Cub Contingent Leads Solar Sox to Victory

Andrew Cashner threw four innings of no run, no hit ball, and Starlin Castro had two hits, drove in a run and scored two more, and made the defensive play of the day, as the Mesa Solar Sox exterminated the Scottsdale Scorpions 12-5 in Arizona Fall League action this afternoon at HoHoKam Park in Mesa.  

box score

Pitching on a cool & breezy day with the wind blowing out at 15-20 MPH gusting to 30, the 23-year old Cashner (Cubs #1 draft pick out of TCU in 2008) had no trouble with the Scorpions. He threw just 44 pitches (25 strikes) in his four innings of work, getting ahead of most of the hitters as he mixed a 94-96 MPH fastball with a sharp breaking ball and an occasional change-up. The only glitches were a four-pitch walk to Steve Susdorf (Phillies) leading off the 3rd and a walk to Brandon Allen (Diamondbacks) on a 3-1 pitch with two outs in the 4th. He struck out four (including Phillies top position-player prospect Domonic Brown, swinging), got four outs on ground balls, and another four on fly balls or pop-ups. 

Starlin Castro played SS for the Solar Sox and hit 2nd today, and got five plate appearances. He grounded a single sharply through the box into CF off RHP Chaz Roe (Rockies) with one out and nobody on base in the bottom of the 1st inning and later scored on a Josh Vitters RBI single, lined out to right on a hit & run play with a runner on 1st base and no outs in the 2nd off junkballin' RHP Tooru Murata (Tokyo Yomiuri Giants), punched an RBI single to left through a drawn-in infield off RHP Edgar Garcia (Phillies) in the bottom of the 3rd and later scored, struck out swinging on a hard-breakin' slider in the dirt against RHP Andrew Johnston (Rockies) in the 5th, and reached base on an E-4 (short-hopper ricocheted off Scottsdale 2nd baseman Chase D'arnaud's chest).in the 7th.

Castro also turned-in the defensive play of the day, showing off his range and his arm as he made a diving stop behind second base, and then, from his knees, threw out speedy lead-off man Jose Tabata (Pirates). Castro also made a nice turn on a 6-4-3 DP in the 8th. And although Castro was charged with an error on a D'arnaud RBI double in the top of the 5th when his relay throw got past Solar Sox catcher Hank Conger (Angels) allowing D'arnaud to advance from 2nd to 3rd on the play at the plate, the throw really wasn't that bad. Conger just couldn't catch the short-hop.

Josh Vitters (Cubs #1 draft pick in 2007) was the Solar Sox DH and hit 5th. He grounded an RBI single through the box to CF (scoring Castro) off Roe in his first AB in the bottom of the 1st and scored later in the inning, and then he ripped another hit through the box off Murata in the bottom of the second. He flied out to the warning track in CF in the 3rd, bounced into an inning-ending 5-4-3 DP against Johnston in the 5th, and struck out swinging on a 1-2 breaking ball at his shoe top (and looked bad doing it, too) in the 7th against LHP Matt Reynolds (Rockies).   

LHP James Russell entered the game in the top of the 8th and pitched a shutout inning (11 pitches - eight strikes). He gave up a lead-off line-drive single to LF to Brandon Crawford (Giants), but then got Buster Posey (Giants) to ground into a 4-6-3 DP (that was the nice turn by Castro) and Susdorf (Phillies) to ground out weakly 3-U to end the inning. Russell had a really good change-up today, and he threw strikes, which is the key for him.

After allowing three runs in his first AFL outing a couple of weeks ago, Russell has thrown five consecutive shutout innings over his last four appearances. The son of one-time MLB closer Jeff Russell, James was the Cubs 14th round selection in the 2007 Rule 4 Draft out of the University of Texas, although he did get "3rd round money" to give up his senior year in college (he was considered to be likely unsignable going into the draft, which is why he fell to the 14th round). He should be a strong candidate for a back-of-the-rotation starter gig at Iowa in 2010.

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Comments

thanks for the report...

have you seen any of the defensive yips that seemed to plague Castro during the season?

And is James Russell just a younger Sean Marshall?

how fast does the infield surface play? how good/bad predictable are the bounces through the infield?

Submitted by crunch on Wed, 10/28/2009 - 6:53pm.
how fast does the infield surface play? how good/bad predictable are the bounces through the infield?

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CRUNCH: The AFL infields out here are hard (baked) but very well maintained. There are no bad hops, they just play "fast."

thanks. been told a long time they play fast, but that was years ago and groundskeeping techniques tend to make strides every few years.

Submitted by Rob G. on Wed, 10/28/2009 - 6:49pm.
thanks for the report... have you seen any of the defensive yips that seemed to plague Castro during the season? And is James Russell just a younger Sean Marshall?

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ROB G: The only thing Castro does that gives away his age is sometimes he rushes when he doesn't have to rush. Of course there are other times (like his defensive gem today) when he has to rush if he wants to make the play. But his footwoork and throwing mechanics are fine. He is what I would describe as a defensive playmaker.

James Russell is a finesse lefty who uses his fastball to set-up his slider and change-up. I remember he was VERY polished when he reported to Fitch Park out of the University of Texas in August 2007 (a lot like Chris Rusin this year) and so he got moved very quickly up to AA in 2008, but then he ran into a big-time speed bump there because polish doesn't dominate at AA and AAA like it usually does in "A" ball. He pitched very well the second-half of the 2009 season at Iowa as a spot starter and middle-reliever, however, and he is throwing the ball very well out here in the AFL (so far).

I think it helps all of the Cubs pitchers playing in the AFL this year that Tennessee Smokies pitching coach Dennis Lewallyn is the Solar Sox pitching coach. He has worked with all four of the pitchers (Cashner, Russell, Gaub, and Parker) previously and knows them inside-out.

What do you make of the poor performance in the AFL of Gaub and Parker?

i thought parker was doing well....

Submitted by skavoovee on Wed, 10/28/2009 - 7:28pm.
What do you make of the poor performance in the AFL of Gaub and Parker?

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SKAVOOVEE: John Gaub is a classic LOOGY (four-seamer & slider) but he has faced mostly RH hitters out here, because the managers don't play situations or match-ups, they just bring in whichever pitcher is next on the list. Also, because of his arm problems, Gaub hasn't thrown a lot of innings the last few years, so he may be feeling fatigue but doesn't want to tell anybody because he sees the AFL as his big chance to make a good impression.

Blake Parker struggled in his last two outings (he couldn't find home plate last time out), but he looked OK in the other three before that. He is pitching a lot like he did at Iowa the last week of the season (very inconsistent). Like Gaub, I suspect Parker is probably feeling fatigue, since he only has been a pitcher for two years and might not be physically prepared yet for the workload of a full-season working out of the bullpen.

only 3-6 more games until the official offseason

i hate the offseason...but it does give me time to catch up on movies.

by dec/jan i'm ready for spring training games.

Overture? Make-Good? That Jaramillo connection?
---
http://www.stltoday.com/blogzone/commishs-hot-stov...

Mark DeRosa underwent wrist surgery Monday to repair a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist, an official with DeRosa’s agent’s office confirmed this afternoon. The surgery was performed Monday in Atlanta by hand surgery Dr. Gary Lourie.

The Cardinals plan to go into 2010 with rookie David Freese having a chance to win the starting third base job. That doesn’t eliminate their interest in having DeRosa return, but it does limit the role DeRosa could see for himself. At the end of the season, he said he wanted to look for the best opportunity for playing time and for contending.

The Chicago Cubs figured to make an overture toward DeRosa as a make-good for trading him to Cleveland before the 2009 season — a move general manager Jim Hendry conceded was a mistake.

Hopefully Hendry isn't stupid enough to give DeRosa 3/30 NTC type of deal.

However I would be all for bringing DeRosa back on a 1 year and maybe a vesting option for year 2 type of deal. Especially if they money isn't more than 5-7 million per season.

How about getting Greg Maddux and Ryne Sandberg back?

You can bitch about who we got for DeRosa, but trading him when he was at his peak value was probably the best move Hendry made last year. 2008 is gone, let it go.

Unless DeRosa was the one missing link that would've put them over the top? It's possible...

On Mike and Mike this morning, Yankee anouncer Michael Kay speculated that with loss yesterday and bring back CC on 3 days rest that Chad Gaudin would be the game five starter.

Yikes.

About half-way through the AFL schedule, here my projected AFL All-Star team (subject to change based on future performance):

P - Andrew Cashner (CUBS)
C - Matt McBride (CLE)
1B - Russ Mitchell (LAD)
2B - C. J. Retherford (CHW)
3B - Josh Bell (BAL)
SS - Starlin Castro (CUBS)
LF - Chris Heisey (CIN)
CF - Grant Desme (OAK)
RF - Jordan Danks (CHW)

MVP - Grant Desme (hands-down)

the one missing link...
---
Neanderthal DeRosa?

AustraloDeRosacus? DeRosalopithecus?

baseball prospectus' prospect guru, Kevin Goldstein, had this to say about Cashner after his 4 inning shutout stint:

Andrew Cashner, RHP, Cubs (AFL: Mesa)
Yesterday's stats: 4 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 K
Whatever order you want to put them, Cashner, along with infielders Josh Vitters and Starlin Castro, are the top three prospects in the Cubs system, and all of them are having outstanding seasons so far for Mesa. Four no-hit innings are even more impressive considering the offensive context of the league, and his stuff matched the stats, as he sat at 92-96 mph with his fastball, and his slider is a wipeout offering at times.

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?arti...

Earlier on Castro:

Generating a ton of buzz right now in the desert is Castro, the 19-year-old shortstop who, after Tuesday's outburst, is now 12-for-23 in six games for the Solar Sox without a strikeout. His ability to put the bat on the ball is remarkably advanced for his age. While he's not the next Ozzie Smith, he is a true shortstop who also has surprisingly solid defensive fundamentals for such a young talent, as he's also yet to make an error in Arizona. Is he the top prospect in the system? You could at least make the argument.

At some point this season I could swear he called him a 2nd basemen... I'll have to stalk around a bit more and see if I can find it.

Here we go:

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/chat/chat.php?ch...

"markDC (Washington, DC): Starlin Castro - starting Cubs shortstop in 2011?

Kevin Goldstein: No. Second base, maybe, but not shortstop."

Which maybe I read into too much, but it seems like he's come around since then.

if you just look at numbers you'd jump to the conclusion he wasn't destined for SS.

they're horrid. i asked about them not too long ago (here) because i didnt know much about the guy. i was told his numbers were lieing. it seems that may be true.

That's not something he typically does.

I often wonder how much a scouts' appraisal of a player's defense goes up as the player's bat improves.

yeah, he used to work for BA and did a lot of west coast work and he's got his cred, etc...i just wonder how stretched out he is.

it's ultimately his call on whether he thinks a player is destined to move, but he seemed pretty adamant about it in the quote.

CarrieMuskat: Jeff Samardzija threw six shutout innings, struckout seven in Mexicali win Friday. He's expected to make at least one more start

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