AZL Cubs Drop 2015 Opener at Sloan Park

RHSP Jonathan Perrin (Milwaukee Brewers 2015 27th round draft pick - Oklahoma State) tossed three innings of perfect baseball and combined with three relievers to hurl a six-hit shutout, and Tyrone Perry (Milwaukee Brewers 2015 14th round draft pick - Lakeland Senior HS - Lakeland, FL) drilled an RBI single, doubled, and walked and scored, as the AZL Brewers blanked the AZL Cubs 4-0 in AZL Opening Day action Saturday evening at Sloan Park in Mesa, AZ.

box score

18-year old RHP Austyn Willis (Cubs 2014 18th round draft pick - Barstow HS - Barstow, CA) got the Opening Day start for the AZL Cubs and threw five innings of shutout ball (50 pitches - 33 strikes), allowing two hits (a single and a double) and two walks, while striking out five, with a 4/4 GO/FO,  He also committed a throwing error while trying to pick a runner off 1st base.

I think the most surprising name left off the Eugene Emeralds Opening Day roster was that of Austyn Willis, who had an outstanding Extended Spring Training (2.70 ERA - 1.00 WHIP - .216 OppBA - 20.0 IP, 16 H, 6 R (6 ER), 4 BB, 19 K, 0 HR, 1 WP, 1 PO, 1 GIDP, 24/15 GO/FO, 65% strikes, 12.9 PITCHES-PER-INNING) in seven Cactus League EXST games (five GS), but yet it apparently wasn't good enough to earn him a spot in the Eugene starting rotation.

RHP Erling Moreno (2013 IFA - Colombia) followed Willis to the mound and allowed what proved to be the only run the Brewers needed, but despite being an "earned" run, it really wasn't Moreno's fault. After throwing a scoreless 6th, Moreno got into a jam in his second inning of work. With no score and runners at 1st & 3rd and one out in the top of the 7th, Brewers DH Juan Ortiz bounced into what should have been an easy inning-ending "room-service" 4-6-3 DP, but 18-year old Cubs SS Andruw Monasterio fired the relay wildly past 1st basenman Roney Alcala, allowing Tyrone Perry to score the game's first run.

Meanwhile, the Cubs were unable to mount much of a threat against the Brew Crew pitchers, although poor baserunning didn't help. Danny Gutierrez jogged into 2nd base standing up and was tagged out on an apparent stolen base attempt(?) with one out in the bottom of the 6th, and Joey Martarano was thrown out by a mile trying to stretch a single into a double with one out in the bottom of the 7th just as the potential tying run arrived at 3rd base (should have one out with runners at 1st & 3rd).

In AZL Cubs news, 18-year old 3B Wladimir Galindo (2013 IFA - Venezuela) returned to game action after missing the last six weeks of Extended Spring Training with a left wrist injury. The 2014 VSL HR champ went 0-4 with two fly outs, a line out, and a strike out (looking) in tonight's game, but stung the ball with authority the three times he made contact. He also showed off his arm on a 5-3 put-out in the 6th.

21-year old first-baseman Roney Alcala has returned to switch-hitting after batting only RH in Extended Spring Training (might as well, after hitting just 211/225/289 with only three XBH and eight strikeouts in 40 Cactus League EXST PA while batting only RH). It didn't help much tonight, though, as the burly Alcala went 0-3 (6-3, K, 3-U) batting LH versus three different RHPs. Alcala was second in the VSL in batting average in 2013 (when he hit a robust.353), but he hit a disappointing 242/294/355 for the AZL Cubs when he made his U. S. debut in 2014, so he will have to show a lot more offense this season.     

19-year old LHP Carlos Rodriguez has been moved up to the AZL Cubs from the VSL Cubs (where he was the ace of the staff), and was one of ten AZL Cubs pitchers designated "active" for tonight's game (the others were Willis, Moreno, Masek, Knighton, Frazier, Griggs, Malave, Ovando, and Silverio). Rodriguez was at Extended Spring Training as a 17-year old in 2013 and pitched in the AZL that season, but he spent all of last season in the VSL. Despite being the VSL Cubs #1 starter in 2014, Rodriguez did not receive an invitation to Minor League Camp or Extended Spring Training this season.

Also, 1B-OF (ex-LHP) Chris Pieters (2011 IFA - Curacao) has yet to arrive in Mesa from the DSL Cubs, although he was moved up to the AZL Cubs roster on Friday. I don't know what the hang-up is, but It's possible that the 20-year old Pieters was unable to secure the necessary work visa required to enter the U. S. (been known to happen to others in the past).

The AZL Cubs have a day off on Sunday, before resuming league play on Monday. Then beginning with Monday's game, the AZL Cubs will play four days in a row and have a day off every 5th day for the balance of the 2015 AZL regular-season schedule.

Comments

AZ Phil, how many of the Cubs recent draftees are in Mesa? Thanks.

HAGSAG: There were nine signed draft-picks on the field at the work-out on Fields 1 & 2 on Thursday afternoon (including Ian Happ), then Happ left to join the Eugene Emeralds in Everett on Friday but two more draft-picks hit the field that day (the ten on the field on Friday after Happ left were Kellogg, Brooks, Berg, Machin, Headley, Williamson, Cheek, Amendolare, Mastrobuoni, and Minacci).

None of the draft picks who have signed and are in Mesa were in uniform at the AZL opener Saturday night because the Cubs don't have to add the players to a roster for up to 15 days after signing, so the new guys won't appear on the field in uniform unless and until they are scheduled to make their pro game debut that day. Meanwhile, the position player draftees take BP and participate in fielding and baserunning drills and the pitcher draftees throw bullpen side-sessions or "live" BP and do PFP drills while they wait. 

Happ was moved more quickly because he's... special.

Happ was 1-4 last night in a 10-4 Emeralds loss. His HR was off a rehabbing mlb starter (Iwakuma). Looks like Dillon Maples is nearing the end of the road to me. Any thoughts on him AZ Phil? HR: Happ (1, 4th inning off Iwakuma, 0 on, 0 out).

CUBSTER: Dillion Maples throws a 94 MPH fastball (no variance in speed) and a hammer curve "chase-pitch," but he tends to lose confidence in his fastball when he can't keep it down in the zone, and then he starts to throw every fastball high & outside. And since his curve is by its very nature out of the strike zone, he can throw eight, nine, sometimes ten pitches in a row out of the strike zone. 

I think a lot of his problems stem from confidence issues caused by an inability to command his fastball, because sometimes he can get on a positive roll when he keeps his fastball at the batters knees and mix his fastball and curve effectively and look very good and you might think he's finally(!) turning the corner, but then next time out its like the previous outing never happened. It's sort of like "30 First Outings." 

Thanks, AZ Phil. Any velo readings on Willis and Moreno? I think Willis is usually 88-90 and Moreno 91-92. Am I off? Any different last night?

K-DUB: I do not have any velocity readings on Willis or Moreno from last night, but (as you remember correctly) Willis was consistently 88-89 and Moreno was consistently 91-92 in EXST. 

I didn't mention it in the post because I just linked to the box score at milb.com. but Moreno threw 27 pitches (18 strikes), Masek threw 19 pitches (11 strikes), Knighton threw 8 pitches (4 strikes), and Frazier threw 12 pitches (6 strikes, with four of the six balls from a four-pitch walk to the third man he faced).