Results tagged ‘ Theo Epstein ’

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.

Now Playing: Anthony Rizzo Safe at Home

Since his June 26 call-up to the big leagues, Anthony Rizzo has certainly lived up Cubs fans’ expectations. In just 57 games, his highlights include driving in the game-winning RBI in three of his first five games, hitting a dramatic walk-off home run against the Cardinals and capping an improbable rally last night with a key ninth inning double to tie the game 11-11 with Milwaukee.

Rizzo’s early success with the Cubs made us wonder about the goals he set for himself heading into the season. Vine Line looked back at our Spring Training conversation with the slugging first baseman in which he talked about coming to the Cubs, saying goodbye to the minor leagues and playing at Wrigley Field.

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

Red Sox Nation storms into Wrigley

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For just the second time ever during the regular season and first time since 2005, the Red Sox will take to the Wrigley Field grass this weekend. The all-time regular-season series is knotted at 3-all, but the Cubs took two of three at the Friendly Confines back in 2005.

The series marks a reunion of sorts for Cubs baseball president Theo Epstein. Epstein acted as the Red Sox’s general manager from 2002-11 before taking his position with the North Siders and is largely responsible for the current makeup of Boston’s lineup. GM Jed Hoyer and senior vice president Jason McLeod also spent time over the last decade in Sox upper management.

While both squads currently sit at the bottom of their respective divisions, there’s no shortage of excitement when these historic teams get together.

Former Cub Carpenter to have surgery

Former Cubs reliever Chris Carpenter, who went to Boston as compensation for Theo Epstein, will have surgery Thursday to remove a bone spur from his throwing elbow and is expected to miss significant time.

The righty passed physicals performed by both the Cubs and the Red Sox, so it isn’t likely the Cubs will have to surrender anyone else in the deal.

Carpenter had thrown just 1.2 innings this spring. Last season, he pitched in 10 games of relief for the Cubs, compiling a 2.79 ERA.

The surgery will be conducted by Dr. James Andrews.

Old faces in new places

When looking at the 2011-12 offseason, there is one word that best describes the Chicago Cubs from top to bottom: Change.

The Ricketts group hired Theo Epstein to act as President of Baseball Operations and subsequently hired a new GM in Jed Hoyer. Payroll was cut in favor of stocking the farm system, and probably most important, many player moves were made. While the Cubs signed a plethora of young talent hoping to help the organization in the future, if not this year, many notable Cubs became “former Cubs” either by trade or free agency.

Let’s see how some of the old faces have fared thus far with their new teams:

Andrew Cashner: Cubs 2008-11; Traded to Padres Jan. 2012
Spring Training line: 8 IP, 11 K’s, 6 HA, ER, 1.13 ERA

Tyler Colvin: Cubs 2006-11; Traded to Rockies Dec. 2011
Spring Training line: 41 AB, HR, 10 RBI, 16 hits, .390/.429/.610

Sean Marshall: Cubs 2003-11; Traded to Reds Dec. 2011
Spring Training line: 8 IP, 12 K’s, 5 HA, 4 ER, 4.50 ERA

Carlos Pena: Cubs 2011; Free agent signed with Rays Jan. 2012
Spring Training line: 28 AB, 0 HR, RBI, 4 hits, .143/.333/.250

Aramis Ramirez: Cubs 2003-11; Free agent signed with Brewers Dec. 2011
Spring Training line: 32 AB, HR, 2 RBI, 8 hits, .250/.273/.406

Carlos Zambrano: Cubs 1997-11; Traded to Marlins Jan. 2012
Spring Training line: 13.2 IP, 17 K’s, 14 HA, 7 ER, 4.61 ERA

Cubs send reliever Carpenter to Red Sox

After months of back-and-forth, the Theo Epstein compensation issue has finally been settled with the Boston Red Sox. The Chicago Cubs today assigned right-handed pitcher Chris Carpenter and a player to be named to the Red Sox for a player to be named.

“I am relieved that this process is over and particularly pleased that the teams were able to reach agreement on their own without intervention from MLB,” Epstein said. “I truly hope and believe that this resolution will benefit both clubs, as well as Chris, who is an extremely talented reliever joining a great organization at a time when there’s some opportunity in the major league bullpen.”

Last season, Carpenter combined to make 42 relief appearances between Double-A Tennessee, Triple-A Iowa and the Cubs, his first major league action. The 26-year-old right-hander spent most of his time with Iowa, going 2-3 with one save and a 6.53 ERA (22 ER/30.1 IP) in 22 relief outings. Carpenter posted no record and a 2.79 ERA (3 ER/9.2 IP) in 10 relief outings in the majors.

The Red Sox and Cubs have been locked in a disagreement over the Epstein compensation package for months, ever since he left the Red Sox shortly after the end of the 2011 season to become the Cubs president of baseball operations. The Red Sox initially asked for some of the Cubs’ top major and minor league talent, including pitcher Matt Garza and outfielder Brett Jackson.

“More than anything, I’m excited that we can all move forward and focus exclusively on getting ready for the season,” Epstein said. “I wish Chris and the Red Sox nothing but the best in 2012 and beyond.”

Hot off the presses: Vine Line on the farm

It’s February and that means baseball is back! Well … almost. Cubs pitchers and catchers report to Mesa, Ariz., Feb. 18, and the first Cactus League game is March 4. Cubs management has spent the entire offseason strengthening the team, and now we get to see how they look in the hot Arizona sun.

They say the youth shall lead us, so Vine Line kicks off the Cactus League season with our annual Minor League Prospectus issue. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have pledged to make the team younger and more athletic, and that all starts on the farm. We profile the names you need to know in the Cubs minor league system, from top draft picks like Brett Jackson and Javier Baez to flamethrowers Dillon Maples and Tony Zych.

We also go in-depth with Senior Vice President of Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod to discuss his experience in Boston and San Diego, his shared history with Epstein and Hoyer, and how he will construct a top-notch farm system here in Chicago. He already helped build a World Series winner in Boston, and he’s working hard to create the same foundation on the North Side.

“It comes back to who your scouts are, how good they are at evaluating players, how good your system and processes are on cultivating that information, and using it to make the best decisions you can,” McLeod said. “That is what our focus is going to be on.”

Finally, if December was about adding bats, last month was all about the arms race. Cubs beat writer Bruce Miles looks at the many additions to the pitching staff and how they’ll benefit the team this season.

If you live in the Chicago area, you can grab the February issue at select Barnes and Noble, Jewel, Walgreens and Meier locations. Or subscribe to Vine Line today. We’ll see you in Mesa!

1000 Words: Cubs Fantasy Camp

This may be the true definition of “fantasy camp.” Cubs fan and Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder, Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and NHL legend Chris Chelios at the Cubs Fantasy Camp in Mesa, Ariz.  (Photo by Warren Wimmer)

Now Playing: 2012 Cubs Convention

From Jan. 13-15, Cubs fans of all ages gathered at the Hilton Chicago to warm up the winter and mingle with more than 70 Cubs players, coaches and front office personnel at the sold-out 27th annual Cubs Convention. Vine Line was there the whole weekend to document all the happenings, including Kerry Wood’s triumphant return, the Ron Santo Hall of Fame Panel and all the new Wrigley Field news. Get ready for the season and check out the sights and sounds of the 2012 Cubs Convention.

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