Cub Pitchers and Hitters Shine under Overcast Arizona Skies
Hak-Ju Lee ripped a double and a triple, drove-in three runs, and scored another, Gioskar Amaya had three hits (two singles and a triple), two RBI, and two runs scored, and five pitchers combined to throw a four-hit shutout with 14 strikeouts, as the Cubs blanked the A’s Split Squad #1 7-0 in AZ Instructional League action at Fitch Park Field #3 in Mesa this afternoon.
The game was halted with two outs in the top of the 9th after a severe thunderstorm came roaring into Mesa, causing BP screens and tarps to fly across Fitch Park amidst high winds, heavy rain, and lightning & thunder, as the Cubs ran for their clubhouse, the umpires hot-footed it for their dressing room, the A’s loaded up their gear (and themselves) into their two maxi-vans, and the scouts in attendance made a beeline for their cars parked in the lot across the street.
Josh Vitters got his first career start at 1st base today, a position he will supposedly be playing (at least occasionally) in the AFL (which begins play next week). He handled two chances flawlessly at the 1st sack, and also had three Plate Appearances during the course of the game, grounding out to second, rapping a single to RF, and lofting a pop out to 2B.
The Cubs got some really good pitching today, with 19-year old RHP Robinson Lopez (one of the pitchers acquired by the Cubs from Atlanta in the Derrek Lee deal) getting the start and throwing a shutout inning in what was his AZ Instructional League debut. Lopez mixed a 94 MPH fastball with a change-up and a hard-breaking slider to work through his one inning with a minimum of difficulty. He will probably be a rotation starter at Daytona next season.
22-year old RHP (and ex-3B) Charles Thomas (Cubs 2009 10th round draft pick) wowed the scouts in attendance, displaying a 98 MPH heater, a mid-80’s splitter, and a 82 MPH slider, and throwing all of his pitches with minimum effort. Thomas was a combination 3B/RHRP at Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, FL (the alma mater of legendary Negro League player & manager and Cub coach & scout Buck O’Neil), but the Cubs drafted him as a third-baseman and played him there exclusively through most of his first two seasons in pro ball. But then he was moved to the mound this past July, and he had been working on his mechanics in side-sessions only for the past ten days after making his initial Instructs appearance in the first game on 9/23. At 6’4 230+ Thomas is an intimidating presence on the mound (he looks a bit like Lee Smith, or maybe Ray Lewis would be a better comparison), and he might be someone who could move very quickly up through the pipeline, as long as he can command his filthy stuff. At least he has a pitching background, so he won't have to spend as much time as some other conversion project would learning the basics of pitching.
RHP Aaron Kurcz continued to throw “lights out” in the AZ Instructional League, using a 95 MPH fastball and hard slider to strike out the first five men he faced (just blowing them away), before allowing a wind-aided double off the LF fence on what turned out to be the last pitch of the game (before the sky opened up and sent everybody running for cover). The 20-year old Kurcz was the Cubs 10th round draft pick out of the College of Southern Nevada (where his teammate was 2010 #1 overall draft pick Bryce Harper) this past June, and he has been absolutely mesmerizing no matter where the Cubs have sent him. He struck out 45 and allowed just 15 hits in 27.1 IP (with a 0.95 WHIP) combined between the AZL Cubs and Boise during the regular season, and he has allowed no runs on two hits with one walk and 12 strikeouts in just 7.2 IP over three outings so far at Instructs. I was told by a scout that Kurcz was overlooked because of his slight build (6'1 170), and while he might not have the physical intimidation factor of a Charles Thomas, his arm really packs a wallop.
Cubs Player Development Director and V. P. of Player Personnel Oneri Fleita arrived in Arizona this morning, and watched the game from the Observation Tower.
Here is today’s abridged box score (Cubs players only):
1. Hak-Ju Lee, SS: 2-4 (L-7, 3B, 2B, 5-3, 3 RBI, R)
2. Gioskar Amaya, 2B: 3-4 (K, 1B, 1B, 3B, 2 RBI, 2 R)
3a. Engel Santana, C: 1-2 (1-3, 1B)
3b. Sergio Burruel, C: 0-2 (L-8, 4-3, RBI)
4a. Josh Vitters, 1B: 1-3 (4-1, 1B, P-4)
4b. Ryan Cuneo, 1B: 0-1 (F-8)
5. Xavier Batista, RF: 1-3 (K, K, 2B)
6. Dustin Geiger, 3B-DH: 0-2 (K, F-8 SF, P-3, RBI)
7. Max Kwan, DH #1: 1-3 (2B, K, F-8, R)
8. Willson Contreras, DH-3B: 1-3 (1B, K, K, R)
9. Chris Huseby, LF: 2-3 (K, 1B, 1B, R)
10. Oliver Zapata, CF: 1-3 (K, 1B, 4-3, R)
1. Robinson Lopez: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K, 19 pitches (11 strikes)
2. Cam Greathouse: 2.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 K, 1 HBP, 1 BALK, 1 GIDP, 51 pitches (33 strikes), 3/0 GO/FO
3. Dustin Fitzgerald: 2.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 K, 30 pitches (20 strikes), 1/5 GO/FO
4. Charles Thomas: 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K, 12 pitches (7 strikes), 0/2 GO/FO
5. Aaron Kurcz: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K, 23 pitches (17 strikes)
1. 3B Dustin Geiger E-5 (fielding error allowed batter to reach base)
2. 3B Dustin Geiger E-5 (fielding error allowed batter to reach base)
Engel Santana: 1 PB
ATTENDANCE: 15 (mostly scouts)
WEATHER: Overcast & VERY breezy, with temperatures in the 80’s
I don't think his issue(s) will have anything to do with it. He hasn't hit since he's been back. Coghlan has the hot hand.
I'm not a denier but definitely a skeptic on Strop and Grimm, who struggle with fastball control. Strop doesn't go near the ninth inning, and note how Grimm couldn't close the deal even with a 5-run lead. So Felix Pena comes in and gets the 3-pitch game-ending strikeout like it was nothing.
And how about Almora missing that very catchable ball? That was unexpected after all the hype about his glove.
When Trea Turner misses balls like that--which he does--I draw conclusions from it. It seems to be the one chink in his armor. But I'll give Almora another chance.
Assuming Soler is good to go, I think it comes down to 3 of the following 4: Coghlan, TLS, Sczcur, Almora. Of the 4, TLS seems to be the hardest to justify, particularly given his behavioral issues.
I'm wondering if both Coghlan and LaStella make it. With Javy being able to play all the infield spots and Joe maybe wanting late-inning D when Soler plays (assuming he plays), hence either Szczur or Almora, I think LaStella might be the odd guy out.
Hendricks needs the win, anyway, plus a couple more.
My hunch is that Hendricks wins the Cy Young . . . for Lester. That is, without Hendricks tipping the scale toward the Cubs, Scherzer tops Lester.
Old Cub fans remember when Ken Hubbs died at 22 in the crash of a small plane he was piloting in a storm in Utah in 1964. But Hubbs was not an elite power pitcher like Score and Fernandez. Score lived a long time after the accident but it was (effectively) career-ending.
HAGSAG: Since I've only seen them throw in one game and in one "live" BP session, all I can do is provide initial first impressions.
Brailyn Marquez is listed at 6'4 but is probably more like 6'5 or 6'6. I would describe him as a younger version of Bryan Hudson, throwing a ton of ground balls but not getting a lot of swings & misses (yet). Because of his size he could eventually grow into more velocity, but right now he's mostly a pitch-to-contact guy. He generally throws strikes.
Phil, do Marquez and Ocampo look like prospects?
It helps when your defense has declared war against the H in WHIP.
Lackey finishes with a 3.35 ERA. Currently good for 13th in the NL. Not bad for a guy signed to be a #3 starter in a 15-team league.
He is also 6th in WHIP. Pretty amazing: Cubs have the #2, #3, #5 and #6 starters in WHIP.
Completely meaningless game, but Pena striking out Sean the Turd to with the bases loaded was very fun.
Other than one bad game in SD, Pena has been very good. Even with that game, 9.0 IP, 13 K, 0.89 WHIP.
101 wins...most since 1910 (104).
neat. ...or sad. pick one. pick both. 'murica.
Just looked up Grimm's stats -- after a great run, he gave up 2 runs vs. MIL then didn't pitch for 10 days. Don't remember why?
Sean Rodriguez's helmet looks like it's taking a dump
Grimm not doing himself any favors lately re: making the playoff squad. Seems to have lost the feel for his curveball.
j.grimm is literally worse than hitler.
felix pena, your turn.