Cubs Minor Leaguers in a Hazy Shade of Winter Ball

The Arizona Fall League Championship Game will be played tomorrow at Scottsdale Stadium, with the Salt River Rafters (East Division Champs) facing the West Division Champion Peoria Javelinas.

Unfortunately, the Cubs players who went to the AFL were assigned to the Mesa Solar Sox, the worst team in the league.

Cubs #1 prospect SS Javier Baez hit a 450+ ft HR to CF in his first AFL game, and he was leading the AFL in HR & RBI before sustaining a season-ending injury (broken thumb) a couple of weeks ago, but otherwise none of the other Cubs players assigned to the Solar Sox had especially noteworthy performances.

2012 Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year RHP Nick Struck lacked command and struggled to throw strikes, RHP Dae-Eun Rhee was used as a starting pitcher and was hit hard, RHP Tony Zych generally pitched effectively but didn't get many swings & misses (something he needs to get to advance as a closer prospect), and RHP Kevin Rhoderick was inconsistent (just as he was during the 2012 minor league season), looking very good when his slider was breaking, but then not so good when it wasn't.

Matt Szczur was the Solar Sox primary CF and lead-off hitter and did a nice job, hitting 264/368/363. He tied for 5th in the AFL in stolen bases, 7th in walks, and 7th in triples, and played a steady (if unspectacular) CF. Szczur isn't a particularly good hitter, but he has learned to go deeper into counts, and that has transalated into more walks. Szczur reminds me a lot of Bob Dernier, and if Brett Jackson flames out, the steadier Szczur could eventually be the Cubs lead-off hitter and CF(at least until Albert Almora is ready).

23-year old athletic LH hitting Cuban Defector Rubi Silva (who received a $1M signing bonus from the Cubs in December 2010) played RF and 2B for the Solar Sox and was in a slump for most of the AFL season (hitting an anemic 206/260/265), and he even looked outright overmatched at times (the AFL is approximately equivalent to AA). Still, he will likely be the RF at AA Tenneessee in 2013.

And Cubs 2012 Minor League Player of the Year 2B Logan Watkins replaced Baez on the Solar Sox roster the last couple of weeks and had some nice games. Watkins also made some really bad throws, however, and looked like he might have a sore arm (maybe not too surprising after being inactive for a month after the close of the Southern League season). Still, Watkins (a Mickey Morandini clone) is a virtual lock to get added to the Cubs 40-man roster next week, and should be the everyday 2B at Iowa in 2013 and perhaps the eventual replacement for Darwin Barney at 2B in Chicago in 2014 or 2015. Unlike Barney, Watkins is a classic #2 hitter, taking lots of walks, lining doubles and triples from gap-to-gap, going from 1st to 3rd and 2nd to home on singles to the outfield, scoring from 1st on most doubles, and stealng bases. Some observers believe the athletic Watkins projects more as a utility IF-OF type at the big league level, but I see him as an everyday 2B.

Besides the eight Cubs prospects who played in the AFL, there are many other Cubs minor leaguers playing winter ball in Latin America, and three or four of them are doing very well.

22-year old SS Junior Lake (who was added the Cubs MLB 40-man roster last off-season) is off to a great start for Estrellas de Oriente in the Dominican Winter League, hitting 361/413/528 through his first 22 games. He leads the DWL in hitting (AVG), is 3rd in OBP and 5th in SLG, and is tied for 6th in SB and 8th in doubles. (He's also 8th in strikeouts, however). Lake has the best arm among position players in the Cubs organization, and I keep waiting for the Cubs to move him to RF.

29-year old RHRP Esmailin Caridad is pitching in the Mexican Pacific League, and he leads the LMP in HOLDS (he is the 8th inning set-up man for Obregon closer Greg Burke) and is second among LMP relievers in strikeouts with 26 (in just 19.2 IP). Caridad was signed by former Cubs Player Development Director Oneri Fleita five years ago after requesting (and receiving) his release from the Hiroshima Carp. (Like Alfonso Soriano and Timo Perez before him, Caridad was signed by the Carp and developed at their Dominican Academy). Caridad got some big league time with the Cubs in 2009 and 2010 before having his career sidetracked by a sore arm, but if he continues to throw as well as he has so far, he could be a candidate to get selected in the MLB Rule 5 Draft next month. And if he isn't selected, he should be a cinch to get an NRI to Spring Training.

28-year old RHSP Yoannis Negrin is pitching for Caracas in the Venezuelan Winter League and is 6th in ERA and tied for 6th in strikeouts in the VWL. He also is third in the league in IP and is tied for the league lead in Games Started. The rubber-armed Negrin is a Cuban defector who signed with the Cubs in 2011 after pitching for Mazantas in Serie Nacional (the Cuban major league) for several seasons. He spent most of the 2012 season on "loan" to Tabasco in the Mexican League, before returning to the U. S. and getting assigned to AAA Iowa in August. His ceiling is probably (at best) a 5th starter or long reliever in MLB, but if he continues to pitch well in the VWL, he could (like Caridad) be in line for an NRI to Spring Training.

And finally, 22-year old LHP Jeffry Antigua has pitched very well out of the bullpen for Toros del Este in the DWL (he has a 4.50 ERA but only a 1.17 WHIP, with 2/12 BB/K in 12 IP over 11 games, and he is 6th in the league in HOLDS). He has a "live" arm that could play well as a lefty reliever out of a big league pen, and since a young LHP with upside is always in demand in the Rule 5 Draft, don't be surprised if Antigua gets tabbed. Antigua is scheduled to be a minor league FA post-2013 (if he isn't selected in the 2012 Rule 5 Draft), so the Cubs will need to watch him closely next season and try and get a good reading on his true potential before possibly watching him walk away as a FA.

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  • Arizona Phil 2 hours 35 min ago (view)

    The Cubs have released AAA Iowa C-INF Tony Wolters so that he can sign a minor league deal with a contending club (if the opportunity presents itself).

    Because he was outrighted earlier this season he was not eligible to be traded after 7/30, even though he was on a minor league reserve list and (generally speaking) a player on a minor league reserve list can be traded up until one week prior to the scheduled conclusion of the MLB regular season. 

     

  • Arizona Phil 3 hours 8 min ago (view)

    So #11 (Ziehl), #12 (Banks), and #19 (Avitia) were the only three 2021 Cubs draft picks who did not sign. 

     

  • crunch 6 hours 46 min ago (view)

    https://www.mlb.com/news/jed-hoyer-clarifies-comments-on-traded-cubs

    similar story, similar quotes, different site/author

     

  • QuietMan 7 hours 7 min ago (view)

    Cubs: Jed Hoyer clarifies comments about extension talks with former core players - Marquee Sports Network

    Sorry I'm having trouble posting the link.

    @TonyAndracki23 with the story.

     

     

  • Wrigley Rat 8 hours 19 min ago (view)

    Second contract player Michael Arias, a former infielder-turned-pitcher, made his Cubs system debut today in relief. 0.2 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 2 BB for DSL Cubs Blue.

     

  • Charlie 12 hours 34 min ago (view)

    A GM or owner saying a player "didn't want to sign" or "didn't want to negotiate" should always be read as "we didn't want to pay them."

    That said, a GM or owner can always show more finesse by saying, "I hope we can have productive talks this offseason" or something along those lines. Seems like Jed is trying to burn those bridges.

     

  • crunch 12 hours 47 min ago (view)

    while not known as a clubhouse cancer, there's more than a few stories about his "leadership qualities" lacking or otherwise being a bit of a jerk at points in time.  they're mostly rumor, and none of the rumors are awful...

    reminded a bit of this justin wilson/rizzo exchange back in 2018...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqCelMPe_74

     

  • videographer 13 hours 20 min ago (view)

    /With all the player movement in the last week, I wonder if the Cubs are now 85% compliant for vaccinated players.  We know Sogard and Rizzo were not vaccinated and I can assume the players taking their place of the 40 man roster are vaccinated.  It will be an interesting story going forward when all trade noise settles down.

     

  • Dolorous Jon Lester 15 hours 15 min ago (view)

    Agreed on every point. I think Jed is trying to create "his" team, a fully separate entity than Theo. Probably targeting 2023 or 2024 to return to actual contention.

    He absolutely shouldn't have aired that out. He ends up looking like the bad guy. This is a good way to burn those bridges. 

     

  • crunch 15 hours 44 min ago (view)

    jed shouldn't have aired things out so blatently, even if true.

    "I don't know why guys didn't want to sign. I don't know why guys didn't want to even counteroffer, oftentimes. Every one of these guys would say they wanted to stay in Chicago, 'we wanted to be a Cub,' but then we would sit down and do negotiations, that wasn't how they acted."

    ...dude, no.  keep that to yourself.

     

  • Dolorous Jon Lester 15 hours 55 min ago (view)

    After the feel-good videos and goodbyes, Jed decided to say the players didn't seem to want to negotiate and place blame at their feet. Rizzo responded today, basically saying "wtf man, shut up, that's a lie."

    I haven't really blamed Jed for much of this as I feel mgmt forced his hand but this... definitely a misstep Jed. And it also makes me wonder, the next core, if they don't want to sign below market extensions, are we gonna see a similar tear down?

     

  • crunch 1 day 9 hours ago (view)

    yeah.  i think it would have worked better if they weren't local boys.  better sell on having a built in "friend" in a new, far away place.  still not a bad move for an incentive, though...

     

  • Dolorous Jon Lester 1 day 10 hours ago (view)

    Was clearly just a signing as an incentive to sign his brother

     

  • crunch 1 day 12 hours ago (view)

    david can go ahead and not sign with the cubs if he wishes.

    there is absolutely nothing about his game that looks like he could even play A-ball.  his low-division college game is weak and his summer league wood bat game is abysmal.

     

  • Wrigley Rat 1 day 13 hours ago (view)

    Grand Canyon University's pitching staff got a big boost with recent Phoenix Alhambra High School ace Daniel Avitia deciding not to sign with the Chicago Cubs and, instead, honoring his letter of intent to the NCAA Division I school."

    Mostly, they didn't give me the money I wanted," said Avitia, who was asking for $300,000. "The best position for me is to go to GCU and get in the top rounds (after his junior season)." Avitia said that the Cubs wouldn't go any higher than $125,000 in negotiations.

     

  • Eric S 1 day 15 hours ago (view)

    Edwin took the L today in team USA's extra inning loss to Japan - should be able to help the Cubs efforts to secure a high draft pick soon.