Opening Day Deux
The season hasn’t even started and the door is already revolving.
The weather today in Des Moines is passable but the Iowa Cubs are opening the 2011 season on the road at Round Rock, TX. Thomas Diamond is supposed to oppose Express southpaw Michael Kirkman, the #6 prospect in the Ranger system who takes the mound tonight with these creds: 2010 PCL Pitcher of the Year [13-3 with a 3.09 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 131 innings for Oklahoma City]. He also won two PCL Pitcher of the Week awards and led the PCL with an .813 winning percentage. Kirkman made his Major League debut on Aug. 24, 2010, against the Baltimore Orioles, striking out the first three hitters he faced and was named the 2010 Nolan Ryan Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
The home opener falls on tax day a week from tomorrow against the Memphis Redbirds, the team that nosed out the I-Cubs for a playoff spot in a Labor Day series last year that was about as compelling as minor league action gets.
There have been some changes in the PCL since then. The Portland Beavers have become the Tucson Padres. Two years from now they’re slated to move on again to Escondido, 30 miles from their parent club in San Diego. Triple A towns are building parks to woo teams too. Both Padre teams are owned by Jeff Moorad who got Escondido’s agreement to build a $50 million stadium before he bought the Beavers.
The Royals still have their traditional affiliation with Omaha, but the team will now be called the Storm Chasers and move from the historic Rosenblatt Stadium, home of the College World Series, to Werner Park, a brand new playground on the outskirts of town. I may road trip over there on May Day to check out the new digs and the top tier of the highly rated Royal farm system since Omaha doesn’t come to Des Moines until June.
Out of the chute some key parts of the I-Cubs will be rehabbing in warm weather, notably Welington Castillo and Jay Jackson. That’s a battery I was looking forward to. Sounds like Jackson, Brad Snyder and Castillo may all join the team in time for the home opener. As it is there are no highly touted prospects on the fast track and no HOF’ers paying managerial dues in bush league dugouts. There’s not much buzz period as the season gets underway so we’ll see what develops. From what AZP says it sounds like Bobby [much more baseballish than Robert] Coello has the potential to make sparks fly with both arm and mouth and Max Ramirez reminds me in advance of Jake Fox a little bit; a hitter in search of a position. A couple of Aprils ago while he was here Fox hit like Joe Hardy from Damn Yankees. Pepe LaHair should help us Iowinians get over Micah Hoffpauir . Which Smokies might I get a look at before the summer’s over? Castro and Colvin skipped Des Moines on their way up and Cashner was here just long enough for one memorable outing last spring.
Let's get the door spinning!
Jake Arrieta gives up first inning run
For the first time in a year, 33 starts.
Old news, sorry if it's 3/44-
J-Hey being classy by repaying an old teammate:
With Paredes moving to 3B, how do you see playing time shaking out between him and Galindo? Do you think Galindo gets starts at 1B? Galindo is more of a prospect than Paniagua, right?
Phil, your knowledge of the Cubs Minor League system is unbelievable.
This kid would be a key piece in a trade for a pitcher, imo.
This might be old news but Hammel was on ESPN 1000 and said that he changed his diet and workout routine over the off season and tweaked his delivery so it'd be more repeatable so he'd have a better second half. So...some cause for optimism anyway.
CHILDERS: RHSP Dylan Cease and LHSP Bryan Hudson are probably the top two SP prospects in the organization right now.
LHSP Jose Paulino has electric stuff (91-94 MPH fastball with sinking action and a mid-80's slider), but he also has trouble commanding it.
RHP Jose Albertos (2015 IFA - Mexico - $1.5M bonus) just turned 17 in November, and his fastball already sits at 95-96. He also throws a curve and a change-up, and is fairly advanced for a kid his age.
AZBOBBOP: Most of 2016 draft picks will get assigned to either Eugene or AZL Cubs, but the Opening Day Eugune roster will probably be almost 100% from the Extended Spring Training squad roster (pending the arrival of draft picks).
I think I can probably tell you which pitchers and players at EXST are in contention for roster slots at Eugene and which are in contention for slots with the AZL Cubs - AS THINGS STAND RIGHT NOW - (listed alphabetically):
* bats or throws left
# bats both
Eloy Jimenez atop the leader board for minor-league home runs in the Cub system, with seven. Tied with Balaguert and Vogelbach, two 24-year-olds. Jimenez won't be 20 until late November. Leads the Midwest League in SLG and OPS. Maybe he'll get promoted to the Myrtle Beach squad that visits Woodbridge, VA, in June or Frederick, MD, in August.
Watched two Pelican games at Frederick the other week. Was most impressed by Stinnett and Happ. Happ may swing harder than Javier Baez, though more compactly. (Also got to see Brockmeyer hit a bomb.)
E-MAN: Jose Paniagua isn't a string-bean, but I wouldn't say he necessarily bulked-up during the 2015-16 off-season either, He led the DSL Cubs in HR and doubles in 2014, and he showed XBH power when he arrived in Mesa last year, leading the AZL Cubs in HR, doubles, and RBI in 2015. It's just that he has taken his HR power to a new level this year.
Paniagua displayed plus-HR power in Cactus League Minor League Spring Training games in March, and that got him a slot on the South Bend Opening Day roster. But he was sent to EXST after only six MWL games.
More on the Cub Way.
Martinez is one of my least favorite pitchers in baseball. I'd love to see a game like yesterday's against him.
Send Soler down!
Awesome thanks AZ
Great report, Phil! This organization has so many hitters to be excited about.
Ben Zobrist is very enjoyable to watch!!!!!!