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 1 hour 59 min ago (view)
don't worry, i'm sure even though he was spared from cuts there's some hardship he's being tortured with that he has to unfairly overcome. #coreystrong #onthecross #yolo #swag #kony2012
crunch 2 hours 1 min ago (view)
there's no way a system like that or something similar to that would work.
"oh hi." - green bay packers
*shoves out of way*
like i said, there's no way that would work.
Hagsag 4 hours 57 min ago (view)
Corey Black still has a job.
Charlie 5 hours 4 min ago (view)
I am ready for MLB owners to give it a f***ing rest. I don't have any outrage to spare on them.
If they can't afford this crisis, maybe they can surrender franchise rights to the players, grounds crew, concession employees, etc., and MLB teams can be employee owned.
Dolorous Jon Lester 9 hours 18 min ago (view)
Couldn't have said it better myself, unfortunately.
JustSayin' 17 hours 46 min ago (view)
These players weren't cut/released; laid off is more like it. Fifty-two minor leaguers let go before any real games played, in two waves. The draft will be five rounds this year, not forty. This is industrial downsizing, anticipating no traditional season this year and capitulation to MLB demands for a much smaller minor league system in 2021. Next year or 2022 could also see a labor stoppage in the big leagues, over what promises to be a very tough CBA negotiation. The game will not be what it used to be after this.
crunch 21 hours 34 min ago (view)
i don't blame the ownership/font office for doing what they did with bryant. it was just kinda bad timing that bryant was the client that boras was finally "i'm sick of this" over. the cubs were warned that boras was going to make a stand and it dragged on so long there has to be some kind of toll on the boras/cubs relationship.
bigsky33 21 hours 41 min ago (view)
Hi Phil, yes, hoping for an extended AZ Fall League. Do you think there will be more cuts? De La Cruz was the only big sureprise to me. I thought he had some upside.
Dolorous Jon Lester 23 hours 34 min ago (view)
It'll be more over when Kris leaves. Or whenever the same thing happens to another of his clients.
He isn't wrong though...
Arizona Phil 23 hours 46 min ago (view)
Presuming there is no traditional minor league season in 2020, expect an expanded Arizona Fall League (with potentially a new "Florida Fall League" as well) for the best prospects and expanded post-season instructs for other minor leaguers (all TBA).
Arizona Phil 23 hours 57 min ago (view)
My understanding is that the other two Cubs minor leaguers who are to be released are the two post-2019 Article XX-B MLB free-agents who signed 2020 minor league contracts, Brandon Morrow and Jason Kipnis. The Cubs will then supposedly re-sign them to new minor league contracts without the $100K retention bonus and 6/1 opt-out.
Arizona Phil 1 day 1 min ago (view)
CRUNCH: Agreed. Not counting the "4-A" guys, Oscar de la Cruz is the one legit MLB prospect on the list.
crunch 1 day 6 min ago (view)
aww...de la cruz had some decent looking spring outings (though late inning spring work isn't exactly challenging). the years of injuries insanely slowed his progression. totally wouldn't mind seeing him return in 2021 if the team would still be on his radar after getting cut at a time like this.
crunch 1 day 1 hour ago (view)
that whole "kris bryant thing" is over...but it's never going to be over as long as this ownership group and boras is around.
boras could have focused this on 29 other teams, especially the more vocal ones because the cubs have been mostly silent. the cubs aren't the only team out there paying off "creatively financed" loans, either.
he chose the cubs.
Dolorous Jon Lester 1 day 6 hours ago (view)
Not looking forward to seeing that list. Hate to see it when a guy you've invested any sort of energy in is given up on.
Cubster 1 day 7 hours ago (view)
Chi Tribune today. Boras picks, and focused on the Ricketts.
Headline writer, fun job: Agent won’t let Cubs get away Scott-free Matt York/AP and Paul Sullivan.
Boras told his players “the game can not be played without you” and asked them to share the concept with teammates and opposing players when “MLB requests further concessions or deferral of salaries” during negotiations.