Hernandez Free at Last, Niko Knocks a Nookie

With VP of Player Personnel Oneri Fleita and about a dozen Cubs scouts in attendance, LHP Mark Pawelek threw three shutout innings of one-hit ball and Las Vegas Durango HS SS Niko Vasquez crushed a two-run homer onto 8th Street, leading the EXST Cubs to a 3-1 victory over the EXST A's at Fitch Park Field #3 this morning.

With a bevy of Cubs scouts hanging on their every movement, Cubs Extended Spring Training coaches worked-out Brookswood Senior School (Langley, B. C.) and Canadian Junior National Team 3B Brett Lawrie (rated pre-draft #37 by Baseball America) and Vasquez (rated #65 pre-draft by BA) in pre-game infield practice on Field #1 and then BP on Field #2, in preparation for this Thursday's Rule 4 Draft. Lawrie and Vasquez both showed a quick bat with plus-HR power in their BP sessions. Both are right-handed hitters.  

While Lawrie and Vasquez have signed National Letters of Intent with big-time college baseball programs (Lawrie with Arizona State and Vasquez with Oregon State), both are considered "signable." And based on where they are rated by Baseball America, I would think the Cubs are looking at Lawrie for maybe their Supplemental 1st round pick (#41 overall, compensation for losing Jason Kendall to the Brewers), and Vasquez perhaps with their 2nd round selection (#65 overall).

Naturally, the Cubs are almost certainly looking at other players, too, especially some of the better college pitchers and position players who may be playing in NCAA Regionals as we speak, but the fact that Lawrie and Vasquez were invited to Fitch Park for a pre-draft work-out--and the fact that Vasquez actually played in an EXST game--makes it appear that the Cubs are fairly serious about both youngsters. 

In EXST roster news, RHP Robert Hernandez has finally played his "Get Out of Jail - Free!" card and is headed for Peoria. Hernandez had been at EXST at Fitch Park for the past two months while serving a 50-game suspension after testing positive for steroids just prior to Opening Day. He has been pitching great in EXST games, and so it was only a matter of time before he was back in the Peoria starting rotation. And he did nothing to discount his rating as one of the Cubs top pitching prospects while he was at EXST, either. 

Headed the exact opposite direction from Hernandez is fellow-Venezuelan RHP Eduardo Figueroa, who received an unsatisfactory grade and has been sent back to the Cubs Venezuelan Baseball Academy. However, I suspect the 19-year old "Figgy" (as he was known at EXST)  will actually be diverted to one of the two Cubs teams in the Dominican Summer League (DSL Cubs #1 or DSL Cubs #2). 

Here is today's abridged box score (Cubs players only)...

LINEUP:
1. Cesar Salazar, CF: 2-4 (2B, K)
2. Marwin Gonzalez, DH #1: 1-4 (R, K)
3a. SLOT SKIPPED 1st TIME THROUGH ORDER
3b. Niko Vasquez, PH: 1-1 (HR - 2 RBI)
3c. SLOT SKIPPED AFTER PH BY VASQUEZ
4. Josh Vitters, 3B: 0-1 (R, 3 BB, K, SB, PO)
5. Nelson Perez, LF: 1-3 (3B. RBI, BB, K, SB)
6. Drew Rundle, RF: 0-4 (2 K)
7. Bryan Jost, 1B 0-4 (3 K)
8. Dwayne Kemp, 2B: 0-4 (2 K)
9. Alvaro Sosa, C: 0-3
10a. Niko Vasquez, SS: 0-1
10b. SLOT SKIPPED AFTER 1st AB BY VASQUEZ (see 3b)
11. Jose Made, DH-SS: 2-3 (2B, K, SB) 

PITCHERS:
1. Mark Pawelek - 3.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 1 K, 2 HBP (57 pitches - 33 strikes, 5/3 GO/FO)  
2. Israel Camacaro - 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 GIDP
3. John Muller - 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K
4. Yohan Gonzalez - 2.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R (1 ER), 1 BB, 0 K, (3/3 GO/FO)

ERRORS (2):
1. Niko Vasquez, E-6, overthrow at 1st base
2. Jose Made, E-6, overthrow at 1st base

CATCHERS DEFENSE:
Alvaro Sosa, 0-2 CS and one PB

WEATHER: Temperature in the 80's, clear skies, light breeze

ATTENDANCE: 19 (plus about a dozen Cubs scouts and executives)

2008 CUBS EXTENDED SPRING TRAINING ROSTER (as of 5/30)

50 PLAYERS (38 ACTIVE)
36 ACTIVE ROSTER
2 ACTIVE REHAB
12 INJURY REHAB OR DISABLED LIST OR UNKNOWN 

* throws or bats left
# bats both

PITCHERS (28 TOTAL – 20 ACTIVE): 
Ryan Acosta (UNKNOWN – LIMITED ACTIVITY ONLY)
Alberto Alburquerque (2008 SHOULDER SURGERY REHAB – LIMITED ACTIVITY ONLY)
* Jeffry Antigua
* Michael Bunton
Israel Camacaro

Rogelio Carmona
Rafael Dolis
(2007 TJS SURGERY REHAB - LIMITED ACTIVITY ONLY)
Yohan Gonzalez
Angel Guzman (2007 TJS SURGERY - ACTIVE REHAB)
Marcus Hatley
* Arik Hempy 
Chris Huseby
Kitt Kopach
(2007 SHOULDER SURGERY REHAB - LIMITED ACTIVITY ONLY)
Oswaldo Martinez (2007 TJS REHAB - LIMITED ACTIVITY ONLY)
Jon Mueller
John Muller
Jake Muyco

Dionis Nunez
* Mark Pawelek
Julio Pena
Jose Pina (2007 TJS - ACTIVE REHAB)
Andres Quezada  (UNKNOWN - LIMITED ACTIVITY ONLY)
Cedric Redmond (LABRUM INJURY REHAB - LIMITED ACTIVITY ONLY)
Carlos Rojas
Miguel Sierra
Larry Suarez (2008 TJS REHAB – LIMITED ACTIVITY ONLY)
* Luke Sommer
Harol Tolentino

CATCHERS (5 TOTAL – 4 ACTIVE): 
Robinson Chirinos
Jose Guevara (HAND INJURY – LIMITED ACTIVITY ONLY)
Carlos Perez
Roberto Sabates
# Alvaro Sosa

INFIELDERS (10 TOTAL – 9 ACTIVE):
Starlin Castro
John Contreras
# Marwin Gonzalez
* Bryan Jost 
Dwayne Kemp
Junior Lake
Jose Made
George Matheus

* Jeffrey Rea (QUAD INJURY REHAB – BP ONLY)
Josh Vitters

OUTFIELDERS (7 TOTAL – 5 ACTIVE):
* Kyler Burke
* Jeff Culpepper (SHOULDER INJURY – LIMITED ACTIVITY ONLY)
* Clark Hardman (UNKOWN -  LIMITED ACTIVITY ONLY) 
* Nelson Perez
* Drew Rundle
# Cesar Salazar
Kevin Soto

Comments

Does that mean Ryan Acosta is hurt? Thanks Phil! It sounds like Lawrie has been risking into the first round in some mock drafts, so the Cubs might tab him even earlier.

Submitted by Raisin101 on Sat, 05/31/2008 - 3:23pm.

Does that mean Ryan Acosta is hurt? Thanks Phil!

It sounds like Lawrie has been risking into the first round in some mock drafts, so the Cubs might tab him even earlier.

==========================

RAISIN: Everybody is real hush-hush about Ryan Acosta. Some claim to have never even heard of the guy.

I can tell you that he has not pitched in an EXST game since being demoted from Peoria, but I don't know exactly why not. I don't think he's hurt, though. At least not the typical elbow or shoulder thing. But I refuse to speculate beyond that.

Well that's peculiar.

Hey did Vitters have a good eye or was he facing a pitcher who's control would make Nuke Laloosh look like Jon Leiber?

Submitted by Jeff_Pico on Sat, 05/31/2008 - 5:20pm.

Hey did Vitters have a good eye or was he facing a pitcher who's control would make Nuke Laloosh look like Jon Leiber?

===========================

JEFF P: Vitters walked twice on 3-2 pitches, and the other walk was on a 3-1 pitch. So he actually worked the pitcher for his walks. And he made two throws to 1st base without throwing the ball over the 1st baseman's head, too.

Woa, I totally missed the great patience from Vitters (and the fact that he's healthy enough to swing the bat in-game!). Great to see.

AZ Phil, do you know if the DSL started today (it's still Saturday on the left coast).

Time to promote Pawelek?

June 2 version of SI has Dan Patrick interviewing Mark Cuban. Here's a select excerpt:

DP: When you go to a Cubs game, do you go to be seen?
MC: I go to have fun
DP: But you still want to buy the team right?
MC: Uh Huh
DP: So how do you go about this? It's like there's a girl you want to notice you, she's expensive and you may not even have a shot at her.
MC: Well I don't think that's the way the situation works. If there's a hooker you want, it all comes down to price, right? I think that's a better analogy.
DP: So the Cubs are your hooker?
MC: Well, yes, bad choice of words
DP: Metaphorically?
MC: Metaphorically. Oh that's just going to get ripped apart, I know.

I want this guy owning the Cubs.

BTW, this issue features a really nice story about Josh Hamilton. Go buy SI (hopefully that counteracts any copyright infringements)

"DP: So the Cubs are your hooker?
MC: Well, yes"

He just stuck a pitchfork in his chances.

get a life, man. who wouldn't wanna be cuban's hooker?

Niko, my cousin! Welcome to America!

Good news about Vitters' patience.

I didn't see any mention of it here, but Jake Fox played 3B a couple nights ago for AA Tennessee.

(for only like the second time in his career)

Looks like Alberto Cabrera is back at extended to make room for Hernandez. It's a shame since he's had a couple of good outings.

AZ Phil,

I see that Blake Parker at Peoria has put together a nice little start to the season, with a 1.59 ERA and lots of strikeouts (which is always a good sign for a minor-league pitcher). What's your opinion of him and whether he projects as an eventual big-leaguer? Was he one of the Cubs' plethora of catcher-turned-pitcher conversion projects?

Thank you!

Submitted by SheffieldCornelia on Sun, 06/01/2008 - 9:51pm.

AZ Phil, I see that Blake Parker at Peoria has put together a nice little start to the season, with a 1.59 ERA and lots of strikeouts (which is always a good sign for a minor-league pitcher).

What's your opinion of him and whether he projects as an eventual big-leaguer? Was he one of the Cubs' plethora of catcher-turned-pitcher conversion projects?

Thank you!

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

SHEFF: Blake Parker was a combination RHP-DH-1B-C-3B in HS, but played 3B at the University of Arkansas, and then was made a full-time catcher when he was drafted and signed with the Cubs in June 2006.

Parker played with the AZL Cubs at Fitch Park his first year in the organization in 2006, and then was at Extended Spring Training a year ago, in preparation for an expected assignment to Boise in mid-June.

About 2/3 of the way through EXST 2007 (I believe it was early May), Parker was just messing around, throwing off the mound one day after a BP session, and somebody clocked his fastball at 93. (It was kind of like that scene in The Natural, where Roy Hobbs is standing on the mound and one of his teammates is at home plate and says "Show me what you got, show me what you got," and Hobbs throws the ball past the hitter, so hard that the ball gets stuck in the back of the batting cage).

I believe Boise pitching coach Tom Pratt was the one who came up with the idea, but Parker was subsequently asked if he would perhaps be willing to try a move to pitcher, and he (somewhat surprisingly) agreed.

This was really a big surprise to the other players who were at EXST last year, because Parker was the EXST Cubs clean-up hitter and #1 power guy. In fact, he hit a game-winning grand slam HR his last EXST game as a position player before committing to being a pitcher!

As a likely future C-1B-3B, Parker projected as a Jake Fox-type player, with plus-power and the ability to play several positions, including catcher, although his defensive skills behind the plate were below average (except he did have a plus-arm). So I doubt that he would have agreed to the move to the mound if he didn't think it would give him the best shot to advance as far as possible.

As for what he throws, last time I saw him he had a 93 MPH fastball, a decent breaking ball, and a change that still needed to be perfected, but I don't know what he's throwing at Peoria.

Like other former catchers who become pitchers (Carlos Marmol, Randy Wells, Tim Lahey, et al), Parker has a "rubber arm" and can probably throw every day, mainly because he was already in the habit of throwing every day as a catcher. He would project as a reliever.

I would compare Blake Parker to Iowa RHP Randy Wells or Tim Lahey (the Rule 5 pick who was in big league camp with the Cubs this past March, but who is now back with the Twins in AAA). Like Parker, Wells and Lahey were also former catchers, and all are big guys, basically your typical "old school" catcher.

 

Thank you!

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