Carlos Zambrano got the opportunity to redeem his baseball soul thanks to the grace of Touchdown Jesus and the Cubs bullpen works this time in a 4-3 win at Cincinnati.
The Good: Z pitches quite well going 7 innings and giving up 3 runs and a home run against 9 K's, including striking out the side in his last inning. The Cubs offense doesn't strand a runner. After Ryan Theriot breaks up the perfect game to lead off the 4th, he takes second on a wild pitch that bounced in front of catcher Ryan Hanigan. Hanigan throws it away and it bounces into center field and Theriot was going to try third base (and it looked like he would have probably been nailed to me), but ran into shortstop Orlando Cabrera. No interference obstruction was called though despite the protests of Lou and Theriot. That made the count 2-0 on Fukudome and he showed bunt on the next pitch but took it for a strike. Not sure if he was just trying to dupe Harang or was seriously considering a bunt, but he then takes the ensuing curveball deep to right for the first 2 Cubs runs. He almost hit a second one out in his next at-bat. Soriano hit a hanging slider out for run number 3 and Jeff Baker with the clutch pinch-hit home run off Arthur Rhodes. Marmol's slider was biting and the Reds were flailing away for the save.
The Bad: The Cubs didn't leave anyone on-base cause they just managed one walk and 5 hits, 3 of them home runs and Lee got picked off first base. If they did plus/minus ratings like in hockey, Soriano was probably a 0, because the first run by the Reds was thanks to a linedrive with 2 out that Soriano turned the wrong way and then lept and missed by an inch that should have ended the inning. #8 hitter Ryan Hanigan then singled him home despite first base being open and Harang on-deck. Grabow did get through the 8th, but gave up a single to lefty Joey Votto and a rocket to lefty Jay Bruce that Lee made an outstanding leaping stab to rob a hit. A bit worrisome we have another Mike Remliger situation brewing.
Next Up: Tom Gorzelanny makes his 2010 debut against 2009 draftee Mike Leake making his major league debut.
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.