Is That Arrieta?

Dylan Cease fired three innings of shutout ball, Vimael Machin lined a triple off the CF Batter's Eye and scored and Alex Bautista rifled an RBI double into the LF corner to highlight a two-run 7th, and then Bautista ripped an RBI single through the box into CF and Yohan Matos followed with an RBI triple high off the LF screen (near HR) to spark a two-run 9th, as the Cubs plated five runs over the final three innings and defeated the Brewers 6-1 in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action this morning on Field #7 (AKA "Paul Molitor Field") at the Maryvale Baseball Park Complex in Phoenix, AZ.  

Cease threw a higher percentage of strikes (62%) today than in any previous outing (he usually struggles to throw strikes, typically throwing 50-55% strikes), breaking his curve for called strikes time & again, and humming his heater consistently knee-high at 98-99 MPH (per both the Brewers & Cubs guns -- for example, 99-99-99-98-99-99-98-98-99-99-99 in the bottom of the 2nd). He even got a swing & miss on a change-up (the pitch that is his "work-in-progress").

Cease allowed four hits (three singles and a double) over his three-inning stint, but three of the hits were opposite-field grounders, and the fourth was a broken-bat humpback liner looped over the shortstop's head and into short left. 

Cease was so dominating that one of the Brewer pitchers seated behind home plate asked "Is that Arrieta?" as Cease dropped his knee-bending hook to get ahead 0-2 and then blew unhittable gas past the last two Brew Crew hitters for strike-three in the bottom of the 2nd (stranding runners at 2nd & 3rd). It's unusual when the other team's pitchers are mesmerized by an EXST opponent who isn't a major league rehabber.  

Here is the abridged box score from the game (Cubs players only) 

1. Yonathan Perlaza, 2B: 0-3 (F-8, 4-3 DP, 6-3, BB) 
2. Vimael Machin, SS: 1-3 (BB, F-8, 3B, F-7, R)
3. Wladimir Galindo, 3B: 0-2 (F-8 DP, E-9, F-9 SF, BB, 2 R, RBI, SB)
4a. Jose Paniagua, 1B: 1-2 (1B, 6-3) 
4b. Alberto Mineo, 1B: 0-1 (BB, K, R)
5. Alex Bautista, CF: 2-4 (L-5 DP, F-8, 2B, 1B, R, 2 RBI)
6a. Kwang-Min Kwon, RF: 0-2 (K, 5-3)
6b. Yohan Matos, RF: 1-2 (F-8, 3B, RBI)
7a. Ricardo Marcano, LF: 0-2 (6-3, K)
7b. Jonathan Sierra, LF: 1-2 (2B, 5-3, R) 
8. Rafael Mejia, DH #1: 0-2 (K, BB, K)
9a. Tyler Payne, C: 1-2 (L-8, 1B)
9b. Jhonny Pereda, C: 0-1 (K)
10. Abraham Rodriguez, DH #2: 1-3 (1B, 3-6-1 DP, E-1) 

1. Dylan Cease: 3.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 BALK, 1 PO, 1 GIDP, 3/0 GO/AO, 53 pitches (33 strikes) 
2. Aaron Crow: 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K, 1/1 GO/AO, 8 pitches (5 strikes) 
3. Jose Paulino: 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 GIDP, 2/1 GO/AO, 31pitches (17 strikes) 
4. Pedro Araujo: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R (0 ER), 0 BB, 1 K, 2/0 GO/AO, 15 pitches (10 strikes)
5. Alexander Santana: 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 0 K, 3/0 GO/AO, 13 pitches (6 strikes)
6. Tyler Peitzmeier: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K, 1 GIDP, 1/0 GO/AO, 6 pitches (5 strikes) 

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

Jhonny Pereda: 1-2 CS 


WEATHER  Sunny with temperatures in the 90's 


Thanks Phil. Any idea of where/when Cease will head for the season?

BILLY BUCKS: As things stand right now, Dylan Cease will be in the Eugene starting rotation when the NWL season begins play in June, and if he peforms well there he could perhaps move up to South Bend toward the end of the minor league season or for the MWL playoffs (if South Bend qualifies). 

[ ]

In reply to by Arizona Phil

Phil, historically this front office has been patient with their prep pitchers keeping their IP low and moving them one level at a time. I know I'm getting ahead of myself, and you may not be able to formulate an opinion on this, but you've seen a lot of pitchers over the years, so... Given Cease's timetable this season (which I agree with) Eugene to start and if he does well a late promotion to South Bend. What are the chances, given his special ability, that the Cubs have him start next season at South Bend and if he dominates, break with tradition, and promote him mid-season to Myrtle Beach with an eye on him starting in AA in 2018. There's a lot of "assuming he does well" in there. I guess what I'm asking is do you have a sense that Cubs brass will treat him differently because of his talent level? Thanks.

[ ]

In reply to by K Dub

K-DUB: I think the Cubs might consider skipping Dylan Cease past South Bend and starting him at Myrtle Beach next season, especially if he gets some time at South Bend this season and pitches well there. As a southern kid with TJS history, pitching at Myrtle Beach in April is probably a lot more attractive than pitching in South Bend, but Cease can't go to Myrtle Beach if he isn't ready for Hi-A. 

The main problem with Cease is command & control, and yesterday was really the first time he threw strikes fairly consistently. Too often he struggles to command his fastball (it's like a teeenager driving a Porsche 918 Spyder) and/or can't get a feel for his curve, but if he can sustain yesterday's outing and make it typical (and also use the change-up more-regularly in games), he will move a lot faster.  

Cease will be Rule 5 Draft eligible post-2018, so if he moves at a normal pace he will be at South Bend in 2017, Myrtle Beach in 2018, then get added to the 40-man roster in November 2018, and then be optioned to AA in 2019. However, if he skips South Bend in 2017 or spends only half a season at South Bend in 2017, he could conceivably be ready for AA in 2018, and he could get a call-up later that season, since he has to go on the 40 post-2018 anyway. 

But I can't see him pitching in MLB any earlier than mid-2018 (and that's absolutely the best-case scenario). An MLB debut sometime in 2019 is more realistic (and even that's an optimistic ETA, since it presumes no setbacks along the way).  

I will also say that right now the top three pitching prospects in the organization are (in no particular order) Dylan Cease, Bryan Hudson, and Duane Underwood Jr, and only Underwood is anywhere close to being MLB-ready (he is Rule 5 Draft eligible post-2016, and so he could get a call-up later this season -IF- he dominates at AA). Cease and Hudson will both likely be in the starting rotation at Eugene in 2016, and then everything becomes TBD.

BTW, Hudson actually is more-advanced than Cease in terms of command. and if anyone skips South Bend next season, I would say Hudson would be the one more-likely to do so.  

Cease and Hudson are both legit TOR starting pitching prospects, but they are way down in the pipeline. 

The best part of tonight's game was 6 different players with RBIs. Truly a lineup that doesn't give up top to bottom.

tomorrow's game is a 12:35pm EST game for some ungodly stupid reason...then it's back to wrigley field for a night game on the 5th.

Hi Phil, made it home tonight safely. Looks like Cease is getting better each outing. I see Crow did ok today too. I will be reading your write_ups everyday. Great seeing you while there!

bored...looking at stats for the hell of it... felix pena (26yo) moving to the pen in AAA is looking like an insanely good fit so far in a smallish sample size 13ip 4h 3bb 20K remembering back to spring training he was regularly hitting mid-90s (though he didn't have a good spring stats-wise). as a starter in the minors he usually worked low-90s. this could be an arm worth keeping an eye on even if he's only a 1-inning guy who was "demoted" to the pen to start the year.'s also worth mentioning high(ish)-end AA rhsp prospect p.blackburn (22yo) is ripping AA a new one with a 0.29 ERA and 0.87 whip through 31 innings (5 starts), but the enthusiasm is paused by only racking up only 15Ks in 31ip. that said, the control/command he's displaying is impressive. he's mostly working with a very low 90s fastball and a very nice curve. hopefully it plays well at higher levels.

Hey AZPhil, Love checking TCR for your writeups. Quick question - any of these 2015 positional IFAs stand out to you yet? I'm most specifically referring to Kwon, Sierra, Paredes, and Amaya, but I know there's a couple other guys from that class in EXST as well.

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In reply to by KingKongvsGodzilla

KKVG: Among the players at Extended Spring Training, Isaac Paredes is the most-impressive position-player from the Cubs 2015-16 IFA class (I'm not including OF Eddy Julio Martinez, because he skipped EXST and began the season at South Bend). Paredes has legit game power and handles himself well at SS, although I think he will likely eventually end-up at 2B or 3B (maybe not this year, but down-the-line). It is possible that Paredes will get assigned to Eugene (and skip AZL) next month, and I would say he's the only one of the Cubs 2015-16 IFA position players who could. To accommodate Paredes at SS, the Cubs have been moving Andruw Monasterio (who was the #1 SS at AZL Cubs in 2015 and the presumptive Eugene SS going into Minor League Camp) around the infield (SS-2B-3B) at EXST. 

It's interesting that the two of the three most-advanced position-players from the last two Cubs IFA classes are from Mexico (Carlos Sepulveda and Issac Paredes). Maybe the Cubs are on to something by placing a much-greater emphasis on scouting Mexico (the Cubs have signed as many players out of Mexico in the 2015-16 International Signing Period as they have out of Venezuela).  

As far as the other Cubs 2015-16 IFA at EXST are concerned, Yonathan Perlaza is a switch-hitting Dominican SS who loads up on his back leg (both RH and LH) and tries to pulls everything, and he does have good bat speed. Defensively he has throwing issues at SS that will almost certainly result in a permanent move to 2B if the problem is not corrected (he's already started playing 2B). He reminds me a lot of Frandy de la Rosa (traded to TEX for Spencer Patton this past off-season), who became a much better prospect once he was moved from SS to 2B.    

Both Aramis Ademan and Christopher Morel are injured, but they are the more-legit shortstops (moreso than Paredes or Perlaza. and more along the lines of Carlos Penalver).  

Kwang-Min Kwon is a LH-hitting corner OF and he has plus-power (he won the HR Derby at Instructs post-2015), but he also has a slow bat (what's sometimes called a "slider-speed bat") and he gets blown away by high velocity (94+). 

Jonathan Sierra is (like Kwon) a LH-hitting corner OF. Sierra is a good hitter (better than Kwon) with a line-drive stroke and HR-power potential (he shows it in BP but not yet in games). I like Sierra better than Kwon. 

Abraham Rodriguez is still another LH-hitting corner OF, and he has a really solid lefty swing, but doesn't display the same HR power in BP as Kwon or Sierra. A-Rod is more like a Bijan Rademacher-type.  

Ruben Reyes is still another LH-hitting corner OF, but he is more about speed & defense and eventually could see some time in CF. His hitting needs work.  

Miguel Amaya is a legit front-line catching prospect (he has a plus-arm and is very athletic and "cat-quick" behind the plate -- he has the body of an infielder). His bat is a bit behind his glove at this point, however, although he does show some promise as a hitter. It's not unusual for young catchers to be slow to develop as a hitter, because they have so much to learn about the pitchers they handle and defense (receiving, framing, throwing, blocking balls in the dirt, catching pop-ups, etc). 

Kevin Zamudio has more a classic catcher's body-type, but he is below-average defensively and plays as much 1B as he does C. But Zamudio has plus-HR power, and would probably project as a #2 catcher who can play 1B & DH. Zamudio is still another Mexican kid who could move fast, though probably not this year. 

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In reply to by Arizona Phil

Thank you very much for such a robust response. So hard to get anything on these guys that it's nice to hear from someone who has actually seen them. Great to hear about Paredes, I have pretty high hopes for this group of IFAs. How impressed are you with these guys and size? I know they're pretty large prospects, especially for their ages. I consider size a plus at this stage - IIRC Amaya is the only one below 6'2"? IIRC Kwon had some baby fat on him it, Sierra's traditionally considered projectable as he's all arms and legs, Paredes has that Peralta build at SS....

PHIL: Thanks for your updates. One thing that we are seeing come to bear is that Theo's obvious strategy has been to stockpile young, power arms in the lower levels while owning bats that are much nearer to MLB ready - then, buying the arms the org needs in order to be highly competitive. This is in direct contrast to the White Sox who unfortunately got to draft exactly before the Cubs two years in a row and picked up Carlos Rodon 2014 (in the pick before Schwarber), Carson Fulmer last year (Cubs would have had him), and the Cubs in 2014 also passed on Aaron Nola in favor of Schwarber who I do not believe will be a catcher down the road, and of course while the Cubs drafter the great Haden Simpson, the Sox got Chris Sale a few slots before. Therefore, the Cubs have not had ONE pitcher in the last five years that is a TOR starter waiting in the wings unlike some of the typically perennial winning teams do. They had one by the name of Chris Archer, but there was this Jim Hendry guy, a former scout... So, as I see it, their stable of young bats will need to be used to get cost-controlled power-arms from other otganizations. However, I just don't know in today's "Pitching is Everything" climate, if they will be able to acquire the better prospects that they covet. Time will tell. It is a bit disappointing that our hope lies only in Duane Underwood at this time, and a couple guys that if everything breaks right won't be potentially pitching for the Cubs for 3-4 more years.

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In reply to by The E-Man

"Therefore, the Cubs have not had ONE pitcher in the last five years that is a TOR starter waiting in the wings ..." It's a little scary, especially when you look over at the Mets, the one team around the league that worries me, maybe because I have clear recollections of 1969. Actually, the only Cub draftee since 2012 when McLeod and the new FO took over the draft who has thrown a pitch in the majors is Zack Godley. So it's not just TOR starters that we're not seeing. I realize that the Cubs went for position players at the top of the draft, and so by the time they could draft a pitcher, the only good arms left were high schoolers, who take a while to mature. But I just don't see a starter at South Bend or above who misses bats. Stinnett has been great in 23 innings so far this year at Myrtle Beach. Maybe he'll be the guy.

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