It's Cubs Picnic Day at HoHoKam
With most all of the Cubs front office personnel, Scouting Department, and Player Development staff watching from the picnic area high above the third-base dugout, Michael Brenly singled twice and scored once, Starlin Castro singled twice (increasing his AFL-leading batting average to .433) and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, and four Cubs pitchers combined to throw seven innings of one-run ball, as the Mesa Solar Sox dropped the Peoria Javelinas 8-1 in Arizona Fall League action at HoHoKam Park in Mesa this afternoon.
The Cubs brain-trust had a bar-b-que at HoHoKam Park today because this week is the annual Cubs "Organizational Meetings" in Mesa (sort of a "Cubs Convention" for club employees). This is the one time every year when all the scouts and coaches and managers and execs all get together in the same place at the same time, drink a lot, and decide that the lineup is "too right-handed." (If you don't think these get-togethers are dangerous, remember it was probably at the Cubs organizational meeting this time last year that the Cubs decided to not offer Kerry Wood arbitration, to trade Mark DeRosa and Michael Wuertz, and to go hard after Kevin Gregg, Milton Bradley, Aaron Heilman, and Aaron Miles),
RHP Andrew Cashner was supposed to have started last Tuesday in Peoria, but his start was pushed back to today, apparently to allow the Cubs brass to get a first-hand look at their prized phenom. That's also probably the reason six of the seven Cubs players assigned to the Solar Sox saw action in today's game. (Only Josh Vitters had the day off).
Cashner worked four shutout innings again this afternoon, on the heels of his last start a week ago yesterday when he tossed four innings of no-run, no-hit ball at the Scottsdale Scorpions. He scattered five harmless singles and hit a batter today, but he didn't walk anybody, and he struck out four (4/4 GO/FO, 49 pitches - 35 strikes).
LHP James Russell followed Cashner to the mound and had a 1-2-3 5th inning, interrupted only by an E-3 on a two-out grounder, but he then retired the side without further incident (2/1 GO/FO, 16 pitches - 10 strikes). He mixed his fastball & change-up very well today..
Hard-throwin' LHP John Gaub worked the 6th, (16 pitches - 11 strikes) and struck out the only lefty batter he faced (the Dodgers' Andrew Lambo) on three pitches, Otherwise, he pitched a shutout inning (two pop-ups in addition to the strikeout and the single).
RHP Blake Parker drew the 7th, and got into immediate difficulty when Mesa CF P. J. Phillips (Angels) lost a pop fly in the sun, allowing Peoria's Jessie Mier (Dodgers) to reach base on a gift double. Parker would later surrender an RBI single to Lorenzo Cain (Brewers),before getting the third out (he threw 18 pitches - 11 strikes), but he should have escaped the inning with no run scoring. NOTE: Phillips probably should be cut some slack as far as losing the pop fly in the sun, because at other points during the game he hit a solo HR, just missed two others (settling for doubles both times), and made a spectacular diving catch in left-center.
On offense, Starlin Castro was the Solar Sox shortstop and hit 2nd, and Michael Brenly (with dad Bob in attendance, sitting just a few feet away from me) got the start at catcher and hit 9th.
Castro grounded a single between the shortstop and third-baseman with a runner on 1st base and no outs in his first AB in the bottom of the 1st inning, but was erased on a DP.
Michael Brenly singled sharply through the box into CF with a runner at 1st base and one out in the bottom of the 2nd, and advanced to 3rd on a throwing error by Peoria CF Lorenzo Cain, before scoring on a one-out F-8 SF hit to medium-deep CF by Castro.
Brenly would later single again, as would Castro,.with Brenly's second hit a line-drive ripped to CF, and Castro's an infield grounder backhanded by Javelina SS Carlos Triunfel (Mariners) deep in the hole with no play at 1st.
Brenly also flied out to deep CF in the 4th (deep enough to allow the runner at 2nd base to advance to 3rd), and grounded out to the third-baseman in the 8th (Peoria 3B Brent Morel making a nice back-handed stop, throwing out Brenly out on a "bang-bang" play at 1st), while Castro popped-out to CF in the 4th and struck out swinging in the 8th.
Castro, Vitters, Parker, and Cashner were named to the AFL "Rising Stars Game" roster earlier this week (the game will be televised "live" on the MLB network Saturday night), but I believe Cashner will be unavailable to pitch in the game since he threw four innings today. If he had pitched last Tuesday in Peoria instead of today in Mesa, he could have thrown in the Rising Stars game on Saturday.
Jake Arrieta gives up first inning run
For the first time in a year, 33 starts.
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!!!!!!