Your 2009 Boise Hawks!
The Boise Hawks begin play tonight, kicking off their 2009 season. They will play 77 games (76 "league" games plus tonight's Opening Night exhibition game versus Treasure Valley CC) up through the first week of September, with one game scheduled each and most every day (they get only three days off for the entire season!).
The Boise Hawks are the Cubs "Short-Season A" affiliate in the Northwest League. Besides the Cubs affiliate in Boise, ID, the other seven clubs in the league are the Tri-City Dust Devils (Rockies) in Pasco, WA, the Yakima Bears (Diamondbacks) in Yakima, WA, the Spokane Indians (Rangers) in Spokane, WA, the Eugene Emeralds (Padres) in Eugene, OR, the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (Giants) in Keizer, OR, the Everett Aqua Sox (Mariners) in Everett, WA, and the Vancouver Canadians (A's) in Vancouver, BC. All eight of the clubs have their minor league base in Arizona, so the players know the rival players pretty well from having played a lot of opponents in AZL, Spring Training, Extended Spring Training, and/or Instructional League games
Per MLB Rule 51, a "Short Season A" club may have a maximum of four players on its roster age 23 or older (as of June 5th), and a maximum of three players on its roster with three years or more of minor league service time coming into the season. (Seasons spent playing in DSL, VSL, Mexican League, or MLB international academies don't count toward minor league service time limit, the age limit does not apply to first-year players who sign after June 5th, and there is a one-year age & service time exemption for position players who are being converted to pitcher). .
Generally speaking, players assigned to Boise would include college players selected in the recent Rule 4 Draft (First-Year Player Draft), and Latin, Pacific Rim, and U. S. high school and JC players who have "graduated" from Fitch Park (EXST Cubs & AZL Cubs).
Players assigned to Boise stay with "host families," which are local Boise residents who house and feed the young Cubbies (Hawks) during their stay in Boise. In return, the families receive complimentary season-tickets to the Hawks home games.
It's not unusual for players and host families to stay in touch for many years after the player has left and moved on to other things. Occasionally a player who stayed with a host family one year and another player who stayed with the same host family in a different season meet each other in later years and discover their "family connection."
The Boise gig is a lot different than Minor League Camp, Extended Spring Training, AZ Instructional League, or playing for the AZL Cubs in Mesa at Fitch Park. The players assigned to Fitch Park stay in the same motel (two players per room) with a curfew and no alcohol allowed in the rooms. Shuttle vans (maxi-vans) transport the players from the motel to Fitch Park and back. "Road trips" consist of maybe a 20-minute ride to another minor league complex in the maxi-vans.
But in Boise, the players are mostly on their own. They have to find their own way to the ballpark, and the Cubs rely on the host families to help keep the player on the "straight & narrow." (The Cubs probably wouldn't want a couple of meth freaks to be a "host family"). And Boise "road trips" consist of all night bus rides through the back roads and high deserts of Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia, with pre-made peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and/or Dominos Pizza (usually the only "restaurant" open late in most of the Northwest League towns) the in-bus meal.
The 2009 Hawks roster features the "cream of the crop" from Extended Spring Training, and those of you who might have followed my EXST Cubs game reports will probably recognize most of the names.
Three of the prized Korean teenaged bonus babies (SS Hak-Ju Lee, OF Jae-Hoon Ha, and RHP Su-Min Jung) were assigned to Boise, as were 19-year old Venezuelan RHP (and Carlos Zambrano clone) Larry Suarez and 18-year old Dominican LHP Jeffry Antigua (the two most-impressive pitchers at Extended Spring Training), and 2008 4th round pick C-2B Matt Cerda (a good-looking young hitter who has yet to find a permanent position).
In addition, three players selected in the recent Rule 4 Draft (First-Year Player Draft) are also on the Hawks Opening Day Active Roster. RHP Danny Keefe (14th round pick out of the U. of Tampa), CF Cody Shields (15th round pick out of the U. of Auburn - Montgomery), and 1B Greg Rohan (21st round pick out of Kent State) signed immediately after the draft and got to Fitch Park before the Boise club was organized, and just in time to be included on the Hawks Opening Day roster. (Keefe, Shields, and Rohan were college seniors, so they had virtually no leverage as far as holding out for more money).
The Hawks currently have a 14-man pitching staff, and it will likely increase to 17 or 18 by the time some of the other drafted players sign and get assigned to Boise. (Players who would be candidates for Boise who sign sometime beyond the first week after the draft usually spend about a week to ten days assigned to the AZL Cubs at Fitch Park before they are moved up to Boise).
Generally, ten of the Boise pitchers are considered "three-inning guys" and will "piggyback" with another pitcher, where one starts the game and throws three or four innings, and then the second pitcher throws three or four innings. The other pitchers on the staff (the "two-inning guys") rotate as closers, set-up guys, and middle-relievers.
The Boise club has a 35-man Reserve List (which is like a major league club's 40-man roster) and a 30-man Active List (which would be like a MLB club's 25-man roster). Injured players assigned to the Hawks usually are not put on the DL. Instead they are placed on the Hawks "Temporary Inactive List" (reserve list). Likewise, a player who is being converted from a position player to pitcher or catcher is usually placed on the Temporary Inactive List while the player learns the new position in the off-fields at Fitch Park.
Also, sometimes a player who quits Extended Spring Training and goes home is placed on the Temporary Inactive List until he files his official retirement papers or until the Cubs decide to release the player. An unofficially retired player who doesn't file his papers by the end of the season is usually either released during the off-season, or else is transfered from the minor league club's Temporary Inactive List to the Cubs Restricted List.
Here is the 2009 Opening Day Roster for the Boise Hawks:
* bats or throws left
# bats both
MANAGER: Casey Kopitzke
COACHES: Ricardo Medina (hitting), David Rosario (pitching), and Min-Kyu Sung (Korean player liaison and 1st base coach)
* Jeffry Antigua
Josh Lansford (ex-3B)
Andres Quezada (ex-OF)
* Ryan Sontag (ex-OF)
* Matt Cerda (C-2B)
# Alvaro Sosa
John Contreras (3B-1B-C)
Sean Hoorelbeke (1B-LF)
# Jose Made (2B-3B)
George Matheus (SS-2B-3B)
* Hak-Ju Lee (SS)
Greg Rohan (1B)
* Logan Watkins (2B-SS)
# Jose Valdez
INACTIVE LIST (4):
* Kurt Calvert, OF (left EXST Cubs in April & returned home)
Dylan Johnston, OF-RHP (at Fitch Park -converting from OF to RHP)
Dwayne Kemp, INF (at Fitch Park - injury rehab)
Cedric Redmond, RHP (at Fitch Park - injury rehab)
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!!!!!!
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.
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.
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.
Phil, what's your thoughts on which position players are going to Eugene and who is staying in AZL?
Ahhh...way to bring me down BB.
Still - a win tomorrow will be an acheivement regardless.
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.