Wells and Welington Just What Doc Ordered
Welington Castillo continued his torrid Cactus League hitting, lining a walk-off single in the bottom of the 10th inning to score Bobby Scales from 2nd base with the winning run, as the Cubs edged the San Francisco Giants 3-2 in front of an all-time record crowd of 13,465 under overcast skies at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa, AZ, this afternoon.
Randy Wells got the start for the Cubs today, and he was masterful, allowing singles to the first two men he faced in the game before retiring 18 in a row (including seven on strikeouts). Wells was efficient, needing just 69 pitches (49 strikes) to get through his six-inning stint, including four consecutive nine-pitch innings. He looked like he easily could have pitched another inning or two.
The only blemish on the Wells performance was in the 1st inning, when Emmanuel Burriss singled sharply to left on the first pitch of the game, stole 2nd, and then scored on ex-Cub Mike Fontenot's line-drive RBI single to CF.
After that, Wells was untouchable.
The Cubs took the lead in the bottom of the 4th against Giants starter Shane Loux and reliever Casey Daigle (who was no relief), as Marlon Byrd grounded a one-out single to center (his second hit of the game), and, after Loux was relieved by Daigle, scored on a two-out RBI double into the RF corner by Scott Moore. Bobby Scales followed, ripping a two-out RBI single to RF to score Moore from 2nd base and give the Cubs a 2-1 lead.
John Grabow made his second appearance in four days, relieving Wells and working a scoreless top of the 7th (16 pitches -11 strikes), allowing just a lead-off single before retiring the last three men easily.
But Sean Marshall ran into trouble in the top of the 8th.
Travis Ishikawa singled to lead-off the inning, and Eli Whiteside roped a double into the LF corner, sending Ishikawa to 3rd. Marshall then threw a WP (a high outside fastball that ticked off catcher Welington Castillo's glove on what just as easily could have been scored a Passed Ball), allowing Ishikawa to score the tying run, and moving Whiteside up to 3rd base with no outs. But Marshall went to work, getting two outs on pop ups and the final out on a strikeout, leaving Whiteside stranded at 3rd.
Carlos Marmol threw a nine-pitch 1-2-3 top of the 9th and Marcos Mateo threw a shutout 10th (18 pitches - 12 strikes), allowing a walk while striking out two. Mateo actually got four outs in the inning and had to work out of more trouble than should have been necessary, thanks to a lead-off E-6 bobble by SS Starlin Castro. Mateo walked the second batter he faced, putting runners at 1st and 2nd with no outs, but then Welington Castillo made an outstanding play on a sacrifice attempt, fielding the bunt on one hop and firing a laser to cut-down the runner trying to advance from 2nd base to 3rd. Mateo then loaded up the tank and gassed the last two hitters on six pitches. Mateo has a "live" arm and has been very impressive (so far), and he probably has a reasonably decent shot at making the Cubs Opening Day 25-man roster if Andrew Cashner begins the season as the Cubs #5 starter (Mateo would take Cashner's slot in the bullpen).
Meanwhile, the Cub offense was mostly quiet throughout the late innings. Scott Moore did work a two-out walk in the bottom of the 9th, but PR Jae-Hoon Ha (up from Minor League Camp) got a bit adventurous with his lead and was immediately picked-off.
Facing Giants RHP Josh Banks, Bobby Scales led-off the bottom of the 10th by singling on a 3-2 pitch, his second hit of the day. Josh Vitters faked a bunt and swung away, lining out sharply to LF, but then Scales (representing the potential winning run) showed he still has some speed left in his 33-year old legs and stole 2nd base (easily). Max Ramirez drew a walk, and then Castillo came through with his game-winning hit, an absolute rocket liner to right-center that bounded past the Giants CF.
With his 1-2 day today, W. Castillo's Cactus League AVG, OBP, and SLG slash-line dropped to 706/789/941.
And Bobby Scales has played as well as anyone in camp, hitting everything in sight and making all the routine plays at 2B. He also has the ability to hit cold off the bench from both sides of the plate, something that could be useful for a National League team.
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, and his fastbball 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.
For some reason