Candelario (.251) recorded two hits apiece.
  • CF Albert Almora (.333) went 2-for-5 with a run scored, extending his hitting streak to five games.
  • LHP Nathan Dorris (5-3, 2.66) struck out two in 2.0 scoreless innings of relief to pick up the win.
  • RHP Armando Rivero (6.06) recorded five strikeouts in 2.0 innings to convert his first save of the season.

Boise Hawks (3-3, second half)

Boise recorded 10 hits in a 3-1 victory over visiting Spokane.

  • 3B Kris Bryant (.174) homered for the second time in three games, finishing 1-for-3 with three RBI (6).
  • RF Yasiel Balaguert (.280) and DH Jordan Hankins (.262) each recorded two hits.
  • 2B Daniel Lockhart (.322) went 2-for-4 with a run scored. He has hit safely in five of his last six games.
  • RHP Tyler Bremer (2.50) struck out the side in the ninth inning to convert his fourth save of the year.

Mesa Cubs (1-2, second half)

Mesa surrendered nine runs in the first three innings, falling at the AZL D-backs 12-3.

  • LF Charcer Burks (.263) registered his second straight multihit game, going 2-for-4 with his first double of the year.
  • 3B Jesse Hodges (.225) went 1-for-4 with a run scored, a double (2) and one RBI (12).
  • DH Kevin Brown (.196) went 1-for-3 with a walk and two RBI (6).

Cubs making waves in the Caribbean with new Dominican facility

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The following is a feature from the July issue of Vine Line.

Though the Cubs have made strides on the field in 2013 behind some outstanding starting pitching and veteran acquisitions like Nate Schierholtz, it seems like this season has been all about facilities, buildings and permits. No matter what is happening between the white lines, the majority of the recent press has gone to the restoration of Wrigley Field and the accompanying community development adjacent to the venerated ballpark.

In fact, the chorus surrounding the Friendly Confines’ rather unfriendly debate has nearly drowned out the other significant progress the organization has been making on the facilities front—namely, the impressive new Spring Training complex in Mesa, Ariz., which will be ready for the 2014 spring slate, and the multimillion-dollar training academy in the Dominican Republic that celebrated its grand opening on May 20.

The new Dominican complex is part of an effort to improve and professionalize all aspects of the Cubs system to ensure the team has the resources to compete at every level and bring a championship-caliber team to Chicago.

“Think about where we’ll be in a couple of years,” said Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts. “The organization is going in the right direction; we’ll get [Wrigley Field] fixed; we’ll have the best Spring Training facility, the best Dominican facility. We’ll have the infrastructure to be one of those consistently great teams.”

With new collective bargaining restrictions limiting how teams can build through the draft, it’s becoming more important to make inroads into the international market. And a great deal of major league talent comes out of Latin America. Though the Dominican might be nearly 2,000 miles away from Wrigley Field’s doorstep, the new facility—located in La Gina, just outside of Santo Domingo—is a major component to building the kind of lasting success the Cubs brass has repeatedly talked about.

“We’re in such a competitive industry, and the great organizations throughout baseball history have built a strong foundation for sustained success starting with their minor leagues up through the majors,” said President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein. “To become the organization we aspire to be and win multiple World Series titles, we have to build a foundation that can last—a solid infrastructure that puts our ballclub in a competitive position year in and year out.”

The Dominican Republic has always been a hotbed of major league talent. Of the 856 players on the 30 big league rosters, the disabled list and the restricted list at the outset of the 2013 season, 89 came from the Dominican. That makes the Caribbean nation the best-represented country outside of the U.S., which claims 615 players. In 2013, the Dominican also became the first undefeated team to claim the World Baseball Classic title, behind major league stars such as Edinson Volquez, Hanley Ramirez, Robinson Cano and Wandy Rodriguez.

The Cubs currently have eight players on their 40-man active roster who hail from the Dominican, including Welington Castillo, Starlin Castro, Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Villanueva. This glut of Dominican talent is why every big league team is looking to improve its scouting and player development in the area.

“The competition for scouting talent in the Dominican Republic is high,” Ricketts said. “With the most major league players per capita here, it was no surprise all 30 baseball organizations run facilities in the country. We quickly realized that we had frontline talent here in the Dominican and needed a world-class facility to develop these players in order to achieve our goal of winning a World Series.”

The Cubs’ new Dominican complex spans 50 acres, making it the largest such academy in the country. It will be open year-round, complete with baseball fields, training facilities, and housing for minor league players during the season as well as major league players in the offseason. The goal is to serve athletes from across Central and South America, including Venezuela, Panama, Colombia, Brazil, Nicaragua, Aruba, Curaçao and Mexico, in addition to the Dominican Republic.

The new complex, which has a comfortable on-site dormitory that can house up to 80 players and eight staff members, strives to give young players every resource to succeed. It features three fields, including one with artificial turf, four covered batting cages, eight bullpens, a weight room, a cafeteria and kitchen, two locker rooms, two meeting rooms, a large classroom that can be converted into four smaller classrooms, a theater and a video room.

“If you’re going to search for the best of the best, you want to give them everything they need and create the right kind of atmosphere and environment,” Epstein said. “We know our players and staff are putting in an enormous amount of work, and providing quality facilities is just as important as teaching the fundamentals of baseball.”

But the academy is about more than just churning out quality baseball players; it’s also about nurturing quality people. The Cubs are putting an emphasis on education, health and nutrition throughout their organization. To that end, the facility will also serve as an educational center equipped with classrooms and staff to teach English and Spanish, and players will be able to earn their GED high school equivalency.

The opening ceremony for the new Dominican facility drew a pedigreed crowd, including the Ricketts family; President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and other members of the Cubs front office; Dominican President Danilo Medina; Hato Viejo Mayor Reynoso Hichez Telleria; and former Cubs players and Dominican natives Moises Alou, Amaury Telemaco, George Bell and Henry Rodriguez.

“I think the fans really do understand that what we’re trying to do is build an organization that has a strong foundation and is going to be consistently successful at some point,” Ricketts said. “Hopefully soon, but the point is not to take shortcuts, but to do things the right way.”

—Gary Cohen

Javy Baez, Chris Rusin named Cubs Minor League Player, Pitcher of the Month

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Lefty Chris Rusin made his 2013 debut for the Cubs last night in Oakland. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

Left-handed pitcher Chris Rusin is having a good week. He has already been named a Pacific Coast League All-Star for Triple-A Iowa, and he made his 2013 debut with the Cubs last night in Oakland. Now he and Single-A Daytona infielder Javier Baez have been named the Cubs organization’s Minor League Pitcher and Player of the Month for June, respectively.

Rusin, 26, went 3-3 with a 2.86 ERA (14 ER/44.0 IP) in six June starts for Iowa, striking out 26 compared to just eight walks. He leads the PCL in innings pitched (110.0) and WHIP (1.10), and he ranks second among starting pitchers in fewest walks per 9.0 innings with a 1.89 mark.

On the season, Rusin is 7-7 with a complete-game shutout and a 3.27 ERA in 17 games (16 starts) with Iowa, recording 10 quality starts. He’s struck out 63 hitters compared to 22 walks, while surrendering just seven home runs in 110.0 innings. The 26-year-old made his big league debut with the Cubs last season, going 2-3 with a 6.37 ERA in seven starts.  He was originally selected by the Cubs in the fourth round of the 2009 draft out of the University of Kentucky.

Baez, considered by many to be the top prospect in the Cubs system, batted .300 (27-for-90) with seven doubles, and a league-leading nine home runs and 28 RBI in 24 June contests. He drew nine walks, contributing to a .390 on-base percentage and recorded a .678 slugging mark. On June 10, he became just the second player in Florida State League history to hit four home runs in a single game. The performance netted him FSL Player of the Week honors.

In 73 games this season, the 20-year-old is hitting .272 (79-for-290) with 19 doubles, four triples, 17 home runs and 57 RBI. The FSL All-Star leads the league in runs scored (57), home runs and total bases (157), while ranking second in extra-base hits (40) and fourth in RBI. He was originally selected by the Cubs in the first round (ninth overall) of the 2011 draft.

Minor League recap: 7/2/13

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Alberto Cabrera and five other Smokies were named to the Southern League All-Star team. (Photo by Stephen Green)

The Cubs minor league affiliates went an impressive 4-1 on Tuesday, with Iowa, Tennessee, Boise and Mesa all picking up wins. Daytona had the day off. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s action.

Iowa Cubs (44-42)

Iowa recorded nine extra-base hits in a 6-2 victory over visiting Memphis.

  • SS Donnie Murphy (.264) went 2-for-4 with two runs scored, a double (11), a home run and two RBI (32).
  • 1B Brad Nelson (.266) logged his second-straight multi-RBI game, going 1-for-3 with a home run and two RBI (50).
  • 3B Junior Lake (.324) recorded a season high three extra-base hits, going 3-for-4 with two runs scored, adouble (8) and two triples (2).
  • LF Ty Wright (.250) was 2-for-4 with a double (4) and two RBI (10). He’s hit safely in four of his last five games.
  • RHP Casey Coleman (2.82) and RHP Marcus Hatley (5.17) combined for 2.2 scoreless innings of relief.
  • Yesterday, LHP Chris Rusin was named to the Pacific Coast League All-Star Team and was called up to Chicago.

Tennessee Smokies (7-5)

Tennessee outlasted host Montgomery in a 13-inning affair, beating the Biscuits 4-3.

  • RF Matt Szczur (.298) extended his hitting streak to nine games, going 1-for-5 with a walk and a stolen base (18). He’s hitting .372 (16-for-43) with four doubles, six runs scored and eight RBI during the streak.
  • 3B Christian Villanueva (.248) went 2-for-6 with a double (21), a home run and two RBI (40).
  • C Rafael Lopez (.253) clubbed his fifth home run of the season, going 2-for-5 with the homer and two RBI (22).
  • RHP Yeiper Castillo (1-2, 4.60) struck out two while tossing 3.0 scoreless innings of relief to earn his first win.
  • Yesterday, six Smokies were named Southern League All-Stars: INF Arismendy Alcantara, INF Christian Villanueva, C Rafael Lopez, OF Matt Szczur, RHP Alberto Cabrera and RHP Kyle Hendricks.

Kane County Cougars (2-10)

Kane County mustered just five hits in a 5-3 loss at Wisconsin. The Cougars have lost four of their last five games.

  • 3B Jeimer Candelario (.247) went 1-for-4 with two runs scored, a home run, two RBI (28) and one stolen base (1).
  • SS Marco Hernandez (.258) extended his hitting streak to four games, going 1-for-3 with a walk and one RBI (24).
  • CF Albert Almora (.343) went 1-for-4. He’s hitting .464 (13-for-28) against left-handed pitching.
  • LHP Sheldon McDonald (0.00) tossed 1.2 scoreless innings of relief. He hasn’t allowed a run in his first three appearances with the Cougars (7.0 IP).

Boise Hawks (11-8)

Boise won its sixth-straight game with a 10-5 victory over host Salem-Keizer.

  • 2B David Bote (1-for-4, BB, 2 R, HR, RBI) and 1B Jacob Rogers (1-for-1, R, HR, 3 RBI) each hit a home run.
  • C Lance Rymel (.235) went 1-for-3 with two walks, a season-high three runs scored and two RBI (5).
  • 3B Dan Lockhart (.296) logged his second-straight, multihit game, going 2-for-5 with a double (2) and two RBI (5).
  • RHP Orbandy Rodriguez (1-2, 6.75) worked 2.0 scoreless innings, earning his first win of the season.
  • RHP Tyler Bremer (1.93) recorded the final six outs for his second save.

Mesa Cubs (6-5)

Mesa won its fourth-straight game, defeating the visiting AZL Brewers 6-4.

  • SS Giuseppe Papaccio (.313) went 2-for-4 with a double (1) and a career-high three RBI (6).
  • LF Kevin Brown (.280) registered his second-straight multihit game, going 2-for-4 with two runs scored and oneRBI (2).
  • RHP Marcos Mateo (1-0, 0.00) struck out the side in the fifth inning and recorded the victory.
  • RHP Erick Leal (0.75) allowed an unearned run on four hits in 2.0 innings of relief, converting his first save.

Hot Off the Presses: The July All-Star Issue of Vine Line

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Quick … which catcher had the greatest statistical season in Cubs history?

I’ll give you a second to think about it.

What about Hall of Famer Gabby Hartnett? He went to six All-Star Games, won the 1935 NL MVP and was generally considered the best catcher in NL history until Johnny Bench came along.

Maybe Randy Hundley. He went to an All-Star Game, won a Gold Glove and threw out a remarkable 50 percent of base stealers four times in his career.

Jody Davis? Johnny Kling? Keith Moreland even played some catcher.

What would you say if I told you it was Rick Wilkins? Yes, the same Rick Wilkins who was a 23rd-round pick out of Furman University. The same Rick Wilkins who played for eight different teams in his 11 big league seasons. The same Rick Wilkins who put up a career .244/.332/.410 (AVG/OBP/SLG) slash line. Not exactly the stuff of legend.

But then there was 1993—a year in which the peripatetic Cubs backstop hit .303 (he never again hit better than .270), slammed 30 home runs (he never again hit more than 14) and drove in 73 runs (he never again plated more than 59). That season, he compiled 6.6 wins above replacement (WAR), an advanced statistic meant to summarize a player’s value to his team in a single, all-encompassing number.

According to stats website Fangraphs, the source of these figures, anything above a 6.0 is considered an MVP-caliber season. The best Hartnett ever managed was a 5.6. Mind you, Hartnett’s career WAR was 53.4; Wilkins’ was only 14.0 (and, remember, almost half of that came from one season).

There’s no better way to get baseball fans riled up than starting a good, old-fashioned intergenerational debate. Stats geeks and old-school fans alike can spend countless hours arguing the merits of Aramis Ramirez over Ron Santo or Ryne Sandberg over Rogers Hornsby.

For our July All-Star issue, we set out to find the best-ever single season by a Cubs player at each position in the team’s more than 100-year history. Of course, it seems obvious Mark Grace would have had the best first-base season (he didn’t) or that Billy Williams was the top left fielder (he wasn’t).

There are a million ways to go about a task like this, and they’re all incredibly subjective. So we turned to a single advanced metric to help us figure things out. WAR is an all-inclusive stat that takes into account offense, defense and baserunning to determine how many wins a player is worth over a league-average replacement player.

We’re not saying the men on our list are necessarily the best players in Cubs history. Some of them are. Several of them decidedly are not. But they all had at least one spectacular season that set them apart statistically and can truly be considered the best ever by a Cub at their respective positions (as measured by this one metric).

We also take time this month to look down the chain at some of the other All-Star athletes throughout the organization. The Cubs are building a winner from the bottom up, and fans need to know which players are on the rise. That includes everyone from this year’s first-round draft pick (second overall) Kris Bryant to minor league mashers like Dustin Geiger and Rock Shoulders (whose name we try to work into every issue if we can).

Finally, to ensure the pipeline of young talent remains strong, the Cubs are investing heavily in their international scouting and player development. Outside of the U.S., more major league players hail from the Dominican Republic than from any other country. The Cubs crop includes big leaguers such as Starlin Castro and top minor league prospects like Junior Lake. While the restoration of Wrigley Field is getting the headlines on the facilities front, the Cubs recently opened a 50-acre baseball academy in the Dominican to find more top talent and diamonds in the rough. We give you a look inside the state-of-the-art facility.

We’ll be releasing our WAR All-Stars position by position here on the blog in the coming weeks. If you want to weigh in with your own opinions, email us at vineline@cubs.com or talk to us on Twitter at @cubsvineline.

Let the debate begin.

—Gary Cohen

Cubs RHP Blackburn named NWL Pitcher of the Week

Boise Hawks right-hander and Cubs top prospect Paul Blackburn was named Northwest League Pitcher of the Week for games spanning June 14-23, according to MiLB.com.

Though Blackburn did not record a decision in his first two starts of the season, the 19-year-old posted a 0.00 ERA in 10 innings of work. In his Hawks debut on June 15 at Eugene, he tossed five innings of one-hit ball, striking out eight. He followed that up with a five-inning gem in Spokane on Friday, allowing an unearned run on four hits, walking one and striking out four. He currently leads the NWL in ERA and ranks second in strikeouts.

Blackburn was a supplemental first-round pick (56th overall) in the 2012 draft and is rated the No. 16 prospect in the Cubs organization by MLB.com.

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