Results tagged ‘ Minor Leagues ’
Kris Bryant visits Wrigley Field shortly after the Cubs made him their top pick in 2013. (Photo by Stephen Green)
Major league scouting directors tend to be vague when asked about their draft strategies leading up to the big day in June. They generally offer some variation on the same theme.
“It is the simple answer of picking the best guy available,” said Jason McLeod, the Cubs’ senior vice president of player development and amateur scouting. “We’ve made no bones about trying to get as much pitching as we can. But in the last two drafts, we’ve taken position players with our first picks, because we felt Albert [Almora] and Kris [Bryant] were the most impactful guys for us at those draft positions.”
The 2014 MLB First-Year Player Draft will take place next week, from June 5-7. Though McLeod and his staff have consistently gone after the best available players with their top picks—regardless of need—they have shown a few common tendencies that might inform their decisions this year.
Since 2011, the year before the current front office took over, the Cubs have trended toward college selections. That year, 40 percent of the players the team picked came out of college. Last year, 55 percent of draftees played college ball. Meanwhile, the percentage of high school players drafted has decreased from 42 percent in 2011 to 27.5 percent in 2013.
Second, right-handed pitchers have dominated the draft board. Nearly 40 percent of the players selected by the Cubs in each of the last three drafts were righties. Under the Epstein/Hoyer regime, the Cubs have picked 38 right-handed arms, 20 of them from college and seven from junior college.
But the Cubs’ right-hander-heavy drafts may be less a function of preference than of consistent depth at the position. And this year is no exception. According to Baseball America, there are 19 right-handed pitchers among the top 50 draft-eligible players for 2014.
McLeod also added that pitchers in general are easier to project.
“You walk into a ballpark and see someone with fairly clean mechanics who’s throwing 90-94, and you’re pretty comfortable recommending him,” McLeod said. “Hitters, especially high school hitters, take more investment. You have to see them on multiple occasions and in the right circumstances before you can say that, yes, you think this guy will hit at the next level.”
Of course, drafting players is only half the battle. Signing them takes just as much work. A year ago, the Cubs signed just 60 percent of their draft picks. The prior season, the team had better luck, inking 81 percent of players selected.
The good news is the organization has gotten better at signing premium talent. In 2011, 17 of the club’s first 20 picks signed, followed by 18 of 20 in 2012 and 19 of 20 last year. Plus, the Cubs signed every one of their top 10 draftees in 2013—a crop that includes hot prospects Bryant, Tyler Skulina and Jacob Hannemann.
The team has also shown a knack for getting quick returns on draft investments. Seven of the organization’s top 20 prospects, according to MLB.com, were selected in 2012 or 2013.
“The last few drafts have had a few no-doubt guys,” McLeod said in late April. “This year, the draft is deep, but we’re still waiting on players to step to the forefront. We’re pretty wide open in terms of who we’re looking at for that top pick.”
History and the current talent pool may suggest the Cubs will take a right-hander with their top pick. But the only certainty is McLeod’s assertion that the front office will select the best players available when they are on the clock.
The Cubs minor league affiliates had a rough day yesterday, going 1-3 overall. But the Kane County squad extended its winning streak to four games, and Kris Bryant continued to mash at Double-A Tennessee. Here are the highlights from yesterday’s minor league action:
Iowa Cubs (27-22)
1st Place (+0.5)
GM 1: Memphis scored a run in the bottom of the seventh inning to beat Iowa, 1-0.
- CF Arismendy Alcantara (.282) went 1-for-3 to extend his hitting streak to four games.
- RHP Dallas Beeler was dealt the loss despite tossing his second-career complete game. He owns a1.35 ERA (2 ER/13.1 IP) over his last two starts.
GM 2: The second game of Iowa’s doubleheader at Memphis was suspended in the sixth inning due to rain. The game will resume today with Iowa trailing, 2-1.
Tennessee Smokies (26-26)
2nd Place (-9.5)
Huntsville recorded its third-straight, walk-off win over Tennessee with a 2-1 victory in 11 innings.
- 3B Kris Bryant (.349) reached base five times, going a perfect 4-for-4 with a run, a walk, a double (14) and his league-leading 15th homer of the campaign. He’s hitting .412 (40-for-97) with 27 runs, six doubles, 10 home runs and 32 RBI in 26 May games.
- RHP Arodys Vizcaino (3.24) struck out two hitters in a scoreless eighth inning of work.
- LHP Hunter Cervenka (1.42) lowered his May ERA to 1.35 (1 ER/6.2 IP) with 2.0 scoreless frames.
Daytona Cubs (20-30)
5th Place (-16.0)
Visiting Palm Beach recorded 16 hits in a 7-2 victory over Daytona.
- C Willson Contreras (.267) posted his sixth multihit game in his last seven, going 2-for-4 with two RBI (11). He has raised his average 76 points over the last seven games (.191 AVG on May 19).
- 2B Gioskar Amaya (.308) went 2-for-4 with his sixth double of the campaign.
- RHP Stephen Perakslis (5.47) tossed 2.0 scoreless innings of relief.
Kane County Cougars (36-17)
1st Place (+7.5)
Kane County won its fourth-straight game, beating host Clinton, 7-1.
- 2B Daniel Lockhart (.251) went 3-for-5 with two runs scored and his 10th double of the year.
- CF Trey Martin (.208) posted his second-straight multihit game, going 3-for-4 with a run, a double (5) and one RBI (17).
- 1B Jacob Rogers (.246), LF Shawon Dunston (.262) and DH Ben Carhart (.284) each had two hits.
- RHP Zak Hermans (1-0, 3.12) struck out four hitters in 3.1 scoreless innings of relief to earn the win.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Javier Baez’s early-season struggles have been well documented, but the 2011 No. 1 draft pick looks to be returning to his dominant form. The Cubs top prospect, according to MLB.com, has been named Pacific Coast League Player of the Week for his efforts from May 19-25.
During the week, the slugging shortstop hit .400 (12-for-30) with six doubles, three homers and eight RBI. He also extended his now-11-game hitting streak. Baez is currently hitting .225/.287/.437 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with seven homers, nine doubles and 25 RBI.
He is the third-consecutive I-Cub to receive a weekly award, as left-handed pitcher Chris Rusin and right-hander Kyle Hendricks both won Pitcher of the Week awards earlier in the month. Fellow left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada claimed Pitcher of the Week honors during the season’s opening week.
Baez is the first Iowa position player to claim the award since Welington Castillo did it in June 2011.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Cubs prospect Kyle Hendricks was named Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Week for his efforts from May 12-18.
The 24-year-old had one of his finest performances as a member of the Cubs on May 15, when he fanned a career-high 11 batters and walked none over eight innings in a 2-0 I-Cubs win. On the season, he is 4-3 with a 3.06 ERA and 54 strikeouts, the third-best strikeout total in the league. His 9.72 K/9 ratio ranks fourth.
Hendricks was acquired by the Cubs on July 31, 2012, as part of the Ryan Dempster deal. He is currently the Cubs 15th-ranked prospect.
This is the second-straight week an Iowa pitcher has nabbed the honor. Hendricks is the third I-Cubs pitcher to get the award this season, joining last week’s winner Chris Rusin and Tsuyoshi Wada.
Kyle Hendricks pitched another stellar game to lead Iowa to a win, while Tennessee and Kane County both ended up on the wrong side of the ledger. The Daytona Cubs home game against Charlotte was rained out. Here are some highlights from Thursday’s minor league action:
Iowa Cubs (21-16)
T-1st Place (–)
Eight scoreless frames and 11 strikeouts from RHP Kyle Hendricks helped Iowa blank visiting Round Rock, 2-0.
- Hendricks’ eight innings and 11 punchouts both matched career-highs. He didn’t walk a runner for the first time since August 18 of last year at New Orleans.
- 2B Arismendy Alcantara (.270) recorded his third game with multiple extra-base hits, going 2-for-3 with a walk, a double (12), a triple (5) and one run scored.
- 1B Jonathan Mota (.209) and LF Josh Vitters (.215) each tallied an RBI single.
- RHP Blake Parker (0.00) earned his seventh save and is a perfect 7-for-7 in save opportunities. He has not allowed an earned run and has given up just seven hits and no walks in 9.1 innings this season.
Tennessee Smokies (23-17)
2nd Place (-3.5)
Rafael Lopez and Kris Bryant continued to rake, but Tennessee lost an 11-inning battle, falling at Mississippi, 6-5.
- C Rafael Lopez went 2-for-5 with a run, a walk, a homer, two RBI (20) and his first stolen base. He leads the league in average (.330) and OBP (.460) and ranks second in slugging percentage (.560) and OPS (1.020).
- The league-leader in slugging (.615) and OPS (1.037), 3B Kris Bryant, went 2-for-6 with a run and his 34th RBI, which also leads the league.
- LF John Andreoli (.281) went 2-for-4 with a run and two stolen bases, giving him a league-leading 20.
Daytona Cubs (12-24)
5th Place (-14.5)
Daytona’s home game against Charlotte was cancelled due to rain. The Cubs will resume play tonight at Fort Myers.
Kane County Cougars (26-14)
1st Place (+2.5)
The Cougars were blanked by Quad Cities at home, dropping their fourth in a row, 7-0.
- Kane County managed five singles: one each from SS Carlos Penalver (.240), DH Jordan Hankins (.289) and LF Shawon Dunston (.241), and two from 1B Jacob Rogers (.241).
- RHP Duane Underwood surrendered a grand slam and threw two wild pitches in a five-run third. None of the runs were earned.
Iowa, Tennessee and Kane County all notched wins Wednesday, while Daytona continued to scuffle. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s action:
Iowa Cubs (7-6)
T-2nd place (-2.5)
A three-run seventh inning and a strong start by RHP Kyle Hendricks led Iowa past New Orleans at home, 6-3, knotting the series at one win apiece.
- 2B Arismendy Alcantara (3-for-5) was a home run shy of the cycle, picking up two RBI on a go-ahead triple in the seventh.
- LF Josh Vitters (2-for-4) raised his season average to .293 with two RBI doubles.
- Hendricks’ eight punchouts launched him into a tie for third place in the PCL with 19 (teammate Carlos Pimentel leads the league with 21).
Tennessee Smokies (6-6)
4th Place (-1.5)
Rehabbing RHP Jake Arrieta and Tennessee earned a 7-2 win at home over the Generals with a five-run fourth inning.
- Arrieta allowed his first earned run since beginning his rehab stint with Tennessee. He is 1-1 with a 0.73 ERA (1 ER/12.1 IP), allowing six hits, four bases on balls and striking out nine.
- LF John Andreoli (1-for-4) knocked in three runs from the leadoff spot.
- CF Jae-Hoon Ha (1-for-4) recorded two RBI on his first hit of the season, a single in the fourth.
Daytona Cubs (2-11)
6th Place (-9.0)
Daytona fell at Dunedin, 5-1, failing to record a hit after the fourth inning.
- SS Marco Hernandez (2-for-3) reached base three times, including two singles and a walk, to raise his season average to .308.
- RHPs Michael Jensen (7.20) and Austin Reed (4.05) combined for 3.1 scoreless innings of relief, allowing just one hit and striking out three.
Kane County Cougars (10-3)
1st Place (+1.5)
Kane County completed the sweep at Bowling Green in dramatic fashion, notching five runs in the top of the ninth to win, 6-2.
- Kane County recorded one hit from each spot in the lineup, including four-consecutive RBI base hits in the ninth from 3B David Bote, 2B Danny Lockhart, DH Shawon Dunston and LF Trey Martin, the lineup’s six-nine hitters.
- CF Jacob Hannemann (1-for-3) stole his sixth and seventh bases, tied for fourth in the league.
- RHP Tyler Bremer (1-0, 4.76) earned the win with 1.2 scoreless innings of relief.
We always have mixed feelings about the February issue. The annual minor league prospectus probably takes more work, and more combined man-hours, than any other issue. To compile our comprehensive breakdown of the Cubs farm system, we pore through each of the organization’s minor league affiliates, from Iowa to Kane County to the Caribbean.
That’s a lot of players in a lot of different locations. To get our information, we read prospect reports, watch fall and winter league games, and talk to people in the know. By the time this issue goes to the printer, the whole Vine Line staff needs a nap.
But it’s also one of the most rewarding magazines we publish, because it gives us a clearer picture of what to expect in the Cubs’ future. And since President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, General Manager Jed Hoyer and Senior Vice President of Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod took over more than two years ago, the Cubs have been all about what’s on the horizon.
The team has enjoyed top 10 picks in each of the last three drafts, has been among the most aggressive in baseball on the international free agent market, and has made shrewd trades to add young, high-ceiling talent. The process may be taking more time than many fans and even upper management hoped it would, but the efforts are paying off—and the evidence could soon become evident at Wrigley Field.
Baseball America’s 2013 organizational rankings, released shortly after the season ended, had the Cubs system tied for fifth-best in baseball. And prospect experts such as MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo and Baseball Prospectus’ Jason Parks rave about Albert Almora, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, C.J. Edwards, Pierce Johnson, Jorge Soler and others.
This month, frequent contributor Sahadev Sharma sat down with McLeod to review the organization’s top players and talk about the system as a whole. Though it’s the big names that rightfully grab the headlines, the Cubs farm now has enviable depth, especially in position players. A few years ago, for example, the team struggled to find a serviceable third baseman. In addition to Luis Valbuena and Donnie Murphy, they now have Kris Bryant, Mike Olt, Christian Villanueva, Arismendy Alcantara, Josh Vitters, Jeimer Candelario and others who could all effectively man the position.
We break down the Cubs talent into five categories: The Elite, Close to the Big Leagues, International Impact, Pitching Depth and Ready to Break Out. This is your primer on everyone, from seasoned talent that could make the jump to the major leagues this year to 17-year-old international prospects whose professional careers are just getting started.
For those who can’t wait to see the organization’s top young players, this may be the perfect year to head out to Mesa, Ariz., for Spring Training, because the team is opening Cubs Park, a state-of-the-art training facility that rivals the best in the game. In this issue, we take a look at the new facility and what it means for the organization’s player development team.
Spring Training will also offer fans their first opportunity to hear the team’s new radio voice, analyst Ron Coomer, a former Cubs infielder who has spent the last nine years broadcasting for the Twins. The 47-year-old Chicago native grew up rooting for the North Siders, so he understands the team’s unique history and what it means to be a part of its rich broadcasting tradition.
“Probably the only place I would go to leave Minnesota would be the Chicago Cubs,” Coomer said. “My situation with family and everything [in Minnesota] is phenomenal. But it’s the Cubs job. It’s been a dream of mine since before I knew I could hit a baseball.”
Finally, in our monthly Wrigley 100 feature, we chronicle the ballpark’s beginnings. This dates back to when the stadium seated only 14,000 people in a single deck; back to when it was called Weeghman Park; back to when it was known as the home of the Federal League’s Chi-Feds, not the Cubs. It’s an interesting tale not many people know, and it set the foundation for the last century of events at the Friendly Confines.
Cubs past, present and future. That’s our mission, and we cover all the bases this month. Subscribe to Vine Line at cubs.com/vineline and follow us on Twitter at @cubsvineline.
Cubs prospect Javier Baez ranked No. 7 on MLB.com’s top 100 prospect list. (Photo courtesy Tennessee Smokies)
The 2014 baseball season hasn’t yet started, but prospect season is in full swing. Just one day after Baseball Prospectus released its top 10 Cubs prospects, MLB.com has unveiled its top 100 prospects in the game. And the North Siders landed seven on the list, including five in the top 50.
The Cubs seven top 100 prospects tied them for second most with the Astros. Only the Red Sox system boasted more with nine.
The Cubs were the only team with three players in the top 20: No. 7 Javier Baez, No. 9 Kris Bryant and No. 18 Albert Almora. No. 42 C.J. Edwards, acquired last season from the Rangers, and No. 49 Jorge Soler rounded out the Cubs representatives in the top 50. The team also landed No. 89 Arismendy Alcantara and No. 100 Pierce Johnson on the list.
This is an important benchmark for the Cubs system because it provides a sense of how the team stacks up against the best in the game. Every team has a top 10 prospects, but that doesn’t mean any of those 10 rank highly compared to the game’s elite.
Of course, the big question on most Cubs fans’ minds is when these prospects will arrive in the big leagues?
“Ultimately, it comes down to them,” said Senior Vice President of Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod at last week’s Rookie Development Program. “They’re going to let us know when they’re ready. They have to go out and perform. … We’re not going to rush them up just to pat ourselves on the back and say, ‘Hey look, we drafted the right guy,’ or, ‘We traded for the right guy. We’re in this for the right reasons and for the long haul.”
In Vine Line‘s upcoming February issue, we’ll unveil our annual minor league prospectus, which breaks down the names to know in the Cubs farm system. Next week, we’ll release some of those breakdowns here on the blog.
(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).
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.