Results tagged ‘ Ryan Dempster ’

From the Pages of Vine Line: Christian Villanueva prospect profile

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(Photo by Scott Jontes, Daytona Cubs)

For hundreds of professional baseball players, the season doesn’t end when the Wrigley Field ivy turns red.

In the Sonoran desert, nearly 2,000 miles southwest of Chicago, Cubs third baseman Christian Villanueva is manning the infield for the Yaquis de Obregon of the Mexican Pacific League. Villanueva, who was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, was acquired from the Rangers in July as the main return for Ryan Dempster and finished the 2012 season at High-A Daytona. Baseball Prospectus recently named the 21-year-old the Cubs’ No. 9 prospect in a front-loaded system they believe now easily ranks in the top half of baseball.

“Villa’s a great kid,” said Jason Parks, who heads prospect coverage for BP. “The Rangers were absolutely heartbroken to see that kid go. This wasn’t, ‘Let’s look at a list because Texas is calling.’ The Cubs scouted Villa. They knew what they were getting.”

What they got was a player who commands the hot corner at a young age, and has the offensive potential and makeup of a future big leaguer—even though he’s not expected to be a prototypical power-hitting third baseman.

“The kid can really, really play third base. I think he has—some people are afraid to say it, but I’ll say it—a seven [out of eight], plus-plus glove,” said Parks, specifically noting Villanueva’s quick reactions and strong, accurate arm.

Villanueva, who was recently added to the Cubs 40-man roster, has struggled at the plate in Mexico. In 51 at-bats, he’s hit only .176 with two home runs and 25 strikeouts. But he posted solid numbers between Myrtle Beach of the Carolina League and Daytona in 2012, hitting .279/.353/.427 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 14 home runs.

The extra experience Villanueva is getting this winter may be particularly valuable as he prepares to make the large leap to Double-A. He’s already shown he can square up velocity inside, but in the high minors, he’ll be tested by advanced pitchers with quality offspeed stuff.

That’s what Cubs farm director Brandon Hyde says Villanueva is seeing right now in Mexico.

It’s a real advantage, from a player development standpoint, to be playing more competitive games,” Hyde said. “A lot of those teams—like the one Jae-Hoon Ha is on [in Venezuela]—they’re looking to win.”

Villanueva’s Obregon team has been at the center of many of the league’s—and the Caribbean’s—best games in recent years. After a 26-year title drought, the Yaquis have won three league championships in five years and the 2011 Caribbean Series crown. The team’s stadium can hold up to 13,000 fans—more than almost any minor league venue—and tends to play to raucous crowds.

Parks said Villanueva has the mature demeanor to thrive in that kind of environment. He gets along socially with teammates across cultures and has proved a quiet leader whose work ethic rubs off on teammates.

It also seems to leave an impression on talent evaluators. Parks last saw Villanueva in October, when Obregon played several exhibitions in the Arizona instructional league. Because the jerseys bore no names, one MLB team scout approached Parks to ask who the third baseman was. Parks told the scout it was Villanueva.

“And he goes, ‘Oh, that makes sense. That kid’s good,’” Parks said. “[And I said] ‘Yeah, he’s good. He’s a major leaguer.’”

—Sean Ahmed

1000 Words: Will and Zach’s mound party

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

Former Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster participates in perhaps the first-ever pizza delivery to the Wrigley Field mound, courtesy of Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis. We’re not sure who got stuck with the bill.

This is another shot that didn’t make it into our 2012 photos of the year feature in the December issue of Vine Line. All month, we’ll be posting some of the extras here on the blog.

Cubsgrafs: Turkey trot

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Whether you’re all about the tryptophan-induced football coma or you prefer bowling away the holidays with your family, we’ve got a bonus, Thanksgiving-themed edition of Cubsgrafs for you.

Let’s define a new toy stat—a “turkey”—based on the nickname given when a bowler rolls three strikes in a row. For baseball, we’ll tally a turkey each time a pitcher records a three-pitch strikeout. The results for the 2012 season, limited to Cubs with at least 20 innings, are below.

So who are the Cubs’ 2012 turkey champions? The answers may surprise you.

It turns out three relievers—Scott Maine, Shawn Camp and Alberto Cabrera—stood above the rest with more than 6 percent turkeys per batter faced. But it’s Camp who deserves special recognition for being so efficient with the strikeouts he did rack up. Nearly four out of every 10 of his K’s took the minimum three pitches. It turns out that, while Camp may have been a fair bit below the team’s average strikeout rate, he also had the bullpen’s highest strike percentage (64%). It’s a definite boost for the Cubs that they’ve re-signed Camp for 2013.

Similarly, Travis Wood may have been only average with his strikeout rate, but he established himself as the rotation’s leader in three-pitch K’s. He and fellow lefty Paul Maholm were pretty efficient when they did rack up strikeouts, while the actual K kings Jeff Samardzija, Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster were a little less direct to the end goal.

Now, there’s not much reason to think that’s a bad thing. Many times you want a pitcher to bury his secondary offerings and get batters to chase. But for tonight’s feast, we’ll hand out the drumsticks to Camp and Wood and let the rest work their way through some sides first.

Now Playing: In the Dugout with Dale Sveum

The Cubs team Manager Dale Sveum takes into September is drastically different from the team that broke Spring Training in April. At the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, the Cubs dealt away veterans Jeff Baker, Ryan Dempster, Reed Johnson, Paul Maholm and Geovany Soto in favor of high-ceiling minor league talent that could pay off down the road. This month, Vine Line talked to Sveum about the impact those deals have had on the major league club, what he expects out of the team’s recent call-ups and what he’s learned on the job this season.

To read the full interview, pick up the September issue of Vine Line, on sale soon at Chicago-area retailers. Or subscribe to Vine Line, the official magazine of the Chicago Cubs, for just $29.95.

Cast your vote for the best of 2012

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Santo’s induction? Rizzo’s walk-off? Kerry’s farewell? Even though this season has been a struggle in the standings, there’s been no shortage of memorable Cubs highlights. Which events from the 2012 season made you stand up and take notice? This month, Vine Line is letting you decide on the best of 2012. Cast your vote and see the results in the October issue.

Deadline dealing

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer’s first non-waiver trade deadline as members of the Cubs passed at 3 p.m. CST Tuesday with a flurry of activity. The front office made three trades in the last 24 hours, and they waited until the last minute to complete a deal sending away the team’s biggest trade chip, Ryan Dempster. Here’s a recap of the Cubs’ moves and a summary of what they received in the deals.

Cubs send left-handed starter Paul Maholm and outfielder Reed Johnson to the Braves for right-handed pitchers Arodys Vizcaino and Jaye Chapman

What they got:

Arodys Vizcaino: Baseball America rated the right-hander the Braves’ No. 2 preseason prospect and the 40th best prospect in all of baseball. Vizcaino, who has a live arm with a fastball that touches the high 90s, was the centerpiece of the Braves 2009 deal that sent Javier Vazquez to the Yankees. He’ll miss all of 2012 recovering from Tommy John surgery, but should be ready to go by early next season.

2011 stats: 5-5, 3.06 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 9.3 K/9, 97 IP at three minor league levels;
1-1, 4.67 ERA, 17 K, 17.1 IP for Braves

Jaye Chapman: The 25-year-old has climbed his way through the minor league ranks since he was drafted in 2006. In two seasons at Triple-A Gwinnett, the reliever has struck out more than one-fourth of the batters he’s faced, and he’s only allowed three home runs in 2012.

2012 stats: 3-6, 3.52 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 10.1 K/9, 53.2 IP at Triple-A Gwinnett

Cubs send catcher Geovany Soto to the Rangers for right-hander Jake Brigham

What they got:

Jake Brigham: A sixth-round pick in the 2006 draft, Brigham went 5-5 with a 4.28 ERA in 21 starts for Double-A Frisco this season. Baseball America rated him the seventh-best righty reliever in the Texas farm system. Last season, he went 3-1 with a 3.60 ERA in 21 appearances.

2012 stats: 5-5, 4.28 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 8.4 K/9, 124.0 IP at Double-A Frisco

Cubs send right-handed pitcher Ryan Dempster to the Rangers for right-handed pitcher Kyle Hendricks and infielder Christian Villanueva

What they got:

Christian Villanueva: Baseball America rated Villanueva the Rangers’ eighth-best prospect prior to the season. The publication called him “an easy plus defender with soft hands and easy actions.” The 22-year-old stole 32 bases last season in Low-A and finished with a .278 batting average.

2012 stats: .285/.356/.421, 10 home runs, 59 RBI, 9 SB, 425 PA at Single-A Myrtle Beach

Kyle Hendricks: The 2011 eighth-round draft pick had a 5-8 record with 2.82 ERA in 20 starts for Single-A Myrtle Beach this season, earning him a spot on the Carolina League All-Star team. He spent last season at both Low-A Spokane and Double-A Frisco.

2012 stats: 5-8, 2.82 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 7.7 K/9, 15 BB, 130.2 IP at Single-A Myrtle Beach

Cubs catching fire

Cubs fans hope first baseman Anthony Rizzo will one day fuel the North Siders to a World Series title. While that’s unlikely to happen this season, it’s difficult to ignore the sizzling run the team has been on since Manager Dale Sveum inserted the prized prospect into the third spot of the batting order on June 26. The Cubs are 11-4 since Rizzo’s call-up, having won four straight three-game series and splitting a four-game set with the equally hot Braves.

During this stretch, the pitching has been as good as it’s been all season. Couple that with some timely hitting, and things are starting to click. Vine Line examined why the last 15 games have been such a successful stretch for the Cubs.

Offensive Resurgence: Alfonso Soriano is known as a streaky hitter, but he seems to be finding a more consistent groove. The veteran has hit .286 with three homers, three doubles and nine RBI since Rizzo’s call-up. Geovany Soto, who currently owns only a .189 batting average, has hit .257 with a homer and a pair of doubles in that time. And if you look at the team’s averages over the last month, Reed Johnson and Jeff Baker’s numbers continuously appear at the top. They might not play every day, but they have definitely made the most of their opportunities. Johnson is hitting .440 in his last 25 at-bats, while Baker has hit .318 during the hot stretch.

Starting Pitching: Though Jeff Samardzija has struggled, the rest of the rotation has been the real difference maker for the team during the hot streak. Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Paul Maholm and Travis Wood have gone a combined 9-1 over the last 15 games. In 62.1 innings, the quartet has surrendered a combined 11 earned runs (five of them coming in Garza’s July 5 start vs. Atlanta) and recorded a 1.59 ERA. The group has 46 strikeouts, or 6.67 K/9, while keeping the walks to a minimum (2.46 BB/9).

Anthony Rizzo: It all started with the phenom’s call-up. In his first game, he went 2-for-4 with a double and what would prove to be the game-winning RBI. He’s hit .356/.377/.627 in 61 plate appearances since. His altered stance has rewarded him with four homers, 10 RBI and just six strikeouts. While he’s crushing righties to the tune of a .429 average, the lefty is also hitting a respectable .250 against southpaws with a pair of homers. Many feared Rizzo woudln’t be able to hit lefties at the major league level. To say that Rizzo is carrying the team isn’t totally accurate, but he might very well have been the spark the Cubs were looking for.

Cubs venture to the South Side

The Cubs take a trip down the Dan Ryan Expressway this week en route to U.S. Cellular Field for the second leg of the BP Crosstown Cup. To add some fuel to Chicago rivalry, we’re breaking down the position-by-position matchups for both teams, starting today with starters and bullpens.

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Starting Pitching

Monday
Matt Garza (2-5, 4.04 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 8.3 K/9) vs. Zach Stewart (1-1, 5.18 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 5.55 K/9)

The Cubs will have an opportunity to jump out to an early lead in the series with the Sox’s Zach Stewart making his first start of the season. Last year, Stewart completed seven innings just once in eight starts after being acquired from the Blue Jays in a July trade.

But this may not be a sure thing. For a starter many believed was the Cubs’ ace going into Opening Day, Matt Garza has struggled a bit, especially of late. In his first six outings, Garza had a 2.59 ERA, a 0.99 WHIP and was striking out 9.19 batters per nine innings. In his last six outings, those numbers have worsened dramatically (5.87 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 7.55 K/9). With Adam Dunn and Alex Rios bouncing back, Paul Konerko likely having the best season of his career and many others hitting better than expected, Garza will have to pitch well to outlast the tough White Sox lineup.

Tuesday
Travis Wood (0-3, 4.58 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 6.1 K/9) vs. Jake Peavy (6-2, 2.91 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 7.83 K/9)

Travis Wood has been a consistent and solid addition to the Cubs’ rotation since joining the major league club in early May. The southpaw has completed five innings in all six of his starts and has gotten through the sixth in three of them. He’s only had one bad outing (5 IP, 6 ER, 7 H vs. the Padres, a game the Cubs still won) and has surrendered no more than three earned runs in five of six starts.

The Sox have been successful this season in part due to Jake Peavy’s return to dominance. After starting just 35 games over the last two seasons for the South Siders, Peavy entered camp healthy this year, and his numbers show he is back to his old, dominant form. One number that might be helping his cause is a .239 batting average on balls in play. Given the league average hovers somewhere around .300 and the Sox have a good-but-not-great defense, there might be some luck involved to his fast start.

Wednesday
Ryan Dempster (3-3, 2.11 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 7.3 K/9) vs. Gavin Floyd (4-7, 5.63 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 8.5 K/9)

Gavin Floyd has struggled of late to say the least. In his last six starts, he is 1-4 with a 10.71 ERA and a 2.01 WHIP. However, Floyd is still managing to strike out just better than one batter per inning.

Ryan Dempster, meanwhile, has been one of the National League’s most consistently dominant starters all season. Because of poor run support, the 35-year-old won his first start just three outings ago. Prior to his first win on June 5, the Cubs were averaging 2.89 runs per game in Dempster’s starts. But he has won each of his last three because the bats have finally livened up behind him.

Bullpen
While neither bullpen has been automatic this year, the Sox’s ‘pen has fared significantly better than that of the Cubs. Closer Addison Reed has converted eight of nine chances this season, while Matt Thornton (3.38 ERA) and Jesse Crain (2.18 ERA, 10.9 K/9) have been solid setup men.

The Cubs have a 4.51 bullpen ERA, second-worst in baseball, and have saved just nine games total, the lowest total in baseball. James Russell (2.56 ERA) and Shawn Camp (3.74 ERA) have both been good middle/late-innings relievers, but the closer spot is still a revolving door. It appears Carlos Marmol has regained that job after returning from a recent demotion.

Tomorrow on the blog, we’ll feature the infielders.

Hot off the presses: Vine Line May issue featuring Jeff Samardzija

Baseball has always been about reinvention. Even at the major league level, players change positions all the time.

But few have done so with the regularity, and consistent success, of Cubs No. 3 starter Jeff Samardzija. After an outstanding career on the gridiron at Notre Dame—and the promise of an NFL career as a wide receiver—Samardzija changed course when he was drafted in the fifth round by the Chicago Cubs.

After a few up-and-down years, the 6’5″, 225-pound flamethrower arrived as a major league pitcher in 2011, posting a 2.97 ERA in 75 appearances out of the bullpen. But there was one problem—Samardzija saw himself as a starter. So when the 2012 offseason rolled around, he headed to Arizona and dedicated himself to securing a spot in the Cubs rotation.

Five months later, Samardzija joined Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster as stalwarts in the Cubs biggest area of strength—their starting rotation. In the May issue of Vine Line, we look at Samardzija’s long road to the Cubs rotation, his mile-long competitive streak and how be became a more complete pitcher.

We also have an exclusive Q&A with the man who is reinventing what it means to play baseball the “Cubs Way,” General Manager Jed Hoyer. We go in depth about why he wanted the Cubs job (which he calls “the best in sports”) and his expectations for 2012 and beyond.

“If you acquire players who play hard—and we have a manager who is going to stress that—if you do the little things well, you always have that chance to catch lightning in a bottle,” Hoyer said.

Finally, we go inside the numbers with four key players—and the advanced metrics that explain why they are so important to the Cubs success.

This season, reinvent the way you get news from your favorite team by subscribing to vineline.mlblogs.com. If you live in the Chicago area, pick up the May issue at select Barnes and Noble, Jewel, Walgreens and Meier locations. Or subscribe to Vine Line today.

Wrigley Cubscast: Opening Day

CHICAGO—Win or lose, nothing beats Opening Day at Wrigley Field. Though the Cubs were unable to finish off Ryan Dempster’s 10-strikeout Opening Day gem, falling 2-1 to the Nationals, the excitement over the 2012 team was palpable. The Wrigley faithful packed the streets by 8 a.m. to check out the new offerings at the Friendly Confines, including the LED scoreboard in right field, the Budweiser Patio, and the Cubs Store on the corner of Clark and Addison. Vine Line was there along with Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts, Hall of Famer Billy Williams and Manager Dale Sveum to kick off the baseball season in style.

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