Angels Blank Cubs at HoHoKam
With Cubs Player Personnel Director Oneri Fleita in attendance, RHP Jadel Mendez worked-out of a no outs/bases loaded jam in the top of the 8th to preserve a scoreless tie, but was not as fortunate in the top of the 9th as the AZL Angels scored four times en route to a 4-0 whitewashing of the AZL Cubs in Arizona League action at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa this evening.
Cubs bats were mostly silent tonight, with the notable exception of 1B Ryan Cuneo (2010 20th round draft pick out of the University of Delaware) who doubled off the RF fence in the bottom of the 2nd and roped a triple into the RF corner in the 9th. The sweet swingin' Cuneo is now hitting a cool 323/382/613 in eight AZL games, and I would think he will likely get moved up to Boise in the very near future, as should SS Elliot Soto (15th round pick out of Creighton) who continued his fine defensive play at shortstop, while also collecting a hit and a stolen base.
Catcher Micah Gibbs (Cubs 2010 3rd round pick out of LSU) made his pro debut in tonight's game, going 0-4 with a throwing error. One of his outs was a feeble ground ball to SS with one out and a runner at 3rd, and the throwing error occurred when Gibbs blocked a ball in the dirt on a swinging strike three, only to throw the ball high & wide to 1st base, allowing the batter to reach base on the strikeout. Along with Cuneo and Soto, both Micah Gibbs and fellow-catcher Chad Noble (37th round pick out of Northwestern) will likely be going up to Boise, too. Noble hit a 9th inning game-tying two-run HR last night in Phoenix, only to see AZL A's LF Yeudy Brazoban stroke a two-out two-run walk-off HR in the bottom of the 9th to give the A's the victory.
21-year old Dominican RHP Hector Mayora started tonight's game for the AZL Cubs and threw four innings of two-hit shutout ball with four strikeouts, and RHP Matt Loosen (2010 23rd round pick out of Jacksonville U.) threw two perfect innings of relief with three strikeouts.
AA Tennessee RHP Marcos Mateo (knee surgery rehab) threw one-inning in tonight's game, retiring the side 1-2-3 on 15 pitches (nine strikes). He (understandably) looked a bit rusty after missing the last seven weeks, but he also had plus-velocity, retiring the first two batters he faced on weak groundouts before upping his gas into the mid-90's to get the third batter on a called third strike. Barring a medical setback, Mateo probably won't be down here too much longer.
With tonight's loss, the AZL Cubs dropped to 2-6 and fell into last place in the AZL East, having lost three consecutive games in the 9th inning.
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.