Round and Round Goes Rizzo
Coming into tonight's action Anthony Rizzo trailed Omaha's Will Myers (Double A and Triple A combined) by eight for the top spot in all of minor league baseball in total bases. So he homered twice and doubled to briefly wrest the lead away before Myers homered off of Jeff Beliveau to break a 7-7 tie in the top of the 9th and give the Storm Chasers a hard fought win in a series opener at Principal Park.
The I-Cubs climbed out of two four-run holes dug for them by punching bag Jay Jackson who faced 24 batters and threw 88 pitches in his three+ innings of hard labor.
By the way, all of Rizzo's demolition was inflicted upon left-handed pitching. The discrepancy that marked his splits early in the year has narrowed considerably. He's now hitting well above .300 against southpaws too.
Geo Soto caught half of the game to ease into his rehab stint. He went hitless but was nicked by a pitch in one at-bat and also reached on an error ahead of Rizzo's 22nd homer in the 5th. Rizzo has homered four times in two days. His double came on a 3-0 pitch. In between roundtrippers he struck out swinging on an off-speed pitch in the 3rd. His second homer came on that same pitch after he took a fastball inside.
Ty'Relle Harris tossed three+ frames of hitless relief while Iowa fought back to tie the score.
Josh Vitters had two hits and started an inning-ending 5-4-3 with a diving stop that was the most sparkling defensive play I've seen him make. Having said that, I'll eat my notepad if he ever amounts to anything at the big league level. He just ain't got the look.
Brett Jackson played left to Dave Sappelt's center tonight and was allowed to stay in the two hole despite the lefty starter. He managed a bunt single in five trips and fanned twice more.
Poor (Jay) Jackson. Inasmuch as the game was versus an AL affiliate he didn't even get to bat, something he probably enjoys more than pitching these days and is probably better at.
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.
For some reason