Hoff-POWER! Completes Rehab, Is Iowa Bound

Micah Hoffpauir completed his injury rehab today, driving in the EXST Cubs first run in a 9-7 victory over the EXST Angels at Fitch Park Field #3 this morning in Mesa, before heading back to Des Moines to rejoin the Iowa Cubs. . 

The 28-year old Hoffpauir, who has been on the I-Cubs DL since suffering a strained oblique just prior to Opening Day, was one of the Cubs top hitters in Spring Training, leading the team in several offensive categories and impressing Cubs manager Lou Piniella with both his stick and his glove.   

In other EXST roster news, three pitchers who had been at Fitch Park rehabbing from injuries or physical problems over the past month moved up to full season clubs this past weekend.

RHPs Billy Petrick (shoulder stiffness) and Grant Johnson (sprained elbow ligament) have been assigned to Daytona, and RHP Jim Henderson (sore back) has been assigned to AA Tennessee. Petrick is still on the Iowa DL, so he will likely eventually end up at Iowa.

In addition, 2007 24th round draft pick RHP Scott Meyer (Lamar) has been released. Meyer is the 6th player drafted and signed by the Cubs last June to get cut. Given his D-1 college experience, Meyer should be able to hook-up with an independent league team if he wishes to continue his baseball career, as many ex-Cubs minor leaguers have done previous. 

The Cubs will also be converting still another position player to pitcher at Fitch Park, as 22-year old switch-hitting Dominican OF Andres Quezada will be trading his bat for a change-up and breaking ball.

Quezada was always a little short on hitting, but he was a very good defensive outfielder with a plus-arm. We'll have to see how he makes the transition to throwing off a mound. (I suspect the Cubs probably told him: "You have two choices, Q... you can become a pitcher, or you can go home").

Also, 17-year old Korean bonus baby SS Hak-Ju Lee (who has been compared by one Cubs scout to a young Derek Jeter) will be reporting to the MLB Australian Baseball Academy next month, along with LHP Cody Hams (who will be leaving Fitch Park on May 21st) and recently-signed RHP Adam Spencer (who is still in high school in Australia).

It is not yet clear if Lee will be attending the AZ Instructional League in September (as fellow Korean Dae-Eun Rhee did last year), or if he will make his U. S. debut next March at Minor Leagie Camp at Fitch Park. But he will definitely NOT be playing for the AZL Cubs at Fitch Park this Summer

In injury news, 2007 #1 draft pick Josh Vitters (who just returned to Fitch Park from Peoria) and EXST Cubs 4th-string catcher Jose Guevara are sidelined with hand injuries, while 2B Jeffrey Rea (quad) and LF Brandon Guyer (fractured elbow) are improving albeit still restricted to BP only at this time.   

As for today's game, once again Micah Hoffpauir played a "compressed" game, playing 1st base in the field and batting 3rd in each of the first three innings, before saying  "adios" and heading for the Fitch Park clubhouse.

In Hoffpauir's first AB, the strapping Texan flew out to the warning track in RF, followed by a 6-3 ground out in the bottom of the 2nd, and then a ground RBI single back up through the middle in his 3rd AB in the 3rd inning. 

SS Junior Lake had a big day at the plate, going 4-5 with three RBI (Lake is one of the Cubs top position player prospects at EXST), and RHP Julio Pena (who started the game for the EXST Cubs) threw three shutout innings and was VERY sharp, striking out four without allowing a walk.

Here is today's abridged box score (Cubs players only). And remember, Micah Hoffpauir batted third in each of the first three innings, and then left the game...

LINEUP:
1. Kevin Soto, LF: 1-4 (3B, R, BB, CS) 
2. Drew Rundle, CF: 2-4 (3B, RBI, 2 R, HBP)  
3a. Micah Hoffpauir, 1B: 0-1 (F-9) 
3b. NONE - SKIPPED
4. Nelson Perez, RF: 1-5 (2 R, 2 K)  
5a. Luis Bautista, C: 2-3 (K)
5b. Alvaro Sosa, C: 1-2 (K) 
6a. NONE - SKIPPED
6b. Bryan Jost, 1B: 0-3 (R, BB, K) 
7. Junior Lake, SS: 4-5 (2B, 3 RBI)
8a. Micah Hoffpauir, DH #1: 0-1 (6-3 GO)
8b. NONE - SKIPPED
9, John Contreras, 3B: 2-5 (2 R) 
10. Dwayne Kemp, 2B: 1-4 (3B, R) 
11a. Micah Hoffpauir, DH #2: 1-1 (RBI SINGLE) 
11b. NONE - SKIPPED
12.Carlos Perez, DH #3: 0-4 (RBI, GIDP) 

PITCHERS:
1. Julio Pena - 3.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 GIDP (3/2 GO/FO)
2. Dionis Nunez - 3.0 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 0 BB, 1 K (1/7 GO/FO)
3. John Muller - 2.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 0 K (2/4 GO/FO)
4. Kevin Kreier - 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K

ERROR (1): Kemp (bobble)

CATCHERS DEFENSE: Sosa 1-1 CS

WEATHER: High in low 80's and breezy

ATTENDANCE: 8

KILLER BEE UPDATE: The African (killer) bee hive in the tree adjacent to Field #3 has been removed by an exterminator, but there were a few stragglers who apparently didn't get the memo who were buzzing the general area in search of (what used to be) their home. Very sad. A stinger is a terrible thing to waste.

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Comments

As always, thanks Phil!!
So, is Hak-Ju Lee signed as a Cubs prospect, or was he just here for the Cubs to have a look at him and decide whether to sign him? Being compared to a young Jeter is a good comparison, and I would think that Cubs scout would have pushed for the team to sign him. I don't know how these academies work overseas, so the fact that he is being sent to the MLB Australian Academy just makes him sort of drop off the radar for me. How did Lee do while he was there in AZ?

Submitted by Jace on Tue, 05/06/2008 - 4:18pm.

As always, thanks Phil!!

So, is Hak-Ju Lee signed as a Cubs prospect, or was he just here for the Cubs to have a look at him and decide whether to sign him?

Being compared to a young Jeter is a good comparison, and I would think that Cubs scout would have pushed for the team to sign him.

I don't know how these academies work overseas, so the fact that he is being sent to the MLB Australian Academy just makes him sort of drop off the radar for me.

How did Lee do while he was there in AZ?

=================================

JACE: The Cubs signed Hak-Ju Lee to a big bonus contract, and he will initially be attending the MLB Australian Baseball Academy along with two Australian pitchers the Cubs signed this year (LHP Cody Hams and RHP Adam Spencer).

So Lee will not be coming to the U. S. until sometime later, probably next March, although I guess it's possible he might attend the AZ Instructional League camp at Fitch Park in September-October, as Korean RHP Dae-Eun Rhee (presently on the DL at Peoria with biceps tendinitis) did last year.

Thanks, again.
So, we clearly need your cousin, Aussie Phil, to kick the 24-Fosters-a-day habit and start hanging out at the MLB Autralian Baseball Academy. Maybe we can get him to live-blog Lee's at-bats... They would probably happen at like 3 AM every night... There will surely be a strong demographic for that kind of thing...

3am? im an independent tech contractor...3am, 3pm, tuesday, sunday, end of the world...all the same thing.

heh...

JACE: BTW, I don't know if you're familar with The Cody Hams Story, but he was an outstanding youth cricket player (bowler) in Southern Australia, and he had never seen or played a baseball game in his life until last year. The third baseball game he ever saw in his life, he was on the mound, pitching.

He paid his own way to the MLB Australian Baseball Academy, where the Cubs saw him and immediately signed him for a reported $150K (U. S.).

He's a lanky 6'5, and has a similar pitching style as Rich Hill, except with better control.

He's an absolute blank slate, so the Cubs pitching coaches at EXST haven't had to worry about trying to get him to break bad habits (because he doesn't HAVE any habits to break!).

Although he's trying to learn how to bunt, he has yet to take batting practice, so "hitting" (I believe it's called) will be another new experience for him.

Phil, thanks as always for the reports. Always interesting.

Q's:

1. What can you tell me about Junior Lake. I know he had pretty decent DSL stats last year, is over 6 feet, has a strong arm, and made a lot of errors. Does he look like he has the making of a hitter? And does he look like a guy who might stay at SS? Or is he likely to outgrow that and end up elsewhere?

2. Starling Castro like Lake was also only 17 last year, but it was Castro who made the DSL all-star team. Does he look interesting, or not much of a prospect at this time?

3. DSL and XST obviously differ by a ton. Some of the pitchers with decent control there have been very wild. Other than Antigua and Gonzalez, the big-name guys, have any of the other Latin pitchers caught your eye? Pena had a good game today; does he have a pretty good arm? They kept using him in DSL, and he had low walks but few K's. Good arm in search of a breaking ball? Carmona, a big dude, obviously pretty raw. But does he throw hard enough to be worth refining? Severino, short guy, but had exceptional DSL control. Outside of Antigua and Gonzalez, any who look to have the ure arm strength to be serious prospects, if down the road they develop some control?

Phil,

Any updates about Dwayne Kemp?

I’m very interested in his development at EXST. In the Netherlands he was a top prospect that only has his height against him and in fact I believe that this was the main reason he wasn’t signed earlier.

So, How is he doing and what is your expert opinion about this kid?

Has anyone else noticed that the photograph on the new Cubs site on MVN "The View From The Bleachers" is actually a view OF the bleachers, not FROM the bleachers?

Just an observation.

"Has anyone else noticed that the photograph on the new Cubs site on MVN "The View From The Bleachers" is actually a view OF the bleachers, not FROM the bleachers?"
==================
Many, many others have commented about that on their site, fwiw.

Actually, if you're a drunk bleacher bum, that might be what you see...

Submitted by craig on Tue, 05/06/2008 - 9:44pm.

Phil, thanks as always for the reports. Always interesting. Q's:

1. What can you tell me about Junior Lake. I know he had pretty decent DSL stats last year, is over 6 feet, has a strong arm, and made a lot of errors. Does he look like he has the making of a hitter? And does he look like a guy who might stay at SS? Or is he likely to outgrow that and end up elsewhere?

2. Starling Castro like Lake was also only 17 last year, but it was Castro who made the DSL all-star team. Does he look interesting, or not much of a prospect at this time?

3. DSL and XST obviously differ by a ton. Some of the pitchers with decent control there have been very wild. Other than Antigua and Gonzalez, the big-name guys, have any of the other Latin pitchers caught your eye? Pena had a good game today; does he have a pretty good arm? They kept using him in DSL, and he had low walks but few K's. Good arm in search of a breaking ball? Carmona, a big dude, obviously pretty raw. But does he throw hard enough to be worth refining? Severino, short guy, but had exceptional DSL control. Outside of Antigua and Gonzalez, any who look to have the ure arm strength to be serious prospects, if down the road they develop some control

================================

CRAIG:

1. Junior Lake is tall and lanky, with above-average speed. He has a longish-stride.

Lake has a plus-arm (plenty enough for SS), but he also has an annoying tendency to want to show it off by double-clutching and daring the runner to beat the throw instead of just throwing it. He's kind of cocky.

Lake's ball-handling skills at shortstop need some work (he's still raw), but he has excellent range. He has played some 3B at EXST, and although he looks even better there, he will advance MUCH more quickly if he stays at SS. In fact, I would say Lake is probably the Cubs #1 shortstop prospect right now (although that's only because the Cubs organization has a "Black Hole" at SS). He just needs to mature a bit, and then he could be something special. 

His 2007 DSL numbers might show otherwise, but Lake is probably the most disciplined and patient hitter among the Latin players at EXST. He looks the ball into the catchers glove, and isn't afraid to go deep into the count. He'll take a walk, but he also gets called out on strikes more than the other players do.

As a hitter, he has excellent bat speed and really puts a hammer on the ball. If and when he learns to turn on the ball and elevate his swing a bit, he could develop 20+ HR power. 

If you told me only one position player now at EXST (not including Josh Vitters) will play in the big leagues, I would say it's most-likely either Lake or Carlos Perez, with Lake the one most-likely to make it as an "everyday" MLB player (but that's only if he remains at SS).  

2. Starlin Castro is a very good defensive middle-infielder (good ball-handling skills, with above-average range and a plus-arm). He has good speed and is a decent hitter, although he doesn't have the power potential of Lake. I would compare Castro to Jonathan Mota. (BTW, I like Gian Guzman more than Castro, because Guzman has more potential as a hitter).

3. Jeffry Antigua is the most consistent and polished pitcher among the Latin pitchers making their U. S. debut at Fitch Park. The others tend to be inconsistrent, showing only occasional flashes. There doesn't appear to be a Robert Hernandez or Alberto Cabrera in the group this time.

I would say Julio Pena is probably the best of the rest. Miguel Sierra and Eduardo Figueroa have looked OK, too, but Sierra was struck on the right (pitching) elbow by a line drive a couple of weeks ago and I haven't seen him pitch since. Figueroa's velocity has improved since the start of Minor League Camp and that has made him a better prospect.

Rogelio Carmona throws hard but lacks command, and Yohan Gonzalez has struggled more and more as EXST has progressed. I have not been impressed with Carlos Rojas or Dionis Nunez, and I haven't seen Israel Camacaro (who arrived last week from Venezuela) throw in a game yet.

Jose Severino has a decent arm and is nearly as polished as Antigua, but he got sent back to the Dominican for disciplinary reasons. So I doubt that he'll be back in the U. S. this year. I certainly would have liked to have seen more of him.

Phil, what's your take on James Adduci, who's off to a great start at Daytona? Since he's 23, is it likely they'll push him to AA anytime soon or are there just too many outfielders ahead of him? Thanks.

Submitted by eagle on Wed, 05/07/2008 - 5:25am.

Phil, Any updates about Dwayne Kemp? I’m very interested in his development at EXST.

In the Netherlands he was a top prospect that only has his height against him and in fact I believe that this was the main reason he wasn’t signed earlier.

So, How is he doing and what is your expert opinion about this kid?

===============================

EAGLE: Dwayne Kemp is sort of a right-handed version of Mike Fontenot in that he has surprising power for a short guy. Otherwise, Kemp is a good hitter with excellent bat control, and he is an outstanding bunter.

He is a protypical #1 or #2 hitter. He also has plus-speed, but is overly-aggressive when running the bases, and he runs himself into outs. He tries to do too much, tries too hard to "make things happen."

He is stiff at 2B, which is why the Cubs have been playing him some in LF at EXST. But if Kemp is going to progress through the Cubs system, he will have to remain at 2B, and to do that, he really needs to improve his defensive play. That is a must.

Kemp supposedly will be leaving Arizona at the end of Extended Spring Training and will report to the MLB European Baseball Academy in Italy (does he have a three-month work visa?). If so, that's too bad, because I believe Kemp is ready for the AZL Cubs (or maybe even for Boise) right now. And he's a lot of fun to watch. He's EXTREMELY confident to the point of being cocky, but in a nice way.

 

Submitted by Timmer on Wed, 05/07/2008 - 9:44am.

Phil, what's your take on James Adduci, who's off to a great start at Daytona? Since he's 23, is it likely they'll push him to AA anytime soon or are there just too many outfielders ahead of him? Thanks

=================================

TIMMER  James Adduci is blocked by other outfielders ahead of him at AA and AAA, so unless somebody gets hurt, I would expect him to remain at Daytona for the entire 2008 season and then move up to AA in 2009.

Adduci has a decent arm (certainly good enough to play RF) and slightly above-average speed, and he has shown excellent patience at the plate and a very good bat (so far) at Daytona after struggling there a year ago (and getting demoted to Peoria). So he is trying to master Daytona again after failing to hit there last year.

Adduci was the compensation-replacement player received by the Cubs in September 2006 after LHP Zach McCormack was found to have had a pre-existing injury. (The Cubs had acquired McCormack and RHP Lincoln Holdzkom from the Florida Marlins for Todd Wellemeyer earlier in the 2006 season).

My concern with Adduci isn't his age at Hi-A (he turns 23 next week), but rather with the absence of power in his stroke. That said, Adduci could maybe make it to MLB eventually as a back-up OF-1B-LHPH, but to be anything more than that he probably has to develop some HR power, except he gives no indication of having that kind of potential (only 3 HR in 800+ minor league PA over five separate minor league seasons).

Hi again Phil,

PHIL: Kemp has a full one year visa and will be able to stay for the entire EXST, so he will be able to play for the AZL Cubs (or maybe even for Boise) if the CUBS decides to do so.

Submitted by eagle on Wed, 05/07/2008 - 1:25pm.

Hi again Phil,

Kemp has a full one year visa and will be able to stay for the entire EXST, so he will be able to play for the AZL Cubs (or maybe even for Boise) if the CUBS decides to do so.

 ===============================

EAGLE: I heard different, but I'll take your word for it.

While I'm sure the MLB European Academy is fine, Kemp is 20 years old, he's obviously an advanced player, and he needs to play at Mesa or Boise.

I find it hard to believe that the Cubs would intentionally send him back to Europe if he has the papers that say he can stay.

I hope he stays the full year in the U. S. 

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