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
George Altman 47 min 33 sec ago (view)
Yeah, a 3 man bench. That should work out well.
George Altman 49 min 15 sec ago (view)
I go back to Phil Regan as the closer and I agree 100%. Maybe this IS relief pitching in the modern era. Name the closers who strung together 5+ great seasons?....Rivera, Hoffman, Sutter, Gossage, Eckersley. It's not a big list especially when Lee Smith makes the HOF...or maybe I'm still pissed about Game 4 in San Diego, 1984.
udbrky 1 hour 11 min ago (view)
Wow, it's so awesome to see someone re-evaluate like that, you made my day! He's also just a fun guy. Seems like a great teammate!
Hagsag 2 hours 32 min ago (view)
Norwood back down and Maples and Tim Collins back up. A nine man bullpen for today at least.
Charlie 2 hours 56 min ago (view)
You know, this gave me reason to second guess my feeling about Strop, and he is clearly very consistent. His ERA, peripherals, and even velocity have been really consistent during his time as a Cub. Good call, udbrky!
Hagsag 3 hours 27 min ago (view)
Thanks Phil, oh I mean Tim.
tim815 3 hours 38 min ago (view)
Not Phil, but, the DSL guys not ready to regularly get out AZL hitters will return to Boca Chica as better pitchers than they were.
Hagsag 7 hours 16 min ago (view)
Mark Zagunis optioned to Iowa.
Hagsag 7 hours 59 min ago (view)
Phil, I have been looking at the DSL pitching staffs. It doesn't look like there are enough pitchers down in the DR to field two teams. Will some pitchers be going back to the DR shortly? Thanks.
crunch 10 hours 42 min ago (view)
it's a bit of a stretch to say the cubs have had 5 relievers worth bothering ranking unless you count some random guys only around for 1 or 2 seasons...sadly...and oddly considering how old the team is...
sutter, lee, strop...r.myers, h.rondon, dempster, marmol, d.elston...late career charlie root... *shrug*...joe borowski had 2 great seasons and 3 bad ones (1 full, 2 partial) during his cubs tenure...
udbrky 12 hours 8 min ago (view)
Not always consistent is a weird way to describe one of the best 5 relievers the Cubs have ever had.
crunch 14 hours 24 min ago (view)
cubs lose, brewers lose, cardinals lose, pirates lose...
Charlie 17 hours 28 min ago (view)
They need to do something (or multiple somethings) if they want to guard against bullpen-related crashes going forward. I get the sense there's a real chance Morrow doesn't contribute this season, and Strop is not always consistent even when he's healthy.
crunch 20 hours 32 min ago (view)
it's not the worst pen in baseball, but like...this pen sucks. boo. fire everyone. etc.
at least it's not the WAS pen. that pen is hot garbage.
crunch 22 hours 58 min ago (view)
miguel amaya...bat and D at the C position both very promising.
a lot of people like aramis ademan, though i dunno if anyone would consider him an "impact" type player even as a middle IF'r.
jury is still out on how to gauge brennen davis's possible impact. high ceiling, but everyone's still waiting to see what he can actually do while he has his tools tweaked in ARZ.
Karl Pagel Blues 1 day 6 min ago (view)
Outside of Nico Hoerner, who is on the fast track to Wrigley, Nelson Velazquez, Jonathan Sierra and Cole Roederer are the three hitters in the lower minors that have the most potential to be impact bats down the road, in my opinion. Otherwise, I don't see much that impresses me. Am I missing someone?
Not so for pitching.
Barring injury, unexpected regression and/or trades, there are a number of Cubs MiLB pitchers who I think will make it to the majors.