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Mesa couldn’t get back on track, falling 6-4 to Glendale on Wednesday, but Kris Bryant and a few Cubs relievers made solid contributions. Elsewhere, Frank Batista and Marcos Mateo both pitched well in the Dominican. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s fall/winter league action.
Arizona Fall League
Kris Bryant, 3B – Bryant led off the second inning with a single to center. He scored three batters later on a Steven Souza Jr. (Nationals) double. Bryant reached base again in the third with a walk and in the eighth with a two-out single to right. He finished 2-for-3 on the day.
Lendy Castill0, RHP – Castillo pitched a scoreless fifth inning, walking one and striking out Pratt Maynard (Dodgers) to end the frame.
Wes Darvill, LF – Darvill finished 0-for-4 Wednesday.
Armando Rivero, RHP – Rivero relieved fellow farmhand Castillo and pitched a scoreless sixth inning, giving up one hit, walking one and striking out Marcus Semien (White Sox).
Mesa travels to Glendale Thursday to take on the Desert Dogs. Michael Roth (Angels) will throw for Mesa while Jamie Walczak (Reds) takes mound for Glendale. First pitch is scheduled for 1:35 CST.
Frank Batista, RHP – Batista gave up two hits over two innings, striking out one and allowing no runs in an 8-2 Aguilas loss.
Marcos Mateo, RHP – The Estrellas closer racked up his fourth save of the season, pitching a scoreless ninth inning and striking out one in the 5-3 win.
Junior Lake, LF – Lake went 0-for-3 with a sacrifice fly for the Estrellas.
Hector Rondon, RHP – Rondon pitched 0.1 innings, giving up two hits, walking one and allowing two runs, though neither was earned in a 4-1 Leones loss.
To put it lightly, Cubs prospects didn’t deliver their best performance Tuesday. In AFL action, Mesa amassed just four hits, made five errors and was shut out 8-0 against Salt River. Dallas Beeler gave up seven runs in the contest, but none of them were earned. Also, reliever Daniel Bard struggled mightily in his first appearance in Puerto Rico. Here are the highlights from yesterday’s fall/winter league action.
Arizona Fall League
Albert Almora, CF – Almora kicked off the game with a single to center for the visiting Sox. He went 1-for-4 on the day.
Dallas Beeler, RHSP – Beeler had a strange line Tuesday. He escaped the first two innings of work unscathed, retiring the side in order in the second and striking out Nick Ahmed (Diamondbacks). In the third inning, Beeler allowed seven runs, though none were earned, as two of the first three batters he faced reached on errors. His final line read: 2.2 IP, 4 H, 7 R, 0 ER, 1 K, 2 BB. He was saddled with his first loss of the season, putting his record at 3-1 with a 3.24 ERA.
Jorge Soler, DH – Soler hit third, but went 0-for-3 Tuesday.
Mesa will host Glendale Wednesday afternoon, with first pitch scheduled for 1:35 CST. Blaine Hardy (Tigers) will start for the Sox, while the Desert Dogs will send out Michael Lorenzen (Reds). Kris Bryant is expected to bat fourth and play third base, and Wes Darvill will bat eighth and be in right field.
Arismendy Alcantara, 2B – Alcantara went 1-for-4 with a fifth-inning solo home run. He also drew a walk in the Licey win.
Julio Borbon, PH/RF – Borbon ripped an RBI double and went 1-for-4 for Licey in its win over the Toros.
Marcus Hatley, RHP – Hatley went 0.2 innings, giving up two earned runs on a home run and striking out one in a 5-4 Culican win.
Daniel Bard, RHP – In his first winter league appearance, Bard didn’t record an out, hitting three batters, surrendering a walk and giving up two earned runs in an 8-4 Caguas win.
Yoanner Negrin, RHSP – Negrin started and went 2.2 innings, giving up five earned runs and a homer in a 9-5 Caracas loss. His record dropped to 3-1.
Lioger Padron, RHP – Padron went 1.0 inning, giving up one hit and no runs and fanning two for the Leones.
Mesa came back to defeat Salt River 5-4 Monday night in a rain-shortened, eight-inning affair. Jorge Soler stepped up in a big way for the Sox, while right-hander Matt Loosen picked up the win despite a shaky inning of relief. Here are the highlights from yesterday’s fall/winter league action.
Arizona Fall League
Kris Bryant, 3B – Batting fourth, Bryant finished 0-for-2 with a walk.
Matt Loosen, RHP – Loosen entered the game in the fifth inning, walked the first two batters and surrendered a single to load the bases with no outs. But then he got Stephen Piscotty (Cardinals) to pop out, and after giving up an RBI single, fanned Tim Wheeler (Rockies) and induced a line out from Richie Shaffer (Rays) to end the inning. Loosen was credited with the win. His final line read: 1 IP, 2 H, 1 ER 2 BB, 1 K.
Jorge Soler, RF – With men on second and third in the bottom of the fifth, Soler hit a sharp grounder to left, scoring David Freitas (Athletics) and Addison Russell (Athletics). The two-RBI double scored the game-tying and game-winning runs. He finished 1-for-4.
Mesa heads to Salt River Tuesday to take on the Rafters, with first pitch scheduled for 8:08 CST. The game will be broadcast on MLB Network. Tommy Collier (Tigers) will throw for the Sox opposite Sam Gaviglio (Cardinals).
Arismendy Alcantara, 2B – Alcantara went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles in a 2-1 win for Licey.
How do you evaluate a 96-loss season? It depends on how you look at it.
Are you evaluating just the major league team or the organization as a whole? Your answers would likely be very different.
On the surface, things don’t look too good. For the second straight year, the Cubs languished in the basement of a stacked NL Central that sent three teams to the 2013 postseason. The offense consistently struggled to put runs on the board, the bullpen faltered early in the season, several key players failed to develop as expected, and manager Dale Sveum was released after two seasons at the helm. To hear General Manager Jed Hoyer tell it, that’s simply not going to cut it.
“One of the things about this job is that your report card is in the paper every morning,” Hoyer said. “Obviously, that report card tells us we’re not good enough. We’re not talented enough at the major league level, and we have to improve that.”
Despite the struggles in Chicago—and both President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and Hoyer are quick to admit they’re disappointed by the win-loss total—the front office has never wavered from its initial blueprint for building a consistent winner.
When Epstein and Hoyer took over in October 2011, there was a severe talent deficit in the minor league system, and the major league team was saddled with expensive, aging players. The goal was to stockpile as much young talent as possible as quickly as possible and create payroll flexibility to ensure that the next time the team is competitive, it has a chance to remain competitive for years to come.
On that front, things don’t look bad at all. In 2009, Baseball America ranked the Cubs 27th in its annual organizational talent rankings. By the start of 2013, they had moved up to 12th. Thanks to shrewd trades, some aggressive international signings and a strong 2013 draft, headlined by overall No. 2 pick Kris Bryant, most experts agree the Cubs system is firmly in the top five heading into 2014. And 11 of the organization’s top 20 prospects, according to MLB.com, were acquired since the new front office took over in 2011. That’s a lot of progress in a few short years.
This month, we sat down with the Cubs’ GM for a frank conversation about the state of the organization. There is great reason for optimism, but the wave of young standouts developing in the farm system has yet to crest at Wrigley Field. Until that top-notch talent arrives, it’s imperative the Cubs find a way to improve their bullpen and generate more quality at-bats.
“The amount of talent and the athleticism we have [in the system] is a long, long way from where it was when we first got here, and we’re excited about that,” Hoyer said. “But all those things don’t hide the fact that the goal is to get better at the major league level, and we need to improve on what we’ve done in 2012 and 2013.”
We also talked to one of the key pieces Hoyer acquired last offseason that fits this new organizational philosophy—outfielder Nate Schierholtz. The 29-year-old veteran finally got a chance to play regularly in 2013, and he had a breakout season, with career highs in plate appearances, home runs and RBI. Everybody, from the front office to his teammates, says the same thing about Schierholtz: He’s a professional ballplayer who fights for every at-bat and brings his best effort every day.
Finally, despite the win-loss total, there were plenty of positive developments at the major league level. The Cubs strengthened their pitching depth behind the emergence of lefty Travis Wood, ace Jeff Samardzija continued to miss bats with the best of them, Junior Lake made a surprisingly successful major league debut, and the left side of the infield was as strong defensively as any in baseball. We examine several impressive stats from the 2013 campaign that should bode well for the organization’s near future.
If you want to get to know the future of the organization now, follow us on Twitter at @cubsvineline. All winter long, we’ll be following the Cubs’ top prospects in the fall and winter leagues. And pick up the November issue of Vine Line today.
The Arizona Fall League held its midseason Fall Stars game on Saturday, and it featured the Cubs’ big three prospects. All three got in the game for the East, but the West cruised to a 9-2 win. Here are some highlights from the weekend’s fall/winter league action.
Arizona Fall League –
Albert Almora, RF – Almora entered the game in the top of the sixth as a defensive replacement, and went 0-for-2 at the plate.
Kris Bryant, 3B – Bryant led off the top of the eighth with a soft liner to center. Two batters later, Devon Travis (Tigers) tripled, scoring the Cubs 2013 first-round pick. Bryant finished 1-for-4 and committed two errors in the field.
Jorge Soler, RF – Batting seventh for the AFL East, Soler reached on a walk in his first at-bat. In his other at-bat, he led off the fifth with a sharp single to the right side of the infield.
On Friday, the Solar Sox were on the losing end of a 5-4 decision with Peoria. Almora and Wes Darvill both got in the game for Mesa.
Albert Almora, DH – Almora led off for the Sox and got things going in the bottom of the first with a double to right, but he was left stranded at second. He drew a walk in his next at-bat. With Mesa trailing by a run entering the ninth, Almora smacked a one-out triple to center, but Mesa couldn’t drive him in to tie the game. THe Cubs prospect finished 2-for-4 with a walk.
Wes Darvill, 3B – Darvill reached on a two-out walk in the fifth. In the seventh, he reached on an error and scored from second on a Dixon Machado single (Tigers). Darvill finished 1-for-3.
Mesa hosts Salt River Monday, with first pitch scheduled for 7:35 CST. Matt Purke (Nationals) will take the mound for the Sox, while Grayson Garvin (Rays) will throw for the Rafters.
Caribbean League –
Jeffry Antigua, LHP – Antigua was credited with a hold, striking out his only batter for the Toros as they came away victorious on Saturday.
Junior Lake, LF – Lake went 1-for-4 with the game-winning RBI for Oriente on Sunday. He also added a pair of hits in a loss on Saturday.
Marcos Mateo, RHP – Mateo blew a save on Sunday, but recorded the win, pitching one inning and giving up an earned run on two hits and a walk for the Estrellas de Oriente. He racked up his third save of the Dominican league season with a one-strikeout, hitless ninth inning on Friday.
Marcus Hatley, RHP – Hatley pitched a scoreless ninth inning for Culican in a 7-2 win on Friday.
Edwin Maysonet, SS – Maysonet had a single and a walk in a 1-0 win for Santurce Saturday.
Jonathan Mota, 3B – Mota recorded a single and scored the Leones’ only run in a 4-1 loss Saturday. He singled, walked and drove in a run in a win on Friday.
Rubi Silva, LF – Silva went 2-for-4 on Friday with a walk, an RBI and two runs scored for Ponce.
Frank Del Valle, LHP – Starting for Margarita on Saturday, Del Valle gave up one run on four hits and three walks, striking out two over three innings. The Bravos won 7-5.
Hector Rondon, RHP – Rondon surrendered two hits but struck out one in a scoreless eighth inning for Caracas Sunday.
Mesa looks to be getting back on track, topping Scottsdale 7-3 Thursday and tallying 12 hits. The Cubs’ big three prospects all took the field, with mixed results. Here are the highlights from yesterday’s action.
Albert Almora, LF – Almora went 0-for-4 Thursday.
Kris Bryant, 3B – Bryant reached base for the first time in the sixth inning, drawing a one-out walk. He’d get to second on a hit-by-pitch and move to third on a fielder’s choice. Then fellow farmhand Jorge Soler drove him in with a single. He reached base again in the seventh with a single to load the bases and eventually scored on a Soler base on balls. Bryant finished 1-for-4.
Armando Rivero, RHP – Rivero entered the game in the seventh inning and struck out the first two batters he faced—Kyle Kubitza (Braves) and Peter O’Brien (Yankees). He then forced Aderlin Rodriguez (Mets) to pop out to earn his second hold of the fall.
Jorge Soler, RF – With two outs and runners on the corners in the sixth, Soler scored Byrant on a single to left field, capping a three-run inning. The Cuban prospect also drove in a run on a bases-loaded walk in the seventh, again scoring Bryant. Soler finished 1-for-3.
Sammy Solis (Nationals) will take the mound Friday for Mesa against Peoria, opposite Jason Adams (Royals). Albert Almora is expected to DH and lead off for the Sox, and Wes Darvill will play third and bat eighth. First pitch is scheduled for 2:35 CST.
Caribbean Winter League
Yoanner Negrin, RHSP – Negrin gave up two earned runs on three hits over 6.1 innings Thursday for Caracas. The 29-year-old fanned two and walked none, but got a no-decision in a 6-4 win.
Hector Rondon, RHP – The Cubs 2012 Rule 5 selection pitched one inning for Caracas, giving up one hit and walking none to earn a hold.
The Arizona Fall League is typically viewed as a hitter-friendly showcase. Dallas Beeler, a Cubs farmhand and Wednesday’s starter for the Solar Sox, must not have gotten the memo. The right-hander dominated in a 7-0 win over Scottsdale. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s action.
Dallas Beeler, RHSP – Beeler cruised through four innings of work, surrendering two hits and facing just one more batter than the minimum (he forced a double-play in the bottom of the first after surrendering a single). The 41st-round pick in the 2010 draft fanned one hitter—Cam Maron (Mets)—and walked none. He’s now 3-0 with a 3.13 ERA in 14.0 innings this fall. His final line on Wednesday read: 4.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 K, 0 BB.
Wes Darvill, 3B – Darvill opened up the top of the fifth with a single, advanced to second on a fielder’s choice and scored on a Brian Goodwin (Nationals) single. With a man on third in the sixth inning, the 22-year-old reached on an error that scored Tyler Collins (Tigers). One batter later, Darvill scored on Jett Bandy’s (Angels) single. He finished the afternoon 1-for-5.
Mesa hosts Scottsdale Thursday, with first pitch scheduled for 2:35 CST. Michael Roth (Angels) will take the ball for the Solar Sox opposite Vidal Nuno (Yankees).
Caribbean Winter Leagues
Dominican Republic -
Julio Borbon, PR – Borbon came on as a pinch-runner in the eighth inning and scored the winning run, as the Tigres del Licey topped Cibao.
Marcos Mateo, RHP – Mateo pitched 2.1 innings for the Estrellas, striking out one and walking two in a losing effort.
Marcus Hatley, RHP – The hard-throwing Cubs farmhand earned his fourth save for the Tomateros de Culican in a 2-1 win over Obregon. He gave up one hit, struck out two and surrendered one walk in a scoreless ninth inning.
David Villegas, RHP – Villegas plunked the first batter he saw and surrendered an RBI single to the next before getting pulled in a Mazatlan loss.
Willson Contreras, C – Contreras went 0-for-1 in his only plate appearance in a Tigres loss.
Lioger Padron, RHP – In 1.1 innings, Padron gave up an earned run on two hits, striking out two and walking one as Caracas fell.
Frank Del Valle, LHP – The southpaw went 0.2 innings, striking out one and walking one in a Margarita loss.
Despite a three-run eighth inning, Mesa put itself into too deep a hole Tuesday, falling to Salt River 7-3. Cubs prospect Kris Bryant registered his sixth home run of the fall, and Matt Loosen pitched two solid innings in relief to headline the North Siders’ efforts. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s action.
Albert Almora, CF – Almora led off the game with a single to center. He also drew a walk in the fifth inning to finish the game 1-for-4.
Kris Bryant, 3B – Bryant recorded the Sox’s first run on a leadoff homer in the eighth inning. The third baseman was 1-for-5 on the afternoon. He leads the AFL with six home runs.
Lendy Castillo, RHP – Castillo came on in the sixth, and struck out the first batter he faced, Jacob Wilson (Cardinals, No. 20 organizational prospect, according to MLB.com). But he followed that with three walks and a double. His final line read: 0.1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 1 K, 3 BB.
Matt Loosen, RHP – Loosen replaced starter Matt Purke (Nationals) in the fourth and made an immediate impact, striking out his first two hitters faced, Dustin Garneau (Rockies) and James Ramsey (Cardinals, No. 10 organizational prospect). He then induced a ground out to end the inning. After giving up a one-out base hit in the fifth, Loosen forced Kyle Parker (Rockies, No. 9 organizational prospect) to fly out and fanned Richie Shaffer (Rays, No. 9 organizational prospect) to end the inning. His final line read: 2.0 IP, 1 H, 3 K, 0 BB.
Jorge Soler, RF – Soler went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.
Mesa heads to Scottsdale to take on the Scorpions Wednesday afternoon. Cubs prospect Dallas Beeler is scheduled to pitch. He has a 2-0 record with a 5.40 ERA this fall. Opposite the right-hander will be Phil Irwin (Pirates). First pitch is scheduled for 2:35 CST.
Much of the hype from Monday’s contest between Mesa and Salt River surrounded Rafters starter Aaron Sanchez. The Blue Jays’ top prospect (No. 20 overall, according to MLB.com) surrendered just one hit over 4.1 innings against the Solar Sox, leaving Mesa on the wrong side of a 3-2 decision. Though the Sox mustered only five hits in the game, Cubs prospects Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler were responsible for two of them, and Bryant drove in both runs. Here are the highlights from yesterday’s action.
Kris Bryant, DH – Batting third for Mesa, Bryant earned a walk in the bottom of the fourth inning. He reached second when Soler walked, but they were both left stranded. With Mesa trailing 3-0 heading into the bottom of the eighth, Bryant smashed a two-run homer, his fifth of the fall, to score David Freitas (Athletics). He finished the day 1-for-3 with a walk.
Jorge Soler, RF – Batting fifth for Mesa, Soler walked in the bottom of the fourth inning. With the Solar Sox trailing by a run in the bottom of the ninth, the Cuba native led off with a single to left. Cubs farmhand Albert Almora came in to pinch run, but he was left stranded at first to end the game. Soler finished 1-for-3 with a walk.
Mesa heads to Salt River Tuesday to take on the Rafters. Matt Purke (Nationals) is scheduled to start, opposite Grayson Garvin (Rays). First pitch is scheduled for 8:35 CST.
Almora, Bryant and Soler were also selected to the AFL’s midseason Fall Stars Game, which will be played on Saturday.
Apparently, Cubs No. 3 prospect Jorge Soler didn’t like watching teammates Kris Bryant and Albert Almora have all the fun in the Arizona Fall League. After a few days of rest, Soler came back strong, racking up three hits to lead the Mesa Solar Sox to a 7-4 win over visiting Scottsdale Thursday afternoon. The Cubs arms also figured into the decision, as Dallas Beeler, Matt Loosen and Lendy Castillo combined for seven innings, surrendering three earned runs. Here are the highlights from yesterday’s action.
Jorge Soler – Soler began the fall season on a seven-game hitting streak, but was batting only .229 during that stretch. On Thursday, he broke out with a 3-for-4 day to raise his AFL average to .282. Soler put Mesa up early with a first inning single to left field off Scottsdale starter Phil Irwin (Pirates) that scored both Brian Goodwin (Nationals) and Devon Travis (Tigers). Soler singled again in the bottom of the third and eventually scored on an Addison Russell (A’s) sac fly. The Cuban prospect singled to left field for the third time in the fourth inning, but was left stranded. He finished the day 3-for-4 with two RBI and one run.
Dallas Beeler – Beeler got off to a rocky start, surrendering two runs to the first two batters he faced on a Mason Williams (Yankees) single and a homer by Alen Hanson (Pirates). But that’s all Beeler would give up in four innings of work Thursday. His final line: 4.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K.
Matt Loosen – Loosen followed Beeler with two strong innings. He picked up three strikeouts, but gave up a sixth inning home run to Tommy La Stella (Braves). His line: 2.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K.
Lendy Castillo – Former Cubs major leaguer and Rule 5 pick Lendy Castillo continued to impress in the AFL Thursday with one scoreless inning. He also continued to struggle with control, giving up two walks and throwing 19 pitches. His line: 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K.
Mesa is back in action Friday against Peoria at Surprise Stadium. Michael Roth (Angels) will take the mound for the Solar Sox opposite Kyle Hunter (Mariners). First pitch is scheduled for 2:35 CST.