At the halfway point, here is a quick update on Cubs players active in the AFL:
1. Eric Patterson
is a wreck defensively at 2B. I really hate to say this, but he has evolved into another Freddie Bynum. He's playing scared, like he is afraid to make a mistake. So (naturally) he constantly makes mistakes. He reminds me of a two-guard in basketball who is asked to play point guard. He leads all AFL players (at ALL positions) in errors. At this point, I can't see E-Pat remaining at 2B. He will probably need to be moved to the outfield--probably LF, or maybe CF--but he will need some time to adjust. The Cubs have not done anything about this move (yet), but they will have to do so at some point in the near-future. He is regressing at 2B.
Offensively, Patterson is simply outstanding. He is showing much better pitch selection at the plate than the last time I saw him, and in the process he has cut his K-rate to about in one in every 10 or 11 PAs. He is 4th in the AFL in batting average, tied for 3rd in runs scored, tied for second in triples, and tied for the AFL lead in SB. He hits line drives all over the place and has gap power, mostly to right-center field. He also is an excellent bunter and base-runner.
I believe E-Pat WILL be a major league #1 or #2 hitter, the type of top-of-the-order guy a lot of people had hoped his brother would be. But unfortunately, I'm sorry to say it looks like he ain't going to be doing it as a second-baseman.
2. Scott Moore
's confidence is really strong right now, as he has improved his hitting (he's tied for 5th in the AFL in doubles and sports a .932 OPS) and his plate discipline (he is 6th in the AFL in walks, with a .383 OBP--108 points higher than his BA), although he still strikes out too much. He has definite plus-power (as he has matured physically, he has developed Hank Blalock-type power). He also has good speed (he is 4-for-4 in SB) and runs the bases very well. He is very athletic, and has played 3B, SS, 1B, and LF, although he seems a bit lost in the outfield so far.
If the Cubs re-sign Aramis Ramirez, I would like to see Moore moved back to SS and see if he can handle the position, although he would probably need to spend a year or so re-learning the position and perfecting his keystone play at AAA. And if A-Ram leaves as a FA, I would not be averse to Moore platooning with somebody like Wes Helms at 3B immediately (Opening Day 2007), with an eye toward possibly eventually taking over 3B on a more-everyday basis later in 2007 or in 2008.
3. Jake Fox
has been a big disappointment. He continues to struggle with his catching mechanics (although he throws OK), and offensively he is kind of a mess. He continues to wail away at breaking pitches, and swings at just about everything. He is a compulsive first-ball swinger, even if it isn't a strike. More experienced pitchers will eat him alive at AAA and in the big leagues. He has good power and is a good run producer, but that's his only positive. He needs a LOT of work, and not only is he a long way away from the big leagues, I don't think he is close to being ready for AAA, either. He is a project at this point. He needs a one-on-one mentor to help him with his receiving, and another one-on-one mentor to help him with his hitting. I no longer believe Fox is a lock to get added to the 40-man roster.
4. Acquired from the Florida Marlins at the end of Spring Training 2006 for Todd Wellemeyer, RHP Lincoln Holdzkom
had been consistently throwing a mid-90's fastball and a slider with bite in th AFL. Filthy stuff. Then Solar Sox Manager Pat Listach extended Holdzkom to 50+ pitches in his last relief outing, and you could see him tire at about 35 pitches, and then he got clobbered. But when he has thrown 30 pitches or less in a game, he has been unhittable.
Holdzkom had TJ-surgery in 2004, and hasn't been used as a starter since 2001. He is a one or two-inning reliever. Period. If he is used that way, he is Rob Dibble redux. Same body-type, same leg kick. Holdzkom is a virtual lock to get added to the 40-man roster and should be ready for MLB in 2007, possibly right away out of Spring Training, but more likely later in the season (if Listach doesn't wreck him in the AFL).
5. Also a virtual lock to get added to the Cubs 40-man roster next month, Clay Rapada
is a side-wheelin' lefty (he can also throw 3/4, though) who reminds me of Mike Myers or sometimes Brian Fuentes. He is death on left-handed hitters. I believe he can pitch in the big leagues right now. I could defintely see Rapada pitching in an MLB bullpen in 2007, preferably with the Cubs.
6. LHP Carmen Pignatiello
's career was reborn when he was moved to the bullpen full-time in 2006. He was eligible to be a six-year minor league free-agent after the 2006 season, but re-signed with the Cubs for 2007 after he got a slot in the AFL and (presumably) an NRI to Spring Training. He is not quite as much of a LOOGY as Rapada, although he does have a breaking ball he throws to lefty hitters. He has more of a starting pitcher's arsenal (sinker, breaking ball, change) than most lefty relievers, but he doesn't have the stamina to start. He just looks more comfortable as a reliever. He also has excellent control. Pignatiello has been out of action for about ten days after he cut his hand in an off-the-field accident.
7. RHP Adam Harben
was acquired from MIN for Phil Nevin. He has been used as a starter in the AFL, and I would say that while he has the arsenal of pitches needed to be a starter, he has no "plus"-pitch, so he probably projects as no better than a #4 or #5 MLB starter or possibly as a middle-reliever, or he could be used as a trading chip this off-season.