Geiger & Amaya Lead AZL Cubs to Victory at Talking Stick
Dustin Geiger and Gioskar Amaya drove-in three runs a piece, leading the AZL Cubs to an 8-3 victory over the AZL Diamondbacks in Arizona League action at Whirlwind Field at Salt Rivers Fields at Talking Stick east of Scottsdale his evening.
Geiger knocked-in his three runs on a two out two-run HR over the LF fence in the top of the 3rd, and a two out line drive RBI single in the top of the 7th. Another run scored on a Geiger 6-4-3 double play grounder in the top of the 1st, but of course there is no RBI credited on a GIDP.
Amaya had three hits (two singles and a double) and a walk in tonight's game, driving-in lead-off hitter Oliver Zapata (who reached base three times on a walk and two singles) three different times with three hits in three separate innings, including an opposite-field line-drive RBI double down the RF line in the top of the 1st (it would have been a triple except the ball rolled under the RF fence for a ground rule double), an RBI single to CF in the 5th, and another RBI single (this time to RF) with two outs in the top of the 9th. Amaya also stole a base, and played a solid defense at 2B, helping to turn two inning-ending double plays.
The Cubs eighth run scored on a Gregori Gonzalez solo HR over the LF fence leading off the top of the 3rd.
On the strength of tonight's performances, Oliver Zapata has taken over the Arizona League lead in runs scored and is tied for 2nd in walks, Gioskar Amaya has cracked the Top 10 in hitting, and Dustin Geiger is now 2nd in the league in RBI, tied for 2nd in HR and hits, 4th in SLG %, and tied for 6th in doubles and runs scored.
While the AZL Cubs offense had a good night, the pitchers (with one exception) also did very well.
21-year old Cuban defector LHP Frank Del Valle was masterful, allowing just one-hit (a harmless single) and a walk over his three innings (42 pitches - 26 strikes). He struck out only two, but that's a bit misleading because he got a lot of swings & misses early in the count (and broken bats when D'backs hitters did make contact) with his plus-fastball and filthy slider.
Like many Cuban players who have defected, Del Valle is polished and has obviously been well-coached. He is an excellent fielder, and he also has a really neat pick-off move (he picked two runners off 1st base tonight, but one of them got a reprieve when Del Valle was called for a balk). He was a member of the Cuban Junior National Team as a teenager, so he must have been given a lot of time and attention from the Cuban coaches over the years, and it shows. I doubt that Del Valle will remain in Mesa very long, and so it will be up to him to prove that he is more than just spit & polish once he hits the higher levels (Peoria or Daytona or wherever).
Del Valle is only 5'11, but his upper body is well-built. He looks like he has spent some serious time in the weight room. Fellow LHP Jeffry Antigua is probably the best comp for a current Cub minor league pitcher most like Del Valle, but at least physically Del Valle reminds me a lot of ex-Cub LHRP Felix Heredia.
18-year old RHP James Pugliese (Cubs 2011 18th round draft pick out of Mercer CC in New Jersey) made his third pro appearance, "piggybacking" with Del Valle and throwing three more shutout innings (40 pitches - 26 strikes). He did allow three singles and a walk, but he also struck out two and induced one inning-ending double play, and none of the runners got past second base. After tonight's outing, Pugliese is tied for the AZL league lead in ERA and is third in WHIP. As I have mentioned before, Pugliese throws with a max-effort over-the-top overhand delivery much like that of Arizona Diamondbacks rookie RHP Josh Collmenter.
2nd year RHRP Ryan Hartman (who is repeating the AZL) was wild (28 pitches - only 12 strikes) and was able to retire only two hitters (albeit both via the strikeout) in the bottom of the 7th before allowing three runs on two hits, two walks, and a HBP.
But Cubs 2011 32nd round draft pick RHP Pete Levitt (Mt. Olive College) relieved Hartman and did throw strikes (33 pitches - 25 strikes), working the final 2.1 IP to pick-up his first professional save. At 6'5 250+ Levitt looks more like an offensive tackle than a pitcher, but he works fast, throws strikes, and gets outs when he needs to get them. But he is really a load. When I say he's 6'5 250+ it's probably more like 6'5 270. He reminds me of Bobby Jenks.
But where are the rest of the Cubs draft picks? Time is a wastin'...
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
It is remarkable how my mood has become uplifted with one game against the Cards.
That is sick.
But, I have been an addict for a long time.
A W tomorrow and it will be a .500 road trip.
Also, to keep the losses in perspective, if the Cubs were to lose 10 games a month - a lot at this current pace - they still end up 102-60. Six months of the ride!