Cub Pitchers and Hitters Shine under Overcast Arizona Skies
Hak-Ju Lee ripped a double and a triple, drove-in three runs, and scored another, Gioskar Amaya had three hits (two singles and a triple), two RBI, and two runs scored, and five pitchers combined to throw a four-hit shutout with 14 strikeouts, as the Cubs blanked the A’s Split Squad #1 7-0 in AZ Instructional League action at Fitch Park Field #3 in Mesa this afternoon.
The game was halted with two outs in the top of the 9th after a severe thunderstorm came roaring into Mesa, causing BP screens and tarps to fly across Fitch Park amidst high winds, heavy rain, and lightning & thunder, as the Cubs ran for their clubhouse, the umpires hot-footed it for their dressing room, the A’s loaded up their gear (and themselves) into their two maxi-vans, and the scouts in attendance made a beeline for their cars parked in the lot across the street.
Josh Vitters got his first career start at 1st base today, a position he will supposedly be playing (at least occasionally) in the AFL (which begins play next week). He handled two chances flawlessly at the 1st sack, and also had three Plate Appearances during the course of the game, grounding out to second, rapping a single to RF, and lofting a pop out to 2B.
The Cubs got some really good pitching today, with 19-year old RHP Robinson Lopez (one of the pitchers acquired by the Cubs from Atlanta in the Derrek Lee deal) getting the start and throwing a shutout inning in what was his AZ Instructional League debut. Lopez mixed a 94 MPH fastball with a change-up and a hard-breaking slider to work through his one inning with a minimum of difficulty. He will probably be a rotation starter at Daytona next season.
22-year old RHP (and ex-3B) Charles Thomas (Cubs 2009 10th round draft pick) wowed the scouts in attendance, displaying a 98 MPH heater, a mid-80’s splitter, and a 82 MPH slider, and throwing all of his pitches with minimum effort. Thomas was a combination 3B/RHRP at Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, FL (the alma mater of legendary Negro League player & manager and Cub coach & scout Buck O’Neil), but the Cubs drafted him as a third-baseman and played him there exclusively through most of his first two seasons in pro ball. But then he was moved to the mound this past July, and he had been working on his mechanics in side-sessions only for the past ten days after making his initial Instructs appearance in the first game on 9/23. At 6’4 230+ Thomas is an intimidating presence on the mound (he looks a bit like Lee Smith, or maybe Ray Lewis would be a better comparison), and he might be someone who could move very quickly up through the pipeline, as long as he can command his filthy stuff. At least he has a pitching background, so he won't have to spend as much time as some other conversion project would learning the basics of pitching.
RHP Aaron Kurcz continued to throw “lights out” in the AZ Instructional League, using a 95 MPH fastball and hard slider to strike out the first five men he faced (just blowing them away), before allowing a wind-aided double off the LF fence on what turned out to be the last pitch of the game (before the sky opened up and sent everybody running for cover). The 20-year old Kurcz was the Cubs 10th round draft pick out of the College of Southern Nevada (where his teammate was 2010 #1 overall draft pick Bryce Harper) this past June, and he has been absolutely mesmerizing no matter where the Cubs have sent him. He struck out 45 and allowed just 15 hits in 27.1 IP (with a 0.95 WHIP) combined between the AZL Cubs and Boise during the regular season, and he has allowed no runs on two hits with one walk and 12 strikeouts in just 7.2 IP over three outings so far at Instructs. I was told by a scout that Kurcz was overlooked because of his slight build (6'1 170), and while he might not have the physical intimidation factor of a Charles Thomas, his arm really packs a wallop.
Cubs Player Development Director and V. P. of Player Personnel Oneri Fleita arrived in Arizona this morning, and watched the game from the Observation Tower.
Here is today’s abridged box score (Cubs players only):
1. Hak-Ju Lee, SS: 2-4 (L-7, 3B, 2B, 5-3, 3 RBI, R)
2. Gioskar Amaya, 2B: 3-4 (K, 1B, 1B, 3B, 2 RBI, 2 R)
3a. Engel Santana, C: 1-2 (1-3, 1B)
3b. Sergio Burruel, C: 0-2 (L-8, 4-3, RBI)
4a. Josh Vitters, 1B: 1-3 (4-1, 1B, P-4)
4b. Ryan Cuneo, 1B: 0-1 (F-8)
5. Xavier Batista, RF: 1-3 (K, K, 2B)
6. Dustin Geiger, 3B-DH: 0-2 (K, F-8 SF, P-3, RBI)
7. Max Kwan, DH #1: 1-3 (2B, K, F-8, R)
8. Willson Contreras, DH-3B: 1-3 (1B, K, K, R)
9. Chris Huseby, LF: 2-3 (K, 1B, 1B, R)
10. Oliver Zapata, CF: 1-3 (K, 1B, 4-3, R)
1. Robinson Lopez: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K, 19 pitches (11 strikes)
2. Cam Greathouse: 2.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 K, 1 HBP, 1 BALK, 1 GIDP, 51 pitches (33 strikes), 3/0 GO/FO
3. Dustin Fitzgerald: 2.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 K, 30 pitches (20 strikes), 1/5 GO/FO
4. Charles Thomas: 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K, 12 pitches (7 strikes), 0/2 GO/FO
5. Aaron Kurcz: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K, 23 pitches (17 strikes)
1. 3B Dustin Geiger E-5 (fielding error allowed batter to reach base)
2. 3B Dustin Geiger E-5 (fielding error allowed batter to reach base)
Engel Santana: 1 PB
ATTENDANCE: 15 (mostly scouts)
WEATHER: Overcast & VERY breezy, with temperatures in the 80’s
crunch 19 hours 34 min ago (view)
marvin miller and ted simmons are part of the next HOF class.
long time coming for miller.
crunch 1 day 12 min ago (view)
things that are important to good on-field play like buying up all the property around wrigley field, from rooftops to acerage, isn't going to monetize itself.
i know some people would love to have a top tier pitcher, but i'm looking forward to more control of rooftop advertising and an open air beer garden near the team owned hotel and resturant complexes.
i know some people want a solid leadoff man, but i'm looking forward to seeing 10-20 concerts on off-days destroying the playing field so that extra revenue can help a polician in Nebraska or Iowa get some ad buys.
Hagsag 1 day 1 hour ago (view)
Their friend Donald will come through for them.
crunch 1 day 1 hour ago (view)
remember when the billionaire owners got a huge double digit tax cut?
maybe the city should do them a favor and give them more tax savings help to let them buy and build another 2-3 revenue projects outside of the park. that might help these struggling heroes find some extra loot.
i know this rant isn't fair, but my "dan winkler got a MLB contract fever" is dying down a bit.
crunch 1 day 1 hour ago (view)
f'real. i don't even know why they're going to bother playing games. i'm over here printing Cubs 2020 World Series Champs banners while others are sleeping on reality.
Dolorous Jon Lester 1 day 2 hours ago (view)
Just saw a fun report that the Cubs are telling even budget type free agents they can't currently negotiate until they clear some payroll. So that's a fun start to the winter meetings.
Dolorous Jon Lester 1 day 2 hours ago (view)
I'm with you 100% on that. Minor league retreads are fine and all but we don't need to be paying premiums for middle relief.
JustSayin' 1 day 4 hours ago (view)
The Cubs have 15-20 extra pitchers in their minor league system due to unbalanced drafting over the last few years. I am ready to see them err on the side of giving the internal guys too many chances as compared to signing AAA players who had short stints in the big leagues which didn't go too well. We don't know it the Cubs organization is just that bad at developing pitching, or has too many guys trying to prove themselves in a fixed number of minor league innings. Bad scouting/development or self-inflicted bottleneck?
Dolorous Jon Lester 1 day 8 hours ago (view)
Dan Winkler and Jharel Cotton wasn't enough for you? Tough crowd.
Hagsag 1 day 22 hours ago (view)
I think we all are ready for some action.
crunch 1 day 23 hours ago (view)
winter meetings start tomorrow...guys got into town friday/today.
the cubs are supposedly looking to tap the trade market for their major moves. this is the place where it gets done or seeds get planted.
also, the modern day HOF class will be announced. marvin miller will most likely get in. lou whitaker and ted simmons should have some heat, too.
crunch 2 days 12 hours ago (view)
semi-interesting winter league note...
trey mcnutt (yes, that guy) is having a hell of a winter league in mexico (one of the less talented winter leagues) so far as a closer. 15.2ip 8h 4bb 24k, 0.57 era.
giants signed him to a minor league deal a couple weeks ago. he never went anywhere. he's been consistently playing ball in the minors and indie league ball since he was last a noteworthy player. last season he played in the OAK minor league system. 30 years old now...
jdrnym 2 days 19 hours ago (view)
Brad Brach signs with the Mets for $850K but the Cubs are paying $500K, per Ken Rosenthal. Wasn't his 2020 club only supposed to be on the hook for league minimum?
crunch 2 days 20 hours ago (view)
when he got to the mets he suddenly learned how to throw with control (small sample size etc). last year was not a fun bullpen year...
crunch 2 days 22 hours ago (view)
Yeah, I've made myself familiar with a lot of the changes, but AZP's posts have both added more information and cleared up stuff I didn't fully grasp. I appreciate the hell out of it. Thanks Phil, thanks TCR.
bradsbeard 3 days 30 min ago (view)
Looks like Savant has his breaking pitch classified as a curve while Fangraphs calls it a slider. Suppose by ST he could have made everything over in the pitching lab, so who knows!