Matos Dinger Lifts AZL Cubs to Victory

Yohan Matos blasted a three-run HR to cap a four-run 5th and Enrique de los Rios and three relievers combined to hurl a three-hitter, as the AZL Cubs edged the AZL Angels 6-5 in AZL action last night at Sloan Park in Mesa, AZ.

AZL Cubs closer Scott Frazier (Cubs 2013 6th round draft pick - Pepperdine) had an easy 1-2-3 9th (13 pitches - 8 strikes), working his fastball at 96-97 MPH after showing 98 on his first pitch. Frazier also throws a curve and a change-up (both passable), but his high-octane heater is his bread-and-butter pitch. If Frazier can contuinue to throw strikes (even 60% of the time, like last night), he will move quickly through the Cubs system. 

Frazier had a nice pro debut in 2013, and one of the Cubs pitching coaches said at post-2013 Instructs that he believed Frazier had the best pure-stuff and THE best fastball in the system. But the 6'7 230 right-hander (known as "Sasquatch" back then) came up with a bad case of the "yips" in Spring Training last season, and it has taken him until now to begin to turn the corner. I was a bit surprised that Frazier was left behind when the Eugene squad left town last week because he was showing improved control in EXST games as recently as three weeks ago, but he could go directly to South Bend from the AZL if and when he gets promoted (he's 23 years old and was at Boise in 2013, so he really doesn't need to go back to the NWL).

18-year old Yohan Matos' bat (more specifically his HR power) is definitely ahead of his glove at this point. He was one of the Cubs more-significant signings out of the vaunted 2013 IFA class ($270K signing bonus), but he is also one the more-raw defensive catchers in the Cubs system, makes mental mistakes you don't like to see from a little leaguer much less from a pro player, and tends to swing & miss a lot. But he also definitely has plus-power, rocketing his home run last night over the CF fence.

20-year old 6'1 175 RHP Enrique de los Rios was one of the two aces of the VSL Cubs starting rotation last season (LHP Carlos Rodriguez was the other one), but he struggled at Extended Spring Training this year. So it was good to see a strong outing from DLR last night, as he had to overcome four errors by his infield in the first five innings. Signed by the Cubs as a 17-year old out of Venezuela in 2013, de los Rios has a smooth delivery, but he is more "projectable" than finished at this point, throwing an 85-87 MPH two-seam fastball that occasionally touches 88 and a promising curve and change-up. But as is the case with a lot of young pitchers, there is hope that his fastball velocity will increase to at least average (90-92) as he matures physically. And if it doesn't, he probably won't advance.

19-year old 5'11 LHP Carlos Rodriguez threw two innings of perfect baseball in relief, but while he seemingly handled the Angels with ease (six up, six down), the fact is four of the outs could just as easily have been XBHs, as Cub outfielders got a work-out making running catches of line-drives and backing-up to the fence to snare warning track fly balls.

C. Rodriguez was at Extended Spring Training as a 17-year old in 2013 and pitched for the AZL Cubs that season, but oddly enough he spent all of last year back in Latin America with the VSL Cubs, and even more strangely, was not invited to post-season instructs in either 2013 or 2014 and was not invited to Minor League Camp or Extended Spring Training this season, instead getting the Opening Day start for the VSL Cubs before getting moved-up  to the AZL. C. Rodriguez is the classic "soft-tossing lefty," throwing a 85-87 MPH fastball that touches 88-89, a curve, and a change-up.  

18-year old Venezuelan SS Andruw Monasterio had a "good news/bad news night" last evening, the good news being two ringing doubles, and the bad news being two throwing errors. Both of the errant throws were strong but not accurate, pulling first-baseman Jose Paniagua so far off the bag that he was unable to swipe the batter-runner with a tag.

3B Wladimir Galindo had another good night at the plate, collecting three hits (two bloop singles and a line-drive double into the LF corner), but the 2014 VSL HR champ has yet to hit his first bomb in 2015, with no HR in EXST and none so far in the AZL. (He did miss five weeks at EXST with a left wrist injury, however). Galindo also committed a costly throwing error in the top of the 5th while attempting to nail a runner at the plate after fielding a one-hop bouncer (his defense needs a lot work).

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

1. Roberto Caro, CF: 1-5 (K, E-4, 1B, P-6, 3-U, R, RBI, SB)
2. Carlos Sepulveda, 2B: 1-5 (F-7, F-9, 1B, 3-U, F-7, R)
3. Wladimir Galindo, 3B: 3-4 (1B, 1B, K, 2B)
4. Jose Paniagua, 1B: 1-4 (K, K, 1B, F-7, R, RBI)
5. Yohan Matos, C: 1-4 (K, 5-3, HR, K, R, 3 RBI)
6. Miguel Rico, DH: 2-4 (1B, F-9, 1B, K)
7. Danny Gutierrez, LF: 1-4 (P-4, L-5, K, 2B, R)
8. Robert Garcia, RF: 1-4 (K, 1-3, F-8, 1B, SB)
9. Andruw Monasterio, SS: 2-4 (2B, F-8, 2B, K, R)
1. Enrique de los Rios: 4.1 IP, 1 H, 3 R (2 ER), 2 BB, 5 K, 1 HBP, 2 WP, 1 GIDP, 4/2 GO/FO, 72 pitches (41 strikes)
2. Santiago Rodriguez: 1.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R (2 ER), 1 BB, 1 K, 1 HBP, 1 WP, 2/2 GO/FO, 29 pitches (15 strikes)  
3. Carlos Rodriguez: 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K, 1/4 GO/FO, 22 pitches (15 strikes) 
4. Scott Frazier: 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K, 1/0 GO/FO, 13 pitches (8 strikes)

1. SS Andruw Monasterio: E-6 (errant throw allowed batter to reach base safely)
2. 1B Jose Paniagua: E-3 (missed catch allowed batter to reach base safely)
3. SS Andruw Monasterio: E-6 (errant throw allowed batter to reach base safely) 
4. 3B Wladimir Galindo: E-5 (errant throw home allowed batter to advance to 2nd base & runner at 2nd to score)

Yohan Matos: 1-2 CS, 1 PB


Phil, is Galindo the "cream of the crop" among this group?