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Danny Lockhart drilled three hits (two singles and a double) and drove-in a run, Mark Zagunis doubled and tripled and scored a run, and Jeimer Candelario and Wladimir Galindo clubbed solo home runs, in a 5-1/2 inning AZ Instructional League intrasquad "sim" game played this afternoon on Field #5 at the Under Armour Performance Center at Riverview Park in Mesa, AZ.

The Arizona Instructional League (AZIL) is well under way, with all 15 MLB clubs that have Spring Training in Arizona plus two Korean (KBO) clubs (SK Wyverns and NC Dinos) fielding squads. 

Each MLB organization operates its AZIL squad as it sees fit. Some organizations (like SD and MIL) start their season early and end early, others (like KC and SF) start their season later and end later, while others (like the Colorado Rockies) have a very short AZIL season (just two weeks). Some clubs play 18-20 "league games" (just about every day), while others play only five or six league games with one or sometimes two Camp Days (instruction only or maybe morning instruction followed by a controlled "sim" game in the afternoon) on the days in between to work on issues or problems noted in the AZIL games.
   
The Cubs are taking a unique approach this year, cutting its  AZIL "season" back to three weeks (9/22 through 10/12) and starting later in September than most of the other AZIL clubs. Also, the Cubs have not scheduled any games against other MLB organizations or against the two KBO teams (first time I've ever seen that), opting instead to have Camp Days (Instruction only) for three hours every morning (sometimes followed by a "sim" game) over the first two weeks, and then a "Cubs World Series" (best 4 out of 7 mega-intrasquad match) the last week.

There are (or will be by next week) 74 Cubs minor leaguers (including 40 pitchers) at the Under Armour Performance Center at Riverview Park in Mesa (which is about 20 more players than had been the norm for Cubs "instructs" rosters in previous seasons). The ten Kane County players who are participating will report a week late because their season ran a bit long (they won the Midwest League Championship on September 13th), and the eight Cubs players who have been assigned to the Mesa Solar Sox (Arizona Fall League) will participate only during the first two weeks (AFL Opening Day is on Tuesday October 7th), and then only as preparation for the AFL season. 

Six Latin players (three from the DSL Cubs and three from the VSL Cubs) are making their U. S. debut at "instructs," another (SS Frandy de la Rosa) is returning to the U. S. after spending the 2014 season with the DSL Cubs, and still another (RHP Jose Zapata) is active and will be making his U. S. "field debut" after spending the 2014 season on the AZL Cubs 60-day DL after suffering multiple injuries in an off-season car crash in the Dominican Republic last December. Also, OF Kevin Encarnacion (who suffered third-degree burns and a shoulder injury in the same car crash) is finally back on the field and is fully participating in all baseball-related activities.


2014 CUBS ARIZONA INSTRUCTIONAL LEAGUE ROSTER
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After 14 seasons, the Cubs have apparently decided to leave Boise, and so they will now be looking for a new advanced Short Season (SS-A) affiliate in the Northwest League (NWL) to replace the Hawks. Salem-Keizer and Eugene would be their two most-likely destinations (presuming the Cubs opt to remain in the NWL), since both have an expiring Player Development Contract (PDC) with their current MLB partner. (The Cubs had a PDC with Eugene prior to moving to Boise). 

The Cubs have already renewed their PDC with the AA Tennessee Smokies through the 2018 season, and their PDC with AAA Iowa extends through 2016. But there are three Cubs PDCs set to expire after the 2014 season: 

The Cubs selected the contracts of LHP Eric Jokisch and C Rafael Lopez from AAA Iowa and added both to their MLB Reserve List (40-man roster) last week. Both players would have been eligible for selection in the December 2014 Rule 5 Draft if they had not been added to an MLB 40-man roster by the November 20th roster-filing deadline, so the Cubs decded to give the two a "cup of coffee" in September, since they apparently had already decided to add both players to their 40-man roster.   

Besides Jokisch and Lopez, #1 pitching prospect C. J. Edwards is the only other Cub minor leaguer eligible for selection in the 2014 Rule 5 Draft who is likely to get added to the MLB 40-man roster by the 11/20 deadline (in fact Edwards is a "lock" to get added), but that doesn't mean the Cubs don't have some decisions to make regarding a number of other players in their minor league system.

11:59 PM (Eastern) tonight is the deadline for an MLB club to acqure a player from another organization or sign a free-agent so that the player would be eligible for the club's post-season playoff roster. 

The player does NOT have to be added to the club's MLB Active List (25-man roster) prior to the 11:59 PM deadline to be playoff eligible, however. He just has to be under club control by the deadline.

Carlos Villanueva is the most-likely Cub to get traded today. He has pitched very well as a "swingman" over the past seven weeks (14 games), and he should have value to a contender because of his versatility (he can start or relieve). 

CARLOS VILLANUEVA LAST 14 GAMES
22.2 IP, 12 H, 1 R (1 ER), 2 BB, 25 K, 2 HBP, 1 HR 
0.62 WHIP 
0.40 ERA
.156 Opp BA

Unless the Cubs sign him to a contract extension (not likely), Villanueva will be an Article XX-B MLB FA after the conclusion of the World Series, and the Cubs would end up with nothing. So I'm sure they would be very interested in finding a trade partner, even if all they get back in return is a "second-tier" prospect.      

There is an outside chance that some other Cub player could draw interest as well, but Villanueva would seem to be the best candidate.

The only stumbling block to any potential trade made this time of year is that Trade Assignment Waivers (see below) must be secured before a player on an MLB 40-man roster can be dealt. 


OTHER POTENTIAL TRADE CANDIDATES:

The Arizona Fall League (AFL) preliminary rosters have been announced, and the Cubs have assigned seven players to the Mesa Solar Sox (MSS). Present minor league assignment is in parenthesis: 

Zach Cates, RHRP (AA Tennessee)
Gerardo Concepcion, LHRP (A+ Daytona) 
C. J. Edwards, RHSP (AA Tennessee) 
Jake Hannemann, OF (A+ Daytona) - see NOTE
Ivan Pineyro, RHSP (AA Tennessee) 
Addison Russell, SS (AA Tennessee) 
Dan Vogelbach, 1B (A+ Daytona) 
NOTE: Hannemann is assigned to the MSS "Taxi Squad," so he is eligible to play in AFL games on Wednesday and Saturday only. 

In addition, Daytona pitching coach Ron Villone has been assigned to Mesa as the Solar Sox pitching coach. (The Cubs were required to supply the MSS pitching coach this year). 

Cates, Concepcion, Edwards, and Pineyro are Rule 5 Draft eligible post-2014, and so the Cubs may be using the AFL to get a better look at Cates, Concepcion, and Pineyro (especially Pineyro) before deciding whether to add any of them to their MLB Reserve List (40-man roster) post-2014. (C. J. Edwards is considered the Cubs #1 pitching prospect, so he is a "lock" to make the Cubs 40-man roster in November no matter how he performs in the AFL).

Russell played for the Mesa Solar Sox while a member of the Oakland A's last year, so this will be his second trip to the AFL, but in a different uniform. He will be sharing shortstop with A's SS prospect Daniel Robertson, who was Russell's rival in the Oakland system prior to Russell being traded to the Cubs in the Samardzija/Hammel trade. Russell missed considerable time this season as the result of a hamstring injury suffered prior to being acquired by the Cubs, so playing in the AFL will give the young shortstop some additional reps before he (presumably) gets moved up to AAA in 2015.

Both Edwards (shoulder) and Pineyro (forearm strain) were on the Tennessee Smokies Disabled List for lengthy periods of time this season, so pitching in the AFL will help them to make up for some of their "lost innings." 

Remember, the AFL rosters announced this week are preliminary rosters only and are incomplete.

In the case of the Mesa Solar Sox, the Toronto Blue Jays have not named any of their four pitchers yet, and because Dwight Smith Jr has been assigned to the MSS "Taxi Squad," the Blue Jays still need to assign another position player as well. The Oakland A's have yet to name their fourth pitcher, and because Jake Hannemann was assigned to the MSS "Taxi Squad," the Cubs need to assign one more position player to the Solar Sox roster. 

The 2014 Arizona Fall League schedule has been released and rosters should be announced later this month.

The Arizona Fall League (AFL) is an MLB developmental league (approximately equivalent to "AA") that operates for six weeks after the conclusion of the MLB regular season. It features a 32-game "regular season" schedule plus an All-Star Game (formerly called the "Rising Stars Game," but now known as the "Fall Stars Game") at the end of the 4th week, and the AFL Championship Game (pitting the winner of the East Division versus the winner of the West Division) at the end of the 6th and final week. 

There are three games scheduled every day Monday through Saturday during the AFL regular season (there are no games on Sunday), beginning with Opening Day on the second Tuesday following the conclusion of the MLB regular season (which is October 7th in 2014) and extending up through the Thursday of the 6th week. (No regular season games are scheduled the day of the Fall Stars Game).  

The Cubs usually assign some of their better prospects to the AFL. Depending on what positions the Cubs are asked to fill on the Mesa squad, I would not be surprised to see some combination of position players and pitchers such as:

The Cubs reportedly will be recalling Matt Szczur (AKA "Scrabble") from AAA Iowa tomorrow (Sunday), and so the 25-year old outfielder should be making his MLB debut sometime soon after that.


 

The deadline for "non-waiver" (unrestricted) trades is 4 PM (Eastern) on July 31st. No trades can be made between 4 PM and 5 PM (Eastern) on July 31st, and then beginning at 5 PM (Eastern) on July 31st and extending through to the conclusion of the MLB regular season, Trade Assignment Waivers must be secured before players on MLB 40-man rosters can be traded. (Waivers are never required to trade a player on a minor league reserve list).

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