Cubs Newcomers Make Good First Impression at Riverview

Michael Cruz and Robel Garcia belted back-to-back home runs on consecutive pitches, Brandon Vicens drilled a bases-loaded bases-clearing double, and Derek Casey fired three innings of no run/no hit ball with five strikeouts, in Cubs Minor League Camp intrasquad game action Friday afternoon on John Arguello Way at the Riverview Baseball Complex in Mesa, AZ. 

The 23 year old Vicens was signed recently by the Cubs as a non-drafted free-agent (NDFA) out of the University of Maine, where he played both baseball (CF) and football (FB) for the Black Bears. He grew up in Hialeah, FL, and played HS ball against Cubs CF Albert Almora Jr. He attended Miami-Dade CC prior to transferring to Maine in 2016. The son of a Puerto Rican father and a Cuban-American mother, Vicens was selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 35th round of the 2014 draft out of HS but decided to attend college instead. Now that he can concentrate on baseball full-time, he might be able to unlock some of the potential he displayed as a HS All-American CF at American Heritage School in Plantation. (His HS won three state championships while he was there, one in football and two in baseball).  
Robel Garcia (not to be confused with Cubs minor league 2B Reivaj Garcia) was signed by the Cubs last October after he starred for Team Italy in the AZ Instructional League. (The Italian team spent parts of September & October with the Oakland A's squad at Fitch Park). Soon to be 26, the switch-hitting Dominican had previously played five seasons of affiliated ball in the Cleveland Indians organization, before being released in 2014.    

Casey was the Cubs 2018 9th round draft pick out of UVA, and the 6-2 190 23-year old righthander was really sharp today, mowing down hitter-after-hitter over the course of his three innings of work as he effectively mixed a FB, CV, SL, and CH to keep hitters off-balance. Cubs 2018 2nd round compensation pick Paul Richan also threw in the game, but Casey really stood out.      

Here is the box score frrom the game: 

1a. Edmond Americaan, CF: 0-2 (K, K) 
1b. Brennen Davis, CF: 0-1 (BB, 6-3, R) 
2a. Levi Jordan, 2B-DH: 0-2 (F-7, F-8) 
2b. Brandon Vicens, PH-RF: 1-2 (2B, F-9, R, 3 RBI)
3a. D. J. Artis, LF: 0-2 (K, 4-3)
3b. Eric Gonzalez, C: 0-1 (6-3) 
3c. Rafelin Lorenzo, C: 1-1 (1B) 
4a. Tyler Alamo, 1B: 1-2 (1B, F-7, R)
4b. Yeiler Peguero, SS: 1-1 (1B, SB)
4c. Gustavo Polanco, 1B: 0-1 (K) 
5a. Christopher Morel, SS: 0-1 (P-3)
5b. Jose Gutierrez, PH-LF: 0-2 (6-3, 3-U) 
6a. Jimmy Herron, DH: 0-1 (F-9)
6b. Luis Diaz, PH-2B: 0-2 (K, 1-3)
7a. Michael Cruz, C: 1-1 (HR, R, 2 RBI)
7b. Fidel Mejia, 1B: 2-2 (1B, 2B, R) 
7c. Cam Balego, 3B: NO AB 
8a. Robel Garcia, 3B: 1-1 (HR, R, RBI)
8b. Orian Nunez, PH: 0-1 (K)
8c. Clayton Daniel, 3B-SS: 0-1 (K)
9a. Luis Ayala, RF: 0-1 (L-6)
9b. Kwangmin Kwon, RF-DH: 1-2 (1B, K, R) 

1a. Fernando Kelli, CF: 0-2 (6-3, F-8) 
1b. Caleb Knight, C: 1-1 (1B) 
1c. Benny Kaleiwahea, C: 0-1 (K) 
2a. Cole Roederer, LF: 1-2 (1B, 4-6 FC, SB) 
2b. Jamie Galazin, CF: 0-1 (BB, F-8) 
3a. Austin Filiere, 3B: 0-1 (K) 
3b. Zach Davis, LF: 0-2 (4-3, 1-2 FC) 
3c. Kevin Moreno, LF: 0-1 (K) 
4a. Luke Reynolds, 1B: 0-1 (K),  
4b. Delvin Zinn, 2B: 1-2 (1B, K) 
4c. Henderson Perez, PH: 0-1 (5-3) 
5a. Jake Slaughter, 2B-DH: 0-1 (K) 
5b. Brandon Hughes, PH-DH: 0-2 (4-6 FC, F-7)
6a. Jonathan Sierra, RF: 1-1 (1B) 
6b. Chris Pieters, RF: 0-1 (BB, K) 
7a. Grant Fennell, DH #1: 0-0 (BB) 
7b. Yonathan Perlaza, 3B: 0-1 (BB, K) 
8a. Erick Castillo, C: 1-1 (1B) 
8b. Josue Huma, SS: 0-2 (F-8, 5-3) 
9a. Luis Vazquez, SS: NO AB
9b. Austin Upshaw, 1B: 1-2 (1B, K) 
10. Chris Carrier, DH #2: 0-2 (K, E-5)  

1. Tyson Miller: 2.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K, 2/1 GO/AO, 43 pitches (27 strikes) 
2. Paul Richan: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 0 K, 2/0 GO/AO, 17 pitches (10 strikes) 
3. Ben Hecht: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 2 K, 1/1 GO/AO, 29 pitches (16 strikes) 
4. Derek Casey: 3.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K, 1 WP, 2/2 GO/AO, 39 pitches (27 strikes) 

1. Tom Hatch: 3.1 IP, 3 H, 3 R (3 ER), 0 BB, 3 K, 2 HR, 2/5 GO/AO, 34 pitches (26 strikes) 
2. Cam Sanders: 1.2 IP, 4 H, 4 R (4 ER), 1 BB, 2 K, 1 WP, 3/0 GO/AO, 39 pitches (22 strikes) 
3. Ryan Williams: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K, 1/0 GO/AO, 16 pitches (11 strikes) 
4. Jake Steffens: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K, 1/1 GO/AO, 11 pitches (9 strikes) 

3B Cam Balego: E-5 (fielding error allowed batter to reach base safely) 


Michael Cruz: 0-1 CS 

Caleb Knight: 0-1 CS 


WEATHER: Partly cloudy & breezy with temperatures in the 60's 


"Just because it isn't oficial doesn't mean it didn't happen"


Thanks AZ Phil. How do you say Vicens?

Cubs get Donnie DeWees back from KC per mlbtr 

This is what I wrote about Stephen Ridings last June at the end of Extended Spring Training: 

"The "wild card" may be 22-year old 6'8 Stephen Ridings. who ramped his FB up to 95-96 in some of his outings at EXST, and with his size and relatively young age he could add some MPH to his FB eventually. Ridings struggled a bit with command and consistency at EXST but was assigned to Eugene anyway, and since he was not stretched-out beyond one inning at EXST, he will likely work as a late-inning reliever going forward (at least in the immediate future) where his velocity would play-up."

What I would also say about the Cubs reacquiring Donnie Dewees is that it's an indication that the Cubs are not especially pleased with their OF group at Iowa and Tennessee. 

One thing I do remember about Donnie Dewees when he was with the Cubs is that he had a "rag" arm that pretty much relegates him to LF despite having the speed, range, and acumen to play CF. 

While I agree it likely isn't a ringing endorsement of (among others) Eddy Martinez, if Ridings wasn't looking like he was going to make the South Bend bullpen (Plausible), getting something for him is better than a pur release. (Gretzky for a trumped up version of Scosscia's kid?)

TIM: I think Ridings is a better prospect than that. He improved his command a lot after he arrived at Eugene, and he would have very likely been in the South Bend bullpen this season. I suspect the Royals will send him to Lo-A (just like the Cubs would have done), and if all goes well there I would expect a July or August promotion to Hi-A and then a gig in the AFL (something the Cubs probably would not have done), and if that goes well he could - conceivably - get added to the KC MLB 40-man roster post-2019 (something the Cubs definitely would not have done) since he is Rule 5 Draft eligible post-2019. 

As for Dewees, I would be surprised if he ever plays in MLB. He probably has a better chance of eventually replacing Doug Dascenzo as Minor League Outfield & Baserunning Coordinator. 

BTW, if you want to see what the Cubs think of their more "advanced" OF prospects, look at who they initially assigned to the Tennessee squad at Minor League Camp: 

Edmond Americaan 
D. J. Artis 
Brennen Davis 
Jimmie Herron 
Fernando Kelli 
Kevin Moreno 
Jonathan Sierra 

Not to mention Nelson Velazquez getting initially assigned to the Iowa squad. 

Now obviously, Velazquez is not making the Iowa Opening Day roster and none of the seven outfielders assigned to the Tennessee squad are making the Tennessee Opening Day roster (or even the Myrtle Beach Opening Day roster for that matter), but the Tennessee squad at Minor League Camp has no Connor Myers, no Zach Davis, no Roberto Caro, no Luis Ayala, no Jose Gutierrez, no Chris Singleton, no Brandon Hughes, and no Chris Pieters.

The only two outfield "prospects" presently on the Iowa roster at Minor League Camp who are even somewhat likely to make the Tennessee Opening Day roster are D. J. Wilson and Kevonte Mitchell, and I'm not even sure either of those guys are ready for AA. Which means Donnie Dewees, Wynton Bernard, and Yasiel Balaguert (who can play 1B-LF-RF) could (conceivably) be the Smokies Opening Day OF! Yikes!  

Of course, the Cubs could play Jared Young at both 1B and in LF at Tennessee, but even if Young makes the Smokies Opening Day roster (and think it's better than 50-50 that he does) and plays half his games in LF, there still is a dearth of outfield talent at AA.  

No Cole Roederer in that group?

DLS: For whatever reason, the Cubs assigned Cole Roederer to the South Bend squad at the beginning of Minor League Camp. Why he was "left behind" (so to speak) while B. Davis, Americaan, Sierra, Kelli, Herron, and Artis (and even Kevin Moreno!) were assigned to the Tennessee squad, I do not know. 

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  • George Altman 13 min 1 sec ago (view)

    Yeah, a 3 man bench. That should work out well.


  • George Altman 14 min 43 sec ago (view)

    I go back to Phil Regan as the closer and I agree 100%. Maybe this IS relief pitching in the modern era. Name the closers who strung together 5+ great seasons?....Rivera, Hoffman, Sutter, Gossage, Eckersley. It's not a big list especially when Lee Smith makes the HOF...or maybe I'm still pissed about Game 4 in San Diego, 1984.


  • udbrky 37 min 15 sec ago (view)

    Wow, it's so awesome to see someone re-evaluate like that, you made my day! He's also just a fun guy. Seems like a great teammate!


  • Hagsag 1 hour 58 min ago (view)

    Norwood back down and Maples and Tim Collins back up. A nine man bullpen for today at least.


  • Charlie 2 hours 21 min ago (view)

    You know, this gave me reason to second guess my feeling about Strop, and he is clearly very consistent. His ERA, peripherals, and even velocity have been really consistent during his time as a Cub. Good call, udbrky!


  • Hagsag 2 hours 52 min ago (view)

    Thanks Phil, oh I mean Tim.


  • tim815 3 hours 3 min ago (view)

    Not Phil, but, the DSL guys not ready to regularly get out AZL hitters will return to Boca Chica as better pitchers than they were.


  • Hagsag 6 hours 42 min ago (view)

    Mark Zagunis optioned to Iowa.


  • Hagsag 7 hours 25 min ago (view)

    Phil, I have been looking at the DSL pitching staffs. It doesn't look like there are enough pitchers down in the DR to field two teams. Will some pitchers be going back to the DR shortly? Thanks.


  • crunch 10 hours 8 min ago (view)

    it's a bit of a stretch to say the cubs have had 5 relievers worth bothering ranking unless you count some random guys only around for 1 or 2 seasons...sadly...and oddly considering how old the team is...

    sutter, lee, strop...r.myers, h.rondon, dempster, marmol, d.elston...late career charlie root... *shrug*...joe borowski had 2 great seasons and 3 bad ones (1 full, 2 partial) during his cubs tenure...


  • udbrky 11 hours 33 min ago (view)

    Not always consistent is a weird way to describe one of the best 5 relievers the Cubs have ever had.


  • crunch 13 hours 49 min ago (view)

    cubs lose, brewers lose, cardinals lose, pirates lose...


  • Charlie 16 hours 54 min ago (view)

    They need to do something (or multiple somethings) if they want to guard against bullpen-related crashes going forward. I get the sense there's a real chance Morrow doesn't contribute this season, and Strop is not always consistent even when he's healthy.


  • crunch 19 hours 58 min ago (view)

    it's not the worst pen in baseball, but like...this pen sucks.  boo.  fire everyone.  etc.

    at least it's not the WAS pen.  that pen is hot garbage.


  • crunch 22 hours 24 min ago (view)

    miguel amaya...bat and D at the C position both very promising.

    a lot of people like aramis ademan, though i dunno if anyone would consider him an "impact" type player even as a middle IF'r.

    jury is still out on how to gauge brennen davis's possible impact.  high ceiling, but everyone's still waiting to see what he can actually do while he has his tools tweaked in ARZ.


  • Karl Pagel Blues 23 hours 32 min ago (view)

    Outside of Nico Hoerner, who is on the fast track to Wrigley, Nelson Velazquez, Jonathan Sierra and Cole Roederer are the three hitters in the lower minors that have the most potential to be impact bats down the road, in my opinion. Otherwise, I don't see much that impresses me. Am I missing someone?

    Not so for pitching. 

    Barring injury, unexpected regression and/or trades, there are a number of Cubs MiLB pitchers who I think will make it to the majors.