Trying to Read a Waffle Iron

I talked with Cubs Organizational Hitting Instructor Dave Keller today, and he admitted that he was the guy in the tower yelling at Felix Pie (in Spanish) after Pie left the AZL Cubs game on Sunday, but that the conversation had to do with Pie verbally being given the hitting schedule for Monday at Fitch Park (which otherwise was an off day for the AZL Cubs), and that there was no animosity involved in the exchange.

I will say this about Coach Keller. Both Felix Pie and the AZL Cubs (as a team) have apparently responded very well to the hitting guru's presence at Fitch, as the Cubs hitters banged out 21 hits on Sunday and had another big day today, and Pie drilled a double, took a bases loaded walk, and hit a grand slam HR over the CF fence in the AZL Cubs 18-1 victory on Sunday, before returning to Iowa yesterday and going 2-4 with a two-run HR, a walk, and two runs scored in the I-Cubs 10-4 victory over Omaha.      

Maybe Dave Keller should ask for a raise!

But Keller can't coach the pitchers, too, and contrary to some early reports in the "traditional" media that Rich Hill had been showing improvement since arriving at Fitch Park last week (I didn't see any), the fact is nothing appears to have changed (at least so far) as far as getting Hill out of his season-long funk.  

Hill got the start yesterday at Peoria versus the AZL Padres and lasted just 1/3 of an inning before being removed from the game, with the following game log:

HBP, BB, BB, E5-RBI, BB-RBI, and 1B-RBI.

Today, Chris Huseby (who has been struggling to throw strikes since Minor League Camp in March) got the start for the AZL Cubs, and he also lasted just 1/3 of an inning before getting the hook, with the following game log:


That's right. Huseby hit the first three batters of the game (ding, dong, dang). 

But Miguel Sierra came into the game in relief of Huseby with one out and the bases loaded, and immediately induced a DP grounder to end the inning.

The AZL Cubs then unloaded, scoring seven runs against the AZL Mariners, including a mammoth HR over the CF fence by 3B John Contreras, his third dinger of the young AZL season (today was game #9). The Cubs then hung-on for a 7-6 victory. 

box score 

The 21-year old Contreras was born in New Jersey but grew up in the Dominican Republic, and he is the prototypical third-baseman (although he plays 1B, too). He has a heavy lower body and "Popeye" powerful forearms, just perfect for hitting bombs away

Besides Contreras's missile, the other offensive hero today was LF Jericho Jones (2008 20th round pick out of Louisiana Tech), who reached base three times on a single, a double, and a walk, stole a base, and scored two runs.  

Best play of the day was a picture-perfect hit & run pulled off by the Cubs in the bottom of the 1st inning. With one out and the Cubs trailing 1-0, Bryan Jost at bat, and Starlin Castro on 1st base, Castro broke for 2nd. The second-baseman left his position to take the anticipated throw from the catcher, and Jost hammered a single right where the second-baseman had been stationed, sending Castro to 3rd base. Castro would later score on a FC ground out. That HAD to make Dave Keller happy.   

Later that same inning, Nelson Perez absolutely CRUSHED a ball off the CF green metal hitting background 400+ feet from home plate, but was thrown out (albeit just barely) trying to stretch a triple into an inside-the-park home run. He did get an RBI out of it, though.

Today's game marked the pro debut of Cubs 2008 4th round draft pick Matt Cerda (Oceanside HS - Oceanside, CA). The 18-year old Cerda served as the DH and hit lead-off, going 0-2 with two walks before being removed for a pinch-runner in the bottom of the 8th.

Cerda played SS in HS, but the Cubs are moving him to catcher (with his consent). Actually, the young man is being moved BACK to catcher, because he was the starting catcher on the 2001 Oceanside LLWS team that went all the way to Williamsport.

AZL Cubs coach Danny Fatheree is mentoring Cerda in the art of catching. And the youngster couldn't ask for a better teacher.   

In AZL Cubs roster news, 2008 24th round pick RHP David Cales (St. Xavier by way of UIC, the U. of Missouri, and Mt. Carmel HS) has arrived at Fitch Park, and he joined the other pitchers sitting in the grandstand about midway through today's game. I hope David is enjoying the 114 degree heat!

I don't know when Cales will get into a game, but it probably won't be too long because he was pitching for the Eau Claire Express in the Northwoods League (a collegiate "wood bat" league) up until the middle of last week, so his arm should be fairly close to "game ready" right now.

The AZL Cubs are still awaiting the arrival of 21st round pick SS Logan Watkins, who has agreed to a $600K bonus (that's a $500K signing bonus plus $100K in college tuition) to give up his chance to play college baseball at Wichita State. The left-handed hitting Watkins was a star baseball and football player at Goddard HS in Goddard, KS, and it took an offer of "2nd round money" from the Cubs to get him to turn pro. 

With the signing of Cales and Watkins, the Cubs have inked 29 of their 51 2008 draft picks, including 24 of their first 27. The only three still unsigned among the Cubs top 27 picks (with August 15th the signing deadline) are 1st round pick RHP Andrew Cashner (TCU), 2nd round pick RHP Aaron Shafer (Wichita State), and 10th round pick RHP Alex Wilson (Texas A&M).

The Cubs will receive compensation picks in next year's Rule 4 Draft if they are unable to sign Cashner and/or Shafer (#20 overall if they don't sign Cashner, and/or #66 overall if the can't sign Shafer).  



Thanks Phil. By the way, the author name is so small, I read "John Contreras" and thought all the way through that he was the writer of the article. I kept thinking, who is this dude and who the hell does he think he is? Then I started picturing an oiled-up wrestling match between him and Phil. Not sure why there was oil involved. Then, upon finishing the article, I looked back at the top and realized Phil wrote it, after all. My mind was again at peace. But maybe an enlarged "submitted by" is in order?

Tyler Colvin was named Southern League player of the week earlier and Rebel Ridling (1b) of Boise named Northwest Player of the Week.

Josh Vitters with a 919 OPS so far in Boise, which is good for only third best on the team behind Ridling and supplemental first rounder Ryan Flaherty (1.061 OPS).

Vitters does have 4 errors already, which leads the team.

rebel ridling and jericho jones?

between them and rocky cherry, now rocky roquet, and buck coats, the cubs have had some great minor league names the last few years.

out here in SF for the week....pretty city, weird ass people, and the park is gorgeous but damn cold. all as expected, all a good trip (no pun intended) and all hoping that dempster can continue the cubs mastery of the NL west.

if ted lilly played in a huge park like this one in SF he would be a perennial cy young candidate.

Top 3 in OPS with a healthy amount of AB's (kind of an arbitray cutoff by me)
Andre Torres .945
Bobby Scales .848
Josh Kroeger .834

Matt Craig 1068
Doug Deeds (acquired in the Craig Monroe trade) 907
Nate Spears (I believe the C-Pat trade) 803

Blake Lalli .878
James Adducci .762
Tony Thomas .732

Marquez Smith .889
Dylan Johnston .797
Jovan Rosa .772

AZ -

Watkins was rated as the #25 prospect in the state of Kansas (per Baseball America). Any idea why the Cubs value him so much to give him that much money? There seems to be a big disconnect between their value of him and the "draft rankings" done by BA. For our sake, I hope their is a story behind this kid.


Cubs Win, I've seen articles on Watkins (in reference to Wichita State, the school he was headed to) that said he was rated as more of a top 5 round prospect but a really difficult sign. Maybe BA just missed on him in terms of potential. Not sure. Here is the link:

"Watkins said professional scouts tell him he could go in the first five rounds or so. He said he will not be an easy player to lure away from college, which could affect his desirability. "Tough signs" with a real commitment to college baseball sometimes drop in the draft. " - quote from link

AZ Phil, I know you compared Starlin Castro to Daytona's Jonathan Mota in the past as more of a utility guy. Is that still true (because he sure seems intriguing when he's doing pretty well at 18 in Mesa and getting so much playing time)?

Hopefully tomorrow's Mesa pitcher (I believe it's Antigua and his 0.00 ERA)can get that all important second out of the first inning...

RAISIN: Thank you for answering Cubs Win's inquiry regarding Logan Watkins. That was excellent.

As for Starlin Castro, I see him as being most comparable (in the Cubs organization, anyway) to Jonathan Mota, but yet not exactly the same. Maybe I should have said that Castro is more like a young Ronny Cedeno (as I remember him), but I would say something like Cedeno-Castro-Mota as far as talent/potential when comparing the three.

Of Castro and Mota, Castro is faster and a better hitter with more power (more like Cedeno), while Mota is a somewhat more consistent defensive player, although Castro should get more consistent with more experience. Both Castro and Mota have the versatility to play 2B-SS-3B.

Long-term I would take Castro over Mota, but I would project both as MLB utility infielders (if they make it that far), with Castro more-likely (of the two) to make it to the big leagues because of his speed and power potential.

Also, AZ Phil, what type of stuff does Jeffry Antigua have? He racks up the groundballs, so I assume his FB has some sort of sink on it. Thanks.

Thanks, AZ Phil. You can never tell with raw, teenage Latin American-born SS in terms of which one will develop the bat to be a big league starter. I do have hope for Hak-Ju Lee, Logan Watkins and Ryan Flaherty giving some nice starting SS depth in the system.

Submitted by Raisin101 on Wed, 07/02/2008 - 5:40pm.

Also, AZ Phil, what type of stuff does Jeffry Antigua have? He racks up the groundballs, so I assume his FB has some sort of sink on it. Thanks.


RAISIN: Jeffry Antigua throws a two seamer, a curve and change. He has good command of all three pitches and appears to be more polished than the other Cubs Latin pitchers making their AZL debut, especially considering he just turned 18 last week. 

When Antigua has had problems it's when he gets mad and overthrows his fastball or when he hangs a curve. But he generally throws strikes.

Jeffry Antigua, Miguel Sierra, and Julio Pena are the three best Latin starting pitcher prospects with the AZL Cubs, and Rogelio Carmona is the best Latin relief prospect. There is no Jose Ceda, Robert Hernandez, or Alberto Cabrera at AZL Cubs this year.

But presuming they can stay healthy, Antigua, Sierra, Pena, and Carmona should move up the ladder to Boise or Peoria next year.

AZ Phil, I noticed (finally), some Cub prospects showing us something. What do you think of these guys:

DUMAS GARCIA: Promoted to AAA after raking in AA. Two weeks ago we were asking "Who is this guy?", and now he is close to ML-ready?
WELLINGTON CASTILLO: The line on him was "good glove, no hit". Now he is hitting. Fluke, or the next Geo Soto?
JOSE CEDA: Maybe the Cubs know what they are doing. He goes from so-so as a starter working on pitches, to Marmol-esque at AA on promotion. On paper, starting to look ML-Ready.

Also, what is the 411 on Marquez Smith? Having a great year, but a little old to be at Peoria.

Thanks for the report on Antigua. Sounds promising...I was going to mention that he sounded advanced/polished like Robert Hernandez did at 18 but I guess he's not that far along. Does Antigua throw hard?

As always, thanks for the fantastic reports.

Raisin, are you the same Raisin who frequents the minor league forum over at NSBB?

The one and the same, 10man.

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  • 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.

    johann 56 min 13 sec ago view
  • 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.   

    Arizona Phil 1 hour 4 min ago view
  • 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

    Arizona Phil 1 hour 33 min ago view
  • 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.)

    VirginiaPhil 1 hour 54 min ago view
  • 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.  

    Arizona Phil 2 hours 1 min ago view
  • Rob Richardson 2 hours 30 min ago view
  • 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!

    Old and Blue 3 hours 24 min ago view
  • Awesome thanks AZ

    Old and Blue 3 hours 26 min ago view
  • Great report, Phil! This organization has so many hitters to be excited about.

    John Beasley 4 hours 16 min ago view
  • Ben Zobrist is very enjoyable to watch!!!!!!

    Hagsag 7 hours 4 min ago view
  • given that he seems to only be throwing low 90s these days rather than the 93-96mph he used to throw, along with his wildness issues this year, he may end up passing through.

    i dunno if something is wrong with him physically or his past shoulder issues has rendered him what he currently is, but he's been throwing a lot of sliders he can't control well and his fastball isn't as sharp. even when his slider wasn't working in a game he was still throwing a lot of them.

    crunch 8 hours 16 min ago view
  • Any scuttlebutt on where Neil Ramirez gets traded?

    He seems better than some of the relievers on competitive teams. He ought to bring more than the waiver fee.

    My guess? Toronto.

    tim815 8 hours 40 min ago view
  • PHIL: It seems as if Paniagua has always played 1B with the Cubs. At 6'2 and 180#, what is his frame like? String bean? Have you seen him bulk up? Where do you project him? Thanks.

    The E-Man 8 hours 45 min ago view
  • Phil, what's your thoughts on which position players are going to Eugene and who is staying in AZL?

    azbobbop 12 hours 45 min ago view
  • Ahhh...way to bring me down BB.

    Still - a win tomorrow will be an acheivement regardless.

    The E-Man 13 hours 32 min ago view
  • Don't mean to spoil your mood, but with tonight's win the are 3-5 on the trip with one to play.

    While I'm bringing the room down -- Richard comes in to pitch the 9th with a 12-1 lead...and can't finish the game. Woof.

    billybucks 14 hours 6 min ago view