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
KingKongvsGodzilla 14 hours 23 min ago (view)
AZPhil, thank you for these updates! It's a nice little pick me up during this dumb year. If you have anything to say on Yohendrick Pinango, Joel Machado, Rafael Morel, or Richard Gallardo, I would love to hear it! Thanks again!
crunch 23 hours 53 min ago (view)
jim hickey new nats pitching coach.
bradsbeard 1 day 18 hours ago (view)
Several non-prospects ate up spots as well. Ultimately wish they had given a few more Rivas types a shot there.
tim815 1 day 19 hours ago (view)
Only 60 spots in SB. Others benefited more from the time.
crunch 1 day 22 hours ago (view)
not phil, but i think everyone is holding off on his potential ceiling until he gains enough weight to not look like someone you want to buy a sandwich every time you see him.
big upside if his skills can strengthen as he builds his body.
too early for a solid comp, but i wouldn't feel uncomfortable throwing ian happ's name around (bit better arm than happ, though).
bradsbeard 1 day 23 hours ago (view)
Me too. Thought it was weird he wasn't in South Bend at all.
Dolorous Jon Lester 2 days 4 hours ago (view)
I am very, very intrigued by Rivas. If the DH is unfortunately here to stay, he's a prime candidate for that and give Rizzo a day off 1B here and there. If no DH, hopefully he is a passable OF. Big believer in his hitting ability
Hagsag 2 days 7 hours ago (view)
Phil, do you think Chris Morel is the real deal?
tim815 2 days 20 hours ago (view)
Blue and Red DSL instructs rosters. No Brayan Altuve.
crunch 2 days 23 hours ago (view)
yup, they're gonna try. starts in about a month.
Hagsag 3 days 6 hours ago (view)
Has it been announced whether there will be a DR winter league this winter?
tim815 3 days 12 hours ago (view)
That's as good of news as we'll get for awhile.
Arizona Phil 3 days 15 hours ago (view)
TIM: If nothing else, signing a boatload of IFA (35) in the 2019-20 ISP is a pretty good indicator that the Cubs fully intend to run two DSL teams into the forseeable future.
tim815 3 days 15 hours ago (view)
Of the 11 new guys, I'm leaning on Marino Sandy and Jerry Torres to be the most likely to reach full-season ball or get traded
Arizona Phil 3 days 17 hours ago (view)
OF Ian Miller (outrighted to the minors on 9/3) elected free-agency just prior to the 10/15 deadline, and the Cubs have signed RHRP Juan Gamez (who they released on 9/9) to a 2021 minor league contract.
bigsky33 4 days 22 hours ago (view)
Phil, were you watching from outside the stadium?