The Cubs purchased the contract of RHP Austin Bibens-Dirkx from the Victoria Seals of the Golden Baseball League last week. Bibens-Dirkx is a former member of the Seattle Mariners organization (16th round pick in 2006 out of the University of Portland), who was released by the Mariners at the end of Minor League Camp this past April. He will be assigned to the Cubs Peoria affliate in the Midwest League, where he will probably work out of the bullpen.
The Cubs acquire players from independent leagues from time-to-time, and Bibens-Dirkx is just one of many players who have received a second chance to continue their professional baseball career in recent years by playing independent ball. A typical salary for a player on an independent team is $1,000 a month, so a fellow really has to love the game to spend his summer playing indy ball.
Independent leagues are located all over North America, from Canada to Mexico, and from New England to California. Ex-major leaguers like Jacque Jones, Carl Everett, Armando Benitez, Felix Jose, Willie Banks, Keith Foulke, Pat Mahomes, and Jose Lima dot the rosters, as do a number of former Cubs minor leaguers
EX-CUBS MINOR LEAGUERS PLAYING IN INDEPENDENT LEAGUES
3B Billy Mottram
RHP Tommy Mejia
Traverse City Beach Bums:
1B Sean Hoorelbeke
RHP John Muller
Windy City Thunderbolts:
RHP Billy Petrick
Long Island Ducks:
INF Kyle Reynolds
Sioux City Express:
1B Luis Bautista
Ft. Worth Cats:
LHP Taylor Parker
Gary Southshore RailCats:
RHP Grant Johnson
LHP Carmen Pignatiello
RHP Bear Bay
Among the ex-Cub minor leaguers playing indy ball, Billy Mottram (selected by the Cubs in the 36th round of the 2007 draft out of Dowling College before getting released in 2008) leads the Frontier League in home runs and John Muller (signed as a NDFA 5th year senior out of St. Thomas Acquinas College in May 2007) is 2nd in the FL in saves, Adam Greenberg (hit in the helmet with a pitch in his one and only MLB AB on July 9, 2005) and Chris Walker are 3-4 in the Atlantic League in stolen bases, while Brandon Sing is 2nd in the AL in OBP, 3rd in SLG and RBI, 4th in HR, and 8th in BA, and Nic Jackson (2000 3rd round pick out of the U. of Richmond and perennial BA Cubs Top 10 Prospect who was hampered by injuries throughout his seven seasons in the Cubs organization) is 1st in doubles and runs scored, 4th in hits, 5th in stolen bases, and 10th in BA in the Northern League.
RHP Bobby Brownlie (selected by the Cubs in the 1st round of the 2002 draft out of Rutgers and then later released in 2007) was probably one of the two best pitchers in the Atlantic League in May and June while pitching for the Newark Bears, before being acquired by the Atlanta Braves about a week ago. Brownlie is currently in the starting rotation at the Braves AAA International League affiliate in Gwinnett County, GA. (The Braves also acquired the other top starting pitcher from the Atlantic League last week, ex-MLB LHP John Halama from the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs).
And Cubs 2005 #1 pick LHP Mark Pawelek (released by the Cubs the last week of Spring Training) signed with the St. George Roadrunners of the Golden Baseball League in April before being acquired by the Cincinnati Reds in May, and he is presently working out of the bullpen for the Reds Sarasota affiliate in the Florida State League.
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!!!!!!
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.