Results tagged ‘ Pierce Johnson ’

3B Bryant, RHP Johnson named Minor League Player, Pitcher of the Month

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Kris Bryant was named the organization’s Minor League Player of the Month for August. (Photo by Stephen Green)

Kris Bryant, the second-overall pick of the 2013 draft, and Pierce Johnson, a 2012 sandwich pick, were named the organization’s Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Month, respectively, on Tuesday afternoon.

After hitting 31 homers at the University of San Diego in his junior year, Bryant split time between Short-Season Boise and High-A Daytona in 2013. In August, he totaled a .381/.438/.762 line with seven homers and 21 RBI in 24 games between the two levels. The 21-year-old third baseman also posted a 1.199 OPS that was the second-highest in all of minor league baseball. He was named the Northwest League Player of the Week for the week of Aug. 5-11 and then was the Florida State League Player of the Week the following week.

The right-handed Johnson went 3-0 with a 1.02 ERA in three August starts for Daytona, fanning 22 over 17.2 innings. The 22-year-old is 11-6 on the year with a 2.74 ERA between Kane County and the D-Cubs. He’s struck out 124 batters over 118.1 innings. Johnson’s 11 victories are tied for second most among Cubs minor league pitchers, trailing only Triple-A Iowa’s Kyle Hendricks (13).

Below are the previous award recipients from this season:

April—IF Rock Shoulders, LHP Eric Jokisch
May—IF Dustin Geiger, RHP Kyle Hendricks
June—IF Javier Baez, LHP Chris Rusin
July—IF Dan Vogelbach, RHP Matt Loosen

ESPN unveils top 10 Cubs prospects

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ESPN Insider’s Keith Law named Paul Blackburn the Cubs’ No. 9 prospect. (Photo courtesy of Heritage High School)

All week long, ESPN Insider’s Keith Law has been releasing his 2013 prospect rankings. His lists came to a conclusion Thursday, when he unveiled his top 10 prospects by team in the National League.

The Cubs’ farm system—ranked No. 5 in baseball, according to Law—was likely rewarded for a group of high-ceiling prospects at the top of the list. In his team breakdown, Law praised the club’s use of trades, international spending and the draft.

They’ve turned around substantially after trading Paul Maholm, spending lavishly on international free agents (when permitted) and drafting well in 2012, although most of what I like about this system is a good two years away. … They’re another good trade deadline and draft class away from the point where you can begin to see a turnaround in the majors.

Law believes Arodys Vizcaino (No. 64 prospect overall), who is still rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, could be a nice addition to the bullpen in 2013, but he doesn’t see anyone else contributing this season. Still, many of the other prospects on the list could jump into his Top 100 prospects in time.

Aside from Jeimer Candelario, whom I discussed yesterday on the list of guys who just missed, I could see any of these guys jumping into the top 100: Juan Carlos Paniagua, who sits in the mid-90s with a plus slider but has very little pro experience after two years of suspensions; Duane Underwood, drafted at 17 and flashing velocity up to 96 with a very athletic body and quick arm; or Arismendy Alcantara, a plus runner and thrower who might end up at third but shows pop from both sides of the plate.

Below are Law’s top 10 prospects in the Cubs system:

1. Javier Baez, SS
2. Albert Almora, CF
3. Jorge Soler, RF
4. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP
5. Jeimer Candelario, 3B
6. Duane Underwood, RHP
7. Juan Carlos Paniagua, RHP
8. Pierce Johnson, RHP
9. Paul Blackburn, RHP
10. Arismendy Alcantara, SS

ESPN’s Law puts Cubs system with MLB’s elite

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Cubs outfield prospect Jorge Soler was a key addition to the farm system in 2012. (Photo by Stephen Green)

The Cubs have been looking to make strides from the ground up by bolstering a farm system many viewed as average heading into the 2012 season. Their efforts appear have caught the eye of at least one analyst. On Monday, ESPN Insider’s Keith Law unveiled his 2013 farm system rankings (subscription needed), placing the Cubs at No. 5, up from No. 20 in 2012.

Law writes this about the North Siders’ minor league talent pool:

The Cubs’ rebuilding process isn’t much further along than the [No. 2] Twins’ or the [No. 4] Astros’ in terms of time, but they spent extravagantly in the international market before the new CBA’s restrictions went into effect last summer, landing the Cuban toolshed Jorge Soler (and the Cuban flop Gerardo Concepcion, but we’re not going to talk about him), then later using their international pool money on the Dominican pitcher with an electric arm currently known as Juan Carlos Paniagua, who has gone through more names than the thief known as Parker. The Cubs also scored big in last year’s draft, addressing the system’s lack of starting pitching candidates while also bulking up its depth in outfield prospects.

Along with the additions of Soler and Paniagua, the Cubs drafted outfielder Albert Almora—a top-40 prospect in MLB.com’s rankings—with the sixth overall pick in 2012. The organization then aimed to fill their pitching shortage by selecting hurlers, including high-ceiling right-handers Pierce Johnson and Paul Blackburn, with the next seven picks.

The Cubs have the second pick in the upcoming draft, so they could move even higher in future organizational rankings.

The Cardinals were the top-ranked system, with Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Houston rounding out the top five. Law plans to unveil his top 100 prospects rankings later in the week.

Prospectus Preview: 2012 Draft, Pierce Johnson

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Other Prospectus Previews: 

• Down the Pipeline / Jeimer Candelario

Close to the Majors / Nick Struck

2012 International / Jorge Soler

2012 Trades and Claims / Barret Loux


One year after the Cubs stocked up by paying a premium for impact talent, the game changed. New leaguewide spending restrictions implemented prior to the 2012 draft now mean the only option is to out-scout and out-draft other teams.

“We’re very fortunate here in that I think we have such great evaluators,” said Jason McLeod, Cubs senior vice president of scouting and player development. “We just changed some processes of how we were acquiring information.”

New scouting responsibilities included video capture for biomechanical analysis and deeper background work. Albert Almora became “the guy” early in the year, with the team sold on his innate two-way abilities and passion for the game.

But after that sixth-overall pick, the Cubs went all-in on arms with their next seven selections. It’s a haul that falls to new pitching coordinator Derek Johnson, who tutored his share of first-round picks—including Cy Young winner David Price—as Vanderbilt’s pitching coach.

“It’s the area where we feel, if we’re going to be a good organization and get to where we want to go, has to be a point of emphasis,” McLeod said.

Pierce Johnson is one of the high-ceiling pitchers the Cubs selected last June. He is also one of more than 60 players covered in Vine Line’s annual Minor League Prospectus. The issue hits newsstands in February, with single issues available by calling 800-618-8377. Get up to speed on the Cubs’ 2012 draft class and the rest of the minor leagues for Spring Training and beyond.

P | PIERCE JOHNSON
Ht./Wt.: 6-3/170
B/T: R/R
Born: 5/10/91 in Arvada, Colo.
Acquired: 2012 Draft (1s)
Tools: Velocity, Fastball, Curveball
2012 STATS (R): 0.00 ERA, 3.0 IP, 4 H, 0 BB, 2 K; (SS): 4.50 ERA, 8.0 IP, 10 H, 3 BB, 12 K

Johnson, the first pitcher chosen by the Cubs in the June draft, fell to the 43rd pick only because of a minor elbow strain he suffered last spring. His power arsenal includes a low-90s fastball and a power curveball that may have been the draft’s best. He pitches with competitiveness and from a good, high angle, and has the stuff to miss bats as he climbs through the minors. His frame is tall but very lean, so the focus will be on adding strength and weight while he develops his change-up. This season, the goal is to log innings and show his potential as a future mid-rotation horse.


Other players featured in this section: Infielder Stephen Bruno, outfielder Albert Almora, and pitchers Paul Blackburn and Duane Underwood.

Plus, tidbits on IF Tim Saunders, RHP Ryan McNeil, RHP Josh Conway and LHP Michael Heesch.

Sean Ahmed

Baseball America unveils top Cubs prospects

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Outfield prospect Albert Almora ranks No. 2 on Baseball America’s Top 10 Cubs prospects. (Photo by Jason Wise)

Every year, Baseball America breaks down each major league organization’s top 10 prospects. Earlier this week, Jim Callis unveiled his list for the Cubs.

The Cubs organization has undergone a dramatic overhaul since Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer took over in October 2011, and this prospect list is a perfect example. Five of the top 10 players are new to the list—and the organization—this year.

The top portion of the rankings offers few surprises, with infielder Javier Baez, outfielders Albert Almora and Jorge Soler, and pitcher Arodys Vizcaino at No. 1 through 4. Baez was the team’s 2011 first-round pick, and Almora was the top pick in 2012. Soler was signed as a non-drafted free agent this summer, while Vizcaino was acquired from the Braves in a deal for Paul Maholm. All four are expected to be major contributors to the future of the organization, and Vizcaino, on his way back from Tommy John surgery, should be a member of the Cubs’ big league squad in 2013.

Outfielder Brett Jackson, who got his first taste of the big leagues this past season, was ranked No. 5. Despite showing flashes of good play in 2012, he struggled in his major league debut, hitting just .175 and striking out 59 times in 120 at-bats. But his stellar play in the outfield and work ethic keep him at the top of most Cubs prospect lists.

Right-handed pitcher Pierce Johnson, slugging first baseman Dan Vogelbach and infielder Jeimer Candelario were ranked sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively.

The 32-year-old Japanese import Kyuji Fujikawa comes in at No. 9. Though he has no major league experience, the longtime NPB pitcher will break camp with the major league club out of Spring Training and likely inhabit a late-innings role. Infielder Arismendy Alcantara rounds out the list.

For more information on the prospects, a list of players with the best particular tools and a projected 2016 lineup, click the link above.

Farm Report Wrap-Up: Hawks turned talent, youth into postseason run

Albert Almora (Photo Courtesy of Alex Hernandez/USA Baseball)

Today we begin our tour around the Cubs farm system, taking a level-by-level look at performances the organization hopes to build on in 2013. First up, the Short-Season Class-A Boise Hawks.

When Albert Almora took batting practice earlier today at Wrigley Field, Theo Epstein commented to reporters that Boise “had a prospect at every position” by the end of the season.

One of those prospects was Almora, of course, the sixth overall pick in the 2012 draft. Almora played a strong center field for the Hawks and also hit for a .292/.292/.446 slash line (batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage) in 65 plate appearances. That included seven doubles and a home run in his 19 hits. Before his mid-August promotion, he had hit for a .347/.363/.480 slash line in 80 plate appearances with the organization’s Rookie-level complex team.

Other names that are well known to watchful Cubs fans are catcher Willson Contreras, first basemen Dan Vogelbach and Rock Shoulders, second baseman Gioskar Amaya, shortstop Marco Hernandez, third baseman Jeimer Candelario and infielder/outfielder Stephen Bruno.

Don’t forget the pitching: Pierce Johnson and Tayler Scott were impressive in the rotation, while Michael Heesch formed a crucial part of the bullpen.

Final Records:

First Half / 13-25, third place, 8.0 GB

Second Half / 24-14, first place, 8.0 GA

Storylines: The Hawks won the Eastern Division’s second-half championship to make the postseason, despite being the Northwest League’s youngest team. They came back from a one-game deficit in their best-of-three series against the Yakima Bears (Diamondbacks) but couldn’t do the same against the Vancouver Canadians (Blue Jays) in the championship series. (more…)

Farm Report: Hawks drop Game 1 of the NWL championship, return home Saturday

Photo by Scott McDaniel / BoiseHawks.com

The wheels came off late for the Boise Hawks in Game 1 of the Northwest League championship series, as they squandered a six-run lead. They’ll look to bounce back tomorrow night when the series shifts to Idaho for the next two games, if necessary.

The Hawks built a 7-1 lead by the top of the sixth inning thanks to an offense that was taking its walks and getting clutch hits. Up 2-1 in the fifth, they added on three runs thanks to a bases-loaded RBI walk by Dan Vogelbach, an RBI single by Jeimer Candelario and an RBI ground out by Albert Almora. Another potential run was lost when Stephen Bruno thrown out at the plate.

In the sixth, Marco Hernandez plated Willson Contreras and Trey Martin with a single. The shortstop Hernandez went 3-for-5 with two runs and two RBI in the game.

After Hawks starter Ian Dickson worked his way out of some trouble in three innings of work, allowing just one run and striking out three, the game was turned over to five relievers with mixed results. Justin Amlung (12th round, 2012) struck out the side with the bases loaded in the fourth. Hunter Ackerman (fourth round, 2010) got two strikeouts in a scoreless fifth but then put two runners on in the sixth for James Pugliese (18th round, 2011). Both scored as the game narrowed to 7-3.

But it all fell apart in the seventh. Vancouver plated seven runs off Pugliese, Hayden Simpson and Rafael Diplan, partly thanks to some mistakes in the field. Third baseman Calendario made a fielding error, and second baseman Gioskar Amaya threw the ball into left field on a grounder that would have ended the inning. Simpson (first round, 2010) suffered from that but also walked two of the three batters he faced. With the game tied at seven, Diplan (international, 2010) allowed a two-run single with the bases loaded and then a wild pitch before getting out of the jam.

Game 2 Starting Pitchers: Pierce Johnson takes the hill for the Hawks. He gave up an unearned run in three innings of work in his first-round start—it was his longest appearance of the year. He’ll be on a strict pitch count again, so expect him to pair up with spot starter Jose Arias again. You can read some of our notes about the Cubs’ supplementary-round pick in last week’s preview.

Vancouver pitcher Roberto Osuna will be one to watch. He was born Feb. 7, 1995—I’ll pause as you do the math. (Yes, he’s 17 years old.) The Blue Jays purchased his contract from the Mexican League’s Mexico City franchise, and he’s been on the fast track since. He’s 6-foot-2, 230 pounds and reportedly sits in the low-to-mid 90s with his fastball. He has limited opposing batters to a .201 batting average in 12 appearances this year (five in the Northwest League) and has struck out 49 batters while walking 15 in 43.2 innings.

His last appearance was on Aug. 26 against Boise—he gave up a run on three hits and a walk in three innings. Baseball America’s Ben Badler has some more details on Osuna, and Baseball Prospectus’ Jason Parks posted a scouting report last year.

Listen Live: Once again, you can pick up Mike Safford’s broadcast for the Boise Hawks at BoiseHawks.com.

Time Traveled: Ah, the glories of minor league life. The Hawks won Game 3 of their divisional series in Yakima, Wash., Wednesday night. They then had to make the five-hour drive to Vancouver, Canada, for Thursday night’s game. Today, they made the 12-hour drive back to Boise for a championship series that resumes tomorrow night.

—Sean Ahmed

Farm Report: Boise looks to rebound in Game 2

Photo by Scott McDaniel / BoiseHawks.com

It was a mistake-filled postseason opener for the Boise Hawks, who dropped Game 1 of their best-of-three divisional series to the Yakima Bears (Diamondbacks). The Hawks committed four errors (SS Marco Hernandez, 2B Gioskar Amaya, 3B Jeimer Calendario and LF Trey Martin) and had a run-scoring passed ball by catcher Willson Contreras, who was needed behind the plate after Carlos Escobar sprained his ankle a week ago.

Albert Almora, the sixth-overall pick in the 2012 draft, led off the bottom of the ninth with an infield single, and advanced to third thanks to a stolen base and a one-out wild pitch. But he was stranded there by Contreras and Martin.

Scoring Recap: Yakima took a 1-0 lead in the first on shortstop Hernandez’s throwing error, which allowed a run to score from second. The Hawks came back with a roar in the fourth inning, when Hernandez hit a leadoff triple, Dan Vogelbach and Calendario drew walks, and Rock Shoulders made it count with a grand slam. Yakima scored three to tie it in the sixth inning thanks to an RBI double, a hit by pitch, two walks (one with the bases loaded) and a run-scoring passed ball. In the ninth, Yakima’s Danny Poma legged out a disputed infield single, was moved over with a bunt and then scored on a liner (and Martin’s missed throw to the cutoff man) to put the Bears up for good.

Top Performers: Starting pitcher Pierce Johnson gave up just one unearned run in three innings of work, his longest appearance of the year. He allowed two hits and a walk while striking out two. Unfortunately, the Boise video feed was unavailable while he was on the mound.

After Jose Arias struggled with his control in the middle innings, tall left-hander Nathan Dorris (17th round, 2012) closed things out with three innings of one-run ball. Dorris used a fastball-cutter-curve-change combination and induced a number of easy ground balls with his change against right-handed batters.

Though he struck out three times on the night, Shoulders pulled a 3-2 hanging slider over the right field fence for his third grand slam of the year. He was the Cubs’ 25th-round pick in the 2011 draft and hit for a .250/.342/.447 line in 63 games with Boise.

Tonight’s Starting Pitchers: Taken in the fifth round of the 2011 draft, right-hander Tayler Scott takes the hill for the Hawks. When scouting director Tim Wilken (now a special assistant to the GM) selected the pitcher last summer, he noted Scott’s exceptionally quick arm, athleticism and coordinated delivery. Those attributes could play a big part in his development as he fills out his growing 6-foot-3 frame. Scott was born in South Africa, where he was a promising soccer player. Though he didn’t start pitching until high school, he isn’t as raw as you might expect. He competed well against older guys in the fall instructional league last October, posting a 2.52 ERA in 71.1 innings of work.

He keeps the ball on the ground thanks to a low-to-mid-90s fastball that has some sink. His curveball is developing quickly—he snapped some great ones with Boise this year and has shown good feel for the pitch—and rounds out his arsenal with a change-up.

Yakima’s Daniel Watts was Arizona’s 32nd-round pick in the 2012 draft. The left-hander has a 2.23 ERA in 15 starts this year.

Listen Live: Yakima doesn’t have a video feed, but you can listen to Boise’s Mike Safford on MiLB.com.

Watchful Eyes: If you want an idea of how important these youngsters are to the future of the Chicago Cubs, you don’t have to look much further than the crowd. President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, GM Jed Hoyer, SVP of Player Development and Scouting Jason McLeod and Chairman Tom Ricketts were all in attendance.

In an interview with the Idaho Statesman’s Chris Langrill, Ricketts emphasized that there’s daily excitement for this Hawks team.

“I read the scouting reports every morning,” he said. “We’re very excited. There’s a lot of guys from this year’s draft and last year’s draft and international players that have all stepped up.”

—Sean Ahmed

Northwest League Playoffs Preview: Boise hosts Yakima in Game 1

Albert Amora, Gioskar Amaya, Jeimer Calendario, Dan Vogelbach and Pierce Johnson—if you’re a Vine Line reader, you know these are some of the Cubs organization’s newest and most promising players. They may be years away from the big leagues, but they’ve already earned a playoff appearance on their developmental path to Chicago.

The Boise Hawks host the Yakima Bears (Diamondbacks) in Game 1 of the Northwest League Division Playoffs, beginning at 7:45 p.m. Central Time tonight. The game will be shown on MiLB.tv thanks to the excellent production work out in Boise, and we’ll recap the games this week. Here are some notes to get you ready for tonight’s matchup, the first of a best-of-three series.

Season Recap: The Hawks rebounded from a poor first half (13-25) to take the Northwest League East Division with a 24-14 second half.

Roster Breakdown: The Hawks dugout currently features 11 players from the 2012 draft, seven from 2011, three from 2010 and 10 international signings.

Tonight’s Starting Pitchers: Pierce Johnson starts for the Hawks, though it will effectively be a bullpen-by-committee night. The 43rd overall pick of the 2012 draft, Johnson was selected out of Missouri State and battled some minor injury issues earlier in the spring. The Cubs have been keeping him on a strict pitch count, which has resulted in just two-inning starts each time out.

Watching video of his two home starts for Boise (August 11 and 28), Johnson features a hard fastball with good run, a power curveball that moves away from right-handed hitters thanks to his three-quarters arm slot, and an occasional straight change. His fastball sits in the 93-96 mph range, and he was able to locate his curveball well for strikes. Listed at 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds, he’s tall and lean and looks very projectable. As the second player drafted in the Theo Epstein/Jason McLeod era, he’ll definitely be one to watch.

Last time around, Johnson was followed by Jose Arias, who had previously started all 13 of his appearances. He throws a fastball with some sink, a slider-type breaking ball that he can bury and a change-up. We’ll see if those two form a tandem again in the postseason.

Blake Perry, Arizona’s sixth-round pick in 2010, takes the hill for Yakima. He threw four shutout innings against Boise earlier this season.

Hitters to Watch: First baseman Dan Vogelbach was Boise’s best hitter for the season, powering his way to a .324/.427/.619 line with 10 home runs in 36 games. He was Chicago’s supplemental-round pick in 2012 and is just 19 years old.

There is no shortage of positional talent on this squad, so it’s quite impressive that infielder Stephen Bruno has been able to stand out as much as he has. He led the Northwest League with a .361 average and rides a 22-game hitting streak into tonight’s game. A product of the University of Virginia, Bruno was the Cubs’ seventh-round pick this June. Not only has he shown a mature approach at the plate, but he’s also made several nice defensive plays around the diamond.

Cubs select Almora sixth overall in 2012 draft

As the Cubs brain trust will tell you, draft day is the most important day of the year.

The Chicago Cubs made three selections in the opening rounds of Monday’s 2012 Major League First-Year Player Draft, taking high school outfielder Albert Almora with the sixth overall pick. The team also selected two right-handed pitchers in the compensation round: 21-year-old Pierce Johnson with the 43rd pick (compensation for Aramis Ramirez) and 18-year-old Paul Blackburn with the 56th pick (compensation for Carlos Peña).

The Cubs’ interest in Almora, an 18-year-old out of Mater Academy Charter in Hialeah Gardens, Fla., might have been the worst-kept secret in the draft. Most experts expected the Cubs to take the high-ceiling outfielder, whom Baseball America named the best defensive player, second-best outfielder and the third-best high school player in the 2012 draft class

The six-foot-two, 180-pound Almora hit .603 (44-for-73) with 13 doubles, five triples, six home runs and 34 RBI in 25 games for Mater Academy last season. His 14 walks compared to just three strikeouts in 87 plate appearances helped him to a robust .677 on-base percentage.

The 2011 USA Baseball Athlete of the Year has also been part of six USA national teams and earned five gold medals. He is committed to the University of Miami.

“We scouted Albert extensively throughout his career, and he fit the criteria we were looking for,” said Jason McLeod, Cubs vice president of scouting and player development. “He has multiple tools across the board and an incredible work ethic. We are looking forward to seeing him start his career.”

Johnson, a right-hander out of  Missouri State University, led the Missouri Valley Conference with 119 strikeouts in 99.2 innings pitched  this past season. He was named the conference’s Pitcher of the Week twice, helping lead the Bears to their first NCAA Regional appearance in nine years.

Blackburn went 8-3 with a 1.27 ERA and notched 87 strikeouts in 77.1 innings of work for Heritage High School in Brentwood, Calif. He recorded his first career no-hitter this past May, striking out eight and walking two. Blackburn is committed to Arizona State University.

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