Results tagged ‘ Rock Shoulders ’

From the Pages of Vine Line: 2014 Minor League Prospectus, Ready to Break Out

Duane-Underwood

Duane Underwood has one of the highest ceilings of all the Cubs arms. (Photo by Scott McDaniel)

For many Chicagoans, February means cold weather. At Vine Line, it’s all about the Cubs minor league prospectus. In the February issue, fans can check out frequent contributor Sahadev Sharma’s player breakdowns for more than 45 of the organization’s top prospects, from teenagers like Eloy Jimenez to elite talents like Javier Baez. This is our final online installment. For more information, pick up the February issue of Vine Line.

Also from the Series:
2014 Cubs Minor League Prospectus – The Elite
2014 Cubs Minor League Prospectus – Close to Big Leagues
2014 Cubs Minor League Prospectus – International Impact
2014 Cubs Minor League Prospectus – Pitching Depth

READY TO BREAK OUT

Not every name in the Cubs system sits atop prospect lists like Javier Baez and Kris Bryant. But the best organizations not only have top talent and balance, they also have players not everyone has heard of who have a chance to blossom into very good major leaguers.

Whether they’re lacking the flashy tool that garners headlines or are just a little raw and haven’t yet put everything together, there are definitely names worth watching in the Cubs system. And many of these prospects could become much more familiar to fans over the next nine months.

STEPHEN BRUNO
DOB: 11/17/1990
POSITION: 2B
HIGHEST 2013 LEVEL: DAYTONA
2013 STATS: .362/.436/.478 (19 GAMES)

There’s no two ways about it, this kid can flat-out hit. With a front-to-back stroke, Bruno uses the whole field, attacks the fastball and has the ability to stay on the breaking ball. Unfortunately, his season ended early with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. If not for that, it wouldn’t have been a surprise for Bruno to hit his way up to Double-A.

He likely won’t be ready by Spring Training, but the hope is he’ll be able to get on the field early in the minor league season. When he does, expect him to once again hit line drives all over the field.

ROCK SHOULDERS
DOB: 9/26/1991
POSITION: 1B
HIGHEST 2013 LEVEL: KANE COUNTY
2013 STATS: .258/.352/.445 (117 GAMES)

The man with the best name in the system mashed at a tough park for hitters in Kane County early on, earning organizational Player of the Month honors in April. A full-figured kid, Shoulders is more athletic than many realize. He played third base as an amateur, and there are those in the Cubs organization who believe he could have some value in the outfield.

With a winning combination of patience and power, the bat will always be enticing. Now it’s a matter of developing versatility on defense or finding one place to play and really focusing on it.

DUANE UNDERWOOD
DOB: 7/20/1994
POSITION: RHP
HIGHEST 2013 LEVEL: BOISE
2013 STATS: 54.1, 4.97 ERA, 36 K, 27 BB (11 STARTS, 14 APPEARANCES)

Outside of C.J. Edwards and perhaps Pierce Johnson, Underwood may have the highest ceiling of any pitcher in the organization. Unfortunately, he came into Spring Training in less-than-ideal shape, which led to inconsistent performance throughout the season. The hope is that he learned his lesson and will prepare appropriately this offseason so he can come into the spring ready to take off.

As far as the stuff is concerned, when he’s on, the fastball is 92-96 mph, and he has a knee-buckling curve. But consistency is an issue, and he didn’t get as many whiffs as you’d expect from a guy with his stuff.

“He’ll come into next season as a 19-year-old, and we’re just waiting for the light to come on,” McLeod said. “His upside is as high as anybody we’ve got.”

CHRISTIAN VILLANUEVA
DOB: 6/19/1991
POSITION: 3B
HIGHEST 2013 LEVEL: TENNESSEE
2013 STATS: .261/.317/469 (133 GAMES)

Already a big league-caliber defender at third, Villanueva showed some pop for the first time in his career in 2013, hitting 41 doubles and 19 home runs. There are some swing mechanics the Cubs will continue to work on with him, and they’d like to see him improve his plate discipline as far as controlling the strike zone. But Villanueva has the profile teams look for at third base, especially if the power output remains at the level he showed this season. Defensively, his hands and feet are as good as anyone’s.

DAN VOGELBACH
DOB: 12/17/1992
POSITION: 1B
HIGHEST 2013 LEVEL: DAYTONA
2013 STATS: .284/.375/.449 (131 GAMES)

Vogelbach grew up playing baseball in the Florida sun, so the cold late spring in Kane County was a shock to his system this past season. Many balls that normally would have cleared the fence or fallen for doubles became easy outs. However, his struggles in a cold and rainy April helped him grow immensely as a player. By the end of the year, his numbers were solid, and he’d done enough to earn a promotion to Daytona.

The bat has always been a plus for Vogelbach, as he shows light-tower power and can drive the ball to all parts of the field. Of course, the biggest question will always be his body and whether it will keep him from sticking at first base. While he’ll never be mistaken for slender, there have been some positive signs of late.
“He was probably the best I’ve ever seen him look [in November for instructs] in Arizona,” McLeod said.

McLeod pointed to next season as being a huge year for Vogelbach. He’ll have to continue to stay in shape and prove his bat can carry him to the bigs.

GIOSKAR AMAYA (2B) – Amaya had an up-and-down 2013, but he has bat speed, power for a second baseman, solid plate discipline and the speed to steal a base here and there. He’s a very hard worker, but he can be too tough on himself from time to time. Still, he’s an intelligent ballplayer with tools and plus-makeup.

SHAWON DUNSTON JR. (OF) – Dunston grew up a lot in 2013 after struggling early in his professional career. He had a strong first half in Boise but fell off toward the end. He has all the tools, drew a lot of walks and can steal bases. The Cubs are working on his bat path, as Dunston tends to get a little pull-happy.

KEVIN ENCARNACION (OF) – Encarnacion hit for average and power, drew walks and stole bases in a strong year at Boise. He’s a switch-hitter with a corner-outfield profile. Though he was a little old for the Northwest League, his confidence improved this season after a strong performance. He shows a fluid swing with a very good idea of the strike zone.

DUSTIN GEIGER (1B) – This streaky, big-bodied power hitter mashes lefties and holds his own against righties. Geiger should move into a hitters’ park in Tennessee next year, so he needs to keep putting up offensive numbers and improving defensively.

JACOB HANNEMANN (OF) – Hannemann was a surprise third-round pick in last summer’s draft. He flew under the radar because he hadn’t played for a few years due to a Mormon mission and commitment to the BYU football team. He has a strong left-handed bat and a good feel for the strike zone. From a tools standpoint, he’s a dynamic guy with tremendous speed, a Jacoby Ellsbury-type body and athleticism. He’s raw because of limited playing time, but the Cubs are betting on his upside.

CARLOS PIMENTEL (RHP) – Recently named the Dominican Winter League Pitcher of the Year, this strong-armed reliever has proven to be a tough match-up. He’s a short-arm guy, and hitters often have a tough time picking up the ball. He has been up to 94 mph with the fastball, which he complements with a slider and a solid change-up. His command and control can waver, but he’s a pitcher who gives opponents an uncomfortable at-bat.

IVAN PINEYRO (RHP) – Acquired in a trade with the Nationals for Scott Hairston, Pineyro is a strike thrower with an impressive change-up. He’s not a stuff guy, but the belief is he can end up at the back end of a good major league rotation.

—Sahadev Sharma

Six Cougars selected to MWL All-Star Game

The Kane County Cougars entered the 2013 season as one of the youngest squads in the Single-A Midwest League. Apparently, age hasn’t been a factor, as six Cougars—Nathan Dorris, Felix Pena, Bijan Rademacher, Tayler Scott, Rock Shoulders and Dan Vogelbach—were all named to the Western Division All-Star team on Wednesday. This marks the most All-Stars from Kane County since 2009.

Reliever Dorris has been a solid contributor out of the bullpen, posting a 2.52 ERA in 14 appearances and striking out 25 batters over 25 innings. He was drafted in the 17th round of last year’s draft.

Right-handed starter Pena has spent some time on the DL this season, but when healthy, the 23-year-old has posted a 2-0 record with a 2.11 ERA over 38.1 innings. The Cubs acquired him as a non-drafted free agent prior to the 2009 season.

A Johannesburg, South Africa native, Scott has started 10 games for the Cougars this season. He has a 2-2 record with a 4.56 ERA over 53.1 innings. The right-hander was selected in the fifth round of the 2011 draft.

Designated hitter Shoulders leads the league in home runs with 12 and was named the Cubs Minor League Player of the Month in April. His .884 OPS is sixth in the league largely thanks to a .505 slugging percentage. The Cubs drafted him in the 25th round of the 2011 draft.

Rademacher’s .310 batting average leads the Cougars for all players with more than 100 at-bats. The outfielder also has five doubles and 15 RBI on the season. He was drafted in the 13th round of the 2012 draft.

Vogelbach will serve as the starting DH for the Western Division. The hulking first baseman has nine homers, fourth in the MWL, as well as 39 RBI. He has an .807 OPS to go along with his .282 average. Vogelbach was selected in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft.

The game will be played on Tuesday, June 18, and will be hosted by the Dayton Dragons.

Cubs minor league recap: 4/8/13

Jackson-for-Web

Brett Jackson recorded a team-high two RBI for Iowa Monday. (Photo by Stephen Green)

The Kane County Cougars picked up their first win of the season Monday, while the Iowa Cubs surrendered their fifth-straight loss. Here are the highlights from Monday’s games:

IOWA CUBS (0-5)
Iowa suffered its fifth-straight loss to open the season, surrendering six first-inning runs in a 13-5 setback at Round Rock.

  • 2B Logan Watkins (.368) went 2-for-4 with a double, a homer, two runs scored and a RBI.
  • CF Brett Jackson (.238) was 2-for-4 with a double and a team-high two RBI (2).
  • SS Donnie Murphy (.300) was 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored.
  • RF Brian Bogusevic (.389) reached base three times, going 2-for-3 with a walk, a run scored and an outfield assist.
  • RHP Blake Parker (6.75) walked one and fanned two in 1.1 scoreless innings of relief.

TENNESSEE SMOKIES (2-3)
Tennessee lost its second game in a row, dropping a 2-1 pitchers’ duel at Pensacola.

  • CF Matt Szczur (.409) reached base three times, going 2-for-3 with a walk, a run scored and a stolen base.
  • SS Arismendy Alcantara (.261) added two hits, going 2-for-4.
  • LF Rubi Silva (.154) went 1-for-4 with a stolen base.
  • LHP Zach Rosscup (0.00) allowed one hit while fanning three in 1.0 scoreless inning of relief.
  • RHP Trey McNutt (0.00) fanned one in a perfect eighth inning.

DAYTONA CUBS (3-1)
Daytona had the day off. The D-Cubs return to action Tuesday, hosting Clearwater.

KANE COUNTY COUGARS (1-4)
Kane County squandered a 5-1 eighth-inning lead, but plated a run in the bottom of the 10th to defeat visiting Clinton 6-5 in walk-off fashion, snapping a season-opening, four-game skid.

  • 2B Gioskar Amaya (.238) went 3-for-5 with a triple, a run scored and a stolen base.
  • C Chadd Krist (.625) was 3-for-5 with two doubles and two runs scored.
  • RF Bijan Rademacher (.214) added three hits, going 3-for-5 with a team-high three RBI and an outfield assist.
  • 1B Rock Shoulders (2-for-5, R) and LF Pin-Chieh Chen (2-for-5, R) both had multi-hit performances.

Cubs minor league recap: 4/7/13

SOLER-J-3-For-Web

Jorge Soler homered and drove in two on Sunday. (Photo by Stephen Green)

The Tennessee Smokies and the Daytona Cubs picked up a win after Sunday night’s games while Iowa and Kane County both continue to search for their first victories of the season after falling short this weekend. Here are the highlights from Sunday’s games:

IOWA CUBS (0-4)
Iowa suffered its fourth consecutive defeat to start the season, falling 7-3 at Albuquerque.

  • RF Ryan Sweeney went 2-for-3 with a walk and a solo home run.
  • CF Brett Jackson (1-for-4, R) and LF Darnell McDonald (1-for-4, R, 2B) also collected hits and a run.
  • RHP Casey Coleman allowed two runs on three hits in 2.0 innings out of the bullpen, striking out two.

TENNESSEE SMOKIES (2-2)
Tennessee stranded the tying run on second base in the ninth inning, losing 5-4 at Pensacola.

  • 1B Justin Bour (2-for-4, R, RBI) collected two hits including a RBI double in the third inning.
  • 3B Tim Torres walked and singled twice in three at bats.
  • RHP’s Tony Zych (1.2 IP, 2 H) and A.J. Morris (1.1 IP) combined to hold the Blue Wahoos scoreless over the final three innings.

DAYTONA CUBS (3-1)
Daytona scored nine runs over the final four innings to shutout Brevard County on the road, 9-0.

  • RHP P.J. Francescon (1-0) surrendered one hit in five scoreless innings, striking out six.
  • RF Jorge Soler (2-for-4, 2 R, BB, 2 RBI) homered for the second-consecutive day, knocking in SS Javier Baez (1-for-4, R, SB) in the sixth inning.
  • LF John Andreoli reached base four times, going 2-for-3 with two walks, two runs, a triple and a RBI.
  • RHP Yeiper Castillo struck out three batters in two scoreless innings.
  • RHP’s Luis Liria and Austin Reed recorded the final six outs in order to complete the shutout.

KANE COUNTY COUGARS (0-4)
Quad Cities scored two runs in the 13th inning to defeat host Kane County, 3-1, and finish off the four-game sweep.

  • CF Oliver Zapata went 2-for-5 with a walk from the leadoff spot.
  • LF Rock Shoulders (2-for-3, BB) extended his hitting streak to four games.
  • LHP Michael Heesch took a no-hitter into the fifth inning before surrendering the first hit and run of the game.
  • RHP Felix Pena pitched 5.2 innings of scoreless relief, allowing three hits and walking one while striking out five.

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: 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

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