Results tagged ‘ Vine Line ’

Cubs AFL recap: 11/13/14

The Arizona Fall League’s regular season came to a close Thursday with Mesa and Glendale wrapping up action in a 4-4, 11-inning tie. Plenty of Cubs farmhands got into the game with mixed results. Here are some notes from yesterday’s AFL action:

  • 3B Danny Lockhart singled in the third inning and scored four batters later on a Jon Berti (Blue Jays) homer. He also led off the 11th with a single to finish the afternoon 2-for-5.
  • RHP Ivan Pineyro earned his third hold of the fall, going two innings of hitless relief. He struck out three and walked none.
  • 1B Dan Vogelbach recorded an RBI double in the fifth inning. He finished 1-for-5 with a walk.
  • PH-DH Bijan Rademacher finished 0-for-1 with a walk in the 10th inning.
  • RF Jacob Hannemann went 0-f0r-5.

Baseball Prospectus unveils Cubs top 10 prospects

140924_Cubs_150

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Scouting publication Baseball Prospectus unveiled its list of the top 10 Cubs prospects on Friday. For Cubs fans and prospect junkies, it’s like Christmas day.

Over the last few seasons, the organization has stockpiled a deep farm system many view as the best in baseball. Unlike some other major league clubs, the list of high-upside Cubs farmhands extends well beyond a top 10—even with Javier Baez and Kyle Hendricks graduating to the big leagues. Here is how Baseball Prospectus viewed the top players in the organization:

1. SS Addison Russell
2. 3B Kris Bryant
3. OF Jorge Soler
4. OF Albert Almora
5. C Kyle Schwarber
6. OF Billy McKinney
7. RHP Pierce Johnson
8. SS Gleyber Torres
9. 1B Dan Vogelbach
10. LHP Carson Sands

On Russell:

Strengths: Impact potential with the stick; strong hands and barrel control; good bat speed; improved approach; should grow into high-contact MLB bat that will hit for average and power; solid actions at short; good hands with left-side arm; solid run paired with baserunning acumen; clocks plus times out of the box and should settle in as average run at maturity.

Weaknesses: Still working to slow down game in the field; set-up and footwork can get loose, particularly at the margins, leading to drift in throws; can slip into overly aggressive approach at plate.

The Year Ahead: Russell is close to major-league ready and possesses the skill set, makeup, and natural ability to make an immediate impact as soon as he is called upon. The profile is an elite blend of offensive upside, defensive stability at a high-worth position, athleticism, and strength; the aggregate of which could produce a perennial all-star capable of impacting the game in all facets. Not only might this be the best collection of tools, upside, and probability from a talented crop of minor-league shortstops, but there’s a case for top prospect in the game. He should debut in Chicago in 2015 and it won’t be long before Russell surpasses the ‘L’ stop as the best known Addison in Wrigleyville.

On Bryant:

Strengths: Elite raw power; big leverage and big-boy present strength; ability to produce regular hard contact; good plate coverage allowing for wide kill zone on mistake pitches; borderline double-plus arm; solid athleticism and coordination for a big man; strong grades for makeup.

Weaknesses: Long levers produce holes in swing that could be attacked by major-league arms; limited swing plane/pitch plane overlap narrows contact margin; some issues with velocity on inner half; capable at third base but may lack lower-half agility to excel; run could settle a tick below average at maturity.

The Year Ahead: Through his minor-league career, which totals just a shade over a full major-league season’s worth of plate appearances, Bryant has posted pornographic numbers at the plate, including a slash line of .327/.428/.666 while averaging nearly a home run every three games. He’s ready to bring his act to The Show, where he should eventually settle in as a fixture in the middle of the Cubs lineup. This season could be choppy at times due to the potential for major-league arms to exploit shortcomings in a swing. But the approach, work ethic, and IQ should aid Bryant in making his adjustments, and the raw power will be a legit threat from day one. Depending on the organization’s needs, Bryant could remain at third or transition out to right field where his arm and athleticism could make him a solid defender. Either way, he will join Russell as the foundation of a talented, young Cubs lineup for years to come, with 2015 likely to serve as the coming out party.

On Schwarber:

Strengths: Advanced bat; plus-to-better raw power that plays in game thanks to plate coverage and strike-zone awareness; solid bat speed and good bat-to-ball skills should help hit tool play average or better; strong leader and big makeup; lauded for work ethic; positive reviews from instructs on progress behind the plate.

On Johnson:

Strengths: Loud stuff led by lively, low-90s fastball and sharp, low-80s hammer; can dial up to mid-90s with regularity; capable of cutting fastball for different look, counterbalance to two-seamer; some deception; traditional starter’s build; good present strength; will flash above-average change piece with fade mirroring fastball action; showed improvement in consistency of pitch execution and command over final two months.

On Sands:

Strengths: Balanced repertoire featuring three above-average offerings and above-average command; reports of improved consistency in mechanics and arm action through instructs; comfortable pitching to all four quadrants; some room to bump velo band to firm plus in comfort zone; already showing feel for sequencing; sturdy build; solid presence and even demeanor.

A notable absence from the list was right-hander C.J. Edwards, ranked No. 5 a year ago. Despite missing three months to a shoulder strain, Edwards enjoyed a solid second half that included a nice run in the Arizona Fall League. The publication seems to be skeptical of his long-term health, but still had positive things to say about the hard thrower.

Upon returning to action in late July, Edwards showcased impressive swing-and-miss stuff over six starts, with his fastball and curve each grading out as plus offerings and his change showing promise to boot. Were there more certainty that Edwards could maintain the quality of his stuff over the course of a full season at the upper levels, he would fit comfortably as one of the top-ten prospects in the system.

Soler reached the majors in 2014, and the publication believes Russell and Bryant could both join him at Wrigley Field in the upcoming season. They expect Almora, Schwarber, Johnson and Vogelbach to see action in the majors sometime in 2016.

 

Cubs move season opener to accomodate ESPN2 broadcast

WRIGLEY_WIDE-SHOT-040913-SG-01

(Photo by Stephen Green)

The Cubs and ESPN announced Friday that the 2015 season opener at Wrigley Field has been moved to Sunday, April 5, to accommodate MLB’s Opening Night. The North Siders will host St. Louis, with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.

This will mark the first Opening Night in Wrigley Field history. With the 2015 Cubs now debuting on Sunday night, the series against the Cardinals will be adjusted as follows:

Sunday, April 5: 7:05 p.m. vs. St. Louis Cardinals
Monday, April 6: OFF DAY
Tuesday, April 7: 7:05 p.m. vs. St. Louis Cardinals
Wednesday, April 8: 1:20 p.m. vs. St. Louis Cardinals
Thursday, April 9: OFF DAY

Arrieta stacks up well among the NL’s elite

Arrieta_Jake

(Photo by Stephen Green)

The National League Cy Young Award was handed out Wednesday, with Clayton Kershaw capturing all 30 first-place votes en route to his third Cy in four seasons. In total, 12 pitchers—11 starters—received votes, including Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta, who tied for ninth with three fifth-place nods.

NLCYYOUNG3

Though the 28-year-old was well off the pace for winning the award—as was everybody else—the few votes he did receive put him in elite company. But after looking further into Arrieta’s 2014 numbers, his ninth-place finish might have been a bit of a snub.

Of the candidates receiving votes, the Cubs’ ace finished in the top six in ERA, WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) and FIP (fielding independent pitching). Arrieta also finished fifth in wins above replacement, a number that indicates a player’s value over a replacement-level player. He also allowed just five home runs, fewest of any starter with at least 100 innings pitched in the National League.

Maybe the most interesting number is his FIP total. FIP attempts to gauge a pitcher’s performance by looking only at the factors he can control: strikeouts, walks, hit by pitches and home runs. It removes extraneous factors such as defense and luck. FIP runs linear to ERA, meaning if a player’s FIP and ERA are similar, that ERA total is an accurate indicator of the pitcher’s performance.

In the case of Arrieta, he was one of just two pitchers receiving votes (Stephen Strasburg being the other) to have an FIP lower than his ERA. This likely means he was either a bit unlucky or that his defense let him down at times. With a difference of 27 points, it’s not a drastic falloff, but it also means a slightly better performance behind him could have resulted in better numbers.

All said, his innings pitched totals were likely his downfall. Though he struck out better than a batter per inning (167 K in 156.2 IP), he barely cracked the NL’s top 45 in innings. If Arrieta can up that total while maintaining his greater than 3:1 K/BB ratio, it’s not hard to imagine more praise coming the fireballer’s way in 2015.

Statistics according to Baseball-Reference

Cubs AFL Recap: 11/12/14

A trio of Cubs pitching prospects saw action, and a position player continued his stellar fall Wednesday in Mesa’s 6-5, 11-inning loss to Peoria. Here are some notes from yesterday’s Arizona Fall League game:

  • RHP C.J. Edwards got the start and went three scoreless innings, giving up one hit and one walk while striking out two batters. He finished the AFL season with a 1.80 ERA in 15 innings.
  • RF Bijan Rademacher connected on a two-run homer in the fifth. He also recorded an RBI groundout in the first, a third-inning walk and a game-tying RBI single in the ninth. He went 2-for-4 in the game and improved his line to .359/.400/.538 (AVG/OBP/SLG).
  • RHP Zach Cates recorded his third hold of the fall league, giving up no runs on two hits over an inning.
  • LHP Gerardo Concepcion surrendered two earned runs on three hits and two walks after taking over for Edwards in the fourth inning.

Mesa will play its final game of the season Thursday, when the Solar Sox host Glendale. First pitch is scheduled for 12:35 local time.

Cubs AFL Recap: 11/10/14

It was once again limited action for Cubs prospects as Mesa was downed by Glendale 5-2 Monday afternoon, with only one local farmhand in the lineup. Here are some notes from yesterday’s Arizona Fall League action:

  • DH Jacob Hannemann reached base in his first three at-bats, singling in the fourth, doubling in the sixth and singling again to lead off the eighth. The sixth inning hit was his fourth double of the fall. He finished 3-for-4 on the day.

Mesa hosts Surprise Tuesday afternoon, with first pitch set for 2:35 local time. Lineups have not been made available but fans can check at mlb.com as the game nears.

Cubs AFL Recap: 11/8/14

Mesa was on the losing end of an 11-4 decision to Surprise Saturday, with only a few Cubs prospects getting into the action. Here are some notes from Saturday’s Arizona Fall League game:

  • RF Bijan Rademacher singled in the sixth inning and scored two batters later for Mesa’s first run of the game. He finished 1-for-3 with a first-inning walk and a stolen base. Defensively, he recorded two outfield assists.
  • PR-SS Danny Lockhart entered the game as a pinch-runner in the sixth and scored a run later that inning. He finished 0-for-1 with a stolen base.

Mesa heads to Glendale Monday, with first pitch scheduled for 12:35 local time.

Cubs AFL Recap: 11/6/14

Mesa captured an extra-innings win Thursday over Salt River. Jacob Hannemann was the only Cub to get into the game. Here are some notes from Thursday’s Arizona Fall League action:

  • RF Jacob Hannemann recorded a single in the ninth inning, finishing the day 1-for-3 with a walk.

Mesa is also in action Friday, with Hannemann, Dan Vogelbach and Danny Lockhart in the lineup. Ivan Pineyro got the start and went three scoreless, giving up two hits and fanning three. Gerardo Concepcion took over in relief and has also pitched three scoreless, surrendering just one hit. To follow the game live, click the mlb.com link.

Hot Off the Press: The November issue goes inside Wrigley Field’s 1060 Project

001_VL1411_Cover
On April 23, 1914, a new and thoroughly modern ballpark opened up on Chicago’s North Side. When the gates were flung wide on the Federal League’s crown jewel, Weeghman Park, fans were treated to their first look at a beautiful steel and brick structure that was designed to stand the test of time. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t need a little help.

Over the last 100 years, the iconic ballpark at the corner of Clark and Addison has gone through countless enhancements, modernizations and expansions. The game moves fast, and major league teams need to keep pace. In 1914, Weeghman Park had only one level, the press box was on the roof, and the facility seated just north of 14,000 people. Not much of that would fly today.

Since then, Wrigley Field has been updated with everything from a second deck, to a hand-operated scoreboard, to new bleachers, to stadium lights, to an improved field drainage system, to a right-field video board. At every step along the way, the Friendly Confines has retained its charm and feel—and has been better off for the additions. A ballpark doesn’t get to be 100 years old without evolving to meet the demands of its sport.

There are pros and cons about playing in a landmark, century-old facility. On the plus side, there is no more beautiful place to watch a Major League Baseball game than the Friendly Confines, from the bricks and ivy of the outfield wall to being ensconced in a thriving urban neighborhood. But there are things the park is missing too, from both a fan and player perspective.

Most fans wouldn’t argue with more and better food options or a few extra restrooms here and there. The players could use a larger clubhouse facility, a better strength and conditioning center, and underground batting tunnels to use during games. And the front office would love additional revenue from things like new video boards and advertising to help keep the Cubs competitive for the foreseeable future.

Every other team in the fiercely competitive NL Central has opened a new facility since 2001, and, make no mistake, they all have these things.

This offseason begins the next, and most ambitious, step in the evolution of Wrigley Field. Over the next four years, the Cubs plan to preserve the beauty and historic features fans have cherished about the ballpark for decades while updating and improving the gameday experience for everyone.

In Vine Line‘s November issue, we get a first look at The 1060 Project and how the plan will come together between now and 2018. We talked to the people who are making the restoration happen, from Tom Ricketts and Theo Epstein to the project team, so fans know what to expect as the ballpark is enhanced.

“Wrigley has a very special vibe,” Ricketts said. “It’s a special place. We respect that. We think we understand what makes it so special, and all the things that people associate with this beautiful ballpark will be preserved. It will just have better amenities and better services and more information.”

We also jump into the 2014-15 offseason along with the Cubs players. After more than seven months of continuous routine and rigorous training, it’s an unusual experience for them to suddenly have so much free time on their hands. We stopped by the clubhouse in the season’s final days to find out how the Cubs handle the transition to the offseason.

Finally, for our monthly Wrigley 100 feature, we look back at one of the most beloved Cubs figures of all time, Harry Caray. The legendary broadcaster and Hall of Famer died in 1998, but he more than left his mark on the franchise in his 16 years in (and out) of the booth.

We’ll spend this offseason keeping you up-to-date on all the details of The 1060 Project in the pages of Vine Line, on the Web and on Twitter at @cubsvineline. Here’s to the next 100 years at Wrigley Field.

Cubs AFL Recap: 11/5/14

Mesa poured it on late with an 11-2 victory over Glendale Wendesday. The Solar Sox scored nine runs after the fifth inning. The Cubs’ top pitching prospect fared well on the bump and Mesa got some contributions out of the Cubs’ offensive farmhands. Here are some notes from yesterday’s Arizona Fall League action:

  • RHP C.J. Edwards got the start, giving up one earned run in two innings while striking out four.
  • 1B Dan Vogelbach had a pair of singles and drew a walk, finishing 2-for-4 on the day.
  • LF Bijan Rademacher recorded a base hit and a walk, along with two sac flies.
  • DH Danny Lockhart, making his second AFL appearance of the season, drove in a run on a sixth inning walk and scored later that inning. He was 0-for-3 on the day.

Mesa heads to Salt River Thursday, where they will see 2013 first-overall pick, right-hander Mark Appel. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 local time. The game will also be broadcast on MLB Network.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,195 other followers