Cease Makes Snakes Desist Scoring Runs at Sloan Park

Alex Bautista slugged a two-run HR over the bullpen and onto the LF berm and Dylan Cease tossed three innings of shutout ball, as the AZL Cubs edged the AZL Diamondbacks 2-1 in Arizona League action Thursday night at Sloan Park in Mesa, AZ. 

A Brooklyn native, 21-year old Victor Alexis "Alex" Bautista was the Cubs 22nd round draft pick out of Lindsey Wilson College (located in rural Kentucky, just down the road from the Dreamland Motel), and was a first-team NAIA All-American at LWC in 2015 after hitting a slick 371/466/728 with 19 HR & 72 RBI, 13 doubles, and 27 SB (9 CS) in 60 games (251 PA) for the Blue Raiders.

Bautista hit the game-winnig HR, but Robert Garcia went 4-4 for the Cubs, collecting four singles (including two bunt singles) to raise his batting average to .403 (good for second-best in the AZL). The 21-year old speedy switch-hitter almost always bunts once each game, but this time he decided to do it twice (and was successful both time). He is a real pain-in-the-ass to the opposition. Not satisfied with the four hits, Garcia also made two nice running catches in CF (he is an outstanding "flyhawk").

While AZL Cubs SP Dylan Cease did throw three shutout innings, he also continued to struggle a bit with command, throwing over 90% fastballs (35 out of his 38 pitches were fastballs) but only 53% for strikes, Still, he managed to work out of trouble in all three innings (he allowed a single, a double, two walks, and a wild pitch over the course of his outing), and was able to induce a high-percentage of ground balls (6/1 GO/FO) as well. He worked his fastball at 92-95 MPH in his first inning, and then got serious and elevated the FB velocity up to his more-typical 95-97 in his second and third innings. 

RHP Trey McNutt (2014 shoulder surgery) had a poor outing (16 pitches - only 7 strikes), allowing a solo HR to the first man he faced (Ismael Pena) and then hitting two batters later in the inning. Now 25 (he turns 26 next month), McNutt's fastball continues to top out well below his one-time 96 MPH heater (it's 90-91 MPH at-best these days) and his once wipe-out slider is now a low-80's "show-me" breaking ball. McNutt is eligible to be a Rule 55 Minor League Free-agent (6YFA) post-2015, unless the Cubs offer him a 2016 minor league successor contract (and he accepts). 

LHP (ex-OF) Ariel Ovando followed McNutt to the mound and worked ar 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts. The 6'4 240+ Dominican was signed by the Houston Astros as a 16-year old slugging outfielder in 2010 (he received a $2.6M bonus, an Astro club-record IFA bonus at the time), but failed to develop as a hitter and was selected by the Cubs in the AAA Phase of the December 2014 Rule 5 Draft after Houston left him unprotected. The Cubs converted Ovando to a LHP at Minor League Camp this past March, but he did not pitch in any Minor League Camp games or Extended Spring Training games. He made his pro game debut as a pitcher versus the AZL Diamondbacks on June 23rd, and since then has allowed just one run on five hits and one walk with 13 strikeouts in 7.0 IP. But he doesn't rack-up the punch-outs with gas. Rather, Ovando mixes a mid-80's fastball with a slow curve (and a bit of decption), and in the process drives opposing hitters into raving, drooling, incontinent lunatics, crawling back to the bench with incredulous expressions on their faces that can best be described as grotesque.  

Two more 2015 Cubs draft picks (both pitchers) made their pro debut in the game, as RHP Kyle Miller (19th round - Florida Atlantic) and RHP Scott Effross (15th round - Indiana U.) hurled an inning a piece. Effross throws harder than Miller (low 90's for Effross, upper 80's for Miller), and Effross also features a more-polished repertoire. While both pitchers are 21 (Miller is a week older than Effross), Miller appears to be more of a "project" at this point (he's a beanpole 6'2 165), while Effross should move quickly up the pipeline.

RHP Luis Hernandez collected the fairly rare two-inning save by protecting a narrow one-run lead in the 8th & 9th, easily retiring all six men he faced (striking out the last two). The 20-year old 6'5 Hernandez had a mediocre year last season with the AZL Cubs (5.11 ERA and 1.42 WHIP while moving back & forth between the bullpen and the starting rotation), and he did not pitch at Extended Spring Training this year. (He just began to throw bullpen sessions in mid-June). But since returning to game action earlier this month, Hernandez has thrown harder & harder each time, to where his fastball now runs the rails at 94-96 MPH. He mixes the upscale heater with an OK curve that keeps hitters off-balance, and so far he has been very effective in AZL games (he has yet to allow a run). This recent uptick in fastball velocity is especially noteworthy (and a bit odd), because Hernandez was throwing only 90-92 at Minor League Camp in March, before being shut-down for three months.   

Here is the abridged box score from Thursday night's game (Cubs players only):

AZL CUBS LINEUP
1. Robert Garcia, CF: 4-4 (1B, 1B, 1B+E5, 1B, SB)
2. Carlos Sepulveda, 2B: 0-4 (6-3, 6-4-3 DP, 4-3, 3-U)
3. Michael Foster, LF: 1-4 (L-9, 1B, F-9, K, R)
4. Alex Bautista, RF: 1-4 (K, HR, 5-3, 3-1, R, 2 RBI)
5. Jose Paniagua, 1B: 1-3 (1B, 5-3, 3-U)
6. Tyler Payne, DH: 0-3 (E-5, K, K)
7. Jhonny Pereda, C: 0-3 (6-4-3 DP, L-8, P-3)
8. Andruw Monasterio, SS: 0-3 (6-3, F-9, L-4)
9. Carlos Jimenez, 3B: 1-3 (K, 6-3, 1B)

AZL CUBS PITCHERS
1. Dylan Cease: 3.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 6/1 GO/FO, 38 pitches (20 strikes) 
2. Trey McNutt: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R (1 ER), 0 BB, 1 K, 2 HBP, 1 HR, 0/2 GO/FO, 16 pitches (7 strikes) 
3. Ariel Ovando: 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K, 1/0 GO/FO, 11 pitches (7 strikes) 
4. Kyle Miller: 1.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K, 1 GIDP, 2/0 GO/FO, 13 pitches (7 strikes)
5. Scott Effross: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K, 2/1 GO/FO, 10 pitches (8 strikes) 
6. Luis Hernandez: 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K, 1/3 GO/FO, 31 pitches (20 strikes) 

AZL CUBS ERRORS: NONE 

AZL CUBS CATCHERS DEFENSE
Jhonny Pereda: 1-1 CS

Comments

Speaking of 2015 draft picks, their 24th-round pick this year, second baseman Sutton Whiting, age 23, was sent to Tennessee after one game at Eugene. In five AA games, Whiting has five hits and three walks in eleven plate appearances. On-base and speed guy. With four years of college at Louisville, he'll apparently have to sink or swim in high minors.

He sounds like a good swimmer.

AZPhil, thanks for the updates, as always. Do you know why D.J. Wilson hasn't played in the past few games?

HRUBES20: I don't know why D. J. Wilson hasn't played the last couple of games. Not only did he not play Wednesday night or last night, he wasn't dressed and was not on the AZL Cubs bench either night as well. The absence could be because of an injury that is significant enough that he can't even take the field (although he played the entire game Monday night and looked fine), or it could be disciplinary in nature (not as uncommon as you might think). I'll post something if I find out exactly what's up. 

He will be back down before long.

r.soriano goes 1ip 1h 0bb 3k last night in his AAA debut...wada goes 6ip 5h 0bb 5k (1r/er) both of these guys can't be too far away from re-joining the bigs. c.richard's time is running out for 1 of those slots...dunno who else will go...teagarden...ejax...???

Guess who sucks? Castro there, could be worse. Could be a Sox, pick a color. http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all...

Two for $200M didn't get the Red Sox much. Making Carl Crawfords $140M look like a bargain? Ah, no.

there's probably 20-25 teams that would love to have hanley ramirez's version of "suck" around in their OF. playing the short LF in BOS tends to screw with many of the "advanced" D metrics that tend to not care about the short OF territory in the park and this has been an unaddressed issue for years. he's not great there...he's average at best...but the way the numbers play out, he makes notorious LF clunker mark trumbo look like a gold glover.

Tonite Fowler (just take a f'ing walk) Schwarber Bryant Rizzo Soler Ur mom Castro Who cares

Muskat wrote that Schwarber won't be the everyday catcher. I assume this just means he won't catch Lester.

good to hear about Cease. The high velocity post TJS is very encouraging. I have not seen him in person, but from what I've seen in posted videos he looks like he has a very athletic delivery. I'll be curious to see how well he progresses.

Wow, Schwarber starting at catcher tonight. I guess we know where the Great Maddonnini stands on the possible contributions of his bat to the lineup. Castro down to about where he ought to be. 4 rookies now, in the heart of the lineup. The time has arrived. They brought 'em up.

there's 2 camps on schwarb catching... 1- that time he threw out b.buxton 2- every other time

Kris Bryant was also supposed to be a lousy third baseman. He's not Brooks Robinson, but most of what I've seen him do that isn't good is rookie stuff. Even his biggest early flaw, the way he sailed his throws to rubberman over at first, has mostly disappeared, which is actually pretty surprising since you'd think they'd have fixed it in iowa if it was fixable. I'm gonna trust TheoCorp's judgement over the internet meme for now.

SchwArber will be exposed very quickly

Like I said a bit earlier up the thread, he'll catch about 30% of the time methinks. The Great One just wants to get him in the lineup right away so catching it is.

i'm very impressed by bryant's play in the field. he's not doing awesome, but he's not screwing up enough to even consider moving him (at least so far). having rizzo around helps, but it's not like bryant would be an automatic error if someone with a lesser glove was at 1st base. he's a guy you can live with at 3rd given the lineup talent constraints, position need at 3rd, and the upside of leaving the easy-to-fill LF position open for another quality bat.

KB has the most errors and lowest fielding pct of any 3rd baseman in the NL. Not sure why people think that's "good" or "impressive"? The bat has also been cold since May 1.....hitting .231 in July, down to .266 for the year, with 12 HR. I think we had all expected better than that.

impressive was a bit strong/overstated...i'm just starting in a place where i expected to see bryant putting in way more time in LF rather than sticking around 3rd nearly full-time. i actually have some hope of him sticking there at this point.

Fangraphs lists his defensive value as positive, but not significantly above average. That matches my eye test so far.

Have you ever considered starting a blog called The Cantankerous Cub Fan? Or something along those lines?

Definitely something I will look into, with my first entry being "How to overreact to one loss in a 162-game season".

He's tied for 1st in the NL among rookies with a 2.7 WAR. If anyone didn't expect any rookie to go through slumps they were fooling themselves but IMO being arguably the best rookie in the NL is pretty good. Any further expectations were just blind hope.

Isn't "blind hope" a requisite for being a Cubs fan?

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  • MIL closer (but not their best reliever) c.knebel has gone from "tired arm" to "elbow might be a little bit torn up"

    unfortunately, they've been linked to c.kimbrel lately...hopefully that doesn't happen.

    crunch 6 hours 18 min ago view
  • Here is how the Cubs starting pitching is trending at Minor League Camp as of this morning (Thursday 3/21). There will be changes before the affiliates leave town in about ten days, but here is how things stand right now:  

    Arizona Phil 7 hours 31 min ago view
  • brach not throwing mid-90s yet at this point in spring is a bit concerning...he's been in the high 80s, touching low 90s almost all spring.

    slider velocity is on point.

    crunch 9 hours 12 sec ago view
  • Here are the Cubs pitchers velo readings from Thursday afternoon's Cubs - Giants Cactus League game at Sloan Park: 

    KYLE HENDRICKS: 
    FB: 84-86 - T-87 
    CH: 77-80
    CV: 69-71 
    NOTE: Velo was down a bit across the board for Hendricks, but does it really matter?  

    BRIAN DUENSING: 
    FB: 88-89
    CH: 84-86 
    SL: 80
    NOTE: Finished Hendricks' final inning (the 6th)... best thing I can say about Duensing is that he appears to be healthy and is throwing the ball as well as he can... 

    Arizona Phil 9 hours 12 min ago view
  • ...speaking of extensions...looks like goldschmidt/cards are going to be a long-term pain the cubs ass sometime soon.

    crunch 9 hours 39 min ago view
  • Ken Rosenthal‏ @Ken_Rosenthal

    Eloy Jimenez deal with #whitesox is six years, $43M with two club options, but in his camp’s view, he effectively is giving up only one free-agent year. Without deal, he would have started season in AAA and stayed down until at least point when CWS would gain seven years control.

    crunch 15 hours 45 min ago view
  • Thanks alot for the rundown. I’d really like to see them take some risks rather than run with retreads . For instance, I’d like to see Soto-Reynolds/Mejia-Perlaza-Vazquez-Morel to be the SB infield for a good chunk of the year or the MB OF to be Wilson/Artis-Gutierrez-Herron to open with Mitchell on the bench. I’d really really like to see one of Davis or Roederer open with SB (personal preference is Davis but only because I like his potential more). 

    KingKongvsGodzilla 17 hours 16 min ago view
  • ichiro goes 0/4 in his farewell game...it's been an interesting run for a guy who didn't get here til he was 27.

    3089 hits...509 sb...350+ ob%...10 GG...1 MVP

    M's win over the A's in 12 innings...

    crunch 18 hours 55 min ago view
  • For those of you who might have missed Wednesday night's MLB Cactus League Game at Sloan Park, here are the velo readings from Cubs pitchers (and one Dodger pitcher): 

    COLE HAMELS:  
    FB: 91-93 
    CT  87-89 
    CH: 83-85 
    CU: 77-79 
    NOTE: Mixed up his pitches very well and maintained FB velo throughout outing, but fly ball pitchers like Hamels usually don't fare too well in Arizona in March (they don't fare too well in Texas, either). 

    Arizona Phil 1 day 1 hour ago view
  • BRADSBEARD: Cole Roederer has had an impressive week at Minor League Camp and with the MLB club as well, but I think the most-likely scenario is that he stays in Mesa at EXST April-June, is assigned to Eugene on NWL Opening Day, and then (if all goes well at Eugene) gets a promotion to South Bend in mid-July or August, and then gets assigned to the AFL post-2019, and then (best case scenario) - POSSIBLY - gets to AA sometime in 2020 (although Myrtle Beach would be a lot more-likely for Opening Day 2020).

    Arizona Phil 1 day 2 hours ago view
  • The Cubs have released RHSP Christian Bergman from Minor League Camp. He was an NRI to MLB Camp, but was sent down to Minor League Camp last week 

    Arizona Phil 1 day 2 hours ago view
  • Thanks to PHIL and the ASS.

    On another topic - looks like J-Hey is in mid-season form at the plate in camp.

    The E-Man 1 day 5 hours ago view
  • Do you think Roederer opens the season at SB?

    bradsbeard 1 day 7 hours ago view
  • good news...

    Jordan Bastian‏ @MLBastian

    Yu Darvish's between-start bullpen session is scheduled for Friday. If all goes well, his next turn to pitch would fall on Sunday.

    crunch 1 day 8 hours ago view
  • Some things to keep in mind about the "backdating" of injured list assignments: 

    As long as the player did not appear in a game during the retroactive period (including "official" MLB Cactus League or Grapefruit League games or other MLB pre-season exhibition games), an MLB 10-day Injured List assignment can be backdated up to three days (including the three days prior to MLB Opening Day), and a 7-day (acute concussion) Injured List assignment can be backdated up to four days (including the four days prior to MLB Opening Day).

    Arizona Phil 2 days 5 hours ago view
  • For anyone interested, here are the Cubs pitchers velo readings from Tuesday's Cubs - Mariners game at Sloan Park: 

    YU DARVISH: 
    FB: 93-96 
    2S: 89-92
    SL: 83-86  
    CH: 80-83 
    CV: 78 
    ???: 59 (I don't know what type of pitch this was but it was the slowest pitch I've seen since Little League) 
    NOTE: A really interesting variety of pitches from Yu... Looked good until the blister caused him to leave the game earlier than planned...

    Arizona Phil 2 days 6 hours ago view